The Lakeside Conspiracy

The Lakeside Conspiracy by Gregg Stutts Read Free Book Online

Book: The Lakeside Conspiracy by Gregg Stutts Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gregg Stutts
he wouldn’t do to have her back.
    But Sarah was gone. She wasn’t coming back. And Michelle was gone, but at least she’d be back at the end of the week. Their marriage wasn’t much right now, but at least he wouldn’t be alone.

    Michelle had only been in New Jersey for a couple days, but was already feeling rested. She hadn’t realized how much the past few years had depleted her—emotionally, physically and spiritually. Sarah’s death had crushed her. Dealing with it alone made it a thousand times worse.
    As she walked the beach and thought about the past few years, she couldn’t help feeling angry and hurt. She had needed Max desperately, but he had abandoned her. When she’d needed him most, he hadn’t been there for her.
    Max had dealt with Sarah’s death by shutting down and shutting her out. She tried to help him through it, but he wouldn’t let her. The more she tried, the more he pushed her away. He retreated from her, from God, from everyone and everything, except football.
    She tried everything she knew to do. She prayed. She supported him by going to his games. When the losses kept mounting, she tried to be even more encouraging. She read books on dealing with the loss of a child, saw a counselor, joined a support group and sought out other women for advice.  She followed through on everything she’d been advised to do.
    She tried to get Max to talk, to share what he was feeling, to let things out rather than bottling them up. When that didn’t work, she backed off and gave him space to figure things out on his own. There was nothing she didn’t try to reconnect with him, but nothing had worked.
    She looked at her phone. 6:18 p.m. No calls or texts from Max. He hadn’t tried to reach out since Sunday when he’d called her mother. Apparently, he’d gotten the message she wasn’t ready to talk. Still though, she would have liked to see a call or a text from him. Something.
    She turned to head back to the house. She was meeting Chris at 7:30 at the Beachcomber Bar and Grill, which was a short walk up the boardwalk. They had great food and a great view of the ocean.
    Back at the house, she put on her favorite jeans and a white tank top. After freshening up her make-up and putting her hair in a ponytail, she slipped into her sandals and went to the living room to tell her parents goodnight.
    “Who are you meeting?” her mother asked.
    “Just an old friend,” she said. “Don’t wait up.”
    “Just be careful,” her dad said.
    “I will be, dad,” she said. “Don’t worry about me.” She gave her mom and dad each a kiss before leaving.
    It wasn’t until she reached the boardwalk that she felt the butterflies in her stomach. She hadn’t seen Chris since her wedding day fourteen years ago.

    Michelle arrived at the Beachcomber and checked her phone. 7:34 p.m. Still nothing from Max. She opened the door and went inside. Springsteen’s “Born to Run” was playing while the Monday Night Football pre-game show was on the screen over the bar.
    She looked around and saw Chris sitting at the end of the bar. He immediately got up and came to greet her.
    After a long embrace, Chris said, “You look incredible, Shelle.”
    She smiled and said, “Thank you. You too.”
    “Let’s go upstairs and sit on the deck,” he said.
    The moon was beautiful as it rose over the ocean. The lights from a number of boats were visible just off shore. In the distance, a large freighter seemed to be barely moving as it headed down the coast from north to south. Michelle loved the smell of the sea and the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach.
    “I didn’t realize how much I missed the beach until I was back,” she said.
    “It’s so good to see you,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it when you called.”
    A waitress came to their table and handed them each a

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