Home > The Lies She Told (Carly Moore #5)

The Lies She Told (Carly Moore #5)
Author: Denise Grover Swank

 

Chapter One

 

 

“You know, it’s unfair that you have to work all day, while I’m on the evening shift,” Marco said good-naturedly as his fingertip traced figure eights on my bare stomach. “You work too much.”

“I didn’t hear you complaining all that much before we were sleeping together,” I teased, snuggling closer.

“Yeah, because droppin’ by the tavern was the only sure way I had of seein’ you,” he teased back.

That was a total white lie, and we both knew it. We’d hung out together as friends for months before we gave in to our feelings. Back then we hadn’t been quite so desperate to find a place where we could be alone together. We could talk anywhere, but we couldn’t very well have sex in the storeroom at Max’s Tavern . . . although we’d come pretty close a few days ago when I’d worked until closing.

“Maybe you should talk to Max about changin’ my hours to match yours.”

A wicked grin spread across his face. “Don’t tempt me.”

I laughed, because they’d been best friends since kindergarten, and if Marco asked, Max very well might do it. But my friend Ruth, the other full-time waitress, wouldn’t appreciate it, and I wasn’t one to ask for special favors.

I rolled over on top of him, placing a soft kiss on his bottom lip.

He wrapped an arm around my lower back, pulling me in for a deep, soulful kiss that filled an empty place in my heart. “I love you, Marco.”

“I love you too, Carly.” He kissed me again, then swatted my bare butt. “But if you’re gonna get to work on time, we better get our lazy asses out of bed.”

I was happy. Happier than I’d been in years, which was crazy given the amount of trouble I was in. It felt like more happiness than I deserved since I’d unintentionally gotten someone killed. “I keep thinking about Jerry.”

Our friend had been killed in a car accident a week ago, only we both knew it wasn’t an accident. Jerry had been run off the road. Marco’s friend, Deputy Brian Smith, had thoroughly investigated the crash, but it hadn’t brought us any closer to answers. All we knew was that Jerry had been hit by a black pickup truck.

Marco cupped my face, his thumb brushing my cheekbone as he looked deep into my eyes. “I know. Me too.”

He made brunch while I took a shower. It was my responsibility to make meals for my landlord, Hank, in exchange for free room and board, yet Marco always insisted on feeding me. Not that I was complaining. He was a great cook, and it gave me a welcome break.

“Need any help?” I asked, emerging from the bathroom after I finished drying my hair.

“And risk you making something like turkey bacon or an egg white omelet?” he laughed. “No, thanks.”

“All that fat and cholesterol are gonna catch up with you,” I said, leaning my butt against the opposite counter in his galley kitchen. “Maybe I just want your heart and your arteries to be healthy for many, many years to come.”

He leaned back and kissed me. “That is so sweet,” he said with a grin. “But I’m still not eatin’ it.”

I laughed as he loaded our plates with pancakes and bacon, and we headed out to eat on his porch, which had a narrow view of the valley below.

When it came time for me to go, he grew anxious, just like he did every time I’d driven into town since Jerry’s death.

“Be careful,” he said. “If you think someone is about to run you off the road, just slow down and let them pass you. Honk your horn, pull into someone’s driveway, do whatever it takes to have a witness. Whoever it is will drive away rather than risk being identified.”

I gave him a soft smile. “You tell me this every time I leave you.”

“And I’ll keep telling you.”

I gave him another kiss, then headed into Drum to start my shift at Max’s Tavern. Drum, population 2,200, used to be a big tourist destination before the state moved the entrance to a bunch of hiking trails about five years back, but the tavern kept busy enough with locals and the construction workers who were building a new luxury resort south of town.

Max’s was open from noon until midnight during the week, and sometimes later on the weekends. Ruth and I worked full time, alternating twelve-hour shifts (noon until ten) and seven hour shifts (five until midnight). Ginger worked four of the five weekday lunch shifts, and our new part-time waitress, Trixie, filled in where needed, so Ruth and I got at least one day off a week.

Marco was right. I worked a lot, but that wasn’t the only thing preventing me from having a life. It wasn’t easy making connections when you lived under an alias, and the only people I knew outside of work were Hank and Marco. So I didn’t much mind working.

I parked my car in the back lot and got out, but as I walked toward the door, I felt eyes on my back. Stopping, I looked around and spotted a figure darting around the corner of the building toward Main Street. They moved too fast for me to get more than a glimpse. All I saw was the edge of a dark sleeve and jeans. Then they were gone.

Good grief, I was acting paranoid. Then again I had a right to be. I may have only been in Drum for seven months, but I’d made a few powerful enemies.

When I walked in through the back door, Max was waiting in the hallway that led to the kitchen, his office, and the front dining room. He was smiling from ear to ear, looking like he was about to bust.

“It’s your lucky day, Carly Moore,” he said, turning his back to me and heading into his office. “Come on.”

I followed him, surprised to see a big box on his desk.

He rested his hand on top of it, and his hazel eyes lit up like he’d just won the lottery. “You know how you and Ruth were complainin’ about feelin’ like you wear the same shirt every day?”

“Yeah,” I said. It was true, we both worked five or six days a week, and each day we wore the same black T-shirt with Max’s logo on the front.

“I got you new ones.” He opened the box flaps and pulled out a bright pink T-shirt with a new Max’s logo full of swirls and flourishes. It looked like someone who’d taken a calligraphy class had written the tavern’s name with their mediocre new skill, then transferred it into an app.

“Um, has Ruth seen these?”

“Nope,” he said with a smug grin. “You’re the first. Lucky you.”

Lucky me indeed. “Who designed that new logo?” I asked, pointing at it.

“Bruce Bobbit. He took a graphic design course at the community college down at Greeneville.”

That wasn’t saying much. Anyone could sign up for a course, but not everyone had talent. “How much did he charge for that monstrosity?”

“Never you mind about that,” Max said. “I’ve got that part taken care of. What do you think?”

Since he was dodging the question, he’d probably spent a lot. “I think the fact that I just called it a monstrosity should tell you something,” I said in a dry tone.

“Well, now don’t have a bad attitude,” Max groused. “I know some people can’t handle change.”

“Uh-huh,” I muttered, keeping my eyes downcast.

A year ago, I had been Caroline Blakely, daughter of the owner and CEO of Blakely Oil, third-grade teacher at an elite private school, and engaged to be married to my best friend since high school, Jake Wood. Now I was living under the alias of Charlene Moore, aka Carly, working at a hole-in-the-wall tavern and living with a sixty-something man who used to be the biggest pot dealer in eastern Tennessee. All told, I’d say I handled change pretty well.

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