Buried Secrets, the sequel to The Cavanaugh House, will be published on Oct. 3, 2016, but you can pre-order your print or Kindle copy today at Amazon. I’m celebrating a little early with a sneak peek at Chapter One. Read the opening scenes in the last two week’s blog posts, “Buried Secrets is Finally Unearthed” and “Buried Secrets Sneak Peek: Chapter One, scene two.” Today you can read scene three.
Buried Secrets blurb:
When Jesse Graham almost runs over a “body” in the road one night, she is plunged into a labyrinth of secrets, lies and murder. All Jesse wants is a simple life teaching at St. Bart’s… and a chance at love with Joe Riley. She realizes that plan has been thwarted when puzzling occurrences at St. Bartholomew Academy for Girls get increasingly dangerous. The danger doesn’t just spring from the ghost who haunts the grounds of St. Bart’s, but from a sinister presence that is not ghostly at all. As she digs into the mystery, threats on her life and the life of her student escalate.
Which danger threatens her life the most? The ghost haunting her student or the secrets buried in the school?
Available for pre-order at Amazon.
Buried Secrets: Chapter One, scene three:
She returned to the kitchen to clean up the coffee pot and turn off the lights. Walking back through the hallway, she glanced at the crude form on the couch and shivered. That thing is creepy. Maybe I should have left it in the car. She jumped at the sound of the doorbell.
“What did Marty forget?” she mumbled.
She opened the door to find a tall man leaning one arm against the doorjamb. Joe Riley. The glow of her porch light lit up his red hair, mussed by the wind. With his Irish good looks, he would have fit in with a Kennedy family football game on Hyannis Port. His slim body was muscular and toned from the physical demands of construction work. Though he owned his company and employed several crews, he always helped out when he was on site.
Tonight, his hazel eyes danced, his smile, roguish.
“Causing trouble again, Just Jesse?”
Her heart skipped at the sound of Joe’s endearment for her—a name he’d christened her with on their first meeting three months earlier when she’d explained her name was not Jessica, just Jesse. Every time he said it, she smiled.
“I saw Seneca Corners’ finest driving away from your house.” Rain spattered his red hair and the shoulders of his jacket.
“Joe, come in. You’re getting soaked!” She laughed as he entered the hall. “Why are you out on a night like this?”
“I just finished my volunteer shift over at the VA hospital.” He brushed raindrops from his hair. “So, why the cops? You’re not in trouble, are you?”
“That was Marty. He was going to give me a speeding ticket until he met my new friend here.” She swept her arm toward the living room.
Joe’s stopped when he caught sight of the dummy. “What the hell…?”
“Meet Harriet. I almost killed her.”
Joe walked over to the form and waved his hand in front of his nose. “Your friend is pretty ripe. Perhaps some lessons in hygiene are in order.”
She wrinkled her nose. Harriet had become much more pungent as the rain soaked into her. “She must not have been lying in the road for long because she didn’t smell this bad when I drove her home.”
“Lying in the road?” Joe asked as he examined the charcoal-drawn face.
Jesse recounted what had happened, including the car that drove off, how Marty had pulled her over then followed her home. “He thinks it’s an early Halloween prank, but I disagree.”
She pointed to the stamp in the corner of the wool blanket.
“Oh ho. The plot thickens. The innocent young ladies at St. Bart’s are involved in this…or the good sisters. Somehow I can’t see your friend Sister Angelina and her colleagues in their nuns’ habits dragging a dummy out into the road in the dark of night. So I’m betting on the young ladies.”
“That’s what I think, too. I’m going to bring Harriet into the principal’s office in the morning. I’m sure it’s innocent fun, but it could have caused an accident in this storm.”
“The girls might have left the dummy in the road, but what about that car? Why would a car just sit there in the dark watching until you drove away? Jesse, you need to be careful.”
At some level she knew Joe was right, but she didn’t want mysteries to invade her life. She didn’t want black sedans on a dark road again. She didn’t want to be covertly watched and followed again. She wanted a logical, simple explanation. She brushed her hair back from her face, and with it any possibility this was more than a prank.
“There was probably a St. Bart’s senior making out with a St. Andrew’s senior in the black car, that’s all.” But she suspected that wasn’t true either. No matter what reason she gave, her explanation sounded lame.
“Maybe, but why speed away if you hadn’t seen them? Why not wait in the dark until you’d left? Doesn’t sound like innocent necking.”
“I never said the necking was innocent.”
Joe shook his head, giving her a half smile.
“I came over to wish you a happy first day of school.” He reached into his jacket pocket and extracted a box. “I hope you have a perfectly ordinary year, Miss Graham.”
Jesse flushed; he always melted her heart with that crooked smile. Pulling off the ribbon, she unwrapped the box and opened it. She gasped as she lifted out a crystal apple. It caught the lamplight, casting prism refractions against the wall.
“Joe, it’s beautiful,” she whispered.
“I know you’re a great teacher, and you should have an apple on your desk every day.”
“Thank you.” The lump in her throat blocked any further words. None were needed as he traced his finger along her jawline, tipped her face up, and brushed her lips with his. When he wrapped her in her arms, she felt his breath soft against her hair. Desire stirred within her, followed by disappointment when he released her.
He stepped back. In his eyes, dark with passion, Jesse recognized shared desire. But they had agreed to take things slowly. Like a garden growing—their shared joke. But there was a snake in the garden. While she hated to ruin this moment, she needed to ask the question.
“I told you about the Fall Soiree at Wyndham Manor. I hope you’ll go with me.”
Talk about throwing cold water on a fire. He stepped away.
“I’ve told you how I feel about that sort of gathering. I’m not comfortable hanging around with the rich and powerful. I’ve had to live surrounded by the entitlement of the Wyndhams –especially Al—my whole life. While I was in the mud and muck in Vietnam, his type was sitting at a desk in the Pentagon. Veterans I hire tell me how they were greeted with protesters throwing tomatoes at them when they came home—like any of us had a choice. While they either got a deferment or cushy state-side duty.” He ran his hands through his hair, pacing. “Look, I’m not proud of my prejudice, believe me. But I can’t stomach all the superficial small talk and social climbing that goes on at those things. I’m sure the people are nice, and I know the Wyndhams are very generous, but I really want no part of that family.”
She couldn’t breathe. Her chest felt like a boa constrictor was preparing her for lunch, squeezing tighter and tighter.
He must have realized what he’d said because he held her shoulders.
“I don’t mean you—”
She couldn’t speak; she nodded.
“Jesse, you know how I feel about you. I lo—”
She pressed her fingers to his lips. She couldn’t bear to hear it. Not right now.
“Don’t worry about it. I’m fine going on my own.” She forced a smile. “I get it. No problem.”
“Are you sure?”
She nodded. A bit too vigorously. “I’m sure.”
“I’ll leave you to get a good night’s sleep.” He glanced at Harriet. “I think you’re going to need it.”
She walked Joe to the door. Before venturing out into the storm, he turned to her and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. Kissing the tip of her nose, he winked then darted into the rain, sprinting to his truck. Jesse waved as he backed into the street.
Her stomach hurt. More than ever, she did not want to be a Wyndham. Not if it meant losing Joe. Yes, his words had hurt. How was she going to balance her relationship with him and her heritage? She had resisted falling in love with him, but she was finding it harder to deny her feelings. She was beginning to realize the peaceful life she longed for included Joe. But being a Wyndham might destroy that. She slumped against the doorframe.
As she closed the door, lightning struck a nearby tree.
“I don’t know if it’s more dangerous out there or in here,” she said, eyeing the dummy. Catching sight of herself in the hall mirror, she was mortified. Her auburn hair was a mass of spiraling curls, and she had wiped off any trace of makeup with the kitchen towel.
“So much for a romantic encounter with Joe. Of course, we did have company.” She glanced into the living room. “Good night, Harriet. Damn, I’m talking to that dummy again!”
As she climbed the stairs, she caught sight of the attic room door. Jesse wanted no more to do with ghosts.
She halted at the sound of soft chanting. She searched for the source of the sound, but all she heard was a rumble of thunder.
Pre-order your copy today at Amazon!
Haven’t read The Cavanaugh House yet? You can order that book at Amazon today, too!