We are honored to be today’s stop on the Lies I Told by Michelle Zink Blog Tour.
What if, after spending a lifetime deceiving everyone around you, you discovered the biggest lies were the ones you’ve told yourself?
Grace Fontaine has everything: beauty, money, confidence, and the perfect family.
But it’s all a lie.
Grace has been adopted into a family of thieves who con affluent people out of money, jewelry, art, and anything else of value. Grace has never had any difficulty pulling off a job, but when things start to go wrong on the Fontaines’ biggest heist yet, Grace finds herself breaking more and more of the rules designed to keep her from getting caught…including the most important one of all: never fall for your mark.
Perfect for fans of Ally Carter, Cecily von Ziegesar, and Gail Carriger, this thrilling, high-stakes novel deftly explores the roles of identity and loyalty while offering a window into the world of the rich and fabulous.
The house wasn’t huge, but already it was one of my favorites. I ran my hand along the walls as I headed for the stairs, enjoying the rough feel of plaster under my fingertips. The house was authentic in a way the McMansion outside Chicago hadn’t been, its walls and windows more solid than in the flimsy house we’d rented in Phoenix. That one had looked fancy on the outside, but the walls were thin, the windows so poorly sealed that a steady stream of hot air blew on my face when I lay in bed during the 115-degree summer.
This one was nice, even if I didn’t recognize any of the furniture, which we’d bought brand-new like we did at the start of every new job. At first it had been hard, leaving everything behind at the end of each con. But like a lot of things, I’d gotten used to it. Now I could pack my clothes and books in less than fifteen minutes.
I took the staircase to the main floor, the giant ceiling fan whirring softly in the tall-ceilinged foyer, and headed for the kitchen at the back of the house.
Parker was already there, sitting at a table under a bank of open windows and spooning cereal into his mouth while he read the business section. I hardly thought about my share of the money we earned, but Parker was obsessive, determined to invest his piece of each take so he wouldn’t have to rely on Cormac and Renee or anyone like them ever again. Articles and books about stocks, bonds, and IPOs were his reading material of choice, something that stood in contrast to his new appearance. It was always a little weird watching everyone in the family transform, and I stood in the doorway, trying to get used to this new version of my brother.
He’d ditched the preppy young Republican he’d played in Phoenix in favor of a Southern California surfer boy. The longer hair worked on him. Dark blond and a little messy, it made him look like he’d just climbed out of the water. He was my brother in everything but blood, yet I could understand why girls fell all over themselves for his attention. With his perfect white teeth, strong jaw, and boyish dimples, he was every girl’s type. Add in the bad-boy brood, and he was basically irresistible.
I glanced at the lines of leather cord marching up his arm, strategically placed to hide his scars. I’d asked him about them once, wondering why he wore them in any kind of weather, even when long sleeves covered his arms all the way to his wrists. He’d just shrugged and said, “They remind me who I really am.”
I didn’t understand it. I wanted nothing more than to forget the past, riddled with unfamiliar beds and unfamiliar faces. But Parker didn’t want to forget. The past was what drove him, and I had a sudden flash of him at thirteen, the day he’d been adopted into the family, eyes hooded, his forearm wrapped in gauze. In a foster care system that had seen everything, Parker’s record had rendered him unplaceable in another home.
Even good-hearted people didn’t want to come home to a bathroom covered in blood.
It made my heart hurt to remember Parker that way, alone and unwanted. I shut the memory down and sat across from him at the table.
“Hey,” I said quietly, not wanting to startle him.
He looked up, his eyes a little glazed. “Hey.”
He lowered his eyes back to the paper, and I looked around the room, surprised at the lack of moving boxes on the counters and floor.
“Wow . . . Mom must have really gone to town unpacking last night”.
“You know how she is, ”Parker said, not looking up.
As if on cue, the sound of heels clicking on tile sounded from the hall. A couple of seconds later my mom walked into the room, trim and lithe in white slacks and a halter top that managed to look both classy and subtly sexy. It was one of her many gifts: the ability to fit into any town in a matter of hours. She nailed New York, donning designer clothes that cost a fortune but looked effortless. In DC she was all about crisp, menswear-inspired slacks and tailored button-downs that hugged her still-youthful body. And I would never forget Arizona, where she’d spent thousands of dollars on linen trousers, perfectly cut sleeveless dresses, and expensive golf ensembles. I’d laughed out loud the first time I’d seen her in one of the Phoenix getups. Golf skirts and polo shirts were the antithesis of the tight jeans and slinky tops she favored when we were between jobs.
Still, I envied her. It always took me a while to figure out the wardrobe code of a new high school, and I usually had to enlist the help of a new friend under the guise of joint shopping spree to get it right. In the meantime I fell back on a style I thought of as “neutral trendy.” I never hit the sweet spot right away, but I managed to not be cast as a misfit, either. I cut a glance at Parker, looking just right for anywhere in fitted jeans and a tailored Euro tee. Guys had it so much easier.
“Good morning.” My mom’s green eyes were bright, her blond hair perfectly styled as she crossed the kitchen to the coffeepot. No one would have guessed she’d been up half the night unpacking.
Maybe it was because I remembered so little about my biological parents, but from the start, having someone to call Mom and Dad had felt like a gift. Parker was different. He called our parents by their first names unless we were working. Sometimes it seemed like he did it on principle. Like he was trying to prove that while he lived and worked with them, they couldn’t make him love them. Deep down I thought he did, though. It was just hard for him to show it.
My mom poured coffee into two mugs and sat down at the table, pushing one toward me. Parker didn’t drink coffee.
“Everybody sleep okay?” Mom asked, taking a sip from her steaming cup.
I nodded and followed her lead, the coffee dark and bitter in my mouth, as a fresh round of noise started up outside.
I tipped my head at the window. “They’re already doing yard work?”
She nodded. “It was a little overgrown.”
I laughed. “We’ve only been here a day.
“First impressions are important, Gracie. You know how it is.”
“I guess.” I tried not to sound like a brat, but the truth was, I was tired. We’d lived in three different states in the last year alone. I’d started sophomore year in Maryland and hadn’t even been able to finish it in Arizona. I was a good student, but I’d still have to retake some of the classes this year to get credit, something that was made harder by the fact that I’d missed the start of the school year in California. I was only seventeen, and I was house-lagged, worn out from all the packing and moving, the changing of hair colors and names, the running. It wasn’t the life I’d imagined the day my mom and dad adopted me out of the Illinois foster system.
My mom reached over and took my hand, her eyes full of concern. “I know it’s hard sometimes, honey,” she said gently. “But we’ll be able to take a break soon, maybe even go on that girls trip to Paris: shop, visit the Louvre, wear berets.”
I forced a smile. Ours wasn’t an easy life, but I loved my parents, and I knew they loved Parker and me.
She squeezed my hand. “You just have first-day jitters, Gracie. It’s natural, but everything will be okay, you’ll see.”
I nodded, turning toward my dad as he walked into the room.
“Morning.” He stalked across the kitchen, staring out the windows that overlooked the backyard. “What is that racket?”
The landscapers.” My mom took a last drink of her coffee before walking to the sink and dumping the rest of it. “I told you they were coming, remember?”
My dad turned away from the window. “Tell me again why we need landscapers?”
“You have to spend money to make money,” the rest of us said in unison. Parker didn’t bother to look up from the newspaper.
It was true, but I knew my mom enjoyed it. In her eyes, buying clothes to fit the part or furnishing a new house every six months wasn’t work, it was a perk of life on the grift. My dad didn’t get it. For him, the con was all about the con. It was the challenge he loved. The danger.
He leaned against the counter, looking like a middle-aged but still good-looking actor, his dark hair dusted silver at the temples.
“What’s on tap for you today?” my mom asked him.
“I’m touring Allied Security,” he said. “I might buy a system for the house. I also need to check out the club and ask about membership. How about you?”
“I have a hair appointment in town. Figured I’d get the lay of the land.”
I wasn’t surprised by the vague dance of questions and answers. No one said anything specific about a job outside the War Room. Ever. It was one of the rules.
“Good. We’ll have a family meeting tonight.” He tossed a set of keys to Parker. “Saab’s out front and ready to go.” He turned to me. “You ready, Gracie?”
I nodded, remembering the dark-haired boy with deep brown eyes from the subject files. It was time to go to work.
About the Author:
Michelle Zink lives in New York in an old converted barn on four acres. Her first book, Prophecy of the Sisters, was one of Booklist’s Top Ten Debut novels, and her work as been included in the Lonestar List, Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best, and New York Public Library’s Stuff for the Teen Age. Michelle’s work has been published in over twenty countries. LIES I TOLD is her sixth book.