Beyond the Lies – An Excerpt
McKenna looked perfect, standing on Mickey’s front porch. When I peeked out my studio window, his eyes and smile gripped me in a way I’d never known before. I waited in the shadows until he knocked on the front door, gently enough that the pitted beveled glass didn’t rattle.
He was picking me up for our first double date.
Butterflies floated in my stomach. He was the most handsome man I’d ever seen.
When I opened the door, and he said, “Hello, Olivia,” his voice vibrated through me, increasing the beat of my heart.
I picked up my purse and tried to swallow the nervous giggle that rose in my throat before turning to him. My voice was little more than a whisper when I said, “Hi, McKenna.”
He smiled at me. “You sound as nervous as I feel.”
His words relieved the stiffness in my jaw, which allowed the corners of my mouth to rise. “I am.”
“Why? We’re just friends, remember?”
The friendship thing was my idea, and the reminder made me determined to keep my word to myself. And him. “Yes. And we’re doing this for Pete’s sake.”
I locked the front door behind us to the music of his laughter.
When McKenna turned the key in the ignition, someone with great talent on the piano played Chopin Nocturne Op.9 No2. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes while the music wrapped us in its beauty.
When we arrived at The River House, I wished our trip had taken longer.
The host, who reminded me of a young Mel Gibson, escorted us to a lovely table in a quiet corner where Pete and Newman waited for us. I smiled when her favorite FBI guy quickly pulled his hand back from hers. I might have to ask my friend Gertrude Rose if that was a good sign – she was far better at this true romance thing than me.
After a few moments of small talk, Newman ordered a steak, medium-rare. The rest of us decided on the Cajun Salmon.
Pete cupped her chin in her hands. “Isn’t the river beautiful tonight?”
McKenna nudged me and nodded toward Newman, whose eyes remained on my sister when he said, “Yes. Beautiful.”
Our salads arrived, and we eased into a comfortable conversation. McKenna asked Pete, “Any new legal developments in Oak River these days?”
She wiggled her eyebrows and said, “None that I can talk about.”
Newman pushed his salad plate back, almost untouched.
Pete touched his arm. “Not hungry?”
“I’m starved, but I’m saving all that emptiness for the entrée.” It’s a good thing he did – the steak our waiter delivered to him arrived on a small platter. His jumbo-baked potato came on a side plate with extra condiments.
For a moment or two, we focused on our food, then Newman asked, “How about you, Olivia? Any new unsolved crimes the authorities need to know about?”
“Nope. My mystery calendar is clear.”
A lovely voice from behind me said, “But we’re hoping your creative calendar is full.”
I stood to give Leah from The Stonebridge Gallery a quick hug. She continued, “We can hardly wait to showcase your talent.”
McKenna invited her and her husband, Todd, to join us for dessert. Our waiter brought two more chairs and plates of chocolate cheesecake with a carafe of fresh coffee.
To keep the focus off my gallery showing, I asked Leah and Todd about their son. “Has Kyle finished his Northern Lights exhibit yet?”
Leah smiled, allowing Todd the pleasure of answering. “He has.” Then he slipped a small envelope across the table. I opened it and found I was invited to a private showing the following Friday night, to my great delight. Leah leaned in, “It’s short notice, but we’re all hoping you’ll be able to come.”
My promise came easily. “I’ll be there.”
After Leah and Todd left, the four of us enjoyed a final cup of coffee.
McKenna caught us up on his beautiful niece, Isabella, and her adjustment back to normal life in Oak River. “She’d like to talk to you, Olivia. She said something about nightmares and seeing shadows where there are none. Bella is seeing a counselor she likes but wants to touch bases with someone who has experienced trauma first hand.”
I promised I would call her the next day.
Newman seemed mesmerized by the river outside. “McKenna, do you fish or know of anyone who does? I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life and have never held a pole, baited a hook, or reeled a fish in.”
McKenna said. “You know one of the best fishing experts in the county.”
Newman’s eyes lit up. “Great. Want to show me the ropes?”
McKenna grinned. “I’m not talking about me. Your date holds the record for winning the most fishing contests in Oak River and the surrounding area.”
Pete gave her date a dimple-revealing smile. “I do love to fish.”
Newman cleared his throat and raised his eyebrows. “Do you give lessons?” The question caused his cheeks to redden.
Pete took full advantage of his flustered state and winked. “I could be convinced.”
Newman folded his napkin neatly on the table. “Is there a place to rent a boat and equipment?”
Pete wiped the corners of her mouth then folded her napkin the way one might the American flag. “The Fish Filet has enough equipment on board for both of us. You say when and I’ll tell you where.”
Newman motioned for the check. After paying for all of us, the two of them got up and walked away, forgetting about us for a moment. Pete rushed back to the table. “That’s something – right?”
I felt my shoulders rise. “I don’t know – is it okay if I ask Gertrude Rose?”
“Yes! And text me as soon as you have her answer.” She took a deep breath and walked back to her date. As they left, I heard him say, “The Fish Filet?”
My sister laughed out loud. “Yep. I catch ‘em and filet ‘em.”
They laughed together, and it sounded like a song written by them for them.
The restaurant manager stopped by our table. “Is there anything else we can get you before we close?”
I looked around the room and realized we were the only patrons left. McKenna chuckled. “No – thank you for a lovely evening.”
Back on Mickey’s porch, I unlocked the front door before turning my eyes on the floor, I wanted this first date with him, my first date ever, to end with our first kiss, but it had to be completely up to him.
When he tipped my chin up, I gave no resistance. It felt like a question mark when he pressed his lips to mine, and I wanted an exclamation point. I couldn’t tell him that but was glad when he asked, “May I kiss you again – the way I want to?”
My yes was little more than a whisper, but he heard it. That was the kiss I’d wanted all my life.
He pulled back. “Just a sweet goodnight between friends, right?”
I stepped through the door as he turned to go, and I heard myself say tell him the truth. “That’s what you think, McKenna. That second kiss changed everything.”
When I faced him, the smile on his face made my heart twirl. “You’re right, Via. It did.”
As soon as I locked the door, my phone rang. It was Michelle Lyons, the wife of my ex-lover.
“Olivia. Can you meet us at Alan’s office tomorrow morning at ten? It’s time to release the rest of your investment income to you.”
Surprise bolted through me. “What investments?”
Her voice sounded tired. “Is it okay if we wait until we meet to explain it all to you?”
I had no desire to see Alan. “Wouldn’t it be easier to do this through our lawyers?”
“Yes, it would be, but he wants to do this in person. Besides, last I knew, I was your attorney.”
Dread washed over me. “I have plans in the morning. I can be there by one o’clock.”
She sighed. “That will work.”
When she gave in to my request, I felt a surge of relief that my small attempt at assertiveness worked.
When we came in from the backyard, my Irish setter, Lucy, raced upstairs while I made sure the doors were locked, and the security alarm was set. When I got to my bedroom, Lucy and my cat Ursa waited for me, already settled into their favorite spots on my bed. When I brought them home, I’d envisioned myself as the boss of them, but all three of us knew that was a joke.
Just before I shut the light off, my phone blinged, McKenna’s text pulled me right back into his goodness.
Good night, Via.
Good night, McKenna.
Another date soon?
Yes. But this time for our sake.
I like the sound of that.
So did I.
Like what you’ve read so far? It’s available as an ebook only on most online bookstores.
Coming Up Soon:
- The Stories Within the Story – readers often wonder about the authors whose books they enjoy. Where did that character come from? Is this part of the author’s personal experience? What was the easiest part of the book to write? What was the most difficult?
- And in early April 2022, Under His Wings (ebook only) will be on sale for .99!
Until Next Time,