Today's Reading

Chapter 6

Once more in the deserted for-sale house, now that morning sun provided cover, Jane switched on the lights in the master bathroom.

As sometimes happened these days, the face in the mirror was not what she expected. After all that she had been through in the past four months, she felt weathered and worn by fear, by grief, by worry. Although her hair was shorter and dyed auburn, she looked much as she had before this began: a youthful twenty-seven, fresh, clear-eyed. It seemed wrong that her husband should be dead, her only child in jeopardy and in hiding, and yet no testament of loss and anxiety could be read in her face or eyes.

Among other things, the large tote bag contained a long blond wig. She fitted it to her head, secured it, brushed it, and used a blue Scunci to hold it in a ponytail. She pulled on a baseball cap that wasn't emblazoned with any logo or slogan. In jeans, a sweater, and a sport coat cut to conceal the shoulder rig and pistol, she looked anonymous, except that during the past few days, the news media had ensured that her face was nearly as familiar to the public as that of any TV star.

She could have taken steps to disguise herself better, but she wanted Lawrence Hannafin to have no doubt as to her identity.

In the master bedroom, she waited at the window. According to her watch, the runner returned sixty-two minutes after setting out on his morning constitutional.

Because of his name recognition from the bestselling books and the audience he drew for the newspaper, he was free to work at home from time to time. Nevertheless, hot and sweaty, he would probably opt to shower sooner rather than later. Jane waited ten minutes before setting out to pay him a visit.

Chapter 7

Hannafin has been a widower for a year, but he still has not fully adjusted to being alone. Often when he comes home, as now, by habit he calls out to Sakura. In the answering silence, he stands quite still, stricken by her absence.

Irrationally, he sometimes wonders if she is in fact dead. He'd been out of state on an assignment when her medical crisis occurred. Unable to bear the sight of her in death, he allowed cremation. As a consequence, he occasionally turns with the sudden conviction that she is behind him, alive and smiling.

Sakura. In Japanese, the name means 'cherry blossom.' It suited her delicate beauty, if not her forceful personality....

He had been a different man before she came into his life. She was so intelligent, so tender. Her gentle but steady encouragement gave him the confidence to write the books that previously he only talked about writing. For a journalist, he was oddly withdrawn, but she extracted him from what she called his "unhappy-turtle shell" and opened him to new experiences. Before her, he was as indifferent to clothes as to fine wine; but she taught him style and refined his taste, until he wanted to be handsome and urbane, to make her proud to be seen with him.

After her death, he put away all the photographs of the two of them together that she had framed in silver and lovingly arranged here and there about the house. The pictures had haunted him, as she still haunts his dreams more nights than not.

"Sakura, Sakura, Sakura," he whispers to the quiet house, and then goes upstairs to shower.

She was a runner, and she insisted that he run to stay as fit as she was, that they might remain healthy and grow old together. Running without Sakura at first seemed impossible, memories like ghosts waiting around every turn of every route they had taken. But then to stop running felt like a betrayal, as if she were indeed out there on the trails, unable to return to this house of the living, waiting for him that she might see him and know that he was well and vital and staying true to the regimen that she had established for them.

If ever Hannafin dares to speak such thoughts to people at the newspaper, they will call him sentimental to his face—maudlin and mawkish and worse behind his back—because there is no room in most contemporary journalists' hearts for schmaltz unless it is twined with politics. Nevertheless...

In the master bath, he cranks the shower as hot as he can tolerate. Because of Sakura, he does not use ordinary soap, which stresses the skin, but he lathers up with You Are Amazing body wash. His egg and cognac shampoo is from Hair Recipes, and he uses an argan-oil conditioner. All this seemed embarrassingly girly to him when Sakura was alive. But now it is his routine. He recalls times when they showered together, and in his mind's ear, he can hear the girlish giggle with which she engaged in that domestic intimacy.

The bathroom mirror is clouded with steam when he steps out of the shower and towels dry. His reflection is blurred and for some reason disturbing, as if the nebulous form that parallels his every move, if fully revealed, might not be him, but instead some less-than- human denizen of a world within the glass. If he wipes the mirror, it will streak. He leaves the steam to evaporate and walks naked into the bedroom.

A most amazing-looking woman sits in one of the two armchairs. Although she's dressed in scuffed Rockports and jeans and a nothing sweater and an off-brand sport coat, she looks as if she stepped out of the pages of 'Vogue.' She's as stunning as the model in the Black Opium perfume ads, except that she's a blonde instead of a brunette.

He stands dumbstruck for a moment, half sure that something has gone wrong with his brain, that he's hallucinating.

She points to a robe that she has taken from his closet and laid out on the bed. "Put that on and sit down. We have to talk."

This excerpt ends on page 17 of the hardcover edition.

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