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Shiloh Walker

Telling Tales

Prologue

Made her fucking sick.

Absolutely sick…look at her.

She thought she was so damned special. Skinny, pale-faced, evil bitch.

Watching Darci Law walk down the street made her belly feel all tight and hot with disgust. Little slut. That was what she was, an attention-getting little slut.

Men looked at her, like the Sheriff was doing, thinking nobody noticed how he watched Darci’s ass. And Darci…acting like she didn’t know.

Everybody knew. She was a whore. They all knew it.

And she thought she was so damned special, with her surreal photographs. Everybody called them that… surreal. Extraordinary.

Bitch.

She should get what was coming to her.

A slow, mean smile curved over her lips as she watched Darci. Yes, she should definitely get what was coming…

Chapter One

Darci stood staring at the school board members in a state of shock.

“Ummm…excuse me, what?” she asked. She hadn’t heard what she thought she had heard…had she?

Daniel Sommers leaned forward, crossing his hands in front of him. “So are you denying it?”

“Hell, yes, I’m denying it. Joe is married,” she snapped, rising from her chair, walking over to the Superintendent’s desk and slamming her hands on it.

“Yes. That is part of the problem. This is a small town, Darci. We can’t have our schoolteachers carrying on with married men, or even carrying on indiscriminately with unmarried men. People talk and parents don’t want an immoral woman teaching their first graders.”

Darci fought the urge to grit her teeth. Instead, she just took a deep breath and said softly, “I am not immoral.”

“So…you’re telling me you haven’t been promiscuous?” Cathy Travers asked, flushing and shifting her eyes aside as though she couldn’t look at Darci while she asked.

Darci barely managed to stifle a hysterical laugh. This was so unreal. Damn it, she hadn’t had sex in nearly two years, and she was getting dragged on the carpet…for what? Her voice shook as she said, “My sex life is none of your business. None. But I do not sleep with married men, and that’s the bottom line.”

The board members looked at each other and sighed. Daniel studied her thoughtfully, maybe she was just desperate but she thought she saw a shred of belief in his eyes. “Darci, I try not to put a lot of stock in rumors.”

She watched as he slid his glasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose. When he looked back up at her, it was with a slight smile and Darci felt her knees wobble with relief. “Let’s just forget about this, okay?” he said softly.

***

Darci sat on the stool behind the counter at Becka’s gallery, Dreams in the Mist, staring morosely at Becka. The woman, just a few years older than she, listened sympathetically as Darci repeated the incident with the school board.

“I just don’t get it. Where did they get that story about me and Joe?” she said as she finally finished explaining what had happened.

Becka glanced away.

If she had just looked away, Darci might have thought she just didn’t have an answer, but she bit her lip. Becka bit her lip when she was nervous.

Narrowing her eyes, Darci said, “What?”

Becka swung innocent eyes to Darci. “I didn’t say anything.”

“You bit your lip,” Darci accused, coming off the stool. “You do that when you’re nervous. What do you know?”

Becka forced a smile, shaking her head. “Nothing, baby. I promise. I’m just as shocked by this mess as you are.” Her face crumpled as Darci just stood there, crossing her arms over her chest, tapping one sandaled foot impatiently.

“Oh, hell.” Becka turned around and said, “It’s Carrie. I had to go to Wal-Mart to get my daughter’s prescription-she didn’t know I was standing an aisle over. You know how her voice carries. I don’t know who she was talking to, but she said she’d seen you and Joe go into the Golden Inn together Wednesday.”

Darci’s jaw dropped.

Now that was low. Carrie had pulled a lot of stunts, made a lot of innuendoes, but this…this was outright lying. “Damn it, I was at a birthday party Wednesday,” she gritted out.

Her hands opened and closed into fists, her nails biting into her flesh.

“I know,” Becka said, making soothing noises. “I knew it was bullshit, that’s why I didn’t say anything. It’s just like all the other…”

“Other?” Darci asked as Becka’s voice trailed off.

Becka’s round face flushed and her dark brown eyes looked absolutely miserable. “Darci…”

“What others?”

Becka sighed, moving around Darci to take the stool she’d vacated. “Honey, she likes to tell tales. You know that. She can be very malicious to people she considers her enemy. And you…well, you didn’t hate me the way she wanted you to.”

Darci heard the regret in Becka’s voice, even through her own anger. Sighing, she shoved a hand through her spiked, black cap of hair as she turned around, staring at Becka.

“There was no reason to hate you, Becka.”

Becka scowled sourly. “Can’t tell by me. Half of my old friends don’t even talk to me anymore,” she muttered, folding her hands together and tucking them between her knees.

“That’s because they are stupid.” Darci forced a smile. “We always knew that.”

Becka didn’t even try to smile back at her. Soberly, she studied Darci, sighing tiredly. She brushed the corkscrew curls back from her face and said quietly, “There are other stories. I guess I should have told you, but I…hell, I didn’t want to see you hurt. Didn’t want to see you angry.”

Darci caught her lower lip between her teeth, shaking her head. “Oh, I’m not. I’m beyond angry. But it’s not your fault, Becka. I know whose fault it is, and you can bet she’s going to hear from me about it.”

Darci turned to go, but Becka’s voice stopped her. “Honey, there was something I was going to tell you. I just heard about it this morning…planned on telling you when you came in today. I hate making this worse for you.”

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