Read How Secrets Die Online

Authors: Marta Perry

How Secrets Die

As Laurel Ridge embraces a stranger hungry for answers, a sinister truth is awakened

A hard-hitting reporter, Kate Beaumont unearths the deepest lies and brings harsh truths to light. But the story that lures her to the gentle town of Laurel Ridge, Pennsylvania, is closer to her heart than anyone knows. The details of her half brother's sudden death have never made sense. She owes him justice, yet the one man who can help her is the stubborn sheriff she can't stand.

Protecting his town is Mac Whiting's top priority. Everything else—including pacifying a beautiful crusader on a mission best left resting in peace—is secondary. But as Kate's search embeds her in his world and attracts a skilled criminal, she needs Mac's protection. Drawn together by deadly secrets, they must find a way to trust each other before a killer silences them both.

Praise for Marta Perry

“Abundant details turn this Amish romantic thriller series launch into a work of art.”

—
Publishers Weekly
, starred review, on
Where Secrets Sleep

“Crisp writing and distinctive characters make up Perry's latest novel.
Where Secrets Sleep
is a truly entertaining read.”

—
RT Book Reviews

“Perry's story hooks you immediately. Her uncanny ability to seamlessly blend the mystery element with contemporary themes makes this one intriguing read.”

—
RT Book Reviews
on
Home by Dark

“Perry skillfully continues her chilling, deceptively charming romantic suspense series with a dark, puzzling mystery that features a sweet romance and a nice sprinkling of Amish culture.”

—
Library Journal
on
Vanish in Plain Sight


Leah's Choice
, by Marta Perry, is a knowing and careful look into Amish culture and faith. A truly enjoyable reading experience.”

—Angela Hunt,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Let Darkness Come


Leah's Choice
is a story of grace and servitude as well as a story of difficult choices and heartbreaking realities. It touched my heart. I think the world of Amish fiction has found a new champion.”

—Lenora Worth, author of
Code of Honor

Dear Reader,

I'm so glad you decided to read the final book in my Blackburn House series. I've especially enjoyed writing this series because I've been able to pick up pieces from real Pennsylvania small towns to incorporate in the stories, which makes the setting very real to me. In fact, the clock tower on the cover is actually the clock tower on Main Street in the town where I live!

In
How Secrets Die
, police chief Mac Whiting finally meets his match in a woman who is just as stubbornly determined to do the right thing as he is. After getting to know Mac in the two earlier books, I hope you enjoy watching as he and Kate battle each other as well as the forces of wrong to find their own happily-ever-after.

Please let me know how you feel about my story. I'd be happy to send you a signed bookmark and my brochure of Pennsylvania Dutch recipes. You can email me at
[email protected]
, visit me at
www.Facebook.com/martaperrybooks
or at
www.martaperry.co
m
, or write to me at HQN Books, 195 Broadway, 24th FL, New York, NY 10007.

Blessings,

This story is dedicated to my husband,
who always believes in me, with much love.

Death isn't the greatest loss in life.
The greatest loss is what dies inside of us while we live.
—Amish proverb

CHAPTER ONE

A
CEMETERY
SHOULD
be a place where people were buried—not where they died. Kate Beaumont, confronted so unexpectedly with the place Jason had chosen to end his life, stopped the car in mid-traffic, earning an irritated honk from the driver behind her as he was forced to come to a halt, as well.

The driver circled her, looking annoyed but refraining from the rude gesture she anticipated. Apparently drivers were a bit more polite in a small town like Laurel Ridge, Pennsylvania, than they were in the city. Her hands were shaking, and not from the sudden stop. She pulled off the road near the stone wall that encircled the graveyard.

Ridiculous, to let just the sight of the place send her into a tailspin. She was tougher than that, wasn't she? But while she could face down a recalcitrant politician or an irate citizen in search of a story, she couldn't maintain that level of detachment where her younger brother's death was concerned.

Kate took a long breath, fighting to still the tremors that shook her. She focused on the scene facing her, thinking of how she'd describe it for a newspaper article.

Laurel Ridge's cemetery covered the top of a rounded hill at the eastern end of town. Spreading maples, their leaves already turning color, shielded gray tombstones. Some of the stones were worn and tilted, their lettering eroded, while others were new enough to make it obvious the cemetery was still in use. The whole place had a well-tended air, the grass mown, with beds of gold-and-burgundy chrysanthemums blossoming here and there.

Which was the stone Jason had leaned against when he'd taken that fatal dose of pain meds and swallowed that final mouthful of whiskey? She could find it, she supposed, since the name had shown clearly in the newspaper photo she'd scanned online. But looking at the spot wouldn't lead her to any answers.

Movement reflected in the rearview mirror startled her, and her stomach tightened as she realized a police car had pulled up behind her. Great. All she needed was to draw official attention to herself before she'd even begun the task that brought her here.

An officer slid from the vehicle and started toward her. Taking a firm grip on her nerves, Kate planted a smile on her face and hit the button to roll down her window.

She was about to speak when a closer look at the man's uniform gave her another shock. The lettering on his pocket read M. Whiting. McKinley Whiting, then. Chief of Police in this backwater town, and the man who'd dismissed her little brother's death as just another druggie overdosing himself.

Kate gritted her teeth, fighting to keep her feelings from showing as she looked up at the man. Tall and lean, he had dark hair in a military-style cut and a jaw that conveyed determination. He didn't affect the dark sunglasses so many cops did, and his brown eyes studied her, missing nothing, she felt sure.

“Are you having car trouble, ma'am?” His voice was a bass rumble.

“No, not at all. Is there a problem?”

“You can't park here.” He nodded to the no-parking sign directly in front of her fender. “If you're interested in the cemetery, you can turn in at the gate just ahead. You'll find a gravel pull-off where you can park, if you want.”

“I don't.” Kate's tone was sharper than she intended, but she couldn't seem to control the spurt of temper. “Can't a visitor to your town stop to get her bearings without being harassed?”

Reading the surprise in his face, she clamped her lips shut before she could make matters worse. She'd overdone it—lost her cool and let her feelings show. The last thing she wanted was to rouse the suspicions of the local cop before she'd been in town for five minutes.

“Sorry,” she muttered before he could speak. “I didn't mean...”

“No problem.” He said the words easily, but his brown eyes were watchful. “I wasn't trying to harass you. If you're lost, I'll be glad to help you find your way, Ms....”

He left it hanging there, obviously intent on learning her name. For the first time she was glad her name wouldn't connect her with Jason Reilley.

“Kate Beaumont.”

“Nice to meet you, Ms. Beaumont. I'm Mac Whiting.” She could see him stowing her name away in the filing cabinet of his mind. “Coming to visit someone here in Laurel Ridge?”

“No.” Guilt and grief were a powerful combination. She should have. If she'd come to visit Jason the summer he'd spent here, maybe he'd still be alive.

That was the danger of loving someone. It hurt too much when you let them down.

Whiting's eyes were probing again. If she'd worn a sign, it probably wouldn't have been more obvious that she was hiding something.

Kate swallowed hard and tried for a normal tone. “I've been driving for several hours. I just thought I'd find a place for lunch.”

He nodded, again with that watchful look. Protective, that was what it was. As if his town might need protecting against her. Well, maybe it did.

“Turn left just ahead, and you'll be on Main Street. There's a café a few blocks down on your left, across from the bed-and-breakfast.” He pointed, leaning against the car as he did so, and she had a sudden sensation of masculine power in his nearness. “The Buttercup. I can vouch for the food, and the prices are reasonable.”

She hadn't expected that casual reference to the bed-and-breakfast, and it shook her. Would it be the same one where Jason had stayed when he came to Laurel Ridge? If so, it was going to be one of her first stops.

“Okay, thanks.” She managed a cool, dismissive smile. “I appreciate the recommendation.” She turned the ignition key, her fingers brushing the silver dragon charm Jason had given her, and put her finger on the window button.

Whiting looked at her for a moment longer, and then slowly stepped back so she could close the window. She put the car in gear, glanced behind her and pulled out. It was simple enough to watch Whiting in her rearview mirror. He'd drawn out a notebook and was jotting down her license number.

She doused a flicker of anger. A search of her license wouldn't tell him anything except her address in Baltimore. She'd never been arrested, so a query to the police there wouldn't help him, even if he went that far.

But this encounter had clearly shown her that she'd have to do better. True, she hadn't expected the first person she'd meet in Laurel Ridge to be the policeman who'd been quoted in that article about Jason's death. She might be excused for losing her grip just a bit, but it was unfortunate. She'd made herself an object of his interest before she'd had a chance to do a single thing.

But what difference did it make in the long run? Sooner or later she'd have to divulge the relationship between her and Jason. If she didn't, she'd have no reason for asking questions about him.

She'd toyed with the thought of trying to conceal her identity. She could have claimed to be writing a newspaper story about Jason's death, but that didn't sound credible even to herself, not after over a year had passed.

Kate made the turn onto Main Street and drove down it at a sedate speed, reading signs as she went. There, ahead of her on the left, was the café Whiting had mentioned, and on her right the bed-and-breakfast. She slowed, peering toward the rear of the white clapboard building, and caught a glimpse of a small building nearly hidden by the trees. That had to be it—the cottage where Jason had lived during his three months in Laurel Ridge.

And next to the bed-and-breakfast rose the imposing Italianate building that was Blackburn House, where Jason had worked. The place where he'd lived, the place where he'd worked. That was where she had to begin.

She hadn't been here when Jason had needed her, but she was now. She'd find the answer to the question that haunted her, because if she didn't, she'd never be satisfied. What had happened in this seemingly quiet, peaceful town that had led to her brother's death?

* * *

M
AC
DROVE
DOWN
Main Street, keeping an eye on the compact car ahead of him. He wasn't following the woman exactly, but she had stirred his curiosity. Something had been just a little off-kilter about their conversation, and her defensiveness had startled as well as intrigued him.

He frowned, trying to put his finger on the exact source of his unease. Kate Beaumont had seemed vaguely familiar to him, but he couldn't quite place her. Thick, honey-blond hair was pulled casually back on the nape of her neck, allowing wavy tendrils to escape and curl around her ears. Her lightly tanned skin seemed touched by the gold in her hair, and even her eyes were a golden brown. Surely, if he'd ever known her, he'd remember. A man didn't run into that many brown-eyed blondes—and especially not one carrying a chip the size of a mountain on her shoulder.

The familiarity remained stubbornly elusive, so he put the resemblance on a back burner to percolate. It would come through, sooner or later. Meantime, it looked as if his mystery woman was going to take his advice. She'd pulled into a parking space across from the café.

A moment later he realized he'd jumped to conclusions. Ms. Beaumont wasn't headed toward the café. Instead, she was walking up the sidewalk of Blackburn House. Now what, exactly, was she up to? Unless she had a sudden yen to buy quilt fabric or a book, there wasn't much in Blackburn House to attract a casual visitor.

Curiosity had him turning in at the driveway that ran along the side of the building. At the rear of Blackburn House stood the old carriage house, converted into the workshop of Whiting and Whiting Cabinetry. Not that he was the Whiting or the son involved in the business. Dad might have had hopes in that direction at one time, but when Mac had come back from a stint in the military, he'd known the carpentry trade wasn't for him. Still, Dad seemed content with one son in partnership, and the business suited Mac's brother, Nick, perfectly.

Parking, Mac eyed the back door into Blackburn House. That might be a bit too blatant, running into the woman so quickly. She really would have cause to cry harassment if he did that, wouldn't she?

Instead, he headed into the cabinetry shop, prepared for the usual din of saws and hammers. But all was fairly quiet at the moment. One of the Amish carpenters who worked in the shop sat on a bench in the rear, his lunch bucket beside him. He raised a thermos in Mac's direction, and Mac grinned and nodded.

He'd forgotten it was lunchtime. No doubt Nick was lunching with his fiancée, Allison, assuming she'd been able to get away from the quilt shop.

His father, instead of eating the lunch Mom had packed for him, was bending over a rocking chair, carefully hand-sanding a spindle. The normal work of the shop—custom-designed kitchen cabinets—sat all around him, but he was focused on the rocker instead.

“Hey, Dad. Is that for Mom?”

His father looked up at his approach, pushing his glasses into place. Folks said Nick looked more like their father, but all three of them had the same lean, straight-featured faces. Dad's eyes crinkled at the sight of him.

“Your mom says she has enough furniture, thank you very much.” He grinned. “This is a gift for Allison. The way those women are fussing over this wedding shower, you'd think no one had ever gotten married before.”

“Better not let Mom or Allison hear you complaining.” Mac leaned against a handy workbench. Since he was safely removed now from the farmhouse that his brother, Nick, and Nick's young son shared with Mom and Dad, he could take a more detached view of Nick and Allison's wedding preparations.

His father raised an eyebrow. “Bet you haven't even thought of setting up the bachelor party yet. That is a best man duty, you know.”

“I know, I know. But Nick doesn't like any of my ideas. Especially not taking off to Vegas for a weekend.”

Dad swatted at him as if he were a pesky fly. “Be nice to your brother. He's taken long enough to decide to risk marriage again. And as for you...”

“Don't start,” Mac said quickly. “I hear enough of it from Mom. She's taken to reminding me that I'm not getting any younger, as if I were teetering on the doorstep of the nursing home.”

“She wants more grandkids.” Dad eyed him severely. “You're supposed to do your part.”

Mac shrugged. “I've got a whole town to look after already. That's enough for me at the moment.”

“Here.” Dad tossed him the fine sandpaper he'd been using. “Do a little work for a change while I pour out my coffee.”

Mac bent obediently over the chair, hands caressing the smooth curves of the fine maple. He might not want carpentry for his life's work, but he still enjoyed the calming nature of the skill. Seeing the grain gleam in response to his movements was satisfying.

“What brings you in here at this hour?” His father took over his spot, leaning against the workbench. “Not enough to keep you busy at the office?”

Mac shook his head, not looking up. “Just a funny thing that happened. I had to speak to a woman parked in the no-parking area up by the cemetery. She seemed... I don't know...upset, maybe. Annoyed at me for speaking, that's for sure.”

“And?” Dad seemed to be waiting for more. He had to know that that was the sort of thing that happened too often to cause comment.

“It was just odd, that's all. She's a stranger, but she seemed kind of familiar to me.”

He could feel his father's gaze on him. “A looker, was she?”

Mac grinned. “You could say that. A striking brown-eyed blonde, if you want to know.”

“That's the answer, then.” Dad sounded amused. “She probably had a starring role in one of your dreams.”

He chuckled, as he was meant to, but then he shook his head, running the sandpaper smoothly along the grain of the wood. “Sounds like it, but that wasn't it. I've got a good memory for faces, and I'm sure I've seen her before.”

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