printed copy

About Face

Fern Michaels

ISBN 9780821770207
Publish Date 4/1/2003
Format Paperback
Categories Zebra, Women's Fiction, Fern Michaels

About Face

When Dr. Blake Hunter discovers Casey Edwards wandering along a Sweetwater, Georgia road, she's a woman without a past, her memory stripped of the terrifying events that shattered her innocence a decade ago. The scrap of paper she clutches in her hand bears the address to Swan House, the magnificent mansion where Casey's mother lives with her mysteriously ailing husband. But “home” turns out to be anything but a safe haven…

A near-fatal hit-and-run; neighbors who won't look her in the eye; a sinister man whispering with her mother behind closed doors…each disturbing experience makes Casey more determined to untangle the web of secrets that threaten her future. But someone wants Casey out of the way before she remembers too much. It will take the strength she's always had—and the love she's just found—to save her life….

Chapter One

Dust covered the out-of-date eyewear displayed on the rotating rack, and the scent of stale smoke hung heavy in the air. Casey Edwards sneaked a look in the mirror on the sunglasses rack. Long-forgotten ads for Creomoltion cough syrup and Miss Clairol decorated the pea green walls of Reed's Drugs. Tom Clarence and Howard Lynch sat at the snack bar in the back of the store, mugs of coffee in front of them, cigarettes hanging loosely from their mouths. Casey knew they would be telling the story of the Great War the way they did every day of their lives. Howard and Tom were institutions. Each man would tell how he almost didn't make it home. Casey had overheard the story so many times, she knew it by heart. She knew when they would pause, look at one another, then shake their graying heads and continue on. They were as much a part of Sweetwater as the land. Both men raised a hand to her as she walked to the cosmetics counter. She smiled and waved back. She was in no mood for conversation today. She found the cream she needed and hurried to the register.

Today she wanted to be ignored.

It was the last time she'd buy concealer, Covering the bruise from the latest fight had been the clincher. For the second time in three weeks, she'd had to sneak to Reed's Drugs to purchase another tube of heavy-duty cover cream to disguise her latest black eye.

Sheldon Reed, Sweetwater's only pharmacist, had looked at her with suspicion. Laurie Phelphs-Parker--with a hyphen, mind you--who'd never lower her high standards (well, maybe temporarily as she liked to put it) to cashier for Sheldon since Mrs. Reed had died, clucked her tongue as Casey walked to the register. Casey wondered if Laurie remembered how her daddy left her momma high and dry. Took everything with him, too. Ran off with a girl younger than Laurie. Now, she had to work. Everyone in town knew that. Laurie went to work at Reed's about the same time her snooty momma went to work as a teller at Sweetwater Savings and Loan. It was that or starve.

Casey adjusted her sunglasses and placed the tube of concealer on the counter.

"Hmm," Laurie muttered as she punched in the price, her bright red nails clicking on the register's buttons." Seems like you been buyin' lots a coy-a-cream lately." She looked at Casey with an all-knowing smirk.

"I suppose Kyle wants a feisty woman now. You know when he and I..." Casey threw the correct change on the counter and grabbed the cover cream. As she opened the door, she heard Laurie's "Well, I nev-uh..." followed by the fiat slam of the screen as she made her escape.

If Laurie only knew, Casey thought. If she could only tell someone about the horror that had become her life.

The eight short years she lived with Mamaw were perfect. Her father's mother had been her protector and treated her like a daughter. Life was good then. She'd had hopes, dreams, and expectations. As she got older, she learned not to have expectations. That way she knew she'd never be disappointed.

She put the cream in her purse as she hurried along Sweetwater's Main Street. She had to be home before Momma returned from getting her hair done at Ida Lou's, or there would be hell to pay.

Safe in her room, she remembered why:-she'd risked a trip to town.

Kyle. She couldn't let him see her black eye. He would be shocked, and his parents would look down on her more than they already did. Kyle kept telling her they never meant to make her feel bad, it was just the way they were. She'd only been to Kyle's a few times, and always felt ignorant after leaving their house. Fiona, Kyle's holier-than-thou mother had done her best to make her feel anything but welcome. Kyle had coaxed her into each visit, telling her his parents insisted.

On her first visit Kyle led her to the dining room, where a lady with caramel-colored skin, snow-white hair, and a toothy smile served her a glass of milk along with a plate of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. She'd told Casey her name was Myrtus, the hired help. Speaking over her shoulder as she stood by the door waiting for further instructions, she told Casey her friends called her Myrty and flashed a toothy smile. Kyle laughed as they'd seated themselves at the long, dark table.

"My, Lawd, Myrty, you'd think we was still elementary--school children, serving us cookies an' all." Kyle's words were laced with sarcasm, his Southern drawl dragging the words out. Casey recalled the look Myrtus gave him. Hard and cold as steel.

"If the shoe fits, Mr. Wallace." She'd looked at Casey and winked as she left the room.

"Don't mind that old bitch. She's been tryin' to boss me around for years. I don't understand why Momma keeps her on."

Casey bit into the cookie and thought that reason enough. She'd never had cookies so good, not even her grandma's.

"Excuse me, Kyle," a high-pitched voice shrieked from the hall. Casey looked up from her plate into the flat brown gaze of Fiona Wallace.

Wiping the crumbs from her mouth with her napkin, Casey stood and held her hand out to Mrs. Wallace. Her hand hung there, limp as a hothouse daisy while Mrs. Wallace turned to Kyle. Embarrassed, she jammed her hands in her skirt pocket.

"My goodness, son. I thought we'd agreed you wouldn't bring"--the tall, thin woman whispered and pointed her conelike head toward Casey--"her kind into this house."

Casey felt the heat rise from her neck to her face. She stumbled away from the table. Her awkward movement caused her chair to tilt and fall to the floor. As she ran for the front door, she could hear Kyle shout at his mother. The rest was a blur. And she'd wanted it to remain that way.

She'd stood on the porch taking gulps of fresh air as the screen squeaked, then banged against the wall. Kyle eased next to her, crowding her breathing space. She took a step back and glared at him.

"Casey, I'm sorry, and so is Momma. She thought you were someone else. I know that sounds feeble, but please, sweetheart, come back inside. Give Momma another chance.”

Casey stared at him. He was sinfully handsome, with his blond hair, chiseled features, and bright blue eyes. A bit on the thin side like his momma, but still, she thought she was the luckiest girl in Sweetwater to have Kyle as her boyfriend. She wondered how his momma could mistake her for someone else. She had to remember to ask later.

Maybe his momma really thought I was someone else, truly. Kyle had dated a lot of girls. Maybe it was Brenda. Brenda always went for the best-looking guys in school.

"I suppose I should, that being the polite thing to do, but Kyle..." She'd let the words die as he put an arm around her and led her back inside.

"Momma says to tell you she's sorry. She doesn't see how she could have..." He never finished the sentence as he led her inside. He immediately excused himself, forgetting he'd invited her to stay. Mrs. Wallace didn't return to apologize, either. Casey knew she wasn't going to apologize when she heard her talking on the hall phone.

"That was some tramp Kyle brought home. Sewing his oats, you know." Fiona laughed. The rest was a blur, and Casey wanted it to remain that way.

Ashamed of herself, she'd walked home; A slow rage burned deep in the pit of her stomach, and each step she took ignited the flame brighter. By the time she'd re, ached home, she'd calmed down, reminding herself what she stood to lose if she let Kyle get away from her.

Kyle had called the next day to apologize and invite her to dinner. Lately, things had been a little better.

About Fern Michaels:

Fern Michaels is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Sisterhood, Men of the Sisterhood and Godmothers series, and dozens of other novels and novellas. There are over ninety-five million copies of her books in print. Fern Michaels has built and funded several large day-care centers in her hometown, and is a passionate animal lover who has outfitted police dogs across the country with special bulletproof vests. She shares her home in South Carolina with her four dogs and a resident ghost named Mary Margaret. Visit her website at fernmichaels.com.

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Customer Review

very Satisfied Reader (Thursday, July 8, 2010)
Reviewer: Angela R. Green

I just want you to know how much I enjoyed this book and the many others I have read. When I go in a store I always look for whatever titles are by you. Your characters keep me amused, sometimes a little sad, but mostly enthused. Please keep up the exceptional job that you are doing.


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