Legacy of Lies by Cindy A. Christiansen by Cindy A. Christiansen - Read Online

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Legacy of Lies - Cindy A. Christiansen

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A Dragonfly Spirit Books

Sweet Romantic Suspense

Legacy of Lies

Copyright © 2015 Cindy A. Christiansen

First E-book Publication: June 2013

Cover design by Dawné Dominique

Edited by Lori Paige

Proofread by Stephanie Kinne

All cover art and logo copyright © 2015 by Dragonfly Spirit Books

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission of the author.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person.  If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.

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In loving memory of my brother, Randy, who supported my writing and my dreams.

Chapter One

Hello, Aunt Millie. Katelynn Dobbs ran her sweaty palms down the sides of her linen skirt and nervously looked around the kitchen of her aunt’s restaurant.

What in the devil are you doing in Comstock? Millie Littleby took a large cleaver and sent it crashing against a handful of carrots.

Katelynn shuddered at the hostility in her aunt’s voice, but she squared her shoulders and began rummaging through her purse for the letter she’d received. I came to see my father. I’ve been looking all over town for him. He didn’t give an exact address. He just said he was staying at the ‘old house.’ I tried to look him up in the directory at the pay phone, but he wasn’t listed. I even asked someone, but he only stared at me and walked away. I thought maybe you could tell me. Finally, she found the letter and pulled it out of her purse.

Millie bustled across the room, retrieving two dark-crusted cobblers from the oven. You’re about a year and a half late.

What? What do you mean?

Henry’s been dead for over eighteen months.

Katelynn’s breath caught in her throat, and her knees weakened. He couldn’t be...dead. I just received this letter from him. Hands trembling, Katelynn reached for the kitchen counter to steady herself. The envelope is postmarked eight days ago, so it wasn’t lost in the mail. He wanted me to come and see him.

Then I know it’s not from Henry.

How could he be dead? Katelynn just couldn’t believe it. Shocked and confused, she watched her aunt whirl about the kitchen, stirring the contents of pots, slicing potatoes, and clanging dishes into the sink. Surely Millie could take a minute to talk about her own brother’s death.

But Millie— Katelynn began.

Henry didn’t send it. You’ll find him buried in the Comstock Cemetery. Millie’s green eyes lit with fire. She threw salad into four bowls, tossed them onto a serving tray, and then swept her graying strands of auburn hair away from her face.

But look. Katelynn extended the folded letter.

Millie snatched it from her hand, read it quickly with a frown, and again pushed at her sweaty hair. It’s not even Henry’s handwriting. He never wrote this.

Millie tossed the letter in her direction without looking up and resumed chopping carrots.

Overloaded with emotions, Katelynn rubbed and re-rubbed her temple. But who else would’ve sent it pretending to be him? It doesn’t make sense.

Millie kept on working.

I don’t understand, Katelynn said. Do you have any idea who would do such a thing just to get me here?

A red-headed boy whipped past Katelynn and grabbed for a tray of dirty dishes, clattering them together.

Millie scoffed. I don’t know, and frankly I don’t care. I haven’t heard from you since you left.

Dishes rattled, steaks sizzled. Millie turned away and filled baskets with warm loaves of bread. Katelynn cringed, wondering whether the whole restaurant had heard. She’d never liked confrontations, especially since her encounter with Walt Jeffries before she’d left Comstock.

Public speaking, teaching computer classes and open-discussion meetings at work proved her worst stumbling block. Loud public altercations still made her want to wither up and die.

She swallowed hard and tried to talk around her constricted throat. Look, I came all the way out here from San Francisco because I thought, just maybe, my father might care about me. I thought he might want to make amends. And now... Katelynn choked back her tears, ...I find out he’s dead.

Despite the intense heat from the ovens and grill, Katelynn shivered inside. She tried to hold back her tears, but to no avail. She whirled around to leave.

Katelynn. Don’t pretend you care, her aunt said in a biting tone.

Katelynn stopped in her tracks.

Millie glared at her. You haven’t seen your father since the day you left. It’s too late to make amends now.

Katelynn had always believed that one day her father would come to see her, tell her how much he loved her, and that he was sorry. Their estrangement rested on his shoulders, not hers. And, it certainly hadn’t been her mother’s fault. Katelynn couldn’t begin to comprehend the tremendous hurt and embarrassment her father had caused her mother by having an affair, especially since that woman had been Sophia Jeffries, Walt’s mother.

Katelynn gathered her courage together. It’s too late for him. He’s the one who shamed our family and then ditched us.

Katelynn couldn’t listen to Millie’s lies and accusations any longer. She rushed through the crowded restaurant to her car, her face flushed with humiliation and frustration. Digging her fingernails into the palm of her hand, she tried to stop the tears.

She sank into the driver’s seat and tried to regain her composure. She turned on the interior light and wiped at the tears trickling down her cheeks. Then she dabbed fresh foundation over the spattering of freckles across her nose, trying to hide them.

Someone had played a bad joke on her, and she had no intention of sticking around to find out why. She’d find somewhere to spend the night, and then in the morning she’d leave Comstock, gratefully.

She patted on another layer of foundation, topped it with powder and then slipped her compact back into her purse. With a deep breath, she started the car and headed farther into town.

Along the worn streets, proud old buildings stood as erect as possible. Main Street was still the only paved road in town, and rickety old wooden sidewalks lined it.

Dusk nestled over the town like a comforting blanket, but nothing was comforting about the town itself or the memories it inspired. She knew she should have stayed away. Being here was too painful. Her aunt was right. Even if her father had been alive, it was too late to make amends with him or with anyone else in town. Walt Jeffries floated to mind.

Before she’d left twelve years ago, Walt had made some dreadful accusations. His stinging words floated back to her. I wouldn’t marry you, Freckles, if you owned the richest mine in the world. You’re nothing but a tramp. Walt had been her first young love, and Katelynn inwardly cringed at the memory of his anger which still felt like a knife slashing her heart. Hopefully, he didn’t live here any longer.

The evening light made it difficult to see as the buildings, road and sky all faded into a dull gray. Katelynn squinted, looking for a sign that might indicate lodging for the night. She doubted she could find a motel in town. She couldn’t remember there ever being one when she lived here. Comstock was definitely the type of town most people drove straight through and kept going. But having been on the road for fifteen hours, she couldn’t bear the thought of having to drive back to Nephi or on to Delta. She’d honestly thought she’d be staying with her Aunt Millie. What a joke that turned out to be.

Several hundred feet ahead on the right, three men and a big dog walked slowly down the rickety wooden walk. They were the only people in sight, a drastic contrast to the busy streets of San Francisco.

As Katelynn’s gaze wandered back to the road, one of the three men bolted out in front of her car. He held up his hand for her to stop. She stomped on the brakes, blasted her horn and swerved to the left. She heard an odd noise, felt the impact of something against her car and watched the man disappear. Her shrill scream pierced the night, and the smell of burning rubber filled the air.

* * * *

The jolt of the car knocked the wind out of Walt Jeffries’ lungs and laid him flat against the cold pavement. The blow to his forehead left his vision reeling. He closed his eyes. Something warm trickled down his tingling arm.

Horse feathers! He and his two brothers had only been back in town twenty minutes after being out on the desert for two weeks. Talk about being at the wrong place at the wrong time. But he had to be back to meet with Recyclon in the morning. It had to be about the most important meeting the town would ever have. Opportunities like this didn’t come along every day. Recyclon would either buy up their mine slag to recycle into cement and concrete, or turn to the Tintic District. And heaven only knew Comstock would surely die if that happened. The whole town was depending on him to get that contract and bring some life back to the dying little town. He had to be at the meeting in the morning, regardless. He tried to catch his breath, but he couldn’t even open his eyes.

Festus, with his slobbery Rottweiler breath, padded over and breathed on him. A lot of help you are, you big dumb dog. A big glob of slobber dripped onto Walt’s shirt and Festus licked him on the cheek. Yuck!

A woman yelled for someone to get an ambulance.

There ain’t any in Comstock, lady. No law neither, somebody said with a laugh.

Walt tried to place faces with voices, but he couldn’t. What’s the matter with me? He knew everyone in town. He had to do something. He couldn’t let Taylor and Adam think their older brother was an idiot for stepping in front of a moving car. But when he’d seen Mary Thompson’s lamb run out into the road, he didn’t know what else to do. Why didn’t Mary keep her silly pets off the street? This wasn’t the first time the little woolly bugger, or one of Mary’s other pets, had caused an accident. But despite his attempt at saving it, he didn’t think he had.

A woman’s soft, shaky fingers lifted his wrist and felt for his pulse.

Holy cow, are you going to let them cart you off to the hospital like some limp pile of horseturds? He had to pull himself together and quick.

The woman’s hair brushed against his cheek, and he opened one eye slightly. Festus whined and cocked his head to the side. Walt knew he looked and smelled bad. He hadn’t had so much as a spit bath since he’d left for the desert.

The woman’s lips came down close to his, so he wrapped his arms around her and gave her a big full kiss on the mouth. She gasped, jumped to her feet, and stared at him in shock. His brothers bellowed with laughter as they helped him to his feet.

His legs were like rubber bands, but he wasn’t about to act hurt in front of Taylor and Adam, or the rest of the townsfolk who had gathered around.

Are you okay, big brother? Your arm’s pretty bloody. Taylor pulled at Walt’s sleeve.

I’m fine, he said.

Festus barked. The dead lamb caught Walt’s whirling vision, and his stomach lurched into his throat. He wondered how he would break the news to Mary. At her age, something like this could bring on a heart attack. He took a few unsteady steps.

What a horrible, awful trick, the woman said, stomping toward her car.

Wait a minute, lady. He felt like a big, stupid jerk.

Despite his reeling mind, he limped over and reached for her arm. The least he could do was apologize. She whirled around, her strawberry-blond hair bouncing. The minute he looked into her green eyes, he recognized Katelynn Randle. The realization knocked the breath out of him harder than the car had done. What in the world are you doing here?

Little sparks of fire jumped from Kate to him, and he shoved her arm away. Her angry eyes bore into him as she spoke, and then he realized he’d missed everything she’d been saying.

I-I-I was trying to stop you from hitting Mary’s little lamb, he told her, hoping he’d answered her right.

He couldn’t wrap his mind around anything right now, and he certainly couldn’t take his eyes off her tantalizing cherry lips.

Oh, ha, ha, that’s so funny. I suppose its fleece was white as snow. She folded her arms across her full chest, and she raised her little freckled nose high in the air.

Man, she’s as gorgeous as ever. Wait a minute. Fleece? White as snow?

The kiss was the only joke tonight, Freckles, he said. I was trying to stop you from hitting Mrs. Thompson’s bummer lamb, but as you can see, he’s dead.

She swung around to where he pointed, her shoulders sinking when she saw the bloody, dead lamb. A pool of tears wet her eyes, and she bit her lower lip.

Walt wanted to reach out and comfort her, but he held back. He didn’t need her in his life right now...or ever.

What are you doing here, anyway? he said instead.

Her fists clenched at her sides, and she swallowed hard. That’s none of your business. Just tell me where I can find this Mrs. Thompson.

So you can make road kill out of another one of her pets? I will not. She’s a sensitive old lady. She doesn’t need you barging in on her. I’ll take care of it.

Katelynn threw open her car door and dropped onto the seat. Here. She unsnapped her purse and, with trembling fingers, placed two fifty-dollar bills into his hand. At least give her this from me.

He scoffed. A lot of good this will do.

Tears puddled in her eyes. She appeared as if she might say something, but she slammed the door, fired up the engine, and roared down the street. He winced.

Who was that? Adam asked as he came up next to Walt.

You don’t want to know, little brother.

Tyler joined them. Man, she was a knockout.

Walt felt emotion boil up inside him. She’s a tramp, and I hope she keeps driving and never comes back.

His brothers looked at each other, but they didn’t say a word.

He’d never really been interested in her back then and he certainly wasn’t now. He sighed. Some of the townsfolk had said that Kate was pregnant when she and Emma had left town. And to think she’d wanted him to marry her. He never had figured out who the poor sap was. He clenched his jaw.

He tried not to let the image of her soft hair, flashing eyes, and light freckles distract his feelings. He hated Katelynn Randle. But thoughts of her festered in the back of his mind as he and his brothers crossed the street to Mary’s house.

* * * *

Katelynn’s hands trembled on the steering wheel as she drove down the road. Confronting Walt Jeffries wasn’t any easier than it had been twelve years ago. She wiped away the tears dripping down her cheeks, frustrated that they always swam so close to the surface.

In less than an hour, she’d fought with her aunt, killed someone’s pet, injured Walt, and taken a verbal assault from him. Things couldn’t have gone worse. Her heart pounded in her chest, and her stomach felt like a slab of cement. Past emotions flooded with the new, making her feel sixteen all over again.

She pulled her car up to a renovated house with a sign that read, Boarders Welcome. It was the warmest greeting she’d gotten so far. Still, her hands trembled, and she felt close to tears again.

As she approached the door, a woman with gray hair swirled up in a bun stepped out onto the porch. Her plump girth was covered by a wet apron. Hello, young lady. Needing a room, are you?

Katelynn nodded, with a sniff. The woman’s arms spread wide, and Katelynn automatically went into them.

Having a bad day, are you? the woman said. Well, you come right in, dear, and make yourself to home. Mrs. Homesley is the name.

Mine’s Katelynn Dobbs. Thank you so much. It’s so hard being back here.

Oh, so you used to live here? I’ve only been here six years or so myself. My husband died, and I couldn’t afford to live in the city. With all the hospital bills my dear hubby left me, I have very little. I take in a few boarders to help out. But mind you, there aren’t many in this little town. Mrs. Homesley smiled and patted the cushion next to her on the couch. Sit down and let’s have a talk.

Katelynn wasn’t used to opening up, but tonight she needed someone. She quickly recounted the events, her tears never ending. I loved my father so much. I’ll never understand why he had to fall in love with Sophia. The embarrassing part is I didn’t even know about it. I certainly wouldn’t have told Walt how I felt about him the day Mom and I left if I’d known. It was so humiliating.

What happened, dear? Tell me.

I was sixteen and I had a terrible crush on Walt. I practiced writing Mrs. Walt Jeffries at least a thousand times.

I can see where you would. If only I was a hundred years younger. Mrs. Homesley smiled.

But you don’t understand. Katelynn clenched her fists. When I found out we were leaving, I rushed to the ball field to find him. When I hinted that I might stay if someone happened to ask me the right question, Walt laughed in my face in front of all the other kids and called me a tramp.

Did you find out why he would have said such a thing? Mrs. Homesley’s cup rattled to its saucer.

"I didn’t say anything. I just ran away crying, and we left that very night. It was about three days later that I found out about my father’s affair with Walt’s mother, and that my father had sent us away. I guess Sophia and her boys were all the family he needed. He didn’t