Break the Stone by Cassie Swindon

Posted May 8, 2021 in Release Blitz Tags:

Raelyn Bell’s father forces them to flee their quaint town, severing the last connection to her dead mother. Now, desperate and alone. But she won’t give up. In a new town, Raelyn defies Pa’s wishes by investigating the truth of her mother’s death. Only the answers will help her fill the void plaguing her heart.

Meanwhile, U.S. Army Specialist Kody Walsh’s duty is to obey orders, no matter how “gray.” His questionable actions lead him straight to Raelyn. If Kody aids in Raelyn’s quest, it could mean game over for his career.

As the two cut through layers of lies, threats, ambushes, and stalkers, their bond grows stronger. But the dangers prove worse than they ever feared. Can they see this journey through without losing their lives—and each other?

Break the Stone is a suspenseful mystery, perfect for fans of fast-paced storylines and heart-pounding romance. It is the first of three books in the Golden Chains series.

Content is for age 17+ with trigger warnings of mild: PTSD, profanity, sexual content, and violence.

In the barn loft, the sunlight shimmered through the rafters, reflecting off something in the back corner. Raelyn Bell crept closer. A metal latch protruded from a warped, wooden door. The door whispered her name, its secrets creeping over her like a cold chill. Her pulse quickened. She jiggled the rusty handle.
Raelyn gripped it harder and yanked.
“Hun?” her father hollered.
Raelyn jumped at the sound of Pa’s deep voice. After stumbling backward in the loft, she started to hurry down to see what he needed.
Wait! What about what I want?
Raelyn chose to ignore him for the first time since…ever…and sped back up. At the top, she accidentally kicked her journal. It soared over the side and landed on the barn floor with a splat.
Raelyn held her breath for a beat, praying Pa hadn’t heard it, and peeked between the wooden slats of the wall.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Under the oak tree, Pa swung an ax down hard, splitting each log with one swift blow.
Raelyn turned and pulled on the latch again.
She gritted her teeth and rammed into the door hard with her shoulder but fell back onto her side. The straw she flattened tickled her forearm. Glancing around, Raelyn spotted her canoe paddle hanging on the wall. A soft grunt escaped her lips as she leaned off the side of the loft and pulled up the paddle.
Wedging the tip between the door and frame, she tightened her fists and pushed with all of her 110 pounds.
The door jerked open, sending her flying through the opening and tearing through a spider’s silky web and into a tiny room beyond. The chopping sound of the axe hitting the wood stopped.
“Raelyn?” Pa’s boots stomped below. His broad stature filled the barn and cast shadows over the floor.
She hunkered down in the back corner of the secret space, struggling to quiet her panting.
Don’t look up.
Pa ran his hand through his thick, wavy hair. Bear sat right next to her journal, tongue hanging from his slobbery mouth. Raelyn silently dropped her forehead into her palm.
Pa squatted, picking up her journal. His strong hands made her journal look so small as he laid it on a barrel. “Where’d she go, boy?”
Why does Pa suddenly care?
Pa turned quickly and jogged back to the farmhouse, dialing his phone on the way.
See. He gives up easily and forgets about me.
Once his footsteps faded, Raelyn looked around. Behind a pile of dusty crates stood a large trunk.
In her way, there was a canvas picture of Ma standing among a line of a dozen young women who were all covered from head to toe in hijabs. Raelyn hadn’t seen the picture before. Ma wore her typical journalist attire, her work ID badge reflecting the desert sun. The other women looked defeated and exhausted, but Ma’s sapphire eyes hinted of hope—like she possessed a secret. Raelyn flipped it over, revealing the year 2004. Twelve years ago. She moved the canvas and walked over to the large chest. Scratches and dents marred every corner of the worn, wooden trunk. It was sealed with a rusty lock.
What’s inside? Something of Ma’s? Treasure? A skeleton?
When she kneeled in front of the chest, her jeans brushed dust away from a small metal oval. She bent down and rubbed harder, revealing a name:

Joanna Rae Bell

Raelyn froze.
She placed both hands on the top and blew out a big breath. Dust flooded the air like the faded memories swirling in her mind. Picnics by the lake, baking cupcakes, and planting strawberry seeds—all with the mother she had lost eleven years ago.
Raelyn pulled on the lock, but it didn’t budge.
Pa’s axe!
After descending, she stayed out of view of the farmhouse windows and snuck around the side of the barn. Once the axe was in her hand, the heaviness felt familiar from all the times she helped Pa around the yard. She lugged it back up the ladder as Bear watched the spectacle enfold. Raelyn raised it high above her head. Before swinging down, she peeked through the wooden slats again to check for Pa.
She crashed the axe hard onto the lock, making her bounce back a bit. It didn’t even make a dent. Bear barked.
Raelyn whispered, “Yeah, you’re right. The wood. I’m a genius, I know.” She slammed the axe into the side of the trunk, creating a quick crack at the bottom. A hard grunt escaped her lips as she pounded the axe one more time, turning the split into a hole just big enough to fit her thin wrist through. Kneeling, she reached in and felt blindly.
What’s inside?

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