Authors: Carlene Thompson
IF SHE SHOULD DIE
“A gripping suspense filled with romance. Ms. Thompson has the reader solving the mystery early in the novel, then changing that opinion every few chapters. [An] excellent novel.”
“With engaging characters and intriguing motives, Thompson has created a smart, gripping tale of revenge, anger and obsession.”
Romantic Times Bookclub
“If She Should Die
is a riveting whodunit!”
The Road to Romance
“In the tradition of Tami Hoag or Mary Higgins Clark, Thompson has created a gripping page-turner. The storyline is engaging and the characters’ lives are multidimensional. This is literally a book the reader will be unable to put down.”
Old Book Barn Gazette
BLACK FOR REMEMBRANCE
“Loaded with mystery and suspense … Mary Higgins Clark fans take note.”
“Gripped me from the first page and held on through its completely unexpected climax. Lock your doors, make sure there’s no one behind you, and pick up
Black for Remembrance”
—William Katz, author of
“Bizarre, terrifying … an inventive and forceful psychological thriller.”
“Thompson’s style is richly bleak, her sense of morality complex … Thompson is a mistress of the thriller parvenu.”
SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE
“This story will keep readers up well into the night.”
IN THE EVENT OF MY DEATH
“[A] blood-chilling … tale of vengeance, madness, and murder.”
DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES
“Don’t Close your Eyes
has all the gothic sensibilities of a Victoria Holt novel, combined with the riveting modern suspense of Sharyn McCrumb’s
The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter.
Don’t close your eyes—and don’t miss this one.”
—Meagan McKinney, author of
In the Dark
“An exciting romantic suspense novel that will thrill readers with the subplots of a who-done-it and a legendary resident ghost seen only by children. These themes cleverly tie back to the main story line centering on the relationships between Natalie and Nick, and Natalie and the killer. Carlene Thompson fools the audience into thinking they know the murderer early on in the book. The reviewer suggests finishing this terrific tale in one sitting to ascertain how accurate are the reader’s deductive skills in pinpointing the true villain.”
Midwest Book Review
THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT
“Thompson … has crafted a lively, entertaining read … skillfully ratchet[ing] up the tension with each successive chapter.”
The Charleston Daily Mail
ST. MARTIN’S PAPERBACKS TITLES BY
Last Seen Alive
The Last Whisper
Share No Secrets
If She Should Die
Black for Remembrance
Since You’ve Been Gone
Don’t Close Your Eyes
In the Event of My Death
Tonight You’re Mine
The Way You Look Tonight
St. Martin’s Paperbacks
: If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”
SHARE NO SECRETS
Copyright © 2005 by Carlene Thompson.
Cover photo © David Raymer / CORBIS
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
Printed in the United States of America
St Martin’s Paperbacks edition / September 2005
St. Martin’s Paperbacks are published by St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
In Memory of Sue Casto Handley
Thanks to Pamela Ahearn, Stefanie Lindskog,
Jennifer Weis, and Keith Biggs
Special thanks to Debbie and Morgan Long,
owners of The Iron Gate
In the past, I have used imaginary West Virginia towns as settings for my novels. This time, I used my own hometown of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, located on the point where the Kanawha and the Ohio rivers meet For fictional purposes, I enlarged the population and created a few sites that do not exist here, including Photo Finish, Heaven’s Door, and most important, the haunting hotel
, La Belle Rivière.
Sometimes, though, when I’m driving north at night along the Ohio River, I look up, and, through the fog, I could almost swear I see a graceful, ephemeral shape that strongly resembles a beautiful white Georgian hotel hovering slightly above the ground like a palace in a dream.
Julianna Brent stretched languidly on the cool satin sheets, uttered a tiny moan of remembered pleasure, and opened her amber eyes to the cobalt blue showing through a three-inch part in the draperies. It wasn’t morning yet, but soon morning with all its stark brightness would glare upon the world, killing the aura of romance. She remembered a rhyme her mother had recited at bedtime when she was little and now she said it aloud:
Goad-bye to blues
Farewell to pinks
When this day is done
And stars come anew
I’ll see the rainbow orbs
Again in my dreams.
Julianna giggled at the simple poem and breathed deeply, inhaling the scent of burning jasmine candles placed around the bed. She loved the smell of jasmine and the way the light dipped and sparkled in the candles’ cut glass containers. A flicker fell on the crystal figurine of a young, long-haired girl in a flowered gown given to Julianna when she was seventeen
by her friend Adrienne. Julianna treasured the piece of Fen-ton art glass and christened the girl Daisy, a character in the Henry James short novel
she’d read in senior English. Julianna always brought the figurine with her. Along with the candles, “Daisy” made this beautiful but impersonal hotel room feel as if it were hers.
She picked up a fluffy pillow and pressed it to her face. The smell of him clung to the satin pillowcase, a smell clean and manly, arousing, and capable of provoking a hundred romantic scenes that made her body come alive again although by now she should be weary and eager to go home.
But she didn’t want to go back to her lonely apartment. She wanted to lie here and fiercely clutch the ecstasy of the morning to her as if it would be for the last time.
A chill ran over her.
For the last time?
What had made that portentous phrase pop into her blissful thoughts? Premonition? Certainly not. Julianna didn’t believe in premonitions, much less one so ridiculous as the fear of never seeing him again. It wasn’t an omen. It wasn’t an augury. Those were words from her mother’s vocabulary to describe her mother’s beliefs. No, the phrase had merely been …
Yes, a warning. After all, extramarital affairs were tricky, and this one was even more so. It had the potential to make more than her lover’s wife unhappy. It had the potential to be dangerous. Caution was absolutely crucial, and her lying on this bed as dawn grew brighter was certainly not an act of caution.
But Julianna was exhausted. Satiated, but exhausted. Yesterday had been long, wearing, and disappointing. She’d only gotten a couple of hours’ rest before she came here to meet him. If only she could go back to sleep for just a little while …
Julianna felt her eyelids drooping. Would it really be so bad, she wondered, if she grabbed some rest? The hotel was
empty, closed for almost a year. There was only Claude Duncan, the caretaker, who would be lucky to shake off his hangover and make his lackadaisical rounds of the hotel by mid-morning.
Julianna drifted one layer deeper into the world of sleep. The room began to fade as her thinking became cloudy. Slowly, she felt her dream of the meadow coming alive again.
For the last month, she’d dreamed every night of walking in an endless meadow of white, pink, and yellow flowers. She’d told her mother, Lottie, about it and been surprised at the look of worry on the woman’s face. “What is it?” she’d asked. “What’s wrong with my dream, Mama?” Lottie had smoothed Julianna’s shining hair and, as always, astonished her daughter with her vast knowledge gleaned from a trove of esoteric reading. “In mythology,” she’d said, “a meadow is a place of sadness. A Greek philosopher wrote of the ‘meadow of ill fortune.’” Lottie had shaken her head. “The dream is not a good sign, Julianna. I beg you to give up the path you’ve taken with this man. It can only bring you unhappiness, my darling, and maybe much worse.”
Her mother’s words had troubled Julianna, but she had not given up her lover. After all, her mother was basing her feelings only on a dream, and dreams didn’t necessarily mean a thing. When she was awake, she’d simply put the dream out of her mind. But when she slept, the dream always returned. Just like now.
Julianna didn’t hear the hotel room door open softly. She was unaware of someone stealthily crossing the soft blue carpet to the bed and staring down at her—staring at the lush spill of auburn hair, the creamy complexion, the rounded shoulder and full breast exposed above the satin sheet. The stare burned as the hatred behind the eyes grew more vicious with each second.
Deep in Julianna’s brain, an alarm flickered to life. She opened her eyes. Her lips parted, but surprise stilled her
voice. A thrill of fear running through her, she started to rise, her hands fluttering upward as if she could ward off the malevolence hovering above her.
She was only dimly aware of an arm reaching toward the bedside table beside her. Then, before she could utter a word, a ceramic lamp crashed on her head. She fell backward, her eyes closing as unconsciousness mercifully sheltered her from the horror that followed.
Five minutes later, Julianna’s assailant glanced away from the bed. The small crystal figurine of Daisy still stood placidly on the table, only now splatters of blood streaked her delicate flowered dress. The assailant gazed for a few satisfied moments at the lovely, still woman on the bed, then glided across the room and out the door, leaving Julianna to wander forever in her beautiful, endless meadow.
The Iroguois Indians called the river “the Ohio,” which was translated by the French as “the Beautiful”—
la Belle Riviére.
Later, linguists argued that the name really meant “the Sparkling,” “the Great,” or “the White.” Perhaps other translations were more accurate, but to most people who lived along the Ohio, the river remained “the Beautiful,” an apt name that would follow it throughout history.
Adrienne Reynolds stood on a low rise overlooking the river. Behind her loomed the long, white, Georgian lines of a hundred-year-old resort hotel named la Belle Riviére, more commonly referred to by the locals of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, as The Belle. She removed sunglasses protecting her sea-green eyes from the bright morning sun and looked downward at the hotel’s best-known attraction, its majestic view of the wide Ohio River.