Excerpt of Into the Web
Image wasn’t everything.
To look at Jovan as she walked through Joe’s Gym, one would see a strong, beautiful woman with a strut that said, “I’m on a mission.”
A year ago, while in the beginning of her Picking up the Pieces tour, Jovan stared into a full-length mirror on the back of a hotel bathroom door, and she hated what she saw. She had put on a few pounds since the case was closed on Cordell’s murder. She had stopped taking care of herself—from hair to makeup, from clothing, to going out and moving around. Except for dating Mark, seeing Cheyenne, and touring, Jovan had let her life get away from her. She felt like a hypocrite, talking to women about letting go of their pasts and getting on with their lives when she hadn’t successfully done that.
As she looked in the mirror, she told herself, “Tomorrow, this changes.”
The next day, she was at Joe’s Gym on Cheyenne’s recommendation. Cheyenne had gone there nearly every day for Tae Kwon Do and Yoga.
Jovan came to the gym religiously, using the free weights and taking Yoga, and six months later, she had picked up kick boxing. Her body thanked her for it.
She strutted across the gym in her matching pink tank and shorts that meld to her firmer, tauter frame that had curves in all the right places. Her long wavy brown hair was pulled high atop her head in a ponytail, making her look more like a girl of early 20s than early 30s. Even the smile on her face showed a happy woman, ready for anything.
As Jovan had worked to get her body back into top form, she didn’t pay too much attention to her inner body. Walking across the gym, she hid the pain in her side and in her heart well. She had to. She knew the minute Cheyenne saw her, questions would fly, and she wasn’t ready to be real. It was still morning.
She spotted Cheyenne at the bar and slowed her stroll.
Her heart flipped in her chest. She didn’t want to talk about Mark, Linda, or her feelings. She patted her cheeks, worked on her smile until she thought it was perfect, and bopped over to the bar, gingerly taking the seat beside Cheyenne.
“Hey sis,” she said, giving Cheyenne a hug, “how was your Tae Kwon Do class?”
Cheyenne sipped her orange juice before running her thin fingers through her short, layered bob.
“Awesome,” she replied. “I never knew good could hurt so bad.”
Jovan laughed. “Yeah. I got my ass kicked today in the ring with Derryck. Hurts like I don’t know what, but I’m still feeling pretty good.”
Jovan ordered an orange juice and bagel.
“Derryck has never kicked your ass.”
“The first day he did,” Jovan mumbled before taking a sip of her juice.
“The first and last day.” Cheyenne chuckled.
“So what are you up to this morning?”
“I have to go see Captain Michael after I eat and shower up.”
“It’s just amazing what a degree will do, huh?” Jovan said. “Back in the day, he would shoo us from the precinct if we even thought about being nosey and going beyond just doing research.”
“And now he calls me for some inside info.” Cheyenne shook her head. “It’s interesting. Keeps me on my toes. Not making it a career or anything, but it does help when it’s time to come up with some crazy antics and diabolical events for our stories.”
“This is so true. Was reading the last chapter you wrote, and girl, I don’t even want to know what goes on in that head of yours.”
“Too late. By twin default, you get full access.”
They laughed. “So, has he given you anything on the girls?”
Jovan saw Cheyenne’s left jaw line flutter. She knew she was grinding her teeth. She watched as Cheyenne gripped her cup a bit too tightly, then released it.
She was about to reach out and touch Cheyenne’s arm when her sister turned, smiling and said, “Let’s talk about something fun, shall we, like your dinner last night. Did you get to relax?”
Quickly, Jovan turned her face from Cheyenne as she rolled her eyes. She knew her sister was maneuvering the spotlight back to her, and that was OK. For now. But Lord, any topic but this one would have been great for Jovan.
Relaxation was nowhere on the agenda last night, especially after her exchange with Mark. The remainder of their dinner consisted of five words and a drive home that left her antsy and irritated. Mark refused to say a word, and when he dropped her off without a kiss or even a thought of spending the night, Jovan wandered into her condo disillusioned. She wasn’t sure what was going on anymore.
Reaching for the damp napkin beneath her orange juice, Jovan slowly shredded it into thin slices. “It was good,” she said. We went to Phillips, and the lobster was amazing, as usual. How are you?”
Cheyenne cut her eyes at Jovan and studied her profile, then the wet napkin strips. “Sis,” she said, trying her hardest to remain calm when she knew something big was up.
Jovan tore into her bagel. Keeping her mouth full would keep her from having to say another word.
Cheyenne slid the bagel away from Jovan. “Sis,” she repeated. Jovan swallowed, then filled her mouth with orange juice. “You got two seconds to say something before I act a complete fool in here, Jo.”
Jovan sighed. “What do you want me to say? The night sucked. Fin.”
Cheyenne swiveled her chair and faced Jovan. “What happened?”
“That damn Linda Hayes and her special last night. She called me, wanting me to participate, and when I told Mark about that, we had a little disagreement.”
“What was the disagreement about? Mark’s a pretty level headed guy. Doesn’t seem like much gets him angry.”
That I tell you about, Jovan thought. She hadn’t filled her sister in on the weekly argument she and Mark had about where their relationship was going. For Jovan, the less she talked about it, the less real it was for her.
“I might’ve said I wished I could start over and everything in my past be obliterated.”
“Ouch. Deflate the man’s ego, why don’t you.”
“It wasn’t my intention, Chey. I care about him a lot.”
Cheyenne stared hard at Jovan. “Care or love?”
Jovan’s eyes wandered to the large flat screen TV hoisted above the bar.
“What?” Jovan asked.
“You’re going around the country, promoting your book on picking up the pieces of your life…” Jovan groaned. She knew where this was going. With the mind-reading capabilities afforded her as twin, Cheyenne always read Jovan—no matter how much she tried to keep things hidden. “…and you haven’t done that at all,” Cheyenne finished. “You’ve been dating Mark for two years. The poor guy is probably wondering where you two are going. And you say care.” Cheyenne shook her head. “I care about orange juice, but I could live without it. Can you live without Mark?”
Jovan opened her mouth to speak then saw Breaking News flash on the TV screen. “Gary,” she said, “can you turn up the TV, please?”
The bartender smiled and nodded. “Sure thing, Ms. Parham.”
She and Cheyenne watched, saddened by the news of a third teenage girl abducted and murdered. On the screen, a picture of Celeste Franks flashed before an image of a ditch on the side of the road and police cars that swarmed the area.
“Late last night, the body of Celeste Franks was found two miles from her home,” the reporter said. “The police are being tight-lipped about the investigation, but we’ve been able to learn that her profile does fit that of two young girls who were abducted and murdered last month.”
Cheyenne wiped at the tears that threatened to fall.
“Damn,” Jovan said, shaking her head. “When are they going to admit we have a serial killer?” She continued staring at the screen until she heard the annoying sound of knuckles being cracked. Opening her mouth to tell Cheyenne to stop, Jovan turned and looked at her sister in alarm. “Chey?”
Cheyenne took in a deep breath and swiped at the avalanche of tears that fell down her cheeks. “Don’t worry about me. I’m just sad. I don’t even want to imagine what these girls’ parents are going through. Breaks my heart.”
Jovan nodded and rubbed her sister’s back. “We can only pray that somehow, some way, they get comfort.”
“And closure by finding and executing that son of a bitch.”
The anger in Cheyenne’s voice startled Jovan. She hadn’t seen her this ready to kick ass since they were murder suspects in Cordell’s death. Just the thought of Cordell soured Jovan’s stomach.
“And of course the police refuse to utter the words serial killer,” Cheyenne said. “But three victims, each kidnapped and murdered within a ten-day pattern? Yeah, that’s not a coincidence.”
Jovan took her hand. “What’s the captain’s take on this?”
Cheyenne shrugged. “He’s been wanting me to look over the files of the victims and see if there are any similarities between them that they are missing.”
Cheyenne’s eyes wandered about the bar area. “Kinda.”
“Kinda? What the hell does that mean? I know you willingly jumped right into it, right?” Cheyenne nodded. “And?”
“And nothing, yet,” she muttered.
“Have you talked to Ian?”
“A bit, but he doesn’t know much since he left the force. He still talks to his boys, and they say they keep coming up with dead ends. He actually wished he had stayed at the police department for a few more months just to work on the case.”
“I do, too. Aside from Captain Michael, no one there will give us enough info to help out.”
“Because we’re still two crazy writers to most of them. I’ll pick Ian’s brain a bit more. Get him to talk to people down at the department. Get more concrete info.”
Cheyenne looked at the television screen one last time before sighing and giving Jovan her full attention. “In the meantime,” she said, “while you’re so worried on trying to figure out this case, try figuring out your life, OK?”
“Spoken by the girl who can’t keep the tears from falling down her face. I know someone’s monthlies have arrived, but you’ve never been this emotional during it.”
“Sis, just hush and eat your bagel or something.”
Jovan raised an eyebrow and opened her mouth to talk.
Stuffing a piece of bagel into Jovan’s mouth, Cheyenne said, “Just chew on that instead of saying something that’ll get you hurt.”
[Available from Amazon!]