Home > Bones Don't Lie (Morgan Dane #3)(10)

Bones Don't Lie (Morgan Dane #3)(10)
Author: Melinda Leigh

She looked to the open sky, the brilliant and glorious blue seemed like a betrayal, as if the world should not be so beautiful without John in it. There should always be some tiny, visible sign of misery to match the kernel permanently lodged in her heart.

While she was determined to move on with her life, she would never forget. Coming here was like ripping the scab off a wound before the underlying scar tissue had formed.

“Daddy isn’t here,” Morgan said. “This is his headstone. We put it here so we can remember him.”

“Daddy’s dead.” Ava carried a white bakery box. At six, Morgan’s oldest was the only one of her children who remembered their father. Usually, she used a know-it-all tone when she corrected her younger sisters. But today, her brown eyes, so like John’s, turned up to Morgan for confirmation. Ava had the best understanding of the concept of death. At least she knew that her father was never coming home.

“Yes, honey,” Morgan said. “That’s right.”

The frigid wind blew across the open landscape. Its harshness was somehow soothing.

Morgan spotted a pink hat on the grass. She picked it up and tugged it firmly over her three-year-old’s light-brown braids.

“Mommy,” Sophie said. “We need candles.”

“It’s too windy for candles,” Ava said.

Frowning, Sophie plopped down on her knees in the cold grass. “We have to sing. You can’t eat birfday cake unless you sing.”

Five-year-old Mia tugged on Morgan’s hand. Her serious brow crunched with deep thought.

Morgan crouched and tucked a stray lock of hair under Mia’s purple hat.

Mia leaned close to her mother’s ear and whispered, “Am I s’posed to be sad?”

Morgan blinked, trying to stem the sudden, hot flood of tears in her eyes. She squinted against a morning sun that shone too brightly. The grief she’d had firmly under control stirred to fresh life, threatening to drag her down like a weighted vest.

“You’re sad,” Mia said.

“I’m a little sad,” Morgan admitted, her throat tight. “But you’re supposed to feel however you feel.”

Mia swiped a sleeve under her nose. The cold had turned her nose and cheeks bright pink. “I’m not sad.”

“That’s good.” Morgan dug a tissue from her tote and handed it to Mia. “Daddy wouldn’t want you to be sad.”

“Mommy’s not sad all the time like she used to be.” Sophie plucked a blade of grass from the grave and spun it between her fingers.

“Where are your mittens?” Morgan asked Sophie.

Her youngest gave her a what mittens? look. “When can we eat the cupcakes?”

“Right now.” Morgan took the blanket from under her arm, spread it on the grass in front of John’s headstone, and knelt on it. Tears blurred the rows upon rows of plain, pale markers. Sacrifice and heartbreak organized with military precision. It was all too neat, too perfect to represent the turmoil that each and every death had left in its wake. Lives destroyed. Hearts shredded. Worlds upended. She wanted a tornado to sweep them up, to smash and scatter them, to leave these identically shaped markers as broken as all the people left behind.

A few rows away, an older couple bowed their heads over a grave. A gust of wind whipped dead leaves around their feet. The leaves tumbled across the otherwise perfectly groomed landscape, a reminder that there would always be things that couldn’t be controlled.

The girls gathered around her. Sophie took the lead singing “Happy Birthday.” Despite her lisp, her voice was surprisingly strong and on key. The older couple turned and watched. The man reached for the woman’s hand. Morgan could tell they were crying, even if she couldn’t see them through her own tears.

The cold ground seeped through the blanket and the knees of her jeans. The rest of her was numb.

She took a deep breath and handed out cupcakes but couldn’t eat hers. This had been a mistake. She’d been doing so well for the past two months. But how could she have said no after Ava spotted John’s birthday marked on Morgan’s calendar? Grief swept through her like a fever, reminding her of the dark place where she’d been trapped until just a couple of months ago. She’d almost forgotten how exhausting it had been. It was no wonder she’d done so little for the two years following her husband’s death.

She forced herself to taste the icing. Sweetness burst on her tongue, bright and intense as the sunlight.

“Sophie has icing in her hair,” Ava said in a disgusted voice.

Morgan pulled a box of wet wipes from her tote. She handed them out to Ava and Mia, then turned to her youngest. A gob of blue was stuck in Sophie’s braid. More icing smeared her nose and lips and hands. How had she gotten it on her shoe? Morgan pulled out another wipe and started mopping up icing. In the back of her head, she could hear John’s laughter. Instead of cleaning Sophie up, he would have smashed a cupcake on his own face to make his daughter smile.

John hadn’t wanted Morgan to be sad either. The letter he’d left her had made that clear.

“Who’s going to eat Daddy’s cupcake?” Sophie asked.

“We’ll take it home to Grandpa,” Morgan said. “Is everyone ready?”

Three little heads nodded.

“I’m cold.” Ava shuddered.

“Happy birthday, Daddy,” Mia said. Ava and Sophie echoed their sister.

Morgan returned the wipe container to her tote and collected their trash. She stood and placed her hand on the top of the grave marker. The stone was cold under her palm.

Happy birthday, John.

She lifted her hand, then turned and led her daughters away from the grave.

Today, she would concentrate on all the things she was grateful for in her life: her children, her family, and her second chance at love.

She would be happy if it killed her.

They trooped back to the minivan. Morgan spotted one blue mitten by the front tire. She scanned the parking area and crouched to check under the vehicle for its mate. Instead of a blue mitten, she saw a flat tire.

The hairs on her neck waved in the wind. She turned in a slow circle but saw no one across the open landscape of the cemetery. Trees surrounded the fields. But still, she felt eyes on her.


She’d been paranoid since the sheriff had told her Tyler Green had been released. Being out on bail, and with assault charges already pending, Tyler had every motivation to stay far away from her.

“We have a flat tire, girls. Let’s get you all in the van where it’s warm. Then I’ll deal with the tire.”

She secured the children in their car seats, set the parking brake, and blocked the wheels. By the time she freed the spare tire from its location and dragged it out from underneath the vehicle, she was sweating, mentally cursing car manufacturers everywhere, and promising to start working out. Loosening the lug nuts proved to be another job requiring muscle she sadly lacked. Once she had the spare in hand and the lug nuts loosened, changing the tire was a dirty job, but no big deal.

After hefting the flat into the back of the van, she cleaned her hands with baby wipes and climbed into the driver’s seat.

“I’m hungry,” Sophie said.

They’d left the house early, and none of the girls had eaten much breakfast. She drove out of the cemetery. “Then let’s find some food.”

Fifteen minutes later, she found a diner, and the girls fueled up on pancakes. Still unsettled, Morgan stuck with coffee. Ava and Mia cleaned their plates. Even Sophie couldn’t resist syrup-smothered pancakes. With the kids happy and full, Morgan led them back to the van and secured them in their safety seats.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» Bones Don't Lie (Morgan Dane #3)
» Shelter in Place
» The Hideaway
» Love's Cruel Redemption (The Ghost Bird #12
» Stay With Me (With Me in Seattle #9)
» Her Last Goodbye (Morgan Dane #2)
» Say You're Sorry (Morgan Dane #1)
» Come As You Are