Home > The Lady Has a Past (Burning Cove #5)

The Lady Has a Past (Burning Cove #5)
Author: Amanda Quick


Chapter 1


   Charles Adlington was in the process of trying to drown his wife in the pool when Lyra Brazier walked into the walled garden behind the mansion.

   At least that’s what it looked like.

   Lyra froze, trying to process the surreal scene. Everything appeared so normal—the California sun dancing on the water, the umbrella-shaded lounge chairs, the pitcher of martinis on the table, the bag of golf clubs leaning against a garden bench. Just another postcard-perfect day in the seaside paradise that was Burning Cove.

   Except that Adlington was attempting to murder his wife.

   Lyra told herself the Adlingtons might be playing some kind of boisterous game. The violent splashing made it difficult to be sure what was going on. She couldn’t even be absolutely certain that Marcella and Charles Adlington were the two people in the pool. She had never met the couple. That seemed the most logical conclusion, however, given that the villa belonged to them and there was no one else around, not even a housekeeper or gardener.

   But the husband was supposed to be playing golf. That left another horrifying possibility—that Marcella was being attacked by a stranger.

   The woman in the pool managed to surface long enough to scream.

   “Help me. My husband is trying to kill me.”

   So much for the assaulted-by-a-stranger theory.

   Charles looked up from his task of trying to hold Marcella’s head underwater, saw Lyra, and immediately released his victim. He splashed frantically toward the pool steps.

   “You’re next, you interfering bitch. How dare you try to put me away? Do you know who I am?”

   He moved with surprising speed for such a big man. He reached the top step just as Lyra overcame the shock that had bolted her to the ground. She was not imagining things. She really had walked in on a murder in progress. The smart thing to do was run. But Adlington was a strong, athletic man and he was wearing only a pair of belted swim shorts. He could move fast.

   She, on the other hand, was dressed for what was supposed to have been an interview with a wealthy client. Her fashionable stacked-heel sandals, stockings, and snug-fitting, calf-length skirted suit were not designed for running.

   There was another factor as well. She could not leave the woman in the pool alone to deal with a violent man who was apparently in a killing mood.

   Adlington was closing in fast. There was madness and rage in his eyes.

   She rushed toward the golf bag and grabbed an iron. Adlington was almost upon her now.

   Using the proper two-handed grip, she swung the club with all the strength she could muster. The years of being captain of the golf team at the elite women’s college she had attended paid off. She aimed for Adlington’s head. The club slammed into the side of his skull with a stomach-churning thud. Blood spurted.

   Adlington toppled to the side and went down hard. He landed on the tiled patio and did not move. A crimson lake began to form around his head.

   Lyra stared at him, shocked at her own act of violence, unnerved by the possibility that she might have just killed a man, and light-headed with the certainty that she had almost been murdered. Her pulse was skittering and she could not catch her breath.

   “Thank God you arrived when you did.” The woman in the pool staggered through the water to the steps. “Charles was trying to murder me. The doctors at the asylum told me they had cured him. I was a fool to believe them.”

   Lyra finally managed to breathe. “Marcella Adlington?”

   “Yes.” Marcella made it out of the pool and grabbed a towel from a nearby table. “I’m Marcella Adlington.”

   She was in her late thirties or very early forties, an attractive blonde who had probably been nothing short of ravishing when she was in her twenties. She had the kind of bone structure that would ensure she aged well. Her fashionable frock was soaking wet and clung to her elegantly curved body like a second skin. Her shoulder-length hair hung in wet tendrils. Mascara ran down her cheeks. Her maroon red lipstick was smeared.

   She blotted her face and peered at Lyra. “You’re not Raina Kirk, are you? I was told she was an older, more experienced woman.”

   “Miss Kirk couldn’t make the appointment,” Lyra said. “She sent me instead. I’m Lyra Brazier.”

   “I see.” Marcella collapsed onto a bench, clutching the towel. “Forgive me. I feel a little shaky.” She stared at the unmoving body of her husband. “Is he—”

   Lyra glanced at the man crumpled on the patio. “I don’t know. We must call the police.”

   “Yes, of course.” Marcella wrapped her arms around herself and started to rock gently back and forth. “I hope he’s dead. I was absolutely terrified of him.”

   Lyra pulled herself together, dropped the golf club, and hurried around the edge of the pool. She stopped close to Marcella. The woman was trembling violently.

   “Please let him be dead,” Marcella whispered. “He was going to kill me. They said he was cured, but he intended to murder me. He said it would look like an accidental drowning. He said the police would assume I got drunk on martinis, fell into the pool, and died. He had it all planned out, you see.”

   Lyra grabbed two thick towels from the stack on a nearby bench. A heavy object that had been tucked between the towels tumbled out and landed on the tiles with a clatter. Startled, she looked down and saw a pistol.

   Marcella stiffened. “I bought it a while ago. I was so afraid of him. But in the end it didn’t do me any good. He caught me by surprise. Said he knew I was waiting for a private investigator. He realized I intended to try to find evidence to have him committed again.”

   Lyra did not respond, for the simple reason that she could not sort out her own feelings. On the one hand, she hoped that Charles Adlington was never again going to be a threat. But the possibility that she might have killed a man, even in self-defense, was too much to deal with in that moment. She reminded herself that she was a professional. She had to remain calm, cool, and collected.

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