Unlocking Lies (Keys to Love Series, Book Three)(3)

By: Kennedy Layne

Jace took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and then exhaled slowly. He tried to compose his emotions. He honestly hadn’t thought returning home without his mom to greet him on the front porch would be quite this hard. He’d stopped at the entrance in town, wanting so bad to make that left turn…but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He’d known he would be coming here to see her grave for the first time since the funeral.

He’d driven straight down Main Street until he’d hit Seventh. The entrance to the cemetery didn’t feel like much of a warm welcome, but he took solace in the fact that his mother was at peace. She’d wanted that for her children, as well.

Jace suffered quite a bit through his time in the service. The Corps didn’t find itself in the vacation spots around the world too often. He had served his country, and now he believed he was entitled to pursue the happiness that had eluded him thus far.

“I’m sure you heard about the crazy events that have been happening this past summer.” Jace cleared his throat before kneeling, not wanting his voice to carry over the slight breeze. He didn’t see anyone in close proximity, but this was still a private conversation. “I can’t believe that Noah found a body inside the wall of his new house. I mean, what are the odds of that kind of insanity happening here in Blyth Lake? He always did have to be the one to stir up trouble in the neighborhood.”

He pictured Mary Kendall wagging her finger his way, letting him know that he ought to be nicer to his younger brother. Now, he had to chide himself. It hadn’t always been easy being the middle child of five, but he wouldn’t change a second of his childhood in this rural paradise they called home. Life here was so much simpler than the breakneck pace at which the rest of the world ran. Time stood still here amongst the live oaks.

Mitch and Gwen were the oldest of the Kendall siblings, whereas Noah and Lance were the younger. Jace had been the pivot point, smackdab in the middle. The experts always said that the middle child was the peacemaker. That wasn’t the case in the Kendall clan. Their sister, Gwen, had taken that particular role. He imagined that she took on the responsibility just because she couldn’t stand having her brothers fight over stupid shit repeatedly.

Had it not been for his mom, Jace most likely would have been an oddball loner who eventually turned into an uptight asshole. Mary Kendall had made sure he was the youngest of the first three and the oldest of the last three. There wasn’t a moment in time where he’d ever felt out of place.

“I do miss you, Mama.” Jace was out of one-on-one time. He’d learned early on that privacy was the first casualty of having a large family, and seeing Lance’s old F150 through the wrought iron fence was just another reminder. His baby brother pulled into the cemetery parking lot, leaving Jace to wonder how that old truck was still even running. “Lance couldn’t have given me two more minutes alone with you, could he? I know, I know. Be nice.”

Jace leaned his palm against the cool grass, lowering himself to the ground. He might as well make himself comfortable. Lance would have to walk halfway through the graveyard to reach him. He wasn’t about to make it easy for his baby brother to horn in on this moment.

His mother’s wagging finger once again materialized in his mind.

“Oh, Mom. Trust me, he could use the exercise.”

Lance slammed the driver’s side door shut before shading his eyes to determine if Jace would decide to head his way.

Not a chance, buddy.

Jace rested a forearm over his knee, enjoying the fact that Lance was muttering curses under his breath as he started hiking up the small rise. He didn’t realize his mini rant carried across the cemetery as well as it did. It wasn’t long until he was standing in front of their mother’s tombstone.

There were times in life that Jace’s siblings surprised him…this moment included. Lance lowered himself next to Jace, and they sat in silence for a good five minutes. Oddly so, it was actually nice to have the company of a family member here on this midsummer’s day.

“Welcome home,” Lance finally said, not even bothering to glance Jace’s way.

“It’s good to be back,” Jace replied, picking at the grass by his side. He might as well fess up. “I wasn’t quite ready to pull up the drive, you know what I mean?”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me. Been there myself.” Lance lifted his shades until they were resting on top of his head. “The day I drove into town, Dad came strolling out onto the front porch wearing his barbeque apron and carrying a spatula in his hand. Let’s just say there was an adjustment process.”