Only nine more days until the conclusion of the Magnolia Steele Mystery series so I thought I’d give you a sneak peek!
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And now onto the sneak peek!
“Ms. Steele? I’m Detective Maria Martinez with the Franklin Police. I’m here to talk to you about what happened Saturday night at the Middle Tennessee Children’s Charity Masquerade Ball.”
I stared at the woman on my mother’s doorstep, wondering why it had taken two days for the police to show up asking questions. I’d recognized Martinez before the reintroduction, of course. She’d interrogated me at the Franklin, Tennessee, police station a month ago, after I’d stumbled upon Max Goodwin’s body. It wasn’t exactly the kind of thing you could forget. Insults had been flung by both of us, and the small smile on her face told me she was eager for the chance to get another crack at me.
“I’d be more than happy to talk to you, Detective,” I said, “but can we reschedule this for a later date? I’m currently hosting my mother’s wake.”
She made an apologetic face but held firm. “It’s only a few questions. It won’t take long.” Then she gave me a smile that made her look constipated.
She thought I was involved in the murders.
She wasn’t wrong—not totally—but I couldn’t tell her the truth . . . and I didn’t know if I had the fortitude to hold myself together and convincingly lie. I’d buried my mother only hours ago, and a wave of people had descended upon her house and hadn’t left. My patience and emotional strength had been tested again and again by everything I’d endured over the past few days, let alone the last month, and from the look in Detective Martinez’s eyes, that was what she was counting on.
I stepped out onto the porch, closing the front door and quieting the chatter of the mourners behind me. The air was cooling as the sun set, and the wind had picked up. I wrapped my arms across my chest to stay warm, and it occurred to me that I could use the chilly air and the people in my mother’s house as an excuse to get away, should the need arise.
And knowing Detective Martinez’s tenacity and her fast and loose relationship with the truth when it didn’t fit her theories, I suspected the need would arise.
I lifted my eyebrows and gave her a look that said, Go on.
That little smile grew into a satisfied smirk, the kind that mean girls got when they thought they’d bested you.
I tried to look bored. “Do you have any questions, Detective Martinez? Or do you just plan to stare at me? If you’re admiring my dress, it was a gift from a designer in New York,” I lied. “It’s one of a kind.” . . . the only one in the New York City vintage thrift store where I’d bought it two years ago.
Anger filled her eyes. “Did you attend the ball this past Saturday night?”
I couldn’t hide my surprise. “Don’t you talk to your partner? Brady saw me there. This question seems like a waste of my time and yours.” It was stupid to goad her. I knew it. But I still held a grudge for the way she’d treated me in connection with the Goodwin case. How she’d attacked my character. While some part of me knew she had been doing her job, there was no denying she’d been overzealous with her interrogation and her insults.
Her eyes went flat. “Detective Bennett has been reassigned, so I’m asking you, Magnolia Steele. Did you or did you not attend the masquerade ball at Savannah House last Saturday night?”
Brady had been reassigned? What did that mean? Last I’d heard, he was working the murder of my attorney, Emily Johnson. He’d linked it to a serial killer—the same one who’d carved his mark onto my leg ten years ago. Only, no one else had made the connection, and Brady had asked me to keep it quiet. Not hard to do since only four people knew about my connection to the serial killer—Brady, my mother (who was now dead), my sister-in-law Belinda, and Colt Austin. And Colt had bigger secrets to keep.
The look in Detective Martinez’s eyes told me she blamed me for her partner’s reassignment.
There was no denying that I’d stayed with Brady for several days last week. After all, he’d told me that half the force knew, which was how he’d always seemed to know where I was and what I was doing. Apparently members of the Franklin PD had been giving him regular reports.
I’d never intended to stay with Brady, but a week and a half ago, my apartment had become a crime scene after I’d been attacked and nearly killed by Geraldo Lopez, a Nashville dentist. He’d faked his own kidnapping and then shown up at my apartment looking for one million dollars’ worth of gold bullion. My father had stolen the gold and hidden it in a ceramic dog I’d given him when I was a kid, something I’d found by chance in my mother’s garage.
After the attack, Brady had suggested that I stay with him for a while, and I’d folded like a paper towel. While he had made it clear he was interested in a romantic relationship, I’d held him off . . . at first. Being with him had felt wrong, though, like I was a problem for him to solve or a damsel for him to save, and I was far from sure that I could trust him. Not to mention that the serial killer, who’d been sending me threatening texts all month, had amped up his threats because of all the time I’d spent in the company of a member of Franklin law enforcement.
Brady had never known the truth about the gold, only that Geraldo Lopez thought I had something of my father’s. The only person who knew about it was the aforementioned Colt Austin, part-time employee at my mother’s catering business and aspiring country singer.
And now my sort-of boyfriend. (It was complicated . . . but I felt like myself when I was with him, and that was something.)
Except two bad people had also figured out that I had the gold . . . but they were the two who had been killed in front of me on Saturday night. Rowena Rogers and her lackey.
And that was why Detective Martinez was standing on my mother’s front porch right now.
“Detective,” I said in a tone that suggested we should try to reach a truce. Pissing her off wasn’t the smartest thing to do. “As you undoubtedly know, I was there, but only for a very short time before I was called to the hospital. That was the night my mother died.”
She gave me an expectant look. “She died from . . . ?”
I gasped. “Are you seriously asking about my mother’s cause of death?”
“You have to admit that a significant number of people around you have died since you came back to Franklin a month ago.”
While what she said was true, I couldn’t handle that she was treating my mother’s death so impersonally, not when we’d just buried her. “You’re talking about my mother, Detective Martinez. Please show a little more respect.”
The woman had the good grace to look slightly embarrassed.
“My mother had cancer. Something to do with her blood. She’d kept it a secret for several years.”
“Is that why you came back to Franklin?” she asked, the snide tone back.
“You know perfectly well why I came back to Franklin.” I was starting to get pissed. “The detective in charge of Max Goodwin’s murder case made it very clear the whole department knew why I’d returned to Franklin. He’d watched the videos. But then,” I said with cool disdain, “I suspect you’ve watched them too.”
Her smirk was back. “There’s much better porn out there.” She leaned forward and said in a stage whisper, “I’d suggest a boob job if you decide to continue down that career path.”
I gasped again, beyond outraged. The YouTube videos of my stage oops in my first (and only) performance as the lead in Broadway’s hottest new musical, Fireflies at Dawn, hardly qualified as porn.
I was just about to tell her off when the front door opened and my sister-in-law, Belinda, poked her face out. “Magnolia, I wondered where you’d got off to.”
“Belinda,” I said, my anger simmering. “This is Detective Martinez, and she’s inquiring about Momma’s cause of death.”
Belinda flicked on the porch light, then stepped outside and shut the door behind her. She glanced at both of us with a confused expression. “What does that mean?” Then her eyes widened and she turned a furious glare on the detective. “Are you insinuating her death was foul play? Did Roy put you up to this?”
I nearly groaned. I was sure the detective’s question had only been intended to shake me up so I’d be more likely to tell her everything I knew about the murders at the ball. But she was bound to latch on to Momma’s death now. Maybe that was a good thing. When it came to this, I didn’t have anything to hide.
“Roy?” the detective asked, cocking her head to the side. She did a poor job of hiding her excitement, and it was equally obvious that she didn’t need us to ID him for her.
Belinda looked even more confused. “My husband. Magnolia’s brother.”
“Belinda.” I drew out her name. “Detective Martinez came here to ask if I was at the masquerade ball on Saturday night. Then she decided to ignore that we’re grieving and callously suggested Momma died due to nefarious circumstances.”
“Why in the world would she do that?” Belinda asked.
“Because she thinks it’s curious that a few people around me have died.”
“A few?” Martinez released a snort and started ticking off with her fingers. “Max Goodwin, Neil Fulton—”
“I didn’t personally know Neil Fulton,” I interjected, but I had known Max Goodwin. The sleazy talent agent had propositioned me a couple of years before, which was how I’d become a suspect in his death after finding his body.
Her eyebrows rose. “But your father sure did.” She lifted another finger. “Amy Danvers. Walter Frey, Steve Morrissey—”
I started to protest that one. Amy had been Belinda’s friend, and I was the person who’d discovered Walter Frey’s body, but the only encounter I’d had with Steve Morrissey was at the fundraiser the night of his death. It hadn’t gone well, sure, but I had an alibi for the rest of that evening.
The detective lifted her other hand. “Geraldo Lopez, Emily Johnson, and now your mother.” She held up both hands. “That’s eight people. All with ties to you. All dead within a month.”
Little did she know there were more.
Belinda lifted her chin and gave Detective Martinez her best glare, a difficult feat given how sweet my sister-in-law was. “Magnolia had nothing to do with her mother’s death. The chemo weakened Lila’s immune system, and she died from an infection.”
“Then why would you think Roy sent me?” the detective asked.
“Because Lila refused antibiotics at first and Roy wanted to hire an attorney to try to get the hospital to disregard Lila’s DNR directives. He was looking for someone to blame, and since he has . . . issues with his sister, she’s an easy target.”
“Your brother,” Detective Martinez said with a frown. “The one who hurt you?”
I wasn’t sure if it was good or bad that she remembered that. My brother had pinched me hard enough to leave bruises, which Detective Martinez had been all too eager to link to her theory that I’d killed Neil Fulton. I’d set her straight.
I wrapped my arms tighter around myself. “Yes.”
She turned to Belinda and lifted an eyebrow as though waiting for confirmation.
Belinda glanced down at the porch and remained silent.
Detective Martinez shifted her weight. “I think I’m going to need you to come down to the station.”
I gasped. “Now?”
She shot a glance through the window behind me. “No,” she said regretfully. “I’m sure I’d get an earful if I took you down now.” Her gaze swung between the two of us. “And I want you to come too.”
Belinda’s eyes flew open. “Me?”
“I think we need to dig deeper into your mother-in-law’s death.”
Belinda stiffened. “We’ll be bringing our attorney.”
The detective bobbed her head around and said in an accusing tone, “Well, if you think you need one . . .” She grinned and started for the steps before she stopped and glanced over her shoulder. “Oh, and it’s not a wake.”
I gave a tiny shake of my head. “What?”
She turned her whole body around to face me. “You said you were at your mother’s wake. She was buried this afternoon. Wakes are the vigil before a funeral, but then your mother didn’t want one.”
My head swam. “How do you know what my mother wanted?”
Her eyes lit up. “You just have to know who to ask. And my apologies, I was at the funeral, but thought it best to not go through the receiving line.”
I stared at her in horror. “You didn’t even know my mother. Why would you come?”
“Funerals are interesting. You can learn all sorts of things.” A mischievous look filled her eyes. “Lots of family secrets.”
I tried to hide my reaction, but it wasn’t one of my most convincing performances. Belinda put her arm around my back.
Detective Martinez gave us a mock salute. “I’ll see you both at one tomorrow.”
As Detective Martinez sauntered down the porch steps with a happy little skip, Belinda grabbed my elbow and tugged me inside.
My nerves had been plenty frazzled before Detective Martinez showed up, and our encounter had nearly pushed me over the edge.
What had she meant about family secrets?
Ignoring the twenty-five or so people who were still mingling on the first floor of my mother’s house, Belinda dragged me into my mother’s home office and shut the curtained French doors. “What did you tell her?”
“Me?” I nearly screeched. “You’re the one who told her about Roy. Now she’s jumped down a completely different rabbit hole.”
“Sit,” she said. My thoughts were so garbled that I thought she’d uttered an uncharacteristic curse word until she pushed me down into one of two wingback chairs in the office. Once I was settled, she walked out without another word, shutting the door behind her.
I wondered if she’d given me an adult time-out, but less than a minute later, she was back with Colt in tow. My stomach fluttered when I saw him—something I tried to ignore.
Colt Austin was a very fine-looking man who was very aware of his looks. He was tall and built enough to strain the shoulders of his department store dress shirt. His dark blond hair was styled, giving him a movie star look, and his bright blue eyes drew you in, but when he sang . . . well, he was like a male version of a siren. Women loved Colt Austin, and for a long time, Colt Austin had loved them back. But he’d told me last week that things had changed for him. He didn’t want anyone else—just me.
He held an unopened bottle of whiskey and two glasses, and Belinda was carrying a tumbler of her own.
“It’s that bad?” I asked as he shut the door with his butt.
He shot me a grim look. “I was saving this for later, to toast to your mother, but I thought it might come in handy now.” He handed me both glasses, then nudged Momma’s rolling desk chair closer to mine while Belinda sat next to me in the other wingback chair.
“We need to get our story straight,” Belinda said, staring down at the glass she was cupping with both hands.
“There’s no story to get straight,” I said. “Momma refused antibiotics and then changed her mind. Nothing sinister about that.”
“Not that story,” Belinda said.
Colt had already unscrewed the whiskey and poured a generous amount into both glasses, so he turned to Belinda and poured a small amount into her glass. She downed it, then grabbed the bottle from Colt and poured until the tumbler was half full.
I stared in shock at my prim and proper sister-in-law. Dressed in a tasteful black dress and three-inch black patent leather pumps, her hair perfectly coifed and makeup understated, she looked like she should be nursing a glass of white wine, not tossing back whiskey.
“I’m not surprised she came by,” Colt said, then took a sip of his drink. “But I thought your mother’s death would buy you more time.”
“You expected Detective Martinez to come by?” I asked in surprise.
“Not her specifically,” Colt said. “Honestly, I expected Frasier or Bennett.”
Detectives Owen Frasier and Brady Bennett.
I supposed it had been shortsighted on my part not to expect it this soon. Of course they wanted to talk to me. It didn’t take much digging to figure out that Rowena Rogers had been linked to over half the people who had been killed in the last few weeks—and I was linked to them too. But it was Detective Martinez’s final dig that bothered me the most. She’d been at Momma’s funeral. While it had been open to the public, it still felt wrong that she’d been there. I felt violated. But that wasn’t the only reason it troubled me . . .
Had she heard me shouting toward the woods after everyone had left except for me, Colt, and the funeral home staff? Had she figured out I had been shouting at my father, a man everyone presumed either dead or long gone?
“It’s okay, Magnolia,” Belinda said, obviously reading my expression. “You’ve spent the past two days preparing for your momma’s funeral. Colt and I have discussed it, but we didn’t want to worry you.”
“Does she really think we know something, or is she just fishing?” I asked. My shaking hand sloshed the liquid in my glass.
Belinda turned to Colt, and he took a second before saying, “I think it’s a bluff. Talkin’ about Lila’s death was a good way to throw her off and buy us more time.”
I shook my head. “You purposely mentioned Roy to throw her off?”
Belinda made a face. “Hardly. I was caught off guard. But we need to make sure we’re prepared next time.”
“Do you think we left anything behind at Savannah House?” I asked. My hand was still shaking, so I started to put the glass down. Colt stopped me, putting his hand over mine and lifting it to my lips.
“I brought this for a reason. Take a drink. Or two.”
I shrugged off his hand and took a healthy sip, still trying to decide what to do about him.
Turned out I wasn’t immune to Colt’s siren abilities, but he’d betrayed me.
For the last month, I’d told him multiple times that I was certain my father would never have willingly abandoned me, my mother, and brother. That he must be dead. Come to find out Colt had been working for my father the whole time—for the last three years, in fact—spying on Momma and Roy and me, after my return to Franklin, and reporting back to my father. He’d been coerced into it, and it was something he deeply regretted. According to him, he hadn’t reported to my father since last week, after Emily Johnson’s murder, but I still had trouble fully trusting him. I needed to prioritize my emergencies, though, and Detective Martinez and my interview at the station took precedence.
As I lowered my glass, Colt said, “We got out of that basement in a rush, but I think we’re safe.”
“My blood . . .” The gunshot graze wound on my arm began to throb, the pain triggered by the memory of that night.
“Never hit the floor. It landed on your dress and then my shirt. And the gunshots weren’t from either of our guns, so we don’t have to worry about any bullets or casings being tied back to us.”
I gave him a pointed look. “If your gun had gone off, would they have tied it back to you?” I’d suspected his gun hadn’t been in his name.
His expression turned blank. “No.”
I nodded. “So there’s nothing to tie us to that basement.”
“Fingerprints,” Belinda said with a shaky voice. “My fingerprints are on the door leading to the wine cellar and staircase.”
A worried look flashed across Colt’s face, but it disappeared as quickly as a summer storm. “Didn’t you have a wedding there a few weeks ago?”
My lips parted slightly. How did he know that?
Belinda was giving him the same look, and he turned sheepish. “We all know that I was working for Brian Steele.” The look in his eyes suggested it pained him to admit it.
I was quiet for a moment. I’d been so busy over the past nearly forty-eight hours I’d barely had time to think over the details of what Colt had really done for him.
“You’ve been there before,” Colt said quietly, staring down at his glass. “There’s a good reason for your prints to be down there.” He turned to me. “Did you touch anything?”
“The staircase handrail. Mostly upstairs.”
“I think you’ll be okay. You never touched anything in the room.” He took another drink, then said, “We have to consider that there may be witnesses. People saw all three of us at the ball. Did they see us all leave? And who saw us when we came back upstairs? Maggie had blood on her dress and my shirt tied around her arm, and I was just wearing my jacket. Sure, we went out the back, but we need to have a story to explain it. Just in case.”
“That’s easy,” Belinda said. “Magnolia got a call from the hospital, and she was so upset she ran into something that cut her arm. You didn’t want her to ruin her dress, so you used your shirt because you were in such a hurry to leave.”
I almost commented on how quickly she’d come up with that story, but it occurred to me that she’d been living with my abusive brother for years. She was probably used to coming up with excuses. Instead, I said, “She’s going to wonder why you didn’t leave with us.”
“How about this?” Colt said. “Brady acted pretty cold toward you at the ball, and he gave you shit for kissing me. We can say it upset you, we got into an argument, and that’s how you got hurt.”
I gave him a stunned look. “Are you suggesting that I pretend you hurt me?”
“No. But maybe it made you more careless. You know people lose themselves in the heat of the moment. We can say that’s why we left. That way if they compare when the hospital actually called to when we left the ballroom, we won’t have to worry about the time discrepancy.”
I considered it for a moment. “Yeah, I guess that would work.”
“Plus,” Colt continued, “our run-in with Brady strengthens our alibi. People planning to commit murder don’t usually take the time to talk to a jealous ex-lover. Especially if he’s a cop.”
He had a point.
The office door opened and I jumped, feeling guilty when I saw Tilly, Momma’s best friend and business partner, standing in the doorway wearing her bright purple dress. Just like Momma would have wanted.
“You started drinking without me?” she asked, sounding hurt.
“Maggie was a little too overwhelmed,” Colt said. “She’s been wound up since Saturday night, and it’s been a long, stressful day.”
Tilly nodded, looking exhausted herself. “I never expected everyone to stay so long, but I can send them all home.”
“No,” I said as I got to my feet. I took another big gulp of whiskey, ignoring the burn, then handed the now-empty glass to Colt. “I’m fine now.”
He grasped my wrist, staring up into my eyes. “You’re not fine, Maggie. You don’t have to go back out there.”
“Yeah, I do.” I shook him off, put the glass on the table since he hadn’t taken it, and looped my arm through Tilly’s.
Colt had been right. I wasn’t fine by a long shot, but Tilly needed me. I knew she was feeling Momma’s loss as acutely as I was . . . no, if I were being honest, probably even more. She’d been around for so much of my childhood, she felt like a second mother. I couldn’t abandon her now.
I stuck by her side for the next hour as our guests dwindled. Since I’d been mostly estranged from Momma for the past ten years, it was a gift to hear so many stories about how she’d touched people’s lives. She’d been as tough as nails, the kind of woman who never took shit from anyone, but she could be a loyal friend to someone in need.
When the last guest finally left, Tilly started to pick up what was left of the half-empty trays of food—Belinda and Colt had already cleaned up most of them—but I grabbed the plate of deviled eggs from her hand and set it back down on the counter. “How about we have that drink?”
Tears filled her eyes, and she nodded.
My throat burned and I wrapped my arms around her back, pulling her into a tight hug. To my dismay, she began to sob.
Belinda and Colt rushed over, and Belinda rubbed Tilly’s back as she continued to cry into my shoulder. After a good twenty seconds, she finally started to settle down, and Colt put his hand on her arm. “Let’s go sit down.”
She nodded and pulled loose from my embrace. When he started to lead her to the sofa, she said, “Let’s sit on the deck.” Then she glanced back over her shoulder. “And don’t forget the whiskey.”
I grinned at her through my own tears. “Okay.”
Belinda got the bottle and put it on a tray, and I added four glasses, then held the door open so my sister-in-law could carry the tray outside. Colt had already gotten Tilly settled into a comfy wicker chair, and he was starting a fire in Momma’s fire pit with the gas starter.
After Belinda set the tray on a table, she started pouring drinks and I handed them out. By the time I got to Colt, he’d finished prepping the fire and was sitting on the loveseat. He set the drink down and reached out to me, and I hated myself for caving and sinking in next to him. Belinda slipped into the house and returned with an armful of afghans to throw over our laps. Leave it to my sister-in-law to think of the small details.
We sat in silence for nearly a minute. Tilly and Belinda watched the fire in silence, and I snuggled into Colt, resting my head on his chest. His arm curled around my back and settled on my hip. It was almost comfortable enough to make me forget.
“Lila would have hated this afternoon,” Tilly said with a laugh. “She hated when people made a fuss over her.”
“Remember when we threw a surprise birthday party for her two years ago?” Colt asked, chuckling. “Jesus, she cussed a blue streak. I thought Belinda was going to lose her shit.”
Belinda sat up straighter. “I confess I was taken aback since she was threatening to do vile things to the person who’d organized the party.”
“I presume that person was you?” I asked with a grin.
Tilly shook her head. “She would have never hurt a hair on your head, Belinda. She loved you like a daughter.”
“I loved her too,” Belinda said in a tiny voice.
“Hey,” Colt said in a tone that suggested he was just warming up with Lila stories, “remember when we catered that wedding at the bride’s backyard up in Belle Meade, and it started pouring down rain out of nowhere?” He turned to Belinda. “It was hilarious because Lila had been going on and on about how the bride was a total bridezilla . . . What was her name? It was some flower . . . Petunia?”
Belinda smiled. “Poppy. And she just wanted everything to be perfect.”
“She was a terror,” Tilly said. “Admit it.”
Belinda made a face. “Okay, she was a terror.”
They all laughed, and I managed a small smile.
Colt glanced down at me. “Lila had done nothing but gripe about this bride for weeks, and then it started to rain out of nowhere—”
Tilly lifted her hand. “No rain in the forecast at all.”
“But Lila had personally created this immense appetizer display in an effort to placate the bride . . . and it was sitting outside.”
I grinned. “Of course.”
“The rest of the reception was under a tent,” Belinda said with a hint of defensiveness.
Colt grinned. “Lila started yelling obscenities—right during the ceremony—which they were rushing through to get out of the rain. I thought Belinda and Tilly were going to crap their pants.”
“I’d had to convince the bride that the Belles were the best, most professional caterers in Middle Tennessee,” Belinda said.
Colt winked. “More like we were the only ones who could tolerate her.”
A grin tugged the corners of Belinda’s lips. “Maybe.”
“Lila recruited me to hold a plastic tarp over the arrangement until the storm moved on five minutes later,” Colt said. “But before saving the appetizers, she taught the flower girl and ring bearer a few new four-letter words.”
Belinda held up her hand. “The videographer swore he could get those out of the video of the wedding.”
The story was hilarious, and so true to my mother, but while I’d loved hearing so many new stories about her tonight, it hurt. I’d missed all of this, and there was no going back. That made me incredibly sad.
Colt’s body sank into mine. “Lila was something else,” he said, his tone quieter. “Nothing will be the same without her.”
“No,” Belinda said. “Our world will be a whole lot duller without her.”
Tilly looked like she wanted to say something but remained silent.
After a beat, Colt lifted his glass up. “To Lila.”
I lifted mine too. “To Momma.” My voice broke.
Belinda’s arm rose with her glass in her hand. “To the woman who was gracious enough to become my mother even before I married Roy.”
Tilly lifted her glass and stared at us all as she took a big gulp. Then she said, “To my dearest friend. Who was an utter fool.”
The three of us stared at her in shock, but she turned her attention to me. “We both know she was keepin’ secrets about the past from you, girl. She made me promise to never tell you while she was alive. But she’s dead now, and part of me thinks she willed herself to die sooner to save you.”
My mouth dropped open in shock.
“Tilly!” Belinda gushed.
“You know how stubborn she could be,” Tilly said.
“She’s right,” Colt added. “Lila Steele was one of the most stubborn people I ever met. She claimed it was her Sweet Briar, Alabama roots, but I never believed it. She could have been born in Buckingham Palace, and she would have turned out just as ornery.”
Tilly held her now-empty glass out, and Colt refilled it with a larger pour than Belinda had given her before. She took another drink, then sat back. “You ready to hear the ugly truth, Maggie Mae? Because once you hear it, there’s no turning back.”
No. I wasn’t anywhere near ready, but then again, I’d never be ready to have the rest of my childhood memories ripped to shreds.
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