On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates.
That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement to not look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.
Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.
It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 7.30(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
She is the author of the Guild Hunter series, including Archangel’s War, Archangel’s Prophecy, Archangel’s Viper, and Archangel’s Heart. She is also the author of the Psy-Changeling novels, including Wolf Rain, Ocean Light, Silver Silence, and Allegiance of Honor.
Read an Excerpt
She returned home two hundred and seventeen days after burying her husband while his pregnant mistress sobbed so hard that she made herself sick. Anahera had stood stone-faced, staring down at the gleaming mahogany coffin she'd chosen because that was what Edward would've wanted. Quiet elegance and money that didn't make itself obvious, that had been Edward's way. Appearances above everything.
His friends had looked at her with sympathetic eyes, believing her grief so great that she couldn't cry.
And all the while, Edward's mistress sobbed.
No one knew her.
Anahera hadn't explained who the woman was.
And she hadn't cried. Not then. Not since.
Now, she drove the dark green Jeep she'd bought sight unseen over the internet and arranged to have delivered to the airport that had been the last stop in her long plane trek from London.
Christchurch, New Zealand.
A land at the bottom of the world. So far south that she'd felt no surprise when their pilot pointed out a cargo plane being loaded with freight bound for an Antarctic research station.
How many hours had it been since she walked through the departure gate at Heathrow?
She'd lost count somewhere between yesterday and tomorrow. Between the gray drizzle of a city full of theaters and museums and the cold sunlight of a barely civilized land adrift in the ocean.
Edward had liked cities.
He and Anahera had never driven through such a primal and untamed landscape together, the trees born of ancient seeds, and the ferns huge and green and singing a song of homecoming.
Tauti mai, hoki mai.
And this moment a whisper from the end of her journey, she stood on a jagged cliff looking out over the crashing sea below as fog wove through the treetops, a light misty rain falling and dissipating before it ever got to her.
Dark gray water smashed against unforgiving black rock, sending up a frothy white spray that disappeared under the violence of the next crashing wave. The water went on endlessly, a tumultuous vastness that was nothing like the European beaches she'd visited with Edward. You couldn't swim in the water below, not unless you wanted to be swept out into the cold arms of the ocean, but its beauty spoke to Anahera's heart, made it ache.
She could watch it forever, might just do that once she reached the cabin. Josie told her it was still standing-and that no one had smashed in the windows.
Maybe it had been out of respect. Perhaps out of fear.
To some, the cabin was a place of ghosts.
To Josie, it was where she and Anahera had once sat on the porch and laughed, two nineteen-year-olds with their whole lives ahead of them. Her best friend from high school was the only person with whom Anahera had kept in touch after she left Golden Cove, and she'd told Josie not to bother worrying about keeping an eye on the place.
After all, Anahera was never going to come back.
Turning away from the cliff, she got into the Jeep and started it up.
Driving inland and away from the crashing sea-it was an illusion, the sea still there, just hidden by the trees-she drove the last ten minutes to the edge of forever. The sign startled her. Golden Cove hadn't had a sign when she'd left. Only an old gumboot on a fencepost that Nikau Martin had put there when they were eleven.
For some reason, the adults had never taken it off.
But it was gone now, and in its place stood a gleaming sign that said: Haere Mai, with Golden Cove lettered in swirling font below, and Welcome below that. She went past, then stopped and looked back to see that, from this side, it said, Haere R, with Golden Cove below, and under that, Farewell.
Shrugging off the disquiet of the unfamiliar after a long moment, she continued on down the otherwise empty road.
Her car hiccuped, then jerked.
"Don't you crap out on me now," she said, hitting the dashboard. But the Jeep was in no mood to listen to her. It spluttered and hiccuped again before going dead.
Managing to guide it to the side of the road, Anahera put it in park, then turned off the engine. Well, at least it wasn't a total disaster. From here, it would only take her about twenty minutes to walk into Golden Cove. She'd have to leave her two suitcases in the back or maybe not. They had wheels, didn't they? It just seemed appropriate that the angry girl who'd left this town in her dust would return dusty and travel worn.
Fate sure had a sense of humor.
A car engine sounded in the distance, growing increasingly louder. Before she'd left the stark emptiness of New Zealand's West Coast all those years ago, Anahera would've thought nothing of jumping out and flagging down that truck or car or whatever it was.
Despite her childhood and the chill darkness of her fourteenth summer, she'd grown up thinking of this entire wild landscape as safe, those who lived within it all people she knew. But the wider world had hammered it home that no one could be trusted. So she stayed inside her locked vehicle and watched a large SUV approach in her rearview mirror.
It was white, with a bull bar in the front. That wasn't unusual-what was unusual was the distinctive blue-and-yellow-check pattern along its sides, a pattern she could see because the SUV had come to a stop right alongside her, though it stayed far enough away that she could easily open her door should she need to.
The word Police was written in solid white letters against a large blue piece of the pattern. Since when, she wondered, did Golden Cove deserve any kind of a police presence? It was too small, the residents relying on the police station in the closest big town, Greymouth, to supply their needs, though "big" was a relative term on the West Coast. Last she'd heard, the population of the entire coast had been hovering around thirty-one thousand.
She cautiously lowered her window as the other driver lowered their passenger-side window so that the two of them could talk. A man. Thirty-something, with a hardness to his jaw and grooves carved into his face, as if he'd seen things he couldn't forget-and they hadn't been good things.
His hair was dark, his skin that light-brownish tone that made it difficult to tell if he was just tanned, or if he had ancestors on her side of the genetic tree. She couldn't see his eyes behind the opaque darkness of his sunglasses, but she imagined they'd be as hard as his jaw. "Everything all right?" he asked.
She noticed that he wasn't in uniform, but then, if he really was stationed in Golden Cove, it wasn't as if any of the locals would report him for breaching protocol. "Car trouble," she answered. "I can walk the rest of the way into town." She had no intention of getting into a vehicle with an unknown man on a deserted road surrounded by dark green native forest and not much else.
"Let me have a look at it." Pulling ahead of her car before she could answer, he got out and she saw immediately that he was a big man: wide shoulders; strong, long legs; equally strong arms. But everything about him was hard, as if he'd been smelted down until all softness was lost.
Gut tight, she raised her window a little farther, but he didn't come around to the door. Instead, he indicated that she should pop open her hood. Figuring she had nothing to lose, Anahera went ahead and did so.
As he disappeared behind it, she tried to imagine what it would be like to walk into the cabin after all this time. She couldn't. All she could see was her last glimpse of it, the floor scrubbed of blood and the ladder taken away to be crushed in a compactor.
The cop looked around the side of the hood. "Try it now."
She did so without hope and the engine caught. Not smiling at her shouted thanks, he unhooked and closed the hood before finally coming around to her window. "It doesn't look like anything major," he said, "but if you intend to drive through more of the West Coast, you should have a mechanic check it out."
It was good advice; these roads were exacting. It wasn't that they were in bad condition-for being in the middle of nowhere, the roads were just fine. But they were empty. Long stretches of nothing but wilderness and water; break down in one of those areas and there was no guarantee anyone would come along for hours. As for cell signals, the mountains played havoc with them.
"I'm going to the Cove," she told him. "Does Peter still work in the garage?" Maybe her old schoolmate had gone on to bigger and better things by now.
Raising an eyebrow, the cop nodded. "It's not tourist season. You here to do a retreat with Shane Hennessey?"
Josie had told Anahera about the famed Irish writer who'd relocated to Golden Cove. "No," Anahera said. "I'm coming home. Thank you again." She rolled up the window before he could ask any more questions.
But this man, he wasn't someone she could simply ignore. He knocked on the glass politely after taking off his sunglasses to reveal slate gray eyes as dark as the clouds gathering on the horizon.
When she lowered her window a fraction, he said, "I'll follow behind you, make sure you get in okay."
"Knock yourself out," she said, not certain why she was being so antagonistic to someone who'd helped her.
Maybe it was knowing she was driving back into the past.
She pulled out.
In the rearview mirror, she saw the cop take his time getting into his vehicle. Then she turned the corner and he was gone. But his SUV reappeared behind her soon enough, and then their party of two made its way into a town founded on a golden illusion.
The miners had thought they'd find gold here, find riches, find a future. Instead, they'd found nothing but a harsh and unforgiving landscape with water as treacherous as the rocks that crushed so many of them one after the other.
Will followed the unfamiliar vehicle through the heavily tree-shadowed road that led into Golden Cove. There was nowhere else to go from this point.
The town's self-appointed business council might have managed to get up a few signs, but come winter and even those signs wouldn't help those new to the area find the place Will had called home for the past three months. It wasn't surprising that he didn't recognize the dark-eyed woman with wavy black hair and striking cheekbones that pushed against skin of midbrown.
The skin was smooth but the eyes old.
Late twenties or very early thirties, he guessed, likely a child of Golden Cove who'd lit out of here the instant she was legal and who was returning to pay a visit to a parent or grandparent. You'd think with the town's younger residents almost universally restless, just itching to leave, the place would be a retirement village-but that was the strange thing with Golden Cove. It seemed to draw back its prodigals.
Peter Jacobs, the garage owner she'd mentioned, had spent six years working for a Formula One team and traveling the world before he landed back in the Cove. When asked why he'd given up his glamorous life in favor of running the family garage with his aging father and resentful younger brother, he just shrugged and said that a man got tired of Ferraris and wanted to return to the ocean.
Peter, however, had only been back for less than a year, and yet the woman with the car trouble had asked if Peter was "still" working in the garage, which meant she'd last been in Golden Cove at least seven years earlier.
Will's eyes narrowed: the woman and Peter might even be the same age or close to it. Could be they'd been schoolmates. And what, he asked himself, did it all matter? It wasn't as if he'd been dumped in Golden Cove to be a detective. He might hold the rank, but he'd been placed here as the community's sole policeman because he'd become a problem for the force-but was too decorated and senior an officer to simply fire. So instead, they'd put him out to pasture in Golden Cove and forgotten about him.
That was fine with Will. Prior to being offered this job, he'd been planning to quit. Since his plan after quitting had involved any remote job he could get his hands on, he'd thought why the hell not just bury himself in a sole-charge station that covered a sprawling geographic area but involved only a very small number of people?
There were far more trees in his patrol area than human residents.
Most of the folk in Golden Cove let him be, and the odd time that he did have to step in, it was usually to break up a bar fight or calm down a neighborhood dispute. Yesterday, he'd had to handcuff a drunk to a chair until the other man was sober enough to be dropped home.
Will didn't have a jail.
And so far, no Golden Cove problems had justified formal charges. Come summer, with tourists pouring in for various adventure activities thanks to the region's advertising campaign over the past couple of years, and he'd probably have more trouble. Which was also why the town now had a police officer. The regional tourism bodies had apparently gone apoplectic about a couple of tourists who'd gotten beaten up in Golden Cove after dark.
Bad for business to have visitors posting photos of black eyes and broken ribs instead of the bleak scenery, dangerous cliff climbs, or local cuisine.
So now Golden Cove had Will.
The first small home appeared on the right, complete with a white picket fence and hardy wildflowers in a neatly tended garden. Mrs. Keith sat on her rocker out front, her girth overflowing the white wood of it and her face a pale moon surrounded by a halo of teased black. Pink lipstick slashed across her mouth, her plump fingers bejeweled when she raised her hand in a wave.
Will didn't know if the curt woman in the Jeep waved back, but he raised his hand.
The next house was on the left, this one as ramshackle as Mrs. Keith's was immaculate. Peeling blue paint, a wheelless car rusting in the front yard, grass as high as his calves. On the front stoop sat a good-looking man with nut-brown skin, a cigarette in hand and his face tattooed with a full t moko that might've been traditional, but that tended to make strangers wary. It didn't help that Nikau Martin consistently wore ripped black jeans, shitkickers, and T-shirts imprinted with the Hells Angels logo.