Wednesday, 31 March 2021

APRIL RELEASES

 Here are a few April releases that I like the look/sound of!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

REVIEW - EDGE OF VALOR - EDGE OF COLLAPSE BY KYLA STONE

Title: Edge Of Valor
Series: Edge Of Collapse
Author: Kyla Stone
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Post Apocalyptic
Release Date: 28th March 2021
 
BLURB from Goodreads
The final battle for Fall Creek looms......and not everyone will make it out alive.

With enemies closing in on every side, the survivors of Fall Creek find themselves facing impossible odds.

Do they flee for their lives? Or do they defend their town and risk losing it all? Some things are worth fighting for, dying for.

This may be their last stand.
 
 
PURCHASE LINKS
 
REVIEW 
Despite it being fairly late at night I honestly couldn't resist reading just a couple of chapters of this book as soon as I got chance. I have become seriously attached to some of these characters and though I will be truly sad for the series to end I can hardly wait for what seems to be the looming final battle, who will survive? The cover once again feature’s Liam and Hannah together with weapons ready for their next battle. All the covers for this series have been great and I bet they look amazing altogether on a book shelf! The chapters are told from the points of view of the characters and are numbered by the amount, of days. Though there are dramatic scenes in the book and series, there are also humorous scenes and descriptions, such as Milo calling the new goat Oreo as it is white with black splotches! And the fact it makes Quinn hungry every time she hears or thinks about it.

In this book Liam, Hannah and the residents of Fall Creek are facing not one, but two very large well-trained forces coming at them from different directions. The Fall Creek residents can do nothing but stand their ground and fight with what they have. They have Alexander Poe and his army of men who are killing anyone and anything that stands in their way wanting to take as much land as possible. Then there’s General Sinclair, a man so intent on being remembered in years to come and being part of history that he has an assistant logging everything that happens. The General wants the control and comfort of Winter Haven as well as wreaking revenge for his daughter Rosamond’s death. The part of his plan that is most sinister is his interest in the baby that is the result of his grandson kidnapping and repeatedly raping a woman. He wants that baby to bring up, to mold as he wishes to continue his legacy after he has died. It’s only a mothers sixth sense about her child and the ever, protective Ghost that prevents the General having the prize he wants most.

The General makes a camp near Fall Creek to both watch and unnerve the Fall Creek residents. He tells him army that Fall Creek is harbouring terrorists. The General send scouts to issue them with an ultimatum. He demands Liam Coleman, if the Fall Creek residents hand him over straight away he will go easy on the rest of the residents. Like everything else in Fall Creek it is put to a vote, though Hannah refuses to vote saying she is biased in favour of Liam. Fall Creek make their decision, knowing that the apple can’t have fallen far from the tree with Rosamond being the Generals daughter. The Fall Creek residents are kind of resolute they come to the brave conclusion that they will make a stand even if its their last stand they will fight for what is theirs. The General sends in a black hawk helicopter to fire upon the normal American citizens of Fall Creek and some are killed or badly injured. Unfortunately for the General it makes the Fall Creek residents even more determined to stand their ground and fight for those that were lost in the attack too.

I will be totally, truthful, I did have tears in my eyes on quite a few occasions in this final book. One the death of a specific character that I had immediately adored throughout the series. But this character (no names) died saving others which was really fitting and totally in keeping with that character. Another time was very near the end of the book and I was like “Oh no! You cannot be going down that route, seriously you cannot kill this character off now” You’ll understand when you read the book!

My favourite characters, I still loved Liam, a tough guy on the outside but totally melts inside when around Hannah, Milo, Charlotte, and LJ. I think he has softened somewhat throughout the series. He has recovered from his whole unrequited love for Jessa, and grown to love Hannah more, yet stayed in the background, never pushing her to choose. Liam has been a quiet strength, there to back up, or catch Hannah whenever she stumbled. Hannah has also grown so much as a character. From the innocent young women kidnapped and tortured by Gavin Pike, to being a nervous, young women to then becoming a kick butt female who is confident in her own decisions and able to protect herself and what is hers. I could go on and on about the different great characters in this book, such as Quinn, she has a super rollercoaster of a journey through the series growing up to be a kick butt female not afraid to fight for what is hers, rather like Hannah. Then there’s Molly, Bishop and even good boy/bad guy James Luther who are all great characters. I also don’t mind admitting I totally adored Ghost the great pyrenees mountain dog, the way one minute he can be attacking an intruder and ripping their throat out, yet within the same scene can be laid snuffling baby Charlotte.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing this book & series were wow what a great way to end. This book is as fast paced and full of descriptions making the scenes easy to visualise. I love the sense of community that Kyla created. All the prepping ways that Molly had as well as the army experience and battle tactics that Liam uses and has used against him. The characters feel so real, you do grow to be fond of them, and you care what happens to them. You know them so well as the action is happening you can kind of guess what those certain characters will do.

Summing up this book was a dramatic conclusion to an action packed, amazing series. I genuinely have loved this series from the beginning to the very end. Though not every beloved character makes it to the very end of the series. There were a few great characters we lost along the way throughout the series. Some of the younger characters have really grown through the series, one in particular rapidly grows up even more in this last book, becoming a warrior, doing turns at guarding Fall Creek, and standing in place, fully prepared to fight to the end when the need arises. These normal citizens of Fall Creek are prepared to fight for each other, and for what they have made Fall Creek into. What more can I say I totally loved this series and I know I will miss this series! I wonder what Kyla Stone will be writing next?
 
 
 

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

REVIEW - EDGE OF SURVIVAL - EDGE OF COLLAPSE BY KYLA STONE

  

Title: Edge Of Survival
Series: Edge Of Collapse
Author: Kyla Stone
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Post Apocalyptic
Release Date: 28th December 2020
 
BLURB from Goodreads
The nation is crumbling. The world is unraveling. The EMP is only the beginning...

Three months after an EMP attack destroys the U.S. power grid, starvation, disease, and the brutal cold have killed millions. With the end of winter finally in sight, the town of Fall Creek, Michigan balances on the precipice of collapse.

They have suffered and sacrificed. But to forge a future worth living, they will have to face the darkness within themselves. Each must decide--will they retain their humanity or choose survival at any cost?

Preorder the riveting sixth installment in the Edge of Collapse survival series now!

When the country goes dark, ordinary people find themselves facing the end of the world as they know it. With society collapsing before their eyes, they'll have to risk everything to protect their home and the people they love.
 
 
PURCHASE LINKS
 
REVIEW
I love the cover of the book as with all the other book covers this one reflects the damage and destruction that has been done to the surrounding buildings. I’d say the person on the cover is Liam and of course the huge white dog is Ghost.

When the book begins Liam is not in Fall Creek, he is travelling, alone, to find his sister-in-law Jessa’s parents, Mr & Mrs Brooks and the nephew he delivered both into the world and then into their arms. It soon becomes apparent that the Amish community that the Brooks travelled to is no longer their home. Unfortunately, the Amish area has been taken over by rogues who have also overrun and taken the nearest FEMA compound by force too. Liam is feeling torn, he feels he must check that his nephew is safe, he owes that to his brother Lincoln and his sister-in-law Jessa. Liam also feels like he should be in Fall Creek protecting Hannah, Milo & baby Charlotte. That is one of the reasons Liam is carrying out this search alone, he feels better knowing that Ghost is around to add extra protection along with the other Fall Creek residents he has helped to train to guard and protect each other.
Liam luckily meets an elderly man who appears to be painting graffiti on homes. It turns out the elderly man has a really good reason for doing this. It is to make his home blend in with the other destroyed, and damaged homes. It is this elderly man that Liam talks to and finds out about where everyone has disappeared to the now rogue controlled FEMA compound. This rogue element are well organised tough guys who call themselves the Syndicate. Liam offers to collect this man who has helped him with information on his way back to Fall Creek but the man seems somewhat resigned to his fate of staying alone and dying in his own home surrounded by his memories and photographs of his family.

Back in Fall Creek, Molly and Hannah are still heavily invested in trying to arrange the trading day. It’s whilst at the old camp ground where the bartering event is happening that Milo wanders off and ends up surrounded by feral dogs. Luckily for Milo, Quinn and Ghost come to his rescue. Sadly, this sets a chain of events that see’s Quinn meeting the leader of the Death To The Power gang who are destroying everything from what they consider the old world. Apparently, they believe it is the power that corrupted the world and anything left repairable should be broken, they believe that there are no rules, no one owns anything. If anyone tries to stop them, they are dealt with swiftly and violently. The leader of this gang, Xander Thorne seems very taken and interested in Ghost. In fact, Xander is eager for Quinn to join them, bringing Ghost with her too. He even tells her where they will be if she should change her mind. Quinn has no intention of going any where near these strange teenagers who seem like some strange kind of anti-technology cult until she sees an older man hanging further back in the group that she has a large score to settle with. Later after talking to Liam about doing some training with her and Liam finally agreeing Quinn trains hard and begins to plan her revenge. Things work out quite easy to arrange for Quinn as she has been hanging around with a couple of other teens rather than with Milo lately, so all she needs to do is tell her Gran, Molly that she is hunting over the weekend and staying with Jonas, and Whitney. Unfortunately for Quinn, things go bad for her fairly quickly and she ends up having to make a difficult choice about joining and trusting the last person she should trust or want to help to get out of a deathly situation. Luckily for her, Jonas, her alibi has accidentally given away her lie by turning up at her Grans house looking for her. Which means Liam, though not fully recovered from rescuing his nephew has to set off to rescue Quinn. The whole “finding help in the unlikeliest places” scenario happens a couple of times in this book. Some of the lines of who is good and who is bad become blurred for a while, although the bad guys usually return to their bad behaviour sooner rather than later.

In this book we find out who Rosamond has satellite phone contact with and they are also of the mentality that the ones with the largest army and brute force deserve to rule the world as it now stands. This man, known as the General has his own axe to grind and is soon plotting revenge for the death of Rosamond too. Fall Creek may be about to face its worst hostile fault so far.

This book is seriously packed full of action. Poor Liam doesn’t get a minute to rest or recuperate in this book. The relationship between Liam and Hannah is certainly becoming deeper, though what happened to Hannah at the hands of Pike is holding her back from letting Liam in, or admitting her true feelings for him, despite others around them seeing the situation and the love between them clearly. It also seems that poor Fall Creek solves one problem just in time for another to rear its ugly head. The trading day doesn’t go as well as they had hoped. Those surrounding communities that the militia pillaged are blaming the residents of Fall Creek, saying they must have known what was going on. Things are still very tense, and the fact that the Death To The Power gang are wrecking farms and buildings, along with killing livestock isn’t helping as the militia hit communities have got it into their heads it is the Fall Creek residents that are doing the damage and threaten to take “an eye for an eye” type of retribution. In fact, some of the Fall Creek residents have this same “eye for an eye” mentality when it comes to doling out justice to the remaining militia man, James Luther that they have imprisoned. Though it goes against what they would prefer to do both Hannah and Liam end up coming up with an uneasy compromise to solve the situation. They just hope this decision doesn’t come back to haunt Fall Creek.

The characters in this book are still amazing! The older favourites of mine are of course Liam, Hannah, and Molly. Once again Liam pushes himself to his absolute limits, despite being offered help he goes it alone, as he is used to having to do. He braves sneaking into an enemy held FEMA camp. Then you also see the tenderness of the big tough guy, when he holds his nephew Liam Jesse, or when he strokes Charlottes head. He gives Hannah his eternal gratitude when she offers to feed his nephew to try and improve his poor health. In this book I also grew to love Quinn even more, her determination and toughness growing even more, but I also felt like reaching into the book and shaking her and screaming at her not to go off alone! Poor Milo finds himself stuck not wanting to reveal anything about Xander and his gang, yet he also wants to help find Quinn and get her back in Fall Creek safely.
I adored the newcomers to the book of Travis and Evelyn Brooks (grandparents of Liam Jesse.) As soon I read her interactions and dialogue with Liam it reminded me of the forthright manner of Molly. I knew if Liam managed to get Evelyn, Travis & baby Liam back to Fall Creek that they would fit into that community well, and be positive additions. Other newly introduced characters are those guarding, protecting and working at the nuclear plant near Fall Creek. One of the military men guarding the nuclear station served in the forces with Liam.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing reading this book were . .Oh wow….just Oh wow! I am seriously looking forward to the next book, even though it is the last one! I will be really sorry to see this series end but am looking forward to finding out what will happen to Fall Creek.

To sum up I am looking forward to the final battle, to all my questions being answered, maybe most if not all the problems resolved. Will good triumph, over evil? Will all my favourite characters survive? Will there be a happy ending for a certain couple in the book?
 

 


 

 

Monday, 29 March 2021

BOOK TOUR - TELL NO LIES BY ALLISON BRENNAN

New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan's newest thriller again features an edgy young female LAPD detective and an ambitious special agent, both part of a mobile FBI unit that is brought in to investigate the unsolved murder of a college activist and its alleged ties to high stakes crime in the desert Southwest.

Title: Tell No Lies
Author: Allison Brennan
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: 30th March 2021

BLURB supplied by Harlequin Trade
Something mysterious is killing the wildlife in the desert hills just south of Tucson, Arizona. When Emma Perez, a college-intern-turned activist, sets out to collect her own evidence, she too ends up dead. Local law enforcement seems slow to get involved. That’s when the mobile FBI unit goes undercover to infiltrate the town and the copper refinery located there in search of possible leads. Costa and Quinn find themselves scouring the desolate landscape that keeps on giving up clues to something much darker—greed, child trafficking, other killings. As the body count continues to add up, it's clear they have stumbled on more than they bargained for. Now they must figure out who is at the heart of this mayhem and stop them before more innocent lives are lost.

Brennan's latest novel brims with complex characters and an ever-twisting plot line, a compelling thriller that delivers.

Goodreads Link

PURCHASE LINKS
Bookshop.org
Indie Bound
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Books A Million
Kindle
Nook
Kobo
Google Play
Ibooks

 EXCERPT

Prologue

Two months ago
Tucson, Arizona

Billy Nixon had been waiting his whole life to have sex with Emma Perez. Okay, not all his life. Two and a half years. It just felt that way since he’d fallen in love with her the day they met in Microeconomics, on his first day of classes at the University of Arizona. Love at first sight is a clichĂ©, and until that moment in time Billy didn’t believe in any of that bullshit. His parents were divorced, his older sister had been in and out of bad relationships since she was fifteen, and his friends slept around as if the apocalypse was upon them.

But in the back of his mind, he remembered the story about how his grandparents met the day before his grandfather shipped off to the Korean War, how they wrote letters every week, and how three years later his grandfather came home and they married. They were married for fifty-six years before his grandfather died; his grandmother died three months later.

That’s what Billy wanted. Without having to go to war.

It took Emma two years before the same feeling clicked inside her. They’d been friends. They both dated other people (well, Billy pretended to date because he couldn’t in good conscience lead another girl on when he knew that he didn’t care about her like he cared about Emma). But it was three months ago, when Emma lost her ride home to Denver for the Christmas holidays and he found her crying in her dorm room, that he said, “I’ll drive you there,” even though he was a Tucson native and lived with his dad to save money.

From then on, she looked at him differently. Like her eyes had been opened and she saw in him what he saw in her. From that point on, they were inseparable.

The morning after they first made love, Billy knew there was no other girl, no other woman, with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life. Call him a romantic, but Emma was it. He had started saving money for a ring. They were finishing up their third year of college, so had a year left, but that was okay. He did well in school and had a part-time job. He already had a job lined up for the summer in Phoenix that paid well, and he could live there cheaply with his sister—though the thought of spending two months with his emotional, self-absorbed sibling was a big negative. And the idea of leaving Emma for two months made him miserable. But if he did this, he’d have enough money, not only for a ring, but to get an apartment when they graduated. And—maybe—his job this summer would be a permanent thing when he was done with college next spring, which meant he’d have stability. Something he desperately wanted to provide for Emma.

Emma rolled over in bed and sighed. He loved when his dad was out of town and he had the house to himself, since they had no privacy in Emma’s dorm. Billy kissed the top of her head. He thought she was still sleeping, or in that dreamy state right before you wake up. It wasn’t even dawn, but how could he go back to sleep with Emma Perez naked in his bed?

“Billy?” she said.

“Hmm?”

“Can I ask you a favor?”

“Anything.” “I need to go to Mount Wrightson today. The Patagonia side of the mountain.”

“Okay.”

An odd request, but Emma spent a lot of time these days in the Santa Rita Mountains and surrounding areas. She was a business and environmental sciences double major who worked part-time at the Arizona Resources and Environmental Agency—AREA, as they called it—the state environmental protection agency.

“For work, school or fun?” he said.

“Last week my Geology class went out to Mount Wrightson and we hiked partway down the Arizona Trail. I noticed several dead birds off the trail. My professor didn’t think it was anything, but it bothered me. So I talked to my boss, Frank, at work, and he said if my professor didn’t think it was unusual, then it wasn’t. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so went back a couple days ago on my own. One of the closed trails has been used recently. And I found more dead birds, more than a dozen.”

“Which means what?”

“I don’t know yet, but birds are especially vulnerable to contaminated water because of their small size and metabolism. Remember when I told you my boss got an anonymous letter two years ago? Signed A Concerned Citizen and postmarked from Patagonia? The letter writer claimed that several local people were being made sick and that the water supply was tainted. Frank tested the water supply himself after that, but he didn’t find anything abnormal. So he dismissed it. But no one has been able to explain why those people were sick.”

“And remember—there was no evidence that anyone was sick,” Billy said. “The letter was anonymous. It could have just been a disgruntled prankster. Didn’t Frank talk to the health center about the complaint? Didn’t he investigate the local copper refinery?”

“Yes,” she said and sighed in a way that made him feel like he was missing something. “Maybe two years ago it wasn’t real,” she said in a way that made Billy think she really didn’t believe that. “But now my gut tells me something’s going on, and I want to know what.”

“You told your boss about the dead birds. You said he was a good guy, right?”

“Yeah, but I think he still thinks I’m a tree hugger.”

“You certainly gave that impression when you first started there and questioned their entire record-keeping process and the way Frank had conducted that original investigation.”

“I’ve apologized a hundred times. I realize now how much goes into keeping accurate records, and that AREA uses one of the best systems in the country. I’ve learned so much from Frank. I really believe I can make a difference now, and be smart about it too. All I want is to give him facts, Billy. And the only way I can do that is if I go back up there.”

Billy didn’t have the same passion for the environment that Emma had, but he loved her commitment to nature and how she continued to learn and adapt to new and changing technologies and ideas.

“Whatever you want to do, I’m with you,” he said. He’d follow her through the Amazon jungle if she asked him to.

“It’s going to be a beautiful day,” she said, as if he needed encouragement to do anything for her. “I just want to check out the trails near where I found the second flock of birds. We can have a picnic, make a day out of it.”

“Good call, bribing me with food.”

She smiled. “I can bribe you with something else too.” Then she kissed him.

* * *

An hour later the sun was up and they stopped for breakfast in the tiny town of Sonoita, southeast of Tucson where Highways 82 and 83 intersected. Emma had been quiet the entire drive, taking notes while analyzing a topo map.

As they ate, Emma showed him the map and her notes. “The dead birds I found last week with the class were Mexican jays. The ones I found after that on my own were trogons. I’ve been studying both of their migration patterns. The jays have a wider range. The trogons are much more localized. It seems unlikely that they just dropped dead out of the sky for no reason. I’m thinking, logically, they might have been poisoned. I don’t see any large body of water near where I found them, but there’s a pond here that forms during the rainy season.” She pointed.

While Billy couldn’t read a topo map to save his life, he trusted her thinking.

“That pond, or this stream—” she pointed again “—are right under one of their migration routes. I’ve also highlighted some other seasonal streams, here and here.”

“That seems like a huge area. North and south of Eighty-Two? How can we cover all of that in one day? Where are the roads?”

“We can hike.”

He frowned. Hike, sure. But this looked like a three-day deal.

“Emma, maybe you should talk to your boss again, show him the map and tell him what you suspect.”

“But I haven’t found anything yet—just on the map!”

Tears sprouted to her eyes, and Billy panicked. Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry. “Okay, what are we doing, then?”

“If you don’t want to help me, Billy, just say so.”

“I do, Emma. I just need to know the full plan, and I don’t understand your notes. I don’t even know where exactly I’m going.”

“This is the town of Patagonia, see?” She trailed her finger along one of the paths that went from Patagonia up the mountain. “And this is Mount Wrightson, to the north.”

Billy had hiked to the peak of Mount Wrightson once. He wasn’t into nature and hiking like Emma, but he liked being outdoors, so he took a conservation class that doubled as a science requirement. His idea of being outdoors was playing baseball or volleyball or riding his bike.

“Okay.”

“We need to hike halfway up Wrightson. I found a service road that I think we can use to get most of the way to the trailhead. Okay?”

“If you’re sure about this,” he said.

She frowned and looked back down at her map. He hated that he’d made her sad.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s fine.”

“You don’t want to go.”

“I do. I just don’t want us to get lost.”

She smiled sweetly at him. “Stick with me and you won’t.”

That was the smile he needed. He took her hand, interlocked their fingers. “I trust you.”

“Good.” She gave him a quick kiss, and they left the cafĂ© and got back on the road.

Several hours later, Billy wasn’t as accommodating. They’d parked at the end of a dirt road near the trailhead halfway up the southeastern side of the mountain and been hiking through rough terrain ever since. The landscape was dotted with some trees and pines, but not as dense or pretty or green as on the top of the mountain. The land wasn’t dry—the wet winter and snow runoff had ensured that—so the area was hard to navigate, and the paths they were on weren’t maintained. Billy doubted they were trails at all.

The hiking had been fine up until lunch. At noon, they ate their picnic, which was a nice break, because then they had sex and relaxed in the middle of nature. It wasn’t quiet—they heard birds and a light breeze and the rustling of critters. A family of jackrabbits crossed only feet from them as they lay on the blanket Billy had brought. Afterward, Billy suggested they head back to the truck. He was tired, and they had already walked miles, which meant as many miles back to the truck.

But Emma didn’t want to leave. He was pretty sure she didn’t know exactly what she was looking for, but that she had this idea that if she walked long and far enough, she’d find evidence to support her theory that something nefarious had been happening out here to kill all those birds.

So Billy kept his mouth shut and followed her.

By four that afternoon, Billy was pretty sure Emma had gotten them lost. They had seemed to zigzag across the southern face of Mount Wrightson. He was tired, and even the birds had gone quiet, as if they were getting ready to settle in and nest for the night, even though sunset was still a few hours away.

He stopped next to a tree that was taller than most and that provided much-needed shade. It was only seventy-six degrees, but the sky was clear and the sun had been beating down on them all afternoon. He was glad he’d thought to bring sunscreen, otherwise they’d both be fried by now.

He dropped the large backpack he’d been carrying that contained their picnic stuff, blanket, water, first aid kit and emergency supplies. He knew enough about the desert not to go hiking without food and water to last at least twenty-four hours. Like if his truck didn’t start when they got back, they needed to be okay. So he had extra water—but he didn’t tell Emma that. It was for emergencies only.

“We’re down to our last water bottles,” he said. He’d paced himself so he had two left, whereas Emma had gone through all six of hers.

He handed her one of the two. “Drink.”

She sipped, handed it back to him. “Thirty more minutes, honey. See this?” She pointed to the damn map that he wanted to tear into pieces now, except without it he was positive they would be lost here forever. “That’s the large seasonal pond I was talking about. It’ll dry up before summer, according to the topo charts.”

How she could stay so cheerful when he was hot and tired and, frankly, bored, he didn’t know.

“How far?”

“Down this path, not more than two hundred yards. Three hundred, maybe.”

He looked at her. Implored her to let them start heading back.

“Why don’t you stay here and wait,” she said.

“You don’t mind?”

She smiled, walked over and kissed him. “Promise.”

Twenty minutes later she was back where Billy waited. She looked so sad and defeated. “I’m ready to go,” she said.

“We’ll come back next weekend, okay? We’ll bring a tent and food and camp overnight.”

She looked surprised at his suggestion, a smile on her face. “You mean that?”

“Absolutely.”

She threw her arms around him. “I love you, Billy Nixon.”

His heart nearly stopped. “I love you, too,” he said and held her. He wanted to freeze this moment, relive it every day of his life.

“We’re actually closer to your truck than you think—we made a circle. First we went north, then west, then south, now we’re going east again. When we get back to the main trail at the fork back there, we go left rather than right, and the truck is about half a mile up.”

He was impressed; he had underestimated her. Maybe they weren’t as lost as he thought; maybe he was the only one with a shitty sense of direction. But that was okay, because Emma loved him, and they were going to be together forever. He knew it in his heart and his head, and she’d always be there to navigate.

They drove down the mountain, the road rough at first, then it smoothed out as they got near town. They headed west on 82, deciding to drive the scenic route back to Tucson. Emma marked her map to highlight where they’d already walked, when suddenly she looked up. “Hey, can you get off here?”

“Have to pee again?”

“Ha ha. No. There’s several old roads that go south. Sonoita Creek, when it floods, cuts fast-flowing streams into the valley. We had a couple late storms this winter. I just want to check the area quickly—we’ll come back next weekend. But if I see anything that tells me the streams were running a few weeks ago, I want to come back here first. Okay? Please?”

Billy was tired, but Emma loved him, so he happily turned off the highway and followed her directions. They drove about a mile along a very rough unpaved road until they reached a narrow path. His truck couldn’t go down there—there were small cacti sprouting up all over the place, and the chances of him getting a flat increased exponentially.

Emma got out, and Billy reluctantly followed. She was excited. “See that grove of trees down there?”

He did. It looked more like overgrown brush, but it was greener than anything else around them.

“I’ll bet there’s still water. This is on the outer circle of where the birds could have flown from. I just want to check.”

“The path looks kinda steep and rocky. You sure about this?”

She kissed him. “I’m sure. Stay here, okay? I won’t be long.”

“Ten minutes.” “Fifteen.” She kissed him again, put her backpack on and headed down the path.


He sat in the back of his truck and watched Emma navigate the downward slope. He doubted this “path” had been used anytime in the last few years. From his vantage point, he saw several darker areas, plants dense and green, and suspected that Emma was right—this valley would get water after big storms.

Emma was beautiful and smart. What wasn’t to love?

He watched until she disappeared from view into the brush.

He frowned. He should have gone with her. Was he just sulking because he was tired and hungry?

Predators were out here—coyotes, bobcats, javelinas. Javelinas could be downright mean even if you did nothing to provoke them. Not to mention that these mountains bordered the corridor for trafficking illegal immigrants. Billy had taken a criminal justice class his freshman year and they touched upon that topic. He didn’t want to encounter a two-legged predator any more than one on four legs.

What kind of man was he if he couldn’t suck it up and help the woman he loved?

So he grabbed his backpack and headed down the path Emma had taken. He was in pretty good shape, but this hike had wasted him. Emma must have been fitter than he was, because she’d barely slowed down all day. After this, they’d go to his place, shower—maybe he could convince Emma to take a shower with him—and then he’d take her out to dinner. After all, they had something to celebrate: the first time they said “I love you.” They’d go to El Charro, maybe. It was Billy’s favorite Mexican food in Tucson, not too expensive, great food. Take an Uber so they could have a couple of drinks.

He wished he were there right now. His stomach growled as he stumbled and then caught himself before he fell on his ass.

He was halfway down the hill when a scream pierced the mountainside. Billy ran the rest of the way down the narrow, rocky trail. “Emma!”

No answer.

He yelled louder for her. “Emma! Emma!”

He slipped when the trail made a sudden drop as it went steeply down to a small pond—the seasonal one that Emma must have been looking for. The beauty of the spot with its trees and boulders all around was striking in the desert, and for a split second he thought it was a mirage. Then all he could think about was that Emma had been bitten by a rattlesnake, or had fallen into the water, or had slipped and broken her leg.

But she didn’t respond to his repeated calls.

“Emma!”

He stood on the edge of the pond, frantically searching for her. Looking for wild animals, a bobcat that she may have surprised. A herd of javelinas that might have attacked her. Anything.

Movement to his right startled him, and he turned around quickly.

In the shade, he saw someone. He shouted, wondering if Emma was disorientated or had gone the wrong way. But whatever he thought he saw was now gone.

Then he saw her.

Emma’s body was half in, half out of the pond, a good hundred feet beyond him, obscured in part by an outcrop of large rocks on the water’s edge. He ran to her and dropped to his knees. His first thought was that she had slipped and hit her head. Some blood glistened on her scalp.

“Emma, where are you hurt? Emma?”

She didn’t respond. Then he saw the blood on a hand-sized rock on the edge of the pond. And he felt more blood on the back of her skull.

“No, no, no!”

He saw her chest rise and fall. She was alive, but unconscious. He pulled out his phone, but there was no signal. He had to get help, but he couldn’t leave her here.

Billy picked Emma up and, as quickly as he could, carried her up the steep hillside to his truck.

As he drove back to the main road, he called 911. An ambulance met him in the closest town, Patagonia.

But by then Emma was already dead.
 


Excerpted from Tell No Lies by Allison Brennan, Copyright © 2021 by Allison Brennan. Published by MIRA Books.
 
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of over thirty novels. She has been nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers and the Daphne du Maurier Award. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, Allison lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids and assorted pets.
 
AUTHOR LINKS 

Author website: https://www.allisonbrennan.com/

Facebook: @AllisonBrennan

Twitter: @Allison_Brennan

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/52527.Allison_Brennan