Hickory Hills #1
Quincy Matthews witnesses her best friend’s murder. To protect her friend’s child, she kidnaps the four-year-old girl and flees to Hickory Hills, a small Southern Illinois town where she spent summer with her grandparents.
She disguises the child and herself. When she meets Ace Edleston a teenage romance is rekindled. Ace suspects that Quincy is keeping secrets and confronts her. Telling Ace about the kidnapping will make him an accessory. Not telling Ace will make him walk away.
As Quinn wrestles with this moral dilemma, the murderer is getting closer. Will he find them, and if he does, how far will Quinn go to keep the child safe?
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Genre: Romantic Suspense
He slid the key into the door. Click. The massive wooden door swung open. He stepped into the dark foyer of his house. Behind him, a gust of March wind swept the door closed.
He held his breath. Tick. Tick. Tick.
The grandfather clock in the foyer struck one. He started. Christine wasn’t expecting him home tonight. She thought her husband had flown to a medical conference in Las Vegas. She had no way of knowing he’d gotten a call.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
A soft glow from the neighbor’s security light spilled through the living room window, illuminating the staircase in front of him. He slipped off his brown wing-tipped shoes and crept up the carpeted stairs. One, two, three. Each step brought him closer.
When he reached the top, he gripped the newel post and looked toward Christine’s bedroom. His pulse quickened. A shaft of light from the open doorway pooled onto the plush carpet. Was Christine awake? Had she heard him sneak into the house?
He took a deep breath, rounded the corner, and stepped into the bedroom. His heart slammed against his chest. In the middle of the sleigh bed was Christine. In her hand was a small caliber gun—pointed directly at him.
Winston swallowed. He’d underestimated her. She wasn’t the weak gosling he’d thought. He hadn’t expected her to have a gun, just as he hadn’t expected her to ask for a divorce. He kept his voice low, not wanting to disturb their daughter, Phoebe, in the bedroom at the end of the hall. “Put the gun down, Christine. I’m not an intruder.”
She didn’t flinch, but her voice trembled. “I’m leaving, Winston. You can’t stop me.”
He stepped forward. “Put the gun down and we’ll talk.”
Her hand shook, and the gun wavered. “Don’t come any closer. We’ve already talked. I told you our marriage was a mistake.”
“A mistake?” He gave a derisive snort. A mistake was what you made when your bank account didn’t balance. A mistake was what you made when you dialed a wrong number. Marriage was not a mistake. “You vowed until death us do part.”
“So you’ve reminded me. That’s why I have a gun. I’m taking Phoebe and leaving.”
“No.” He gritted his teeth to keep from shouting. “Phoebe stays with me.”
Christine’s voice rose. “She’s my daughter.”
He shook his head. “She’s my daughter, too.”
“Not for long. Leave before I count to ten.”
Winston crossed his arms and stood at the corner of the bed.
Christine began counting.
She wouldn’t shoot him. He was certain of that. But on six, his eyes began to blink. On seven, his throat tightened. She was serious. On eight, he dropped to the floor and rolled along the side of the bed. He reached for the cord on the nightstand lamp and yanked it toward him. The ceramic lamp slid across the table and tumbled over the edge. The ruffled shade flew off and the exposed light bulb struck the floor. Winston turned his eyes toward Christine.
Pop. The bulb shattered. A burst of light. Christine blinked against the blinding glare.
Winston pounced. He grabbed the gun, aimed, and pulled the trigger. “Ten.”
He jerked back, stunned by the sound of the gunshot. Enough light filtered through the sheer curtains for him to see Christine’s head twitch and hit the headboard. Her mouth froze in a silent scream. Red blood streamed from her matted hair, spreading onto her white nightgown.
Winston’s body went slack. He dropped the gun and collapsed onto the floor. It wasn’t his fault. She’d bought the gun. She’d threatened to kill him. She’d made him do it.
What if he went to jail? Oh God, who would take care of his precious Phoebe? A burglary. He’d make Christine’s death look like a robbery gone bad.
Was Phoebe still sleeping or had the gunshot awakened her? She was only four years old, and skittish around him. But that would change. Now he was her only parent. Just him.
He rose and shielded his face with his hands to avoid Christine’s accusing eyes. Padding down the hall, he passed the guest bedroom and continued to Phoebe’s room. He opened the door, expecting to see his daughter snuggled beneath the covers.
He stared at the white canopy bed. Empty. Where was Phoebe?