Read Beyond the Quiet: Romantic Thriller Online
Authors: Brenda Hill
After twenty-five years of marriage, Lisa Montgomery thinks her husband’s death is the worst that can happen. Then she receives a notice about his secret post office box.
BEYOND THE QUIET
A Romantic Thriller
A great read! Ms Hill is a cross between Iris Johansen and Nora Roberts. The tension kept me spellbound until the end.”
Claire M Teeters, editor
Yucaipa/Calimesa News Mirror
“If you do not add this book to your collection, you will have missed a truly amazing read.”
Coffee Time Romance,
Coffee Time Reviewer's Award
“Beyond the Quiet
is about a woman who loses everything - and finds her way back.”
NY Times Bestselling Author, including, Comes the Dark, Stealing Faces, The Shadow Hunter, and Last Breath
"Sensual, emotional and beautiful."
M. Jean Pike
Award Winning author of Waiting For The Rain
“Lisa deals with some tough issues that any woman can sympathize with: an alienated daughter, a friend’s betrayal, a husband’s deceit. The plot took many twists and turns as Lisa made her journey to self-discovery, learning how to love again, how to live again. I was right there in every scene, feeling her joy, her anguish, and her outrage.”
Working Girl Reviews
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This ebook is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or, if real, used fictitiously. For information, contact author through her website:
L. Cooper Press
Discover other titles by Brenda Hill:
Even though writing a novel is a solitary experience, no novelist writes entirely alone. I’ve needed advice, encouragement, hand-holding, and a cheering squad to keep me going when I’d feel I simply couldn’t complete this monumental project.
To my personal cheering squad, thanks, guys. I couldn’t have done it without you:
Maxine Piotrowski, sister in law at one time, sister in heart now and always.
To fellow writers M. Jean Pike, Victoria Howard, and Candace Simar, all writers whose work I love, friends who cheered, and sometimes pushed, me on.
To Claire Teeters, newspaper editor extraordinaire and a cheering squad of one, who never failed to make me feel like a celebrity even when I was certain I was a failure.
To first readers Joyce Hunt and Ginny Lewon, whose critiques led to invaluable insights.
To Brandon G. Cole D.C., whose interest and support has been a bright light.
To John McCloud, a friend who took time out of his busy schedule to listen.
As always, to Roger and Debbie Bowman, who never fail to offer help and support, no matter the circumstances. And Amanda, Sean, and Kyle, all joys in my life.
To all the women who’ve lost their husbands through death or divorce, I know it’s rough and I feel for you, but just know the old saying is true. Tomorrow is a new day.
Allow yourself to grieve, to rage at the heavens for allowing your loss to happen, even to rage at your husband for leaving you. You’ll grieve, you’ll feel lost, and no one can truly help you. The only true thing that can help is time and the realization that you are a special person, that the losses you feel may lead to something wonderful in your life. Rejoice in you and allow your spirit to explore what’s waiting for you. It may be a wonderful adventure.
BEYOND THE QUIET
The sharp buzz of the doorbell jarred me awake. Ignoring the intrusion, I rolled over to face the back of the sofa and tried to go back to sleep. I didn’t want to see anyone and I certainl
y didn’t want anyone to see me.
The grandfather clock struck three, and I knew from the glow of sunlight through the closed satin drapes that it was afternoon.
Someone jabbed the bell again and again in quick succession. Damn. Stan and Maggie must be back from their vacation, ready to pester me again about food. I’d assured them I’d eat and I had—if you could call nibbling on a stale slice of bread or a piece of cheese eating.
Closing my eyes, I willed them to go away.
Then the pounding began, loud, heavy, hammering pounds that would surely splinter the door. Annoyed, I sat up on the sofa, my robe bunched above my knees.
“Open up, Mom! It’s me!”
Shanna! What was she doing here? She wasn’t supposed to be here until...when? Oh God, I couldn’t remember. I didn’t even know what today was. Somehow the days seemed to slide into one another and I couldn’t keep up.
“I know you’re in there, Mom.” She kept pounding on the door and ringing the buzzer. “Op
en up or I’ll call the police!”
I bolted off t
he sofa and rushed to the door.
Even behind large amber sunglasses, my daughter looked exasperated. For her flight, she’d worn a short sleeve pullover with gabardine trousers and had Kyle, my nine-month-old grandson, in one of those harness things with wide blue straps secured over her shoulder and around her slender hips. A diaper bag and suitcase sat at her feet, and behind her, I could see a green and white taxi backing out of the drive.
“Don’t you ever answer your phone?” Shanna picked up her suitcase and barged past me, her straight blonde hair bouncing from her shoulders. “Why didn’t you meet me at the airport? I waited over an hour.”
Barefoot, I dragged the diaper bag into the living room, barely able to look at her. I knew I looked a mess. I
“I’m sorry, honey. I just—”
“Never mind,” she said, “I got here.”
Kyle on the floor, she handed him his purple dinosaur and took off the harness. Then her critical gaze turned to me, raking over my faded wrinkled robe and the greasy strings of graying hair hanging in my eyes.
I cringed, wondering how long it had been since I’d bathed, but my thoughts were as fuzzy as if I’d been on a month-long
“You look terrible.” She gave me a peck on the cheek. “This isn’t like you. Are you sick? Maybe we should get you to a doctor.” That was Shanna, all efficiency. I longed for some comfort, fo
r some glimmer of understanding.
“I’m okay,” I said, dropping to the floor beside Kyle. It had been a month since I’d seen him, a month since Mac’s funeral. Babies
change so quickly at that age.
He smiled and jabbered to me, his big blue eyes watching every move I made. His hair, the same coppery shade as his father’s, shone like silk even after the long flight. I gathered him into my arms and held him close, breathing in the fresh scent of baby powder. He didn’t seem to mind that I looked like a bag lady and pro
bably smelled like one as well.
“I miss Dad too, Mom,” Shanna said. Her eyes were a rich coppery brown, speckled with gold flecks like her father’s. I had my mother’s eyes, gray with thick black lashes. Waif’s eyes, I’ve been told, large and sad. The only thing Shanna inherited from me was my petite buil
“I can only stay a week,” she continued, dropping her purse beside the diaper bag. “Then I have to get back to work. You have to pu
ll yourself together, you know.”
Pull myself together. Sure. As if I could do that at her command. I’d cared for her father day and night for over a year, helplessly watching him deteriorate a little more each day from the proud, self-sufficient man who’d routinely tracked elk over the Sierra Nevada mountains to someone who couldn’t take a breath without his oxygen tank. Didn’t she realize his illness and death had affected me as well? I felt drained of all energy, void of any feeling, overwhelmed with a linge
ring malaise that hadn’t eased.
But since she’d made the trip from Minneapolis to help me sort her father’s things, I’d better do something—at least get dressed. That would be a start—if only I could work up enough energy to get off the floor.
“It’s beautiful outside,” Shanna said brightly. Too brightly. “We’ll let some of that Southern California sunshine in.” She pulled the drapes open all the way, spotlighting the cluster of dirty glasses and cups on the coffee table, the layers of dust on the furniture. I wanted to sink into the floor just like the Wicked Witch of the West.
“Some fresh air wouldn’t hurt,” she added, open
Muttering something about putting on some clothes, I got to my f
eet and headed to the bathroom.
“Take a shower while you’
re at it,” she called after me.
Stepping out of the shower minutes later, I heard the clink of dishes and silverware from the kitchen and knew my daughter was cleaning up. Shame rippled through me. All the time she was growing up I’d stressed cleanliness and efficiency, and now I could imagine how the kitchen looked. Except for making coffee, getting a Diet Coke or zapping a couple of frozen dinners in the microwave last week—at least I think it was last week—I hadn’t been in there long enough to do anything since the last person had left after the funeral reception. My fridge had been stuffed with covered dishes, but they hadn’t looked appetizing, so I think I opened a can of something, soup perhaps, and ate from the can. Had I thrown it away? I couldn’t remember.
I wished I felt differently, wished I could just put the last year into the past and go forward, wished I felt like dressing each day. But it was simply too much trouble. I hadn’t even been able to read, something I’d enjoyed since I was a child. A stack of novels on the floor leaned toward the sofa, still untouched. Oh I’d tried, but a book was too heavy to hold, so I sat in front of the TV, staring at the screen day after day and well into the next morning.
sick, but I had to get it together, at least while Shanna was here. Maybe her visit would energize me enough to get some things done. I hadn’t even looked at my checkbook since paying the bills the month before Mac died. Thank God for Stan, Mac’s older brother and executor of his will. He’d taken care of all the funeral arrangements and made sure everything was running as it should before he and his wife, Maggie, left on a well-deserved vacation.
Just as I slipped into my comfortable cotton pants and pullover, Shanna cracked open the bathroom door.
“Mom, really. There’s no food except some moldy stuff in some casserole dishes. They can’t be from the funeral, can they?”
Why did she always sound so critical when she spoke to me? It had been the same for years, that brisk, detached tone that always seemed to hold a slightly patronizing edge. Shanna, my precious daughter, the one person on earth who, for a short time, had truly been mine. How I’d rejoiced when she was born. Finally I had someone who would love me uncond
itionally, as I would love her.
When, exactly, had it changed?
“Well, we have to get some groceries in here,” she said. “Can you watch Kyle long enough for me to run to the market?” She studied me, her gaze assessing, I was sure, whether or not I was capable of taking care of my grandson.
I thought of another time she’d watched me, a lifetime ago when she’d been a toddler. I’d get ready for work at the real estate office and she’d sit beside
me on the bench in front of my antique dressing table, her legs dangling, eyes fixed on me as I applied makeup and selected my jewelry for the day. I’d always pat some powder on the tip of her upturned nose and sometimes place a string of sparkly, iridescent beads around her neck. She’d laugh in delight, then silently watch as I applied my lipstick, puckering her lips, waiting for me to dab the same color on her own. To look just like Mommy, she’d said. It was our ritual, something we’d both loved.
But gradually our relationship changed. Over the years she’d adopted a new attitude toward me, an air of amusement, slightly critical, very patronizing. I couldn’t point to a single incident and say that’s what happened, or that’s when I lost her. Instead, she’d abandoned my arms for her daddy’s, running to him on short, slender legs when she hurt herself. She’d sit contentedly on his lap, all cuts and scrapes forgotten as he’d soothe her with stories of long-ago castles peopled with brave knights and fairy princesses. I’d listen, thankful she had such a loving father, ashamed of the sting I felt because she no longer ran to me.
As she grew up, she’d say, “Oh Mother, really,” in that tone of hers whenever I tried to talk to her.
“She’ll grow out of it,” Mac had said, shrugging it off. “Be grate
ful she’s not out doing drugs.”
Of course I’d been grateful
, but I longed for my daughter.
Even after she married Leif and moved to Minneapolis, her tone of voice hadn’t changed. I could hear the slightly condes
cending edge even on the phone.
I’d talked to her less and less, only calling when I could force myself to sound as if everything was just fine, pretending I didn’t notice the
distance between us.
Why had I allowed it? Why hadn’t I demanded an explanation, an end
to the reserve? I should have.
I had to admit I hadn’t known what to do—and I still didn’t. Having learned in childhood to avoid confrontations, to mask any emotions
I’d felt, I was at a loss.
Now, watching me, she must have decided I was trustworthy, at least long enough to make a trip to the market, because she lef
t Kyle with me and hurried off.
“How’s my little sweetheart?” I picked him up and hugged him, burrowing my nose in a soft spot on his neck right under his chin. I kissed him again and again and he giggled and drooled on my cheek, then wrapped his chubby arms around my neck. For the first time in mon
ths, I felt a ray of happiness.
I’d forgotten how liberating babies could be. They never criticized or judged, and with them, I could relax and free the other side of me, the lighter-spirited one
that I carefully kept in check.
I wished I could be th
at free again with my daughter.
A couple of weeks after the funeral, after everyone had gone back to his or her own life, I must have been dozing because I opened my eyes and found myself on the sofa, the house dark and the TV tuned onto some inane comedy. My stomach was rumbling, so I padded to the kitchen and took a fork to one of the leftover dishes. I didn’t know what I was eating and didn’t care. After about three bites, I pushed the dish back into the fridge and dropped the fork into the sink along with other dirty
silverware, saucers, and cups.
I desperately longed to talk to my daughter. She had to be hurting as well, and I thought we could comfort each other. But when I picked up the phone, I hesitated, too exhausted to brace myself for her patronizing tone of voice. When she called to let me know she could take some time from her job at the telephone company, I’d felt torn—happy at the chance to see her again, unsure if I could keep up the pretense of being the competent
widow I knew she expected me to be. Now, after such a dreadful start, I just hoped we could get through the week without further discord.
Over the next few days I wore the invisible mask, bathing and dressing like a normal person, able to function by pretending I was
well. When I felt as if I couldn’t continue one minute more, I’d play with Kyle. That always made me feel better. And to my surprise, each day became a little easier.
Shanna and I cooperated in a silent agreement as we sorted Mac’s possessions, getting along much better than we’d had in years. The sorting took longer than we’d expected, as so many items triggered fond memories. We laughed over a joke trophy for worst shot that Stan and Maggie gave Mac after an elk-hunting trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and cried at the collection of greeting cards he’d received over the years. I intended to go through them later, but for now, I couldn’t part with them. Clothes and other possessions I could let go, but the cards were special, small mementos of a
lifetime that had passed away.
“Oh, Mom, it’ll be okay.” Shanna put her arms around me, something she hadn’t done in years. I was so surprised that it took me a moment to return the gesture. “I’ve been thinking,” she continued. “Why not move to Minnesota and live with us? You could take care of Kyle, and we’d pay you just like we’d pay daycare. You could even fly back with
Kyle and me day after tomorrow.”
I blinked. Move to Minnesota? When Shanna and Leif had married three years ago, Leif had transferred to his hometown near Minneapolis. Hating the thought that my grandchildren would grow up so far away, I’d talked to Mac about moving there, but he’d said he didn’t want to live in such a cold climate. Now I had nothing but memories to keep me in California. Did I really want to cut all ties t
o our lifetime together?