Under Currents

By: Nora Roberts


PART ONE


THE CRUELTY OF LIES

Cruelty and fear shake hands together.

— HONORÉ DE BALZAC

Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.

— HERBERT WARD





CHAPTER ONE


From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect. The dignified three stories of pale brown brick boasted wide expanses of glass to open it to the view of Reflection Lake and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Two faux turrets capped in copper added a European charm and that quiet whisper of wealth.

Its lawn, a richly green skirt, sloped gently toward a trio of steps and the wide white veranda banked by azaleas that bloomed ruby red in spring.

In the rear a generous covered patio offered outdoor living space with a summer kitchen and those lovely lake views. The carefully maintained rose garden added a sweet, sophisticated scent. In season, a forty-two-foot sailing yacht floated serenely at the private dock.

Climbing roses softened the look of the long, vertical boards of the privacy fence.

The attached garage held a Mercedes SUV and sedan, two mountain bikes, ski equipment, and no clutter.

Inside, the ceilings soared. Both the formal living room and the great room offered fireplaces framed in the same golden brown brick as the exterior. The decor, tasteful—though some might whisper studied—reflected the vision of the couple in charge.

Quiet colors, coordinated fabrics, contemporary without edging over into stark.

Dr. Graham Bigelow purchased the lot in the projected development of Lakeview Terrace when his son was five, his daughter three. He chose the blueprint he felt suited him and his family, made the necessary changes and additions, selected the finishes, the flooring, the tiles, the pavers, hired a decorator.

His wife, Eliza, happily left most of the choices and decisions to her husband. His taste, in her opinion, couldn’t be faulted.

If and when she had an idea or suggestion, he would listen. If most often he pointed out why such an idea or suggestion wouldn’t suit, he did—occasionally—include her input.

Like Graham, Eliza wanted the newness, the status offered by the small, exclusive community on the lake in North Carolina’s High Country. She’d been born and raised in status—but the old sort, the sort she saw as creaky and boring. Like the house she’d grown up in across the lake.

She’d been happy to sell her share of the old house to her sister and use the money to help furnish—all new!—the house in Lakeview Terrace. She’d handed the cashier’s check to Graham—he took care of things—without a second thought.

She’d never regretted it.

They’d lived there happily for nearly nine years, raising two bright, attractive children, hosting dinner parties, cocktail parties, garden parties. Eliza’s job, as wife of the chief of surgery of Mercy Hospital in nearby Asheville, was to look beautiful and stylish, to raise the children well, keep the house, entertain, and head committees.

As she had a housekeeper/cook three times a week, a weekly groundskeeper, and a sister who was more than happy to take the children if she and Graham needed an evening out or a little getaway, she had plenty of time to focus on her looks and wardrobe.

She never missed a school function, and in fact had served as PTA president for two years. She attended school plays, along with Graham if work didn’t keep him away. She embraced fund-raising, both for the school and the hospital. At every ballet recital since Britt turned four, she’d sat front row center.

She sat through most of her son Zane’s baseball games as well. And if she missed some, she excused it, as anyone who’d sat through the nightmare of tedium that youth baseball provided would understand.

Though she’d never admit it, Eliza favored her daughter. But Britt was such a beautiful, sweet-natured, obedient young girl. She never had to be prodded to do her homework or tidy her room, was unfailingly polite. In Zane, Eliza saw her sister, Emily. The tendency to argue or sulk, to go off on his own.

Still, he kept his grades up. If the boy wanted to play baseball, he made the honor roll. Obviously, his ambition to play professionally was just a teenage fantasy. He would, of course, study medicine like his father.

But for now, baseball served as the carrot so they all avoided the stick.