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Beautifully Damaged(121)

By:L.A. Fiore

After dinner, Chelsea went to her room to read while Trace and I cleaned the dishes. My thoughts kept circling back to Vivian. I didn't want to believe she was a killer but, at the same time, she knew more than she was saying. We really needed to talk with her.

"Trace, I'd like to meet with Vivian."

He looked up from the pot he was cleaning, and I could see the question in his eyes, before he asked.


"She's the common denominator in both cases. I think she knows more than she's saying."

He stopped scrubbing and just looked at me. "What is it you're trying to learn, Ember?"

"There are too many unanswered questions, too many holes, and though your dad was an animal I think your mom, my mom, they deserve more than to have their murders unsolved. And maybe in the solving of your mom's death, you'll find a bit of peace."

His hands were still soapy when he wrapped them around my face before pulling me in for a kiss that was about more than love and, when his eyes found mine, I felt my knees go weak at the depth of emotion looking back at me.

"No one ever has, or ever will, know me the way you do. You're inside me, Ember, you are my heart..." he pulled his one hand through my hair as his eyes followed the motion before he returned his gaze to mine "...and you are my soul."

I covered his hands with my own when I offered softly, "It's that way for me, too."

He smiled as his thumb caressed my cheek. "I know."

Chapter Thirty

Vivian Michaels was a hard woman to track down, being that she was a part of so many charitable organizations and committees, but we did eventually lock her in for a luncheon. I couldn't argue that she had come a long way from Teresa Nolan when she arrived dressed to the nines in Armani.

Trace stood and pulled out Vivian's chair. She smiled in thanks as she took her seat.

"I was so happy to get your call, Ember." Her eyes moved to Trace before she added, "And for Trace to be joining us, how delightful."

I suspected she wasn't going to feel that way when lunch was over but she'd held onto whatever it was she knew for far too long. We waited for the waiter to take our orders and then I just got right to it.

"Vivian, we know you are Teresa Nolan."

She visibly paled as her hand clenched her martini glass.

I leaned over and whispered, "You knew my mother, and you knew Trace's parents; we know this already. You're the only person still alive that can possibly lend some insight as to what happened."

She looked positively ill when her blue eyes lifted to meet mine and it was an almost inaudible hiss when she replied, "Why are you doing this?"

"Because my mother is dead and so is Trace's and we want to know why."

I didn't think it was possible but the woman paled even more before she managed to ask, "You don't think I had anything to do with their deaths, do you?"

Trace was stunningly frank when he replied, "The thought has crossed our minds."

Vivian lifted her martini, downed the entire contents and signaled for another, before she turned and met our unwavering stares.

"What do you want to know?"

"Were you getting scripts from Dr. Grant to drug Victoria?"

It was guilt and shame that covered her expression before she answered, "Yes. It was Doug's idea but, yes."

"You and Doug grew up together."

"Yeah. We were dirt poor and then along came the Michaels and we saw a taste of how the other half lived and we wanted it; we wanted to live like the other half."

Trace's arms came to rest on the table as he leaned closer to Vivian. "So you planned, from the beginning, to ingratiate yourselves into Charles and Victoria's lives."


His voice grew hard when he asked, "...and the drugging of my mother?"

"Doug told me Victoria was having trouble sleeping but she was too embarrassed to go to the doctor. She didn't want rumors to circulate that a Michaels was a pill popper because she had been conditioned by her family that private matters stayed private. I didn't realize what he was doing, I honestly didn't, and then I met Charles and really fell for him. I left Fishtown not long after that and went to New York with Charles."

She reached across the table and covered Trace's hand with her own.

"I didn't know what was going on in that house. I swear to you I didn't know. I wanted a different life and that is what I've done. On the few occasions that I reached out to my past to touch base, Darlene never made mention of anything going on so I just assumed all was well."

"Wait, what's this about Darlene?" I asked.

"Darlene, Doug and I were like the three musketeers ever since the fourth grade."

Trace's reaction to that matched my own.