Excerpt from The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Lies I Tell

A Novel

by Julie Clark

The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark X
The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark
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    Jun 2022, 320 pages

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"Jesus," he says. "Saint Croix it is then."

Veronica gives a tiny clap and says, "I don't know why you never listen to me."

A voice from behind cuts into our conversation. "I hope you three are discussing my victory party." I turn and find myself face-­to-­face with Ron Ashton, the man who tore my life apart, sending my mother into a downward spiral she never recovered from and leaving me to live alone in a car for my final year of high school and beyond.

I smile. "The man of the hour," I say, holding out my hand. "Meg Williams." A small part of me thrills, knowing that what I'm offering him is the absolute truth. I've spent years imagining this moment, wondering if he'd recognize me or my last name. See the shadow of my mother's features in mine. Wondering if I'd have to pivot and turn our meeting into a happy reunion, a coincidence of naivete and sexual innuendo. Enough to glide over the bump of our prior connection and convince him I knew nothing then, and know even less now. But his expression is blank, and I'm relieved to remain anonymous.

His grip is warm and firm, and I hold it just a fraction of a second longer than is typical, until I see a flash of interest behind his eyes. He will remember this moment. Come back to it again in his mind, and ask himself if he could have made a different decision. My job is to make sure the answer to that question is no.

"Meg has just moved to Los Angeles from Michigan," Veronica offers. "She was the one who got us that stellar deal on the Westchester property."

Ron's interest deepens, as I knew it would. According to Ron's social media accounts, he's been working with the same real estate agent for nearly fifteen years. A man who had two complaints for sexual harassment to the California Realtors board. It had been easy enough to become his third and final one, leaving Ron Ashton without representation for nearly four months now. For a developer, that's a problem.

"Real estate," he says. "What's your sales record like?"

"In Michigan, I was in the top one percent for the last ten years," I tell him. "But here in Los Angeles? It's slow going." It's always good to infuse a shade of humility. People appreciate knowing they're better than you.

"Do you have a card?" he asks. "I might give you a call."

I pull one out of my clutch and hand it to him. "Check out my website. Even though I'm newly arrived in town, I'm not new to the business, and I know Los Angeles well. I'd be happy to chat if you're interested." Then I turn to Veronica and say, "In Saint Croix, you absolutely need to eat at The Riverhead."

As Veronica begins to outline their itinerary, I feel it, a tingle on the back of my neck that I learned long ago never to ignore. I take a small step backward and look down to my left, as if I'm trying to make sure I don't misstep. When I look up, I sweep my gaze across the room searching for someone who might be watching me, but all I see is a room full of people talking and laughing, drinking and celebrating a man they're hoping to send to Sacramento.

I smile and nod at Veronica, but I'm no longer listening. I'm running through my arrival, the people I spoke to—­the valet, the campaign staff covering the front entry, various donors. Harmless small talk necessary for a new-­to-­town real estate agent trying to build her client base. All of them are accounted for, all of them are occupied. Perhaps it's just the familiarity of being back in Los Angeles. The air here is unique, a blend of grass and car exhaust, and sometimes, if you're close enough, the smell of salt on an ocean breeze. I'm far away from where I grew up, but beneath all the layers—­all the identities I've held, the years that have passed—­I'm still the person I was when I left. A woman on the run, flush with the power of knowing I could become anyone. Do anything. All I had to do was tell a man what he wanted to hear.

Excerpted from The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark. Copyright © 2022 by Julie Clark. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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