CHAPTER ONE Sarasota, Florida Monday, June 16, 2003 Roger "Sam" Starrett's cell phone vibrated, but he was wedged into the rental car so tightly that there was no way he could get the damn thing out of the front pocket of his jeans. At least not without causing a twelve-car pileup on Route 75. He had the air-conditioning crankedwelcome to summer in Floridaand the gas pedal floored, but the subcompact piece of shit that had been one of the last cars in the rental company's lot was neither cool nor fast. It was barely a car. Feeling trapped in an uncomfortable place had been pretty much SOP for Sam ever since he rushed into marriage with Mary Lou nearly two years ago, and he waited for the familiar waves of irritation and anger to wash over him. Instead, he felt something strangely similar to relief. Because Sarasota was only another few minutes down the road. And the end was finally in sight. Sam knew the town well enoughhe'd hitched down here from his parents house in Fort Worth, Texas, four summers in a row, starting when he turned fifteen. It had changed a lot since then, but he had to believe that the circus school was still over by Ringling Boulevard. Which wasn't too far from Mary Lou's street address. Maybe he should make a quick stop, pick up a few more Bozos, turn this thing into a bona fide clown car. On the other hand, one was probably enough to qualify for clown car status. His phone finally stopped shaking. What were the chances that it had been Mary Lou, finally calling him back? Nah, that would be too damn easy. Although, in theory, this should have been an easy trip. Pop over to Sarasota. Pick up the divorce papers that Mary Lou was supposed to have sent back to him three weeks ago. Put an end to the giant-ass mistake that was their marriage, and maybe even try to start something new. Like a real relationship with his baby daughter, Haley, who after six months probably wouldn't even recognize him. Then pop back home to San Diego. Fucking easy as pie. Except this was Mary Lou he was dealing with. Yes, she was the one who'd filed for this divorce. Yes, she'd been compliant right up to this point. But Sam wouldn't put it past her to change her mind at the zero hour. And it was, indeed, the zero hour. And, true to form, Mary Lou was surely messing with him. Had to be. Why else would she not have sent the papers back to the attorney after receiving them four weeks ago? Why else would she not return Sam's phone calls? Why else would she not pick up the phone even when he called at oh dark hundred, when he knew she had to be there because the baby was surely sleeping? Sam reached for the stick to downshift as he took the exit ramp for Bee Ridge Road, and came into contact with the stupidass automatic transmission. Six months ago, this entire suckfest scenario would have made him bullshit. Everything sucked. This car sucked, the fact that he had to come all this way for something that should have cost the price of a first-class postage stamp sucked, and knowing that Haley was going to look at him as if he were some stranger really sucked. But along with his weird feeling of relief came a sense of readiness. Maybe this wasn't going to be easy, but that was okay. He was ready for it. He was ready for anything. Like, Haley was probably going to cry when he tried to hold her. So he wouldn't hold her at first. He'd take it slow. And Mary Lou, well, she was probably going to ask him to get back together. He was ready for that, too. "Honey, you know as well as I do that it just wasn't working." He tried the wBrockmann, Suzanne is the author of 'Gone Too Far', published 2003 under ISBN 9780345462275 and ISBN 0345462270.