Like many other Hudson river towns, the once prosperous Mundy’s Landing fell into economic decline back in the ’70s, while I was growing up there as the feisty youngest of the four red-headed Carmichael kids. My parents were forced to work several jobs between them just to make ends meet, which left us kids to our own devices. My older brothers and sister were perfect students and model teenagers, but I was. . .well, a bad girl. I got into trouble at school and ran wild as a teenager. But when I was seventeen, I faced a terrible wakeup call. My vibrant mother was struck by a virulent disease that claimed her life in a matter of weeks. She was a strong woman, a woman of great faith, and her greatest fear wasn’t dying–it was what might happen to me, her hellion youngest child, without her maternal vigilance. I made a deathbed promise that I would change my ways.
I kept that promise. I got into college, worked hard, and became a teacher just like my mom. I married wholesome hometown hero Jake Mundy, we moved away, and had three beautiful children. Jake worked hard in a hectic industry to support us, and I was the perfect wife and mother–with one exception.
It was a fleeting, reckless moment, one in which I almost–almost–threw away everything that mattered to me. The important thing was that I didn’t. My dark secret would serve as another wake-up call, and nothing more. No one but me would ever be the wiser.
Or so I believed.
Shaken, I decided that we should move back to Mundy’s Landing. I thought that the simpler, more affordable way of life in our hometown would be good for me, Jake, and the kids. We could focus on the only thing that mattered: being together. Staying together. We bought a big old house on River Road, Jake worked closer to home, and I found a teaching job at my old elementary school. Having come full circle, we settled down to live happily ever after.
That was over a decade ago. The years have flown by.
With Thanksgiving last Thursday, I’ve been caught up in a flurry of cooking, cleaning, and enjoying my older two children, both home from their Ivy League colleges for the weekend. But they went back last night, and this morning, it was back to work for me and Jake, and back to school for our youngest son, Mick. Unlike his siblings, he isn’t a stellar student. He looks a lot like me, and sometimes I worry that he acts too much like I did at that age. I keep a close eye on him, the way my mother did on me. Now I know how she felt. I’m relieved that Mick won’t become motherless the way I did at his age.
Or so I believe.
Today has been an ordinary day. Wake up snuggled beside my husband, feed the dog, drink coffee, drive to work. Spend a day in my fourth grade classroom. Drive home through familiar village streets decked in white twinkle lights for the holidays, looking forward to dinner with my husband, climbing into our cozy bed, and sleeping soundly as always. But that’s not going to happen. I’ve been so caught up in this ordinary day–this wonderfully precious, final ordinary day–that I’ve forgotten the date itself.
Someone else has not.
When I get home from work, I find a package in the mail. It’s addressed to me. At first I’m sure it must be something I’ve ordered. Christmas is coming, and I’ve done some online shopping.
But inside, wrapped in a yellowed newspaper dated fourteen years ago today–the anniversary of my lone misstep–are twelve charred, round items. At first, I can’t even tell what they are. Then it hits me: burnt cookies.
Burnt cookies can only mean one thing. Somehow, someone knows my deep, dark secret. The one that, if it ever comes out, will destroy our happily ever after. I would give anything to keep that secret safe. But the anonymous person who knows what no one can possibly know isn’t interested in blackmail. That person doesn’t want anything but to make me pay for that awful day fourteen years ago–with my life.
You can read more about Rowan’s secret in Blood Red, the first book in the NEW “Mundy’s Landing” suspense trilogy, published by HarperCollins.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on Friday, October 2 for the chance to win an autographed copy of Blood Red. (US entries only, please.) Good luck everyone!
About the author
New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning author of more than eighty novels, best known for the single title psychological suspense novels she writes under her own name. She has three releases in 2015: The Black Widow (February, HarperCollins); Blood Red (September, HarperCollins); and Nine Lives (October, Crooked Lane). Her novel Hello, It’s Me (Grand Central Publishing), aired as a television movie in September. She lives in New York.
Visit Wendy at www.wendycorsistaub.com