Oz Park – Chicago
The soulless stare of the weathered face made the hair at the nape of Olivia Davenport’s neck prickle. Vacant eyes followed her as she crept by the bronze statue of Scarecrow. In the dark, the eerie face haunted her with its grim taut mouth and disturbing hollows for eyes. She imagined it coming alive when she turned her back. Her revulsion to the Oz Park statue had her on edge, but she had another reason that had triggered her jitters.
She should never have come.
Ethan had made eight o’clock reservations at Amandine’s. He’d called her cell and left messages that she let roll into voice mail, but one text message got her to come to this deserted park at night. At first the thrill of the clandestine encounter had been an irresistible tease that she couldn’t refuse. Now in the dark, she wasn’t sure it had been a good idea.
Even in the muggy summer heat of Chicago, she wrapped her arms around her with her purse wedged under an elbow. She had a hand at her throat to touch the pearls she wore. Her eyes searched the shadows for any sign of movement in the dense trees that surrounded her rendezvous spot at the Oz Park statue. Even though her heels cut through the grass and made it hard to walk, she stayed clear of the lighted walkways.
She wasn’t sure what would happen, but Olivia was certain she didn’t want anyone to see.
When she heard the crunch of grass and felt company in the ghostly shapes of the trees, her first instinct had been to run, but she held firm. Every tree looked like the silhouette of someone lurking in the dark. Whenever car headlights off Howe Street cut into the park and flickered through the tree trunks, the motion played tricks on her. She jumped at every shift in light. Not even the muffled sound of music coming from a restaurant down the road robbed her of the rush.
Olivia dared to step through the trees and weave between them to let her eyes get accustomed to the dark—and the forbidden. Adrenaline surged through her like a tantalizing drug. Her heart pounded, punching her chest and throttling inside her ear, but she craved more. When she heard the snap of a twig ahead, she forced a fragile smile and clutched her purse to her chest.
“It’s me,” she whispered. “I’m here…like you asked.”
Olivia stopped, dead still, and listened. She shut her eyes and held her breath, blocking out everything to focus on the presence she felt strongest now. She wasn’t alone.
But when a loud noise stunned her, she jumped out of her skin. The shrill sound of her cell phone made her yelp. Damn it! She reached into her purse, and the phone display lit up, blinding her in the dark.
She never saw who called.
Arms grabbed her from behind and held her tight. The phone popped from her grip and flew into the darkness. She struggled against the hand over her mouth until she heard the familiar voice, a low whisper that brushed by her ear. She stopped to listen.
“Shh. It’s me. It’s just me.”
She took a deep breath through her nose and sagged in relief. The arms around her had been nothing more than a nasty scare that had spiked her rush with the danger of her secret liaison. When she stopped struggling, the hand came off her mouth and trailed down her body.
“What are you doing here?” she asked without turning around. “I thought—”
Goose bumps raced across her skin as a hand caressed her breast, and her nipples tightened under her thin blouse. She gasped at the intimacy of fingers pulling at her buttons and sliding under her lacey bra. She arched her back to make an offering of her breasts. When a hand slipped between her legs, she felt the fevered heat of her body. She gave in to the fantasy and pretended the encounter was with a faceless stranger in a public park—a forbidden someone she’d never see again—until the voice whispered.
“Tell me you want this.”
“Oh, yes. Yes.”
“Tell me your body belongs to me. Anything I want, I can have.”
“Yes. Anything.” Her voice cracked. “Do it now. I want this.”
“I do, too. You have no idea how much.”
Olivia jerked when the knife jabbed into her body. The meaty thud punched through bone and sinew. When her eyes grew wide, and she gasped with the sudden cruelty, a hand covered her mouth and muffled her cry. The blade slid inside her with force—one thrust jammed hard, inch by agonizing inch—until it twisted. Her eyes stung with the rush of tears. The pain was excruciating.
Despite the heat of the blood spilling from her body, an overwhelming chill swallowed her. Her lungs filled as if she were drowning, and a stark cold swept through her until she couldn’t feel anything—except for the arms that kept her from falling.
“You belong to me now. Only me.” Lips brushed her ear. “Now who’s the clever one?”
The arms let go, and she collapsed through a tumble of shadows until she hit the ground, hard. She wheezed and gurgled for air that never came as she rolled onto her back and stared into the night sky that flickered with stars and the dim glow of the city. When she stopped struggling, the silhouette of Scarecrow looked down at her. Those accusing eyes forced her to think of another face as a tear drained down her cheek.
Ethan. Olivia’s last thoughts were of him.
© Jordan Dane