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Marta Perry

Buried Sins

Love Inspired Suspense
December 2007
The Three Sisters Inn Series - Book 3

Wanted: Dead or Alive.

Had her brand-new husband been involved in something shady? Before Caroline Hampton could confront him, he was killed in a car crash...or so it was claimed. Unsettling incidents, escalating in danger, warned her he could be very much alive. And so Caroline fled for the safety of her sisters’ Amish country inn. But someone who suspected her—handsome police chief Zachary Burkhalter—was waiting for Caroline. Waiting for her to slip up and watching her every move. Daring her to trust him with all of the truth..

THE THREE SISTERS INN: Danger awaits the Hampton sisters in quiet Amish Country.

“While the drama and suspense drive the storyline of BURIED SINS, I was touched by the depth of emotions Marta Perry conveyed through the story. This book was so well written and the characters so real that I couldn’t put it down.”
Robyn Roberts, Once Upon a Romance

Buried Sins

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Read an Excerpt:

Chapter One

She was being followed. Caroline Hampton pulled her wool jacket around her, fingers tight on the Navajo embroidery, but even that couldn’t dissipate the chill that worked its way down her spine.

Santa Fe could be cold in early March, but the shiver that touched her had nothing to do with the temperature. She detoured around the tour group in front of the central monument of the plaza. Ordinarily, she might stop there to do a little people-watching, her fingers itching for a pad and a charcoal to capture an expression. But not when she felt that inimical gaze on her.

Evading a vendor determined to sell her a carnita, she hurried across the square, only half her attention on the colors, movement, and excitement that she loved about the old city. She was letting her active imagination run wild; that was all. This persistent sense that someone watched her was some odd aftereffect of shock and grief.

She stopped at a magazine stand, picking up a newspaper and pretending to study it as she used it for a screen to survey the crowd. There, see? No one was paying any attention to her, or at least, no more attention than her tousled mass of red curls and artistic flair of dressing usually merited. Everything was fine—

Her heart thudded, loud in her ears. Everything was not fine. The man had stopped at a flower stand but his gaze was fixed on her, not on the mixed bouquet the vendor thrust at him. Short, stocky, probably in his forties, dressed in the casual western style that was so common here—he looked like a hundred other men in the plaza at this moment.

But he wasn’t. She’d spotted him before—when she was leaving the gallery after work, when she returned to the apartment overlooking the river she and Tony had shared.

This wasn’t grief, or an overactive imagination. This was real.

She shoved the newspaper back on the rack, hurrying toward the Palace of the Governors. It thronged with tourists, its entrance turned into a maze by the Native American craftspeople that spread their wares there. She’d lose him in the crowd; she’d go back to the gallery…

But he’d been at the gallery. He knew where she worked, where she lived. The chill deepened. Her fingers touched the cell phone that was tucked inside the top pocket of her leather shoulder bag. Call the police?

Her stomach seemed to turn at that. The last time she’d spoken to a cop there’d been a pair of them, male and female, appearing at her door at six in the morning to tell her that her husband was dead. To ask her questions she couldn’t answer about Tony Gibson.

She wound her way among the craftspeople, nodding to some of the regulars. Ask them for help? But what could they do? They’d want to call the police.

The knot in her stomach tightened as her mind skirted the older, darker memory that lurked like a snake in the recesses of her mind. She wouldn’t think of that, wouldn’t let herself remember—

She risked a quick look around. The man was no longer in sight. The tour group, apparently released by their guide, flooded to the crafts vendors on a tide of enthusiasm, swamping everything in their path.

All right. She’d slip around the Museum of Fine Arts and make her way to the city lot where she’d left her car. It would be fine. She rounded the corner.

The man stepped from a doorway to grab her arm.

Caroline took breath to scream, jerking against his grip, trying to remember the proper response from the self-defense class she’d taken last winter.

“You don’t want to scream.” His voice was pitched low enough to hide under the chatter of the passing crowd. Cold eyes, small and black as two ripe olives, narrowed. “Think of all the questions you’d have to answer about Tony if you did.”

“Tony.” Her mind seemed to skip a beat, then settle on the name. “What do you have to do with my husband? What do you want?”

“Just the answers to a couple of questions.” He smiled, nodded, as if they were two acquaintances who’d happened to meet on the street. “We can stay here in full view of the crowds.” The smile had an edge, like the faint scar that crossed his cheek. “Then you’ll feel safe.”

She summoned courage. Act as if you’re in control, even if you’re not. “Or you can beat it before I decide to scream.”

She yanked at her arm. A swift kick to his shins might do it—too bad she didn’t have heels on today. She’d—

“Just answer me one thing.” His tone turned to gravel, and his fingers twisted her wrist, the stab of pain shocking her. “Where is Tony Gibson?”

She could only stare at him. “Tony? Tony’s dead.”

Fresh grief gripped her heart on the words. The fact that Tony hadn’t been the man she thought him, had lied from the first moment they’d met—none of that could alter the fact that she grieved for him.

Incredibly, the man smiled. “Nice try. Where is he?” The fingers twisted again on her wrist—her right hand, she’d never be able to finish the project she was working on it he broke it, she—

Think. Focus. She’d pray, but God had deserted her a long time ago.

“I’m telling you the truth. Tony died over two weeks ago. His car went off the road up in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. Check the papers if you don’t believe me. They covered the story.”

With a photograph, showing the burned-out car that was all that was left of her month-long marriage.

“I saw it. A handy accident is a nice out for a man who’d made Santa Fe too hot to hold him.” He sounded almost admiring. “Maybe the others will even buy that. Not me.” He leaned closer, and she fought not to show her fear. “Your husband owes me a hundred thousand. I want it. All of it. From him. Or from you.”

He released her so suddenly that she nearly fell. She stumbled back a step, rubbing her wrist, trying to find the words that would convince this madman that Tony was dead and that she could no more produce a hundred thousand dollars than she could fly.

“Tell Tony.” He moved away, raising his hand in a casual goodbye. “Tell him I’ll be in touch.”

Before she could speak he was gone, melting away in the crowd of camera-laden tourists who rounded the corner. She stood, letting them flow past her, forcing her mind to work.

“I saw it. A handy accident is a nice out for a man who’d made Santa Fe too hot to hold him.” He sounded almost admiring. “Maybe the others will even buy that. Not me.” He leaned closer, and she fought not to show her fear. “Your husband owes me a hundred thousand. I want it. All of it. From him. Or from you.”

He released her so suddenly that she nearly fell. She stumbled back a step, rubbing her wrist, trying to find the words that would convince this madman that Tony was dead and that she could no more produce a hundred thousand dollars than she could fly.

“Tell Tony.” He moved away, raising his hand in a casual goodbye. “Tell him I’ll be in touch.”

Before she could speak he was gone, melting away in the crowd of camera-laden tourists who rounded the corner. She stood, letting them flow past her, forcing her mind to work.

Run. That was all it would say. That’s what you do in a situation like this. You run, you find a new place, you start over.

As she had when she’d come to Santa Fe. As she always did. She shoved the strap of her bag back on her shoulder and walked quickly in the direction of the car park. She could go north, head for Colorado, get lost in Denver. Or west to LA.

An image formed in her mind, startling her—peaceful green fields dotted with white barns, farmhouses, silos. Gray Amish buggies rattling along narrow roads.

She had a choice. For the first time in years, she had a choice. She could choose to run home.

 

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