On May 24th, which also happens to be my birthday, I’ll be releasing Torn Away, the first book in a planned trilogy. I think this is my best work to date, and I’m very proud to present this book to the world. Torn Away explores growing up in a home of an abusive father, reminding us all that some kids out there aren’t so lucky to have a home where they know they’re safe. Here’s the blurb and at the end, you’ll see a small excerpt.
After being acquitted of the murder of his high school girlfriend, Drew fled his home town of Ember Falls and never looked back. With a past full of abuse at the hands of his father, and the shame of leaving his two sisters behind, Drew vowed to become a man who saved others.
A decade later, he’s a decorated Marine and works for a private company to save and rescue those who need it when his sister, Kelli, reaches out to him. She’s left an abusive marriage and needs Drew to return home to help her and her young son, Cole. Only by the time Drew comes to aide, Kelli’s been murdered, and he’s the prime suspect for a corrupt town.
All of Drew’s fears come flooding in as he returns to Ember Falls to care for Cole, and try to repair his broken relationship with his only other living sibling. But with help from two town cops, the site where Kelli’s body was found tells Drew there might be a serial killer in Ember Falls, and the entire Duncan family is next on his list.
Drew must piece together a decade’s worth of secrets in time to save his family, or his nephew and sister will be the next victims of a killer no one even suspects.
Torn Away Is an emotional read, and I really hope everyone enjoys it.
1st Place Winner of the Saratoga RWA Great Beginnings Contest!
Excerpt from Torn Away:
A Free Woman
“Say it. I am a free woman, in charge of my own future and destiny.”
Kelli Duncan took a deep breath, used a tissue to dry her tears, and repeated the words. “I am a free woman in charge of my own future and destiny.”
Diana sat back and appraised her patient. “Now, try saying it like you believe it.”
Kelli smiled, but there was no joy in it. She fought against the tears threatening to spill over again. “It’s hard. I don’t believe it. I don’t feel like I’m in control. If Edward gets out, I’m afraid he’ll come for me. For me and Cole.”
“You have a restraining order,” Diana said. “If he comes into the county, he’ll be arrested again. You’ve got two friends on the police force.”
Kelli knew a restraining order was just a piece of paper.
“You can’t control his actions,” Diana said. “You can only control your own. What kind of person you choose to be. What kind of mother you want to be.”
Kelli’s breathe hitched as the waterworks kicked back in. “I’ve failed as a mother. I should have left that bastard years ago, the moment he first raised his hand to me. But I stayed. I was terrified of him. I’m still terrified of him.”
Dianna nodded. “You had every reason to be, but it was more than just terror. It’s the pattern of your life. Your father was an abusive drunk, to you and your siblings.”
“He was always so angry,” Kelli explained. “More so after Mom died.”
“Then your first boyfriend used and abused you. Left you when you were pregnant with his son.”
Kelli shrugged. “Rodger didn’t hit me much. He mostly stole from me. And he cheated. But he gave me Cole.”
“And then there was Edward Hunter,” Diana said. “He isolated you from your family and friends. Beat you in front of your son. You’ve been conditioned to take it. But you broke away. You left.”
Kelli nodded. “He came after me. He was going to kill me and take Cole.”
“He has no claim over your son,” Diana said. “He never adopted him or even accepted him as his own. Cole doesn’t call him ‘Dad’ does he?”
Ripping the tissue into tiny pieces, Kelli shook her head. “No. Edward never wanted him to.”
“How is Cole adjusting to life in Ember Falls?”
Kelli sighed heavily. “I’m not sure. He’s quiet. Sullen. He hasn’t made any friends. I know he’s worried about Edward returning.”
Kelli threw away the remains of the tissue, reaching forward and pulled out another one. “He likes living in Lilly’s house. And the bookstore. Cole always liked books.”
“How is he dealing with your friend and sister?”
Kelli smiled and there was a hint of joy in her eyes. “He likes his crazy Aunt Ashley and she adores him. Lilly is so patient. It was so good of her to take us in. If Edward comes there…”
Kelli closed her eyes, imagining her ex hurting her friend or sister. If it happened, it would be her fault.
“If he does, call the police. Your sister is friends with a cop.”
Kelli nodded. “Ollie’s a good man. He’s been trying to spend time with Cole. I think Cole likes him, but he won’t say it. He’s frightened of men, but Ollie’s got a way about him. Cole needs that. He needs to be around good men.”
She dabbed her eyes with the tissue. “I contacted my brother.”
Diana’s eyebrows went up in surprise. “Oh? Do you think that’s a good idea? Are you sure that’s not you, falling into that same pattern again?”
Kelli shook her head. “I don’t care what everyone says. My brother didn’t hurt anyone. He always tried to protect me and Ashley. Dad was always the hardest on him. I think when Dad looked at me or Ashley, he saw a bit of Mom. So we got knocked around a little, but he’d go to town on Drew. Mostly because Drew put himself between us and Dad.”
“I haven’t seen him since I snuck into the hospital. They wouldn’t let me into his room, had a police officer stationed at the door. I saw him as a nurse went in. They had him cuffed to the bed.”
Diana nodded. “What does your sister think?”
Kelli folded her arms. “Ashley refuses to even talk about him. He wrote to us.” She looked up. “For some time, he wrote letters and emails. Ashley refused to read them and sent them back, but she saved the ones that came for me. I believe in him. And I’ve been poking around a little. I owe it to him.”
“You don’t owe him anything,” Diana said. “You owe it to your son to be safe. Is your brother coming back to Ember Falls?”
Kelli shook her head. “I didn’t actually ask him. But I want him to. I know he hates this town, but I want my brother back. I think he’d be good for Cole. If I ask him, he’ll come.”
“You’re sure that’s a good idea?”
Kelli smiled. “There’s a lot of things I’m not sure about, but my brother being a part of my son’s life? That’s not one of them.”
Diana was hardly convinced.
Diana instructed Kelli to repeat that phrase in her head, each day, until it started to sink in. ‘I am a free woman, in charge of my own future and destiny.’ It sounded good.
Kelli stepped outside, the cool night air refreshing her entire body. She was a free woman, and she intended to stay that way. Kelli had failed Cole as a mother, because she had allowed fear to dominate her. She had to do better for him. Cole would heal. He had to. He was all that mattered to her.
Yes, life was going to get better. Kelli would make sure of it. She was through being a victim.
She smiled to herself as she reached for the car handle. The promise still ringing in her mind when his reflection in the car window caught her attention. She had no time to panic before he grabbed her from behind, whispered, “Bitch,” in her ear as a sharp blade slit her throat.
Her scream drowned in a bloody gurgle as he dragged her to a nearby car, used a key fob to remotely open the trunk and throw her inside like a bag of garbage. She barely registered the fact the trunk was lined with plastic as he glared down at her with scorn and stabbed the knife into her chest. She prayed that her sister, brother and best friend would deliver the promise of a better life for her son. Kelli Duncan died before he slammed the trunk closed, but she died a free woman.