Chapter One
When I think about Delaney, I think about Dillan.
Three pounds, two ounces. The delivery nurse held her out to me in the palm of her hand, like a baby bird in its mother’s nest. And right on cue, my tiny fowl had opened her eyes and mouth, changing my life forever.
She’s alive. Delaney is going to live, I’d thought. But in those beady black eyes, those chirpy pink lips…I still saw the son who didn’t make it: Dillan.
There’s Delaney, but no Dillan. A painful dichotomy of intense love and exceptional grief arose, gave birth to me that day.
“Only one twin survived.” The doctor was soft-spoken and honey blonde; I’ll never forget the contours of her face. And those words…her words would haunt me for the next fifteen years, probably longer. There was a name for my tragedy: twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. In layman’s terms, she had described it as one twin donating blood to the other. But the way she described it was almost morbid—one twin sucking up all the nutrients, sucking the life right out of its roommate…
My beautiful Delaney was head-strong and iron-willed, and it didn’t surprise me that she was the stronger of the two.
So, when I woke up to find my fifteen-year-old daughter standing over me, her eyes like shiny black marbles glowing in the moonlit shadows of my room, the first thing I thought about was Dillan.
Even now, Dillan is still one of my first thoughts each morning. I wonder what he would have looked like, as a teenager. Maybe just like Delaney, with black feathery hair and deep brown eyes. If you take away the lashes, and the girlish curve of her jaw…I could almost see what my son would have been…
“Mom!” Delaney hissed, tugging the blankets from my chest. It’s the hiss that did it—a warning sign, that Delaney’s about to scream, or in the very least, get angry and throw a few things.
“W-What is it, honey? What time is it?”
My eyes fought to stay open, my contact lenses that I wasn’t supposed to sleep in at night, sticking to the backs of my eyelids.
Delaney’s standing up straight now, her skin so pasty and pale that it was almost translucent in the low-lit room. She had this funny look on her face.
I know that look.
Not anger, which was her go-to emotion these days…not sadness, which was probably the runner-up…no, not either of those.
Delaney is scared. I realized with a start and sat up, too fast, my head swimming as I reached for her.
“What’s wrong, Laney?”
But Delaney’s eyes refused to meet mine; they were trained on something else beside me…
“There’s a stranger in your bed,” her words like shivery little whispers in the dark.
My scalp prickled with fear and I leapt from the bed, nearly knocking her backwards. I stared at the shape of a man. He was lying on the usually empty side of my bed.
He had long legs, so long they were hanging over the end of the bed. Hairy toes poked out from beneath the blankets.
I took a small step closer, holding my breath.
He was buried beneath the sheets, except his gangly toes and a few blond pokes of hair pricking out from the top…
My brain tried to play catch up with what my eyes were seeing, but Delaney cut in: “Who the hell is he?” She took the words straight out of my mouth.
No longer was she that scared little girl I remembered from her youth…she had transitioned back into her usual mood: angry at times, and don’t-give-a-fuck mostly.
“I have no idea, Laney.”
It wasn’t a lie, not exactly. I had no recollection of inviting anyone over, but it wasn’t the first strange man I’d had in my bed this month…
“Nice, Mom. Real nice,” Delaney groaned.
My mind raced, thoughts trickling back to the last thing I remembered…I’d been online again, that stupid dating site. I hadn’t wanted a profile in the first place, but Pam and Jerry, my two friends from work, had set the whole thing up for me.
Did I invite one of the guys I met online to come over to the house last night? Was I drinking again…is that why I can’t remember?
Suddenly, it was starting to make sense—I rarely drank alcohol, not until recently, and not since my early twenties. If I’d had a few beers last night, or even a little wine, then maybe…maybe I had blacked out completely.
But a quick scan of the room revealed no empty cans or bottles. No evidence that I’d been drinking at all.
How could I be so irresponsible? What the hell was I thinking, inviting a man over with my teenage daughter across the hall?
“Go back to bed. I’ll wake him up and ask him to leave.”
When Delaney didn’t budge, I raised my voice a few octaves: “You have school in the morning. Now, go!”
The hurt expression on her face came and went so quickly, I almost wondered if I’d imagined it. A flutter of guilt rose up. Delaney wasn’t a child anymore; I often had to remind myself of that. I shouldn’t scold her so harshly; rather, I should try to talk to her like an equal, I thought, regretfully.
“Screw you,” she huffed, then turned and marched out of the room. The door to my bedroom slammed bitterly behind her.
My eyes drifted back to the lumpy man. I’d been expecting him to wake up after Laney’s outburst, but still, he was sleeping peacefully.
In the silence of my bedroom, I crept over to the window and sat down on my favorite reading bench that overlooked our suburban street. My head felt groggy and strange, and I waited for the details of last night to come into focus…
I pressed my head against the windowpane and sighed. It was almost morning, the dark mountain ridges in the distance tipped with dusty browns and burgundy reds.
How long has it been since I watched the sun rise?
When Delaney was young, she’d loved the outdoors. But I had still been with her father then, Michael. Most of my memories of her early years were corrupted by memories of fights with Michael and sleepless nights as I grieved over Dillan.
Here’s the thing: when you bring a baby home from the hospital, you’re supposed to be happy. “It’s a miracle that even one of the twins survived,” the doctor had told me. “At least you have Delaney,” my friends had told me.
But having a beautiful baby girl didn’t make me any less sad about the son I’d lost. The room with blue borders I’d never use, the drawers of blankets and the onesies I’d picked out specifically for him…they were all still waiting for me when I came back home from the hospital. Some things couldn’t be forgotten, even if I did love Delaney with all my heart.
Michael left us when Delaney was five. Unfortunately, he didn’t go far.
Less than two miles from here, he lived with his new wife, Samantha, and baby sons, Braxton and Brock, in a Victorian mansion they had restored. Delaney had a room there—she loved that room—and she visited them every weekend.
Apparently, Michael’s not verbally abusive with his new family, and he gave up drinking years ago…how convenient for them.
The drinking and the dating…I’d only started that recently, with the nudging insistence of my two best friends. It seemed good for me—healthy, even—but incidents like this couldn’t happen. Meeting up with strange men, bringing them to my home…not a good example for Delaney. And probably not safe either.
I had no recollection of what happened last night, or who this strange man was. This went way beyond normal socializing…I’d obviously blacked out completely.
I moved to another window, this one front-facing, and peered out through the blinds at the street in front of our house.
My Dodge minivan was parked at the curb, crooked as usual. But tonight, there was a navy-blue Camaro parked behind it, and I knew it didn’t belong to my neighbor. It has to be his, I thought, glancing back at the hairy set of toes.
Well, at least this mystery man drives a nice car. I’ve dated worse…
If only I could remember who he was or what we did last night…
“Excuse me.” I tiptoed over to the bed.
I poked his shoulder area, and when he didn’t budge, I pushed the blankets away from his face. His face was smooth, eyes closed. He looked downright peaceful. Damn, I wish I slept that soundly.
“I need you to go. I don’t mean to be rude, but I think I had too much to drink last night. I don’t usually let guys stay overnight. And my daughter…well, she has school in the morning. So, can you please head home?”
But the strange man didn’t respond. No breathy snores, not even a slight twitch. No movement, whatsoever…
“Excuse me!” I knew I was being a bitch, but I didn’t care. My daughter had just discovered a strange man in my bed. My daughter who was already having enough troubles lately…
Since joining the dating site, I’d invited a couple men over, but only when Delaney was at her dad’s. Inviting a stranger from the internet to my house on a school night while Delaney was home…well, that was totally out of character for me.
But lately, I hadn’t been acting like myself at all.
I need this man out of my bed…right now.
I placed both hands on his chest and gave him a sturdy shake. “Wake up, please.”
When he still didn’t react, I grew frustrated. Gripping the plain white sheet in my left fist, I tugged it the rest of the way off.
I leapt back from the bed, shaky hands covering my mouth and nose.
The mystery man was completely naked, but that wasn’t the shocking part. It was the dark purple stain in the center of his abdomen.
And beneath him…
“Oh. Oh…” The floor beneath my feet became watery and strange, the walls spinning like a tilt-o-whirl. My backside made sharp contact with the dresser behind me and a picture fell to the floor with a sickening thud.
Holding my mouth so I wouldn’t scream and alert Delaney, I tiptoed like a demented ballerina, back over to the edge of the bed.
I pulled on the light string, lighting up the room to see him better.
I bit down on my fingers, muffling the terror that threatened to burst from within me…
The stranger’s face looked peaceful enough. Eyes and mouth closed. His hands flat at his sides. But he was rigid, too rigid…almost like he was laying inside a casket instead of my bed.
It might as well be a casket…because he’s dead as fuck, I realized in horror.
I bit down harder, my body trembling in fear.
I moved in as close as I dared, nervously studying his wound. It was a hole above his belly button, jagged and red, with a dry purple stain blooming out like a flower around it. Dry streaks of blood stained both sides of his waist from where he’d bled out in the bed beside me.
The sheet beneath him was stained dark red with blood, so red it was almost purple.
So much blood! It had probably soaked all the way through the mattress and box springs.
There was blood on my side too.
Realization sinking in, I looked down at my own blue nightdress.
No way would I have let a man see me in this old, worn-out gown. So, why am I wearing it? Nothing about this makes sense.
How the hell did he get here? And who the fuck is he?!
Tentatively, I dabbed at a big, crusty stain on the side of my gown. The color of the gown was too dark to tell, but I knew without a doubt it was blood.
His blood.
He was bleeding in the bed beside me…and I had no idea.
Vomit tickled the back of my throat, hot and acrid.
How the hell did he get here in the first place?
And, most importantly, how did he wind up dead?

Chapter Two
Delaney had no idea that there was a dead man in my bed—not just dead, murdered. I’d changed my clothes, locked my bedroom door behind me, and gone to the bathroom to take a quick shower.
And when Delaney woke up at seven am for school, I was standing in the kitchen with a cup of coffee in my hands, a bowl of oatmeal and a glass of orange juice sitting on the table for her.
Most mornings were chaotic, me getting ready for work, both of us rushing out the door at the same time. But everything about today was different…I have a feeling life will be very different from now on.
“I take it you’re not going to work?” Delaney said, shuffling into the kitchen. She had on a thick black hoodie and fashionably ripped jeans, even though it was supposed to be a warm day for Fall. I fought the impulse to ask her to go change. She wasn’t ten anymore—I couldn’t pick out her clothing, as much as I would have liked to.
“I’m going in late today because I have an important meeting in the afternoon. So, my schedule is a little different.” The lie flowed from my tongue like honey.
I wasn’t scheduled to work late; in fact, I’d left a shaky message for my boss telling him I had a stomach virus. Which isn’t completely a lie—finding a murdered man in your bed does have the tendency to make you a little queasy…
But I’d already missed a couple days recently; not only could I not afford another day off, but my job could be on the line.
“Right. So, ya gonna tell me who he is, or not?” Delaney demanded, globs of oatmeal swishing around her mouth as she talked. She lifted her cup of juice to her stained red lips, glanced down into the cup with a look of disgust, then slammed it back down.
I wonder what they serve for breakfast at Michael’s house, I thought, drearily. Probably crepes, chocolate-chip waffles…made from scratch by Wife #2, of course.
I took a seat in the chair across from her. “He’s just a friend, honey.”
My voice was so calm, so smooth…I almost didn’t recognize it.
“What the fuck ever.” Delaney pushed the chair back with a caw-like screech, and I winced.
“Please don’t talk to me that way. I’m a grown woman and I’m allowed to date if I want to. Your father has certainly moved on.”
Instantly, I regretted bringing Michael and Samantha into this.
Delaney left the kitchen, without another word.
I heard the jangling of her backpack slipping over her shoulders in the hall, and seconds later, the screen door thumped shut behind her. There were days when the closest I came to understanding my daughter was trying to interpret the shuffle of her feet and the velocity in which she closed her bedroom door.
I remained at the table, clutching my cup of coffee. I heard the squeaky air brakes of the bus pulling up outside. I closed my eyes, waiting for the bus to get all the way to the end of the road, before I moved.
When I couldn’t hear it anymore, I stood up.
Finally, I could allow myself to be shaky and afraid.
How could I be so stupid? And what am I going to do?
Obviously, I hadn’t killed the man. I didn’t have a violent bone in my body. But that hasn’t always been the case, has it? I scolded myself.
Is it possible? Could I have blacked out and hurt someone?
But that red-rose hole in his stomach…it looked like a knife wound, a deep one that took a lot of strength. And anger.
I shuddered.
And if he was mentally unstable, why would he choose to take his own life in a strange woman’s bed after sex, and why would he do it that way…?
And I hadn’t seen a weapon…if he’d done it to himself, there would be a weapon…
“Holy shit. What am I going to do?” I said aloud, the fear in my voice finally matching the terror inside me.
I carried the mug over to the kitchen sink and washed it, nearly dropping it a dozen times. Out the window above the sink, I could see my neighbor, Fran, in the street. She was fetching her mail, one arm in a cast. I waved but she didn’t see me.
She had stopped, mail-in-hand, and she was staring at something. I followed her line of sight…she was looking at the sporty blue car parked behind mine. She turned her head and looked straight at me, eyes narrowing.
“Shit, shit, shit…”
I waited for her to turn around with her mail and wobble back inside her own house.
The house was eerily quiet with Delaney gone, almost like a mausoleum. I wasn’t used to being here during the day, and it felt wrong somehow, seeing the early morning shadows reflecting off the dusty bookshelves and cheap Ikea furniture.
Well, I guess it kind of is like a crypt, considering there’s a dead man locked up in my bedroom…
Every time I closed my eyes…each blink, each second…I could see his moon-white face, the rosy red stain on his abdomen…the congealed blood staining my mattress and sheets.
My phone buzzed in my pocket, startling me more than it should have. I yelped, then took it out, hands quivering as I opened a new text message.
I was expecting a reply from my boss. I’d left a hoarse, whispery message for him, thankful at the time that he hadn’t answered. But sooner or later, I’d have to talk to him…
But the message was from Delaney.
You know what? I think I’ll stay at dad’s again tonight. Sam and I are going to finish the library mural. Plus, this will give you and your new friend more time together!
I could imagine her glaring out the bus window, jaw flexing in anger, her phone clutched like a weapon in her hand. Was she being nice or sarcastic? Definitely the latter, I decided.
Every single word like a dagger…and I had no doubt that was her intention. She’d been angry with me every day for the past year; sometimes for a reason, but mostly for none. Teenagers are supposed to be angry, right? I had just assumed this was normal, a part of the growing process…but I was wrong about that. Delaney was going through a lot more than the average teen.
It was a weekday—not her dad’s night to take her. Would she explain to him why she wanted to stay with him again? What will he think about the man in my bed…?
And every time she called her stepmom Sam, I tasted bile in the back of my throat.
But none of this really matters right now, does it? Because I have a bigger crisis to tend to.
I knew Delaney was expecting a big reaction, for me to put up a fight…
OK, honey. Have fun, I typed back. I almost considered writing, Send Sam my love, but I knew Delaney would see right through it. She gets her snarky humor from me, I guess.
For a split second, I could almost believe it was a normal Tuesday…dealing with Delaney’s attitude and my own bitterness over Michael…but nothing about this day was normal: a murdered man was in my room. In my bed.
Slowly, I made my way down the short, skinny hallway, breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. I stopped in front of the bathroom door. On my tiptoes, my fingers reached from the slim, gold key that I kept on the ledge of the door frame; a master key to all the rooms in the house.
I gripped the key so tight in my right palm that it burned.
Finally, I used it to unlock my bedroom door and I stepped inside.
There was a part of me, a silly, stupid part, that hoped—prayed—that the body in my bed would no longer be there.
But in the light of day, the strange man still looked dead as ever.
I locked the door behind me even though I was home alone, and, noiselessly, I crept over to the bed. The sheets were hanging halfway off from where I’d tugged on them earlier. I went ahead and pulled them completely away from the bed and laid them in a crumpled pile by the door.
Shaking, I could barely breathe as I approached the naked man.
Who are you? How did you get in my bed? And most importantly, who stabbed you?
His face was wrinkle-free and hairless…he can’t be much older than thirty, I realized, finally getting a real good look at him in the light of the day.
There was no jewelry on his body. No wedding ring on his finger. His fingernails and toenails neatly trimmed, like someone who took care of himself. But, then again, not someone who would necessarily stand out from the crowd…his hair was sandy brown, his face plain, his body average…
This man is a complete stranger to me. I’ve never seen him before, not a day in my life…not on the dating site, nowhere…
I’d been talking regularly to a few men online, but this guy wasn’t one of them. New potential matches messaged daily, but I wouldn’t have invited him over without at least getting to know him a little bit, would I? But then I remembered the last guy I’d had over…I hadn’t known him well either.
All the men I’d talked to and dated over the last month came rushing back all at once. Their faces merely profile pictures, flipping one-by-one in my mind…
Swipe swipe swipe.
And why don’t I remember what happened last night?
I forced myself to move closer, to study the features of his face…
Nearly two hours had passed since Delaney had shook me awake. In that short span of time, the man’s body had turned even stiffer. His eyes were still closed but his lips were parted. For a moment, I waited—expecting those lips to move, to tell me: it’s all a dream, go back to bed silly…
But nothing happened.
I should call the cops. But why hadn’t I called them already?
Because it almost seems too late to do that now, a voice inside me warned.
I imagined me telling the police the truth: I was scared. Freaked out. I didn’t know what to do. So, I waited until my daughter left for school before I called you.
No, officers, I have no idea who he is…no, I don’t remember how he got here. Of course I didn’t kill him! I imagined myself saying.
I couldn’t call them until I could explain how he got here…and until I could describe what transpired last night before he ended up in my bed and ended up…dead.
But that wasn’t the only reason for my hesitation. Michael. If he found out about this, if he found out the truth about me…he would try to take Delaney away from me, permanently. He’d been doing it for years now…wearing the face of a dutiful father whenever she was around, then morphing into his old self alone with me. Nothing about the man had changed, but according to his new wife, he was perfect.
Perfect, my ass…
He wanted Delaney all to himself…that way he could have his whole, perfect family and erase me from existence completely. If he found out about this, about all of it…well, he’d probably try to get full custody for sure. Not probably—he would. I know he would.
And the scary part…I don’t even know if Delaney would mind.
Sure, we had our good days. But what about all the bad? Over the last two weeks, she’d spent more time with her other family than me…
I imagined the cops cuffing me and carting me off to jail, Delaney sneering from the driveway, Michael smiling victoriously. And Wife #2 beside him, with her plaster perfect smile, waving me off as they took me away…
I scurried around the room, diverting my eyes from the dead man, searching for his clothes or wallet. Something to help identify him.
I may not remember what happened, but I know I must have met him online.
A pair of dark brown chinos and a flimsy old flannel lay messily on the floor beside my dresser. No underwear. No shoes…? That doesn’t make much sense.
I dug through the pockets of his chinos—no keys either. And no wallet. This is insane! Did I pick up a homeless man off the street, or what?
But then I remembered the navy-blue Camaro sitting outside my house. It had to belong to him. There was no one else around it could belong to.
Rubbing my cheeks, panic surged through my veins as I tried to trace my way back in my mind…
Did he drug me? Is that why I don’t remember? My head did feel groggy and strange, although that could be from a hangover…
And if a stranger had showed up and tried to rape me, I would have tried to defend myself. I didn’t have any wounds on my hands, or the rest of my body.
And if it had been consensual sex…well, I know how my body feels after sex.
I wasn’t sore or achy. I didn’t feel violated or injured in anyway. In fact, I didn’t feel like I’d had sex at all. And the old gown I’d had on when I woke up…it was the least sexy thing I owned. I couldn’t see myself putting that ratty old thing on for anyone, much less a man I’d invited over for the first time and planned to sleep with…
I carried the man’s clothes over to the pile of bedding and, shakily, dropped them to the floor. I scooped up a pair of my own jeans and a t-shirt—I wore these yesterday, I remembered. The last thing I remember…I remembered fighting with Delaney.
But what happened after we fought?
She slammed her bedroom door the way she usually does, I recalled.
Then I folded laundry and made dinner…I yelled for her to come out of her room. And by the time she did, the chicken was cold. We barely ate or talked. Another silent war between us, which was all too typical for us these days…a constant battle, and one I lost more days than most.
She’d been texting furiously while she sat at the table and when I asked her who she was chatting with, she’d said, “My father”, with such viciousness it had made my blood run cold.
And after dinner…she’d gone back to her room and I’d gone back to mine, I remembered. On school nights, we usually went to bed early, around ten or eleven or so…
But I didn’t go straight to bed last night, I remembered. I’d got online. Checked my dating profile for new messages…it was a great way to escape, and for the first time in years, I’d started feeling attractive—wanted—again.
I do remember getting on the site last night. But what happened after…?
I spotted a pair of purple panties—my panties—on the floor by my side of the bed. I hated to get close to the dead guy again, but I went over to retrieve them anyway.
I gripped the underwear in a ball in my hand and forced myself to get down on my knees on the floor.
I have to check under the bed. But what if there’s a knife under there? What if it’s covered in blood…?
There’s no such thing as monsters under the bed, I could remember saying that to Delaney countless times when she was little.
When she still needed her mother. When she still looked up to me and thought my word was gold.
Trembling, I crouched on the floor beside the bed and pressed my face to the matted carpet.
Monsters under the bed…why does that age-old fear never fully disappear with time…
I squinted into the dark, narrow gap between my bed and the floor.
I gasped and stumbled back as I came face to face with not the murder weapon…but another corpse.
Only this one wasn’t a stranger.


Like Follow Kill: 99 cent ebook

Posted: December 17, 2019 in Uncategorized

Like Follow Kill is only 99 pennies for a limited time!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ ‘One word of advice when reading this book—trust no one’ – Wendy Heard, author of Hunting Annabelle and Kill Club.

Badly scarred after the accident that killed her husband, Camilla Brown locks herself away from the world.  Her only friendships are online, where everyone lives picture-perfect lives. 

In private Camilla can follow anyone she likes. And Camilla likes a lot.

Especially her old school friend Valerie Hutchens.  Camilla is obsessed with Valerie’s posts, her sickening joy for life, her horribly beautiful face.  But then Camilla spots something strange in one of Valerie’s posts – a man’s face looking through her window, watching, waiting…

And then Valerie goes missing…

Like Follow Kill – An Excerpt

Posted: October 16, 2019 in Uncategorized




I was born with a scream inside me. Lodged between my heart and throat. Can’t swallow it; can’t choke it down. Can’t spit that motherfucker out. It’s stuck, like me … anchored to the in between, slowly rotting in the core of me. It festers like a sore, oozing through my bloodstream, sending seeping shocks of silent fury to every nerve ending in my body. Like an IV, it drip, drip, drips, but there’s never a release. One of these days, I’ll open my mouth and the world will rumble from the roar.


My body is broken. Arms like dying, desperate fish, they flop on the seat beside me. Hips yanked from their sockets. Red-rose gashes on my chest and neck. A deep dark hole where my nose once was. And my teeth … these teeth don’t belong to me. Like broken eggshells, they stab the roof of my mouth, pricking my cheek and gums. Are they Chris’s teeth? If so, how did Chris’s pearly white, now-broken teeth end up in my mouth? Did I kiss him? No, not a kiss. I can’t remember the last time I kissed him … but I can taste his blood in my mouth. Chris with the cocoa-colored eyes and hair like silk on my skin. Chris with the lips, soft as falling feathers on a windy day … Chris: the love of my life. Chris: who is dead. One minute we were laughing … or were we shouting? Discussing our plans for the day … although now I’ve forgotten what those plans were. And the next … the next … we’re upside-down, strapped in our seats like a rollercoaster, only we can’t get off, we’re stuck, suspended in mid-air. The roof of my Buick becomes the sky. I’m mesmerized as it swirls like one of those psychedelic spinning tunnels, like they have at the county fair. Oh, the fair. That’s where we were going, weren’t we? Chris promised me a deep-fried Snickers bar. And I promised him I’d stay sober. Chris: The Love Of My Life and Chris: The Headless Man On The Seat Beside Me are one and the same. This is my fault. Chris is dead. I did this. I. Did. This. *** I stopped answering my phone months ago, but that didn’t stop my sister from calling. Every day, at five past noon—a phantom phone call, followed by a buzzing barrage of texts. Hannah is calling … read my phone screen. But Hannah was always calling. And I, her less attractive, less successful, less stable sister, was always ignoring those calls. As predicted, the texts came next:

Hannah: How are you today? Want to go out to lunch? Need me to stop by? Translation: Are you alive? When are you going to do normal things again? Don’t tell me I need to come over there and drag you out of bed again. Me: Busy. Can’t. No. My sister is more than my sister. She practically raised me after the death of our mother. I would love nothing more than to answer her calls, to have her beside me—but not this version of her. Not the sister that tiptoes around me like I’m a melting chunk of ice in the center of a deep, black sea. I’m a sinking ship she wants to save … but she’s too afraid to come aboard. Because, deep down, she knows I’ll suck her into the murky black hole, too, just like I did with Chris. Wiggling my jaw, I tried to ease the phantom tooth pains as I pulled myself out of my twin sized bed. The sheets and comforter lay tangled at my feet. Angry red numbers blinked at me from the clock on my bedside table. It was 12:30 in the afternoon, the time when most normal people were working. Everything hurt: my arms, legs, chest, and back. My teeth. Traces of the dream still lingered and would stay there for most of the day, the way they always did. My nightstand was covered in pill bottles. I twisted the caps off, one by one, and swiped out two pills of each. Pain pills. Anxiety meds. Leftover antibiotics. Another med to counter the side-effects of the first two. I washed them down with an ashy can of Mountain Dew. Grimaced. Every night, the same thing: the car accident reenacted, but the details were always fuzzy, always evolving … whether the actual memories of that night were becoming lucid or more convoluted, was unclear. I just wish they’d go away. Period. It’s not that I don’t want to think about Chris. I miss him … I love him … but I can’t. I can’t let myself go back to that place. I’m Hannah’s sinking ship, and Chris … well, Chris is mine. No, dear husband, I will not come aboard. Because if I do, if I let myself go there … that ship will suck me down, down, down, and never let me loose. During my wakeful hours, I’d become an expert at burying my feelings. But these dreams— these warped flashbacks of the accident—were trying to remedy that all on their own. I could push away the memories and the horrors while I was awake, but when I closed my eyes … the dreaming side of myself took control. That side of myself wouldn’t allow me to forget, no matter how much I wanted to. Maybe it’s payback for what I did. Karma. What goes around comes around—isn’t that how the saying goes? For the rest of my life, will I have to relive those awful, ticking moments in that crushed-up Buick? Of all the things about me that needed fixing, the sleep/dream issue was my priority. But my doctor wouldn’t prescribe sleep medication, or any other downers. They didn’t mix well with my other meds. I want to be reassembled. Scrapped for parts. My memories wiped clean. I padded down the hallway to the bathroom, leaving my buzzing phone behind. Without turning on the bathroom light, I began my lonely morning ritual in the dark—brushing my teeth,

gargling mouthwash, combing the knots from my hair. The dream snaked its way back into my brain while I brushed. Cringing, I recalled the gummy taste of my own teeth. The teeth that I had initially—and strangely—believed to be my husband’s teeth. I can still taste blood in my mouth. But whose blood is it? It’s like sucking on a battery dipped in sugar. Taking a deep breath, I flicked the light switch on before giving myself a chance to change my mind. My toothbrush fell from my mouth, bouncing in the sink, as I studied my reflection in the bathroom mirror. No matter how many times I saw my face, I’d never get used to it now. I look worse than the last time I checked. It looked like someone was pinching my nose, the bridge a hard knot in the center of my face, the nostrils squished flat on both sides. The plastic surgeon had done the best possible job. There’s only so much we can do, Camilla … The skin on my nose was darker, which made sense—it didn’t belong to me. Ten surgeries and counting. So far—two to “repair” my nose using someone else’s skin and cartilage, four to fix my broken teeth with mostly false ones, and another four to fix my legs. My hips hadn’t been pulled from their sockets, but it sure had felt that way at the time. But both legs had been broken, one worse than the other, and now two metal rods and countless screws resided inside me, extending from my shin bones all the way to the top of my thighs. My wrist had been sprained. My elbow shattered. My heart smashed to bits. I was beautiful once. Chris used to say so. Until my reckless driving had led us to the backend of a flatbed truck. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to hear the gravelly shake of his voice … to see that one eyebrow flexing playfully as he tucked my always-messy brown hair behind my ears … You’re the most beautiful girl I ever did see: his words. We hadn’t been upside down either, like the dream implied—another figment of my twisty reinterpretation of what actually happened that night. The car was crushed beneath the semi’s trailer, my whole world spinning like a top because that’s what happens when you have a concussion. A big chunk of my nose was severed by windshield glass. And Chris … he’d lost more than his nose. His death was horrific. He didn’t deserve to die that way. Splashing icy cold water on my face, I forced myself not to think of him. Deep down, I knew that if I gave in to that craving … to think about Chris, to go back in my mind to how things used to be … that it would become an obsession. If I think too long and hard about Chris, I may never stop. The anxiety pills helped with the flashbacks while I was awake. It’s like there’s this version of me, living inside my head, and once the meds kick in, I can hear her in the corner, her voice murky and low … she’s scared, she’s worried, she’s ashamed … but then the pills flood my bloodstream and her voice gets drowned out completely. I imagine her in there somewhere, floating in the lazy river of my bloodstream, wondering when I’ll let her back out. The numbness never lasts—drugs help, but they can’t alleviate my misery. They can’t cure loneliness, either. Sometimes that girl drifts so far downstream, I don’t think I’ll ever reach her again … I flipped the light switch back off, the sudden change in lighting causing a sharp twinge in my right temple. The head pains often came and went so quickly, almost like they were a figment of

my imagination. I liked leaving every light in the house off and the shutters closed until darkness came, and I was forced to illuminate myself and my surroundings. But one light in the house was always shining—the glare from my laptop computer. It beckoned me from my desktop in the living room. Now, here is an addiction I can handle, and sometimes, control. I turned on the coffee pot in the kitchen then sat down in front of my computer, a rushing wave of relief rolling through me. This was my life now—the internet, my only window to the outside world. Lucky for me, it’s a pretty large window. A lonely window, but a window, nevertheless … “I wonder where we’re going today?” I refreshed my browser from where it had frozen last night, and Valerie Hutchens’ shiny face blossomed like a milky-white flower across my home screen. _TheWorldIsMine_26 had over 2,000 posts and nearly 10,000 followers, and like Valerie herself, the Instagram account was growing and improving daily. “Where are you now, Valerie?” I clicked on her newest Instagram story. Branson, Missouri. Straddling this world and the next. #livingmybestlife, her caption told me. Valerie’s hair was different today—her sunny blonde bob had skinny curtains of pale pink on either side of her face. Maroon lips. Kohl-rimmed eyes. A body that was neither fat nor walking stick thin, just perfect. Valerie Hutchens is perfect. In this latest story, she was straddling two train rails, arms spread wide in a V. Her palms were open, fingertips reaching for the sky. Dusty sunlight shimmered through her pale white dress. She had on brown leather boots—the boots she’d bought in Texas three weeks ago, I remembered—so tall they almost reached the hem of her dress. I could feel the goosebump-inducing burn of the sun on the back of her arms and legs. She was looking at something overhead, something no one else could see … It’s like she doesn’t care if we’re watching. Like she’s simply living out loud, while the rest of us sit here in awe of her, just like we did back then. But technically, that wasn’t true. If Valerie didn’t care what people thought, she wouldn’t be posting about her travels all day and all night on social media, I reminded myself. But still, I didn’t really believe that either. Valerie operated on her own agenda, independent of everyone else—she always has. I liked her post—I always do—then I flicked the screen off. Next, I forced myself to go shower and make some lunch. My addiction to Valerie had become so great that I was restricting myself to one check per hour. And believe me, an hour was generous. *** Lunch was a sizzling plate of chicken fajitas and spicy black beans. The best fajita in the whole world lives right here in Branson #nomnom, according to Valerie. It did look tasty—the juicy strips of meat and plump toppings spread out on an iron skillet billowing with steam.

She had changed her clothes since this afternoon. In a dark back booth, she wore a low-lit smile, in what appeared to be a mostly empty restaurant. She posed for the camera in a lacy black shawl that slipped from her shoulders. If I maximized the screen, I could almost see the constellation of freckles on her right shoulder … four dots in the shape of a diamond, with a few little dots forming a tail, almost like a Valerie version of the Little Dipper on her skin. Her smudgy black makeup from this afternoon was gone, replaced with pale-pink shadow on her lids, no trace of concealer. Lovingly, Valerie stared down at her plate of fajitas and beans. Her beauty was inspiring, but also a constant reminder of my own ugliness. My own isolation … I can’t remember the last time I ate Mexican. Or ate out anywhere for that matter, I thought, slowly chewing my limp cheese-and-mayonnaise sandwich. The cheese had expired two days ago, the edges of the slice slightly stiff. Chewing, I tried not to taste it. My cherry-oak computer desk was littered with soda cans and leftover plates from last night’s snacking-while-stalking session. What a mess. Valerie makes me feel like a total slob. At the same time, I can’t stop watching … My incision sites on my legs were sore but manageable; the headaches were painful but short lived. The damage to my face was mostly about vanity … The accident had changed me, and the damage was done. But it wasn’t so much damage that I couldn’t get around, or walk, or even drive for that matter. I had to be careful about driving because of my medication, but the doctor had cleared me anyway, much to my dismay. Ten weeks of physical therapy and now my therapist was encouraging me to get out and move more. I can leave this apartment. I can clean up after myself. I’m capable of so much more … But the truth was … I didn’t want to leave. I wasn’t ready to face the world, or more specifically, the people in town who knew about the accident. The accident that I caused. I slammed my fists down on the desk on either side of the keyboard, rattling half-empty cans and spilling the contents of a dusty old pencil-holder. Focus. Focus on what she’s doing. Valerie’s newly dyed hair was pulled up into a sloppy ponytail, loose strands of petal pink curling around her face and neck. I’ll never forget the first time I saw her. Valerie wasn’t local; not one of those kids you’d known since grade school, wiping boogers on the back of your seat in first grade, then sporting a Wonderbra in seventh. We didn’t know anything about this new girl, not really … She came from … where was it? Arizona, I think. Her parents were either dead or deadbeats; she’d moved in with her aunt. She was the ‘new girl’. But to us, it was like she’d stepped off another planet and crashed into our hemisphere without any warning. And without an invitation. Two weeks into seventh grade—my first year as a middle-schooler at Harmony—the alien showed up at our morning assembly. I was proud of how I looked that year. My breasts had developed into tiny buds that weren’t much, but they made me feel good, and I’d worked all summer, doing odd jobs, mostly babysitting, in order to buy six new outfits for school. Designer jeans. Fancy flannel button-ups (they were reversible!). A couple name-brand hoodies. A pair of

painfully stiff Doc Martens. White, no-show socks and panties with designs on them that weren’t cartoons. Every morning, I spent no less than an hour making my hair and makeup as flawless as they could possibly get. The only girls I envied were the few who did it better than me—some girls had better clothes, or they didn’t have to wear a repeat outfit on week two. Some of the girls had a knack for hair and makeup. I envied some, but not many. I felt good in my skin … well, I thought I did. But then the alien showed up, posing as a girl named Valerie Hutchens. When she walked into our morning assembly, the envy I felt was instantaneous. It consumed me … But what I couldn’t understand was why. She was wearing a T-shirt that obviously belonged to her father, or maybe an older brother. Violent Femmes, the front of it read, the es on the end so faded that I couldn’t actually read it, I just knew the band, so I filled in the blanks. The shirt was three sizes too big for her and the crack of her shorts was crooked in the back. No-name shoes without any socks, the laces untied. Tweety Bird panties protruding over the top of her shorts every time she bent over to pick something up. On that first day, she walked in and took a seat in the first open spot on the bleachers. She smiled at our principal, Mrs. Sauer, and even though Mrs. Sauer never smiled, she smiled back at Valerie that day. I couldn’t take my eyes off her as she finger-combed her shiny, shoulder-length blonde hair. Long hair was in style that year at Harmony, or it was supposed to be … but somehow, Valerie’s short, stylish ’do ruined all that—it made me self-conscious of my own long, brown locks, and it wasn’t long before the “in style” was nasty tees and short hair and don’t-give-a-fuck shoes, because, let’s face it, what was really in style was: Valerie Hutchens. Can I borrow a pencil? she’d asked one of the boys on the seat above her. He fell all over himself scrounging one up. Keep it, he said. I’m Luke. Luke was a nerd, so I rolled my eyes. But Valerie didn’t—she smiled with all her teeth, not a flirtatious smile but a genuine one, and then busied herself, writing in a black-and-white notebook poised in her lap. What is she writing about? It seemed so stupid, so unimportant, how I felt this urge—this need —to know exactly what words she scribbled into that tattered old book of hers. But I never found out; no one did. She kept her writing to herself, just like she kept everything. She was so available, yet so private at the same time … As the school weeks marched on, I learned a few more things about Valerie Hutchens: she was just as nice as she was pretty; she was smart as a whip without even trying; and she was talented in all things extracurricular: volleyball, music, theater, cheerleading, art, you name it. She signed up for everything. And it didn’t seem like a ploy to gain popularity, just an actual interest in all things Harmony. The boys followed her around like puppies; the girls wanted to be her friends. And although she was kind to everyone, she was never really close to anyone. Including me. I admired her from a distance for the next six years as she blossomed into a young adult and carried her magnetism with her into high school. It wasn’t until tenth or eleventh grade that I realized why I wanted to be friends with Valerie. It wasn’t her talents or her creativity. It wasn’t her good looks or the way she lit up a room when she walked inside it. It wasn’t even the fact that she was so goddamned nice and likable. It was the way she didn’t give a shit about any of these things.

Valerie Hutchens never laid awake at night, worrying about what she would wear to school, or who her friends were, or if she’d make the basketball team. Valerie was a floater, freely drifting through life on a fluffy cloud, always living in the here and now. She had the confidence that I lacked, which is why I wanted to be her friend. That smile … I wanted to be on the receiving end of it. But her eyes floated over me; I might as well have been a ghost, stalking the airless halls of Harmony … I would have preferred being hated or mocked … anything besides ignored. I watched the others who followed her around—Luke and some of the other nerdy boys. Valerie was too nice to turn them away, too cool to give them a real chance. I wouldn’t stoop to their level; I wouldn’t grovel for her attention. Shortly after my accident, memories of Valerie came floating back like they’d never left in the first place. It wasn’t until I had managed to get out of bed and venture back online that I thought about the girl from high school. Her perfect face consumed me. I don’t know what triggered it—I just woke up one day and wondered if she was on Facebook. Like so many of my other classmates and former friends, I expected her to have a profile where she doted on her husband and kids; maybe occasionally bragged about her Etsy business … but Valerie didn’t have a Facebook profile, much to my surprise. Apparently, Facebook isn’t really that cool anymore among young people. Who knew? I certainly never got the damn memo. But Valerie did. Of course she did. A few weeks later, I tried searching again. Only this time, I used Google to find her. She hated Facebook, but she was active on Instagram and Snapchat. In fact, she spent more time posting than she did living, or so it appeared at first. Since finding her profiles, I’d become absorbed in all things Valerie Hutchens. When Valerie goes to the beach, so do I. I can almost taste the salt of the ocean, hear the whisper of waves in Panama City … Valerie was a pharmaceutical rep, which meant she traveled for her job—a lot, apparently. How ironic, that I was the one choking down the pills while she was the one peddling them. But that wasn’t her only job. She was also an aspiring writer, like me. Almost done with my first novel. Will you guys read it someday? Please say yes! #amwriting #writerforlife. It was a black-and-white photo of her sitting on the edge of a pier in Ocean City, Maryland, dangling her toes over the edge, all the while balancing a notebook full of tiny, neat words on her lap. Hell, it could have been the cover of her very own book—that’s how good the picture was. But the photo itself made me nervous—What if a sudden breeze came rushing by, and her pretty little words floated out to sea? But, of course, Valerie didn’t worry about things like that. Because bad things didn’t happen to people like Valerie. Bad things happened to me. Look on the bright side, every once in a while, Kid, Chris’s words and cheesy smile ripped like blades through my cerebrum. He was the optimist; I was the realist—and together, we kept each other in check. But not anymore. There’s no one left to lean on. I pushed aside thoughts of Chris, focusing only on Valerie. Maximizing the old picture of her on the pier, I tried to catch a few of her words. But I couldn’t make them out. Even now, nearly fifteen years later, I couldn’t sneak a peek into

Valerie’s inner world, no matter how hard I tried … My favorite post of Valerie’s was one from about a month ago. She was standing outside our old middle school. Passing through town again, thought I’d stop and see Aunt Janet! Look where I am! I don’t remember much about Harmony, but it feels right being back in Wisconsin. Only back for one day. What should I do? #Imbaaaack #homesweethome #instawisconsin She couldn’t remember much about Harmony, but one thing was certain: Harmony hadn’t forgotten about her. Dozens of people commented on her post, including her old pal Luke, and I recognized some of my other classmates by either their usernames or profile pics. I even recognized our old high-school algebra professor in the comments—young and old alike, everyone worshipped Valerie. Apparently, I’m not the only one still watching Valerie from a distance. I felt embarrassed for all the commenters. But most of all, I felt embarrassed for me. Back pressed to the brick under the Harmony Middle School sign, she had one leg bent, her foot pressed to the wall, both hands casually tucked in her torn jean pockets. I imagined myself sending her a private message—Just saw that you’re in town! This is Camilla Brown. Do you remember me from school? I thought if you weren’t busy, we could meet for coffee or drinks. Catch up? But of course, I didn’t send it. I’m ashamed to even admit that I practiced writing it. Even if my fucking face and body weren’t twisted and lame, I still didn’t think I could face her. I liked her post—the way I always did—then erased the message. Closing my eyes, I tried to imagine what a meet-up with Valerie would look like. Do I think she would meet up with me if I asked real nicely? Yes, I do. Because Valerie is polite like that. Valerie is … well, Valerie. Always charming, always kind, always out of my league … When I imagined us sitting across from each other in a local café, chatting away like old friends, I couldn’t help picturing my real face—correction: my old face—the one I had before the accident. It wasn’t until weeks later, when she was back out on the road, far enough away that it felt safe, that I sent my first message. She’d responded—it had taken a few days, but still—and since then, we’d chatted briefly. She remembered me from school. She asked me how I was doing. She didn’t mention the accident or Chris, so one could only hope she hadn’t heard … In my messages, I complimented her pictures. I tried to keep it short and sweet, un-desperate. We talked a little bit about writing, although she still hadn’t told me—or any of her other followers—what she was writing, exactly. I didn’t mention my face, and I never suggested that we hang out in person. She didn’t either … perhaps she is waiting for me to suggest it? There was no point in trying to see her in person. There weren’t going to be any chatty meetups. Because I didn’t want to be her friend—I don’t think I ever really wanted to be her friend. No, that wasn’t it at all. I didn’t want to be on the receiving end of Valerie’s smiles, I wanted to wipe them off her pretty face.

OUT 10/25/19! Preorder your copy here:


Without a Trace ebook is only 99 cents for a limited time!

Lily was last seen being tucked into bed by her adoring mother, Nova. But the next morning, the bed is empty except for a creepy toy rabbit.




Barnes&Noble Nook:

Without a Trace – out now!

Posted: April 5, 2019 in Uncategorized

Lily’s gone.

Someone took her.

Unless she was she never there…

A little girl has gone missing.

Lily was last seen being tucked into bed by her adoring mother, Nova. But the next morning, the bed is empty except for a creepy toy rabbit.

Has Nova’s abusive ex stolen his “little bunny” back for good?

At first, Officer Ellie James assumes this is a clear custody battle. Until she discovers that there are no pictures of the girl and her drawers are full of unused toys and brand new clothes that have never been worn…

Is Ellie searching for a missing child who doesn’t actually exist?




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Posted: March 22, 2019 in Uncategorized

WITHOUT A TRACE, coming April 5th.

Preorder your copy here:

Chapter One

The Mother


I shivered as I stepped off the front porch and followed the well-beaten path down to the shady tree line. It was early, the sun playing peek-a-boo through the trees, and little wet kisses of dew were sprinkled around the yard like watery pockets of glitter. Such a peaceful morning, like the promise of a brand-new day. A beautiful day, in fact.

It was a rental property, but still, it felt like mine. Like the perfect place to raise my daughter.

Suddenly, the wind whipped through the trees, shocking the breath from my chest. It reminded me of what I already knew—looks can be deceiving.

Clouds bubbled up in the sky, the morning sun dissolving away like a figment of my imagination. As a flurry of cold air rushed around me and through me, I pulled my jacket tight against my chest and glanced back at our new house. It was a small log cabin, like something you’d see at a state park or campground. But the size was perfect for the two of us, and unlike my husband, I liked the coziness and simplicity of a single-family home.

Lily would be waking up any second now, and I didn’t want her to be afraid in our empty, new house.

How can I raise a daughter who is strong and brave when I’m so damn scared all the time?

I took one last look at the trees, at the once-soothing sunrise. Branches morphed into bony claws. They reached for me, gnarly and twisted, eager to pierce through my ragged flesh like broken bones…

Whipping around, I raced back toward the house. A low moan escaped from between my teeth as the house swayed from side to side, like one of those carnival mirrors. The distance between the front door and the tree line suddenly stretched, for what looked like miles…

My sneakers were squishy on the cool, wet grass, and as I slipped and slid across the yard, I imagined the mud was quicksand, sucking me deep down into the earth, consuming me whole…

Once inside, I locked the door and pressed my back against it, sucking in long, craggy breaths until they evened out. It only took a few minutes to still my thumping heart.

That’s better. Well done, Nova, I commended myself. Each time I panicked, it was taking fewer and fewer minutes to calm back down.

Hell, maybe after a few weeks of being here, I won’t have panic attacks at all.

Fumbling for a light switch in the kitchen, I stubbed my toe on Lily’s tiny Cars suitcase. It was still lying in the middle of the kitchen floor, next to my duffel bag, where we’d tossed our luggage last night.

In the light of day, our new kitchen looked different than it did last night. White paint on the cupboards looked yellowish and worn. The sink was rusty, and a slow drip of water ping ping pinged in the basin below. Looking around, I tried to imagine this kitchen as our own—baking cookies for Lily while she sat on the edge of the counter, kicking the backs of her heels against the cupboards below. Normally, I would make her get down because Martin didn’t like that.

But now Lily and I can do whatever we want.

And a rundown, drippy kitchen was better than any sort of kitchen we might share with Martin.

A scarred wooden table with four chairs was set in the kitchen. There were other modest furnishings, too—a chair in the living room, beds and dressers in both bedrooms—which was one reason I chose this place. It was the perfect getaway spot, out in the middle of nowhere, and we didn’t need to bring much to get started.

The refrigerator and cabinets were still empty and in need of a good scrubbing. We’d grabbed some fast food on the way to West Virginia, but I hadn’t wanted to stop at the grocery store yet.

All I wanted to do was get us here.

But now that we were, I’d have to spend the weekend making it as homey and comfortable as possible for Lily.

We’re doing this. We’re starting over. This is our home now.

For months, years, I’d imagined this moment. But then, it had just been a fantasy, a twisted version of hyper-reality. I never really thought I would leave. Even the night before we left, I’d expected myself to back out. To freeze. To panic and collapse in the middle of the street after loading our cases. But I didn’t. And it wasn’t until we were almost a hundred miles outside of Granton that I knew it was really happening…that we were leaving Martin for good.

My duffel bag lay sprawled open on the floor beside the table, from where I’d taken out my pajamas last night. We were so tired when we got here, to the point of delirium. It had taken nearly ten hours to reach Northfolk, the rising hills and winding curves of West Virginia making me skittery and afraid. I couldn’t stop checking the rearview mirror and my heart was thrumming in my ears the entire drive. During the daytime, it hadn’t been so bad. But at night, I’d imagined every pair of headlights were the angry, glowing orbs of Martin’s truck, chasing us up the wild, mountain roads…

Lily had handled the move so well, believing me when I told her that we were going on an adventure. With her mousy brown hair and cornflower blue eyes, she looked just like Martin. But, luckily, she hadn’t inherited his meanness, or his wild mood swings.

Lily was, by all accounts, a normal four-year-old girl. But that wouldn’t have lasted long, not while living with Martin. Eventually, his violence would have moved onto her, seeping into her pores and saturating her life with his poison.

She was innocent, so seemingly unaware, yet she’d already learned to fear her father and his unpredictable ways. And the way Martin looked at her…his eyes searching, evaluating her every move, it made me uneasy.

I’m taking her away from her dad. What kind of mother does that?

Emotions played tug-of-war inside me—I felt guilty for stripping her of her fatherly influence, but I was relieved—exuberant, even—to give her a fresh, safe start in life. During the drive to Northfolk, I’d been so focused on getting away, that the guilt hadn’t had time to settle in yet. And last night, I’d been too tired to stay up worrying. But now…now all those worries came rushing back at once.

What will I tell her when she’s older? Surely, she will remember Martin. Will I tell her why we left? How much memory can a four-year-old retain?

“I m-made the right decision,” I told myself, firmly, for the hundredth time this morning.

Pressing my face against the window pane, my eyes scanned the backyard. From behind a layer of murky glass, the branches no longer seemed murderous or threatening. Even the clouds were wimpy, less dark. It was ironic, really. After years of feeling claustrophobic, shut inside the house with Martin, now it was the outdoors that overwhelmed me.

Everything overwhelms me.

Again, my thought from earlier came crawling back: how can I raise my daughter to be a stronger, better version of me when I’m so scared of the world and the men that live in it?

Clutching the necklace at my throat, my fingers curled around the dainty silver cross that Martin had given me on our anniversary. The holy symbol should have brought me comfort, but all I could think about were his hands pressed against my throat, the crossbars digging sharply into my flesh as I struggled for a tiny bit of air…

Tenderly, I reached back and unclasped it. It seemed wrong to throw it away, but then again, I couldn’t keep it. It hadn’t protected me when I’d needed it to, and expelling Martin’s memory from our lives was my top priority now. Before I could change my mind, I carried the lightweight pendant over to the waste basket and tossed it inside.

I didn’t put on makeup this morning. There was no rushing around to make Martin’s breakfast, or to see him off to work.

No slamming doors or missing shoes or screaming.

No angry fists pummeling my body.

Most mornings, the air felt suffocating and dense. I’d wake up panting, a surge of panic hammering through my bloodstream and lifting me from bed. I was always afraid I’d oversleep, and sometimes I did. If Martin was late for work or didn’t have the things he needed in the mornings, he blamed it on me. And worst of all, he seemed to enjoy punishing me for my mistakes.

He must have been so angry when he realized we were gone. We didn’t take much when we left, just Lily’s suitcase and my bag. But he must have known immediately.

The first thing he probably did was call my cell phone, and from there, it wouldn’t have taken him long to find where I’d left it—on the nightstand next to our bed.

He can’t reach us here.

There was no note. No paper trails. I’d saved up small amounts of cash over the past year, so there wouldn’t be any need for ATM withdrawals. I had enough money to last us for a while, until I could figure out how to get some more.

Pinching my eyes closed, I couldn’t shake the image of his seething blue eyes, the angry caterpillar brows furrowing in anger.

He’s probably mad enough to kill me right now. To kill us both.

I could almost taste his rage from six hundred miles away. It tickled the back of my throat and burned the edges of my tongue.

Fear. I can taste that, too.

The fear I’d felt earlier was rushing back. My old friend Panic seized my chest, like a boulder pressing down on my belly, making every breath tight and controlled.

He might find us. What will I do if he does?

As I passed through the hallway, fingertips grazing the unfamiliar walls of the cabin, I thought I heard a muffled grunt coming from behind Lily’s closed bedroom door.

Nonono. He’s not in there. I’m only imagining he is.

I’d imagined his voice last night, too, before I fell asleep. The angry, breathy snores that he made while he slept. My body so accustomed to sleeping next to his, I’d lain against the edge of the mattress, curled into a tight little ball, despite all the extra space.

“One, t-two, th-three…” I counted out loud.

I read somewhere that counting helps alleviate anxiety. My lips silently formed the words, but the clenching in my chest remained. Suddenly, I was hurtling back to our house in Tennessee. Fear slithered in through the logs. Martin’s anger dissolving and sinking down through the rafters…

“F-four, f-five, six…” My skin tickled and crawled, my stutter rearing its head again, becoming worse, the way it always did when I sensed a confrontation coming. As I moved through the hallway, I fought the urge to look back over my shoulder.

Martin is not standing behind me. He’s not! I chastised myself.

The hallway tilted and swayed, then slowly, the buttery yellow paint dissolved. I wasn’t back home in Tennessee; I was in our new house, faraway from Martin.


“A-are you a-awake yet, Bunny?” My stumbled words a mere whisper through the heavy door.

Bunny. It was a nickname given to her by Martin, and I’d have to remember to stop using it. It would only serve as a reminder of him, and Lily wouldn’t need any of those, now that he was out of our lives for good.

Closing my eyes and taking a deep breath, I nudged the bedroom door open. Soft sunlight streamed in through motheaten curtains above the bed. There was no Martin.

See? Nothing to be afraid of.

Lily, so tiny, was curled up beneath the blankets in a ball, unmoving. Like me, she was always trying to make herself smaller and unseen…

Lily had never been a good sleeper. She was prone to nightmares, but last night, she’d slept all the way through. Reaching across the bed, I slid the curtains back, welcoming more light into the room. The bright white heat was soothing, like a warm cloth across my face. I released a long stream of breath, relieved.

“Rise and shine, B—” I stopped myself from using the nickname again, squeezing my lips together. There were so many bad habits to break, and this was only just one of them…

I prodded the soft little lump in the middle of the bed. But Lily didn’t move a muscle.

Finally, I rolled the covers back, imagining her sweet morning smile and sleepy doe-like eyes.

I know they say you should always love your children no matter what, and I do, but for some reason, my heart just soars when I see her doughy cheeks every morning. She is always at her sweetest when she first wakes up.


A strange wisp of gray-white hair poked out from beneath the blanket. I stared at it, my mind not comprehending the strange bit of fur.

Tentatively, I rolled the covers down. Button-eyes stared back at me, black and menacing.

It was a toy rabbit, but not like the ones Lily used to keep on her bed in Tennessee. This bunny looked ugly and old, its limp arms and legs adorned with black, plastic claws.

I poked at the strange stuffed toy, shaken.

“B-bunny? Where are you?” I grasped the corner of the blanket in one hand, then yanked it the rest of the way off.

Lily wasn’t in her bed.

A deep guttural scream pierced the morning air.


MY SISTER IS MISSING is only 99 cents for a limited time!


A twenty-year-old local mystery that has never been solved.


A bone-chilling VHS tape depicting a horrific crime.


Neighbors with something to hide.


And a sister who is missing.


Emily has to find out the truth. But is her sister Madeline the victim…or the one to blame?


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My Sister is Missing – out now!

Posted: February 20, 2019 in Uncategorized

MY SISTER IS MISSING is out now in digital format!

My sister had a secret.

Then she disappeared…

Is Madeline the victim…or the one to blame?

My Sister is Missing Excerpt

Posted: December 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

Thrilled to share an excerpt from my upcoming novel, MY SISTER IS MISSING. Coming soon from Killer Reads…

My Sister Is Missing cover
Chapter One
That old saying, you can never go home again, tickled the edges of my memory and floated on the back of my tongue as I accelerated through the Bare Border welcome sign in my rented Honda Civic. The car was supposed to be the ‘luxury option’. Stupid me – I’d actually expected something fancy, like a Rolls Royce. The Honda wasn’t bad looking, but as soon as it hit 45 mph, the doors had begun to rattle and shake, the wheels threatening to tumble loose, and the peppery must of cigarette smoke from the previous driver was making my temples ache. In truth, I longed for a cigarette myself, but the last time I’d smoked was, well … it was the last time I came back home.
Nine years ago, I’d come to Bare Border for my sister’s wedding, but even then, I’d only stayed for the ceremony and reception. I didn’t visit with family. I didn’t stay overnight. I’d shared the champagne toast, made a clumsy congratulations speech, then ducked out before the clock struck midnight, Cinderella-style.
I didn’t want to stay in Bare Border then, and I don’t want to be here now.
But Madeline had asked me to come; not just for a visit, but to ‘stay for a while’, however long ‘a while’ meant. She wanted to talk to me about something, but not over the phone. My big sister had never been the mysterious type; in fact, she was pretty terrible at keeping secrets, or at least the old version of her used to be, the one I remembered from my childhood.
What do I really know about her now, besides the fact that she’s a mother, and happily married?
I don’t know what I was expecting when I passed through the entrance to my hometown – storm clouds and thunder? An ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach? The theme song to Stranger Things prickling my subconscious? What I found instead was a scene from a movie script, but not the creepy, menacing variety. The afternoon sky was a silk-screen blue, the sidewalk teeming with children on bikes, and tiny mazes of houses puckered out between the only buildings in town— Maggie’s Mart, the elementary school, the library, the post office, and a couple of fast food joints. It looked downright charming and quaint.
As I passed through the town square, I spied the bingo hall that also functioned as a church, creeping up ahead on my left – where my sister was married. From this vantage point, everything about my hometown looked the same as it always had, how I remembered it…
Maybe you can go home again, an annoying voice tickled my ear.
I think the expression means that you can go home, but it will never be the home you remember. Nothing is static; everything looks different through a child’s eyes. But in my twenty-nine- year-old periphery—nothing about Bare Border had changed.
But, then again, this was as far as I’d been in just under a decade.
Rundown storefronts and residential houses faded away as I navigated up the steepest hill I’d ever climbed in my life. Even though it had been a long time, I knew I had to speed up, or else risk rolling backwards.
I punched the pedal to the floor, revving the engine up the twisty incline, instantly shifting around the once familiar curves from my past. The Honda rattled dangerously as I gripped the wheel with both hands.
It’s not until I reached the top of ‘Star Mountain’, as the locals called it, that I realized I’d been holding my breath. I hadn’t tackled this hill since I was twenty years old, and when you’re twenty, nothing seems scary. But now it wasn’t the climb itself that gave me a jolt, but the drop off on either side of it. There was nowhere to go but down, down, down if you fell … and what’s at the bottom? I wondered. I’d never really cared to ask when I was a teen.
Thankfully, the road flattened out again, and right away, I was back on autopilot, taking a right on Painter’s Creek Road and then a sharp left on Knobby Pine. There were no more children on bikes, the old farm roads abandoned. Population: nobody cares. There were just too few to count, although that number had probably grown since I’d last come back.
A thousand times I’d made these turns—making the drive back and forth from my first job at Maggie’s Mart, driving myself to junior prom after Paul Templeton had stood me up, and my first wreck, when I’d T-boned Mrs Roselle. For the record, the accident wasn’t my fault – that woman always ran the stop sign on Lowell’s Lane, which intersected with Painter’s Creek Road.
My sister’s house, and the place where I grew up, was right up ahead, exactly where I left it all those years ago…
The trees opened up and there it was: the crooked old sign for the ‘Bare Border Inn’. It whistled back and forth in the wind as I turned down my sister’s driveway. The ‘inn’ was nothing more than a two-story, eight-room house that my grandparents used to run as a bed and breakfast back in the Fifties. To me, it had always just been our house, but my mom and dad had never taken down the sign.
This place has character. History. You can’t get rid of that, my mother had told me.
The bubbly vibrations of gravel beneath my tires welcomed me home for the first time in years.
I’d ripped and roared through town, but now all I wanted to do was slow down. I wasn’t ready for this reunion – the one between my sister and I or the one with my own childhood. Going back was like returning to the scene of a crime when you were guilty: it wasn’t advisable.
But I’m not a criminal. I have nothing to run from, right?
The house itself loomed like a ghoulish shadow, a black silhouette against a backdrop of crisp summer sun. Only, the sun was fading now, a gloomy dull film settling over the rickety inn…
The driveway was longer than I remembered, and the further I got down it, the foggier the air around the Civic became.
The inn was set back from the road in a clearing, thick woods surrounding it on two sides. Almost like an appendage, like it was a part of the woods, not the other way around. I could sense movement beyond the trees … barefoot children scurrying through the branches, keeping beat with the sluggish pace of the rental car.
These were the children of summer. Bees zipping, bird wings flapping, the rolling water of the creek – all part of their never- ending summer soundtrack. In reality, there wasn’t anyone moving through the trees, only ghosts of the children my sister and I once were. The sticky taste of cherry Kool-Aid still clung to my upper lip, mixed with the sweat and dirt from running in that muggy, marshy forest…
There was a pang in my chest – the concept of family was something I hadn’t thought about in a long time.

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How I got my agent!

Posted: December 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

I haven’t made a blog post in so long, but I have a good excuse: I’ve been writing like crazy, and focused on getting an agent this year. I finally have one! I must have read a hundred “how I got my agent” stories while I was querying. So, I’m excited to finally share my story:

On Christmas Eve 2016, I wrote “the end” on a new book called PRETTY LITTLE DEAD GIRLS. With 10 novels published by small presses, a co-written book, 5 short stories published in anthologies, and a recent hit on the USA Today bestseller’s list, I finally felt ready to take a shot at getting an agent. When I first started writing in 2012, I didn’t know anything about publishing. It was embarrassing, really. But it didn’t take long for me to figure out that I couldn’t submit to any of the large independent or traditional publishers without an agent. And when I read the stats on how hard, and unlikely, it was to get one, it scared me a bit. But as 2017 kicked off, I was determined to get one.

At the end of January 2017, I started sending out dozens of query letters to agents for my new book. A query letter is basically a pitch for the book, a bio, and a request for them to read it. Writing one sounds easy enough, but it’s anything but, and every agent has different guidelines for how to approach them. There’s a format, and an art, to writing a query letter. And to be honest, it took me a while to get it right.

Over the next couple months, I received a lot of bites – agents asking to read the partial or full manuscript. But I also received a lot of rejections. Some of them were quite painful, and I’d be lying if I said that some tears weren’t shed.

By the time June 2017 rolled around, I was sitting on a big pile of rejections. And there was a THEME to them – my ending was too twisty and the story wasn’t commercial enough. I’d had my work ripped apart from the inside out, but there were good comments, too, so I felt like the feedback helped me be a better writer. All of that criticism just made me want to fight harder, write better, and be stronger. I never felt more like a REAL writer than when I was in THE TRENCHES, because it was in these up and down, struggling, lonely moments that I realized how bad I wanted it, and I also realized that I was going to write books no matter what the outcome was. I’m in this business for one reason – I love books and I want to write them, even if the only person who ever reads them is me. So, I couldn’t control what happened around me, but I could control my writing, and finally realizing that felt good. As Elizabeth Gilbert once said, “I loved writing more than I hated failing.” And that was so true in my case. I refused to give up.

Several of the agents had invited me to resubmit if I revised the book, so I got to work on revisions. But a month later, I was still feeling stuck. I felt like every change I made was making the story worse, not better. I was also way too close to the project. I needed distance from it, maybe permanent distance, and that realization was overwhelming, and disappointing, for me. But, finally, I decided to set PRETTY LITTLE DEAD GIRLS aside and start a brand new book. There is nothing harder for a writer than setting aside a book and deciding to do nothing with it, but I was going to stick it out.

I focused all of my energy into writing a brand new project, and in September 2017, I finished a story called WHO WE ONCE WERE.

This time, instead of sending it out to a ton of agents, I picked ten and sent out my queries, trying to personalize each one. I received a few quick full requests, and a couple weeks later, I got an email in my inbox: one of the agents loved the book. My eyes darted up and down her email, wondering: where is the BUT? Because, believe me, LOVE and BUT sometimes (and often) live in the same house. But there was no BUT this time – she wanted to talk to me on the phone. This is what aspiring writers refer to as THE CALL (with lots of exclamation points). I was actually holding a jar of spaghetti sauce when the email came in, and in an effort to sit it down with a wet shaky hand, it fell and smashed all over the floor. The kitchen looked like a murder scene, and I was grinning like the maniac responsible for the crime.

The next day, she called and offered to be my agent. But because I’d done my homework on agent etiquette, I knew that I was supposed to set a deadline and give her an answer by that date. This would give me enough time to notify the other agents who I’d queried, and handle the offer professionally. But what happened next was mind-blowing: over the next 10 days, I received 5 additional offers of representation. I talked to agents on the phone, and I even got to meet one of them in person. If I’m being honest, it was terrifying. But it was also very cool – getting to talk to so many knowledgeable and book savvy people who actually wanted to discuss MY book was an invaluable experience for me.

After months of getting gut-punched, you can imagine how rewarding that week felt for me. I wanted to bottle it up and keep it for all those weeks that were not so good. Even though it was exciting, it was also a stressful time. My head was spinning, and I couldn’t sleep all week, because I would have been happy/lucky to work with any of them and I had to choose. As many times as I’d daydreamed about getting an agent, I’d never once considered the fact that I might get multiple offers. I just wanted to pinch myself.

Ultimately, I had to go with my gut – and I had a “gut feeling” about one of the agents: Katie Shea Boutillier from the Donald Maass Agency.

I’d actually found Katie on MSWL Day, which is a twitter event where agents put up their “MSWL”, or manuscript wish list. I can remember thinking “she’s perfect for me” when I sent out that initial query. I also really admired her clients and her taste in books. Katie was funny and smart and enthusiastic on the phone. She knew more about my own book than I did, and she wasn’t afraid to make some suggested changes for the book despite the fact that I had multiple offers. I really respected that. She seemed interested in my career as a whole, and we just clicked.

Since signing, we’ve done revisions to WHO WE ONCE WERE and I’ve completed another new book called THE GIRL IN THE HOUSE. I hope you guys get to read them soon!

As Christmas Eve 2017 draws near, I can’t help but remember last year, when I stayed up all night on Christmas, painfully trying to craft a good query letter. I probably wrote a hundred of them before I sent one out.

I’m pleased with the goal I set for myself and accomplished this year, and I’m grateful to all of the agents who accepted (and rejected) my books. I’m also grateful for all of my writer friends, and for events like MSWL Day that help writers like me find agents, and connect with the writing community, in a way that I normally wouldn’t be able to.

I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings! With Katie by my side, I have high hopes for the future!