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Caught between revenge and redemption...
With her family shamed and her faith shaken, Riley Drake carries a heavy burden. She returns to Bayou La Foudre Parish to clear her brother's name, but her mission proves difficult and dangerous. The locals are convinced he's guilty of the tragic bombing that left the town in mourning, and she finds her only ally is Jake Ayers. Frustrated and fascinated by the parish's brooding sheriff, Riley hopes she's found someone to trust with her burden...and her heart.
Sheriff Jake Ayers wants peace and healing in his parish, but Riley's presence stirs tempers into a frenzy. Most of the townsfolk want her dead. Emotions run deep in the bayou, and Jake's are no exception. Keeping a level head and an indifferent heart is going to be as difficult as keeping Riley alive.
In Stock: 100
Author: ( Raquel Byrnes )
I used to think of the bayou as a place of peace until that night on the black water; when the air heated so fast and so furious that the wet steamed right off me. The dark night lit up with a bloom of raging red and orange. The night the thunder stole my brother.
I thought about Randy and what he did on that terrible day almost a month ago as I lay in the canoe. It bobbed lazily underneath the low hanging branches of the cypress tree rocking me in my dark thoughts. Moored to the floating dock, I wasnât going anywhere, so I leaned back in the bottom of the craft. I turned my face to the moon hanging low in the purple sky and listened to the cicadas and frogs along the bank. Their night song, low and steady, hummed its way along the misty water of the bayou. A plaintive cry of a loon tore through my raw nerves and sent me into another fit of sniffles and tears. My new faith, barely months old, shuddered within me.
I donât know how to do this, Lord. I donât know if I can.
Footfalls on the wood planks made me catch my breath. I wondered who found me so fast.
âYou promised you wouldnât come back here.â The unmistakable voice, thick with the drawl of a man born and raised on the bayou, floated to me on the warm night air.
I lifted my head and peered over the lip of the canoe at the man standing on the dock.
Jake Ayers. His dark eyes captured mine, held them for a second, and then looked away. The anguish rolled off of him in dark waves, chilling me despite the summer night.
Bayou La Foudre was his home and my brother, a disturbed young man, had blown up a chemical plant in Jakeâs parish, killing twelve people and dying in the blast himself.
My breath caught when I saw the sorrow etched under Jakeâs eyes. So much heartache there.
Trying for humor, I sat up in the canoe and hugged my knees. âIs that any way to greet a friend?â
âNous ne sommes pas amis.â He hooked his thumbs through the gun belt at his waist and shrugged. The dark brown Sheriffâs uniform outlined his tall stature against the lights from the dock. He kept his gaze on the dark water. âWeâre not friends, Riley.â He pronounced it rah-ley, like he didnât realize my name had no âaâ in it.
I smiled sadly. This place felt so foreign. Louisiana and I would never be friends.
I turned my head, wanting to see what he was looking at.
Tiny lights flickered and bobbed over the surface of the swamp; lightning bugs.
I turned back to him and tried a strained grin. âWhat are we, then?â
I honestly need to know.
Jake didnât answer. Instead, he reached down and grabbed a length of the tow rope. He pulled my canoe towards the dock, and I let him, watching his face in the bright light of the harvest moon. Once he tied the boat in place, he extended his hand and wriggled his fingers. âCome on.â
I tilted my head, looking at him from an angle, but didnât stand up. I didnât reach out to him. âIâm not leaving. Not till I get what I came for.â
Jakeâs face didnât change expression. He reached out a little further. âYour hand, Riley.â
Reluctant to leave the safe cradle of the water and trees, I sighed and let Jake help me off the boat and onto the dock. The narrow path made us stand much closer than we would have otherwise. Being so near him made me remember what it was like to have his strong arms wrapped around me, and I blinked back more tears. That he didnât even consider us friends stung more than I cared to admit.
âYou helped me once, Jake.â My voice cracked, and I bit my lip. I wished I could get a grip, but being back here in this place wrenched me wide open. âCanât you do that again?â
âGetting you out of town is helping you, Riley. You just donât realize that yet.â
Jake gestured for me to walk in front of him.
I glanced back at the water and then up at the trees, but didnât move. âThereâs more, Jake. Thereâs more than what theyâre telling us, I know it. The FBI isââ
âThere isnât more, Riley.â Jakeâs voice sounded tight, as if he was holding back anger.
âYou donât know that.â My voice trembled, and I fought to quell the frustration rumbling up my spine. âAll those people, Jake. They died and there has to be a reason. They canât just haveâŠâ My voice broke, and I struggled to push back the sorrow that threatened to crush me.
âRandy did what he did and thatâs all there is to it. We just werenâtâŠâ He drew in a slow breath. âWe were too late, thatâs all.â
Three weeks ago, when I rushed into Jakeâs parish frantic over my missing brother, heâd been there for me.
Jake took me all over town and beyond trying to find Randy.
Back when my brother was only missing and not a monster.
Jakeâs parish was barely back on their feet after Katrina and didnât deserve what my brother did to them. They didnât deserve to fear dying again.
I nodded silently, and the two of us headed back up the dock to the soft grass of the bank where his squad car idled.
He walked over to the passenger side and opened the door. Standing there in the better light, his gaze flitted to the still healing burns on my arms. His brows furrowed with concern. âYouâre doing all right?â
I shrugged as I slid into the seat, not answering because I didnât want him to hear the truth in my voice.
He nodded and shut the door. âI thought so.â
Walking around the nose of the squad car, he slid into the seat and gave me an exasperated look. âHowâd you get the canoe out of the locked boathouse?â
I shrugged. âI did research about home invasions for an article once.â
âWhat did you do, interview a cat burglar?â
âThey donât like that term.â I said, and tried to smile.
My job as a reporter put me in contact with people from all walks of life. That some of their âtalentsâ rubbed off on me wasnât surprising.
This wasnât the first time Jake commented on my strange skill set.
As he pulled onto the road, I swayed with the rocking of the car on the uneven dirt road. âHow did you find me?â
âYour older brother, Raymond, called the station. He thought you might be on your way.â
My family didnât want me within twenty miles of this place. They probably hoped Iâd get run out of town.
âNo, how did you know Iâd be here. In all of Bayou La Foudre, whyâd you look here?â
âYou liked this place when we came here together. You said you thought it would be a good place to hide and think.â He said it without looking away from the road; without looking at me, and I wondered if he remembered that heâd also kissed me that day.
âYou really want me to leave?â My heart fell at the thought of Jake not wanting me around. I wished he would smile. I wished I could still see something warm in his gaze.
Jake faced me then, the pain of so much sorrow in so short a time etched across his features. âItâs not about what I want, Riley, itâs about this parish healing. Itâs about moving on.â
âMoving on,â I repeated slowly.
Jake took one hand off the steering wheel and reached across the darkness to me. He took my chin in his hand, tilting my face towards him, the car coming to a slow stop on the dark road. âThis isnât fair. I know it, Riley, but the FBI just left and most of the reporters. Things are starting to get back on track. Having you hereâŠâ His gaze flitted from my eyes to my mouth and back again. He let go and gripped the steering wheel till it creaked under his palm. âYou canât stay.â
He was right, but despite that fact, I was staying. I thought about my plans, what I had to doâŠfor Randyâs sake, for my parentsâ sake; and a quiver of fear shook through me. I wondered how long before my actions pushed Jake away for good.excerpt coming soon
I live in Southern, California with my husband of sixteen years and our six children. I've been homeschooling for ten years.
I enjoy going to writer's conferences and love to do research for my books. From taking a private investigator course to learning to target shoot, I consider writing a way of life. I have written several books to date.
I love to read and consider it a wonderful way to minister to others. Sometimes taking a spiritual journey with a character you identify with can open up your eyes to the awesome generostiy of the Lord.
Wow, Ms. Byrnes really knows how to drop you right into the heart of things. And in this case, not just the heart, but the heat too.rnrnFrom the start
of this book I didn't want to put it down! Riley wears her heart on her sleeve, and not just for the brother that she lost. Yes, she wants to prove
him innocent, not just for herself and her family, but for the sake of his memory. She knows all isn't as it appears and she wants to clear his name.
And then there's Jake, a man torn between duty and his own heart. He's the kind of hero we all want in our lives. And he already owns a piece of
Riley's heart.rnrnThis story is fast paced, even in the slow heat of the bayou, and the heat just keeps building inside and out. Great story! If you
enjoy unraveling twists and turns from a crime story, you're gonna love this one.