Tell Me No Liesñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Tessa slammed on the brakes. Her heart leaped in her chest as she saw the man’s face in the mirror. She gripped the steering wheel, scenarios of stalkers and what they did to their victims running through her head.
Then she realized the significance of what the man had said.
Trixie. He’d said Trixie. There was only one person in the world who’d ever called her that. It was his pet name for her. Too stunned to speak, she stared into the rearview mirror at Frankie Hamilton. At least, she thought it must be him. He bore little resemblance to the boy she’d known. The mixed-up boy for whom she’d almost thrown away her future.
Welcome to my twentieth Harlequin Superromance novel. I hope you enjoy my latest tale, and especially the characters I’ve created. The idea for this book came to me when I was contemplating the nature of marriage. With divorce rates high, and young people staying single longer, or forever, I wanted to write a story about the enduring nature of marriage, even if the couple runs into problems they think they can’t overcome.
A central question in plotting was, when two people love each other deeply and have built a life together, what could pull them apart? To me, most sins are forgivable. In any relationship, people let each other down. They also grow and change from who they were when they took their vows, and this growth doesn’t always occur at the same rate for both. Having been married for over three decades—I’ll be celebrating the thirty-fifth anniversary with my own personal hero right when this book comes out—I know the ups and downs of relationships. I also know that trusting someone implicitly, even after a difficult time, is a true joy. It’s worth working toward.
In Tell Me No Lies, Dan and Tessa Logan have an ideal marriage—on the surface. But the pasts of both threaten their happiness, and send each into a tailspin. They do love each other, though, and learn that loving means forgiving even the deepest breaches of trust. I enjoyed seeing Dan and Tessa learn this, and I hope you do, too.
I love to hear from readers. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to me at P.O. Box 24288, Rochester, NY 14624. And please visit my Web site at www.kathrynshay.com, and the Harlequin Superromance author site at www.superauthors.com.
Tell Me No Lies
For Zilla Soriano—
thanks for picking my first book out of the slush pile, loving
the rest of them and helping to make each better. I miss you.
AS TESSA LOGAN POURED the jasmine bath salts into her claw-footed tub, she thought about her husband.
Tonight they’d celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. Picturing the evening to come, she smiled, turned on the taps and breathed in the scented steam. Her daughters were staying with her sister for the next twenty-four hours, and Dan would be home from work any time now. She hummed as she stood, pinned up her hair and undressed.
The dinner was ready. She’d placed a prime-rib roast in the oven, set the potatoes in the microwave to bake later, stuck the green salad she’d put together in the refrigerator and uncorked the merlot. The next sixty minutes were just for her.
She crossed into the bedroom, newly done in shades of green with white accents. Dan had been surprised at the redecoration, so different from the rest of the traditional colonial furniture and earth tones in the rest of their rambling Victorian. She didn’t know why she’d taken this tack with the bedroom, except that once in a while she felt stifled by the constraints of her life.
The phone rang as she removed a box from her dresser drawer.
“Hello.” She expected it to be Dan, and hoped he wasn’t calling to say he’d be late getting home from work.
“Hey, Tessa.” Her sister.
“Hi, Janey. Everything okay?”
“Yep. Just checking to make sure you’re wearing the gift I bought for you.”
“I’ve got it in my hand. I’m running my bath now.” She chuckled. “You know Dan will be scandalized.”
“St. Daniel could use some loosening up.”
Tessa hesitated. “Don’t tease about him, Janey. Please.”
“Sorry.” She could visualize her sister’s hazel eyes, just like her own, filled with sympathy. Though they were six years apart, they seemed closer in age because they looked so much alike. “You know I love Dan to pieces. It’s just that he’s so straitlaced.”
“Straitlaced is fine by me.”
“But I hate to see you both missing some spice in your life.”
“I promise, tonight there’ll be plenty of spice. Are Sara and Molly having fun?”
“Are you kidding? My boys are falling all over them. They always wanted a sister. The four of them are out in the pool as we speak.” She chuckled. “Of course, Molly’s giving her cousins a run for their money, as usual. She’s already hidden Jason’s baseball glove and checked Jim’s e-mail.”
Tessa worried about her older child. Molly never got into real trouble, but she did enough damage to keep them all hopping. She seemed to take delight in shaking things up. “Put her on. I’ll talk to her.”
“No way. Go take your bath. Use scented oil,” Janey added before she hung up.
A few minutes later Tessa climbed into the deep tub and sighed as she sank into the hot water. She lay back on the terry-cloth pillow, closed her eyes and listened to the Debussy CD she’d put on the stereo system in the bedroom. At one time she couldn’t tell Debussy from Chopin. She hadn’t known the difference between a van Gogh and a Picasso. When she’d become part of Dan’s world, however, everything had changed.
Tessa pushed away her memories. She never let herself think about how she had lived before she met Dan because it was too painful. Tessa hadn’t always been a good person. And her husband knew nothing about her past.
If Tessa had her way, he never would.
DAN LOGAN ENTERED the kitchen through the garage. He’d left work early, something he seldom did, but tonight was special, and he couldn’t wait to get home. The girls were with Janey, and he and Tessa had the whole house to themselves. Stopping to put the red roses into a vase, he caught the scent of roasting meat and got a peek at the set table in the dining room. He smiled. The home Tessa had made for him was everything he wanted—well decorated, yet not ostentatious. A calm, peaceful haven after a day in the criminal world. Leaving her favorite flowers as a surprise for her when they came down to eat, he followed the sound of music up the back stairs.
He found his wife with her eyes closed, lounging in the tub. Glad to see she was pampering herself, he stood against the doorjamb of their bathroom and watched her. Her skin was flushed from the heat of the bath; her hair was piled on her head, with a few curls escaping around her face. She didn’t take time for herself enough. She worked too hard, raising the girls and covering for him at home when his job as Orchard Place district attorney demanded late hours. She also worked part-time at the library and volunteered in the community.
She opened her eyes. Shades of brown and green, they warmed when they focused on him. “Hi.” She lifted a leg covered with bubbles and glided a sponge-like thing over her calf. “I’m being lazy. I didn’t expect you home so soon.”
His gaze focused on the sensual gesture. Combined with the scent rising from the water, Dan was mesmerized. “I…was anxious to see you.”
She directed a flirty smile at him. “Want to join me?”
His first impulse was to say yes. But then it surfaced, that rigid control he kept over every facet in his life. By now, it had become second nature. Tessa, however, could sometimes tempt him out of the self-imposed boundaries. Once in a while, in bed, he let her do that.
Covering the space between them, he bent over and kissed her cheek. “No, thanks. You know that tub’s too small for me. I’m going to shower, though.”
Back in the bedroom, he put his pocket change and his watch in the top drawer of the dresser, hung up his suit, placed his shoes on the second shelf at the bottom of the closet and stuffed his dirty clothes in the wicker laundry hamper. He smiled again at Tessa as he entered the bathroom and crossed to the shower in the corner.
She whistled at him. “Still looking good there, Dan.”
“Nice to hear at forty,” he said, stepping inside.
As he let the water sluice over him, he took pleasure in Tessa’s compliment. Concentrating on the night ahead, he smiled as he washed. When he came out of the glass enclosure, Tessa had left her bath. Drying himself, shaving, he heard the music in the bedroom change to some Michael Bolton. The melody was romantic and…sexy. He felt his body respond. Hmm. Their habit was to make love at night, but what the hell, today was their anniversary.
Apparently, Tessa had the same thoughts, because when he entered the bedroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, she was on the bed.
“Where did you get that?”
She fingered the black lace strap of the top. “Janey bought it for me.” Her hand slid to her thigh. “These, too,” she said of the shorts-like panties to match.
The man in him, the husband and lover, responded to her tease. But then the staid person he’d become took over.
Tessa noticed. “You’re frowning.” Her eyes widened. “I’m sorry if this is too…risqu?. I just thought…it’s our anniversary.”
The stricken look on her face—he’d seen it before and it always troubled him—sent him to the bed where he sat down next to her. “Shh,” he said, kissing her tenderly. “It’s not too risqu? for your husband.”
She didn’t believe him.
“Tess, love, you know me. You know how conservative I am. I like it when you coax me out of that box.”
He touched the pearls around her neck. He’d given them to her on their wedding day, and he knew they’d become her most precious possession. “Of course.” His grin was meant to soothe her. “You are so beautiful, and I love how this—” now he kissed the lacy edge of the top “—shows that off.” He meant what he said, in his heart.
She relaxed. He ran his lips along the line of her collar bone and kissed his way over her body until all rational thought fled.
“WELL, I DON’T NEED to ask how your anniversary celebration was.” Dan’s brother Nick smirked at him with a cockiness left over from Nick’s street days. “It’s written all over your face.”
Picking up his fork, Dan dug into his chicken Caesar salad. “Our anniversary was terrific. And it was nice to have time alone with Tessa. I’m crazy about my girls, but with Molly and Sara always there we don’t have time to hold a decent conversation.”
“Oh, yeah, I’ll bet you talked all night long.”
“None of your business, wise guy.” Dan couldn’t contain his smile. Last night had been full of fireworks. It stunned him that he could sometimes behave with such abandon.
“Yeah, yeah.” Nick bit into his Reuben sandwich. “So what did you want to talk to me about?”
Dan’s gaze was direct. “Mom.”
Nick’s hand curled around the glass in front of him. “Off limits, Dan. You know that.”
“Her sixtieth birthday’s next month. We’re having a party, and I know she’d love it if you were there. If you’d give a little…”
“She kicked me out of the house when I was seventeen. I’ve done her a huge favor by avoiding contact since I came back. You aren’t going to change that.”
“She didn’t kick you out. You left after she said you had to abide by her rules. I remember, Nick, I was there.”
“Same thing. Anyway, Mom had you, the perfect child, in her house. I’m the disappointment.”
“You’re not a disappointment to me.” Dan hoped his tone was as sincere as he felt. “You turned your life around.”
“Yeah, I did.”
The look on Nick’s face told Dan his brother would close down if he didn’t change the subject. “How’s the job going?” His younger brother had come back to Orchard Place two years ago and now ran the town’s Center for At-Risk Teens.
“The center’s doing great, though we always need money and volunteers. Your wife’s a big hit with the kids. The book discussion group she started at the library is thriving. I can’t believe how well she relates to the girls.”
“She works too hard. I worry about her.”
Dan’s head came up. “Mmm, what?”
“I don’t know. I worry about her, too, I guess.”
Sipping his iced tea, Dan frowned.
“She ever talk about her past?” Nick asked.
“No reason. Does she?”
Since Tessa was circumspect about her background, he’d never discussed this with Nick before. “She grew up in the Midwest with Janey and a grandmother. No parents in the picture. She came east when…” He thought a minute. “I guess when her grandmother died. Anyway, she was a waitress in Chico’s Diner and living with Janey when I met her.”
“She seems sad to me sometimes.”
Dan studied his brother, hating the fact that Nick might know information about Tessa he didn’t. “Do you think something’s wrong with her?”
“Nah.” Nick set his napkin down on the table. “You, on the other hand, I could write a book about.”
“Don’t start.” Dan concentrated on his salad.
“You live in fear that it’s genetic, Dan.”
The it didn’t have to be clarified.
“I’m nothing like Dad was.”
“I had his unethical tendencies in me.”
“How did we get on to this topic?”
“Probably because you brought up Claire.” Nick refused to call their mother Mom. “It’s obvious that she thinks I got my bad seeds from him.”
“Then why have you spent your life in self-imposed perfection? I think you’re trying to prove you’re not like our embezzling bastard of a father.”
“It’s not necessary to get into this, Nick. I know I’m conservative because of our background. Tessa and I have discussed it. She accepts that about me. It works for us.”
“Let’s talk about something else. How about your love life? Any women on the horizon?”
“Scores.” Nick was always secretive about the women in his life, past and present.
“I’ll bet that’s true.”
Nick had the Logan looks—dark hair and slate-blue eyes, classic bone structure. But whereas Nick held himself with easy grace and comfort, Dan was coiled up. Smiles came easily to Nick, while Dan was sober most of the time.
Well, he loved his brother and was grateful to have Nick back in his life. It was his father—the convicted felon—who Dan hated with a passion that wouldn’t dissipate. Regardless of how much he talked to Tessa about it.
“MOM!” Nine-year-old Molly shouted the word from across the room, then hurtled herself at her mother as if Tessa had abandoned her for weeks, not left her one day with her favorite cousins. “I missed you.” Molly’s grin was infectious, and she always made Tessa smile. Her carefree child loved life and showed it with exuberant charm.
“I missed you, too, Mol.” Tessa hugged her and glanced over at Janey, who was rolling her eyes. “Well, I did.”
“Did you and Dad have a good time on your anniversary?”
“Yeah, did you have a good time?” Janey teased.
Tessa drew back. “We did.”
“What’d ya do, Mom?”
“Oh, grown-up stuff.”
Very grown-up stuff. She shivered at the thought of how Dan had touched her last night. She loved it when he lost himself in their lovemaking. It didn’t happen every time, but she treasured those rare occasions he couldn’t even remember his name.
“Hi, Mom.” Sara stood in the doorway. At almost eight, fourteen months younger than Molly, she eyed Tessa warily. She looked like her dad with dark hair and blue eyes, whereas Molly had inherited Tessa’s hazel eyes and light brown hair. Molly’s hair fell in curls down her back, but these days Tessa blew her hair straight.
“Hey, baby. Come give me a hug.”
Sara approached her with dainty little steps. She hugged Tessa tentatively. Her younger daughter was quiet and self-contained. Again, like her dad.
“Go pack up your stuff, now. We have to do some grocery shopping before dinner.”
“Can we get ice cream?” Molly asked. “The kind Aunt Janey has, with pieces of candy bars in it?”
“I think so. Just as long as you don’t overdo it.”
When the girls were gone, Janey sat at her kitchen table and Tessa followed suit. “Sara’s too serious,” Janey said. “It would be healthy for her to overdo it once in a while.”
Tessa’s sister had a strong protective streak, evident all through their youth, and when Tessa came to live with her in Orchard Place. Even now that they were adults with their own families, she played mother hen frequently.
“You know why I’m like this.”
“The accident wasn’t your fault.” Janey hesitated before she continued. “That anniversary is coming up, too.”
“Please, don’t talk about it. I can’t risk somebody finding out.”
Janey’s expression turned sad. “You should tell Dan.”
“After his father’s situation? Are you kidding? We’d never have gotten together if he’d known about me.”
“Hey, he was the one who pursued you. Relentlessly, I might add.”
That was true. Though she’d fallen hook, line and sinker for the young Orchard County assistant district attorney, it took him six months to wheedle a date out of her, a year until she slept with him. She wouldn’t have married him but she’d gotten pregnant, which a few weeks later ended in miscarriage.
“It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, Janey. With Grandma dead, you’re the only one who knows the truth. Not telling Dan is a done deal.”
“I’m not the only one who knows the truth. That lunatic—”
Tessa felt her face pale. “Janey, no. Don’t even say his name. Please. We made a pact.”
“All right, all right. I won’t even say his name. I hope he’s burning in hell, anyway.”
KANSAS FEDERAL Penitentiary had become Frankie Hamilton’s own personal hell. He stared out his cell window at the barbed wire fences and dirty, white guard tower, his hate for the place burning inside him. He’d been down for fifteen years and only the black-market buck, which got him drunk, kept him from going postal all this time.
“Hey, Hamilton, you over there?”
Coughing from the freakin’ dampness of the prison—he swore he’d had this cold for years– Frankie dragged himself to the front of the cell and plunked down on the end of his cot. The flimsy bed, a cheap steel desk and chair, a sink and a toilet furnished the concrete ten-by-ten room. It smelled like piss and cleanser. “Yeah, Shank, I’m here. Where you think I am, at a ball?”
“Just checking. I hate Sunday nights in this place.”
“Why they any worse than the rest of the week?”
“My pa never came home on Sunday nights. Me and my ma—it was the only peace we had.”
It had been rumored among the inmates that Sammy Shanker, aka Shank, had blown off the back of his father’s head one cold winter morning and splattered his old man’s brains all over his own face. He’d been seventeen at the time.
“You get any more letters from your ma?”
“Not this week. Maybe tomorrow.” Shank swore. “You heard from your girl?”
Frankie glanced to the desk and grinned. “Another letter yesterday.”
“Read me some? ’Cause it’s Sunday?”
“Not the private parts.”
Frankie rose from the cot, grabbed the sealed envelope off the desk and came back to the front of the cell. He put the letter to his nose; he knew it had a flowery scent but he couldn’t smell it because he was constantly stuffed up. “Maybe a little bit.” He tore open the envelope and smiled at the familiar handwriting.
“Dear Frankie, I miss you so much. I can’t wait till you get out on parole in a few weeks. I’m sending another picture so you don’t forget me.”
“Can I see it?”
“Sure.” Snaking his arm between the bars and out as far as he could, he let Shank get a peek at his girl.
“She don’t look much different than the last picture.”
Frankie snatched his hand back; his head started to hurt. “Course she does.” He rubbed his thumb and finger over his eyes, then stared at the curly, light brown hair, the wide brown eyes, the freckles on her nose.
“Frankie? Read some more?”
When the pain receded, he read parts of the three pages. The end of the letters always made him feel better. “I love you, Frankie, and can’t wait till you get out. Come back to me soon. Love, Trixie.”
Trixie, his girl. Frankie lay back on his bed, remembering her baby-soft skin and silky hair. He’d never forgive the damned prison system for splitting them up. She’d been sentenced to a different jail all those years ago and had gone back to the real world after eighteen months. Kissing the picture, he whispered, “It won’t be long now, Trixie.”
Frankie fell asleep with Trixie next to his heart.
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