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First in the Chelsea Adams Series

The murder was ugly.

The killer was sure no one saw him.

Someone did.

In a horrifying vision God allows her to see, Chelsea Adams relives the victim's last moments. But who will believe her? Certainly not the police, who must rely on hard evidence. Nor her husband, who barely tolerates Chelsea's newfound Christian faith. Besides, he's about to hire the man who Chelsea is certain is the killer to be a vice president in his company.

Torn between what she knows and the burden of proof, Chelsea must follow God's leading and trust him for protection. Meanwhile, the murderer is still on the streets. And he's not about to take Chelsea's involvement lying down.

"Chilling ... a confusing, twisting trail that keeps pages turning."
--Publishers Weekly

Chapter 1 Excerpt

Copyright 2001 by Brandilyn Collins
Used by permission of Zondervan

(Background -- Chelsea is at dinner with her entrepreneurial husband, Paul, and Gavil Harrison, the man that Paul is about to hire as Vice President of Marketing for his successful company. Paul wanted Chelsea to "look over" Gavil and see what she thinks of him.)

Chelsea’s eyes danced from her husband to Gavil, comparing qualities. Gavil seemed articulate and creative, his insights bespeaking a solid understanding of the whys and wherefores of the software business. Artfully, Chelsea interjected questions that focused more on his personal life. Gavil’s open answers told Chelsea that he understood why she and Paul were interested in aspects of his life other than his employment skills. Theirs was a common philosophy: a person who lacked integrity in his personal affairs may lack it in business as well. A couple of times, Chelsea sensed the slightest edge in Gavil’s tone as he spoke with her, but she waved it off as nervousness over wanting to make a good impression. Watching Paul’s animation as the three of them conversed, Chelsea knew that, after a long, often disheartening search, her husband had finally found the person he wanted to hire. She found no reason to disagree.

Until the soufflé arrived.

Later, Chelsea would relive the moment again and again in slow motion as one relives a freak accident. She would ask God why He had allowed this to happen. But she would not doubt what she saw.

Paul excused himself as dessert was being served, asking the maître d’ for directions to the restroom. Chelsea smiled at him as he rose, then lifted both eyebrows in a silent "Ooooh" at Gavil as they watched the soufflé being spooned onto their plates.

"I’ve never had one of these before." He wiped his lips with his napkin. "Great suggestion."

As the maître d’ moved to serve Gavil, Chelsea opened her mouth to reply, but the only sound she heard was the click of her teeth beginning to chatter. She blinked in surprise. "I’m sorry," she blurted. "I, I must be coming down with . . . ." Her voice trailed away, and she shook her head. Blankness rolled across her face as her vision clouded.

"What is it?"

Gavil’s voice was there but not there. It was in a tunnel, retreating, far away. The sound waves twisted and turned, encasing her in a muffled cocoon, then gradually metamorphosed into another place, another time. Chelsea felt the same misplaced sensation she’d experienced during her visions and knew another one was coming. Gradually, she began to hear a different tone, at first faint, then increasing in strength. A harsh, choked whisper.

"I hate you! I’ve always hated you! Look what you’ve made me!"

Like a disoriented moth caught in a maelstrom, she stretched out her hands antennae-like and waved them blindly before her. They prickled with heat. Other sensations began to form. She was lying on cold, hard ground. Her bare legs throbbed as if they’d been scratched by thorns. Her face hurt as though she’d been beaten. Something trickled into her eyes, and she squeezed them shut in unadulterated terror.

The image of a forest faded in. Chelsea sensed trees and wild brush around her.

The sweet, aromatic smell of eucalyptus penetrated the air, and a light breeze ruffled through the tops of towering sequoias.

Sobs shuddered through her lungs as the voice, inches away from her face, spat out again, throatily. "I hate you!"

"No!" Pleading sprang instinctively from Chelsea’s lips as she tried to ward off her tormentor. But he was too strong, a killing machine fueled by adrenaline. Hands grabbed her shoulders, lifted her upper body off the ground, then threw her back down with a violent force. Crack! Her neck snapped back like a newborn baby’s. An all-encompassing, blinding pain seared through her skull.

"Nooo." Weaker this time.

She struggled to open blood-filled eyes, seeing only the fuzzy features of a man with dark hair. Again the hands lifted and dashed her head against the ground. She could feel her arms falling, falling, until at last they lay useless across her chest. "No," she struggled to repeat, but the utterance would not come.

A third lifting. A third crack. And a fourth. She could do nothing. She could not fight. She could not move. With each blow the world, her sense of being, grew darker, and she felt her body shutting down.

So this is what dying is like.

This final sense, this thread of consciousness, wrapped itself around her, weaving, intertwining. In a split-second, the forest began fading; the smell of eucalyptus waned. She was trapped again in the fuzzy walls of the cocoon, then she was back in the tunnel. It was dark save for a vague flicker that mesmerized her as it slowly danced into focus, kicking shadows onto a background of white.

A candle.

Linen on a table. A restaurant. Low lights thrown across polished wood and chintz.

The tunnel was gone. In its place, Bayhill.

Chelsea found her eyes locked with Gavil’s. He was gawking at her, willing her to move. Jesus, help me, Lord Jesus help me. Her thoughts were jumbled. God had sent her another vision. Far more chilling than all the others put together. But this one felt different. She couldn't explain why but knew with certainty that this event had already taken place. Still, the others had been much more clear. This time, she didn't know details and found herself scrambling to interpret. How was she to know what to do if she didn’t know who this vision was about?

"Are you all right, Ma’am?" The maître d’ looked ill-at-ease, as if not certain whether to offer help or withdraw his intruding presence.

Chelsea felt her chest close and sucked in a deep breath. Beads of sweat sprang to her skin. She could hear her heart pumping. Her fingers gripped the table, as if intent on sinking dent marks through the wood.

"What is it, Chelsea?" Gavil asked. "What’s wrong?"

Deep within her throat, her vocal cords fought for pliancy. The words scraped as they rose on a woolly blanket of air.

"Sometimes I — see things." She said the words without thinking, then wished she could take them back. How ridiculous they must sound.

The maître d’ quietly disappeared.

Gavil frowned, shook his head. Then as Chelsea watched, the creases in his forehead smoothed away and his pupils enlarged. He drew back almost imperceptibly, eyes still locked with hers. Stunned, Chelsea saw horror flick across his face, as though he’d caught her gasping at secret revelations in his diary.

The moment hung in the air.

She managed to jerk away then and bent her head down, noticing with a shudder the raised hair on her arms. "I, I’m sorry." She pried her fingers open. "I think I’m coming down with something. I just felt a chill–got dizzy for a moment. That’s all."

Gavil gathered himself, feigning nonchalance. "Perhaps we should go soon. When Paul gets back." His voice held an edge.

A nod, eyes averted. She couldn’t look at him again. Paul returned to find the two of them hovering silently over their chocolate soufflés. Neither had touched a bite.