Under the Skin

In this haunting tale from the heart of Appalachia, Vicki Lane draws together past and present, good and evil, folklore and secrets, mesmerizing readers with the mysterious bond of true sisterhood—richer than blood, stronger than the passage of time.

Elizabeth Goodweather and her city-girl sister, Gloria, couldn’t be more different. Elizabeth lives on a farm in the Great Smoky Mountains. Gloria lives in Florida off an ex-husband’s fortune. Gloria is a beauty; Elizabeth isn’t. Now, to Elizabeth’s intense displeasure, Gloria parks herself at Full Circle Farm, on the run from her latest man, who, she insists, is trying to kill her. Elizabeth thinks this is just another of her sister’s fantasies. Besides, Elizabeth has her wedding to plan—if only she can overcome her fear that the man who already shares her life may not be what he appears to be. At this precarious crossroads, the sisters must turn to each other—or face a lifetime of consequences.

Here’s a taste of the beginning:

A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves – a special kind of double. ~Toni Morrison

I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at. ~Maya Angelou

Chapter 1 ~ A Complicated Person

“I should have known Gloria would come up with something like this right before our wedding. It’s just like her. I swear, she’s…”

…crazy as the proverbial shithouse rat were the words on the tip of my tongue but I bit them back.

Without looking up from the paperback he was reading, Phillip made a questioning sort of sound. “Hmm?… What was that, Lizabeth? Gloria’s what?”

I dropped the phone onto the table and glowered at it as if it were responsible for this new and unwelcome twist in my life. “She’s…complicated,” I hedged, rejecting the coarse country phrase, apt though it might be. “Complicated’ – which is a polite way of saying I don’t understand her at all. She must be-”

I couldn’t go on. But the voice in my head, never at a loss for words, finished the sentence for me, She must be out of her rabbit-ass mind, as Ben would say.

I stood there glaring at the innocent telephone. It’s not FAIR! I wanted to shout, in a whining echo from my childhood. Glory always messes everything up! I wanted to throw something, to stamp my foot, to fling myself to the floor and have a screaming, kicking tantrum.

Instead, I made a strenuous effort to sound composed and adult as I tried to explain things to the back of Phillip’s head.

“It’s just that with all the farm work right now, not to mention getting things ready for the wedding next month, this isn’t exactly a good time for anyone to come for an open-ended visit, especially Gloria…she’s so bloody high maintenance.”

All the old feelings were just below the surface: bitterness, guilt, annoyance, a touch of envy, and guilt again – an evil stew of emotion ready to break into a full boil.

Not attractive, Elizabeth, I warned that nasty inner child who was still quivering with righteous indignation. Aren’t you about forty years too old for this kind of adolescent reaction to your only sister…your only sibling?

I took a deep breath, forcing myself into the mind set of rationality and general benevolence that I like to pretend comes naturally. Usually, it does. But now…oh, why the hell does my sister always bring out the worst in me?

Two more deep breaths and I was able to say, “On the other hand, if things are so bad between Gloria and her husband…”

I was thinking out loud now, trying to make sense of the just-ended conversation and trying also to ignore the tag-line from Tennyson that was running through my head – “‘The curse is come upon me,’ cried the Lady of Shallot.”

“…if it’s so bad that she’s actually contemplating staying here for a month or longer, what can I do? And things must be seriously awful. Glory hates it here at the farm – ‘too much Nature,’ she always says, as if Nature was something you wouldn’t want to step in.”

Phillip, comfortable on the sofa with a dog on either side of him, his sock feet up on the old cedar chest that serves as a coffee table, finally looked up from his after-supper book with that calm, amused expression he’s so good at.

“This guy – he’s what – your sister’s third husband? So problems with married life aren’t entirely new to her. What’s the big deal this time?”

He wouldn’t be so calm and amused if he had any idea of what Glory’s like, I thought, wondering if this could be some elaborate joke of hers. But the thing is – my sister has no sense of humor. None. Never has.

“Well,” I told him, thinking at the same time that, after all his patient courtship, Phillip deserved better than this, “according to Gloria, the problem is that Jerry’s trying to kill her.”