Twenty years ago, Lea and Ted Hardy came home from school to find their parents dead, victims of a murder-suicide. Lea leaves the small town of Stonybrook and the painful memories behind. But Ted can't seem to escape the past. Marrying the pampered daughter of Stonybrook's leading family, he starts a new life-until he discovers secrets that lead to the death of his wife and daughters. And to accusations of murder. Now, convicted and facing execution, Ted has given up hope.
Then Lea receives anonymous letters proclaiming Ted's innocence. Determined to save her brother, she must return to a town that harbors a fierce desire to see Ted die . . . taking long-buried secrets with him. Desperate, Lea turns to Mick Conklin, a man she is deeply attracted to but cannot fully trust. She needs an ally, now more than ever. Because the fuse has been lit, and the bright fires of truth are about to blow Stonybrook wide open.
Kiss of Death Mystery/Suspense Daphne du Maurier Award - Winner for Best Single Title Novel
National Readers' Choice Award Finalist - Best Single Title - Twice Burned.
RWA RITA Award - Finalist for Best Contemporary Single Title Novel - Twice Burned.
What others say about Twice Burned:
"Jan Coffey...skillfully balances small town scandal and sexual intrigue with lively plotting and vivid characterizations in this engaging romantic thriller." - Publisher's Weekly
"...fabulous!!! I loved every last word....I never let anyone read my copies...I want them to buy their own...but I do let my husband read the ones I know he will like, and this one is a must." - Dede Baker, A Novel Idea Bookshop
Related collections and offers
About the Author
(a.k.a. Nikoo & Jim McGoldrick)
Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick are storytellers with a checkered past.
From the submarine shipyards of Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, and the clubs of Rodeo Drive, to the forges of Pennsylvania and the electronics manufacturers of Massachusetts, these two have spent their lives gathering material for their novels. Nikoo, a manufacturing engineer, and Jim, who has a Ph.D. in sixteenth-century British literature, wrote their first full-length novel in 1994. Since then, Jim and Nikoo have written over thirty novels and two works of nonfiction.
They write under the pseudonyms of May McGoldrick and Jan Coffey.
Read an Excerpt
By Jan Coffey
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
Chapter OneBucks County, Pennsylvania Friday, May 19
In waves as palpable as mist, the chill from the river radiated through the night air. Settling on the skin, on the scalp, it was a feeling, a sensation, a living presence ... almost. In time, it would seep through to the bone.
It didn't matter where it was. The black endless void of the sea. A silent mountain lake. Even in a place known since childhood - a river's bank, the pond's edge - one sometimes felt it. It was a brush of damp on the face, the arm.
In the light of day, one could think that moments like this gave birth to tales of Grendel and his kind, of monsters that rose out of swamps and lakes and oceans to destroy and to devour.
But now, as one stood by the water at night, the chill raised the hackles on the neck. The sounds of night birds became omens. The glow of fireflies became warnings. The shadows of rocks and trees became death traps.
The low gurgling hiss of the river hid any sound of footsteps. Protected by a moonless sky, the intruder left the path along the bank and moved quietly beneath the trees. Above, leaves made rasping sounds in a solitary night breeze, shivering slightly before tumbling through the darkness.
The air was cool, heavy, and stretched like the dark coil of some huge and motionless snake across the grounds. The trespasser, now one with the deep shade, stopped and stared up past the lawns at the unlit windows ofthe house, and waited.
A sports car sped down the road. The garage door opened automatically and the driver pulled in sharply. In a moment, silence again reigned. Moving noiselessly, the shadow stepped out from beneath the trees and crossed the lawn to the house.
"Help with your sister, Emily." The sleepy-eyed five-year-old stared blankly at her mother's profile in the dim light of the car and then nodded off again. Marilyn Hardy switched off the engine and punched the remote for the garage door to close. Twisting in the driver's seat, she found both girls asleep again.
"Emily!" she snapped. "Come on, girl. Wake up." She touched her older daughter's knee and gave it a firm shake. The child opened puffy, red-rimmed eyes and groggily tried to focus on her mother's face.
"We're home. Hear me? Home. Now get moving." Pushing open the driver's door, Marilyn cursed as it hit a new tricycle, jamming it against the garage wall. "Christ, Emily! How many times do I have to tell you to put this damn thing where it belongs?"
Marilyn snatched the girls' packed bags off the front seat, letting them drop onto the cement floor before reaching for her purse. The thin handle strap caught on the gearshift on the center console. Losing patience, she tugged hard to free it. The clasp snapped open, and the contents poured out onto the seat and floor.
"Shit!" She threw the purse aside and, backing out, wrenched the seat forward. Marilyn glared at Emily's nodding head.
"I told you I need your help." The child snapped awake immediately and reached over to undo the seat belt holding her younger sister.
Without opening her eyes, Hanna cried and kicked her foot crossly. As her mother reached in to take her out of the car seat, the three-year-old twisted away and whined angrily.
"Save that crap for your father," Marilyn hissed, grabbing the child roughly under the arms and pulling her out.
Hanna uttered a soft complaining cry and opened her eyes, looking over her mother's shoulder at her older sister. Emily fetched the small stuffed tiger from the back seat and stretched on tiptoes to hand it to her. The younger child tucked the precious toy beneath her chin and nestled her face against Marilyn's neck, closing her eyes again.
The door of the car slammed shut with a loud bang. The tricycle was kicked out of the way. Emily stayed right beside her mother as the timed lights went off in the garage and the space was pitched into blackness.
"No more tears. No more whining. I don't want to hear one more goddamn word out of you two tonight. You hear me?"
"Yes, Mommy," Emily whispered, clutching a corner of Marilyn's jacket as they moved quickly toward the door leading from the garage into the house. The girl kept her eyes on the three orange dots of light from the buttons that opened the garage doors. The door into the house was right next to them.
"And I'd better not ever have to deal with you making a scene like that again. You will never - hear me? - never question me in public like that again. Got it?"
"Yes, Mommy," the little voice barely squeaked. The door was unlocked, as always. The wide hallway leading to the stairs was dark, but Marilyn didn't bother to turn on the lights. She only paused for a second to kick off her high heels before going up the stairs.
In the hallway on the second floor, she walked directly to the girls' bedroom. Without being told, Emily slipped in front of her mother and pulled back the quilt and sheets on Hanna's bed. The younger girl was already asleep when Marilyn laid her down.
As Marilyn straightened up, the sound of the phone yanked her head around.
"Christ! What now?" She stormed out of the room, giving Emily a sharp glance as she went. "Take her shoes off. And get yourself ready for bed."
Marilyn turned on the light in her own bedroom and snatched up the phone beside the bed an instant before the voice mail kicked in.
The voice on the other end was barely more than a snarl. "Look, Marilyn, I don't know what this shit is you're trying to pull, but I made plans with the kids for this weekend and I am coming for them right now."
"Over my dead body, Ted," she snapped. She could hear the sound of traffic through his cell phone. "I told you before and I'm telling you now, you aren't taking my girls anywhere near that crazy woman."
"My aunt has Alzheimer's, damn it! She is not crazy. And if this is all part of some trick you're trying to pull with that new lawyer of yours to keep the girls away from me ..."
"Daddy?" The soft whisper of Emily's voice on the phone line jerked Marilyn's head toward the hallway. The light from the bedroom stretched across the carpeted floor. The little girl was holding the phone to her ear with both hands. "Daddy, are you coming after us? Please, Daddy ...?"
Marilyn marched angrily toward her daughter. "I am, sweetheart." Ted Hardy's voice gentled instantly at the other end. "Don't cry, sweetie. I am calling from the car. I'll be there before -"
Marilyn snatched the phone out of the little girl's hands and slammed it down. Emily looked up, terrified, pearl-like tears rolling down her round cheeks. "He ... he's coming. I can get Hanna ready. I promise not to be any -"
"I told you to get to bed," she barked. "Now!" For a split second, a spark of defiance showed in the blue eyes looking up at her. Marilyn raised her hand to slap her but Emily darted back down the hallway, closing the door tightly behind her.
Marilyn raised the phone to her ear as she glared at the closed bedroom door.
"If you ever -" he was saying. "Do you hear me, Marilyn? If you ever lay a hand on my children again -"
"Go fuck yourself, Ted." She punched the disconnect button on the phone and dumped it on the long table in the hall. Thinking she'd heard the far-off sound of a car's engine, she turned her back on the girls' door and started down the stairs.
The front hallway and the living room were dark. Marilyn padded across the thick plush carpet to one of the front windows and peered out at the quiet street. There was no car in sight. Crossing to the front door, she locked the dead bolt and hooked the chain. She moved silently through the house and, a moment later, bolted the door from the garage, too.
At the bottom of the stairs, she paused and listened. The only sound was the tick of the grandfather clock in the living room. Satisfied, she pushed her hair back over her shoulder and walked down the long hallway to the kitchen.
That room was dark, too, but just as Marilyn reached over to flip on the lights, she froze at a movement beyond the island separating the kitchen area from the spacious den. Her heart nearly stopped as she stared at the gauze curtain gently fluttering by the patio door.
Excerpted from Twice Burned by Jan Coffey
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.