SEE ME, SEE ME NOT (Gavert City #2 – Tessa & Luke)
Available as ebook, paperback. Links to stores and digital libraries below.
“A page-turner of a romantic thriller!”
For fans of Criminal Minds…The second standalone novel in the YA romantic suspense “Gavert City” series.
More ordering options below – As well as full summary and an excerpt…
Coming soon as audiobook.
Six years ago, Tessa Gardner’s sister, Mellie, disappeared. Despite lingering guilt and the never-ending desire to find her, seventeen-year-old Tessa works hard to keep it together. Her grades are decent, and thanks to her part-time job, she can help pay her family’s bills. But when her childhood crush, seventeen-year-old Luke Simon, rolls back into her small Texan town, he threatens to topple the delicate balance she created. She’s drawn to him—and the way he makes her smile. He’s the only one who seems to understand her, but he’s got a dark past of his own. Even the fake psychic who swears Mellie is still alive tells Tessa that Luke will cause her pain.
Luke Simon knows a thing or two about guilt. He moved in with his uncle to escape his past, but memories threaten to eat him alive. He does what he can to keep his anger in check—quieting his thoughts by making out with one meaningless girl after the next. Tessa, and her long legs and her hard-earned smiles and her kindness is the only girl who’s ever mattered. She’s the one untainted memory he has from his childhood and he could talk to her for hours. He could do anything with her for hours. But the truth about his past might send her running. Or worse.
While Tessa and Luke try their hardest to live in the present, their pasts lurk in the shadows, more intertwined than they could imagine. And it may be too late to save Tessa’s sister—and themselves.
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Chapter One – Mellie
“The Circle protects you from evil.”
(The Circle’s Book of Truth – Rule Nine)
“Evil doesn’t sleep, doesn’t rest, doesn’t forget.”
Jeremiah uses his soothing voice despite the threatening reminder that evil surrounds us, ready to pound on us and test us. The Book of Truth—the only book I’m allowed to read—reminds us that the Circle will be there for us. The Circle is made of love and understanding. The Circle waits for us. We will join them as soon as Master Abram believes us to be ready. We will be cared for and saved.
Jeremiah is much taller than me and not as skinny, but he’s almost graceful as he slides next to me. So close that our shoulders touch.
“Evil doesn’t sleep, doesn’t rest, doesn’t forget,” he says again, and I know what the next step is.
I repeat after him. “Evil doesn’t sleep, doesn’t rest, doesn’t forget.”
We use those words as a mantra, as a lullaby, as a goodnight prayer.
“Master Abram talked to me. He warned me,” he whispers, as if Master Abram is listening to us, and gently turns my chin to him. His fingers are warm and smell like the basil he’s growing outside. His feverish eyes bore into mine. “They’re close. You know what you need to do.”
I nod and we stand. Jeremiah’s eyes dart from the small table standing in the middle of our only room to the door—like he’s expecting people to march through and tear us apart. Or maybe he’s worried Master Abram will storm in and shout at us like he often does. Last time, he yelled at Jeremiah for bringing me an old copy of Anne of Green Gables. I’d confessed to him it used to be my favorite book before being saved. Master Abram saw the book and slammed it on my face until my nose bled—forcing Jeremiah to watch.
“Evil knows.” His hand touches my cheek quickly. A brief touch. My heart pounds. He’s right. Evil knows. He pulls me closer to him. My head barely reaches his shoulder. His shirt smells clean and fresh, in contrast with the filthy blouse he brought me last week. “Evil finds ways to test us.” His mouth is close to my ear.
He moves the old reddish carpet to the side and pulls the latch in the wooden floor right by the small table, revealing the place I’ve called home for several months.
“I won’t let them kill you.” His promise calms my erratic heart, but I still shiver. This place holds my darkest secrets. What I’ve done can never be undone.
“I know,” I whisper back. Inch by inch, I slide down until my feet touch the uneven floor: a mix of dirt and gravel. It’s too small for me to stand. I can barely sit without scraping my head against the ceiling. I lie down. The ground is hard against my back. Panic sends sweat running down my spine, and my fingers dig into the dirt. I force myself to pull air in, to push it out.
The musty smell used to make me gag. I’m used to it now.
I can do this.
His hand touches my forehead. “You trust me.” It’s not a question. He hands me a knife that I set beside me. My fingers brush the scar on my right wrist. A reminder that fighting Master Abram was stupid.
Jeremiah saved me from the world, from Master Abram and from myself.
The first days and my fear of him are long gone.
“What about her?” I croak. My mind fills with images of my sister dying. She needs to be saved too…before it’s too late. Like it is for my parents. Master Abram told me over and over again they are beyond redemption. Even though they don’t care about me like I thought did, I still sometimes miss them too.
“I promised you. I always keep my promises.” He smiles his usual reassuring smile—even though Master Abram told him he needed to be harder on me. His eyes linger on me for a few seconds. They linger on my chapped and lying lips, on my reddening cheeks, on my terrified and yet hopeful gaze. They linger as if he’s burning every feature of my face into his memory.
He gives me an encouraging nod.
And then he lowers the door. The latch clicks.
Darkness surrounds me.
I inhale deeply and then do the one thing that almost always calms me down. I sing the song he taught me years ago, the song we sometimes sing together, the song that reminds me I’m part of something so much more significant.
We were lost
But then the Circle found us
We were lost
But then the Circle saved us.
Chapter Two – Tessa
My sister Melanie disappeared six years, two weeks, and three days ago.
Last week was her nineteenth birthday, and our mobile home is still decorated with purple and pink balloons. Mom had gotten carrot cake at the store, and we sang “Happy Birthday” to an empty chair. Mom hasn’t given up hope that we’re going to find her alive. Her hope propels her forward. Every breath she takes is for Melanie.
That’s what she told Dad, right before he left three years ago. “You need to get help,” Dad replied then hugged me tightly, whispering in my ear, “You can come with me.”
“I can’t,” I whispered back, tears tracking down my face. Dad cleared his throat several times as if he was fighting to keep control of his own emotions. I’ll always remember the look on his face. Stricken and resigned.
Mom pops her head into my tiny bedroom. “Tessa, I’m going to work.” Her voice has the raspy tone of too many cigarettes. She quit ten times in the past six years.
I’ve never smoked—it would be bad for my vocal cords, and I need them to perform as well as possible.
“How late are you working today?” I ask. Her shifts change often. Sometimes because she decides at the last minute she needs to go home. Sometimes, she realizes we really need more money.
“I’m scheduled until two, but I’m going to try to grab a late evening shift.” She runs her fingers through her ponytail. Her hair—red, like mine—is curly and still a bit wet from her shower. The circles under her light brown, sometimes almost green, eyes seem deeper than yesterday. She probably spent another night talking to Miss Irma—the psychic of the stars and overall scam artist. The dark blue jeans that used to hug her curves hang on her. Her green shirt is wrinkled, but no one will see it under her uniform.
The grocery store is the only job she’s managed to keep and only because they’re flexible with her hours. Her eyes dart to the other side of the room, but they don’t linger. If she gets lost in looking at Mellie’s pictures, she’ll never get to work. “I’ll grab breakfast on my way out.”
She doesn’t ask what I’ll eat.
She doesn’t ask me about my important rehearsal today.
She doesn’t ask me anything.
Instead, she twists her hands the way she does when she craves a cigarette and attempts a smile. “Don’t forget to take Buster out before you go to school.”
Our beagle mix struts into my bedroom and jumps on my bed, wagging his brown and white tail. His full name is Buster Pipa of Gavert City, but I don’t use his full name often. And I haven’t used his second name in a very long time. Pipa pipa is a star-fingered frog. One afternoon, Dad and I were watching TV when a documentary on amphibians came on. Buster was mesmerized by the frogs on the screen, and when that particular frog came on, he wagged his tail and barked his happy bark—like he was trying to talk to the frog. Dad and I laughed and laughed and laughed.
I haven’t laughed like this in so long and I haven’t called him Pipa in forever. The last time was around the time when Mom forgot she had locked him in my bedroom, and he had a little accident on my clothes. The weekend after, he was running outside, saw a frog, but instead of wagging his tail, he ran away from it like it was the scariest thing ever.
“Buster,” I whisper with a smile and bring him closer to me for a cuddle, but he has other ideas and tries to slobber all over my face. I giggle at the way he tilts his head to the side when I push him away. It’s his I-don’t-understand-I’m-so-cute tilt.
“Look.” I turn, knowing Buster can get a smile out of her, but she’s already gone.
I should be used to it.
But like her, I’m a sucker for hope.
Buster stretches, and I rub his belly before standing and crossing the three steps to the other side of my room. Our mobile home is so much smaller than our old house. Dad chips in as much as he can, but psychics and charlatans are expensive.
I inhale deeply, get a pair of boyfriend jeans, and a black tank top from the small, overcrowded closet that holds both my and Melanie’s clothes: her old ones and the few outfits Mom buys for her every year, in case she comes back. The room smells like her too, her bubblegum perfume. Mom keeps a supply of it in the bathroom closet and sprays it on Melanie’s pillow every day.
Like every morning, I plop myself on her bed. Buster jumps next to me and lays his head on my lap. His big brown eyes are full of sorrows. Do they mimic mine?
I run my hand over the bright purple comforter Melanie convinced my parents she had to have.
“Luke and I studied until late at the library last night.” I imagine Mellie smiling, teasing me about him being my first kiss ever. “Luke’s starting work at The Flying Pig tomorrow. I have to train him, show him how everything works. That means spending even more time with him.”
My eyes find the pictures from that summer on her wall. Luke and I grin at each other. It was his first summer at his uncle’s and we became fast friends. We were ten years old and we were always thinking about ways to annoy our sisters. That day, we were about to put a frog in his sister’s shirt. When he left without saying goodbye, I cried for hours. He had promised to send letters, and I never got any. I sent three to the address I had, but they all came back. Almost seven years later, he’s back in Gavert City, back in my life, back in my heart.
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