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Sue Hollowell

Biscotti and Betrayal (PAPERBACK)

Biscotti and Betrayal (PAPERBACK)

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Waylaid wedding plans, harrowing backyard hobbies, and the wildest chase of her life...

Tilly’s exploration of quaint Belle Harbor has taken her on many adventures with her new love. Hiking high upon the hills overlooking the ocean, they spot a vehicle plunge off a cliff.

Speeding down the trail to rescue the driver, they are nearly run down by the suspect car, which quickly disappears. As Tilly pursues justice for the victim, she is confronted by a paranoid perpetrator, ancient vendettas, and chilling discoveries.

Can Tilly navigate the wild maneuvers of the menacing motorist or will she be the next victim of the rogue racer?


 Paperback 96 pages
 Dimensions 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches (127 x 12.7 x 203 mm)
 ISBN 979-8795795294
 Publication date January 15, 2022
 Publisher Free Heart Productions


The Evergreen trees towered over both sides of us, providing little light on our path. Thankfully, Justin had convinced me to acquire a pair of hiking shoes to support my feet as we traversed the tree-root and rocky-lined dirt path. The day would no doubt develop into a classic weather beauty for Belle Harbor, but for now the coolness meant small bugs were out in force. Long sleeves would keep me from getting eaten up by the critters, but I was already getting pretty warm.

Justin led the way along the McLane Creek Nature Trail as I quietly trailed behind. The brochure promised at the turn of this four-mile hike that we would be at a lookout to oversee the cliffs hundreds of feet above the ocean. At the moment, it felt as if we would never emerge from the forest.

Turning and holding out his hand, Justin asked, “Do you need to take a break for a bit?” He gestured toward a bench along the path. The hike until now had been relatively easy, and since I had taken up running, my endurance had significantly improved.

“Nah, I’m good. You?” I smiled. Justin could probably sprint the entire length of the trail and still have wind left over. He kept himself in shape with a lot of water activities, namely surfing. He vowed one day he would get me on a board. I wasn’t so sure. Actually, I was very sure that wouldn’t happen, but that didn’t keep him from trying to convince me. We had done stand-up paddle boarding on a recent trip. Kneeling in a still body of water was still a challenge for me. I didn’t see how I could stand up when waves were carrying me forward.

We continued our silent trek. The fresh air cleared my head from recent events so I could concentrate on planning Uncle Jack and Linda’s wedding. Everything about it needed to be perfect for those two. There was no more deserving couple than Unkie and Linda for a magical experience of sending them off in wedded bliss, and I would do whatever I could to make that happen. The songbirds in the thick of the woods serenaded us on our travels, the therapy of nature again providing just what I needed. Uncle Jack had insisted that I go with Justin on this hike, even volunteering to get up before dawn to assist Linda in our daily baking. He might regret that later when he was ready for bed by three p.m. Though giving him an opportunity to spend more time with Linda was not a chore for him. Those two were so in love, even baking before the sun came up was a romantic event for them.

By my calculations, we should be nearing the summit of our hike and the rewarding view for our effort. Stopping in front of me, Justin turned, pulling the trail map from his pocket.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, joining him, looking at the map.

He pointed toward the left, an overgrown trail with vines, leaves, and twigs covering it like a blanket. “I think that’s the turn we’re supposed to take, but it’s not cleared out.” He bowed his head over the map, pivoted, and held it out in front of him like a divining rod he hoped to guide our way.

Turning to the path on the right, I said, “Seems like they made a mistake.” The trail in front of me was clear of debris, like our route so far had been.

“Maybe we should take a break and regroup,” Justin said, plopping onto the bench set apart from the trail.

Was he just being considerate to make sure I didn’t poop out? We weren’t even at the halfway point, but I felt great. And the incline was very slight, raising my confidence I could easily make the entire trail without stopping. Humoring him, I said, “OK,” sitting beside him, opening my water bottle to take a swig.

“Have you been on this trail before?” I asked, tucking my water bottle into the outside pocket of my backpack.

“Not this one specifically. But others in this system. And the maps are always accurate,” he said, folding the paper and sticking it into his pocket. “I think we should follow the clear path.”

I shrugged. “OK.” Why was this bothering him so much? “Do you want to tag along to visit the wedding venue?”
Maybe changing the subject would loosen up this normally very relaxed guy.

“Maybe,” he replied, slowly turning to grin at me.

My face warmed up, suspecting the intent behind his tone. We had been going out officially only a few months, even though we had been friends for longer. It was so easy to be with Justin, and he regularly coaxed me out of my shell. He supported me in my crazy endeavors and allowed me to be myself, not trying to mold me into any vision he might have for his girlfriend. I could truly see myself with Justin for the rest of my life, but I couldn’t let my emotions get too far ahead of my rational brain.

Vaulting from the bench, I headed down the clear path, trying to shake off the anxiety like a smashed avocado stuck to my hand.

“Tilly,” Justin hollered.

Slowing my pace, I turned to see him jog up to me.

He grabbed my hand, saying, “We’ll take things at the speed comfortable for you.” Knowing he didn’t mean our hike, I pondered how in the world he was so perceptive to my thoughts and behavior. Was I that outward in expressing myself? Another beautiful example of how he supported me. Ahh, Justin.

Silently, we strode side by side, making our way toward the clearing ahead of us and the prize for our work. The brochure depicted a bench at the lookout, overseeing cliffs that led down to the ocean and a view similar to that of the winery we had visited on the Coast Excursion train, making you feel like you were on top of the world.

Emerging into the opening felt like finally taking a deep breath after holding it for several minutes. The scenery was as advertised, but I looked around for the promised seating. We had planned to rest and eat our lunch before winding our way back down to the trailhead.

“Where’s the bench?” I asked, wandering around the clearing, as if expecting to find it hidden under shrubbery.

Justin pulled the paper out again and studied it, shaking his head. “I’m going to have to talk to the county parks department. What they’ve got in here”—he tapped the pamphlet—“isn’t even close.” He stepped to the edge of the clearing and held his arms out to the side. “But it’s still stunning.”

The birds continued to sing sweet little songs as I joined Justin to gaze at the sweeping Vista. “We can just use our jackets to sit on while we eat,” I suggested.

I turned to scout out a spot and halted at the obnoxious sound of screeching tires below us on the coast highway. I returned to the edge and Justin pointed to a dark SUV speeding around the sharp curve, just as it bumped the smaller red car in front of it. My hand flew to my mouth, eyes wide as I felt like I was watching an action movie in slow motion.

“That car is driving recklessly. I think it deliberately hit that other one,” he said. As if right on cue, the SUV surged and rammed the smaller car, driving it right off the cliff toward the ocean.

I grabbed Justin’s arm. “We have to go see if they’re OK.”

“Tilly,” Justin said. I knew that tone. How could anybody survive that fall? Until I found out for sure, I had to preserve hope.

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