Genre: Fiction, Romance, Suspense
Release Date: July 24, 2014
Digital ISBN 13: 978-1-63112-060-2 ISBN 10: 1631120603
Print ISBN 13: 978-1-63112-061-9 ISBN 10: 1631120611
Purchase link : http://www.5princebooks.com/buy-links.html
Ella and her son survived her ex-husband's drunken wrath. They are starting a new life in a new town, Stutter Creek. She's even met a real man. A gentle wild life biologist named Chet Boone. But now, her ex has been released from prison early. Is that him driving past their new house late at night? Is he the one causing the strange sounds and flickering lights? Can they survive a second round with a madman?
About the Author:
Ann lives in Texas with her handsome hubby and several rescue pets. Return to Stutter Creek is the second book in this Romantic Suspense series, the first being the aptly named, Stutter Creek. Ann’s first book with 5 Prince Publishing was All For Love, a heartbreaking story of ill-fated romance. She is also the author of The Phantom Series. Book One is Stevie-girl and the Phantom Pilot, Book Two is Stevie-girl and the Phantom Student, and Book Three is Stevie-girl and the Phantom of Crybaby Bridge. Ann has also published short fiction in the anthologies Timeless (paranormal love stories) and Tales of Terror (horror) as well as a speculative short story, Chems. Her current work-in-progress is a full-length horror novel. When she isn’t writing, Ann is reading. Her to-be-read list has grown so large it has taken on a life of its own. She calls it Herman.
Public contact information
Excerpt of Lilac Lane:
“I really like it, don’t you?” Ella asked.
Nick, her ten-year-old son, looked up at her. “It’s okay, I guess.” His expression said more than his words.
Ella hugged him to her side. “It will be all right,” she said. “Stutter Creek isn’t that far from Albuquerque. It’s just a little resort town. Skiing in the winter, camping and fishing in the summer. It backs right up to the National Park, you know. That’s why it’s such a tourist town.”
Nick didn’t say anything.
“Don’t worry,” she rattled on. “We’ll be going to visit Nana all the time, and I’m hoping she’ll come to visit us a lot, too. We’ll even fix up the spare bedroom just for her.”
She ruffled his dark hair and climbed the porch steps of their new rental. It was a quaint old house that had seen better days, but the realtor assured her that all the important stuff, like plumbing and wiring, had been recently updated. It was only the exterior that needed a little TLC. “Well, that we can do,” Ella had replied. “I’ve painted a few houses in my time. My dad was a carpenter. One of my greatest joys was helping him finish out the houses he built.” Maybe if we paint it we can get a break on the rent, she thought. But she didn’t say anything. They had more than enough to worry about at the moment.
“I don’t see why we had to move anyway,” Nick pouted, interrupting her reverie. He trudged up the steps behind his mom.
He’d been very brave the whole time they were packing and moving, but now that they were here, it had suddenly become real.
Ella felt her spirits slump. “I know, sweetie, I wish we could have stayed put, too. But this little diner—they call it The Drugstore—just beckoned me.” She glanced down and smoothed the hair she’d just tousled. She never came right out and told him they moved specifically to hide from his stepfather. She just tried to make it sound like one big adventure. “We could never have bought anything like this back home. The prices here are half what they are in the city. And there is only one other eating establishment in the whole town—if you don’t count the convenience store—and I don’t.” She squeezed his shoulder. “I hope you understand. I just didn’t want to keep waiting tables forever. I want more, for me and for you.”
Nick shrugged and plopped the box he was carrying on the sofa. Fortunately it held only books.
He’s just a child, she thought. Am I doing the right thing? She remembered the bright red handprint on his cheek the day she’d left him in Anson’s care. It was the day she’d been called into work unexpectedly. Up until then, her mom had always kept Nick. When Anson tried to tell her Nick had been disrespectful, thus giving him cause for a face-slap, she’d become so distraught he wound up shoving her across the kitchen. When she told him to leave, he’d simply laughed and shoved her again. This time, her face hit the doorframe. Then he went back to the bedroom and packed her suitcase. But Ella was no one’s victim. She called the police and had him arrested. She never slapped her child, she certainly wasn’t going to stand idly by and let someone else do it. When the officers arrived, Anson was convinced he could talk his way out of going to jail.
“The boy’s just worthless,” he’d told the senior officer. “He ain’t mine, you know. Takes after his mother. Or maybe his old man; who knows? That worthless piece never even claimed him. Now I see why. Too bad I didn’t know this before I took them in and gave them a home.” He was talking to the gray-haired cop as if they were sharing confidences over coffee. He seemed to think every man felt the way he did. Ella assumed it was the beer talking. Once he got started drinking, things usually got ugly. But this was the first time they’d gotten physical.
She remembered standing in the doorway with Nick safely ensconced behind her. “Does he need to see a doctor?” the younger officer asked.
Glancing back at Nick, the red handprint standing out on his face like day-glo under black light, Ella shook her head. “No, he’ll be okay as long as we get away from that madman.” Her eyes were crusty where she’d accidentally wiped blood from her cheek into her lashes.
“I’ll need you to come to the station and file an official report. But first, the hospital for an x-ray.” The officer nodded toward her swelling cheek. “I’m no doctor, but I think you’ve got a fracture there.”
Tears spilled from her eyes when he said that. They mixed with the smear of blood and left red trails down her face. “I feel so stupid,” she said. “How could I have let this happen?”
The officer was kind. “You didn’t let it happen, and you didn’t cause it. You’re going to follow through and get him put away.” He hesitated as if gauging his next words carefully. “And you won’t back out when it comes time to testify. You won’t go back to him and make all this night’s work be for nothing, right?”
Ella looked at him as if he were crazy. “Of course I won’t go back to him. I’m not that stupid.”
“You’d be surprised how often it happens,” the officer replied. “You would be surprised.”
The paramedics came, but Ella insisted she could drive herself to the hospital. She didn’t want to start off her single life with a huge ambulance bill hanging over her head.
As she took her keys from her purse, she saw the senior officer snap the cuffs on Anson.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” he yelled in between curse words. “I’ll sue the whole department. I’ll have your fucking job! What’s your badge number? It ain’t no crime to swat a smart mouth kid. Especially not one as worthless as that punk.” When he said that, he turned and looked right at her and Nick.
They’d been trying to get out of the house without having to confront him.
“Worthless,” he bellowed, struggling against the cuffs. His face turned the exact shade of an overripe plum, eyes bugging out as if they would leap on Nick and Ella and finish the beating. “Both of ‘em. Not worth shit!” He lunged forward, catching the officer off balance.
“Hey!” The gray-haired cop leapt on Anson’s back and took him to the floor.
“I’ll kill ‘em,” Anson was screeching. “They’ll be sorry they did this to me!”
The younger officer shielded Ella and Nick and hurried them outside. “A woman from Children’s Services will meet you at the hospital to look after him and take your story.”
That terrified Ella. “Let me call my mother. She’ll meet us there, too. She’ll help us. I know she will. Please, don’t let anyone take my boy.”
The paramedic patted her hand. “Settle down,” he’d said. “No one’s going to take your boy.”
But Ella wasn’t listening.
She was pressing her mother’s picture icon on her cell phone.
Ella swept the painful memories to the back of her mind and crossed into the kitchen where she deposited her own box full of dishes and various utensils. “As soon as we get the rest of these boxes unloaded, we’ll go to The Drugstore, then explore a bit.”
The movers had done all the heavy work, but Ella hadn’t trusted them with her grandmother’s china. She also had several more boxes in the Jeep that contained photos and artwork taken from the walls of their old house. It had been a cramped ride to their new home, but now that they were here, in the mountains, Ella was thankful they had the Wrangler. The roads were beautiful but steep. Even the driveway leading up to the house was narrow and uneven.
We’ll rent for a while, she thought. And if it doesn’t work out, we can always go back to Nana’s house. The thought stuck in her craw, though. Not only did she hate the thought of going back to mama, but Anson had made such ugly threats when she had him arrested, she was afraid to be anywhere near him, even if he was in the county jail. It was obvious how much he had grown to despise both her and Nick. He blamed her for every bad thing that had happened—even though he was the one who hurt them.
Her hand went to her cheekbone. There was a permanent indentation there; small, hardly noticeable, but what would it have looked like the next time she did something that displeased him? And what would Nick look like the next time he “swatted” him? How long before it escalated to closed fist rather than open-handed slap?
She couldn’t believe she’d fallen for someone so mean and hateful. Of course, he hadn’t been either of those things in the beginning. She recalled all the news stories of wives who had married men who turned out to be psychopaths in disguise. When the wife disappeared, the authorities almost always looked at the husband first. One woman disappeared right off the cruise ship while they were on their honeymoon. Another disappeared when she discovered her husband had been lying about being a med student. Her body was later found in the local landfill. And what about that poor pregnant woman whose husband sunk her body in the ocean? She had been eight months pregnant.
It’s hard to really know someone, Ella thought. Especially when they seek to deceive.
“Is that the doorbell?” It was the first time she’d heard it from inside the house. Her first inclination was to call out, “Come on in!” but her second thought was to yell at Nick not to answer it. She compromised by hurrying toward the door. “Just a minute, I’m coming!”
When she rounded the corner between the kitchen and the living room, she could see a woman standing outside the door.
She opened the screen. “Hello?”
The woman held out her hand. “Norma,” she said. “From next door, well, you know, down the road.” She grinned and indicated the direction with a wave of her hand. All the houses in this area were set back from the road at the end of their own stumpy, humpy driveways. Each one occupied several acres separated from each other by tall pines and junipers.
“Nice to meet you.” Ella took the proffered hand.
Norma swept streaky gray hair off her forehead and smiled. “Saw you two unloading boxes and thought I’d stop by and offer to help. My husband is a long-haul trucker, hardly ever home. So I know how welcome an extra pair of hands can be.”
Ella returned the woman’s grin even though she wondered how Norma could possibly know it was just the two of them. How does she know I don’t have a husband lurking around somewhere?
“Hope you don’t think I’m too forward,” Norma said, as if she’d read Ella’s thoughts. “Your realtor is my second cousin. She told me to check in on you guys and make sure you were getting settled.” She held up a small brown bag that Ella hadn’t even noticed hanging from her arm. “Brownies,” she said.
Ella laughed and stepped aside so she could come in. “Nick will love those. Thank you so much. And trust me, we’d welcome another set of hands if you’re sure you don’t mind.”
Norma passed the bag to Ella and patted her arm. “Just point me in the right direction.”
Ella called Nick to come in and meet their new neighbor, and then she showed him the brownies.
“Pleased to meet you,” Nick said politely. “Do you have any kids?”
Norma shook her head. “Sorry, buddy. My only daughter is grown and gone. She hasn’t even blessed me with grandchildren yet.”
Nick’s face fell.
“But don’t you worry.” Her voice was sympathetic. “We’ve got a wonderful little school here in Stutter Creek. You’ll make lots of friends. Besides,” her face grew thoughtful. “I’ve got a godson who is just a bit younger than you. His name is Danny and he just turned eight.” She glanced at Ella. “I’ll be glad to introduce the two of them—well, all of you, of course, when you’re ready. Beth and John are excellent parents. In fact, Beth is a teacher at Stutter Creek Elementary.”
Ella shot her a look of thanks, then led the way to the kitchen. “Nick is in fifth grade,” she said. “What grade does Beth teach?”
Norma clucked her tongue. “Can you believe she teaches fifth grade? Will wonders never cease?”
“That is wonderful,” Ella replied. “I can’t wait to meet her.”
She waved a hand toward the kitchen. “We haven’t bought any groceries yet.” She opened the bag containing the homemade brownies. “But as soon as we finish unloading the Jeep, I’ll run to town and get some milk to go with these.”
“Couldn’t I have just one,” Nick wheedled, obviously won over by the cook. “I don’t have to have milk.”
Ella smiled. She’d thought that would be his response. He was just like her when it came to chocolate. “Of course you may.” She handed him a still-warm square and pinched off a little taste for herself. “Sit at the table, kiddo,” she instructed. “I have no idea where the napkins are. Hmmm, these are delicious.”
Nick sat at the table and sunk his teeth into the first moist bite.
Together, the two women backtracked to the Jeep and began carrying in the rest of the boxes.
It was easy to put the cartons in the appropriate rooms. Ella’s mom had insisted on labeling each one with a giant Sharpie while helping them pack up the house back in Albuquerque. “Half the work is done in the preparation,” she’d said. Ella hated to admit it, but it had made unloading things a lot easier. Even the movers had commented on it.
When the boxes were stowed away, just waiting to be unpacked, Norma insisted it was time for her to go. But she invited them to come over for a visit. “Just stop by anytime,” she said. “It’s the first one on your right when you head back toward town.”
“Can we drop you there on our way to the grocery store?” Ella glanced out the front window. “I don’t see your car.”
Norma shook her head, gray-streaked curls bouncing. “I walked. It’s my greatest pleasure, walking these hilly roads. Good for my heart and my hips.” She winked at Ella. “Besides, it’s only a mile.”
Ella gave her a brief hug. “I’m in awe,” she said. “Once we get things all figured out, maybe I’ll just join you sometime.”
“I’d love that,” Norma replied. “And Nicky, too. We’ve got lots of wildlife in these old woods. And I know a trail that goes straight from my house to yours.”
Nick’s eyes lit up. “I’d like to see that. We lived in town before.”
“Well, that’s a date then. The first chance you get, you two stop by and we’ll go exploring.”
“Sounds wonderful,” Ella said.
Norma walked down the porch steps then turned and gave a little wave. Just past the edge of the drive, she headed into the woods. Ella could see the beginning of the trail—in another moment, Norma was invisible.
Wow. Guess the woods are thicker than I thought. That gave her a moment’s pause. Finding such a bargain for rent seemed ideal yesterday, but now she wasn’t so sure. Yep. We definitely have to explore that trail. Face the unknown. Otherwise, I’ll be imagining all sorts of things lurking there. Anson’s face popped into her head. But not him, she thought. He’s in jail. And when he does get out, he has no way of finding us.
Grabbing her purse and keys, she swept away tendrils of brunette hair that had escaped her ponytail.
“Remind me to pick up the ingredients for a caramel pie,” she told Nick as they drove into town. “I’ll make one for Norma to thank her for coming over and helping us get settled.”
“And for the brownies,” Nick added, patting his midsection comically. “I liked her. I can’t wait to check out that trail. You think we could camp out in the woods behind the house? Please?”
Ella laughed. “I’ll bet we can before it gets too cold. But I guess we’d need a tent, right?”
Nick laughed, too. “And sleeping bags, and a lantern, you know to see by, and—”
Ella rolled her eyes. “And more money to buy all this stuff!”
She pointed to a neat white house with butter colored trim on the right side of the road. The house sat back behind a lush garden of fall mums, bright purple kale, and shiny green holly bushes graced with tiny red berries. “Must be Norma’s house,” Ella said. “Wonder how long it takes her to walk a mile anyhow?”
Nick shrugged. “I’ll bet I could run to her house and back in no time!”
“I’ll bet you could,” Ella replied. “I’ll bet you could.”