Harvest Moon (Book #1 in The Harvest Series)
A year after Lexie Stone lost her sister, Angela, to a brutal murder, Lexie’s mother walks out; leaving Lexie with her alcoholic father. When Lexie becomes the target of her father’s physical abuse she makes a life changing decision…to keep her secret from everyone.
But one night, the secret Lexie has kept almost kills her; forcing her to face the aftermath of her decisions – decisions that leave her torn between her love for her sister, and an inescapable feeling that she may not survive.
The Harvest Series will follow Lexie on her journey, as she struggles to understand the true meaning of love, family and justice.
Read Below for a sample chapter from Harvest Moon.
CHAPTER 18- STEALING
On Monday, I told Caitlin I still wasn’t ready to go back to school yet. I knew Chief Preston would be at work all day and Monday’s were always busy for Mrs. Preston. Caitlin would be in school until 2:45, so I was guaranteed plenty of time to go snooping. It had almost killed me to wait all weekend. I just wanted to find the file and see the information for myself. I hoped it wouldn’t be too difficult. I certainly did not want to break any laws in my quest for answers. Then again, I had proven to myself that I was willing to go to extreme lengths for the hope I clung too.
“Well I hope you feel better.” She said as she stalked off toward the bathroom. “I on the other hand must be in school today. Test. In Justice Systems.
I nodded, the corner of my mouth turning up in a forced half smile. “Thanks Cait. I’m sure I’ll feel better later. Maybe it’s just a stomach bug.” I lied.
“Eww…don’t be giving that to me.” She said patting her stomach. “I need all the health and room I can get for thanksgiving dinner in a couple of days.”
I laughed unexpectedly. “Caitlin, sometimes you amaze me.”
Caitlin poked her head around the bedroom door, peering in from the hallway. “That is what I am here for…glad to be of service.” She saluted me before disappearing again.
Sometimes I forgot how silly Caitlin could be. I had not thought about it until this moment, but she was the most comforting to me now. It used to be Maya who could calm me, make me forget all the craziness. Caitlin was always a good friend, but when Angela died, I needed someone to talk to not goof around with. Caitlin’s upbeat personality had been difficult for me when all I wanted to do was sulk and cry. Now, their positions were reversed. I needed someone to make me laugh, someone to help me forget all that was happening, not someone who wanted to talk everything out, like Maya and Ben.
It wasn’t even that I refused to talk about it. It was hard with them because they had a way of reminding me of what I did wrong, rather than purely being there to listen. Caitlin, on the other hand rarely mentioned it, unless I did. And when I would, not only would she listen, she would turn it into something funny or find a way to loosen the tension I was feeling.
I rolled back over smiling. It was nice to know I had friends I could depend on. I relished in the fact that, no matter what, they were here for me. Suddenly, a pain ripped through my stomach. I curled my body into a fetal position. Here I was overjoyed that my friends loved me unconditionally while I plotted to betray their trust. Again. Who, no what, was I becoming?
By nine fifteen, the house was empty. My stomach hadn’t settled and probably wouldn’t until my deviant act was over.
Up out of bed, I headed toward the kitchen where I pretended to get myself some breakfast. I laid out a bowl and spoon as if I was about to pour myself a bowl of cereal. I cranked my neck, listening for any sounds in the house. It was silent. I peeked out the kitchen window toward the driveway. Only my car sat parked along the grass.
I let out a deep breath. I was finally free to roam in search of the file. The gnawing in my stomach grew stronger. I felt guilty for my intrusion into the Preston’s personal effects, even though I knew it wouldn’t stop me. The secrets I had kept, as guilty as I felt, I could justify – out of fear. Not telling my friends about what Dr. Watson had told me, I could also justify. Not only was I scared; I didn’t believe it was true.
But this, snooping and lying with the intent to steal, was a new low and it was making me sick. I convinced myself if I kept my search to the Chief’s home office, for now, it wasn’t so bad. Hopefully I would find the file and not have to expand my search parameters, because I was sure if I had to search the Chief’s office at the station, not only could I be arrested, but my friends might never forgive me if they found out.
I crossed the expanse of the living room toward the Chief’s office. Standing at the threshold, I went over my reasons for what I was about to do one more time in my head. Breathe, Lexie. I told myself. I leaned against the door frame, looking around the room from where I stood. The room was warm. It had the same dark wood as the rest of the house. The walls were painted a medium shade of gray, which typically would have made a space look drab. But here it looked sophisticated – professional. Artificial plants lined the top of the cabinets, fixed to the wall, above Chief Preston’s desk. There was a leather couch with an ottoman to the far left. Positioned perfectly along the right of the couch was an oversized entertainment center. Directly in front of me were five tall filing cabinets.
I entered the room, cautiously, leaving the door ajar so I might hear any noises from within the house. No windows lined any of the walls, so I was not afraid of being seen from the outside. Scanning the room, I acknowledged all of the places the file could be- there were so many drawers and shelves, but I finally chose the filing cabinets as the best place to start. There didn’t seem to be a system to his filing, therefore I was forced to search every file, in every drawer. The Chief had so much junk, it was hard to distinguish what was important and what wasn’t. Everything was just haphazardly thrown into drawers, some files hung in hanging folders, while others were stacked. I quickly rummaged through file after file. I didn’t recognize any of the names on any of the files, but the dates on some of them went back as far as 1999. Why would he keep this stuff here, I thought? Were these other unsolved cases he continued to work on?
I searched through the first three cabinets finding nothing useful. The fourth cabinet was empty except for the bottom drawer. A box labeled Greenwood evidence filled the space. I moved onto the fifth cabinet. But still did not find the file.
“Ugh.” I mumbled allowed. “This is so frustrating.” I walked over to the desk, pulling out the chair to sit down. I yanked open drawer after drawer in his desk, determined to find what I came for. When I came up empty again, I moved on to the cabinets above the desk.
I laughed at the total disorganization I found. From the outside the Chief always appeared so organized – his filing system said otherwise. I continued to rummage through the piles of paperwork and folders in the cabinets, again coming up empty.
I threw myself into the chair. “Unbelievable!” I yelled. “I just want the stupid file.” I said out loud to no one. I tried to think of where else he may have kept work related stuff. His office was the only place that made any sense. Even if he had brought it upstairs to his bedroom with him, wouldn’t he keep it in his office, out of sight? Unless he trusted his wife with work information, or worse, maybe she already knew about their being suspects in Angela’s murder. The thought infuriated me. I rubbed my face with my hands trying to concentrate. My eyes searched the perimeter of the room for anyplace the file might be.
“Wait!” I said aloud. There was a set of three drawers in the entertainment center I had not seen before. Would he really put it in there, I thought. I shrugged. It was worth a look. I pulled open the first two drawers, growing more discouraged by the seconds as I closed them, still empty handed. I pulled open the third drawer, believing this would be a dead end as well. I’d have to accept my loss and decide on another course of action. I glanced quickly into the drawer, rolling my eyes in defeat as I slammed it shut.
My brain made the mental connection a half second later. I had recognized something – a file. I pulled the drawer open again, slower this time. Afraid my eyes had played a trick on my mind.
They hadn’t. There it was, almost completely hidden beneath another folder. I snatched it up, frantically fumbling through the paperwork for something pertinent. Half way down the stack was a group of papers stapled together. A mug shot displayed on each page listing; names and all of their information. I pushed it aside when I saw what I had been looking for; the police report of their interviews. Four men, in their early twenties had been investigated and questioned. As I continued to sift through the documents, I found more and more information than I had anticipated. There was no time to sit here, reading it all. I had to make copies.
I took the file to Mrs. Preston’s office, where I knew she had a copy machine. Immediately I began pulling staples out, making copies of everything. I scanned document after document as I went, astonished by the amount of information gathered on these four suspects. The written account of the interrogation said there was proof they had been at the scene or close by. Evidence existed; witnesses could testify they were there. I was sick to my stomach, not because of my guilt; this was worse. I was unable to move, frozen there at the copier, I felt betrayed.
All I had wanted was justice for Angela all these years. How could Chief Preston have this information and not tell me? Why had these men never been charged with her murder? I was so confused. Wrapped in my thoughts, I hurriedly my way through copying. I was more than three quarters through, still fuming over this blatant betrayal; I almost didn’t hear the car pull into the driveway.
I ran to the living room window, facing the driveway, to see who it was. Chief Preston’s police cruiser was sitting there – empty. I rushed back to the copier, shoving the last stack of papers into the machine. I pressed copy, crossing my fingers it would finish with record speed so I could get the file back where it belonged before he came into the house and found me here.
I heard the back door open. His boots shuffled on the linoleum. I listened, praying for the copier to finish, hoping he wouldn’t hear its distinctive hum. Knowing if he did, he would surely come looking, possibly believing I was his wife, home from the office.
I could hear my ragged breathing. I knew this was stupid. I was going to get caught; he would never trust me in his house again. Essentially I was not only stealing, but I was committing a crime, wasn’t I? I shook my head, agreeing with my thoughts. I was stealing all right. Who had I become? Was I so determined to find the truth; I was willing to burn every sturdy bridge I had left along my way? The Preston’s had always been so good to me and here I was willing to throw it all away because of my need for justice, my desire to avenge Angela at any cost. I shuddered at the realization.
I listened again. I heard the fridge door open – a cabinet. He was pouring himself a drink, humming as he did. My heart pounded in my ears. I looked back at the copier, only a couple pages left. Of course, I still had to get the file back into his office, in the drawer – making it out without detection.
Finally, the copier stopped. I grabbed the stack of papers, lifted my shirt, shoving them inside my pants. I put all the papers back into the file, creeping slowly out of the office – listening for his movement as I went. He was still in the kitchen; I could still hear him humming.
I walked swiftly toward his office. The door still stood open. I sprinted toward the entertainment center, tossing the file back inside, making my way out just as fast. I wasn’t in the clear yet. I needed to get out of the office and away from the general area.
I turned the knob before I slowly closed the door so it wouldn’t make a clicking sound. I hurried through the living room, toward the hallway – my destination was the stairs. Get to the stairs, I said to myself, and I should be safe.
As I rounded the corner toward the hall, I practically threw myself around the doorway. My knuckles slammed violently against the wood of the frame, causing me to cry out. I cradled my already throbbing hand against my chest without stopping until I plowed right into the chief. I had been so determined no to get caught I hadn’t heard him approaching. I stumbled back, trying not to fall. A mix of guilt and fear undoubtedly spread across my face. I was happy I couldn’t see a reflection of what I must have looked like to the Chief. If I did, everything I was beginning to hate about myself was sure to stare me back and I wasn’t ready to face myself.
I reached for the wall, using it to help me gain my balance. I knew the papers were sure to fall out if I didn’t get a hold on myself.
“Lexie, are you alright?” Chief Preston asked.
“Ahh…um…yeah. I…ahh…I’m fine.” I wasn’t just stumbling for my balance; I was stumbling for words too.
“What’s going on? Are you alright?” He said, clearly startled.
“Oh, um, yeah…I wasn’t feeling well this morning.” I said, slowly starting to get a hold of myself.
“Ahh, I see.” He looked me over. Could he tell I was lying? That I was hiding something – which I’d stolen from him? “Well you certainly don’t look all that well.” He said.” “Are you running a fever?” His hand reached out to touch my forehead. Instinctively I flinched away. “I’m sorry.” He said looking bewildered by my reaction.
“No. I’m sorry.” I told him, trying to smooth over my behavior. “Um…that’s what I was doing. Looking for a thermometer.” I lied.
“Oh.” He blinked quickly, thinking. “Deb keeps those in the medicine kit. Check under the bathroom sink, down here.” He told me.
“Okay. I hadn’t looked there.” I said.
He smiled warmly at me as his fingers brushed my forehead, wiping my damp hair off my wet, sticky face. “ You certainly are warm sweetheart. Be sure to take it easy today, alright?” He told me. His gentle eyes reassuring me how much he cares.
The gnawing in my stomach returned – full force. “I will.” I told him.
“Well feel better. Let me know if you need anything.”
“Thanks. I think I’m gonna go back upstairs and lie down.”
“Alright. I’m on my way back out. I just dropped by to pick up a file I forgot. Oh and Lexie, I hear you were really brave yesterday in court.”
I tried to act casual, but my guilt was seeping out. I cracked a half smile as I turned to look back at him. “Oh…you heard about that?”
“I did. The DA called me yesterday afternoon to let me know how things went and he said you were fabulous. Caitlin couldn’t stop talking about it either.” My thoughts began to cloud my head. I was a horrible, horrible person. I had just betrayed the Chief’s trust by stealing this file and here he was basically congratulating me for selling out my own father. I was so disgusted by what I’d done; I could feel the bile turning in my stomach. Maybe I should get rid of the copies I’d made and not even look at them, surely that would make this right. But, what about Angela- didn’t she deserve justice? “Lexie, you should be proud of yourself. That took a lot of courage.”
“Thanks.” I said, not feeling very courageous at all.
Chief Preston looked at me quizzically. “I told you, things will get better…and so will you. Now go upstairs and get some rest.” He said smiling.
“Okay. Have a good day at work.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth I bolted up the steps. I slammed the door shut behind me for added privacy. This was a bad idea; stealing the file, I told myself, as I crumbled to the floor. If I planned to get rid of it, this was the time, before I looked at it anymore than I already had. But could I forget what I had already seen? Did I believe I was capable of walking away when I was so close to the truth, no matter how small? Questions continued to swirled around in my mind, What would I do with the information? How could I possibly confront Chief Preston? What if I got caught with it? I shook my head, no one knew I had the other file, so how would they know I had this one? But what if Chief Preston noticed someone had been messing with the file? Would he assume it had been me? Would he confront me?
I sat there on the floor of Caitlin’s room, holding the file tightly, my hands shaking. This wasn’t just a bad idea – it was completely wrong and so unlike me. But I had to know. I deserved to know, didn’t I? “Yes, I have a right to know… and now it’s too late, it’s already done.” I said aloud, as I opened the file, letting its contents spill out onto the floor.
Look for the whole book on your Barnes & Noble Nook, Amazon Kindle or on Goodreads in March!
Winter Solstice (Book #2 in The Harvest Series)