Home > Never Smile at Strangers (Strangers Series #1)(8)

Never Smile at Strangers (Strangers Series #1)(8)
Jennifer Jaynes

Mac had never liked Tiffany because he thought she was too promiscuous and self-centered. The more Haley tried to get him to change his mind about her, the more resistant he was. He was as polite to Tiffany as he was to everyone else, but it was more than obvious that he didn’t care for the girl and never would.

Haley climbed out of the truck to find him pulling down the tailgate. He sat and lit his cigarette. Several yards away, a bunch of kids were squealing, hopping over sprinklers and sliding across a faded Slip ‘n Slide.

Mrs. Perron was still knocking on the front door. “Anybody home?” she shouted, her voice becoming more and more agitated. “Anybody? Tiffany? You in there?”

Haley wandered around the house, into the backyard. A thick plume of smoke curled into the air, rising from a distant neighbor’s barbecue. Its tangy, mesquite scent filled her nostrils. Rotten figs, oversweet, lay at the base of a small tree and a lone pair of jeans swayed in the hot breeze on an otherwise empty clothesline.

She stopped at a tall anthill, slid off a flip flop, and pushed her foot into its soft center. In a matter of seconds, annoyed ants swarmed out and up her ankle. She watched as they slowly spread up her shin, past her knee. She savored the sting of their tiny bites. But once they reached mid-thigh, she pulled her throbbing leg to safety and gently brushed the insects off.

She glanced at the house and startled. Someone was peering out from behind a window shade, watching her. Quickly, the shade fell back against the window.

Someone was home.

She hurried back to the front yard. Mrs. Perron was still speaking to the front door. “Tiffany, if you’re in there, you’d better come out right now,” she threatened, her words shaky. “If you don’t, I’ll make sure your father knows everything. I mean everything. Bad heart or not!”

Mac flicked his cigarette ash into the grass as Haley walked up. He ground it with the heel of his shoe. “No one home?”

“Someone’s here. But whoever it is, isn’t answering,” she said, staring back at the house. “I saw someone at one of the windows out back.”

“Tiffany?”

“I don’t know. I couldn’t see.”

“We can come on back here after we take her home,” he said, picking an ant off of Haley’s arm. “If she’s in there, she’ll open up if her mother ain’t around.”

Chapter 7

THE LANDRY’S HOME was no different than most of the ranch-style homes the middle-class families had built in Grand Trespass in the ‘70s and ‘80s. At the front door, one would walk into a small room which connected to a nice-sized kitchen, then a relatively spacious living room. The bedrooms and one bathroom were located off the living room. Standing at the front door, one could see clear through the house to the back door and vice versa, the architecture not lending itself to much privacy. The women in Grand Trespass liked the floor plan because they were able to cook and still keep an eye on their children playing in the living room. Haley liked it because she could easily keep an eye on both Becky and her mother when they weren’t in their bedrooms.

“Who’s the kid?” Mac asked, letting the screen door snap shut behind them.

Cigarette smoke hung in the air. Haley had seen a bicycle leaning against the house when they pulled up but figured it was Sadie’s, her sister’s friend. Sadie’s mother was always buying Sadie things, trying to make up for the time she ran the child over in the driveway, leaving her with a lame right arm.

“I don’t know.” She walked past the kitchen and into the living room where Becky and a raven-haired teenage girl were watching television.

“Hey,” Haley said.

Fifteen-year-old Becky turned to her with a practiced look of boredom, an irritating expression she seemed to have mastered overnight. “Hey,” she answered, pulling her thin, mousy hair into a ponytail. She pointed to the girl. “Haley, this is my new friend, Seacrest. Seacrest, this is my sister, Haley, and her boyfriend, Mac.”

The girl blew out a steady stream of smoke and fixed her gray eyes on Haley’s. “Hey,” she muttered.

Haley watched the smoke spiral into the air.

“The Landrys don’t smoke in the house,” Mac said, his voice matter-of-fact, but polite, one of the many mannerisms Haley admired in him.

The girl smirked. “Well then, I’ll go on outside.” She stood and pulled at the hem of her short denim shorts. Then she sauntered out the back, carelessly letting the screen door slam shut behind her.

“Why’d you tell her she could smoke in the house?” Haley asked, exasperated.

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