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Lies They Tell Her

Lies They Tell Her

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About the Book

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Laurel Dane's return to Appleman’s Gap was meant to be a respite. Following the death of her father, the town’s beloved police chief, Laurel, an FBI agent on leave from Washington DC, longs for solace and a break from her chaotic life. However, her homecoming is anything but peaceful when a carjacking incident leads to the disappearance of her best friend’s infant son, thrusting Laurel into an unexpected and heart-wrenching mystery.

As Laurel navigates the complexities of her hometown’s hidden pains and buried secrets, she is forced to confront her own past. The town she once knew as a child, filled with familiar faces and cherished memories, now poses challenges and questions at every turn. Her efforts to maintain distance from family dramas and the legacy of her father are complicated by the re-emergence of an old flame—the new police chief, and Laurel's ex-boyfriend, who seeks to protect her in ways she's not sure she needs or wants.

Lies They Tell Her weaves a tender story of a woman caught between the life she left behind and the life she's built for herself. As Laurel delves deeper into the mystery of the missing child, she also embarks on a personal journey of healing, confronting the wounds of loss, love, and belonging. The small-town setting of Appleman’s Gap, with its scenic beauty and tight-knit community, serves as the backdrop for Laurel’s quest for truth, offering a sanctuary where healing and forgiveness might just be possible.

Publication date: May 15, 2024.

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About the Appleman's Gap Series:

In the heart of Tennessee, nestled east of Nashville, lies Appleman’s Gap—a town as picturesque as it is laden with secrets. Dive into a deeply emotional journey of discovery, healing, and the bonds that tether us to home.

Books are best read in order.

Preorder Book 2 in the series, Ties That Bind Her.

Look Inside

Hillside Parkway, Appleman’s Gap, Tennessee
The Day After Thanksgiving
6:23pm

“9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

Laurel Dane’s breath caught as she pressed her ear awkwardly against the mobile phone. “Oh, thank God, you answered,” she breathed. “You’re there?”

The man’s voice on the other end of the line was cool and smooth. “Yes, ma’am. Officer Cedric Martin here, Appleman’s Gap P.D. Do you have an emergency?”

Laurel wriggled, shopping bags and wrapping paper crinkling around her. She had to muffle the sound of the dispatcher’s voice. “Shh,” she pleaded. “Talk quietly. He’ll hear you.”

“Who will hear me, ma’am?” Cedric asked, as quietly as he could. “Who is he?”

Laurel’s hands were bound tightly at the wrists and her feet were tied at the ankles. There had been a gag in her mouth, too, but she’d managed to use the muscles in her jaws to slowly work it up and out. The dirty cloth still clung to one side of her lips, secured by twine that had been ripped from the Christmas tree on the roof of her car. Finally, after much effort, her mouth was free enough to speak.

The gag smelled of an unidentifiable chemical. Like motor oil. Although, not as sweet. The odor wasn’t familiar to Laurel, but it was certainly noxious. She feared that whatever it was might cause her to lose consciousness. She did her best to breathe fresher air, from the opposite direction. There was precious little space around her.

Some Black Friday this was turning out to be.

“Ma’am, are you still on the line?”

“I’m here,” she replied in a hushed tone. A single tear ran down her cheek, its wetness sticking in the cold. She was supposed to be catching criminals, not falling victim to them.

It had taken what felt like forever to dig the phone out from a shopping bag, remove the packaging, power it on, and place the call. Every step in the process had felt excruciatingly difficult. Every little noise she made had been a dangerous liability.

“Where are you?” Officer Martin asked.

“I don’t know,” Laurel replied. “I was at the holiday market, the open air space with the high ceilings and string lights.”
“In Appleman’s Gap?”

She nodded, her head bumping against something. Moving around in the cramped compartment was hard to do. “Yes. We ate lunch nearby and were doing some shopping,” she explained. She spoke softly, in fits and starts. “I was at the east side of the property when he grabbed me. There must have been something on the gag because I think I was unconscious. Chloroform, maybe.”

“Are you still at the market now?” the officer asked. His voice became muffled as he turned away to give instructions to someone else.

“No,” Laurel said. “Not anymore. My friend Sarah went back inside because she had forgotten her scarf. That’s when he got me.”

Officer Martin mumbled something additional in the background. Laurel wondered what he was saying, but didn’t have the mental bandwidth to try to figure it out. All of her energy was spent making sure the man who had abducted her didn’t realize she was talking on a phone. That was step one in getting away.

“Are you calling from a mobile phone?”

“Yes, but he doesn’t know I have it,” Laurel replied. “He took my phone. Luckily, though, I had just bought a new one for my mom. It was in one of the shopping bags. I dug it out and powered it on. That’s what I’m calling from now.”

“Smart move,” Officer Martin said. “You’re doing great. I need you to stay on the line with me, okay?”

“Okay,” Laurel said, another tear making its way down her face.

She debated whether to tell him that she was an FBI agent, in town to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday. She should have known better than to let herself be taken.
How embarrassing.

Laurel was freezing, her breath visible in the cold November air. She hoped she could get warm soon. It had snowed earlier in the day, and a layer of crunchy ice had formed on top. Temperatures were in the thirties and forecast to drop even further overnight.

Snow was sparse in Middle Tennessee at any time of year. The fact that it had made an appearance on this long holiday weekend was certainly special. Laurel had been delighted to see the wintry precipitation when it had arrived. The market had been alight with sights, sounds, and smells of happiness and holiday cheer. But that was before. Now, the snowscape felt foreign and cruel.

“Can you tell me your name?”

Laurel nodded, again bumping her head. She grimaced. “Yes. Laurel Dane.”

“Good, Laurel. I’m going to help you, okay?”

“Please do, Officer,” she replied, more tears surfacing. She bit them back, choosing instead to focus on relaying the facts. “It sounds like we’re on a highway. I can hear traffic around us. I’m in the trunk of my own car. It’s a late model Honda Accord. The Sport-L Hybrid model in red. Matte black alloy wheels. There is—or at least, there was—a Christmas tree tied to the roof.”

“Good. That’s helpful. What else?”

“The man who grabbed me was Caucasian. Just under six feet tall. He was well dressed, wearing a long overcoat and one of those English hats … Flat caps, I believe they’re called. He was clean and well groomed. Mid-thirties. Very short hair. Strong features. He blended into the crowd. Nothing about him seemed unusual until he approached me.”

She wondered how long it would take for the dispatcher to search her name and learn her connection to the Bureau. Ol’ Jimmy Paulson, her Special Agent in Charge back in D.C., would be none too pleased to find out that one of his agents had fallen victim to some petty criminal while on leave. Laurel could already imagine the talking-to she would receive when this was all over.

First, she had to break free.

“I understand,” the officer said. “Can you tell me where you are now?”

Officer Martin was calm and patient. He had been trained for this, and it showed. He was handling the situation like a pro. There was a lot at stake, though. More than the officer even knew. His assistance would soon be critical to saving more than one innocent life.

“I told you, I don’t know where I am,” Laurel said. She was growing frustrated. “I was at the holiday market, but I think the guy knocked me out. I don’t remember him binding my hands and feet. I can’t be sure how long I’ve been in here.” Despite the circumstances, she was maintaining her composure. She knew how to keep a level head under pressure. “There’s a release lever in the trunk. It’s not working, though. He must have disabled it somehow.”

“It’s okay,” Cedric replied. “Let’s start at the beginning. What happened at the market?”

A booming voice sounded suddenly. “Don’t be gettin’ any ideas back there! You hear me?” a man bellowed. “If you’re awake, you better stay still and shut your whore mouth. Or else.”

Laurel’s body went stiff as a board, which was remarkable given how twisted it was in the tight space. She remained silent, knowing better than to speak. She had to play her cards carefully.

For someone who looked as polished as this man had, he sure sounded gruff now. She couldn’t understand the vitriol he had for her. What had she done to anger him? She had been minding her business, shopping like everyone else. Why her?

“What was that?” Officer Martin asked.

“Shh,” Laurel whispered through gritted teeth. “Quiet!”

“Is it him? Tell me what’s happening,” the officer pleaded. “We need to know so we can help, Laurel.”

Maybe it was because Laurel had let the strange man stand too close when he’d approached her in the market. Or maybe, it was because she’d held eye contact too long during their brief conversation, encouraging him to pursue her and the hope of something more. Just maybe, it was because she hadn’t smacked him square across the face when he’d groped at the rise of her inner thigh. In hindsight, shouting for him to stop probably hadn’t been enough of a reaction. He had grabbed her in plain sight.

“Are you tracking my location?” she asked. “Can you triangulate the signal?”

“We’re working on that,” the officer said. “Stay with me, okay?”

She nodded, having finally learned how to avoid hitting her head when doing so. “Okay. Maybe I can knock out a tail light. That could draw attention.”

“Good idea,” Cedric replied.

Yeah, it was a good idea, but Laurel couldn’t help but feel like it wasn’t good enough. She felt like her training had failed her. Or more like she had failed the FBI. Not to mention, herself.

All that time learning at Quantico and working in the field, only to be snatched like a clueless civilian. She told herself to remain calm. Yet it seemed impossible to push the feelings of shame away. They pressed against her, like the icy hands of a winter ghost.

Laurel sobbed now, though she held as much of the sound inside as she could. Turning her head, she pressed one arm against her mouth to squelch the noise. She cried for what felt like an eternity as the cold and the chemical smell moved deeper into her lungs. She couldn’t help herself. She had been so strong, for so long. And being back in Appleman’s Gap was bringing the painful memories to the surface.

“Laurel?” Officer Martin asked.

“He’ll hear me if I talk,” she breathed.

“I know, Laurel. I realize this is scary,” he replied. “But you sound like you can handle it. I need you to tell me more so that my officers can find you and make sure you’re safe. Now, whisper, but tell me. What happened at the market? Who is the man?”

For a moment, she didn’t answer.

“Laurel?”

“I’m here,” she managed. “I don’t know who the man is, but I think he heard me and I’m afraid of what he might do.”
The words tasted bitter coming out.

“I understand,” Officer Martin said. “I’ll stay on the line with you as long as it takes.”

Bolstered by the officer’s encouragement, Laurel took a deep breath as she felt around for a way to disable a tail light. Her hands were going numb from being bound, but she pushed through the discomfort.

“Cornelius Dane would be having a conniption fit, if he could see me now,” she mumbled to herself.

There was a scratching sound as Officer Martin moved the phone closer to his mouth. “Did you just say … Cornelius Dane? As in the late Chief Cornelius Dane?”

Laurel hadn’t meant to say her dad’s name out loud. Too late. The cat was out of the bag. She sighed heavily. “That’s the one. He was my dad.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” the officer said. “Chief Dane was a good man. It hasn’t been the same around here since he’s been gone.”

“Thanks,” she squeaked out. She wanted to ask how well he knew her dad, but this wasn’t the time.

“Let’s get you to safety, okay? I owe it to your dad. Are you close to the holiday market now?” he asked.

“I don’t think so,” Laurel replied.

“Are you still in Appleman’s Gap?”

“I honestly don’t know. He’s driving like a madman.”

Just then, the man hit the brakes, slamming Laurel against the back seat. Her muscles tensed even tighter. She waited nervously to see if he had heard her. She knew that nothing good could happen if he found out she had dialed 9-1-1. She didn’t have her service weapon on her, and she couldn’t immediately come up with a plan to overpower the man, given her bindings.

“I think he’s stopping,” she whispered into the phone.

“Please, you have to help us. I’ll never forgive myself if—”
“Us? Who’s with you?”

Officer Martin spoke to someone in the background again, his voice muffled.

Laurel wanted the car to stop. Sarah’s infant son was in the backseat. The boy could make a sound and set the man off. Perhaps he wasn’t yet aware of the child’s presence.

“My friend’s dog, Bear,” she explained reluctantly. Saying the words somehow made what was happening more real. More terrifying. “And Jasper, her infant son. He’s buckled into his car seat. I think he’s still sleeping. He’s quiet, anyway.”

“There’s a baby in the car?” Cedric asked, his voice rising. Gone was the cool, calm demeanor from earlier.

“That’s right,” Laurel replied.

“Standby,” the officer said, then covered the receiver on the phone as he shouted something in the background.
It seemed like forever that he was gone. Each second that ticked by felt like an eternity. Laurel expected the man to fling the door to the trunk open at any moment. Or worse, to put his hands on the baby. The car was stopped, she could tell that much for sure. But she couldn’t tell if the man had exited the vehicle or if he had simply parked somewhere. Perhaps at a traffic light. Everything was disorienting from her vantage point.

Come on. Come on, she thought, hoping Officer Martin would return with some shred of good news. Maybe knowing her dad would make him work harder for her.
A car door slammed, the sound and the impact startling the baby. Little Jasper screamed and Laurel’s blood ran cold.

“He’s coming. He woke the baby,” Laurel breathed into the phone.

Cedric heard her, and he removed whatever it was that had been muting the phone. “Agent Dane,” he said solemnly, “we pulled your file. We know you’re with the Bureau, which is why I’m going to tell it to you straight.”

“Okay,” she replied, hurriedly. “Do it fast. We’re running out of time.”

“There’s been a rash of kidnappings all over town. Carjackings with babies in carseats. We don’t know much yet, but they seem to be targeting busy places like gas stations, shopping centers, that sort of thing. Places where the baby is left inside a vehicle unattended for a few minutes while someone is loading, unloading, or gassing up.”

“Oh, my God,” Laurel breathed.

“That isn’t all,” he continued. “Sometimes, they take the mothers, too, and sometimes … they dump the bodies. We have a handful of missing persons and two confirmed deaths. We’ve managed to keep it from the media so far, but it won’t be long before word gets out.”

Laurel shook her head, as if the motion could make all of this go away. “It’s like …” she began. “Like before. Like what Dad was investigating …”

Words failed. The realizations were coming too hard, too fast. Sheer terror gripped Laurel.

Officer Martin sighed as baby Jasper screamed louder. His tone was stern. “Do everything you can to get yourself and that baby out of there, Agent Dane. Your lives almost certainly depend on it.”

Before Laurel could respond, the lid to the trunk was ripped open. The silhouette of the man came closer, his quick movements too fast for her eyes that were still adjusting to the light.

“Get out!” he shouted. “You’re done.”

The man yanked Laurel by her long brown hair, up and partially out of the small compartment. The mobile phone landed on the floor of the trunk with a soft thud. She steeled herself, determined to make the most of the moment and provide Officer Martin whatever clues she could. Straining against the man’s effort, she wedged her feet at the front of the trunk, slowing his progress.

“I can see the lights of downtown,” she said loudly and clearly as baby Jasper continued to cry from the backseat. He wailed as if his life depended on it.  “The top of the courthouse is visible in the distance. It looks like we’re northeast of there. Maybe two miles away, as the crow flies.”

“Shut it!” the man said as he continued to tug on her. Then he reared back, and smacked her hard across the face.
Pain shot through Laurel’s jaw and cheekbone, but she opened her eyes against it. She kept watching, kept searching for clues.

“Oh!” she exclaimed defiantly, talking loudly in the direction of the mobile phone. “A plane just flew overhead. Blue and orange. Must be Southwest. It’s heading in for a landing, west of us. Probably to BNA, the international airport in Nashville—”

The man reached in and grabbed the phone, then threw it to the ground and stomped it to pieces. “Enough,” he growled.

Despite her attempts to brace against the man and make his job difficult, he successfully hoisted her out of the trunk. She landed on the concrete hard. Jasper wailed.

“Leave the baby,” Laurel pleaded. “Take the car. You can have it. Just leave the baby.”

The man grunted as he walked around the side of the car and opened a door to the backseat. Laurel held her breath, hopeful that he would remove the baby’s car seat and leave the infant with her. Bear immediately jumped out and took off, clearly spooked by what was happening.

Aww, Bear, she thought as she watched her best friend’s dog disappear behind an industrial building in the distance. He was a family pet who probably wouldn’t last long on the streets. It was a sad sight, but nothing like what she was about to witness if this man took the baby.

“It’ll be better for you if you leave the baby,” Laurel tried.

“I’ll say that you didn’t know he was in the car. You’ll get off easy. Or maybe, you won’t even get caught.”

He grunted again, turning toward Laurel and narrowing his eyes. For a moment, she wondered if he had a weapon and whether he intended to use it on her. She was defenseless. She wouldn’t have been able to stop him. Her life could end, right here and now.

Finally, he slammed the door of the car, baby Jasper still inside.

“No!” Laurel said as the man walked around to the trunk and slammed it, too.

“Don’t do it,” she pleaded. “He’s just an innocent baby … Take me instead!”

The man scoffed, appraising her as she struggled on the ground. He kicked his head back and let out a sinister laugh. “Say nighty-night, mama. He’s my baby now.”

Then he returned to the driver’s seat and sped away, tail lights disappearing into the night.

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Customer Reviews

Based on 5 reviews
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R
Richard Fulytar Sr
Started to read it and I know it’ll be wonderful!

Can’t do that quite yet! But knowing the author, it’ll be terrific and hold my attention.

B
B.R.
5 plus stars...great book!!

I have read many books by this author but this is one of my favorites. It had so many twists and turns and kept you on your seat. I certainly didn’t want to put it down. It’s the story of a small town and an FBI agent returning for an extended holiday after the death of her father who was the chief of police. While there, she is carjacked with her best friend's baby in the car with her. She manages to escape but not with the baby. She is determined to find the baby. Then everything goes crazy. She finds out her ex-boyfriend is now the chief of police, she meets a waitress who is a wannabe detective and helps out with the case and a few family secrets too. A lot goes on with this first book in the series and I cannot wait to read more. Great, great book!!

M
Melanie Covarrubias
Lies they tell here

Finished the book in one day can’t wait for the next book

D
Diane
Fancinating

Such a well written book. I loved the characters and the plot. Kelly makes the characters come alive. Her books are hard to put down.

D
Dianne Smith
Lies They Tell Her - Loved it!

This new series is the Author’s best yet! It will keep you engaged and satisfied as the story unravels chapter by chapter to an ending I guarantee you will not see coming! It will leave you wanting to rush out and preorder Book 2 which is exactly what I did. Congratulations Kelly!!