“An intricate, layered, deliciously twisty plot and you won’t be able to help polishing off this book in one sitting.” USA Today
Risa Caldwell decided to take a different trail through the woods that morning…and it would change everything that came after.
In case tripping over a dead body wasn’t enough, now Risa has a twisted ankle, too much forced time off from her job as a firefighter, and Dark Falls’ own FBI agent Ethan Eames following her around…
Ethan is confident he’s been parked in Dark Falls until the FBI can decide what to do with him. He’s on shaky ground with the Bureau after the incident in Florida, but solving the case may mean leaving Risa exposed to a killer.
The first body leads to more. And Ethan realizes they are facing a killer that has been operating—uncaught—for decades. Can Risa and Ethan put an end to his long string of murders? Or will they simply be his next victims?
Risa Caldwell found more adventure than she’d bargained for when she tripped over the body of a local missing girl. She’d decided to vary her usual running route that morning, she was thinking she’d like a little more adventure. Well, she got it.
Her usual route was two miles through the woods, on an open path where she often passed other joggers. Today she tried a harder route, through a more isolated area. Still, she felt normally felt safe and comfortable jogging out here even though she was mostly alone.
For whatever reason, that morning she’d gotten a jones to try something new. So, when the path split to an unfamiliar trail, Risa gave into a whim and took it.
Portions of the national park were open to runners, hikers, and—in some places—even mountain bikers. The entrance to the path was clear, and she decided it was worth a shot even though she had no idea how long or difficult it was. She’d thought she was prepared for anything. That had been a mistake.
Though she managed to run at a solid pace for about a half mile after the split, the path quickly narrowed to where that kind of speed wasn’t safe. Underbrush grew in close, free to spread where hikers had not been using the trail. Soon enough, the path also grew steep, and rocks and roots were needed for staircase-like use. Risa found she was hiking rather than running, but it didn’t matter. She loved a challenge and she had nowhere she needed to be. So she followed the mystery trail deeper and deeper into the forest.
Today was one of her off days at the fire department, hence the long run. A tried and true morning person, she'd woken up with the sun and happily seen the day was already bright and warm.
She'd taken the standard precautions—she’d let her best friend Leah Dev know where she was going and that she was running alone. Of course, Risa had her cell phone on her, tucked into a nice pocket stitched into the backside of her shirt. She didn't have earbuds, though. As much as she felt safe out here running by herself, she liked hearing what was around her.
When the path flattened out before her, even though it wasn't very wide, she'd picked up her pace, again. But the reprieve hadn't lasted very long. It was only maybe twenty steps later that she was sent suddenly sprawling as a sharp pain shot up her left leg. Hitting the ground hard, she could feel the scrapes on her hands and knees.
Twigs and rocks pierced her skin, pain now spiking her arms as well. Cautiously, she'd rolled over onto her butt to check the damage.
Crap, she thought. It felt like she'd twisted her ankle. Still, she wanted to be wrong. For a moment, she just sat there, hoping the throbbing pain would pass if she just waited it out. It probably wasn’t going to work, but she gave it a try.
While she waited, she picked tiny twigs from her palms and pulled leaves off her shirt. From her position on the forest floor, Risa looked around to check if anyone was nearby. Maybe they'd see her and come help pull her up. When no one appeared, she checked out the scene on the ground.
She’d turned around when she rolled onto her butt and was now facing back the way she’d come. Narrowing her eyes, Risa spotted something sticking up in the path.
It looked like maybe a root, but the leaves covering it obscured what it was. Still, Risa frowned. Something smelled, and that was a little odd, because she hadn't noticed any scent of decay before. Maybe it was because she was sitting here in the rotting leaves. When the rains had come last week, everything had gotten soaked and was sitting, damp and rotting, since then. She could feel a little bit of the wetness seeping up through her running shorts. She groaned. Wet-butt was the worst.
Hobbling back along the hard path with a twisted ankle and wet-butt was not something she was looking forward to. Sighing, she pulled her phone out and checked for signal. As expected, she was out of range. Crap.
Risa tried texting Leah anyway. "Tripped, twisted my ankle. I'm okay, though. Hobbling my way out. Will be a while.”
She hit the send button and hoped it would work. Then she put the phone back into the cute little pocket on her shirt. Clambering up onto one foot, Risa gingerly tried putting some weight on her left foot and felt the sharp pain again.
Nope, she thought. Not gonna do that again. Definitely twisted, and—hopefully—not broken.
The trail behind her was littered with bumps and wet leaves, but ahead of her, it was more clear. Hopping a bit farther that direction on just one foot, Risa tried to be as careful as she could and watch where she went. She tried to make sure she didn't further injure herself in the process.
It was only after she turned and got back to the root she had tripped over that she realized what had gone wrong. Balancing as she leaned over, she brushed the leaves away a little bit, and discovered it wasn't a root under the leaves, but a knob of something covered in denim.
Risa frowned as the smell got stronger. She brushed away more leaves and discovered yet another swath of denim. Looking to her left-hand side now, she saw another shot of color—this time sparkly blue. It was a sneaker.
Risa sucked in a sharp breath.
She hadn't tripped over a root, but a dead body.
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About the Author
Now even nerdier than she was at eight, Savannah holds several degrees in human biology and neuroscience—not that it makes true love any easier. She’s become an ardent defender of stray dogs, a protector of frogs and random wildlife in her yard, and a firm believer that women need to be straightening each other’s crowns for no reason other than we are all in this together.
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