Twenty-eight-year-old Psychologist, Alisha Dimarchi, is abducted by an obsessed client, Sayiid Ifraiin, and imprisoned in his Pakistani compound for over two years. Forced to change her name and live as his second wife, her life is filled with trauma and heartbreak. Thrust into a world of violence and oppression, Alicia must fight not only to keep herself alive but to protect the lives of the people she now considers her family. At night when she is alone, she retreats into her memories of the only man she has ever loved – a man, she believes, no longer loves her.
Thirty-two-year-old handsome surgeon, David Dimarchi, has spent the last two years mourning the disappearance of his wife. After a painful and isolated existence, he begins the process of healing. It is then, that he is visited by a stranger who informs him that his wife is very much alive and needs his help. In a desperate attempt to save her, David enlists the help of a Delta Force Operative. Together they find themselves in the center of more than just a rescue mission.
Will he be able to reach her in time and if he does, will she still want him?
Chapter 2: An hour with Tom
Twenty-five months, three weeks, and two days later
Dave released a breath as he mindlessly flipped through a sports magazine. It was almost eight in the morning. His tired ass should be home in bed right now, not sitting in the waiting room of a counseling center. But, since he kept walking into the kitchen and finding his wife, here he was. It wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that she wasn’t really there, and hadn’t been for over two years. His grip on the glossy paper tightened.
The vision was always the same. Seated at the breakfast table, Ally reads through one of her psych magazines. Her head propped on one elbow, a curtain of black hair caresses the soft skin of her arm. When she notices him, her chin tilts up and their eyes lock. Soon those kissably perfect corners form at the edges of her lips when she smiles, taking his breath away each time.
And then things get all sorts of fucked up. Her mouth moves, but no sounds come out. Typically, that was when reality hit.
She was gone and he was losing his mind.
Each time, it was a punch to his gut, knocking every ounce of air out of him.
God, I miss her.
No matter how hard he tried to block the memories, she haunted him. And this was why his messed up ass was at the counseling center.
Dave leaned against the sofa and sucked in a breath. His mind raced at all the possible topics that might come up during the session. None of which were ones he wanted to discuss.
Like the dreams he kept having about her. Some of them so intense he’d jump out of bed covered in sweat, terrified Ally needed him. Then there were the others. The erotic ones where he woke up hard and hungry for her.
What would the good doctor do with that screwed up piece of information? Shouldn’t those dreams – those aches – be gone by now anyway? The sad reality was he didn’t know if he really wanted them to be.
And what about the real reason he closed his eyes when he and Kate had sex? The heat of shame burned his face.
I don’t need to pay someone to tell me I’m a piece of shit.
His magazine slid to the table and the leather couch creaked when he rose, heading for the escape.
With the doorknob partially turned, he froze and for a moment considered pretending his name was Peter or Paul – anybody else. Instead, he released the knob and faced his fear.
A gray-haired gentleman with a warm smile and gentle eyes stood across the room. He was shorter than Dave, but being six-foot-three, most people were.
“I’m Tom.” He approached, hand extended.
He waved to the other side of the door. “Come in.”
With a nod Dave followed him into a back office.
The walls were painted soft green and the room furnished with a leather sofa facing a matching arm chair, very similar to the way Ally’s once looked. The resemblance was comforting.
Dave sat in the armchair and wondered if the therapist was analyzing him for what seat he picked. As if reading his thoughts, Tom smiled and positioned himself on the sofa. “So, David, what brings you here today?”
“You were referred to me.”
Tom shot him a curious glance. “Who can I thank for the referral?”
As Tom mouthed her name, Dave sucked in a nervous breath. “You might have heard of her. She was a psychologist here in the city. She disappeared a couple years ago.”
He nodded. “Yes, I remember.”
“She had a list of therapists she referred to and your name was on the top.”
“I see. You have the same last name. How are you related?”
She was my life.
“She was my wife.”
Concern flashed across Tom’s face, lowering Dave’s guard an inch.
“I’m sorry for your loss. How long has it been?”
Twenty-five months, three weeks, and two days.
“Over two years. Do you remember her?”
“I had the pleasure of sitting in on some of her supervision groups. Dr. Dimarchi was an excellent therapist.” The old man fixed his gaze on Dave. “I can’t imagine how painful that must have been for you.”
The concern etched all over his face caused a familiar burn at the back of Dave’s eyes. He focused on the stash of bottled water and tissue box on the end table.
Fuck. A simple statement and I’m already eyeng the Kleenex.
“Is that why you’re here, David?”
An image of Kate, blond, hazel eyed, and so different from his wife, popped into his mind. An impulsive firecracker, she was four inches shorter and three years younger than his Ally.
“No. Kate asked me to come.”
“My girlfriend. We’ve been together about six months. She says there are things I need to work through, unresolved stuff from my past that’s affecting our relationship.”
“I see.” He pulled out a thick packet of papers from his file. “I assume, she’s the one who filled out your online forms.”
A smile crept across Dave’s face. “You don’t seem surprised.”
Tom chuckled. “Most of my clients answer the questions in first person.” He shifted through the forms.” Let’s see…she put your reason for counseling as ‘to work on his current relationship and unresolved grief issues. Here.”
Dave took the stack, immediately dropping it to the floor beside him.
“So, do you need counseling?”
No. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees and provided the appropriate answer. “I do.”
“Then tell me what brings you into counseling?”
“I need to get over losing my wife and focus on my future. On Kate. She’s part of my life now and I need her.”
“You need her?”
He shrugged. “She’s been good for me.”
“I see. Do you mind if we focus on Alisha today?”
Dave leaned back and squeezed the armrest. Might as well get it over with. “What do you want to know?”
“As much as you’re comfortable sharing. This is your session.”
After a couple gulps of air, he started at the beginning. “I met her in Denver, my senior year of college.”
The onslaught of memories transported him to a smoky room filled with couples dancing and making out as strobe lights flashed and music blared. He and his roommates were downing shots when Ally and her friends walked in the door.
The blue dress she wore molded to every one of her curves and where it stopped, long legs took over. His fingers had twitched to trace her slender tanned neck up to her perfectly oval face. When her enormous brown eyes, outlined by the thickest, longest lashes known to man fell on him, he dropped his drink.
Tom’s voice pulled him out of this trance. Embarrassed, Dave cleared his throat, and focused on the man seated across from him.
“You were about to tell me how you two met?”
“Sorry. We met at a frat party. It was her freshman year and my senior year. It took a lot of chasing and persuading, but I got the girl.” A proud smile tugged at his lips.
“We dated for a year, and then I went to St. Louis for medical school. She stayed in Denver. Three months after classes started, I proposed. By the end of her second year, we were married and she’d transferred to St. Louis U.”
Images of a breathtakingly beautiful Ally, in white, walking down the aisle, intensified the ache in his chest. “My heart went zero to sixty in a split second when she entered the sanctuary. I remember thinking, ‘How the hell did you get so lucky?’”
“How old were you when you married?”
“Young. I was twenty-four. She was twenty. Too young.”
“Do you regret it?”
“Not for a second.” Dave shifted in his seat as he considered omitting the next part, at this point what difference did it make? “Four years in, our marriage fell apart. I wasn’t around much, when I was, I didn’t have time for her, and it got worse when I started residency. She got tired of waiting and left me.”
“How did that impact you?”
He shrugged, unsure of how to answer. Of course there was an impact, but it didn’t compare to losing her two years ago. Of the two, he’d go back to when she walked out in a heartbeat. Yeah, she left, but he knew she was alive and safe.
“It was hard. She moved to Philadelphia with her sister and said she wasn’t coming home.”
Tom gave him an encouraging nod.
Dave took a breath. “So, I went into individual counseling to fix myself, my marriage.”
“Did counseling help your marriage?”
“Saved it, actually. I applied and got into a Surgical Fellowship program here in Philly, and we made it work.” His voice trailed off. “Things were perfect until she disappeared two years ago.”
Dave’s throat tightened at the thought of when everything in his life went to hell. He grabbed a bottle of water from the end table and took a gulp. “Before Kate came along, it was a lonely life. One I don’t want to live anymore. She’s my world now and I’m here to work out my issues with her before it falls apart, too.”
Tom nodded and leaned in. “Sometimes to fix our present, we need to work out our past.”
Ally used to say crap like that to me all the time.
“My past is painful. It changed me. It’s not something I know how to work on.”
And hurts like hell.
“Well, from what you’ve told me, therapy worked before because you actively sought it. First and foremost, you need to decide if this therapeutic relationship is something you want for you, not Kate.”
Did he want counseling? No. But, if he didn’t come, Kate threatened to walk. The last thing he wanted was to be alone again.
He eyed the therapist. There was something calming about Tom. Kinda reminded him of his dad. Funny. After working hard to forget Ally and their life together, in a few short minutes, this stranger had forced those doors open. If she was here, she would be clapping her hands like a stupid seal right now. “I’m willing to give it a try.”
“Do you feel comfortable sharing what happened?”
He took another swig of water. “She disappeared two years ago. No one’s heard or seen her since.”
“How have you survived her disappearance?”
Dave fiddled with the lid of the bottle and focused on the paisley area rug. “It’s been hard. Really hard.” His voice sounded hoarse even to his own ears.
It had been a while since he’d talked about the disappearance and opening Pandora’s Box hurt like hell, yet for some reason, he found himself prying the lid, wanting to let the demons out.
“She was beautiful, and God, I loved her. She used to tell me to take her off the pedestal. That I’d wake up one day and be disappointed. After eight years of marriage, I still had it bad for her. How many husbands can say that?”
Tom nodded, encouragingly.
“I was so proud she was mine. She was amazing in every way…as a wife, a friend – smart, funny, the whole package, and there was nowhere on earth I’d rather be than with her.”
He blinked back the emotion and fast forwarded to the morning two years ago. “She disappeared on March twenty-third. I got home to an empty apartment about four-thirty that morning from being on call. At first I thought she’d left me again, but that didn’t make any sense. So I made some phone calls, then drove to her office. Her Lexus, purse, and keys – even her shoes – were in the parking lot. But no Ally.”
As many times as the story had been shared, he should be able to recite it automatically, but today was different. His voice cracked and the waterworks he thought were over tried to push to the surface. Dave slammed his lids shut and pushed the words through. “I called the police. The rest is history.”
“How have you held up through this?”
Dave rubbed the wetness away and continued. “No words. I keep thinking if I’d been home that night this wouldn’t have happened.”
“Do you believe you could have prevented it?”
“No, probably not. But I let her down. Didn’t protect her.”
He accepted the Kleenex Tom handed and wiped his face dry. His head lowered and voice soft, he recounted his hell. “They investigated her clients; everyone had an alibi. People came in and out of the house for weeks. The media plastered information everywhere. Calls poured in about bodies, and each time, I wished I was dead. I couldn’t sleep. Eat. Breathe. My life was gone. Two years later, here we are, no news, no leads, nothing. She vanished from the world.”
Emotion sat heavy on his chest, choking him and making it impossible to speak. After an eternity of silence, Tom’s firm hand gripped his.
“I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for you.”
Dave nodded and cleared his throat. “The first year, I did everything I could. Kept in touch with the police, FBI, private investigators, psychics…everything. I yelled, threatened, bribed, but no one could find her. How can someone just disappear? Finally, her family sat me down, told me to stop doing this to myself, and go to work. So I did.”
The hard part finally over, he stretched and checked the time on his cell.
Only twelve minutes left.
“Were you angry?”
He shook his head and laughed. “Still am. But I have to move on for my own sanity. I was out of money, and needed to do something more productive with my life. Now, work is my distraction. Except even there, I can’t get her out of my mind. She’s always right there at the edge of my thoughts. The only time I don’t think about her is when I’m in surgery.”
“Tell me how Kate fits into that.”
With the conversation away from Ally, Dave let out a breath. “Kate’s a nurse at my hospital. She’s twenty-five and funny as hell. She walked up one day and asked me out.”
“Do you think you love her?”
He shrugged. “I could. She loves me and wants to tell people we’re together. Even talks about moving in. But I can’t. I’m not ready.”
“Which part are you not ready for?”
“Any of it.”
The leather chair cracked when Dave shifted in his seat. Tom wanted answers to things he had never allowed himself to say out loud. This was uncharted territory, and yet here he was swimming for shore.
“I’m ninety percent sure she’s dead.” He hesitated about speaking the rest but shook his head and took a sip. The doctor might as well know just how fucked up his client was. “There’s that ten percent. What if I move out of our apartment or get a new number, and one day she escapes from whatever hell she’s in and comes for me?”
“So you want to keep everything the same in case Alisha returns?”
He cringed at how bad that sounded. “And I like our home. If I’m not working, that’s where I am. It’s unrealistic, I know. But I can’t shake the fantasy. I haven’t told Kate, and don’t plan to. She’d run. I don’t want that. I need her.”
“And if Alisha came home, what would you do?”
Dave closed his eyes, imagining the same scene he’d envisioned for over two years. The warmth, the smell, the peace of her in his arms. “I’d hold her and never let her go.”
Instantly the warmth drained, chilling him. “I’d have to hurt Kate. But it won’t happen, and these are all hypotheticals. The reality is Ally’s dead. She’s my past.”
“Can you give Kate a future while holding on to the hope that Alisha might come back?”
A valid point – one for which Dave had no response. He grinned. “I guess that’s why she sent me to you, Doc.”
After scheduling another appointment, Dave sat in his car in the parking lot. What if she did come home? The crater of a hole her disappearance left in his chest throbbed.
From the glove compartment, he pulled out the owner’s manual and flipped through the pages until he found her.
A smiling Ally stared back and his eyes watered. Sometimes, after long shifts at the hospital, this was how he found his solace.
How the hell am I supposed to get over you?
Sonali Dev, Award Winning Author wrote:
"This book goes to dark places but the healing interactions between all the people who love Alisha are achingly tender and the heart of the story."
Aubrey Wynne, Bestselling Author wrote:
"Paul places the violence in direct contrast to Alisha's Indian family,who have taken David deeply into their hearts, and who serve as his strength while he copes with her disappearance."
Luv My Books wrote:
"The Second Wife is one of those rare novels that will lurk in the back of your mind for weeks. With stunning precision, Kishan Paul throws the reader into a world of clandestine organizations and brutal politics. The gripping characters wrench your heart and make you cringe with fear. A rollercoaster of suspense and emotion not to be missed. "
A Cozy Booknook wrote:
"Kishan Paul has written a carefully constructed, emotionally impacting story I won't soon forget...Kishan does not miss a beat in giving a full story with tragedy, suffering and then some deep healing."
Cyn's Reviews wrote:
"...one of those books that will grab your attention and not leave you alone, it stays with you and makes you think...The story is seamlessly told from Ally/Sara and Dave's points of view. this enhances the story and gives it more depth...This is the first book of Ms. Paul's that I have read and it won't be my last. I'm looking forward to reading more of her work. "
"...an outstanding read of survival, getting even, taking back your life, facing your fears as you face your past which you have lost and learning to start over again when you do not know which way to turn...It has been a long time since a story has touched me so deep that I feltit all the way to my soul...most who read this will not be able to walk away without being touched in some way."