The Untold Story of Carol Bingley


Jane Hartley

Carol Bingley has a certain reputation in Marietta, Montana. She’s an infamous gossip and overly generous with her sharp opinions. But Carol’s been hiding a painful secret.

Forty years ago, sixteen-year-old high school student Carol Franklyn was madly in love with a bad boy cowboy with an irresistible smile, and sexy swagger. The day he asked her to meet him at the local hangout, the Main Street Diner, Carol thought all her dreams had come true. What she didn’t know was that she had become a pawn in a cruel and manipulative game that would spin her life painfully off course.

Now happily married to a man who loves her unconditionally, Carol finally is ready to share her painful past, but will she be believed? And can she be forgiven when she faces two of Marietta’s most powerful, tight-knit families?

Carol has lost so much. But this Christmas, she hopes she can find two puzzle pieces of her past, and sets out on a journey hoping she will finally be healed, not once again hurt.

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Chapter One

The bell above the door of Bingley Pharmacy on Main trilled.

Carol Bingley looked up as Trey Sheenan entered the pharmacy and removed his black cowboy hat. When his eyes met hers, he automatically looked away and set about finding whatever he’d been sent to buy. His wife McKenna rarely came in anymore, always sending Trey instead. Maybe it was because Trey was better at dealing with Carol. Or maybe McKenna was just too busy. Carol sensed it was the former because she knew how people felt about her. She knew she wasn’t liked but that wasn’t her problem.

Carol watched Trey walk around the store. He moved powerfully, gracefully, like a panther or another big cat. His dad had been the same way but she didn’t like thinking about him.

She stepped out from behind the counter, acknowledging Trey with a tilt of her head. Trey certainly had the Sheenan good looks. But then, all those boys did: chiseled cheekbones; tall, strong, muscular build; and all but one had the dark hair of their mother. Bill Sheenan again came to mind. She had no idea what they fed to those men in Paradise Valley, but whatever it was, it sure made beautiful men—and yes, the term beautiful could be used for the Sheenans.

Carol pulled her thoughts together. She’d wasted enough of her life thinking about Bill Sheenan, wasted enough of her life hurting.

“Can I help you find something, Trey?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said, always so polite. “McKenna asked me to pick up children’s Tylenol, and maybe something for congestion. She thinks TJ is coming down with a cold and wants to make sure we have enough of it on hand.”

Carol turned in the direction of the children’s aisle. While she was collecting the medication, Trey went to the aisle he knew best, the aisle with the condoms. Over the years he’d bought an awful lot of condoms, always extra-large, usually ribbed.

She kept her expression blank as he placed the condoms on the counter next to the medicine she’d gathered for him. She reached for the child measurement spoon but thought that TJ might no longer need that. As she rang up the purchase, she couldn’t keep silent. “No more children for you two?” she asked.

Trey’s smile faded. “Can you please not say that to McKenna? You don’t know what she’s been through lately and that would upset her.”

Carol pondered that while she bagged the medicine and handed it to Trey. He turned to leave and Carol suddenly felt remorseful. “Trey,” she said.

He glanced back at her.

She met his gaze straight on. “It was a great thing you did for that mother and child. Diving into a freezing cold lake to save them, and nearly losing your own life. I also understand you were standing up for that woman in the bar, when you threw that punch that put you in jail. You were just trying to protect her. I wish there were more men like you.”

Trey’s jaw simply tightened. He didn’t seem to appreciate her words. Still feeling remorseful Carol gave him a small, warm, genuine smile. “Trey Sheenan, you’re a good man. Don’t ever let anyone in this town, or anywhere else, put you down again. You have all that goodness from your mother. You’re a good person, too. Be proud of that.”

Trey’s black eyebrows pulled. He looked astonished and didn’t seem to know what to say. After a moment, he tipped the hat he’d just put on. “Thank you, Mrs. Bingley,” he said, before walking out of the pharmacy.

As Carol watched Trey leave, her husband Frank stepped down from the dispensary. He put his arm around her shoulder and kissed her cheek.

“Frank, not in the shop!” she protested.

Frank merely laughed. “It’s our shop and I can do whatever I want in it, and if I want to kiss my wife, I will.”

He smiled at Carol, and she melted a little. He knew who she was, and he loved her, despite what others said. She knew he wished she’d open up a bit and soften a little, but she couldn’t. She also couldn’t let the past go.

Frank smiled again at Carol, the smile that got him what he wanted from her. He’d used it a lot in the early days, after they first met, when he was trying to get Carol to go out with him.

“Carol, one day—and I hope that day is soon—you’ll need to let that family know your secret. I’ve asked you for years to do it. It will be another thing you can let go of and move forward from. But you won’t be able to do that until they know, and with everything that’s happening with their family, there has never been a more perfect time to tell them.”

Frank kissed her cheek again. “Why don’t you go home and start dinner. It’s been a long day. Or better yet, we could order out. Anything you like. Sound good?”

Carol shook her head. “I haven’t finished pricing that new stock, and the register won’t tally itself.”

“You can finish the pricing tomorrow and I’m perfectly able to tally the register.” Frank patted her bottom and Carol blushed like a teenager.

She turned to look up into Frank’s kind eyes. He had such lovely eyes. She still wondered how she got lucky enough to find Frank. Frank loved her unconditionally, regardless of what people thought and said about her. She knew that most people in Marietta didn’t know why he’d stayed married to her, but Frank truly loved her and was one of a handful of people who knew the truth. The others who knew her story were no longer alive to tell it.

End of Excerpt

The Untold Story of Carol Bingley is available in the following formats:

ISBN: 978-1-961544-39-0

September 27, 2023

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