With: Elisabeth Naughton
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Romantic Thriller
Hidden Falls is exactly as Samantha Parker left it—small, insular, and prone to gossip. Eighteen years have passed since she witnessed her brother’s murder, but she’s still the talk of the town. Until a handsome child psychologist with haunting memories of his own arrives.
Dr. Ethan McClane isn’t exactly a newcomer. If it weren’t for his latest case, he’d never set foot back in Hidden Falls. Thankfully, no one seems to recognize him as the troubled teen from years past. Not even Sam, the delightfully sharp and sexy high school chemistry teacher he can’t stop thinking about.
When Sam and Ethan work together to help one of her students, sparks ignite. But Sam’s hazy memories of a long-ago night concern Ethan, and unlocking the repressed images reveals a dark connection between them. As the horrors of the past finally come to light, their relationship isn’t the only thing in danger. A killer will strike again to keep an ugly secret hidden. This time no one will be safe.
Their eyes held for several seconds. Samantha's gaze dropped to Ethan's lips. And as her breathing picked up, the desire he’d been fighting since the day he’d first heard her voice flared hot and strong.
He leaned down to kiss her.
Grimly barked, and she jerked back.
“Where did that stupid dog run off to?” She stepped around Ethan. “Grimly?”
Ethan sighed. They were always getting interrupted just when things were about to get interesting.
He followed her up the path before she could get too far ahead. “Samantha?”
Rounding a bend, he spotted her, standing on the edge of a clearing. Blue-green mountains lingered in the distance. The faint rush of water whispered through the trees.
Ethan slowed as he drew up beside her and looked around the forest. Déjà vu trickled through him, leaving his skin prickly and hot. And not in a good way.
“I used to play up here when I was a kid.” Samantha pointed. “My friends and I built a fort in the trees through there. On the other side of that ridge is a waterfall and swimming hole where we used to cool off when it was really hot.”
Ethan knew all too well about the waterfall. His pulse picked up, and he fought the growing sickness in his stomach.
He hadn’t realized this was the forest. He’d been a kid when he’d been here last. Hadn’t put two and two together. Hadn’t once thought it could be anywhere near Samantha’s property.
Samantha turned up the path and resumed walking.
Thankful she hadn’t noticed, he drew a deep breath and followed. But his fingers curled into his palms to fight the sudden nicotine craving, and he wished he hadn’t thrown away that last pack he’d kept hidden in his car.
His muscles finally relaxed when he realized they weren’t headed toward the falls but into the trees again. Samantha wove around tree trunks, over downed logs on the sparse path. She was quiet as she made her way across the forest floor, and for the first time, Ethan didn’t mind. She stopped again as they approached a small run-down cabin. The roof was patchy, missing in spots. The glass windows were broken out. Pinecones littered the front stoop, and the logs of the old shack were rotted and cracked in multiple places.
“I always end up here,” she said softly. “I don’t know why, but whenever I come this way, I always end up in this place.”
Ethan didn’t remember the cabin, but it had obviously been here for years. “Did you used to play here too?”
“No. I’ve never even been inside. But, I don’t know, it always just seems to draw me up here. Like it’s waiting for me.”
She was quiet for a long time as she studied the shack, and a whisper of foreboding shot down Ethan’s spine.
This time, he didn’t hesitate to reach for her hand. Suddenly needed the contact. And something inside him sensed she needed it too.
She looked over as his thumb grazed the back of her fingers. “Weird, huh?”.
“No, not really. Something about the place probably scared you as a kid. Childhood fears can last a long time.”
“I have dreams about it.” Her gaze slid back to the cabin. “There’s a light on in the windows—a cold light that seems to spill through the holes in the glass. And I can hear voices—angry voices—and crying. But I can never get up the courage to go in. I’ve made it to the window, but I’ve never looked inside.”
The blank look in her eye sent a chill over Ethan that had nothing to do with the air temperature. Gently, he squeezed Samantha’s hand, and something inside him sensed this cabin was not just part of a dream. Somehow it was tied to the haunted look in Samantha’s eyes and the reason she kept herself closed off from those around her.
“Samantha,” he said again softly.
She blinked rapidly. “Stupid, huh? Bet you could analyze the heck out of that one.” She pulled her hand from his and started walking again. “Where’s that darn dog? Grimly!”
Ethan followed Sam away from the shack. He wanted to know more about the cabin and her dream but sensed this wasn’t the time. Samantha was already nervous around him. Just the fact she was opening up to him at all was a step in the right direction.
Grimly’s incessant barking echoed through the trees. “I sure hope he hasn’t found a skunk again,” she said. “I’m going to kill that dog if he went after one.”
Ethan laughed behind her and slipped his hands into his pockets, relieved she sounded normal once more. “Yeah, me too. That’d seriously ruin my appetite, and my plans to hit on you later at dinner.”
She smiled back at him. A big, gorgeous smile. One that brought the heat right back to his belly and made him forget that cabin, the waterfall, and everything else he didn’t want to remember. “He loves to dig. The last time he disturbed a sleeping family of skunks, he reeked for a week. Trust me, it wasn’t funny.”
Ethan caught up with her and reached for her hand again. Her fingers were warm where they slid around his. Warm and soft and perfect. And once again those tingles spread up his arm and down into his chest. “Maybe we shouldn’t chance leaving him alone. We should stay in tonight.”
Amusement lit her eyes. “I don’t cook.”
“That’s okay. I do.” He tightened his grasp on her hand, pulling her to a stop. Interest sparked in her eyes. Interest and excitement.
“You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you, doc?”
He reached for her other hand, lacing his fingers with hers. “I try to be. Wanna make out in the woods?”
She laughed. “It’s cold out here.”
“I know it sounds cliché, but I could warm you.” Her lips curved into a smile. A tempting, seductive, tantalizing smile.
“I think you might be trouble, Dr. McClane.” When she didn’t make any move to pull away, he let go of her hands and slid his arms around her back, tugging her body against his. Her hands flattened against his chest, and her hips drew flush to his, sending all those tingles straight into his groin. “The best kind, though, right?”
Before topping multiple bestseller lists—including those of the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal—Elisabeth Naughton taught middle school science. A voracious reader, she soon discovered she had a knack for creating stories with a chemistry of their own. The spark turned into a flame, and Naughton now writes full-time. Besides topping bestseller lists, her books have been nominated for some of the industry’s most prestigious awards, such as the RITA® and Golden Heart Awards from Romance Writers of America, the Australian Romance Reader Awards, and the Golden Leaf Award. When not dreaming up new stories, Naughton can be found spending time with her husband and three children in their western Oregon home.
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