Secrets in Death

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Secrets in Death   (SAMPLE)                                   BACK TO SYNOPSIS

(Parker DuPont, PI Book 3)


Sky Deakins wished so badly to scream, but that would have brought her more attention than she wanted at that particular moment. She just needed to scream, that was all. Labor wasn't this hard when she was a young woman, or did she forget? Hell! It had been nearly four decades since she’d birthed her last child.

Four decades! Thirty-seven years actually. She was still young and flexible back then and from that time on her body had been going downhill. Maybe that's why most women don't have babies after forty years of age, not even that many after thirty. Why, then, did her body decide it was time to bring another human being into the world at fifty . . . oh God! She gritted her teeth and imagined the blood-curdling roar of a gut-shot grizzly facing down a mountain lion, her cubs huddled behind her. Oh, yes. If she could produce that she'd be right on the money.

Damn! Damn! Damn! How much longer can I go on like this? And where the hell is Howard anyway?

Howard was supposed to be getting her another bottle of water. He probably sidetracked to go fishing. Who was he married to anyway, her or that damned boat? Both, seeing as he named it, Wife Too. Maybe he should have just named it, Wife, and gave her the title of cook and maid with benefits.

Where was it that her thoughts had been going before that last contraction? Oh, yeah. What the hell was her body thinking, or not thinking for that matter, thumbing its nose at menopause and continuing to produce a monthly bleed and eggs? Howard had gotten himself fixed years back so that she didn't have to be on birth control or go through the procedure to get her tubes tied. "Easier for me to just have a vasectomy," he'd said as though it was some big sacrifice because he loved her.

Okay, fine! Maybe it was. She did love him for it, she had to admit. They'd just become grandparents so it seemed like the right thing to do, put a permanent end to their baby making days. More than two decades have since disappeared, putting their fortieth wedding anniversary just this past September. She was barely seventeen years old when they tied the knot. She was thirty-six at the time of his vasectomy, had long before brought Danielle and Jonathan into the world and Danielle had just given them a granddaughter, Arielle. The years kept going by as Arielle grew up, until three years ago when she, herself became a mother, giving birth to Brittany. At fifty-three and fifty-six, Sky and Howard Deakins had become great-grandparents. Crazy for sure, but there it was. The family baby-making duties had not only been passed on to the next generation, but also the next.

So why was great-grandmom having another of her own? Her great-granddaughter will be older than her daughter. Brittany will have a grand-aunt younger than her. How would everybody handle that, everybody, meaning the family?

For a good ten seconds Sky held her breath, thinking, the glow of an idea beginning to take form, like the strike of a match in a dark forest revealing that it wasn't as scary as she had thought.

They wouldn't have to handle it if they never found out.

Sky resumed breathing as the flame of the idea continued to burn. Here she was in labor and no one in the family was aware of Great-Grandmom Deakins' condition. She hadn't given it a lot of thought, that is what kind of announcement she and Howard would generate after the big event, the event that was right now causing her so much distress, physically and mentally.

What Howard had wanted to know seven months ago, after the doctor broke the news to the two of them that she was pregnant and after he and she finished, figuratively, picking themselves up off the floor, was what the hell happened with his vasectomy?

"There are a percentage of failures," the doctor had said. She remembered sitting next to her husband, keeping her mouth shut to the fact that the growth in her womb had absolutely nothing to do with a failure of his vasectomy. She knew exactly what—or who—was to blame. "It's generally in the range of point one-five percent. That's fifteen in ten-thousand."

"I had no idea," Howard had said.

Her meeting with the doctor continued after he announced that he required some private time with his patient. Howard hustled out to the waiting room, quite pleased, it seemed, to not have to be included in any further conversation, gynecological or otherwise.

"There is a however to those failure statistics I just mentioned to your husband," the doctor had continued when they were alone. "The less than one percent failure rate is accurate in the first few months, no more than a year after the vasectomy. The rate drops tremendously in the years following. For your husband to have produced the necessary sperm at twenty years out . . . well, the odds would be one in millions, if at all. Let's just say, I've never heard of it happening."

"Oh." Of course she wasn't surprised by that, but she continued to listen as though she was.

"Doctor-patient confidentiality applies here," he said, "so my conclusions, along with anything you tell me, remains in this office. What you want to tell your husband is your business. If he thinks he's the father and that's the way you wish it to remain, then so be it. It is no business of mine."

She remembered wanting to refute his assumption, that is that she cheated on her husband, had an affair, slept around, whatever. "I . . . I understand," was all she could manage. She wasn't in a position of being able to deny the aforementioned. Not to anyone who was not her husband. Not then, not ever.

Sometimes life stinks, she thought just as another contraction nearly cut her in half. She sure didn't remember it being this hard back in 1951 or 1953 when Danielle and Jonathan were born. She was a month shy of twenty years old when she'd birthed her second. It was sixteen years later, when she'd gotten sloppy with her birth control and then had a miscarriage in '69, that Howard'd decided to get the vasectomy. That was twenty-one years ago when she put her birth control pills out of her life forever. Her menstrual cycle from then on was so regular, she could set her calendar by it.

Now she was in labor and had only Howard by her side, or would if he'd ever return.

As mentioned before, no one knew that she was pregnant. Not her daughter or son, not her grandchildren, nor her great-granddaughter who would turn four in December. They were all spread around the country and hardly knew how to use so much as a phone to talk to each other, let alone drive several days to get to Florida to visit the old folks. She and Howard had talked of organizing a Christmas get-together this year. At this moment Sky was no longer sure about that. She'd certainly have to give it some serious thought.

She had become a great-grandmother at the age of fifty-three. Everyone told her she was way too young to be a great-grandmom. What would those flapping jaws say if they were to find out, now inching closer to sixty, that she was in labor with another daughter and Howard, her husband of forty years, was not the father? How crazy would the rumor mill run? Those silent phones would suddenly be burning up.

And then she had another thought, an eye opener as it were that would have sat her up straight if her situation had been a little different. Her daughter and granddaughter, Danielle and Arielle, were not talking to each other for reasons that made absolutely no sense. It had to do with some fight they got into right after the previous Christmas. As a matter-of-fact, Arielle was on the outs with the entire family so there was likely zero communications going on between her and anyone, except for Sky. The two of them had always been close, or closer than the rest of the family anyway. Maybe that was a good thing. Yes. Maybe there actually was a reason, and she, Arielle's grandmother, was it. It was preordained, orchestrated by a higher power. Maybe there was a rainbow in all of that mess, that is that she and Arielle were the only ones talking.

Whatever the reason, it opened up a possible solution.

And so over the next two hours, in between contractions and her husband returning to the birthing room with the water and a magazine, and no fresh-caught fish, she thought about that sudden piece of wisdom and began stitching together a plan, hoping that she would be able to talk Howard into it. After that eye-opening event in the doctor's office some seven months before, she'd confessed to her husband that his vasectomy did not fail and she did not have an affair. At first he didn't believe her and they fought like they'd never fought before. He threw things, not at her, but at the wall because men seem to only be able to release their anger physically. Someone or something had to be killed, even if it was only a piece of wall art and a 'Dad is GREAT' coffee mug. The memory of that night was almost as bad as the nightmare two months before that had precipitated it all. After she'd stuttered forth the truth and convinced him it was, in fact, the truth—while sweeping up broken bits of pottery and glass—she had made him agree to keep her pregnancy a secret. She, herself, wasn't even sure why at the time. She also had to settle him down and make him promise to unload his gun and return it to the gun safe. It didn't really all happen in that one night. It took almost two weeks because he started out livid. She talked him into taking a week off from work. The one week stretched into two. At first he spent long days on the boat alone and then for half of the time in the second week she went with him. Not a lot of fishing took place. By the time he returned to work, he seemed to be settled, and they started looking forward to the birth of their child, making plans for a nursery, names, acting as though they were newlyweds getting ready for the start of their family. Still, though, Sky had the sense that there was something riding just below the surface, something that had yet to reveal itself. For a long time, after he’d returned to work, she checked to make sure he hadn't taken the gun with him, scared he'd do something stupid and she'd hear about it from a police officer knocking at her door.

Whatever she feared never came about and Howard seemed to be ready to accept Annabelle as his own. It'd taken him seven months to get to this point and now, here she was, thinking about changing the entire game plan. She was thinking of Arielle.

Mama grizzly roared in her head again and she swore she saw red. She also swore she was going to bite through her lip if they didn't come in and tell her she was dilated enough to get this over with. How long was this going to go on?

The pain subsided and she redirected her thoughts to how she was going to bring Howard in on her plan. She didn't think it'd be too hard because although he'd come to accept being a twenty-four hour a day parent again, he still had some doubts as to whether they'd do a good job. The world was changing around them too fast. It wasn't the same as when they raised Danielle and Jonathan, and that worried him. It worried them both. That would be her main argument. She had another, though, which she didn't want to voice unless she had to.

Once he was on board with the idea, she'd call Arielle, and they'd meet. Sky hadn't seen Arielle and Brittany since before Sky started showing. Once Arielle got over the shock and then agreed and got her husband on board, they'd continue with the plan. They'd have to see an attorney. If Sky could convince her, Arielle will adopt Annabelle as her own. Annabelle Sophia Deakins will become Annabelle Sophia Frost. At not even four years of age, Brittany won't remember that her little sister simply appeared out of nowhere.

And then maybe the Christmas get-together could come off. It'll certainly be interesting. Arielle showing up with a baby, though, would not be as shocking as it would be if it was Sky.

Suddenly there was commotion in the room. The nurse had determined that it was time, had called in the midwife for confirmation. Howard took Sky's hand as she braced and clenched her teeth against another contraction. When she finally relaxed he whispered in her ear.

"Are you ready for this, my Bright Blue Sky?"

"You have no idea, my Hunky Howard. You have no idea."


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