Fallen Angel Salvageis still on sale for 99 cents in digital format. An old black van. A missing child. Tatia and Jesse race through the city streets with a band of bikers while Johnny and Jade dig through the dark web and Detectives Nelson and Martin pound on doors. Will it be enough? Or will Joy become another statistic? Read the preface and Chapter 1, and then click the Buy Link at the end of the post to get your copy before the price goes back up.
Preface – The Letter
Thursday – 3:00 pm
Tatia stepped out the back door and stood quietly for a moment, watching her two children play tag in the small back yard. She smiled as Joy slowly jogged between the swing set and the sandbox with her younger brother in hot pursuit. Daniel lunged toward her, but she swerved at the last moment causing him to belly flop onto the soft grass.
“I almost got you,” he pouted.
Joy leaned over him and gloated, “You missed me by a mile, short stuff.”
He grinned up at her, touched her arm, and rolled away from her under the swing set. “Tag, you’re it!” he shouted in triumph.
Tatia laughed at the stunned look on Joy’s face and clapped her hands. “Nice move, Daniel! Now, recess is over, and we have a reading lesson to complete before we quit for the day. Dust yourselves off and get the mail on your way in.”
“I’ll get it,” yelled Joy as she took off for the front of the house.
“No!” wailed Daniel. “I won! I get to get it.”
“Okay, I guess you’re right,” said Joy, slowing down to let him catch up. Then, she tapped him on the shoulder. “But now you’re it!”
Tatia shook her head and went back into the house as the two tagged and shouted all the way to the mailbox. Joy must have been in a charitable mood, because a few moments later the front door slammed open and Daniel strutted into the living room with several envelopes clutched in his fist. He presented the mail to his mom as if he were handing her a dozen roses, and then headed to the refrigerator for a bottle of water.
“Joy, did you see that old van across the street?” he asked his sister. “It must have been about a hundred years old.”
“I didn’t see any old van, and I wouldn’t care if I did,” said Joy, her charitable mood long gone.
“Well, you should. The driver was staring at you.”
“There wasn’t a van and there wasn’t a driver! You need glasses!”
“That’s enough, you two,” said Tatia, hoping to restore some peace. “What kind of van was it?” she asked Daniel.
“I’m not sure, Mommy. I’ll go check.” He knelt on the couch and peered out the window as Tatia looked over his shoulder. “It’s gone now,” he said with a shrug.
“Good! Now we can talk about something important,” said Joy. “Like birthday cards! Mommy, did I get any more today?”
Tatia dismissed the uneasy feeling that tried to insinuate itself into her mind, and made a mental note to talk with Jesse about the van later. Right now, she had an almost-nine-year-old girl dancing from foot to foot, waiting for her to sort the mail. It was two days before Joy’s birthday, and she had received more mail in the last week than she had in the previous nine years. She loved the emails and ecards her mom and dad shared with her, but she loved the cards that came in the mail even more. They felt more like they belonged just to her. Tatia flipped through the small stack of envelopes and handed two of them to her daughter.
“It looks like there’s one from Alicia at school and another one from Grandma and Grandpa G. How many is that from them anyway?”
“Seven! One every day for a whole week! What about that one? Is it for me?” she asked pointing to the plain white envelope Tatia was staring at curiously.
“No, it’s addressed to me, and it doesn’t have a return address or a stamp.”
“Probably a bill,” said Joy, and she took her cards to the couch to read them.
Tatia opened the envelope and pulled out a single sheet of notebook paper. On it was taped a small article from the Cameron Morning Telegraph dated the previous Sunday.
Cameron, TX. After serving twenty years of three concurrent sentences for murder, aggravated statutory sexual assault, and human trafficking, Eric Hall was paroled from the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville this week. His conviction was the first of several that resulted from the testimony of a very brave young woman, later identified as Tatia Robins in her book, Groomed for the Streets. These convictions freed Cameron from the human trafficking trade that had plagued our city for years.
Below the article was a short, hand-written message:
I wonder if Joy is as brave as her mother.
Chapter 1 – The Nightmare
Friday – 4:30 am
Tatia fought, trying to free herself from the arms that grasped her, crying out silently for Mama. Mama didn’t come, though. She was lying in a box with Daddy, both of them cold and lifeless, staring up at her with painted faces that melted into piles of ashes. Eric grabbed at her, pulling her away from the casket and through the door of a shabby motel room toward a bed covered with dirty, rumpled sheets. On the bed lay her daughter, sobbing hysterically while the men who surrounded the bed chanted her name again and again. Tatia struggled toward another voice she could barely hear.
“Tatia,” it said softly. “Tatia. Sweetheart. Wake up.”
The room behind her began to fade as Jesse’s gentle whisper drew her out of her tormented sleep and back into the safety of the bed they had shared for the last dozen years. She rolled over toward him and buried her face against his chest as he once again drew her out of the darkness that still haunted her nights.
“It’s okay, baby,” he crooned. “I’m here. I got ya.”
He felt the tension gradually leave her body, and as her ragged breathing evened out, he drew back slightly and gazed into the face he loved so much.
“Hey,” he said gently. “I’m not gonna let him hurt you ever again.”
She smiled weakly and snuggled closer. She lay there for a while, listening to him breathe, trying to feel the reassurance he offered. The peace wouldn’t come, though, and after listening to the sounds of her husband sleeping for a while, she slipped out of bed and into her robe and slippers to ward off the early October chill.
She stepped carefully to avoid tripping over Harley who purred and rubbed against Tatia’s ankles, happy to have some unexpected company in the pre-dawn hours. Tatia yawned as she pulled the bedroom door closed behind her so Jesse could sleep for a while longer. Then, she put a scoop of food in Harley’s bowl. While the fluffy kitten inspected her breakfast, Tatia went down the hall and looked in on her children. She lingered a little longer at Joy’s door, whispering a prayer for her protection now that a convicted felon knew her name. She dashed away an angry tear, fighting the rising rage at the man who had stolen so much of her childhood and now had invaded the sanctity of her home with his words.
Tatia sighed and shuffled to the kitchen where she turned on the coffee maker and selected a decaf coffee pod from the holder on the counter. Once the hot, fragrant drink was brewed and she had added some French vanilla creamer, she retrieved her Bible and prayer journal and settled into her favorite overstuffed chair in the corner of the living room. She opened the journal to the thanksgiving section, but she struggled to find any feelings of gratitude in the emotional turmoil that churned inside her. Harley was perched on the armrest next to her, and she absently stroked the purring cat as she sipped her coffee and attempted to lose herself in happy memories.
Buy Link: Fallen Angel Salvage