Title: The Buried by Shelley Coriell
The Apostles Series Book Two
Publisher: Forever (Grand Central Publishing)
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Romantic Suspense
Length: 384 pages
“It’s cold. And dark. I can’t breathe.”
Successful, ambitious state prosecutor Grace Courtemanche is at the top of her game. Then she gets a chilling call from a young woman claiming to be buried alive. Desperate to find the victim before it’s too late, Grace will do whatever it takes . . . even if it means excavating the darkest secrets of her own past and turning to the one man she thought she would never see again.
FBI agent Theodore “Hatch” Hatcher is a man without roots-and that’s the way he likes it. But when a grisly crime shatters Cyprus Bend, Florida, Hatch is dragged back to the small town-and the one woman-he hoped was in his rearview for good. Forced to confront the wreckage of their love affair, Hatch and Grace may just find that sometimes the deepest wounds leave the most beautiful scars-and that history repeating itself may just be what they need to stop a killer . . . and save their own hearts.
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“Shine the light to the right near the lilies,” Grace said as she squinted through the blackness, softened only by a sliver of moon. “Something’s been there.”
The spotlight cut across the lilies and landed on a flattened patch of broken reeds. His pulse spiking, he grabbed a low-hanging cypress branch and pulled them closer.
Damn. Too narrow for a boat, even a fourteen footer. “Another gator slide,” he said. Another dead end.
Grace maneuvered the boat out of the tiny creek, gliding to a set of yellow-slitted eyes poking out of the water. Hatch stared down the gator until it blinked and spun away. He’d take on every gator in Florida if it meant getting to Janis Jaffee in time. Although time was key, Grace continued to boat slowly down the river as he searched the banks, looking for any signs of human disturbance. Hatch ground his back teeth. Make that any signs of a disturbed human. They were dealing with a twisted and dangerous mind.
Once on the Apalachicola River, Hatch’s phone vibrated with a text from Lieutenant Lang. “Cell phone company just identified two towers picking up signals,” he told Grace. “Cross section of the towers is some place called Bremen’s Bayou. Name ring a bell?”
“Northwest of here,” Grace called out over the gun of the motor.
“Big area?” Hatch asked.
“Couple hundred acres.”
Even with the roar of the outboard, he heard the excitement in her voice. “What?”
“One of Lamar’s old hunting buddies keeps his dogs on a floating pen in that area. Janis heard the dogs right before she was dragged from the boat. We find the dogs, we’ll find the girl.”
Within fifteen minutes, Grace had them racing down the Apalachicola River and onto Bremen’s Bayou, a slow-moving waterway surrounded by cypress and oak dripping with Spanish moss. His light glided over cypress roots reaching up from the water like fingerless hands. The trees hung low over the water, and branches scratched the side of the boat. And some of the branches—
“Broken!” Grace said on a fast breath. “The wood’s still damp at the break. Someone’s had a boat back in here recently.”
She inched the boat through the tangle of branches. His light landed on a flattened bush and a pair of crushed white trumpet-like flowers. He fanned the light higher. “Drag marks. Too wide for a gator.”
Grace jammed the boat into the bank. He launched himself over the side, his feet sinking into swampy earth. Swatting brush, he chased the drag marks into the knot of blue-black shrubs and trees. Vines reached for his hands and legs. A ropy length of moss wrapped around his neck, and he yanked. Something snarled. Something else hissed. And still he ran.
The brush gave way to marsh. Mud sucked at his feet. His shins. His knees.
On the other side of the bog, he spotted the earthen mound.
He tore up the rise. Something sharp sliced into his right foot. Shoe. He’d lost a shoe.
At the mound, he fell to his knees and clawed the earth. “Janis!” he called. “It’s Hatch. I’m here.”
No banging. No choking gasp.
He scraped harder, faster, sandy soil flying. His finger scraped against something flat and cold. He tugged, and a rock came free. With the flat rock he shoveled earth.
Something crashed through the marshy grass and fell next to him. Another set of hands.
“Spotted three boats coming this way.” Grace jammed her hands in the dirt and shoveled.
His rock hit wood. Someone let loose a cry. Grace? Him? Janis?
More sandy soil flew through the air. He unearthed one corner. Another. With two feet of wood exposed, he banged the rock at the seam along the top. The wood split. He grabbed the broken lengths of wood and yanked, every muscle in his body straining. Nails screeched, the wood splintered, and half of the top board broke off, exposing a pale, dark-haired young woman.
A former newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and restaurant reviewer. These days Shelley writes smart, funny novels for teens and big, edgy romantic suspense. A six-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Finalist, she lives and loves in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue Weimaraner. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her baking high-calorie, high-fat desserts and haunting local farmers markets for the perfect plum.
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