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Secrets and Shadows
By Meg Allison
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2006 Meg Allison
All right reserved.
Chapter OneShe stared out the window of the low, black Mercedes as countless trees rushed by in the outer beam of the headlights.
Everything ... everything ... everything ...
The word echoed through her mind like a mantra. What could one person do with so much wealth?
"Sabrina?" Jason's quiet voice stole through the fog in her brain. She turned her head to look at him.
His long, lean hands smoothly turned the steering wheel, guiding the thousand-pound piece of luxurious steel along the winding mountain road. There were no streetlights to guide them, only the soft white beams of the car, the red aura of taillights glowing behind as they curved ever higher up the sloping road.
"You still with me?" His gaze remained intent on their destination.
Sabrina nodded. "Yes, I think so. It's just that I didn't expect this." Her voice trailed off as he swung the car around a sharp bend. She knew if she could see far beyond her window, the view of the downhill side of the mountain might make her sick.
Sabrina had always had an unreasonable fear of falling. In her mind she could see, almost feel, the ground give way as she tumbled into blackness. The knowledge that this was how her father had died-his car plunging down the placid, tree-covered mountain-had given her very vivid nightmares.
"You mean the money?"
"Yes." Sabrina turned her body toward him, the seatbelt biting into her neck. "When I told him that I was getting married, he said I wouldn't get a dime from him. You know my father-he never made a threat he didn't intend to keep. Now here I am, his sole heir, and I haven't a clue why. Why did he do that, Jason? Did he ever say anything to you about me or the will or ...?" She reached out, laying her hand on Jason's arm. His muscle jumped beneath her fingertips as if her touch shocked him. Sabrina lost all train of thought.
It happened every time she touched him ... electric, sizzling heat and awareness. Ten years hadn't dimmed the flame. Did he feel it as well? She dropped her hand, clasping it with the other in her lap as she gazed at his profile in the green-tinted light from the dash.
Jason cleared his throat. "I wasn't privy to his financial decisions and he sure didn't confide in me where his estate was concerned. After all, I am just the chauffeur."
Sabrina frowned. "Why are you still working for my dad? And what was that business earlier about a deer scaling a ten-foot wall and that it wasn't safe for me to drive alone? You want to tell me what's going on?"
He glanced at her. The tightening of his jaw spoke volumes. Jason was trying to figure out how much to tell her.
"What are you hiding?" she asked. Then, like a light clicking on, it all came together-Vivian's comments, Jason's reticence. "It wasn't an accident."
She thought Jason's shoulders tensed beneath the dark fabric of his suit.
"No." The word was spoken so softly that for a moment Sabrina thought she'd imagined it.
"He hadn't been drinking, even though they did find an empty scotch bottle in his car, and I know the difference between brake-lines that have been cut versus the damage that can be done in a wreck. There was also some internal damage in the steering column that seemed very unusual."
"How do you know all that?"
"You remember Bill Wright? He's been the Chief of Police here for a little over six years. We've been friends forever and I talked him into letting me look at the car. What was left of it."
She stared at him a moment as his last words sunk in. Her stomach rolled at the image that came to mind-twisted, smoldering metal. "What does the chief think about all of this?"
Jason sighed. "He's investigating, but thinks I'm overreacting. Besides, he's got the town council breathing down his neck, stressing how much the upcoming Spring Carnival needs good public relations. They don't want it getting out that we might have a murder on our hands."
"Why is the carnival so much more important than my father's life?"
"It's not that ... it's because this is a major source of income for Castle's Grove," he told her. Sabrina clutched the door handle as they gunned through a rather sharp curve. "Besides, on the surface it does look like an accident. They'd much rather accept the facts at face value-a rich man drank too much and took his 'Vette for a spin off the mountain."
She swallowed hard, trying to keep her mind on their conversation and away from thoughts of cars falling off the mountainside.
"My father had a lot of enemies. His personality alone would account for that. But I have a hard time believing some well-heeled antiques collector got mad enough to have him murdered. Are you sure about all this?"
Sabrina watched him, waiting for an answer. Then she realized he hadn't been listening. Jason's gaze darted back and forth between the area illuminated by the headlights to the rearview mirror. He frowned, his jaw tense.
"Quiet!" He glanced in the mirror again as they rounded a bend, then turned his head to the side mirror at his left.
"What's wrong?" Sabrina asked as she looked over her shoulder. They came upon a straight stretch of road. She noticed a car about two hundred yards behind them and closing in fast. Sabrina glanced at the narrow road ahead. There was little leeway for passing. Another idiot tourist trying to get someone killed? Or something worse? Her heart pounded as her mouth went dry.
"Maybe you should pull over and let them by."
Jason shook his head. "I don't think passing is what they have in mind."
All the while he spoke, Jason's gaze switched between the road and the rearview mirror. Sabrina turned to watch, a cold lump of fear settling in her stomach. The other vehicle was three car lengths away. Jason pressed down on the gas, giving the powerful engine its head as he smoothly maneuvered down the two-lane road, straddling the centerline around the curves.
"Jason ... ?" His name left her on a whisper of fear, her fingers digging into the seat and door handle.
"Hold on," he murmured.
She heard a loud popping sound and the Mercedes' rear window splintered. The other car's headlights illuminated the glass and Sabrina blinked at it in shock. The design created looked like a bluish, crystalline spider web. "What was-?"
"Get down!" He took a hand off the wheel and pushed her head down into the seat. Sabrina lay there for a moment as icy terror wrapped around her like a serpent. She could feel the pressure of his hip against the top of her head. The rich aroma of leather mingled with the scent of Jason's spicy cologne.
Someone was shooting at them. It couldn't be real. That kind of thing happened on TV or the movies, not in the Poconos. People skied the mountain slopes. They honeymooned and bathed in heart-shaped tubs. They came to drink and listen to comedians. They did not shoot at the residents.
Another shot, and more glass shattered. She felt Jason's body jerk, heard a series of sharp cracks and then Jason's deep voice cursing above her.
"Are you hurt?" She tried to raise her head but another shot zinged by, fracturing the windshield. She heard a scream, realizing a moment later that it was she who'd made the sound.
"I'm fine-stay down," he said in clipped tones. "I've got an idea." Her body slid into him as the Mercedes glided around another curve. The squeal of tires-theirs or the other car's, she wasn't sure-made her stomach lurch. "When I count to three, hold on to something and don't let go. You got that?"
Sabrina nodded, then realizing he couldn't see her added, "Yes."
For what seemed an eternity, she listened to the powerful roar of the engine and the squawl of rubber on asphalt. Sabrina felt the road curve under her as the car moved, then they seemed to be on a straightaway. Her body tensed. Her fingers dug into the creamy leather.
"Here we go," Jason said. "One ... two ... "
Sabrina filled her lungs, wondering if it would be the last breath she ever took.
Don't fall off the mountain ... don't fall off the mountain ...
Excerpted from Secrets and Shadows by Meg Allison Copyright © 2006 by Meg Allison. Excerpted by permission.
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