Unlocking Lies (Keys to Love Series, Book Three)(9)

By: Kennedy Layne

She’d heard that two of his brothers—Noah and Lance—had returned home from their time in the service. Their combined chosen path had been the Marine Corps, if she wasn’t mistaken. Her mother had mentioned that Jace wasn’t due back to Blyth Lake until the end of the year, which was probably why seeing him was such a blow to the serenity she’d been trying to marshal.

Her original plan had called for her to be out of Blyth Lake before he returned.

It wasn’t personal. She was here for a purpose.

Shae was grateful that the diners had averted Jace’s attention with their overzealous reception. He hadn’t glanced her way, so he didn’t even know that she was there. The distraction gave her time to slip out of the booth and head to the restroom, though her path took her right past the small group of greeters. No one noticed, and it wasn’t long before she was behind a locked door and leaning over the sink to give her time to regain her composure.

“Why me?” Shae whispered to herself, hanging her head a little lower as she fought off the dancing lights. “I just needed a few weeks, Emma. Was that too much to ask? He will prove to be nothing but a distraction.”

Shae didn’t believe for a second that her baby sister was alive. She never had, regardless that her parents had proposed that scenario a time or two over the years. It had been easy for her to slip into a one-sided conversation, believing that Emma’s spirit was somewhere out there watching over all of them.

Then there were times when Shae’s unanswered requests made her question her own sanity. Talking with ghosts was crazy, wasn’t it?

One of the saving graces about returning to her childhood home was knowing Jace Kendall wouldn’t be in town. Shae understood that it wasn’t fair to him, but he was a trigger of guilt that she couldn’t deal with right now. She calculated her chances of just paying her tab and leaving without being noticed.

After all, he’d been the reason she’d taken the car the night Emma disappeared. Given her profession, she understood that the what-if game wasn’t healthy to her mental state. She just couldn’t prevent the perpetual question from rising to the surface once again—would Emma still be alive if Shae hadn’t been with Jace Kendall that fateful night?

No one would ever know. Not unless Shae got the opportunity to personally ask Emma’s killer.


She still wore the same perfume, not that he was surprised.

Jace didn’t have to turn his head to know that Shae Irwin was the woman who had just slipped past everyone gathered to greet him. He did his best to maintain his focus on the old friends and acquaintances who embraced him rather than observe her as she made her way to the restroom. These people had been a part of his upbringing, and he wouldn’t disregard their warm welcomes. Nor would he put Shae on the spot in front of them.

He couldn’t say her brush-off didn’t hurt, though. They’d been good friends in high school, and at one point he thought their friendship could be much more. Unfortunately, he’d caught mono in the last semester of his senior year. He’d missed out on all of the best parties, his senior prom, and he’d even had to delay his ship date to Marine Corps boot camp…which happened to be a couple days after Emma had gone missing.

Jace couldn’t judge Shae on her lack of sociability. He’d been somewhat caught up on the events of the last few months, but one thing was clear—Emma Irwin’s disappearance was once again front and center here in Blyth Lake. He could only imagine that the pain of losing a sister never really went away. He honestly couldn’t fathom how he would deal with such a loss if anything suspicious were to happen to any of his siblings.

He had to believe that Shae understood he was there for her should she want to talk, a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to sit with for company in her hour of need. After all, he believed old friendships remained even through the longest of years. He’d given her space and would continue to do so for as long as she wanted to remain at a distance. Maybe an appropriate time would come when they could get caught up with one another’s lives, because that was what friends did. There was always hope when even just one of them kept the faith.

“Harlan, I want to thank you for everything you did regarding the Stoll property.” Jace shook his head, still in somewhat disbelief over the announcement his father had made this afternoon. “It’s hard to believe such a beautiful house and those pristine sixteen acres of rolling pastures are now mine. It’s…hell, I don’t think there are words enough to describe what I feel right now.”