Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick

"Stella Gordan's life is a lie."

Stella Gordon, not her real name, is given ten minutes to say goodbye to her boyfriend Reed. The two are entering the Witness Protection Program because her testimony will put Danny Balando in prison. Balando, her mother's drug dealer, is facing a first degree murder charge as well as multiple counts of drug possession and trafficking. Stella, who hates her new name, is heading to Thunder Basin, NE while her mother is going to rehab. She is angry at her mother and blames her for the situation that she finds herself in. Stella hopes to never see her again. She is estranged from her father because he refused to join her in the Program. Reed doesn't know where he is being relocated. She will never be able to come back home to Philadelphia and knows that Balando and his henchmen will never stop searching for her. Before the two are separated after being given ten minutes to say goodbye, Reed whispers in her ear to remember their joint email account.

Agent Price drives Stella to the middle of nowhere, small town Nebraska. He tells her about Carmina Songster, the retired cop Stella will be living with for the next three months until she turns eighteen. Everyone in town likes Carmina. They call her Gran and she knows the truth about Stella. They arrive after dark and Carmina is waiting on the porch for them. Right away, Stella knows this isn’t home. Her life and everything in it is back in Philadelphia.  She isn’t very receptive to Carmina’s welcoming gestures. Getting out of the car, she has a flashback to that night at her house where everything went wrong. Agent Price thinks everyone will be better with a good night’s sleep. Inside the house, Stella feels like she is in a time warp back to the twentieth-century. Carmina tells her that breakfast is at 7am sharp. Her room looks like it hasn’t been occupied in a while and a few of the previous inhabitant’s things are still there. She begins to wonder about Carmina’s past.

Stella is awoken by the sound of a lawn mower. She looks at the clock and sees that it is only 5am. Looking out the window, she sees a fit guy around her age. He doesn't hear her yelling because he has headphones on. She goes into Carmina’s room. She tells Stella that his name is Chet Falconer and he likes to get his work done early before it get too hot. Carmina instructs her to go back to bed. Since she wasn’t allowed to bring her iPhone, she will find something else in a dresser drawer. Back in her room, Stella pulls out a Walkman and rummages through the cassette tapes before finding one to her liking. She turns up the volumes and goes back to sleep. Stella goes down to the kitchen around ten and finds that breakfast is over. Carmina is out back, weeding her garden. Carmina tells her that bacon and eggs aren’t good cold and Stella states that she gets it; if you snooze, you lose. Stella hasn’t had a parent figure in a while and can do for herself. Carmina tells her that they are going into town to look for her a job, something Stella has never done. Stella thinks that maybe Carmina is looking for a fight but Stella decides that two can play at that game and goes along. She isn’t looking to get past her anger and open up to Carmina. On the way into town, the two pass by Chet at a house with a toolbox in hand. Stella starts to ask questions about Chet and Carmina warns her off. She states that he has enough problems without her adding to them. His parents are deceased and he is now the man of the house. Stella is surprised to find out that he isn’t looking to see what she considers a dead end town. After applying for several jobs while dressed in cut off shorts, the continue to trade barbs on their way home.

Carmina leaves Stella home alone one night while she attends a bible study. To combat a flashback she has, Stella goes to her room and pulls out one of Reed’s letters that she snuck with her. While reading it, she recalls one of the last things Reed said to her and she remembers their email account. Stella decides she must find a way to get to the library. She looks in the barn to see if she can find a bike but discovers an old Mustang instead. Locating the keys, the car easily starts and Stella heads out. She is disappointed to find that Reed hasn’t left an email but she leaves one instead. Heading out to her car, she is panic stricken to find that it won’t start. A guy comes up offering to help but she doesn’t want to take it. He states that the car was his before he sold it to Carmina last year. He wants to know if he needs to call the police. Turns out the guy is Chet. Stella tells him that Carmina is her foster parent and he is shocked. Chet can’t figure out why a loner like Carmina has taken her in. Stella gives Chet her cover story and he seems to buy it. He will start the car if she does a favor for him. Stella is worried that she won’t beat Carmina home. She agrees and heads to the diner to listen into a conversation that Chet is interested in. Getting the needed information, Stella comes back to find the Mustang running. Chet tells her a short cut. Hiding the car back into the barn, Stella thinks she is in the clear until she finds Carmina waiting for her in the house. Stella will be attending church with her tomorrow and now has a curfew. She isn’t happy and drowns her sorrows by reading one of Reed’s old letters.

People in church are shocked to see Stella with Carmina. She steers clear of any questions someone might ask and they want to ask. Stella begins to wonder what Carmina’s cover story for her appearance might be and why she was picked by the U.S. attorney’s office. Stella asks Carmina what she is getting in return. That is the answer Chet wants to know as he sits down in the pew behind them. Carmina isn’t answering and the conversation turns to Chet’s past. Carmina had arrested Chet in the past. She is surprised that Chet and Stella were together the night before. Stella is talked into staying for the church social after the service. Talking, Stella discovers that she listened in to a conversation between Chet’s young brother Dusty and Cooter Saggory, the town’s drug dealer. Chet fears that his brother is going to get caught up in something that will land him in prison. Their parents’ death hasn’t been easy on him. Stella wants to stir clear of the conversation because Chet’s problems with Dusty are all too familiar to her. Carmina come to retrieve her to go home. Stella tries to get out of leaving with her but Chet won’t play along. The Reverend tells Stella that he hoped to see her again. She comments that Carmina keeps her on a tight leash but Carmina comments that she isn’t Stella’s parole officer. H offers to see if Chet can find a church softball team to join. Stella is all to happy to play.

What occurred that caused Stella to enter the Witness Protection Plan? Why has Carmina taken in Stella? What is in Carmina’s past that she isn’t telling anyone?  Can Stella open up about her problems to Carmina or will she continue to shut her out? Does Chet uncover the truth about Stella? What secrets is Chet hiding? Can Stella and her mother ever repair their relationship? Will Stella ever see Reed again? What happens when Stella’s cover is blown?

Visit Becca Fitzpatrick’s website.

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