"Nancy Bush always delivers edge-of-your seat suspense!" --Lisa Jackson, New York Times bestselling author
You Don't Know me was the first romantic suspense novel I ever wrote. It was originally published as Tangled in the early 90s under the pseudonym Nancy Kelly. I'm delighted that it's finally available again in this repackaged edition.
Everyone in Wagon Wheel, Oregon, knew that Thomas Daniels was a mean, violent man, twisted by liquor and hate. His stepdaughters, Dinah, Denise, and Hayley, knew it better than anyone. And then, with one desperate act, their lives changed forever.
Now, years after he disappeared, Thomas Daniels’s remains have been found and a murder investigation is underway. All three sisters--Dinah, a respected journalist, acclaimed actress Denise, and Hayley, hungry for her own chance at stardom--find their lives intersecting and unraveling again. And piece by piece, they'll confront the truth about that deadly night--and the dark secrets that could turn one of them into a killer. . .
With its new title and new cover, You Don't Know Me feels like a whole new book to me--one I hope you will enjoy as much as I do!
|Product dimensions:||4.20(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.10(d)|
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You Don't Know Me
By NANCY BUSH
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Nancy Bush
All rights reserved.
Last month ...
Two boys on horseback swayed slowly through Forest Service land in central Oregon. It was hunting season and they trailed deer. And while neither one had a permit or rifle, they planned on finding themselves a spike or a four-point and letting their friends know that they, little Mikey Watters and shit-for-brains Matt Logan, had seen the biggest buck around. Sure, they couldn't shoot it, but they would have seen it, and that counted. It counted for a lot.
Dust puffed from the horse's hooves in grainy clouds. Matt wiped his eyes, leaving streaks of grime across his round, freckled face.
"Damn dust," he complained. Then, liking the sound of that, said even more loudly, "Fucking damn dust."
Mikey whipped around to look at him, eyes wide. Both boys listened hard, hearts tripping with fear. The "F" word was really bad. Though they were far enough away from home to almost be on a distant planet, there was still a chance their fathers, or snitching older sisters, might hear. Then there'd be trouble. Yessirree.
Matt hunched his shoulders. "Nobody out there." His voice was scarcely more than a whisper.
Mikey nodded. He was impressed with Matt's daring. Wished he'd been the one to say it.
The ponderosa and jack pines surrounding them staggered into a small field at the northernmost end of the property. A broken-down wire fence, rusted and useless now, defined the line of the Daniels's place. Some new people lived there now, but Mikey's and Matt's parents still referred to it as the Daniels's place, mainly because Daniels had disappeared one day without a word to his family or any of the townspeople. Matt had once heard his dad describe old man Daniels as the "... worst bastard I ever met. Half full of liquor, half full of hate, and chock-full of Satan's malice ..."
'Course Daniels was long gone now. Probably dead. Nobody much cared. Once Matt had told his uncle Jack about the Daniels story, but Uncle Jack hadn't seemed too interested. That was understandable. Uncle Jack worked for the L.A.P.D. and didn't have time to waste on stuff like that. He was catching real criminals. Guys who hurt people and did drugs and stuff. You had to be more than just a bastard to get Uncle Jack's attention.
At least Uncle Jack used to be on the force, but Matt didn't want to think about that now. He'd rather concentrate on Daniels.
"Bastard," Matt said, growing bolder by the moment.
"Who you calling that?" Mikey demanded.
"Old man Daniels."
The horses pulled at the reins and ducked their heads to the field grass. Mikey and Matt slid to the ground by unspoken agreement. "Let's go up by the ridge," Mikey suggested. "Bound to find some real deer there."
"'Kay." Matt pulled some jerky from his pocket and the two boys munched in silence, their gazes sweeping the upper ridges. One of the horses moved toward a dried-up drainage ditch and culvert, the culvert so overgrown with weeds, only the merest trickle of water could seep through. Not a big problem. Central Oregon was dry, tons drier than the valley. No flooding here.
"Are those tracks?" Mikey demanded excitedly.
Matt eagerly followed his friend's gaze toward the scooped-out ditch. There were no tracks, but some of the field grass was broken off. "Our horses broke that off, stupid!"
"Well, sorreee." Mikey walked toward the ditch.
"Geez, you're dumb."
"No dumber than you, shit-for-brains," Mikey threw out, repeating the oft-used phrase coined by Matt's most hated enemies, the sixth-graders.
"Little, dopey bastard!"
That did it. Mikey launched himself at Matt and the two boys rolled into the shallow depression that had once been the ditch. They pounded and pummeled at each other without much enthusiasm because, after all, they were best friends. Five minutes later, spent and gasping, they rolled apart.
And that's when they saw it.
A human skull.
Neither boy was overly impressed. You saw skulls all the time on TV. But nevertheless, it was a find, and Matt screamed out his special Injun whoop-whoop-whoop to announce his discovery.
Two hours later, when they showed the skull to Matt's mom, their estimation of its worth magnified a thousand times. She practically came unglued! Called Uncle Jack right away, who told her to phone Sheriff Dempsey.
No more little Mikey Watters and shit-for-brains Matt Logan. They were on the front page of The Buckeroo Gazette by week's end. The ditch was checked out by important policemen and more bones were found, a whole body full. Somebody was checking out whose bones they were. The town was abuzz, but everybody was pretty sure it was old man Daniels, the worst bastard Matt's dad ever met. Half full of liquor, half full of hate, and chock-full of Satan's malice.CHAPTER 2
"Come on, come on, come on," Dinah Scott muttered in frustration. The desktop was taking a helluva long time connecting to wireless. Her laptop was in the shop — and likely to be there awhile as the computer "expert" she'd found off PCH hadn't inspired her with confidence in his ability to get it humming again — so she was using her sister's desktop. She waited impatiently, glancing at the clock. Four-thirty. Flick would be twitchy and ready for his long cigar break, his chair creaking ominously under the bulk of his tremendous weight, a steady stream of abuse about "Dinah Scott's irresponsible need to help any no-gooder who crosses her path" and how he knew this would happen and she might as well start "sending out résumés because she sure as hell wasn't employed by the Santa Fe Review no more."
And that's when she saw the red circle with a line through it over the connection bar icon. Immediately she checked the modem and router. Nothing. Oh, hell. She didn't have time to call the cable company and figure out what was wrong. She needed this copy to get to her editor now.
Growling beneath her breath, she snatched up her purse, slid into a pair of ugly, but well-loved sandals, and raced down the hall of her sister's Spanish-style home, skidding a little on the front tiles as she hauled open the front door and made a beeline for her car. She needed access to the Internet. A Starbucks? What was the closest place?
Her white Toyota Corolla was aged, battered, and temperamental, but Dinah refused to even consider purchasing a new car. The very thought made her want to rip out her hair. She was too impatient to go through the trouble. She just wanted things to work. At least twice a day she screeched, "I just want things to work! Is that too much to ask?"
Apparently it was.
Muttering in frustration, she swung her bare legs into the driver's seat and twisted the ignition. The Corolla's engine sputtered madly before it finally caught. Breathing a silent prayer of thanks to the machinery gods who were apparently smiling down on her — at least at this particular moment — she downshifted, and with a jerk, the little car leapt along the flagstone drive. As far as she was concerned, until the Corolla's repair bills ate up every cent of her disposable income, she would hang on to the old rattletrap, even if this very afternoon the damn thing died on the Santa Monica Freeway.
But it sure as hell better not.
She drove like a woman possessed. She wasn't a Los Angeles resident, but she knew where she was going. She'd been house-sitting for her sister, Denise, since the latter part of July, and she'd made sure she'd learned how to negotiate the freeways with the same proficiency as all of the other crazy drivers and commuters.
Denise. Her sister. Her twin. Denise had flitted off to parts unknown to put her torn-apart-self back together (something she did on a regular basis), and Dinah was making certain Denise's ex didn't try to assume ownership of the house while she was gone. It was just the kind of thing His Highness, John Callahan, would do, and Denise didn't need any more aggravation in her life. Sure, she brought most of the trouble that surrounded her upon herself — but Denise wasn't all bad. She had problems. Hell, everyone had problems. Dinah just wanted to ease her sister's a little.
Red lights ran across the dashboard, causing Dinah's heart to skip a beat.
"Oh, no ... no, no ... no, don't do it," Dinah pleaded. "You're on death row already. This is not a good time to gamble with fate."
The Corolla, ignoring her threat, backfired and died. Dinah heard its tires spinning on the pavement amidst the sound of thousands of surrounding automobiles. The Corolla's engine faintly ticked, its last death throes.
Dinah guided the car to the edge of the road and glanced at her watch. Four-fifty-seven. Flick wouldn't wait past five. Damn it! Damn it!
She manically scoured her purse, searching for her cell phone, while her inward eye visualized it sitting on Denise's cream-colored quartzite kitchen counter, just where she'd left it. Grinding her back teeth together she stepped from the car, staring down at the automobile in hard fury as she considered her fate. If she didn't get Flick this column, her career was over. She should have just sent the copy to him in its half-assed form and to hell with his paranoia.
Flinging her arms wide, she stared toward the heavens and silently demanded, Why me?
A car slid out of traffic and eased behind the Corolla. She glanced back with renewed hope. A blue BMW.
"Need help?" the driver asked, poking his head out the window. He was a handsome enough man, somewhere in his early thirties. Probably a killer or a rapist if one could believe the statistics concerning Good Samaritans in Los Angeles.
"Looks like my engine conked out." Dinah didn't move. Her inner security system was on red alert. She didn't trust strangers. She didn't trust men. She would rather walk the breadth and width of the United States, go on a starvation diet, and take up ice-climbing as a profession than get into a car with a man she'd just met. "Would you mind making a call to a towing company for me?"
"Sure thing. Want a lift somewhere?"
"I don't want to leave my car."
The passenger window slid downward. What Dinah had assumed was another man was really a young woman with close-cropped hair. She said, "You don't want to wait out here. Of course, you'd have to sit in the back next to Jimmy, but he's asleep and won't bother you." She twisted to glance into the backseat.
Dinah walked toward the passenger side and peered through the window. Jimmy looked to be about two years old, sound asleep in his car seat, achingly angelic.
"There's a hell of a lot of traffic," the man added, eyeing the swiftly passing vehicles.
"They drive like idiots," the woman agreed.
"Maybe you're right." Dinah unlatched the car door. Miracle of miracles, she'd actually been rescued by normal people.
Jimmy, however, awakened almost as soon as Dinah climbed into the car, and he began a howl that was earsplitting. Though Dinah had asked to be dropped off at the nearest Kinkos, which the woman was searching for on her phone, apparently to no avail, she settled for a convenience store in the general area. The driver called a towing company, then a taxi service for Dinah. A taxi would meet her at the convenience store in half an hour. Dinah thanked them both profusely, but she breathed a sigh of relief when she was out of the car. She could still hear Jimmy's wails as the BMW pulled back into traffic. Sheesh. Kids. She would walk to Kinkos. It just couldn't be that far.
There was a sign in the convenience store window advertising: SUPER SODAS! MORE THAN EVEN YOU CAN DRINK! Pushing through the door, she walked up to the attendant, a young man wearing a gray hoodie with a vacant expression.
"I don't have my cell and I need to use your phone," she said.
"Sorry, no can do. Management, y'know."
She pulled out a five-dollar bill and set it on the counter. "It's a local call."
His fingers walked over, hesitating only briefly before snagging the bill. "Don't take too long," he warned.
"Don't worry," she said a trifle grimly as she dialed Flick's direct line.
As soon as he answered, she quickly explained her plight, to which he drawled out, "You're a liar and you're late."
"It's not like I missed the deadline for the second coming," she responded evenly.
"Your column's in syndication, babe, just in case you've forgotten. Don't mess with me, or you're out."
Dinah rolled her eyes and glanced through the dusty glass of the store window. "I'm heading to a Kinkos. I'll be e-mailing it to you in just a few minutes."
His answer was a derisive snort.
"Ten minutes. Just hang in there."
"I haven't got all night."
"Ten minutes." She hung up. "Asshole," she muttered, which earned her a snicker from the attendant. "There's a Kinkos right down the block, right?"
The kid shrugged, then cocked his head thoughtfully. "Yeah, I guess so. Thataway." He pointed to the south.
"Thanks." Hurrying back out of the store, she half walked, half ran down the street. Flick, so-named for his uncanny ability to flick a half-eaten cigar into an ash can from nearly any distance — there was never a butt outside the receptacle on the balcony attached to his office — was about as understanding as her stepfather had been when she'd come home two hours late from her first date. For that infraction she'd endured a sound slap across the face, among other things. The fact that her beau of the moment's car had been sideswiped by a drunk driver and she'd been forced to wait while the accident report was filled out hadn't mattered in the least. Thomas Daniels had blamed her totally. So did Flick. The reasons clearly weren't important. She'd screwed up and had to pay the price.
She shivered a little despite the warm temperature. Luckily, Flick was at least a human being, an attribute she would never have ascribed to her stepfather, but when Flick was in the right, he was so goddamned justified it made her want to scream.
Dinah was at the Kinkos in seven minutes. She quickly paid for a computer, plugged in the jump drive, and e-mailed Flick her latest discussion of how to deal with love and sex in today's world. Ten minutes, she thought jubilantly. Well, maybe eleven, as she glanced at the clock on the wall.
Flick would probably hate her story, she thought with a faint smile as she headed back to the convenience store where the taxi would pick her up. He hated anything soupy and dopey, which was everything that didn't have something to do with crime or money.
Of course, Flick's negative attitude hadn't improved when she'd explained about her trip to Los Angeles. "Let your sister handle her own problems," he'd sniffed in disgust. "You've got a job to do."
"Six weeks," Dinah had answered. "Six weeks and I'll be back in Santa Fe. Los Angeles is crazy. I don't want to be here any longer than I have to. I'll get all my work in on time. Cross my heart and hope to die. Relax, Flick, nothing will go wrong ..."
The taxi driver took her back to her sister's house. Soul-weary, every bone aching, she slowly climbed the front tile steps. Instead of that good "closure" feeling she normally got after each hurried, sometimes brilliant, sometimes pathetically so-so, assignment, her thoughts churned uncomfortably. A pit of bad feeling swallowed her and she realized it was those horrors from long ago, still dogging her. Best forgotten. Best never remembered. Drawing a deep, nurturing breath, she unlocked the front door.
Safely inside the cool white-walled interior of Denise's Spanish-style home, Dinah sank backward against the walnut door and closed her eyes. She couldn't shake the past. It was right there. Nearly tangible. No, no, no!
Her hands clenched, but it was no use. She was too uptight. Always had been. But her obsession with wanting the world to work right — to be right — was what had saved her sanity through those long, horrible days, nights, and weeks of misery when she and Denise and their younger sister, Hayley, had still lived at home with Thomas Daniels, the stepfather from hell. Two and a half years of torment. A sense of displacement when home wasn't a safe place. She understood teenagers running away and becoming street people. She'd considered it often enough herself. But that would have meant leaving Denise and Hayley and their emotionally frail mother to face the horrors alone. So she'd stayed.
Excerpted from You Don't Know Me by NANCY BUSH. Copyright © 2016 Nancy Bush. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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