Intensity: A Novel
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Past midnight, Chyna Shepard, twenty-six, gazes out a moonlit window, unable to sleep on her first night in the Napa Valley home of her best friend’s family. Instinct proves reliable. A murderous sociopath, Edgler Foreman Vess, has entered the house, intent on killing everyone inside. A self-proclaimed “homicidal adventurer,” Vess lives only to satisfy all appetites as they arise, to immerse himself in sensation, to live without fear, remorse, or limits, to live with intensity. Chyna is trapped in his deadly orbit.
Chyna is a survivor, toughened by a lifelong struggle for safety and self-respect. Now she will be tested as never before. At first her sole aim is to get out alive—until, by chance, she learns the identity of Vess’s next intended victim, a faraway innocent only she can save. Driven by a newly discovered thirst for meaning beyond mere self-preservation, Chyna musters every inner resource she has to save an endangered girl . . . as moment by moment, the terrifying threat of Edgler Foreman Vess intensifies.
pushed, and twisted, trying to break it off. But she couldn’t get adequate leverage, and the leg was still too firmly attached to succumb to her efforts. No stretcher bar had ever linked the two front legs. Now the lower chain was prevented from slipping entirely free only by the stretcher bar between the legs on the right side. Once more she charged backward hard, into the rock. Blazing pain exploded through her entire body, and she was almost blown away. But when the right rear leg didn’t
the Templetons had grown grapes, but they had never made wine. They were under contract to one of the finest vintners in the valley, and because they owned fertile land with the highest-quality vines, they received an excellent price for their crop. Sarah Templeton appeared on the front porch when she heard the Mustang in the driveway, and she came quickly down the steps to the stone walkway to greet Laura and Chyna. She was a lovely, girlishly slim woman in her early or mid forties, with
pranks, collector of baseball cards, rider of bikes, builder of model airplanes, and altar boy on Sundays. She thought that he was smiling at what she’d said, amused by her naiveté, but this was not the case, as he made clear with his next words. “Maybe…what I want from you,” Vess said, “is to be with me when I finally make Ariel snap. Instead of killing you in front of her to drive her over the edge, I’ll drive her some other way. And you can watch.” Oh, God. “You’re a psychology student,
her accomplishments. Now it seemed that she had not been climbing after all, that her ascent had been an illusion, and that for years her feet had been slipping over the same two well-lubricated rungs, as if she’d been on one of those exercise machines, a StairMaster, expending enormous energy—but not one inch higher when she stopped than she had been when she’d started. The long years of waitressing, the sore legs and the stubborn pain in the small of her back from being on her feet for hours,
between the blackness of the unlighted kitchen and the slightly less dark night. Although Chyna was far from being free, farther still from being safe, she was exhilarated, because at least she had done something. A headache like an endless incoming tide throbbed in waves across her brow and along her right temple, and the pain in her neck was savage. Her swollen index finger was a world of misery in itself. In spite of her thick socks, her ankles felt as though they had been bruised and abraded