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Charlotte's Revenge: Finding Home, #2

Charlotte's Revenge: Finding Home, #2

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Charlotte's Revenge: Finding Home, #2

175 pages
2 hours
Oct 18, 2020


This is a continuation of the story of Traci Simmons. Two years have passed. Her relationship with Officer Randall Wells unfolds and they embark on a new life together. As things get serious, someone from their past designs a scheme to ruin both of their lives. The suspense heats up as Randall becomes a target of the evil Charlotte Carter and it almost destroys his career. And, if that were not bad enough, his love and loyalty to Traci is put to the ultimate test.

Oct 18, 2020

About the author

Barbara Howard is a "not-so-cozy" mystery and YA author of a dozen books, including her most recent trilogy, Finding Home Mystery Series; Final Harvest, Charlotte's Revenge, and Milo's Journey. She is a first generation tech geek turned master gardener with a passion for fresh air, vegan cuisine, and tracing her roots. A big city girl with a small town heart, she returned to her family home in the Midwest after an extensive career as a Department of Defense Project Manager at the Pentagon and spends most of her time treasure hunting, spoiling her fur-babies, growing veggies and raising chickens. She has also published a collection of books on food-related topics, food safety, and heirloom recipe cookbooks under the pen name, Arlene Lee. Read more at http://www.authorbarbarahoward.com 

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Charlotte's Revenge - Barbara Howard

Chapter One


WHAT DO YOU THINK OF this color? Traci asked holding up a magazine cover as Randall steered the car toward the highway. He rolled down the window and adjusted the side mirror.  

It’s okay. He glanced quickly at the photo, then focused back on the road and changed lanes. I like tan.

No, it's called Country Bliss. She shuffled the stack of advertisements on her lap and pointed to a photo in the DeMarco’s Paint and Lumber brochure. What about this one?

Yeah, sure. That’s okay, too. Ummm, grey?

Pure Opal.

Ah ... I see. Pure Opal. Got it. He smirked and followed the River Road exit toward Lockwood Township.

I think you're making fun of me. Not helping, Randall.

No, I’m not making fun of you. I love it, I swear. You're like a pretty little bird building your nest. He cupped his hand on her leg just above the knee and inched it a little further up her thigh until she brushed it away. He grabbed the knob of the Hurst shifter, dropped it into neutral and coasted for the upcoming turn-off.

Anyway ... she held up another one, what do you think of this solar lamp? I really like it. It has a cute sign on top. I can put it next to the flowers at the front steps and write whatever I want on it. How about Casa de Tracinda? Or, Maison d'Traci?

"Really? When they reached the four-way stop, he pulled his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose and squinted at the photo. That's what you're thinking about buying now?"

When the home improvement grant money comes in a few months, I want to have everything picked out and ready to order. She flopped the brochure down on her lap. Are you going to help me or not?

He didn’t care about these colors and lawn ornaments she was obsessed about. Not at all. It was rare to have the day off to spend together. And right now, looking at her sitting next to him, there was only one thing he was thinking about and it wasn’t house paint. But she wanted his opinion and that pretty pouty face ... it got him every time.

Okay, okay. He glanced in the rearview mirror to check for traffic, then picked up the paper. Hmmm, I like the tan better. I mean, what’s it? Country Bliss. Yeah, I like that one. Sounds like the name of a song. He smiled at her.

Please don't sing. She rolled her eyes.

What do you mean? I have a great voice. He made the turn onto Mayfair and steered onto the dirt road.

Yes, you do ... just not for singing. She said and hid her face behind her favorite copy of Faucier Home magazine.

I heard that. He pushed down the accelerator a little more and listened to the thundering exhaust. It was a nice day for a ride in the country and they could miss the traffic jam from the double-header at Porter Stadium. He put it in gear and turned onto Lenwood Road.

"Time to light it up," he thought and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel. That big block, four speed ’68 GM Chevelle Super Sport 396 was a dream on wheels. He eased off the clutch, shifted into second, then third and kicked up a little gravel. He glanced over at Traci. She was looking back at him in anticipation.

What do you think? Faster? he shouted.


He pushed the Chevelle to eighty and then ninety miles per hour until he felt a little hiccup, checked the gauges and then dropped it back down under the speed limit.  

Still burning oil.

I can’t wait to drive it.

She’s almost ready for you. But I better never catch you going that fast.

Aww, that’s not fair.

He turned down Brayton Road where it met the main highway back to Keeferton, crossed the four-way stop and stayed on the back road instead of making the turn. Traci was too busy gathering up the home décor magazines and photos that had blown all over the floor to notice. He hoped she would just go along with him today. RD owed him a favor and agreed to open the place up on Sunday just for them. It would take twenty minutes, tops, and then they would be out of there.

The body work is almost done. Then I can take her in for a paint job. I think you’ll like it, he said trying to keep the conversation light.

I’m sure it will be very pretty, Traci teased and gave him a side-eye glance, "because I’m gonna pick the color."

Her smile disappeared as he steered the car into the Game and Glory parking lot.

Oh, Randall, no ...

Listen, I followed you around a dozen stores today. And, he locked eyes with her, this is important. He could feel the tension rising between them already as he turned around in his seat and peered through the rear window. He carefully maneuvered the car into a parking space across from the huge warehouse and indoor range. The building had a Closed sign on the door and blacked out windows and sat adjacent to the Faucier County Impound Lot full of abandoned cars. He cupped her chin in his hand.

Tracinda, come on. Don’t give me that baby face.

She turned away from him without speaking, climbed out of the car and slammed the door behind her. RD met them at the side entrance with a fist bump and a smile before he led them through the back hallway to the indoor gun range.

Hey, Randall, hunting season is right around the corner, RD said, flipping on the overhead lighting as they entered each zone of the massive facility. Time to get ready. I’ve got some scent cover and doe urine in stock. That stuff sells out fast. So, you better buy it now. And that camo Savage Bolt Action rifle with the scope that you ordered came in this week. I’ll grab it and you can check it out.

I’ll make some time to come back and do that, RD. Thanks. He nodded toward Traci who was still standing at the entrance with her back turned. We’re just going to put in some target practice.

Sure, I’ll get you setup. RD was the owner and range master of Game and Glory, a gun and ammo facility who kept clean records. He had birthed the rumor that the scar down the left side of his face and hooked under his ear, along with the trace of a limp was from an encounter with a black bear during a hunting trip. But the truth was he had fallen asleep in a deer blind, dropped fifteen feet, broke his ankle and had to wait twenty hours for rescue. Randall was a member of the rescue team that found him, and they had been good friends from that day. Randall gestured to set the target further back to twenty-five yards and RD obliged, switching on the motorized assembly and the hanger screeched back five more yards. Then he sat on the stool next to the entrance, put on his headphones and locked the door.

I really don't want to be here, Randall, Traci said over her shoulder, arms folded tightly across her chest. He placed his fingertips under her shoulder blades and gently nudged her to their position along the clear polycarbonate booth behind the firing line.

We agreed. You need to be comfortable with using a weapon, he said gently pulling her hands down to her sides.

Traci shifted her weight back and forth from one foot to the other and looked around the empty facility. Randall noticed her eye movements quicken as she surveyed the space. There were no windows. The walls were covered in dingy curved and puckered foam wedges. They needed to get through this quickly. He placed the amber shooting glasses on her face and smiled down at her.

"Listen, now that we're together ... wait, we are together, right?" he leaned closer to her, grinned and raised an eyebrow playfully.

"Yes ... I suppose we are," she said, smiling sweetly, her beautiful face beaming up at him again.

Okay, whew, glad that's settled. He smiled and her knitted brow relaxed and the tension between them eased slightly. He unhooked his holster. Like I said, now that we're together, it's important ...

Nothing good ever happens when a gun is around, Traci interrupted. Her body stiffened again. She refused to look at him.

I’m a police officer, right? He placed his hand over his heart. That means I have a weapon on me at all times, pretty much. You trust me with it because I’m competent. I make sure that I know what I’m doing. He stepped a little closer and lowered his head to make direct eye contact. And, you have to finish the process to get your permit and carry one, too. I’m going to order a small Beretta for you once we’re done here.

The pouting was back. He knew he had to be careful and not press too hard to make his point. She was fragile no matter how calm she appeared right now. And even though he didn’t understand what was behind those paralyzing panic attacks, he could not back down on this. Keeferton was a historically quiet town but it had a nasty under belly and an encroaching criminal element from Xavier County that he never discussed with her. All the new development brought tourists and their ugly cousins; gangs and predators. He couldn’t be with her twenty-four hours a day, although he wished that he could. She needed to be prepared.

Let's not get into this right now. I tell you what, my angel. He held her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. After we finish up here, we’ll have the best meal money can buy. Whatever you want, you name it. He waited until she returned his gaze and gave a small nod.

Randall positioned the noise-cancelling headphones over her ears, then pointed at the B-27 silhouette target at the end of the row and stepped back. He took the Glock 9mm from his holster and laid it flat in the palm of his hand.

Remember what I showed you. It’s got a six-round clip. I want you to take a couple shots, two or three, to get comfortable with it. He stepped behind her and pressed his chest against her back. Then, lifted his arms in front of her, Place your hands here.

Traci adjusted the eyeglass shield, positioned her fingers on the weapon and aimed it at the target. Randall cupped his hands around hers, waited for her breathing to calm to let go and stepped away.

Just squeeze the trigger and try to hit the target. Relax.

And after one long deep breath, she emptied the clip.

"Good God, woman."

He didn't have to wait for RD to roll back the target. Six shots, five holes, no misses. RD joined them laughing like a wild man. Dude, all center core. You peeped that keyhole, right?

Yeah ... Randall nodded and folded his hands on the top of his head. He looked at RD and then back at Traci who placed the gun in the tray on the side of the booth, took a wet-nap from her purse and started cleaning her fingers.

So ... what just happened here? Randall approached her slowly and pulled off the headphones gently untangling them from her hair.

Traci tossed her handbag over her shoulder and walked past the men. RD rushed over, unlocked the door and stepped back as he held it open for her.

You better step lightly around that lady, RD said. Yep, I'd watch myself around that one, doc.

Right ...

Randall finished up at the booth, settled things with RD then rushed down the long hallway and out into the daylight. Traci was standing next

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