Series: The Seven Deadly Sins - An OC Murder Series
Published by: Fawkes Press
Release Date: December 9, 2021
Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books2Read
A winter wonderland turns into a frozen nightmare in this pulse-pounding conclusion to The Seven Deadly Sins series by USA Today Bestselling Author Greta Boris.
Fiona has separation anxiety when Devon, her husband, takes their almost four-year-old son to a cabin in Big Bear Lake to sled, build snowmen, and bond. She can’t wait to join them, but when she learns her half-brother—once dubbed the Real Estate Killer—has escaped from prison, she loads her handgun and stays home. He has a vendetta against her, and she won’t put her family at risk.
Meanwhile, Devon finds himself in a quandary when a stranger shows up at the cabin door during a snowstorm. He’s taught his son about stranger danger, but how can he leave this stranded man out in the cold? Once inside, the stranger becomes demanding and aggressive. As danger mounts, Devon realizes mercy was a mistake.
Evil has come to Big Bear Lake. It will take both husband and wife to protect their son, but how can they when they’re each unaware of the other’s plight?
Perfect for fans of Christopher Greyson, N.L. Hinkins, Natalie Barelli, and Teresa Driscoll.
You can enter the world of The Seven Deadly Sins with any book in the series, like this one! Grab a copy and prepare to stay up late.
Available for Preorder!
I hit the second roof hard and rolled across the concrete. A flash of orange disappeared over the next ledge. I glanced around me, saw no one, and followed the flash. One more roof top, this one only large enough to create a rain-shelter over the San Bernardino County Correctional Facility’s side door. From there we could lower ourselves to the parking lot without the help of bedsheets, which was a good thing because we were out of them. We’d left the last one tied to a pipe.
When I dropped to the ground, adrenaline shot through my veins like meth. It was cold, for Southern California anyway. It couldn’t have been much over forty, but I was sweating. I crab walked across the parking lot toward the street, dodging from car to car.
It was like a dream, a very familiar dream. One I’d imagined, planned, obsessed over, then finally given up on years ago. But then came the virus. For most of the world, the disease totally sucked. For me, it had its advantages.
I slid into the shadows next to the man I’d thrown my lot in with, for better or for worse. ”This one?” I jerked my chin to the car we leaned against.
“Not here. Don’t want to take a cop’s car.” Chuck gasped out the words. Swimming upstream through duct-work, then rappelling down the laddered roof tops was strenuous, but he seemed to being having more trouble recovering than he should. He had the virus, but he’d been hiding it from the guards so our plan wouldn’t be derailed.
Chuck had traded cigarettes for a cell phone while we were inside. He stared at it now. “There’s a gym a mile and a half away. It opens at 5:00.”
“How do we get there?” I plucked at my orange jumpsuit. Not exactly camouflage material.
“Quickly,” he said, and led me to a culvert that ran next to a muddy creek bed.
We didn’t see anybody, but it was at least three-quarters of a mile before I stopped sweating, then the chills started. I’d been alternating between sweating and shivering for two days. I wondered if I had the virus too.
I jogged ahead to keep warm, but I couldn’t keep it up for long. I’d run around the yard in circles and on the basketball court, but running straight, running to get somewhere, that was hard. Especially now. My spirit was willing, but my flesh was weak, as my Mom’s boyfriend, Hal, used to say before he beat me.
“There it is,” Chuck hissed. Sure enough, a sign for California Body Works glowed in the distance.
“What time is it?” I was thinking out loud, didn’t realized I’d said it.
“Let me check my Rolex.” Chuck made a big show out of pushing up his sleeve and staring at his bare arm. “Oh, darn. I must have left it on the yacht.”
I slapped his back, and he staggered forward. “Probably 4:30, 4:45, something like that,” he said. “I’ll check the phone after we find a good spot.”
We posted up between a stand of bushes and a metal fence on the side of the parking lot and waited for the cars to come. It was a slow trickle at first, but before the sun rose there were a good twenty cars in the lot.
Chuck couldn’t stay still. His leg was shaking in time with a song in his head, and I had to stop him from launching himself at every vehicle that pulled in. He kept saying he wanted to be on the road before the cell doors opened and the guards noticed we weren’t in the grub line. There was wisdom in that, but I was waiting for the perfect car.
Our disagreement caused a couple of tense minutes before the Honda Civic rolled in. The color was indistinct in the dim light of the street lamps, dark blue or gray maybe. The paint was oxidized on the roof and the front hood, and there were dings on three out of four door panels. It was perfect, so was the driver.
He squeezed his bulk into the charcoal-gray morning and stretched. He had a tangle of brown hair that looked like it hadn’t been cut or combed since the world shut down. He definitely wasn’t an athlete, or a fitness junkie, probably a computer nerd with a New Year’s resolution.
He opened the hatchback, rummaged around, pulled out a towel, slammed the hatch down and headed for the gym. I counted to five-hundred to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything, then scooted to the driver’s side of the Honda and opened the door. Computer nerd hadn’t bothered to lock it. He was probably hoping someone would take it off his hands. I was happy to oblige.
Chuck appeared at my side with a piece of tin he’d liberated from the dumpster at the end of the lot thinking we’d have to break in.
I grinned at him. “Patience pays, my man.”
I slid into the driver’s seat. Chuck got in the back. Hot wiring new cars is almost impossible, but this wasn’t a new car. We were pulling out of the lot in under five minutes.
“Jackpot,” Chuck said as I turned onto a side street. I didn’t plan to hit the freeway until I had to. They always watch the freeway.
“What?” I asked.
“This guy left a gym bag full of clothes.”
A half hour later we parked at the end of a cul de sac of seen-better-days homes. I changed into a pair of computer nerd’s black sweat pants and a green t-shirt with a fire-breathing dragon across the chest. Green is my lucky color. The clothes were a little short and a little loose, but they were okay.
Chuck looked comical. Computer nerd’s clothes were three sizes too big on him. He had to thread a bungee cord through the belt loops of the black jeans to keep them up. He’d tucked in an over-washed black t-shirt like it was a button down. If he hadn’t, it probably would’ve reached his knees.
Luck seemed to be with us. It was trash day. I pushed Chuck’s jumpsuit at him and picked up my own. We separated, each targeting a different house. We lifted the lid on the can out front, took out two or three bags, placed our peels inside, put the garbage back on top, and headed to the car.
Chuck held up a twenty he must have found in one of the jeans’ pockets. “There’s a coffee shop next to the freeway. We can switch plates and grab some caffeine before we head south.”
South. I wanted to go south as bad as he did, but I knew he’d bring it up first. Chuck was a monkey mouth. As long as I’d been his cell mate, he’d never stopped talking about Orange County. According to him the land flowed with milk and honey. Problem was, all the wrong people owned the dairy farms and the bee hives.
“Don’t know if that’s smart just now,” I said.
Chuck’s mouth got skinny. “That was the plan.”
“The plan was to get out. We never said what came next.”
“But I told you—“
“Yeah, I know. You told me lots of things. You told anybody who’d listen lots of things, which makes me think Orange County is exactly where they’ll be looking for us.”
He stopped talking—a minor miracle—until I parked in the coffee shop’s lot. “I’ll get us coffee. You look for plates,” he said then.
That was fine with me. I never mastered the vente, grande, stupidee fancy coffee ordering thing. I just wanted a cup of joe. While he went in, I switched plates with an old Volkswagen on the side of the building, then walked to the front.
The sun hadn’t warmed up the day yet, but there were a couple of millennials sitting at outside tables tapping on their laptops anyway. I glanced over the shoulder of a black-haired chick and my gaze rested on her screen. Instagram. What a waste of friggin time. She was scrolling through selfies, and pics of food, and dogs, and kids, and—
It hit me.
We should check Instagram. People spread their lives out on the internet like my grandma used to hang bed sheets on the line.
Chuck came out with two paper cups. I shook my head. These shops may have fancy names and fancy prices, but they still serve joe in paper cups like everybody else. Before I could take a sip, the black-haired chick stood and ran into the coffee shop. She left her laptop behind.
As I watched her walk away, I thanked my lucky stars—one, two, three times. Then I snagged the machine from her table and walked as quickly as I could to the Honda.
Chuck had to jog to keep up with me, one hand holding up his jeans. “What are you doing? We don’t want to attract attention.”
I didn’t answer him, just slid into the car and started the engine. He got in next to me, and I handed him the computer. “Don’t let the screen go blank. We’ll never get back in.”
He wanted to ask me questions, but a coughing fit kept him too busy which was fine with me. I drove around the back of the coffee shop hoping to hang onto the internet connection. He’d stopped coughing by the time we rounded the building, but seemed exhausted by the effort.
I parked under a tree and took the laptop from him. It was still logged into Instagram. “Why don’t we see what’s happening in Orange County?”
Chuck growled something I didn’t understand, but he looked as interested as I was when I found the right page. “Check this out.” I flashed the screen at him.
He sucked in a breath.
I poked him in the side with my elbow. “Huh? Huh? Was I right, or was I right?”
“So what are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking we have a change of plans.”
He chewed his bottom lip. “I don’t know.”
That irritated me. Checking Instagram had been a stroke of genius. “If you want to go someplace else, you can hitchhike.” I tossed the laptop out the car window and started the engine.
“Whatever.” Chuck was too sick to argue, but he cut his eyes at me. They were narrow and hard like a cat’s. I don’t trust cats. My grandma told me sometimes they jump in cribs and suck the life out of babies because they smell milk on their breath. His eyes made me cold all over again.
“Did you get his puffy jacket?” Fiona said.
Devon held up a Thomas the Tank Engine suitcase. “I packed everything that was on the list. Want to check?”
She did, but she didn’t want to insult him. “No. I’m sorry. It’s just—“
“The first time you’ll be apart overnight except for our fifth anniversary and that was only one night.”
“I’m aware.” Devon grabbed her by the shoulders and planted a kiss on her forehead. “You’ve mentioned it thirty-three times in the past two days.”
“You have. Makes me think you don’t trust me.”
Fiona gazed at her husband appraisingly. It was amazing. No matter how intimately you knew someone, the right circumstances could completely change their appearance. Devon was one of the most responsible people she knew. He was brilliant, a successful family law attorney, son of a university professor and an anesthesiologist, a loving husband and father.
But this morning he’d painted a cartoon grin on his usually solemn face. His flannel shirt was rumpled and the buttons strained over his middle. When had he began to develop a paunch? His jeans were stuffed into hiking boots so new they squeaked. And the smooth, brown, cheek she loved to kiss was fuzzy with the beginnings of a vacation beard.
Her husband looked like one of Caleb’s Build a Bears come to life. Children might cling to plush toys when they were feeling frightened, but she did not. Teddy bears provided no real security.
Devon’s eyes widened comically. “Why are you looking at me that way?”
“You look like you’re going to Country Bear Jamboree.”
“There are still bears in Big Bear.” His smile widened.
“Exactly.” Fiona emphasized this point with her hands. “Real bears, not Disney characters.”
Devon hefted a backpack onto the bed. “I’m prepared. Look.”
She wandered over.
He pulled out a flashlight the size of a car battery. “Flashlight.” He shoved it in again, then yanked out two large water bottles. “Hydration is important in the cold. People often don’t feel thirsty in low temperatures, but they need to drink.”
Next he showed her sunglasses in two sizes. “To prevent snow blindness,” he said. Then he waggled a can of bear spray at her and nodded sagely. “See?” And finished the backpack tour by proudly displaying a first aid kit and several protein bars. He must have Googled “What to bring on a winter hike.”
He’d obviously hoped the bag would set her mind at ease, but it had the opposite effect. “You’re taking Caleb hiking? He’s three.” Her voice rose several decibels.
Devon held up both hands, palms forward. “No. Not hiking, but some of the sledding trails are secluded. We’ll have to walk a ways to get to them.”
Fiona crossed her arms over her chest trying to contain her fear. “Why not take him to the public runs? They’re all set up for kids. It seems so much safer.”
“Public is exactly what I’m trying to get away from.” Devon zipped up the pack. “I want him to experience nature. To see snow in the woods the way I saw it as a kid.”
Fiona turned a laugh into a cough and covered her mouth with her hand. Devon grew up in a suburb of Chicago. There’d been snow in the winter, but she’d never seen a forest when they’d visited his parents. A couple of trees between houses maybe but nothing that could be called “woods.”
He hefted the pack over his shoulder, grabbed Caleb’s suitcase, his own duffle bag and walked out of the bedroom.
Fiona followed. “I get that, Dev, I do. But he’s only three. He’s so little.”
“I not little,” a very little voice piped up. Caleb popped out of his room and skipped to his mother’s side. He looked like a mini-Devon with blonder hair and paler skin. He wore a blue flannel shirt, new jeans, and a pair of tiny hiking boots.
“Where did you get the outfit?” she said.
Caleb stopped and stared down at himself as if he’d forgotten what he’d put on. “Daddy buyed it.”
Caleb took her hand and pulled her toward the living room. “When are you coming to Big Bear, Mommy?”
“Hopefully, Monday or Tuesday, sweet ‘ums. I have to work this weekend because Aunt Olivia is going away too.”
“I’ll miss you.” Caleb’s lower lip dropped on one side.
Devon scooped him up, buried his face in his son’s stomach, and blew a belly fart. Caleb squealed.
“We’re going to have some guy time, right buddy?” Devon said when Caleb’s feet were on the floor again.