Synopsis:After tragedy struck, she came home to be confronted again by the chilling mystery that had haunted her since childhood and rediscovered the one romance she always regretted not having…
As children, RaeAnne and her sidekick King were held captive after they discovered the body of a boy their age in a crate of apples in their small town’s peculiar orchard. Now RaeAnne is grown and the mother of a troubled young daughter. After her mother is killed in an accident, she travels home to her father with her daughter. But RaeAnne finds that she is not welcomed by everyone, and frightening incidents start to happen involving her and her family. As RaeAnne unravels the mysteries of her childhood, including what happened to her older brother, who vanished on the same night RaeAnne and King found terror in the orchard, she reunites with King. The boy she knew has grown up to be very handsome and guarded. But can the two ever be more than old friends who share a terrifying secret?
I realized I’d hurt him. But I was too shaken up to comfort anyone but myself.
“What’ll I tell Maddie at home?” I sobbed, holding my hands in my lap, avoiding King’s touch, if he did try to reassure me. “How do I tell her that her father—”
King’s hand reached me before I could shift to my side, and he kneaded my hand with his palm. “I’ll help you. I’m here for you.”
Heat descended from my chest downward. “Pull over.”
I breathed out. “Please, do it.” By now we were far enough away from the Grays’s property, and I knew if I didn’t do this now, I never would.
The steering wheel jerked in King’s hand, and the pickup swung a little too close to the opposite lane.
“Watch out,” I said.
King put on the turn signal, and the pickup rode off to the side and halted. He put the brake on, switched on the flashers, and left the truck running. “When we get to your house, I’ll come in with you.” He thought I wanted to talk about what came next for us tonight.
“That’s not it,” I said, facing the window. Branches covered with wet leaves flattened against the windows on one side of the pickup.
“We’ll call the police when we get to your dad’s place.”
“Okay. But that still isn’t it.” I swung toward King and drew him nearer to me by his collar. I locked onto his eyes, a shimmer of deep green in them. Tilting my head, and skimming his cheek with mine, I closed my eyes as my lips enveloped his in a long, slow kiss. His mouth worked around mine faster, and my body stiffened at his eagerness, then I reciprocated his yearning. His lips were soft and persistent. I pulled back and pressed my hands against his chest.
Bringing his fingers to his mouth, he rubbed his lips. “Wow.” I couldn’t tell whether he was pleased, shocked, or both.
I took my hands off him, my tone quaky with nerves. “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I did that.”
“I enjoyed it, but it feels a little wrong somehow, considering what has happened, considering what we saw tonight.”
Ashamed, I turned away from him. “You don’t have to explain. It was inappropriate of me.”
King put his arm around me and squeezed my shoulder. “It’s all right, Rae. People react in all sorts of ways after experiencing these kinds of things. And you know how I feel about you, right?”
I faced the dark woods outside the window. “Yeah, but wanting to make out? There must be something wrong with me.”
“There never could be something wrong about you.” He lifted his arm from my shoulders and moved the truck again.EXCERPT #2
“You’ll forgive me that easily?” I asked, looking up.
King’s smile changed the way I viewed him. His face was more than handsome to me. His face was still one of the few things left besides Maddie’s smile that comforted me anymore. “I forgive you, have forgiven you,” he said. “I’ve known you a long time, Rae, and I would like to know you forever. People who care about one another forgive each other.”
“Friends forgive each other?” I asked.
King tapped the side of his wineglass with his finger. “Friends and people who love each other.”
Unable to figure out which category he’d fit me into in his life, I just smiled back at him. Then I picked up my fork again and took a bite. “This is delicious. Thank you.”
“Does this mean you’ll let me cook for you again?”
“Oh, yeah, I could definitely get used to this.” I took a drink of wine.
King studied me closely, smiling. “So could I. I hope you stay, RaeAnne.”
I coughed from the wine and set down my glass. “Spend the night?”
The color in King’s face deepened as he leaned back in his chair. “That’s not what I meant. I meant I hope you’ll stay in Cider Town.”
“We’ll see,” I said.
I sighed, then sipped some wine. “There’s more than me I have to think about. I have to do what’s best for Maddie.”
“Returning to the city and not seeing her grandfather as much as she could is best for her?”
I slammed the wineglass on top of the table, the liquid sliding over the top. “Oh, no, your mama’s tablecloth. King, I’m so sorry.” I mopped the spill with the dinner napkin as King rose to help me. “And now I probably ruined your napkin, too,” I said, crumpling it in my hand.
King gently took the wet dinner napkin from me. “It’s all right, Rae.”
I felt tears warming my face. King put down the napkin on the table and pulled me close to him. Pressing my face into his chest through his soft shirt, I gazed up at him, and I no longer saw the boy I knew while we were growing up together. His jaw had defined and hardened. Even the beautiful green in his eyes had a steely edge. He’d always been endearing, and in high school he’d gotten handsome. Yet now just the sound of his voice saying my name could calm me. It was then I knew I loved him, too.
He looked down at me. “What is it?”
“How about we watch a movie?”
“Sounds good.” I leaned against him once more, then he took my hand in his and we went over to the couch in front of his TV.
About the AuthorElisabeth Jackson loves the outdoors and dogs, rescued dogs in particular. This Beautiful World is her debut novel and blends haunting childhood secrets, romantic themes, second chances, and a mystery in a small town setting. When she is not writing small town Romances and Mysteries, she works as a freelance business writer. Her characters are inspired by the rural towns she has visited and lived in.