Picture Perfect LieBy: Marquita Valentine
Kings of Castle Beach, book 1
All Campbell Faircloth wanted was a safe place to call home.
All Knight King wanted was to leave his hometown behind.
I never expected to end up in Castle Beach, surrounded by a family who believes I’m not only their brother’s wife, but also the mother of his infant daughter.
I can’t tell them the truth—Knight and I only met three days earlier, during a layover in Atlanta.
He was headed out to fight in a war that hardly anyone talked about anymore, and I was going back home to a family who pretended I didn’t exist.
He helped me with my baby.
He kept us safe while we slept.
We shared lunch and dinner... and I spilled all my secrets to him.
Then he gave me an address, along with an offer I couldn’t refuse.
SIX MONTHS LATER, HE’S back to bury his brother, and my lie is about to be exposed.
Only Knight doesn’t say a word.
He goes along with the charade, and each day we spend together, pretending to be husband and wife, it’s getting harder and harder not to believe in our lie.
Could our picture-perfect lie turn into a picture-perfect forever?
“Do you really have to leave?” Laird asks, his blue eyes dim. At only thirteen, he’s all gangly limbs and braces.
I ruffle his dirty-blond hair and wish like hell I could give him a different answer. “Yeah, but I won’t be gone long. Soon as basic training is over, I’ll be back for a visit.”
It’s a lie, but I can’t tell him the truth. I can’t ruin the beach for him. He’s had his life ruined enough in the last month.
We’re in his favorite spot, sitting on a log that washed up nearly to the sand dunes. Unlike me, it seems to be here for good. No amount of hurricane-force winds or rising tides can move it from this spot.
He shrugs, then lifts a piece of sand glass to his lips, whistling sharply. “Maybe I should join the Army.”
Your heart couldn’t take it, I want to say, but I don’t. No need to insult him or diminish his giving nature. Even at eighteen, I know this about my little brother. In the not-too-distant past, some might have accused me of possessing the same kind of heart.
Only, I don’t have a choice.
I can’t stay here and live off my name. Hell, there’s not much money behind our name anymore as it is. The IRS tends to frown on not paying taxes.
And our father’s accountant didn’t pay taxes on the family shipping business for years before the government caught wind of it.
“Maybe you should work on your pitch. I heard Coach tell mom you could play up a level this summer,” I say, focusing on the ocean.
Waves rise and fall.
The clean scent of the water rushes over me.
Every now and then, I get a whiff of brine and diesel from the ships that are in port.
“I guess so.” He shifts beside me. “Knight, I want ask you something, and I want you to tell me the truth.”
Knots form in my stomach, so big and heavy I can’t move. “What’s that?”
He turns. Because I know I have to look at him, I face him. “Why did Daddy...” He swallows, and his big eyes fill with tears. “Why did he have to ... with the gun... Why?”
I throw my arm around his bony shoulders, not saying anything. What can I say about our dad’s suicide? I’m only eighteen for fuck’s sake. Our oldest brother Duke is way more equipped in handling shit like this. Hell, even Deacon or Baron—
“Knight?” he whispers. “Should I talk to Quinn?”
“Nah. Give me a second.” I lick my lips, salt flavoring my tongue. Looking away from him, I stare at the sandpipers as they run from the water crashing on the beach. “Sometimes... people feel like there’s no other way out.”
Laird doesn’t reply, so I peek at him. Big tears drip down his face, but he’s not making a sound.
“That morning, I told Daddy I was mad he didn’t go to my last soccer game,” he blurts, his body caving in on itself. “I broke one of his stupid ships, too.”
“You can’t blame yourself. You can’t...” I run out of words, then regroup. “Which ship?”
“Queen Anne’s Revenge.”
His favorite model ship. “Damn.”