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Secret Sins

Four ambitious women, one shocking secret. And a night they would never forget.... They were college friends, four hopeful women who shared their wishes and dreams. Until the night a heated crime of passion changed their lives forever. They alone know the devastating truth about that fateful night--a secret that could shatter their worlds of glamour and ambition. The actress whose life was a tangle of superstardom and searing heartache ... The producer whose drive and talent got her to the top ... The idealist who risked everything she had to fight for her dreams ... The socialite whose forbidden love was the spark for scandal. Secret Sins. Yesterday's lies are tomorrow's confessions...

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release

Lorraine Stanton

    Lorraine Stanton lives in Eastern PA where she teaches writing at a local college and is a practicing pet bereavement counselor. She shares her home with two grumpy old dogs that are hopelessly spoiled.

Coming Soon...

Chapter 1

GUSSIE TREMAIN slipped into her pale pink jacket and padded across the room to study her reflection in the mirror. Her blond hair hugged her head like a sleek cap and her green eyes perfectly complemented her fine features and flawless complexion. Suddenly she was glad she had defied tradition and chosen a Chanel suit instead of a frilly dress. Everyone else would look dowdy beside her -- dowdy and unsophisticated.

In just a few short hours her four years at Brentwood College for Women would be behind her forever -- the dreary hours of study, the endless rules and regulations, not to mention the shabby rooms and slimy shower stalls. She supposed there were a few things she would miss about Brentwood, but the grungy communal bathrooms were definitely not among them.

A sharp rap on the door distracted her and she turned away from the mirror as her friend Rachel burst into the room. "Have you talked to Helene this morning?" she asked.

"Not since breakfast. Why?"

"Diane and I have been looking all over for her."

Gussie shrugged. "You know Helene. She's probably off by herself somewhere."

Rachel shoved a leather suitcase aside and flopped on the cluttered bed, heedless of her delicate white linen dress. Her wiry brown hair was skimmed back in an unflattering knot at the nape of her neck that made her sharp features seem even more prominent. Even today she was completely indifferent to her appearance.

"If she doesn't show up soon she'll miss graduation."

As Gussie started to reply, Diane popped her head into the open doorway. "Have you found her?"

"Not yet," Rachel said.

Diane entered to room and perched on the edge of an upholstered chair, carefully smoothing her hands over her inexpensive green dress. The daughter of a Methodist minister, she was one of the few scholarship students at Brentwood. "I can hardly believe we're really graduating," she said. "Last month I was counting the days, but now I'm a nervous wreck. What if I starve to death before I find a job?"

"Are you having second thoughts about moving to Manhattan?" Gussie asked.

Diane absently threaded her fingers through her curly auburn hair. "My father has been pressuring me to go back to Kansas with him. I hate making him so unhappy, but I want to work in television, and he refuses to understand that the best opportunities are in New York. All he talks about is the crime rate and the high cost of living."

"You can always come home to the Bronx with me," Rachel said. "Try living over the deli with my parents for a few months."

Diane laughed, and her vivid blue eyes twinkled. "At least you won't go hungry and maybe you'll be too busy studying to argue with them."

"Maybe," Rachel said grimly. "But sometimes I'm sorry I decided on Columbia. Who knows? I might have been just as happy somewhere in the Midwest."

Gussie felt a knot of anxiety tighten in her stomach as she listened to them discuss their futures. Although it was heavenly to imagine returning to her luxurious family home, she had yet to figure out what she would do to occupy her time -- a fact that was beginning to gnaw away at her like the pain of a sore tooth.

And when it came right down to it, her choices were rather limited. She could either join her mother in her endless charity work or help her father with his reelection campaign, but luncheons and fashion shows bored her. Despite the fact that she was the only daughter of the senior senator from Virginia, she had never acquired much of an interest in politics. She was graduating at the top of her class, and for what? It hardly took a degree in fine arts to beg for campaign contributions. And that was precisely what her parents had in mind. Not exactly a stimulating prospect.

Gussie was so engrossed in her own thoughts that she was startled when she noticed Helene standing in the doorway, her dark eyes filled with tears.

"Helene, what's wrong?" she said.

"My mother's. . . not coming to graduation."

"Why not? What happened?"

Helene shrugged as she slowly entered the room and slumped against a maple dresser. Her silky black hair accentuated her pale skin and delicate features. She looked vulnerable, almost fragile. "She says she has a migraine. But I'm sure that's. . . just an excuse."

"I'm sorry," Rachel said softly.

"It's no big deal. I never really expected her to come. I mean, it's not as if my mother and I have ever been close or anything."

Gussie felt a rush of pity. It must be terrible to be the daughter of a famous movie star. Brenda Galloway seemed much more interested in creating new scandals than maintaining any sort of relationship with Helene.

"I just wish we all weren't going to Hyannis," Helene said. "Right now I never want to see my mother again."

"So let's call it off," Rachel said. "We'll do something else."

Helene shook her head. "I have to face her. Besides, this is our last fling -- we've been planning it for weeks."

"Whatever you want," Rachel said. "Just remember we'll all be there if you need us."

Helene smiled wanly. "I know, I'm okay now. I'll meet you in the auditorium in a few minutes."

As Helene left the room, Gussie turned to Diane and Rachel and helplessly shrugged. They were all such close friends, bound by four years of shared dreams and confidences. But they had no words that could ease Helene's pain.