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Her Boldest Lie

Her Boldest Lie

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Marcheline Fay claimed the father of her child wasn't in the picture. Now her daughter is all grown up and asking questions. When a decades-old letter gets mailed without Marcheline's permission, the lie she told might not be enough to keep them safe.

Scrambling to find out who knows what and at risk of losing it all, Marcheline must reopen old wounds to make things right.

Will he come after her? How will she face his accusations without sacrificing her hard-earned business empire? And will her family ever look at her the same?

Her Boldest Lie is the third book in the Rosemary Run Series of domestic thrillers.

Publication date: October 25, 2019.

About the Rosemary Run Series:

In the charming Northern California town of Rosemary Run, there's trouble brewing below the picture-perfect surface.

Don't let the manicured lawns and stylish place settings fool you. Nothing is exactly as it seems. Secrets and lies threaten to upend the status quo and destroy lives when— not if— they're revealed.

With surprising twists and turns that will keep you guessing to the end, each Rosemary Run novel features a different woman's nail-biting story. The series is ongoing and books can be read in any order.

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It was a cold November night when Marcheline Fay last saw the man she claimed had fathered her only child. She had left him under the cover of darkness, having stuffed everything she owned into an old Ford Pinto and driven away. If she closed her eyes, she could still feel the biting wind and the weight of the bags in her hands, her pulse racing faster than the rhythm of the rustling leaves. She’d barely made it out without being caught.

Evanston, Illinois was a leafy suburb north of Chicago with good schools and low crime. It was everything Marcheline’s parents had dreamed of before the family emigrated from France when she was a baby. Soon after arriving in the United States, they had opened a bakery selling traditional recipes from their homeland and were living the American dream. Marcheline had grown up lonely since her parents were at work most of the time, but it had been a small price to pay for financial stability and more room to stretch than they’d had back in Paris. Her parents loved her. She knew that. But something had been missing.

Her mother had warned her about getting involved with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. And the warnings weren’t without merit. There had been gang activities, alcohol and drug addictions, and violence to contend with. Grim stories filled the nightly news. But Marcheline had gotten involved with such a boy, anyway. She thought she’d known better. After all, she had spent most of her life in America, and there was a lot that her French parents just didn’t understand.

Marcheline was barely seventeen when Chester Loor had charmed her, his handsome features and rich brown skin, darker than her own, standing out as compared to the light-skinned kids who filled the streets of her neighborhood and the halls of her school. Chester had seemed exotic. Maybe it was because Marcheline longed to be in better touch with her African roots. Or maybe she just wanted to be with someone who looked like she did. Whatever the reason, she had thrown caution to the wind, sneaking out with Chester against her parents’ wishes and without their knowledge. He had turned out to be just as bad for Marcheline as her mother had predicted. And then some.

Now, as an adult with a grown daughter of her own, Marcheline wasn’t proud of her choices during that time in her life. In fact, she tried not to ever think about them. She had turned things around for herself and little Sabine, moving to Northern California, attending college, and eventually settling in the quaint town of Rosemary Run and opening a winery. It had been difficult to accomplish so much as a single mother. But Marcheline had persevered, following in her parents’ footsteps and emulating their strong work ethic. She had grown Maison du Vin to be one of the most successful wineries in the region, entertaining tourists from around the world and exporting bottles of her product nearly as far.

Things had been close enough to perfect. Until Sabine got married, had a baby of her own, and grew curious about the man who had given her life. At odds with Marcheline on getting in contact with her father, one day on a whim, Sabine found a sealed envelope in her mother’s belongings addressed to a mystery recipient named C.M. Loor in Chicago, Illinois. Acting hastily and without asking for Marcheline’s permission, Sabine added a stamp to the envelope and dropped it into a blue mailbox stationed outside of the Rosemary Run Post Office. Little did Sabine know, her foolhardy choice would soon threaten to destroy Marcheline Fay’s carefully constructed life and endanger them all.

Chapter One

Oblivious to the danger that awaited her, Marcheline was enjoying a productive morning in the office. She was seated at her desk on the winery grounds, overlooking her two-hundred-thirty acres of rolling vineyard. She’d had the perfect picture window specially constructed a few years prior when she had left her original, smaller office building and commissioned the new headquarters.

Business was booming, so Marcheline didn’t feel guilty about spending extra for the luxury she enjoyed. She was in a place in her life where she had enough savings and assets to provide a cushion even if business took a downturn and she had to weather leaner times. She’d had a number in mind and once her net worth surpassed it, she gave herself permission to splurge here and there.

At first, it was hard to get used to spending money on herself for more than the bare essentials. Marcheline had grown-up pinching pennies and watching her spending carefully under her parents exacting eyes. It hadn’t happened overnight, but eventually, Marcheline had found herself living more comfortably than she’d ever imagined. Luxuries like heated floors, smart security systems, high-tech kitchen gadgets, and weighted blankets were things she hadn’t even dreamed of. But once she began to try some of the creature comforts her wealthy friends raved about, Marcheline saw the appeal.

She sometimes felt like Oprah Winfrey, making lists of her favorite things and giving posh gifts to her friends. Oprah hadn’t seemed to harbor guilt about enjoying her wealth, Marcheline reasoned, which made her an ideal woman to look up to. Oprah had worked hard, just like Marcheline, and by all accounts deserved the money she’d earned. Marcheline even looked like Oprah, her strong cheekbones, dark skin, sturdy figure, and commanding presence making her hard to ignore. Deciding Oprah was as good an idol as any, Marcheline had followed her example when it came to questions of how to exist as a wealthy woman in this man’s world. She had even pretended to be Oprah sometimes, gazing into the mirror and rehearsing affirmations until her own confidence had settled in deep.

On this morning, it was early October and harvest season was in full swing. Marcheline’s staff was busy picking grapes and getting them into the fermenter. The fruit was at the peak of ripeness, and this year’s harvest looked good. They would make a lot of wine out of the grapes that were being pulled from the vines each and every moment. The entire team was proud of the product. And the employees were happy.

Marcheline was a good boss. She offered higher than average wages, and she provided generous healthcare benefits and paid time off. Most of her employees had been with her for more than a decade, which she thought spoke to their loyalty and dedication to the business. If they hadn’t been happy, they wouldn’t have stayed. There were plenty of other wineries in the region they could have worked at instead.

A collection of framed photos on top of Marcheline’s desk caught her eye every time she glanced up and out the picture window. Most of the photos featured her daughter, Sabine Fay. Sabine was everything to Marcheline, and she could not have been prouder of Sabine’s young family. Sabine and her husband, Ryan Martin, were parents to a healthy baby girl named Amelie. They lived less than five minutes away from Marcheline’s estate, and they all saw each other often. Being a grandmother was a greater joy than Marcheline had dared to wish. Family life was good, and they had the photos to prove it.

Marcheline smiled as she glanced from one picture to the next. A square, silver frame held a photo from Sabine and Ryan’s wedding, the happy couple beaming with joy as they held up their shiny new wedding rings. A wooden frame next to it held one of Sabine’s senior photos from her high school years at East Valley High School. Another featured a five-year-old Sabine sitting on Marcheline’s lap as they posed by a Christmas tree, the warm glow of the decorative lights filling the frame. The framed photo beside it showcased a newborn Amelie, pink and healthy, a living symbol of their love and pride. Marcheline could get lost staring at those photos and thinking about how grateful she was for the happy life she had managed to create for her daughter and, by extension, for her baby granddaughter.

Rande Floyd, Marcheline’s vice president and right-hand man at Maison du Vin, knocked on her office door, then popped his head inside. “Good morning, Ma’am,” Rande said with a crooked smile. Marcheline had told her associate he didn’t need to call her ma’am, but he insisted on doing it, anyway. It was part token of respect and part good-natured teasing. It had become a nickname.

“Morning, Rande,” Marcheline said. “How are those sales reports coming?”

Rande was a Caucasian man in his late fifties with sun-weathered skin that was beginning to look like leather. He had the air of an old cowboy. Despite his slow drawl, he was smart as a whip. He had been born and raised in Rosemary Run, then had spent two decades in Wyoming working on a cattle ranch. He had married late in life to a younger woman who ended up wanting to put down roots somewhere the kids could grow up knowing their grandparents. When Rande returned to town, Marcheline had been his first stop. He’d heard of the high standards at her winery and knew he wanted to be involved. It took a little convincing, but Marcheline quickly came to understand Rande’s charms. In the year since they’d been working together, they had become known as an odd couple in the local business community. On the surface, Rande and Marcheline seemed like opposites, but the differences in their backgrounds only served to benefit their partnership. Rande had a good head on his shoulders. Marcheline relied on him to be the voice of reason and to focus on practicality. He had not disappointed her.

“So far, so good,” Rande said as he sat down in one of the plush yellow chairs in front of Marcheline’s desk. As usual, he looked out of place against her stylish office decor. Rande tapped one finger on his bottom lip like he always did when he was thinking. He tapped the toe of his polished cowboy boot in rhythm. “I’m pleased.”

The company had recently begun exporting to Europe and Marcheline was eager to learn how the new exports were impacting the bottom line. The cost of shipping wine bottles overseas was enough to make her skeptical about the long-term viability of the new venture. She wanted to be sure Maison du Vin would earn enough to make the higher costs worth the trouble. It was the biggest risk she had taken in business.

“Are we in the black yet?” Marcheline asked. “I know it will take some time to turn enough profit to offset the overseas shipping expenses, so I will await news of that victory patiently. But as you know, I tend to get on edge while I wait.” She looked at Rande, considering their situation. “You promised me this expansion would be a roaring success. Do you still stand by that?”

“Promise is a strong way of putting it,” Rande said with a cautious grin. “But I’m doing my very best for you, Ma’am. You have my word on that.”

“Good enough,” Marcheline confirmed. She knew Rande was indeed a man of his word and wouldn’t use the term promise lightly. “What else is happening this morning? Any updates on the harvest?”

They both glanced out the picture window. Marcheline thought her new office reminded her of the bridge of a ship. It was a command center of sorts. She thought it an honor to sit at the helm.

“Things are looking good out there, Ma’am,” Rande said in his deep, gruff voice. “I just ran the numbers and I project we will exceed last year’s harvest by a good margin.”

“That’s fabulous news,” Marcheline replied. “Nothing would make me happier,”

“Other than that grandbaby of yours,” Rande added. “How’s the little rugrat doing?”

Marcheline laughed. “Right as usual, my friend,” she replied. She leaned back in her reclining chair, her curly hair billowing around her shoulders. “Little Amelie is just the best. I highly recommend getting a grandbaby of your own someday.”

“Hey, now,” Rande replied. “I’ve got a ways to go before that happens. I’m still in the thick of the elementary school years with my own kids. Charisse stays busy with after-school activities, homework, and volunteering at the school.”

Marcheline remembered those days like they were yesterday. “Charisse is a good one. You’re a lucky man.”

“You don’t have to tell me. I know that like I know my own name. The only thing I don’t know is how I talked her into marrying me in the first place.”

They laughed together. Marcheline appreciated the ease with which she and Rande could converse.

In addition to being colleagues, Marcheline and Rande were true friends. Rande understood Marcheline and everything she had been through like few other people did. Over the years they’d worked together, they had spent a lot of hours talking. Marcheline had even told him a good deal about her life before moving to California. In fact, she had told him more than she had her closest girlfriends. Something about Rande made him easy to talk to. He seemed trustworthy, like he’d take your secrets to his grave. He was old-school like that.

“Speaking of lucky men,” Rande continued. “How are things going with the new guy? Hasn’t he been around long enough now that I might get some details?”

“What?” Marcheline asked, lowering her head and pretending not to know what he was talking about. “You’re the only man in my life, Rande. Well, other than Limbo the coonhound, that is.”

“And you still don’t think there is a deeper meaning behind the fact that you named your dog Limbo?” Rande asked. “Maybe the name reflects the status of your love life?”

Marcheline chuckled. “I told you, Rande. I named him after the limbo dance. It was innocent, I promise.”

“Okay, then,” Rande muttered. “Are you trying to convince me? Or yourself?”

“Oh, hush.”

“Certainly, Ma’am,” Rande teased. “Just as soon as you tell me about the new guy, I’ll stand up and march right back down to my own office, where I’ll remain for the rest of the morning, hushed. And that’s a promise.”

Marcheline was guarded about her love life. During Sabine’s childhood, she hadn’t dated at all. Marcheline hadn’t felt like she was available to give herself to someone in that way. She hadn’t trusted herself, and she didn’t want to get Sabine mixed up in any unnecessary drama. And besides, it wasn’t as if she had a good track record. She hadn’t had a successful romantic relationship in her entire life. Business, she could figure out. Romance was a lot trickier.

“Alright. Fine,” Marcheline said reluctantly. “You talked me into it. But Rande, I want you to keep this between us.”

“Oh, nice,” he replied, standing up and shuffling over to shut the door. “That must mean it’s good. I’m all ears, Ma’am.”

Marcheline could feel her face getting warm at the thought of talking about her love life. She wished she had more experience. She wished she didn’t feel like a middle schooler at her first dance.

“It’s embarrassing, Rande.”

“No need to be embarrassed. It’s just me you’re talking to you. What’s his name?”

“His name… is Leonard. Leonard Dawson.”

“Okay,” Rande replied. “We’re off to a good start. Where did you meet Leonard Dawson?”

Marcheline ran her thumb along the armrest of her chair nervously as she talked. “At a Chamber of Commerce meeting, actually. He’s a banker.”

Rande opened his eyes wide and raised his eyebrows. “Highfalutin,” he said with a laugh. “That might be good. Someone who can keep up with you.”

“Just what is that supposed to mean?” Marcheline asked, teasing back.

“You know what it means,” Rande replied. “What does he look like? And how old is he? Tell me the basics.”

Marcheline closed her eyes as she pictured Leonard’s face. “He’s tall, dark, and handsome. I’m not sure exactly how old he is, but around my age.”

“How dark are we talking?”

“Skin tone like mine,” Marcheline said, amused.

“Does he wear a fancy watch? Like the ones bankers always wear in movies?”

“I guess so, yeah,” she replied. “He’s serious and intense. Very dedicated to his career. But he’s nice. We have fun together.”

“I see. Have you done the horizontal mambo yet?”

“Rande!” Marcheline exclaimed, her face getting hotter. “You have no shame.”

“I’m simply assessing the situation, Ma’am,” he replied. “So, have you?”

Marcheline hesitated. She knew she could trust Rande, but she felt funny talking about sex. So far, she’d kept particulars about her dating life to herself. “Maybe,” she answered, coyly.

Rande looked at her, wide-eyed with a smirk on his face. He was waiting, and he would not let her off the hook until she spilled more details.

“Alright, alright,” Marcheline said. “Yes. But don’t you dare repeat that, Rande.”

He gestured, as if zipping his lips. “It’s under lock and key.”

“But that’s not the most surprising part of the story,” Marcheline said, winking.

“Do tell, Ma’am. I won’t have a need to watch my afternoon soap operas after hearing all of this.”

“You’re so silly,” Marcheline said. She knew Rande wouldn’t be caught dead watching an afternoon soap opera, which made his comment that much funnier. “The most surprising part… Is that there’s another man, too. I’m seeing them both.”

“Would you look at you?”

“His name is Jim Bennett.”

“And what is he like?”

“He is… A lot different from Leonard. Jim is a history teacher at East Valley High. And he’s pale as pale can be, with blonde hair and a man bun. He kind of reminds me of a middle-aged surfer dude. A Matthew McConaughey type.”

“What do you know?” Rande mused. “I take it Leonard isn’t the surfer dude type.”

“Not at all,” Marcheline said emphatically. “I’d be surprised if he spent much time outdoors. He wouldn’t want to get his expensive shoes dirty.”

Rande laughed heartily now, placing one leathery hand over his belly. “Sounds like you’ve got quite the opposite ends of the spectrum in play here. I guess I can see you wanting to sample some different flavors at all. You’re still pretty new to this thing called dating.”

“Is that what I’m doing? Sampling flavors?”

“You tell me. How do they taste, Ma’am?”

Marcheline grew embarrassed again. “You’re terrible,” she said to her friend. “But I guess you’re right. For whatever reason, I finally got up the courage to try dating. I suppose it feels like my life is stable enough now to try a few things and find out what I like. I’ll figure it out in time.”

“That’s right, you will. And if any of these guys give you trouble, you let me know about it. You hear?”

“That’s sweet, Rande. Do you realize you’re like a big brother to me? Like the big brother I never had. I sure could have used a big brother’s protection when I was a kid.”

“I know it, Ma’am. If the position’s open, I suppose I’ll take it,” he replied with a smile. “Truth be told, I already think of you as a kid sister. At first, it was weird that you were also my boss. But we have the kind of friendship that will outlast our professional relationship. It’s all good. Don’t you think?”

Marcheline crossed her hands in front of her as she smiled back at her friend. “Indeed, it is,” she replied. “All good. Now get back to your office and hush. Like you promised. I have work to do.”

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