To Date A Disaster (Southern Sanctuary - book 6), страница 1
To Date A Disaster
Southern Sanctuary – Book Six
Copyright©2015. All rights reserved by the author. Do not copy or re-distribute.
This is a work of fiction.
Front cover design; Fiona Jayde
To you guys. Thanks for coming along on this journey with me. Your support, emails and yes, even your criticisms, are all appreciated.
Cara Devigne was of the firm belief that having a panic attack whilst up a ladder was not for the faint of heart.
Oh no, no, no, no! This couldn’t be happening. Bad things… very bad things happened when she got upset. People got hurt, property was damaged and she all too invariably lost her job in the resulting melee.
No, absolutely not, she had to put a stop to this. Cara gripped the rung of the ladder more firmly, trying desperately to picture a sunny peaceful meadow, where butterflies danced and little bunnies frolicked. She counted backwards from one hundred, slowly and deliberately, concentrating hard on controlling and steadying her heartbeat.
Despite her best efforts to tamp down the attack her breathing had shifted to rapid and shallow pants, her eyesight had begun to blur slightly at the edges, whilst hot and cold shivers racked her frame.
She wasn’t afraid of heights. The ladder in question was remarkably sturdy and in no danger of falling since it was attached to a solid metal framework that allowed it to be rolled smoothly, and without much effort, along the back row of bookcases in the brightly lit modern library. No, the trigger for today’s panic attack was a sneaky little pervert called Reginald Meggans. A five foot five butterball of a man with delusions of lady-killer charms who had wandering, clammy hands and a propensity of standing much too close.
Cara had only been working at the Naples Library in Florida for just over six weeks but she really, really needed this job. It was her tenth in eighteen months and she was running out of false identities and money. All she wanted was some peace and quiet and a chance to catch her breath whilst she figured out what the hell was going on with her life. Was that too much to ask for? Obviously. What she got instead was smarmy Reginald Meggans, with his roving eye, weirdly wet smacking lips and a disturbing hair piece that perched on top of his head like a stuffed mongoose, poised and ready to go for your eyes at any moment.
The rug… or the shag-pile rug, as she often thought of it, was hypnotic. It was a dark solid unnatural brown colour, and Reginald teased the mass skywards, Cara could only presume in an ill-conceived attempt to convince everyone that he was taller than he really was.
Cara sometimes wondered if he wore the rug to distract his prey, namely young women, who were so frozen in disbelief, horror and shocked amusement by the rug’s presence that they didn’t notice until too late Reginald’s wandering hands or his sudden close proximity, brushing up against them oh-so accidentally.
If he’d been anyone else, a library member, a researcher or a passing stranger, Cara would have made a complaint to the head librarian, but there was two problems with that option.
For one, Reginald Meggans was the head of the Naples library board, effectively her boss’s boss. Worse still, he was married to her boss, Patience Meggans, head librarian. Who, when it came to her husband’s proclivities, was either the most oblivious woman who walked the earth, or the most forgiving.
Somehow though, Cara sensed bone deep that if Patience were ever confronted with the truth about her husband antics, then the blame would fall with a thud on the shoulders of the young lady in question, rather than where it squarely belonged, on the rounded shoulders of the shag-rug wearing pervert.
Double damn her incredibly bad luck. Meggans was not supposed to be here this afternoon. Cara had triple-checked the meeting schedule. Reginald had been listed to present his ideas on fund raising to the board right about now. What could have gone wrong?
Hah, why she was asking that question she would never know. If she had learnt nothing else since her life had descended into madness and mayhem it was to never tempt the back-handed bitch slap of fate.
Darn her timing, she had been gently rebuffing for a while now her boss’s hints that she tackle the re-shelving of the upper shelves. To the point where she suspected Patience was beginning to think she had a phobia regarding heights. No, she had a phobia of being caught up a ladder with Patience’s husband staring up her skirt.
Eek, a horror that was about to become a reality any moment as the mongoose weaved his way through the empty research desks like a heat seeking missile locked on to its target. The horror.
Her peaceful meadow was in flames, butterflies and bunnies exploding everywhere, absolute carnage. Her breathing, if possible, quickened, whilst the hot and cold chills had disappeared to be replaced by a sickening ball of molten heat simmering in the centre of her chest. Oh, no, no, no.
Please no. If she had another incident… then everyone would know that she was not the mild-mannered shy librarian that she pretended to be… wait, hold on, she was a mild-mannered shy librarian. Problem was, she just also happened to be a wanted fugitive on the run from the police, insurance company investigators and one, possibly more than one, shady mysterious group whose agenda she had not yet worked out.
When had her life gotten so horribly out of control?
Actually, that was easily answered. It had all gone pear-shaped eighteen months ago, just after her mother’s death in a car accident. From that moment on, things had just started… well happening. Horrible things. Unexplainable things.
People got hurt. Property was damaged. The one thing… the only thing all those incidents had in common was the fact that she had been nearby and every single time she’d experienced a panic attack immediately prior to the mayhem.
Oh, no, no, no. Merda… damn, her sweet gentle Italian mother wouldn’t approve of her swearing but if there was ever a moment that called for it, this was it. Cara clutched the ladder rung tighter still, her knuckles going white.
Maybe she could scurry down, avoid this whole nightmare scenario… no, she gauged the mongoose’s progress, if she tried to clamber down now she’d end up face to… bottom with pervy Meggans, wouldn’t he just love that.
She squinted through the wavy double vision that was affecting her, knowing from past experience that her glasses were working perfectly fine. Heavens, what was it going to be this time? Fireball? Falling plane debris? Exploding computer? Banana skin?
Oh heavens, she prayed fervently, please don’t let it be a sink-hole. How the insurance company had deemed she was at fault for the one appearing five months ago in Lawton, Oklahoma, was beyond her. The fact the sinkhole had swallowed the garage, house and every single car that was owned by Boyd Vellows, mechanic and bully, who had been attempting to seriously over-charge her for the repairs he’d performed on her usually reliable ten year old Volvo was just pure happenstance… wasn’t it? An act of God, not an act of Cara Devigne, as the insurance agent bloodhounds on her trail claimed. Upping the reward money for notification of her whereabouts had been uncalled for, resulting in a frantic two month never ending drive criss-crossing the country until the attention had died down and she could safely look for a new job.
Okay, so she knew when it had all started to go so very wrong, she just didn’t know why. There was absolutely nothing special about her. She was a twenty-nine year old librarian for pete’s sake. She was the definition of the word average, in height, at five foot eight and in looks.
She was not the great beauty her mother had been. Oh, she had inherited her olive gold complexion, wide blue eyes and red-gold hair from Sophia Devigne, but her hair w
And her eyes might have been a pretty pure blue but they were hidden by the exceedingly unglamorous glasses she was forced to wear to correct her vision. Sure, she could have gotten new glasses, but she’d already had six new pairs in the last eighteen months, every pair cheaper, sturdier and more unattractive than the last.
Then there was her weight… she was not thin, or fat, for that matter. She didn’t have her mother’s lean willowy shape, she was much more rounded, bordering on plump, but men for some reason, found her overly curvy body fascinating. Which was surprising, considering she hid her shape behind dark, severe, practical modest clothing befitting a lowly librarian who was shy, bespectacled, poverty-stricken and doing her very best to be unassuming.
That was her, unassuming an exceedingly average. Dull even. The only exciting thing about her background was that she didn’t have a father. Okay yes, technically she had a father, but not like the other kids growing up. Not even a part-time divorced dad kind of scenario.
But she’d had her mother and her mother’s grandfather, Poppy. They’d lived together in a cosy little caretaker’s cottage on the grounds of the historic Bretton Hill Inn located in the small town of Manchester, Vermont. Where her mother worked her way up over the years to the assistant-manager position and Poppy was employed as the head gardener.
They’d had fun there, laughed. Poppy told long rambling stories every night in his broken English that sounded musical to her ears and there had been books, lots and lots of books. What she wouldn’t give to be back there now. To be a child again, safe… loved, curled up in the big armchair by the fire reading about far off places and exotic worlds whilst her mother baked in their tiny kitchen, laughing and sharing the news of the day with Poppy.
Cara winced as the bones in her left hand creaked, ouch, she was holding on to the ladder too tightly. But what else could she do? Any moment now all hell was about to break loose and just her luck, she happened to be eight feet off the ground.
“Miss Trengle… I say Miss Trengle. You shouldn’t be up there young lady without someone holding that ladder for you, it’s very dangerous.”
She took a moment to remember she was Miss Trengle. Damn, Meggans was now only a few feet away. The ball of hot molten fire roiling in the centre of her chest had begun expanding exponentially, oh no, no, no.
“I’m… I’m perfectly fine… Mr…M… Meggans. I’m a professional.” She glanced back over her shoulder. Even with her wavering vision she could see Meggans’ eyes fastened on her lower legs, and he was smacking those wet lips of his, yuk. Thank God she was wearing her long fitted skirt that ended mid-calf, not that she owned anything that was much shorter. When you were on the run, dowdy, respectable and forgettable was the aim.
Maybe, just maybe, if she concentrated hard, moved slowly and ignored Meggans she could make her way down the ladder and escape to the ladies room and dunk her head under the cold water tap. She squeaked slightly as she felt Meggans grab the ladder, rocking it slightly along the metal rails even though she had pushed down the old fashion lever to lock it in place.
“Oh, my.” She gasped out, gripping the ladder tighter still.
“Sorry… sorry.” Meggans wheezed. “Clumsy of me, slipped a little.”
“Actually Mr Meggans…. I think… I’m done here… for the day. If you’d just step back… I’ll come down.”
“No, no.” Meggans’ voice sounded a little breathy and strained. “Safety first.”
Cara frowned, was that Meggans’ hot breath she could feel on the back of her ankles? “Um…” The ladder vibrated under her touch. “Mr Meggans! What are you doing?”
“Um… just steadying the ladder… for you Miss Trengle.”
Cara swallowed hard, it felt like a volcano was brewing in her chest, like any moment she might explode into a million pieces. Breathing hard she forced the feeling back, she was a grown up, she had self-control. Spiralling into a panic attack, letting them consume her life was eating away at her soul. She needed to be brave, she needed to face this inner demon of hers and emerge triumphant.
She could deal with pervy Meggans. All she had to do was climb down this ladder calmly, like a lady, give Meggans a haughty glare to back off and high tail it to the ladies room. She could do it, she knew she could. She just had to take that first step down.
With that in mind she shifted her weight, preparing to descend. The clammy hand that encircled her right calf was such a surprise she let out a small indignant scream. “Mr Meggans… what do you think you are doing? Unhand me.”
Beneath her hold the ladder began to shudder, now she could feel hot breath higher on her leg. What the hell? Was Meggans actually attempting to climb the ladder, trapping her up here? The disgusting creepy pervert!
The volcano inside of her exploded, metaphorical invisible molten lava launching outwards from her in rage and disgust. Instinctively she kicked out, catching Meggans in the head with the back of her low heeled pump. Whipping her head down she watched as Meggans pin wheeled backwards, his left hand knocking the lever keeping the ladder locked in place. As he fell backwards, his shift in momentum sent the ladder skidding down the rails to the left.
“Argh.” Cara held on for dear life as the ladder flew past the stacks so fast the book titles were all just a blur.
Oh heavens, she desperately wanted to shut her eyes, block it all out but she was determined to be braver than that. Her vision cleared a little, which was a genuinely unnerving moment for it to do so, as now she could clearly see the end of the bookcases approaching fast.
The ladder hit hard, rebounding off the plastic stoppers that had been placed on the floor and wall to prevent it from banging up against the plaster and causing any damage. If the ladder had just stopped there, all would have been fine, but considering the momentum with which she hit, it should have come as no surprise to anyone, least of all Cara, when the ladder rebounded and shot back along the metal rail the way it had come.
Clinging for her life, Cara turned her head, spying Meggans standing there dopily. Having used the bookcases to drag himself upright he had somehow managed to get tangled up in the ropes they used to open and close the blinds that covered the high windows situated above the book cases.
“Get out of the way.” Cara unlatched a hand and waved it frantically at Meggans.
Reginald’s shag rug hadn’t moved an inch in the fall, but it looked a strange contrast indeed to the ghastly pale grey the man’s face had turned. His narrow piggy eyes widening in shocked surprise as he realised Cara and the ladder had rebounded and were now headed back along the bookcases in his direction. Desperately he tried to untangle the cords that had wrapped themselves tightly around his forearm.
“Move!” Cara yelled. No longer waving her arm, too intent upon maintaining her hold as the ladder seemed to inexplicably pick up speed, damn it, whoever kept the rails greased had done too good a job. Oh Lord.
Meggans must have worked out that he wasn’t going to get free of the dangling cords in time so instead of wasting precious seconds struggling, the man purely and simply bolted for safety. As he ran he ripped the two heavy blinds directly overhead right off the wall, sending them sailing like kites across the ceiling to entangle in the tracts of lighting fixtures that kept the low hanging banks of pendant lights in place.
Cara watched in horror, instead of freezing in place, Meggans kept backing up, fast, pulling on the blind cords, that in turned pulled on the lights.
The first pendant dragged from the ceiling hit the floor harmlessly, but then the next several fell, shattering one after the other as they hit, sounding like popcorn popping. One hit a desk where a patron had left some newspapers, the papers instantly igniting. The next hit the carpet, sparking and sending smoke spiralling upwards.
Merda, she contemplated making a jump for it right then and there. But below were tables, knocked askew chairs, small spot fires and… she blinked as she watched the final pendant in the bank of lights drop from the ceiling. In what almost seemed like slow motion, the pendant hit Meggans directly on top of the head, shattering, the mongoose instantly catching on fire. Meggans shrieked, patting at his head, jumping up and down on the spot. With the cords tied to his arm he reminded Cara of a marionette trapped in a very bad play.
If she hadn’t been so terrified, she would have laughed.
It was too late to jump now, she’d lost her window of opportunity, there was only a few feet of the rail now left. She clutched at the rung tighter still, no longer able to feel her hands. The ladder hit the end with a loud metal on metal crack, accompanied by Cara’s scream of panic.
Beneath her grip the ladder disintegrated, breaking apart into several pieces, her body kept flying through the air, the momentum carrying her forward into empty space. She thought she heard male voices shouting but couldn’t be sure because she was too pre-occupied screaming and listening to the wind rushing past her ears. There may have been some tumbling through the air as well, at one point she could have sworn she saw her own feet fly past her eyes, her shoes bulleting off on their own trajectory.
She expected to hit the ground hard, there would be thuds and crunches, potentially snapping of bones and there would be blood… from a fall like this there would be no getting around the consequences. Yet, when she did finally hit, there was only softness and a loud hiss of air. It was like falling into a bowl of jelly, as everything around her moulded to her body, shifting and wobbling.