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Книга Third Degree. Страница 2

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“Is Beth awake?” she asked. “You know we need to go over your spelling before we leave.”

Grant nodded irritably, his eyes never leaving her face. “Your cheeks are red,” he noted, his usually musical voice almost flat with suspicion.

“I did some sit-ups when I woke up.”

He pursed his lips, working through this explanation. “Crunches or the real thing?”

“Crunches.” Laurel used his preoccupation to slide past him and head for her closet. She slipped a silk housecoat over her cotton nightie and walked down the hall toward the kitchen. “Can you make sure Beth is up?” she called over her shoulder. “I’m going to start breakfast.”

“Dad’s acting weird,” Grant said in a jarring voice.

Sensing something very like fear, Laurel stopped and turned, focusing on the slim figure framed in the bedroom door. “What do you mean?” she asked, walking back toward her son.

“He’s tearing his study up.”

She remembered Warren pulling books from the shelves. “I think it’s just the tax thing we told you about. That’s very stressful, honey.”

“What’s an audit, anyway?”

“That’s when the government makes sure you’ve paid them all the money you’re supposed to.”

“Why do you have to pay the government money?”

Laurel forced a smile. “To pay for roads and bridges and…and the army, and things like that. We talked about that, honey.”

Grant looked skeptical. “Dad says they take your money so lazy people won’t have to work. And so they get free doctor visits, while working people have to pay.”

Laurel hated it when Warren vented his professional frustrations to the children. He didn’t understand how literally they took everything. Or maybe he did.

“Dad told me he’s looking for something,” said Grant.

“Did he say what?”

“A piece of paper.”

Laurel was trying to stay tuned in, but her plight would not let her.

“I told him I’d help,” Grant went on in a hurt voice, “but he yelled at me.”

She squinted in confusion. That didn’t sound like Warren. But neither did staying up all night in yesterday’s clothes. Maybe the audit situation was worse than he’d led her to believe. However bad it was, it was nothing compared to her situation. This was disaster. Unless…

No, she thought with desolation, even that would be a disaster. She knelt and kissed Grant on the forehead. “Did you feed Christy?”

“Yep,” he replied with obvious pride. Christy was the children’s increasingly overweight Welsh corgi.

“Then please go make sure your sister is awake, sweetie. I’m going to start breakfast.”

Grant nodded, and Laurel rose. “Egg with a hat on it?”

He gave her a grudging smile. “Two?”

“Two it is.”

Laurel didn’t want to look Warren in the eye this morning. On any given day, she had about a 70 percent chance of not having to do it. Half the time, he left early to put in between five and fifty miles on his bicycle, an obsessive hobby that consumed huge chunks of his time. To be fair, it was more than a hobby. During his early twenties, Warren had been classed as a Category One rider, and he’d turned down slots on two prestigious racing teams to enter medical school. He still completed Category Two races, often against men fifteen years his junior. On mornings when he wasn’t training, he sometimes left early to make morning rounds at the hospital while she was getting the kids ready for school. But today, since he obviously hadn’t showered, he was likely to be here until after she left.

Her mind jumped to the Walgreens bag sitting under the commode. The odds were one in a million that Warren would even notice it, much less look inside. And yet…their commode sometimes spontaneously began to run water and wouldn’t stop unless you jiggled the handle. Warren was compulsive about things like that. What if he rolled up his sleeves and got down on the floor to fix it? He might move the bag out of his way, or even knock it out of his way in frustration-

It’s the little things that kill you, Danny had told her, enough times for it to stick. And he was speaking from experience, not only of extramarital affairs, but also as a former combat pilot. After a moment of doubt, Laurel went quickly back to the bathroom, opened one of the windows, then took the bag from beneath the toilet and dropped it out the window. She leaned out far enough to watch it fall behind some shrubbery; she’d retrieve it before she left for school, then toss it in a Dumpster at a gas station somewhere.

As she closed the window, she looked across her lawn, a vast dewy expanse of Saint Augustine grass dotted with pecan trees greening up for spring. There was almost no chance of her little disposal mission being seen; their house stood on a ten-acre lot, with their nearest house on this side-the Elfmans’-almost two hundred yards away, with much foliage between. Now and then Laurel saw the husband cutting grass where the property line ran near her house, but it was early for that.

Before the full psychic weight of the pregnancy could crash back into her thoughts, Laurel pulled on some black cropped pants and a white silk top, then applied her makeup in record time. She was putting on eyeliner when she realized she was avoiding her own gaze as much as she might her husband’s. As she stepped back from the mirror for a final appraising glance, a wave of guilt hit her. She’d put on too much makeup in a vain attempt to hide that she’d been crying. The face looking back at her belonged to what more than a few women privately accused her of being-a trophy wife. Because of her looks, they discounted her education, her work, her energy, her devotion to causes…all of it. Most days she didn’t give a damn what people thought, especially the women who gossiped nonstop about her. But today…the pregnancy test had confirmed every savage insult those witches had voiced about her. Or it almost certainly had, anyway.

“How the hell did I get here?” she whispered to her reflection.

The reproof in the large green eyes staring back at her was enough. She pulled down a curtain of denial in her mind, then turned and hurried down the hall to face her family.

The kids had almost finished breakfast before Warren looked out of the study. Laurel had just washed the skillet and was turning back to the granite counter where the kids were eating the last of the biscuits when she caught Warren’s deep-set eyes watching her from the study door. He hadn’t shaved, and the shadow on his chin and jaw gave him a look of unusual intensity. His eyes looked hollow, and his expression gave away nothing, except perhaps a sense of malice, but she wrote that off as hatred of the IRS. She raised her eyebrows, silently asking if he needed her to walk over for some private words, but he shook his head.

“If the earth keeps getting hotter,” asked Beth, her six-year-old, “will the oceans boil like when you boil eggs for tuna fish?”

“No, punkin,” Laurel assured her. “Although it doesn’t take much of a temperature change to melt a lot of ice at the north and south poles. And that can have very serious consequences for people living at the beach.”

“Actually,” Warren said from the study door, his deep voice carrying easily across the great room, “the oceans will eventually boil.”

Beth knit her brow and turned on her barstool.

Warren said, “The sun will eventually heat up and grow into a massive ball of fire, and the oceans will bubble away just like water in a pot on the stove.”

“Seriously?” asked Beth, her voice filled with concern.

“Yes. And then-”

“Daddy’s talking about millions of years from now, punkin,” Laurel cut in, wondering what the hell had got into Warren to be telling Beth that kind of thing. She would worry about it for days. “Your great-great-great-great-great-great-granddaughters won’t even have been born by then, so it’s nothing to worry about.”


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