Home > Two is a Lie (Tangled Lies #2)

Two is a Lie (Tangled Lies #2)
Author: Pam Godwin

Spineless.

Bloodless.

The early morning fog constricts me with ghost-like arms. The milky pall drapes over my backyard, swallowing the weak light of sunrise and contorting my sense of reality.

This moment, this entanglement of two distinct parts of my life, can’t be happening.

The vibrating silhouette of my past paces a few feet away, staring at me like an ethereal presence.

Cole. My first love. My greatest loss.

My second chance stands beside me, his expression as naked as his upper body, chilling in the cold mist.

Trace. He’s supposed to be my new beginning. My future.

Dark hair versus blond, brown eyes clashing with blue, Cole and Trace couldn’t look more different from each other. But the emotions coiling their postures and tightening their faces are the same. Pain, fear, desperation, and most of all, unbridled rancor. The anger between them is so potent it crackles the air.

I hug my waist tightly, shaking in my attempt to stifle the tears.

Cole’s alive.

Trace knew there was a chance he’d come back.

And they look like they’re seconds from killing each other.

My entire body is a heartbeat, pulsing heavily, painfully, flaring every cell and nerve ending. I think it’s my muscles twitching or maybe overworked blood vessels. I think I’m in shock.

They watch me as if waiting for me to do something. Send them away? Have a nervous breakdown? Stab them with a sharp object? Any of those things are possible. But first, I need to pull my shit together and demand some answers.

The questions pile up in my throat, some screaming louder than others. Why did Cole disappear for over four years? And why didn’t Trace tell me he knew Cole or that they were best friends? Why didn’t he tell me Cole might come back?

“I need you to put aside your animosity for each other and give me the truth.” I pace the driveway alongside my house, my breaths huffing in white clouds as I try to gather my thoughts. Circling back, I stop in front of Trace. “If you’ve been watching over me since Cole left, you knew how badly I—” My voice cracks, and I clear my throat. “You knew I was hurting. Why didn’t you tell me there was a chance he was alive?”

“There are a lot reasons why I couldn’t.” Trace wipes the blood from his lip where Cole punched him. “First and foremost, it would’ve endangered your life.”

“What does that even mean?” My mind jumps to CIA, special forces, or some secret organization within the government.

“It’s classified.” Cole inclines his head away from me, depriving me of eye contact and closing himself off. “The less you know, the safer you are.”

“The less I know…” I echo in a hollow voice. “Do you have any idea what it’s like to not know? When you stopped calling and emailing, it gutted me. Then a stranger showed up at my door and told me you died in an explosion.” My breaths quicken, chopping up my words. “The pain is indescribable, Cole. I wanted to die a thousand times over.” I angrily swipe at the moisture on my cheeks and turn to Trace. “And you didn’t tell me shit.”

“I had no concrete information.” Trace’s scowl deepens. “I was operating on assumptions and—”

“But you knew there was a chance, and that chance—”

“Could’ve brought you more pain.” He leans toward me, all rock-jawed and blazing eyes. “Let’s say I broke protocol and told you he could’ve been alive. It would’ve raised your hopes, and you would’ve waited and waited.” He straightens and squares his shoulders. “What if I was wrong? If he never showed up, what then? It would’ve made things so much harder for you. I couldn’t bear it.”

“Because you wanted her for yourself,” Cole seethes, launching toward Trace.

“Stop!” I dart forward, pulse racing.

Cole spins away and plunges his fingers in his hair.

“If you hit him again, we’re done.” I press a hand against my throat, fighting for every painful breath. “Understand?”

With his back to me, Cole tenses. Then he drops his head and nods.

“He’s right,” Trace says, low and scratchy. “When I watched over you the first year he left, I became enamored. Obsessed. I wanted you, irrationally and hopelessly. Then I watched you mourn him for the next two years, and I still wanted you. But I had no intentions of pursuing you. You know this, Danni, given the lengths I went to push you away.”

“You wouldn’t have had to push her away,” Cole roars, “if you hadn’t made contact in the first fucking place!”

The thunder of his voice is loud enough to rattle my bones and bring all my neighbors outside.

The moment I have that thought, Virginia calls out from the rear of her house next door. “Danni?”

“Everything’s fine, Virginia.” Squinting at Cole, I whisper, “What am I supposed to tell her? How do I explain your reappearance?”

What do I tell my sister, my parents, and everyone else in my life? Maybe he won’t be around long enough to say anything. I press the heel of my hand against the pang in my chest.

“I have a cover story.” Cole grabs his duffel bag from the driveway and strides toward my back door. “For now, just…don’t say anything.”

When he slips inside my house, I approach the short metal fence between the backyards and bend over it to see Virginia.

“What’s all that ruckus?” She stands in her doorway, wearing a flowery robe and house slippers, her white hair rolled in pink curlers.

“It was me.” Trace leans beside me and braces his forearms on the fence. “Good morning, Virginia.”

“Don’t good morning me, young man.” A cane appears in her hand and she points it at him. “I know that wasn’t you hollering.”

Fuck. She can’t see shit, but her hearing is better than mine on most days.

“He has a cold.” I grab Trace’s hand and pull him away from the fence. “I’m taking him inside before it gets worse.”

“Hm, well…” Suspicion creaks through her voice. “Make sure he drinks hot tea and gargles salt water.”

“Got it.” I release Trace’s hand and head toward the back door.

As I reach it, he hooks an arm around my waist and pulls my back to his chest. “I’m not letting you go.”

My heart pounds, and I compulsively slide my fingers over his against my hip. I love him so fucking much, but that love feels trampled and wounded beneath a thousand unanswered questions.

“It killed me to watch you grieve for two years.” He rests his forehead against the back of my head. “But I couldn’t give you hope without knowing with absolute certainty he was coming back. I needed to see you heal.”

Warmth fills my chest, expanding my ribs. His constant concern for me is one of the countless reasons I fell in love with him. But… “You proposed to me, knowing he might come back. What did you think would happen?”

“Proposal or no proposal, there was no stopping what was happening between us.” He turns me in his arms and cradles my face in his hands. “The day you told me you loved me changed everything.”

Our eyes connect and fasten. Whenever I tumble into that blue gaze, it doesn’t matter where I’ve been or how far I have to go, because this is the moment, the bright spark of belonging and grace, that’s worth fighting for.

I don’t understand the enigma of love, only that it holds me hostage, cares for and worships me, abandons and breaks me, and always lures me back for more. I’m greedy for it. For him.

“I feel deceived, Trace. By both of you.” I grit my teeth. “I don’t know what to think about your omissions and secrets. And Cole better have a damn good reason for disappearing, for letting me believe he was dead all this time.”

“He’ll have the best reason of all.” His voice is gruff, dejected, as his attention drifts over my shoulder at the closed door behind me. “Protecting you is the only reason he would’ve stayed away.”

I step back, anxious to go inside and get answers, but Trace tightens his grip on my jaw.

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