Beneath the Wreckage, an all-new emotional and not to be missed standalone romance from bestselling author Catherine Cowles is coming September 21st, and we have the first look!
“What do you think?” Jenn spun in front of the skinny mirror on the inside of the closet.
“It’s perfect.” I flicked one of the small little rhinestone buttons in the shape of a flower. It was sophisticated, and the pale pink was beautiful against Jenn’s summer-tanned skin. “I didn’t think there was any way you’d need a sweater while we were here but I should’ve known better.”
“Doesn’t matter that it’s summer; it’s always freezing at night.”
I should’ve remembered. Our families had been making our yearly trip to Anchor Island for as long as I could remember.
“Okay, finishing touches.” Jenn motioned me forward so I stood in front of her. “Look down.”
My gaze caught on the half of a heart around her neck that read: Friends. My fingers sought out my half, rubbing circles on it as Jenn swept something across my eyelids.
“Okay, finished. You can look.” Jenn stepped behind me, her hands on my shoulders. “My bestie is a stunner. Those high school boys won’t know what hit them.”
Facing the mirror, I rolled my eyes. “I just hope no one shoves me into a locker on the first day of class.” The high school we were attending in the fall was so much larger than the middle school we’d gone to, and I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the new experience.
She hooked an arm through mine, so we were looking at each other through the mirror. We were polar opposites. Jenn with her blond hair and long, sinewy form. Me with my dark hair and petite stature. But fourteen years of being hitched to each other’s sides had made us more like sisters than friends, even if we looked nothing alike.
“We’ll handle it like we do everything—”
“Together,” I finished.
She grinned into the mirror. “I have a surprise…”
The mischievous glint in Jenn’s blue eyes had my stomach dropping. “What?”
She stuck out her tongue at me in the mirror. “Don’t be like that. It’s a good one.”
Jenn’s good surprises could be anything from: I scored us some double fudge brownie ice cream, to we’re going to toilet paper our pre-algebra teacher’s house. “All right, spill.”
“I ran into Ethan earlier, and he and his friends invited us to a party. They’re having a bonfire up on the cliffs.” She did a little running-man dance and let out a squeal.
That dropping sensation in my stomach turned to cramps. I should’ve known when Jenn had said she wanted to give us both a makeover that something was up. “I don’t know.” I wandered out into the main room of the cabin, Jenn on my heels.
“Come on, Piper. Pleeeeeease? It’ll be fun, I promise.”
I slid into a chair at the table, studying the drawing we’d been working on every night since we’d arrived at Whispering Falls a week ago. “You know my uncles wouldn’t like it. Neither would your parents.”
She leaned a hip against the table, looking down at me with that same mischievous smile. “What they don’t know won’t hurt them. And don’t you want to start high school having gone to one party?”
I didn’t. If I could avoid parties for the foreseeable future, that would be just fine with me. But that was something changing between Jenn and me. I was happy with how we usually spent our yearly vacation here—excursions with our families during the day, whale watching, hiking, shopping in town. And our nights working on our plans for when we’d buy the Falls one day, while our favorite movies played in the background.
“Come on,” Jenn pleaded. “I really want to see Ethan again. And don’t you want to hang out with Nick? You’ll like it. He said they tell ghost stories at the bonfire. You’re super into all of that.”
No number of ghost stories could get me out of this cabin tonight. I had never lied to Nathan and Vic. Okay, I had never lied to them after I’d told them that a fox had kicked the soccer ball and broken the window when I was nine. I was pretty sure there were no foxes in Seattle, and the guilty look on my face had given me away. My uncles trusted me, and I didn’t want to ruin that. “It’s a stupid idea. I bet those guys don’t even know you’re fourteen. They wouldn’t have invited you if they did.” They must be at least sixteen—too old to be interested in an incoming freshman.
Jenn stiffened. “I told them I was in high school.”
“But not a freshman,” I challenged.
“It doesn’t matter. What’s going on with you? Are you scared or something?”
“I’m not scared. I just think that party’s going to be lame, and as soon as they figure out how old you are, they’re going to kick you out anyway. Why waste time?”
Jenn straightened from her perch against the table. “Well, I don’t want to watch another lame old movie and doodle on those stupid plans. I want to have some fun. Live a little.”
“Fine. Go without me, then.” The words were out before I could stop them.
“I will.” With that, she took off, slamming the door against the wall as she went.
Tears stung my eyes as I stared down at the map we’d been working on all week. The sketches of the buildings and the swimming pool blurred.
“What’s going on? Jenn tore out of here like the cabin was on fire,” Nathan asked as he entered, Vic in tow.
Concern laced Vic’s features as he crossed to me. “What are these tears, Munchkin?”
I let him fold me into a hug, the familiar scents of cedar and something just a bit floral wrapping me in comfort. “It’s nothing.”
“Doesn’t look like nothing to me,” Nathan said, a bit of extra gruffness to his tone as he sat across from Vic and me.
I gave my head a little shake. “Just a fight. I think high school is going to be different…” I let my words trail off. I didn’t know how to explain it. Everything felt as if it were changing, and all I wanted was for things to stay the same.
Nathan and Vic shared a look, and then Vic turned to face me. “Friends aren’t always forever. Sometimes, they’re just for a season. Others might fall away, only to come back when you least expect it. I have a feeling you and Jenn will find your way.”
“Maybe.” I couldn’t imagine my life without her. We’d been friends for so long, she felt more like another limb. I took a shuddering breath. I could take it back, apologize tomorrow. Or maybe she’d have a horrible time at the party and realize that a movie night was better.
Nathan stood from the table. “Why don’t I make sundaes, and we can pile onto the couch and watch that awful movie for the millionth time?”
Vic pressed his lips together to hide his chuckle, but he wasn’t very successful. “You love Troop Beverly Hills. It’s why you decided to lead Piper’s Girl Scout troop.”
Nathan leveled Vic with a glare. “Don’t remind me of those dark days.”
“The moms loved you, though,” I offered.
“I thought I knew what being competitive meant, but I had no idea until we had to sell those damned cookies. I swear those moms would’ve sold a kidney to win one of those cookie prizes.”
“Language,” Vic chided.
I rolled my eyes. “I think I’ve heard the word damn before.”
Vic pulled me into a tight hug and then covered my ears. “Let me keep you young and innocent forever.”
I immediately went for his sides, where I knew he was ticklish. “What was that?”
Vic’s hands flew off my ears with a shriek. “Uncalled for, young lady!”
Nathan just shook his head at the two of us.
Eventually, we settled onto the couch with bowls of ice cream in hand—extra whipped cream on mine, no peanuts, just the way I liked it. I burrowed into the couch cushions between the men who always had my back, no matter what life threw my way. But the ice cream sat heavily in my stomach, and I couldn’t help but imagine where Jenn was. Wondered if she was having so much fun, she hadn’t thought about me.
By the time the movie had ended, I was a walking zombie, brushing my teeth on autopilot and falling into bed. I pulled back the curtain to peek out the window. I saw no light on in Jenn’s room at her cabin. My stomach twisted. Clearly, she was having way more fun than I’d thought she would. I lay back on my pillow and stared at the ceiling. It was a while before sleep finally came, and when it did, it was fitful. Dreams of being stuffed into a high school locker, kids laughing and pointing.
When an arm shook me awake, I thought it was because I’d screamed in my sleep. Nathan’s face filled my vision. “Did you hear from Jenn last night?”
I blinked the sleep out of my eyes. “No.” Cell phones barely worked on this end of the island. You had to stand in one of three spots to get service.
Nathan’s jaw tightened. “Do you know where she was going? The truth, Piper.”
My heartbeat fluttered, wings beating against my rib cage. “Sh-she wanted to go to a bonfire. With some high school kids. What’s going on?”
He eased down onto the bed. “The Brantons can’t find her. She wasn’t in her bed this morning.”
“What?” I croaked. Jenn might stay out late, but all night? Never.
Nathan took my hand. “No one’s seen her. She’s missing.” WANT MORE? Click here for the full sneak peek. >>>https://bit.ly/3k7IFFx
It was supposed to be a summer we’d never forget.
Instead, everything was stolen from me.
The best friend who was more like a sister. The innocent way I looked at life.
Leaving me with only unanswered questions.
Returning to the island is the second chance I didn’t know I needed.
And Hunter is the surprise that knocks me sideways.
There’s a hurt in him that calls to my own.
A strength I find in sharing our scars.
Igniting a spark that turns to flame.
But someone isn’t happy about the world I’m building for myself.
And nothing will stop them from tearing it all apart…
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About Catherine Cowles
Writer of words. Drinker of Diet Cokes. Lover of all things cute and furry, especially her dog. Catherine has had her nose in a book since the time she could read and finally decided to write down some of her own stories. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring her home state of Oregon, listening to true crime podcasts, or searching for her next book boyfriend.
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