“He’s going to be late,” she informed her sons.

“Again?” both boys chimed.

“Get your coats.” Emily made an effort to sound excited. She grabbed a tissue to dab her eyes, which had begun to brim with tears.

This would never do. She squared her shoulders and determined then and there that she wasn’t going to cry. She would hold her head up and give the performance of her life. Her husband had lied. He might well be with another woman this very moment, but Emily would see to it that anyone looking at her, including her sons, would never guess. She refused to act devastated—or worse, humiliated.

“Hey, boys,” she said, collecting her coat and purse. “What would you think of me as a blonde?”

“You mean your hair?” Matthew asked.

“Yes, my hair. I’m going to have it dyed blond.”

“How come?” Mark studied her inquisitively.

“Because blondes have more fun.”

The boys turned to each other and Matthew shrugged.

“I’m going down to the mall to see if Get Nailed can squeeze me in.” On Thursdays the shop was open until eight. With luck one of the stylists had a cancellation.

“I’ll get you each a roll of quarters and you can play at the video arcade while I’m in the beauty salon.”

“Okay.” Neither boy seemed enthusiastic, however.

“Would you rather stay with Mrs. Johnson?” she asked. The woman served as their babysitter on the rare occasions Dave and Emily left their sons for a night out. It’d been weeks since they’d last had a “date.” No wonder, she thought bitterly. Dave was apparently dating someone else these days, while his wife sat home, cooking lasagna for him and ironing his shirts.

“I’d rather come with you,” Mark said.

Emily looked at her oldest son. “What about you?” she asked.

Matthew shrugged again. “Me, too, I guess.”

“You guess?” she said with a flippant air.

The boys silently followed her to the garage and slid into the backseat of the SUV. Christmas music was playing on the car radio but none of them sang along the way they usually did. The boys’ mood seemed to reflect hers, and their skepticism was all too apparent. Impulsive spending wasn’t normal behavior for Emily and they knew it. She wanted to reassure them but couldn’t. She felt as if her entire marriage had been a sham.

“We’ll check to see if I can get a hair appointment first,” she told them.

“Okay,” Mark murmured.

They stopped at Kitsap Bank for quarters, then drove to the mall. Everyone at Get Nailed was busy and Emily had to wait at the counter for several minutes before the receptionist reappeared.

“I was wondering…” Suddenly she wasn’t so certain anymore. Her anger, which had kept her determination alive, had begun to dissipate and she felt deflated.

“I realize it’s last-minute and everything, but is there anyone available to color my hair this afternoon?”

The young woman checked the appointment book. “Rachel had a cancellation earlier. I can ask her.”

“She did?” Emily took this as a sign. “Please check. It would be great if she could fit me in.”

The receptionist returned a moment later. “She said that would work.”


Emily handed each of her sons a roll of quarters, with instructions to make the money last until her hair was done. They tore off for the video arcade across from the salon as the receptionist led her to Rachel’s station. Fortunately Emily could keep an eye on them from her chair.

“I’m Rachel,” a dark-haired woman introduced herself, draping a plastic cape around Emily’s shoulders.

“Emily Flemming,” she said. “We haven’t met before. Teri did my previous cut—” she frowned “—sometime this summer.”

Rachel ran her fingers through Emily’s hair. “So you want to be a blonde?”

“Yes. I hear they live life to the fullest and that’s exactly what I intend to do.” It was a flimsy reason, at best, and a silly one at worst, but at this point Emily didn’t care.

Soon she was at the shampoo bowl and her hair was lathered and rinsed twice. While the water sprayed her hair, Emily closed her eyes, trying not to think but unable to stop the thoughts from tramping through her brain, one after the other.

It didn’t hit her until the coloring process was underway that she’d forgotten a crucial part of the conversation with Judge Griffin.

Dave didn’t own a gold watch.

At least not one that she knew about. Since it was unlikely he’d purchased it for himself, that left only one other option. Someone else had given it to him.

A woman.

Fine, she decided furiously. She’d ask him about it. She was through letting her husband ruin their lives. Through with pretending nothing was wrong. Through with turning the other cheek. The pride, the pretense of indifference, was for public consumption. But Dave—she was going to confront him with the truth. Demand answers. Then she’d figure out what to do next.

When Rachel was finished, Emily barely recognized herself. Her straight dark hair was gone, replaced with a shorter, more stylish do. She was blond, all right. Very blond.

“This is a good color for you,” Rachel was saying. “I was a little concerned when you wanted to go this light, but I have to admit it looks really nice.”

“Thank you.” Emily swallowed hard. The style and color were certainly…different. Eventually she’d get accustomed to this new look and so would everyone else. And when it grew out, she could always revert to her natural color. Depending on how she felt at the time….

She paid the bill, wincing at the cost. Well, one extravagance wasn’t going to ruin them. Dave would just have to live with it. She suspected he didn’t have any qualms about spending money, even if it wasn’t on her or the boys. In fact, she planned to check his credit card statements at the first opportunity, an idea her mother had suggested and she’d initially rejected.

Matthew and Mark stood outside Get Nailed, waiting for her as she left the salon. Neither said a word.

“Well?” she asked them, patting the side of her head. “What do you think?”

“It’s, um, different,” Matthew ventured.

“That’s good, isn’t it?” Emily turned to Mark for confirmation.

“You don’t look like my mom anymore,” her younger son declared.

“But I am your mom. Now let’s go have dinner. I bet you’re hungry.”

Matthew and Mark wolfed down their hamburgers and fries and then chased each other around the play area. Emily couldn’t eat. Her stomach was in knots. She’d ordered a burger but after a single bite set it aside.

When they returned to the house, she saw Dave’s car in the garage. She wasn’t ready to see him yet, but as soon as she’d pulled in beside his car, he opened the door from the kitchen and stepped out.

The boys leaped from the backseat and ran toward their father. Dave hugged each of his sons in turn.

“Where were you? You didn’t—” He stopped abruptly and a shocked look came over him. His head reared back as he stared at her. “What on earth did you do to your hair?”

“Mom colored it,” Mark said.

“But…why?” Dave asked.

“You don’t know?” She kept her voice casual as she entered the house. “You asked me where I was and the answer should be obvious. I was at the hairdresser’s.”

“Mom took us to McDonald’s for dinner.”

“Go to your rooms now, boys,” Dave said curtly. “It’s time for your homework.”

“Aw, Dad,” Mark whined as Matthew groaned. “But we just got home!” One look from Dave quelled their protest.

Sensing that it was probably best to do as they’d been told, Matthew and Mark moved sluggishly toward their bedrooms. Emily walked to the far side of the kitchen with Dave on her heels.

“Why did you change your hair?” he asked again.

“Why did you lie?” she fired back. Leaning against the kitchen counter, she glared at him.

“Lie? About what?” he asked with an innocence she found a little too practiced.

She whirled around. “You told me you were visiting Judge Griffin, and you implied it was this evening.”


“You weren’t there.”

“How do you know?” He raised his voice in defiance.

“As it happens, Judge Griffin phoned the house. Apparently you left your gold watch there when you went to visit early this afternoon.”

His reaction was immediate. She saw the alarm flash in his eyes. She didn’t know why it surprised her.

“You have a gold watch? This is news to me. Exactly where did you get it?”

“Emily, it’s not the way it sounds.” He sat down at the table, rubbing his face.

“Are you going to tell me there’s no other woman in your life, Dave? Because if you do, that’ll just be another lie.”

The expression on his face was one of horror. “How can you even suggest such a thing? There’s never been anyone but you. Never!”

“I’m supposed to believe that?”


“I’m not as naive as you seem to think,” she muttered.

He sighed. “Believe what you want, Emily, but there’s no one else.”

“Oh, I suppose that same no one is responsible for the gold watch you had on?”

His hand went to his left wrist. “Does Olivia have it?”

The concern in his voice cut her to the quick. “She does, so don’t worry about it.”

With that, she walked out of the kitchen and into their bedroom, closing the door with a resounding bang—a clear signal to her husband not to follow.


Rachel Pendergast’s schedule at Get Nailed was booked for the entire month of December. It seemed that every woman in Cedar Cove—and some of the men—had decided to cut, restyle, perm or color their hair.

She got to work early each morning and often stayed late. Bruce, her fiancé, and his daughter, Jolene, both complained that they missed her, but for the time being that couldn’t be helped. The extra money she earned would go toward their February wedding.

The buzzer on the dryer went, and Rachel folded a load of towels. When she’d put away the last one, she saw that it was already nine-fifteen. The mall had closed at nine. Earlier Bruce had phoned to say he’d take her to dinner, and while she appreciated the thought, all Rachel wanted to do was put her feet up and relax.

“I’m finished here,” she told Jane on her way out the door. Jane usually stayed the longest, since she and her husband owned Get Nailed.

With the mall closed, the hallway leading to the exit was semidark and deserted. The dim light wouldn’t have bothered her as little as two months ago, but everything had changed the night she was kidnapped.

Being abducted by two thugs had been the most frightening experience of her life. The bizarre thing was that they’d gotten the wrong woman. The kidnappers assumed they had Teri Polgar because Rachel was in the limo driven by James Wilbur. Teri hadn’t been ready to leave and had offered Rachel a ride. When the kidnappers discovered that, the terror level had escalated by several incalculable degrees.