Read Tell Me No Lies Online

Authors: Rachel Branton

Tags: #lds, #Christian, #karen kindgsbury, #Romantic Suspense, #ariana, #Romance, #Suspense, #a bid for love, #clean romance, #dee henderson

Tell Me No Lies (14 page)

BOOK: Tell Me No Lies
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“Aiden is always changing it, and I don’t remember what it is. Dylan, do you know the password?”

He nodded eagerly. “Can I put it in?”

“Sure,” I said. “If it’s okay with your mother.”

Mia made a motion with her hands that even I understood meant for us to go.

“So,” I said to Dylan as we walked down the hall to the guest bedroom, “it’s pretty cool that you know sign language.”

“I guess.”

“Was it hard to learn?”

He shrugged. “I don’t remember. I just know it.”

“Does your dad use sign language?”

“With my mom. Not with me. He talks to me.”

Of course he did, which was why Dylan was functional in both the hearing and nonhearing worlds.

“Your mother lip reads pretty well, though.” We were in the bedroom now, and I opened my laptop where I’d left it sleeping on the dresser. Dylan was a little short to reach the keys, so I unplugged it and brought it to the bed. “Do you sometimes just talk to her?”

“She doesn’t let me. She wants me to learn sign. Besides, she can’t really tell exactly what people are saying all the time. Sometimes she has to guess, especially if people mumble or talk really fast.”

“Or if they turn their backs or something.”

He nodded. “Yeah.”

“Well, she does a great job. And with speaking, too. It’s amazing.”

“She used to hear when she was younger, but she stopped when she was my age.” There was worry in his voice now, and I wondered if he feared the same thing would happen to him.

“Come sit here beside me.” I patted the white coverlet on the bed.

He was so short that he had to jump up on the tall mattress, but he did it with practiced ease. I clicked on the only wireless option available and set the computer on his lap. He put a thin little hand on the computer and began to type with one finger. His black hair curled at the nape of his neck, and I had to resist the urge to smooth it. I couldn’t wait for Lily’s baby.

“There,” Dylan said, handing me back the laptop. He slid off the bed. “Let me know if you need help again. But you shouldn’t need the password because it will connect automatically. I told it to save the password.”

He was so serious that I matched his attitude. “Thank you very much. I appreciate it.”

He smiled, and for an instant, I clearly saw the family resemblance to Gage.

Now that I had the Internet connection, I suddenly felt uneasy about searching Gage’s past. However, Lily had texted me again twice more, and I didn’t want to leave her worried, not in her condition, so I swiftly typed in Gage’s name and
murder
and
Kingman
in the search box. Slowly, the screen filled with listings.

I clicked on each one and read through the information. Gage Braxton arrested for murdering Skeet Thompson. The attack happened at night inside a convenience store, with no eyewitnesses, except for the defendant’s sister, who had seen the two fighting earlier. There had been no working video surveillance.

Nothing was said further about Mia until the fourth site, which had been written during the trial. It was a brief reference about Skeet assaulting the defendant’s sister the week before the murder. Given Mia’s rumored emotional state, the reporter hinted Gage might have been out for revenge. Another article mentioned that Mia had married during the months of the trial itself, not before the murder as I’d previously thought. In the last news article, a reporter had snapped a photo of Mia, whose pregnancy was beginning to show.

So what did that mean? Did it change anything that she’d been married afterward and not before? Not really. Unless you believed the reporter who’d written about Mia’s fragile emotional state. Not exactly a good time to be getting married.

Understanding hit me like something I should have known all along. Skeet’s assault on Mia must have resulted in her pregnancy with Dylan. After the killing, she either hadn’t come forward about the rape or someone had blocked the press from discovering the whole story. No wonder she hadn’t been able to help her brother fight the murder charge. The emotional trauma of the attack, coupled with morning sickness, would likely have consumed her.

What did that say about Gage? Had he really committed the murder for revenge after all? Surely he knew about the rape—and Aiden, too. Maybe even the police, which could be why they hadn’t looked for another suspect. But wouldn’t the jury’s knowing about the rape have helped Gage receive a shorter sentence? Perhaps it had. There was a sad dearth of information online.

Sighing, I clicked off the Internet, shut my laptop, and set it next to me onto the bed. Time to call Lily.

She answered on the second ring. “Tess, where have you been? I’ve been so worried!”

“Uh, honeymoon,” I said.

“Yeah, but . . .” There was embarrassment in her voice that made me smile.

“What’s up with all these texts anyway?” I said, feigning innocence. “How am I in danger? Is Julian coming after me?” That might do wonders for my self-esteem, even though I knew it wasn’t likely.

“This isn’t about Julian. It’s about your new husband. Tess, how well do you know this guy?”

“I’ve known him since last year. Thanksgiving. I’d see him when I’d ride Serenity.”

“Yeah, but you never mentioned him. Tessa, I have to tell you, and I don’t want to because I can hear how much you like him, but Julian’s got Mom and Dad all riled up, saying you’ve married a murderer. Your husband can’t be the guy I’ve been reading about on the Internet, right? It must be a mistake. I bet he just happens to have the same name.”

I wasn’t surprised. It was Murphy’s Law or something. If you wanted something so badly not to be discovered, it would be.

“Slow down, Lily. All this excitement can’t be good for the baby.”

“I’m worried about you!”

“Don’t be. Yes, Gage did serve time, but he’s not a murderer.”

“What? Did he go to prison for murder or not?” Her voice was high and thin, bordering on hysterical.

“Lily, don’t worry. He’s not going to hurt me. Look, it’s not in the news articles, but Gage’s sister was hurt badly by the man who was killed. She claims she was there that night and that Gage didn’t kill the man, but that he went to prison to protect her.”

“Why would he do that? Did she kill the guy?”

“No, but she was destroyed by the attack and ended up expecting a child because of it. She’s also deaf, which makes her more vulnerable. She’s really sweet and a great mother. She didn’t kill anyone.” I stopped talking because I really didn’t know what I believed. It could have been Mia. Or Gage, or even Mia’s husband, Aiden, for that matter. He had every bit as much reason to want the man dead as anyone else. Or more.

“Tess, you have to get out of there. Please.”

“I’ll come see you on Monday.”

“What if you can’t see what he is because you love him too much? What if you can’t get away?”

Her distress worried me. If she lost this baby, it would devastate her. Maybe it was time to come clean. “Look, even if he were guilty, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t want to tell you, but the marriage isn’t real. I discovered that Julian’s been unfaithful, and when Sadie told me, I was hurt and angry, but I still wanted to get my trust fund, so I came up with this plan.” A stupid plan, I knew now, but I wouldn’t tell her that. “It’s a business arrangement, and I’m paying him. Don’t worry. It’s all going to work out. Of course you can’t tell Mother.”

There was utter silence on the phone, and then Lily asked in a small voice, “You did this because of me, didn’t you?”

Great, exactly the conversation I’d been trying to avoid. “A little bit, yeah, but I also want to be out on my own until I can find my way, without having to work for Dad’s company or depend on a man. Maybe I’ll go back to school and get a useful degree. I did this for me every bit as much for you.” I sounded as if I believed what I was saying. Point to me.

“Tessa, it says in the will that it has to be a real marriage.”

“A marriage in good faith, to be exact, and I know there’s a clause that says someone can contest, but who’s going to do that? Even if our parents do, they don’t make the decision about my intentions. They aren’t the executors. And if Julian tried, well, he is a liar and a cheat—who’s going to believe him?”

“But it’s fraud. You could go to jail!”

“Don’t worry about it, Lily. I told you, everything’s going to be fine. Grandpa’s idea of waiting until we’re married or thirty makes no sense, not in this day and age. He’d be the first to admit it. You know that.”

“Marriage isn’t something you fool around with—you’re the one who always told me that.”

“I know. Maybe it wasn’t the best decision, but I’ve come this far, and I’m finishing it.”

“You’re fooling yourself. I think you really like this guy.”

“He’s nothing. I said not to worry.”

“That’s not what I hear in your voice. Have you kissed him?”

I hesitated. “Well, at the wedding, yes. But you already know that. You saw the picture.”

“I meant since.”

“Yeah.”

“And?”

I couldn’t tell her how it made me feel. That would set her off again. “Look, I’m still getting over Julian. How do you think it felt? Awkward.”

“No,” Lily said. “You didn’t love Julian. Not like you should love someone you marry.”

Her words were a slap in the face. “Then why does his betrayal hurt so much?”

“Because he’s a jerk, and he let you down. But your face never glowed when you talked about him. You sound happier now.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“I hope so. I don’t want you to love a murderer.”

“Stop calling him that. You don’t know him, and I’m sure he didn’t do it anyway.”

Another silence. “Tessa, do you hear yourself? You have to leave there. Now.”

I know.
My heart pounded furiously.

“If you really did marry him only for the trust fund, you can leave now. You can do the rest through an attorney.”

She was right—as long as my parents didn’t contest anything. Except there was the little matter of Mia. “I promised his sister I’d stay with her until her husband comes home on Monday. She’s afraid to be alone.”

“Then someone else is there with you?”

“Yes, his sister and her little boy. He’s adorable. Speaks fluent English and sign language. You should see it.”

There was disapproval in the silence that followed, so I added hurriedly, “Don’t worry, Lily. I have everything under control. Think of it. You won’t lose your house. Those girls are going to have somewhere to stay until they’re ready to leave. I know what I’m doing. Please give me some credit. I’m the big sister, remember?”

That was when Gage walked in with the shopping bags. He set my larger one down on the floor before looking with interest inside the smaller bag.

“I have to go, Lily. Tell everyone I’m fine. Love you.” I hung up the phone without waiting for a reply.

“Your sister, huh?”

“Apparently my family has learned about your past, and she’s worried.”

“Thanks to Julian.” He didn’t sound repentant.

“Thanks to you. You practically invited him to Google you.”

Gage whistled as he reached into the bag and pulled out something made with a lot of lace and short lengths of blue silk. “My sister says this is our wedding gift.” He tossed it to me. “It’s your color. Don’t think it would look nearly as good on me.”

“I don’t know.” I pretended to study the negligee, which was really beautiful, with exactly the right amount of lace versus material—for a real honeymoon. “But I think she should have bought you a larger size.”

Gage laughed and met my gaze. “I think it’s perfect.”

I shivered, feeling a compelling urge to kiss him again. What if he hadn’t been wearing that scruffy beard when I’d seen him all those times with Serenity? What if I hadn’t been preoccupied with Julian? Maybe I would have caught a glimpse of the real man underneath as I had in the past two days. I might have wanted to get to know him better.

“Gage,” I said, my voice coming out husky.

His intense stare was making me uncomfortable, and I searched for anything to distract him. Lily was right—I was getting in too deep. The last thing I needed was to imagine myself falling for Gage. I had to remember who he was and my purpose for this whole fiasco.

“Yes?” He took a step closer, his eyes fastened on my lips.

“I had a talk with Dylan. He told me Mia used to be able to hear when she was young.”

“That’s true. She had only partial healing loss until she was six or seven.” Another step. The silk was beginning to feel hot in my hands.
Nerves,
I told myself.

“Well, is it hereditary? He seemed to be worried about losing his own hearing.”

That got Gage’s attention. “It is hereditary, but the chance of passing it on is very small. Dylan’s already been tested. He’s fine.”

“Well, somebody ought to tell him that. Or explain it again.”

Gage nodded almost reluctantly. “I’ll go talk to him. Maybe he didn’t understand. Or maybe he thinks his parents don’t want him to worry.” With another look at the fabric in my hands, he turned and strode out the door.

With a sigh of relief, I put the negligee back into the sack. Inside was a matching, full-length robe, every bit as silky as the gown. Nope, I wouldn’t be wearing this tonight. Or any night. I’d leave it here when I left. I didn’t want to be obligated to Mia or Gage in any way.

My phone beeped, signaling another text. I checked, already knowing it was probably from my sister. Sure enough, it read:
What if he kills you and keeps all the money?

Great. Just great. Pregnancy must be doing something to her brain. The idea that Gage would kill me to get at my money was ridiculous.

Wasn’t it?

I swallowed hard and dialed my grandfather’s attorney. “I need to talk to Mr. Carson, please. It’s important. Yeah, he can call me back.”

Fifteen minutes later, I answered my phone as it began to ring. “Hello?”

“Mark Carson here. What can I do for you?”

“Thanks for calling me back. I need some information about my trust fund.”

“I haven’t received your documents yet.”

“You should get them by tomorrow. We overnighted them from Vegas this morning. But that’s not why I’m calling. I wanted to know what happens to my funds if something were to happen to me. You know, a car accident or something, and I died. Would my money shift into a trust fund for Lily, or would it go to my heirs?”

BOOK: Tell Me No Lies
3.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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