Several days before
“Time to get up, sleepyhead,” drifted a male voice through the haze. “You’ve been sawing away loudly enough to wake the dead.”
Where did he come from? I blinked, but could only see the icy blue eyes of a white-haired old woman glowering at me. She looked too much like my dead mother.
Something touched my shoulder.
I swatted it away as hard as I could and woke up.
Eric, my husband, rubbed his hand as he backed away from the bed. “Sorry, I forgot.”
“No, no, please, don’t, it’s my fault.” I tried to quell the revulsion sweeping over me and failed. Usually I could. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have reacted like that. Did I hurt you?“
I pushed myself up and leaned against the pine backboard of the narrow bed with the duvet still tucked firmly around me. My skin burned where he’d touched me.
He shook his head. “It’s my fault, Meg. I know better.”
I tensed, worried he would break the gnawing silence that was now an unspoken part of our marriage.
He peered down at me through eyes glistening with both love and pity.
I glanced away. I couldn’t bear the pity.
Instead he changed the topic. “It looks like you got some sleep last night. It’ll do you good.”
“I guess. What about you?”
We no longer shared the same bed. I’d moved into one of the spare rooms, while he remained in our bedroom. We’d argued over it initially. Though he reluctantly accepted the need for separate beds, he felt he was the one who should move. But I’d insisted that I was the one with the problem, therefore I should be the one to move. And so we’d lived ever since.
“Big day today.” His smile didn’t touch the sadness in his soft grey eyes. “You better get packing. Will’s coming to drive us to the airport in a couple of hours.”
My stomach clenched.
“I brought your suitcase up.” He wheeled the hard-sided, purple bag into the room and turned it over to unzip.
“Just leave it, okay? I’ll do it myself.” I’d been ignoring the suitcase waiting in the kitchen, where Eric had left it after retrieving it from the shed.
“You are coming?”
“I said I would, didn’t I?” I could feel the fear crawl over my skin. I didn’t know how many months it had been since I’d dared to travel beyond my Three Deer Point property. No, that wasn’t true. I knew exactly when.
“A visit to Yellowknife will do you a lot of good. And you’ll be able to have a nice visit with Teht’aa.”
“I know.” It had been many months since his daughter had tried to help me pull my life together. Once suspicious of each other, we had become good friends. Given the ten-year age difference we were more like sisters than step-mother and daughter.
“Look, I know this will be difficult for you, but you need to get away from this house, these woods and all the. . .” He paused and ran this fingers through his mane of grey-streaked black hair as if trying to decide if he should continue. “This place has too many bad associations. You’ll feel a lot better once you are away. Remember, that’s what the therapist said.”
“I know.” In the early days, right after The Nightmare, Eric had persuaded me to see a psycho-therapist. I’d lasted two visits.
“So come on, get out of bed. I have breakfast waiting for you downstairs. Your favourite, poached eggs on toast with smoked salmon.”
He gave me one last thoughtful glance before heading out the door and down the stairs.
I didn’t think I could eat. My stomach was too tied up in knots.
Poor Eric. My one and only love. I didn’t deserve such a wonderful and caring man.
If only I could break the silence. But I can’t. I’ve tried. But I’m afraid. If he knew everything that had happened, he wouldn’t want me anymore. And if he left, my life would be over.
I heard a running patter up the stairs and along the hall floor. A rippling ball of grey curls rushed through the door and onto my bed.
“Oh Shoni.” I buried my face in the dog’s soft fur. “I don’t know what to do. If I keep acting like a frigid ice queen, he’s going to leave me anyway.”
You can read more about Meg in Purple Palette for Murder, the 8th book in the “Meg Harris” mystery series.
With her husband under arrest for murder and Meg desperate to prove his innocence, she flies to Yellowknife, where a tangled web of family secrets and greed awaits her.
Meg Harris is forced to leave the sanctuary of Three Deer Point and fly to Yellowknife, where her stepdaughter lies near death and her husband is in jail for killing a man. Expecting to find Eric shouting his innocence, she instead finds him cowed and willing to do hard time. But Meg doesn’t believe he’s guilty.
Convinced that there’s more to the murder victim — and the attack on her stepdaughter — than the police think, Meg finds herself on a sordid trail of family secrets and greed, hoping she can prove her husband’s innocence. Fragments of an ancient embroidery lead her to a remote Dene hunting camp, where all is not what it seems.
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Giveaway: Three lucky readers (U.S. and Canadian entries only, please) selected at random will receive a print copy of Purple Palette for Murder. Leave a comment below for your chance to win. The giveaway ends November 17, 2017. Good luck everyone!
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About the author
Called “the queen of Canadian wilderness fiction” R.J. Harlick, writes the popular Meg Harris mystery series set in the wilds of West Quebec. Like her heroine Meg Harris, R.J. loves to roam the forests surrounding her own wilderness cabin or paddle the endless lakes and rivers. But unlike Meg, she doesn’t find a body at every twist and turn, although she certainly likes to put them in Meg’s way. While most of the action takes place close to her century old Victorian cottage, occasionally Meg travels to other Canadian wildernesses. In the eighth and latest book, Purple Palette for Murder, Meg travels to Canada’s Far North in a desperate attempt to prove her husband innocent of murder.
Connect with R.J. at www.rjharlick.ca, on Facebook and on Twitter
All comments are welcomed.