Emmerson Hoyt lives in Central Texas with her husband and a small horde of animals. When she’s not writing, she’s getting floral tattoos or playing video games.
Rylee Adder left Eden thinking she’d put the worst day of her life behind her.
She was wrong.
Separated from her new family and Colton—the man she never thought she’d have to live without—Rylee finds herself in Boston facing her biggest challenge yet: surviving the Vipers’ Den.
Plagued by nightmarish memories, she throws herself into uncovering evidence to bring down those threatening the ones she loves.
If Rylee fails, Eden’s dark history is destined to repeat itself. But she’s not the only one on the hunt for answers, and some secrets are desperate to stay buried.
This book contains explicit content: on page detailed consensual sex scenes, profanity, violence, death, parental non-recognition of gender-identity, mental health topics (including but not limited to: anxiety, PTSD, grief, self-harm)
A detailed list of content warnings can be found at www.EmmersonHoyt.com
WARNING: The following except contains MASSIVE SPOILERS from Book One. If you have not read September Doves, I recommend waiting to read the passage below until you have.
The Next Morning
Smoke and flame seep through the cracked bindings of the old incinerator. The stench is pungent, charred and sickly sweet. Which is surprising—I thought Logan Eastmann’s body would smell fouler.
Goddamn piece of shit.
Fighting the urge to spit on the ground, I cast my gaze to the orange light bleeding through the pines.
My first sunrise without Jack.
My first sunrise away from her.
The memory of Rylee’s blood-soaked hands cradling Jack’s head in her lap sends a jolt of pain through my chest.
After leaving Andy in charge of staging Sheriff Knott’s death to look like an accidental overdose, my brothers and I drove straight to the funeral home outside of Eden. The owner is a Jackal—thank fuck—so he didn’t ask any questions when we brought Jack’s lifeless body in for cremation. He also didn’t bat an eye when we threw Logan into the incinerator out back—the one normally used for roadkill. It’s more than the scum bag deserves. I’d have left him out in the open for the rodents to devour, but that would’ve been too much of a risk for Rylee.
I should have protected her from all this, but I fucked up.
There’s only one thing I’m good for and I wasn’t even here to do it. If I had been, she wouldn’t have had to be the one to kill Logan. If I’d stayed in Eden, like Jack asked me to at the meeting, then he might still be alive.
This shitshow is entirely my fault, and the crushing weight of that burden makes it difficult to breathe.
My brothers are still inside the crematorium with Jack. I should be with them, but I had to erase all traces of Logan. I can’t let his death fall back on them, or on Rylee.
Behind me, a rusty door creaks open as Minho and Danny drift outside, the latter carrying an ebony urn eerily similar to Jeremy’s.
Danny’s eyes are on the ground, but his steps are strong and confident. It took several hours and an additional dose of naloxone for the drugs Sheriff Knott gave him to clear out of his system, but he’s lucid now. Stoic but lucid. Minho, on the other hand, looks like he’s in a drug fugue of his own. With each passing minute he’s sunk deeper within himself, barely saying a word to any of us. He just blinks, like he’s expecting to wake up and find that this was all a nightmare.
“Andy’s on his way,” Danny announces after placing the urn in the front seat of his pickup. He shuts the door with too much restraint, and that’s the exact moment I know how badly he’s hurting. Danny’s always like this when the world is going to shit. Quiet, controlled. Way too fucking calm.
He’s trying to hold it together for the rest of us, like Jack always did.
Now my eyes are burning and the squeezing sensation around my ribs is near suffocating. I bite the inside of my cheek until the feeling fades.
The three of us hover in silence, watching the incinerator fumes dissipate into the dawn sky until the grumble of a clunky Bronco cuts through the stillness and Andy trudges around the corner of the brick building. Perspiration beads on his forehead and drips down his neck, darkening the light tan of his uniform at his collar and under his arms. Hopefully that’s not a sign something went wrong with Knott.
“It’s done?” I ask at his approach.
He gives me a curt nod. “Made it look like a textbook overdose: belt tourniquet, a needle sticking out from one of his fingernails to explain the lack of track marks, the whole shebang. I even backed the cruiser all the way into the brush where he normally parks for speed traps. We’re all set. I’ll drive by and find him in a few hours, after he fails to show up for work.”
Andy’s eyes bounce between me and Danny, like he’s not sure who he should be addressing. As vice president of the Jackals, Danny is now in charge, but until today, leadership’s been a responsibility we’ve always shouldered together.
“Deputy Yates raided the medical wing at the jail,” Andy continues, attention drifting between both of us. “She made it look like Knott’s been stealing from the station’s stock for months. The medical examiner confirmed his report will corroborate our story. As far as tying anyone else to the scene, I went over every surface Jack or Danny might have touched in the cruiser and wiped the morphine syringe clean of Rylee’s prints.”
“You’re sure this will work? We can’t risk any fuckups.” I cross my arms and shift my weight onto my heels. One of us should have stayed behind to verify Andy was thorough enough, but it’s too late for that now.
“Like I told you earlier, we’re covered,” he says, a muscle in his jaw ticking. “But feel free to hop off my nutsack whenever you’re ready.” His fist clenches and unclenches at his side, like he’s thinking about hitting me.
Go ahead, fuckwad. I could use a fucking release.
“Good work, Andy,” Danny cuts in, stepping forward with a sideways glance in my direction. “With Knott out of the picture, Eden needs a new sheriff and we need the law on our side. It has to be a Jackal. Yates might have more years on the force, but she doesn’t have the family name she’d need to get the whole county behind her. Andy, it has to be you.”
He squeezes Deputy Dipshit’s shoulder, the gesture reminding me so much of Jack that I grit my teeth.
Andy opens his mouth like he might object but immediately snaps it shut. His nostrils flare once, and he nods. “I’ll make it happen.”
Danny’s eyes drift to the incinerator where the fire is sputtering out.
“No one’s going to like this next part,” he announces. “Over the next month, I want the Jackals phased out of Eden. We can’t give anyone in town the opportunity to notice Jack’s missing or connect it with Knott’s or Logan’s death. Andy and Yates will stay behind with a skeleton crew to watch the town and protect the Doves, but I want the first wave of us in Lockwood by tonight. Minho, let Alex know he’s in charge of keeping the bar open and getting the after-school center up and running. Nothing falls through the cracks while we’re gone.”
Minho’s brows draw together. “How long will we be away?”
“I don’t know, but we can’t have this mess affecting the rest of the town. Our goal is to set people free, not bring a shitstorm to their doorstep. We won’t be back until Andy is sheriff and we’re absolutely sure the Jackals aren’t on Charles Eastmann’s radar.”
Danny dives his hand into his pocket, the soft jingle of metal filling the silence until he holds out a handful of sparkling silver.
My throat threatens to close as Danny methodically places five of the eight rings on his own fingers before passing one to me and one to Minho. The silver is heavy in my palm, and I grip it so tightly I’m surprised it doesn’t fuse with my flesh.
Danny examines the last ring, turning it over like an attentive jeweler inspecting for flaws. “Jack trusted you, so I trust you.” He tosses Andy the ring. “You were already my brother, but now you are one of his sons. Jack said you were going to change this town for the better, I need you to prove him right.”
A snort escapes me before I can smother it.
Danny shoots daggers in my direction, but Andy’s too shell-shocked to notice.
I was never totally on board with Jack and the others bringing Andy in. He’s a Knott after all. Ignoring the fact that he made a move on my girl, how can I ever fully trust a man who shares blood with my enemy?
This fucker is likely the only other Jackal who needs to earn his place more than I do, and now we’re asking him to be sheriff? I shake my head.
Andy slips the ring onto his left hand. “I won’t let you down.”
“I know you won’t.” Danny turns to me and Minho. “We’ll need to use Rylee’s initiation confirmation to elect a new president instead. That gives everyone enough time to get together.”
My gut tightens. “I’ll call the charter heads and set it up.”
Danny dips his chin. “Good. Onto the next thing. Logan’s car might have some sort of GPS tracker installed. We need it out of Eden before anyone traces him here. Minho, what are your thoughts on how we handle this?”
Minho straightens, cracking his knuckles and neck, as if booting his brain back up from rest mode. “I’ll load the car onto a tow truck and take her on a little road trip before disabling the tracker. Along the way, I can hit up the same high-end casinos and hot spots a rich asshole like Logan would if he was on a bender. Then I’ll dump the car where no one will ever find her. Do you think he mentioned where he was headed to anyone?”
Danny shakes his head. “Unlikely. Eastmann never would have let his son go after the Adder girls by himself. Seeing how our skulls haven’t been bashed in yet, I doubt he told anyone where he was going.”
Danny pauses, running his fingers over the stubble on his chin. “The biggest problem is what Holly told us about Rylee’s tracking bracelet. If anyone knew Logan was keeping tabs on her or had access to that information, she could still be implicated in his disappearance.”
My fists ball and quake as rage and fear duel for dominance inside me.
I’ll kill anyone who comes after her, even if it means fighting the whole goddamn Eastmann empire.
“Colt, brother,” Danny says, softening his tone, “I know you’re eager to get to Rylee, but right now the safest thing for her is to be as far away from us as possible. Rick won’t let anything happen to his daughter.”
He takes a weighty breath, and my stomach clenches in nervous anticipation of what he’s going to say next. “Here’s the big ask: I need you for a few weeks. At least until everything has settled down and we’re through the vote. If you agree, I want you to go with Minho and take care of Logan’s car before meeting the rest of us in Lockwood. Once we’re all in Pennsylvania and a new president has been elected, we’ll make a plan to get you to Boston. Are you with me?”
I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that I can’t immediately go to Rylee or that my own brother thinks he needs to beg for my help.
Hands still balled at my side, I cast my eyes skyward where the sunrise is shifting the cloud gradient from coral to crimson.
Fixing this mess is going to be complicated, which is the whole reason I told Rylee I would come for her when it was safe instead of giving her an exact date, but that’s not going to make being away from her any easier to stomach.
I hate that she’s going to be on her own, but Danny’s right, no one would dare make a move on Rick Adder’s daughter. The Vipers may be monsters, but they’re at the top of their game right now. She’ll be okay for a few weeks, and the sooner we dispose of Logan’s car, the sooner I can make sure she’s safe and get back to her.
Slipping Jack’s ring onto my finger, I nod once. “I’m with you. We all are. I’ll go with Minho and we’ll meet you in Lockwood.”
Danny’s shoulders relax a fraction of an inch as he takes a long, drawn-out breath. “Good. Let’s get to it. We have work to do, boys.”
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. I also love playing video games.
I usually dive into writing the next one!
I hope to celebrate Summer Sparrow’s release with another tattoo, the same way I did September Doves.
They are not, I have not based a character on anyone I know. That seems dangerous!
In order to do the characters and their journey justice, the book ended up being much longer than I initially planned. Editing such a massive manuscript was exhausting.
I LOVE telling myself the story and having the characters take on a life of their own.
I adore Penelope Douglass, B.B. Reid, and Mariana Zapata.
This book is built on secrets and the unknown, so my favorite passages are MAJOR spoilers.
“I’m sorry I killed you.”