FEAR ME, FEAR ME NOT (Gavert City #1 – Dimi & Erin)

FEAR ME, FEAR ME NOT (Gavert City #1 – Dimi & Erin)

Available as free ebook. Also available as paperback and audiobook. Links to stores and digital libraries below.

A suspenseful romance for fans of Criminal Minds: In seventeen-year-old Erin’s small Texas town, a killer is on the loose. When her best friend, Nadia, disappears, Erin and Nadia’s brother, Dimitri, race to rescue her — but can they unravel the mystery before it’s too late?

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Seventeen-year-old cheerleader Erin Hortz should be preparing for the biggest pageant of her life, the one that could be her ticket out of her small Texan town. But with her father suspected of being a serial killer, she has a hard time keeping it together. Especially around former football star Dimitri Kuvlev: her best friend Nadia’s brother, her forever crush, the one who put a dent in her heart…

Nineteen-year-old Dimitri’s injury brought him from football superstar with universities from all around the country knocking at his door to not knowing what he wants to do with his life. The only person who seems to understand him is the one he swore to keep in the friend zone until he gets his shit together: Erin.

When Nadia doesn’t come home after a party, Dimitri and Erin know they must find her before it’s too late—even if that means risking their own lives and everything Erin’s ever known.

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CHAPTER 1

Fear.

There’s something about fear. It’s intoxicating. The helplessness they feel. The adrenaline and need and wants it unleashes.

Fear rights the wrongs.

Fear is power.

And for once, I have all the power.

They’re never going to save them.

They’re never going to catch me.

They’re never going to understand.

CHAPTER 2 – ERIN

Here’s what we all know: Sometime this week or the next or the one after that, we will find another dead girl. Every year, a girl disappears, and every year, she’s found dead with an angel wing carved into her cheek.

And this year is no different.

Another girl disappeared.

Rachel Stine—former cheerleader captain—left her home last Saturday, and no one has heard from her since. Despite the entire town searching every corner and her family’s pleas and all the psychics inundating the town claiming to know where she is, she hasn’t been found. Everyone holds on to the hope that she’s safe.

Some rumor spread that she ran away, that the killer hasn’t found his next victim yet, that he’s still on the hunt.

“Come on, girls. We need to do this!” Shawna, our cheer captain, sounds like she’s trying to convince herself more than us. She smooths her skirt, checks her cell phone again before dropping it behind her. “For Rachel!” This time, her voice doesn’t falter. Her dark hair is tucked in her ponytail, and it bounces as she jumps, warming up. Her smile reveals the bronze glow of her cheeks, but her dark brown skin isn’t as flawless as in the school pictures. The circles under her eyes are more pronounced. She and Rachel were very good friends, and she’s been fighting tears ever since we got to the stadium. Rachel prepared Shawna to become captain; she trained with her and took her under her wing when Shawna was a freshman and Rachel a sophomore.

“Let’s go!” Shawna struts to the front.

 We take our usual positions for the first routine, waiting for the football team to enter the field.

The spotlights brighten the entire stadium, but they do a pretty poor job of hiding the fear rippling through the crowd. The smell of hot dogs wafts in the air, reminiscent of happier and carefree times, but the kids’ laughter isn’t as loud as usual. Parents keep a trained eye on them, not entirely relaxed. If it weren’t for football, most people would have stayed at home. If it weren’t for football, Gavert City would be a ghost town the entire month of September. If it weren’t for football, we might all be at the lake, pretending nothing bad can happen to us while we’re all scared shitless.

Despite the adrenaline coursing through the crowd’s veins at the thought of winning another game, of snatching another state title, we can’t ignore the heaviness settling in the air.

People walk faster. They whisper more often. They spy on one another and make sure their doors are locked. Some people think they can play heroes. They organize their own neighborhood watch. They institute curfews.

Curfews that are not respected.

After school, some students throw “Face the Killer” parties. Saturday nights are spent telling scary stories and drinking or partying it up until we forget reality. Saturday nights are full of bravado and fuck-you attitude. They’re there to make it seem like we’re eternal.

But every year, a few weeks before the homecoming queen and king are crowned, it all changes.

The fear is almost palpable. The fear of losing someone. The fear of dying. Our community is on pause for several weeks, until a body is found.  

My best friend, Nadia, stands next to me, shifting from one foot to another. Both of us are too tall to be top of the pyramid material, but we’re smaller than Kelly and Aliyah, so Shawna put us next to each other for the opening routine. Nadia glances at me and tucks her thin brown hair back in her ponytail.  “How are you holding up?” she asks as quietly as possible.

“Okay.” I stretch my neck and rise on my toes. My gaze turns to the bleachers. Dad stands up with Caleb in the front. Mom stayed home again tonight, too tired to come out, too worn out to face the crowd. I force myself to wave at them, but my gesture is way too stiff for a cheerleader. The seats around him are empty. No one wants to be seen with him.

That’s why my heart swells when I notice Audrey’s blonde hair behind them. She’s talking to Caleb and smiling. Even though Audrey and I are competitors on the pageant circuit, she’s become one of my closest friends. Her mom used to forbid her from coming to football games, but she’s been a bit less strict in the past months. Audrey waves at us and settles down a few bleachers away from Dad and Caleb.  She’s wearing her favorite dark blue top, the one that brings out her eyes. Carlos—the best wide receiver on the team—finally convinced her to come to a game and to the party afterward. He seemed more nervous about her watching him play than the actual game.

Nadia leans in. Her familiar perfume, the one her mom gave her when she turned twelve, envelops me and calms my jitters. “They’re coming.” Her voice still holds that little piece of awe we both had when we first got into cheerleading.

The football players jog onto the field, and the crowd gets louder. I jump up and down with a smile stretched across my face like the rest of the cheerleading squad.

“Go, Tigers, go!” We scream and dance and shake our pom-poms. But…Nadia doesn’t jump as high, my cheer isn’t as loud, and the entire team seems to lack energy.

Shawna keeps on tilting her head to the side, staring at her phone on the grass, fighting tears. Ever since Rachel disappeared, we’ve all been on edge. Hoping against all hopes to find her alive.

The football players all wear a blue armband—not black because everyone wants to believe that Rachel’s story will end differently than the other girls’.

My eyes don’t linger on the football players, though. They land right on this season’s assistant coach—Dimitri. He looks as good as when he used to be the star of the team: his navy shirt is tight around his broad shoulders, and his dark hair is perfect in that I’m-not-trying-too-hard messy way, but his frown is more pronounced than usual. He and Rachel dated on and off for a few months before his car accident. He’s been helping the volunteers from the search team every free moment he has, and he told me he’s been having issues sleeping. Part of me wishes he’d glance my way so I can give him a reassuring smile. But another part screams I need to protect my heart because he’s already demonstrated he’s capable of breaking it. We’re friends. Nothing more.

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