See inside the mind of a psychopathic killer, as she works her way through several murders in the City Of York. Accompany her hand in hand as she selects her victims.
When Darkness Falls is a testament to the human fascination with the criminal mind, and the debate over whether serial killers are wither evil or mad.
Emma Humbles rated it it was amazing
Fantastic! What an excellent read......this book doesn't hold back any punches in relation to the work of both the mind and body of a psychotic serial killer within the City of York. Cleverly written to allow the reader to go on the journey with the serial killer and view her thoughts and actions from her perspective. Even when you put a piece of the jigsaw together, another twist pops up.
How the killer stages the scenes in order to lead the police along different paths is brilliant.
I just wanted the book to continue.
Sarah Graham rated it it was amazing
Wow, I started reading this book yesterday and I cannot put it down. The suspense keeps the reader guessing, from the start it is fast paced with twists and turns. I'm looking forward to the next chapter. This is one of the best books I have read, well written and descriptive, you really are inside the mind of the Yorkshire Slasher. This book truly deserves 5 stars.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Ghoulish and Fascinating Story!
By Amazon Customer on 9 May 2017
Tracy Bennett is a seemingly "normal" gal, except she's crazy, spiteful and driven by a lust to kill. She is the female version of DEXTER! Written in first person, I was able to enter Tracy's malevolent mind, which is filled with a desire to torture and murder her victims with a passion.
If you have an interest in the psychopathic psyche, this book will shock and unnerve you to the core. I was unable to put it down as the character is so driven, ghoulishly fascinating and wickedly humorous. What a character! Killing is an art for Tracy and she will not be stopped.
5.0 out of 5 stars A clever, twisty read! 2 April 2017
By Lizzy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was an engaging thriller, narrated by a psychopathic killer who gets her thrills by creating art from the blood of her victims. The narrator’s voice is sarcastic and sadistic, keenly observant of every nuance in her midst as she plots her next murder, with the prowess of a hungry animal licking its lips in delightful anticipation.
Most of the victims work at a York department store, and as more of them are savagely killed, a tight-knit group of women fear for their own lives, scrambling to keep themselves safe. But are they unwittingly moving closer to danger?
I love books with great payoffs, and this is one of them! I don’t want to say any more. Just that it’s a really good read!
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelously gruesome! 14 Mar. 2017
By BookReviews88 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For you thriller aficionados, Harryman delivers an intense and gory tale that places you directly inside the mind of the Yorkshire Slasher. 'I did not slash!'
I could NOT put this book down. Out of an unspeakable childhood trauma, a new woman was born. This intelligent, (dare I say) likable, beautiful psychopath will have you feeling both shocked and amused. Without revealing too much, I will say that this character has lots of 'personality'.
Extremely well written, fast-paced, perfectly descriptive, Kathleen Harryman manages to intertwine gruesome murder with sophistication brilliantly. A well deserved five stars!
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Sophie continued to ask around town about the previous owners of her house. She then found out that about fifty years ago, a woman that lived in her house vanished without a trace. What is even worse is that she was nine months pregnant! She was still missing, and the mystery was never solved. Sophie wanted to find out even more about the house after she heard that unsettling news.
Sophie was told that they searched and searched for the missing woman years ago. They dragged all the local ponds and questioned everyone in the neighborhood. Her husband had passed a lie detector test, so he was dropped as a suspect. A search party of over one hundred people searched nonstop for the missing woman during a twenty-four hour period. The police were dumbfounded by the lack of evidence. There were no clues and the case eventually became a cold case. Even though the husband passed a lie detector test, many people still believed that the husband was responsible for the disappearance of his wife. For the first year after his wife's disappearance, he was under scrutiny from the whole town every time he left his house and was seen out and about the town.
Many years later, the husband was diagnosed with flesh-eating bacteria in his hands. The doctor believed that he got it from working in his garden. His doctor treated him for the bacteria, but it continued to get worse. The flesh-eating bacteria spread throughout his entire body, and it was literally eating him alive! He had a major stroke and not too long after that, he had a massive heart attack and died.
The ship anchored beyond the wide mouth of the fjord as sailors lowered a native canoe filled with supplies. Reggie gazed down at the small craft and shuddered. The tiny craft bobbed alongside the schooner, which already rocked too much to suit him. A heavy woolen coat hung to his knees but it barely kept him warm against the icy breeze. How would he manage to camp inside the glacial straits of the fjord?
“We’ll return in two weeks, sir,” the captain said and broke Reggie’s reverie. “We can’t afford to set here with them icebergs floatin’ past.”
“Yes, I understand.” He stiffened his shoulders and held out his gloved hand. “Thank you, Captain Jefferies. I appreciate your taking on this commission.”
Reggie winced under the vice-like grip of Jefferies and the captain grinned. “Your financial inducement was substantial, sir. I’d hate to lose my best customer so take a care! If you’re not here upon our return, we’ll launch a rescue party to search you out.”
Laughter erupted from behind Reggie. He turned to see a grinning native face surrounded by shaggy black hair. “No need to risk lives of crew, Captain Jeffries. We come back when moon is full and wait for ship.” Scottie, a Tlingit guide from the village of Hoonah, scampered down the rope ladder and jumped into the rocking canoe.
“He’s a highly recommended guide, and I’m certain we’ll be here on time,” Reggie said, more to reassure himself than the captain.
“We’ll collect supplies in Skagway, so the ship will be ready for the next stop on your excursion.”
“Mind that you collect my new shipment of paint and canvas.” Reggie peered down into the canoe. “I’m keen to get that shipment as I’ll run out of proper supplies soon enough.”
“We could slice up one of our small sails to make canvas. No need to waste gold shipping it from Europe when there’s plenty of sailcloth right here. A vigorous wash would make it clean enough to slap paint on.”
Indulgently Reggie smiled, having heard the offer before. “Don’t cut up your sails, Captain. My supplies will be waiting in Skagway. I’m sure of it.”
His stiff boots slipped on a wet rung of the rope ladder as he descended toward the deep blue water. He tightened his grip on the ropes and sucked in a breath to calm his nerves.
“Come on, boss. It’s just a few more steps!” Scottie shouted.
Reggie inched closer to the water and stretched his foot out to touch the canoe. A firm hand steadied his boot until he connected with the canoe bottom. The small craft teetered. “Got you, boss,” Scottie said, and the Hoonah propelled him toward a solid bench. “You sit safe here.”
Feeling grateful to avoid the icy-black water, Reggie sighed as his butt plopped onto the flat board stretched across the canoe. He stretched his arms out to grip both sides of the craft as a wave crashed against the boat. Water penetrated the fingertips of his thick gloves. As Reggie shivered Scottie untied the canoe and scrambled over bundles to reach his own perch. Soon the native paddled the homebuilt craft toward rocky cliffs jutting above the mouth of the inlet. Droplets from the paddles pelted Reggie’s face.
He saw a paddle resting against his right foot. “Should I help you row?” he shouted.
“Not yet! First you watch, see how I make strokes. We reach smooth water and then you help,” Scottie shouted back.
Relief washed over Reggie, since he feared releasing his death-grip on the canoe. The streamlined craft rolled over ocean waves that moved toward the mouth of the fjord. Sea water mixed with fresh water as the river current flowed steadily out to sea. Large chunks of ice floated past, and Reggie wondered how long it might take to reach the glacier.
When the canoe entered the mouth of the fjord, the water calmed and Scottie’s paddle strokes slowed. He cheerfully announced, “Eagle totem help us cross into Raven territory.” Scottie stroked the stylized eagle pendant hanging from his neck.
Tlingit natives divided themselves into two clans, and apparently Scottie belonged to the Eagle clan. “Does the Raven clan claim this fjord?” Reggie asked.
Scottie nodded. “In long time past, Raven clan live at foot of big ice wall. Foolish woman make glacier much angry by singing too loud. It push Raven clan out of canyon into ocean. Be much quiet so we don’t make glacier angry.”
“I plan to be very careful of the glacier.” Reggie stared at the steep rock walls of the fjord and marveled at the glacial force needed to carve through solid granite. Before the trip he studied scientific writings and knew the ice gouged out the valley over thousands of years. Greenish blue water filled the valley floor in a flood of pure glacier water that melded with brackish ocean tidewater.
With an artist’s eye, he studied the color and wondered how to mix that particular shade. His fingers itched to open his paint satchel and search through the oils, but fright kept his fingers clamped to the canoe’s sides. He mentally painted the picture. Dark brown rock and emerald green trees rose in a near vertical slant from the jade green water. No. It was not jade green. He must combine blue, green, and brown pigments until he matched the true color.
An icy breeze brushed his cheek. He glanced up just as the boat rounded a bend and gasped with delight. High in the V of the shaded canyon walls, a vision of brilliant white gleamed in the sunshine. Excited, Reggie nearly stood to get a better view. The canoe rocked and he froze, clutching the canoe tighter. As he enjoyed the tantalizing glimpse of ice, the canoe skimmed silently across the water. Reggie kept quiet, almost afraid to break the spell of the glacier. He understood why natives believed the glacier was alive. It snaked down the canyon like a living thing that waited for them to approach in their tiny craft.
They live among us. We know they are there. No government can control them; no authority can stop them. Some are evil. Some are good. All are powerful. They inhabit our myths and fairy tales. But what if they were real, the witches, wizards, and fairy godmothers? What if they were called "adepts" and were organized into guilds for mutual protection and benefit? And what if they started mucking around with the affairs of "lessers" (that is, those humans not able to match their powers)? During the height of the Cold War, Michael Vaughan is a rogue without a guild. He survives by working for the CIA as NOC (Non-Official Cover). Shortly after the funeral of President Joe Kennedy, Jr., he is sent to Cuba to assassinate Castro. There he finds himself in a cat-and-mouse game with adepts working for Fidel.
Found in suspended animation after being forgotten for over 250 years, Levi Garret emerges with no memory of his life. Now trying to make his way in a high tech universe he has discovered a love for investigating and a knack for finding trouble.
Now hired to solve a murder someone wants to remain unsolved, can Garret dodge bullets, bombs and babes as he tries to crack the case?
Find out as Garret and his friends take on the case of the Engines of Deception.
Ellie folded her arms over her chest. She watched Charlie grab a long, fat vial from her med kit. Charlie held it up, turning it this way and that. Staring at the clear, slightly viscose liquid inside, she flicked it. Edward padded into the kitchen on bare feet. His shoulder length, blond hair was stringy. He’d simply pulled it back into a messy ponytail at the nape of his neck. Long wisps of bangs fell loose curving over his square jaw. It had been a few days since he saw a shower. He was dressed in the same gray sweatpants he’d been wearing since the day Ellie and her boys got there last week. The stubble on his chin was getting thick. He sat down on the stool in front of the massive kitchen island and batted exotic blue eyes at her.
Science shouldn’t try to play with magic. That didn’t stop them from trying, though. A ring of violet ringed Edward’s irises. It gradated to a softer shade with spikes of a blue so pale it almost looked white ringing his pupils like the rays of the sun. Ellie missed his human eyes. She missed rather a lot from when her brother was human. Ellie tried flashing him a smile. It was weak. She was more than just a little worried about him. It was like he’d just given up. This wasn’t her Edward.
Charlie drew out thirty lines into the syringe. Edward held his arm out, pumping his fist. Charlie flashed him a small, reassuring smile, and handed him a solid piece of plastic. Edward lifted it to his teeth and bit down on the thing. Charlie slid the needle slowly into the vein at the crux of his arm, pressing the plunger down.
Edward’s jaw tightened. His entire body went rigid with the pain it caused. Like broken glass swimming through his bloodstream, it tore him in half. He shuddered. His screams were wretched. Ellie reached up quickly to wipe at the tear that fell down her cheek. She took in a shuddering breath. Ellie decided in that moment that bitch Bennet's death wasn’t nearly as bloody as it should have been. Charlie pulled the needle free and went about cleaning up the small mess she’d made.
Ellie threw her arms around her big brother from behind. Her hands wrapped around his muscular arms. “I’m sorry, Eddy,” Ellie whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
“For what?” he said through gritted teeth. Edward couldn’t stop the shudders, couldn’t quiet the agony that roared through him. It took an eternity for the fire to begin to die down. Edward forced himself to relax against her. He concentrated hard on her embrace.
“That you have to go through this.” Ellie touched the side of his face, smoothed the hair back from his sweat-drenched forehead. “That I didn’t get there in time to save you.”
“You came, little Lottey.” Edward breathed in slow, just to blow it free. “I’ve had worse.”
Ellie sniffed and laid a kiss on his bristly cheek. “Liar,” she said with a pouting lip. She worked hard to give him a smile. “I love you, Edward.”
Edward sat up, leaning back far enough to put his arm around his kid sister’s back. He pulled her into his lap without any effort and ruffled her silky hair. “You going to stay a while this time, Squirt?” Ellie had a hard time ignoring the lilt of hope in his voice.
Her eyebrows drew together and her mouth dropped open. Ellie had a lead on another one of Bennet’s crazies. But after watching that, she couldn’t bear to tell him no. “A little while.” Ellie nodded and sniffed.
Charlie zipped her small med-kit closed and slipped it into the cupboard on the end. She walked back to the dining room table. Her fussing caught Ellie’s attention. Charlie closed down a program on her laptop. Ellie stared at the small black rectangle Charlie had jacked into one of the USB ports. The external hard-drive had all of Susan Bennet’s research on it.
“How’s the science going?” The moment the words left her lips, Ellie regretted asking in front of Edward.
Charlie turned to them. Her hazel eyes first met Edward’s pleading gaze, and then bashfully, she looked at Ellie. “I’m doing my best to make something of it.” Charlie hated lying. She’d developed a skill for it married to her EX husband. And she needed every ounce of it to get past the searching stare of Ellie. Charlie didn’t get the need for this secret. But it wasn’t exactly hers to tell.
“That’s all I can ask,” Ellie said with a nod. She wiped at her nose and slipped her arms around her brother’s neck. “Can you make a list of some of the stuff you’ll need?”
Charlie’s mouth dropped open to answer but Edward beat her to it. “What for, Squirt? How exactly do you plan on getting any of it?”
“We’ll steal it,” Ellie answered simply.
Edward frowned. He hated the idea that Ellie happily embraced being an outlaw only a tiny bit more than she did being a murderer. Ellie could tell by the look on his face there was a fight on the horizon. She just couldn’t deal with it. She loved Edward more than life itself. But living with him was proving harder every day. Ellie leaned in and kissed him between the eyes. Cupping his face between her tiny hands, she smirked.
“I’m going to make you better, Edward.”
He let the love shining in her pretty green eyes draw a smile across his mouth. “Never had a doubt in my mind, Squirt.” Edward tried hard to keep his face neutral. His vision blurred with stinging tears.
Ellie took in a deep breath and laid her head against the side of his. Her eyes cast to the floor. She was lost here. Ellie was the first to admit this life took some getting used to. But Edward just couldn’t handle it, and it was getting harder to ignore. Ellie spent her whole life thinking nothing could come between them. Now, she worried she was wrong. The only thought in her head for the longest time was of him. Now that he was free, Ellie just couldn’t shake the feeling he was spinning away from her.
Anxious, Shariel scrambled up the hill at a brisk pace. Soon her muscles burned and her lungs ached. Afraid to stop, she scolded herself for being lazy during winter.
Pebbles skittered down from a high boulder and startled her into a crouch. She slipped a dagger from her boot and gripped the blade. Two pointed ears and a head popped over the boulder.
She released pent up breath. “Chacka! I should’ve known it was you.” The silver wolf stared down from a rocky perch as his glistening white teeth formed a canine grin.
Shariel climbed to his level. “Don’t sneak up on me like that. My nerves are all jittery since I imagined someone watched me near the village.”
Chacka sniffed the breeze and rotated his ears. Hackles bristling, he stared down the mountain trail.
“My imagination’s working overtime,” she chattered unaware of the wolf’s defensive posture. “I’d lay odds we’re in for a storm. I get spooky just before a big blow, but a spring storm shouldn’t last long.” Shariel wiped her forehead and eyed the woods. “Why does your mate hide? Haven’t you told her I’m a friend?”
Chacka kept his head low and menacing, a deep growl rumbled in his chest.
“She’ll learn to trust me.” Shariel climbed the trail, talking. The wolf stayed nearby until she reached the cabin, and then he melted into the forest shadows.
Shariel shouted, “Bye, Chacka. See you later.”
“Talking to your wolf again?” Aunt Bess stood in the door. “Don’t you know wolves would just as soon eat you as say howdy?”
Shariel grinned. “If Chacka ate a human, he’d pick one who doesn’t like him.”
Bess laughed. “I’m too tough to be appetizing. Did you get everything?”
Lightning ripped across the northern California sky, then splintered down through the rain and disappeared behind our neighbor’s house. Letting the door slam shut behind me, I ran away from the warmth of our porch light into the darkness of our backyard. My mom would’ve killed me if she’d caught me outside that late at night. Especially in a thunderstorm, and on the night before my fifteenth birthday, with the big party she had planned for tomorrow. But I had to get out of the house before I fell asleep and they came for me. And they were coming!
A gust of wind blew my hair against my face. I swiped it out of my eyes just in time to see a plastic lawn chair tumbling through the air. I covered my head with both arms, but a leg of the chair smashed against my elbow. Ouch!
I dropped onto the wet grass, pulled my knees into my chest, and rocked nervously back and forth. Water soaked up through my nightgown and my underwear, making me shiver.
None of these things mattered, though. Because something far worse was happening inside my head. A memory of me as a little girl, on the night my grandpa Dahlen disappeared from his cottage, was trying to claw its way into my consciousness. And I didn’t want to think about that night. Ever.
Still, I couldn’t stop it, which didn’t make sense. I was awake, and outside, where I was supposed to be safe, yet the aliens from my dreams were somehow messing with my thoughts, rearranging things, trying to make me think about that night! But how?
And why? It happened eight years ago, and my grandpa was dead now.
Although, before he disappeared, he’d—
No! Stop, Courtney! I yelled at myself.
I bit my fingernail and took a deep breath, hoping to calm down.
No luck. I was remembering the musty old-books smell from my grandpa’s bookcase. Butterflies rushed into my stomach and I sprang to my feet.
“All right. Is that what you want me to do?” I shouted into the rainy darkness. “Remember my grandpa? What happened that night? If I do that, then will you leave me alone?”
I wiped the rain from my eyes, and suddenly it was like I was right there, in the cottage. His notebook sat on the plaid couch, opened to a map he’d drawn of the ancient wormholes linking the alien world to our own.
I stumbled backward over a tree root and my butt hit the ground; my head clunked against an even bigger root. Oww! I started to sit up. But suddenly the memory I’d been running from took over the screen in my mind. I fell back into the wet grass and watched the scene unfold as if I were seven years old again, right there in the cottage.
It was raining outside, and the air smelled like old, musty books and burnt hamburgers. I glanced over at my grandpa Dahlen. He was busy in the kitchen, forking ears of corn out of a pot of boiling water. Standing tiptoe on the comfy reading chair, I reached up to the bookcase and ran my fingers along the dials of what he called his ham-radio/alien-transport machine.
“Courtney!” Grandpa stared at me over his steamed-up glasses.
“Fine.” I plopped down on the reading chair and crossed my arms over my chest. Then I lowered my eyes. Blood was seeping through my shirt again from earlier in the day, when my grandpa’s nun friend had stopped by with a guy with a tattoo gun. They’d come to give me a tattoo. I hadn’t wanted a tattoo! But my grandpa had told me it was important, and the way he’d said it, I’d believed him. So now I had a blue mark on my rib cage that looked like four dead bugs arranged in a square.
“So tell me this, Grandpa,” I said. “If these aliens who visit you are really your friends, then why do they make you keep everything secret?”
He turned away from the steaming pot and eyed me with suspicion. “Because people are frightened of what they don’t understand. And frightened people can be dangerous, Courtney,” he said. “Now come sit down for dinner.”
I slipped into a wobbly kitchen chair, rested my elbows on the wooden table, and stared down at my burnt ham- burger. “Mom doesn’t believe in aliens, so does that make her dangerous?” I asked.
Grandpa chuckled. “Your mother is only interested in facts and evidence. Even when she was a child, she had no tolerance for intangibles. Or even comic books, for that matter. Can you imagine?” He set a plate of corn on the cob in the center of the table, then sat down across from me. “But dangerous? No. I think we’re safe from her.” He flashed me a wink.
I winked back. People always told me that I shared his silvery-blue eyes. Hearing someone say it would make my mom cringe, though, because she thought Grandpa was crazy. And the last thing she wanted was for me to turn out like him. But she and my dad were spending the weekend with their old law school friends on Lake Tahoe, so they’d dropped me off with Grandpa on their way.
“Well, if these alien things are real living creatures, then did God make them?” I asked. “Or are they just imaginary?”
I smiled proudly. I was about to finally get the truth from him.
“How’s your burger?” he asked.
“But you didn’t answer—”I started to protest, when a bang on the front door made me jump.
My grandpa ran over and covered his ham-radio/alien-transport machine with an afghan.
More quick pounding! Grandpa shoved his notebook under the couch.
I tried to read his expression, to see if he was frightened or just cleaning up, but he wouldn’t look at me. He rushed to the door and glanced through the peephole, and I held my breath.
When he unlocked the door, three men barged into the cottage.
I immediately recognized them as professor friends of my grandpa’s from when he’d taught at Berkeley. But what were they doing out here at night? I mean, hadn’t they heard of cellphones?
They stared over at me. “Hello, Courtney,” said one, a tall man with a thick beard and black suitcoat.
I shot my grandpa a pleading look, like Make them go away. But he quickly shook his head. I stomped into the guest bedroom and slammed the door.
“They’re coming,” one of the men whispered, loud enough for me to hear. He sounded worried. Which made me worry. About what, though, I wasn’t quite sure.
I bit my thumbnail, and it tasted like wormy dirt from the woodpile. Gross! I wiped my mouth with the bottom of my shirt.
“She’s not safe,” another man said.
Not safe? I froze. “She”? As in me? My heart started racing, and suddenly I couldn’t get enough air into my lungs.
I grabbed the black metal latch of the window next to me and opened it. The chirr-chirr of crickets filled the bedroom, and I breathed in the smell of wet leaves. Pressing my face against the screen, I glanced up at my grandpa’s ham radio tower, standing tall along the side of the house. The siren on top of it glistened with rain under the silvery moon. It would sound off if any bad guys snuck into the backyard and tried to mess with my grandpa’s things. Or that’s what he’d told me, anyway.
Suddenly a familiar shiver trickled down my neck. Oh wow!
I turned away from the window and locked eyes with Astra. “Nice of you to show up,” I said.
She was a few years older than me. Like eleven, maybe. She was sitting cross-legged on the floor next to the closet; her eyes shone bright green against her pale skin and black hair. She bit into her plump bottom lip, which meant she was worried about me. “You think I’m going to climb out the window and run away?” I asked her.
She didn’t answer. For an imaginary friend, she wasn’t very talkative. But she seemed to show up whenever I was in trouble. And there was no getting rid of her; our minds were connected. My grandpa said she was probably a real person somewhere, and that we shared consciousness because we came from the same bloodline. As crazy as the idea seemed, I liked to think that there might be someone real out there who would understand me if we ever crossed paths. Most people just thought I was weird like my grandpa.
“I’m glad you’re here,” I told Astra.
Outside my door, I could hear the men pacing around on the creaky wooden floor boards.
“When?” my grandpa asked.
“We don’t know,” another man said.
I didn’t like the sound of that. My stomach tightened with nerves. I sat down on my bed and rocked back and forth, staring at Astra.
“You’re crying,” she said. Or I could hear her voice in my head, anyway.
“No I’m not.” I swiped my cheek. Then I looked down at the spot of blood on my shirt. “I got a tattoo,” I said, trying to change the subject.
A siren wailed outside. The alarm! I jumped up, turned toward the window. But the bedroom door burst open behind me. I spun back around, and my grandpa stood in the doorway.
“Grandpa! What’s happening?” I started toward him. He quickly shook his head and then pressed his finger to his lips: Stay quiet.
Grandpa looked scared. And he was never scared. My heart pounded against my rib cage. Astra was gone. This was bad.
Bright light lit up my grandpa’s face. It was coming through the window behind me. Oh no! I whipped around to see who was there, and someone grabbed me from inside the room.
I started to scream, but a hand covered my mouth. My feet lifted off the floor. Frantically I twisted my head around to see who it was, but I was being dragged backward, down the hall, into the bathroom. Kicking at the bathroom wall, I bit into the hand covering my mouth, and for a second my head was free. I whirled around to see my grandpa, his finger gushing blood from where my teeth had cut into his skin.
“Grandpa? What are you doing?”
He whispered something in my ear. Then he lifted me up, ignoring my flailing legs.
The next thing I knew, I was underwater. Screaming!
When Tim, Maria and Bob’s fourteen year old apparently model son goes missing, they are baffled and distraught. A police investigation reveals Tim wasn’t quite the son they thought he was. Frantic attempts to find him fail, and when their quest becomes an obsession this causes problems between them. But they never give up, and are determined to find him DEAD OR ALIVE, even though it may cost them dear.
The old, beat-up Chevy pickup came to an abrupt stop about a foot from the back of Ruby’s prized Jeep. She scowled with disapproval as the driver shoved open the door and dropped to his booted feet before the engine even had a chance to shut off.
"Help you, miss?" he asked, with a slow, deep twang, wiping the dirt from his hands with a handkerchief he’d pulled from his back pocket.
She squinted against the midday sun a little harder now as his voice rang a touch familiar. She watched him for an over-long moment, the mother cat twisting her lithe body around his legs in greeting. Sweat glistened on his tanned, muscular arms as he bent to pick up the kittens that came out to join their mother.
She smiled. There had to be something special about a man who elicited the love of animals. He was at least six foot two, and built like he could lift a hundred pounds straight over his head with no problem at all. A smudge of dried mud followed the line of his strong, stubbled jaw. He could be the most handsome man Ruby had ever seen. Not a sophisticated, city kind of handsome. More a Russell Crowe, gladiator, kind of handsome.
The irritated scowl returned to his face after he put the tiny, tabby kittens down, almost like he’d just remembered he wasn’t pleased about being pulled away from something important. This made him all the more interesting. Part of Ruby was glad she'd been such a bother. The day just became more intriguing.
“They’re adorable. And they seem to like you.” She tried to break the awkward silence.
Curious, soulful green eyes peered out from under his dusty Stetson hat. He gazed first at her well-worn Justin cowboy boots, then slowly up her long legs to the khaki shorts, pausing momentarily at the denim shirt she had tied loosely around her waist, showing just a hint of pale skin. His gaze stopped momentarily at the mess of red-blonde hair she’d pulled away from her face, before he finally met her eyes.
Ruby held her giggle as he finished his perusal, not wanting to make him self-conscious since she’d recognized him. Billy MacCallister. Had to be. My, how he’d grown from the runny-nosed brat who used to follow her around so many years before. He’d been the pain-in-the-butt, kid brother of her best friend.
But, this grown up Billy MacCallister was a whole different creature. Mercy, he’s definitely a full grown man now. Ranch life looks good on him.
"So," Ruby avoided his eyes to keep him at a disadvantage for just a bit longer. She reached down to pet the dogs again, calming them. "How's your sister these days, Billy?"
He stopped wiping the dirt from his jeans and searched to get a better look at her face.
"What's the matter, Billy? Think you're seeing a ghost?" A smile crossed her lips.
"Ruby?" he asked, quietly at first then louder. "Ruby?" This time with unashamed excitement. Billy took two long-legged strides toward her, tilting his hat to get a better look. "Well, look at that, it is you."
Before Ruby had a chance to respond, he lifted her off the step and twirled her around, not caring at all that she now wore half the dirt he once had all over him.
The enticing scent of musk shampoo, salty sweat, and horses swirled around her, drawing her in. How could a man smell that good after working in the mud? It took all her strength to keep from leaning in and making a fool of herself. He smelled like home to her and she had to admit, it felt good to be held.
"Billy, good grief, put me down." She tugged at her shirt to keep it down, embarrassed. The pups jumped up, anxious now to play, as Ruby tried to gain composure. Not an easy task when being twirled around by a handsome cowboy.
"Ruby Lattrell, it’s so good to see you. How the hell are you?” The honest joy in seeing her poured from him. “Oh my God, you look fantastic!" He set her down and brushed the hair away from her face, looking her over now with those same hungry eyes he'd had as a love-struck kid.
She glanced away, self-conscious. When she finally mustered the courage to gaze up at him, she couldn't help but return his infectious smile. There was no worry there, or pretense. The tiny lines around his joy-filled eyes showed only that he knew how to smile. How to laugh. Something she’d forgotten how to do a long time ago.
"Well, that’s certainly more of a welcome than I expected." She stepped back to get some space and a better look at him. He had to be coming up on thirty now. Strapping. Still driving his mom crazy with that unruly chestnut hair tucked behind his ears, no doubt. Same innocent, broad smile that held secrets.
He continued talking and following her every move, anxious to know everything all at once. Where had she been? How had she stayed so perfect? Finally, he realized she hadn’t said a word. He stopped then, smiled that secret smile again, his eyes slowly filling with concern. "Ruby, I'm sorry I'm just going on. How are you? Are you all right? Oh Lord, I'm so sorry about your grandmother."
Ruby flushed when he caught her staring. "Oh, I ah, I'm fine. Thank you, though. I can’t believe she is gone. This place will be really weird without Granny Rube here." She took a step back toward the door, gathering herself, hoping she'd find the key in the usual hiding place so she could make a graceful exit.
"You don't act fine." He caught up with her, supporting her elbow like a real southern gentleman. "Let's get you inside."
Ruby didn't protest. She kind of liked the fuss he made. This was someone she'd known for nearly all her life. It felt good to know he'd missed her.
"Just wait till Claudie finds out you're home. She's going to just die." He reached behind the rusted iron pot for the key and turned it in the lock. "She's not living out here anymore. She's got a place in town. Married a nice city guy who moved here from Arizona, Mike Calloway. They bought old Fike's Market and fixed it up real nice. Doing real well with it. She likes living in town so much better than out here." He kept talking as he closed the door behind them.
The familiar smells of the house hit Ruby first, distracting her from what Billy was saying. Gingerbread cookies, Pledge furniture polish giving off an ever-present hint of lemon.
Ruby stopped in the entry, closed her eyes, and visualized her mother and Granny Rube laughing in the kitchen, handmade aprons tied around their waists, shoving cookies in that old Wedgewood oven, sharing private giggles.
Ruby stood for a long while as she replayed the memories over in her mind, only vaguely aware Billy had gone silent and held a supportive hand at the small of her back.
"Welcome home, Ruby," he whispered, his sweet eyes searching hers.
She didn't know why, but just then she couldn't keep herself from turning and wiping the dust from his cheek, feeling more true compassion from this one understanding look than she'd ever felt before.
"Thanks, Billy." She realized suddenly her eyes filled with tears. "Thanks for making me feel so welcome. I'm glad to be home."
She felt as if she’d stepped back in time. She was just a teenager when she left home almost two decades ago. Nearly everything in the house remained in the same place. The fireplace room still held the same worn velvet couches and mahogany side tables. The faded ivy wallpaper she'd helped Granny hang curled at the corners where moisture and age had gotten to the glue. The heirloom rug passed from her grandfather's family, now worn and fraying around the edges.
The same photos capturing a more innocent time continued to be displayed on the dusty river-rock mantle. Yellowed images of Granny Rube's parents looked too small and frail to have endured such a rough pioneer life. Next to that picture, Ruby saw the photo of her Grandpa Mac, taken only days before he was trampled to death by his prized bull, Heathen.
Ruby picked up the tarnished frame and held it close, realizing only now how handsome a man her grandfather had been, tall and lanky, his deep set eyes full of the devil. Reminded her of her mother.
"Granny used to say it served him right to get taken by the one beast on the ranch that was ornerier than him." Ruby wiped the dust from the frame and replaced it back on the mantle in the exact place it was before. "Momma told me Granny put Heathen down herself with a twelve-gauge shotgun the night he killed Grandpa Mac, but I still don't know if that's true. She had such a flair for the dramatic, it was hard to tell fact from fantasy."
"Your granny was a good woman, Ruby," Billy finally offered, a measure of respect in his voice. "Always remember that. She helped me out more times than I can count."
"I'm just sad I missed so many years with her. All I have are old memories of how things used to be. Silly stuff like, I remember when she calmed Jake and me during those hell-raising thunderstorms, and chased us into the pond when we were driving everyone nuts because we were so bored." Ruby turned away from the photos and took in the room once again. "She always had time for us. I can't believe I let her die alone."
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