It took everything in Teresa Farr's power to return to her hometown of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Eight years earlier, she had walked in on the savage murders of her father and stepmotherboth of whom she hated. She barely managed to save herself and her eight-year-old stepsister, Celeste. But even after notorious serial killer Roscoe Lee Byrnes confessed, people still wondered if Teri was the guilty one. And with Celeste unable to remember that night, or to speak at all, those suspicions never went away…
Now Celeste is beginning to remember. Now Byrnes has recanted his confession. And someone is using a series of bizarre, taunting events to exact terrifying "justice." As Teri desperately races to uncover the truth, she's finding that everyone she loves has secrets they would kill to keep buried. And in the bright mountain sunlight, an evil concealed all too well is reaching out to silence her and Celeste forever…
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||7.80(w) x 4.90(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Carlene Thompson is the author of Last Whisper, Black for Remembrance, Nowhere to Hide, and Don't Close Your Eyes, among other books. She attended college at Marshall University and earned her Ph.D. in English from Ohio State University. She taught at the University of Rio Grande before leaving to focus on her writing full-time. Besides writing, she spends her time caring for the many dogs and cats she's adopted. A native West Virginian, she lives with her husband Keith in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.
Read an Excerpt
Eight Years Later
"Did you leave room for dessert?"
The pretty waitress at Bennigan's smiled into the face of Celeste Warner. Celeste looked back placidly, her aqua eyes wide, her perfect lips almost smiling, her long blond hair held back from her smooth forehead by a narrow pink velvet ribbon.
"I think we're full, aren't we?" Jason Warner asked brightly, looking at his sixteen-year-old daughter as if he expected an answer. He didn't. She hadn't spoken since her mother had been murdered and Celeste had been stabbed in the abdomen eight years ago when she lived in the Farr home. Jason glanced back at the waitress, who gave no sign she noticed Celeste's silence or immobility. She'd waited on Jason and his daughter before. "I guess we'll just take the check," he said. "The food was great, by the way."
"Thanks!" The waitress sounded as pleased as if she'd prepared the meal herself. "I'll leave the check here and pick it up in a couple of minutes. You two take your time." Jason couldn't help noticing the hard stare the manager threw the waitress. It was 12:55 at Bennigan's on Saturday and the place was jammed. Jason knew the manager didn't want the help urging customers to take their time. He quickly opened the discreet black vinyl envelope, glanced at the check, slipped in a twenty and a ten, then looked back at his daughter. "I left enough for the food and a tip so our waitress won't have to waste time bringing back change," he explained.
Celeste merely blinked. What I'd give to see her smile, Jason thought. Hell, I wouldn't even care if she threw a temper tantrum. He'd once overheard someone describe Celeste's expression as "bovine" and he'd been furious, both because of the insult and because the person had spoken the truth. Although beautiful, Celeste showed no more emotion than a contented cow.
Jason glanced around, trying to look lively to hide his dark thoughts. "Boy, this place is even more crowded than usual, isn't it, honey?" Nothing. A group of people passed them, all laughing and chattering, their animation striking Jason as almost cruel compared to his daughter's eerie self-containment. Determined not to give in to depression, though, Jason patted his slim abdomen and smiled. "I ate too much, Celeste. How about you?" Nothing. "Well, ready to go to the park?"
Jason waited until several people passed their booth, then stood up. Instead of getting up, and walking slightly behind him with her head down as she usually did, Celeste sat perfectly still. Jason was so used to her immediately rising from the table, he'd already begun striding toward the door before he noticed Celeste was still in the booth. He rushed back to her. She sat uncannily motionless, her forehead furrowed. Then she tilted back her head and her nose twitched slightly, as if she was sniffing something. Surprised by the slightest sign of reaction from her, Jason abruptly scooted into the booth and looked closely at Celeste.
"Is something wrong, honey?"
Celeste frowned harder as she drew in a deep breath and held it. He hadn't seen her frown for eight years. Jason sat mesmerized. Then annoyance flowed over him. Bennigan's was always busy on Saturdays, but today it felt as if half of Point Pleasant had come for lunch. The place was noisy and people jostled beside their booth. I should have taken Celeste somewhere quieter, less crowded, he thought. "You push her too hard," his mother sometimes told him, making his teeth grind.
At such times, though, Jason reminded himself that what his mother, Fay, lacked in tact, she made up for in love and ever-vigilant care. Without hesitation, she'd taken in Celeste after Wendy's murder. "You can't care for her — you have to work," she'd told Jason reasonably when Celeste had been released from the hospital and rehabilitation after her stabbing.
Celeste had made a full physical recovery, but her emotional wounds had not seemed to heal. Two psychiatrists and two psychologists agreed that her silence and emotional withdrawal were the result of shock. Two years later, they said they were almost certain her muteness had become voluntary and she was now feigning a lack of emotion. "Celeste suffered no brain damage. She is choosing to be silent and to act detached," one of them had told Jason. "I'm not certain why — maybe she simply doesn't want to discuss the murders and the attack on her. She won't continue this behavior forever, though. Be patient, Mr. Warner. Celeste will talk when she's ready." So Jason had taken Celeste home to Fay, who'd abruptly begun quashing his arguments that caring for Celeste by herself would be too much of a strain and that they needed professional help.
"Don't be silly," she'd stated. "Those so-called professionals haven't helped Celeste one bit. Besides, you'd be doing me a favor to let me look after her. And you. I'm home alone all day now that your daddy's dead and I'm going stir-crazy. I'm strong as a horse and I want to be useful. You both need me and I need you. Mark my words — the situation will work out fine."
And it had, except that right now, Fay Warner would be unhappy with him, Jason thought morosely. She would point out that he should have known the restaurant was packed because of the full parking lot. She would tell him he shouldn't have gone there just because he liked the cheerful atmosphere. She would — Suddenly Celeste leaned toward Jason, fixed him with a penetrating stare, and said in a voice rusty from disuse, "The moon was bright that night but I turned on my nightlight anyway — my horse nightlight Snowflake that Teri gave me. I loved that light, partly 'cause it was a horse and partly 'cause it was a gift from Teri."
Jason stared at his daughter, his gray eyes wide, his mouth slightly open. At first, he was stunned only by the fact that after eight long years she'd finally spoken. Then, he felt a brief wave of joy that the doctors had been right — the moment had come when she had finally decided to speak. Finally, with an unpleasant jolt, Jason realized Celeste was describing the night her mother had been murdered.
Celeste's frown deepened, her eyes narrowed, and she went on unemotionally in a flinty voice, "I was comin' out of the bathroom when someone opened Mommy's bedroom door, all soft and sneaky."
Jason's tongue touched his dry lips, and after a moment he managed to ask, "Who was coming out of Mommy's bedroom?"
Celeste looked puzzled. "All I could see was somethin' in a hood."
"A hood?" Celeste nodded. "You couldn't tell anything about the person?"
"It wore somethin' long and black — it seemed like a cape but maybe it was just a big coat. And its eyes ... they were big with dark shadows all around 'em." Celeste shivered. "I couldn't move. I just held on to Yogi." Yogi, Jason remembered, was her big stuffed bear. "It made a loud, surprised noise. It didn't know I was there. Then it jabbed at me with a knife so fast I didn't know what was goin' on. The knife went through Yogi. I know I got stabbed, too, but I didn't feel it. Lots of my blood ran into Yogi. A nurse told me that's why he had to get thrown away." Celeste's eyes filled with tears. "I loved Yogi and he just got thrown away!"
Damn babbling nurse, Jason thought furiously. Hadn't she realized she was dealing with a traumatized child?
Celeste wiped at a tear running down her face. "After we got stabbed, I held Yogi tight and ran back to my room."
Jason forced himself to shut his mouth. His daughter was looking at him with big eyes suddenly filled with both horror and hurt, the first expression he'd seen in them for what seemed like an eternity. He reached across, touched her hand, and her fingers curled around his as a baby's would. He said softly, "I'm sorry about Yogi, but he probably saved your life. That would have made him happy." Another tear trickled over Celeste's cheek. "Honey, did the person stab you in your room?"
"No. I told you I got stabbed in the hall. Then I ran to my room."
Police had assumed Celeste had heard someone in the house, and hidden in her toy chest where the killer stabbed her. They thought Celeste's blood in the hall had dripped from the killer's knife as he'd made his way to the Farrs' bedroom from Celeste's. Now it seemed that the blood had actually come directly from Celeste when she'd run back to her own room.
"But it was gonna stab me some more. It came after me," Celeste went on urgently, her voice rising, as if she might suddenly lose the ability to talk again. "One time Teri and me were playing and she told me my toy chest was a good hidin' place 'cause I didn't have that many toys in there. I got in to hide.
"But when I was closin' the lid, I heard somethin' comin' to my room. I knew I was gonna get killed this time. Then I heard screamin'. And the big dog next door was barkin' and snarlin' and it woke up other dogs 'cause they were all barkin'." Celeste stopped as if the air had run out of her and said in an exhausted voice, "And I didn't get killed."
Jason knew he shouldn't keep questioning Celeste in a restaurant full of people, but he was afraid if he made her leave, the break in her concentration would cause her to stop talking again. Maybe for months or even years. He took a sip of water, cleared his throat, and asked barely above a whisper, "Sweetie, are you sure you don't know who stabbed you?"
"I don't think so ..." Her lips trembled. "No."
Jason's eyes narrowed. "You meant what you said first. I don't think so. Celeste, who did you see?"
"No one," Celeste said obstinately. "But I smelled something kind of sweet." She rushed on as if she wanted to stop further questions. "I smelled it a few minutes ago."
"In here?" Jason gasped.
Celeste nodded reluctantly. Jason's head snapped around, then jerked back to his daughter as he prayed no one had heard Celeste or noticed his quick scrutiny of the patrons.
"Celeste, why did you start talking right now?"
The girl looked as if the words were being dragged from her. "The smell. And a noise. And a voice. All at once I felt like it was that night again and the words just came out even though I didn't mean to talk. I was just real surprised. And scared," Celeste finished meekly.
"I see." Jason spoke to her gently. "Honey, you've been able to speak for quite a while, haven't you?"
Celeste looked defeated. "Yeah. I really couldn't talk after I got stabbed and Mommy got killed. I don't know why I couldn't talk. And I was scared all the time, really, really scared. And I was so ..."
She was obviously floundering for a word. "Shocked?" Jason supplied. "Horrified by what had happened to you and Mommy?"
"Yeah. Shocked. Horrified. I wanted to be in a dark, secret place where no one could hurt me, so I went there. In my head, not to a real place. Later I came out of the secret place, but I just tried to think of nothing. I tried to look like I wasn't thinking of anything. And I wouldn't talk because I didn't want to talk." Celeste gave her father a small smile. "I can write, too, Daddy. I could already write when I got hurt and I've been practicin' ever since I came out of my secret place. When I took classes in the hospital and when you had teachers come to give me lessons at home, I'd write a little bit, but I never showed how good I could write because I knew people would ask questions about that awful night and want me to write the answers. That was just as bad as talkin' about what happened.
"I don't want to talk about what happened, Daddy. Please don't make me talk about it," Celeste beseeched Jason. "If you ask lots of questions, I'll go back into my secret place where I'm safe. Maybe I won't come out again because I'm still so scared, Daddy. Maybe I'll always be scared. It was so awful ... so awful ..."
Celeste began to shake all over. Jason squeezed her delicate hand, but she pulled it away, grabbing at her other hand and beginning to twist them together nervously. She turned slightly and glanced around the room. Jason watched closely as her gaze seemed to grow far away. Either that, or it had turned in upon itself, remembering. He thought he had lost her again, that she wasn't going to utter another word. Finally, though, her expression seemed to harden, to morph into one of impish malice. She looked at him with an amused, almost cocky gaze before she tilted her head and began to chant loudly:
"The clock struck three, And Death came for me. When I opened my eyes, There was Teri!"
People around them had begun to stop talking, everyone turning to stare at the lovely teenager. Somewhere a glass crashed to the floor. To Jason's horror, Celeste repeated piercingly, "The clock struck three, and Death came for me. When I opened my eyes, there was Teri!" As complete silence fell all around them, the color drained from Jason's slender face and he realized he was gawking at his daughter just like the other patrons of the restaurant. At last, Celeste took a deep breath, leaned back, gave her father a wide, charming smile, and said sweetly, "I'm a very lucky girl."
"Frozen margarita, piña colada, brandy Alexander," the waiter repeated to the three women sitting near the stage at Club Rendezvous.
"And I want three cherries with the piña colada," Teresa Farr said, raising her voice above the music of the live band.
The waiter looked at her in feigned shock. "An extra cherry? Miss Farr, do you want to break the club's budget this month?"
"I'll pay for the third cherry."
"Okay, it's your money," the waiter sighed as if in despair. Then he winked at Teresa. "Be right back, ladies."
The woman with layered strawberry blond hair sitting next to Teresa gave her a nudge. "He winked at you, Teri. And he's cute."
"He's also barely old enough to be working here, Sharon." Teresa laughed at her sister-in-law. Teri tucked long, silky black hair behind her ears to expose large silver hoops and adjusted a shimmering silver tank top she wore with black slacks. "He took three lessons right after I started the riding school, but he was too scared to continue. I never date guys who are afraid of horses."
"You never date at all anymore," said the third woman at the table, Carmen, the eldest. She had high cheekbones, a narrow nose, smoky blue-gray eyes, and shoulder-length brown hair enhanced by bronze highlights. Teresa knew that in Carmen's late teens and early twenties she had modeled. "Just catalogue stuff," she always said dismissively. "I never made it in the couture lines — I was a couple of inches too short for industry standards." "We're celebrating your twenty-sixth birthday, Teri," she now teased. "Have you already sworn off men?"
"No, Carmen, I've just been busy getting the riding school started, but I could ask you the same question. Have you sworn off men?"
Carmen laughed. "I'm twenty years older than you."
"And you look about ten years older."
Carmen rolled her eyes. "I wish. Anyway, I get credit for having been married. I'm a widow and I'm expected to spend the rest of my life alone, being the sedate woman I am."
"Sedate!" Teri laughed. "Good heavens, you're anything except sedate, Carmen. You're lively, upbeat, fun — that's why you were such a wonderful friend for my mother. And if you don't realize you are still quite the stunner, then you didn't notice how many men were looking at you with lust in their eyes when you walked in."
Carmen grinned. "I think you need glasses."
"I have twenty-twenty vision. Seriously, though, you've been a widow for nine years and you've hardly dated anyone, at least that I know of."
"Anyone that you know of." Carmen's eyes twinkled. "Besides, I like being strong and independent, like you, Teri."
"Don't count Teresa out of the game so soon, Carmen," interrupted Sharon, who always seemed preoccupied with finding a husband for Teresa. Her own life revolved around her husband — Teresa's brother, Kent — and their son, Daniel, who had Sharon's heart-shaped face, short nose, velvety brown eyes, and spattering of freckles. "And Teri, you can't possibly believe Carmen has given up on men. I'm sure there's someone. In fact, I know there is."
Carmen raised a perfectly arched eyebrow at Sharon. "Oh really? And who is this mystery man?"
"Does the name Herman Riggs ring a bell?"
"Oh, God," Carmen moaned. "Him? He's history."
Teresa pretended to look horrified. "Carmen, you only had a few dates with him and you've already dumped him like a hot potato? You didn't even give the poor guy a chance!"
Excerpted from "If You Ever Tell"
Copyright © 2008 Carlene Thompson.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you like books with action from the start,this is one for your library!! It starts with a murder and all fingers pointing to the wrong person...It is so good I can't even go into the book...Just trust me it is a great buy! Worth every dime!
This was a very good book. The more you read the more you wanna kno wat is goin on. i was very surprised at the ending. This is a must read for thompson fans. The ending could have been written a little better but over all it was pretty good.
Theresa "Teri" wakes up one night and discovers the bodies of her father and step-mother in their bed. She immediately runs out of the room to check on her step-sister, Celeste, and runs into the killer. The killer stabs her in the arm, sparing her life, and flees into the night. A short time later, a serial killer confesses to the murders, despite the town believing Teri killed her father and step-mother.
The story takes place eight years later around July 4th weekend. The week of his execution, Roscoe Lee Byrnes recants his confession. Once again, suspicion falls on Teri. Meanwhile, Celeste is left mute after the murders and finally starts talking again. Memories flood her and soon she starts to piece together that tragic night. While she desperately attempts to recall the killer's face, the killer is watching and plotting his/her next move.
This book alows you to became part of the story. The end of it had tears comeing from my eyes and ready for more. The killer in this book was perfect. I am so ready for her next book.
Thoroughly believable characters and realistic situations make IF YOU EVER TELL entirely better than Dr. Thompson's last two books. I couldn't put it down until the end. An evil Hugh Farr and his conniving wife were murdered eight years ago. A death row killer recants his confession, and a combination of mentally ill and just plain evil characters make you wonder until the end who committed these murders and tried to frame his daughter.
This is the first book I have ever read by Charlene Thompson. If you ever want a book that will hold your suspense till the end, this is it. I read this book every day and I could not put the book down. If i could read all day I would. Charlene Thompson is an excellent writer. I will definitly read more of her books.
Carlene Thompson has done it again with this suspenseful and exciting thriller! Well-sketched characters, a host of suspects, and a terrifyingly creepy killer make IF YOU EVER TELL one of the best reads of the year. Don¿t miss it!
Eight years ago someone broke into the Farr home in Point Pleasant, West Virginia killing the parents and stabbing preadolescent Celeste. Since teenager Teresa Farr was untouched, the police and the media assume she killed her father, stepmother and failed at murdering her stepsister. However, serial killer Roscoe Lee Byrnes confesses to the murders after he is caught. He is convicted and placed on death row awaiting state execution while Celeste has remained silent since the assault. --- However, just before Byrnes is to be executed, he renounces his confession in the Farr homicides. Meanwhile Teresa begins receiving notes insisting she will soon face 'justice' while mute Celeste recognizes a unique smell and begins to talk for the first time in eight years insisting her stepsister is not only innocent, she saved her life. However others do not believe the traumatized child including the note writer as someone wants to divert attention to Teresa for the killings if necessary even set up a murder suicide scenario that will eliminate the survivors while casting culpability on the older soon dead stepsibling --- This is a tense suspense thriller that grips readers the moment that Teresa enters her home to find a nightmare that awaits her. Everyone except for Celeste believes she is the cold blooded killer even after Byrnes confessed. The story line is fast-paced as the killer raises the ante to insure no one alive knows the truth. However, fans will be irritated with the heroine¿s denial that danger is mounting although her reaction seems psychologically realistic since Teri cannot emotionally deal with a second deadly encounter until she has no choice. Still Carlene Thompson provides an engaging romantic suspense thriller. --- Harriet Klausner
Sometimes falls into the "mushy" genre, but all in all, a good storyline to keep you on edge. I guessed everyone but the actual killer! Worth the purchase.