Romance Crime Fiction

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

Nothing brings out the animal in people like a full moon during a heat wave. Katherine Jane Wright was pure feline, as she prowled along the muddy creek bank. Stockings balled tightly in her fist, she stretched out her arms for balance. The moon was glorious, and provided just enough light to tip toe from one moss-slick rock to the next. Something about the thick humid air made her feel positively feral—dangerous even. 

It was unlike Katherine to be out past dark. Phillip would be livid, if he knew that his newest bride was somewhere deep in the woods on this sticky summer night. Especially after the unfortunate accidents, which stole his first and second young wives. Some might say Katherine was tempting fate, but the thought only thrilled her more. She couldn’t think of a single day gone by, when she hadn’t been reminded that anything can happen to a vulnerable woman alone. It was something people started saying to little girls from the time they took their first step, and continued saying it, until they were old and gray. For the first time in her life, Katherine didn’t feel vulnerable. She drew strength from the full moon and the call of the cool water. A voice, deep inside of Katherine told her, this was exactly where she was meant to be. 

And anyway, why should she worry about what Phillip thought of her? He certainly didn’t stop to consider how she felt about his gambling, or the women she’d seen draped across his lap, so many nights when she’d visited him at the club. 

“I’m only playing a part. We all have a role to play in this life, Kitten.”

Those were the words he’d said, after she’d confronted him about a particularly memorable redhead. In Katherine’s opinion, Phillip’s adultery and volatile temper were indecent, even for a debaucherous club owner. She hadn’t brought it up again after that, instead deciding she was no one’s “Kitten”. Phillip was going to get far worse than her claws the next time he decided to raise a hand to her. 

“My name is Katherine Jane Wright, and I am a goddamn lioness.” 

The words were a battle cry, as Katherine pulled her dress over her head. She sank lower into the water. The weak current licked at her sunburnt skin, sending shivers along her spine. Katherine laughed aloud. The sound of it spooked her. Had she ever laughed by herself? Perhaps the heat had finally caused her to come unhinged. If this is what insanity felt like, Katherine decided she didn’t mind. Anything was superior to the monotony of being a housewife. She’d spent the last year, almost always alone in that great big house on the hill, with only the ghosts of her two predecessors for company. 

Katherine let her head of blonde hair fall back, allowing the current to carry it away from her shoulders. Then, from the corner of her eye, she noticed movement. A tall man emerged from the dark entrance of the tree-line. She froze. 

Sam had been watching the girl for far longer than was proper. He’d always prided himself on being a gentleman, but he was tired of waiting for an opportunity to be alone with her. 

“You ought to be careful. I’ve heard there’s a lioness in these parts.”

Sam kept his voice low and inviting. His best impression of Humphrey Bogart, or at least he hoped. He’d hate to scare her off, because Sam knew that Katherine Jane Wright was no lioness. She was just a woman scorned, pretending to be braver than she actually felt. Instinctively, he reached for the diary nestled inside his coat pocket. His thumb traced over the initials “K.J.W.”.

Katherine squared her shoulders to face Sam. Only her décolletage was visible above the water’s surface. It was somehow more sensual than if she’d stood, baring herself completely. At least it would’ve been, if Sam’s eyes weren’t drawn to the fresh bruises collaring her slender neck. 

“You should take your own advice. I’ve heard she prefers to hunt during a full moon.”

Her words were calm. Still, Sam didn’t miss the way her eyes darted to the pile of rumpled clothing she’d tossed along the shore. 

“If you’d like to get dressed, I can step away. Promise, I’ll be a perfect gentleman.”

Sam was many things, but a peeping tom wasn’t one of them. The moment he’d realized her delicate fingers were reaching for the hem of her dress, he’d taken the opportunity to tighten his shoe laces. He hadn’t looked up until he’d heard the water around her go still. 

Katherine took a moment to consider her options, then nodded to Sam. He did more than just turn, taking three long strides, until he was in position to step behind a tree.

“No,” Katherine said, and Sam halted. “Stay where I can see you.”

Sam’s lips curled in a small smile. Katherine was everything he’d thought she’d be, after reading her book of stories. There was something magical about this meeting, as if he’d conjured her straight off the page. 

Sam nearly jolted, as she tapped the shoulder pad of his suit jacket twice, letting him know it was time to turn around. When he did, Katherine’s stunning features were furrowed in an angry grimace, her blue eyes gleaming in the light of the moon. Sam began to suspect he’d gotten Katherine Wright all wrong, when he realized he was staring down the barrel of a .38 Special.

“You must be one of my husband’s goons.”

When Sam didn’t answer, she went on. “Well, you can tell Phillip, if he’s so worried, he can come get me himself.”

“I think you have the wrong idea.”

“The wrong idea? Why else would you be here in the middle of the night?”

Again, he didn’t answer. Sam watched her anger morph into fear, as Katherine realized she was standing alone in the woods with a complete stranger. With a man who might not work for her husband. He saw that small bit of security, precarious as it was, slip away from her. Sam had thoroughly enjoyed seeing Katherine angry, but hated seeing her scared. He knew she’d learned to fear men from Phillip Wright. The same way Sam’s own mother had learned to flinch at the barest mention of his father’s name or the sound of whiskey poured over ice. 

Placatingly, he held up his hands and backed away a step. “Please, I have something that belongs to you. I’d like to return it.”

Keeping his eyes trained on the woman wielding the gun, Sam removed his jacket entirely. It was too damn hot to be fully dressed. He squeezed the diary one last time, then offered it to Katherine. It felt like saying goodbye to an old friend.

Katherine’s eyes were the size of half dollars, as she realized what the stranger held. Keeping the revolver trained on the threat, she took her diary from his calloused hands. The leather cover was still warm from the handsome stranger’s body heat. It should make her uncomfortable, but didn’t. Katherine felt less scared now, and more conflicted. What on God’s green earth had she been thinking, coming out here and undressing for anyone to see? Still, something prickled at the back of Katherine’s mind. She’d been so sure before. This was exactly where she was supposed to be tonight. The thought still rang true. 

She met the stranger’s unwavering gaze, and asked, “Where did you find this?”

“Down at the club. The one on Seventh.” 

Yes. She’d thought it might be there. It must have fallen out of her handbag, one day when she’d met Phillip for lunch. Katherine had wanted to ask him to look so many times, but had stopped herself. The consequences of Phillip reading those pages would be disastrous. Finding her small collection of romance novels had been enough to send him into a full-blown rage. She could only imagine what he’d do, if he ever found out her secret passion for writing her own romances. This was a reminder, something so private of hers had been in the coat pocket of a complete stranger. She felt a blush creep along her damp cheeks.

Katherine asked, “Did you open it?”

He smiled wolfishly, but not condescendingly, like Phillip. 

“I’ll be honest, I did more than just open it.”

Katherine hung her head. She didn’t realize how embarrassed she’d feel after finding out someone read her work. Especially, someone she’d only just met.

He continued. “I devoured it. I must have read the entire thing, cover to cover, at least a dozen times.”

Her head snapped up to study the stranger’s expression. Was he being cruel or honest?

“You’re pulling my leg,” she said, slightly lowering the gun. Still, she kept a finger on the trigger.

“Scout’s honor. I’ve never been a big reader, but your stories are like potato chips. You can never have just one.”

Katherine was utterly speechless. The stranger held out a hand for her to shake, and Katherine took it. 

“I’m Detective Sam Dubois.”

“I’m Kat, but you already knew that.”

He’d taken a step closer, and Katherine felt entranced by his nearness. So, when he asked if they could sit by the water, she went along, finally resting her weapon on a rock nearby.

Sam Dubois told her a tale, stranger than fiction. The detective had been working undercover in Phillip’s club. His goal had been to find evidence of Phillip’s involvement in the deaths of his first two wives. 

This should have been shocking to Katherine, but wasn’t. The rumors had been easy to brush off when they were newlyweds, and Phillip was still so saccharine sweet. Her opinion had changed after the first time her husband had beaten her. Katherine now knew, without a doubt, she’d married a murderer.

“I highly suspect he tampered with the cars, or paid someone to do it. I could never get a full confession out of him. Something changed a week ago. Phillip was acting shifty or maybe even scared. Some hired muscle started coming around the club, saying Phillip owed their boss a lot of dough.”

She nodded. “Phillip has a habit of robbing Peter to pay Paul. He looks squeaky clean from the outside, but it’s all an act.”

“I know. I think I must have finally earned his trust, because he approached me with an offer.”

Sam’s eyes darkened, but not in a menacing way. Katherine had learned to avoid angry men, but something about Sam made her feel safe. Like this man she’d barely known for more than an hour would protect her before her own husband. She nudged the leg of his rolled up trousers with a bare foot. 

She said, “Tell me more.”

Sam needed to be sure that Katherine was on his side. That she harbored no lingering loyalty to Phillip. 

“Are you aware Phillip took out a life insurance policy on you after the wedding?”

Katherine was a brilliant woman. Sam could see the cogs turning inside her beautiful head. She was piecing this puzzle together. Taking all the information he’d given her, and forming the devastating truth. She didn’t answer, but it was time to lay out all his cards.

“Your husband, mistakenly believing I’m the kind of man who’d do it, offered me money to make you disappear.”

One small tear formed at the corner of her baby blues. Sam couldn’t stop himself, as he reached out and caught it on a finger. 

“Please, don’t cry, honey. That Son of a Bitch doesn’t deserve your tears.”

“Give me a moment. I’ll be fine.”

This is where all of Sam’s careful planning could go down the drain. Katherine could decide he was lying to her. She could shoot Sam, or run to Phillip and spill her guts, in which case they’d both be done for. Without Katherine’s cooperation, none of this would work.

Finally, she asked, “What happens now?”

She was still crying, but her words sounded fierce. Katherine was ready for a fight. She’d been ready, since the moment she stepped into the light of the full moon with a revolver under her dress. Sam realized he was falling in love with a lioness. 

He said, “We need to make a phone call.”

A few moments later, shots rang out. Three shots, in the woods below the big house on the hill, loud enough to be heard by the owner of the club on Seventh.

A few months later, Sam recounted the story for a courtroom. He told the jury about driving to the nearest pay phone, and calling Phillip Wright to tell him his wife was dead. Of course, Sam left out the more private details. Like how beautiful the blonde had looked, sitting in the passenger seat of his Thunderbird, on the way to pick up the payoff Phillip had left at the train station. 

Kat was born to ride in a red convertible. Even now that her hair was midnight black and cropped short to frame her face, she still looked like sunshine riding next to him. Sam couldn’t get enough of his new bride. The chief hadn’t been pleased, when Sam admitted he’d fallen in love with the wife of Phillip Wright. He was even less thrilled, when the two eloped, and Sam asked for a transfer to Maine. 

Kat Dubois holds tight to her husband’s hand, as they walk down a row of shops and cafes. Sometimes when she feels Sam’s rough palm against hers, she is reminded how wonderful it is, to hold a hand that has never struck her. She admitted this to Sam once, and he solemnly told her, she shouldn’t be grateful for basic human decency. That doesn’t stop her from squeezing the fingers wrapped around hers. Sam responds by planting a kiss on her forehead. 

“Look, there it is.”

She points excitedly to the rack of books in a shop window, under a sign that reads, “Best-sellers”. Publishing her stories had been Sam’s idea. Kat had been a harder sell, but after months of endless revisions, she’s excited to see her hard work pay off. The early reviews are almost all positive. The crowd favorite seems to be, “The Stranger and the Lioness”, which is no surprise. 

Sam buys two copies. One for their shelf at home, and one to send to his mother back in Alabama. Kat jokingly swats Sam’s arm.

“You don’t want a copy for your office at the station? Or are you embarrassed the boys will find out you read romance?”

He only pats his jacket and says, “I have my own special edition right here.”

She knows Sam treasures her old diary, almost as much as he treasures her. If he’d never found it under a table at the club on Seventh, their story might have ended differently. 

Katherine Jane Dubois shakes her head. What a silly thought. She knows, the same way she did the night she met Sam, she is exactly where she is meant to be. 

May 24, 2023 05:46

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Mary Bendickson
19:37 May 24, 2023

Loved this love story😃👍. Kat the lioness🐱🦁and the gumshoe🕵️👞 brought together by a diary 📔. Kept thinking it was back in old gangster's time then realized more contemporary.


Halle Giannelli
05:07 May 25, 2023

Yes! I was trying for a bit of a film noir vibe but set in the fifties. Thank you for reading.


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Shannon C.
14:23 Jun 05, 2023

I really enjoyed reading this and quickly fell in love with Kat. Great story and a great read. Thanks for sharing!


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Kevin Logue
05:23 Jun 02, 2023

Thoroughly enjoyable. Loved the changes in POV, really wasn't sure which way it was going to go and that kept me hooked. Romance noir and beautifully painted with your prose. It felt like Sleeping with the Enemy meets LA Confidential with a dash of the Maltese Falcon. (Sorry for all the film references, I haven't read much romance or detective novels.) Look forward to reading more of your stories.


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