October 1887, Serenity Colorado
The mirror had been slightly warped and made her face look bulbous near the top of her head. Cecily Thomas had always thought it funny, especially when she was a child, and her mother, Lisa-Marie, had put her and her brother in front of it. They had played and romped, laughing at how funny they looked.
Now, however, when trying to see if her dress looked perfect, the disfigurement of her head and the inability to see the dress all the way to the floor where the hem hung just above the ground was annoying. She’d begged her mother to buy a new one. Heaven knew they had enough money to afford a really nice, gilded one. But her mother stuck with this old, warped thing.
“It’s a family heirloom,” her mother said over and over. “Your great-grandmother brought it with her from France. And she gave it to my grandmother, who gave it to my mother, and finally to me.”
This always made Cecily sigh. But today, she refrained from sighing or commenting on the imperfect picture and focused on the dress.
It was in midnight blue silk with a velvet bodice and delicate lace sleeves. It had a modest neckline trimmed with some fine lace. She would wear her hair half up so that the rest would fall down her back in a cascade of rich, honey blonde. Her hazel eyes sparkled at the thought.
“Well?” her mother asked, peering at her in the mirror. “Are you happy? Or does it need adjusting? You have to tell Mrs. Walters if she needs to let it out or take it in.”
Cecily smiled and swayed side to side. “It’s lovely.”
“Can you lift your arms and move?” her mother insisted.
Cecily gave it a try and found that she could move quite well, better than she could in some of her other dresses.
“Ah, then it is done,” Mrs. Walters said. Despite her words, she still walked around the dress and snipped off loose threads here and there. Then she stood back. “Your daughter is going to turn every head in Serenity come Saturday.”
“I do hope so,” her mother said. “Turning twenty-two without so much as one suitor lined up. It’s a scandal.”
Mrs. Walters was a skilled seamstress, and she was rightly proud of her work. “In this dress, that will no longer be a problem.”
Cecily watched her mother pat the older lady on her shoulder and smile. Her mother was very pretty, with blonde hair that she pinned up in a bun at the nape of her long, elegant neck. She had perfect posture and moved with grace, hardly showing her years at all. Her blue eyes were bright and enthusiastic, and she was always happy to see her children and husband, greeting them with a warm smile. Cecily could never imagine a better mother—not even if she tried.
Just then, there was a knock on the door, and before anyone could respond, it opened, and Conrad came bursting into the room.
“You are looking for me, Mother?” he asked, sounding out of breath. He had straw in his blonde hair, and his green eyes were bright and filled with a look of mischief that Cecily knew all too well. What had he been busy doing?
“Yes, but you should wait to be invited into a room with a closed door,” their mother chided him. “We need to get Cecily out of her dress and you into your suit for your birthday ball on Saturday evening.”
“Ah,” Conrad replied, coming in and closing the door.
Cecily sighed and stepped down off the dress maker’s stool and went behind a screen to take off the wonderful creation of silk and velvet.
“I wanted to have a masked ball this year,” Conrad complained. “Every year, we have the same old dull party. What is the point to being born on All Hallows Eve if you can’t dress up and wear masks to your party?”
Their mother sighed as she dusted Cecily’s twin brother off and helped him out of his jacket so he could don the new clothes she’d had made for him.
“You know how your father feels about masks,” their mother said simply. “He doesn’t like them or fancy-dress costumes. So, please, Conrad, don’t ask again. Your father is under enough pressure as it is.”
“And why would that be?” Conrad asked.
He never knew when to leave things alone. It annoyed Cecily that her twin was so oblivious to the mood in the room. Couldn’t he tell that Mother didn’t want to talk about it? Couldn’t he see from the expression on her face that she wanted the subject dropped?
Their mother pushed him behind another screen and hung a pair of trousers, a shirt, and a waistcoat over the top of it.
“Just get changed. We can’t keep Mrs. Walters all day.”
Cecily slipped out of her lovely dress and into her plain blouse and skirt that she usually wore around the house. It was nothing special, and she wished she could dress in finery like the party dress all the time. But her mother said that was unseemly.
As she began to button her blouse, there came another knock on the door.
“Can I come in?”
It was their father. All three called out to say he could, and soon their father was in the room with them. Andrew Thomas was a tall man with brown hair, sporting several silver threads, a full beard, and large green eyes. His pipe, issuing fragrant smoke, hung from his bottom lip, only to be snatched by his hand as he came into the room properly.
“So, this is where you all are,” he said, kissing their mother’s cheek warmly. She smiled at him.
The love between them was constantly evident. Cecily had been watching of late, knowing she was expected to make a good match. But she really wanted that level of love and devotion. She wanted to wake to a rose on her breakfast tray as her mother did. A rose picked from a garden planted especially for her by the love of her life.
And for him, she wanted to straighten his tie and collar, which her mother did for her father every day. She wanted to be the one who sewed his buttons back on his shirts and made sure that Cook had his favorite meals prepared. She wanted to love someone so much it hurt, just like her mother and father loved each other.
Cecily realized she’d missed a lot of the conversation that was going on around her. It seemed that her father had a special surprise planned for them at dinner that evening.
“Oh, what is it?” Cecily asked, coming out from behind her screen, just as Conrad, in his new suit, came from his.
“I refuse to tell you,” their father said, smiling at Cecily and drawing her into a hug. “It’s a huge surprise.”
Cecily knew she would be bursting with nerves to find out what it was. She also knew that her father would never tell her. She would just have to wait.
“All right,” their father said with his characteristic broad smile. “I’ll see you all on the front steps at dinner time. Don’t be late. Luckily, it’s a nice and clear day today, no snow.”
He turned to leave, and Cecily decided to go with him. Shrugging into her jacket, she followed him to the door.
“Papa,” she said as they stepped into the corridor.
“No, Ceci. I won’t tell you what I have planned,” he said, not waiting for her to say anything.
Cecily crinkled her nose and used her most adorable smile. “Are you sure you won’t even give me a hint?”
Her father looked thoughtful and then sighed. “All right. It’s an early birthday present. And you must be given it today because it won’t wait for Saturday.”
And with that, he strode down the corridor, his boots making dull thuds on the carpeted floor. Cecily considered running after him, pushing him for more information, but she knew that wouldn’t work. Her father wasn’t that kind of man. Pushing him for anything he didn’t want to give was a bad idea and would result in things being taken away.
Although she and Conrad had grown up with privileges, they had never been spoiled. Their parents were serious about raising them to be self-sufficient and to do what was expected of them. Part of that was showing respect to all and being generous and thoughtful. Everyone who worked for the Thomas household was always treated kindly by Cecily’s parents and by her and Conrad.
Moving to a window, Cecily looked out over the compound as she’d come to think of the place where she lived. Tucked away high in the Rocky Mountains, near the towns of Leadville and Oro City, the town of Serenity had popped up as a support town for the loggers, miners, and other travelers that passed this way.
The weather in this part of the world was uncannily mercurial, and often a day would begin fine, only to end in torrential rain. Snows in summer were not unheard of, and it was a harsh place to live.
It had snowed during the night, only to give way to a bright, sunny day with a clear sky. The snow was already melting, turning to slush before turning everything to mud.
Cecily often asked her father why they lived here, in the compound outside the town of Serenity, instead of in it. He’d said it was safer. His business was best kept out of the town. It didn’t make much sense to her, but since the answer never changed to the question, Cecily had stopped asking.
Behind the compound’s twelve-foot-high walls, they were safe. The main house was built like an English manor house with two wings attached to a central section. Then stretching out in front of the house were the grounds, which were lovely and manicured. They housed the stables, cottages for the workers, and some other areas that had to do with her father’s business.
Cecily knew there were several stills on the property making a liqueur that her father called Ambrosius. He also made whiskey. Both were shipped off back East and further West. The liqueur was made from oranges they grew in the hot houses that filled the rest of the compound. This was necessary since this was the worst climate to grow anything in.
With nothing on her schedule for the rest of the day, Cecily decided to go to the greenhouses. She had green thumbs and could do a few hours of work on her vegetable patches before heading in and getting ready for dinner and the surprise her father had for her and Conrad.
As she entered her greenhouse, which was smaller than the others, she found a young man with unruly brown hair bent over something in one of the beds.
“Excuse me,” she said, moving passed the table she had set up near the entrance. It held all her potting things.
The young man turned, and she recognized him as Ethan Lawson, the son of the carpenter who worked here on the compound. He made everything they needed, including the casks that her father put his whiskey inside.
“Oh, hi, Cecily,” Ethan said, smiling as he stood up to greet her. “I brought the new boxes you wanted for the seedlings….” He looked behind her to the table.
Cecily turned and saw that he had indeed brought them, and they were stacked neatly on her table. She hadn’t noticed them upon entering.
“Oh…” she said, turning back to him.
“Anyway, I noticed the board here was coming loose.” He nudged the board she used to create her elevated gardens. “So, I thought I’d do a little planting box repair.”
“Thank you,” Cecily said, beaming. She liked Ethan. He had been around as long as she could remember. In some ways, she’d grown up with him. All the children in the compound grew up together.
He smiled and made his way out. “You need anything, give me a call.” And with that, he was gone.
Cecily settled down to do some planting. In the hot houses, she was likely to get a few more crops out before even they couldn’t keep the plants growing. Her pumpkins looked especially good, growing all over the back of the greenhouse.
She planted some lettuce and small tomato plants she’d been nurturing. They needed those for as long as possible as there was no way to preserve lettuce. Beans and peppers would still grow for a little while in the house, and then it would be pumpkin time. She’d have to dig up the potatoes before then. Pumpkins were so fond of roaming all over. If left unchecked, they would cover the whole greenhouse.
She longed to grow corn but knew it would never take in the greenhouse.
As the sun’s rays began to slant in and one of the last sunny days of the year came to an end, Cecily finished up and went back inside.
She was just washing up in her room when she heard a terrible commotion outside. There were loud booms and people yelling. What was going on? Moving to her window, she stared down at nothing but the usual gardens. She looked out over the eastern side of the compound. There was nothing there.
She moved around to the front and glared out of the windows at the most surprising scene she’d ever seen. There were men on horseback charging in through the gate. They had their pistols up, and they were firing at the workers.
Everyone was running to find shelter except for the men her father employed as protection. They were returning fire. It was like a scene out of a book. There was so much screaming and gunfire. She was surrounded by chaos and mayhem.
Fear gripped Cecily, and she found she couldn’t move—not one muscle.
“What are you doing?” Conrad boomed at her. He grabbed her arm and yanked her backward. “Get away from the window!”
Cecily stumbled as he pulled her, yanking her arm painfully. “What’s going on? Why do you have a gun? Do you even know how to shoot it?” she demanded.
Conrad regarded her with a withering look. “Come on! We have to get out of here.”
“But why?” Cecily demanded. “What’s happening?” she was starting to panic, and tears were forming behind her eyes. None of this made sense. Why would anyone want to storm into their home like this?
Conrad dragged Cecily down the stairs and into the parlor, where their mother was crouching behind a sofa. Broken glass lay all over the place from the shattered windows. Had those hooligans been firing into the house?
A bullet sailed over Cecily’s head and thunked into the wooden wall behind her. She stared at the hole in numb, petrified disbelief. She couldn’t get her head around this. Why was this happening?
“Keep your head down!” her mother said, pushing Cecily down behind the sofa.
Her mother held a shotgun of her own, and she was pointing it out of the window and firing at the bandits. They had to be bandits who’d come to steal from them. Nothing else made any sense at all.
Someone threw a bottle of alcohol in through the shattered window. The bottle had a burning rag in it, and it hit the floor, setting everything the liquid touched ablaze.
“Come on!” Cecily heard her mother yell. But she was transfixed by the horror of the situation. The world was burning around her, and she didn’t understand it at all.
Hands grabbed her arms, and she was hauled to her feet, her head pushed low, so she had to bend over and run like that while being dragged. She wanted to understand, to do something, but her mind couldn’t function. Her life was always so placid, so well-ordered, and regulated. This sudden intrusion was beyond Cecily’s ability to cope.
She didn’t mean to, but she began to cry.
“It’s all right, Ceci,” her mother said, stopping in the entrance hall to give her a quick hug. She motioned Conrad on, urging him to run through to the next room. He nodded and took off sprinting through the house.
Her mother kissed her forehead. “Come on. We have to keep….”
The large front door burst open, and a man on horseback came trotting into the room. Her mother pushed Cecily back and aimed the shotgun. She got a shot off, but the man kicked the muzzle up with his foot, and the shot did nothing but make a hole in the ceiling.
He was a terrible man with black hair and a black mustache. His eyes burned with the light of the fire even now streaming out of the parlor as though it meant to catch Cecily and devour her whole.
“Get away from us!” her mother yelled as the man, big and beefy, reached down and hit her in the face.
Cecily screamed, watching her mother go as limp as a ragdoll. The man caught her blouse and lifted Cecily’s mother onto his horse.
With her loaded like a sack of potatoes, he turned and rode from the house. Too late, Cecily picked up the gun. She aimed it at the man’s back and pulled the trigger only to hear an empty clicking.
It was all too late.
The door to her father’s study was locked. Cecily regarded the lock in the light of her lantern, the wick turned down low, so it gave off the bare minimum of light. She sank to her haunches and pulled two pins from her bun. She began to work on the lock, listening for when she got the sliders in the right place.
She had been practicing for months on her own bedroom door. Many an afternoon had been spent listening carefully for how the mechanisms worked inside the lock and learning to shift them in the right way. She had seen a locksmith do it once when she’d lost the key to an antique wardrobe and had paid special attention.
After that terrible night last October, Cecily had fallen into deep despair. Her mother was gone, her life was in turmoil, and to top it all off, her father had become secretive and aloof. He no longer had meals with Cecily and Conrad. He kept to himself in his study. He behaved as though he was all alone in the world and would never speak about their mother or who had taken her or why.
For weeks, it had driven Cecily almost out of her mind. She wanted to mount a search, to ride off after her mother, but her father had always refused, saying it wasn’t safe, it wasn’t wise. He had a plan, but she had to be patient. She had to wait for him to get things ready.
It had started snowing the day after their mother was taken, and it hadn’t stopped until about a week ago. Instead of snow, they’d had rain. This meant the passes would soon be open to travelers, and Cecily knew it would be up to her and Conrad to go and save their mother.
Conrad sighed. He’d been keeping a lookout at the end of the corridor and was clearly growing impatient with her. It had happened a lot lately. Cecily was trying her best to learn all the skills they would need to rescue their mother, but even Georgina, her best friend and the wildest woman she knew, was snapping at her.
She glared down the corridor. “Do you mind?” she whispered. “You’re breaking my concentration.”
“It would be faster to lift the door off its hinges,” Conrad replied testily.
“No, it wouldn’t,” Cecily insisted. “That’s a solid oak door. Good luck lifting it.” She turned back to her work.
She didn’t know it for certain, but she suspected that everything their father knew about their mother’s disappearance was somewhere in his study, behind this distressingly solid door. She fiddled with the mechanism again and, this time, heard the pieces shift.
“Ah, we’re in,” she said.
Conrad came running over quietly.
It was so late that they really needn’t have been this stealthy. Their father was asleep in the west wing, where all their bedrooms were, and the study was in the east wing. There was no way he would hear them sneaking into the room. Still, Cecily’s heart was hammering in her chest with nerves.
The door swung open, and she inched in with Conrad behind her.
Their father’s study was a large room with a big desk set back from the large window that looked out over the distillery. It was eerie in the dark with nothing but the light reflected off the clouds of smoke from the fire barrels outside, streaming in through the large window onto the walls.
All the walls were covered in shelves that held leather-bound books, ornaments, and a few photographs in gilded frames. As they moved in and Conrad closed the door behind them, Cecily pulled the heavy velvet drapes shut and turned up the wick on the lantern.
Now, bathed in a much warmer, stronger light, the room looked more normal. Its sepulchral atmosphere evaporated, and whatever spirits their father might be harboring in this space were sent fleeing from the light.
“Where do you think we should look?” Cecily asked Conrad.
Her brother moved straight to their father’s desk. “Here,” he said. “Father will no doubt have information about Mother in his desk drawer. That’s where I’d keep it.”
Cecily doubted their father was that careless. She had been trying to find out something, anything their father may know about their mother’s kidnapping, for months, but with no luck. He was the most tight-lipped, secretive person, not keeping anything in his pockets, in his bedroom, in his dressing room, or anywhere else in the house that she could see. That left only the study.
Conrad lit the lamp on the desk and set to work searching. The desk was neat but had a pile of papers on it. There were also large folders of papers and a thick journal that their father recorded the alcohol sales in. The only thing that wasn’t business-related on the desk was a large family photograph that their father had taken on the twins’ twenty-first birthday. Conrad set to work to rifle through them all.
Cecily turned her attention to the shelves of books. They were all leather-bound with titles engraved in gold. She pulled a couple from their places and flipped through the pages.
“Don’t waste time, Ceci,” Conrad said testily. “Father is unlikely to hide anything in a book on a shelf like that. It’s so cliché. It’s in every novel.”
Shaking her head, Cecily ignored her brother. “It’s not, and do you honestly think there is anywhere else to hide things where we haven’t looked?” she asked. “Father is good at hiding things, or we’d know more about what happened that day.”
“We know what happened,” Conrad said, pulling a drawer open and beginning to search it. “Some thugs, who no doubt work for a different distillery, came in and kidnapped Mother. I’m guessing they meant to get one of us to hold over Father as some sort of surety that he won’t encroach on their territory.” He sighed, shaking his head. “A dreadful plan.”
“A stupid plan, and one that doesn’t make sense,” Cecily retorted. “As I have said a thousand times, that theory makes no sense. So, Father agrees not to push through onto these peoples’ territory. What then? Do they keep Mother to keep Father to his word? Do they let her go?” Cecily shook a book watching its pages flutter ineffectually. “I don’t see the long-term gain for them.”
“And as I’ve said a million times at least, they clearly mean to hold Mother indefinitely,” Conrad said. “Or perhaps they’re holding her until Father does something. Anyway, we have to find out what’s going on.”
This was a conversation that she and Conrad had had several times over the last few months. When it was snowing outside, and there was nothing else to do, they had bickered and discussed and disagreed about this to the point where they had almost stopped talking to each other, their opinions varying so vastly.
Bringing it up now had been bad form. They didn’t have time to fight now. She turned her attention back to the library, pulling books out, flipping through their pages, and then carefully putting them back. Sadly, the place was so well cleaned by the maids that there was no dust trail to tell her if her father ever pulled any of these books down from the shelf at all.
Suddenly, the tinkle of something falling and breaking came to their ears. Both twins stopped moving, freezing as though the chill air from outside had blown in and turned them both instantly to ice.
Her heart thumping almost audibly in her chest, Cecily turned very slowly to stare at the door. Her breath came in nervous gasps, her eyes going wide so that nothing might escape them. Conrad watched her and motioned for her to put out her lantern as he reached for the lamp on the desk and turned it down low.
She did as he indicated.
Just as the light went out, they heard voices in the hall outside.
“Oh, that is odd,” came the voice of Audrey, the maid. “I thought I saw a light coming from under the door.”
“Don’t be silly, Audrey,” said a deeper, yet still female, voice. That was Mrs. Brown. She was the cook. “Mr. Thomas is asleep in his room. I took him a nightcap not two hours ago. He’s most likely snoring like a bear up there.”
“Oh,” said Audrey, her voice sounding sad. “But I could have sworn. I got such a fright I dropped my lantern.”
“What are you doing walking around the corridors at night anyway?” Mrs. Brown asked.
“I could ask you the same,” Audrey said.
“Well, I thought perhaps the front door wasn’t locked,” Mrs. Brown said. “I know it’s Mr. Brown’s duty, but that poor man is so tired lately, he can’t remember to unlace his boots before falling into bed. I thought I’d come check. We don’t need a repeat of October.”
“No, we certainly do not!” Audrey said. “I keep having nightmares about that black-haired bandit. He scared the life out of me when he rode in on that giant horse of his.”
“And when did you see him?” Mrs. Brown demanded. Cecily could imagine her looming over Audrey, who was a small woman with her hands on her formidable hips.
“It was when I was out at the distillery fetching bottles for cleaning,” Audrey explained. “Remember, I told you…anyway, I almost lost my bladder and wet myself. I got such a fright. Now he keeps popping up in my dreams. I came through to make sure…” her voice trailed off.
Cecily knew how Audrey felt. That terror of a man was in her dreams too. But where he seemed to petrify Audrey, all he did was make Cecily angry. And she knew it wasn’t anger at him—not really. It was anger at herself for failing her mother so spectacularly—for being so terribly and horribly weak, for letting that dark, evil man take her mother and not lifting a finger to help, until it was too late.
Well, Cecily had no intention of standing by while someone she loved was taken ever again. She would find something to lead her in the right direction to find her mother, and she would bring her home.
Outside the door, the cook’s tone had softened audibly. Cecily could imagine her putting an arm around poor Audrey’s shoulder.
“There, there,” Mrs. Brown said soothingly. “Let’s go and warm up some milk. We can put some honey and a few herbs in it, and you’ll drift off to sleep in no time.”
“Thank you,” Audrey said.
They moved off. There came the sounds of bits of glass being swept up, and then there was silence.
Cecily let out the breath she’d been holding, and relief washed over her. She turned her lamp back up. Conrad did the same, and for a moment, the twins held each other’s gaze. Conrad’s eyes were huge and wide, and his cheeks were pale. Cecily assumed she looked much the same. Being caught in Father’s study, having picked the lock to get in, would result in all kinds of trouble. What he would do to them was anyone’s guess, but it wouldn’t be nice. Cecily turned back to her search.
Suddenly, something fluttered down from the book Cecily was holding upside down. At first, she didn’t think it was real, that her mind, desperate for something to happen, had conjured it up. But when she looked down at the carpeted floor, there it was a small rectangular piece of paper.
Bending down, she picked it up.
“I think I may have something,’ she said softly.
Conrad carried on. Perhaps, she had spoken too softly.
“Conrad!” she snapped, walking over to him and opening the note. It was a little crumpled and had a strange reddish-brown stain on it.
Looking up from the drawer he’d been inspecting, Conrad regarded her. “What’s that?”
Cecily, who had only begun to read it, started again, this time reading aloud.
“Thomas, you filthy snitch. Tito has been snatched, and it’s your fault. I don’t care what agreement you have with the marshals. You snitch again, and your wife dies.
Cecily looked up from the note and shrugged. “What does that mean? Who could Father have snitched on, and what would he have to tell anyone? Making whiskey isn’t illegal.”
“No…” Conrad said. “But a whole lot of other things are.” He took the note from her and inspected it. “Don’t you think it’s strange how Father never speaks about his business trips? Or how he often comes back with black eyes or broken ribs? That doesn’t seem normal, does it?”
“The world is full of bandits,” Cecily said. “Sometimes, they attack Father and take his money. He told us.”
This was another point of contention between them, and Cecily didn’t feel like getting into it all now. She took the note back, and pulling her own notebook from her pocket, she wrote out a copy of the note in a careful hand. She took care to make sure that she copied it exactly with any extra scribbles or marks that were on the paper.
Then she went back to the book and put the note away. It was as she was putting the book back that she noticed the title.
“Une Saison Enfer,” she read.
“What was that?” Conrad asked.
“A Season in Hell,” Cecily translated. Both she and Conrad spoke fluent French, not that it mattered out here. Their mother had been taught by her mother and had insisted they learn too.
She was fond of telling them that to truly appreciate French poetry, one had to speak the language because translations lacked panache.
“Oh, the Arthur Rimbaud collection,” Conrad said. “Wasn’t Mother reading that before…?” his voice trailed off.
Cecily nodded. “She was. Perhaps that is why Father put the note there.”
Conrad drew in a sharp breath. “Of course,” he said as he pulled the large photograph in its thick, ornate frame closer to him. It always stood proudly on the desk and had made Cecily so happy to think that their father was always looking at them.
Now, Conrad had laid the photograph in its frame face down on the desk blotter and was unscrewing the fasteners on the back.
“What are you doing?” she demanded, rushing over with the lantern swaying.
“I’ve searched the drawers,” Conrad said in an impatient, snappish manner. “I’ve even tried to find out if there is a hidden compartment in this desk, but I have found nothing. And it stands to reason that if Father hid one thing about Mother’s disappearance in the book she was reading, then perhaps….”
“Perhaps he hid something else in that picture frame,” Cecily finished.
“Precisely,” Conrad said. “I tell you, Cecily, there is something going on here. Now I might not be right in my summations, but I know in my heart of hearts that we need to search until we unravel this mystery.”
She nodded and placed a supportive hand on her brother’s shoulder. He smiled at her and finished undoing the fastenings.
The back of the frame came off with a click, and there was a brown leather rectangle wedged in the space between the back and the photograph. Cecily had always assumed it was filled with the backing board and was used to help the frame balance. But now, she saw it was the perfect place to hide a little notebook, not unlike her own.
Using the letter opener to pry the book out, Cecily and Conrad began to flip through its pages. As they read a snippet here and a tidbit there, their eyes grew wider and wider.
“I don’t believe it,” Conrad said.
“I wouldn’t if I wasn’t staring at it,” Cecily said.
The notebook had nothing to do with their mother’s disappearance, at least nothing obvious, but it was a smoking gun, nonetheless. It was a detailed list of several jobs their father had done. And none of them seemed even remotely legal.
Cecily and Conrad stared at each other for a long time before taking out their own notebooks and copying as many of their father’s notes as they could. Then, with heads still reeling, they put things back as they were, left their father’s study, and locked the door behind them.
“A Journey of Love and Peril” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
After her mother is kidnapped right before her eyes, Cecily Thomas takes a sacred vow to rescue her. With her beloved brother by her side, she is soon to embark on a perilous journey. When her childhood friend offers to join them, sparks begin to fly between them, but any hint of romance must take a back seat in this mission.
Cecily will save her mother even if she has to sacrifice everything…
Ethan Lawson has been in love with Cecily for as long as he can remember, even though he has never confessed his feelings to her. When she plans to go and rescue her mother, he considers it his duty to accompany her. Will he be able to keep her safe as they pass through the wild mountains?
For Cecily, he would travel around the world and back again…
From wildlife to bandits, Ethan and Cecily will find themselves facing obstacles they could never expect. In the course of searching for clues to the horrible abduction, their emotions for each other grow to be more than a friendship… Will love become an unnecessary luxury in the pursuit of justice? Or could it be the only way to survive amidst a thousand dangers?
“A Journey of Love and Peril” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.