Tragedy will introduce them. A stranger from the past will haunt them. An unknown killer, out for revenge, will unite them...a novel of Southern romance and suspense
B.R. Jones.org -- Suspense, Mystery, & Romance...With a Southern Touch
For Jackson Coley, a wealthy landowner, life in the South is simple and satisfying...until a woman named Kendall shows up. A stranger to his small town, she suffers temporary memory loss after being involved in a horrific accident, then looks to Jackson and his family for refuge. Jackson agrees to take her in, but is ill-prepared when she not only turns his life upside down, but brings him unexpected excitement, desire, and a sensuous longing...as well as a murderer to his door. For he had no idea Kendall was running for her life at the time of her accident...and neither did Kendall...until her memory begins to return in horrifying flashes. But will she remember it all before it's too late to stop the killer lurking in the woods? Desperate to remember everything, Kendall resolves to reconcile her past, but in doing so, she will discover that she is linked to Jackson in a way neither of them ever imagined. All Jackson wants to do is protect her. But when he learns the truth about the woman he's falling in love with, he stands to lose everything...or learn to define those things held sacred in an entirely different way.
He stood before her now, more or less as she remembered him, yet somehow different. He ran a hand through unruly, orange hair and breathed deeply, as if sucking in the energy he would need for what he would do next. His lip curled in a sinister twitch, the lines on his face deepening like bottomless trenches. He moved away from the car and as he took a step toward her, Kendall's body jolted from a surge of fear, rage, self-preservation. She ran then, her long legs pumping determinedly, as she fled toward the stable.
Casey deposited the bags of groceries in the trunk of her car, then walked back to the pay phone at the entrance to Thompson's Grocery & Pharmacy. She glanced at her watch. It was ten forty-five a.m. Jackson should be en route to Athens by now. She retrieved the necessary coins from her purse, slipped them into the metal slots and dialed Jackson's cell phone.
"Yeah!" Jackson answered in a near shout.
"Hey." She drew the word out soothingly, then emitted a light chuckle before adding, "Your world's not coming to an end, Sweetie. Everything will work out, no matter what you find out today, I promise you.We're all here for you."
There was no response from Jackson.The momentary silence stunned Casey.
"Casey?" It came out in a bewildered stutter.
"You okay?" she asked. "You don't sound good at all."
"Am I okay? What about you? How are you? Were you hurt? Are you still at the hospital?"
"Jackson, what in the world are you talking about?"
He paused for a moment, confused. "Casey, where are you?"
"I'm at the pay phone outside the grocery store. I wanted to call you before I headed home. What's going on?"
Suddenly Kendall's voice rang in his mind. 'Tom just left, and I'm following soon in the truck.' Jackson tried to keep his voice calm, but his heart began pounding violently in his chest. "Casey Anne," he choked out breathlessly, "Hang up the phone and call Chief Bullard and tell him to get out to the farm now. Then call Athens General Hospital and leave a message for Tom to get back to the house."
"And don't go back to the house! Stay in town. Go to Chief Bullard's office and stay there until I call you!"
"But, Jackson, I..."
"Just do it! Now!" Jackson clicked the cell phone off and threw it on the front seat beside him. He braked, turned the car sharply to the left and did a one-eighty in the middle of Highway 42. He sped back toward home, praying that he wasn't too late.
As Kendall ran toward the stable, she saw that the huge sliding front doors were closed tight. She realized there would be no time to engage the mechanism to slide them open, slip inside and close them again before he caught up to her. She ran around the side of the large building and reached the small entrance door just seconds ahead of him. She pushed against the wooden door with her palms and barreled inside, then turned in one swift movement and slid the bolt shut. She could hear him cursing and bellowing on the other side of the door as he shoved his body against it repeatedly. She wasted no time in racing to check the front entrance. As she ran toward the electronic box beside the large sliding doors, her mind screamed, 'the code, ten-two-three, no, ten-three-two, God, what's the code!'
She nearly collapsed in relief when she saw that the red light was lit on the metal box, insuring her that the mechanism had already been coded and the doors were locked. The thought rushed through her brain at how odd it was that the front entrance was secure. Jackson normally left it coded open during the day. He must have begun locking it after hearing of the threat of a stranger lurking about. In spite of her protestations that extra precautions weren't necessary, she thought, God bless him for his vigilance. She spun around and darted toward the rear of the building, running past the stalls, the horses moving about in various degrees of agitation, some sensing alarm more than others. She reached the rear side entrance that opened into the corral and was once again relieved to see that it was locked, as well.
She heard him then at the front entrance, pounding and rattling the large sliding doors. It would do him no good. It would take much more strength than a mere man possessed to break open the massive electronic doors. But she had no time to rest, no reason to fancy feeling secure. If he was so disposed, he could break down the small door through which she'd entered. He'd obviously checked all the entrances by now and it wouldn't take him long to figure out which opening held the better chance for access into the stable.
Kendall looked around the stable, turning in a frenzy, her head whipping about, searching for a weapon, a hiding place, anything. She dismally conceded that a hiding place would do her no good. He would surely gain entrance into the stable eventually, find her and kill her long before anyone returned home. Her time was running out. Maybe she could find something in the tack room that would serve as some sort of weapon. She was momentarily distracted by the sound of cracking wood and was alarmed to see that it was Sam, almost frenetic in his determination to escape his stall. He whinnied and shook his head back and forth, his massive body convulsing in tremors as it pounded against the wooden gate.
"Easy, boy," she called to him. "You'll hurt yourself."
The idea struck her then and she wondered why she hadn't thought of it before. She ran to the tack room, retrieved a blanket, saddle and bridle and lugged the heavy gear back toward Sam's stall, moving as fast as she could under the weight. She could hear him now at the side entry, whacking away at it. She didn't know what he was using to pound at the small door, but it emitted a dense, thudding sound as it made contact. Kendall quickly put the bridle on Sam, then threw the blanket over his back.
As she leaned down to lift the heavy saddle, she heard a splintering sound at the small door.
God, she was running out of time.