BY: BOBBYE TERRY
Can two older, but wiser adults rekindle young love after more than thirty years? Or will a mysterious killer stop them dead in their tracks?
Lindsay, “Lindy” Deane James, a forensic psychologist and widow of an ER physician, returns to her hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia, after her best friend pleads with her to clear Elsie, an elderly friend, from insanity and murder charges. As Lindy investigates, she uncovers dark secrets that threaten the reputations of many prominent Lynchburg residents. Several suspects emerge who could have perpetrated both the murder and the scheme to commit Elsie and take control of her estate. And what about Carter, Lindy’s first love and Elsie’s nephew? Is he really only after his aunt’s best interest? Does he still love Lindy? Or is he plotting with his ex-wife, Carrie, to gain control of Elsie’s property?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Widow James by Bobbye Terry, Lindy James is a forensic psychiatrist who returns to her home town to help clear a friend charged with murder. Once there she learns that her first and only love is single again, just like she is. But can she trust him, or is he after her friend’s estate just like everyone else. Throw in a killer who is not only sneaky but very determined and our heroine has her hands full.
Woven through this second chance romance is a chilling tale of murder, deceit, and revenge. The characters are very well developed—I especially liked the fact that both the hero and heroine are no longer young, but are at the age where life and love are precious—the plot strong and the writing superb. There are enough twists and turns to keep you interested from beginning to end.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Widow James by Bobbye Terry is clever, complicated, and fun. It tells the story or a middle-aged, but hot, widow Lindy James. She is a forensic psychologist who works with the FBI, profiling criminals. When a friend is accused of being mentally incompetent as well as being a murder, Lindy is persuaded to come back to her hometown to help clear her. Lindy is stunned to discover that her old boyfriend, the only man she ever really loved, is now divorced from the woman he cheated on Lindy with. He wants to kindle the old flame with Lindy, but she is reluctant to trust him. He could be sincere, or he could be just after her friend’s estate like most of her other relatives.
But what Lindy does not expect is to become involved in a life and death struggle with a killer who will stop at nothing to get what they want. I found myself on the edge of my seat from the very beginning. The characters are charming, and the relationship between Lindy and Carter, sweet and heartwarming. There is plenty of suspense, broken now and then with a touch of humor that is refreshing.
Widows are rumored to think of sex more frequently than males during puberty. Women with red hair are considered to be hot and loose. Everyone knows single women who just turned fifty are desperate. Put all three together and you win the tragic trifecta. And here I am, a three-time loser, “Lindy” Deane James, the woman forever destined to be classified as a hot cougar desperately prowling for a piece of ass.
My only saving grace is that I am a forensic psychologist. That gives me some credibility and at least a modicum of dignity, but it also makes my current predicament even more precarious. “Win Gant, you know perfectly well I swore never to testify in a Lynchburg court again.”
“Lindy, reconsider. For crying out loud, it’s Elsie Payne we’re talking about.”
My best friend’s brown eyes looked like they were about to bug out of her skull. I needed to remember to tell her that was not a very attractive look. I bit my lower lip and shoved all the curse words I wanted to say to the back of my brain.
“I understand, but Elsie has always been a bubble off plumb. Not to say she isn’t smart. The woman’s brilliant but, even for me, it would be hard to prove she hasn’t lost it, especially since she’s more than eighty years old. There is, however, one additional reason I’m not getting involved. Elsie is related to Judge Jenson Payne, the same man who, when he was an attorney, totally smeared me on the witness stand.”
“The Jenson Payne whose nephew is Carter Payne, heart-throb hunk even now at fifty-five and whom, if I remember correctly, was once the love of your life.”
Just the sound of his name still caused an electric shock to my heart, not that I was admitting it. How absurd would that be after thirty years? “Win, you must be getting early-onstage Alzheimer’s. Carter is also the man who married Carrie Ludwick.”
“And divorced her fifteen years ago.”
I knew my gasp was audible as I stared at Win’s expressive face. “Why didn’t you ever tell me that?”
“Because you were married to Walt and he was in failing health. Because, Lindy, you would never have left your husband in that condition and knowing about Carter only would have made you miserable.”
“Right.” I shook off her words, but they clung to my brain like cat hair to a black suit. “It doesn’t matter. There are other forensic psychologists out there who can declare Elsie is sane. All of that other stuff is ancient history. I have an established business in Richmond, and I am not coming back to Lynchburg, even if it’s only for a couple of months.”
“Lindy, no one’s talking, but I think it’s complicated. You don’t want to see that sweet old lady confined, do you?
“Humph, someone’s talking. It’s Lynchburg. But forget it. I don’t care what you say. There are no possible circumstances that would make me open up my closet of shame and face all of the skeletons.”
“Have a heart, it’s almost Christmas!”
“Joy to the World. God knows I will be worshipping here in Richmond at Trinity United Methodist Church. I will pray for Elsie and no one will miss me in the burg. It’s for sure, Walt’s mother doesn’t want to open presents with me.”
“Did I mention that if Elsie is committed, Jenson plans to turn The Widow’s Peak into a club house and build a bunch of condos on the land?”
Sometimes the heart can trump the brain and, although I was still beating myself up over my decision to get involved, I consoled myself with the fact that I only had agreed to examine the facts surrounding Elsie’s problem. I wasn’t actually going to provide my professional opinion under oath.
Of course, that meant a trip to Lynchburg, and a visit was something I did not look forward to doing. Why? Lynchburg still operated like a small village and not the metropolitan area of a quarter million people it had become. That was especially true for folks who planned to settle in the 24503 zip code. In order to live there in peace and harmony, old money and perfect manners were required. I had neither, failing on manners because I refused to be politically correct. To make matters worse, news traveled there the old fashion way, through gossip. I was certain the phone lines flamed red hot the minute my red Subaru Forester passed over the Rivermont Avenue Bridge.
I zipped by Peakland Place with as much speed as I dared, certain that my mother-in-law would be standing on the corner with a picket sign stating, Lindy James, go back to Richmond. The icy cold of the late-December day was probably the only thing that saved me. With my sunglasses on and a wool cap pulled down on my head, I stayed incognito and true to my course until I got to Coffee Road and my final destination–Shady Haven, or as I termed it, The Widow’s Peak.
Lying on one–hundred-plus acres of private real estate, the old matron was grand. She’d been built at the turn of the century by Elsie’s grandparents. Her parents owned it until Elsie inherited it from her brother after his death. To me, it was more than a symbol of my youth.
As I pulled up into the semi-circular driveway, I exhaled at the sight of the large cedar tree decorated to the hilt for the season, complete with the old angel on top that had adorned it since I was a girl. I was suddenly transported back thirty-one years and, as I exited the SUV, I felt like a teenager again. Until I almost slipped on a patch of ice. Note to self: you may feel young but your bones can break more easily now.
I didn’t make it to the front door before it opened. Elsie Payne rushed out, making fast tracks with her tripod cane. “Lindy, girl! I knew you’d come. You wouldn’t let an old lady get snookered!”
Only five-two, the woman hugged me around my boobs. “Elsie, you need to be careful. There’s ice out here.”
The lady laughed as she drew back and gave me the once-over. “I have thick rubber-bottom shoes and rubber on this cane. Nothing will bring me down. That’s more than I can say with those impractical heels you’re wearing.”
I grinned. “You may have a point. Let’s get inside where it’s warm.”
As we walked into the house, the smell of cinnamon mixed with the aroma of a burning fire delighted me, immediately melting away any reserve I’d had of coming here. It seemed like only yesterday that Carter and I had slept in the buff right in front of that fireplace…I shook my runaway memories free and struggled to concentrate on the present.
“Ms. Elsie, you come over here and sit down or I’ll be telling Dr. Kent you’re not following orders.” Elsie’s Canadian caretaker rushed over to dote on my old cohort-in-mischief. She glanced up at me. “I promised Ms. Elsie wouldn’t leave this house and get sick before her court date.”
Elsie shook her head. “Like Dr. Kent cares. He agreed with that Looney Tunes psychiatrist I needed to go for that stupid hearing.” She sat down and looked up at me. I could see her eyes had reddened. “You don’t think I’m crazy, do you, Lindy?”
I walked over, reached down and hugged her before settling on the sofa next to her chair. “Of course not, Elsie. That’s why I’m here to find out what this is all about. When is your hearing?”
The old lady sighed. “I have a reprieve for Christmas and New Year’s as long as someone is watching me twenty-four/seven. Treated like a danged six-year-old, but I’ll bear it. First Monday after the ball drops, I’m due in front of the judge. Not Jenson. They wouldn’t let him preside.”
Good thing. “Tell me why they think you need to be committed.” No reason to sugar coat it. This woman was sharp as a tack.
“It started with the ghost.”
Oh boy. “What ghost?”
Elsie sank back in her chair. “It looked like Pops. He started showing up at night in my bedroom. At first I didn’t tell anyone about it. But then, one night I followed the figure outside my room and I fell over a stool in the hall. Don’t know how it got there.” She shook her head. “Everybody woke up and, while I was half asleep, I foolishly told Carrie about it.”
“Carrie?” I straightened up, anger surging inside me. “What was Carrie doing here overnight?”
“Oh, my.” Elsie reached out and patted my arm. “Don’t worry, dear. It wasn’t my idea. Carrie had a riff with Jeff. She showed up here late one night and asked if she could spend the night. What could I do?”
Say no. I counted back from ten before answering aloud. “Who is Jeff?”
“Her husband, Lindy. The man she married after Carter.” Her eyes widened. “You did know Carter and Carrie were divorced, didn’t you?”
I dug my nails into my thighs. “I heard about it not too long ago. Tell me about Jeff.”
“Jeff Stone, the real estate tycoon. The wealthy son of a–gun who inherited a few million from his grandfather? She married him.”
“I see.” I let out all the air I’d held in the last couple of minutes since Carter’s name came up. “I guess she traded in for a richer model.” I swallowed hard and glanced back at Elsie. “Is that all that happened?”
The caretaker bustled around the room, plumping pillows. “Don’t be forgetting to tell Ms. Lindy about the murder.”
I felt like all the wind had been knocked out of me. “Murder?”
“The man in front of the house.” Elsie laughed nervously. “I don’t know how he got my letter opener through his heart. But I’d never even met him, much less murdered him.”
I opened my mouth to answer her but nothing but a squeak came out. I wasn’t here for the reason I thought and this case was far more complicated than I had been led to believe. While I was still sorting out this new information, the front door opened.
“Aunt Elsie, are you here?”
My heart fell to my stomach. Now I was truly speechless. Carter was here.
Carter’s smile vanished the minute he saw me. He stopped just inside the door frame. Long and lean as he’d ever been, he seemed to still have the muscle tone of his youth. A surge of lust hit my gut.
I willed myself not to look directly into his eyes, but failed miserably. If anything, they seemed bluer than they ever had. Pale gray-blue eyes that darkened to almost navy when in the throes of passion. I once again attempted to block out all of my old memories and feigned a grin. “So, you shaved your head.”
He blinked. “After decades of absence, the first thing you say is that?”
“Carter, Carter.” Elsie jumped up and briskly walked toward him. “Let’s not antagonize my guest. It’s so seldom I have one. Can we please talk about pleasant things?”
He let out a deep breath. “Of course. For your information, Lin, I shaved my head because otherwise I’d look like Friar Tuck.”
I continued to force a smile as he called me by my abbreviated name. He was the only person who had ever done that. “I don’t remember your hair thinning.”
His eyes stayed trained on mine. “I lost it all while I was married to Carrie.”
“No doubt.” I couldn’t keep the words from falling out of my mouth, “You look good bald. It makes your eyes stand out more.”
“And my ears look larger.” He finally smiled. “You haven’t changed a bit.”
A tingle of pleasure spread down my limbs. “The hair’s dyed now. I wasn’t ready for gray.”
He finally walked across the floor and sat down next to me. I could have sworn I felt the heat emanate from his body. “I wasn’t talking about the way you looked.” He let his gaze slowly drift down my body, first to my breasts and then on to my legs. “Though it looks like everything’s where it used to be. Instead, I was speaking about your dry wit. Or should I say sarcasm?”
“Takes one to know one,” I said. Feeling my blush burn up from my neck to my face, I nodded toward Elsie. “Your aunt was just telling me about the murder.”
His eyes narrowed. “Yes, the police are still investigating. They can’t determine what George Plummer was doing here or how Aunt Elsie’s letter opener was the murder weapon. I’m afraid they suspect she killed him in a moment of delusion.”
“Which is utter nonsense!” Elsie shouted, stamping her foot from her seated position. Her arms were visibly trembling. “I’ve never even killed a spider. Life is too precious to me. Why, even the vilest of creatures have some redeeming qualities. Besides, let the law determine what’s right and wrong.”
“I’m afraid that’s what’s going to happen,” I murmured.
Carter nodded, still staring in my eyes. “You’ll help us, won’t you, Lin?”
“Carter, I…You know how Jenson…”
His eyes grew a darker blue and my heart hammered in my chest. “Uncle Jenson doesn’t have anything to with this. At least he shouldn’t. This is about my Aunt Elsie, the woman who helped raise me, and The Widow’s Peak.”
He knew the last part was sure to hook me. It was, after all, where I’d lost my virginity. “Okay Carter. It seems I can’t fight my past or my fate.” Did I dare hope he would be part of my fate? I looked over at Elsie. “Merry Christmas, Elsie. This is my present to you.”
The old woman grinned from ear to ear. “I knew this was gonna work out. Jessie, go get us each a cup of hot buttered rum. We need to celebrate.”
© 2014 by Bobbye Terry