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Excerpt - House of Secrets by Ramona Richard

House of Secrets
by
Ramona Richards


Sheriff Ray Taylor always had a soft spot for the former minister's widow, June Eaton...until he found her standing over the current minister's dead body. She claims she's innocent—and after a string of attacks against Ray and June, he's inclined to believe her. So who is the real killer, and what is he after? Ray knows that the parsonage has to be the key. The old house is hiding a dark secret, something the pastor's murderer is convinced June knows. Something that murderer will do anything to keep buried.

Excerpt of chapter one:

"I did not kill Pastor David." June Presley Eaton tried to swallow her fear as well as the lump of grief in her throat. Her upraised hands trembled, and she felt the phone clutched in her left hand slip slightly. I have to maintain control. June lifted both hands a bit higher and forced her voice lower. "I found him. I wanted to help," she said to the man standing behind her.
Please, Lord, let him believe me. It was a desperate prayer, and June fought a tightening sense of panic. She had a dead pastor lying at her feet and, she was pretty certain, Sheriff Ray Taylor and his deputies at her back, guns drawn. Without turning, June wagged the cordless phone in her hand. From it, the flattened and tinny screeches of the Bell County dispatcher bounced off the kitchen walls of the Victorian parsonage.
"June Presley Eaton! Is that you? Don't tell me you decided to upset Pastor David right before his big event! Someone already heard the fight and called us and Ray is on his way right now, and—"
June hit the off button with her thumb. "I just got here, Ray. I wasn't the one fighting with him. There are footprints leading farther into the house. See them? And when I got here, I could still hear someone back there." The lump in her throat had eased, but the fear still bore into her, tensing every muscle in her lower back and sending a shudder up her spine. Please, Lord.
No response came from the sheriff, however, and in the silence that followed, June knew that all of Ray's instincts had kicked into gear. His brown eyes scanning the room, he'd assess the scene in front of him with that precise, military-trained way he had of observing everything quickly before making a judgment. He would calmly evaluate the crime scene while she stood over a dead body, covered in blood, hands raised, cops clustered at her back with their guns pointing at her. June knew that only the phone in her hand kept her from looking like a suspect. She closed her eyes, praying that Ray would see the same thing she had as she'd approached the broad back porch of the White Hills Gospel Immanuel Chapel's parsonage: bloody footprints leading away from the door and out into the yard.
That had been her cue to fly into the house, calling David Gallagher's name. June had entered the kitchen, moving fast, and her sneakers had hit the red pool gathering around David's body before she could stop. She'd skidded and fallen forward, hitting the floor with a painful thud, her hands splashing down on either side of the butcher knife protruding from David's ribs.
Even during her years as a street kid, she'd never come face-to-face with violence like this.
Once June had stopped screaming, she'd scrambled to her feet and lunged for the phone, barely having time to dial 911 before the screen door had banged open and Ray's command to "Freeze!" had brought everything to a standstill.
In the silence, a fly buzzed around her blood-coated right hand. Trying to look over her shoulder, June struggled to speak in a quieter tone. Control. Stay in control. "Please, Ray. I'm a witness, not a suspect." She took another deep breath, working to sound much more dignified than she felt. "And please close that door. You're letting the flies into the house."
No one moved. Then, after a few seconds that felt like at least a decade, Ray spoke, his baritone voice even and thoroughly professional. "Rivers. Gage. Clear the house."
Silently, Ray's deputies, Daniel Rivers and Jeff Gage, moved through the kitchen and past June and the pastor's body into the main areas of the grand old Victorian. Over the next few minutes, their calls of "Clear!" echoed through the rooms.
"Can I at least put my...

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