THE BURIED by Shelley Coriell (October 28, 2014; Forever Mass Market; $8.00)
“It’s cold. And dark. I can’t breathe.”
Successful, ambitious state prosecutor Grace Courtemanche is at the top of her game. Then she gets a chilling call from a young woman claiming to be buried alive. Desperate to find the victim before it’s too late, Grace will do whatever it takes . . . even if it means excavating the darkest secrets of her own past and turning to the one man she thought she would never see again.
FBI agent Theodore “Hatch” Hatcher is a man without roots-and that’s the way he likes it. But when a grisly crime shatters Cyprus Bend, Florida, Hatch is dragged back to the small town-and the one woman-he hoped was in his rearview for good. Forced to confront the wreckage of their love affair, Hatch and Grace may just find that sometimes the deepest wounds leave the most beautiful scars-and that history repeating itself may just be what they need to stop a killer . . . and save their own hearts.
Hatch slipped his gun into the holster at his back and walked up the steps of Grace’s back porch. Instead of going inside, he settled his elbows on the rickety railing and stared out at the black. Like the young women buried in those wooden coffins, he and the others trying to crack this case were in the dark. The splintered wood dug into his elbows.
But his team was at his back. Jon was in the middle of the hunt. Hayden, a world-renowned criminal profiler, was walking in a killer’s shoes and getting into the twisted place that was this unsub’s head, and Berkley was giving the killer a face. He smiled. And maybe he’d call Evie, the SCIU’s bombs and weapons specialist. His fiery little teammate had a way of lighting things up. Grace had called the group he worked with his family. He’d always called them his team. They were the men and women he’d fight for and put his life on the line for. Wasn’t that what one did for family? Wasn’t that what he was doing for Alex? For Grace?
His head lolled forward and hung between his forearms. The steamy swamp was clouding his brain again, blurring and tumbling his truths. The first time here the fog had been so thick he couldn’t see anything beyond Grace.
A wedge of light cut across the porch, and Grace’s bare feet padded across the rough boards. She joined him at the railing but said nothing.
He aimed his interlaced hands at the pitch black night. “No bogeymen.”
More silence. She was probably thinking again. About Janis’s fight for her life, about the killer’s next move, about old bones. Grace didn’t know how to unwind and shut down, something that usually came as natural as breathing to him. He sucked in a long breath of warm, soupy night air clogging his throat.
Grace raised an arm, her fingertips sliding down his back, the touch so light it may have been more about him wanting her touch than her actual touch. Shifting so she stood behind him, she ran her other hand down his back. He pulled in a breath, the air sliding through his lungs now lighter and sweeter and cooler. Her fingers brushed along his waist and slipped under his shirt, skin settling on skin.
Every muscle in his torso tightened, trapping the sweet breath in his lungs. And still her fingers traveled, gliding along his ribs, across his chest. His lower body stirred. She pressed against his back, her thighs and midsection molding to his. This time his lower body quaked, sending a tremor to his brain.
He settled his hands over hers. “Whoa there, Princess.” He spun so they were shadowy face to shadowy face. “What’s this all about?”
Grace’s tongue darted over her lips, more nervous than naughty. “Bacon.”
He blinked. “Bacon?”
She knotted her fingers in the bottom of his shirt. “Bacon, Theodore. I am bacon. You are bacon.” With each line, she drew him closer. Her teeth dug into her bottom lip. “You do like bacon, don’t you?”
“It’s…uh…nice. I’m partial to hickory smoked. With grits. And eggs. Over easy.” Easy. Yeah, it would be so damned easy to pull Grace into his arms. He jammed his hands in his pockets because letting them slip across Grace’s skin would take them to a place neither one of them needed to go.
Grace’s lips curved in a soft smile. She rose on her toes, her breath fanning his neck, his jaw. Her hands, her mouth, her words, everything about Grace was so soft and easy. The fog. Must be the fog. A gauzy steam blurred everything but the woman before him. Too close. She was way too close.
He unclenched his hands and settled them on her arms. “I’m not sure what this is all about, but last time we talked about this, about us, forever wasn’t on the table, at least not for me, and that’s still the case.”
“I know.” Her sweet breath danced across his skin.
“Damn it.” He pushed her away, out of arm’s reach. He needed space between them. An ocean would be nice. “Then why are you doing this?”
She closed the space between them in half a heartbeat but didn’t touch him. “Because old dogs die and newborn babies never get a chance to live.” Her lips trembled. “And because someday soon you’ll sail off into the sunset.” She lifted her hands in surrender. “And there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it, any of it. So until then, Hatch, I’m going to make the most of every moment I have with you, and according to Allegheny Blue’s vet, that means having an extra slice or two of bacon.”
My ****4.5 Star**** Review
This is the second book in Coriell’s Apostles series, but it can be read as a stand-alone. You can find my review of The Broken, the first book in the series, HERE.
It’s not often that I say the second book in a series is better than the first, but it happens from time to time, and this is one of those instances. This story never dragged. I was hooked from the start and kept plowing on through. Sleep deprivation was my only obstacle.
I connected quickly to the main characters, and even several of the minor characters. I’d have to admit that I even had a soft spot for Blue, and I’m not even a dog person. Grace seemed a little too concerned about pleasing her dead father in the very beginning, but that was the only odd characteristic I noticed throughout the whole story. I felt like the love story behind the mystery was so much better in this story than the first, and it was never bad in the first book. You could feel the chemistry between Grace and Hatch, but their relationship was so much more than lust, and I appreciated seeing that. But there were so many other great relationships in this book, too. Shelley’s good at throwing in quirky characters, too. Speaking of which, I enjoyed the little appearance of Smokey Joe from the first book.
It was really amazing to me that one moment I’d be swooning in the middle of a love scene, and the next I could feel the absolute intensity and seriousness of a situation the characters had found themselves in. The mystery was well-presented. About 70% of the way in I thought I had guessed how things were going to play out. I was mostly correct, but it was still a long shot and there were still many surprises. It definitely wasn’t easy to guess how things would play out, and I remained in suspense.
I’ll also have to point out that Shelley is very good at ugly. This is definitely not a story for the faint of heart. At one point I quickly covered my mouth with my hand trying to hold my stomach down. It was rough! However, I managed to trudge through the one very gruesome scene. You can expect some strong language, child abuse, and just a few briefs moments of horror.
I also appreciated that the story didn’t end too abruptly. I liked getting a little picture of what things looked like after all the dust settled.
I highly recommend this to mystery lovers, especially if you like a romance mixed in!
*I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.*
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About the Author ~ Shelley Coriell
A former newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and restaurant reviewer. These days Shelley writes smart, funny novels for teens and big, edgy romantic suspense. A six-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Finalist, she lives and loves in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue Weimaraner. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her baking high-calorie, high-fat desserts and haunting local farmers markets for the perfect plum.