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Cherished Secrets

The Wild Rose Press

Heat Rating: SENSUAL
Word Count: 88,680
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Twelve years ago, sixteen-year old Carrie Ann Hetherington, pregnant with the child of a murder suspect, fled the small town of Cooper's Ridge for the anonymity of Seattle. Now, faced with a family dilemma, she must risk her carefully reinvented life and return to her childhood home.

Eighteen-year-old Declan McAllister's prom date is found beaten and strangled to death, and he becomes the prime suspect accused of the grisly crime. Now this successful Dallas businessman returns to Cooper's Ridge to find the true murderer and finally lift the cloak of suspicion he's faced all these years. In his quest to prove his innocence, he must join forces with the woman who shattered his heart to find a devious killer who will stop at nothing to protect a shocking truth.

Caught up in a menacing web of secrets, deception and danger, Carrie Ann and Declan struggle to overcome past betrayals and present danger. Can they tear down the barriers they've erected around their hearts and rediscover true love?


“Who’s there?” Her voice was a thin squeak.

Another snap, followed by a furtive rustle of bushes.

She gulped, wishing she’d thought to bring a weapon. The hairs on the back of her neck rose. She wasn’t alone. Someone or something was hiding in the dark woods watching her.

In the next second, she was up and racing along the trail to the barn, ignoring the branches scratching her face and tearing at her clothes. Bursting out of the trees, she ran to her car, stumbling over the rutted ground. She opened the door and leaped in, hitting the automatic lock button.

Her chest heaved as she peered through the rain-spotted windshield at the crumbling ruin of the barn looming over her, the red paint on the old boards faded to umber, the windows dark and vacant. Another shiver rippled along her spine. Stop being foolish. No one’s here but you. The noises she’d heard in the forest were from a squirrel or a deer seeking shelter from the rain. Lots of animals lived in the dense woods.

She released a shaky laugh and reached for her purse on the seat beside her for a tissue. Her breath caught in her throat. A small fragment of cloth lay atop her purse, the vibrant colors glowing in the meager, late afternoon light. With a shaking hand, she picked up the cloth. The smooth silk slid between her fingers. Mesmerized, she studied the scrap of torn fabric.

The air in the car was suddenly too thick to breathe. Fingers shaking, she turned the cloth over and jammed her fist in her mouth stifling a scream. Written across the silk in thick, black letters was a single, condemning word. Guilty.

She dropped the cloth as if it burned and gulped air. While she’d been traipsing around the forest looking for where the killer had dumped Skye’s body, someone had been inside her car and left this piece of Skye’s scarf for her to find. The same person could still be here, watching her, waiting.

Her hand shook so much she dropped the keys on the floor twice before finally fitting them in the ignition and starting the car. The engine choked, sputtered, and died. Her heart hammered as she tried again. Come on. Please, please start. The engine rumbled to life. Relief flooded through her, and she pressed her foot on the gas. The car leapt ahead.

She sped along the rough track to the main road, the small rental car bouncing over the deep ruts, the back end slewing first one way and then the other. Guilty. The single, searing condemnation followed her like a haunting call. She pressed harder on the gas trying to escape the word and what it implied.

Careening around a sharp corner, she clung to the steering wheel, fighting to keep the car on the road. The vehicle skidded, bouncing over a series of washboards. She glanced in the rearview mirror. The road behind her was dark. Releasing the breath she’d been holding, she eased her foot off the accelerator.

Rounding the next bend, she entered a straight stretch and cast another quick look behind. A set of headlights shone in her rearview mirror. Her heart stuttered. Once again, she pressed down on the gas pedal. The little car shook as it sped over the gravel road, the motor roaring.

The vehicle behind loomed larger in the rearview mirror.

Her car was no match for the powerful, black SUV roaring down on her. The gleaming, chrome, front grill resembled sharp fangs ready to devour her.

The distance between them narrowed, and a terrifying realization hit. The big vehicle was going to ram her.

At the last minute, the SUV veered from behind and moved into the lane beside her.

As the SUV drew level, she risked a glance, but the dark, tinted windows made it impossible to see the driver. Come on, pass. The SUV held a steady pace, matching her speed.