My next up release debuts on Monday, KINFOLK, a romantic suspense story set in Northwest Arkanas. The heroine is a writer who's been living the high life out in California until her late husband's drug debts became dangerous. She returns home to rural Arkansas and meets Ben Hatfield,, a former Navy SEAL who is far deeper than he seems on at their first meeting.
By the time she finished eating they had left the
business district behind and soon exchanged the four-lane highway for a
winding two-lane road. Ben turned on the radio and country music, studded
with static, sang across the miles. Katherine relaxed and might have drifted
into an easy sleep had not Ben spoken for the first time in several minutes.
“This is a pretty drive in the daylight. You can’t see the hills tonight,
She roused herself to be polite. “How much farther is it to Aunt
“It’s still a fair piece. We’re not to Decatur yet. That’s close to
Ruby’s farm. She thought you might like to go see Decatur tomorrow but it
won’t seem like much, not after L.A. Arkansas’s going to be quite a change
from sunny California.”
Although his tone was even, she felt a brief anger at his insinuation
that she was a California girl who could not adapt to northwest Arkansas.
Still stressed and very tired, she sat up straighter.
“I’m from Arkansas. I was born at Gravette.”
He didn’t take his eyes from the road.
“I know that. So was I.”
“And even after my mother moved away we lived in Gallup, New
Mexico. It’s certainly no metropolis.”
“It’s likely to seem like one after you see Decatur. There’s not much
there but the chicken plant. How long did you live in L.A.?”
Although he didn’t laugh, his voice was light and she sensed a
hidden amusement beneath his words. Every emotion was raw, however, and
his words stung.
“Seven years.” She wanted to dish a little back so she said, “Are you
Aunt Ruby’s employee or what?”
“Am I the hired hand?” The laughter vanished from his voice. “You
can call me that if you want. I live on the place to help Ruby with her cattle
and the farm. Your cousin Jill was my wife.”
Although she had not given her cousin a thought in years, she
remembered Jill now. Despite being five years older, Jill had been her first
playmate. On one occasion, the girls had rolled in the woods and contracted
poison ivy. Sometimes they played tea party on the wide front porch of the
farmhouse. She wondered how much Jill had changed and if they might be
friends. A friend would be nice so she asked, “What’s Jill doing these days?”
Ben kept silent until the song ended and turned the radio off with a
snap of his wrist.
“Not much.” His voice was flat. “She’s dead.”
Too late, Katherine noticed he used the past tense and she recalled
her mother telling her about Jill’s death. She could not take back her careless
words, however, and tears burned in her eyes. Embarrassed at her gaffe, she
could not think what to say except to mumble an apology. Ben nodded but he
did not look at her nor did he speak again.
As they passed through Decatur, Katherine saw a few businesses
scattered along the main street but in the darkness, she could form no
impression of the place. She thought he might point out a few of the sights
but he was mute.
After leaving the small town they traveled north on what she
identified as Highway 59 from road signs then turned to the left. She noticed
the terrain changing as the road began to curve and the hills began to seem
more rugged. The truck’s speed increased enough to alarm her. Katherine
said nothing, unwilling to say anything more that might upset or offend him
again. The road crossed a railroad track and then veered across a narrow
bridge that seemed unstable. After a hard right, Ben drove across a newer
bridge and the paved road gave way to graded gravel.
Katherine had no idea just where they were or how near they might
be to the farm. The road hugged the base of a hill. In the darkness, she could
see little save rocks and trees.
The truck headlights slashed through the gloom and illuminated the
road ahead. Without braking, Ben turned down a long dirt drive and the truck
rattled over a cattle guard. Ahead, at the base of another tall hill, a two-story
frame farmhouse was illuminated. Lamps glowed in the downstairs windows
and for the first time since arriving, Katherine remembered something. The
house was familiar and she looked up at it with wonder.
“We’re here.” Ben’s voice cut into her reverie. “You’re home.”
When Katherine Vaughn flees California, she returns home to her native Arkansas, a place she barely remembers. As she settles in at the family farm with her aunt, she finds herself growing closer to her late cousin's husband, Ben Hatfield. Ben is a lot more than the country bumpkin she first takes him to be and when the men who threatened her follow her to Arkansas he will rely on his skills as a former Navy SEAL to protect her.
As their feelings toward one another grow, so does the danger and in the end, it’s anyone’s guess what will happen or if anyone will be safe.
Katherine’s life is in jeopardy as she wonders if there is any hope left in her heart.
Kinfolk is a novel about the power of love and the strength of family ties.