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By Anne Stuart
Harlequin EnterprisesCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSummer, 1982 Colby, Vermont
When he awoke there was blood on his hands. The sheets were tangled around his sweating, naked body, his mouth tasted like copper, and there was blood on his hands.
He sat up, cursing, pushed his long dark hair away from his face and looked blearily out into the morning sunshine. It was early - he hated waking up before noon.
And he sure as hell hated waking up covered in blood.
He stumbled out of bed, heading toward the back door to take a leak. He looked down and saw he had streaks of blood on his body. He leaned against the door and closed his eyes, groaning.
He slept in one of the tumbledown cabins by the lake, but it didn't have a shower, and there was no way in hell he was going up to the big house like this. No way in hell he was going to stand around with some animal's blood on him. He must have hit a deer last night, driving home, though for the life of him he couldn't remember a goddamned thing.
He pulled on a pair of paint-spattered cutoffs and headed down to the lake, as fast as his pounding head would let him. He'd smoked too much, drunk too much, the night before, and he needed it to wear off, fast. The cold lake water would clear his head, bring his memory back. When he got back to his room he'd finish packing and get the hell outof there. He'd had enough of small-town Vermont.
Even in August the lake was icy cold, shocking the hell out of him. He let out a shriek as he dived beneath the surface, but he kept going, letting the frigid water flow around him, washing the blood from his hands, from his long hair, from his thick beard.
He surfaced twenty yards from shore, tossing his long wet hair over his shoulder, and squinted into the sunlight. There were more people than usual up at the inn - Peggy Niles must be in seventh heaven. She'd be wanting him to fetch and carry, even though he'd told her he was leaving. Maybe he'd just skirt around the back of his place, grab his stuff and get the hell out of there before he could change his mind. Lorelei had told him to get lost, and he wasn't the kind of man who stayed in one place for too long. Winter was coming, jobs would be opening up in Colorado, and he was ready for the life of a ski bum.
He dove back under the water, heading toward shore with long, easy strokes, circling around past the small sandy beach and the long wooden dock he'd built a few months back.
When he surfaced again, he saw a pile of clothes floating at the edge of the water, among the cattails that he'd spent half the summer trying to get rid of. He recognized the garish striped shirt that was one of his favorites, and he wondered who the hell had taken his suitcase and thrown it in the lake. Probably Lorelei - she'd been pissed off big time when he told her he was leaving, but then, she hadn't given him one good reason to stay. Not that he could even imagine one.
He moved closer, squinting. He was slightly nearsighted, but he never wore glasses except for his prescription sunglasses, and God knew where they were back in the mess of his room. The clothes were floating, half in, half out of the water, but he didn't recognize the white shirt. He didn't own any longsleeved shirts.
He stopped moving, waist deep in the chilly water, and his skin froze. And then he moved, fast, running through the water till he reached her side, turning her over to see her pale, dead face, and the sliced throat, like a jester's grin, curving beneath her jaw.
They loomed over him, coming out of nowhere, waiting for him, and he couldn't move, frozen in the chilly water with Lorelei's body in his arms.
"Thomas Ingram Griffin, alias Gram Thomas, alias Billy Gram, you're under arrest for the willful murder of Alice Calderwood, Valette King and Lorelei Johnson. Anything you say ..."
He didn't listen to the words. He looked down at the girl in his arms, the girl he'd held last night, the girl whose blood had stained his hands.
And he began to cry.
Excerpted from Still Lake by Anne Stuart Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.