Home > At Peace (The 'Burg #2)

At Peace (The 'Burg #2)
Author: Kristen Ashley

Chapter One

My Neighbor

I stared at the dark ceiling and listened to Axl Rose demanding to be taken to Paradise City.

The song was sweet, as was the AC/DC, Poison, Whitesnake and Ratt that had preceded it but it wasn’t sweet at…

I turned to look at my alarm clock on the nightstand…

Three thirty-three in the morning.

The party had started at twelve twenty-two. I was okay with that, seeing as it was a Friday. I figured in this neighborhood they’d cool it at one thirty, maybe two. I also figured, if it went beyond that, Colt would go and have a word. Alec Colton was my neighbor; he lived across the street and one house down. He and his girlfriend, February Owens had a new baby and he was a cop. I couldn’t imagine he’d put up with a trip down memory lane, 80’s hard rock style, until nearly four in the morning, not with a new baby and all that entailed to your sleep schedule (or lack thereof).

But the music hadn’t stopped.

My neighborhood was quiet or, at least, it had been for the four months Kate, Keira and I had been living in it. It was February. Who had loud, late parties in a quiet neighborhood in February?

At least Kate and Keira were at sleepovers. If they’d been home, I would have lost it way before now.

But, I lost it…

I looked at the clock…

At three thirty-four in the morning.

I threw back the covers and went to the bathroom, snatching Tim’s old, plaid flannel robe off the hook on the back of the door. His Mom bought him that robe. He’d had it before we’d been married. Now it was soft as plush, worn in but not worn out and it was still super warm.

Shrugging on the robe, I stomped out of my room, through the open plan study into the living room that fed into the dining area that fed into the kitchen. Then I went to the side door in the kitchen where a tangle of footwear littered the floor.

Both Kate and Keira were early bloomers. They were now both my height, even Keira, though she was only fourteen, and we all wore the same shoe size. I yanked out Keira’s hot pink wellingtons with the big daisies on them and pulled them over the thick socks I had on to ward off the night chill. I jacked the thermostat way down at night, saved on heating, saved on utility bills. Money wasn’t exactly flowing and raising two teenage girls, money was an important thing to have. Then again, it was even without two teenage girls, though I hadn’t really known a time in my life when there weren’t kids in it. One day I was a kid, the next I was a wife and mother.

Never regretted it, not a single day, not until one year, three months, three weeks and two days ago. Then I didn’t really regret it but life sure as hell changed.

I disabled the alarm, unlocked the side door, stomped into the night and stopped dead.

I had no idea where the music was coming from but I wouldn’t have expected it to be coming from my next door neighbor. This was because whoever that was, they were never home. In the four months we’d lived there, I’d seen a shiny, black, new model Ford pickup truck in the drive a few times, maybe two, three. I’d seen the lights on in the house once. Other than that, no one home.

But now, it was lit up like a beacon, the music was way louder standing outside. So loud, it was a wonder the windows didn’t bow out with the sound.

But there was no shiny, black, new model Ford pickup truck in the drive. Instead, clear as day because of the lights blazing from the house, I saw a shiny, red, new model Porsche.

This all struck me as a surprise. No word, no sound, no nothing from that house in four months and now it was lit up, loud music blaring and there was a non-American car in the drive. As far as I knew the only neighbor on the block who didn’t own American was February and she owned a convertible Beetle. Everyone else, including me, had American-made.

And no one on this block could afford a Porsche, not in their lifetimes.

Even living there for such a short time I knew my neighbors because this was a small, Indiana town. We’d lived there a week and we’d met all our neighbors. They’d come over with cakes, cookies and casseroles. We’d been invited to Christmas parties. We waved and called hellos, or good-byes, or even walked over to have a gab if we were out shoveling the walks or getting in our cars to go somewhere or we were coming back. We chatted when we ran into each other at the grocery store, post office, Frank’s restaurant or a high school basketball game. Kate, Keira and I had lived there four months and it felt like we’d been there fourteen years.

But I didn’t know my neighbor with the shiny Ford pickup who lived next door and I didn’t know them because they were never home.

Now, whoever they were, I was going to meet them.

I stomped through the snow, hearing it crunching underfoot even with the music. The top of the snow had refrozen with the frigid night but I didn’t feel a thing, I was too angry. I had to work tomorrow, be at the garden shop at eight which was only a few hours away. I’d been woken up with AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” and had been tossing, turning and fuming ever since. Now my blood was boiling and I was going to have to take care not to lose control. I had a temper, unfortunately. I didn’t blow often but when I blew, I blew.

And one of the reasons I was angry was because if Tim was here he’d be doing this. He’d have done it three hours ago, approximately halfway through “Hell’s Bells”. Tim liked his sleep but it wasn’t that. He didn’t tolerate anything that might bother his girls. If it woke me up, it would wake him up and he would know I’d been disturbed and that would tip it for him and he’d be out the door like a shot. He’d take his gun and he’d take his badge and he’d take his pissed off, big man, hotshot cop attitude and he’d put a stop to it, make no mistake.

Fuck, but I missed him.

I made it to my neighbor’s front door and didn’t delay. I lay on the doorbell and knocked on the door, knowing they’d never hear one or the other and even with both it would be a miracle to be heard over that sound.

It was now Van Halen. David Lee Roth was singing “Panama”. Another of my favorites. It was a memory song. Good times were had when that song was played, good times being ruined by that song being used to piss me right the f**k off.

I knocked louder and kept my finger pressed to the buzzer.

“Hello!” I shouted to the door.

It was thrown open, the blazing lights from inside blinding me for a second, then I focused, my blood cooled about a hundred degrees and I stared in complete shock.

“Who are you?” she asked on a shout over the music.

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