A new book…A new post!

August 23, 2008 at 2:47 pm (Uncategorized)

Hi Everyone,

So, I decided to shelf Shame for now.  I’m just not sure there is a market for that book right now. 

Anyway, I decided to begin posting Lake of Lies.  It is the second book I wrote, and I still love it 🙂

I hope you do too!

                                                                        

                                                                           Lake of Lies

by Shauna Hart

Chapter 1

 

“Derek, is something wrong?  You seem upset?” 

            Samantha Chastain stared at the man who had become such a fixture in her life after such a short time.  They had only been dating for a couple of months, but she felt like she had known him forever.  Coming with him to meet his family was a big step.  A step she wasn’t sure she was ready for.  Still, when he had asked, she couldn’t deny him. 

            Derek let out a long sigh, his eyes remaining fixed on the road.  “My mom called me last night.  My brother is coming, too.” 

            Samantha was filled with questions.  In all the times he had talked about his parents, he had never mentioned a brother.  “I didn’t know that you had a brother,” she managed.  

            “Sometimes, I wish I didn’t.  We don’t really get along.  I almost thought about canceling the trip, but I couldn’t.  My mom is so excited that she will finally get to meet you,” he responded with a reassuring grin.       

            What could possibly turn brothers against each other?  The question began to plague her as they drove through the long, winding country road.  Was it simple sibling rivalry?  Or was it worse?  Had a woman come between them?  The look on his face told her in no uncertain terms that the subject was closed.  They spent the rest of the drive in silence. 

            Despite the tension in the car, she couldn’t deny that it was beautiful out here.  It was hard to believe that such beauty lay just forty-five minutes away from the city.  Rolling green pastures cluttered with grazing cows filled both sides of the street.  Birds flew overhead.  Derek pulled up to a white fence that bordered several acres.  The gate read, “The Weeping Willows.”  Derek punched a number into the keypad, and the gate slowly opened.  Oak trees lined the driveway on both sides creating a canopy.  They followed the road uphill to a large plantation style house with white pillars.  It looked like something out of a Margaret Mitchell book.  Was this really where Derek had grown up?   

            He pulled the car around the circular driveway to the front of the house.  She opened the door stepping out her, mouth hanging open as she stared up at the massive house.  When he told her they were going to the ranch, she definitley hadn’t expected this.  This was not a ranch!  This was a mansion. 

            He came around from the back of the car with the bags under his arms.  “Are you sure you’re ready for this?” he joked. 

            “Let’s do it” she replied, following him up the steps. 

            Derek opened the door without hesitation.  An elderly woman appeared from the hall, her gray hair pulled in a tight bun.  She engulfed Derek in a big hug making him chuckle.  “What took you so long, boy?” she exclaimed excitedly. 

            “Hey, I haven’t been gone that long.” 

            “Six months is way too long to be away from your family.  I taught you better than that,” she replied, patting him on the shoulder.  She turned to Samantha, giving her an appraising look.  “Well, are you going to introduce me to your young lady, or not?” 

            Derek turned to Samantha, holding his hand out.  “Samantha, this is Gladys.  She’s been with my family ever since I can remember.  Gladys, this is Samantha Chastain.” 

            She extended her hand to the other woman, who shook it heartily.  Before she knew what was happening, she too was being pulled into a bear hug.  “Aren’t you a sight?” she admired taking a step back to peruse her.   “Oh Derek, she’s beautiful.” 

            Crimson stain flooded her cheeks.  However, she accepted the compliment with a gracious, “Thank you.” 

            Derek suddenly turned serious.  “Is everyone here yet?” 

            Gladys turned to him with a knowing look.  “Yes, he’s here.”  He tensed at the news.  She offered him a reassuring smile.  “Now, look here.  I want you two boys to get along.  It’s your momma’s birthday, and I don’t want you ruining it for her, you hear?”            

            Derek offered her a mischievious grin, as he put an arm around her shoulder.  “Me?  Cause trouble?  Never.” 

            She disappeared down the hall to what looked like the kitchen.  He turned to face Samantha, sliding an arm around her shoulders.  “Well, you said you wanted to meet them.” 

            Something caught her eye at the top of the spiral staircase in front of them.  Her head turned in time to see a figure standing silently, watching them.  The figure, slowly, began to descend down the staircase into the light.  Her breath caught in her throat as the face came into view. 

            It couldn’t be. 

            It just simply couldn’t be. 

            She gritted her teeth as recognition invaded her mind.  Many times she had ruffled that short dark brown hair with her fingers.  His green eyes seemed to pierce right through her soul as they returned her gaze.  She had lost herself in those eyes.  They were eyes that had seen too much of her.  More than she ever wanted to remember.  His lips were full and tempting.  They were lips a woman didn’t forget.  She had loved to run her tongue along them until he moaned.  Broad shoulders that she had clung to in the throes of passion stiffened as he came closer.  For months after they parted, he had haunted her as potently as any ghost could.  She had no voice.  He, too, seemed taken aback. 

            Nick couldn’t believe that she was here.   When she left him, she had disappeared.  And his paltry attempts to find her could be classified as nothing short of a failure.  After she left him, he couldn’t get her out of his head.  And he had tried.  Hard.  The way she held him to her just after she climaxed, as if she thought he might leave.  Her mouth whispering, “I love you,” against his ear.  His mind inevitably turned back to the moment when his perfect world had come undone.    

           

            “Don’t make me do this, Samantha.  You know how I feel about you,” he pleaded softly.  The ultimatum she had given was not a surprise.  Women, these days, wanted more.  As independent as they might appear, they wanted to know that there was a future with the man they loved.     She moved slightly, as if she wanted to reach out to him, but stopped herself.  He knew that she was weighing her options.  She had drawn a line in the sand, and she felt she had to stick to it.  Still, he couldn’t help but wish that she wouldn’t.  That somehow everything would go back to the way it was.

            “I can’t go on forever knowing that you’ll never make a real commitment to me.  I want to know that you will be the first thing I see every morning, and the last before I go to sleep,” she admitted, lowering her lashes. 

            He could tell that she was holding her breath awaiting his response.  The decision he made today would change both of their lives forever.  He looked over at her, unable to believe that she could remain so composed.  How could she ask him for a future that he couldn’t predict?  He was only 27, and she was 24.  How could he tell her that he would be there for the rest of his life?  He had decided a long time ago, that he wouldn’t get married until he was ready.  Divorce was not an option for him.  It was one promise that he wasn’t willing to break.  And, right now,  he wasn’t ready for forever to start.   

            There was still so much he wanted out of life.  He had just started his company, and it was struggling.  Building it up would demand a lot of his time.  Time he wouldn’t have if he started a family now.  How could he start a marriage with things so unclear?  She was the first woman that he had fallen in love with, but the rest of his life?  What if things changed them?  What if she changed?  With so many questions and not enough answers, he knew he couldn’t make the decision she wanted.  He also knew that she would not settle for anything less. 

            He would always remember the way she looked right now, sitting in the middle of the bed wearing a red negligee, her strawberry blonde curls tumbling down her back.  The lingerie had been his surprise.  He had slowly taken it off of her just an hour ago.  They had been lying in bed completed sated, her head resting gently on his shoulder when she dropped her little bombshell.  She wanted a commitment…now, or they had to go their separate ways.  He had fallen into the trap like a lamb to the slaughter.  When he had been staring at the ceiling dumbfounded by her request, she had slowly pulled the negligee back on. 

            Now, as she sat on her knees staring at him, waiting, he marveled at how beautiful she was.  They had been together for a year, and he never got tired of being with her.  She always excited him, but would she excite him for the rest of his life?  How could he promise that to anyone right now?  God knew, he didn’t want to lose her, but he couldn’t lie to himself. 

            He just wasn’t ready. 

            “I can’t, Sam.  I wish I could.  I love you. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone.  But I’m just not ready for forever.  I mean, I’m only 27.  You’re only 24.  How can you be ready?” he reasoned. 

            Her eyes met his.  “I’m ready, Nick.  I knew it on our first date.  This is right.  I love you more than I ever thought I could love anyone.  I was 19 when my parents were killed in that car wreck.  That car wreck didn’t just kill my parents, Nick.  It killed every dream I ever had of a family.  With you, that dream doesn’t seem so far away anymore.  It feels like it’s staring right at me.  I want us to be a family.  I want us to start building a future together.  But I can’t wait around forever wondering if you feel the same way.” 

            This was the day he dreaded.  He had known that she would eventually say these things to him.  He just hadn’t expected them to come so soon.  But now here she was wanting his greatest fear to be realized.  It was either her or his freedom.  And he felt like he couldn’t go on without either.  Why was she making him do this?  He wanted to take her in his arms, and tell her everything would be all right.  But he couldn’t. 

            “I can’t, Sam.  I just can’t.  I don’t want to lose you.  I’m just not ready.  I’m sorry,” he whispered, pleading with his eyes for her to understand. 

            She looked down at her hands which were folded together neatly in her lap.  A single tear slid down her cheek, as she said, “I’m sorry, too.”  

 

            They both jerked slightly as if they had shared a replay of the memory.  Derek was the first one to break the silence.  “Hello, Nick.  How are you?” 

            Nick’s gaze jerked to his brother.  He hadn’t even been aware of him, until he spoke.  Everything seemed to come into perspective now.  Derek’s arm around her shoulder.  His mother saying that Derek was bringing a girlfriend.  No!  It couldn’t be.  It just couldn’t be.  Samantha and his brother?  Had the world gone suddenly crazy?  He felt sick to his stomach at the thought.  

            Finally, he realized that his silence was gaining inquiring looks from Derek.  “I’m okay.  How about you?” he replied trying to sound calm, while inside he was fuming. 

            “I can’t complain.  This is my girlfriend, Samantha Chastain.  Samantha, this is Nick, my brother.”          

            Samantha stood completely still, uncertain of what to do.  Luckily, Nick broke the silence that hung between them.  “Samantha and I have already met,” he illuminated with a glint of steel in his eyes. 

            Those words seemed to hang in the air, like a storm waiting to begin.  Finally, Derek asked the inevitable question.  “Oh!  Where did you two meet?” 

            Samantha felt like she couldn’t breathe.  She couldn’t believe that this was happening to her.  It was like a bad dream that she couldn’t wake up from.  She, suddenly, wished someone would pinch her…Hard.  She looked at Nick hoping that he would be civil. 

            “I sold a system to the company Samantha works for.” 

            At least, that much was the truth.  His company, Simtask, customized computer systems for Insurance companies.  The company where Samantha worked as a claims adjuster had purchased one of the systems from him.  What he left out was that he had caught a glimpse of her after the meeting and pursued her relentlessly.  After two weeks of flowers and flirty dinner invitations, she had given in.  But he wouldn’t elaborate on that.  Not yet, anyway.  First, he had to find out what was going on between them. 

            “That’s great!  I’ll let you two catch up then.  I’m going to go find Dad,” Derek explained 

            Once he was gone, the room went deathly still.  Unable to stand the silence, she asked, “So, how’s the business going?”  As the words left her mouth, she realized how stupid they were going to sound.  But unfortunately it was the best she could do.    

            “What are you doing here?”  Nick demanded.              

            “I’m with your brother,” was all she could manage. 

            “You’re dating him?” he asked, his eyes wide. 

            “Yes,” she replied evenly. 

            “You’ve got to be kidding!” he exclaimed as much to himself as to her.  “For how long?”                         “About three months,” she responded avoiding his eyes. 

            “Are you sleeping with him?” he bit out coming down the last two steps to stand in front of her.  Even though, his height of 5’11” was only a few inches taller than her 5’7″, it was imposing. 

            Her head jerked up at his remark.  “That is none of your business, Nick,” she reminded.            

            He moved in so close to her, so close that if he leaned in just a bit, they would be touching.  “I think I have a right to know.  I mean, if you’re sleeping with my brother, did you compare us?  I’m interested.  Which one of us was better?  Did you make that little mewling sound you make just before you come?”

            Samantha’s hand came up to slap him, but he caught it.  “You have no right.  What I do is no business of yours.  You made that decision a long time ago.” 

            “I’m just curious.  I haven’t seen you in three years, and you show up at my parents’ house on my brother’s arm.  I think that I’m entitled to a few questions,” Nick replied angrily.  The feel of her against him was becoming dangerous, and he had to fight the urge to plant kisses along her neck. 

            “I didn’t know that you were brothers, Nick.  I swear.  I never would’ve come here, if I knew.  I mean, there are a lot of people with the last name Daniels in the world.  Besides, Derek didn’t even tell me that he had a brother until we were on the way here.  He never even mentioned your name.  How was I supposed to know?” Samantha reasoned. 

            With a harsh sigh, he released her.  He turned away unable to look at her.  Damn her for coming here!  With his brother!  And damn him even more for still wanting her. 

            Derek appeared around the corner.  His arm was casually slung around an older woman.  “So, this is the beautiful girl I’ve been hearing so much about,” she exclaimed reaching out to shake Samantha’s hand.   “Well, Derek’s told me all about you.  I’m so glad that you could come this weekend.  I’m Derek’s mother, Margaret.” 

            “I wouldn’t have missed it.  Thank you for having me,” she replied, trying to ignore Nick’s stare. 

            He had half turned to watch them over his shoulder.  When he had pictured Samantha meeting his mother, it had been very different than the situation that was playing out.  His mother turned to look at him, her eyebrows arched.  She always could read him too well.  Usually it was something he joked about, but today it was no laughing matter. 

            To stop his mother’s quizzical gaze, he asked, “Mother, why don’t I take Derek and Samantha’s bags upstairs, while you three chat?” 

            She eyed him suspiciously for a moment, but seemed to relent. “Thank you, Nick.  That would be wonderful.” 

            Derek led Margaret through the hall toward the kitchen leaving Samantha to follow them.  Before she could take the first step, Nick grabbed her arm. He spun her around to face him.         

            “Later,” was the only word he uttered. 

Stay Tuned for More of Lake of Lies…

 

 

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