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“Who’s Bernie Abeyta?” he asked quietly. Great. I’m paired with a guy. Just what I needed.
The girl with the short, purple hair raised her hand. “Me.” She sounded bored.
“Okay. I’m, uh, I’m Josh.” He stood in front of her desk, awkwardly shifting from side to side.
“Yeah. I’m Bernie.” She glanced up quickly, meeting his gaze, then looked away.
“You have the last fifteen minutes of class to exchange contact information, phone numbers, email addresses, whatever you need to get in touch with your partner. Most of the project work will need to be on your own time as you will need to visit grocery stores and do some online research,” Mr. Griego said.
Josh sat down in the newly vacated desk in front of Bernie. “So.” He waved the index card. “One of us is a teacher and the other is an attorney. Which do you want to be?”
Bernie shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter to me. You choose.”
He looked at her, a half-smile on his face. Close-up he noticed that she had beautiful, smooth, light-brown skin and her eyes were so dark they looked black. She didn’t wear much makeup; she didn’t need to. “Fine. I’ll be the teacher. You can be the attorney.” She looked up quickly. “Is that okay?”
She shrugged again. “Sure. It doesn’t matter. Do we have kids?”
“Yeah, we have two: an eight-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son. So, I guess we should exchange phone numbers and email.” He scrawled his information on a page of his notebook and tore it out, handing it to her.
She took the page, staring at it blankly for a moment before tearing a piece of paper out of her own notebook. “Here’s my email.”
He looked at it. “What’s your cell number?”
“Yours. Here.” She pushed the paper back at him. “Write your address. I have to work until seven. I can be there around seven-thirty. Is that okay?” She didn’t meet his eyes.
“Uh, sure. That’s fine. Here.” He handed the paper back. “Do you need a ride or anything?”
“Oh. Great. So, I’ll, uh, see you tonight. I guess.” He had never been so tongue-tied around a girl.
“Yeah.” She turned her attention back to her notebook, clearly dismissing him.
Josh returned to his seat, chagrined. I seem to have lost my touch. Then again, he hadn’t really been trying very hard for a long time. He used to be much better at this whole thing: friends, girls, talking. Now he simply didn’t have the energy anymore. It was October of his senior year and he was biding his time until he could graduate and move on with his life. She’s really pretty, though. He groaned inwardly as he packed his notebook and shouldered his backpack. He knew he had no business noticing how pretty his new partner was; he should be thinking about how gorgeous his girlfriend had looked in her cheerleading uniform that morning during the pep rally. She was beautiful, sweet, and had stuck by him through a seriously dark time in his life. He had really been phoning it in lately with Kayleigh. Jeez, he could do better. He merged with the flow of humanity in the hallway, determined to do right by her, starting tomorrow at lunch.
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Sennie Lacefield has always felt safe at her family’s peaceful mountain lodge . . .
The only break in her tranquil life was the death of her boyfriend Patrick Devon, which left her heartbroken and unable to understand Patrick’s sullen, withdrawn brother Lonnie. But when her best friend Reatha Alcoker disappears, her sense of security is shattered. With the help of Reatha’s boyfriend Milo Durham, she launches a search for her friend.
More girls disappear, and bodies begin turning up . . .
When one of the missing girls is found dead in a swamp with a symbol burned into her forehead, Sennie focuses on her growing list of suspects. She can’t count on help from the lazy, lecherous Sheriff Warford Cackley. She also has suspicions the sheriff’s son Rex and his nasty friend Ottis know more than they’re willing to share.
Someone is watching Sennie’s every move . . .
Refusing to believe Reatha is dead, Sennie and Milo continue their frantic search, and Sennie is plagued with threatening messages. When another girl’s body is discovered, she and Milo visit the site and find evidence that Reatha has also been there. Some aerial photographs might hold a vital clue . . . if they can find them in time.
As Sennie unravels a tangled web of secrets, arson, burglary, and murder, could it be that a desire to help Sennie has warped the mind of a murderer?
Anxiety ran its swift edge through her stomach without warning as she turned to gaze across the lake and into the surrounding dense forest.
Someone is watching me. I wish I could see through the trees. They could be anywhere.
She rubbed her hand down the length of her arm. There was no movement, except for the gentle swaying of the trees as the early dawn breeze rustled their needles and thick, green leaves. She turned forward, but the uneasy feeling didn’t pass. Someone was watching her. The chestnut brown hairs on the back of her neck, just under her long ponytail, prickled.
Evil is on the prowl, waiting for the right moment to pounce on me.
Bringing her knees to her chest, a ripple of fear dotted her spine, making her skin crawl. The first time she had experienced this feeling was in May, the week school had ended for summer break. The rumors about two girls who had gone missing stayed in the back of her mind. It wasn’t unusual for girls to run off from the small town of Mayrose, Arkansas. They would most likely be found in Little Rock, sad and miserable because city life hadn’t turned out the way they had thought it would. But so far, no one had been able to track down the two latest missing girls. That was unusual.
As a child, Toni Morrow Wyatt’s family spent nearly every summer visiting relatives in a small, rural community in Arkansas. Finding magic in this place, it is the setting for many of her novels. Her love for southern fiction led to the writing of her upcoming novel, A Killing Among Friends, and also, Return to Rocky Gap. Her work has appeared in From the Depths Literary Journal and Belle Reve Literary Journal. She writes an eclectic blog titled, A Pinch of Me, on Tumblr. She was previously an independent bookseller, owning and operating Kindred Books for seven years.
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