Author: Amy Rivers
Publisher: Compathy Press
Purchase link: www.compathypress.com
About the Book:
A tangled web of deception and duplicity where predators are shielded by respectability and no one is safe
Kate Medina had been working as a forensic psychologist and loving every minute until a violent attack left her shaken to the core. Retreating to her hometown where it's safe, she accepts a job where the prospect of violence is slim to none. As a high school psychologist, Kate tends to the emotional needs of the students. It's not the career she envisioned for herself.
Five years later, a student disappears, leaving the school in crisis and Kate at the helm of another traumatic event. Roman Aguilar, the lead detective, reaches out to Kate for assistance. Kate's position at the school and her training make her an ideal ally, but her complicated relationship with Roman puts them at odds.
When the girl's body is found, changing the focus of the investigation to homicide, Kate finds herself in the middle of a situation she never anticipated. What started as her desire to help puts Kate directly in the crosshairs of an enemy who remains largely in shadows. As her past and present collide, Kate is dragged into the middle of a dangerous game where only one thing is clear-no one can be trusted.
About the Author:
Amy Rivers writes novels, short stories and personal essays. She is the Director of Northern Colorado Writers. Her novel All The Broken People was recently selected as the Colorado Author Project winner in the adult fiction category. She's been published in We Got This: Solo Mom Stories of Grit, Heart, and Humor, Flash! A Celebration of Short Fiction, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses, and Splice Today, as well as Novelty Bride Magazine and ESME.com. She was raised in New Mexico and now lives in Colorado with her husband and children. She holds degrees in psychology and political science, two topics she loves to write about.
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Kate pushed past her scowling sister, ready to get out of the house and away from the drama of the night before. She loved her family dearly, but Tilly’s propensity to get into screaming matches with their parents had Kate counting down the days until she left for college.
“I’m coming!” she yelled as she raced out of her house, letting the screen door slam behind her. She’d heard the familiar half-dead horn honking from her room and knew there was more where that came from. Kate pretended to be annoyed but Roman’s enthusiasm was infectious, even from a distance.
“Sorry, Dad!” Kate shouted, but she kept her pace, yanking open the passenger-side door of Roman’s beat-up old car and throwing her bag into the back seat as she slid in beside him.
“Impatient much?” she complained, buckling her seatbelt. A trickle of sweat was already sliding down her neck. In one deft move she gathered up her curly brown hair, forming a messy ponytail and pulling the scrunchie from her wrist to secure the hasty hairdo.
“What?” she asked, noticing Roman staring at her. “By the way, the honking? What the hell! My dad was pissed.”
Roman smiled. “Nah, he’s used to me. Besides, it’s already hot and I want to get there before we miss out on the shade.” He eased the car away from the curb. Kate hoped her dad wasn’t watching them as they turned off her street. It would be pretty obvious that they weren’t heading for school.
“What are we listening to?” Kate asked, cranking up the radio, the only part of Roman’s car that was shiny and new. R.E.M. blared through the speakers. Kate started singing at the top of her lungs, and before long Roman joined her. They kept the windows rolled up to let the air conditioner do its job. It also muffled the racket they were making. As much as Kate loved ditching with Roman she hadn’t been caught yet, and with a month left before graduation, she was hoping to keep it that way.
The song faded out in the middle of a verse. “God, this guy is terrible,” Kate groaned, turning down the volume to drone out the boring banter from their least-favorite local D.J.
“Yeah he is,” Roman agreed. “Would have been nice if he’d left town after high school, eh?” As the words left his mouth, a shadow settled over his features. Kate looked away, hoping they could avoid yet another argument about Kate’s post-graduation plans.
Kate had stopped talking openly about her plans after their first big fight. Roman hadn’t entirely settled on a direction for his life, but Kate had her mind set on attending an out-of-state college and leaving her dusty hometown far behind her. She knew she’d miss her best friend, but that didn’t give him the right to keep her from pursuing her dreams.
Luckily, Roman didn’t seem bent on picking a fight. He began to hum, and Kate felt the tension leave her shoulders.
When they reached the spot where the road crossed the creek, they could already see other cars driving up the creek bed.
“They never learn, do they?” Roman said as he drove past, heading for a spot further up the road where they could park on the shoulder and hike down.
“Idiots,” Kate muttered, remembering the last time they’d driven up the creek bed, barely escaping the truant officers who knew the creek was a favorite ditching spot. All they had to do was camp out at the entrance and it was like shooting fish in a barrel.
Roman parked near an outcropping of creosote bushes that nearly hid his car from view.
They both got out, slid on their backpacks, and walked toward the cliff overlooking the creek. Kate felt the red dirt shift underneath her feet as she neared the edge. “Must still be a little wet from the rain last week,” she called back as Roman joined her.
“Want me to go first?” he asked playfully.
“Yeah, right,” Kate said, smiling. She started down the steep bank, lead foot sideways to compensate for the sliding that happened as she moved down.
They hiked upstream to a place where the water pooled and the mesquite trees provided some shade. Sometimes the place was packed, but today only a few kids were hanging around.
Kate and Roman found a spot where some big rocks formed a natural seat at the water’s edge. They took off their shoes and stuck their feet into the cool water, using their backpacks as chair backs.
Fluffy white clouds dotted the bright blue New Mexico sky. For a while they sat in silence, soaking up the sunshine.
“Tell me you’re not going to miss this,” Roman said quietly. Kate closed her eyes and tried to maintain a neutral tone.
“I will miss it,” she said. “But there’s so much I want to do, Roman. And I can’t get the education I want here.”
“I know,” he said miserably. Kate wished she could make him understand. She was excited about her upcoming move, but also scared. And it would have been nice to have Roman as her ally rather than having to survive his moodiness.
“It’s not like I’ll never be back,” Kate said. “Thanksgiving is just a few months away, and you know I’ll be home for luminarias and your mom’s posole at Christmas.” She tried to infuse her words with positivity.
Roman didn’t respond, so Kate opened her eyes again and resumed her study of the clouds. She was so relaxed that she started to feel drowsy.
“Hey,” Roman said, shaking her shoulder. “Wake up, Kate. You’re going to burn.”
Kate sat up, stretching back muscles that had started to cramp against the hard rock surface. “Sorry, I must have dozed.”
Roman laughed. “Slept is more like it. You’ve been out for, like, an hour. I didn’t want to wake you, but your face is getting pink.”
“I didn’t sleep well last night.” Kate reached up to rub her eye and winced at her tender skin. She wasn’t prone to sunburns, but it was getting to that part of the day when the sun was most intense. Looking around, Kate noticed the other kids had all gone.
“Where is everybody?” she asked, a hint of panic creeping into her voice. She scanned the surrounding area for lurking truant officers—or worse, the police.
“Must have been your snoring,” Roman teased, skipping a stone across the water.
“I don’t snore!”
“How would you know? You weren’t the one who had to listen to you.”
Kate scooped up a handful of water and threw it at Roman. He shouted “Hey!” but his eyes were bright with mischief. It was a look Kate had grown to love over the years. A look that usually landed them both in trouble. Roman seemed to think most rules didn’t apply to him until he got caught. He was the perfect balance for Kate’s uptight nature.
Roman started jogging up the creek.
“Wait up!” Kate called, struggling to pull her socks and shoes on while Roman widened the gap between them. She left her backpack behind and sprinted in his direction. When she finally caught up, she was sweating again. “Dammit, Roman,” she panted, wishing she’d grabbed a drink of water before chasing him.
“Aw, come on. Don’t be mad,” he said, bumping her arm. A playful jab between friends. Something he’d done a hundred times.
Except this time it didn’t feel the same. There’d been a lot more awkward moments lately. Kate couldn’t put her finger on what was different, but his touch made her shiver. His skin was warm and soft against hers. Roman looked as uneasy as Kate felt. He dropped his arm to his side and leaned away.
Kate’s body felt heavy, keeping her frozen in place. She looked at Roman, wondering why she’d never noticed the green flecks in his hazel eyes. Or maybe she had, but they’d never seemed quite as lovely. Her heart began to race.
“Kate,” Roman said, his voice raspy, barely a whisper.
Something akin to terror squeezed Kate’s heart as she saw the determination in Roman’s eyes. Suddenly, she knew exactly what he was going to say, and a part of her wanted him to. He reached out and entwined his fingers with hers. Needing time to think, Kate turned. “Let’s walk,” she managed to get out.
She began upstream again but kept her hand in Roman’s, her mind a storm of feelings and thoughts. She didn’t dare look back at him for fear her heart would melt her resolve. Despite the fluttering occurring in her at this moment, in less than two months she’d be leaving town. And she didn’t want anything keeping her torn between her past and her future. It would be hard enough just to leave her best friend.
She’d almost found the courage to tell him when they rounded a bend and stopped dead in their tracks, their hands breaking apart.
There was a car.
It was much further up the creek than anyone dared drive, and Kate could see that the interior had been burned out. The license plate was missing and the windows had all been smashed in. But the thing that caught her attention, the thing that had Kate trembling where she stood, was the sight of a charred hand hanging through the open driver’s side door.