Unlocking Lies (Keys to Love Series, Book Three)(7)

By: Kennedy Layne

Or not long enough.

“Jack.” Shae would have run into the man had she not been trying to see who was inside the diner by craning her neck. He’d come barreling out the glass door as if the building were on fire, not caring who was in his way. He always was a little self-centered, even when he was younger. “It’s been a long while.”

It was really wrong of her to experience a streak of pleasure as Jack Stuart seemed a bit speechless at her presence. Bygones should be bygones, but the memory of him making fun of Emma when she got her braces was hard to forget. His stymie now provided a little satisfaction.

“Shae, I didn’t know you were back in town.” Jack awkwardly leaned in for a hug, as if he wasn’t sure how to greet her. A handshake would have been fine, but she followed suit. They were in a small town, after all. “It’s good to see you.”

They were still standing on the sidewalk, but Shae could sense each heavy stare from those who were left inside the diner. She never thought returning to her hometown would be easy, but this was downright awkward. Were they all staring at her because they expected her to start screaming and losing her shit?

“Please tell me that there’s still a slice of Annie’s apple pie left in the bakery case.” Shae was going to make this exchange as normal as she could muster, given the circumstances. “I’ve been driving all day thinking of her homemade apple pies.”

“I don’t know,” Jack admitted reluctantly with a crooked smile. “I was just saying hi to my mom before meeting up with Beth Ann over at the Cavern.”

That’s right. Brynn had mentioned in their last phone call that Jack was dating Beth Ann.

“Well, I won’t keep you then,” Shae said, meaning every word. “I’m starving, but give Beth Ann my best. I’m sure I’ll see the two of you shortly, seeing as I’m staying in Brynn’s old studio apartment above the bar.”

Calvin Arlos being somewhat shocked at stumbling into her in town was one thing. After all, he’d been holed up at home and recovering from open heart surgery. Jack, on the other hand, was something entirely different. He seemed thrown for a complete loop at the sight of her knowing smile.

Brynn hadn’t told a soul that Shae was returning home.

Oh, this should be illuminating.

She was grateful for the small favor. The Irwin family had been the talk of the town for far too long, and she certainly didn’t want to add to the local gossip mill. The opportunity to catch everyone unprepared for her appearance had its own benefits. Unfortunately, keeping the residents in the dark about her return also meant uncomfortable meetings such as this one. She might as well have spilt the beans regardless, especially considering that Calvin was currently announcing her arrival to the entire bar.

“Yeah, I heard Brynn had moved in with Lance,” Jack replied, most likely because he wasn’t sure what else to say. “I’m sure I’ll see you around then. Are you visiting or are you staying for a while?”

“Just visiting,” Shae replied honestly, not sure she’d ever come back to Blyth Lake once Emma’s case was solved. “Have a good night, Jack.”

Shae didn’t give him time to ask her any other questions. She shouldered past him and opened the door, covering her wince as the bell above her began to ring.

“Shae Irwin, I don’t believe my eyes!” Molly Stuart came around the counter wiping her hands on the white apron tied around her waist. Shae didn’t believe for a second that the woman’s hands had anything on them. Everyone had been waiting eagerly for Shae to walk inside. “Aren’t you absolutely beautiful. Cassie, come here! Shae’s come home!”

Shae managed a smile as she was engulfed in Molly’s embrace. It wasn’t long before the other patrons began standing from their tables and coming over to greet her. It was as if the town’s welcome wagon had been rolled out.

Harlan Whitmore and his wife had been very good friends with her parents, as were Chester and Stella Mayer. The couples used to have a weekly game of Euchre, and probably still did. Shae hadn’t meant to make anyone uncomfortable, least of all these few couples who had always been friends to the family.

Yes, she was well aware that Harlan had been called in for questioning due to his connection to the properties linked to the so-called serial killer. Not even Detective Kendrick had proven to her that scenario existed one hundred percent. As for Harlan, he’d sold both properties to the Kendalls. She chalked everyone’s involvement up to this point as a coincidence. Every loose connection to this case was circumstantial.