Page 49

“Well . . . it’s a surprise.”

“Dory, you can tell me. The surprise is for your sisters.” Tension ratcheted up his spine. “You’re clearly concerned. I can’t help unless I know where they are.”

“They went to get Tara. Vina and Thea will be so excited!” She clasped her hands, glee on her face.

Emily told them about Tara?

“Madison and Emily are driving to Beaverton?”

“Of course not, Tara is here.”

Is Dory confused?

“Tara is in town, Dory?”

“Well, we assume she’s gone here.” Dory touched a photo of a young couple on a ridge above the ocean.

Lincoln and Brenda Mills.

“I saw Tara turn onto Seabound Road. There’s only one place to go on that road.” Dory triumphantly picked up the picture of the parents. “This park.”

She saw Tara?

“That’s where Madison and Emily are? This park? Right now?”

She looked at him over the top of her glasses. “Didn’t I just say that?”

“And they know Tara is there?” He struggled to believe that Tara had come to Bartonville.

“It’s the only logical place.”

“Tell me how to get there.”


Emily held her breath, her mind reeling as Madison peered over the steering wheel in the dark. Why had Tara come to town when she’d clearly stated she wanted nothing to do with the family? Had Dory mistaken someone else for Tara again?

Emily’s phone vibrated with a text.

Did you mean it when you said you wanted me back in your life no matter what I’d done?

Emily’s lungs seized. She’d shoved her cell number into Tara’s mother-in-law’s hand, begging her to give it to Tara, as Wendy had showed her and Zander the door.

Apparently Wendy had listened.


What if someone is dead because of me?

It doesn’t matter

Emily waited, holding her breath.

Madison shot her several glances. “Who is it?”

“It’s Tara.”

The vehicle jerked as Madison gasped.

“It’s not what you think,” Emily said quickly. “I started to tell you earlier that Zander found her. He took me to her house in Beaverton today, and I left her my phone number—I’ve had absolutely no contact with her since she left us.”

“Emily . . .” Madison seemed speechless.

“She has a daughter, Madison. Her name’s Bella, and she looks exactly like Tara.”

“Oh my God.” Madison stomped on the brakes just in time to avoid driving through a stop sign. “Why didn’t you tell me?” Fury filled her sister’s voice.

“It just happened. I’m still trying to process the visit.”

Her phone vibrated again.

What if that person who died because of me is Mom?

Emily’s lungs fought for air.

“What is it? What’d she say?” Madison tried to see the screen, and the car veered.

“Watch the road!” Emily snapped.

“You had no right to hide this from me!”

“I hid nothing. I was going to tell you as soon as . . .” She honestly didn’t know if she would have told Madison. “Tara didn’t want anything to do with us today. She made Zander and me leave.” Her voice cracked, the pain still fresh. “She was a wreck—her mental health is poor, and I think she’s an alcoholic.” The last word was a whisper. “She denies she was there that night.”

Emily stared at Tara’s last text about their mother. How do I reply?

We love you

Her screen blurred.

Please come home

“But you told me you saw Tara there the night Dad was killed.”

“Maybe I was wrong.” Had she lived with a false memory all these years?

“Why is she here? Why didn’t she come to the diner?” Madison asked, rejection ringing in her words.

“I don’t know.” The fear she’d seen on Tara’s face was fresh in Emily’s mind.

“Fucking ask!”

Where are you?

Emily waited, her fingers strangling her phone. Madison took the turn onto Seabound Road, and the road sloped upward. Seabound was a twisting, nausea-creating drive that climbed several hundred feet, winding through a crowded forest and ending at a small park with the overlook where her parents had posed.

“I can’t see,” Madison muttered. Her headlights aimed away from the road as they came upon hairpin curves, making her steer through blind turns. “Shit!” She stopped, and Emily looked up from her phone.

The park gate was closed, the road blocked. Two vehicles were parked on their side of the gate. One looked like the little Mercedes SUV that Emily had seen in Tara’s driveway. “She’s here.”

Dory was right.

“But why?” asked Madison. “Why would she come here?” She gulped, and her voice choked. “You said Tara was a mess. Did she come here to kill herself?”

She’s going to jump from the overlook.

“She just asked if I cared that it’s her fault that Mom is dead.” Emily opened her door, her heart in her throat. “We’ve got to stop her. Call 911.”

Don’t do anything! Madison and I are coming to the overlook. Please wait!

Why am I texting? Emily hit the CALL button, ignoring Madison as her sister spoke to a dispatcher.

Tara didn’t answer her phone.

“Let’s go!” She and Madison ducked between the metal bars of the gate and started to jog, her phone at her ear as she dialed Tara again.

“The police are sending someone. I told them the gate is locked,” Madison panted as they ran.

“The overlook is nearly a half mile from here,” Emily said. “And mostly uphill.” The last painkiller had exited her system, and her head throbbed, her legs already weak. Can I do this?

“I don’t understand what’s going on,” Madison breathed.

“That makes two of us,” Emily replied, sucking in air. “But I know she’s deathly scared of something. Something happened after—or during—Dad’s death that made her leave and stay away all this time.” She switched on her phone’s flashlight, and Madison did the same. There was nothing but trees along the road between the gate and the park, making her suspect that Tara wouldn’t do whatever she planned to do before she got to the overlook.

The ground rushed up at Emily, and she stumbled. Her phone flew and her palms grated along the blacktop. Agony shot up her nerves and exploded in her brain.

“Emily!” Madison grabbed her arm and hauled her to her feet. She shone her phone’s flashlight in her sister’s eyes, and Emily batted it away. “I forgot about your head injury. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Emily wheezed, her palms and knees stinging. She closed her eyes against the pain as bile rose in the back of her throat.

“I’ll go ahead. You take it easy.”

“No!” Emily pulled her arm out of Madison’s grip and went after her phone, a small beacon of light on the shoulder of the road. “Shit.” The screen was a spiderweb of cracks under her screen protector. She pressed the button several times. Nothing happened. She couldn’t even turn off the flashlight.

I don’t need this right now.

“We can’t stop.” Emily took off at a slow jog, her head pounding in time to her strides.

“You’re nuts,” Madison muttered, but she didn’t try to stop her.

They ran in silence for several minutes, Emily believing every step would be her last.

“Dad’s pocket watch,” Madison finally said. “You know the quote inside?”

“Yes.” Emily didn’t have the breath to say anything else.

“It’s associated with the KKK.” Madison was silent for three steps. “I think Dad had been a member—or belonged to a similar group.”

Emily processed her words. That meeting long ago . . .

“I think I may have subconsciously known that,” Emily panted, “but ignored it.”

“You knew?”

“Sorta. I can see it in hindsight. I was clueless to a lot of things as a kid. You asked what I picked up in the yard the night Dad died.”


Emily struggled for breath to speak, the pain in her lungs matching her head. “I found some coinlike things in the grass that night, but they weren’t money. I’d seen them before in one of his drawers.” She stopped and rested her hands on her thighs, gasping for air. “I took them and hid them. We lost everything in the fire, and I thought of them as mine afterward. Something of his that was just for me, and I didn’t want to share. If Mom saw them, I knew she would take them back.”

“I found them in your things a long time ago.”

Emily wasn’t surprised. “I researched them online a few years back. They’re not coins, they’re tokens. A lot of groups make personalized tokens—the Masons or branches of the military. These were from a white supremacist group in Portland, and I didn’t understand why he would have them.”

Madison was silent.

“But I put them away after I learned that,” Emily whispered. “I didn’t know what to think about the coins and Dad. I remembered . . .” Memories flared.