Well with the flurry of work I'm doing on a four story romance collection based on the four "couples" in the novel "Lies in Chance", I figured I would share a bit more of the novel with you.
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Meanwhile, enjoy this bit of fiction!
Richard Bennett leaned over against the glass of the window and closed his eyes. “Are you sure it’s her?”
“No, Mr. Bennett. That’s why we called you.” A short, barrel-chested detective offered him a Styrofoam cup filled with bitter smelling coffee.
Richard waved off the coffee and looked over his shoulder at Jennifer. She sat quietly in the corner, trying her best not to attract attention a feat, he knew, that was almost impossible for the six foot tall red head with a spectacular body.
Focus, Bennett. Focus on what you have to do here.
“Okay, Detective. I’m ready.”
The detective tapped on the glass and the coroner pulled back the glass. On the table, a foot away from the glass, was a body covered with a white sheet. Swallowing hard, Richard nodded. This time the coroner pulled back the sheet.
The body wasn’t human, couldn’t be human. Every inch was bloated, gray and filthy. Bile bubbled up in Richard’s throat.
“Mr. Bennett? Is that her? Is that your fiancé?”
Richard took a deep breath and looked at the mass on the table again. This just needs to be over. It needs to be over now. He looked closely, studying the repulsive figure. “Yes, yes it is. It’s Shara.”
The detective nodded to the coroner, who covered the body with the sheet again. “Thank you, Mr. Bennett. I’m very sorry for your loss.”
“Yes, thank you, Detective.” Richard looked past the man’s shoulder to Jennifer, who remained still in the corner, but the energy around her was charged, energetic. She seemed coiled, ready to spring. Her ice green eyes fairly glowed in the dim light of the room.
At last. It’s over. Time for me to move on.
“What’s New Ear’s Eve?” Emma barely got the words out before a yawn split her tiny face wide open.
It was nearly eleven, but Shara was having so much fun with the kids, she lost track of time until Nate fell asleep in the middle of a rousing round of the Memory game. Drew, Joanna, indeed the better part of Rock Harbor’s entire population was over at the RHCS gym for its big New Year’s Eve party. The lights from the parking lot twinkled through the Shepaski’s front window.
“New Year’s Eve is the last night of the year.” She tugged Emma’s pajama top over the little girl’s head. “It’s the night that we all look back, think about the last year, and promise ourselves to make the next year a better one. A fresh start.”
“Like a do over?”
“Yes, like a do over,” Shara said with a smile. “Now, get into that bed. If your mommy finds out I let you guys stay up this late, I’ll be looking for a do over!”
“G’night-Bethany-I-love-you,” the girl mumbled sleepily.
Walking down the stairs to the family room, Shara paused at the wall of family pictures. Maybe that’s why I’m here. Maybe Rock Harbor is my do over.
Bryan pulled into the Shepaski driveway, too engrossed in the radio news report to turn off the Jeep.
“Wisconsin’s number one mystery of the year has been solved. The body of Shara Brandt, the young woman wanted in connection with the murder of businesswoman Lydia Brandt, was found today in the Rock River just outside of Watertown in Jefferson County. Authorities received an emergency call just after noon today from a local man who discovered the body frozen in the ice near a city park. Brandt’s fiancé, Richard Bennett, who identified the body at the Jefferson county medical examiner’s office had this to say:”
“Shara was loved by so many people. While we may never know what struggles she faced that horrible night, we do pray that Shara has found the peace that avoided her in life. Those of us that knew her and loved her, we now must go on without her.”
As he stepped into the house, Bethany looked up from the book she was reading. “Oh, hi. I didn’t expect you here tonight. I thought you’d be over at the school, kickin’ it up with everyone else.”
He took in the image of her sitting, legs draped over the arm of Drew’s favorite chair, completely at ease and happy. In the week since their trip to Green Bay, Bryan found himself mentally returning to the park bench and the feel of her leaning against him, smiling and laughing in the cold night. How big of an idiot was I to ever think she was Shara Brandt? “Dances bore me. Besides, I wanted to give you this.” He handed her a package. Bryan liked the way her eyes sparkled as she took the box from him.
“Bryan, you didn’t have to-” She got out of the chair, staring at the package as if it were gold.
“I didn’t really. Just open it.”
Bethany opened the present with controlled excitement. “It’s a coat!” She held it up for his inspection.
“I figured you were tired of running around in Molly’s old puffy monster coat.”
Bethany held the dark denim coat and touched the pink corduroy collar and cuffs. “Bryan, it’s so pretty.” Her eyes glowed as she looked at him. “You shouldn’t have-”
“Well, I didn’t, exactly. I was cleaning out a closet yesterday, and I found this. I think I got it for my sister ages ago, but she moved to Hawaii. I never got around to doing anything with it. I saw it and thought you’d like it.”
“I love it!” She held the coat in one arm and pulled him close in a forceful one armed hug.
Her sudden burst of affection surprised and pleased him. “Well, okay, good.” He settled into the armchair and changed the subject. “So, what’s for snacks? Need any help getting the kids in bed?”
“Thanks, but I got them in hours ago.” She hung the coat on a peg near the door and grinned at him.
“Hours?” He arched an eyebrow at her.
“Fine. Minutes. And snacks are pretty thin, but I think there’s a little confetti pizza left. The kids ate most of everything.”
“Confetti pizza! I love that stuff! Let’s have at it.” She led him up to the dining area, but the last remnants of the dessert were hardly enough for him, and he pouted for a moment, just for her benefit. “It’s a good thing I brought provisions, then.” He ran back down the stairs and returned with a grocery bag. He pulled out several different bags of chips and crackers followed by a number of small containers of different dips.
“Let me guess. You mixed up Joanna’s dream shopping list with your own?” She giggled, hiding her mouth behind her hand.
“Oh, fine. Ignore the fact that I went out into the wild and hunted and gathered all these provisions. You should have seen the grocery store. It was madness, madness I tell you!” He struck what he thought was a dramatic pose. “I had to bargain with some high school girl for this last bag of cheese puffs.”
She attempted a straight face. “So, you’re looking for an Academy Award for this performance, or are you going to open up that dip?”
“A true hero is never appreciated in his home town.” Bryan gave her an exaggerated sigh as he opened a container of dip and grinned at her. “You have no idea the idle chit chat and the starry eyes I had to endure to get these cheese puffs.”
“I thought you hated that whole ‘wounded hero’ thing. Or do you find it’s to your benefit sometimes?” Bethany’s laughter softened the teasing tone in her voice.
“Something like that.” He got up from the table and looked in the fridge for something to drink. “Somewhere out there, is a high school sophomore who is telling all of her giggling friends about her almost romantic encounter with Mr. Bryan Jacobs.”
“Lucky girl.” Bethany busied herself with the dips, but her tone held a note of something…else.
Was that sarcasm or jealousy? Bryan watched her tear into the bag of cheese puffs with the all the self-consciousness of a starving convict. I’m going with sarcasm “Hey, there’s a news story I’m following. Mind if I turn on the T. V.?”
“Go ahead.” Bethany followed him down to the family room, and settled on the couch, tucking her feet under her.
Bryan sat in the armchair, pointed the remote at the television and pushed the power button. In a blink Shara Brandt’s face stared at them. “Yeah, this is the story.”
She jumped up so quickly, she nearly knocked over the stack of magazines on the coffee table. “Oh, um, who is that?” She picked up the magazines and held them, hovering over the table.
Bryan looked at her, unsure of why she sounded like she was being strangled. “It’s that girl that shot her grandmother and fiancé and then disappeared.”
“Oh, yeah, the killer you thought I was, right?” She’d regained her composure and gave him a humorous look, although there was still a glimmer of anxiety in her eyes.
“They did?” Still holding the magazines, she stared at the screen, her expression now unreadable.
“Yeah. Her fiancé identified the body. So I guess the case is closed. Poor kid. Would have been twenty-four next month.” He noticed that she kept slapping the pile of magazines against the coffee table. “I think those magazines are straightened up enough. Are you okay?”
Bethany gave him a blank look and set the magazines down. “Yeah, I’m fine. I’m…I’m going to check on the kids, okay? I’ll be right back.”
Bryan watched her go and wanted to kick himself. Way to go, Jacobs. You don’t know what happened to her parents, why she was living with her grandfather. Knowing your luck, they probably all drowned in some freak family vacation thing. Idiot.