From the moment I read the blurb, I simply couldn’t ‘one-click’ this book fast enough. It’s the kind of book you find yourself reading every chance you get, desperate to absorb every word, every feeling, every thrill, and before you know it, it’s 3.30am when you’re finally turning the last page. This second chance romance is incredibly multilayered, as deeply romantic as it is suspenseful, and while it explores complex human conditions that are heartbreaking at times, it nonetheless leaves you feeling uplifted and smiling like a fool. It was truly one of the BEST books I’ve ever read—infused with SO MUCH emotion, and told with heartbreakingly beautiful language and empathy—and I honestly cannot recommend it highly enough. So I’m super excited to share with you an awesome excerpt. Waterfall Effect is now available (all links below).
He enters the courtroom with his head down and feet shuffling, the shackles on his wrists and ankles providing minimal room for movement. His wiry body swims in his khaki slacks and blue button down top, appearing far too conservative to be a threat. Untamed salt and pepper hair frames his downturned head and emotionless face, and exhaustion is evident in his forehead creases and the pillows beneath his half-closed lids.
There’s a tremor in my chest I don’t quite understand. A medley of nerves, confusion, and sorrow. My life has become a circus of law enforcement, nosey media, and probing doctor visits since awakening from a coma nearly one year ago. And it’s all supposed to end today. At least, that’s what my aunt Cyndi tells me.
A frenzied whisper snakes through the crowd, drawing my eyes to the man the public has branded a monster. A monster with a mental disorder who has been labeled a threat to society—and to me.
Seven disappearances. Seven girls. Three years. The only tie between us, eerie carvings of our initials found on trees scattered around the woods near where each of us disappeared. Beside each one, a checkmark and a tally where he numbered his victims like we were trophies.
Ice fills my veins as it does every time I think of what could have been. They say I was Henry June’s seventh and last victim. The only one of us found alive. Somehow, I escaped the same fate as the others. Though the whereabouts of their bodies and the details of what happened remain a mystery.
My eyes steady on the man who slows his awkward gait to my left. My skin explodes with goosebumps. My chest fills to the brim with a panic I’m mostly able to suppress—thanks to my medication—but I’m not immune. Especially not when faced with an accused murderer. I’m seated directly behind the plaintiff’s table, between my aunt Cyndi and my best friend, Scott—only a few feet from the man who should riddle me with hurt and rage.
I’m too confused to pinpoint my reactions—the way my eyes bulge at the sight of him, the way my fingers sweep my bare-skinned knees like the flick of a brush, the way my chest feels heavy with fire while my veins still pump ice. None of it makes sense.
Chains rattle as the guard shakes the man’s arm to move him forward. The man resists, his whiskered chin tilting toward me as if he senses his prey, but his eyes remain fixed on the floor. Does he feel my presence? Because I’m more than certain that I would be able to feel his. I adjust my posture in an aim for comfort, but the effort is useless under the circumstances.
The man’s eyes snap to mine.
A hush falls over the room as he leans toward me, his stare dark and empty as a vibration takes over his body. It’s like he’s looking right through me. Would he hear me if I spoke?
I move to stand, to face him, to ask him if what the others say is true. Aunt Cyndi holds out her arm to stop me. I wish she wouldn’t. I need to know. Because if it is true—how could he be so cold, so heartless?
Schizophrenic delusions aside, the reality is that after over six months of court hearings, the evidence presented in the case of the other six victims has only made his guilt more unclear than ever.
“You were dead.” It’s just a gravelly whisper, sandpaper to my heart. “I saw you. I—I held your limp body in my hands.” He peers down at his shackled hands and shakes them hard. “You bled for your sins. You should be dead,” he hisses, then squeezes his lids together. His head whips left and right, as if trying to wake from a nightmare. When his eyes fly open again, they land on mine with conviction. “You’re not real. You’re not real. You’re not real.” He whispers these words on repeat like they calm him.
Emotion crushes my throat as an unspoken plea fills my mind. Please make it stop, I want to scream. Just let the nightmare end.
“Let’s go, June. Straight ahead.” The corrections officer’s boom echoes through the room as he continues to wrestle with the man in chains, gripping his arm and tugging him forward. The prisoner gives in, but he keeps his bloodshot eyes locked on me from over his shoulder as he’s dragged away. No more words come, but he finally rips his eyes from mine as if the sight of me pains him. Maybe it does. Maybe he knows what he did. Maybe somewhere in that disturbed brain of his lies a man with compassion.
There’s a shuffle of feet as everyone settles into their seats again, somber, ready for the judge to read the final verdict. They may not have found enough evidence to try the man for murdering the other victims, but they have me, my blood on his hands the day I was found, and a convincing testimony from someone I allowed too close to my heart. The circumstantial evidence is enough to convict a person for decades, but not for life.
However, with the rumor of a plea deal on the table, who knows what will happen today. Not even I am privy to such information.
Aunt Cyndi’s dainty arm snakes around my stiff shoulders, yanking me from my thoughts and pulling me close.
“Are you okay?” Her whispered tone soothes me some. I know I’m not alone. Neither she nor Scott would ever let me go through something like this without a shoulder to lean on.
I don’t respond to her yet. I’m not sure how to. Of course I am not okay. Nothing about this situation is or ever will be okay.
“He’s sick, Aurora.” She takes a shaky breath, still doing her best to stay calm, but I detect anger there, too.
“His voices will never hurt you again,” she says. “He’s crazy. He’s a monster,” is what she means.
When I return her statement with a blank stare and silence, she gives my shoulders another squeeze. She understands well enough; no amount of comforting words or warm hugs can right the wrongs that led us all here.
They say that under the influence of alcohol, the danger of the man on trial grows, as it did the night of November twenty-sixth. The night I went missing, only to be found three days later in my father’s arms, bruised, disoriented, and on the brink of death.
Because the man on trial—my father—tried to kill me.
What’s worse? I don’t remember any of it.