Penny Branch is stunned to learn that her father has disappeared--and with him, millions of dollars stolen from his bank, his customers and even his family! But even worse is the fact that Penny's soon-to-be ex-husband, bank executive Craig Lockhart, is the one who turned her father in....
Now the Branches face destitution. Penny's twin brothers--drivers in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series--will lose their sponsorships, and their mother may be forced to declare bankruptcy. But how can she fault Craig for his betrayal? Especially when Penny has a secret of her own...and she would rather end her marriage to Craig than have him discover the truth!
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March 10, 2008
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Excerpt from Truth and Consequences by Bethany Campbell
The house on Mona Lisa Lane had always been home to her. And, paradoxically, it had not been home. Not exactly.
She had spent so many years on the move--to New York, to London, Milan, Paris, Madrid, Berlin, Tokyo. In her swimsuit glory days, she'd been photographed on beaches around the world; she loved beaches.
But she tried not to think about the Caribbean.
There were many things she tried not to think about.
Still, although Penny had spent much of her life away, she felt that this Dallas house was far more than a dwelling, it was her emotional base. It was where she had been young, innocent and doted on by her parents. She had spent most of her childhood here with her three younger brothers, the lighthearted twins, Will and Bart, and Sawyer, the youngest, who was the family's loner.
She'd been married in the living room of this stone mansion at Christmas, two years ago. Her mother, Maeve, had made everything sumptuous, classically beautiful, and Penny had felt like a princess bride in a fairy tale. It had been the happiest day of her life.
She'd deeply loved Craig, her husband. She supposed that she still loved him. But the marriage was over. She'd asked him to move out. Some days, she thought it was her fault; other days, she convinced herself that he was to blame.
She pulled into the long, sweeping driveway of the house. But for once, she wasn't comfortable coming here. She was certain that her mother would try to talk her into going back to Craig.
She parked her car rather crookedly. If the twins were home, they'd hoot with laughter at her driving. They were both NASCAR drivers and never let anyone forget it.
But the twins were in Daytona today, and Sawyer was studying in North Carolina. Her father had left for Switzerland Saturday evening, saying there was an emergency meeting about the Euro and he didn't know how long he might need to stay.
So Maeve and Penny would be alone--and Maeve wanted to have "a heart-to-heart" chat. Maeve loved happy endings and was deeply saddened that Penny had split with Craig. But Penny couldn't tell her why. She couldn't tell anyone why.
She got out of her car, a sleek little basic black BMW. The twins always teased her that she didn't deserve such a car, that it was wasted on her. She supposed it was wasted, but it was a present from her father, who took pride in his family having fine things.
She walked to the front door, a plain cloth purse over her shoulder. She'd retired from modeling five months ago, at the beginning of September. She still had the long-legged, confident stride of a model, but she no longer dressed like one. She wore blue jeans, a light blue T-shirt and a short denim-blue suede jacket.
Her face was free of makeup except for pink lip gloss and a touch of eyebrow pencil. She'd brushed her long, platinum hair into a simple ponytail. Her father complained because she went about so unglamorously, but it made her feel free--liberated at last from her old life.
She made her way up the porch stairs, which were flanked by beds of spring flowers blooming bright in the February sun: white and yellow daffodils and multicolored pansies.
She didn't have to ring the bell because Maeve was already opening the door.
"Darling," Maeve said with real affection and hugged her daughter. Most people thought of her as a polished and reserved duchess of Dallas high society, but most people didn't know the real Maeve. Her grace and seeming confidence were like a magic cloak that hid a woman with a streak of shyness, even insecurity.
Penny kissed her mother's soft cheek. Maeve smelled of French perfume and vanilla. Penny's father, Hilton, insisted that they have a cook and maid, but Maeve was happy on Monday, Gerty's day off.
"You smell divine, Mama," Penny said. "Are you baking?"
"Your favorite," Maeve answered with a smile. "Grandma's cookies with butter frosting. Come have some with me on the sunporch. I've got a pot of fresh tea steeping."
"Oh, Mama," Penny said, "you've got powdered sugar all over your blouse." She tried to brush the white smudges off Maeve's navy-blue silk blouse. Only Maeve would dive into a baking job wearing a dark pantsuit and no apron.
"When I cook, I like to get into it," Maeve stated, beaming up at her tall daughter. "What's the fun of baking without a few flour flurries? When I shake sugar, I by gosh shake sugar."
Penny had to smile. Maeve was a happy dervish in the kitchen, and she left chaos in her wake. "I'll help you clean up," she said.
"Oh, pooh," said Maeve. "I get to indulge myself. Cleaning up is part of the fun. What's the good of having a state-of-theart kitchen when I hardly ever get to use it?"
"Then let me clean up you," Penny replied, shaking her head in amusement. "You've got frosting on your pearls."
She drew her handkerchief from her bag and scrubbed the sugary crust from Maeve's necklace. She glanced down at her mother's hands. "Mom," she said, "You've also got cookie dough in your diamonds."
Maeve stared at her ringed hand in amazement. "Oh, I should have been more careful. Your father always says I'm a klutz."