First in an all-new suspense series!
Here's an excerpt:
Around the sides of the thick brown leather, Ash O'Malley made out a fleshy chin and thinning, brown hair threaded with gray covered in a thin layer of dirt and debris. She back-pedaled along the narrow strip of the path shed just traipsed down, losing her balance as she registered her boot print on the poor man's now-crushed his nose.
She made a noise that sounded somewhere between a gag and a scream as she clutched her chest. This could not be happening. Not today.
Then, his image clicked in her mind. She recognized the man, and her midsection rolled, pitched, and somersaulted over itself.
She rose from her rump and crab-crawled, her hands plopping into her own footfalls, clearly visible next to several other tracks in the boggy soil.
The man…the obviously dead man was Dr. Cockcroft, director of the Audubon Society. And now she'd stepped on her dead almost boss.
"Nope, this cannot be happening," she whispered.
She closed her eyes and pinched herself. A soft breeze brushed her overheated skin and the faint sounds of sluggish water siphoned through the tangled thoughts careening through Ash's head, bringing a much-needed stillness. She forced herself to look at the scene in front of her.
Dr. Cockcroft lay half-buried in a slight ditch just off the pathway. Besides his trodden face—she winced and suppressed the urge to gag—he was bruised and bloody. Like he'd fallen from a great height. And his scalp, mangled…
Ash stumbled even as her gaze searched out more potential cottonmouths. Seeing none, she gave in to her desire and fell forward to retch up the gumbo she'd eaten that morning—the gumbo she'd saved so she'd have a good meal to start her day.
She kicked her feet into the dirt, struggling for purchase before she shot back the way she'd come, not unlike a sprinter. She fumbled for her phone, dirt and grit coating her hip as she struggled to pull it from her pants pocket.
Her fingers shook but she managed to press 9-1-1. Her breath broke in a sob as the operator answered.
"A—a b-body. There's a dead body."
She slid down the mangrove's trunk, heedless of its short, painful barbs digging through her blouse and into her skin. Her butt hit the boggy soil and harder roots and she winced, unable to take her eyes off the man.
Ash forced herself to listen to the dispatcher's questions. She ignored the faint hum of gathering insects as they closed in around her sweat-drenched form. She closed her burning, too-dry eyes, unwilling to watch the bugs land on Dr. Cockcroft's exposed face. Ash understood the circle of life but that didn't mean she wanted to witness it this close up.
She gave her location, head bent, forehead to her knees, phone mashed to her ear. Her fingertips tingled and her body felt heavy, biological responses to the scare. She stared at a leaf, a perfect specimen, and wondered idly if she was going into shock.