Gone From Me Synopsis:
Their life was a fairy tale—until it all came tumbling down.
Hearts of the South, Book 10
Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Amy Bennett isn’t sure when her own Prince Charming went AWOL from their marriage, but she’s certain of one thing. She wants him back. She and Rob had it all: law-enforcement careers they loved and each other. Yet somehow he’s wound up sleeping on the couch and emotionally beyond her reach.
Rob is trying to put the pieces back together, but battling his own demons while starting over in a small-town sheriff’s department is pushing him—and his marriage—to the breaking point.
His very first missing person’s case threatens to end anything but happily ever after for the families involved. Then a young man goes missing too, and the pressure has Rob reaching for the nearest lifeline. The one that’s dangling by the barest of threads—his wife.
And though Amy’s grip is strong, her love may not be enough to keep Rob from slipping away.
Contains a husband who’s holding too much in, and a wife who’ll do anything to get him to let go, even meet him halfway on their last piece of common ground—in bed. Also: cop bonding between cops who talk like cops.
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Tall grass, dried from the blazing summer days, crunched under their duty shoes. Heat hung over the dirt road, and not even the pools of shade cast by tall water oaks offered relief. The red clay, already rutted and dusty after the recent rains, baked under the early-afternoon sun, and a black snake sunned himself beside the ditch.
Zeke’s forlorn truck sat next to the turnoff to the sprawling fields. On one side of the dirt track, green corn stalks, tassels golden and silky, reached toward the blue cloudless sky. On the other, neat rows of peppers and squash, heavy with ripe produce, ran up to the far woods. Cicadas buzzed in a quivering rise and fall of distant sound. The police radio beeped and squawked, a garbled transmission between Chris and dispatch, a license-plate check. Around the abandoned Ford, a bubble of silence pulsed. The window was down, a cell phone and wallet on the dash. The keys, on a John Deere fob, dangled from the ignition. Empty fertilizer jugs littered the bed. A tidy stack of bushel baskets waited next to the vehicle.
Around the truck, the grass was beaten down, trodden low by farm vehicles, tractors and booted feet. Rob leaned down to better see inside the truck, but didn’t touch anything. “When was the last time you heard from him?”
“Yesterday at lunch.” Worry roughened Dale Jenkins’s voice. “His mama tried to call him last night and there was no answer, but that’s not real unusual. She called Britt this morning when he still didn’t answer, and he never came home last night.”
“Why didn’t Brittany call us?” Rob straightened and pulled out his notebook to begin jotting.
“She said it’s not unusual for him not to come home some nights.”
Really. That was new. Rob scratched down a note, but kept his face impassive. “Have you talked to any of his friends today? Other relatives he’s in contact with?”
“His grandma hasn’t heard from him. My wife’s been calling his friends, and none of them have seen or heard from him.”
Rob cast a look at the cell phone on the dash. “Did you touch anything in the truck?”
“No. When I got here and saw his stuff like that, I walked the field and through the woods down to the stream, just seeing if I could find him.” Dale wiped a hand across his tense jaw. “I been friends with Tick Calvert a long time, and my wife likes that Dateline show. I knew better than to touch anything when I didn’t find him.”
“Okay.” Rob stared at the truck, then down the turnoff and into the woods. Turning, he nodded at Troy Lee. “Will you get Parker out here with the dog? And bring me the evidence kit from the trunk.”
With his phone, he snapped a series of photos of the scene and the truck’s interior.
“Chris is on his way.” Troy Lee stopped beside him and set down the multiple-compartment box that housed the evidence kit. Rob removed two pair of latex gloves and snapped them on, one pair over the other. Rather than open the door, he reached through the open window and retrieved the cell phone. The home screen glowed to life to reveal myriad missed calls from his parents and Mike Smithwick, plus various texts from Brittany and a couple of friends. Rob swiped his thumb across the screen and the keyboard popped up for a passcode entry.
He glanced sideways at Jenkins. “Do you know his passcode?”
“Four-one-two-zero.” Jenkins cleared his throat. “It’s part of Emma’s birthday.”
Rob navigated to check for the last outgoing texts and calls, both of which dated to late the previous morning. A phone call to his mother around eleven, then a text to Brittany at twelve.
Rob placed the phone in an evidence bag, labeled and sealed it. He squinted across the field, quiet and deserted under the midday sun. “Mr. Jenkins, other than the situation with Brittany this week, has Zeke had other difficulties you know of? Has he been in any trouble or talked to you about any problems he’s had lately?”
“No.” Jenkins pushed up the bill of his battered cap with one finger and scrubbed a hand over his forehead. “He’s always been a real good boy. We weren’t happy about Britt being pregnant with them so young and not married and all, but since they got married, he works hard to take care of her and Emma.”
The grass surrounding the produce field showed no evidence of recent foot traffic. Maybe he’d never even made it into the field. “You said you talked to his friends. Is it possible he’s with one of them?”
“No.” Jenkins shook his head. “He might ignore Britt and he might ignore me, but that boy would never ignore his mama.”
Linda Winfree Bio:
How does an English teacher end up plotting murders? She uses her experiences as a cop’s wife to become a writer of romantic suspense! Linda Winfree lives in a quintessential small Georgia town with her husband and grand-dog Poe. By day, she teaches English/Language Arts and is an all-round education nerd; by night she pens sultry books full of murder and mayhem.
To learn more about Linda and her books, visit www.lindawinfreewrites.com, follow her on Twitter @lwinfreewrites, or connect with her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/lindawinfreewrites. You can also contact Linda via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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