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Beyond the Garden

Beyond the Garden

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Ellie's idyllic life in Charleston's Battery is upended by a murder in Key West, thrusting her into a labyrinth of family secrets and betrayals as she seeks the truth about her missing sister and the fate of her abandoned nieces.

**Audiobook version has been digitally narrated. 


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Just when Ellie thought she had it all—a loving husband, a promising future, and a beautiful home in Charleston's esteemed Battery neighborhood—her world spirals into chaos. News erupts that her brother-in-law has been brutally murdered in Key West, and her elusive sister, Lia, is the prime suspect. Lia, missing for seven months, has left her twin daughters in Ellie and Julian's loving care, but her disappearance now takes on a chilling new dimension.

Compelled by a blend of love, concern, and lingering questions, Ellie and Julian embark on a high-stakes journey to Key West. The questions mount at every turn: Where has Lia gone? Is she involved in her husband’s murder? And what will become of her abandoned children? But the quest for answers proves to be a twisted maze of shocking family secrets and devastating betrayals.

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Lightning cracked the night sky as Lia slipped unnoticed out the back door of the bed-and-breakfast where she was staying in Key West. Steam rose from the pavement, and the air hung thick with moisture—an indication of more storms to come. She draped a navy silk scarf over her head and tied it under her chin to hide the oval-shaped scar that crept its way up the side of her neck to the edge of her jawbone. The sidewalks were empty. Foul weather had driven the throngs of tourists indoors. Gay laughter and loud music drifted from the nightclubs as she hurried down Duval Street toward her estranged husband’s hotel.

With valet parking, a swim-up pool bar, and a private marina, the Buena Vista Resort was in a different league than her homey bed-and-breakfast with its country decor and clowder of cats lounging on the furniture and in windowsills.

How can Ricky afford even one night here, let alone an extended stay in the honeymoon suite? That tacky woman currently occupying his bed must be wealthy.

Last time Lia had seen him, nine months ago, her husband was broke and on the run from vicious brutes willing to torture him if necessary to extract the money he owed them.

Entering the building through the main entrance, she lowered her head and stared at the floor, avoiding eye contact with the night clerk as she strolled past the check-in desk. Making her way to the bank of elevators, she ascended to the fifth floor. She emerged from the elevator into a dimly lit hallway with peeling wallpaper and worn carpet. Management clearly invested more effort and money maintaining the more visible areas of the hotel. She followed the arrows directing her to room 550. His door was ajar, and when she knocked, no one answered. She nudged the door open, crossed the threshold into the darkness, and groped for the light switch. Her fingers felt a sticky substance on the wall—this startled her. She took a step back, grabbing hold of the doorknob for support. She regained her balance and stared down at her hand. The sticky substance on her fingers was blood.

Heart pounding against her rib cage and sweat trickling down her back, she ventured farther into the room to the foot of the heart-shaped bed. She gasped and stifled a scream at the sight of her husband’s mutilated body. A black-handled carving knife protruded from his chest, and there was blood everywhere—spattering the walls, saturating his khaki pants and striped golf shirt, and soaking the white bed linens beneath him. Backing slowly out of the room, she turned and fled in the opposite direction of the elevator, down the five flights of the emergency staircase. She burst through the exit door into the humid night and scurried up the gravel pathway toward the front entrance of the hotel.