When the Serpent Bites Excerpt









CHAPTER 2

Ozy’s SUV was parked in the driveway at the top of the slope. The inside of the house

was dark. A quick glance at the digital clock on the dashboard showed it was after midnight. He

hadn’t intended to go there this late; he hadn’t intended to go by there ever again. But his

thoughts ate at him, until he had to do something to make them stop. To make all of it stop.

Seeing Kayla with Bret had pushed him to this edge. In the dark interior of the car he slammed

his hands on the steering wheel.

 “Fuck all of them. I’m taking back control of my life.”

He parked at the foot of the driveway and got out. The temperature was dropping fast.

Gusts of icy wind whipped at his face; treetops swayed and groaned. He leaned against the

Bentley for several moments, shivering from cold and raw energy.

The grass crackled as he made his way toward the house, counting twenty-five steps as he

dodged several children’s toys that had been left out. He approached the front door where hay

bales, pumpkins, and gourds had been arranged. He ignored the doorbell and pulled open the

outer glass door to access the solid wooden one, noting there was no peephole, its absence an

indication that Ozy wasn’t afraid of what or who might come to his house. He raised a fist then

held it back. There was still time to drive off, to just leave it all alone. Forcing an image of his

children into his mind gave him courage. He swallowed hard then beat on the door without

pause, until he heard someone turn the deadbolt on the other side.

Ozy wore his robe tied at his waist. His wife, also wrapped in a robe, and with hair flat on

one side, stood behind him but to the right, eyes wide in fright at this disturbance.

Starks locked his gaze with Margaret’s. “I’m here to let your wife know what you’ve

been doing. That you slept with Kayla, my wife, for three years. Of course, slept isn’t the right

Slurred voices of children disturbed from sleep came from behind the couple. Ozy yelled

for them to get back to bed. He told his wife to wait inside then stepped over the threshold,

closing the glass door behind him. Loud enough for his wife to hear, he said, “You have the

wrong house, buddy. I don’t know you or anyone named Kayla. Now get off my property, before

I force you off.”

Starks’s expression darkened. His elbows pressed into his sides, his hands knotted into

fists. The speech of well chosen words he’d practiced in his mind as he’d driven over vaporized.

“Liar! You’ve been screwing my wife in your car and anywhere else handy.” He pointed

at Margaret. “Who knows what you told your wife you were doing—going to the store, working

late, and God knows what else. You think you can destroy my family, all I’ve worked for, and

get away with it? I want your wife to know what a two-timing loser she’s married to.”

Ozy lowered his voice. “You’re as stupid as you look standing here like a self-righteous

ass. You’ve got a hot woman in your bed. You should be doing her instead of jacking off in front

of my wife. Besides, there’s no reason for you to be here. I’m done with Kayla, who, as you

know, has another man polishing her chrome now. No reason for you to be here other than some

misplaced pride.”

“She was my wife!”

“What can I say? I’m a use ’em then lose ’em kinda guy.”

Starks backed up a few steps, realizing how pointless it was to try to get Ozy to feel

remorse of any kind. He’d done what he came here to do: Margaret had heard him. It was time to

leave, time to return to Emma and her soothing warmth.

Ozy moved forward. “You don’t know how to please a woman. Kayla was so fucking

grateful that she couldn’t do enough for me. If that new piece of ass of yours needs it done right,

tell her to call me.” He jabbed Starks’s chest with his finger. “In the bedroom Mechanical Man,

you’re a waste of space.”

Starks had always seen himself as a rational man. But Ozy’s arrogance overwhelmed

him. The fact that he was no longer able to go home to his children, no longer able to kiss their

foreheads each night as they slept, in effect, having been forced from sharing daily life with them

because of this man, had festered inside him like a wound with no cure.

Howling, he charged at Ozy. Used his shoulder to ram the man into the glass door. Sharp

shards rained down on both of them and scattered across the floor. Blood trickled from small

cuts on both men. Margaret screamed.

Ozy yelled, “Upstairs. Call the police.” He ran to the kitchen.

Starks ignored his instinct to leave and followed the man.

Ozy stood on the other side of the island cutting block centered in the room, with his back

against the countertop. He edged his way left, his eyes fixed on Starks.

“I don’t know why you’re angry with me. You told Kayla you wanted her to be happy,

whatever it took. It took me. She liked what I did to her.” His grin was malicious. “Said she’s

been spoiled after having one my size. Said I knew what she wanted before she did. In fact, she

liked what every man in my firm did to her. Liked me to watch.” His face conveyed amusement.

“Didn’t know there was more than me? You’re the loser.”

Starks saw Ozy rest his left hand on the countertop. Saw him then move his hand behind

him. He got distracted when Ozy said, “Are you upset that I did your wife or that sometimes a

buddy and I did her at the same time? Get a fuckin’ clue. Get your head out of your—”

Starks heard metal slide against wood. He saw the large knife Ozy held in a white-

knuckled grip.

Adrenaline surged. Rage replaced reason. A heavy glass bowl rested on the counter near

him. He took hold of it. Rushed at Ozy. Survival instinct and something he’d never felt before

took over, blocking sound and sensation from his mind. He slammed the bowl into the side of

Ozy’s head. Fell onto the downed man. Used his fists to vent the tornado of emotions he’d held

in for so long.

He didn’t notice how much blood there was.

Or the absence of any defensive blows from his wife’s former lover.

Starks, handcuffed, was dragged from the kitchen by two police officers. That’s when he

noticed two small children clinging to their mother’s robe. Sight of them cleared his mind

enough for him to see and hear their terror. Anguish and guilt and shame about how their

innocence had been shattered—by him—caused him to cry out.

His eyes were wide and unseeing as the police hustled him out of the house. Starks

stumbled and slid on the slick grass. The two policemen gripping his arms yanked him to his

feet. Blue flashing lights drew his attention. He saw the ambulance. And wondered what he’d

done. He remembered grabbing the bowl but nothing after that. He looked down; his hands,

arms, and clothes were bathed in red. His stomach knotted, his skin went clammy.

The officer on his right cursed when Starks vomited.

County jail personnel bagged and labeled his personal items. His pants, sweater, and

shoes were put into an evidence bag, his clothing replaced with an orange jumpsuit to wear,

along with sneakers with no laces. A doctor cleaned him up and tended to his cuts and abrasions.

The only time he spoke was to ask to call his attorney. After a brief explanation of what

had happened, he said, “Mike, my car.” He felt guilty for worrying about it and relieved when

his attorney said he’d take care of it.

He waited hours in a holding cell with—as he perceived them—unkempt, smelly

lowlifes, before he was given a private cell. Once alone and he had time to think, he realized the

tidy, organized life he prized and insisted on had taken a very wrong turn. The reality was that it

had turned long before this night, he reminded himself. Denial was no longer an option.

The nightmares began that night. Violent, punishing images that yanked him awake,

drenched him in sweat, causing one of the night guards to tell him if he didn’t keep his mouth

shut, he’d come in there and shut it for him.

He wanted to rewind time.

Too late for that. Time to get yourself out of this and move on with your life.

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