We’re one week out from the launch of my new suspense thriller, THE SISTER TAKEN, the next follow-up to Amazon #1 for Psychological Thrillers, LIES WE NEVER SEE and DEATH ON THE NEW MOON.
Here’s the summary book “blurb” and the first two chapters. Look for special launch week pricing next weekend on Amazon.
In this next installment in the “Troubled Waters” suspense thrillers from Michael Lindley and follow-up to Amazon #1 for Psychological Thrillers LIES WE NEVER SEE and DEATH ON THE NEW MOON, the latest dark and twisting tale of love, betrayal and murder set in the Low Country of South Carolina and the emotional and edge-of-your-seat relationship of attorney, Hanna Walsh, and now former Charleston Police Detective, Alex Frank.
Amazon Five Star Reviews for the “Hanna and Alex” Low Country series:
-“… suspenseful to the end.”
-“… hard to put down… another compelling story.”
-“… this is a sit at the edge of your seat thriller.”
-“…. exciting twists and surprising turns.”
-“… a ten-star thriller!
In THE SISTER TAKEN, Hanna and Alex again find themselves in the troubled waters of love and commitment. Alex returns to South Carolina with the promise of a new start but with strings attached that Hanna may never be able to live with.
WHEN A TWIN GOES MISSING, THE OTHER SISTER FEELS HER TERROR, HER PAIN… HER DEATH.
The shocking disappearance of a young woman and suspicious death of the father of one of Hanna’s clients puts both Hanna and Alex back into the cross-hairs of the ruthless Dellahousaye crime family. The story plays out against the compelling backdrop of Charleston, Pawleys Island and the fictional Dugganville, South Carolina.
Ida Dellahousaye stood in the loose sand, rising embers from the beach fire seeming to follow her every move. A billion stars flooded the inky black sky of night above, and the first trace of a new moon rose over the trees beyond the dunes. The smoke from the fire burned her eyes and mixed with the scents of the salt air and fish washed up on the shore. What am I doing here?
Her group of college friends barely noticed her stepping away. They kept on laughing and talking over each other between long pulls from the beers in their hands. A familiar country music song played on someone’s phone. Her boyfriend, Jordan, seemed least interested, the cute little Jennifer beside him keeping his attention with the low cut of her swimsuit and incessant chatter about how drunk she was.
Ida had to steady herself, reaching her arms out for balance, suddenly feeling light-headed from the beer and standing so quickly. She continued to back away from the fire, her toes taking purchase in the cool sand of the Atlantic shore. A fresh breath of wind blew her short brown hair into her eyes and she pulled it back behind both ears. She zipped the orange Clemson sweatshirt she had put on earlier higher up on her neck as the night chilled. Her bare legs prickled with goosebumps as she got further from the fire.
She turned and looked for the path up into the dunes. I need to get away, clear my head.
Her eyes began to adjust to the growing darkness away from the fire and she saw the lighter gap in the dune grass ahead, the path back to the parking area where they had left their cars much earlier in the day.
It was the last day of their spring break. They would all be checking out of the beach house they had rented here on the shore north of Charleston in the morning. School started on Monday. She thought about the stress of her last term ahead and then med school in the fall, as she walked unsteadily up the narrow path between the dunes.
She felt her cell phone vibrate in the pocket of her sweatshirt. She pulled it out and saw her mother’s name and number on the screen. “Oh no,” she muttered under her breath. Why’s she calling so late? She pushed the call to voice mail, thinking this was the last person she wanted to talk to.
A sudden rush of movement in the darkness beside her caused her to flinch. A large hand grabbed her face, covering her mouth and pulling her off her feet. She felt herself falling and reached out to catch herself as a strong arm pulled her down. She could smell the breath of her attacker close to her face, but she couldn’t see him.
She landed hard on the sand and beach grass. She felt the wind knocked out of her and gasped for air. She saw the man now, looming over her, still holding his hand on her face to muffle her scream. He was dressed in a dark shirt with a ball cap pulled low over his eyes. He was only a shadow above her against the night sky and sparkling stars.
Then she felt the tip of a knife on her cheek. In a low whisper, the man hissed, “Do not make a sound.”
Her body was trembling, and she struggled to get air through the tight clench of his hand pressing her head down into the sand. He was on top of her, his legs pinning her arms to the side. Her chest heaved, struggling to get air. A cold chill of fear raced through her brain, thinking of the worst to come.
The hand and knife pulled away from Ida’s face and just as she started to scream out into the night, she felt the heavy push of tape stretched tight across her mouth. As she tried to get air through her nose, she struggled to pull away from the man who still held her down with his heavy body. The knife pricked at her cheek again.
“Do not make me cut you,” the man said, leaning in close.
He stood suddenly and pulled her to her feet. She stumbled and fell. He pulled her up again and then down the path away from the beach. She felt the vice grip of his big hand on her left arm and the cold edge of the knife against the right side of her neck. She was still struggling to get her wind back and panic swirled in her head.
Up ahead she saw the cars they had parked earlier through the gloom of the dark night, a sandy pull-off to the beach on a remote part of the island. There was another car there now. The prick of the knife left her neck and a moment later she heard the low tone of a key fob as the trunk popped open ahead with no light coming on.
The man lifted her from behind and then dropped her into the trunk. Her head hit something hard and she winced in pain, dazed now as the fear and panic were overwhelming. Her arms were pinned behind her and she felt the bite of a plastic zip tie pulled tight around her wrists and then her ankles. She felt him reaching into her pants pockets and then her sweatshirt. She watched as he took her cell phone, turned it off and threw it up into the dunes behind the cars.
Ida screamed a muffled cry out into the night with little hope her friends at the beach would hear. The tape and her heaving breath made the sound barely a whisper. As she saw the trunk lid coming quickly down on top of her, enveloping her in total darkness, she thought she might never see the stars again.
Hanna Walsh stood alone in the far corner of the deck in front of her house on the shore of Pawleys Island. She leaned against the weathered wooden rail and took a sip from a cold glass of white wine. A small crowd of friends and family were gathered around a bar and food table at the other end. The day had recently slipped away into a night filled with stars and the first slice of moon in the month of April. A soft breeze cut the heat from earlier in the day.
A flock of at least a hundred seagulls had gathered down on the long expanse of sand from the low ebb tide in front of the house, chattering among themselves and drowning out the soft rumble of low waves washing up on the shore.
She was throwing a party for the return of her significant other, Alex Frank. He had been away in Virginia for several months finishing his training to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They had seen each other just twice on short weekends when he was able to get back to South Carolina. She looked over and saw Alex talking with her son, Jonathan, both with beers in theirs hands as they stood beside his father, Skipper Frank and his new wife, Ella.
Standing near them in another conversation group was their friend, Dugganville Sheriff Pepper Stokes, and two FBI agents who were now Alex’s colleagues. Special Agents Will Foster and Sharron Fairfield had also become friends and unfortunately, too often involved in her life. First, there was the kidnapping of her son two years earlier and more recently, on a dangerous case she and Alex had found themselves in with the gangster, Asa Dellahousaye.
She looked back at Alex and her son, Jonathan. The two men in her life were back and together which was a rare occasion. She was comforted in knowing Alex and Jonathan got along quite well. It had been almost three years since Jonathan’s father had been killed and slowly, her son had been able to accept the loss and begin to deal with his grief. Alex had been a great refuge for Jonathan through those difficult years having dealt with tragedy in his own family growing up.
Hanna knew she should get back to her family and guests, but she needed a moment alone. The joy and excitement of having both Alex and Jonathan back, at least for a short time, was tempered with thoughts she couldn’t put aside. Since Alex had left for Quantico months earlier, she had rarely been able to sleep and when she did, nightmares and images of her abduction by the crime boss, Asa Dellahousaye and run-ins with his hired assassin, Caine, continued to haunt her. She had been seeing a psychotherapist for six months, but it was having little effect. She was overwhelmed with guilt at the impact this was all having on her law practice and the free clinic she ran in Charleston. She was also still taking on clients for a firm here on Pawleys Island. She knew things were slipping, and she seemed powerless to get the daily events of her life under control.
She took another long sip from her glass of wine and then felt a hand on her shoulder. There was a soft kiss on her neck.
“Thank you for the nice homecoming,” she heard Alex whisper behind her.
She turned and put her arms around him, pulling him in close and kissing him, tentatively, then looking away.
“What’s wrong?” Alex asked.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be thinking about work.”
“No, you shouldn’t.”
Hanna forced a smile and pulled him close again, her mouth close to his ear. “I’m so glad you’re back.”
Alex pulled away and moved beside her, looking out across the dark expanse of beach and ocean.
“How long can you stay?” she asked.
Alex hesitated, turning back to her. She could see the concern on his face even in the dim light of the porch. “I got a call earlier. I need to be back in DC on Monday. I thought I had it cleared to stay for a few more days, but…”
Hanna took another drink from her wine, staring back at him.
“I’m sorry.” He reached for her free hand, squeezing it softly.
She tried to push the disappointment aside. “Well, let’s just enjoy the time we have.”
“We always do,” he said, leaning in to kiss her again on the cheek. When he pulled back, he said, “I need to talk to you about something.”
She could sense the nervousness in his tone.
“My new supervisor talked to me yesterday about my assignment now that I’m through with training.”
“And what would that be?” She placed her glass on the rail.
“They want me to stay on in DC, assigned to a special unit on organized crime.”
Hanna had been concerned for months their separation may be extended. “How long?”
He didn’t answer right away.
“You’re not coming back to Charleston?” Hanna said before he could answer, not trying to hide her disappointment.
“Not for a while it seems.”
She turned away, looking off into the night.
“No really,” she said, too quickly, pulling her hand away. “Let’s just enjoy the time we have.”
They stood side-by-side, each with one hand on the rail, the other holding their drinks.
Alex broke the silence. “I’ve been thinking about asking you to come with me.”
Hanna turned quickly, both surprised and even stunned at his tentative invitation. “Thinking about it?”
“I don’t know how long I’ll be assigned up there. I don’t want us to be apart.”
Hanna’s thoughts were swirling about the implications of leaving her home in South Carolina and all that was part of her life here. “I can’t just pick up and leave, Alex.”
“Hanna, please just…”
She tried to hold her growing anger back. “No, you can’t ask me that.”
“No, you don’t know!”
Alex reached out for her and pulled her in close, his arms around her back. She stood there for a moment, then rested her face on his shoulder, taking long slow breaths and trying to calm her emotions.
“I love you, Hanna. I want us to be together.”
“I guess I’ve known all along the chances of you getting assigned down here were slim.”
“Can you just think about it? It wouldn’t be forever. They know this is my home and I want to get back here as soon as possible.”
Hanna paused, trying to clear her thoughts. “I can’t just close down the clinic. And what about Jonathan? I don’t want to be that far away. I’ll never see him.”
“I know. I’ve been thinking about all that.”
She sighed as she sensed their often tenuous and troubled relationship edging toward a steep cliff again. Alex Frank had become an important part of her new life. The two of them had built a strong bond despite numerous roadblocks and challenges. Alex’s ex-wife had tried her best to win him back and Hanna’s college boyfriend who suddenly resurfaced had also tried to rekindle old feelings. The thought made her cringe as she remembered the final moments on Sam Collin’s boat and the deadly aftermath. She looked up when Alex stepped away.
“There’s something else I’ve been meaning to get to,” he said.
She watched as he reached in his pocket and fumbled for something. In the dark light she saw him pull a small object out but couldn’t see what it was. Her eyes opened wide as he bent down on one knee and held a small black box out between them. He opened it and the dim light caught the reflection of the stone on a silver ring.
“Really,” she said, pulling her hands up through her loose hair and then to the sides of her face. Alex was staring up at her.
“I want you to marry me, Hanna Walsh.”
She couldn’t find words to respond.
“I want us to be together… as man and wife. Will you marry me, Hanna?”
He stood and took the ring from the box and reached for her hand. She felt the cool hardness of the ring slip onto her finger. A flood of thoughts raced through her brain… surprise, exhilaration… doubt.
She looked down at the ring on her finger and touched it with her other hand. When she looked back up at Alex, he stood there in anticipation, the look on his face so endearing she felt tears start to build at the corners of her eyes.
“I asked you to marry me, Hanna,” he said quietly. “Usually that means you have to say yes or no.”
She pushed all her crashing thoughts and emotions aside and slid into his arms, holding him close.
“You know, we haven’t had the best luck at this,” she said, images of Alex’s crazy ex-wife and her own unfaithful and now long-dead husband clouding her thoughts.
“I think we’ve moved past all that.”
A heavy silence lingered. She felt him pull her even closer in his arms. “We can work through all this other stuff, Hanna. I want us to be together.”
She sighed and looked up into his eyes. “I hope you’re right.”
Chapter Three (Check for special launch week pricing on Amazon for THE SISTER TAKEN on January 26.)
Thank you for your interest in my stories!