Did you miss part one of Chapter One?
From Lethal Lullaby
Chapter One Continued…
“Tracy, we’ve used that marinade for years. He just didn’t think to
But she was already storming out to the backyard.
“Wait!” I chased after her but stopped to carefully close the sliding
She marched right up to Jim. “I cannot believe you!” she yelled.
Jim’s eyes widened, and he looked from Tracy to me. Andrew
jumped up from where he was sitting with Mom and the girls and
raced to Tracy’s side.
“How could you not know the marinade had gluten?” she
demanded, her face reddening as she waved the bottle at Jim. “Are you
trying to poison me?”
Jim stuttered, “I . . . I . . . what has gluten?”
“The steak marinade!” Her face was red. “Which means all these
steaks have gluten.”
My poor husband looked like a deer in the headlights. No—he was
way more startled than a deer. Maybe an opossum in the headlights.
Andrew put an arm around Tracy’s shoulder. “It was an accident,
sweetheart. How about we order a gluten-free pizza for you?”
Jim looked at me and shrugged helplessly.
I crossed my arms and studied the scene with a scowl. So, I hadn’t
been imagining it; I’d felt like Tracy had been especially short-tempered
with Jim ever since she’d arrived. But this was the last straw.
My brother had come to San Francisco on a business trip—he
worked for a real estate investing firm—and since it was summer
break, Tracy and the girls had tagged along. If I was perfectly honest,
Tracy had never been my first choice for Andrew, but I’d always tried
to set that aside and welcome her to the family.
I had my limits, though. I wasn’t about to let her be rude to my
husband—in our own backyard, no less.
“Excuse me,” I said, keeping my voice calm and level through sheer
force of will. “Tracy, we’re very sorry about the mix-up with the
gluten, and you’re more than welcome to order whatever you want to
eat. However, I am going to have to ask you to apologize to Jim for
assuming that he did it on purpose.”
Even though I knew it was fruitless, I glanced down at my mom
for help. But she had all three of her granddaughters sitting on the
blanket with her and was blissfully pretending not to hear the
My jaw twitched. Mom loved Jim, but Andrew was her baby—and
Andrew loved Tracy more than anything on this earth—so she wasn’t
going to get involved in our conflicts.
Andrew gently squeezed Tracy’s shoulder, and she rolled her eyes
and muttered, “Sorry.”
“It’s fine,” said Jim through gritted teeth.
“I’ll go order the pizza,” she said. “I left my phone in the house.”
Without another word, she stalked inside. As soon as the door
closed behind her, I felt myself relax.
I tiptoed up to Jim and rubbed his back. “You okay?” I whispered.
“It’s really fine, Kate,” he replied, pulling the steaks off the grill.
“More steak for me!”
His jaw was tense, which meant he’d want to rant about it to me
later, but I could tell he didn’t want to make a fuss in front of Andrew
or the girls. So I backed off and turned my attention to Andrew.
“So,” I called, “we’ll have to figure out how to make the most of
your time here. What all does Tracy want to see while you’re in San
“Mmm.” He sat at the picnic table and steepled his fingers. “I bet
she’d enjoy a wine tour in Napa. I’m free tomorrow afternoon.”
“I’ll babysit!” called Mom. “A day with all my granddaughters is
just what I need.”
“A wine tour can be arranged,” I said with a smile. “Jim has some
meetings with clients tomorrow, but the rest of us can go.” Which
was perfect; it would give Jim a chance to get some space from
“If you’re all right with a wine tour, of course.” Andrew nodded to
my baby bump—which was feeling more like a baby mountain at this
point. “It might not be much fun for you.”
Chuckling, I said, “No worries at all. I’ll be the designated driver.
I’ve long since accepted that the world doesn’t stop just because I’m
He looked almost surprised. Had Tracy ever come to that realiza‐
tion during either of her pregnancies? Probably not.
But I wasn’t Tracy.
I hated that I didn’t get along well with my sister-in-law. I tried. I
really did. Growing up I’d always wanted a sister, and when Andrew
got married, I had high hopes that Tracy and I would become close.
But it hadn’t happened, and Tracy had a fraught relationship with
most people—with Jim and me, with her own parents and sister, with
all their friends. Jim and I got along with pretty much everyone—just
Whenever she made me feel crazy and unreasonable, I had to stop
to remind myself that I was not the common denominator in this
Jim headed over to scoop up Laurie and muttered to Mom, “Can
there actually be less gluten in a pizza than in a tri-tip steak? Is that
Mom didn’t say anything, though out of the corner of my eye, I did
catch her giving Jim a sympathetic look.
Yep. I definitely needed to get Jim some space from Tracy.
Jerking out of my thoughts, I asked Andrew, “So, tomorrow after‐
noon is good, you said?”
“Yup! Tomorrow is best. I’ve got a team-building exercise at Alca‐
traz in two days. I think that’s not until evening, but I’d rather arrive
“Oh, Alcatraz!” I exclaimed. “That could be fun to take Tracy and
the girls to. That’s some real San Francisco history. Maybe we’ll take
one of the public tours while you and your coworkers are team-building.”
“We actually get a plus-one, so Tracy is coming, but if you and
Mom want to take the girls, that’d be great!” Andrew seemed to hesi‐
tate, then added, “We should do something with Dad at some point
My throat felt dry. “Dad?”
“Yeah, didn’t you know he’s back in town?”
I didn’t. I hadn’t received so much as a postcard from my dad in
“Pop-pop!” cried Edwina from her spot on the blanket. She’d
evidently overheard us.
The tension in my mom’s posture mirrored my own.
“That would be fine,” I said guardedly.
“I know he’d love to meet Laurie,” Andrew added. “He’s . . . really a
I swallowed hard. The last time I’d seen my dad was at Andrew’s
wedding. He’d moved out to Pennsylvania to be close to Andrew and
Tracy, and I’d been happy to let him drift out of my life. He hadn’t
been the best dad when I was growing up, and he’d been a terrible
husband to my mom.
I had to change the subject, but couldn’t disguise the tremble in my
voice. “Well, I’m sure Mom would love to have a day with the girls, so
I’ll book a wine tour for the three of us tomorrow. The weather
should be perfect. It’ll be an outing to die for.”
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”I couldn’t stop reading!”
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