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
rugged image he wanted to project. He was a tall man
with neat, gray hair, a square jaw and blue eyes. He
had the broad shoulders and build that had served him
well as a college football player. He and Rachel were
married within weeks of meeting while she was in
Austin on business. She was his second wife. His first
wife, his high school sweetheart, had died of cancer
three years earlier. She was a saint, a hard act to fol-
low. No kids.
“Miss Parker,” Beau McGarrity said in his deep,
twangy accent, “if you don’t leave at once, I’ll call the
He didn’t like her coming around anymore than Jack
Galway had. “Relax, Mr. Beau, I’m not here for a little
vigilante justice. I have a proposition for you.”
“Miss Parker, there’s nothing you can offer that
would be of any interest to me whatsoever.”
Alice shrugged. She felt tiny and pale next to him,
isolated out here on his precious ranch, but not vulner-
able—not like that night when she’d found Rachel out
here in the dark. She remembered screaming like a
damn fool, crouching behind Rachel’s car, expecting a
bullet in her back, before she realized Beau needed her
alive. As Rachel’s murderer.
“Susanna Galway taped you that day you showed up
in her kitchen.”
His eyes narrowed on her, but he said nothing.
“Her daughters had one of those little digital tape
recorders, and Susanna saw it and hit the record but-
ton.” Alice was matter-of-fact. “I’m surprised you
“This is ridiculous. You’re making this up.”
“No, sir, Mr. Beau, I am not making this up. I am tell-
ing you the flat-out truth. It’s not a regular cassette tape.
It’s a digital audiotape, about three inches by three
inches. I’ve listened to it. You know all that sympathy
you’ve been building up this past year? All these people
who’re thinking, oh, poor Mr. Beau, he’s the innocent
victim of police corruption and incompetence—well, let
them hear you threatening a Texas Ranger’s wife.”
“I didn’t threaten her.”
“You were subtle,” Alice said, “but not that subtle.”
“Get off my property. You’re trying to set me up
again. I’ve been under suspicion for months of killing
my own wife—”
“You did kill your own wife, Mr. Beau. You killed her
because you’re paranoid and crazy. Not twenty-four
hours before I found her dead out here, I told you that
if I were her, I’d smother you with a pillow while you
slept, and you killed her—”
“I’m calling the police.” He turned to go back inside.
She held up a hand, breathing hard. “No, wait. I’m
sorry. That’s all over with. Let me finish.”
He said nothing, but he stayed put.
Alice went on. “I happened to show up at the Gal-
way house right after you left—I was hoping to catch
Ranger Jack and plead my case to him. It was just a few
hours before I was arrested, and here’s Mrs. Jack Gal-
way, all pale and scared, telling me how you’d just
walked into her kitchen and she’d taped you. I assumed
she’d give the tape to her husband, but she never did,
probably because everything was such a big mess by
then. Why drag herself into it?”
Beau straightened, recovering a bit from his shock.
“This tape. You believe Mrs. Galway still has it in her
This was the tricky part. Alice remembered how Ra-
chel had often warned her against making things too
complicated. But she couldn’t tell Beau that Susanna
Galway had thrust the tape at her that day at her front
door—Susanna obviously had thought Alice was still on
Rachel’s murder investigation and wanted to be rid of
the damn thing. “I don’t know if it’s any good,” she’d
said, “but, please, take it.”
Alice had gone out and bought a tape recorder and
listened to the DAT herself. There was nothing on it that
would pull her own hide out of the fire, nothing a pros-
ecutor would bother with as far as Beau went. The Texas
Rangers wouldn’t like it, a murder suspect trying to get
under the skin of the wife of one of their lieutenants.
Jack Galway really wouldn’t like it. But, too bad.
She’d expected Jack to get around to asking her about
it when he’d come to arrest her, but he never did. Alice
didn’t volunteer. Let the Texas Rangers work for every
damn thing they got out of her. Her world had crashed
in on her while Beau McGarrity got away with murder,
She’d put the tape out of her mind. It was worthless.
Then, in prison, she’d started dreaming of Australia.
She still had the tape, and she was betting Beau would
want it. It wasn’t enough to nail him for murder, but it was
plenty to ruin his chances of any kind of political come-
back—provided no one realized Alice Parker, corrupt
cop, had had it all this time. If he knew that, Beau would
never pay. He wouldn’t have to. He’d just say she was back
to her old tricks, tampering with another bit of “evidence.”
She shifted away from him, looking out at the
sprawling, shaded lawn. She loved the smells. “I hap-
pen to know Susanna still has the tape. That’s why I’m
here. I can get it for you.”
“Miss Parker, you managed to get yourself thrown in
prison because of your own incompetence and your zeal
to pin my wife’s murder on me. Why should I believe
anything’s changed? Why shouldn’t I believe this is just
a ploy on your part to entrap me, frame me for some-
thing I didn’t do?”
“You can quit professing your innocence, Mr. Beau.
You already got away with murder. There’s nothing I
can do about that—I don’t even care anymore. It’s time
I looked after my own interests.” Alice shifted back to
him, squinting, noting that she wasn’t even slightly ner-
vous. “I want fifty thousand dollars to start a new life.”
He scoffed. “Do you actually think I’d pay you fifty
thousand dollars for
“Not just anything. For a tape of you creeping out Su-
sanna Galway in her kitchen.”
“If there’s anything on this tape that should concern
me—if it even exists—why wouldn’t Mrs. Galway have
given it to her husband by now?”
“Probably because you scared her shitless that day.
I don’t know.” Alice paused, shrugging. “Look, Beau, I
know you, and you’re going to chew on this until you
can’t stand it. The idea of that tape being out there, out
of your control, is going to drive you crazy.”
“She could have made copies.”
“Unlikely. I think she just wants to forget it exists.”
“Then why not destroy it?”
“She’s the wife of a Texas Ranger. She’s not going
to destroy potential evidence, even if she doesn’t believe
it’ll amount to anything. If she has, end of story. I only
get the money if I produce the tape and no copies of it
turn up within a reasonable period of time.”
He tilted his head back, staring down at her in that
superior way of his. At first, Rachel had said, she’d
thought it was confidence—she hadn’t seen the truth
until later. Her husband was one cold, arrogant son of
a bitch. He’d put his first wife on a pedestal after she
died, then tried to put Rachel on one, too, but she could
never measure up. She was real. His dead wife was a
It used to be Officer Parker. She remembered that.
She knew everyone in town, and they’d all called her Of-
ficer Parker. “Think about it,” she said. “I’ll call you in
a few days.”
“This is extortion. Blackmail. You can’t—”
“I’ll be in touch, Mr. Beau.” She started down the
walk, breathing in the fresh smells of his yard. She’d
grown up in this country. It was home. But she could
get used to Australia. She wanted the chance. She
glanced back at Beau McGarrity, still standing on his
front steps, probably thinking about where he could
bury her out back if he decided to wring her neck. Just
as well he didn’t know she had Susanna’s tape in her
glove compartment. “Now, you aren’t going to tell the
Texas Rangers about our visit, are you?” she called back
over her shoulder.
She smiled sweetly. “I didn’t think so.”
A nor’easter was blowing up the coast, promising to
dump up to a foot of snow in Boston. Susanna noticed
the first fat, wet flakes as she walked back to Gran’s from
her subway stop. With a full schedule of client meetings,
she’d avoided taking her car into the city. It had been a
good day. Helping people sort out their finances and set
up goals was one of the real pleasures of her work. It
wasn’t just about money, numbers, calculations—it was
about people and their lives. She had clients saving for
their kids’ college, a first home, a year off to volunteer
for something like Doctors Without Borders. One client
was digging herself out of debt after a cancer scare and
a deep depression that had nearly caused her to pull the
plug on her life. Now she was excited, eager to knock
off one credit card debt after another.
Susanna wasn’t as good at following her own advice.
She always told couples to talk about money. What did
it mean to them? What positives and negatives did they
associate with money from their childhoods? What did
they want it to do for them, individually, as a couple?
She and Jack had stopped talking about money be-
yond the absolute basics. If the bills were paid and they
had walking-around money, Jack didn’t care about the
rest. “Accumulating wealth” fell somewhere after
“watching gum surgery” on his list of things he was ex-
cited about in his life.
Some days Susanna thought he wouldn’t care that
she’d invested her money and a chunk of his money,
and, now, together, they had a net worth of ten million.
Some days she thought he’d care a lot. And wouldn’t
like it. That he especially wouldn’t like that she hadn’t
told him. Not that he’d asked. Not that he’d shown any
In the months before she’d headed north to join Mag-
gie and Ellen, he’d talked very little about his own work.
Things hadn’t been right between them even before
Beau McGarrity had walked into her kitchen.
The wind picked up, slapping her in the face as if to
get her attention. Maggie and Ellen had been back five
days, still filled with tales of friends, vintage clothing
scores, Jane Austen, and Dad this and Dad that. Susanna
was pleased they’d enjoyed their visit home, and they’d
had the grace to say they’d missed her. She wondered
if they’d be happy about the snow.
She turned up Gran’s narrow street of mostly big,
multifamily homes built in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth century. Iris Dunning had managed to buy
one of the few single-family houses on the street, an
1896 two-story stucco with a glassed-in front porch, an
open back porch and a detached one-car garage, not that
common in crowded Somerville. She’d planted flower-
ing trees and perennial gardens, battling skunks, cats,
raccoons and the occasional neighborhood miscreant.
Susanna kicked off her boots in the front hall and
found her daughters doing their homework in the din-
ing room. Gran was already off to Jim’s Place for clam
chowder. She never missed chowder night.
“Dad called,” Maggie said. She was wrapped in a
1950s shawl she’d found in Gran’s attic and had on fin-
gerless Bob Cratchit gloves. Drama, Susanna thought.
Gran liked to keep the house cool, but not that cool. “He
wants you to call him back. He said to call him on his
Ellen looked up from her laptop. “We told him about
the snow. Mom, can you believe less than a week ago
we were in south Texas and now it’s
they cancel school.”
Susanna smiled. “Be careful what you wish for.
Gran’ll put you to work shoveling.”
She grabbed the portable phone off the clunky din-
ing room table and sat in a chair badly in need of refin-
ishing. It was a comfortable, lived-in room with its dark
woodwork and flowered wallpaper. Her parents liked to
tease Gran about coming in and redoing the place, strip-
ping the wallpaper, tearing up the rugs, getting rid of all
her tacky artwork, but she paid no attention. She was
happy with her house just the way it was. As long as the
roof didn’t leak, she didn’t plan to change a thing.
Susanna dialed Jack’s number, and he answered on
the first ring. “I’m on the patio,” he said, laying on his
slow, deep Texas drawl. “It’s a beautiful night.”