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The people closest to you cause the most harm, and Stephanie is learning the hard way that love can be misplaced. Her partner adds to the complications as she tries to juggle her feelings for him with her obligations as a married woman.


Stephanie stumbled toward her home and arrived there after a few minutes walk, exhausted but still her human self. Police had cordoned off the area and the neighbors stood gawking on the sidewalk. The gate to the backyard was open. That’s when she recalled the smaller beast and she had left the larger opponent behind the house. She had no idea how she was going to explain that to the police even as she saw the officers swarming the area.
Stephanie noticed her vehicle which Bob had taken was parked on the street, and the gentleman was out on the lawn talking with one of the policeman. She stumbled up to them and both men noticed her pretty quickly. Her gaunt appearance and the way she cradled her scarred arm attracted a lot of attention.
“You’re safe!” Bob exclaimed as he and the officer raced over to her. He clasped his hands on her shoulders and looked her over. “Are you okay? What the hell happened?”
“There was some…there was an intruder,


she struggled to explain. She hadn’t thought up a good lie, so she’d stick as close to the truth as she could. It was easier to remember that later. “A burglar charged in and tried to get me. I ran away after I knocked him down in the backyard.” By the interested expression on the officer’s face, she guessed they hadn’t found anyone back there during their inspections.
“So you were actually there when the crime occurred?” the cop asked her as he flipped to a new page in his notepad.
“Yes, I was just getting the dishes cleaned up when someone broke through the back door,” Stephanie continued. So far so good. “I tried to get to the door but one of them grabbed me and I tried to get him off, but then somebody else came in through the back and got him off. I didn’t get a good look at him because I ran out through the back and over the fence.” She turned away to play at embarrassment. “I didn’t turn back until I was at the park a few blocks down.” She rubbed her injured arm when she recalled the lesson there.
“Are you hurt at all?” the cop asked as he waved to the waiting ambulance on the street.
“Only my arm,” Stephanie replied as she held up the limb. “I hurt it a few days ago and it kind of flared up again.” In the worst possible way.
“Could you describe either of them if you saw them again?” the officer continued the questioning.
“It happened so fast, I don’t think I could,” she lied. Bob gave her a pointed glance, but she ignored him. They both knew she wasn’t a very good liar, and right now she was showing that lack of skill. The officer, however, was busy writing down some notes as the medical crew came over.
“This lady needs attention,” the officer explained to the paramedics.
“No no, I’m fine, really,” she reassured them.
“You were just at the hospital, Steph, maybe the docs need another look at you just to make sure everything’s good,” Bob insisted. He did, however, shoo off the paramedics. “It’s fine, I can take her myself.” They backed off with some shrugging, especially since they didn’t see anything physically wrong with the woman. “Can we go to the hospital before she gives a statement?” he asked the officer.
“Certainly, but don’t go too far. We’ll need to speak to your wife in the next few days,” the officer answered as he held out a contact information card. “Is there a number we can reach you at?”
After all the information sharing was done, Bob escorted Stephanie to the car. He was very careful to get her inside first and then jump into the driver’s seat. In a minute they were down the road, and that’s when things changed.
“What was that back there?” he asked as they sped along the road. His tone had changed from the kind, caring husband to an interrogator bent on getting the info he wanted.
“What was what?” she returned. She tried to make her voice as innocent as possible, but he wasn’t buying it.
“You just lied to that cop back there. Why the hell would you do anything that stupid?”
“Believe me, if you knew the truth it wouldn’t be that stupid,” Stephanie replied as she glanced out the window. “Remember how I told you I was attacked by something in the alley at our last conference?”
“Yeah, some dog or something. What about it?” He was casting worried glances in her direction, but more for the safety of himself and doubting for her sanity.
“They came back tonight. Both of them,” she explained. She rubbed her sore arm. “That’s what destroyed the house.”
“So lemme get this straight,” Bob asked as a deep frown marred his expression. “You’ve got two dogs stalking you this far just to what? Hump your leg?”
“You think this is just a joke or something?” Stephanie shot back. She couldn’t blame him for not believing her, but the insult was uncalled for. “Did you even see the inside of that house? Those two things were bashing each other around like the walls were made out of cardboard.” Bob apparently had seen the inside of the house, as he didn’t argue with her on any of those points.
“Were you going to keep that a secret from me, too?” he accused. Stephanie glared at him with disgust on her face.
“Why the hell would you think that?” she asked him. In answer he nodded toward her arm.
“Because your arm wasn’t looking that bad last time I saw it, so you’re not telling me everything that went on, are you?” Bob commented.
Stephanie turned away from him, but she didn’t deny his accusation. To be honest, she was still considering whether or not she would have told him as much as she just did if he hadn’t guessed her lying expression. Her husband growled at her uncooperative manner, and Stephanie screamed out when he suddenly and violently pulled the car over to the side of the road. Her seatbelt whipped her forward and she felt the lash, but he just turned toward her with anger in his face. His voice was raised to almost a high-pitched scream.
“You’re going to tell me what the hell is going on, or you get out!” he demanded. Stephanie looked at him in shock and horror. His face was twisted by his ire and his teeth were clenched. His eyes were blazing with fire and she shrank back from him. “What?!”
To his utter shock and disbelief she slowly began to shake her head. Her hands fumbled for her seatbelt, and when she was free of that she hurriedly tried to open the door. She was trying to escape him, and he wasn’t taking that realization very well.
“Oh no you don’t!” he ordered as he lunged at her. His own seatbelt pulled him back and he scratched at the clasp as she escaped out the door.
Stephanie ran from the car as fast as she could. Fortunately she could see the hospital lights from where they had stopped, and she sprinted toward them. Behind her she could hear the car door open and Bob stepped out, but he didn’t pursue. He just stood beside the vehicle and glared as she turned down the block and went out of sight.
In a minute Stephanie was rushing up to the front of the hospital. She didn’t stop until she was safely in the lobby. Her loud and terrified entrance caught the desk nurse by surprise, and the kind woman scurried around the desk to see what assistance she could render the poor woman.
“Are you all right? What’s wrong?” she asked Stephanie as she put her hands gently on her shoulders. The desk clerk was terrified when she saw Stephanie’s pale face and scared eyes. “What happened? Are you hurt?”
“N-no, I think I’m fine,” Stephanie stuttered out, but she was glad when the nurse led her to a seat. “I just…I just had a scare, that’s all.”
“Did you need to see a doctor?” the employee wondered, and the young woman shook her head. “Is there someone I can call to come get you? A relative or spouse?”
“There’s…there’s a friend you can call for me,” Stephanie suddenly realized. She gave the number for Chuck. He would take her in, especially when he found out what had just taken place between her and Bob. “Could I wait here for him?”
“Of course, you just sit there and rest while I ring him up,” the nursed assured her.


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Mac Flynn
Mac Flynn