Excerpt: The Woman In the Painting

Now that Tess owned a gun, she felt as if it was changing her relationships. Not the relationships, exactly, but her feelings toward the people who had been bothering her, manipulating her. Namely, Alexandra and Steve.

It made no sense. It wasn’t as if she were going to shoot them for God’s sake. But she felt more in control. She liked having a secret and liked the fact that there was a side to her they didn’t know, while they deluded themselves into thinking they had her all figured out. It gave her a renewed sense of power.

With the gun, the incident in Santa Cruz had stopped haunting her. She even felt more forgiving toward Alexandra. Her feelings were illogical, but intense and unshakeable. The gun had touched something primal, buried so deeply inside of her she’d never noticed it before. The weapon symbolized her ability to take care of herself without thinking a man was required. And not requiring a male gave her a spacious feeling, as if she’d somehow made psychological room for a different kind of man to come into her life. An equal partner rather than someone to fill a shameful neediness.

She’d already had her first lesson at a target range. The instructor had said she was a natural. She accepted the comment at face value. Why not?

On Monday morning she met Alex for coffee. After they’d looked through the agenda for the alignment meeting with PR, Tess swallowed the rest of her coffee. “I need to run. But how about lunch. Friday?”

Alex nodded.

“We can have a glass of wine, linger a bit.”

“It’ll be good to catch up,” Alex said.

Tess studied Alex’s eyes. Their expression was subdued. She seemed more compliant, or agreeable than usual. Surely it wasn’t because Tess had created a different dynamic, transformed by her secret knowledge of the small gun in her bag. She laughed.

“What’s so funny?”

“Nothing. Sorry.” She stood and picked up both paper cups. “Done?”

Alex nodded.

She carried them to the counter and dropped them through the opening into the trash container.

The Woman In the Painting Cathryn Grant

Excerpt from The Woman In the Painting

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