Crooked Little Lies

Free Crooked Little Lies by Barbara Taylor Sissel

Book: Crooked Little Lies by Barbara Taylor Sissel Read Free Book Online
Authors: Barbara Taylor Sissel
returned home, demonstrating her commitment, her maturity, and her willingness to shoulder the responsibility of caring for her little sister, it hadn’t been enough to satisfy Child Protective Services. Not until Margaret stepped in as Lauren’s advocate. She talked to a family-court judge, one whose wife she’d saved, and she used that on the judge, twisting his legal arm without apology. After that, once the papers were signed and Lauren was given guardianship, with Margaret’s continued moral support and advice, Lauren had finished raising Tara the best she could.
    And here was something else that Lauren knew that Jeff didn’t seem aware of: when it came to parenting, guilt was part of the package. And whether Jeff agreed or approved of it, Lauren felt she was as much Tara’s mother as she was her sister. She felt responsible for Tara’s shortcomings; she felt it was her fault in some way that Tara couldn’t form a lasting relationship and couldn’t handle her money. And the thing was, she didn’t know how to stop, how to unfeel those feelings that only seemed to grow thicker, becoming even more stubbornly entrenched as time went on.
    She started the Navigator.
    Jeff asked what her plans were, and she said she was going home, adding that she was tired.
    “Why are you there anyway, wearing yourself out?” he asked. “You didn’t need to go in at all this weekend. I told you I had it covered.”
    Lauren felt a jolt of surprise. He sounded almost angry, the way he had in the early days following her release from the hospital when he’d followed her around, hovering and clucking like a mother hen. A psychologist she’d seen while in rehab had said it was normal behavior for a primary caregiver, especially one like Jeff, who took his responsibility so seriously. That mood had passed, though, once Lauren was stable again and more her old self. “I’m fine, Jeff. Everyone gets tired.”
    The noise he made suggested she wasn’t everyone. “Go home, okay?” he said. “Get some rest.”
    She said she would and then drove to Cornerstone Bank instead. It was after-hours, and the suburban business center where the bank was located was nearly deserted when she pulled into a space in front of the building. She sat a moment, studying the image of her SUV in the plate-glass window, trying to picture the office inside and the face of the bank official she and Jeff would have spoken to about opening an account. Nothing came.
    But maybe that was because she’d never been inside. The bank could have sent the message by mistake. Or someone using their name could have opened the account. Lauren straightened, mind leaping. She should have realized—considered the possibility of identity theft. Didn’t it happen all the time?
    She drove home, only subliminally aware of the sky and landscape as they receded into dusk and of the oncoming headlights that flashed by her like small moons. Leaving the SUV in the driveway, she walked quickly through the house, flipping on lights as she went, to dispel the evening gloom. In the study, she sat at the desk, waking the computer, and after she found the e-mail from Cornerstone Bank, she clicked on the link it offered, where she was prompted for a password. Carter2000 . She typed in Drew’s middle name and birth year, their standard password, and received an error message. Her breath hitched. She tried Kenzie’s middle name and birth year and then her own, with the same result. None of the alternatives worked. So—
    Sitting back, she thought for a moment, then found her way to the bank’s main web page. She would call them, get to the bottom of this. By now, her pulse was tapping so quickly and loudly, she could hear it in her ears. Thoughts collided in her head: that it was unnerving to discover someone had stolen your name, that Jeff would be so pissed. There was a mounting excitement, too, as she dialed customer service, that she could handle this crisis, that she was handling

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