|A SHAMEFUL SECRET
Jenna Ryan has a secret she plans to take to the grave, but the arrival of Matt Watson on her doorstep threatens to reveal that secret. There’s no way Jenna will fulfill Matt’s request, because doing so would threaten the fragile world she’s built.
A DUTY TO FULFILL
Matt Watson grew up idolizing his uncle. But as he endeavors to fulfill his uncle’s last request, Matt reveals a secret he wishes he’d never uncovered. How can a man Matt idolized have committed such an appalling act?
THE CAPTIVE BIRD
Jenna Ryan has created a safe haven in the north Georgia town of Walnut Hill. The victim of a devastating crime, she’s established a new life where she’s loved and admired. But her house of cards will crash around her unless she does the one thing she thinks is impossible – forgive the man who hurt her.
“Uncle Frank has terminal cancer. He asked me to find you and Helen because he wants you to visit him.”
A subtle shift in Jenna’s attitude passed through her body. Matt would have missed it had he not been watching for her reaction. Where politeness had been only a few seconds earlier, caution now narrowed her eyes.
“Why does he want to see me?”
Hadn’t Matt made that clear? “About a year ago, Frank was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He came to me for advice and I worked with his oncologist to find a treatment that would help. We’ve tried everything, even the experimental procedures, but nothing’s worked. He’s in the last stage now.”
“Yes, I understand, but why does he want to see me?”
“Oh. Well…actually…I don’t know why.”
“I’ll be right back.” She reentered the house, her shoulders straight and her steps measured, as though she carried an invisible weight.
What had happened? Minutes earlier, they’d been laughing, but at the mention of his uncle, Jenna’s quick smile had dissolved into tight lips and a guarded expression. He’d done something wrong, said something that had cooled her friendly warmth and silenced her laugh.
Had learning of Frank’s illness affected her so strongly?
Matt didn’t hear her return and her voice startled him when she spoke. “I won’t see Frank, but you can give him this message.”
Matt took the light-green envelope from her hand and examined it. There was nothing written on it, not even Frank’s name.
“If that’s all,” Jenna said as she moved toward the porch steps, “I really need to finish my yard work before it gets dark.”
No two ways about it—Matt was being dismissed.
Jenna glanced back at Matt, obviously waiting for him to get the hint. He rose from his chair and joined her on the steps.
“It was nice to see you,” she said as she escorted Matt to the gate. “I’m glad to learn you’re doing so well.”
When he realized they’d reverted to polite chitchat, Matt’s heart sank a few inches. “It was nice to see you, too.”
She opened the gate and Matt automatically walked through. Without another word, she hurried up the walkway and vaulted the porch steps. The screen door flew open and she shut the heavy front door behind her. Although Matt couldn’t hear them, he imagined the sound of several deadbolts sliding into place. He stood on the sidewalk, staring at the closed doors as though they held a clue about what had just happened. At the mention of Uncle Frank, warm, polite Jenna had transformed into a threatened sentry at the castle’s gates.
He turned the unsealed envelope in his fingers. Perhaps it held an explanation for Jenna’s behavior. But the note was for Frank.
Matt had two choices. He could argue with himself and then open the envelope, or he could let the inevitable happen.
He loosened the flap and slid out a note card.
A single line of precise handwriting appeared on the paper.
I never told.