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Following a violent assault by Autumn Marsh’s despicable stepfather the day of her mother’s funeral, she moves in with her grandma in the garage apartment belonging to Dawson Rutherford, her grandma’s employer. Her reprehensible stepfather charms Dawson’s wife, Laurette, into a secret affair. Then on the day of his birthday party, Dawson is mercilessly strangled to death in his bathroom. Colby, the eldest son, whom Autumn has fallen in love with, is accused and arrested for his murder. Did Colby kill his father, or did a shadowy figure steal into Dawson’s room to rid himself of the competition standing between him and Laurette Rutherford? With the police firmly set on Colby’s guilt, his fate rests in Autumn’s desperate search for the real killer.
The front door of the modest three-bedroom wood-constructed home on the outskirts of Northbend, Florida, opened quietly. A slender woman wearing a white turban over a hairless scalp stepped with wilting gait through the front doorway. Her anguished face held shadows of disillusionment and pain. Red-blotches scattered across her bony cheeks, neck, and chest. Her red eyes appeared to float in pools of tears. She wiped her damp cheeks with the back of her hand while taking the most direct path toward her bedroom.
Before she reached the hallway off the inexpensively furnished living room, she was approached by her daughter who rushed out from the kitchen where she had been making a pot of coffee, now wiping her hands on a towel. Her long auburn hair hung in a waist-length plait, but around her face and forehead were unruly tuffs and waves.
“Mama, my God, where have you been? I’ve been worried sick about you. I went to your bedroom to check on you this morning and you were gone. You know you aren’t supposed to drive. You could have gotten in a wreck and killed yourself or someone else.”
Sonya Marsh Stone kept her expressively troubled face turned from her daughter’s searching gaze. She continued moving toward her bedroom down the hallway. Her feet dragged heavily until she got to the last mahogany stained door on the left.
“Mama, please talk to me,” twenty-three year old Autumn Marsh pleaded while following her mother’s diminutive form that labored weakly on legs threatening to give away any moment. “Where have you been? You know I would have driven you any place you needed to go.”
Once in her bedroom, Sonya fell upon her bed. It was where she had spent most of her time in the past few weeks while going through her chemotherapy treatments for the cancer. The chemo had depleted her strength, leaving her too weak to make the effort of getting out of bed except to go to the bathroom or limp to the kitchen at mealtimes—until today. Her curiosity impelled her to follow her husband.
A new burst of tears flooded her dull green eyes and washed down her pale, drawn cheeks. “I thought Rory cared about me. I thought he loved me,” she wept forlornly, her voice pitifully weak and shaky.
“What has he done now, Mama?” Autumn asked gently, kneeling on the bed beside her emaciated and sickly mother. She fought back anger and frustration to avoid upsetting her mom further. She hated Rory Stone who had latched onto Sonya at a time when he didn’t have a dime in his pocket and no place to stay.