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Sanctuary

Sanctuary

Titel: Sanctuary
Autoren: Nora Roberts
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“If you’ve got something besides candy bars and moldy bread.”
    Taking a long breath, Jo tuned in. “No, that’s okay. Maybe we’ll stop somewhere and grab something. I’m already running behind.”
    She slid off the stool and crouched to pick up the mail.
    “You know, it wouldn’t hurt you to take a few days off, focus on yourself. My mom goes to this spa down in Miami.”
    His words were only a buzzing in her ear now. She picked up the manila envelope with her name printed neatly on it in block letters. She had to wipe a film of sweat from her brow. In the pit of her stomach was a sick ball that went beyond dread into fear.
    The envelope was thicker than the others had been, weightier. Throw it away , her mind screamed out. Don’t open it. Don’t look inside.
    But her fingers were already scraping along the flap. Low whimpering sounds escaped her as she tore at the little metal clasp. This time an avalanche of photos spilled out onto the floor. She snatched one up. It was a well-produced five-by-seven black-and-white.
    Not just her eyes this time, but all of her. She recognized the background—a park near her building where she often walked. Another was of her in downtown Charlotte, standing on a curb with her camera bag over her shoulder.
    “Hey, that’s a pretty good shot of you.”
    As Bobby leaned down to select one of the prints, she slapped at his hand and snarled at him, “Keep away. Keep back. Don’t touch me.”
    “Jo, I ...”
    “Stay the hell away from me.” Panting, she dropped on all fours to paw frantically through the prints. There was picture after picture of her doing ordinary, everyday things. Coming out of the market with a bag of groceries, getting in or out of her car.
    He’s everywhere, he’s watching me. Wherever I go, whatever I do. He’s hunting me, she thought, as her teeth began to chatter. He’s hunting me and there’s nothing I can do. Nothing, until . . .
    Then everything inside her clicked off. The photograph in her hand shook as if a brisk breeze had kicked up inside the room. She couldn’t scream. There seemed to be no air inside her.
    She simply couldn’t feel her body any longer.
    The photograph was brilliantly produced, the lighting and use of shadows and textures masterful. She was naked, her skin glowing eerily. Her body was arranged in a restful pose, the fragile chin dipped down, the head gently angled. One arm draped across her midriff, the other was flung up over her head in a position of dreaming sleep.
    But the eyes were open and staring. A doll’s eyes. Dead eyes.
    For a moment, she was thrown helplessly back into her nightmare, staring at herself and unable to fight her way out of the dark.
    But even through terror she could see the differences. The woman in the photo had a waving mass of hair that fanned out from her face. And the face was softer, the body riper than her own.
    “Mama?” she whispered and gripped the picture with both hands. “Mama?”
    “What is it, Jo?” Shaken, Bobby listened to his own voice hitch and dip as he stared into Jo’s glazed eyes. “What the hell is it?”
    “Where are her clothes?” Jo tilted her head, began to rock herself. Her head was full of sounds, rushing, thundering sounds. “Where is she?”
    “Take it easy.” Bobby took a step forward, started to reach down to take the photo from her.
    Her head snapped up. “Stay away.” The color flashed back into her cheeks, riding high. Something not quite sane danced in her eyes. “Don’t touch me. Don’t touch her.”
    Frightened, baffled, he straightened again, held both hands palms out. “Okay. Okay, Jo.”
    “I don’t want you to touch her.” She was cold, so cold. She looked down at the photo again. It was Annabelle. Young, eerily beautiful, and cold as death. “She shouldn’t have left us. She shouldn’t have gone away. Why did she go?”
    “Maybe she had to,” Bobby said quietly.
    “No, she belonged with us. We needed her, but she didn’t want us. She’s so pretty.” Tears rolled down Jo’s cheeks, and the picture trembled in her hand. “She’s so beautiful. Like a fairy princess. I used to think she was a princess. She left us. She left us and went away. Now she’s dead.”
    Her vision wavered, her skin went hot. Pressing the photo against her breasts, Jo curled into a ball and wept.
    “Come on, Jo.” Gently, Bobby reached down. “Come on with me now. We’ll get some help.”
    “I’m so tired,” she murmured,

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