The Secret Hour

Free The Secret Hour by Luanne Rice

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Authors: Luanne Rice
Tags: Romance
one of us. Thank God I have you, Katy.”
      “Thank God I have you,” Kate had whispered back.
      Now, sitting in John O’Rourke’s car, she held on to her seat and focused on not crying. Her love of the sea had led her to become a marine biologist, but she was on leave from her job in Washington. How could she oversee the fragile balance of ecosystems and tidal zones when all she could think about was Willa?
      “I can’t talk to you,” John said quietly, facing forward.
      Kate didn’t trust herself to speak yet. She wished the music would finish, so the memories would stop and her emotions would quiet down. The sad melody opened up all the wounds of the past months, and she felt the pain all through her body.
      “Greg Merrill is my client; it’s not ethical for me to discuss his case with you, with anyone.”
      Kate took a deep breath. The last notes played, the last guitar chords finished. She closed her eyes, forcing her voice to be calm. “I wouldn’t want you to breach any confidences,” she said, floundering as she reached for the right words. “You wouldn’t have to tell me anything—just listen to my questions and help me rule him out…”
      “Discussions with my client are privileged,” John said. “And privilege is an all-or-nothing deal. I can’t just pick and choose where to apply it.”
      “I understand.”
      “Why come to me anyway?” John asked. “You can go to the police. Or to the state prosecutor’s office. If you have any suspicions, they can help you.”
      “I’ve talked to all of them,” Kate said.
      “And they couldn’t help you?”
      She shook her head. A lighthouse beam slashed the sky. She knew, from the chart, that it was Silver Bay Light. The tower sat on a headland overlooking a long breakwater, built of locally quarried gray stone, with a dogleg in the middle. The breakwater protected Silver Bay Harbor.
      “He never used that one, did he?” she asked, watching the white beam rake the sky.
      “Which one? What are you talking about?”
      “Merrill. He never hid a body in the Silver Bay breakwater—and you’d think he would. It must have been perfect—so long, hard to see from shore, with so many apertures between those rocks…easy to get to at low tide.”
      “This conversation is over,” John O’Rourke said, opening his car door. Both dogs, sensing that the ride was scrubbed, let out barks of disappointment.
      “Please,” Kate said, swallowing. She reached for his wrist and held it. Slowly he turned his head to look at her; she saw that his eyes were hard, guarded. She had blown it by bringing up Merrill and the breakwater. Keep him out of it , Kate told herself. Talk only about Willa .
      John had one leg in, one leg out of the car. The lighthouse beam swept the sky again; she watched him follow it with his eyes, then come to rest on the front side of the East Wind Inn. Someone stood just inside the front window. The curtain moved slightly, and a shadow tilted against the light.
      “Please,” Kate said. “Give me just five minutes of your time.”
      John didn’t answer, but he pulled his leg in and slammed the car door. Still watching the front window, he shifted into reverse, turned around, and then drove down the long driveway. Excited and happy, the dogs ran back and forth, their noses pressed to the windows. As Kate looked over her shoulder, she saw the curtain drawn back, Felicity’s face peering out the window.
      “Keeping track of every move,” Kate said. “Thanks for driving away. I appreciate the privacy.”
      “Just say what you have to say,” John said. “If you bring up my client again, I’ll drive you right back.”
      “Don’t worry,” Kate said. “I don’t want you to violate your code of ethics. I won’t ask you anything about Merrill—” She caught herself and bit her lip. “I won’t mention him again. Just my sister…”
      “Teddy told me you spoke of her to him,”

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