Annie's Karma by Chelle Cordero by Chelle Cordero - Read Online

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Annie's Karma - Chelle Cordero

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review.

Dedicated to Mark

my husband, my friend, the love of my life, and my own personal hero.

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Acknowledgments

I’d like to acknowledge some very important people in my life:

My daughter and son, Jenni and Marc — they teach me every day what it means to be good people. I am so proud to be their mom.

My sister Bobi — she constantly builds my ego and encourages me to reach as high as I can.

My loving parents, Reva and Marcy — for always letting me be ME and never confining me to convention. I miss them every day.

To Sharyn for her proofreading and editing and helping me to look good.

...and certainly not last or least, to Kimberlee Williams, my publisher and one of my dearest friends, she has shown me that dreams can come true.

TABLE of CONTENTS

Dedications and Acknowledgements

Annie’s Karma

More Great Books by Chelle Cordero

Meet the Author

Vanilla Heart Publishing

Annie’s Karma

Chelle Cordero

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Prologue

Okay. This is the last of the boxes. Now we can get out of this hell-hole.

Uh-huh. Annie kept her back to him so he couldn’t see the tears on her cheeks.

Hey, are you okay? Dave put the box down and went to her. He put his arms around her middle and gently pulled her back against him. Do you want to talk about it?

No. She turned in his arms and wrapped her arms around his waist. It’s stupid. I haven’t been living here for months... and I certainly wasn’t happy in this place. She buried her face against his chest.

Dave could only remember that Annie almost died here. He glanced over her head and noted the bare walls and the hollow vacancy in front of him. Still, this had been her home and he had to remind himself of that. At some point he hoped she felt happy about moving in to this house, he wondered if she would ever remember that joy.

I bet you had dreams, though, when Scott and you first moved in here.

She shrugged in his embrace. I used to be naïve.

Dave felt only anger towards Scott and sadness for Annie. He hoped, sooner rather than later, that he could return some of that innocence to her. Sometimes Dave wondered if he could have lived with himself, if Annie would ever have forgiven him, if he had made sure that Scott hadn’t lived to go to trial, but that wasn’t the kind of law enforcement officer and not the kind of man he was. He only hoped that Annie could love him for that. He held her just a little bit tighter.

I hope the next person who lives here makes it into real home. Annie sniffled and backed out of his arms. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be whiny.

You’re not being whiny. He reached out and caught her chin with his fingertips. He tilted her face up to look at him and shrugged. That’s beautiful of you to wish someone else happiness, especially someone you don’t know, He narrowed his eyes, Or do you?

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Chapter One

Annie had amazed Dave with her fierce independence over the previous ten months. He had expected, and actually hoped, that she would lean on him a lot more after being betrayed and hurt so deeply by the man she’d married. He was selfishly disappointed that she didn’t appear to need to his strength, but at the same time, he was proud that she managed to summon up her own inner power. She was stoic during the eight month long trial and finally chose to stay away from the courtroom except when her personal testimony was necessary. She told him that she didn’t want to watch while Scott was brought to his knees. Annie wasn’t the type to ever take joy in someone else’s downfall, thought Dave, which made him care about her all the more. Dave never did tell Annie that he made sure to be in the courtroom for the sentencing because he did want to see Scott face the punishment he deserved, but even seeing Annie’s ex sentenced and marched off in cuffs didn’t appease him. Scott’s sentence would never be enough. It would never be enough punishment for the cruelty he inflicted on Annie.

Annie told Dave that she was just happy to be free. She was relieved when Scott signed the divorce papers so easily. He signed everything over to her with the sole proviso that she would pay his defense attorney bill during the trial. There was more than enough money to cover it, and Annie was surprised at the total assets Scott kept hidden from her during their tumultuous marriage. Even his late mother’s sizeable bank accounts, of which he was the beneficiary, went to her. Annie waited until Scott was tried, convicted, and behind bars before she went ahead and put their house on the market. After her release from the hospital, where she had recuperated after Scott’s attempt to kill her, Annie had rented a room in a local boarding house. She’d vowed that she would never again live in the house where she was terrorized by the man she had married.

Annie decided to leave Trance, the town where her ex-husband had been so feared by their neighbors that he was allowed to behave without question. He’d practically imprisoned her and had everyone believing she was mentally ill. None of her neighbors ever came to her defense or support. Many weren’t willing to anger Scott, others just believed Scott’s claim that she was mentally ill. She decided that she wanted to live closer to Dave. It was so much more than just his belief in her. She liked being with him. She liked the way he made her feel when they were together, and she knew he would never betray her trust.

Dave invited Annie to move in with him in Catawai. He thought living together would be a natural progression in their relationship. Instead, she disappointed him by buying a three unit rental property in the town, moving into one of the apartments herself and offering leases to the two other existing tenants. When one of her tenants got a job out of town and gave notice of her impending move she arranged to have the two bedroom apartment freshly painted and placed an ad in the local paper. He settled for being happy that at least they were living in the same town.

You want to stop for dinner before I drop you off at home? Dave checked the rear-view mirror before changing lanes on the ride back to Catawai.

She turned from staring out the passenger window and gave him a small smile. Sounds good, how about the diner? Annie had been eerily quiet for most of the ride.

Dave nodded, Yeah. It was good to see her smiling. He worried that the day might have been too emotionally stressful. He paused before continuing, Would you mind company tonight? It’s probably going to be late anyway after we unload the boxes from the back of the truck. He motioned toward the back of his pickup.

Annie laughed out loud. You don’t need an excuse for us to spend the night together. I really appreciate your asking, but we’ve been seeing each other for months now.

Dave grinned sheepishly, Yeah, I know. I was just hoping you were up to it after packing up the house, I didn’t want to make any assumptions, he glanced over at her. I was worried about the memories today might have stirred up.

I think the chance to lie in your arms is just what I need after saying goodbye to that place. It wasn’t a home for me. It never was, she sounded sad, You’re supposed to be able to feel safe in your home.

Nodding, he reached to hold her hand and was thrilled to feel her grasp his in return. The diner they spoke of was just off the next exit so Dave put the blinker on and slowed for the exit ramp.

They were both greeted by first name when they entered the café, a local hangout for almost everyone who ever lived in Catawai. Even though it was the busy dinner hour, the manager showed them to their favorite booth next to the windows. Annie could see Dave’s overloaded pick-up from her seat.

I didn’t realize I had so much stuff.

Annie hadn’t taken any of the furniture from the house. She didn’t want it. She only wanted the few things that were hers and hers alone. The house she bought was already furnished and more furniture would only clutter the place up.

It’s going to be nice to have some of my own touches in the apartment.

Babe, I think your personality shines through wherever you are.

She chuckled. You need a Team Annie T-shirt. Annie paused and looked back at the truck. Seriously, Dave, thank you for always being so supportive. I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you. I owe you so much.

Babe, you don’t owe me anything. Besides, after my divorce you kind of gave me back my life too. He quieted when he noticed a waitress approaching.

Well, hello Sheriff, I was wondering when you were going to come by and see me. Jerilynn, one of the older waitresses at the diner, always