“No.” She sat in the chair across from her sister while Jenna, ever the peacemaker, hovered on the other side of the kitchen island. “I hear that you might plead insanity.”
Allie’s jaw tightened and her eyes slid to the side. “Maybe. It’s not been decided.”
“You know, I think you owe me some explanations.” Cassie rubbed her shoulder. It was healing, but still twinged now and again. She’d been lucky. Trent, too. Other than losing a lot of blood and, as he’d said, “needing a refill,” he’d been relatively unhurt, the bullet going through his leg to lodge in the barn, his femur, artery, and his life spared. Thank God.
“Me, too,” Jenna said. “I’ve never asked you, but I know you read my diary. Is that how you found Laura?”
Allie nodded, picked up her cup. “That was the start.”
“You contacted her?” Cassie asked.
“No way. It was Laura. She figured it out on her end.”
“So she approached you.”
Allie rolled her eyes. “Yeah. Since I knew it was true, I’d found the diary as you said, done a little digging around, found the Beauchamp family, I knew she was the real deal.”
“So you decided to murder me?”
“No, no, it wasn’t like that. It was a fantasy, that’s all, but Laura took it to another level. I figured it out and disappeared. Brandon liked the idea of all the buzz it caused, and so there you go.”
Jenna cleared her throat. “If you read my diary, you know how hard it was for me to give her up . . .” Tears welled in her eyes and she cleared her throat. “Well, what’s done is done. Right?”
Cassie thought about what she was going to say. “Maybe not,” she admitted. “I’m writing this story, despite what Lucinda Rinaldi thinks, and so I’ve been doing a lot of research, you know, while Trent was recovering and even though both of Laura’s parents are dead, there’s all kinds of information about them and her adoptive sister. She was almost the same age, only six months difference.”
Jenna was staring at Cassie so hard she squirmed.
“What?” her mother asked.
“Well, here’s the thing. I had Laura’s DNA tested. From her hair.”
The temperature in the room seemed to drop ten degrees.
“And?” Jenna asked.
“She’s not your daughter, the DNA wasn’t a match to mine at all.”
“But . . . What . . . I mean . . .” Jenna gripped the counter for support. “What’re you saying?”
“That Laura Rae Beachamp Wells Merrick was not your biological daughter. Most likely her sister, Elana, was.” Cassie reached in to her pocket and withdrew a photo of a teenaged girl, a girl who despite her coloring had the same shaped face and nose and large green eyes as Jenna. She laid the picture on the table and Jenna came close to look at it.
“I think so, yes.”
“What?” Allie whispered. “No. No.” She was shaking her head wildly. “I . . . I wouldn’t have gotten involved with her. I mean . . . no, this can’t be right.”
Cassie leveled her younger sister with a deadly stare. “Do you think I would have brought this up if I didn’t believe it? I already sent these photos to Detective Nash.”
“No! Why?” Allie was on her feet, her tea spilling. “You can’t do this, Cassie. Just butt the hell out. I—I’m in enough trouble as it is.”
“And whose fault is that?” Cassie threw back as Jenna, holding the snapshot in quaking fingers, stared at the image.
“Is it possible?” she whispered.
“Possible and probable. Laura was nuts. I think she killed her sister. She miraculously survived when Elana didn’t. And her parents, they died in a house fire. How about that. Careless smoking, though they’d both given up the habit years before.”
In her mind’s eye Cassie saw Laura as she had been in her shop, desperate for a cigarette and desperate to tell Cassie the news about Holly. She’d played a part, yes, she could act, but deep down, no doubt, she’d loved telling the story, reveled in the taking of a life.