Dead Silence [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Brenda Novak
eBook Category: Romance/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: There's a body buried behind a Mississippi farmhouse. Grace Montgomery knows who it is, and she knows why it happened. She was only thirteen the night it all went wrong. And now, like then, she has no choice but to keep her mouth shut. Grace left the town of Stillwater thirteen years ago, trying to forget, trying to make good. As an assistant D.A. in Jackson, she's finally achieved the success that was supposed to change her life. But it hasn't--so she's come back to confront her own history. Which means returning to the farmhouse now owned by her brother and facing the people of Stillwater, a number of whom suspect the truth. Widower Kennedy Archer is one of those people. He's running for mayor and needs to stay as far away from Grace as possible. And yet ... she's an enigma he can't resist. Even though her enemies are close to finding out what really happened--and that could ruin them both.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/MIRA
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2006
28 Reader Ratings:
Grace Montgomery pulled to the side of the narrow country road and stared at the rambling farmhouse in which she'd grown up. Even in the heavy, blanketlike darkness of a Mississippi summer night, with only half a moon grinning eerily overhead, she could see that her older brother kept the place in good repair.
But that was all sleight of hand, wasn't it? Things weren't really what they seemed. They never had been. That was the problem—why she'd promised herself she wouldn't come back here.
The yellow light gleaming in an upstairs bedroom winked out. Clay was going to bed, probably at the same time as he did every night. Grace couldn't understand how he could live alone out here. How he could eat, sleep and work the farm—only forty paces away from where they'd hidden their stepfather's body.
The warning chime signaling that she'd left her keys in the ignition sounded as she got out of her small BMW. She hadn't planned to venture onto the property. But now that she was here, she had to see for herself that even after so many years there was nothing to give them away.
Her cotton skirt swayed gently against her calves as she walked down the long drive. There was no wind, no sound except the cicadas and frogs, and the crunch of her sandals on gravel. If she'd forgotten anything, it was the quiet in this part of the state and how brightly the stars could shine away from the city.
She pictured herself as a young girl, sleeping on the front lawn with her younger sister, Molly, and her older stepsister, Madeline. Those were special times, when they'd talked and laughed and gazed up at the black velvet sky to find all those twinkling stars staring right back at them like a silent promise of good things to come. They'd all been so innocent then. When Madeline was around, Grace had had nothing to fear. But Madeline couldn't stick by Grace's side every minute. She hadn't even realized she should. She still didn't know what it was like for Grace back then. She'd been at a friend's house the night everything went wrong.
Despite the humidity, Grace shivered as she came upon the barn. Set off to the right, it lurked among the weeping willows and poplars. She hated everything associated with the old building. It was there she'd cleaned out the stall of the horse her stepfather wouldn't let anyone but him ride. It was there she'd gathered the eggs and fought with the mean rooster who used to fly at her in an attempt to gouge out her eyes. It was there, in the front corner of the building, that the reverend had kept a small office where he retired to write his Sunday sermons—and to delve into that locked file drawer.
The smell of moist earth and magnolias brought it all back too vividly, causing her to break out in a cold sweat. Curving her fingernails into her palms to remind herself that she was no longer a powerless girl, she immediately steered her thoughts away from the reverend's office. She'd promised herself she'd forget.
But she certainly hadn't forgotten yet. Despite her best efforts, she couldn't help wondering if that stifling room was still untouched. Except for what the reverend had kept in his file drawer, the office had been left intact, as if he might someday reappear and want to use it. Her mother had insisted they'd be foolish to change anything. She'd drilled it into all of them, except Madeline of course, that they must continue to refer to the reverend in the present tense. Folks in town were already suspicious enough.
Stillwater's residents had long memories, but eighteen years had passed since the reverend's sudden disappearance. Surely after so much time Clay could dismantle that damn office….
A deep voice came suddenly out of the dark. "Get the hell off my property or I'll shoot."
Grace whirled to see a man at least six foot four inches tall, so solidly built he could have been made of stone, standing only a few feet away. It was her brother, and he had a rifle trained on her.
For the briefest of moments, Grace wished he'd shoot.
But then she laughed. Clay was as vigilant as ever. Not that she was really surprised. He'd always been The Guardian.
"What? Ya'll don't know your own sister anymore?" she said and stepped out of the building's shadow.
"Grace?" The barrel of the hunting rifle dove toward the ground and he twitched as though tempted to gather her in a hug. Grace felt a similar response, but made no move toward him. Their relationship was too…complicated.
"God, Grace. It's been thirteen years since you left. I barely recognize you. You could've gotten yourself shot," he added gruffly.
She said nothing about that brief cowardly impulse: One bullet could end it all.
"Really?" she murmured. "I would've recognized you anywhere." Maybe it was because she thought of him so often. Besides, he hadn't changed much. He still had the same thick black hair—even darker than Grace's—that swirled up off his forehead. The light, enigmatic eyes that looked so much like her own. That same determined set to his prominent jaw. He'd put on a few more pounds of muscle mass, maybe, which made her feel small at five-five and a hundred and twenty pounds. But his bulkier size was the only difference.
"I expected you to be asleep," she said.
"Saw your car pull up out front."
"Wouldn't want to let just anyone go creeping around out here."
If he heard the taunt in her voice, he didn't respond to it. Except to glance furtively toward the copse of trees that served as a marker for their stepfather's grave.
Copyright © 2006 by Brenda Novak.