Following her diagnosis as a schizophrenic, Martha Covington has been easing herself back into her quiet life on a small island off the Georgia coast. The trouble is, Martha’s research into local healing roots has earned her an unfounded, and frankly unwelcome, reputation as a psychic. But when an elderly couple from Atlanta tracks her down, desperate for any sign of their missing grandson, Peavy, Martha confronts a terrifying possibility: that the line between intuition and insanity may not be as clear as she’d like to believe.
First comes a spine-tingling vision that feels too real to be imagined. Then Martha receives a message in her dreams that the boy may yet be alive. Despite her therapist’s insistence that it’s all in her head, Martha travels to Atlanta to investigate Peavy’s mysterious disappearance, where she is reunited with handsome law student Jarrell Humphries. A trail of cryptic clues leads the pair deep into a heart of a dangerous conspiracy whose members will stop at nothing—including murder—to protect their secrets.
Praise for Kiss of the Sun
“[This] stunning follow-up to The Girl in the Maze . . . will take your breath away.”—It’s About the Book
“Filled with suspense . . . A character-driven series of a young woman’s struggle to develop her journalism career while fighting the demons of mental illness.”—Judith D. Collins Must Read Books
“I fell in love with Martha in her first book, Girl in the Maze, and that love continued in this book.”—Books to Curl Up With
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Eduardo felt a sensation like a low-voltage electrical current flow through his limbs as he took the Jimmy Carter Boulevard exit from I-85 north toward Lilburn.
The directions to the professor’s house were printed on the folded sheet of paper next to him on the front seat of his ’68 Pontiac GTO coupe, but he had no need to consult it—every detail of his assignment was scorched into his brain. Next to the paper was the sealed, padded envelope, the electronic clipboard, and the Fiskars stainless-steel meat shears, folded up inside their leather sheath.
The mid-October sun hung low and molten above the pine trees as he headed east, navigating through traffic and the northside sprawl. He passed a Waffle House, a Target, a Fuddruckers, a Rooms-to-Go store.
The sprawl gave way to older subdivisions, more trees, then an elementary school and a playground, a 7-Eleven. He could feel a lump of bile working its way up his throat when the name of the housing development came into view: Indian Hills.
Eduardo had done a few rough things before. As a member of the Sangres gang, he’d hit a scab on the back of the head with a pipe and seen him drop like a tower of sandbags. He’d boosted stereo equipment from a house in Smyrna while an old lady looked on, clutching her granddaughter, eyes red and wet with fear. But he’d never done anything like what the Organization asked of him tonight. This was new territory.
He felt conspicuous in the coupe, especially wearing his moronic brown UPS shirt with ernest embroidered in yellow letters. In fact, he was attracting a few glances—a woman pushing a jogging stroller, a couple of kids riding Big Wheels on a lawn—as he eased it along the blacktop, passing one McMansion after another. No matter, he told himself. He loved his GTO, but it would be replaced by something else after tonight. Something better.
He spotted the professor’s house from a half block away, recognized the rustic wood siding and the sweet gum tree in the center of the front yard from the photographs, and pulled up to the curb, deliberately parking one house down.
He took a deep breath. It’s showtime, Eduardo. Final exam. He killed the ignition, put the shears in his back pocket, picked up the envelope, and started toward the house.
Eduardo could hear the faint drone of a television inside as he rang the doorbell. It sounded like a cable news show. The man would be home tonight; he knew that from the intel he’d been given.
Eduardo waited with the padded envelope in one hand, the electronic clipboard in the other, until McCaffrey came to the door. The sociology professor still had a salt-and-pepper beard, like Eduardo had seen in the photographs, and he wore a rumpled flannel shirt and wire-framed glasses. Behind the glasses, his eyes looked curious, a little distracted.
Will you be able to do it?
“Package delivery,” Eduardo said.
“I didn’t know you guys worked after six.”
“Sorry, I’ve been driving all afternoon trying to find this house. Can you please sign here?”
McCaffrey took the clipboard and stylus, stared for a moment. “This says James McCarthy. I think you’ve got the wrong house.”
Eduardo followed the script that he’d rehearsed a hundred times. “But the address says this place. I’m sure.”
“No, you have the wrong address, son.”
Eduardo put the envelope under his arm and stared at his clipboard. He took a step toward the threshold and put a hand to his forehead. “Oh, no . . .”
“See here? The address says 4400 Casting Court, not Cascade Heights,” McCaffrey said.
“Oh, no,” Eduardo repeated. “Do you have a map?”
McCaffrey glanced toward the street. “Don’t you guys use GPS these days?”
“Yes, I’ve got it, but that thing is not working right, or I’m not using it right. I’m afraid I’m going to lose this job, and my mother’s very sick, they’re going to fire me, and . . .”
“It’s all right, son. Calm down. Let me get my iPhone and we can look it up.”
“Okay, okay,” Eduardo said. “I’m afraid if I lose this job—”
“Just wait here a sec,” McCaffrey said. He went back into the foyer, leaving the door cracked. As soon as McCaffrey had disappeared around the corner, Eduardo pushed through the door and stepped into the foyer. He closed the door softly behind him. Then he pulled the tear strip on the envelope, opened it, and took out a loaded Glock 40. He let the envelope drop to the floor.
McCaffrey returned with the smartphone in his hand and was halfway across the foyer when Eduardo raised the gun. Eduardo thought he could see the blood run out of McCaffrey’s face as he looked up and registered the situation: the closed door, the gun pointed straight into his face.
“Put your hands in the air,” Eduardo said.
McCaffrey tossed the smartphone onto a chair in the foyer and lifted his arms. “Listen, I have a safe with ten thousand dollars in cash, savings bonds, and some heirloom jewelry as well. Just let me go and open it for you—”
“I don’t care about your f***ing safe. Just shut up and turn around and do exactly what I tell you.”
McCaffrey turned slowly, hands still raised. “What is it you want from me, son?”
“I want you to shut up and go into the living room. Walk slowly.”
He followed McCaffrey into the living room.
“Clarise!” McCaffrey shouted as he turned the corner. “Get out of the house! Run next door and dial 911!”
“There’s no one else here,” Eduardo said. “But if you say another word, I’ll launch a copper hollow-point right through your educated brain. Get over there and sit down on that sofa.”
“Very well,” McCaffrey said, as he might speak to a child who had just asked him to build a house out of blocks. He turned very slowly and deliberately, sat down, and placed his hands on his knees. “What is it that you want?”
McCaffrey was a cool customer, Eduardo thought to himself. Not showing much fear. This could make the assignment harder than he expected. Eduardo himself was trembling, though he fought not to show it.
“I’ll do whatever you like,” McCaffrey said, “but you should know that my wife is already next door by now, and calling the police. You’d better plan a fast exit.”
“You aren’t fooling me, graybeard,” Eduardo said. He pulled the coffee table toward the center of the room, took a mini-tripod from his pocket. He extended the legs, placed it on the table, then mounted his Galaxy phone on the stand and pointed it toward the professor. “Your wife doesn’t live here anymore. She dumped your wrinkled ass six months ago.”
Eduardo saw a flicker of change on the professor’s face. A slight paling. “How did you know that?”
Eduardo took out the Fiskars shears from his back pocket and placed them on the table next to the stand.
“What’s that for?” The professor’s face grew even paler.
“This ain’t no classroom, and you don’t ask any questions, all right?” Eduardo punched in his ID code on the phone’s touchscreen. His fingers were trembling, and the screen tremored in response. invalid passcode. He’d made a mistake.
“Is this some kind of prank?” McCaffrey asked.
“Shut the f*** up!” Eduardo entered the code again, and this time he got to the home screen. He punched the icon for the Periscope app. Soon they would be on the air. The Organization would be watching everything, and recording. There would be no retest, no makeup exam. He needed to find his balance.
As Eduardo adjusted the phone on the stand, he heard a noise from another room: a shuffle, a thump. What the f***? There’s someone else in the house.
He stepped toward the professor and pointed the Glock in his face. He could see the black steel reflected in the lenses. The old man’s eyes looked like moist prunes.
“Who is that?” Eduardo hissed.
The professor licked his lips and swallowed. “I don’t know.”
Without thinking, Eduardo raised the gun and slammed it down on the professor’s skull. The gray-haired man pitched over sideways against the armrest, his glasses askew. He grabbed the spot on his skull where Eduardo had slammed him. “Please . . . ,” he muttered.
“Shut up,” Eduardo hissed, and he sidestepped toward the doorway where he’d heard the sound. What the hell was this? Maybe his wife really was here. It would be just like the Organization to throw him a curveball.
There was a narrow door next to the kitchen entrance, and a gleam of flat, white light came from under the edge. Fluorescent light. He put his hand on the knob and turned slowly.
Then he slammed the door open and extended his gun. Utility room. Shelves. A washer and dryer. He almost pulled the trigger as an orange-and-white shape bolted off the washing machine and trotted toward the far end of the room.
The cat pushed through a plastic cat door and was gone, leaving the hinged panel swinging with a faint plastic creak.
Eduardo allowed himself to breathe again, heaving air like he’d just jogged sixty miles. Relief spread through his veins like spring water.
He turned and stepped back to the living room, where the professor still sat, holding both hands against his skull. Blood was oozing between his fingers.
The old man looked different now, smaller, more pathetic. Eduardo felt different now, too. Braver, empowered. He’d faced a challenge, dealt with it. He’d kept his cool.
“Just tell me what you want,” the professor gibbered.
“Just wait,” Eduardo said, strangely calm now, although his system was energized, tingling. He was in control. This was what the Organization had promised would happen—the glimmering. A transformation. He was ready for anything. He didn’t give a shit, and it felt f***ing fantastic.
He picked up the Galaxy phone, attached it to the tripod, and oriented it so the image of the pathetic, quivering man on the sofa filled the screen. He started the live stream and checked his wristwatch. “Okay, professor, we’re on the air. You got only one chance.”
“For what?” McCaffrey asked hoarsely. “What is it you want me to do?”
“You’ve got exactly five minutes to explain why you should be allowed to live.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Please keep writing about Martha . .. I can't wait to see where her hoodoo takes her
This is a follow-up to THE GIRL IN A MAZE featuring Martha Covington. Martha is a schizophrenic, but as long as she takes her medications, the voices in her head are silent. She's living in a small island off the Georgia coast, researching and writing a book. Her research has given her a reputation of being psychic. An elderly couple reaches out to her for help in locating their grandson, who has been missing for 6 years. They have brought things that belonged to him and upon handling them, Martha has a vision. She then receives a dream message .. the boy might still be alive. When she decides to at least look at the area where the boy went missing, she is reunited with Jarrell Humphries, a law student. Their reunion leads them into a whirlwind of conspiracy, dark secrets, and people who will stop at nothing to achieve what they want. And what, exactly, is it that they want? I will confess. I was not overly excited reading THE GIRL IN A MAZE. KISS OF THE SUN is so much better. The character of Martha has grown exponentially. She is a much more interesting and engaging character now. I do like the author's writing, his description of living on a small island is charming. The story premise is a good one. Action is fast paced, suspension builds. There are many surprises and twists and turns along the way that keeps the eye on every page. Many thanks to the author / Random House Publishing Group - Alibi / Netgalley for the uncorrected ebook. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
Enjoyed it Worth reading TS
Kiss of the Sun is R. K. Jackson's second novel, as well as the second book with main character Martha Covington. Martha has been treated for schizophrenia, is now doing well, and living on Shell Heap Island off Georgia's Atlantic coast. She is immersing herself in the Geechee culture, working as a root worker as part of her research for her second book. All is well until an older black couple comes to see Martha to beg her to help them find their grandson who has been missing for six years. Against her therapists wishes, Martha tries to help these people. She travels to Atlanta to see what she can learn, or what visions she might get, with the intent of giving them this information and returning to the island. While there she looks up Jarrell Humphries who she knows from Shell Heap Island. He has been in her thoughts since the events of the first book. The pair is invited to a special political function hosted by Jarrell's scholarship benefactor and from there the mystery spins out of control. With Lisbeth Salander qualities, Martha engages not only her high intellect but also the insight that seems to come from her disorder, in order to help Jarrell infiltrate and uncover much more than the fate of a missing boy. This intense tale will leave you wondering. Is it impossible that such things could be in play given what we see on the world scene? I found this book equally as fascinating as Mr. Jackson's first book, Girl in the Maze. While I would suggest reading them in order, Kissed by the Sun can certainly stand alone. From deep water to deep underground, it is one fast paced read that kept me up late into the night. I do recommend this book.
The second of the Martha Covington stories is an even wilder ride than the first. Martha's mental problems are put on display as she deals with a possible new lover and a strange disappearance. Suspense grows throughout the story, and the excitement continues from page to page as Martha and her friend Jarrell are targeted by the powerful leader of a nasty organization. Creepy characters are in good supply, and even some bad guys who turn good. This book will hold your interest and thoroughly entertain you.