Domino

Domino

by Phyllis A. Whitney

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Overview

A woman is forced to face the tragedies of the past when she’s summoned back to her Colorado home in this novel from “a master of suspense ” (Mary Higgins Clark).
 
An assistant editor at a Manhattan university press, Laurie Morgan forged a future in the best way she knew how. She buried her tragic past and her father’s mysterious death so deeply it only returns in pieces of bad dreams. Then, out of the blue—and much to Laurie’s surprise—she’s invited to her childhood home in Colorado by her ailing, long-estranged grandmother, who banished Laurie and her mother twenty years ago and locked herself up in Morgan House along with every one of its secrets. Now, Laurie is being offered the key.
 
But once she arrives with her lover, Hillary, no one is eager to discuss the past—not her grandmother, the old woman’s suspicious live-in lawyer, her violently hostile nurse, or an old childhood friend. Maybe it’s for the best, though, because once Laurie discovers why she’s been called home, it’s already too late to run. For the hidden tragedies of twenty years ago didn’t happen to Laurie. They happened because of Laurie. And now she must accept the terrible burden of her family legacy—and pay the price.
 
With this novel of past sins, family secrets, and betrayal, New York Times–bestselling author Phyllis A. Whitney proves once again that she “is, and always will be, the Grand Master of her craft” (Barbara Michaels).
 
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Phyllis A. Whitney including rare images from the author’s estate.
 
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504043861
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 07/04/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 319
Sales rank: 272,751
File size: 17 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

Born in Yokohama, Japan, on September 9, 1903, Phyllis A. Whitney was a prolific author of award-winning adult and children’s fiction. Her sixty-year writing career and the publication of seventy-six books, which together sold over fifty million copies worldwide, established her as one of the most successful mystery and romantic suspense writers of the twentieth century and earned her the title “The Queen of the American Gothics.”

Whitney resided in several places, including New Jersey. She traveled to every location mentioned in her books in order to better depict the settings of her stories. She earned the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master award in 1988, the Agatha in 1990, and the lifetime achievement award from the Society of Midland Authors in 1995. Whitney was working on her autobiography at the time of her passing at the age of 104.
Born in Yokohama, Japan, on September 9, 1903, Phyllis A. Whitney was a prolific author of award-winning adult and children’s fiction. Her sixty-year writing career and the publication of seventy-six books, which together sold over fifty million copies worldwide, established her as one of the most successful mystery and romantic suspense writers of the twentieth century and earned her the title “The Queen of the American Gothics.”

Whitney resided in several places, including New Jersey. She traveled to every location mentioned in her books in order to better depict the settings of her stories. She earned the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master award in 1988, the Agatha in 1990, and the lifetime achievement award from the Society of Midland Authors in 1995. Whitney was working on her autobiography at the time of her passing at the age of 104.
 

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Because it was crucially necessary for me to escape New York, I had come to Connecticut as the one haven to which I could turn.

Sitting here on a bench in the peaceful little park that surrounded Dillon's summer theater, I tried to let apprehension flow away from me. My setter, whose obvious name was Red, leaned at my knee watching ducks paddling in the pond, now and then tugging reproachfully at his leash.

I was grateful for maple branches overhead shielding me from bright June sunshine. Light was a part of what troubled me. It needn't matter here. I could let the thing happen — if it must — and gain my release for a time. But this was no way to live for the rest of my life, and I had to find a way out. I must find a way.

Only a week ago in New York I'd heard them talking in the office of the university press where I worked as an assistant editor. "It's her husband's death, you know. He was much older than Laurie, but it was a very close marriage, and she's still devastated, even after two years." The words warned me that my rising tensions had begun to show. There was no way to stop this, and I knew what the humiliating, frightening outcome would be, knew no way to avoid it. Doctors had never helped, and I was through with tranquilizers. Nor would I go to a psychiatrist.

After all, Peter Waldron, my husband, had been a psychiatrist and the author of several much consulted books on emotional disturbances. I could grow angry even now when I thought of how he had used me. My office friends knew nothing about the facts of my marriage, and their judgments were utterly false. Now at last something new was happening inside me. Some strength of will too long submerged, perhaps suppressed, was rising in me. I meant to let it rise.

In the warm June morning the park was quiet all around me, innocent and dreaming. Last night I'd come here alone to the summer theater to test myself. The lights and crowds had not disturbed me, and I'd been quite taken by the vital young actor who had played the lead. No one had noticed me, and that had been reassuring because it meant that I was doing nothing as yet to make myself conspicuous.

Yet this morning, when all about me was peaceful in the sunlight, the familiar tension was rising again and beginning to vibrate, almost in tune with the bees. When a dragonfly darted near me, I ducked nervously. In a little while that frightening top in my head would begin its spinning — faster and faster.

Well, let it come! Let it come, and for once face it through, I told myself.

The red setter whined plaintively and looked up at me, pleading until I gave in. "All right, Red, have your fun." I let him off his leash and he bounded joyfully away to investigate strange territory, as unaware as I that he was shortly to become a messenger of destiny. My thoughts turned inward, as they did too often nowadays.

It wasn't, as they thought at the office, that I still missed Peter with the same sense of fright and loss that I'd felt at his death two years ago. I had married him when I was twenty-one, a few months after my mother had died, and we'd had five years together. Not very quiet years, as it proved. I had even turned up in one of Peter's serious tomes. The woman in the case he had recorded had short brown hair and was small, while I was tall and piled my long fair hair on top of my head. Nevertheless, the disguise was thin, and it was me he was writing about. My "aberration" that had so fascinated him was all there, and I'd recognized myself at once with a sense of deep hurt and betrayal. I had hated being examined in print in such meticulous detail by my own husband.

Yet I still missed him — most of all at night. I missed the comfort of arms to hold and protect me, and the pillow talks we used to have. How empty a bed could be when you slept alone.

My feelings toward Peter had always been ambivalent. He had been my protector, counselor, lover — even something of the father I couldn't remember. And he had loved me in his own way, despite the fact that he was so much older and wiser than I, just as I had loved him in mine. Even though he hadn't proved to be the source of all the answers I longed for, he was truly a nurturer. Just as my mother had been. And I was too much of a leaner.

How often I had wondered if everything might have been different if my professor father had lived. But he had died of pneumonia when I was two, and my mother must have suffered deeply, for she could never bear to talk about him. I had seen pictures of her when she was the young wife, Marybeth Morgan, and quite beautiful, with huge eyes, a tremulous mouth, and a lovely figure. Though in life I could only remember her fading, her giving up, and the way she stared at me sometimes with a despairing watchfulness. As though she waited in dread for something to surface in me. At least, through an inheritance my father had left her, there had been enough to live on, and we hadn't suffered on that score.

Such memories had been surfacing more than ever lately. At the office my editor had said, "For God's sake, Laurie, you're twanging like a harp. Take your two weeks and get away. See if you can get those nerves in hand and some color back in your face."

My aunt's house in Connecticut had always been a storm port in need. I telephoned Ruth Thorne, and as always, she said, "Come." She had never protected or nurtured. She had never approved of the fearful way my gentle, sad mother raised me. Perhaps it was Ruth's vinegar and spice that really fed my spirit when I needed it and grew tired of the diet of milk toast and hot lemonade my mother fed me so protectively.

At my aunt's invitation, I packed a suitcase, shut up the house in Long Island that I'd shared with Peter, and put Red beside me in the front seat of Peter's decorous blue sedan. Ruth took one look at me when I arrived and pushed me out of the house.

"Get outdoors, get some exercise. Come back when you're good and tired. And no picky eating. You'll take what I put on the table or back to New York you go!"

I laughed and hugged her and went out for a walk with Red at my heels. But not even her doses of vinegar caused the spinning in my head to subside.

I used to warn Peter when it started, when it might be coming on, and he would follow its progress as though I were indeed a bug on a slide. Afterward, shaken by what had happened, I would be quiet for a while. Until it began to build up all over again, winding like some terrible child's top, forever spinning and reflecting a light that dazzled and frightened me. Peter had wanted to take me to a confrere who would hypnotize me, but I'd flatly refused. I needed to be cured of whatever disturbed me, threatening my very sanity, yet at the same time I had always been afraid to face whatever I might learn. Far deeper than the desire to know, there had been in me a fear of knowing. It was that fear that I must somehow find the courage to defeat. Fear in particular of that name which sometimes returned to haunt me. Noah. Who was Noah, and why did the sound of his name bring terror with it?

Now as I sat drowsing on my bench in this pleasant park, Red came bounding back to put his paws on my knees and look lovingly into my face. He seemed to sense my moods, and I sometimes felt that his utter devotion helped me more than Peter ever had. Red might coax me at times, but he never required anything more of me than the love I gave him back.

When I'd petted him sufficiently, he bounded away again, ears flopping, red plumes flying — straight for the open door of the theater, not far away. I called him back, but he paid no attention, so I got up, not hurrying particularly, never dreaming what awaited me, and went after him. The doors were open, so there must be someone inside.

The building was a converted barn, and a lobby had been partitioned off beyond the main entrance. Other doors opened into the theater itself, and of course it was through one of these that Red went rushing. I didn't care for the idea of chasing him vainly through the seats of the orchestra section, but there was no help for it. At least it would give me some exercise, and I hoped we wouldn't be disturbing anyone. This hope was dashed immediately. Up on the bare lighted stage the actors of the summer stock company sat around a long table, with blue-bound scripts before them. An electrician was testing lights, and on the table a large coffeepot offered sustenance. An undistinguished aluminum coffeepot — so prosaic an object to change one's entire life.

Red of course made a great commotion as he galloped down the aisle, heading directly for the stage, sensing friendly humans. Humans were always friendly to Red. Up the steps he bounded, making his choice at once in the actor-director of the company. I slowed my steps, hating to be conspicuous. I didn't belong here at all, interrupting a rehearsal, and dressed as I was, so much more formally than the actors on the stage in their jeans and shorts. My pale blue linen suit and wide-brimmed straw hat set me off as a city dweller. Though the hat wasn't so much for fashion's sake as because it shaded my face. As Peter had often pointed out, I was all too often given to hiding.

There could, however, be nothing inconspicuous about my approach in the wake of my uninhibited dog. It was as though I were the play and the actors the audience. They stared at me, some of them smiling, and the man whom I had seen in the lead role the night before stood up with a pat for Red and came to the edge of the stage to watch my approach.

"Rescue is at hand," he said over his shoulder to the company, and flashed me the brilliant smile I remembered from his performance last night.

I tried again to summon Red, who was by this time garnering so much attention that he had no time for me. Helpless to do anything but walk toward the stage, I could only look up at the man who waited for me.

At first glance I would never have called Hillary Lange my ideal for lead material in a play. He wasn't handsome, though his rather rugged features added up to something not easily forgotten. His height barely topped that of his leading lady, but his body was sturdy and well muscled. His hair grew thick and brown above his forehead, and there was a dark flash to his eyes that could surprise with its intensity — so that one's attention was compelled. When he moved, I had noted that it was with the grace of a dancer, or of some lithe, prowling creature that had never been wholly tamed. On stage I had recognized him as unique. He had presence, electricity. Something I didn't know how to name. Perhaps it was that dark, half-threatening intensity that the female in me responded to, whether I liked it or not. Up there on the boards he certainly commanded — as he was commanding me now. I was just below him by this time, murmuring embarrassed apologies, when he stopped me.

"Never mind all that. Will you help us out?"

His words surprised me and I stood still, startled into my old impulse to flee any unfamiliar situation. His voice went on, its sonorous quality soothing, taking for granted my response.

"One of our cast seems to have been delayed. Will you come up and help us out — read the part of Maggie for our next production?"

Inside me the old voice was crying, "No, no — I'd be frightened to death! I couldn't possibly ..." But my feet had better sense. They took me directly up the steps, and he came to give me a hand, bringing me to the empty place at the table next to his own. Standing beside him, I was aware of being tall and too thin, and somehow too pale and blond beside all his dark vitality.

Red jumped at me in joyous approval and I patted him down, clipped on his leash, and looped it around the leg of a chair at the back of the stage.

"Stay," I told him sternly, and for once he decided to obey.

Hillary Lange reached for my broad-brimmed hat with assurance and removed it. At once I could feel hairpins slipping, and a fair tendril fell over my nose. He laughed, lifting it back from my face with one finger — and it was as though some current had touched me.

"Tell me your name," he said.

I answered without hesitation, "Laurie Morgan," and wondered why I hadn't said "Waldron." True, I no longer wore Peter's ring, though I wasn't sure why I'd wanted to put it aside since I didn't think I would ever marry again. And now I had put aside his name as well. Yet I didn't feel especially disloyal. I'd given Peter everything I could. He was gone, but I was alive, and I had to find a new way for myself.

"Laurie Morgan," Hillary Lange repeated, an odd note that was almost wonderment in his voice. As though in his quick way he already sensed something I would grope my way toward more slowly — that we were going to mean a great deal to one another.

He introduced me to the company and then handed me the blue-bound side for my speeches. "It's a very small part — you won't have any trouble. It's just that it's a key role and we need it to go through the reading. Run through it yourself, if you like. We'll give you time." Nonchalantly he dropped my hat upon an empty chair and waited. Everyone else waited too, perhaps not as sure as their director that this amateur should be invited to participate.

I noted the name of the play and looked into the dark flash of his eyes. "I've seen it in New York. I remember the part."

Somehow I thrust back a self-consciousness that wanted to envelope and smother me, and read my opening lines. Not too badly. Only a falter here and there. I was scared but I was doing it, and lightning hadn't struck me down, nor was anyone roaring with laughter. With this new tension perhaps the other was fading a little.

Hillary's eyes were upon me and I could tell that he was pleased, perhaps even a little surprised, and the tiny kernel of courage began to grow. I read on with more confidence.

The spotlights were still being turned off and on, as the stage crew experimented with them. They made me uneasy, as lights often did. But at least they weren't being focused on the table — and they had nothing to do with me. I could hear my voice growing in strength with my growing assurance.

Then, without warning, one blinding beam of the big spot turned suddenly and fell directly upon me, fell also upon the chrome plating of the coffeepot, striking from its sides a silver dazzle. And I knew that the moment I always feared had come. My voice broke in the middle of a word, and my eyes stared. My body froze into a state that was almost catatonic, though I knew, as if from a distance, what was going on around me. Vaguely I heard voices raised in alarm, heard someone speaking my name. But there was nothing I could do except stare in utmost terror at that silver flash of light. Then the spot was turned off, in response to Hillary's shouted command. I was aware of what was happening, but I couldn't move. Red was alternately whining and barking wildly. Red knew.

Hillary came behind my chair and put his hands on my shoulders, shaking me gently. Someone whispered, and I heard him stop the whisper curtly. With the light turned off the nightmare broke its spell, releasing me, and I could look about in shame and dismay.

I was trembling and my body was bathed in sweat, but the spinning was gone, the tension released. The moment of frightful revelation had once more been postponed.

Hillary pulled back my chair and helped me up. "We'll take a break," he told the others, and I went with him blindly to a side door that opened upon the June morning, leaving the whispering behind.

We sat on the grass beside the pond, not bothering with a bench. Inside the theater someone had released Red, and he came dashing out to frolic around us, making friends with Hillary at once. At least I had stopped shivering.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I'm all right now. I really am," but my voice broke as I spoke the words.

He was studying me with a sympathy that was as welcome as it was unexpected. I needed someone to cling to, if only for this passing moment.

"Has this happened to you before?" he asked.

"Not for a long time. I'm so awfully sorry —"

"Stop apologizing," he told me. "I shouldn't have drawn you into something you didn't want to do."

I liked his saying that. Usually men considered very little what I wanted, but were given to instructing me in what they thought I ought to do.

"Do you know what causes it?" he went on.

"No, not really. Yet it seems to happen when there are strong lights around. Perhaps they hypnotize me in some way. I'm not unconscious. I know what's happening, but I just freeze."

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Domino"
by .
Copyright © 1979 Phyllis A. Whitney.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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