I gasp. “What are you doing here, Meg?”



“IS HE REALLY DEAD?” MEG DEMANDS, her voice trembling, her fingers clutching a soft cloth purse to her side, a perfect hiding spot for a gun, I fear.

I hold my hands up and take a step backward, appalled that she’s obviously been watching the house and following us. “Meg—”

“Is Chad dead?” she all but hisses at me. “I need to know if he’s dead.”

She sways toward me and I sit down on the seat, clutching my own purse and mentally planning how to reach my gun inside. “He’s gone,” I say. “It’s true.”

“I didn’t ask if he was gone,” she growls from between gritted teeth. “I asked if he’s dead.”

“He’s dead,” I confirm, resenting how easily her betrayal of my brother could have made it true.

She searches my face and shakes her head. “No. No! You’re lying.”

“I’m not lying.”

“You wouldn’t be out shopping two days after you buried your brother if he was really dead.” She gives me a once-over. “And for a wedding dress? No way.”

“I’ve spent the past six years pretending bad things aren’t real. It’s how I survive. He’s dead, Meg.”

“He’s hiding. Just like before.”

“You think I didn’t want to believe that?” I demand, my voice wavering at the truth in her words. “The police used dental records to prove it was him.”

She chokes out a disbelieving laugh. “He faked those records like he faked his death in the past. I need to see him. I need to explain what happened.”

“What does that even mean? What happened?”

“I didn’t want to betray him, Amy. You have to believe me. Rollin made me do it all.”

Rollin being the man responsible for killing my family, and I’ve seen photos of her kissing him, while she was supposed to be in love with my brother. She’s not sorry for anything. She’s digging for information; she’s after Chad and that cylinder. “It doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do or why,” I say tightly. “He’s gone. I buried him for real this time.”

Anger flares in her eyes and she grabs the pink dress I love so much and shakes it in the air. “You’re looking at freaking dresses. You don’t look at dresses two days after you bury your brother.”

Defensiveness flares. “It’s called survival. Focusing on the one person I have in my life who’s still here and loves me.”

She glares at me. I glare back, ignoring the fear in the pit of my belly at the certainty that she’s about to snap. Heavy seconds tick by, the challenge crackling between us, and I can feel her searching my expression for proof of the secrets I will not reveal. Expecting confrontation, my fingers tighten on my purse; I’m worried that I can’t retrieve my weapon before she does hers.

Suddenly though, her spine softens, her face crumpling as she sobs. “He can’t be gone.” Her hand leaves her purse to press to her face. “He can’t.”

My teeth clench at what I am certain are tears of manipulation, a tactic she’s used on me once before with a success she won’t have now. “I wish it weren’t true,” I say, my voice quaking with the anger she’s stirred in me. “But it is.”

She swipes at her wet cheeks and hugs herself. “Who killed him? Was it Rollin?”

My anger deepens at the name of the man who is responsible for killing not only my family, but at least one of this woman’s employers when she betrayed my brother. “I don’t know who did it.”

A knock sounds on the door and she whirls around to face it, her hand flying to her purse, her fingers slipping inside.

“I need a minute more, Betty!” I call out, desperate to defuse the moment. “I’m on the phone.”

“Okay, honey,” she replies. “I’ll hang the dresses I brought you on the door.”

“Thank you!” I say, holding my breath to listen for her retreat and the instant I am certain she’s left, I warn Meg, “She’s going to return. What do you want from me, besides driving a stake in my heart over Chad?”

Her bottom lip trembles—actually, her whole body trembles. “I’m afraid.”

I narrow my gaze on her, certain that this is another ploy to win information. “Afraid of what?”

“The father-and-son monster duo. Who else? Rollin and Sheridan. Someone is looking for me. It has to be one or both of them.”

I don’t ask how she knows. “Why do you think it’s them?”

“Because I could hurt them if I testify. I know things. Lots of things.”

“They’re locked up.”

“With money and resources that reach beyond those cell walls.”

“People who betray their countries do not go to regular prisons or have the same rights to communicate with the outside world,” I argue, saying only what has been revealed publicly. “And I’m not even sure they need witnesses. The news said they were turned in by the Chinese.”

“Their attorneys are trying to get them moved to a regular prison with the right to a trial. Sheridan Scott and his consortium of wealthy investors are dripping with money. If you think their attorneys won’t connect them to the outside world, you’re crazy.”

My gut clenches at the idea that our enemies could soon be free. “How do you know this?”

Tags: Lisa Renee Jones The Secret Life of Amy Bensen Romance
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