Previous image



Falcon's Bend Series, Book 2: Tears on Stone
Next image
Zoom image

Falcon's Bend Series, Book 2: Tears on Stone


Score: 4.67 (votes: 3)
3

Falcon's Bend is a small, sleepy town in Wisconsin that owns more taverns than churches, but fills both on the appropriate days. Teenagers talk of escape from the one-horse town because nothing ever seems to happen. But, even here in the Heartland, police investigators Pete Shasta, Danny Vincent and Amber Carfi fight a never-ending battle to keep their beloved families and hometown safe and sound.


Is murder ever justifiable?


Falcon's Bend Police Department Investigator Pete Shasta's brother Jordan, is recently divorced and intent on putting his life back together for himself and his daughter.  

Jordan discovers that people have moved into the house next door to him and one of them is MaryEmma Gold, who'd lived in the house he now owns when he was a boy.  Jordan soon finds that his shy "Marigold" has become an even more withdrawn woman.  

MaryEmma's sister Shelley sleeps all day and parties all night. Seeing bruises all over MaryEmma's arms, Jordan asks his brother to check into her past.  Pete and his partner Danny Vincent discover that Shelley's husband died in a fire only a week before they came to Falcon's Bend.  The women left their jobs and lives behind abruptly.

Meanwhile, Shelley's new boyfriend is found near the dam, bludgeoned to death. As they uncover murder in the form of a conspiracy, Pete and Danny can't help noticing that Shelley Wilson leaves a trail of dead men behind her wherever she goes...and Jordan may be next.

  • $5.99
Customer reviews
Average rating:

Score: 4.67 (votes: 3)
Rating of votes (3)
5
 
 
2customers
4
 
 
1customers
3
 
 
0customers
2
 
 
0customers
1
 
 
0customers
 
Please sign in to add review
  • Karen Wiesner
    Jan 11, 2018, 21:08
    5 star review from Lighthouse Reviews
    5 star review from The Romance Studio
    The Romance Studio Sweetheart Award Nominee
    5 star review and Top Pick from Night Owl Reviews
    5 star review and Reviewer's Top Pick from Readers' Favorite
    4 1/2 star review from Ecataromance
    4 1/2 star review from Manic Readers
    4 1/2 star review from Huntress Reviews

    5 Stars and Reviewer Top Pick! “This is the second of the Falcon's Bend series and the authors do not disappoint. I enjoyed every minute of this book. Pete's brother, Jordan, has new neighbors. MaryEmma Gold, or "Marigold" as he nicknamed her long ago when he first met her. Marigold has changed; she still loves gardening but is withdrawn and unapproachable. Way different from when he knew her all those years ago. He comes up with the idea to have her bring back to life the stone garden, that has been neglected for many years, as a way to bring her back to life. Then he also has to figure out what is going on with her sister, Shelley and their other roommate Pam. Both are very secretive and wary of anybody who tries to make conversation with them. What is it that they are hiding, and could it jeopardize what he is trying to rekindle with Marigold? When Pete and Danny check things out there appears to be a lot more to the story than what is on the surface. All this makes for a very exciting and interesting story. Come on back to Falcon's Bend and sit a spell as you get taken on a roller coaster ride once again.” ~Night Owl Reviews
    5 beacons! "In book two of the Falcon's Bend Series, TEARS ON STONE, the reader is once more enthralled in a web of intrigue that is mesmerizing... Falcon's Bend is one small town that instills a certain quietness about it, yet really paints some wild sheering excitement. The emotion is tight and well written... Pete and Danny indeed have their days filled with trouble with this psychological chiller that once again has the reader on the edge of their seat. When Jordan was talking to MaryEmma and held onto her, I could feel the intensity and almost see all the painful expressions layered on their faces. Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler have generated a most thrilling novel that has the reader wishing to ride shotgun with Pete and Danny. With more entertaining characters, these two talented authors have penned a well-developed plot and captivating story that is a winner. Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler are so brilliantly ingenious that they have again created another masterpiece. This book is definitely a top-notch winner and that is why I rate it a 5." ~Lighthouse Reviews
    5 Stars! “Authors Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler really gain their stride in the pacing and momentum of TEARS ON STONE. And there are no throw-away characters. One of the most surprising and engaging sub-plots, for example, is the developing relationship between two little girls, three-year-old Ariel and Jordon’s six-year-old daughter, Nicole. In a subtle way, this relationship is a foil to the one among the grown women in the story. I found this book to be a tantalizing read, a page-turner that kept me up all night. You’ll want to read it yourself to find out if it has the same dangerous effect on you.” ~Readers’ Favorite
    "Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent are back for another thrilling mystery in TEARS OF STONE. This time we get to know more about Pete and Danny and their wives. We get to know Pete's brother, Jordan, Pete's younger brother. The authors compassionately draw us into the suffering of the abused women and children. This leads Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent into twists and turns of possible motives for this crime and, soon, for others. A bottle of champagne is merited by this book. It is a good mixture of a love story and a murder mystery wrapped up in a nicely coherent package. The sequel to a successful first book is often a disappointment. But TEARS OF STONE shows just how talented Karen Wiesner and Christine Spindler are. This reviewer awaits the following book in the Falcon's Bend Series." ~Cocktail Reviews
    5 hearts! "Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler continue this series with another suspenseful tale that's a real winner for romance and for keeping us guessing. Detectives Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent both have issues they have to cope with in this one. Pete's brother may be involved with a killer. Danny's new marriage turns rocky. Still the two guys and new officer Amber Carfi show other not so dedicated officers of the law how it's done. These two great authors don't let Amber be just a token woman on the police force as her photographic memory and abilities help them wrap up the case. Mss. Wiesner and Spindler do a wonderful writing job as they blend the complex issues of abused women into the storyline. The characters run the gamut from stalkers to husbands who will abuse anyone who gets in their way.. We get an honest look at law enforcement officers who ignore abuse because they feel it's a spouses' right to dish out punishment. At the same time they don't feel the abused spouse has any right to self defense. It's easy to compare that to Officers Shasta and Vincent who may be small town detectives but their hearts are solid gold tempered by an ultimate belief that the system can work. This second book in the series is another example of writing that keeps us on the edge of our seat while still challenging us to think of the issues of abuse in a new light. The first two books plus the case file addition in the Falcon's Bend saga are highly recommended by this reviewer." ~The Romance Studio
    5 beacons! "In book two of the Falcon’s Bend Series, TEARS ON STONE, the reader is once more enthralled in a web of intrigue that is mesmerizing... Falcon’s Bend is one small town that instills a certain quietness about it, yet really paints some wild sheering excitement. The emotion is tight and well written... Pete and Danny indeed have their days filled with trouble with this psychological chiller that once again has the reader on the edge of their seat. When Jordan was talking to MaryEmma and held onto her, I could feel the intensity and almost see all the painful expressions layered on their faces. Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler have generated a most thrilling novel that has the reader wishing to ride shotgun with Pete and Danny. With more entertaining characters, these two talented authors have penned a well-developed plot and captivating story that is a winner. Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler are so brilliantly ingenious that they have again created another masterpiece. This book is definitely a top-notch winner and that is why I rate it a 5." ~Lighthouse Reviews
    4.5 stars! "Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler revisit Pete Shasta and the Falcon’s Bend Police Department as they solve a string of murders that seem to involve female members of the community. Someone killed abusive men from Falcon's Bend. Is the same killer responsible for all of the deaths or is something much darker infecting the people of Falcon’s Bend? This story is a mystery lover’s dream. It also has all of the elements of a good love story. I cannot wait for the next book in this series!" ~Ecataromance Reviews
    4.5 Stars! “TEARS ON STONE, Book 2, is another exceptional entry in the Falcon’s Bend Series. I have to admit to putting off reading this one for a while due to the subject matter. Books about abuse really affect me. I finally bit the bullet though because, without reading it, my appreciation of and for the series wouldn’t be complete. Just as I’ve come to expect, the flow is seamless, the plot tight and the mystery captivating. As has been the case with the others, the prologue always starts in the past. TEARS ON STONE is shades of grey. Very thought provoking, tense and seen from different perspectives. Right, wrong or indifferent, the letter of the law doesn’t always serve and protect victims of abuse as it should. The victim’s perspective is always heart-wrenching, especially when that victim is a child. The willing victim is, for me, anger-inducing and one of the hardest to understand. Giving your marriage your best shot is one thing, but there are limits. Then there’s the perspective of the law in the form of the Falcon’s Bend Police Department, including their two detectives Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent. They know the law often fails and can cross the line into neglect and in some cases become dirty. They don’t always agree with what they have to enforce, but they do believe in the law—another of those grey areas. In my opinion, the Falcon’s Bend Series ranks right up there with Shannon and McBain for procedurals. I highly recommend TEARS ON STONE and the rest of the series to anyone who enjoys a well-crafted procedural mystery.” ~Manic Readers
    4 ½ stars! “Let me get to how much I enjoyed this story! There are a few sub-plots to keep things moving along at a brisk pace. I never found myself getting bored. The characters are well developed and I came to care for many of them. I look forward to more stories in Falcon's Bend.” ~Huntress Reviews
    4 Stars! “I’ve come to expect a high standard from Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler. Once again they live up to my expectations. The emotions run high as the authors focus on abuse. The dynamic duo does it again.” ~Readers Favorite
    4 stars! "Detectives Pete Shasta and Danny Vincent investigate a murder that has surprising twists. The authors have done a terrific job of creating fully dimensional characters. While the expert detective work of Pete and Danny is highlighted, we also get a look at their off-duty life in the small Wisconsin town of Falcon's Bend." ~Romantic Times BOOKreviews
    4 angels! "Authors Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler have written a very intense story that deals with the very personal and touchy subject of abuse. I think these ladies did a fantastic job of bringing the subject to the forefront and dealt with it extremly well. I could feel the fear, pain and confusion coming off MaryEmma in waves and wanted her to have the warmth and safety she so deserved. The pain of Pam’s past also came through with her advice to MaryEmma and Shelly and at times I just wanted to jump into the pages and shake her! I really love a book that can make me feel that wide range of emotions, and I have to give TEARS ON STONE 4 Angels and say well done ladies!" ~Fallen Angel Reviews
    4 stars! "Centered on the terrible toll spousal abuse takes on women, their children and whole families, Book 2 of the Falcon's Bend Series, TEARS ON STONE presents a cast of characters who are not always as they seem [and] carry the narrative in breathless fashion toward a satisfying conclusion. Writers Wiesner and Spindler have crafted a well written, forceful tale focused on what remains at times an ignored, denied and prickly issue of spousal abuse. The helpless, hopelessness these women experience, particularly when they have children to protect, is well portrayed on the pages of TEARS ON STONE. The writers have done a remarkable job of bringing a thorny subject to the forefront as they weave a tale surrounding that which is understandable in scope, not permissible in the legalistic sense, however is sometimes the only method left to those who must deal with the impossible. The dread, hurt and bewilderment presented by each of the three main characters is palpable, different for each, and offers the reader opportunity to realize that we each react to adversity in our way. While not a true story, TEARS ON STONE brings home the point: There is no hard and fast do-this-or-do-that when irrational, abusive relationships are in play. Enjoyed the read, happy to recommend." ~Molly's Reviews
    3 elephants! “TEARS ON STONE is disturbing. Ms. Wiesner and Ms. Spindler quietly explore the issue of abuse while putting the spotlight on recognizing and surviving abusive relationships. But what happens when one sees abuse around each corner, in every relationship, with every man? Reading TEARS ON STONE, I felt the underlying pain and newfound happiness of the characters. The lostness of MaryEmma’s niece hurt this mother’s heart. TEARS ON STONE is a powerful stand-alone novel.” ~Christine Steeves Speakman
    "Settle into the back of the squad car and ride along with Lieutenant Pete Shasta and his partner, Danny Vincent, as they solve the latest murders in Falcon’s Bend. It seems that someone is killing off the abusive men in the town. Pam Garland has set up an abuse center for women. The deeper Pete and Danny dig into the Society of Survivors background, the muddier the facts. These two extraordinary detectives have more to untangle than a couple of murders. Something is not quite right in the Society of Survivors. The Falcon’s Bend stories spring from the fertile minds of Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler. Womens tears have made no impact on the stony hearts of the men who abuse them. That makes TEARS ON STONE the perfect title for this novel. I highly recommend this novel to any reader who loves mysteries and psychological thrillers." ~Writers Unlimited
    "Get ready for a great read! While it’s not essential to have read the first in the series, DEGREES OF SEPARATION, by Karen Wiesner and Chris Spindler, knowing the continuing characters in Tears on Stone adds a layer of familiarity and depth. For a small, one-horse town, Falcon’s Bend has more than its share of excitement. Police Lieutenant Pete Shasta and his partner Danny Vincent have their hands full when trouble comes to town in the form of three women with a hidden past that threatens to erupt into fireworks. Rich with emotion and intricate details in a framework packed with increasing suspense, I dare you to put down MaryEmma and Jordan’s story short of the explosive and satisfying ending." ~Liz Hunter, author of PLAIN JANE'S TIGHT END
    “I enjoyed the fact that I was kept guessing as to who the murderer might be. That it could even be the heroine in the novel made me read on into the night. The underlying love story couldn’t be rated anything but G, but this is no romance novel. The pacing was good, and each character grew within his or her world. Very short chapters. A good read.” ~WRDF Review
    "TEARS ON STONE is a good book that is thrilling, suspenseful and entertaining. Hidden in the pages you will find a sweet romance in which Ariel's Princess Marigold finds and marries her Prince George." ~BookLoons Reviews

  • Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews
    Aug 27, 2017, 05:13
    stars4.5 stars!
    Twenty-nine years ago Dorothy Hawks killed her abusive husband in self defense. The law took away her two young children and placed her in jail. When released, Dorothy began "S.O.S." (Society of Survivors) to help teach other women how they could protect themselves and their children.

    Forty-nine year old Pam Garland is an abuse counselor and a major member of S.O.S. She often refers women to the organization. She has also been the legal guardian for MaryEmma and Shelley Gold since their abusive stepfather died years ago. Shelley had married an abusive man, Jack Wilson, and has a four-year-old daughter, Ariel. Ever since Jack died in a fire last year Shelley has been in depression. MaryEmma has taken over the role of caregiver to Ariel, hoping Shelley will get better. When disaster strikes, Pam has MaryEmma, Shelley, and Ariel pack quickly. They leave Springvale, Minnesota, without any notice to anyone. At MaryEmma's suggestion, they go to Falcon's Bend, Wisconsin, where MaryEmma spent the happiest time of her childhood (unknown to Pam).

    Jordan Shasta was eleven when MaryEmma moved away from Falcon's Bend. He never forgot her or the stone garden she loved. Now the stone garden in his back yard is an overgrown mess. Jordan's wife, Kaitlyn, walked out last year without a backward glance and moved to Dallas, Texas. Jordan has sole custody of their eight-year-old daughter, Nicole. When MaryEmma moves in next door, Jordan hopes to get to know her again. Nicole hopes Ariel will become her new best friend. MaryEmma now seems withdrawn and keeps to herself, but Jordan is not above using the excuse of wanting to revive the stone garden to draw her out and spend some time with her. Shelley sleeps all day and parties most nights with numerous men. All the while, Pam is setting up a new S.O.S chapter in town and keeping her wards on short leashes. It soon becomes obvious that, unknown to Jordan when he was childhood friends with her, MaryEmma's life has been one long nightmare ... and it is not over yet.

    ***** FOUR AND A HALF STARS! Let me warn readers in advance that there two scenes of rape flash-backs. They are short, but I understand that some readers prefer to pass on books with any scenes at all. There is a lot of physical abuse throughout the story as well, but most are just mentioned in passing. I do not believe anything in this story will trigger anything for those who have physical abuse in their (real life) backgrounds.

    That said, let me get to how much I enjoyed this story! Though there are two authors, I could never tell which parts were written by either. The duo must have the exact same writing style. There are a few sub-plots to keep things moving along at a brisk pace. I never found myself getting bored. The characters are well developed and I came to care for many of them. I look forward to more stories in Falcon's Bend. *****
  • Angibabi4 for Night Owl Reviews
    Aug 27, 2017, 05:10
    I enjoyed every minute of this book.

    5 Stars / Top Pick

    This is the second of the Falcon's Bend series and the authors do not disappoint.

    I enjoyed every minute of this book.

    Pete's brother, Jordan, has new neighbors. MaryEmma Gold, or "Marigold" as he nicknamed her long ago when he first met her. Marigold has changed; she still loves gardening but is withdrawn and unapproachable. Way different from when he knew her all those years ago. He comes up with the idea to have her bring back to life the stone garden, that has been neglected for many years, as a way to bring her back to life.

    Then he also has to figure out what is going on with her sister, Shelley and their other roommate Pam. Both are very secretive and wary of anybody who tries to make conversation with them. What is it that they are hiding, and could it jeopardize what he is trying to rekindle with Marigold?

    When Pete and Danny check things out there appears to be a lot more to the story than what is on the surface. All this makes for a very exciting and interesting story.

    Come on back to Falcon's Bend and sit a spell as you get taken on a roller coaster ride once again.

"Though I do not expect the terror...will ever altogether leave me, at most times it lies far in the back of my mind, a mere distant cloud, a memory and a faint distrust; but there are times when the little cloud spreads until it obscures the whole sky. Then I look about me at my fellow men. And I go in fear..."

~from The Island of Dr. Moreau, H.G. Wells


Prologue


He was drunk again.

Dorothy hung up the phone, her heart thudding painfully in her chest as she considered for the first time in so many years that her husband always called before he came home. Just like my father, she thought.

Paul Hawks worked at the same factory her father, and his father, had all his life. The factory was the lifeblood of this small any-town, USA. The pay and benefits were lousy; the working conditions were bad. It was a dead-end job, but it was all they knew. They worked hard for little, then pissed it away every night on booze.

Dorothy immediately checked on the children, who slept fitfully just as they always had. She didn't have time to look at them in anguish. They had the faces of angels. They lived in hell. She had to protect them, no matter what was required of her.

Her eyes fixed on the clock, she closed the door of their bedroom firmly behind her. Paul would be home in five minutes. As she swept into the kitchen, she sent an experienced gaze around the house. Everything was neat, in its place. Quickly she set the table, got an icy beer from the freezer where she'd put it twenty minutes ago, and put it next to his placemat. Then she took the hot plate of food from the oven and transferred his dinner to a cooler plate.

When Dorothy heard his car pull into the garage, her heart rose into her throat. She could hear it beating there as she prayed this was a dream she'd wake from soon. On automatic, she forced herself to enter the living room and glance at herself in the mirror. She'd put on a touch of makeup, not much.

As she raised her hand to smooth her dark hair, she saw her mother staring back at her.

"Go to your room. Quickly. Stay there no matter what you hear." Mama would send an experienced eye around the room to make sure everything was neat and in its place. She would set the table, put out a fresh beer. Then she would check herself in the mirror--not too much makeup. The little bit of blush on her cheeks would stand out sharply on her pale cheeks. The bruises there stood out just as sharply despite her attempts to cover them.

"But, Mama--" Dorothy would begin to protest, but Mama wouldn't give her the chance.

"Guthrie, take your sister to your room. Take care of her," Mama would say, her voice no more than a frantic whisper, and Guthrie would nod and whisk her away, locking the door behind them.

Dorothy now swallowed the fear in her throat, but it wouldn't go down as she touched the swollen side of her face she'd tried to cover with makeup. She was her mother. She was her mother in some sadistic play that she tried to set the scene for every night, and every night the script could change.

One thing would stay the same. Just one thing. She couldn't win. That never changed.

She was there when Paul walked in the door. Her forced smile was greeted by the face of an angry stranger. She'd married him when she was eighteen, back when he was a little older than she was, a little wild, and impossibly handsome. Now he was dark, grizzled. He was nothing of the man he'd been, the one she'd wanted him to be so badly. And she no longer adored him blindly.

She kissed him, living up to his ballsy expectation for her to be the loving wife when he walked through his door at night. He shoved her away like he always did. She forced herself to smile. I hate you, Paul, with everything inside me.

"Your dinner is ready, honey," she told him, anticipating the grumble and glare she got as he lurched into the kitchen reeking of smoke and booze.

He sat and ate. She sat with him, getting him a beer whenever he needed it and agreeing with anything he muttered.

The first time he did this ritual we just got back from Florida: our honeymoon. He got home from work and tripped over the suitcase I didn't have time to unpack because we both had to go to work. Our living room has become a boxing ring almost every night since then for five years. My mother did it for over fifteen. Oh my, I don't think I can do this.

Everybody knew. Long ago, her co-workers must have realized she hadn't fallen down the stairs or tripped over anything. They all knew. Just like everyone knew what Mama went through, what me and Guthrie went through. What Benji and Annabelle go through--because we're just women, worthless punching bags. My children hate their daddy as much as I hated mine.

Tears filled Dorothy's eyes against her will. She'd never once wondered why her mother stayed. She'd never known any other way. Tonight, she looked across the table. She looked at those hands...the ones that had held her, touched her tenderly for a mere two weeks, and now only gave her pain. What she wouldn't do to be free of those hands, to free her children from this hell.

When Paul glanced at her, she lowered her eyes quickly, terrified he'd see her loathing of him there.

"Where're the kids?" he demanded.

Dorothy stopped breathing. He'd never hurt them. They were young enough that she could still protect them. But they would grow. Someday Benji would try to protect her the way Guthrie had tried to protect their mother...and then she wouldn't be able to keep Paul from hurting them anymore.

"It's after ten, Paul. They're asleep."

His dark eyes narrowed to slits. Please God, help me distract him.

"When the hell 'm I s'pose to see 'em? I work all day; I come home, I wanna see my g@#n kids, too. That's not too much to ask."

He shoved himself away from the table, and Dorothy was on her feet in an instant. "Paul, please. Just don't wake them. Just look in on them, all right? But don't wake them."

His hand shot out, impacting her chest as he shoved her back. Dorothy lost her balance and fell against the floor lamp. It crashed to the floor next to her, and the light bulb popped before going dark.

She was on her feet a second later, after him before he could enter the children's room. Standing close by, she watched him flip on the overhead light. Dorothy's hatred of him for the insidious ways he had of bullying them grew as she waited for him to do something or nothing. The children stirred in the brightness, but didn't open their eyes. They knew better, Dorothy realized.

After a few minutes of looking at them, Paul swiped his hand down over the light switch again and left the room. Dorothy closed the door when he didn't make a move to do it.

He wouldn't let her get away with her attempt to prevent him from seeing his children. She knew that and told herself if it got too bad she could call Guthrie. But Guthrie would beat him to within an inch of his life, and when Dorothy came back, Paul would make her suffer for it.

No, she would take it tonight. She would take his fists. Then she would take his vile hands on her when he crawled into bed on top of her with her blood still on his knuckles.

Dorothy righted the floor lamp, holding the cold metal in her hands while the muscles in her stomach clenched painfully in premonition.

"Wanna keep me from my kids, do you?"

We got this lamp as a wedding present, she remembered. She'd thought the intricately etched metal lampshade had been so beautiful. So beautiful, befitting the beauty of their new union.

"Mama?"

Dorothy's ears heard the small cry as though from a dream, from the past. Tears stung her eyes again. She could almost feel the pressure of Guthrie's hand holding hers so tightly behind the door. She could almost hear her mother's screams, the sound of impact over and over again. Her father's voice--the devil's, she used to think--tormenting, luring, bellowing. The sound of his satisfaction.

Her mother's words came from Dorothy's mouth as she cried reassuringly to her own son, "Go back to sleep, honey," like everything was all right. Like anything would ever be all right. Mama never tried to escape her hell, our hell. She never even tried. She took it like it was her cross to bear for being a woman.

"What the hell've you been tellin' 'em, you b@#h? You think you can turn my own kids against me?"

"I didn't tell them anything, Paul. I swear it."

She heard the desperation in her voice and hated it almost as much as she hated her need to run. He was closing in on her, circling before her, and her heart thudded painfully against her chest while she waited for him to make his move.

"You didn't tell 'em anything, you swear," he mocked, his lips twisted. "They're awake now. Maybe I wanna see 'em. Maybe I wanna show 'em what happens when their mama tries to keep their own father from 'em."

Dorothy's instincts took over. Eyes narrowed, she shook her head at him. "No." She would never let him hurt Benji and Annabelle. Never. It would be over her dead body. "No, Paul. If you want to hurt somebody, you hurt me...you f@#g bully."

His eyes widened. She'd never doubted his speed. She didn't have time to run. He grabbed her by the hair and threw her across the room with every ounce of his strength. The impact of hitting the wall took her breath away, but she came to with the pain of his fingers in her hair again, dragging her up. She smelled the stale reek of beer and the pollution from the factory. It hurts. It all hurts. Fresh and yet familiar.

Dorothy closed her eyes and whimpered. I want to die, she thought when his fist slammed into her cheek and burst open her lip again where he'd hit her two nights ago over and over for wearing too much lipstick like a whore. A week before that, she hadn't worn enough lipstick to please him.

I can't win.

When he let her go, she ran, just like he wanted her to. Instead of trying to hide the way she usually did, though, she found her fingers clutching the cold, solid metal of the lamp again.

I can't die. I can't die because my kids need me. I need them. But you...

He was grinning as he came toward her, his fists clenched, bloody.

...without you we're free. Without your bloody fists, we survive. And I can say the devil made me do it, you b@#d.

Dorothy picked up the lamp in both hands, lifted it like a baseball bat, and swung it with a strength she hadn't known she had in her.

The metal lampshade connected with his head, and he grunted in surprise. But she was already bringing it back and swinging again. And again.

She heard his body hit the floor, and she tilted the lamp and smashed the base down on his head once more. He wasn't moving. His blood...tonight it's his blood. Tonight I'm free. Tonight I'm not just a woman. I'm a survivor.

Carefully Dorothy set the lamp down again and walked to the phone. She dialed the operator and told her it was an emergency. Her husband was dead. Send the police.

Her children were crying, and that was real. She went to them, holding and kissing them as she told them the only two words her mind could grasp: "Never again."

Only moments later, her children crying in her arms, she opened the door to the police. Officer Stanley Wheeler. She knew his wife, Janice. Stanley had never been above "givin' the old lady what-for when she gets outta line".

"Where is he?"

Dorothy pointed to the living room where Paul lay face down in a growing pool of blood.

"What the hell happened here?" Stanley demanded.

Nothing mattered. She'd saved herself and her children, the way her mother had never been able to. They'd leave this town tomorrow. They'd leave hell behind them at last.

"He was beating me," she said simply. Stanley wasn't blind, yet he didn't seem to notice or care about her face, swollen and bloody, her back aching like it had been broken from where she'd hit the wall. He wouldn't care that clumps of her hair were clutched in Paul's fingers.

"You did this?"

Dorothy nodded.

Stanley's mouth twisted in anger when he stared at her. "Step away from them children, Dorothy Hawks."

"What?"

"You're under arrest for manslaughter."

As Annabelle and Benji burst into tears, Dorothy stared at Stanley, unable to comprehend this. He'd come to their house many times before and found her, beaten and bloody, by the hands of her own husband. He'd never arrested Paul. He'd told him to "take it easy next time".

Stanley grabbed her arm in a painful grip, turned her away, and slapped handcuffs around her wrists as tightly as he could get them. Then he whispered, "You'll never see your kids again, you murdering b@#h. I'll see to that personally."

Dorothy only had time to twist her head around to see another officer dragging her children, screaming, away from her. "No, please..." Dorothy whispered in disbelief. "No. No! I saved us."





Chapter One


29 years later...


"Hurry," Pam Garland said urgently as she and MaryEmma Gold passed each other on the porch.

MaryEmma nodded, picking up her pace.

"How much more is there?" Pam asked, and MaryEmma turned back to her.

"Not much. A couple more boxes like this. I was storing some things for Shell, so I thought those should go in first. These are my things."

"I guess they'll be grateful for that, won't they." Pam's tone was brisk, too rushed to really ask the question or to dwell on the answer. She disappeared into the house.

MaryEmma glanced at her sister. Shelley Wilson was sitting on the curb outside MaryEmma's house with her daughter Ariel. Shelley didn't look at, let alone move to console, the four-year-old who wept softly. It went against every one of MaryEmma's instincts not to console her niece herself, but there wasn't time.

Quickly she went to the trunk of Pam's white station wagon. She set the heavy box within. Some of the books and household items she'd thrown into it that morning fell off the top. She distributed them wherever they fit in the other boxes crammed into the trunk with Pam's suitcases. Pam had arrived only ten minutes before after clearing out of her own apartment.

MaryEmma couldn't resist giving Ariel's tiara-crowned locks a gentle stroke as she passed by. Shelley didn't respond to the squeeze she gave her shoulder.

Pam came out hefting another box, precariously piled with whatever had been nearby and necessary. "We can't take it all. I think another two boxes after this one," she told MaryEmma. "Decide which ones you really want along."

MaryEmma entered her house, now so empty and bare when just yesterday morning it had been a warm, cozy home she'd felt infinitely comfortable in. She'd enjoyed living alone. She'd put a lot into this house, though she'd only been renting it. She wished she had time to clean it thoroughly before leaving it. But it would rent again without trouble, MaryEmma told herself, especially because of the garden. She couldn't resist looking out the back window to view the part of the house she'd most loved and spent the most time in. In a few weeks she would have been planting new flowers. Vegetables. She'd miss the garden; she'd miss this house.

The tightness in MaryEmma's chest increased when Pam whirled into the house, the screen door slamming behind her. "Which one?" she demanded of the boxes in the middle of the living room floor.

Forcing herself away from the window, MaryEmma pawed through a box, pushing it aside when she saw it contained mostly her nature and relaxation cassettes.

From her fanny pack, Pam's cell phone chirped, and MaryEmma saw the dread cross the older woman's face.

"Finish packing the car," Pam said in a low tone. "I'll be out to change the license plate on the car in a minute, and then we'll go."

MaryEmma nodded, wondering if Pam would answer the phone or turn it off to ignore the incoming call. She watched Pam move into the kitchen. She's going to answer it, MaryEmma realized in shock. Why would she answer it?

Pam knew what she was doing. She wouldn't act foolishly--that was unthinkable. So everything would be all right.

After transferring some items into the box she was leaving behind, MaryEmma stood and lifted the box that was going. She winced as her forearms and biceps took the weight and sharp edges of the box.

In half a minute, she returned to the house for a last box. As she rearranged the items, she found herself straining to hear Pam in the kitchen.

"--cleaned it up. No. It had to be done. ...What was I supposed to do, tell me that? ...There's nothing Del Jossey can do, and he knows it. Miriam took care of it. ...Billie, why would this be any different than the other times?"

She was talking to Billie Salazar, MaryEmma realized, surprised by the impatience in Pam's usually calm, gentle tone. Billie was an investigator and worked closely with Pam who was a counselor for the police department. They were also friends. Billie had come by the house often, before and after Pam had become her and Shelley's guardian. Did Billie know they were leaving?

"Dorothy said that?" Pam said in a low, shocked tone that had MaryEmma straining even more to hear the conversation.

Pam had insisted that all of them leave without telling anyone...absolutely no one. Though Pam had answered her phone, MaryEmma got the feeling she hadn't told Billie they were leaving during this conversation.

With her cheeks burning, MaryEmma hefted the last box, which landed heavily on her arms again. This time, she couldn't help crying out in pain. At the sound, Pam emerged from the kitchen, her phone tucked back into her fanny pack. Her face was flushed, and MaryEmma knew the conversation with Billie had upset her greatly. Yet she only said, "Is everything all right, honey?"

MaryEmma nodded. She wanted to cover, but couldn't lie or hold anything back from Pam. "Still...still sore," she managed.

Pam came to her, putting an arm around her and stroking her cheek just the way MaryEmma's mother used to when she was a little girl. "I know, love. We're going to be okay though. We are. I promise we're going to be right as rain soon. Then maybe we can...forget."

MaryEmma nodded trustingly. Pam would take care of them. She'd always taken care of them, even when there was seemingly no way out.

"Here, let me take that."

Knowing her too well, MaryEmma didn't argue. She handed over the box to Pam. Pam was both tall and muscular. Even at age forty-nine, she lifted weights regularly. Her overactive love of sweets kept her figure plump instead of lean, but there was no denying that Pam Garland could carry the weight of the world on her shoulders if called upon to do so. MaryEmma had spent many futile hours wishing she was that strong. That fears and problems could bounce off her the way they appeared to bounce off Pam, instead of settling deep within to grow and fester.

"Lock up the house, and we'll get out of here soon," Pam said, and MaryEmma nodded.

She did one more walk through the house, making sure she wasn't leaving something she couldn't live without behind. She walked in the garden, saying a prayer on the ring she wore on a chain around her neck that the new occupants would love this place as much as she had.

When she locked up the house and put the spare keys in the potted plant dish by the front door, she saw that Shelley and Ariel were in the backseat already. Pam came to her feet with a screwdriver in her hand. MaryEmma joined her at the back of the car to see a South Dakota license plate in place with a new year sticker on it. Pam probably assumed no one would notice what state the sticker had been issued in.

The fear nearly jumped out of MaryEmma's chest there and then, until Pam gave her a hug and reminded her everything would be fine soon.

It wasn't until they crossed the state line that the tight ball of dread in MaryEmma's chest finally became unknotted. Soon the four of them would have a new life, and then, just as Pam had said, maybe they could also forget.


Related products
Drop items here to shop
Product has been added to your cart

Our books are also sorted by size to make your buying decisions easier (this does not include picture books and mid-grade readers):


Classification
Word Count
40,000 words and over
17,500 to 39,999 words
7, 500 to 17,499 words
under 7,500 words
500 words or under