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Angel Falls Series Book 7
BY TESS THOMPSON
Battered, bruised, and barely alive, Rafael Aguilar escapes from his captors in Colombia with only bits and pieces of his memory.
What did he see? What does he know?
Rafael left Angel Falls ten years earlier determined to never return to the dark memories he left behind.
Now, wounded and running for his life, he comes home to Angel Falls.
His brother Andras hides him in a remote hunting cabin, and he and his wife, Doctor Harper King, nurse him back to health.
In the woods near the remote cabin, Rafael encounters his enchanting neighbor, Sydney Santana, and recognizes her as a kindred spirit. The beautiful redhead soon captures his imagination and his heart.
Then, he learns that she is keeping secrets too.
Was their meeting accidental or something darker?
Is Sydney the key to his happiness or his capture?
Rafe is determined to learn the truth while trying to keep his brother’s family safe. As some of his sketchy memories return, he gradually pieces together the facts and sets himself up as a target to catch a hired killer on his trail.
Winter wasn’t giving up on the February evening in the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Heavy wet snow bleached the front yard from the porch to the barn on Andras Aguilar’s horse farm. He looked at the clock on the wall and frowned, knowing his wife, Harper, would be traveling home on snow-packed roads from the hospital in Santa Fe where she worked as a neurosurgeon three days a week. She served as a family practitioner the other two days at the Angel Falls Clinic nearby.
Harper was a talented and independent woman, and although Andras wanted to protect her from the world, he knew she wouldn’t welcome his concerns. Nevertheless, he picked up his cell phone and called her.
She answered on the third ring. “Hi, sweetheart. How’s your day going so far?”
“It’s fine. It will be better once you get here. The roads are scary, Harper. Please drive carefully and watch for idiots trying to pass when you’re in the canyon.”
He could hear the smile in her voice. “I’ll drive like a little old granny. I promise, worrywart. See you soon. Love you.”
Harper had come into his life unexpectedly and become his champion in a community that regarded him with distrust and fear. He’d fallen hard for her, and she’d changed his solitary life and opened him up to feelings he’d never known he needed.
He walked impatiently to his front window and looked toward the wide barn door. He had closed it earlier in the day as the cold front blew in, but now it stood partially open. His adopted son Bobby had insisted on checking on the horses, and Andras had watched as the boy ran across the yard with Bear, their powerfully built German shepherd, trailing behind him. Any creatures lurking in the barn would be quickly dispatched, he thought and chuckled.
Suddenly, Bobby blasted out of the barn. His winter cap fell from his head, and his carrot top hair flopped in his face as he ran toward the house. Andras could hear his high-pitched screech and quickly opened the front door. Bobby ran into his arms and managed to squeak out between breaths, “Man … there’s a … man in there.” He gulped a lungful of air as he pointed back toward the barn. Andras could feel his thin body shaking.
He pulled Bobby inside the house as he took a jacket off its hook, grabbed his shotgun, and said sharply, “Stay here.”
The horse farm was several miles outside of town, and it would have been unusual for a vagrant to take refuge in his barn but certainly not impossible. Andras walked cautiously toward the open door and peered into the darkness. “Whoever you are, come out right now. I’m carrying a gun, and I don’t want to shoot you. You scared my boy half to death. I would have given you shelter if you’d asked.”
He heard his dog Bear give a nervous whine and then run to him from the far side of the barn where Andras stored the hay. Bear whined again and looked back into the shadows. The German shepherd, protective by nature, was not showing any aggression toward the intruder as Andras would have expected. This was strange indeed.
Andras held the gun out before him and followed Bear as the dog circled back and forth. Then, he saw a figure lying against the hay. The man’s eyes were half-open, but Andras would have recognized that face anywhere as he stared dumbfounded at the man. “Rafe,” he said as he put the gun down and reached out for his brother.
“My God, Rafe, what’s happened to you?” His brother’s face was ashen with dark purple and blue bruises splattered across it, and his blond hair was dirty and shaggy. His cracked lips were caked with dried blood.
Rafe’s voice was hoarse and broken as he tried to speak. “Andras, help. Don’t tell. Dead,” he said and closed his eyes. Eyes that only moments before were filled with pain and fear. His big brother had never been afraid of anyone or anything in his life.
Andras’s mind flooded with emotion. Rafe had always tried to protect him from their mother and the outside world. Whatever Rafe needed from him now, he would give it no matter the cost.
Rafe was wearing only a shirt, pants, and a light jacket on this cold, snowy night. When Andras placed his hand on his brother’s chest, Rafe cried out in pain. He was a big man over six feet, and the last time Andras had seen him, Rafe was impressive with a hard-packed muscular body. Today, he looked thin and gaunt.
Andras quickly took off his own coat and covered him. Speaking softly, he said, “Rafe, can you hear me?”
The only response he heard was labored puffs of air between groans as his chest rose and fell. He reached for Rafe’s hand to squeeze it softly and pulled back when he found blood-soaked bandages surrounding his brother’s fingers. “What’s happened to you? Who did this to you?”
Andras felt an overwhelming urge to kill those responsible. He clenched his teeth and forced down the bile that had risen in his throat. “I’ll be right back, I promise. I’ll get help.”
He rose, looked down, and placed a hand on Bear’s head. “Stay. Guard.” His eyes alert and searching, the obedient dog lay down next to Rafe.
Andras crossed the yard and saw Bobby rocking back and forth on his feet while peering out the kitchen window. When Andras opened the door, his curly black hair was wet from the falling snow. He immediately knelt and looked into Bobby’s eyes to reassure the boy. “There’s no need to be afraid. The man in the barn is not here to hurt us. He’s your Uncle Rafe, and he needs our help.”
“What’s the matter with him?”
“I don’t know yet, but I must ask something of you that may be hard. I think some bad people hurt him, and he’s hiding. I need you to keep it a secret between you and me and your mom and not tell anyone that you’ve seen your uncle. Can you promise me that?”
Bobby’s eyes were wide, and his bottom lip trembled when he said, “Yes, I promise I won’t tell. He’s not gonna die, is he?”
Andras didn’t lie to him when he said, “I hope not, but I don’t know.” He saw the lights from a car flash across the window and was relieved to know that it was Harper. “Go get some blankets from the hall closet while I go outside and talk to your mom.”
Tess Thompson is a pen name for two sisters who live 1400 miles apart in the great state of Texas. Charlene Tess and Judi Thompson combined their two last names into a pseudonym when they began writing novels as a team in 2002. They also write romantic comedies as Annie Curtis.
Judi lives with her husband Roger in Houston, Texas. She is a retired supervisor for special education at a local school district.
Charlene Tess is a writing teacher and a novelist. She writes educational materials for TeachersPayTeachers.com. She lives in Colorado with her husband Jerry.
Links to Tess’ website, blog, books, #ad etc.:
Tess Thompson (aka Charlene Tess and Judi Thompson)
Thanks, Tess, for sharing your story with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!