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By: Michael Davis
The secrets are buried in the past.
Winner of the Rose award for best romantic suspense
(Buy locations available at Davisstories.com)
- “a necessary read for thriller lovers everywhere.” ! "tars# $i%ht &wl Romance
- “a riveting thriller that will hold you captive start to finish!” '!' "tars# We Write Romance
- “I was blown away by the sheer scope.” '.! stars# (ove Romance ) *ore
- “a unique story about second chances and amazing love that never waivers.” '.! "tars# (on% )
&ther boo+ reviews# awards and videos available at Davisstories.com
,he town of ,an%lewood -alls offers breath-ta+in% views# yet the serendipity is misleadin%. ,he
impoverished people and their for%otten community have been unwittin%ly e.ploited. ,heir act of trust
and blind consent altered their e.istence and the secret has remained buried# until Ryan returns to
e.plore his herita%e. -or twenty years# he/s been haunted by confusin% ima%es# recurrin% dreams rooted
in his past. 0e/s driven to understand their meanin%# to obtain answers to his lost memories. Ryan/s
search for truth collides with the fol+lore of the simple people and the belief that their beautiful 1nnie is
blessed. ,o%ether# they unravel the mystery# but at a price. ,hey become tar%ets of those responsible for
what happened to the town. 1s the truth is e.posed# Ryan must %rapple with his own reality2 the fact that
his past# his ni%htmares# and 1nnie/s secret# everythin% is entan%led in the desperate act of one lonely
Ryan stared at the hori3on and watched the stars vanish into the ocean. 0is eyes shifted to the
dancin% flashes of moonli%ht %litterin% across the water. -rom a bench positioned ne.t to the boardwal+#
he listened to the poundin% in his head as the waves crashed a%ainst the beach. 0e %lanced at the
climbin% tide and observed the sand castles from past visitors erode away.
0e cau%ht the moon/s reflection off the si%n ten yards to his left# Dup’s amburgers and !ries above
the closed concession stand. 0e watched as the clump of +etchup s4uirted onto his arm from the
%or%eous blonde standin% by his side. "he apolo%i3ed and admitted her mista+e# but Ryan always
suspected the accident was by desi%n. "he was li+e no woman he had ever seen# touched# or smelled. 5n
a heartbeat# he +new she was the one.
0e had never e.perienced such peace# such happiness# as when they were to%ether. ,he stron%est
memories# those that still flooded his senses# were when they made love2 completely blinded by their
attraction for each other. 6verythin% was still there7 the taste# her scent# and the pleasure.
0e 9ammed his hands a%ainst his ears and pressed hard to drive out her voice# her lau%h. 0e pushed
a%ainst his eyes until the pressure caused flashes of li%ht. 0e wiped his face with his sleeve# scanned the
blac+ s+y# and tried a%ain to %rasp the reason. 0e rubbed the s+in on his +nuc+les until the flesh turned
I was the one that set things straight. Is this your answer" #ou can’t be that cruel. Is this some form
of divine $ustice"
0is 4uest for an answer was returned by silence# e.cept for the sound of the waves a%ainst the
shoreline. ,he rhythmic noise hammered his eardrums. ,he terrible ima%es of what he had e.perienced
toni%ht flashed li+e a beacon inside his brain.
0e searched the hori3on for an answer# for relief# but there was nothin%. 5n rebellion for his loss# his
a%ony# Ryan replied to the silence in the only way he +new how. 0e %a3ed into the spec+led ni%ht s+y
and with a harsh crac+lin% tone# he yelled at no one. “5f this is your idea of 9ustice# then the hell with
1fter an eternity# the faint hue of %ray at the ed%e of the stars si%naled the approachin% sun. 0e
watched the white surf form a bac+drop for the spectrum of colors bathin% the debris line on the beach.
0e smelled the brac+ish odor of foam mi.ed with seaweed and water soa+ed driftwood cast onto the
,he first rays of mornin% li%ht announced the arrival of a fresh be%innin%. ,he ballet of nature/s
constant stru%%le with itself be%an as the %ulls circled above the shoreline searchin% for morsels to fill
their empty %ullets. 1 fiddler crab raced toward the sur%in% tide and braved the onslau%ht of divin%
predators. ,he crab and two %ulls played a harsh %ame dartin% bac+ and forth alon% the waterline. &ne
bent on escape# the others fi%htin% a%ainst hun%er. 1fter several missed attempts# one of the %ulls
swooped down and captured the fleein% prey. ,he winner tried to race off with its bounty# only to have
the second bird e.ecute a midair do%fi%ht. 1fter several attempts# the thief ripped the prey free and
chased the crab as it plummeted into the temporary safety of the water. ,he fiddler floated at the surface
to tease the hoverin% tormentors at his momentary victory# while the %ulls s4uaw+ed and s4ualled
blamin% each other for their loss. ,he brief splash and swirl of a fin mar+ed the price of the crab/s
moc+ery. ,he dolphin flipped her snout at the losers/ overhead and tossed down her mornin% meal.
Ryan e.amined the cruel reality of nature/s riddle played out in the surf. ,he undeniable truth that
some must perish so that others can survive. ,he commotion somehow pushed bac+ the %rief and
bloc+ed out the memory lon% enou%h to catch motion between the series of tuff covered mounds of sand.
1 family slowly drud%ed throu%h the loose %rains of silica# hands bul%in% with bas+ets# blan+ets and
toys to support their outin%. &nce they bro+e beyond the ed%e of the dunes# the si%ht of waves rollin%
a%ainst the shore caused the two children to drop everythin%. ,hey yelled and screamed as each raced for
the pri3e2 the opportunity to be first wet.
,he small toddler in the rear tried to pursue her siblin%s but stumbled twice a%ainst the soft sand. ,he
clamberin% of youn% voices ripped Ryan bac+ into his world. ,he si%hts and sounds of the children
provided an abrupt awa+enin% to his loss and his for%otten responsibility. “6mma.”
;ulie tossed the bundle of strin% beans into the hand woven bas+et. "he pressed both hands a%ainst
the moist soil# pushed up on one +nee# and slowly rose up off the %round. ,he shift in her center of
%ravity from the bul%e at her waist caused her to teeter for a moment. "he +noc+ed the dirt off her palms#
rubbed alon% the lower portion of her bac+ and moaned. “(ord# she/s %ettin% heavy.”
;ulie pulled the ecru colored blouse down over her e.posed belly and tu%%ed at one of the threads
dan%lin% from the frayed ed%e of the hem. "he turned toward Bear *ountain and sniffed the fresh rain
blowin% east across the distant fields blan+eted with yellow wild flowers. "he followed the floc+ of
crows fleein% from the dar+ clouds as they raced toward the four-acre farm.
;ulie watched the white flash pulse behind the clouds. "he placed her left hand on the taut bul%e in
her abdomen and pointed at the approachin% storm. “5 thin+ we/d better stop and %et in the house. ,hat
storm is comin% up mi%hty fast.”
*ay loo+ed up from her +neelin% position between the rows of beans. “5 thin+ you/re ri%ht. We/ll
finish the rest tomorrow.” "he pic+ed up the bas+et of produce and the two siblin%s headed bac+ toward
the two-bedroom house with the crac+ed mildew stained sidin%. -rom behind# *ay watched her
pre%nant sister waddle alon% the dirt path. *ay pulled in line with ;ulie and e.amined her innocent face.
1s each step shot pains up ;ulie/s bac+# *ay considered what was in store for the naive %irl. “0ave you
told him yet=”
“>lease# *ay. (et/s not %o over this a%ain. 5/m tired. *y bac+ is +illin% me# and nothin% you say is
%oin% to chan%e the way 5 feel about him.”
“"weetheart# you/ve been left by yourself with a child. 5t/s you that will bear the burden for one
moment of poor 9ud%ment. 0e %ot what he wanted# left his seed behind# and where is he now= 0e sure
ain/t beside you# is he=”
“5t too+ two of us. 5 +new what 5 was doin% when it happened# and 5/m not sorry for it. $ot one bit.”
?lancin% at her sister/s stomach# *ay vented her frustration. “Was this in your plans# to be saddled
with a baby to ta+e care of on your own= What were you thin+in%# child= Did you thin+ he/d leave his
wife and come stay with you= 0ell# you/re not even twenty years old# and that selfish bastard is almost
twice your a%e.”
“"top it# *ay. 5t/s not li+e that. 0e/s a %ood man. ,hin%s are 9ust messed up at home for him ri%ht
now. 5 +now he cares for me. When thin%s chan%e# 5/ll tell him# and then you/ll see. 0e/ll be there for
both of us. 5 +now he will.”
“@ou +now 5 love you. @ou/re the only family 5 have left# but you/ve been blind. @ou/re 9ust too
damn youn%. @ou have no idea of what/s in store for you and that child# how hard it will be for the both
of you# for all of us. 0e/s used you# and when you do tell him# he/ll scurry away li+e the s+un+ he is.
$ow open the door for me. 5 9ust felt a drop of rain. (et/s %o fi. dinner.”
,he two females arrived at the house and ;ulie pulled bac+ the ric+ety screen door. “@ou/re wron%#
*ay. What we have to%ether is . . .”
,he air e.ploded. ,he wooden doorframe splintered into several lar%e fra%ments. ,he impact tossed
both women into the air li+e debris from a bomb blast.
*ay opened her eyes to droplets splashin% in the cool mud beneath her face. "he wiped the mi.ture
of dirt and water from her mouth and pushed up on her hands# but collapsed ri%ht bac+ into the brown
puddle. "he tried a%ain# but both her le%s refused to obey. 6verythin% below her waist was numb e.cept
for a searin% pain at the base of her bac+# li+e her insides were on fire.
"he stru%%led to roll on her side# but somethin% bloc+ed her movement. "he screamed as another
series of sharp pains char%ed into her brain. "he reached around and felt a wooden pro9ectile protrudin%
out of her bac+# one inch above her buttoc+s. With one hard 9er+# she yan+ed out the fra%ment and the
piercin% pain caused everythin% around her to blan+ out. 1fter several minutes# the stin%in% sensation
above her hips brou%ht her bac+. "he %lanced at the blood soa+ed tip of the si.-inch wooden sliver still
loc+ed in her fist. ,hen she saw the charred flesh alon% her forearm.
"he loo+ed in the direction where ;ulie had been moments before# but her sister was %one.
"he wiped the rain from her eyes and searched the front yard. 1 flash of li%htnin% removed the
dar+ness and she saw her sister. ;ulie/s body was smashed a%ainst their ei%ht-year-old 8CD' >into. 0er
arms and le%s were entan%led in the clothesline that stood a few feet from the screen door before bein%
struc+ by three hundred thousand volts of nature/s wrath.
*ay crawled throu%h the dirt# into the house# and across the pine-%rooved floor. "he reached up and
pulled down the phone from the small table. "he dialed the phone and waited for someone# anyone that
could help. “Beth# 5t/s *ay. ;ulie is hurt. "he/s been hit by li%htnin%. >lease %et help. 5 don/t +now about
the baby. ;ust %et them here. >lease# Beth.”
*ay dropped the receiver and scanned the room. "he needed somethin%# anythin% to set ;ulie free.
"he reached up to the +itchen table and %rabbed a +nife. "he pulled herself bac+ outside# crawled on her
hands to the body lyin% ri%id a%ainst the car# twisted li+e a pret3el in the +notted clothesline.
“;ulie: Baby# wa+e up.” "he loo+ed up into the dar+ s+y. “>lease# let her wa+e up#” but there was
nothin%# no movement# no breathin%.
"he pressed her ear a%ainst her sister/s scorched chest. ,here was no sound# no heartbeat. “&h dear
?od in heaven. $ot my baby sister. $ot ;ulie. "he/s all 5/ve %ot left. Don/t ta+e her from me# please
0er tears disappeared# mi.ed with the fallin% rain. &ut of the corner of her eye# she cau%ht
movement in the midsection of her sister/s torso. 5t wasn/t breathin%# yet there was somethin% turnin%
inside# somethin% still alive.
"he stared at the scorched face of her youn% sister# then at ;ulie/s stomach# and finally at the +nife in
her hand. "he %a3ed up at the dar+ clouds swirlin% an%rily above her.
“"weet ;esus# why= $ot li+e this. 0elp me to understand your way# please. What am 5 supposed to
But there was no answer# no reprieve from her only option.
“5 can/t let her die this way# (ord. $ot both of them.”
*ay stared at the only life left inside her sister/s burned body. "he loo+ed at ;ulie/s face and be%%ed
for for%iveness at what she was about to do to her own flesh and blood. “-or%ive me# ;ulie. >lease
for%ive me# but 5 have to do it. Dear ?od in 0eaven# 5 have no choice.”
"he scanned the blac+ clouds and pleaded. “(ord# %ive me the stren%th to do this terrible thin%.
>lease show me the way.”
"he loo+ed at her baby sister/s face one last time. “5 love you# ;ulie.”
*ay pulled up the soa+ed blouse# e.posed the youn% s+in# and pointed the sharp ed%e of the +nife
above her sister/s baby. “?uide my hand# (ord# and save this poor child.” ,hen she did the only thin%
she could do. ,he horrible thin% forced upon her on an isolated farm in an insi%nificant valley perched at
the center of a horseshoe shaped ran%e of small mountains. With tears streamin% down her face# she did
what no civili3ed person should have to do to save their niece/s life.
"he reached out# but he resisted. “>lease understand# and don/t be mad at me. 5t hurts me inside
when you/re mad at me.” "he stepped forward# %rasped his ri%ht hand and %ently pressed his palm over
her heart. "he lifted his left hand# pressed it a%ainst her breast# and he felt the tremors in her body. “(oo+
inside me# Ryan. ,here/s nothin% but love for you. $o desire to control you# 9ust love for the only man
5/ve ever wanted in my entire life.”
,hrou%h her tears# he be%an to see what was inside# how deeply she cared for this one man# and had
+ept herself only for him.
“>lease don/t pull away. 5 couldn/t bare it. ,hese years we/ve been apart have been so hard. 5/ve
spent so many lonely ni%hts thin+in% of you. But 5 +ept %oin%# waitin% and prayin% that you would come
bac+ to me. >lease love me# Ryan# the way 5 love you.”
0e reali3ed he did love her. ,hat first day he saw her without the dirt on her face# when Ryan loo+ed
into those %reen eyes# he understood it then# what was in her heart# but he denied the truth. *aybe he had
always +nown# buried deep# hidden from his conscious mind# but still there at his core.
1s he felt her chest pound# the dar+ shadows and sad memories from his past be%an to fade# replaced
with warmth and peace. Ryan brushed the moisture from her face. “1nythin% else 5 should be aware of=”
“$ot ri%ht now.”
0e placed his hand at the curve of her bac+ and closed the %ap between their bodies. “?uess 5 can
live with that. 5t/ll ta+e some ad9ustment# a lot of ad9ustment# but we/ll wor+ it out to%ether.”
0e lifted her hand and touched his lips to her wrist. 0e +issed her brow# her eyelids# moved down to
her mouth. 0e lin%ered inside# tasted that sweet flavor# and inhaled her scent. 0e caressed her nec+# felt
her pulse 4uic+en# her muscles ti%hten# her breath matchin% his# increasin% with each touch.
1t that moment# Ryan felt the physical ur%e and emotional need to be with this woman# the hun%ry to
consume her# touch her# become part of her. ,here was no hesitation# no reluctance to put forth his
feelin%s# his desires. ,here was no ambi%uity. 6verythin% was clear.
0er voice trembled. “5/ve waited so lon%. 5 feel li+e 5/m %oin% to e.plode.”
Ryan issued a low-pitched %roan resonatin% from his throat as the hormonal fire ra%ed throu%h his
body# a heat that could only be 4uenched one way. 0e lifted her up# cupped her in his arms# and placed
her on the blan+et.
0e unbuttoned her shirt# pressed his face between her breasts# and inhaled her uni4ue feminine scent.
"omehow it had chan%ed# become mus+y# transformed by the reaction of an aroused body. ,he
into.icatin% blend of honeysuc+les# spice# and mus+# it shot into his brain and stimulated his drive. 0is
response shifted from desire to pure lust# a need to satisfy his primal hun%er with her entire form.
5n one moment# their clothes were %one. 0e studied her s+in# her shape# with his eyes# his hands# and
his mouth. 0e became enraptured by its beauty# its response to his touch. 1s he fell into her eyes#
reco%ni3ed her desire for him and him alone# his emotions blended to%ether. (ust# tenderness# love# and a
powerful yearnin% to be with her forever# to be inside her body# share her mind# her soul. 1ll these stron%
emotions focused his lon%in% for this one woman. 0e caressed her bare breast# watched as they pulsed
and responded to the touch of his lips# the %oose bumps encirclin% the protruded centers. 0e +issed down
below her ribca%e# across her naval# and continued lower.
0er mouth opened# widened# and then it closed as she bit down across her lower lip. 0er eyelids
pulled bac+# opened fully as she arched upward# pressed a%ainst his mouth. "he felt the sensation# the
tin%lin%# risin% from her le%s up her bac+. 1s the waves rippled across her body# she moaned# a%ain and
a%ain# until her entire body rose up to meet his caress. 0er form loc+ed in midair# shuddered# and then
e.ploded with release. 1fter an eternity# she settled slowly onto the blan+et.
Ryan caressed bac+ up her body. "he felt his heart pound a%ainst her chest# his rapid breath a%ainst
her face as she %a3ed bac+ with contentment. 0e lifted her waist 4uic+ly with one arm# placed a sleepin%
ba% beneath her rump and slowly# %ently 9oined with her# became one with the woman beneath him. 5n
the way that only a man and woman can bond. Aarefully# they mer%ed# two humans lin+ed as one body#
movin% in harmony with their cadence. With each thrust# she sensed the warmth inside# penetratin%
deeper# and the echo of rain s+atin% across the metal roof blended with the sounds of two lovers. 0er
moans of pain morphed with those of pleasure# and he +new the truth. "he had waited all these years# for
1s they moved to%ether# he caressed her smooth soft s+in# felt the flesh of her body absorb his heat.
0e increased their rhythm# pushed faster# and at the pea+# it all disappeared. ,he shadows in his
memories# the sorrow of his loss2 everythin% vanished e.cept her. -or an instant# at the crest of their
9ourney# they remained motionless# united as one# all their muscles strained# their nerves on fire. ,hen
they floated bac+ and collapsed beside each other.
1fter several moments# Ryan turned her body. 0e pressed his %roin a%ainst her warm flushed
buttoc+s. 0e lifted her hair# +issed behind her ear# and across her nec+ to her arms. 0e paused a%ain to
ta+e in her enticin% scent# now mi.ed with the lin%erin% aroma of the passion they 9ust shared. 0e traced
his hand down the curve of her waist# alon% her thi%h# and arched his arm across her chest. 0e held her
ti%htly# until they both drifted off# to%ether.
0e returned to the pool# the %reen water by the beaver dam# but this time# he was no lon%er alone.
,hey were to%ether# floatin% nude on the surface. ,hey moved below the ripples in the cold mountain
water# but he felt warm and peaceful. 0e pulled them to%ether. ,heir le%s and arms entwined# until they
were one body# one mind# and it felt ri%ht# li+e it was always meant to be.
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