Home > Best Kept Secret (Rochester Trilogy #3)

Best Kept Secret (Rochester Trilogy #3)
Author: Skye Warren




Jane Mendoza

The words hang in the air.

Hello, Jane.

Fear freezes every limb. It stops my heart. It turns my breath into ice.

Emily Rochester isn’t supposed to be here, alive and breathing. She’s supposed to be buried in Maine. Paige’s mother, the woman Beau Rochester once loved, is dead.

It’s not a dead woman who studies me with a fierce resolve.

I remember her from faded Polaroids inside an old journal. She has the same delicate features, the same blonde hair. She’s beautiful by any standard, but there’s something frayed about her appearance now. Her cheekbones are too defined, as if she’s lost weight. In the photos her expression was solemn. Even melancholy. Now she looks like a warrior in the heat of battle.

And somehow, somehow I’m the enemy to be conquered.

“Hello, Emily,” I hear myself say over the pounding of my pulse. “How did you get here?”

“The same way you did. By plane. Or do you mean how did I get into your apartment? I told your roommate I was with the apartment complex. Poor girl didn’t wonder why I didn’t have my own key. She was too busy on her way to some restaurant for work.”

My laugh comes out hysterical. “I meant how did you get to be…alive.”

“Ah,” she says, her expression neutral. “That.”

“Your daughter mourned you. How could you abandon her?”

Anger flashes through her blue eyes. “Abandon her? You have no idea what I’ve done to keep her safe. You don’t know a damn thing about me.”

I bought the desk chair she’s sitting in from Goodwill a year ago. It was wobbly even when I brought it home, but it only cost ten dollars. She stands, as elegant and regal as if she were rising from a throne.

My pulse speeds up.

She isn’t holding a weapon that I can see, but her mere presence is a threat. The fact that she lied to get into my apartment. The fact that she followed me to Houston.

“Then tell me,” I say, my throat dry. “Tell me what you’re doing here.”

She looks out the window, which overlooks the parking lot. She would have seen Noah’s truck drop me off. A shiver runs through me.

I felt like this the night I saw that woman walking on the beach by the inn. That was Emily, wasn’t it? It was her on the beach in a nightgown. I saw her hair in the moonlight. She could have seen me. With my hand pushing back the curtain, looking out.

I’m sweating in my long-sleeved shirt and yoga pants. These clothes are made for the cool spring of Maine. My heart is still there, along with Beau and Paige. It must be some other organ that pounds in my chest now, a million miles a minute.

One shoulder lifts in an elegant shrug. “It’s a long story.”

“I have time.”

A ghost of a smile. “I see why Beau likes you.”

“He doesn’t like me. I was an employee to him. Someone to take care of his niece.”

Her eyes shutter. “How is Paige?”

I shake my head, bewildered. “Why don’t you ask her yourself?”

“If only it were that simple.”

A wave of chills runs down my spine. She knows too much about me—where I live and what I’ve been doing. And I know so little about her. Her cryptic responses don’t tell me anything.

My bedroom is too small. There’s no space to breathe, let alone think.

“I’m going to go. I think it would be best if I left.” Never mind that this is my apartment. I’ll start walking and call Noah as soon as I’m out the door. I’ll run if I have to. I’ll abandon these clothes that aren’t right for Houston and the suitcase that’s not right for this neighborhood and flee.

The corner of her lips turns up. “How rude. You haven’t even offered me refreshments.”

I take a step back to the hall. It’s not far to the front door. “I’m leaving.”

She opens her purse with a graceful flick of her fingers and takes out a gun. Emily slides her thumb over the side, and something clicks. When she points the gun at me, her hands don’t shake. This woman is comfortable holding a gun.

The blood in my veins freezes. Every part of me goes still. Emily Rochester is a dead woman. Except she’s alive…which means she’s been hiding for a long time. They held a funeral for her. “There’s no—” My tongue feels numb with fear. “There’s no need to threaten me.”

“I’m not,” Emily says. “I’m showing you why you’re not going to leave.” Those ice-blue eyes meet mine over the black blur of her gun, and they blaze with desperation. She looks as desperate as I feel. Why did I ever get on that plane? Why did I ever come here? I should have just disappeared. “You’re my only hope to get my life back.”

“What are you talking about? I’m no one.” It’s fear that makes me honest. One twitch of her finger, and I’ll be dead. Murdered in my Houston apartment. No degree in social work. No new life away from Beau and Paige. Death, and then nothing.

“Beau never was good with sharing his emotions.”

The casual way she talks about him makes my heart beat faster. For a different reason. Jealousy. How laughable. I have no right to be jealous over him. “I don’t know what you think’s going on between me and him, but he sent me away. He fired me.”

“To keep you safe. I could be upset, I suppose, that he’s concerned for your safety, when he couldn’t be bothered about mine. But I never really told him everything, did I?”

“Listen, I don’t know what happened between you two but—”

“It doesn’t matter. Him and me? We’re nothing. I’m not here as your rival.”

“Then why did you bring a gun?”

“I’ve been carrying this around for months. Ever since…” She trails off, and for the first time, a flash of stark emotion crosses her beautiful face.

Her grief reaches across the small room. It wraps around my throat and squeezes. “What could have happened? What could have made you leave Paige if you didn’t actually drown?”

She closes her eyes. In that moment I could run. I could probably make it down the hallway before she shoots me—and maybe she wouldn’t even shoot. Maybe it’s just an empty threat. Part of me thinks so. But I don’t run. I want to find out what happened.

I want to find out why Paige Rochester believes she’s an orphan.

Because I remember the searing pain of that. The cold knowledge that I’m alone in the world.

“I didn’t fall off that boat. I wasn’t pushed, either.”

“Let me guess. You jumped.”

“I don’t trust Joe Causey.” She frowns a little. “My own brother. Though it’s hard to think of him that way anymore. He’s like a stranger to me. A stranger who murdered Rhys.”

My mind processes this news like I’m watching an episode of Law & Order. “Joe killed him,” I echo, because what else do I say?

“That night on the boat. They had a falling out. Joe and Rhys—they used to do business together, and they got into a fight. It was a bad fight. The kind of fight that partnerships don’t come back from. Joe confronted him at the dock. I saw them arguing.” Her voice shakes. “Joe shot him in the head, and I jumped in the water.”

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