Yesterdays lies, p.9
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       Yesterday's Lies, p.9

           Lisa Jackson
 
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  “I don’t know anything of the kind.”

  “Sure you do. You know that I haven’t come back here to hurt you and you know that I only did what I did five years ago because I couldn’t lie on the witness stand. The last thing I wanted to do was send your dad to prison—”

  Tory desperately held up a palm. “Stop!” she demanded, unable to listen to his lies any longer. “I—I don’t want to hear any more of your excuses or rationalizations—”

  “It’s easier to hate me, is that it?”

  “No—yes! God, yes. I can’t have you come in here and confuse me and I don’t want to be a part of this...investigation or whatever you want to call it. I don’t care about anonymous letters.”

  “Or dead calves?”

  “One has nothing to do with the other,” she said firmly, though she had to fight to keep her voice from trembling.

  Trask studied his hands before lifting his eyes to meet her angry gaze. “I think you’re wrong, Tory. Doesn’t it strike you odd that everyone you know wants you to avoid me?”

  She shook her head and looked at the ceiling. “Not after the hell you put me through five years ago,” she whispered.

  “You mean that it hasn’t crossed your mind that someone is deliberately trying to keep you out of this investigation for a reason?”

  “Such as?”

  “Such as hiding the guilty person’s identity.”

  “I can’t be involved in this,” Tory said, as if to convince herself. She had to get away from Trask and his damned logic. When she was around him, he turned her mind around. She began walking toward the door but stopped dead in her tracks when he spoke.

  “Are you afraid of the truth?”

  “Of course not!” She turned and faced him.

  He pushed himself away from the couch. “Then maybe it’s me.”

  “Don’t be ridiculous,” she said, but as he advanced upon her, she saw the steadfastness of his gaze. It dropped from her eyes to her mouth and settled on the rising swell of her breasts. “I’m not afraid of you, Trask. I never have been. Not even after what you did to me.”

  He stopped when he was near her and his eyes silently accused her of attempting to deceive him. When he reached forward to brush a wayward strand of hair away from her face, his fingertip touched her cheek, but she didn’t flinch. “Then maybe you’re afraid of yourself.”

  “That’s nonsense.”

  “I don’t think so.” His fingers wrapped around her nape and tilted her head upward as he lowered his head and captured her lips with his. His mouth was warm and gentle, his tongue quick to invade her parted lips. Memories of hot summer nights, star-studded skies and bodies glistening with the sheen of perfect afterglow filled her mind. How easily she could slip backward...

  The groan from deep in his throat brought her crashing back to a reality as barren as the desert. He didn’t love her, had never loved her, but was attempting once again to use her. As common sense overtook her, Tory tried to step backward but the arms surrounding her tightened, forcing her body close.

  “Let go of me,” she said, her eyes challenging.

  “I don’t think so. Letting you go was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made and believe me, I’ve made my share. I’m not about to make the same mistake twice.”

  “You may have made a lot of mistakes, Trask, but you didn’t have a choice where I was concerned. I swore that I’d never let you hurt me again, and it’s a promise to myself that I intend to keep.”

  The warm hands at the base of her spine refused to release her. Instead they began to slowly massage her, and through the thin fabric of her cotton blouse, she could feel Trask’s heat. It seeped through the cloth and warmed her skin, just as it had in the past.

  His lips caressed her face, touching the sensitive skin of her eyelids and cheeks.

  “I can’t let this happen,” she whispered, knowing that she was unable to stop herself.

  Her skin began to flush and the yearnings she had vowed dead reawakened as his mouth slid down her throat and his hands came around to unbutton her blouse. As the fabric parted Tory could feel his lips touching the hollow of her throat and the swell of her breasts.

  “Trask, please...don’t,” she said, swallowing against the desire running wildly in her blood.

  His tongue circled the delicate ring of bones at the base of her throat while his hands opened her blouse and pushed it gently off her shoulders. “I’ve always loved you, Tory,” he said as he watched her white breasts rise and fall with the tempo of her breathing.

  Her rosy nipples peeked seductively through the sheer pink lace of her bra and the swelling in his loins made him say things he would have preferred to remain secret. “Love me,” he pleaded, lifting his gaze to her green eyes.

  “I...I did, Trask,” she replied, trying to think rationally. She reached for the blouse that had fallen to the floor, but his hand took hold of her wrist. “I loved you more than any woman should love a man and...and I paid for that love. I will never, never make that mistake again!”

  The fingers over her wrist tightened and he jerked her close to his taut body. With his free hand he tilted her face upward so that she was forced to stare into his intense blue eyes. “You can come up with all the reasons and excuses you want, lady, but they’re all a pack of lies.”

  “You should know, senator. You wrote the book on deceit.”

  His jaw whitened and his lips twisted cynically. “Why don’t you look in the mirror, Tory, and see the kind of woman you’ve become: a woman who’s afraid of the truth. You won’t face the truth about your father and you won’t admit that you still care for me.”

  “There’s a big difference between love and lust.”

  “Is there?” He cocked a thick brow dubiously and ran his finger down her throat, along her breastbone to the front clasp of her bra. “What we felt for each other five years ago, what would you call that?”

  “All those emotions were tangled in a web of lies, Trask. Each one a little bigger than the last. That’s how I’ve come to think of what we shared: yesterday’s lies.” He released her slowly and didn’t protest when she reached for her blouse and slipped it on.

  “Then maybe it’s time to start searching for the truth.”

  “By reopening the investigation into your brother’s death?”

  “Yes. Maybe if we set the past to rest, we could think about the future.”

  Tory let out a disgusted sound. “No way, senator. You know what they say, ‘You can never go back.’ Well, I believe it. Don’t bother to tease me with vague promises about a future together, because I don’t buy it. Not anymore. I’ve learned my lesson where you’re concerned. I’m not as gullible as I used to be, thank God.” She stepped away from him and finished buttoning her blouse.

  His lips tightened and he pinched the bridge of his nose with his fingers, as if trying to thwart a potential headache. “Okay, Tory, so you aren’t interested in a relationship with me—the least you can do is help me a little. If you really believe your father’s name can be cleared, I’m offering you the means to do it.”

  “How?”

  “I want to go up to Devil’s Ridge tomorrow.”

  The request made her heart stop beating. Devil’s Ridge was a piece of land not far from the Lazy W. It had once been owned by her father and Calvin had willed the forty acre tract in the foothills of the Cascades to Keith. Devil’s Ridge was the parcel of land where the Quarter Horses were switched during the swindle; the piece of land that had proved Calvin Wilson’s involvement in the scam.

  “Tory, did you hear me?”

  “Yes.”

  “Will you come with me?”

  No! I can’t face all of the scandal again. “If you promise that no one else will know about it.” Tory saw the questions in his eyes and hastened to explain. “I don’t want any publicity about this, until you’re sure of your facts, senator.”

  “Fair enough.” He studied her face for a minute. “Are you with me on thi
s, Tory?”

  “No, but I won’t hinder you either,” she said, tired of arguing with Trask, Keith, Neva and the whole damned world. “If you want permission to wander around Devil’s Ridge, you’ve got it. And I’ll go with you.”

  “Why?”

  “Because I want to keep my eye on you, senator.”

  “You still don’t trust me, do you?” he asked.

  “I can’t let myself.” It’s my way of protecting myself against you.

  A cloud of anguish darkened his eyes but was quickly dispersed. “Then I’ll be here around noon tomorrow.”

  “I’ll be waiting.”

  He had started toward the door, but turned at the bittersweet words. “If only I could believe that,” he said before opening the door and disappearing through it.

  Tory watched his retreating figure through the glass. The late-afternoon sun was already casting lengthening shadows over the plains of the Lazy W as Trask strode to his pickup and, without looking backward, drove away.

  * * *

  “WHAT BUSINESS IS it of yours?” Trask demanded of his sister-in-law. She was putting the finishing touches on a birthday cake for Nicholas, swirling the white frosting over the cake as if her brother-in-law’s tirade was of little, if any, concern. “Why did you confront Tory?”

  “It is my business,” Neva threw back coolly as she surveyed her artwork and placed the knife in the empty bowl. When she turned to face Trask, her small chin was jutted in determination. “We’re talking about the death of my husband, for God’s sake. And you’re the one who brought me into it when you started waving that god-awful note around here yesterday afternoon.”

  “But why did you try to convince Tory to stay out of it? She could help me.”

  Neva turned world-weary brown eyes on her brother-in-law. “Because I thought she might be able to get through to you. You don’t listen to many people, Trask. Not me. Not your advisors in Washington. No one. I thought maybe there was a chance that Tory might beat some common sense into that thick skull of yours.”

  “She tried,” Trask admitted.

  “But failed, I assume.”

  “This is something I have to do, Neva.” Trask placed his large hands on Neva’s slim shoulders, as if by touching he could make her understand.

  With difficulty, Neva ignored the warmth of Trask’s fingers. “And damn the consequences, right? Your integrity come hell or high water.” She wrestled free of his grip.

  “You’re blowing this way out of proportion.”

  “Me?” she screamed. “What about you? You get one crank letter and you’re ready to tear this town apart, dig up five-year-old dirt and start battling a new crusade.” She smiled sadly at the tense man before her. “Only this time I’m afraid you’ll get hurt, Don Quixote; the windmills might fight back and hurt you as well as your Dulcinea.”

  “Whom?”

  “Dulcinea del Toboso, the country girl whom Don Quixote selects as the lady of his knightly devotion. In this case, Victoria Wilson.”

  “You read too much,” he said.

  “Impossible.”

  Trask laughed despite the seriousness of Neva’s stare. “Then you worry too much.”

  “It comes with the territory of being a mother,” she said, picking up a frosting-laden beater and offering it to him. “Someone needs to worry about you.”

  He declined the beater. “I get by.”

  She studied the furrows of his brow. “I don’t know, Trask. I just don’t know.”

  “Just trust me, Neva.”

  The smile left her face and all of the emotions she had been battling for five long years tore at her heart. “I’d trust you with my life, Trask. You know that.”

  “Neva—” He took a step closer to her but she walked past him to the kitchen window. Outside she could watch Nicholas romp with the puppy Trask had given him for his birthday.

  “But I can’t trust you with Nicholas’s life,” she whispered, knotting her fingers in the corner of her apron. “I just can’t do that and you have no right to ask me.” Tears began to gather in her large eyes and she brushed them aside angrily.

  Trask let out a heavy sigh. “I’m going up to Devil’s Ridge tomorrow.”

  “Oh, God, no.” Neva closed her eyes. “Trask, don’t—”

  “This is something I have to do,” he repeated.

  “Then maybe you’d better leave,” she said, her voice nearly failing her. Trask was as close to a father to Nicholas as he could be, considering the separation of more than half a continent. If she threw Trask out, Nicholas would never forgive her. “Do what you have to do.”

  “What I have to do is stay here for Nicholas’s birthday party.”

  Neva smiled through her tears. “You’re a bastard, you know, McFadden; but a charming one nonetheless.”

  “This is all going to work out.”

  “God, I hope so,” she whispered, once again sneaking a glance at her dark-haired son and the fluff of tan fur with the beguiling black eyes. “Nicholas worships the ground you walk on, you know.”

  Trask laughed mirthlessly. “Well, if he does, he’s the only one in town. There’s no doubt about it, I wouldn’t win any popularity contests in Sinclair right now.”

  “Oh, I don’t know, you seem to have been able to worm your way back into Tory’s heart.”

  “I don’t think so.”

  “We’ll see, senator,” Neva mused. “I think Victoria Wilson has never gotten you out of her system.”

  CHAPTER SIX

  ANNA HUTTON LIFTED Governor’s hoof and examined it carefully. Her expert fingers gently touched the swollen tissues and the bay stallion, glistening with nervous sweat, snorted impatiently. “Steady, there,” she murmured to the horse before lifting her eyes to meet Tory’s worried gaze. “I’d say your diagnosis was right on the money, Tory,” Anna remarked, as she slowly let the horse’s foot return to the floor of his stall. “Our boy here has a case of acute laminitis. You know, girl, you should have been a vet.” She offered Tory a small grin as she reached for her leather bag and once again lifted Governor’s hoof and started cleaning the affected area.

  “I guess I got sidetracked,” Tory said. “So I’ll have to rely on your expertise.”

  Anna smiled knowingly at her friend before continuing to work with Governor’s hoof. The two women had once planned to go to graduate school together, but that was before Tory became involved with Trask McFadden and all of the bad press about Calvin Wilson and the Lazy W had come to light.

  Tory’s eyes were trained on Anna’s hands, but her thoughts were far away, in a time when she had been filled with the anticipation of becoming Trask’s wife. How willingly she had given up her career for him...

  Glancing up, Anna noticed Tory’s clouded expression and tactfully turned the conversation back to the horse as she finished cleaning the affected area. Governor flattened his dark ears to his head and shifted away from the young woman with the short blue-black hair and probing fingers. “You might want to put him in a special shoe, either a bar shoe or a saucer; and keep walking him. Have you applied any hot or cold poultices or put his hoof in ice water?”

  “Yes, cold.”

  “Good, keep doing that,” Anna suggested, her eyes narrowing as she studied the stallion. “I want to wait another day and see how he’s doing tomorrow, before I consider giving him adrenaline or antihistamines.”

  “A woman from the old school, huh?”

  “You know me, I believe the less drugs the better.” She patted the horse on the shoulder. “He’s a good-looking stallion, Tory.”

  “The best,” Tory replied, glancing affectionately at the bay. “We’re counting on him.”

  “As a stud?”

  “Uh-huh. His first foals were born this spring.”

  “And you’re happy with them?”

  Tory nodded and smiled as she held open the stall gate for her friend. “I’ve always loved working with the horses, especially the foals.”

  Anna c
huckled and shook her head in amazement as the two women walked out of the stallion barn and into the glare of the brilliant morning sun. “So you decided to breed Quarter Horses again, even after what happened with your father. You’re a braver woman than I am, Victoria Wilson.”

  “Or a fool.”

  “That, I doubt.”

  “Keith thought raising horses again was a big mistake.”

  “So what does he know?”

  “I’ll tell him you said that.”

  “Go ahead. I think it takes guts to start over after the trial and all the bad publicity...”

  “That was all a horrible mistake.”

  Anna placed her hand on Tory’s arm. “I know, but I just thought that you wouldn’t want to do anything that might...you know, encourage all the old rumors to start up again. I wouldn’t.”

  “You can’t run away from your past.”

  “Especially when our illustrious Senator McFadden comes charging back to town, stirring it all up again.”

  Tory felt her back stiffen but she managed a tight smile as they walked slowly across the gravel parking lot. “Everyone has to do what they have to do. Trask seems to think it’s his duty to dig it all up again...because of Jason.”

  One of Anna’s dark brows rose slightly. “So now you’re defending him?”

  “Of course not!” Tory said too quickly and then laughed at her own reaction. “It’s just that Trask’s been here a couple of times already,” she admitted, “and, well, just about everyone I know seems to think that I shouldn’t even talk to him.”

  “Maybe that’s because you’ve led everyone to believe that you never wanted to see him again. After all, he did—”

  “Betray me?”

  “Whatever you want to call it.” Anna hesitated a moment, biting her lips as if contemplating the worth of her words. “Look, Tory. After the trial, you were pretty messed up, bitter. It’s no wonder people want to protect you from that kind of hurt again.”

  “I’m a grown woman.”

  “And now you’ve changed your mind about Trask?”

 
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