Samantha’s life is good, mostly. She loves her father deeply, but even daddy’s little girl finds the life of a military brat trying. Despite being the “new girl” too often, she soldiers on. Her mom could not. She lives for his life, but now wants one of her own. Helpless but to stand witness, Samantha’s life is once again packed up and shipped off, this time without her dad.
She now resides in the remote town of Columbus Cove. Saving her from the debilitating isolation was the cove’s latest resident, Channing Ashford. It’s as if he has stepped off the cover of a romance novel and into the sleepy little town. He is charming and handsome and Samantha’s sole focus. The reformed drifter reenergizes her and they find sanctuary within each other.
When a shocking murder claims more than one victim, the couple is blindsided. They find themselves embroiled in an investigation that threatens their newly found happiness. All their reserves of sanctuary are spent as the secrets that lay buried beneath the unpaved roads of Columbus Cove come to light.
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Sheriff Martin Shuller was good at his job. He had a reputation of being a very thorough and very honest investigator. It had not surprised anyone when he was tapped to help with an investigation in a small neighboring town with shocking high profile murder. Shuller, willing to help the quaint cove, readily accepted the challenge. Leaving his town in the safe hands of his deputy, Shuller traveled to Columbus Cove and worked the Steven Harrigan murder investigation. With the dramatic end to that case now behind him, Shuller returned to his seemingly normal and quiet town of Huntersville. He was glad to be back, despite only being gone for the brief time. A weight had felt lifted once he could return to his town, his routines, his life. He felt as if all the previous mounting stress left him as soon as he crossed into his town’s outer limits. Quiet and normal was what he was seeking. It certainly was not what he found.
Not long after returning home to his life and routine, a murder occurs, and it is too close for comfort for Shuller. Shuller, who always kept his personal life personal, now is faced with a dilemma as his personal life is now entangled in the spotlight of a murder investigation. Not wanting to taint the investigation, he is powerless to help and is sidelined, watching his officers work the case. His only solace he finds now is with Jeanie. Jeanie Jacobs is the dispatcher of the local fire house. His long suffering secretary, Susan, finally worked her magic and had gotten the two together. Shuller now regrets the times he pushed aside Susan’s match making attempts in the past as he now realizes Jeanie is all he can hold onto during the course of the investigation.
Shuller tries to come to grips with these revelations as those close to him worry for the embattled sheriff. As with most murders, there is more than just a single victim. Shuller had never thought that what had occurred in that house on Cedar Mill Lane would have uprooted what the reality he thought he knew.
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It surprised no one when Sarah and Jack married right out of high school; not because Sarah was pregnant at 19, but because they had been inseparable since sophomore year. Sarah gave birth to twins, Mark and Julie, and a year later, Jacob. They settled in upstate New York, Jack a business manager and Sarah a Real Estate agent. They had the ‘mom and apple pie’ life.
Their picturesque dream life turned into a nightmare when on a warm summer’s day at the local park, the penny dropped. What would forever be referred to as The Incident changed their family forever.
Four years later, they welcomed Christian into their home. The foster child turned adopted son never understood why Sarah was overprotective, but dutifully obeyed all her restrictive rules. When he started acting out, the couple were desperate to find out the cause of their son’s bizarre behavior. However, when Christian tells them about his friend they realize just why they are suffering at the hands of their son.
When it comes to family, it’s the ties that bind…
She had gathered up the full trash bags and placed them by the door leading to the garage. Sarah moved back to the dining room, stacked all of Christian’s gifts, and made her way down the hallway. She was headed to Christian’s room. Laden with various board games and a few action figures, she reached Christian’s bed and deposited the games and toys there for him to sort through later. She turned and stopped immediately.
This was his room. The thought was abruptly sharp and unwelcomed. Sarah snapped her eyes shut to the idea. Her body seized and became rigid. She bowed her head as if the idea weighed her down physically. Oh god, please not now, she pleaded with herself. I can’t anymore, just stop, please. She rolled her shoulders back and took in a shaky breath. She tried to escape the images in her head; how the room used to be green, how there used to be a border of baseballs and bats that encircled the room, how that ratty old stuffed monkey was ever present on his bed.
Sarah willed herself to open her eyes. All those thoughts vanished within an instant. She stood in the center of the room now painted blue. Gone was the wallpaper border, the old stuffed monkey. Gone were all his things, safely tucked away in a box in the attic. She had packed them herself. She thought it would help put it all to rest if she tended to his room personally. She packed all of his things, not once considering throwing anything away or donating it. Those were his things. She could not bear storing them in the attic herself. She left that task to Jack. After all, he was not there that day. He was not the one that was to blame. He did not have that burden. No, it became Jack’s task to put his things out of sight.
She shook herself again. No, don’t go down that path, she warned herself. She took a moment to collect herself and left the room. She sighed as she slipped down the hallway slowly. Not meaning to, her eyes drifted towards the ceiling, towards the hatch to the attic. She felt her stomach churn. He’s up there, she thought grimly. She knew what was once his now lived in boxes in the attic. Her mouth was drying again. Her movements slowed to a virtual stop.
Why? That one word has nagged her for years. Her head dropped again. She could feel the tears welling up behind her closed eyelids. The taste of bile was in the back of her throat. It was these moments that she too wondered why they stayed in the house. She wanted to flee, to hide from the pain. She flashed to the illogical reasoning behind why she never wanted to move. He was still here. She felt him. She could close her eyes and hear him. He was there in the house. She could picture him in her mind, playing, laughing. How could she leave her little boy?
Then the part of her that felt she deserved to re-live the pain emerged. The part of her that wanted her to remember what her actions caused. It was her fault. The incident. This was her penance living here amongst his memories. These feelings were to serve as a painful reminder for her to be better now than she was to him then.
The pain was not always there. It did not always hit her when she goes to Christian’s room. This feeling was sporadic. It would strike at a moment’s notice. Once it did hit, it was unforgiving, paralyzing. Sarah was helpless to stop it. She had to ride the wave until it subsided. Those pills that one doctor prescribed for her only made it worse. While they were supposed to help her depression, it only helped suppressed everything. The issue was still there, it was just lying in wait. Nothing could ease the guilt she felt, nor did she think she should be given that absolution.
She lifted her head again. Her unshed tears threatening to spill down her face. Sarah wiped at her eyes as if to brush away the torment she felt at that moment. She swallowed hard and began to walk down the hallway once more. She quickened her pace the closer she got to the attic door. She ducked her head and winced slightly as she passed beneath it as if it would take a swipe at her. She left the hallway as quick as she could. Her pulse pounded in her ears for a moment, then subsided a bit. Sarah took in a deep breath and headed to the joyful noise of the kids outside.
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