by Vonnie Hughes
Who can you trust if you can’t trust your own mother? Through the clammy fog, Celie Francis hears the chilling message. “I know who you are, Celie. I know where you live.” And in the terrifying aftermath she reconnects with her dysfunctional family in ways she had never imagined.
Abused and abandoned as a child, Célie Francis knows better than to trust anyone. But after she witnesses a murder, she's placed in the Unit "New Zealand's witness protection program" where she's expected to trust strangers with her life. It's psychologist Brand Turner's job to ease witnesses into their new identities, not to protect them, but Célie stirs feelings in him that are far from professional.
When it appears someone is leaking critical information that could endanger Célie, Brand will do anything to protect her. But first he has to convince her to trust him. Adrift in a frightening world, Célie would like to believe the handsome psychologist is everything he seems, but as witnesses are murdered and danger swirls around them, Célie must decide "can she trust Brand with her life?
Célie Francis ran faster than she ever had in her life. Fingers of fog rolling in from the sea grabbed at her as her feet alternately flew and stuttered over the uneven pavement of the ocean road. Where was he? How much time did she have?
The wash of the sea was a calm counterpoint to her harsh, frantic breathing. Above the sound of her thudding feet, the shriek of a bird pierced the air.
No, not a bird. Something was squeaking. Occy’s old bicycle. He had found her.
Faster, Célie, faster, shouted the little man on the treadmill in her mind.
I can’t, she sobbed. Fancy the consequences? No God, no! Then run faster. But her aching legs could not obey.
And on the roadway the relentless squeak, squeak kept pace with her. Frantically she zigzagged, seeking a haven in the fog. It was barely dawn on the lonely North Auckland cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.
No help anywhere. Have to hide. Have to hide. Her shoes slapped a rhythm. Salty sweat stung her eyes. Ignore it. The slap of her running shoes echoed then died in the mist.
Her brain, tumbling in an endless whirl of fear and futile questions asked—-why Occy? Why had he killed a man this time?
Up ahead loomed a deep grey cloud of mist. Thank you, God. She blasted into the fog bank and the squeaking receded behind her.
This is your chance, the little man said. Veering off the sidewalk, she streaked across a pristine lawn and crouched behind a lavender bush. Her chest heaving, she struggled to gulp another breath of sodden air.
Squeeeak. He was back. This was it. Eyes streaming, she curled into a ball on the cold ground and waited.
Something yellow zinged past her face and tickled her arm. A needle-sharp sting pierced her elbow, then another. Bees, irritated by her invasion, were trying to drive her out. No you won’t. What’s out there is a lot worse than what you can do, bees.
As the pinpricks tingled and burned, she pressed her lips together so hard that the muscles on the side of her face ached. Louder now, the squeaking advanced and receded. He was casting up and down, looking for her.
A sibilant whisper reached her through the clammy fog. “I know who you are, Célie. I know where you live.”
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Learn more about Vonnie Hughes on her website and blog.
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