Chasing Luck

By: Brinda Berry

A Serendipity Novel




Acknowledgements





There isn’t a way to properly thank the friends who support me as an author. I hope they know how tough this would be without them.

Thank you to my critique partners: Jennifer Windrow, Jennifer Savalli, Abbie Roads, Kelly Crawley, Kathleen Groger, and Christina Delay. My respect for you is endless.

Dear Margie Lawson…I credit you with bringing these ladies into my writing life. I also love you for your red pen. Truly. This book came to life on your writing couch.

A special thanks goes out to Audrey Estes, Kristi Cheatham, and Mandy Dismang. You ladies deserve shiny medals for your honesty and tact regarding parts of the book you loved and parts you didn’t.

Thank you Lacey Thacker for tireless editing. You decimated an obscene number of “thats” in the book. You also do an exceptional job of seeing the forest and the trees.

Thank you Regina Wamba from Mae I Design for creating a cover that is awesomely perfect.

As always, I thank my family for loving and supporting me.




Prologue





Malerie





It’s bizarre how one crazy psycho can break a heart and mind into an unforgiving pile of pieces.

No superglue solution for the aftermath of tragedy.

Mom's law office was usually the most boring place ever for a seven-year-old. I'll never forget the wail of a shrill alarm pulsing through the twenty-five-story building, kicking my heart into a race with my rapid breathing. I looked at my mom and covered my ears at the hateful sound. She glanced up from her paperwork and grabbed the desk phone. Mom closed her eyes, irritated. We were only supposed to be at her office for ten minutes. She'd said fifteen at the most.

Red lights blinked in time with the screech of the alarm. She shook her head, rose, held out her hand. I placed my hand in hers while looking at her perfectly lipsticked mouth. She was tall today in her high, spiky heels. I studied her moving lips, but I couldn't hear anything over the screeching and voices.

She bent, placed her lips to my ear. "Fire alarm. Come on."

"Okay." I yelled. I giggled when she playfully swatted my behind. We had a fire alarm just last week at school. Jenny Millard got into trouble for letting the class hamster out of its cage so it wouldn't die in a fire.

In the hallway, people flurried past us. They darted out of offices quickly, holding purses and briefcases. A man at the end of the corridor yelled. He motioned like a crossing guard on high speed, but I couldn't tell what he was saying until we reached the end. As we walked down the hall, I looked through the glass interior walls at the remaining people inside each office—rule breakers who didn't follow directions.

I hoped they got in trouble. People who didn't follow rules deserved to get in trouble.

"Stay calm. This is not a drill. Exit now. Leave your things and take the stairs." Mom's boss yelled louder than the alarm. I watched him run a hand over his hair and down his neck. He tugged on his necktie until he pulled it loose.

Mom squeezed my hand a little tighter. She smiled down at me, reassuring with her lips, but her eyes had me worried. Someone yelled, "Bomb." People began running, crowding, jamming. We reached the elevator. The man said to take the stairs, but people didn't listen. They were crowding into the already full elevator. I knew how to follow directions from school. Had these grownups been in my class, they would know how to walk in a “calm and collected fashion,” as Mrs. Wallace said. Mom and I were walking to the stairs when a loud crash sounded and the building shook. A picture slid down the wall beside the elevator and crashed to the floor. Glass spidered into a web on the surface of the image.

People screamed near me. I knew this wasn't like the school drill. This not-a-drill was scary. Mom squeezed my hand hard and that made me want to cry. I dropped my new Hello Kitty purse. Colored pencils and candy spilled out and rolled. I bent down to retrieve it but Mom pulled me up with a jerk.

"Malerie!" My mother yelled in a tone she rarely used. A tone she'd used when I'd almost stepped in front of a car. A tone from the day when I'd used the kitchen knife to cut a rope. A tone that made my throat tighten.

A big man stepped on my chocolate-covered candies and his foot rolled on a pencil; he wobbled to balance himself before he too spilled onto the floor.

My eyes filled with tears. My purse would be dirty now. I would come back for it later. I almost tripped as my mother moved into a crowd of bodies at a doorway leading to the stairwell. I tried to hold on, but the tall people were shoving and squishing me. She held my wrist so hard I could feel her rings biting into the skin on my arm. I tried to twist toward her, but the people were too big. I couldn't see my mom. My face pressed into the back of a man wearing tan pants and a brown belt.

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