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MURDER & MISTLETOE
BY SUSANNE MATTHEWS
Going home for Christmas can be deadly.
Candy Kayne agrees to go to Black Oaks, the Georgia plantation her ancestor reluctantly left after the Civil War, to meet the family she’s never known and help Steve set a trap for his wife’s killer. Even the wildest tales have a kernel of truth in them and as she learns more about the family’s history, she realizes that coming here may have been the biggest mistake of her life.
Losing Amy almost destroyed Steve Anderson, but when Candy steps into his life, her sweetness chases the dark gloom away. But when he realizes the man who murdered his wife may have set his sights on Candy, he’ll do whatever he has to in order to keep her safe.
Steve frowned. He’d always suspected the decision concerning the mansion was more complex than Uncle Luke had let on. What mysteries had he expected to solve? Other than the tragic accident decades ago, no one had paid much attention to the place for almost a century. If anything, he’d expected to be asked to demolish it.
Over the years, the symbols of slavery on the plantation had been eradicated. The remains of the slave pens had long since been taken down and the land repurposed, the slave graveyard fenced off as a historical site, the graves marked where they could be, and the cotton and sugar mills replaced with modern facilities. But the house itself, its basement sealed, stood sentinel-like at the end of its shadowed drive, watching and waiting, a living monument to the atrocities committed there.
“What secrets do you mean? Your parents were the ones who abandoned the house in the first place because they claimed it was haunted. If you were expecting us to find proof of your ghosts, we didn’t. The main structure was in better shape than the additions, but all we found was mold and dry rot, not a bone or chain to rattle anywhere. What had you expected us to find?”
“What’s in this box for one thing,” Luke admitted, holding it up.
Steve moved closer to the wheelchair, his gaze fixed on the blackened chest. “Where did you get that? We removed all the things we could find from the shelves and cupboards.” His brow furrowed deeper, the twinges of a headache dancing in his temples. “Was it yours? Did you leave it there as a kid?”
“No.” Luke cradled the box. “Had I known it was there, I would’ve retrieved it years ago, and if I had … The firemen found it a few days after the fire when they were checking for structural integrity. It was between the floor boards in the bedroom above the library next to the vent they’d cut for the fire. They turned it over to the police. Chief Winston brought it over to me thinking it had nothing to do with the arson. He couldn’t be more wrong. That house still harbors secrets.” He looked up, his gaze freezing Steve in place. “And I’m not the only one who knows it. Someone murdered Amy because of it.”
Steve’s blood pooled in his feet, leaving him cold. He hadn’t told anyone about what Harvey Winston had said. How did Uncle Luke know she’d been murdered?
Moving over to the bar, he splashed scotch into a glass, drained it, letting its heat burn away the ice surrounding his heart. He poured an inch of the amber liquor into the crystal tumbler and carried it to the chair next to the old man, dropping into it when his legs wouldn’t hold him up any longer.
“Go on,” he growled, fighting to keep his pain and anger hidden. “I don’t know how you know my wife was murdered, but if you know who killed her, why haven’t you told Winston?” If he held the glass any tighter, it would shatter.
“It’s not that simple,” the old man admitted, his eyes downcast. “I don’t know exactly who killed her, but I know why she was killed. The person who did it was looking for this among other things.” Luke rubbed his hand along the top of the box, residual soot staining his fingers. “I’ve learned over the years that even the most farfetched stories have a kernel of truth in them.” He raised his head and held the box out to him. “Leon had to break the lock. Have a look inside.”
Curious, Steve placed his glass on the table and opened the chest, revealing not the shiny rocks and antique toys he’d expected but a black velvet bag and two small books. From the size of them, they were diaries. He opened the bag first. Inside was a double strand of diamonds separated by a row of pearls with a tear-shaped emerald at the clasp. He gasped.
“Where do these come from? They can’t be real.”
Susanne Matthews was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, where she lives with her husband. As a retired educator, she took her love for reading and parried it into a productive writing career with more than twenty novels available, all of which have a happily ever after, no matter what agony her characters endure. Susanne’s novels include contemporary romance, holiday romance, historical romance, mild paranormal romances, and of course, romantic thrillers. She loves following her characters through their sometimes perilous journeys until they reach the satisfying endings they crave.
When she isn’t writing, Susanne reads and loves to travel, and enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. She’s a fan of cruising.
Links to Susanne’s website, blog, books, etc.
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