After a decade struggling in the New York art world, Jenny Kinley discovers more danger, excitement, romance, and success at the New Mexico art camp she inherits. But her ex-con father has found his way home, too, with ruthless criminals following close behind.
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Painter Jenny Kinley has spent the last decade struggling in the New York art world. Her grandmother’s sudden death brings her home to New Mexico, but inheriting the children’s art camp her grandmother ran is more of a burden than a gift. How can she give up her lifelong dreams of showing her work in galleries and museums?
Rob Caruso, the camp cook and all-around handyman, would be happy to run the camp with Jenny. Dare he even dream of that, when his past holds dark secrets that he can never share? When Jenny’s father reappears after a decade-long absence, only Rob knows where he’s been and what danger he’s brought with him.
Jenny and Rob face midnight break-ins and make desperate escapes, but the biggest danger may come from the secrets that don’t want to stay buried. In the end, they must decide whether their dreams will bring them together or force them apart.
Jenny rose from sleep slowly, her body resisting. She could see nothing in the pitch black. Where was she? She blinked, trying to make sure her eyes were really open.
Memories broke through the fog. The phone call, the rush across country, the late arrival. Crawling into bed in her grandparents’ upstairs guest room. She groaned and pulled up the blanket. Morning must be hours away, given the darkness.
The old house creaked, but no sounds drifted in from outside. Maybe that’s what woke her; she was used to the murmur of city sounds all night long. Who’d have thought that would become normal?
The house creaked again, followed by a rhythmic sound – like footsteps. Jenny jerked upright, her ears straining. Had she heard a voice?
She shook her head. She must still be half asleep, dreaming. Imagining her grandparents were still here. Wishful thinking.
Downstairs, a door closed. Jenny clutched the blanket. Imagination be damned. She was not alone.
For a long moment, she sat frozen. During her ten years in New York City, she had never been burglarized or mugged. It seemed impossible that such a thing should happen now, here, in an off-season art camp five miles outside of Jemez Springs, New Mexico.
Maybe it was someone her grandmother knew. But what were they doing there in the middle of the night? And if they’d come to see Jenny, they should have knocked, rung the bell. Waited for morning. Anyway, who knew she was there?
She had to do something. Jenny rose and eased open the bedroom door, praying she had somehow been mistaken, that everything would make sense if… when…. She couldn’t imagine a benign explanation.
She stood with her ear to the crack and heard a low chuckle, and then a male voice. She couldn’t tell if the laugh and the voice were the same person. Either way, that suggested two or more people, at least one of them male.
Why would a man be laughing in her grandmother’s house, in the middle of the night, two days after her grandmother’s death? No good reason came to mind.
She fumbled for her phone on the bedside stand. But even before she activated the screen, she gave a frustrated grunt. She wouldn’t get reception here. The only place in camp that got cell phone reception was the southeast corner of the parking lot. The landline was downstairs, in the kitchen.
Something crashed in a room below. Jenny jumped and dropped her phone. It hit her thigh, then her foot, and went skittering under the bed with a faint scrape against the wood floor.
A man was swearing downstairs. Hopefully that had covered up any sound she’d made. Jenny clenched her hands to control the trembling. She couldn’t imagine her grandmother being friendly with anyone who swore like that.
She had to get out of the house. She wouldn’t wait upstairs for the burglars, if that’s what they were, to find her. If she could get to her car – damn. Her keys were in her purse, which was downstairs on the living room couch. So she couldn’t drive, but she could still go to the Lodge, break in if she had to. Use the phone in the office, call the police.
Still shaking, Jenny crouched and felt along the floor for her shoes. She was wearing flannel pajama bottoms and a tank top; no need to waste time putting on clothes. She was already cold, but her jacket was downstairs, lying over her purse on the couch. It didn’t matter. She just had to get out.
Jenny slipped from the room and down the hall. She paused at the top of the stairs, which were open to the living room on one side. She had to figure out where the intruders were, so she didn’t walk right into their arms. She stood taut, senses straining.
A screech sounded, maybe a chair leg on tile, and then kitchen cabinets clattered open and closed. The kitchen was as far away as they could get from the front door. But were they both – or all, if there were more than two – back there?
What choice did she have? If they kept going through the house, eventually they would find her. She refused to think about what that might mean. She had to get out.
She crept partway down the stairs, sliding one hand along the banister for balance as she craned her neck to search the room below. Nothing moved in the dim living room, but light spilled down the hallway from the kitchen. She thought she heard two voices back there.
Jenny took a breath and held it. She had to go now.
She ran lightly down the stairs. By the time she hit the bottom, she’d reached full speed. The door was slightly ajar. She wrenched at it and hurled herself through. She swung around the door, pulling it nearly shut behind her to hide the sign of her exit. She had one moment to glance toward the back of the house before the door closed. Nothing but the light showed that something was wrong.
Jenny spun around and took one big step away from the house – and slammed into a hard body.