What happens when the life you have is not the life you want?
Christine Thurman and her husband, Jesse Ray, built a business worth millions and were once deeply in love. But lately J.R. has become obsessed with his empire and Christine feels taken for granted…until Wade Eddie Fisher, a bad boy with good looks from Christine’s past, comes back to town. Even though Wade is penniless and undependable, he reignites something deep within Christine. Before long she’s immersed in a sultry affair, and has devised a plan so risky that it promises to deliver all she could possibly want—or shatter the lives of everyone close to her...
“With its sexual triangle and triplecrossing plot, Deliver Me From Evil is modern noir.” —Akron Beacon Journal
“Her wildest and most entertaining novel yet.” —Publishers Weekly
A crude tattoo on his right bicep told the world that
his name was Wade. I recognized prison artwork
when I saw it, but he didn’t look like a thug. At least
not like any of the ones I knew. There were no grills of
tacky-looking gold teeth decorating his mouth like
stale corn. There was no thick gold chain wrapped
around his neck like a noose. With his neatly trimmed
jet-black hair; smoky gray eyes; sharp, handsome features;
and a thin T-shirt and tight jeans hugging his
well-developed body, he looked like a low-income
Between sips from a can of Coors Light, he puffed
on a thick blunt. A strong haze swirled around his head
like a halo. It was some pretty good shit, too. I welcomed
the immediate buzz I got from inhaling the secondhand
smoke. I hadn’t smelled weed this strong and sweet
since I was a teenager, more than ten years ago. But
within seconds that halo around his head turned into a
dark cloud and was moving in my direction.
I swallowed a huge lump that was threatening to block
my throat. Then I held my breath as he dialed the number
to the video store that my husband owned and managed.
“Hello...Yes!” Wade said in a loud and gruff voice
as soon as he got a response on the other end. It
sounded like he had a huge lump in his throat, too. He
coughed and cleared his throat, altering his voice this
time. “I need to speak to Jesse Ray Thurman.” He
talked with the blunt dangling from the corner of his
lips. “Put him on the phone. Put him on the phone right
now,” he ordered, a grimace on his face. “Dude, I ain’t
playing!” He even sounded like Lenny Kravitz.
The telephone, sitting in the lap of a wobbly bamboo
chair, was so cheap looking, it resembled a child’s
toy. The Wal-Mart bag that he had removed it from lay
on the floor, with the sales receipt peeking out like a
white tongue. But the cheap telephone had a speaker
feature, so I could hear my husband’s response on the
other end of the line from where I stood, a few feet
away from Wade.
“You’ve reached Video-Drama located on Alcatraz
near downtown Berkeley,” my husband answered,
sounding as cheerful and phony as a used-car salesman.
Wade’s mouth dropped open so wide, the blunt fell
to the floor, scorching the faded carpet. He immediately
ground it out by stomping on it with the heels of
his run-over, well-worn shoes, which he had probably
picked up from Payless or Goodwill. It must have been
hell for such a handsome man to be so broke in this day
and age. I wondered where he’d gotten the money to
buy the weed.
“This motherfucker put me on hold!” he hollered,
looking at me with an incredulous look on his face.
“What kind of dumb-ass motherfucker are you married
to?” he yelled, shaking the beer can at me like it was a
“He doesn’t know I’ve been kidnapped,” I whimpered.
My eyes were itching, and the insides of my
nostrils felt like they were on fire. I held my breath
again. I could barely feel my lips when I spoke again.
“Give him time. . . . He’ll be with you in a minute.
Please give him time.”
“Fuck this shit! You better be right! I ain’t got all
day! They got another line I can call at that damn
“They...they have two lines, but ...but if you call
the other one, you’ll just get put on hold again,” I managed,
my words rolling out of my mouth like rocks.
“Please give him time,” I begged. The inside of my
mouth was so dry, it felt like my tongue had stuck to
I closed my eyes and prayed that the man who was
about to demand a half-million–dollar ransom for my
release was not going to run out of patience. I knew
from experience that a caller to my husband’s business
could be put on hold for one minute or much longer
and left listening to an instrumental version of
“Strangers in the Night.” That was why when I needed
to call him up at work, I usually called him on his cellular
“This is Video-Drama,” my husband said after what
seemed like an eternity. “We are located—”
“Shut the fuck up!” Wade roared, cutting my husband
off in mid-sentence.
“Excuse me?” Jesse Ray said, still sounding cheerful
“I need to speak to Jesse Ray Thurman. Right now!”
Wade glared at me with such an extreme sneer, it
looked like his face had been turned inside out. He
looked raw and more menacing than ever. Now he did
look like some of the thugs I knew.
There was a pause before Jesse Ray responded. A
pause that was long enough to make my blood pressure
feel like it was about to go through the roof.
“Speaking. How can I help you today?” Jesse Ray
continued, almost singing his words. “We are here to
fill all of your video needs. We’ve got everything from
the earliest to the latest Hollywood hits to—”
“I said shut the fuck up! I got a gun, and I know how
to use it!”
My husband let out a gasp that was so loud, it made
me jump. “What did you say?”
“You long-eared motherfucker, I know you ain’t
deaf. I know damn well you heard what I just said. But
in case you didn’t, I will say it again. I got a gun, and I
know how to use it!” I hadn’t seen a gun yet, and I
hoped I wouldn’t.
The hollow silence that followed for a few moments
was almost unbearable. It seemed like every sound in
the world had come to an end. My body had begun to
let me down. It felt like spiders were crawling over
every inch of my flesh.
Then there was a muffled hiss. Jesse Ray cleared his
throat before he responded. “Who in the world is this?”
His voice was almost as hollow as the silence I’d just
Wade leaned his head to the side and sucked in a
deep, loud breath. Then he spoke like he was reading a
script. “Listen and listen good, motherfucker. Don’t
you say another goddamn word until I finish. Now, this
is the score. We got your wife!” He paused, winked at
me, and then lowered his voice. “I just wish she wasn’t
so damn pretty. It’s hard to keep my eyes off a woman
with such a nice, juicy petite body, such big brown
eyes, cinnamon brown skin, and a head full of thick
black hair falling across her shoulders. She looks like a
film star.” He sighed and moaned, sounding like the
same obscene caller who had called me up one night a
few years ago.
I didn’t think that I was “so damn pretty,” but I was
attractive. The rest of his description was quite accurate.
This situation was more about my husband’s
money than my looks, but it didn’t matter. I was still
nervous and frightened about how it was going to turn
Wade increased the volume on the speaker. Now I
could even hear Jesse Ray breathing on the other end
of the line. My husband was a healthy man, but by the
way he was wheezing, coughing, and clearing his
throat now, you would have thought that he was struggling
to stay alive. And I guess in a way that was probably
true. He worshipped the ground I walked on and
had once told me that if I died before him, he didn’t
know how he’d be able to go on living.
There was another pause before Jesse Ray responded
again. “You need to tell me who this is, and
you need to tell me now,” he said in an impatient and
amused tone of voice.
“You’ll find out soon enough. Like I just said, we got
your wife. And what a fine piece of tail she is! If you
want her back with her pussy in one piece, you’ll do
everything I tell you to do. Now, first thing is, you
don’t call no cops, and you don’t tell nobody else about
this. If you do, I’ll know about it, and you can forget
about ever seeing this sweet little woman of yours
again. Any questions?”
Jesse Ray let out an impatient sigh. Then he
laughed. He laughed. He cackled long and loud, like a
hyena. My mouth dropped open, and I stared at the
telephone. My life was at stake, and my husband was
“Man, what the fuck is wrong with you? Didn’t you
hear what I just said?”
“I heard you,” Jesse Ray said, still laughing.
“You think I’m playing? You think this is funny?”
“Hell, yeah, this is funny,” Jesse Ray said, mumbling
profanities under his breath. “But I got work to do, so
you have to call me back at a better time.”
I sat there in slack-jawed amazement. I could not
believe what I had just heard.
“Harvey, I know this is you. I’ve heard you use that
same voice when you do your lame-ass impressions. I
must say, you are beginning to sound more and more
like the Godfather, so keep practicing,” my husband
said in a stern voice. “But don’t practice on me. I’m a
“Shit! Look, I am not playing with you! Damn you
The room got so quiet, I could hear the water dripping
in the sink in the bathroom across the hall.
“Are you still there, motherfucker?” Wade shouted,
kicking over a chair.
“Yes, I’m still here.”
“I told you, I wasn’t playing with you! Do you understand
what I’m saying?”
“And I am not playing with you, either, Harvey. You
are my only brother and I love you, but you are one
sick-ass puppy, and you need some serious help! I
begged you for years to get some therapy, and you didn’t.
Now look at what you are up to. Now let me get off this
phone so I can get back to work.”
Wade and I looked at each other at the same time.
My mouth was hanging open wider than his. My husband
had just hung up.