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Fake I.D. Wife
By Patricia Rosemoor
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTroubled awake from a deep, cottony sleep, Elise Mitchell grew aware of the unnatural rhythm of her heartbeat. Lashes glued together over tear-swollen eyes, she concentrated, forced her lids open to the dark room.
Her heart was beating too fast. Covers tangled her legs, and her silk nightgown clung to her damp skin.
She must have had another nightmare.
But the images wouldn't gel. Not real, she assured herself, seeking the comfort of her husband's arms but bumping against a small body, instead.
"Mama?" came a sleepy voice, and a hand reached for her.
"Eric, baby, hush," she crooned. She'd forgotten where she was. "Mama's here. Go back to sleep now."
Heart melting at her son's sigh, she stroked the two-year-old's fine blond curls until his tiny frame went slack.
She waited a moment, disturbed by thoughts of the fight with Brian that had landed her in their son's bed. Her husband had been drinking again, had been drinking too much for more than a week.
Elise didn't understand what was happening. Didn't understand how Brian could have pushed her away when she'd tried to stop him from having another bourbon. He'd slammed her up against a wall in front of his society friends. Her marriage was crumbling and she was lost.
Brian, what's happening to us?
Planting a kiss on Eric's head, she eased out of her son's bed. A draft drew her to the window. A sliver of a moon slid between clouds, hiding Lake Michigan. Still, she could hear the waves lapping at the shore, their rhythm familiar and comforting. She secured the window and snapped on a night-light. Eric didn't like being alone in the dark.
Elise didn't blame him. Lately, that's the way she'd been feeling-alone in the dark. But no more, she decided as she left the room, intending to confront her husband over the truth.
Crossing the landing, she heard a noise below. A door?
"Is that you, Carol?"
Brian's sister had separated from her husband barely a week before and was living with them temporarily. Had she finally come home from some late-night tryst?
No answer. No other sound. Her imagination.
The only other person in the house was Brian's sister-in-law Diane, Brian's brother Kyle being in Springfield on government business. Diane had never been fond of Brian or her, and had studiously avoided spending time with them. So it had come as a complete surprise when Diane said she'd had too much to drink after the party, then had appropriated Kyle's old room in the north wing.
Until six weeks ago, the California-style house, white with a red-tiled roof, had belonged to the older Mitchells. Then Brian had agreed to follow family tradition and run for political office. His parents had rewarded him by signing the estate over to their favorite son-the future head of the Mitchell clan.
Elise approached the south end of the house and entered the master suite. Lit only by a slash of light coming from the bath, the room was unnaturally quiet.
"Brian?" she tested, in case he was lying there awake.
No mumbled acknowledgment. Sorrow filled her. Why wouldn't Brian tell her what was wrong? Whatever trouble he might be in, Elise was willing to help him through anything. She loved him.
Prepared to give him her unconditional support, she slid over the edge of the mattress. "Honey?"
She touched his arm. No response. He lay there unmoving. Saddened, she slid against him, ignoring the reek of bourbon, seeking the comfort of closeness. She smoothed her hand across his stomach until her fingers met a warm and sticky substance.
Her heart pounding right into her throat, she snapped on the bedside lamp and was shocked by the viscous red mess on her hand ... and the smears she'd left on the fixture.
Brian lay there, eyes open, covered in his own blood, a protrusion from his chest.
Praying he was alive, she scrambled over the mattress and pulled at the blade. It gave with a sucking sound. Gagging, she stemmed the ooze of warm blood with her nightgown.
"You can't die! You can't leave us!"
He had no pulse. No breath whispered through his lips. Her cry of despair echoed through the room.
Brian Mitchell, the only man she had ever loved, was dead.
She stared, for a moment fascinated with the murder weapon ... a fancy letter opener monogrammed with her initials ... . Nausea clutched her stomach and dizziness her head.
A sound at the door startled her. "No!" she gasped out, thinking it was her son. Her pulse was racing and she was having trouble breathing. She choked out, "Eric, don't come in!"
But as her world whirled around her in a crazy curlicue, the door opened. Diane, blue eyes widening, horrified gaze on Elise, screamed, "My God, you said he'd be sorry-Now you've killed him!"
Remembering the earlier scene at the yacht club and the argument with Brian, Elise whispered, "You can't possibly believe I did this ... "
No one could believe it.
Not when she was innocent.
Excerpted from Fake I.D. Wife by Patricia Rosemoor Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.