Action-adventure from USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Amy Vansant - a novel packed with thrills, fun, romance and heartfelt family intrigue.
Life was supposed to start feeling like a permanent vacation. After years on the run from a vengeful killer, Shee McQueen is home at her father’s beach hotel. The Loggerhead Inn doubles as a retreat for sunburned tourists and a haven for recovering ex-military --- men and women who help right wrongs for people in need of their particular skills.
What could be more relaxing?
...Shee’s estranged boyfriend --- the only man she's ever loved --- has discovered her darkest secret and the reason she left him so many years ago...
...or her first job for her father has ended in a double homicide...
...or that her very presence is driving the hotel's regulars to prove their worth by starting dangerous covert missions of their own...
It couldn't be a botched kidnapping is started looking more like the work of a deranged serial killer?
Maybe hold the tanning lotion.
This might take a minute.
The Girl Who Was Forgotten is the second explosive mystery-thriller in the Shee McQueen series, but can be read as a standalone. While the book has all the pulse-pounding action of a thriller, language, romance and violence is rated PG. The unique female lead's funny, irreverent and all-too-human asides will have you rooting for her — and her whole pack of wild, wonderful misfit friends — until the breathless end.
Fans of Harlan Coban, Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, Sue Grafton, Kathy Reichs and Janet Evanovich will love this exhilarating page-turner.
Release date: June 1, 2021
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The Girl Who Was Forgotten
Five Years Ago
The night air clung to the inside of her lungs as she ran, a rattle burbling in her throat.
It’s like breathing water.
Light from a half moon provided illumination for dodging trees. It also kept the horrors lurking in the jungle draped in shadow. She heard animals scatter. Leaves rustled to her right. Something big moved. It was only a matter of time until she ran into something lacking the time to skitter from her path.
She kept running.
Something stabbed her foot and she yelped. Slapping her hand across her mouth, she stumbled on, ignoring the stinging pain in her arch until she couldn’t bear it any longer. Panting, she threw her hip against a tree to lift her foot and pluck out a thorn.
She’d been running for...how long? Five minutes? Ten? Would he chase her?
The jungle floor tore at her bare feet. A familiar tree appeared on her right.
Am I running in a circle?
It was hard to tell.
What if I’m circling back to him?
She shook away the thought and tore through a thorny tangle of vines. She’d passed the last few big trees to the left. Maybe she’d pass the next few on the right to make sure she wasn’t looping back to the beginning.
Would that work? Does it make sense?
The man’s roar echoed through the dark trees.
Her throat tightened.
His voice sounded far away but he had shoes. He had a flashlight. He could run faster. He had all the things she wished she had. She pictured him running—bouncing off trees without slowing, like a charging boar.
She picked up her pace and clipped the trunk of a scrub pine with her shoulder. Pain throbbed. Knocked off balance, she spun, arms flailing to catch herself on another tree. Lights flickered in the distance, sparkling through the leaves like fairies.
She stopped, watching.
A glimmer of white appeared on her left and moved to the right before turning red.
The world went gray again beneath soft moonlight. She listened for the sound of cars.
She broke through the edge of the forest before realizing she’d reached the road. Soft grass felt like her mother’s sateen robe beneath her feet. The robe with the Japanese flowers on it. The one soaked in blood.
Closing her eyes, the girl shook her head.
Why think about that now?
She couldn’t stop in time. She’d built too much momentum and the edge of the jungle had come too fast.
The lights closed in.
Grass turned to gravel and gravel to pavement.
Brakes screeched. The smell of burnt rubber assaulted her nostrils. Stumbling, she covered her head with her hands and collapsed in front of the vehicle.
All this way to be hit by a car.
It was almost funny.
“Ohmygod. No, no, no...”
A female voice.
The girl opened her eyes to find a woman squatting beside her. Long graceful fingers tipped with light pink nails fluttered against her throbbing shoulder.
“Are you okay?” asked the woman.
The girl blinked at the woman.
The voice in the woods was faint.
The woman didn’t react. The girl froze her expression, pretending not to hear.
He’ll scare her. She won’t help me.
“Are you okay?” the woman asked again.
Radio music played. The car door was open, a steady warning pinging like a robot’s heartbeat.
“Hospital,” said the girl, clambering to her swollen feet.
The woman stood up from her crouch, looking both confused and relieved, and the girl realized her mistake.
I look too good.
The woman might leave her behind.
She limped toward the open driver’s side door.
“Um…” The woman followed. “Where are you—”
The girl ducked her head into the car.
“Are you okay? You ran out like someone was chasing—” The woman looked over the car into the trees, her eyes wide. “Wait—is someone chasing you?”
“Yes.” The girl crawled into the car to take her place in the passenger seat. “Hurry. Get in. We have to go.”
“Is someone coming?” The woman’s voice rose to a squeak. She dropped into her seat and closed and locked the door, her hands shaking.
The steady chirp of crickets stopped. The radio played.
“Come on Eileen, oh I swear...”
The girl stared through her window into the jungle, expecting him to burst through the tree line the way she had.
She turned to find the woman gaping at her, slack-jawed, like a cow.
Pounding her thigh with the side of her fist, she yelled to shake the woman from her stupor.
“Go! Go! Hurry! Before he gets here!”
“Ohmygod...” The woman jumped and slammed the car into drive. She stomped on the gas, her fingers white on the steering wheel. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she chanted, her gaze bouncing from the road to the rear view mirror to the road again as if she were watching a tennis match. “I couldn’t see you. I didn’t see you until it was almost too late. What happened? Is someone really after you?”
“A man? Was he trying to kidnap you?”
The girl twisted to peer through the back windshield. A shadowy figure, illuminated by gray moonlight, burst from the woods, stumbling forward, looking as she imagined she had earlier.
The woman gasped.
The man found his feet and, legs spread, took his place in the middle of the road. She couldn’t see his face, but she knew he was staring at their red taillights, both he and the lights getting smaller and smaller in the distance from each other.
“I’ll get you to the police—”
“No.” The girl’s hand jumped to the door latch.
The woman slapped a hand to her leg, holding her in place. “Oh honey, don’t be scared. They’re on your side. You—” She swallowed. “Oh God, you’re probably scared of men. I’ll find you a lady officer, okay?”
The girl lowered her hand to her lap. “Okay.”
“I can’t imagine what you’ve been through—” The woman took a deep breath and released it. “I haven’t even asked—what’s your name?”
The name had been locked, screaming somewhere in the back of the girl’s skull, so she set it free.
Shee McQueen blinked at the dimpled glass lamp on the nightstand beside her bed. The light seemed a little classy for the places she usually stayed.
Where am I?
She rolled onto her back, sinking into the soft luxury of the bed. Not a single spring ground into her spine.
Okay. Not a motel bed.
She scanned the room.
She was in her father’s hotel, The Loggerhead Inn—her new home.
Through heavy morning brain fog, Shee’s world emerged like a tattered ghost ship.
What the hell did I do last night?
One squinted eye spotted two empty tumblers on the bureau next to the flat-screen television. Her thoughts were messy—stumbling around her head like a still-drunk, morning-after prom queen—mascara caked beneath each eye, a broken heel and a half-empty bottle of tequila in one hand.
Ah. That was it.
I smell tequila.
Shee rubbed her eyes and sat up.
The pressure in her skull shifted. The wailing, raccoon-eyed debutante in her brain dropped to her knees, struck down by the sudden onslaught of a throbbing headache.
Stop it. Shut up, you sloppy—
Something in the bed moved.
Startled, Shee recoiled, pulling her sheet against her chest.
A retired Navy-SEAL-shaped lump rolled to face her.
Her ex-boyfriend, twenty-six years removed, licked his lips and groaned as if his own head clanged, too. She doubted he was imagining himself as a ragged prom queen, but whatever the male equivalent might be...
Mason’s eyes fluttered open, his hand rising to his forehead, muscles and tendons flexing. A gnarled scar on his bicep glowed hot pink beneath the light peeping through the gauzy drapes of her room at The Loggerhead Inn.
He was in her room.
In her bed.
“It feels like a battalion is marching through my head,” he muttered.
There it is.
“I’ve got a pissed-off prom queen,” she said.
“In my head. I’ve got—”
He squinted at her, clearly confused.
“Nevermind.” Shee relaxed her death grip on the sheets and rubbed her tongue against the back of her teeth. “Did we eat cotton balls last night?”
Mason expelled a soft snort of air and focused on her with bright blue irises floating in blurry pink seas. His expression remained inscrutable.
Did he mean to wake up in her bed? Was it a mistake he regretted?
Wait, did we...?
She looked beneath the covers to find herself fully dressed in jeans and a wrinkled top. She turned to glance at Mason. He, too, wore clothes from the evening before.
There’d been no great reconciliation.
Don’t mistake his presence for forgiveness.
“Drinking doesn’t feel the same in your forties,” he mumbled.
“You noticed that, too?”
Catching a whiff of her own breath, she rolled out of bed.
My mouth tastes like—
She glanced back at him and a memory from long ago fluttered through her mind. Mason, wearing only the sheet of her single bed, she tracing the v-notch at the base of his neck, the nerves beneath her skin tingling beneath his touch—
Shee continued to the bathroom, more certain than ever nothing had happened between them the night before.
It’s okay. I get it. He has every right to hate me.
He hadn’t thought she was serious when she broke up with him days before his first tour of duty. By the time he’d returned, she’d disappeared. She’d run away, pregnant with his child. It would take him more than a day or two to forgive her for hiding their daughter’s existence from him.
Maybe a year.
Shee shuffled into the bathroom and brushed her teeth, snippets of the previous evening flaring in her head like a flashbulb popping in a dark room.
She, Mason, and the Loggerhead’s ragtag army of retired military had stopped the man who’d been hunting her for years. Her father had awakened from his coma. They’d spent the next day visiting their fallen comrades in the hospital and repairing the damaged hotel—and then they’d celebrated. They’d had a drink. Then two.
Then too many.
Commander Mason Connelly, ever the gentleman, had helped her to bed and—
Shee stopped brushing and stared in the mirror. She winced as another flashbulb blasted toward an ugly corner of her memory.
There’d been crying. Some mea culpas. He’d tried to leave and then—
Mason’s voice rang from the bedroom.
“Where’s my leg?”
Shee closed her eyes.
Spitting out a mouthful of minty foam, she rinsed and reentered the bedroom. Mason sat perched at the end of the bed, glaring at her as she emerged.
“Hm?” she asked.
He pointed to his knee. The one with no calf beneath it.
“Oh. Um...did you lose it?”
“Shee, I swear—”
“Okay, okay. Hold on. I’ll remember in a second.”
In truth, she already recalled too much of it. He’d removed his metal appendage to relieve an ache. She’d snatched it and hidden it to keep him from leaving. He’d been kind enough to let it go after she pretended to fall asleep.
No amount of shameless cajoling had inspired him to remove anything but the leg.
Shee’s gaze settled on the closet.
That feels familiar.
She opened the door. Inside, a titanium stalk grew from an umbrella stand. She lifted it to find a foot at the opposite end.
“Is this it?” she asked, holding it up for him to see.
He held out a hand. “Give.”
She handed it to him and watched him tuck his stump into it.
“Want to grab some breakfast?” she asked.
He stood and tested his weight on his prosthesis. “No. I want to get a shower and eat a jar of aspirin.”
He shook his head and patted her upper arm a couple of times before leaving the room.
No further comment. No hesitation.
She watched the door click shut.
He’d patted her. Dismissed her like a golden retriever.
Not a good sign.
Pinching her shirt, she plucked it out for a sniff.
I sort of smell like a golden retriever.
She retrieved and drank a sixteen ounce water from her mini-fridge and took a shower. By the time she’d dressed, she felt almost human again.
She put her hand on the door knob and took a deep breath.
I can do this.
Really, even with her lost love hobbling around the hotel, furious at her over his hidden daughter, life was better now than it was a week ago.
She wasn’t on the run, her father—ole Unbreakable Mick McQueen—had recovered, she had a home at the hotel—all good stuff.
“All good stuff,” she said aloud and marched down the hall to the door of her father’s room. Raising a hand to knock, she glanced at her watch.
Maybe she could let him sleep a little longer.
She made an about face to punch the elevator call button as her phone buzzed in her pocket. Slipping it out as she entered the elevator, she paused at the site of the caller-ID.
Speak of the devil.
She glanced back at her father’s door and answered. “Hello?”
Mick’s voice sounded gruff and officious. “Hey. I need you and Mason down here in the meeting room.”
“I don’t know where he is.”
“What do you mean, uh huh?”
“Just get down here.” He hung up.
Shee glared at her phone until the elevator tried to close, ping-ponging her shoulders against the silver doors and rattling her skull anew.
Jumping back into the hall, she stomped to Mason’s door to knock. When no one answered, she pushed her ear against the wood to listen for a running shower.
Am I his keeper?
She strode back to the elevator.
Dad can summon his own damn troops.
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