“Three months!” Julie grinned. Her sister-in- law, who now shared the family mansion
with Julie and Colin, had come into their lives as an undercover cop pretending to be a
member of their privileged society, and had become her best friend. “I can’t wait to have a
little one in the house!” These days, that new baby was the first thing she thought of when
she woke up in the morning.
She didn’t like how Lila’s statement made her feel. As though she, Julie, wasn’t quite done with moving on. As though she was still broken.
The truth was, she’d never be done with it. Not really. There was no way to erase what had happened, and no way not to be affected by it.
But she was able to live more normally now.
Excerpt: Chapter 1, Part 5
“I wanted Chantel and Colin to be able to welcome guests into their home as a couple. More specifically, I wanted Chantel to feel like the hostess, the woman of the house. Since she came into our lives on a lie, she still sometimes feels like an imposter, like she’s not really one of us, especially when there’s a gathering that includes people who don’t know the details. It can be hard for her. As if making the transition from street cop to detective wasn’t difficult enough, she’s living in a society that’s completely unfamiliar to her. If I was there, people would naturally turn to me as the hostess and…”
It was the reason she’d given her brother and his wife for skipping out on the high-dollar evening they’d been planning for several months. They hadn’t been happy with her proposed absence, hadn’t thought it necessary, but they’d accepted her choice. Because her reasoning was valid.
“But why are you here?” Lila asked.
Julie frowned. It wasn’t unusual for her to be at The Lemonade Stand. In a volunteer capacity with the children, but also hanging out with the women. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s Friday night. You’re twenty-eight years old. Independently wealthy and lovely. You could be doing any number of things for fun and relaxation. Okay, so you wanted to be away from your home for the night. You could’ve booked yourself into a resort spa. Gone to the theater. You could have been on a date.”
Julie didn’t respond to Lila. She couldn’t.
Inside her, everything was tense. Poised for escape.
“We need you here, Julie. You know that. And we all want you here. You bring a nurturing and understanding and compassion that’s special and very, very precious to these women. And to the staff.”
Julie raised her eyes to Lila’s. And was scared by the concerned crease in the other woman’s brow.
“But we aren’t being a friend back to you,” Lila went on, “we aren’t good for you if you’re using us as a hideout.”
Ironic, considering that the Stand existed so women had a place to hide and be safe while they healed.
“If you need to be here, you are welcome. Always. I don’t ever want you to need to come to us and then change your mind. Or your course of action. But if you need to be here, then we need to be doing something to help you.”
The band around Julie’s chest relaxed a little.
“It helps me just to be here,” she assured the other woman.
All of them mourned for the lives they’d lost. For the dreams they’d lost. For the sense of security that had been taken from them. They yearned for real homes. Yearned to be in control of their lives again. And they lived in fear, too.
Julie wasn’t afraid of being attacked again. She had a lovely home that she cherished, a bed of her own that she’d be returning to that night.