Baxter Reed waited until his wife’s body seeped beneath the surface of the water. The area smelled of high humidity and algae, making his sinuses drain to the back of his throat. He hated that he felt nothing. He had hoped to feel some release as he choked the life out of her.
He waited and then nudged her body with his foot.
Again, he waited.
Surely, he should have felt something for the woman he first met when she was a toddler. He shook his head to dislodge the memories which threaten to rise to the surface of his brain.
He made his way back up the steep hill where he’d parked his car.
Baxter clasped the steering wheel of the old Chevy.
He clinched on his jaw while beads of sweat lined his brow. Adjusting the rearview mirror, Baxter turned the key in the ignition and pulled away from the desolate City Park.
His stomach in anxious knots, he drove three miles in the opposite direction of the park until he reached the first abandoned car wash he could find. Driving into one of the bays, he pulled his thick frame from behind the wheel and went to the trunk of the car. Tweaking the key, a little, he opened the trunk. He placed several industrial cleaning products, picked up one of the large bottles and began spraying the inside of the car. He did the same to the exterior.
He felt nothing. Baxter pinched himself on his right arm to make sure he wasn’t numb.
Vanessa Reed packed a punch when she reared back, and molly-whopped him once she realized what was happening. But by then it was too late. He towered over Vanessa’s five-foot-three, one hundred and twenty-pound frame. She was small, but packed a whollop. He rubbed his hand over his face and hoped she had not scratched him up.
Baxter thought about what had taken place earlier.
He’d placed both of his meaty calloused hands around her throat and squeezed. At first, she thought it was foreplay. And for a long time in their marriage, it was. He listened as she coughed, sputtered and spit in his face. Her knees buckled, her back bent and warm urine trickled down her legs dripping onto his shoes. He watched as her eyes bulged out and then rolled into the back of her head. Once he locked his sights onto Natasha, old things needed to pass away.
Baxter wiped and cleaned the inside of the car until it gleamed like a new car on a showroom floor.
He drove over to a row of vacuum cleaners. He picked the one on the far end, away from the bright lights piercing the night sky. He vacuumed the mat until he was sure not a random fiber could be located with ultraviolet light. Next, he retrieved a black trash bag containing a change of clothes.
Baxter peeped over his shoulder, making sure that no one was around, then eased his way to the side of the building. He stripped down to his underwear, changed clothes, and then out the discarded garments inside the bag.
He carefully emptied a portion of the contents from each trash can on top of the clothes in the plastic bag.
Baxter took the bag back to his car and drove away. Down the road, he flung it into a dumpster behind a local grocery store.
With plenty of time to spare, Baxter parked his car down the street from Natasha’s dorm. He’d paid good money to make sure she and her roommate were assigned the room on end the large windows. He turned off the ignition and lights. Sliding his seat back, he unzipped his pants and dropped his hand in his lap waiting to oogle her through the thin curtains.
The first time he saw Natasha, she was sitting at table in front of the student union eating lunch. He watched the way she rolled her eyes at another student near her, who was taking deep drags from a cigarette and blowing smoke rings. She coughed and she waved the smoke away with one hand. He hated the scent of cigarette smoke, too.
She was gorgeous. She wore a dark blue A & T Aggies Cheerleader t-shirt with matching tiny blue shorts. Her long brown tresses were pulled back into a messy sort of ponytail. Her high cheekbones, thin nose, and smooth russet complexion looked ethereal in the bright sunlight.
His attraction was instant. He eased closer to where she was sitting. She was on the phone, and he felt compelled to hear her voice. Something about her
drew him in.
She glanced up.
He stuck his hand up to wave hello. He glimpsed the subtle look of alarm the moment it passed over her face. He turned and walked away.
Baxter felt her eyes piercing his back. He took long strides, not stopping until he was clear of her vision.
The second time he saw her, Baxter knew he was in love. This time, she was standing in the middle of the campus bookstore thumbing through a fashion magazine. She wore cut-off denim shorts, a t-shirt with a knot tied in the front, showing off her small belly button ring. When Natasha’s tongue flicked out to lick her thumb, he about died.
Subtly, he slipped down the aisle behind her. She smelled sweet almost like bubble gum and teen spirit. He inhaled her scent and smiled because it would be the first time in years he was excited to get home to his wife. He lingered behind her a while longer trying to memorize the delicious scent. Baxter waited until she paid for her purchases, then purchased a newspaper before hurrying to see which direction she had gone.
He watched as she turned the block, headed toward the student union where he first eyeballed her. Counting off the seconds 1, 2, 3…he could barely make it to thirty. Baxter crossed the pavement behind her. He watched her walk past the old building and dorms on campus. She paused at one dormitory, looked up and stared. It was one of the older buildings from when the students took part in the sit-in movement. He watched as she made her way to the statue commemorating the four A & T Aggie students which led the Civil Rights campaign. She pulled out her phone and took several selfies posing in front of the statue.
Baxter hoped she wasn’t one of them—a hard-nosed feminist who hated men and blamed them for everything wrong in the world. But then again, if she were hard, he would take great pleasure in breaking her down.
He glanced down at his watch. He needed to get back to work. If it were his choice, he’d follow her all day. Baxter knew a few of the professors in his building would have a fit if he were late emptying the trash. The chirping sound of his cell phone snapped him back to reality.
He glanced up at Natasha’s bedroom window. He straightened his clothes and drove home, mentally rehearsing how he’d act when the police came to tell him his wife was dead.
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Excerpted from Wrath (Seven Deadly Sins Series Book 1) by Cassandra Baker-Durham. Copyright © 2017 Cassandra Baker-Durham. Excerpted by permission of Salt, Light & Witnesses. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.