Read The Cabin Online

Authors: Carla Neggers

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Romance, #Adult, #Suspense, #American Light Romantic Fiction, #Fiction - Romance, #Romance: Modern, #Ex-convicts, #revenge, #Romance - Suspense, #Separated people, #Romance - General

The Cabin (3 page)

BOOK: The Cabin
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“Then…nothing. I decided to come up here with

Maggie and Ellen. Stay a few weeks.” She almost

smiled. “Clear my head.”

Jim Haviland held his champagne bottle to one side

and studied her closely while she ate more of her chili,

barely tasting it now. Finally, he shook his head. “Jesus.

You didn’t tell Jack about this bastard in your kitchen.”

“I know it sounds irrational.” She set her fork down

and sniffled, picking up her margarita glass, noticing the

slight tremble in her hand. “I mean, Jack’s a Texas Ran-

ger.
You’d
tell him if you had a stalker, right?”

The Cabin

21

“Goddamn right. It’s one thing not to tell Jack about

buying a cabin in the mountains, but a stalker—”

“It seemed to make sense at the time.”

Jim inhaled sharply, then breathed out. “Tell him

now. You can use the phone in back. Call him
right now

and tell him.”

“It’s too late. It wouldn’t make any difference.”

“This guy’s in jail?”

She shook her head.

Jim narrowed his gaze on her. “Dead?”

“No, he’s never been charged with anything. He’s a

free man.”

“Because you never told anyone he was stalking

you—”

“No, no one would be interested in my stalking story.

He’d just explain it away. Coincidence, misunderstand-

ing, desperation. The authorities would never touch it,

now or then.” She sipped her margarita, the melting ice

diluting the alcohol. “They wanted this guy for a much

bigger crime than spooking me.”

This got Davey Ahearn’s attention. “Yeah? Like

what? What else did he do? Kill his wife?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, Davey, that’s exactly what

he did.” Susanna stared up at the television and watched

the clock tick down to midnight. Four minutes to go.

Three minutes and fifty-nine seconds. Happy New Year.

“He killed his wife.”

��

Two

Jack Galway woke on New Year’s Day to an empty bed,

a raging headache and dark thoughts about his wife.

Push was coming to shove between the two of them. He

didn’t know when or how, but it would. Soon. He was

tired of waking up alone in bed. He was tired of being

pissed off about the things she hadn’t told him. Susanna

and her secrets.

He’d celebrated last night with his daughters and

about a million of their friends. No alcohol. They were

under twenty-one, and he had to drive a bunch of them

home. He was in bed by one. Alone.

Last year was better. Maggie and Ellen had gone to

a friend’s house, and he and his slim, dark-haired, green-

eyed wife had headed straight for the bedroom. He sup-

posed they should have worked on some of their

“issues” then. But they hadn’t. The emotions between

them—the anger and frustration—were still too volatile.

They were locked into their silence, stubborn. And it had

been too many weeks without making love.

The Cabin

23

Jack gritted his teeth. There was no point in dwell-

ing on last year, but the truth was, he’d thought a night

in bed with him would at least keep his wife from going

back up to Boston. Wrong.

Steeling himself against his pounding head, he rolled

out of bed and pulled on jeans and an ancient sweatshirt.

With Susanna in Boston making her damn gazillions,

he tended to keep his jeans and sweats in a heap on the

floor. What the hell difference did it make?

He headed down to the kitchen for aspirin. Maggie and

Ellen, wide awake and dressed, whirled around him, pots

and bowls out, the mixer, eggs, milk, lemons, a five-pound

bag of sugar. Then he remembered their New Year’s Day

Jane Austen fest. Tea, scones, lemon curd, clotted cream,

watercress sandwiches and one Jane Austen movie after

another. It was an all-day event. They’d invited friends.

Jack stifled a groan and gulped down two aspirin. He

could feel his headache spreading into his eyes.

Ellen pushed past him with the scone bowl and set it

in the sink. She was athletic and pretty with chestnut hair

that was so like Iris Dunning’s before hers had turned

white. Ellen’s eyes were dark like his, and she was bet-

ter-tempered than either parent, a people person and a

rugby player with a perpetual array of bruises on her legs.

She turned on the water into the bowl. “We’ve decided

to start with the Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson
Pride

and Prejudice.
That makes sense, don’t you think, Dad?”

Jack nodded. “Sure.”

“You can watch it with us if you want—”

“Ellen.”
Maggie swung around from the stove. She

was dark-haired and willowy like her mother, hardheaded

24

Carla Neggers

like both parents, but, somehow, she’d managed to inherit

Kevin and Eva Dunning’s artistic streak. She, too, had her

father’s dark eyes. “Dad is
not
invited. Remember? You

know what he’s like. He’ll make comments.”

Ellen bit her lower lip. “Oh, yeah. What was I think-

ing? Dad, you’re not invited.”

“Good,” he said. “I’ll go for a run and make myself

scarce.”

He headed back to his bedroom and changed into his

sweats, drawing on years of training and self-discipline

not to fall back onto his bed and dream about his wife.

He could hear East Coast tones slipping into Maggie

and Ellen’s speech. At least they’d done Jane Austen

fests and high teas before they’d moved north. He hadn’t

objected to a semester in Boston, a chance for them to

live with their great-grandmother and really get to know

her. Iris Dunning was a special lady. But he did object

to Susanna heading up there—not that he’d asked her

to stay or come back. Not explicitly. But she knew what

he wanted.

He hadn’t expected Susanna to last past the first hard

frost. She was used to life in south Texas. It was home.

She knew she belonged here, but she was just fighting

it, hanging in up in Boston, because it was easier than

fighting him. Easier than admitting to her fears, deal-

ing with them.

Easier than coming clean with him.

He knew he’d contributed to the impasse between

them. He’d tried to deny it for months, but now he

couldn’t. He was still contributing by not talking to her,

not telling her what he knew. What he feared—not that

The Cabin

25

he was supposed to be afraid of anything. He definitely

had his own sorting out to do.

He pushed thoughts of his wife to the back of his

mind. Maybe some action was called for on his part, but

he didn’t know what. The status quo was aggravating,

but doing something stupid and losing Susanna alto-

gether—that was unthinkable.

He slipped out into the bright, warm San Antonio

morning, breathing in the slightly humid air and mak-

ing himself hear the birds singing. He started on his

ten-mile route through the pleasant suburban neigh-

borhood where he and Susanna had raised their twin

daughters. Everything about his home said “family

man.” Husband, father. Their house had a big family

room, a nice laundry room, pictures of sunflowers and

chickens in the kitchen. He remembered teaching the

girls how to ride bikes on this very street. Maggie

hadn’t wanted any help whatsoever. Ellen had ac-

cepted all help but still managed to bust herself up a

few times.

He hated to see them fly back to Boston in a couple

of days. He knew he could go with them. He was due

some time off.

His headache dissipated after the first agonizing mile

of his run. Then he went into a kind of zone, jogging eas-

ily, not thinking, just putting one foot in front of the

other. That was what he’d done in every area of his life

for the past fourteen months. Put one foot in front of the

other. Steady if not patient, pushing ahead but always

coming back to where he started, never getting anywhere.


Damn
it, Susanna.”

26

Carla Neggers

He wasn’t waking up next New Year’s without his

wife. Hell, he didn’t want to wake up
tomorrow
with-

out her.

Probably he should tell her as much.

He came home sweating, breathing hard, purged of

his bad night and recharged to enjoy his last two days

with his daughters. He peeked in the family room, where

Maggie and Ellen and two friends had set up their Jane

Austen fest. They all held crumpled tissues and had

tears in their eyes. Jack smiled. They’d be running the

world in a few years, but right now they were crying

over Darcy. Maggie shot him a warning look. He

winked at her and retreated to his bedroom.

He showered, put his jeans back on and turned on a

football game. If he could make it to the kitchen and

back without someone offering him a watercress sand-

wich, he’d fetch himself a beer.

Ellen knocked on his door and told him they’d voted

to invite him to tea, after all. “We all agreed we want to

see you try lemon curd.”

“I went to Harvard,” he said. “I’ve tried lemon curd.”

“Come on, Dad. We feel terrible having tea with-

out you.”

There was no way out of it. He’d had two perfect

weeks with his daughters. He’d taken time off and did

whatever they wanted. Shopping, visiting colleges,

going to movies, tossing a rugby ball around the yard—

it didn’t matter. They’d spent Christmas Day in Austin

with his in-laws. Kevin and Eva didn’t understand what

was going with their daughter’s marriage, but they de-

terminedly stayed out of it.

The Cabin

27

“Do you want Earl Grey or English Breakfast?”

Ellen asked.

“There’s a difference?”

He was kidding, but she took his question seriously,

as if her father couldn’t possibly know tea. “English

Breakfast is more like regular tea. Earl Grey has a

smoky flavor—”

“English Breakfast.”

They had the good china set up on the coffee table

in the family room, with Susanna’s favorite cloth nap-

kins, small china platters of crustless sandwiches and

warm scones, little bowls of clotted cream, lemon curd

and strawberry jam. There were two teapots, one with

Earl Grey, one with English Breakfast. Very elegant,

except the girls were in jeans, jerseys and sneakers, all

but Maggie, who favored what she called vintage cloth-

ing and had on a housedress Donna Reed might have

worn. She was on the floor, her back against the couch,

studiously avoiding looking at her father. Her nose was

red. Ellen would cry at movies in front of him, but not

Maggie.

The Emma Thompson
Sense and Sensibility
was

playing. Susanna had dragged him to it when it first

came out. One of the sisters was in bed sick. The sen-

sibility one, as Jack recalled.

“You’ve all seen this movie a dozen times,” he said.

“How can you still cry?”

All four girls waved him quiet. “Shut
up,
Dad,” Mag-

gie said.

It was the sort of “shut up” he could let go because

he’d asked for it and she wasn’t three anymore. But her

28

Carla Neggers

time up north had sharpened her tongue. He was con-

vinced of it.

Ellen handed him a china cup and saucer and a plate

with a scone, lemon curd and a tiny watercress sand-

wich. “You know, Dad, you should rent some Jane Aus-

ten movies for yourself. You might learn how to be more

romantic.”

“I know how to be romantic.”

Both daughters rolled their eyes. He drank some of

his tea. The watercress sandwich was bearable, proba-

bly because it was so small. The scones were okay. The

lemon curd had lumps that he didn’t mention.

“What about me isn’t romantic?” he asked.

“Everything,” his daughters and their two friends

said in unison.

He was spared further analysis of his romantic na-

ture by the arrival of Sam Temple. Maggie and Ellen

liked to pretend they didn’t notice him, but every woman

in Texas noticed Sam. He was in his mid-thirties, a

Texas Ranger for the past three years, and he was un-

married, good-looking and smart.

He sauntered into the family room and glanced at the

television. “Isn’t that the guy from
Die Hard?
He’s some-

thing. Remember when he shot that cokehead weasel?”

Maggie snatched up the remote, hit the pause button

and glared coolly at the two men. “There ought to be a

law against Texas Rangers watching Jane Austen movies.”

Sam grinned at her. “I thought you wanted to be a

Texas Ranger.”

“That was when I was eleven.”

She eased onto her feet, elegant even in her quirky

The Cabin

29

Donna Reed dress and black sneakers. Jack glanced at

Sam, who was wisely showing no indication of notic-

ing that Maggie Galway wasn’t eleven anymore. She put

BOOK: The Cabin
11.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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