“Dangerously addicting. “-Sherrilyn Kenyon #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Crosby serves up suspense, secrets and Southern scandal like no one else! “ – Harlan Coben #1 New York Times bestselling author
Lifting the veil of secrecy on a grand Southern family in decline, New York Times bestselling author Tanya Anne Crosby explores the lives of Caroline, Augusta, and Savannah Aldridge, three sisters who share a dark past and an uncertain future…Caroline Aldridge was surprised by the number of mourners at her mother’s funeral. Evidently the newspaper heiress who had caused her children so much pain was well-loved by everyone else in Charleston. Now she was gone, leaving behind countless secrets–and a few demands: Caroline and her sisters must live together for one year or lose their inheritance. And Caroline must take over The Tribune. But a killer is making headlines, and Caroline may have unwittingly stepped into the crosshairs…
A series of kidnappings and murders resurrect the sisters’ memories of their brother’s disappearance as a child–and Caroline fears she may be next. Yet in the midst of her turmoil, she may be rekindling a romance she’d extinguished long ago. With Jack back in her life and the tattered bonds of sisterhood slowly mending, Caroline hopes the family can restore its position in Charleston society–unless a sinister force beyond their control tears them apart forever. . .
Together she and Savannah made their way inside, as one by one, neighbors Caroline hadn’t seen in a decade brought sympathy along with their best casseroles. Thanking each for both, she set the food out in the dining room, noting that there was more than enough to feed an army for a year. Maybe they could donate some? She didn’t want it to go to waste and didn’t intend to remain in Charleston beyond the reading of the will. She was pretty sure her sisters had the same idea. Any arrangements that would need to be made could be handled over the phone, via e-mail and fax. That was the beauty of technology.
“My dear,” someone said sympathetically, tapping Caroline’s shoulder as she set a third dish of ambrosia salad on the buffet. Unbelievably, there was no more space on the antique Georgian table, even with its six feet of extensions.
“Well, hello, Miss Rose!” Caroline exclaimed. “How lovely to see you!” There was no pretense in the greeting. Rose Simmons’s wrinkled face brought back memories of Caroline’s earliest years in this old house, the only good ones she could recall.
“Gracious! I wouldn’t have missed it,” Miss Rose said. “Your mother was a wonderful woman. Such a lovely funeral!” she added with unreserved approval. “I hope my children will pay their respects so beautifully!”
A prick of guilt jabbed Caroline. Everything had been prearranged. It was the one thing she could thank her mother for: Flo wasn’t the sort to leave unfinished business. She skirted the compliment. “Well, I’m glad you could make it,” she offered with a smile, and then caught a glimpse of the figure standing in the entrance to the dining room and all thoughts flew out of her head at once.
“Oh, before I forget, I brought the greens!” Miss Rose declared. Caroline blinked, her gaze fixed on the man she had nearly married ten years before. “Greens?”
His eyes were as vivid a blue as she recalled, with points of light that dimmed or brightened based on the intensity of his smile. Right now, they were practically electric and Caroline could barely focus.
“I don’t know the Greens, Miss Rose. . . .”
Miss Rose chuckled, gently cuffing Caroline’s forearm. “Well, of course you do! You always asked after them and I remembered and brought them!”
Caroline gave the old woman a confused smile, and noticed Jack was smirking, those lights in his eyes dancing impishly. The familiar, playful grin annoyed her far more than it should have.
Miss Rose clasped a hand to her breast. “Poor sweet dear! It must be the shock,” she declared. “That’s quite understandable.” She patted Caroline’s arm consolingly. “Flo’s death was so unexpected!” She shook her head. “Your mother will be sorely missed, but it should cheer you to know they are talking about planting a garden in Waterfront Park in her honor. I hope they do!
“The Florence Willodean Aldridge Memorial Garden,” Rose continued, but Caroline was no longer listening. The old woman peered over her shoulder to see what had captured Caroline’s attention and a sudden look of comprehension crossed her features. She smiled knowingly. “Well, goodness! I understand. I shall leave you to your guests, my dear girl. Just make sure you put some of them greens aside for later. I cooked them up just the way you like them, with a nice big ham hock!”
It dawned on Caroline suddenly that the “greens” were not people. Miss Rose had brought mustard greens. And truthfully, she hated them intensely but vaguely recalled being five at Miss Rose’s daughter’s baptism celebration and feeling incredibly guilty about wanting to spit them out. With a quelling look from her mother, she had reluctantly swallowed them and complimented Miss Rose’s greens emphatically—obviously, much too emphatically.
Miss Rose clucked at her, shaking an admonishing finger. “You always were too thin!”
Caroline’s cheeks heated as her mother’s neighbor ambled away, leaving her completely at Jack’s mercy.
The old woman gave Jack a nod on her way out of the dining room and said pleasantly, “Afternoon, Jack.”
Jack greeted her with a smile and a nod. “Afternoon, Miss Rose. You look lovely as ever.”
Miss Rose ducked her head shyly and giggled like a schoolgirl. The instant she was out of earshot, Jack turned the full impact of hisroguish smile on Caroline. “Just make sure you put some of them greens aside for later,” he teased, stirring from the doorframe and strolling into the room with a languor that was both infuriating and reassuring in its familiarity.
“I guess your mother never taught you not to eavesdrop,” Caroline said, hating herself for giving in to feelings of resentment.
The twinkles in his eyes vanished. “We both know my mother didn’t teach me much of anything, Caroline.”
He said it calmly, congenially, but Caroline knew she’d hit a nerve. For a long awkward moment, they stood facing one another, neither quite certain what to say. The scent of wilting magnolias drifted between them. Ten years ago, her mother had ordered the flowers as centerpieces for the tables at their wedding. Now, they adorned every corner of the house and Caroline would forever associate the scent with death and sorrow.
Jack had the decency to look uncomfortable. Hands in his pockets, he peered down at the floor. “We still need to talk to Sadie,” he offered. “Finalize the report.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll find her in the kitchen.”
It was Sadie, their mother’s housekeeper, who had discovered Flo sprawled at the foot of the stairs. Doped out on clonazepam, Flo had apparently tripped over a loose board at the top of the stairs.
“It’s just a formality,” he assured. “It can wait.”
She’d rather believe he was here because he was doing his duty for work, not because of some misplaced sense of obligation to their past. “So you’re working?”
“I came to pay my respects, not upset you. Sorry, Caroline.”
At one time, Caroline couldn’t have imagined anyone else she’d rather be comforted by. Now she didn’t even know how to talk to him. “Thanks for coming, Jack.”
He took a step backward. “You’re more like her than you realize,” he said quietly, removing his hands from his pockets. He hesitated, clearly wanting to say more. Instead, he turned and left.
Ignoring the surreptitious glances from their guests, Caroline turned her back on him. Trying hard to be casual, she stabbed a silver spoon into a dish before following Jack out into the hall to watch his retreat.
He edged his way through the crowd, somehow avoiding human contact despite the breadth of his shoulders. He never once looked back. Without a word, he opened the front door, stepped out into the afternoon light and closed it quietly behind him.
Caroline choked on a wave of emotion. “Shit,” she said softly.
Savannah appeared behind her. “That bad?”
Caroline blinked away tears. “He said he was looking for Sadie.”
Savannah lifted a brow. “Well, I doubt that’s why he came by here today.”
“The past doesn’t change just because he wants it to!” Caroline said emphatically and Savannah nodded, wisely recognizing the end of her patience on the subject of Jack Shaw.
About the Author
Tanya has written seventeen novels, all of which have graced numerous bestseller lists including the New York Times and USA Today. Best known for stories charged with emotion and humor, and filled with flawed characters, her novels have garnered reader praise and glowing critical reviews. She lives with her husband, two dogs and two cats in northern Michigan.