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
“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-
tell him if you had a stalker, right?”
“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
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
“Because you never told anyone he was stalking
“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.”
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.
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
That makes sense, don’t you think, Dad?”
Jack nodded. “Sure.”
“You can watch it with us if you want—”
Maggie swung around from the stove. She
was dark-haired and willowy like her mother, hardheaded
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
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
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 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
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
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.
He wasn’t waking up next New Year’s without his
wife. Hell, he didn’t want to wake up
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-
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.
“Do you want Earl Grey or English Breakfast?”
“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
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
The Emma Thompson
Sense and Sensibility
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
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
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
“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
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
“That was when I was eleven.”
She eased onto her feet, elegant even in her quirky
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