Dead Giveaway [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Brenda Novak
eBook Category: Suspense/Thriller/Romance
eBook Description: The Reverend Lee Barker went missing nineteen years ago... And the people of Stillwater, Mississippi, believe they know why. They're convinced he was murdered--by his stepson, Clay Montgomery. But only Clay--and his mother and sisters--can say for sure. They were the only ones there that fateful night, the only ones who know what really happened. And they're not talking. Allie McCormick is a cold-case detective from Chicago. After a particularly difficult divorce, she's returned to Stillwater with her six-year-old daughter to find the peace she once knew in her hometown, and to work for the local police force while she's starting over. But when Clay's powerful enemies join forces to put him behind bars, Allie feels duty bound to uncover the truth. Her instincts tell her he didn't murder the Reverend Lee Barker. Maybe Clay's a dark and brooding man with more than his share of secrets, but he was just sixteen at the time. And he's not a cold-blooded killer. At least, that's what Allie believes--until she finds proof that behind the preacher's pious demeanor lurked the heart of a monster. Then she has to ask herself whether justice has already been done....
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/MIRA
Fictionwise Release Date: February 2007
33 Reader Ratings:
Any coward can fight a battle when he's sure of winning; but give me the man who has pluck to fight when he's sure of losing.
—George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) English novelist 1819–80
They hadn't meant to kill him. That should've mattered. It probably would have—in a different time, a different place. But this was Stillwater, Mississippi, and the only thing smaller than the town itself was the minds of the people living in it. They never forgot and they never forgave. Nineteen years had passed since Reverend Barker disappeared, but they wanted someone to pay for the loss of their beloved preacher.
And they'd had their eye on Clay Montgomery from the beginning.
The only bit of luck that had gone his way was that, without a body, the police couldn't prove Clay had done anything. But that didn't stop them—and others—from constantly poking around his farm, asking questions, suggesting scenarios, attempting to piece together the past in hopes of solving the biggest mystery Stillwater had ever known.
"Do you think someday he'll come back? Your step-daddy, I mean?" Beth Ann Cole plumped her pillow and arranged one arm above her head.
Annoyance ripped through Clay despite the beautiful eyes that regarded him from beneath thick golden lashes. Beth Ann hardly ever pressed him about his missing stepfather. She knew he'd show her the door. But he'd let her come over too much lately and she was beginning to overrate her value to him.
Without answering, he kicked off the blankets and began to get out of bed, only to have her grab hold of his arm. "Wait, that's it? Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am? You're not usually so selfish."
"You didn't have any complaints a minute ago," he drawled, glancing pointedly over his shoulder at the claw marks she'd left on his back.
Her bottom lip jutted out. "I want more."
"You always want more. Of everything. More than I'm willing to give." He stared at the delicate white fingers clutching his darker forearm. Normally, she would've recognized the warning in his expression and let him go. Tonight, however, she went straight into her "how can you use me like this" mode, an act she put on whenever her impatience overcame her good sense.
The cloying sound of Beth Ann's voice bothered Clay more than usual. Probably because he'd so recently had bad news. The police chief's daughter, Allie McCormick—a police officer herself—had returned to town. And she was asking questions.
Swallowing a curse, he rubbed his temples, trying to alleviate the beginnings of a headache.
The pounding only grew worse when Beth Ann's voice rose. "Clay, are we ever gonna move beyond a physical relationship? Is sex all you're interested in from me?"
BethAnn had a gorgeous body and occasionally used it to get what she wanted—and he knew what she wanted right now was him. She often wheedled or pouted, trying to coax him into a marriage proposal. But he didn't love her, and she understood that, even if she liked to pretend otherwise. He rarely made the first move, hardly ever asked her out, never made any promises. He paid her way if they went anywhere, but that was a matter of courtesy, not a declaration of undying devotion. She initiated most of their contact.
He remembered the first time she'd come to his door. From the day she'd moved to town nearly two years ago, she'd flirted with him whenever possible. She worked in the bakery of the local supermarket and did her damnedest to corner him the moment he crossed the threshold. But when he didn't immediately fall and worship at her feet, like all the other single men in Stillwater, she'd decided he was a challenge worthy of her best efforts. One night, after a brief encounter at the store, during which she'd made some innuendo he'd purposely ignored, she'd appeared on his doorstep wearing a trench coat—and not a stitch of clothing underneath.
She knew he couldn't ignore that. And he hadn't. But at least he didn't feel guilty about his involvement in her life. Maybe she liked to act as though he was the sex fiend and she the benevolent provider, but after experiencing her voracious appetite over the past several months he had his own opinions about who'd become the provider.
"Let go of my arm," he said.
Obviously uncertain, she blinked at the edge in his voice and released him. "I thought you were starting to care about me."
Presenting his back to her, he pulled on his jeans. Sex relaxed him, helped him sleep. Which was why he'd let his relationship with Beth Ann continue for so long. But they'd just made love twice, and he felt more wound up than ever. He couldn't stop thinking about Officer Allie McCormick. His sister Grace had told him she'd been a cold case detective in Chicago—a damn good one. Would she finally bring an end to it all?
Beth Ann was getting on his last nerve. "I think maybe it's time we quit seeing each other," he said as he yanked on a clean T-shirt.
When she didn't answer, he turned to see her gaping at him.
"How can you say that?" she cried. "I asked one question. One!" She laughed in a manner meant to suggest that he'd completely overreacted. "You're so jumpy."
"My stepfather is not a subject I'm prepared to discuss."
She opened her mouth, then seemed to reconsider what she was about to say. "Okay, I get it. I was tired and didn't realize how much the subject would upset you. I'm sorry."
She should've told him to go to hell and walked out.
Copyright © 2007 by Brenda Novak.