Emmerson Hoyt lives in Central Texas with her husband, two dogs, and two cats. When she’s not writing, she’s getting floral tattoos or playing video games.
Rylee Adder is a struggling college student desperate to reconnect with the only family she has left. She finally has her chance when a late-night phone call sends her rushing to Eden, West Virginia—a small mining town with a veiled past.
She arrives ready to console her grieving sister, but instead discovers a distant, secretive woman she hardly recognizes, and Colton Archer, a tattoo-covered troublemaker with a knack for pushing her buttons.
As Rylee battles her growing attraction to Colton, who is as infuriating as he is handsome, she comes face-to-face with a shocking discovery that has her questioning everything.
When danger closes in, she must decide what rules she is willing to break for the ones she loves or risk losing them all.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I agreed to meet North Carolina’s top-ranked private investigator at a dive bar, but it definitely wasn’t the stern-faced man with a comb-over and polyester polo sitting across from me.
Pulling his collar away from his neck, he slides a thin, manila folder across the sticky bar-top table. “I’m sorry, Ms. Adder, but I was unable to locate your sister.”
Icy shock streaks up my spine. For how much this guy charges, it never occurred to me that not finding my sister was even an option. I stare at the near-empty folder, my limbs numb with disbelief. “What do you mean you couldn’t find Holly?”
The P.I. adjusts his too-tight belt and wipes the sweat from his forehead. After a quick look over his shoulder, he leans forward. “Listen, kid, I’ve been doing this for over thirty years. When I tell you I’ve never seen anything like this before, you have to believe me. There is absolutely no digital record of your sister since her arrest seven years ago. Not even a traffic violation. Every time I thought I found something, the files disappeared before I could access them.”
My legs bounce under the table. “That can’t be right. I’ve talked to her. She was at our mom’s funeral five years ago. We had plans to meet up last summer. She sent me a text last month, for God’s sake.” I grab my phone and bring up the text thread to show him.
Unknown Number: Rylee, I need you. Jeremy is missing. -H
Me: Where are you? How can I help?
That was over four weeks ago and still no response.
The investigator takes a peek at my screen before sliding my phone back across the table. “Like I said in my email, the text was a dead end. She used an untraceable virtual private network and likely a burner phone to send it.” He purses his lips and gives me a commiserating sigh that only makes me want to smack the pitying expression right off his face. “Sometimes people don’t want to be found. Maybe she already reconnected with this Jeremy guy—”
“Her husband. Jeremy is her husband,” I correct, unable to hide the annoyance slipping into my tone.
He waves me off. “Right. Well, someone who’s trying that hard not to be found either has a good reason to stay hidden or has powerful friends. Sometimes both. It might be best to just let her go.” He pushes back his stool and signals to the bartender for another beer. “I can’t offer you a refund, but this round is on me. Good luck, kid.” Ripping a twenty from his worn, leather wallet, he tosses it on the table and heads out the door.
I don’t bother watching him go. I can’t. I can’t do anything but bite my cheek and stare at the dove logo on my empty beer bottle while trying not to scream.
A few minutes later, the bartender whisks away the cash and replaces it with a fresh beer. Without looking up, I snatch the bottle off the table. My grip tightens around the neck until my knuckles turn white and my shock and annoyance bleed into something hot and volatile.
No wonder he had me pay before he gave me the results.
Two thousand dollars.
I never should have listened to Logan. It was his stupid-ass idea to hire the investigator in the first place. I tried to explain to him that my sister has always been secretive. That she’d pop back up whenever she was ready, like she always has, but Logan disagreed. He made me feel like I was a bad sister for not looking harder for Holly and in the end, even though I knew she wouldn’t be found unless she wanted to be, I’d bitten my tongue and done it. Now I’m out the two grand I’d saved for tuition and I still don’t know where she is.
I’ve always had stories floating around in my head. After leaving my job in nursing, I finally decided to get them onto paper!
I am a planster (plotter/pantser). While I have all the major plot points charted out, I like to leave room for discovery and tell myself the fun parts of the story while I write.
I am an avid reader, who among us isn’t? I also love playing video games and getting flower tattoos. I am working on my leg sleeve right now and considering getting some of the character’s tattoos after publishing this novel.
I usually dive into writing the next one!
This will be my first release! I am deep into writing the second part of the Duet… so I will likely just write.
They are not, I have not based a character on anyone I know.
I did a massive overhaul of this book and making huge cuts was gut wrenching, but it was for the best!
I LOVE telling myself the story and having the characters take on a life of their own.
I adore Penelope Douglass and B.B. Reid. I’ve also recently gotten into Devney Perry and Mariana Zapata.
This book is built on secrets and the unknown, so my favorite passages are MAJOR spoilers.
I will not name the character, but I would say. “I’m sorry I killed you.”