Danger in a Red Dress

Danger in a Red Dress by Christina Dodd Page A

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Authors: Christina Dodd
concerned, she got that hand-down-her-spine feeling again. “Is there anything specific that bothers you?”
    What the hell? She might as well tell him. He’d probably heard dumber things. “The house is old and it creaks in the wind, so I hear footsteps that aren’t there. It’s more than the money. It’s the whole Nathan Manly hasn’t been seen since he disappeared thing.” No matter how hard Hannah tried, she hadn’t been able to forget Mrs. Manly’s conviction that someone had killed Nathan, and that he was planning his vengeance. “I guess you could say I’m afraid of ghosts.”
    “You’re afraid of Nathan Manly’s ghost? I thought he was still alive somewhere.”
    “That’s what they say, but nobody knows for sure, do they?” Hannah had said too much, and she reined herself in, going back to the facts. “I’m more afraid of intruders, especially since I’d be the one defending Mrs. Manly.”
    “Surely the servants would step in. The butler?”
    “Nelson? No.”
    Trent was silent for a long moment. “Then you’re right to feel uneasy. So I’ll send Susan at ten tomorrow?”
    “Ten would be good.” She could make sure Mrs. Manly got dressed, ate her breakfast and took her meds, before Susan showed up.
    “We’ll get the security set up as soon as possible.”
    “Thank you.” Hannah liked that he didn’t make her feel stupid.
    “So . . . how far do you run?”
    How far do I run? She repeated the question silently to herself. Trent wasn’t getting off the phone. He was making conversation.
    She relaxed and smiled. Was Mrs. Manly right? Their last conversation had been flirtatious. Had he enjoyed it? “I run two to four miles a day, depending on the weather and how much time I have.”
    “The weather doesn’t look too good today.” She heard the breeze whistle across his mouthpiece; apparently he was outside, too.
    “Good point.” She looked out at the clouds, tall, purple, and menacing on the horizon. She turned and headed back. Three miles, up and down slopes, through the grove, and along the cliff, to the house. In her distress about Mrs. Manly’s account, she hadn’t been paying attention. She’d come too far. She was going to get drenched.
    “Why did you run so far?”
    “Sometimes I need to get away.”
    “She’s a difficult woman. Mrs. Manly, I mean. My father always said so.”
    Hannah bristled at his assumption that Mrs. Manly was the one who drove her from Balfour House. “She’s had far too many disappointments in her life”—her husband, her son—“and far too much responsibility on her shoulders. It’s given her a hard shell, but on the inside, she’s a good woman.”
    “It’s good of you to defend her.” He flailed around like a guy who knew he’d put his foot wrong, but didn’t know why or how. “Does she remind you of your mother?”
    “God, no. My mother was . . .” Hannah laughed aloud. “If you looked up joie de vivre in the dictionary, there was a picture of my mother. Life wasn’t good to her, either, but she never let it get her down.”
    “She sounds great.” He still sounded cautious.
    Hannah supposed she had stomped on him a little too firmly, so she kept chatting. “She insisted we travel, have fun, enjoy ourselves when we could. We went to the Renaissance festival every year, and she always bought me a present—a scarf, or a ring, or a face carved into a knot of wood. Mom spoke French fluently, loved the French culture, worshipped French cooking. So we ate out once a week at a little café that specialized in French country cooking. We always split a dessert afterward— mousse au chocolat , or an éclair, or crèpes à la Normande . Vacations were usually a car trip to a bed-and-breakfast in Pennsylvania or somewhere close, but one year, when I was fourteen, one of her doctors won a trip to Provence, and he said he didn’t have time to go, so he gave it to her.”
    “Just like that, he gave it to her.”
    There was an edge to

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