She strolled the narrow, shop-lined pathway of the Gadir suq, or market. She needed the distraction of the suq to keep her thoughts and fears from spiraling out of control, but the last thing she needed was Jim's protective shadow hovering over her. She wasn't used to anyone being hell-bent on protecting her, and to be quite frank, right now it would be suffocating.

 

Now, breathing in the scents of cinnamon, cloves, turmeric, and a host of other spices, exotic fruits and meats, fresh fish, and the sour undercurrent of old camel fat and aged goat cheese, Delila's tension melted away. She had no idea why these smells felt so much like home when they had absolutely no connection to the wealthy, sheltered, predominantly white American community where she grew up. North Africa and the Middle East felt more like home than California ever had.

 

She wandered aimlessly, allowing herself to simply soak up the scents and sounds, and take in the brightly-colored veils of the women in the suq. Peace enveloped her, and she felt safe and home.

 

It caught her completely unaware when a hand grabbed hold of her arm, hard, from behind. Pain and surprise burst through her, and an involuntary cry ripped from her.

 

"Where do you think you're going, little bitch?" The voice came straight from her nightmarish memories, his breath hot and laced with sickly-sweet artificial mint. As artificial as the smile he showed his Hollywood A-list clients.

 

She knew he wasn't smiling now. Even as she squeezed her eyes closed, unwilling to assault her own memory with additional images of him, she could see her ex-husband's glower in her mind's eye.

 

Strangely, though her pulse skittered in fear of what he might do to her, she was no longer afraid of him. Calm settled over her, inspired by the letter she received from Hayden Lawrence, and the irrational sense Jim was nearby. She knew he wasn't. He couldn't be. And yet, every sense she had said he was, and he would never let anyone hurt her. She was here, and protected. John Jamison no longer had any power over her.

 

"Let go of me." She sent an icy glare John's way.

 

"Shut up, bitch," he growled, his grip tightening, even as his free hand cuffed her upside the back of the head hard enough Delila saw stars.

 

Before she could regain her bearings and scream, John dragged her into a narrow alleyway between the pisé buildings. Fear tripped along Delila's nerves, aware if she disappeared from the main suq, she was dead.

 

"Let go of me!" she screamed, struggling against John's larger size and tight grip. God, why hadn't she let Shanna train her in self-defense when the other woman offered the priestesses training?

 

John never went anywhere unarmed. She could only hope if Jim really was out there, he was also armed, and he'd find her before it was too late.

 

Contact Esther Mitchell at:

esthermitchell@esthermitchell.com

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