“An emotional story of loss and healing that wraps around your heart.
I couldn’t stop reading until I finished in one sitting.”
– Carly Phillips, New York Times Bestselling Author
Wrecked Palace, an all-new beautiful and not-to-be-missed standalone romance from Catherine Cowles is coming January 19th, and we have the first sneak peek!
The sound of a phone ringing pulled me out of a deep sleep. I groaned and blinked against the darkness. The only light in the room came from the glow-in-the-dark stars peppered all over my dorm room ceiling. I fumbled around on my nightstand, trying to find the ringing device.
“Turn off your freaking phone before I toss it out the window,” Bell called from across the room. Our other roommate, Kenna, let out a mumbled moan.
“I’m trying.” My fingers found the charger cord, and I tugged the phone onto my bed. Glancing at the screen, my chest squeezed. 1:13 a.m., and Will was calling. I hurried to hit accept. “Will? What’s wrong?”
I’d given my little brother a phone before I left for college. I kept the low-budget mobile topped up with minutes because I needed a way to get in touch with my siblings, and for them to be able to reach me. Our house phone hadn’t worked in years, and my parents weren’t exactly keen on us kids using their cells.
“I don’t know what to do—”
Will’s voice was cut off by a cry. Sobs that could only be coming from my one-year-old sister, Mia, sounded over the line, followed by someone pounding on a door. “You owe me a fucking score, asshole. I paid. Give me my shit!”
I sucked in a sharp breath. “What’s going on? Where are you guys?”
“I’m in the girls’ room. I put a dresser in front of the door, but there’s a guy in the house. He won’t leave.”
The light flicked on, and Bell and Kenna were by my side in a flash, hearing the distress in my voice. I motioned for Bell to grab her phone. “Where are Mom and Dad?”
“They’re not here. They haven’t been in days.”
More pounding cut in. “Give me my fucking score or I’ll gut you when I get in there.”
My heart hammered against my ribs in a painful rhythm. “Bell, call the sheriff. Someone’s in the house. Will has himself barricaded with the girls in their room.”
Bell blanched but immediately began dialing. As soon as someone picked up, she started recounting the situation. Kenna eased down next to me on the bed and rubbed my back.
I turned my attention back to Will. “Stay calm, buddy. The police are on their way.” But how long would it take for them to get there? Our small island off the coast of Washington state didn’t have its own dedicated police force. We shared access to a sheriff’s department with the rest of the chain of islands. That meant in an emergency like this one, deputies had to take a boat before they got onto the island.
The tremble in Will’s voice broke something deep inside me. “It’s going to be okay. I’m with you.” More pounding rang out in the background, and Mia started crying harder. “Is Ava holding Mia?”
“Yeah, I put them in the closet.”
My hand fisted in my sheets. My ten-year-old little brother was savvy enough to know he needed to hide his little sisters away. What the hell had my parents been doing since I left for my junior year four months ago? “You’re so smart, Will. And so freaking brave. What’s in front of the door again?”
“I pushed the dresser and then a bed.”
“That’s great. That will keep him out.”
“I hope so.”
God, I did, too. If something happened to my tiny terrors…I tried to force out the horrendous images taking over my mind.
Bell waved a hand at me. “There are two deputies already on Anchor. They’re heading to your place now.”
I gave her a tight nod. I wanted to feel relief, but I couldn’t. Not until I knew, with one hundred percent certainty, that the kids were okay. “Did you hear that? There are deputies coming now. They’re already on Anchor.”
Will sniffed. “Okay.” There was more yelling and pounding, then a cracking sound. “I think the door’s breaking.”
I squeezed my eyes closed, sending up a thousand silent prayers. “Get in the closet with Ava and Mia.”
“I can’t. I have to fight him if he gets in. I have my bat.”
My sweet, brave boy. Tears leaked from my eyes. “He’s not going to get in. Just hold on.”
Shouts sounded across the line. I heard someone yelling that they were from the sheriff’s department and to get down on the floor. There was more screaming and then a shot. The crack of the bullet was so loud, Kenna jerked beside me. All of my muscles locked. “Will, are you okay? What’s happening now?”
“I’m okay. I don’t know.”
“Will, it’s Deputy Raines. Are you okay in there?”
My shoulders sagged in relief. Will answered the deputy in a shaky voice. “We’re okay.”
I heard a door opening, and Mia’s cries got louder, but it was Ava who spoke. “I want Cae Cae.” The sound of her pleading shattered the last piece of my heart still holding itself together.
“I’m gonna be there soon, Ava.”
“Did you hear that, Avs? Caelyn’s coming soon.”
The deputy began speaking again. “We need to take the bad guy out to the patrol car. Then we’ll come back for you.”
“Okay.” Will’s voice sounded stronger now. “I have to move the furniture, Caelyn.”
“Don’t hang up!” I was desperate. This was my one lifeline to my siblings, and I couldn’t let it go. “Put the phone on speaker and lay it on the bed.”
“All right.” Something rustled, and then Will spoke again. “Can you hear me?”
“I can hear you.”
The sounds of furniture being pushed across the carpet, and Will grunting, came over the line. I held my breath until I heard a knock.
“It’s Deputy Raines. Can I come in?”
A door creaked in the background.
“Are you guys okay?” Deputy Raines asked.
“Yeah, we’re okay,” Will answered.
The slight tremor in his voice had me fisting the sheets even tighter. I never should’ve left Anchor. I should’ve simply found the cheapest apartment possible and worked at a bar or a restaurant on the island. But instead, I’d been selfish, desperate to use the scholarship I’d worked so hard for.
Ava’s voice cut into my thoughts. “Can you take us to Cae Cae?”
“Who’s Cae Cae?” Raines asked.
“My sister. She’s on the phone,” Will said.
“Is it all right if I talk to her?”
The phone beeped as he took me off speakerphone. “Ms. O’Connor, we’ve got them. They look scared but are perfectly safe.”
I burst into tears. Through my sobs, I managed to get out, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”
“Of course. We’re going to take them to the sheriff’s station on Shelter.”
“Okay. I’m in Seattle. I go to college here. But I’m going to get over there as fast as I can. Will you take this phone so that you can update me if anything changes?”
“I’ll keep the phone with me. Take a deep breath. They’re going to be fine.”
But that wasn’t completely true. Sure, physically, they were okay. But emotionally? The kids were traumatized. And I didn’t know the first thing about how to heal those wounds. But like with everything else, I’d simply have to find a way. I just had to get to my siblings first.
WANT MORE? Click here for the full sneak peek. >>> http://bit.ly/3hSuLoe
One night was all it took for everything to change.
From college student to guardian in a single breath.
My siblings became my world.
No time for date nights or romantic dreams.
I traded quiet weekends for sleepless nights.
Giving my all to make sure they were cared for.
But Griffin had a brokenness that called to me—one that mirrored my own.
Gruff and just a little bit reckless.
He was the last thing I needed. But everything I wanted.
Only someone isn’t happy about this new life I’m building.
Deciding to set fire to everything I hold close.
And when the smoke clears, there might be only ashes left behind…
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Writer of words. Drinker of Diet Cokes. Lover of all things cute and furry, especially her dog. Catherine has had her nose in a book since the time she could read and finally decided to write down some of her own stories. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring her home state of Oregon, listening to true crime podcasts, or searching for her next book boyfriend.
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