Yesterdays lies, p.1
Yesterday's Lies, p.1Lisa Jackson
A fan-favorite story of past mistakes and escalating desires from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jackson
It’s been five years since Trask McFadden betrayed Tory’s trust and landed her father behind bars. She’d hoped Trask was out of her life forever, but now he’s returned to the Lazy W ranch, claiming to have discovered a clue that might prove her father’s innocence. For the sake of her family, Tory tries to move on, but she finds it much harder when Trask stirs up feelings she’d thought were long gone…
A contemporary romance.
Praise for #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Best-selling Jackson cranks up the suspense to almost unbearable heights in her latest tautly written thriller.”
—Booklist on Malice
“When it comes to providing gritty and sexy stories, Ms. Jackson certainly knows how to deliver.”
—RT Book Reviews on Unspoken
“Provocative prose, an irresistible plot and finely crafted characters make up Jackson’s latest contemporary sizzler.”
—Publishers Weekly on Wishes
“Lisa Jackson takes my breath away.”
—New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller
Books By Lisa Jackson
The McCaffertys: Slade
The McCaffertys: Matt
The McCaffertys: Thorne
The McCaffertys: Randi
Lone Stallion’s Lady
Proof of Innocence
Twist of Fate
The Millionaire and the Cowgirl
Tears of Pride
Secrets and Lies
Million Dollar Baby
A Family Kind of Gal
A Family Kind of Guy
A Family Kind of Wedding
THE SWEATING HORSE snorted as if in premonition and his dark ears pricked forward before flattening to his head. Tory, who was examining the bay’s swollen hoof, felt his weight shift suddenly. “Steady boy,” she whispered. “I know it hurts....”
The sound of boots crunching on the gravel near the paddock forced Tory’s eyes away from the tender hoof and toward the noise. Keith was striding purposefully toward her, his lanky rawboned frame tense, the line of his mouth set.
“Trask McFadden is back.”
The words seemed to thunder across the windswept high plateau and echo in Tory’s ears. Her back stiffened at her brother’s statement, and she felt as if her entire world was about to dissolve, but she tried to act as if she was unaffected. Her fingers continued their gentle probing of the bay stallion’s foreleg and her eyes searched inside the swollen hoof for any sign of infection.
“Tory, for God’s sake,” Keith called a little more loudly as he leaned over the top rail of the fence around the enclosed paddock, “did you hear what I said?”
Tory stood, patted the nervous stallion affectionately and took in a steadying breath before opening the gate. It groaned on its ancient hinges. She slipped through the dusty rails and faced her younger brother. His anxious expression said it all.
So Trask was back. After all these years. Just as he said he would be. She suddenly felt cold inside. Shifting her gaze from the nervous bay stallion limping within the enclosed paddock to the worried contours of Keith’s young face, Tory frowned and shook her head. The late-afternoon sun caught in her auburn hair, streaking it with fiery highlights of red and gold.
“I guess we should have expected this, sooner or later,” she said evenly, though her heart was pounding a sharp double time. Nervously wiping her hands on her jeans, she tried to turn her thoughts back to the injured Quarter Horse, but the craggy slopes of the distant Cascade Mountains caught her attention. Snow-covered peaks jutted brazenly upward against the clear June sky. Tory had always considered the mountains a symbolic barrier between herself and Trask. The Willamette Valley and most of the population of the state of Oregon resided on the western side—the other side—of the Cascade Mountains. The voting public were much more accessible in the cities and towns of the valley. The unconventional Senator McFadden rarely had to cross the mountains when he returned to his native state. Everything he needed was on the other side of the Cascades.
Now he was back. Just as he had promised. Tory’s stomach knotted painfully at the thought. Damn him and his black betraying heart.
Keith studied his older sister intently. Her shoulders slumped slightly and she brushed a loose strand of hair away from her face and back into the ponytail she always wore while working on the Lazy W. She leaned over the split rail, her fists balled beneath her jutted chin and her jaw tense. Keith witnessed the whitening of the skin over her cheekbones and thought for a moment that she might faint; but when her gray-green eyes turned back to him they seemed calm, hiding any emotions that might be raging within her heart.
Trask. Back. After all these years and all the lies. Tory shook her head as if to deny any feelings she might still harbor for him.
“You act as if you don’t care,” Keith prodded, though he had noticed the hardening of her elegant features. He leaned backward, his broad shoulders supported by the rails of the fence. His arms were crossed over his chest, his dusty straw Stetson was pushed back on his head and dark sweat-dampened hair protruded unevenly from beneath the brim as he surveyed his temperamental sister.
“I can’t let it bother me one way or the other,” she said with a dismissive shrug. “Now, about the stallion...” She pointed to the bay. “His near foreleg—I think it’s laminitis. He’s probably been putting too much weight on the leg because of his injury to the other foreleg.” When Keith didn’t respond, she clarified. “Governor’s foot is swollen with founder, acute laminitis. His temperature’s up, he’s sweating and blowing and he won’t bear any weight on the leg. We’re lucky so far, there’s no sign of infection—”
Keith made a disgusted sound and held up his palm in frustration with his older sister. What the hell was the matter with her? Hadn’t she heard him? Didn’t she care? “Tory, for Christ’s sake, listen to me and forget about the horse for a minute! McFadden always said he’d come back; for you.”
Tory winced slightly. Her gray-green eyes narrowed against a slew of painful memories that made goose bumps rise on her bare arms. “That was a long time ago,” she whispered, once again facing her brother.
“Before the trial.”
Closing her eyes against the agony of the past, Tory leaned heavily against the split cedar rails and forced her thoughts to the present. Though her heart was thudding wildly within her chest, she managed to remain outwardly calm. “I don’t think McFadden will bother us,” she said.
“I’m not so sure....”
She forced a half smile she didn’t feel. “Come on, Keith, buck up. Let’s not borrow trouble. We’ve got enough as it is, don’t you think?” Once again she cast a glance at the bay stallion. He was still sweating and blowing. She had examined him carefully and was thankful that there was no evidence of infection in the swollen tissues of his foot.
Keith managed to return his sister’s encouraging grin, but it was short-lived. “Yeah, I suppose we don’t need any more trouble. Not now
Tory couldn’t deny the truth in her younger brother’s words. “Maybe—”
“No maybe about it, Tory. If it hadn’t been for McFadden, Dad might still be alive.” Keith’s gray eyes clouded with hatred and he forced his hat onto his head with renewed vengeance.
“You can’t be sure of that,” Tory replied, wondering why she was defending a man she had sworn to hate.
“Oh no?” he threw back at her. “Well, I can be sure of one thing! Dad wouldn’t have spent the last couple of years of his life rotting in some stinking jail cell if McFadden’s testimony hadn’t put him there.”
Tory’s heart twisted with a painful spasm of guilt. “That was my fault,” she whispered quietly.
“The hell it was,” Keith exploded. “McFadden was the guy who sent Dad up the river on a bum rap.”
“You don’t have to remind me of that.”
“I guess not,” he allowed. “The bastard used you, too.” Keith adjusted his Stetson and rammed his fists into his pockets. “Whatever you do, Sis,” he warned, “don’t stick up for him. At least not to me. The bottom line is that Dad is dead.”
Tory smiled bitterly at the irony of it all and smoothed a wisp of hair out of her face. She had made the mistake of defending Trask McFadden once. It would never happen again. “I won’t.”
She lifted her shoulders and let out a tortured breath of air. How many times had she thought about the day that Trask would return? How many times had she fantasized about him? In one scenario she was throwing him off her property, telling him just what kind of a bastard he was; in another she was making passionate love with him near the pond.... She cleared her throat and said, “Just because he’s back in town doesn’t mean that Trask is going to stir up any trouble.”
Keith wasn’t convinced. “Trouble follows him around.”
“Well, it won’t follow him here.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because he’s not welcome.” Determination was evident in her eyes and the thrust of her small proud chin. She avoided Keith’s narrowed eyes by watching a small whirlwind kick up the dust and dry pine needles in the corral. Governor snorted impatiently and his tail switched at the ever-present flies.
Keith studied his sister dubiously. Though Tory was six years his senior, sometimes she seemed like a little kid to him. Especially when it came to Trask McFadden. “Does he know that you don’t want him here?”
Tory propped her boot on the bottom rail. “I think I made it pretty clear the last time I saw him.”
“But that was over five years ago.”
Tory turned her serious gray-green eyes on her brother. “Nothing’s changed since then.”
“Except that he’s back and he’s making noise about seeing you again.”
Tory’s head snapped upward and she leveled her gaze at her brother. “What kind of noise?”
“The kind that runs through the town gossip mill like fire.”
“I don’t believe it. The man’s not stupid, Keith. He knows how I—we feel about him. He’s probably back in town visiting Neva. He has before.”
“And all those times he never once mentioned that he’d come for you. Until now. He means business. The only reason he came back here was for you!”
“I don’t think—”
“Damn it, Tory,” Keith interjected. “For once in your life, just listen to me. I was in town last night, at the Branding Iron.”
Tory cast Keith a concerned glance. He scowled and continued, “Neva’s spread it around town. She said Trask was back. For you!”
Tory’s heart nearly stopped beating. Neva McFadden was Trask’s sister-in-law, the widow of his brother, Jason. It had been Jason’s mysterious death that had started all the trouble with her father. Tory still ached for the grief that Neva McFadden and her small son had borne, but she knew in her heart that her father had had no part in Jason McFadden’s death. Calvin Wilson had been sent to prison an innocent victim of an elaborate conspiracy, all because of Trask McFadden’s testimony and the way Tory had let him use her. Silent white-hot rage surged through Tory’s blood.
Keith was still trying desperately to convince her of Trask’s intentions. “Neva wouldn’t lie about something like this, Tory. McFadden will come looking for you.”
“Great,” she muttered, before slapping the fence. “Look, I want you to tell Rex and any of the other hands that Trask McFadden has no business on this property. If he shows up, we’ll throw him off.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.” She snapped her fingers and her carefully disguised anger flickered in her eyes.
Keith rubbed his jaw. “How do you propose to do that? Threaten him with a rifle aimed at his head?”
“If that’s what it takes.”
Keith raised a skeptical brow. “You’re serious?”
Tory laughed nervously. “Of course not. We’ll just explain that if he doesn’t remove himself, we’ll call the sheriff.”
“A lot of good that will do. We call the sheriff’s office and what do you suppose will happen? Nothing! Paul Barnett’s hands are tied. He owes his career—and maybe his whole political future—to McFadden. Who do you think backed Paul in the last election? McFadden.” Keith spit out Trask’s name as if it were a bitter poison. “Even if he wanted to, how in the hell would Paul throw a United States senator out on his ear?” Keith added with disgust in his voice, “Paul Barnett is in McFadden’s back pocket.”
“You make it sound as if Trask owns the whole town.”
“Near enough; everyone in Sinclair thinks he’s a god, y’know. Except for you—and sometimes I’m not so sure about that.”
Tory couldn’t help but laugh at the bleak scene Keith was painting. “Lighten up,” she advised, her white teeth flashing against her tanned skin. “This isn’t a bad western movie where the sheriff and the townspeople are all against a poor defenseless woman trying to save her ranch—”
“Sometimes I wonder.”
“Give me a break, Keith. If Trask McFadden trespasses—”
“We’re all in big trouble. Especially you.”
Tory’s fingers drummed nervously on the fence. She tried to change the course of the conversation. “Like I said, I think you’re borrowing trouble,” she muttered. “What Trask McFadden says and what he does are two different things. He’s a politician. Remember?”
Keith’s mouth twisted into a bitter grin and his eyes narrowed at the irony. “Yeah, I remember; and I know that the only reason that bastard got elected was because of his testimony against Dad and the others. He put innocent men in jail and ended up with a cushy job in Washington. What a great guy.”
Tory’s teeth clenched together and a headache began to throb in her temples. “I’m sure that central Oregon will soon bore our prestigious senator,” she said, her uncertainty carefully veiled. “He’ll get tired of rubbing elbows with the constituents in Sinclair and return to D.C. where he belongs, and that’s the last we’ll hear of him.”
Keith laughed bitterly. “You don’t believe that any more than I do. If Trask McFadden’s back it’s for a reason and one reason only: you, Tory.” He slouched against the fence, propped up by one elbow. “So, what are you going to do about it?”
Her gray-green eyes glittered dangerously. “Let’s just wait and see. If Trask has the guts to show up, I’ll deal with him then.”
Keith’s lower lip protruded and he squinted against the glare of the lowering sun. “I think you should leave....”
“Take a vacation, get out of this place. You deserve one, anyway; you’ve been working your tail off for the p
“That’s running, Keith,” Tory snapped. “This is my home. I’m not running off like a frightened rabbit, for crying out loud. Not for Trask McFadden, not for any man.” Determination underscored her words. Pride, fierce and painful, blazed in her eyes and was evident in the strong set of her jaw.
“He’s a powerful man,” Keith warned.
“And I’m not afraid of him.”
“He hurt you once before.”
Tory squared her shoulders. “That was a long time ago.” She managed a tight smile and slapped her brother affectionately on his shoulder. “I’m not the same woman I used to be. I’ve grown up a lot since then.”
“I don’t know,” Keith muttered, remembering his once carefree sister and the grin she used to wear so easily. “History has a way of repeating itself.”
Tory shook her head and forced a smile, hoping to disarm her younger brother. She couldn’t spend the rest of her life worrying about Trask and what he would or wouldn’t do. She had already spent more hours than she would admit thinking about him and the shambles he’d attempted to make of her life. Just because he was back in Sinclair... “Let’s forget about McFadden for a while, okay? Tell Rex I want to try ice-cold poultices on our friend here.” She nodded in the direction of the bay stallion. “And I don’t want him ridden until we determine if he needs a special shoe.” She paused and her eyes rested on the sweating bay. “But he should be walked at least twice a day. More if possible.”
“As if I have the time—”
Tory cut him off. “Someone around here must have the time,” she snapped, thinking about the payroll of the ranch and how difficult it was to write the checks each month. The Lazy W was drowning in red ink. It had been since Calvin Wilson had been sent to prison five years before. By Trask McFadden. “Have someone, maybe Eldon, if you don’t have the time, walk Governor,” she said, her full lips pursing.
Keith knew that he was being dismissed. He frowned, cast his sister one final searching look, pushed his hat lower on his head and started ambling off toward the barn on the other side of the dusty paddock. He had delivered his message about Trask McFadden. The rest was up to Tory.
Yesterday's Lies by Lisa Jackson / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes