Beguiled

By: Deeanne Gist

Acknowledgments



It was Mark’s idea to set this book in the historic district of Charleston. Deeanne had never been there, but its rich history appealed to her very much. When she made a trip to check Charleston out for herself, she fell in love with it.

We’d like to thank those who welcomed us with open arms and who gave up their valuable time by answering our many, many questions. In particular, we’d like to acknowledge Willie Morris of InterCoast Properties, Jane Barrett Dowd of Disher, Hamrick & Myers, and Kimberly Farfone of Bishop Gadsden. These three people selflessly gave up a great deal of time, educating us on Charleston’s culture and landmarks.

Charles and Sallie Duell, Abigail Martin and the folks from the Inn at Middleton Place were fabulous. (If you go to Charleston, make sure you visit their b&b historic home!) Deeanne imposed on Tom Hatley and Lynn Shaddrix of James Island Charter High School and Gayle Evers without any prior warning or appointments. They were all extremely gracious and giving of their time.

Authors always owe their editors a debt of thanks, even if it typically goes without saying. In this case, we simply must acknowledge the support of David Long, who championed the project from the beginning, served as a sounding board for ideas, and gave suggestions that made the book far better than it otherwise would have been.





DEEANNE GIST has a background in education and journalism. Her credits include People, Parents, Parenting, Family Fun and the Houston Chronicle. She has a line of parenting products called I Did It® Productions and a degree from Texas A&M. She and her husband have four grown children. They live in Houston, Texas, and Deeanne loves to hear from her readers at her website, www.IWantHerBook.com.

J. MARK BERTRAND is the author of Rethinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. His crime novel Back on Murder, the first in a series featuring Houston homicide detective Roland March, will be published in summer 2010 by Bethany House. He grew up in Louisiana, spent fifteen years in Houston, and now lives with his wife in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Find out more at www.backonmurder.com.





Chapter One



Something wasn’t right. Rylee Monroe unclipped the leash from Romeo’s collar, then stood still in the quiet kitchen, all senses alert.

The toy schnauzer clicked across the wooden floor and lapped up water from his bowl, sloshing it over the sides in his enthusiasm. Not a speck of dust touched the slick black granite countertops. An assortment of spoons, ladles, and spatulas hung above the chromeplated gas stove. Above that, a row of dinner, salad, and dessert plates rested between vertical dowels.

From the kitchen, she could see the sunken sitting room and the archway opening into the dining room. White sheers hung in front of two bay windows, foiling the sun’s effort to fade the richly upholstered furniture. No cushion had been disturbed. Nothing was out of place.

She slowly closed the back door, turning the knob to reduce any noise she might make. Romeo looked up from his bowl, water dripping off his wet cheeks. Squatting down, she quietly patted her thigh.

He trotted over, tail wagging a mile a minute.

“Listen,” she whispered, wiping his chin and picking him up. “You hear anything?”

Outside, a tour bus struggled to accelerate. Distant sounds of electric saws, chisels, and hammers kept up a continual din. All normal sounds for the historic district of Charleston.

The floorboards above her squeaked under the weight of a footstep.

She stiffened. Had Karl come back to get something? She checked her watch. Ten o’clock. Too late to return for a forgotten item. Too early to quit for the day.

Romeo began to squirm. She tiptoed to the laundry room and set him behind the doggie gate. He immediately began to whine.

“Shhhh.” She gently held his mouth closed. “I’ll be right back.”

She glanced at the set of kitchen knives resting in a wooden block. The temptation to grab one was strong, but what if it was Karl? What would he think if he caught his new dogwalker creeping up the stairs with a butcher knife in her hand?

She kept to the edge of each step, where the wood had less give.

Sweat beaded her hands, playing havoc with her grip on the railing. At the halfway landing, she paused, her own breathing loud in her ears.

The hum from outside no longer reached her.

A creak from behind.

She spun around. A bust of Henry Timrod, the Poet Laureate of the Confederacy, stared back at her. She glanced down the stairs.

The massive front door with beveled-glass sidelights remained bolted and chained.

Taking a deep breath, she continued up, finally stepping onto the oriental rug gracing the second-story landing. The door to her right stood open. The foot of the four-poster bed and carved hope chest were visible and undisturbed.

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