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Doing whatever it takes could get them both killed.
Twelve years after her sister’s disappearance, Haley Carling spends her days trying to hold what’s left of her family together, running her late father’s shop and caring for her alcoholic mother. Then her sister’s remains are uncovered in the basement of their old home, and fingers start pointing. At the Carlings.
Dean Lawson, long the prime suspect in the Carling girl’s disappearance, is sure he’s got evidence proving who the killer is. He’s determined to clear his name, and he won’t let anything stand in his way. Not even his lingering attraction to Haley.
Haley is just as determined to protect her family from the former town bad boy’s accusations. But now someone is stalking her, and Haley realizes Dean’s the only one she can trust.
With a killer closing in, Dean wonders if he’s made the biggest mistake of his life…a mistake that could cost Haley her life.
This title contains a mystery to keep you turning the pages late into the night.
Living Lies - Excerpt
Copyright © Dawn Brown 2008
“I’m not losing my mind,” she muttered as she started up the path to the front door. Though talking to herself did little to convince her. And her shaking hands weren’t helping either.
Forget it. She was home now and mere minutes away from her bed. Sweet oblivion awaited, but a small dark heap on her porch stopped her.
The little pile made her skin crawl. Leftover nerves from earlier, no doubt. She forced her feet back into motion and stepped onto the porch. A hint of red peaked out from layers of gauzy white tissue paper at her feet.
Roses. She knelt and lifted them into her arms, searching for a card tucked into the folds as she stood. There wasn’t one. So who would send her flowers?
Some kind of sympathy gesture maybe, for Michelle’s memorial yesterday. Why no card? But she had received a card. Just as anonymous as the flowers she held.
“I know it’s late.”
Haley jerked, her stomach dropped like a brick off a cliff. She spun around, holding the roses out like a weapon. Dean leaned casually against the rail with his hands in his pockets.
“Christ. You scared the hell of out me,” she said, when she could breathe again.
“Sorry. I thought you heard me and that’s why you were standing there.”
“I didn’t. What are you doing here, anyway? Do you have more of my dead relatives you’d like drag through the mud?”
“I wanted to see if you had any luck trying to prove me wrong.”
“If I told you I did, would you go away?”
He shook his head.
“I didn’t think so.” She turned from him, annoyed that she noticed the way the wind ruffled his hair. “Look, I’ve had a lousy day, so if there’s nothing else you want…”
“You mean besides your charming company?”
“Naturally.” She shifted the roses in her arms and tried to slip her key into the lock, but her hand trembled badly. Dean moved up behind her, his chest pressed against her back and his warm fingers closed over hers, guiding the key successfully. Her skin tingled where he touched.
“I’ve got it.” She shrugged him off.
“Just trying to help,” Dean said. “You seem kind of edgy.”
“My, what powerful skills of observation.”
“Would you like to talk about it?”
She snorted and pushed open the door. “With you?”
“Would that be so bad?”
“I guess that would depend.” She faced him, trying to ignore how good he looked. How the muted light on the porch played over the sharp angles of his face. “On whether or not I actually believe you wouldn’t try to use anything I told you against my family.”
His eyes narrowed and the muscle in his jaw flicked against his skin. “Of course. I do, however, need to speak to you.”
“I’m tired, Dean.”
“I won’t be long.”
“Fine. I need a drink. Do you want anything?” She shrugged out of her coat and dumped it on the armchair in the living room.
“Whatever you’re having is fine.”
He followed her to the kitchen. She didn’t need to look back to know it. His presence practically charged the small room. She dumped the roses on the counter and grabbed a bottle of wine from the rack built into the cupboards.
“Are you seeing someone?”
Haley glanced at him. He nodded to the flowers, his expression inscrutable.
“No. Those are probably because of Michelle.”
“There was no card. For all I know they’re for my next door neighbor.” Sadly, a distinct possibility. Even though Betty was seventy-eight the woman’s social life was far more active than Haley’s. But then, nuns had more active social lives than she did.
She dug through the drawer, searching for a corkscrew. “So, talk.”
“I wanted to know how you did today. What you found out.”
“Why? So you can twist it all around?”
“Is that what you think I would do?”
She didn’t reply as her fingers closed around the corkscrew in the far corner of the drawer. When she attempted to push the pointed coil into the cork, Dean stopped her, taking it from her. Her hands still shook, not as badly, but enough for him to notice. She hated that she couldn’t stop them. Hated letting him see any weakness.
“I’ll do this,” he said. “You get the glasses.”
She brought two down from the cupboard and set them on the counter. He poured a generous amount into her glass, but was far more conservative with his own. She eyed him suspiciously.
“I’m driving,” he replied to her unspoken question. “Besides, you look like you could use it. Actually, you look like you could do with something a hell of a lot stronger.”
“I don’t have anything stronger.” She didn’t drink often. The fear of winding up like her mother loomed ever-present.
He nodded and followed her to the living room. She sat on one end of the couch, he on the other. For a moment neither spoke. She lifted the glass to her lips. The smooth, dry wine slid down her throat and pooled in her empty belly. More likely than not, she wouldn’t need anything stronger. She had skipped dinner and it wouldn’t take long for her to feel the effects.
“What’s with you?” Dean asked. He sounded impatient. “Why are you so upset?”
“I’m not upset,” she snapped. “But if I was, finding out my father wasn’t who he said he was and scrambling to save his reputation might have something to do with it.”
“You can’t believe I’m enjoying any of this? Do you honestly think I wanted it to be him? I admired your father, looked up to him. You were right, he did save ‘my sorry ass’. He gave me a chance when one else would, but he also let me twist in the wind for Michelle when he knew I didn’t do it.”
She shook her head. “You’re wrong.”
“Even you have to admit, there are a lot of coincidences where your father is concerned.”
“And I would think you of all people understand just how damaging coincidences with nothing to back them up can be.”
“Don’t try and guilt me. I’m here putting up with your mouth, no easy feat I might add, hoping you found something that would mean I was wrong.”
She sighed, thinking of what Paige had said about the police surely learning what Dean had. “Nate confirmed everything you told me. I wish I had something more. We even went to where Michelle had been buried—”
“What do you mean?”
“Paige and I went to my grandmother’s house.”
His lips curled in distaste. “Why would you do that?”
He had good lips. Thin and nicely shaped. He’d be a good kisser. What was she thinking? That’s it, no more wine.
“I don’t know.” She leaned forward and set the glass on the chest. “I guess we thought we’d find something the police had missed.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but that house no longer belongs to your family.”
“I know, but the people who own it haven’t lived there since Michelle was found.”
“Breaking and entering is still a crime, even when the owners aren’t at home.”
“Yeah, well, you would know.”
“I did wonder about something.” After she had freaked out and all but run screaming from the house. “I couldn’t figure out why those people would dig up the floor.”
“What did they tell the police?”
“They were doing renovations.”
Dean shrugged. “There you go.”
“That doesn’t make sense. Why would they dig up a dirt floor to start renovations?”
“Maybe they planned to finish the basement.”
“The house is over a hundred years old. Only a crazy person would try to finish the basement down there. And if they were that crazy they wouldn’t be able to do it themselves, they’d have to hire a professional contractor to dig out the basement.”
“Why would they lie about it?”
“I don’t know. I do know the house needed a new roof, windows and the floors refinished, so why would anyone start their renovations by digging holes in the dirt floor of the basement?”
“They were probably repairing something structural. With a house that old it stands to reason that something in the foundation might need repairing.”
“Maybe.” She leaned back, nibbling at the corner of her mouth. Was it coincidence, or had Dean helped things along a little? Could he have told the Kearneys where to look? Or could Dean be right about her father?