Under Currents Page 1

Author: Nora Roberts

Genres: Romance



From the outside, the house in Lakeview Terrace looked perfect. The dignified three stories of pale brown brick boasted wide expanses of glass to open it to the view of Reflection Lake and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Two faux turrets capped in copper added a European charm and that quiet whisper of wealth.

Its lawn, a richly green skirt, sloped gently toward a trio of steps and the wide white veranda banked by azaleas that bloomed ruby red in spring.

In the rear a generous covered patio offered outdoor living space with a summer kitchen and those lovely lake views. The carefully maintained rose garden added a sweet, sophisticated scent. In season, a forty-two-foot sailing yacht floated serenely at the private dock.

Climbing roses softened the look of the long, vertical boards of the privacy fence.

The attached garage held a Mercedes SUV and sedan, two mountain bikes, ski equipment, and no clutter.

Inside, the ceilings soared. Both the formal living room and the great room offered fireplaces framed in the same golden brown brick as the exterior. The decor, tasteful—though some might whisper studied—reflected the vision of the couple in charge.

Quiet colors, coordinated fabrics, contemporary without edging over into stark.

Dr. Graham Bigelow purchased the lot in the projected development of Lakeview Terrace when his son was five, his daughter three. He chose the blueprint he felt suited him and his family, made the necessary changes and additions, selected the finishes, the flooring, the tiles, the pavers, hired a decorator.

His wife, Eliza, happily left most of the choices and decisions to her husband. His taste, in her opinion, couldn’t be faulted.

If and when she had an idea or suggestion, he would listen. If most often he pointed out why such an idea or suggestion wouldn’t suit, he did—occasionally—include her input.

Like Graham, Eliza wanted the newness, the status offered by the small, exclusive community on the lake in North Carolina’s High Country. She’d been born and raised in status—but the old sort, the sort she saw as creaky and boring. Like the house she’d grown up in across the lake.

She’d been happy to sell her share of the old house to her sister and use the money to help furnish—all new!—the house in Lakeview Terrace. She’d handed the cashier’s check to Graham—he took care of things—without a second thought.

She’d never regretted it.

They’d lived there happily for nearly nine years, raising two bright, attractive children, hosting dinner parties, cocktail parties, garden parties. Eliza’s job, as wife of the chief of surgery of Mercy Hospital in nearby Asheville, was to look beautiful and stylish, to raise the children well, keep the house, entertain, and head committees.

As she had a housekeeper/cook three times a week, a weekly groundskeeper, and a sister who was more than happy to take the children if she and Graham needed an evening out or a little getaway, she had plenty of time to focus on her looks and wardrobe.

She never missed a school function, and in fact had served as PTA president for two years. She attended school plays, along with Graham if work didn’t keep him away. She embraced fund-raising, both for the school and the hospital. At every ballet recital since Britt turned four, she’d sat front row center.

She sat through most of her son Zane’s baseball games as well. And if she missed some, she excused it, as anyone who’d sat through the nightmare of tedium that youth baseball provided would understand.

Though she’d never admit it, Eliza favored her daughter. But Britt was such a beautiful, sweet-natured, obedient young girl. She never had to be prodded to do her homework or tidy her room, was unfailingly polite. In Zane, Eliza saw her sister, Emily. The tendency to argue or sulk, to go off on his own.

Still, he kept his grades up. If the boy wanted to play baseball, he made the honor roll. Obviously, his ambition to play professionally was just a teenage fantasy. He would, of course, study medicine like his father.

But for now, baseball served as the carrot so they all avoided the stick.

If Graham had to pull out that stick and punish the boy from time to time, it was for his own good. It helped build character, teach boundaries, ensure respect.

As Graham liked to say, the child is the father of the man, so the child had to learn to follow the rules.

Two days before Christmas, Eliza drove the plowed streets of Lakeview toward home. She’d had a lovely holiday lunch with friends—maybe just a couple sips more champagne than she should have. She’d burned that off shopping. On Boxing Day, the family would take its annual ski trip. Or Graham and the kids would ski while she made use of the spa. Now she had a pair of gorgeous new boots to pack along with some lingerie that would warm Graham up nicely after his time on the slopes.

She glanced around at the other homes, the holiday decorations. Really lovely, she thought—no tacky inflatable Santas allowed in Lakeview Terrace—by order of the homeowners’ association.

But, no point being modest, their home outshined the rest. Graham gave her carte blanche on Christmas decorating, and she used it wisely and well.

The white lights would sparkle when dusk rolled in, she thought. Outlining the perfect lines of the house, twining around the potted firs on the front veranda. Gleaming inside the twin wreaths with their trailing red and silver ribbons on the double doors.

And of course the living room tree—all twelve feet—white lights, silver and red star ornaments. The great room tree, the same color scheme, but with angels. Of course the mantels, the formal dining table, all tasteful and perfect.

And new every year. No need to box and store when you could arrange for the rental company to come sweep it all away afterward.

She’d never understood her parents’ and Emily’s delight in digging out ancient glass balls or tacky wooden Santas. They could have all that with their visit to the old house and Emily. Eliza would host them all for Christmas dinner, of course. Then, thank God, they’d head back to Savannah and their retirement.

Emily was their favorite, she thought as she hit the remote for the garage door. No question there.

It gave her a jolt to see Graham’s car already in the garage, and she checked her watch. Let out a breath of relief. She wasn’t late; he was home early.

Delighted, especially since someone else had the car pool, she pulled in beside her husband’s car, gathered her shopping bags.

She went through the mudroom, hung her coat, folded her scarf, removed her boots before sliding into the black Prada flats she wore around the house.

When she stepped into the kitchen, Graham, still in his suit and tie, stood at the center island.

“You’re home early!” After setting her bags on the wet bar, she moved quickly to him, kissed him lightly.

He smelled, lightly like the kiss, of Eau Sauvage—her favorite.

“Where were you?”

“Oh, I had that holiday lunch with Miranda and Jody, remember?” She gestured vaguely toward the family calendar in the activity nook. “We topped it off with a little shopping.”

As she spoke, she walked to the refrigerator for a bottle of Perrier. “I can’t believe how many people are still shopping for Christmas. Jody included,” she said, adding a scoop of ice from the ice machine, pouring the sparkling water over it. “Honestly, Graham, she just never seems to get organized about—”

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