Authors: Lois Carroll
Tags: #Romance, #Suspense, #Fiction
Praise for Lois Carroll
Just a Memory
Just a Memory
is a well-developed and suspenseful story with an exciting climax and a satisfying ending."
4 ½ stars
Scribes World Reviews
"This is truly a romantic suspense. Ms. Carroll has given us a story and two characters that will not be forgotten."
"A story and two characters that will not be forgotten…"
Affaire de Coeur
"…highly suspenseful and most definitely a page-turner…"
"…strong voice and sensual hero and heroine…full of characters so realistic, you feel as though you've lived next door to them your entire life. …a book that will bring tears, smiles, and a blissful sigh at the close of the last page."
4 ½ stars
"...a delightful book and one guaranteed to please."
Once Upon a Lie
Just a Memory
JUST A MEMORY
An Echelon Press Book
First Echelon Press paperback printing / 2008
All rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2008 by Lois Carroll
Cover and illustration © Nathalie Moore
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address Echelon Press.
PRODUCED in the United States of America
The multi-colored lights that lit up the street entrance to her shop were dark. Strange. She left them on all the time.
More irritated than uneasy, Carolyn Blake pulled into her usual parking space behind The Costume Nook, her costume rental/custom sewing business. She would check the row of colored lights as soon as she got inside. The shop needed their inviting brightness on such a bleak November Monday morning.
Using her briefcase as a makeshift umbrella, Carolyn dashed through the rain to the back entrance. Holding the storm door open with her hip, she raised her key toward the deadbolt, but before she could insert it, her case bumped the door. It swung inward. Only wood splinters remained where the lock had been.
She froze with fear. Chilled, she couldn't seem to catch her breath. Peering into the dark storeroom, she listened intently. Or tried to. Her heart pounded in her ears, almost obscuring the sounds of rain falling, water rushing over the full gutters, splashing into puddles on the walk. From inside she heard only the clacking of beads.
Hesitating no longer, she took two tentative steps into the storeroom and looked around. Nothing appeared out of place. She glanced toward the arched doorway into the showroom. The curtain of colored beads danced merrily in the breeze from the open door behind her.
Beyond the cheerful partition, only silence and near darkness.
Carolyn eased her briefcase onto one of the wooden shelves. She took a deep breath and tiptoed forward. In the archway she spread her hands, separated the waving strings of beads, and looked into the room beyond. She gasped at the mess she saw before her.
Costumes piled on the floor. Wigs pulled from their tall rack and thrown onto the costumes. The slanted front of her antique showcase smashed. Glass shards sparkled among the rows of makeup and accessories on the shelves.
Suddenly, the weakness and fear that had filled her were replaced by feelings of anger and frustration. Her spine straightened and her chin rose. "How can this
" she said aloud. "This is Lakehaven, for heaven's sake!" She'd never expected anything like this to happen in her safe little hometown.
Sidestepping the piles of costumes, she strode down the short hall from the showroom to her sewing area. There, she was almost startled to see everything exactly as she'd left it at the close of business Saturday afternoon. Strangely, her small adjacent office seemed to be all in order, too. Rather than wonder why nothing had been disturbed, Carolyn breathed a sigh of relief, snatched up the phone, and dialed the number printed in red on the base.
"Good morning, Lakehaven Police Department. This is Officer Eleanna Cordoba. How can I help you?"
In a wobbly voice Carolyn hardly recognized as her own, she reported all the details about the break-in and answered the officer's queries, including giving the date of her birth that announced she was thirty-four today–a fact she didn't like to think about. Unbidden, tears pricked at the backs of her eyes.
"Someone will be there right away, Miss Blake," the officer told her. "Please don't touch anything."
"It's Mrs. Blake. I'm a widow."
"Oh, I beg your-"
"Never mind. Just get someone here quick. And thank you," Carolyn finished with mechanical politeness. She hung up the phone and raised her arms as if surrendering to a holdup before slumping into her desk chair. What a way to start a new week.
She thought back over the nine years she'd owned and single-handedly managed the shop–since before her husband had died. The results of her long hours of hard work had attracted customers from as far away as
, and had made the unique shop a success despite the town's population of less than five thousand.
Carolyn rubbed her hands on her tailored rayon-and-wool slacks. She felt dirty because of some stranger being in her shop and manhandling her things. She vowed to clean very thoroughly before her seven-year-old daughter, Terri, came to the shop again.
She frowned. Terri was due to come there after school. How could Carolyn explain what had happened? She didn't want the child to feel the fear she'd felt when she saw the broken door. Maybe she shouldn't tell her at all. Terri was doing well in her classes and enjoyed the school bus ride to the shop where she played each afternoon until they went home together for dinner. In fact, other than constantly hinting that she wanted a father like other kids, Terri was a bright, well-adjusted child. Why upset her at all?
Carolyn nodded to punctuate her decision not to mention the break-in. Now she had to concentrate on getting the store cleaned up and back into shape. She was able to earn a living there for herself and Terri, but she certainly couldn't afford to be closed and lose any business. She waited impatiently until a policeman knocked at the rear entrance.
She thought she knew all three men on the Lakehaven police force. She'd met them at one community event or another.