#MiniTour “Those We Trust” by Marie Jones

Thesewetrust copyRomance, suspense and secrets? What more could you ask for? Check out Marie Jones’ novel, Those We Trust. Now available on Amazon!

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Those We Trust

Publication Date: May 18, 2021

Genre: Contemporary Romance/ Suspense

Broken and humiliated by her husband of ten years leaving her unexpectedly, Sophia Meadows muddles through her daily routine—writing computer programs and rarely leaving the house. That is, until an old friend from university shows up on her door with an offer she can’t refuse: a chance to get away and heal in the Scottish Highlands of Inverness by flat-sitting. Yet once she arrives, she soon discovers the offer is not what she bargained for: A police surveillance team is watching her every move and a mysterious man is after the contents of a safe hidden in a wall. After a break-in at the apartment, her path collides with DI Marcus Armstrong, the man in charge of the apartment surveillance. Sophia is swept into an investigation of fraud involving her university friend and into a sudden attraction with the handsome DI who finds himself drawn to her even though she’s a suspect in his case. With evidence piling up against her and her friend and the attraction between her and Marcus growing stronger, Sophia is forced to confront her broken heart and find a way to clear her name. In a tangled web of secrets and clues, can she and the DI work through their attraction and learn to trust each other in time to stop a criminal and possibly save a life?

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About the Author

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Marie Jones, British Writer has been writing and telling stories since she was a young child. Perhaps it was inevitable that she would call grappling with words and language a career—and loving every moment. She feels privileged to share her work with a large and welcoming audience. Get in touch to discover more about her work, writing process and future endeavours.

Marie Jones, British Writer | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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#BookBlitz “Heart Stealer” by Delaney Diamond

Heart Stealer
Delaney Diamond
(The Cordoba Agency, #3)
Publication date: October 22nd 2021
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense

The last thing he wants to do is play bodyguard to the woman who broke his heart.

As the wife of a pioneer in the field of biotechnology, Katherine Stallworth had an up-close view of the ugly underbelly of corporate espionage and the cutthroat nature of competition. When her husband is murdered and her life threatened, she turns to Raheem Miller, the one man she can trust–despite their sordid past.

Years ago, Raheem fell in love with Katherine–older, sophisticated, and way out of his league. And nothing has changed. While he’d rather avoid this assignment, he’ll never forgive himself if anything happened to her. In the middle of conducting an investigation into her husband’s death, he discovers a conspiracy that could rock the very foundation of the United States.

Now he must bring the culprits to justice while keeping Katherine alive and his desire in check. Easier said than done.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play

EXCERPT:

Katherine Stallworth stared in horror at the carnage before her and the foul stench of death. Nothing could have prepared her for this.

Her husband’s body lay sprawled across the duvet in the dimly lit room, his dark shirt darker from the uneven circle of blood that covered his entire chest. Dead, and so were his bodyguards.

Keith lay face down at the foot of the bed, his arm at an awkward angle, his weapon butted up against the wall as if someone had kicked it away from his hand. His suit jacket was soaked with blood, and so was the cream-colored carpet beneath him.

Ivan was on the floor, slumped with his back against the bed and his temple touching the nightstand. He would look like someone who’d fallen asleep sitting up, except half his face had been blown off and his white shirt was drenched in blood.

Blood.

Blood everywhere.

Katherine walked slowly over to the bed on shaky knees. Her husband’s pale skin was ashen and drained of life, his mouth open as if in the middle of a scream, and his sightless eyes staring up at the ceiling.

She lifted both hands to her mouth as tears filled her eyes and pain wrenched her heart. “Thurgood,” she whispered into her cupped palms. Who had done this, and why?

Then she heard a noise in the walk-in closet. Her heart jumped, and her mouth fell open in silent panic. She wasn’t alone. The killer was still there!

She backed away slowly, chest tight as she tried hard not to make a sound. When her foot breeched the entrance to the door, a shadowy figure dressed in black exited the closet, and she turned swiftly, rushing down the hall toward the staircase. Breathing accelerated, she gripped the wooden railing with a trembling hand and moved down the stairs as quickly and silently as she could on her toes.

These shoes! The pretty gold heels she’d worn with such pride to the reception she now cursed for their impracticality. Her pounding heart was so loud in her ears and her breathing so shallow, she wondered if the intruder could hear the evidence of her fear.

Her driver and the other bodyguard had already left for the night, but she had to get out of there. She had to get to the garage.

“Hey!”

Halfway down the stairs, she stopped and turned.

A man stared at her from the catwalk. He wore a black ski mask over his head, with openings for his mouth and eyes—eyes that locked with hers and reeked of venom. His menacing posture and the death she’d witnessed provoked an immediate response.

Run!

Katherine took off down the stairs.

“Stop!” he bellowed.

There was no way she was stopping.

Almost to the bottom, a gunshot shattered the wood railing she clutched. She screamed and, in her panic, missed her footing on the stairs. She twisted her ankle. Sharp pain jiggered up her leg, and she went down. Her hands flew out instinctively to protect her face, but she skidded along the edge of the last two steps, scraping her knees, shins, palms, and forearms.

She lost one shoe and landed in an ungainly heap at the foot of the stairs in the foyer with her evening gown crumpled around her upper thighs. Heavy footsteps pounded behind her. Too terrified to turn around, Katherine ignored the burn of the bruises and scrambled to her feet as another man appeared in the open doorway to her right.

“Get her!” the one on the staircase yelled.

She kicked off the other shoe and gathered her full skirt to keep from tripping over the hem. She limped away from them both as fast as possible, fueled solely by adrenaline as she raced into a second hallway and pushed open the door to Thurgood’s study. She slammed it closed and quickly turned the lock but knew her actions would not keep them out for long.

There was a loud boom as one of the men slammed his body against the door, which sent her scrambling across the room. She stubbed her little toe on a chair and cried out, wincing at the debilitating pain but didn’t dare stop, and hopped over to the bookcase beside her husband’s desk.

The master bedroom, where Thurgood was murdered, was also a safe room. But fortunately, there was a second safe room inside his study.

She yanked away two books hiding a plain-looking piece of metal in the wall and pressed her thumb to the silver disc. Right away, the entire shelf popped out, and she swung the door open.

The office door was kicked in at that very moment. The frame splintered and pieces of wood spewed through the air. Both men rushed in, but Katherine slipped between the shelf and the wall and yanked the door closed.


Author Bio:

Delaney Diamond is the USA Today Bestselling Author of sensual, passionate romance novels, and was born and raised in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She reads romance novels, mysteries, thrillers, and a fair amount of nonfiction. When she’s not busy reading or writing, she’s in the kitchen trying out new recipes, dining at one of her favorite restaurants, or traveling to an interesting locale. To get sneak peeks, notices of sale prices, and find out about new releases, visit her website and join her mailing list. Enjoy free stories on her website at http://www.delaneydiamond.com.

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#ReleaseBlitz “Kelly (O’Sullivan Brothers Book 2)” by Rie Warren

 

Kelly (O’Sullivan Brothers Book 2) by Rie Warren

AVAILABLE NOW!

FREE IN KU

AMAZON https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09DGR6W2K

AMAZON SERIES https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08YY9VTDS

BOOKBUB: https://www.bookbub.com/books/kelly-dark-irish-mafia-romance-o-sullivan-brothers-book-2-by-rie-warren.

Kelly is book 2 in the O’Sullivan Brothers Irish mafia series & can be read as a standalone

No cliffhangers. No cheating. Includes sizzling hot scenes.

Genre: Dark Irish Mafia Romance

GOODREADS https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58850675-kelly

#Kelly #RieWarren #MafiaRomance #SizzlingHot #KindleUnlimited #FreeKU #BareNakedWords

BLURB

He’s the underboss in his mafia brotherhood, and women have no place in his world. As a good girl with an overprotective dad, she’s been warned against his kind time and again. But when her father’s corruption shatters her world, he all but forces her into the mafioso’s bed.

KELLY

I’m a busy friggin’ man and priority number one is destroying the south-of-the-border bastardos who’ve been dealing blow on our turf. Then I find out someone who’s supposed to be in our pocket is on the take with this rival cartel, and things go from bad to FUBAR.

That backstabbing jagoff owes me big. Unfortunately, the only thing he’s got to offer is the one thing I don’t want. His daughter. Now I’m fighting to keep control of our territory and I’ve got to babysit this beautiful, mouthy babe. I’ll keep Marlowe as collateral, and I’ll take what I want, when I want, whether she likes it or not.

MARLOWE

After my dad’s secrets and lies blow up in his face, he bargains with the only priceless gem he has . . . me. He practically gives me away to none other than Kelly O’Sullivan, a rough-talking mafia man he’s warned me about for years.

I’m infuriated I’ve been put in this dicey position. It’s my father who should pay the price for his double dealing, not me. It’s impossible. Kelly is impossible. He’s intimidating. Overbearing. Scary. Sexy. He dominates me from day one, taking a wrecking ball to my defenses and wreaking havoc with my desires.

I’m pretty sure I hate him. I definitely don’t trust him. But when the cartel makes it clear they want me too, what other choice do I have?

MEET THE AUTHOR

Badass, sassafras Rie Warren is an OG Amazon All Star author of Bad Boy books and MC romance. She delivers five-star sex, suspense, and the best banter around. Her stories are one hundred percent original, do not contain fluffy plots or virgin brides, and wring every last emotion from readers to leave them with a satisfied smile. Rie’s tough alpha males are never brought to heel, but are instead healed by the feisty femme fatale of their perfect match.
She grew up in Maine, went to college in Iowa (Iowa, what?), lived in Scotland, and married in Englishman. In true roundabout fashion, they came back to the States, settled in South Carolina’s lowcountry, putting down southern roots and pursuing their arty endeavors. Tale spinner and character diviner, Rie is a lover of sleep, wine, and rude memes often involving either Disney characters or Winnie the Pooh. She is raising two teen daughters along with an entire brain full of unruly characters.

Rough-talking alpha men? Rie has that on tap.
Stubborn sassy heroines? You bet.
Smoldering sex scenes that’ll set your Kindle on fire? Check, check, check.

Keep a fan handy, you’ll need it.

https://www.facebook.com/RieWarrenRomance

www.riewarren.com

https://www.instagram.com/riewarrenwrites/

 

#NewRelease “Zander (A St. Claire Novel Book 8)” by Tina Martin

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A Friends-to-Lovers and Firefighter Romance

Zander St. Claire, a firefighter, is settled and content with his South Carolina life. He has his family and his sweet best friend, Alyssa Scott. She’s his ace. His everything. Since twelve, they’ve always been there for each other – through the good times and bad ones. Now, at twenty-eight, nothing’s changed – well at least in those respects.

Alyssa fell in love with Zander a long time ago, hoping Zander would see it somehow, but he never did. Zander only wants friendship, she realizes. Anything more could ruin their friendship. Finally accepting this, Alyssa decides to move on and start dating to take her mind off of him. That doesn’t sit well with Zander.

When another man moves in on his best friend, stealing her time and attention away from him, it forces Zander to take a long, hard look at their relationship. His interference in her dating life almost ruins their friendship. But it was the fire that changed everything.

St. Claire Series Titles:
Book 1 – ROYAL (Royal and Gemma)
Book 2 – RAMSEY (Ramsey and Gianna)
Book 3 – ROMULUS (Romulus and Siderra)
Book 4 – REGAL (Regal and Felicity)
Book 5 – MAGNUS (Magnus and Shiloh)
Book 6 – MONTY (Monty and Cherish)
Book 6a – Honeymoon With a St. Claire
Book 7 – MAJOR (Major and Selah)
Book 7a – Just Being Us (A Prequel to Zander)

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

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#BookSale “The Fallen Man: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel” by Tony Hillerman

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From New York Times bestselling author Tony Hillerman comes another thrilling mystery featuring Leaphorn & Chee who must investigate a cold case that has far more personal consequences than expected.

“Gripping.”—New York Times Book Review

Human bones lie on a ledge under the peak of Ship Rock mountain, the remains of a murder victim undisturbed for more than a decade. Three hundred miles across the Navajo reservation, a harmless old canyon guide is felled by a sniper’s bullet. 

Joe Leaphorn, recently retired from the Navajo Tribal Police, believes the shooter and the skeleton are somehow connected and recalls a chilling puzzle he was previously unable to solve. But Acting Lieutenant Jim Chee is too busy to take an interest in a dusty cold case . . . until the reborn violence of it hits much too close to home.

1.99 for a limited time!

Amazon

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#BlogTour “Tainted Harvest (Simone Doucet Series, Book 1)” by E. Denise Billups

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She escaped servitude for a worse fate. Now she wants everyone to know what happened.

Simone Doucet is searching for a meaningful life. As a travel writer, she’s searched but hasn’t found a purpose yet. She accepts an assignment that takes her to Magnolia Sunrise, a historical bed-and-breakfast on the bluffs of Natchez, Mississippi. Soon, frightful images of a young slave girl, Delphine Randolph, haunt her every evening. Are the dreams related to the assignment? Will she find answers in Natchez?

The first night at the B&B, a ghostly visitation transports Simone to 1863, antebellum Natchez. Through spectral eyes, Simone sees Delphine’s history. Her servitude as a wet nurse to her master’s wife, rape, and forced pregnancies, her daring escape, and early demise inside a Civil War contraband camp known as the Devil’s Punchbowl. Delphine wants everyone to know what happened to her at Magnolia Sunrise and inside the Union soldier’s encampment. She won’t stop haunting Simone until she TELLS HER STORY.

But why has Delphine chosen Simone? Will this awakening bring a new purpose to Simone’s life? Or more untold mysteries to be discovered?

BOOK LINKS

AMAZON UShttps://amzn.to/2TKeGJp

AMAZON UKhttps://amzn.to/36fiRjg

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AUTHOR BIO

E. Denise Billups Headshot

Denise Billups is an author with a rare mixture of southern and northern charm. She was born in Monroeville, Alabama, and raised in New York City, where she has worked in finance and as a freelance columnist and currently resides. A multi-genre author of fiction, she has published four novels—Keepers of the Gate: Twilight Ends (Book 1), Kalorama Road, Chasing Victoria, and By Chance. She has also written several supernatural short stories, including Off the Grid, Ravine Lereux: Unearthing A Family Curse, The Playground, and Rebound. As an avid reader of magical realism, mystery, suspense, and supernatural novels, she was greatly influenced by authors in these genres.

Currently, she is working on book two of her trilogy, Twilight Ends, a paranormal historical fiction, and book two of Simone Doucet Series to be released in 2022.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS

Website: https://edenisebillups.com/

Next Chapter Publishing: https://www.nextchapter.pub

Facebook: @E. Denise Billups

Twitter:    @DeniseBillups

Goodreads: @E. Denise Billups

YouTube:  @E. Denise Billups

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DRBT new logo

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#FREE “Trivia for Smart Kids: 300+ Questions about Sports, History, Food, Fairy Tales, and So Much More (Vol 1)” by Cooper the Pooper

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Want to quench your little genius’s thirst for knowledge? Then keep reading…

Don’t you just burst with pride when your child tells you something new they learned in school?

Like when they can list all 50 states or maybe say a short phrase in Spanish.

Whether your child is showing promising signs of future genius, or you just want to have a quiz buddy to help you on trivia night, encouraging your child’s curiosity is always a good idea.

Aside from what they learn in school, having other sources of facts and general information will help your child become more well-rounded.

Also, it’s the perfect time to maximize their learning when they’re still building the foundation of their knowledge and absorbing information like a sponge.

From simple truths to obscure facts, you can find them in this quirky collection of questions about all sorts of topics.

In Trivia for Smart Kids, you will discover:

  • A refreshing way to combine learning and play time in one family-friendly game
  • 9 kid-friendly categories of factoids, both silly and illuminating, that will capture your child’s attention
  • Curious tidbits about the wonderful world of animals that will surely have your child reading in amazement
  • Space-tastic facts that could prove useful for a future career as an astronaut
  • The city on two continents, Joan of Arc’s nickname, the soup that contains saliva, and other pieces of information that your child will find fascinating
  • A fun multiple-choice format that will teach your child how to solve problems by elimination
  • Just how much your child still remembers from all those bedtime stories and fairy tales you’ve read to them

And much more.

Knowing information like how many years snails can sleep may seem like a useless skill, but they’re an accessible gateway into discovering new interests and passions.

It can be the start to a lifelong passion about science, history, food, and more.

Plus, these interesting facts make for great conversation at the dinner table.

General trivia is more than just small details about arbitrary things. They’re a great way to engage your child and teach them about the world.

Cooper the Pooper even traveled the world looking for the most interesting trivia he could find.

No other dog would go to these lengths just to bring your child fascinating facts about all sorts of subjects.

So don’t let Cooper down, and let your child find out what fun facts our adventurous author has learned from his travels.

If you want to expand your child’s growing knowledge (and your own) with a fun and amusing game you can do with the whole family, then scroll up and click the “Add to Cart” button right now.

FREE at time of posting!

Kindle Unlimited

Amazon

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#BookTour “Call Me Elizabeth Lark” by Melissa Colasanti

May 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Call Me Elizabeth Lark by Melissa Colasanti

Your daughter went missing twenty years ago. Now, she’s finally back. You thought she had returned a few times in the past, and your husband tells you she’s not the one, but you feel it in your bones.

Now, what will you do to keep her home?

Twenty years ago, Myra Barkley’s daughter disappeared from the rocky beach across from the family inn, off the Oregon coast. Ever since, Myra has waited at the front desk for her child to come home. One rainy afternoon, the miracle happens–her missing daughter, now twenty-eight years old with a child of her own, walks in the door.

Elizabeth Lark is on the run with her son. She’s just killed her abusive husband and needs a place to hide. Against her better judgment, she heads to her hometown and stops at the Barkley Inn. When the innkeeper insists that Elizabeth is her long lost daughter, the opportunity for a new life, and more importantly, the safety of her child, is too much for Elizabeth to pass up. But she knows that she isn’t the Barkleys’s daughter, and the more deeply intertwined she becomes with the family, the harder it becomes to confess the truth.

Except the Barkley girl didn’t just disappear on her own. As the news spreads across the small town that the Barkley girl has returned, Elizabeth suddenly comes into the limelight in a dangerous way, and the culprit behind the disappearance those twenty years ago is back to finish the job.

Book Details:

Genre: Domestic Suspense

Published by: Crooked Lane Books

Publication Date: March 9th 2021

Number of Pages:

ISBN: 1643856820 (ISBN13: 9781643856827)

Series: Call Me Elizabeth Lark is not a part of a series.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

MYRA

Herb says Myra has drowned herself with Charlotte, where the beach is rocky and the tide tinged gray-yellow, its crest effervescent. At the inn, wind batters the wooden shingles like the ocean thrumming the shore at high tide. The squall sends sand whipping through the air. The pier empties of people, except for the lone fishermen who wear rubber boots and heavy yellow raincoats, casting their lines in turbid water. Myra and Herb are ensconced in the inn, wrapped in sweaters and crocheted afghan blankets. Occasional guests trickle in, but not often. People visit the Oregon coast during summer.

Myra doesn’t take vacations during the off season, no matter how many empty winters pass. Charlotte knows her mother is waiting. She lived for the scent of the ocean, for the lacquer of salt on her skin. The crabs hidden under mounds of sand and the starfish in the tide pools enchanted Myra’s youngest child. Myra supposes this is why Charlotte was so attracted to the mystery of the deep, dark sea. The waves sweep away an entire pool of living things, but with the next tide, they begin again.

And so Myra is not particularly surprised when her dead daughter walks in the door.

***

Myra studies the sawdust-covered floor of the musty inn, thinking they should sweep it and install shiny new wood. She spends her free time leafing through the glossy pages of decorating magazines, considering all the possibilities for the place. It should be more modern, like the bigger hotels in Rocky Shores. There are bed and breakfasts with assorted coffees and fresh baked goods; there are vacation rental homes and cabins, some of which come equipped with pools and fitness centers. And the Barkley Inn is an entire mile from the open shore.

When Myra’s parents were alive, people shuffled in wearing flip-flops and shorts in the summer, eager for slabs of marbled steak served for cheap on Fridays. Peanut shells and loose sand scattered the floor. Back then, poets read their work on Saturday afternoons. Musicians strummed their guitars and sang with their husky, melodic voices on Saturday nights. Candle-filled Mason jars adorned the tables. Ripples of lavender incense hung sweet and thick in the air.

They have personal touches that have gone back decades—luxurious bath towels, chocolates on the pillows, chilled champagne in the honeymoon suite. But the curtains are a drab shade of olive-green, and antique topaz candelabras cast dim light over the lobby. In the sixties, they were eclectic; now they’re just creepy. Perhaps Myra could get one of those latte machines people like nowadays.

On this particular afternoon, Herb hovers behind her as she considers the flooring. She pretends not to notice his wry smile, how he watches her. Age spots dot his thin skin; his eyes are set beneath deep wrinkles, but they glow with a tenderness that has never changed. He will always be her Herb.

“Whatcha up to, honey?”

“Do you think we should get rid of the sawdust? I’m thinking deep mahogany floors.”

He says with a playful smile, “Does it really matter what I want?”

Myra rolls her eyes. “I’m just thinking of ideas to spruce the place up—”

A vehicle brakes hard, its screech penetrating the thick storm windows.

Herb cringes. “Good lord. Someone needs a brake job.”

Myra peers around the curtains. Headlights dip and rise over bumps in the gravel. Rain has streaked the windows, leaving tracks through the winter grime.

“A guest?” she says, thinking: no one has stopped by in weeks. Who wants to go to the bayside town and get drenched? Perhaps someone is traveling through. Maybe they need directions.

A rusty pickup truck with Washington state plates jerks into a spot.

“Great,” mutters Herb. “Here comes trouble.”

A stranger with inky hair climbs out of the car. It falls in thick, unkempt chunks around her face. “This one’s gonna have a fake ID,” she tells Herb. “A really fake one.” Myra isn’t one to turn away a guest. Everyone has a story—and if they’ve got information about Charlotte, they might not be exactly on the right side of the law. They don’t give every guest a room. But they’ve got a reputation for turning a blind eye to a fake ID, for accepting cash without a credit card as collateral. The dyed hair, the ancient truck. This is a woman running from a man. Myra has seen it before. She could never turn a woman out on the street because she doesn’t have a credit card, or she’s changed her name. Besides, it’s a bed and breakfast—rich folks with good credit tend to stay at five-star resorts. They can’t be overly picky.

Herb says, “Shoulda dumped that vehicle a thousand miles ago.”

“Maybe she couldn’t,” Myra says, watching.

The stranger ushers a little boy out of the backseat. She begins to trudge toward them, a duffel bag tossed over her shoulder, clutching the child’s hand. The woman stops sharply and turns back to the vehicle. She swipes the underside of the wheel with her palm.

Herb fixes his gaze on Myra. “Don’t go soft on me, honey. That girl’s running from something, and it’s probably trouble.”

“Can’t be too experienced.” She nods to the truck. The girl won’t find a tracking device stuck in a wheel well. It’s on the damn GPS.

Herb shakes his head, placing his thick knuckled hand on hers. She shoves it away, breath caught in her throat. Hanging his head, he shuffles toward the office. Myra knows what he is thinking. She could climb inside Herb’s chest and feel the rhythm of his heart. As much as anyone can know another person, Myra knows Herb.

As the sound of his footsteps recedes, she looks back to the window. The girl is too far away for Myra to make out her features. She slips into her vinyl chair and waits for their nebulous figures to sharpen. Leaning on her elbows, Myra breathes slowly, listening to the rain drum on the roof, run down the metal storm drain, and trickle onto the ground. The damp inn is cozy compared to the biting Pacific Northwest rain.

The bells on the door jingle as the woman pushes it open, water dripping from her clothing. The noxious scent of her fresh dye job wafts inside. She leans over the boy and whispers in his ear. He shoves his thumb in his mouth and looks back at his mother questioningly, and she nudges him toward the front desk. “It’s okay,” she says. “Let’s go up to the nice lady.”

The woman’s voice is eerily familiar. Myra can’t quite place it. Has she come through town before?

Myra glances at the stranger’s face as inconspicuously as possible, but she notices how this woman moves, the tilt of her chin, the cadence of her voice as she speaks to the boy—it is so familiar that a guttural pain shoots through her bones, her gut, every last piece of her. The hair may be black, but the eyes are the same. Her breath quickens; the room spins. She leans against the counter, reeling. “My god.” The words swirl off her tongue before she can catch them.

“Yes?” says the woman, who is not exactly a stranger, yet somehow strange. She backs toward the door. “I’m sorry. I guess you’re full—”

“No,” says Myra. “You look like a girl I once knew, that’s all.”

“We need a room. But if you’re full, we can keep driving.” She pulls the boy closer.

Myra realizes how bizarre she must sound. She ducks beneath the counter. The woman looks just like Charlotte. Those eyes.

Is she Charlotte?

No. Not again.

Herb is already convinced she’s insane. He’s probably right in his assessment.

She emerges from beneath the desk and tosses a hand towel to the woman. “You’re soaked to the bone. So is your son.”

“I’m sorry if I sounded stressed. I’m traveling alone with Theo.” The stranger’s voice wavers. Rain beads on the boy’s apple-shaped cheeks like teardrops. His threadbare pants graze his ankles.

“What’s your name?”

The woman hesitates, dropping her driver’s license on the counter. “Elizabeth Lark.”

“That’s a beautiful name,” she murmurs. Myra likes it when people choose lovely, poetic false identities for themselves. The lark is such a lyrical bird. Sometimes people come in with names like Moonstone or Pippin. Too much, she thinks. Unique is not what you’re going for when you are on the run.

Myra studies the driver’s license as she boots up the computer. It’s well done as far as fake IDs go. The little wheel on the computer whirls to the beat of her heart. “I’m sorry. It’s thinking.”

Elizabeth pulls her wet jacket around her thin frame, shivering. Her skin is a milky-gray color, and her lips, pale blue.

“You are about the same age as our daughter.” Her voice grows husky. She clears her throat and types the information into the computer. “We lost her years ago.”

Elizabeth avoids Myra’s eyes. The girl already knows. Maybe she has come to see about Charlotte’s ghost. Myra’s chest is raw and tender. A snake coils in her stomach, lithe and threatening to escape.

“Anyway, it’s done thinking.”

Elizabeth purses her lips and reaches for her driver’s license, knocking over Myra’s glass of water. The contents of her purse tumble behind the desk.

“Dammit, I’m sorry.” Elizabeth rushes toward the counter, stuffing papers and cards and cash back into the tattered bag.

That’s when Myra sees it.

A strand of silver is coiled against the green carpet. It could have been any silver necklace, really. But Myra would recognize the cracked edges of the half heart anywhere. Best Friends Forever. It was a gift from Charlotte to her sister, Gwen, the year before she disappeared. Myra picks up the necklace, locking eyes with the stranger, who holds the boy’s hand so hard her bony knuckles turn white. Myra turns it over and traces the initials with her finger.

CB. Charlotte Barkley.

“Where did you get this?” She steadies her voice.

The woman pulls herself to her feet, eyes wide. She takes a deep breath and exhales slowly. “It’s mine.”

Myra’s heart flutters. The snake is ready to pounce. Elizabeth Lark is not leaving, not until she explains the necklace. “Yours?”

“From long ago, yes.”

The world slows. Myra catches Elizabeth’s eyes. They are sapphire-blue, and the closer she looks, she more she is certain. They are Charlotte’s. Her little girl face has gone, and it is replaced by sharp cheekbones and an angular jaw. Elizabeth looks similar to Myra’s oldest daughter, Gwen. Her limbs go numb. The necklace slips from Myra’s fingers, landing in a soft pile on the floor.

“My daughter.” The word sticks to her tongue. “Charlotte.” Charlotte does not move. She is stuck in a different time. At this moment, Herb pads back into the lobby.

“What’s going on out here? Are you checking in?” He lifts his chin toward Charlotte.

“I don’t have any idea what she’s talking about.” The stranger’s face flushes.

Myra closes her eyes. Toddler Charlotte lays on her chest, knees curled up like a prawn, the light sweat from her cheek dewy and warm. Charlotte’s squeals as she races her wooden fire truck along the windowsills. Both of her girls would trample in and out, dripping sand and water all over the floor, covered in sticky treats from the ice-cream truck.

“Don’t track that water in the house, girls. Stop bringing that sticky stuff inside. Wash your hands!” She hears her own words and wishes she could swallow them. Take them back.

Twenty summers missed. Twenty summers of eclipsed sunshine, of icy heat. These guests wander in with nothing but their fake identities to cover secrets they cannot face, to investigate rumors of a haunted inn. Twenty years of drifters washed up from the frothy shores, looking for a room, dirty and chafed by the combination of sand and rain and heartbreak.

“My god, I have loved you. I have been here, waiting. I never stopped waiting.”

Charlotte grips Theo’s hand.

Herb takes Myra’s shoulders, meets her eyes. He whispers, “This is not Charlotte.”

Of course he says this. This has happened before. But this time it’s true.

“Look at her, Herb. She looks just like Gwen.”

Charlotte stares at them. “I have no idea what to say.”

Herb releases her shoulders. He knows when to recede. Myra and Herb dance like this, intricate and poised. They know when to dip forward, when to swing sideways. He knows where he can touch her and what is too tender. And they move gently because their breakable parts have shifted throughout the years, like plates of the earth, scraping against one another deep beneath the surface.

She presses the necklace in Herb’s palm. “Look at the initials, honey.”

Herb clenches his jaw. His eyes glisten. The jowls on his neck shiver. “Where did you get this?” His voice thickens with emotion.

The wind howls and bristles the door; the tick of the clock over the fireplace throbs in her mind. Warmth spreads through Myra’s chest. It relaxes in her stomach, heavy but silent.

“Charlotte’s home. This time she really is.”

Myra has a million questions. What has happened to her daughter? Who has had her all these years? And how did she find her way home?

Charlotte was only eight. Just a baby, really. And now, she stands before her mother, tears catching in her sunken cheeks.

Sweat beads on Myra’s forehead. Tentacles grip her neck. She is drowning, deep in the ocean, where they said Charlotte died. Except Charlotte is here, right in front of them.

Herb steps closer to their daughter, scanning her from head to toe. He turns back to Myra, breathless.

Charlotte is alive. Wondrously, exquisitely alive.

CHAPTER TWO

ELIZABETH

Washington State—One Week Ago

The necklace slips through Elizabeth’s fingers and lands in her palm. She inspects the cracked edges of the half heart and turns it over, focusing on the initials carved into the metal. She drops it into her purse.

The cabin reeks of dank mold. Elizabeth peeks out the window, hoping no one will see her, though there is no logical reason for her fear. The cabin is situated in a thicket of deep wood, where lime-green lichen weeps from the trees like gnome hats. Tufts of moss unfurl through the walls where the wood has rotted, while the foundation crumbles precariously beneath their feet. It is as tiny as a dollhouse dropped amid the lush, expansive forest, surrounded by frozen creeks and giant boulders. The moonlight seeps through a lattice of soft fir branches, and the cabin casts a shadow onto the snow. It is swallowed by the forest ahead. On each side of the shadow, crystals of snow glitter like a smattering of diamonds.

No one could find this cabin. No one away from the forest knows they are alive.

“Elizabeth?” Her husband’s gravelly voice startles her.

She turns back to her son, who snuggles with his blue blanket and stuffed giraffe on the couch, fast asleep. Elizabeth smiles at Theo and clicks off the television. She slides to the boy’s level and perches on the balls of her feet, tucking the blanket under his chin. The cold mountain air seeps into the poorly insulated cabin. His hair tumbles over his eyes, but she won’t cut it. A memory of Peter shaving her son’s luscious ringlets churns inside her. Elizabeth pushes her fist into her stomach and twirls Theo’s stray hair.

“Are you coming, or what?” Peter yells.

She steels herself for the next few moments.

“Coming.” She speaks just loud enough for him to hear her. This is the last time her voice will be low. She squeezes her hands into tight fists.

“Honey, my back is aching. Can you bring me a drink and my pills?”

This is the moment she has waited for. The man doesn’t pay the heating bill while he’s out of town. And now he wants to be taken care of.

Elizabeth can arrange this.

She swings open the hollow-core door softly, taking care not to let it bang against the wall. He lays in bed, quiet and vulnerable, covered with the only heavy comforter in the house. The curtains are drawn tight. “I’ll have your drink and pills in a second. You want food?”

“No. Just the pills. Please, honey.”

She hates the word, so thick and sweet off his tongue. She shudders, remembering the tang of his hot breath against her neck.

“I’m sorry about yesterday.” He groans in pain. “I can’t believe how slippery that ice is. It’s like someone dumped water all over the porch.”

Her lips curl into a smile. She pours three fingers of Jack Daniels into a tumbler—funny they can afford this, and his Vicodin, when she and Theo haven’t been to the doctor, not ever. They haven’t left this cabin in years, except to exchange pleasantries with the homesteaders who have cleared trees and built little farms that sprawl down the mountain. They have their own peculiarities, she thinks, because they aren’t alarmed that Elizabeth lives in this falling down shack with a five-year-old.

Still, Peter says to be friendly.

“But don’t get too close. I’m watching you.”

The threat hides beneath his words, like a rat scratching in a dark cabinet.

She drops a pill into the amber liquor, watching it billow into a thick, hazy cloud. And another. It is hypnotic. Venom fills her blood, lurid and dangerous. She swirls it with a teaspoon, and it clinks against the glass like the tick of a clock. She is numb, devoid of emotion, but she depends on this emptiness to survive. Pure instinct drives her down the crumbling hall. Holding her posture straight, she enters the bedroom.

“Here you go, babe.” Elizabeth helps him to a seated position. His warm body is sticky with sweat.

“Ahh, thank you. You are a goddess,” he says with a light smile.

Don’t believe him, don’t believe him. He will turn this on you and eventually kill you with his lies.

The whisky sloshes in the glass as she hands it to him. “Drink up.” She feigns cheer, but her voice shakes.

“Please don’t be afraid of me. I’m your husband. I’m sorry.” His eyes are pleading. And pathetic. “Is your arm okay?” Her flesh is mottled with purple finger marks.

She nods with a smile.

“I just don’t want to lose you.”

She and Theo have been trying to escape. And Peter’s relentless surveillance prevented them from contacting the nearby homesteaders without his looming presence. However, on one of his work trips, she and Theo walked a mile or so from the log cabin, until they came upon a farm. She got more than fresh eggs and a free-range chicken at the Hart’s place.

Mrs. Hart let her use the internet.

Theo played with the Hart woman’s children as she typed “domestic violence help” in the search engine. Alice Johnson’s name popped up first. She’d apparently been helping abuse victims for decades. Elizabeth sent her an e-mail, wrote down her phone number. But before Alice could respond, Peter rang the doorbell. She heard his voice booming from the front room and slammed the laptop shut. Trembling, she ushered Theo toward the foyer. He put his arm around her, patted Theo’s head, and said a sickeningly sweet goodbye to Mrs. Hart. “I was in the area,” he said. “I thought you’d appreciate a ride home.”

Once they got outside, he transformed back to the Peter she knew. With a sneer, he’d grabbed her by her thin shirt, digging his knuckles into her clavicle. He said, in cool, measured tone, “Mrs. Hart seems nice.”

It took month for Elizabeth to get another cell phone and make the call. And for weeks after that, they meticulously plotted their escape.

Peter cuts the water supply when he will be gone for more than forty-eight hours. She and Alice planned to wait for the faucet to shudder and spout, till only copper silt would vomit into the stained sink. But he’s become even less predictable. His back injury is an opportunity, perhaps the only one. They can’t wait for an out-of-town trip. One might never happen. She cannot predict what electrical line will short circuit within her husband next. There is nothing she can do right when it comes

to Peter, because what is right one moment is wrong the next. Every breath she takes is so cold it’s hot.

They have one shot.

I’m not the one who should be afraid. Not anymore, darling.

He slings back the drink with another pill. “Damn, that’s some strong shit.”

“You’ll feel better soon. Get some sleep.”

Peter leans back on the pillow, his eyes fluttering shut. How lovely it must be to be safe.

Safety is merely an illusion, a trick of the mind. It is never guaranteed.

She rushes back to her son and shoves the last six years of her life into a single duffel bag. Before waking Theo, she creeps back to the bedroom to make sure Peter is knocked out. He’s asleep, for sure. But his face is pasty. His olive complexion has turned yellowish, especially around his eyes. His lips are a bluish-gray color. Did she give him too much?

She tiptoes quietly toward him, afraid he’ll sit up in bed and pounce on her. He looks really bad. Elizabeth needed to immobilize him for an hour or two, not kill the man. Peter’s chest rises, ever so slightly. His neck rolls to the side with a labored breath.

Holy shit. Elizabeth runs to the living room, tears springing to her eyes. She shakes Theo awake.

He looks at her, drowsy and confused.

“We’re taking our adventure today, remember? I packed our things. Daddy isn’t coming.”

“Are you sure?” He chews his fingernail.

She pats his head and smiles. “He’s not coming.”

Theo glances toward the bedroom door.

“Don’t worry.” Elizabeth takes his cheeks in her palms. “He’s sleeping. We are going on an adventure together, just you and me.” She forces herself to smile, heart beating wildly in her chest. “Okay?”

A dubious look crawls across Theo’s face.

“He’s sleeping. I promise. But we must go now.”

“What if he wakes up?” Theo whispers.

“He won’t,” she replies.

“What if he finds us?”

“He won’t. Not this time. Let’s go.”

“Did you pack my card games, my checkers?”

“Yes. I wouldn’t forget those. Come on, now.”

“Are you sure he won’t wake up?”

“Pretty sure.” She taps his shoulder. “Enough questions.” Peter might never wake up again. She shoves her hand under the couch cushions, looking for his phone, but he keeps it hidden from her. Maybe she should go back in the bedroom and make sure he’s okay. She isn’t a murderer. Lord, what has she done?

Maybe Theo won’t remember this moment. He is five years old. Maybe he won’t remember Peter at all. Peter will wake up, confused as hell, once they are gone, she hopes. He can’t possibly be dead. She covers her face with her hands, trying not to cry. Theo has watched Peter hit her, has watched television shows where people aren’t typically living in a cabin without heat, and with little food. He’s five, and his understanding of the world is expanding, ballooning within their captivity. It’s getting harder to hide the truth from him. He asks questions; he’s curious about life outside the forest. And she finds herself snapping at him because she can’t give him what he needs.

They need to get down this mountain.

Although, deep within the folds of her brain, she realizes that Peter will never let them go. As long as he lives, she is beholden to him. Even once they escape, change their identities, and move far, far away, Peter will be somewhere.

Safety is merely an illusion, a trick of the mind. He will hunt them till his last breath. Maybe it’s best he take his last breath now. But still . . . She takes a tentative step toward the bedroom. Oh, shit. Should she check on him again? He could be dying. Should she call someone? They’d help her; they would save Peter.

No, she decides, it is not safe for her child here. There was no other choice but to incapacitate him. Right?

Fuck. They head for the door.

Elizabeth ushers Theo to the truck, dragging the duffel bag behind her. “Hurry,” she urges. “But don’t slip.” The frigid air whips against her skin. Gripping his hand tightly, she instructs Theo to dig the heels of his boots into the ice as he walks. The ground is slick; jagged rocks shine in the moonlight. She clicks the seatbelt over her son’s waist, hands trembling, and tosses the bag in the back. Her own seat is awkward.

It has been years since she has driven a vehicle.

She turns the key in the ignition, hits the gas. They slide on the ice, over thick tree roots, into swathes of evergreen trees. The metal truck scrapes against branches, and she hits every gear wrong. But she gathers her bearings. They travel down the mountain, past the Harts’, past more pockets of homesteaders with chickens and goats, and away from their captor—her husband, his father. She squirts the windshield with fluid and wipes away a layer of dried mud.

Elizabeth inhales deeply when they hit the main mountain road.

When Peter wakes, they will be long gone. She conjures images of all the possible states Alice might take her to. Someplace sunny, like California. Or a tiny Midwestern town with a big yard for Theo.

What if Peter doesn’t wake up? She remembers the odd angle of his neck, his shallow breaths. Is she running from Peter—or the police? Could she be charged with murder?

The thought speeds her own heartbeat up. Blood rushes through her capillaries like a broken dam.

Her son looks out the window, enthralled with the road ahead of them. The sunrise spreads over the mountain, clear and wide. Theo points out the window. “Beautiful,” he says.

“Beautiful,” she agrees.

“Where are we going?”

“We’re stopping at a friend’s house.” She has no cell phone, no GPS to direct her. Only this rusted old truck. She will ditch it when they arrive at Alice’s, get on a bus. Elizabeth laughs, deep and throaty. They turn off the main road, crunching through gravel, and up a windy hill to a little blue house.

Her chest bursts with excitement. “C’mon Theo. Let’s go meet Alice.”

She drags him a little too quickly, and the boy’s feet slip on the ice. “Whoops.” He giggles as she catches him by the back of his threadbare coat.

Alice is a stout woman, with copper-colored skin and gray-streaked hair. Her smile is empathetic and kind. Several women linger around the breakfast table, holding mugs of steaming hot coffee, the rich scent wafting through the air. A couple of children play in the living room. The space is tight, but it exudes warmth and compassion. A pang of sadness hits her in the chest. She and Theo cannot stay here. It is too dangerous. He could find her among these women. The house is too close to the cabin. Does Peter have friends? He must. What if someone she doesn’t recognize tries to find them? He could trail them, set a trap. Theo and Elizabeth must disappear.

And if she’s killed him—oh god, she hopes she hasn’t killed him—that’s murder, right? She didn’t technically need that dosage to knock him into oblivion. Her brain spins.

“All right girl, come in the back.” Alice turns to Theo. “Why don’t you play Legos with the other kids?”

He crouches around the box of red and blue and green blocks. A blonde-haired girl helps him stack them into a little building. She takes a deep breath, hope blossoming through her body.

Elizabeth follows Alice down a dark, narrow hallway and into a tiny room with a neatly made twin-sized bed. She rests on the soft blue bedspread as Alice rifles through the closet.

“All right. Here’s the plan. You’re gonna leave the truck and take one of mine.”

Elizabeth opens her mouth to protest. Alice holds a hand up. “Look, girl. You can’t take off in the man’s truck. They’ll find you. And even if you tell the cops what’s happened, Peter will kill you and Theo before they can prosecute him. I’ve seen it before.”

Elizabeth decides not to mention that Peter’s body might be turning cold as they speak. “But what about you? He’ll find the truck—”

Someone will find the truck anyway.

“I’m gonna get in the truck and ditch it twenty miles from here. But don’t you worry about that. You take my vehicle.” She tosses a key ring onto the bed.

“Alice, I can’t take a car from you.” She sighs, rubbing her aching forehead.

“You can pay me back someday. Till then, your life is at stake. Don’t think about the cheap-ass car I’m about to give you. It’s not registered in my name or anything.” She rolls her eyes. “Still, you need to ditch it once you cross into Oregon. You’ll be conspicuous with out-of-state plates.”

“Whose car is it, then?”

“Never mind that. Doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the cops can’t trace it to you or me. Just don’t get pulled over.”

Elizabeth is bone-tired. “All I care about is getting away from here.”

Alice plops on the bed beside Elizabeth. Her eyes are dark brown, and her lipstick reminds Elizabeth of a ripe plum. Alice takes her hands and squeezes them tightly. Teardrops drip down Elizabeth’s nose.

“It’s going to be okay,” she says.

“Promise?” says Elizabeth, feeling very young.

Alice smiles warmly. “I can’t promise anything. But you’re gonna do your best. I have a good feeling about you.”

She clears her throat. Back to business. Alice shuffles through a box of cards, takes a few, and tosses them on the bed. “I made these with the pictures you sent me from the Hart woman’s computer. You did what I told you about, wiping your search history, right? And you cleared the photos from the webcam?” “Yes. But you said a computer can never be fully wiped. That all the information is stored on the hard drive.” What if the police discover she contacted Alice on the internet? Her hands begin to shake. If he’s looking for her, the first place he’ll go is the Hart place.

“Oh sweetheart. All we want is to keep the Hart woman from snooping around. Do you really think Peter is going to report you missing? Let the cops search that dump he’s been keeping you in?”

Elizabeth nods. The log cabin is essentially a prison.

It is a prison.

“Where do you think you’ll go, Liza? As far as anyone is concerned, you don’t exist,” Peter had said, with a nonchalant shrug.

Elizabeth’s conviction grows. She will leave; she will take her boy far away, where he will never find them.

Unless she’s killed him. Then the police will search everywhere, including the Hart’s computer. Dammit! Why did she give him all those pills?

“All right. We’ve got three IDs here. One Oregon State driver’s license. One Social Security card, which is essentially worthless for applying for credit or a job. It’s just for show if someone doesn’t buy the driver’s license. Same with the passports,” she says, laughing. “That ain’t gonna get you out of the country if you plan to return. And I hear Tijuana isn’t a fun place to live.”

Elizabeth shoves the cards in her purse, beside the necklace.

“You’ve gotta be careful with fake IDs. Lots of people think giving a person a new first name is safest. To my mind, it’s risky. You’ve been called Elizabeth your entire life. You could not respond to a strange first name. Hell, I’ve heard of a woman who started to sign the wrong name on a job application. How do you turn back from that? ‘Sorry, it seems I’ve signed the wrong name?’ Nah.”

“Technically, I’ve been called Liza. A nickname my mom gave me because she loved Liza Minnelli . . . but I get a new last name?”

“Yup. You are no longer Elizabeth Briggs. Now, you are Elizabeth Lark.”

“I love it,” she says, smiling.

“Don’t get too attached. My work isn’t that authentic. We may have to change it again, if he comes after you, or someone else finds out.” Alice purses her lips, thinking. “For now, aim for jobs at small companies. Family owned. It’s not so much the name, as the Social Security number, which is completely fabricated. Make sure you avoid companies that are gonna do a damn background check.” She shakes her head. “That, we do not need.”

Elizabeth considers this. “Isn’t it strange that this pile of false IDs is no more fake than I am?”

Alice ignores the existential musing. “Next is the hair.” Alice reaches into a chest of drawers filled with boxes of hair dye, combs, and scissors. She points to the adjacent bathroom. “Welcome to my spa.”

Elizabeth settles into the chair, inspecting her gaunt face in the mirror. Alice works methodically, chopping her long, sand-colored hair to her shoulders. Elizabeth watches it land in chunks on the ceramic tile.

“I’m not trained in this,” she says. “But I have a lot of practice. My handiwork will have to do.” Alice puts her hands on her hips, squinting a little. “I think we need to go darker.”

They turn the chair and Elizabeth leans her head back, letting her hair tumble into the sink. Her neck digs into the cold ceramic. Alice pours a pitcher of warm water over her hair, greasy from lack of a decent shampoo. She massages Elizabeth’s temples and scalp with a dollop of Suave.

“You normally wait to wash the hair after applying the dye, but you really needed the wash first.” Alice squeezes out the excess water with a towel.

Alice rubs the dye through her hair. The smell of ammonia settles heavily in the stuffy bathroom, stinging Elizabeth’s nose. She is woozy from the cocktail of chemicals. Alice peels her rubber gloves off and cracks the window. A shiver runs down her neck. It’s funny to think how a whole new life begins with her hair.

“So, how did you end up there?” She tucks cotton around Elizabeth’s scalp and behind her ears, then covers her head with a plastic cap.

“Stupidity. Pure stupidity.”

Alice perches on the fluffy pink toilet seat. “Tell me about it. Out of all the stories I’ve heard—”

Elizabeth shakes her head. Alice cannot know. No one can.

Thirty minutes later, her hair is the color of a moonless night. Alice packs her bag with burner phones and rushes them out the door.

“Be careful now.” She takes Elizabeth’s cheeks into her palms, looking at her with intense, shiny eyes. “You get across the border, into Oregon, and stop for the night. Go someplace that takes cash. Then call me. I’ll arrange a bus ticket in my name to your next destination. Keep your head down. Try to be unmemorable.”

Elizabeth takes a shaky breath and waves before they pile into the truck. They drive down the forested road in silence, leaving Washington for good.

“Where are we going, Mommy?”

Elizabeth cracks the window and lets some of the noxious smell from her damp hair out of the truck. She takes a deep breath.

“I’m not sure, baby.”

But the road takes her toward the seashore, almost against her will, and definitely against her better judgment.

She is going home.

CHAPTER THREE

ELIZABETH

Charlotte Barkley is a legend throughout the country, but for the residents of the small town on the Oregon Coast, she is everyone’s daughter. The Barkley Inn is nestled across the highway from a tiny, hidden pier outside of Tillamook County. The marina is weathered gray, with a few boats that seem perpetually docked there. There is a surf shop with an ocean mural painted on its door, an old-fashioned candy store needing a coat of paint, and a fish-and-chips restaurant. Rocky Shores is so sleepy it is swallowed by the lush, endless forest.

Rocky Shores was never a well-known town, not until Charlotte’s disappearance. Now, the tourists stop by the bayside for a piece of a secret. Elizabeth wonders what the Barkleys think about this—how they feel about the influx of business their private tragedy has brought. Some of the kids at school whispered that the Barkleys knew what happened to the little girl. Others said that Myra Barkley’s obsession bordered on insane, that she would wait at that inn for Charlotte till the end of time.

She kisses Theo on the forehead and tucks a blanket around him. It is the thickest blanket he’s ever had. His lips turn up in his sleep, and she wonders what he dreams of.

Myra Barkley doesn’t strike Elizabeth as all that odd. She would wait for Theo too.

Elizabeth redirects her thoughts to the plan she must adhere to if they want to escape. She unzips her duffel bag and rifles through it, retrieving the three burner phones Alice purchased from different Walmarts, and the stack of different identification cards.

Don’t fuck this up, she thinks.

She holds the phone in her palm. Should she call Alice yet?

No, not until she is sure they are safe. She knows one thing— they can’t stay here.

Elizabeth runs her fingers along the silver necklace and squeezes her eyes shut. How will she get out of this one?

Her breath quickens. Elizabeth poisoned the man. She could be guilty of murder. Or maybe it would be considered self-defense. Elizabeth is no lawyer. She’s got no experience with cops, and there’s no one she can think of to ask without sounding suspicious as hell.

Elizabeth cannot spend one more day incarcerated.

As soon as Myra and Herb retreat to the house, she will gather Theo and sneak out to the truck. Her eyelids are heavy; sleep threatens to overtake her. Even her muscles have gone soft from the hot bath Myra had drawn for her that afternoon. She decides to lie down, just for a few minutes. It is better to wait till deep in the night. She cannot head to the police with Herb and Myra in the morning. Run. That’s what she is supposed to do. What she was told to do. Everyone from Rocky Shores is haunted by Charlotte Barkley. The old case will resurface. When the truth comes out, Elizabeth and her son will be filleted by the media. Imposter takes advantage of grieving mother. Her chest aches as she lies beside Theo.

Elizabeth Lark is no one’s daughter.

***

Excerpt from Call Me Elizabeth Lark by Melissa Colasanti. Copyright 2021 by Melissa Colasanti. Reproduced with permission from Melissa Colasanti. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Melissa Colasanti

Melissa Colasanti is a mother and an author. She has a BFA in fiction from Boise State University. Her writing has appeared in Lithub, Memoir Magazine, The Coffin Bell Journal and others. She is the Stephen R. Kustra scholar in creative writing for 2019, and was awarded the Glenn Balch Award for fiction in 2020.

Catch Up With Melissa Colasanti:
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Instagram – @melissacolasanti
Twitter – @mmcolasanti
Facebook – @melissacolasantiauthor

 

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#BookBlitz “Where the Stork Flies” by Linda C. Wisniewski



Kat is at loose ends after her husband ditched her and their daughter followed suit. When a lost time traveler appears in her Pennsylvania kitchen, she grasps at the chance to give her life meaning by helping the woman find her way home. But a mysterious stranger insists they are together for a purpose. Slipping through a portal to an 1825 Polish village, Kat meets her own ancestors and discovers how her own mistakes derailed her life. Can she bring her new understanding of forgiveness and unconditional love back to the present and heal her family before it’s too late?


Where the Stork Flies – excerpt

By Linda C. Wisniewski

Chapter One

The winter Regina arrived, I had a lot on my mind. My part-time job at the public library was going nowhere. My husband had left me over a crazy misunderstanding, and our 19-year-old daughter, who had always favored him, blamed me and followed him out the door. Lonely and confused by the turn my life had taken, I stumbled into the kitchen that morning and found the back door standing open, letting in a few flakes of snow.

Get a grip.  I slammed the door closed. A whimper came from behind me. I whirled around to see an old woman in a long brown skirt, loose white blouse, and a muslin headscarf. She stood beside my kitchen table, shivering. A scream escaped my throat and then hers, both of us yelling like a crazy banshee duet.

“Who the hell are you?”

She jumped back, knocking over a chair. Selene, my old gray kitty, meowed loudly and ran from the room.

“What do you want?” I shouted as she scuttled over to a corner, clutching a piece of cheese. Her wide eyes looked so terrified I felt for a second as if I were the intruder, not she. Her face was wrinkled parchment and her hair around the edges of her headscarf was gray, but her round cheeks, those small brown eyes above a long straight nose: I had seen them before.  On my grandmother’s face. A woman who raised me from the age of ten. A woman who had died over thirty years before. It was her. And not her. A queasy little wave traveled through my stomach.

“Who are you?” I said again, my voice shaking. I wondered if she was some sort of hallucination brought on by lack of sleep. My hands groped for the back of a chair.

She licked dry lips and held out both trembling hands, still clutching the cheese. “Przepraszam, Pani, she pleaded. “Prosze mi wybaczyc!”

A wash of pity flooded my heart. Her voice was soft and hoarse, and though I didn’t

understand her words, I knew their rhythm, the pattern of her sentence, the rise and fall and cadence. She spoke Polish like my Babcia, and my mind responded with words from my childhood to ask what she was doing.  

Co ty robisz?

The old woman’s lips trembled. “Pani, mi wybaczyc,” she whispered and waved the cheese in her hands, still begging forgiveness as her gaze darted around the room as if she was expecting punishment to come from some corner. 

I didn’t know how to say, Relax, it’s okay, so I grabbed another phrase from my childhood, the one that meant Hello.  “Dzien dobry. My name is Kat. Katherine.” I pointed at my chest, where my heart thumped a jagged rhythm. “Katarzyna.”

She nodded and positioned her feet on the floor as if ready to run.


AUTHOR BIO

Linda C. Wisniewski is a former librarian and journalist. Her work has been published widely in literary magazines and anthologies, and on her blog, www.lindawis.com. She is the author of a memoir, Off Kilter: A Woman’s Journey to Peace with Scoliosis, Her Mother and Her Polish Heritage. Linda lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA.

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