Shattered Secrets

Shattered Secrets

4.1 33
by Karen Harper
     
 

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www.KarenHarperAuthor.com

Every town has its secrets… 

Returning to Cold Creek, Ohio, is an act of courage for Tess Lockwood. Abducted and held captive as a young girl, she is unable to remember anything about the crime that destroyed her childhood and tore her family apart. Now a grown woman with a bright future, she is certain she has

Overview

www.KarenHarperAuthor.com

Every town has its secrets… 

Returning to Cold Creek, Ohio, is an act of courage for Tess Lockwood. Abducted and held captive as a young girl, she is unable to remember anything about the crime that destroyed her childhood and tore her family apart. Now a grown woman with a bright future, she is certain she has put the past behind her. But when she inherits the family home, Tess must confront the demons that still haunt her and the town of Cold Creek. 

Gabe McCord has always blamed himself for what happened to Tess. He had been a teenager when she was snatched from the group of children he was responsible for watching. Now Gabe has taken on the role of sheriff and hopes to shed new light on the cold case, especially given his growing feelings for Tess. 

Tess isn't ready to recall what happened to her, and she has no intention of digging up any details that might remind her of the truth. But when another child in the town goes missing, she's certain it's related to her return to Cold Creek. Together,Tess and Gabe will have to work to unlock their painful memories in order to save another child and heal their damaged souls, for good….

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Characters come to life on the page and nail-biting suspense makes this a book you won't put down." —RT Book Reviews

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781460338414
Publisher:
MIRA
Publication date:
08/26/2014
Series:
Cold Creek , #1
Sold by:
HARLEQUIN
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
13,603
File size:
435 KB

Read an Excerpt

Shattered Secrets


By Karen Harper

Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Copyright © 2014 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4603-3841-4


CHAPTER 1

Tess Lockwood drew in a sharp breath. She'd buried her memories deep, but the sign for Cold Creek, Ohio, brought the terror back. To face everything again—to relive it—no, she refused to do that. But they kept cropping up, tall as the cornstalks crowding the roads in this area.

She told herself that Cold Creek was a charming, quaint town but started to shake when she saw a sign stuck in the ground. Reelect Gabe McCord for Sheriff. It was with a few other local political ones, including a fancy poster to reelect Reese Owens, still mayor here after all these years. She'd tried to prepare herself for the fact that she was going to see people who reminded her of the past. But Gabe was the worst and she'd do everything possible to avoid him if she could.

Selling the family house she'd recently inherited was her immediate goal or she wouldn't have come back at all, especially at this time of year. But the day care center she wanted to buy would go to someone else if she didn't get some money fast. Her life's desire was to purchase the Sunshine and Smiles Center for preschool kids in Jackson, Michigan, where she'd worked for years. She planned to live upstairs and redo a lot of the space downstairs where she would teach and protect her young charges. The timing was doubly right since her renters in Cold Creek, her cousin Lee and his family, were moving out. Her mother had wanted to sell their house years ago, but it had no fields attached, and people hesitated to buy a place where a tragedy had happened. They had managed to rent it though, and were relieved that their cousins could live there for a while.

"Wow, four traffic lights uptown instead of one," she said aloud, thumping a fist on the steering wheel while she was stopped at the first light near the gas station. She needed a fill-up, but it looked pretty busy right now and she wasn't ready to run into familiar faces. "Like Gracie said, this place is so much bigger!" It felt comforting to talk to herself, as if she had someone with her, someone who really cared what happened.

Of course, she still had two sisters who cared about her, though Char and Kate were understandably upset that their mother had left the house only to her. On her deathbed Mom had said she owed Tess something for what had happened.

The Cold Creek Community Church they used to attend was at this end of the commercial district. She saw they had put on an addition. Piles of pumpkins adorned its lawn with a donation bucket out front for people to leave some money. Even in Jackson, you'd never seen something like that. Please Make Your Own Change, the hand-printed sign read. How she'd like to make a lot of changes in her life, banish the nightmares and the fear.

When the light turned green, Tess drove slowly to read the store signs. The doctor's office was still there but with a new name stenciled on the window, not Dr. Marvin, who had tended to her immediately after her kidnapping. The tiny storefront library they used to visit between times the bookmobile stopped by was still crammed between the hardware store and the bank. On the other side of Main Street she saw the Kwik Shop, where they used to buy groceries. She'd brought milk and juice—and two bottles of wine—in her big cooler. She also had cereal, bread, peanut butter and jam, so she wouldn't have to stop anywhere, at least right now.

Cold Creek had seemed huge when she left at age six, but she knew that was just because everything seemed big to little kids. Still, from the keep-your-chin-up phone calls from Lee's wife, Gracie, over the past few years, Tess had heard all about the recent growth of the town and its influx of wealthy retirees and weekenders.

She wasn't sure how people would react to her return. Although eighteen years had passed since she'd set foot here, would people still stare and whisper? They might not recognize her at first, but how quickly would word get around? They might give her those looks so full of curiosity and pity it made her feel ashamed, despite the fact that her mother, Dr. Marvin, that investigator Agent Reingold and the sheriff had said over and over that what happened wasn't her fault.

But was it her fault? After all, she'd run into the back cornfield and tried to hide when Gabe, their teenage next-door neighbor and the sheriff's son, had told her to cut it out and called her a crazy tomboy. That was where and when it all began. And maybe Gabe was right, because she'd felt a little crazy ever since.

In the space where the sheriff's office had been, she saw a gift shop, Creekside Gifts, its windows decorated with Halloween costumes, wooden black cats and corn shocks. Farther on beyond the tiny town square, a brick sheriff's office had been built next to a new volunteer fire department. The American flag and the Ohio state flag flew from a big pole between the two buildings. A police vehicle with Sheriff emblazoned on the side was parked in the small lot, but she saw no one around. Rod McCord had been sheriff when she lived in Cold Creek and his son, Gabe, held that position now.

He would be thirty-one now, because he was thirteen when her family left town. Gracie said Gabe had bought his parents' house, directly across the roadside cornfield from the Lockwood homestead she now owned, so they'd be neighbors, just like when they were children.

The third traffic light turned red and she came to a stop again. Gracie had told her about "the great divide," but now she saw it for herself. The west side of town belonged to the outsiders, the new folks who had invaded and kept pretty much separate from the townies, except on market day. Well, what did she care? Tess told herself as she frowned at a new restaurant, a tearoom, some shops—and an English pub, no less, in rural Falls County.

Her stomach clenched as she turned onto hilly Valley View Road. "You can do this, Tess," she said.

But as she drove down the two-lane road lined with tall, thick cornfields, she wasn't so sure. Especially when she passed the McCord place as the sun began to set atop the darkening Appalachian foothills and her family's old farmhouse crept into view. It seemed to leap at her. Even with the car windows up and the doors locked, she was certain she could feel the cornstalks clutching at her, rustling, whispering. She suddenly recalled being told to be quiet or the ears of corn would hear her. Who had said that? Mom or Dad?

"You're fine," she told herself. "You'll be just fine."

But she sat stock-still in the car at the bottom of the gravel driveway with the motor running until Gracie burst from the front door of the house and wind-milled her arm to wave her in.

Falls County sheriff Gabe McCord left his cruiser about twenty yards outside the tall wooden gate of the Hear Ye Commune and walked closer. The place gave him the creeps, but the thirteen families of what he'd call a far-out religious sect had broken no laws and kept pretty much to themselves except on Saturdays when they had a big table of their produce at the farmers' market.

He'd received a complaint from Marian Bell that someone had seen a child at the Hear Ye market stall who resembled her lost daughter, Amanda, so he had to check it out. Gabe's theory was that the girl had been snatched by her father and taken abroad when the Bell marriage broke up, but Peter Bell had been impossible to trace. Amanda's disappearance didn't fit the pattern of the child kidnappings that had haunted his father and now him, but he was following all leads, desperate for any break in the long-standing case.

Although no one had disappeared on his watch, he still got heartburn over it in more ways than one. Worse, he was convinced his father had suffered two heart attacks running himself into the ground over the abductions. The so-called cold case of Cold Creek was always on the front burner for Gabe.

"Lee, how you doing?" Gabe greeted his former neighbor as he was walking across the grassy ground outside the fenced compound of meeting house, family buildings, school, gardens and workshops. Lee Lockwood was holding a forked willow branch straight out while pacing the grassy knoll. "Looking for water—or buried treasure?" Gabe asked. Most folks in the area knew Lee was a water dowser, which some in the area called a water witcher, as if it was evil or demonic.

"Oh, hi, Sheriff. Didn't see you coming. Usually we got guards out. You know, greeters who watch for strangers or gawkers. Got a lot of kids here to protect, including my two, now. And I really get into dowsing when I do it. Yeah, looking for water. Don't you go believing that buried treasure stuff you hear, nor the old wives' tales about locating ancient graves with a dowsing branch neither. It's just we could use another well since the water pipes don't come out this far from town yet. Been looking most of the afternoon though, and no go so far. I figure when cousin Tess gets back, I'll have her help me. She's got the gift too, you know."

He pointed the tip of the willow wand toward Gabe. Lee looked really nervous about his presence, but then some people were. The usually reticent man was trying to cover his unease up with talk.

Lee rushed on, frowning so hard his forehead furrowed. "Least Tess used to be good at it when she was a little kid. But I 'spose she don't want to be reminded of any of the old times."

"No. Me neither, but it's still an open case. Grace told me Teresa—that is, Tess—is coming back for a while to sell the old place. But aren't you going to miss living at the Lockwood house? Grace said your kids were doing fine in the public school, so why shift them here after only two months this year?"

"There's lots of benefits here. Protection from the world. Closeness to God through Bright Star, other things."

It was getting dark as the sun sank behind the tops of the hills where rain clouds were gathering. Gabe wanted to get this over with, but he stared into the face of the earnest young man and hesitated to get him involved. He was a first cousin to Teresa, now called Tess, Lockwood, the first child taken in the two—or maybe three—kidnappings of young girls.

"Brice Monson has everyone here calling him Bright Star?" Gabe asked.

"Those who trust his guidance. 'You do well to heed a light that shines in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.' That's the way we look at Brice. The bright morning star in a dark world."

Gabe decided not to get into it with his former neighbor, who had just moved out last week. He'd seen Grace was still there, sweeping the front porch, waiting for Tess at the very house where the first kidnapping had happened when his dad was sheriff. That afternoon Gabe was supposed to be watching several neighbor kids. Thank God Tess had come back alive, because the other two—if Amanda was one—had not come back at all.

"See you later," Gabe said. He headed for the gate to the compound.

"Oh, hey, forgot to tell you," Lee called after him. "Everyone's down by the creek picking up walnuts to sell at the farmers' market, even Bright Star. He let me stay here because we need a new water well, like I said."

The compound did look deserted. Gabe walked back toward Lee. Was the man shaking or was that willow limb quivering in his hands of its own accord?

"You tell him I'll be back tomorrow morning a little after ten," Gabe said, hoping Lee was listening. He looked transfixed, staring at the ground where the stick seemed to point like a skinny, crooked finger. Was Lee putting on a show for him? Gabe didn't really believe in dowsing any more than he believed Brice Monson was some sort of modern-day messiah. But Lee looked so amazed that Gabe could only hope he'd remember to pass on his message.

As he strode back to the cruiser, Gabe couldn't help thinking Monson had picked a weird time to order everyone down by Cold Creek to pick up walnuts. Darkness setting in, a rainstorm coming. Gabe had helped his dad collect walnuts down there once. His hands were stained brown from it, and he'd run around the house pretending it was spattered, dried blood until he caught heck from his mother. "Blood on someone's hands is not fun and games!" she'd scolded him.

Did Lee actually have to get Monson's permission to stay behind? he wondered. This place was starting to sound worse than boot camp. Gabe was glad he hadn't mentioned what he wanted here. Monson might not agree to bring all the girls about Amanda's age for a lineup to see if the girl in the photo Marian had given him resembled her lost child. But Gabe was hungry for anything to make progress on these kidnappings—any lead, any hint, any clue.

As he got into his vehicle, he heard a rumble of thunder echo from the hills. It reminded him of things that made him uneasy when he needed to be in control, because it sounded like distant 155-millimeter howitzers, boom, thump, thump. Thunder often took him back to the day in Iraq when his Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit disarmed a huge bomb in a Kirkuk market before it could detonate. Even as they succeeded, other IEDs went off in the distance, echoing, killing some of the men he'd sent to another site.

After he fastened his seat belt, his hand darted to his chest. Sometimes he almost thought he could feel his army-issued pistol in its cross-draw holster from his duty days. Today he wore his weapon on his equipment belt. From his inside jacket pocket he pulled out the pictures of Marian Bell's daughter and the Hear Ye girl. One was a close-up first-grade school photo, the other a grainy, more distant one of the child in question, standing by the commune's market booth. He stared at the photos side by side in the graying light. Again, he vowed he'd somehow finish what his dad had left undone: find the phantom Cold Creek kidnapper, who took little girls and, but for Tess Lockwood, made them disappear.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Shattered Secrets by Karen Harper. Copyright © 2014 Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Karen Harper is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of romantic suspense. A former Ohio State University English instructor, she now writes full time. Harper is the winner of The Mary Higgins Clark Award for her novel, DARK ANGEL. She also writes historical novels set in Tudor England.  Please visit or write her at her website at  www.KarenHarperAuthor.com

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Shattered Secrets 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
eternalised More than 1 year ago
Shattered Secrets is a mystery/thriller set in the town of Cold Creek, Ohio. Tess Lockwood grew up in Cold Creek, where was abducted and held captive as a young girl. While she has no memories of what happened to her, saying it ruined her childhood would be a severe understatement. Now, eighteen years later, Tess is a grown woman, who has a bright future ahead of her, and who is certain she can put the past behind her. But when she inherits her old family home, and moves back to Cold Creek in an effort to sell it, all those old demons come crawling back. Gabe McCord was the one in charge when Tess disappeared. He’d been a teenager, ordered to look out for the smaller kids. Now he’s the town’s sheriff, and when another kid goes missing, he digs back into the cold case, seeing a connection no one else though about before. But solving the case isn’t easy. There’s a cult in town, and they won’t allow anyone near, or any investigations on their property. Tess is struggling with her past, and a bit reluctant to work with Gabe. But when they start falling for each other, the past catches up with them. I struggled to finish the book. The writing was sloppy, and could use another round of edits. It’s only an ARC, I get that, but it still needs some work. The characterization was too standard as well – we have the heroine who can’t deal with her past, and the hero who tries to save her. Neither Tess nor Gabe brings anything new to the table – they’re the standard characters I’ve seen over and over again in romantic suspense. Small towns usually bring forth a sense of claustrophia, but this one didn’t at all. Usually, that atmosphere helps set the mood, but it’s lacking here. Overall, the book was quite boring. The mystery had its good points, I suppose, but it never really reached the complexity I was hoping for. The writing caused the suspense to disappear almost completely, unfortunately. Had the writing been slightly better, I would’ve enjoyed this one more. The mystery wasn’t that surprising, but it had me guessing for a while. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
Shattered Secrets is the first book in this trilogy, and if the others are like the first, you won’t be able to put it down. What a heart racing read, and stomach in your throat, you never know what is around the next bend. The book begins with Teresa, now Tess returning to her old home, the town where she had been kidnapped as a little girl. She needs to sell the home now that her mother has passed and left it to her. What she is afraid of is reliving the hidden or suppressed memories. Tess is now back in town and reunited with the young man, now sheriff who was watching a bunch of children on that fateful day. Gabe has had a hard time forgiving himself, and was glad that Teresa came home. As we travel this quaint Ohio town of Cold Creek, we meet a number of questionable people. While we are there we learn that two more little girls have gone missing, and then a third is taken. Who is stealing little ones? Each person we meet is suspect, and just as you begin to believe this is the one, another one comes along, that triggers another memory in Tess. I really didn’t see it coming as to whom the demented person was, a really big surprise that blew my mind. A sick individual that seems to have everyone fooled, including me. Don’t miss this thriller that will keep you on your toes, it is excellent!! I receive this book through Net Galley and the Publisher Harlequin MIRA, and was not required to give a positive review.
amdrane2 More than 1 year ago
So, I ended up reading this book in one sitting. It was pretty darn exciting. Every time I thought I had it figured out I was wrong. I even thought it was who it was, but then I thought that it couldn't possibly be that person. This was a good clean mystery that was full of shady characters that all seemed to have something to hide. My only complaint is the whole book takes place in only a week, but the two main characters fall into the whole love thing within two or three days. I know that they knew each other before and have been shaped by that, but it was also twenty years prior and Tess was only a child of four or five. Anyways, I am looking forward to seeing how the other two Lockwood sisters deal with coming back to town. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
pegpJP More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put the book down.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
Shattered Secrets is a hard book to put down. You want Tess to get her memories back and help find the missing children. Boy is this full of drama, suspense, a little scary and tense. At least I felt the tension. It is a clean story but deals with real emotional issues. Child kidnapping, and drugs. Teresa Lockwood was kidnapped when she was a child. She was gone for eight months before she was found and has no memories of what happened to her. She is single. She has come back to her home town to sale her house she owns now twenty years later. She goes by Tess now. Gabe McCord blamed himself for Teresa's kidnapping. He was watching her that day. Now he is Sheriff of Cold Creek, OH. He wants to find out what happened to the other children that were kidnapped after Tess. He hopes he can get help from Tess. Tess comes home to sale her house so she can buy a preschool in Michigan where she now lives. She is going through a lot to be back in town. Right after she gets back another child is taken. There have been others kidnapped after her and they were never found. Also her cousin Lee and his family that had been renting her home have joined a commune near by. Tess is not allowed to visit as she would like. Tess was taken from the corn fields right behind her house. They are tall and almost ready to harvest and freak her out. Someone is trying to scare her to leave. Tess starts out scared and week. But as she struggles with the past and trying to remember she is getting stronger and braver. The more she learns about what happened to her it helps her to understand. This is the first book in the Cold Creek trilogy. Forbidden Ground will be Kate's story. Broken Bonds is Char's story. I want to read both of those books now. I hope they come out soon. The town librarian is always trying to get kids to read. She hates ereaders and people getting books from the air. She said it a few times as I was reading on my kindle fire. Having gotten it from the air. I felt guilty. I hardly go to the library anymore. I have three ereaders that I use all the time. I was given this ebook to read for the purpose of giving a honest review of it from Net Galley and Harlequin
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book. It was a believable and suspenseful plot. The characters are your typical small towers and while reading you'll suspect them all of the kidnapping at some point. I was guessing throughout and eventually figured it out. Still a page turner. 271 pgs
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome mystery! Loved it. Perfect Halloween read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book completely. Being from Wisconsin and having been to taliesin I can respect the authors sense of giving the reader such a great visual. Very interesting read.
Virginiaw More than 1 year ago
This had many twists and turns.  Was Tess going to survive returning to her home town or was she going to go nuts.  Will they find the newest child that was abducted.  Keeps you guessing as to who was responsible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a really great mystery. Kept me guessing "who dun it" the whole time. Good story. Kept me reading until 3:am ! Wish she would do a sequel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had a hard time staying with this book, seemed to drag a little. Have read others by this author and have enjoyed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The characters did not draw me in to the storyline, which seemed to drag on and on...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ho hum, glad I only spent $1.99 on this predictable clunker.  Tess, the annoying protagonist, puts herself in danger time and time again; predictably, the handsome sheriff is there to save her.  Her poutiness, immaturity, and reckless disregard for the advice of others became quite tiresome by the middle of the story. 
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is story is boring through during first few pages, why waste my time?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I only thirteen but she will make me look good and i got a crush on her