New York Times bestselling author Karen Rose returns with a new thriller in her chilling Cincinnati series.
Michael Rowland is not your typical teenager. Deaf from birth, he's always looked out for his five-year-old brother, Joshua. When his stepfather comes after Joshua, Michael takes the child and runs. He's determined to protect his brother at all costs, even if that means making himself vulnerable to a danger he can't hear coming. And the danger intensifies when Michael witnesses a stranger kill his stepfather.
Desperate and afraid, the boys have nowhere else to go but to Joshua's soccer coach, journalist and ex-Army ranger Diesel Kennedy. When Diesel sees that Michael is injured, he takes them to see Dr. Dani Novaknot only because she's fluent in American Sign Language, but because he's drawn to her and everything she stands for. She never refuses Diesel's requestsbecause she, too, feels their connectionbut she resists him for reasons she doesn't want to confess.
When Dani and Diesel learn that Michael saw the face of his stepfather's killer, they fear for his safety. But they quickly discover that it's even worse than they feared: They may have a serial killer on their handsand all signs point to Michael as the next target.
About the Author
Karen Rose is the award-winning, #1 international bestselling author of some twenty novels, including the bestselling Baltimore and Cincinnati series. She has been translated into twenty-three languages and her books have placed on the New York Times, the Sunday Times (UK), and Germany’s der Spiegel bestseller lists.
Read an Excerpt
Saturday, March 16, 11:30 a.m.
Diesel Kennedy blew his whistle and gestured for the kids to join him on the sideline. "That's good for today, guys. Come on over."
He smiled at the ten kindergartners ambling off the field. They were all too cute in their shin guards and little cleats. Only two of the boys had any soccer competence at all. The others missed the ball, fell down, ran into one another, and generally looked like they were doing a Three Stooges routine. But they tried so hard and seemed to be having fun, which was the real win Diesel was looking for when he coached their team.
He'd been coaching for the past five years, determined that no child under his care would experience what he had growing up. He'd had no male role models and the one man in his young life, the one who should have protected him, had left him forever scarred. Diesel strove to teach good values to every child he coached, how to win and lose, how to work together. But he also taught them how to speak up for themselves. How to ask for help.
He knew the signs of abuse and, as a state mandated reporter, informed Children's Services when he suspected a child was being harmed. Over the last five years of coaching, he'd been involved in rescuing four children from abusive situations.
He wasn't saving the whole world through coaching, but he could take comfort in knowing that four little boys were safe today who might not have been. He'd continue to save one child at a time. In the meantime, he'd continue teaching sportsmanship and teamwork-beneficial to any child.
He held up a hand for them to high-five as the team gathered around him, many having to jump up to reach his palm. At six-six, he towered over the five-year-olds, making them crane their necks to meet his gaze.
"You guys did so well today. You made me very proud." Ten little faces beamed up at him. "Now, let's talk about next week. We have our first game! Are we excited?"
"Yes, Coach Diesel!" they replied.
"What happens if we win?" he asked.
"Ice cream!" they shouted.
"That's right." He lifted his brows. "What happens if we lose?"
They looked at one another, then one of the boys frowned, likely searching his memory, because Diesel had delivered this spiel before and after every practice for the past two weeks. "Ice cream?" he asked timidly.
Diesel gave him a grin, extending his fist for the boy to bump. He searched his own memory for the name of the boy with the dark hair and dark eyes, and the dent in his little chin. . . . Right. Joshua Rowland. "That's right, Joshua! Whether we win or not, we get ice cream. Winning is fun, but not the most important thing. The three most important things are what?" He held up three fingers, waiting expectantly.
"Have fun!" they shouted.
He nodded. "That's one. And two?"
"Do our best!"
"Very good. And the third?"
They looked at one another again quizzically, then back up at him for the answer.
Joshua raised his hand once more. "Be nice?"
The other boys repeated the answer, nodding fiercely, expressions abashed at not remembering.
Diesel hid his smile. They really were too cute. "Exactly. Be good sports, which means we'll be nice. If we lose, we smile. We congratulate the winners. And then after the game, we go out for ice cream. If we win, we accept their congratulations and go out for ice cream. Either way, we get ice cream. Except . . . what one thing might keep us from getting ice cream?"
"Being bad sports," they said.
"You got it." He looked over his shoulder at the parents who'd gathered to pick up their children. "Moms and dads are here. Line up, shoulder to shoulder, and wait until I call your name. Mrs. Moody will pass out your snacks. What do you say to Mrs. Moody?"
"Thank you, Mrs. Moody!" they chorused as his assistant coach got them lined up and handed out the snacks and juice boxes. Shauna Moody was a nice, motherly woman whose son had played soccer with their league all through school and was now in college and doing well. She credited the league with keeping him engaged and out of trouble, and now that he'd graduated, she wanted to give back. She showed up every week to hand out snacks and bandage boo-boos.
Diesel turned to the waiting parents with his clipboard. He made it a point to greet each adult doing pickup before allowing them to leave with a child. Over the years, he'd coached kids stuck in the middle of custody disputes, and he always wanted to be sure he recognized the person doing the picking up. The last thing he wanted was to allow a child to be taken by the wrong person. Terrible things could happen when the wrong person had access to a child.
This Diesel knew from experience.
The parent of the ninth child on his list hesitated before smiling timidly. "You're really good with them," she said, sounding surprised.
He steeled himself for what he thought might be coming, because he'd seen the censure and suspicion in this mother's eyes from the first practice. "I do my best."
And he did. No one had given him any kind of good attention when he was five years old. He wanted these kids to have a better role model than he'd had. Which, honestly, wasn't too hard to achieve. Most of the adults in his life hadn't given him very much at all.
If this mother wanted to remove her son from his team, he'd be polite. And then he'd call the first child on his waiting list, which right now was at about twenty-five names.
The parent-Mrs. Jacobsen-tilted her head as she studied him. "I owe you an apology, Mr. Kennedy. The first time we showed up with Liam for practice, I saw your tattoos and . . . well, I thought you would be . . ."
Diesel's lips curved, because it appeared the conversation wasn't going to go as he'd feared. "Mean? A thug?"
She laughed nervously. "Something like that. We try to teach our son not to judge a person by their appearance, but I'm afraid I did that with you. But you came highly recommended by my friends, so I allowed Liam to join the team. I'm so glad I did. I was wrong, and I'm sorry."
"Thank you," he said graciously. "I hope Liam enjoys himself." He looked down at the boy and gave him a wink. "He's a neat kid."
Liam beamed. "'Bye, Coach Diesel."
Diesel waved as they left, then looked down at his list with a silent sigh. One name left unchecked. One child unclaimed. He turned to find Joshua Rowland sitting on one of the folding chairs with Mrs. Moody, his little face pinched as he searched the parking lot for his mother's car.
Mrs. Brewer had been late picking up her son from every practice. Diesel had needed to call her cell phone to remind her. She always gushed that she'd been so busy and was so sorry, but Diesel got the feeling that the woman was more concerned with attracting attention to herself than with caring for her son.
He dialed her cell, got her voice mail, and left a polite message. Then he gave Joshua a bright smile. "Your mom's running a little late. Maybe you could help me put away the soccer balls while we're waiting for her."
Joshua jumped up, eager to help. So eager to please.
Diesel's heart hurt. The boy reminded him of himself. Children this eager to please were prime prey for predators.
They put the equipment in the bed of Diesel's truck, and he let Joshua shove the tailgate closed, unable to keep from smiling at the way the child dusted his hands together and gave him a satisfied nod.
But the boy's satisfaction was a facade, because he was searching the parking lot from the corner of his eye. The pinched look returned when there was still no sign of his mother.
He looked up at Diesel, tears filling his eyes. "What do I do? I don't know the way home."
Mrs. Moody, who'd been silently watching them from the sideline, came over and gave the boy a hug. "We won't make you go home by yourself, sweetheart," she said. "We can take you."
Joshua glanced at her, then back up at Diesel. "Okay. I'm sorry."
Diesel crouched down so that he was on Joshua's level. "No need to be sorry, my man. Things happen."
Joshua swallowed hard. "She's been really sad lately. She . . ." He bit his lip. "She sleeps a lot."
Diesel's jaw tightened. These were dicey situations. A parent suffering from depression wasn't necessarily unfit. He needed to tread carefully here. Joshua's mother had appeared normal when she'd dropped him off and he didn't seem to be neglected. His clothes were dirty now, but they'd been clean when he'd arrived. He looked to be well fed, and Diesel had never seen suspicious bruises on him.
"Who watches you when she sleeps, Joshua?" he asked.
Joshua brightened. "Michael does. He takes care of me."
Diesel made his lips curve, even though his trouble-meter was pinging loudly. Michael was Joshua's older brother, but the boy was only fourteen. Diesel had seen enough of these situations while investigating story leads at the Ledger, the newspaper he'd worked at for the past seven years. Too many older siblings were left to care for the younger ones. Sometimes this was necessary, like when a single parent had to work multiple jobs to keep the family fed, but Joshua Rowland's mother wasn't a single parent. She was married to a man named John Brewer, whom Diesel had never met. He assumed that Brewer hadn't adopted the boys, as they had a different last name, but that could be for any number of reasons and didn't indicate an issue in and of itself.
Brewer appeared to be financially successful. The family lived in a well-to-do part of town, where homes were huge and called "estates." Mrs. Brewer wore designer clothes and drove an expensive car. According to her parent info sheet, she didn't work one job, much less multiple.
She should have had time to take care of her children, or money to hire a nanny. If she was leaving child care to her older son, that meant something else was going on.
He forced his voice to be as gentle as he could make it, which wasn't easy. It was normally gravelly and rough, so he made sure he was smiling benignly. "What does Michael do for you?"
"Washes my clothes. Plays with me. Reads me stories at night and fixes my breakfast when I wake up. Eggs and bacon," Joshua added proudly. "Because he says I'm growing and cereal's not good enough."
"He's right," Diesel said. "I can see you growing right now."
Joshua giggled, as Diesel had hoped he would. "No, you can't."
Diesel's lips twitched. "Well, maybe not right now, but I did before. Who picks you up from school?"
"Michael does. He walks me home." Joshua's smile dimmed and he bit his lip again. "But Michael's sad, too. And I can't make him be happy."
Diesel glanced at a sympathetic Mrs. Moody before returning his attention to the forlorn little boy. "Why is Michael sad?" he asked softly.
Joshua shrugged, looking down at his feet. "Mama yells at him a lot. Especially since Uncle John left."
Oh shit. Diesel's trouble-meter started pinging again. "Uncle John?"
"Her husband." Joshua frowned. "But not my daddy. My daddy's gone. To heaven."
"Okay." Calling his stepfather "uncle" also wasn't an issue in and of itself. But all together . . . "And why did Uncle John leave?"
Another shrug. "Mama says it's Michael's fault. But Michael's good."
"I'm sure he is, honey," Diesel murmured. "Does . . ." He drew a breath. "Joshua, does your mom ever . . . hit your brother? Or you?"
The misery in Joshua's eyes was his answer.
Fuck. Diesel's heart sank even as his resolve grew. No one would hurt this child. No one had saved Diesel, but by God, he'd make sure no child that crossed his path would endure what he had.
His heart hurt for these kids, the neglected ones. The abused ones. He felt a physical pressure on his chest and realized he'd pushed the heel of his hand to his heart, reminding him that he'd been living on borrowed time for years. There were whole blocks of time when he nearly forgot that he carried a bullet in his chest, courtesy of an Al-Qaeda insurgent. A bullet hovering too close to his heart to be removed. One day it would move, piercing his heart and ending his life.
But he was used to it now, the notion that his personal clock was running down. He was going to make the most of however many years-or days-he had left. Taking care of other people's kids was his life's mission.
Joshua Rowland had just become priority one.
Saturday, March 16, 11:30 a.m.
"Mom!" Glancing at the clock on the wall, Michael shook his mother's shoulder, roughly voicing her name even though she hated to hear him speak.
It hadn't always been that way. She'd never encouraged him, but she hadn't hated him. But that was before Brewer had come into their lives. It hadn't been perfect before the bastard, but once he'd moved in with them? That was when everything had gone to hell.
She'd been erratic before meeting the man, had even been a drug user. All that had changed. And in the last year it had gotten much, much worse. She'd never hit him before Brewer, either. Now . . .
She sometimes used her fists, but usually she'd hurl whatever happened to be in her hand at the time. This morning it had been a bowl. He'd been busy cooking Joshua's breakfast and hadn't seen her coming at him.
He touched the side of his head gingerly, grimacing at the blood on his fingers. He'd cleaned it as best he could. It would stop bleeding eventually. His head would stop pounding. Eventually.
Right now, Joshua was more important.
"Mom." She should have been at the soccer field, picking up Joshua. She should have stayed there, waiting for him. But she hadn't. She'd come home, staggering inside with that glassy-eyed look that never boded well.
She'd been high, probably popping pills while in the car. And now she was passed out, a syringe on the end table. But she was breathing, so at least she wasn't dying. He had half a mind to contact the cops and have her sorry ass carted off to jail for heroin possession and child neglect, but for now his main concern was Joshua.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Into the Dark is the twenty-third book in the Romantic Suspense series by Author Karen Rose. This series includes many characters from different professions but all the professions are aimed at helping others and all of the protagonists are about exposing the truth, no matter how ugly. This book features two characters, Diesel Kennedy and Dani Novak, who are both drawn to each other but Dani has been resisting the attraction. She has been successful at keeping Diesel at arm’s length for quite some time but after the events that take place in this book, well, let’s just say that Dani will start singing a different tune. Diesel is a man who has been living on borrowed time and he knows it. To that end, he has committed to making a difference as long as he is able and coaching a youth league is just one of the many ways he gives back. It was in his capacity as a coach that he made a startling discovery that would bring him and those around him into the lives of two boys who desperately need advocates. There was only one person that Diesel could think of who would be beneficial in the situation he had been placed in and that was Dani. Together they would encounter many horrible truths, wrestle difficult decisions, and learn a few important lessons that would open their eyes and their hearts along the way. The opening of Into the Dark was just heartbreaking and learning everything that Michael went through was very upsetting, to say the least. I immediately loved Diesel because of his protective instincts as well as his vulnerability. Everything that was taking place took him to a very dark place but he stayed the course. Dani was an amazing advocate in this story and I liked that she was an HIV positive character who still lived her life to the fullest that she could. What took place between her and Diesel was a slow building romance that was very swoony. I loved, loved, loved, the fast-paced action and mystery that unfurled in Into the Dark because it kept me on the edge of my seat! This is a story and series that I absolutely would highly recommend to those who love to read a good thriller. This review is based on a complimentary book I received from NetGalley. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.
This is the first book I've read by Karen Rose. I don't know what took me so long to find her. This story keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat from page one....a real thriller. A vigilante turned serial killer brings together a doctor, a retired military veteran turned soccer coach, a young targeted boy and his 15 year old deaf brother to discover the killer's identity and anticipate his next move in an involved and consuming plot. I fell in love with each of these characters thrown together into an investigative family and miss them already. A definite 5 stars from me and am looking forward to reading more of her books.
4 1/2 STARS! Complex, endearing and oh so satisfying! With the fifth book in The Cincinnati Series, Karen Rose brings us Dani and Diesel's story. If you're not familiar with this series already, you might be a little overwhelmed with the number of people this cast consists of, but you'll quickly become accustomed to the group of extended family and friends that help bring this case through ups and downs of evil. Teenager Michael grabs a readers attention immediately as he tears through danger without thought to try to rescue his little brother from the monster he knows oh too well. As the story unfolds, he becomes a favorite character as he works hard to overcome the trauma he's been through and learn to trust in this family that helps him take care of his little brother. Dani won't let her guard down around Diesel ... not because she doesn't want him but because she thinks he deserves better than she can offer him. He's an awesome guy, so watching him start to slowly build a connection with her that he's been dreaming of is super sweet amid a lot of ugly deeds they are uncovering. I highly recommend this story to anyone wanting a very suspenseful thriller that has an underlying warmth of a close knit group of family and friends.
Karen Rose's most personal book to date. The author's note at the beginning shares the genetic condition that her family has that she incorporated into the characters in this book. Knowing that going in it just felt so much more personable and that along with the other condition she gave Dani Novak it was a very heartfelt read. Her characters are always the type that pull you in but this group in this book had for me a much more emotional connection. Even then thrilling part of the book – the killer – drew an emotional response from you. His reasons for doing what he was doing felt justified until as with anything that crosses the line he started enjoying the acts of vengeance and then got to the point he would do anything to protect himself including wanting to harm the innocent who he started out protecting. I really enjoyed this book and you could tell the author really put her heart and soul and personal experiences into the writing.
Into the Dark by Karen Rose is the 5th book in her Cincinnati romance suspense series. I was thrilled to find out that Into the Dark returns to the Cincinnati series. Once again, Rose gives us a sensational book, which not only keeps us on the edge of our seats with intense and exciting action, but was also an emotional and heartwarming story. The book starts off with a bang, as teenager Michael Rowland is being chased by first his step father, trying to run away with his 5-year-old brother, Joshua. Michael is protecting Joshua from his evil father, and just when he thinks he is safe, he sees his father murdered by another man. Michael, who is deaf, will run into his coach Diesel Kennedy (our hero), who will notice that Michael is bleeding and brings him to Doctor Dani Novak, who will treat Michael. Dani, our heroine, is also deaf in one ear; works with abused children, and is able communicate with the deaf using sign language. She is also an emergency foster care provider. The police find the father’s body, and early on suspect Michael may have killed his father, since his mother claims he did. But evidence will prove that Michael is innocent, but his life is in danger, as the murderer will find out that Michael can identify him. Both Dani and Diesel will take on the responsibility of taking care and protecting both Michael and Joshua at her place. The best part of this is all the wonderful secondary characters we have come to know in the previous books (Marcus, Stone, Scarlett, Meredith, Deacon and Adam, just to name a few), who are cops, FBI, doctors, therapists; who all come to their aid and work together to protect the boys, as well as try to find the murder; especially since so many bodies are showing up. There are two main parts of this story; a mystery revolving around a murderer, who is a vigilante, killing anyone who was trafficking or abusing children, even if he killed innocent people along the way; and the romance between Diesel and Dani. Make no mistake this is a very heartbreaking and emotional story, with topics such as child sexual abuse, HIV, human trafficking, etc. We couldn’t help but feel sorry for both Michael, and Joshua, and I loved how Diesel and Dani were with them. We know that Diesel has always love Dani, but she has held him off due to her lack of confidence (losing a boyfriend to suicide) and mostly due to her HIV status. It was great to watch as she slowly brought down her wall to open her heart to Diesel, and both boys. This is just the beginning of an intense & complex murder mystery that will result in more murders. What follows is an amazing story that held me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Even though we knew who the murderer was, it was an action-packed thriller, with Diesel, Dani and the rest of this great team in danger so many times. We held our breaths, as their lives would hang by a thread. In between these many tense moments, I loved how Diesel and Dani opened their hearts to Michael and Joshua, and the close bond between them and their strong, smart and loyal team of close-knit friends and family. I am in awe of Karen Rose, as her books are so well written with fantastic characters, evil villains, a great couple, and a totally intense mystery that keeps you in suspense to the very end. If you love suspense, with a touch of romance and a thriller all the way, you should be reading anything by Karen Rose.