Before They Find Us
by Michelle A. Hansen
I’m going to make you wish you were dead.
Just a text. Seventeen-year-old Rebecca Hales tries not to worry. Probably a wrong number. Not really meant for her, and definitely not related to the crime she witnessed six years ago. Right?
Then two states away, a bomb goes off in her best friend’s locker. Soon Ryan is labeled a terrorist and runs to the safest place he knows—Rebecca’s house in small-town Wyoming. It doesn’t take long for the FBI to show up asking questions. Rebecca lies, of course, and says she hasn’t seen him.
Now she’s neck-deep in it with him, whatever “it” is. The only way out is to return to Vegas, where Ryan is a wanted man. The city of lies and illusion tests Rebecca’s wits as she struggles to find the person who framed Ryan and why.
Is Rebecca’s text linked to the bombing? And what does it have to do with a six year old murder? Rebecca needs to find out before she loses Ryan—and her own life.
An IHOP, really? She thought after five years behind bars he’d want a steak, not soggy pancakes and sickly-sweet syrup. But, IHOP was where he wanted to meet.
The old Dodge pickup with a Wyoming plate, lift kit and over-sized tires shouldn’t have surprised her. Of course he’d drive. He wouldn’t want to deal with airport security or get some dorky little rent-a-car. Still, that bucking bronco license plate made her pause as she crossed the parking lot. The truck could have driven right out of her best and worst memories. She wondered if it smelled like chewing tobacco and pine tree air freshener the way Kyle’s used to.
He didn’t tell her what he’d be wearing. There might be another six-foot-tall blond guy at IHOP today. She could just see herself walking up to the wrong guy and asking, “Are you Wade?” only to have him shake his head like she was an idiot.
A bell jingled as she pulled the door open. The moment she saw the guy in the foyer, she knew he was Wade. No one else would have been wearing faded Levis, cowboy boots and a black Jack Daniels T-shirt in ninety-degree heat.
“Mary,” he said when he saw her. She nodded, and he held out his arms.
Never seen the guy before, and she walked right into his arms.
He hugged her tight—a real bear hug—like he’d missed her his whole life. They followed the hostess to a window booth. Wade watched her expression as he slid into the seat opposite her.
She tried not to stare. He could have been any average-looking Wyoming cowboy if it wasn’t for that amazing hair hanging almost to his shoulders, Midas touched, partially covering his left eye. She wanted to push her hands through it and watch the golden strands swirl around her fingers.
“My mom hates it,” Wade said. “She keeps trying to cut it.”
Mary dropped her eyes, embarrassed. “That would be tragic.”
He folded his hands on the table, and she admired his long fingers. Little white scars marked some of his knuckles, but those fingers wrote letters in handwriting so clear and pretty, it was hard to believe they were penned by a guy.
“You do not look sixteen.” He reached over the menus and coffee cups and pulled the oversized sunglasses from her hair.
She tugged on the ruffled collar of her sleeveless shirt. “I’m not. Not really.” She didn’t have to explain why. Not to him. He knew she’d had to grow up fast when her brother went away. There was no child left in her by the time Kyle died in prison. She turned a cup over and slid it to the end of the table so the waitress would fill it. “Why’d you come?”
“I promised Kyle I’d make sure you were taken care of.” He tilted his head toward the BMW she parked next to his pickup. “Looks like you’re doing fine.”
“The car’s not mine. Belongs to my adoptive parents.” She wasn’t supposed to drive it. She didn’t even have a license. They wanted her to prove she was responsible before they cut her loose with a car. Then they took off to Palm Springs for weeks at a time and left her with the housekeeper. “Bleeding-heart, liberal phonies. They’re a means to an end.”
“What kind of end?” Wade considered the car then turned his eyes back to her. “College?”
The air conditioning blew cold on her bare shoulders. She reached for the steaming coffee and brought it to her lips. The bitterness didn’t bother her. She wasn’t brought up for sweet. “The only end I’ll ever want—revenge.”
About the Author
Michelle A. Hansen was raised in southeastern Washington. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in English teaching from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and taught high school English for six years.
Michelle loves Pepsi and Doritos more than chocolate. She loves summertime and hates to be cold. She has had three near-death experiences. She’s addicted to office supplies and has an irrationally large stash of pens and notebooks.
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