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In the span of one summer, a savvy financial analyst discovers two of her mother’s favorite clichés ring true. Life isn’t a fairytale, even in the peaceful, laid-back community in the Georgia Low Country. And be careful what you wish for. After her son witnesses her ex-husband’s tragic death, Katelyn Landers quits her satisfying banking career and returns home to run the family business. But instead of the tranquil Low Country life of backyard picnics and people who know her by name, she faces a real estate empire teetering on bankruptcy, professional thieves masquerading as friends, and a tenacious US Marshal who unearths truths that crumble her foundation of self, family, and motherhood.
Page Count: 362
Word Count: 85963
“There’s a Sergeant Thacker to see you.” My assistant, Jennifer, stood in my office doorway. Her face flushed with concern and a touch of curiosity.
“I don’t know anyone by that name.” I grabbed my purse. “I’m late. Ask Melinda to help him.”
“He’s a uniformed police officer. And he’s asking for Owen Landers’ mother.”
Black squiggly lines swam in my periphery, and I gripped my desk.
Jennifer stepped aside, and a man in a dark blue uniform ducked through the opening. His shoulders drooped as if posture was the last thing on his mind. His puffy brown eyes held remnants of dread.
I braced for the inevitable hit, the way you do at a stoplight when you glance in the rearview mirror and see a car racing forward. “Owen?”
“Yes. But your son’s not hurt.” He waved a palm roughly the size of Owen’s catcher’s mitt toward my desk chair. “Maybe you should sit, Mrs. Landers.”
I heard my mother’s voice in my head. This is going to be bad. I tightened my grip on the edge of my desk. “Where is my son?”
“In the hospital.”
“Hospital?” My head spun like I was half-drunk or fighting a bad case of the flu.
He stretched his arm across my desk as if to catch me. “The hospital’s just a precaution. Your son suffered a few scratches. No broken bones. No stitches.” He rounded my desk and clasped my hand in his, patted it the way my grandmother had turned a pinch of dough into a biscuit. Three quick taps. “A bystander pulled your son from the Porsche in time.”
The room hushed, as if the air and the lights and the officer hung in suspension waiting for further explanation. “In time for what?”
“Your husband.” He released my hand. “Adam Landers. He died at the scene. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“Ex-husband.” The words escaped my lips before I could grab them back. “We’re divorced.” I pressed my hand to my mouth. My mind felt pushed, compressed. “Adam’s dead?” I should cry. I wanted to cry. To weep for Adam. But I had no tears left for him. Still, the officer’s news emptied me. Owen would be devastated. “Which hospital?” I ached to touch my son. See him. Hold him. Comfort him.
He handed me a card. “Your son’s at Children’s Hospital. Can someone drive you?”
I must’ve walked out of Morgan Stanley and climbed into the passenger seat of my car, but I didn’t remember taking those steps. When my mind resurfaced, Jennifer was driving, and Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital loomed dead ahead.
Questions bounced in my brain.
Where was the accident?
Did Adam die on impact or did he linger in pain?
Did Adam’s sister Vivienne know?
Who pulled Owen from the wreckage?
I wanted to kiss that person’s feet.
Then I remembered my text message threatening to haul Adam back to court for breaching our custody agreement. My stomach lurched, and the bitter taste of bile coated my tongue.
Jennifer parked the Hummer, the only valuable asset Adam asked for in the divorce and didn’t get. She grabbed our purses in one hand and my arm in the other.
“The police officer said he wasn’t hurt,” I said. “He’ll be in the emergency room.” I ran through the lobby, down the hall, and stared at the receptionist with beautiful silver hair and pink lipstick the exact color of her smock. “My son—” An uncontrollable tremble shook my body.
Jennifer arrived out of breath. She threw our purses on the counter and wrapped her arm around my waist. “Hang on, Kate.” She spoke to the receptionist. “Ms. Landers’s son was in a car accident this afternoon. Owen Landers, he’s eight years-old.”
The pink lady nodded and typed something on her keyboard. Picked up her phone. “Owen Landers’s mother is here.”
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