"Three excellent nail biters"
Reviewed by Annetta Sweetko
Posted February 23, 2022
Thriller Serial Killer | Thriller | Anthology
AFRAID is three stories concerning girls from an elite boarding school in Austria. Each was sent to this school by their wealthy parents to hide, cover a scandal or recover from a trauma, but evil doesn't stay hidden and soon the danger for the St. Cecilia girls returns to haunt the women they have become.
The three novellas all hold the common thread of the school but are very different reads. They are all standalones.
Author Lisa Jackson's story entitled "Retribution" features Lucy who was sent to the school after the attack on her Hollywood star mother by her boyfriend and Lucy's testimony sends him away. Now grown up the boyfriend is out and ready to make Lucy pay.
"Ghosts" offered by Alexandra Ivy sees Rayne as an adult looking back into the past suicide of her roommate after realizing something doesn't set right with that deduction. But opening an investigation, with the help of the roommate's brother, puts Rayne in danger. Someone doesn't want the truth told.
Lisa Childs' "Alone" feature Erin who along with her sister had been kidnapped - she survived but her sister simply vanished. Returning to her hometown Erin and Detective Rafe Montego hope to find out what happened to Anna Beth once and for all. If her memories come back fast enough and those who want to truth kept hidden don't try to stop them - they might find the truth.
Readers will follow along as these women deal with their pasts and protect those they need to protect. There is some romance but it is the suspense and danger that will take your breath away. In the end the truth comes out for all three women. Three fascinating reads that will have you guessing - and most likely guessing wrong - on what really happened.
Learn more about Afraid
Lucy Champagne was sent to St. Cecilia’s after her movie-star mother was brutally attacked by her sleazy boyfriend, Ray Watkins. Lucy’s damning testimony landed Ray a twenty-five-year sentence. But now, Ray is free. And he’s going to find Lucy and make her pay, no matter how far and how fast she runs…
Rayne Taylor found unexpected happiness at St. Cecilia’s, until her roommate, Natalie, committed suicide. Only when Rayne finds a box of mementoes from that time does she realize how wrong she may have been about Natalie’s death—and how far someone will go to keep the truth hidden . . .
Erin MacDonald remembers little about the long-ago night she and her sister, Anna Beth, were kidnapped. While Erin was found safe, Anna Beth vanished forever. Now Erin has reluctantly come back to the family estate, where Detective Rafe Montego hopes to finally crack the case. But as flashes of Erin’s memory reemerge, she learns how deep the danger goes . . .
ExcerptExcerpt for AFRAID Novella
Ghosts by Alexandra Ivy
The mansion on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago wasn’t the biggest or the fanciest home in the elegant neighborhood, but it was one of the most admired. Over a hundred years old, it was built out of iconic red-bricks with a large turret and stunning views of Lake Michigan from the wide balconies on each of the three-stories.
Shelton Taylor purchased the house in the early eighties, more as an investment than as a place to raise a family. The savvy businessman never made a decision that wasn’t calculated to improve his portfolio. Still, he’d allowed his ex-wife and daughter to live there even after he’d left Chicago to expand his business in Singapore.
Parking her van next to the curb, Rayne Taylor climbed out and studied the impressive structure. This had been her childhood home, but she always felt like a stranger when she came here. Maybe because her parents had divorced when she was eight. Or because her mother had remarried a man who had no interest in children, and she’d been packed off to St. Cecilia's School For Girls in Salzburg Austria by the time she was ten. Or because when she’d graduated from St. Cecilia’s she’d returned to the states to go to art school in New York City, and from there had spent the past ten years travelling around the country, painting the landscapes that captured her attention.
Her van was more a home to her than this sturdy structure.
With a shrug, Rayne climbed the steps to ring the bell. Several minutes passed and Rayne briefly wondered if her mother was still in bed. It was just past eight a.m. and the older woman never liked mornings. At last, there was the impatient click of stiletto heels on a marble floor and the door was yanked open to reveal a tall, painfully slender woman with bleached blond hair pulled into a smooth knot at the base of her neck and an oval face that was carefully coated with layers of cosmetics.
Tami Taylor Jefferson might be fifty-five years old, but she was rabidly determined to appear thirty no matter how much stretching, filling, and numbing she had to do to keep her skin smooth.
“Rayne.” The older woman’s green gaze narrowed as it roamed over Rayne’s black curls that tumbled carelessly down her back and the pale face with big, misty gray eyes that had never been touched with makeup.
“Hello, mother,” Rayne murmured.
“I…” Tami cleared her throat. “I wasn’t expecting you.”
Rayne held up the box that was wrapped in bright red foil. “I was passing through Chicago and I thought I would deliver my Christmas present.” She shrugged. “A couple weeks late, but better than never.”
“Oh. Thank you.” The older woman stepped back, waving her hand toward the narrow foyer. “Come in.”
Rayne stepped over the threshold and paused to set the present on a side table before removing her heavy parka and tossing it on a chair. Her mother wouldn’t bother to open the gift. And even if she did, the delicate crystal ornament that Rayne had found in a charming art shop in Mexico would be shoved into a closet. The two women couldn’t be more different.
As if to emphasize the point, Rayne glanced down at her soft, handknit sweater and faded jeans. They were a direct contrast to Tami’s designer pantsuit and silk top. A wry smile touched her lips.
“Are you hungry?” her mother asked as a middle-aged woman in a gray dress and white apron appeared from the back of the foyer.
Rayne emphatically shook her head. She never ate in front of her mother. Rayne considered herself a normal size, but Tami was obsessed with weight and over the years she’d hounded her daughter for being too ‘solid’ or too ‘stout’. Thankfully, Rayne had never paid much attention to her mother’s chiding. She’d accepted she was a disappointment to Tami by the time she’d entered pre-school to see other daughters with their mothers. They were never going to have a normal relationship.
“Tea or coffee?” Her mother continued her role as hostess.
“Not for me,” Rayne insisted. She didn’t intend to stay longer than necessary.
“That will be all for now,” Tami said to the housekeeper.
“Yes, ma’am.” The woman turned to disappear toward the back of the house.
“We’ll go into the sitting room.”
Tami didn’t wait for Rayne to agree as she headed through an arched opening into the long room that was dominated by the wall of windows that offered a view of the lake. Rayne arched her brows as she glanced around, her gaze skimming over the low white sofas and matching chairs that were arranged on a white carpet with walls painted white. Even the brick fireplace had been whitewashed. It was as if someone had come through and sucked away all the color.
“You’ve redecorated,” she muttered.
“Yes.” Tami paced toward a glass coffee table to grab her pack of cigarettes. “I used LeChez. They’re supposed to be the best in the city.”
Rayne silently translated the best to the most expensive.
A brittle smile touched Tami’s lips. “Mark says it’s a perfect backdrop for me.”
Mark Jefferson was Tami’s husband. The washed-up actor had a few minor roles in the late 80s, but his true talent was conning women into giving him money, gifts, and a bed to sleep in. He’d hit the jackpot with Tami. She’d not only been willing to share her bed, but she’d agreed to marry him so he could get his hands on the generous alimony that Rayne’s dad sent every month.
“How is he?”
“Fine.” Tami lit her cigarette, her motions jerky as if she was hiding some inner emotion. “He’s flying home from Los Angeles today.”
“Was he working?”
“Soaking up the sun. He claims that Chicago is colder than the artic during the winter.”
Rayne grimaced. She’d forgotten how bitterly cold the city could be in January. “He’s not wrong.”
Tami took a deep drag, blowing the smoke out of the corner of her mouth. There was a tension around the older woman that made Rayne wonder if all was well between her mother and her younger, overly handsome husband.
“So why are you here?” Tami abruptly demanded.
Or maybe the tension was because her daughter had landed on her doorstep, she wryly acknowledged.
“I have a show next month. I brought my paintings so the gallery can frame and mount them.”
“Ah yes.” A genuine smile touched Tami’s lips. She might not have motherly feelings for Rayne, but she was willing to take pride in the fact her daughter had become a world-famous artist. “I read the article about your exhibition in the Tribune. Do you want me to hold a reception here?”
Rayne shrugged. The reception was always the worse part of an exhibition. If it was up to her, she’d give it a miss. Unfortunately, the gallery owner insisted that she spend at least a few hours mingling with the guests.
“I think the gallery has already arranged something.”
“Of course.” The smile faded. “How long are you staying in town? I can have a room prepared.”
“Thanks, but I’m just passing through.”
An awkward silence settled between the two women. Rayne squashed a sigh. It was painfully familiar.
“If you don’t mind, I have something in the attic I’d like to get.”
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