Countdown to Augustina: Read the First Two Chapters

Augustina by Rebecca Belliston

Are you ready to read the first two chapters of Augustina?

Well, here they are!

(The formatting isn’t great because WordPress hates me. If  you want to read it in a better format, go to this link here: http://www.rebeccabelliston.com/Augustina_First_2_Chapters.pdf.)

C H A P T E R   1

 

 The funeral of Sarah Augustina Dawson was held on a Thursday in the church her mother attended for thirty-five years.

Every pew was filled with friends, coworkers, and tear-stained loved ones overcome with grief. Sadie’s brother, Damien, was there from California, plus an aunt and uncle from Minnesota. Even Sadie’s long-forgotten father came with his wife.

The ceremony was supposed to be short, and maybe it was, but it felt like the longest hour of Josh Young’s life. Thankfully, the pastor never used the word suicide, nor did the obituary in Kalispell’s newspaper. Instead, the pastor focused on the happy things in Sadie’s life: her love of music, her love of laughter, and most especially her devotion to her family.

As Josh listened, he kept his eyes on the large portrait of Sadie up front. It was a gorgeous picture of her—as if she was capable of anything less—showing off her large, captivating smile, her dark, curly hair, smooth olive skin, and a set of eyes surrounded by the most beguiling lashes known to man. No one questioned why her beautiful portrait replaced a coffin. Ironically, the fire in Sam’s cabin simplified many things. No casket or body meant no viewing or grave. It was a blessing to have things turn out so easily on this end. Everything else would be hard enough. Especially for Sadie’s mom.

Ten rows up, Marcela Dawson blew her nose.

Josh glanced sideways, wondering what his new bodyguard would do if he tried to move up there. Between Deputy Harrison’s US Marshal training and his linebacker body, Josh wouldn’t get far. Besides, the last thing Marcela needed was a scene.

Frustrated, he sat back. The pastor was stuck somewhere in the Gospels, seemingly content to drag out the mock funeral all day.

Marcela’s crying picked up volume. Though Sadie’s mom was supposed to put on an emotional show today, Josh had no doubt those tears were real. Saying goodbye to a daughter—even if only temporarily—was never easy, but Sadie and her mom were especially close, talking on the phone every day. But until Sadie’s ex-boyfriend, Guillermo, was found, caught, and brought to justice, the Dawson women would have absolutely no contact. No phone calls or texts. No online chats. Nothing. Josh admired Marcela’s resolve. She was more than willing to endure pain and loneliness if it meant she could keep her only daughter safe.

Safe.

Josh’s skin crawled.

He scanned the sea of mourners. Special Agent Bruce Madsen, the FBI agent running the show, expected Guillermo to have men in the church to verify Sadie’s death. Guillermo Vasquez had eyes and ears in every corner of Montana these days. As a precaution, Agent Madsen flooded the church with several of his agents plus a fleet of US Marshals like the one next to Josh. No one in the congregation stood out to Josh, but knowing Guillermo’s men could be checking on things was a disturbing reminder of how close they’d come to a real funeral for Sadie today.

Too close.

Too many times.

Josh’s mind began filling with dark images—burnt-down cabins, Sadie’s ashen face in the snow, Guillermo’s raging fist. He blinked hard and focused on her smiling portrait, silently praying the ‘death’ of Sarah Augustina Dawson was the death of Guillermo’s revenge. At least on the Dawson family.

Josh was supposedly a walking target.

However, Josh didn’t think Guillermo would carry through on those threats. Josh was a nobody. Plus, with the FBI hot on Guillermo’s tail, the sleek Venezuelan had plenty to worry about. He wasn’t even in the country for all they knew. Josh was the last thing on Guillermo’s mind.

He hoped.           

He scratched his week-old beard, and his knee started bouncing.

A redhead sitting on the other side of him shot him a look as if to say, Who are you, and what is your problem?

The redhead was one of Sadie’s many friends Josh sat amongst. Deputy Harrison placed him there on purpose, hoping Josh would blend in to the twenty-something group. While Josh might blend in, Deputy Harrison had to be pushing forty.

Josh forced his bouncing knee to go slack and wondered if he’d ever get to meet Sadie’s friends and family under normal circumstances—or if they’d recognize him when he did. He barely recognized himself. Thankfully, his bleached-blond hair was temporary. As was the matching itchy beard, brown contacts, and linebacker-sized bodyguard. And with any luck…all the lies.

He glanced down. The ring on his left hand felt more foreign than the rest of his disguise, but that would last long after his hair was dyed dark again. Though Josh and Sadie had never talked marriage—technically they’d never been on a date before—there were parts of this new identity he wouldn’t mind too much.

Mr. and Mrs. Josh Peterson.

Josh twisted the ring around and around as Marcela’s crying picked up volume. So much for a short funeral!

Kevin, Trevor, and Sam got the better deal today. They were with Sadie in the nursing home, entertaining her and hopefully keeping her mind off the funeral. Between night boarding, roasting marshmallows, and making fun of Trevor’s hair over Christmas break, Sadie had become part of their group. It was awesome. Josh smiled, momentarily forgetting his morbid surroundings. It was very awesome. But only he and Sadie were heading to Mississippi, and his buddies wanted to spend their last few hours with her instead of enduring a pointlessly long funeral.

Even better, his parents were there, too. Not only did they want to get to know Josh’s new girlfriend better, but they brought Josh’s stuff from Spokane since he hadn’t been home since the fire at Sam’s cabin and wouldn’t be returning home for who knew how long. If only the pastor would quit talking, Josh could get a decent goodbye with his parents and buddies.

Ironically, the only goodbye he wouldn’t get was with Sadie’s mom. He’d been finalizing plans with Agent Madsen when Marcela left last night. Josh craned his neck, trying to see her. Her hands covered her face as the tears continued to flow. Josh was sorely tempted to sneak up there.

“Don’t even think about it,” Deputy Harrison whispered without looking away from the pastor. “You have orders.”

Josh nearly rolled his eyes, but Agent Madsen’s lecture from this morning filled his mind.

Don’t speak to anyone at the funeral, Madsen said. Marcela most of all.

To which Sadie quickly jumped in, It’s the only way I’m letting you go, Josh. Guillermo can’t know you’re there. Seriously. Don’t look or talk to anyone—especially my family. Otherwise, the deal’s off.

Whatever Guillermo said to Sadie in the back of that Mercedes convinced her that he wanted Josh dead for turning Sadie against him. Sadie was paranoid.

Why do you have to go to this stupid funeral anyway? Sadie had said. Your parents and the guys want time to say goodbye.

Josh still couldn’t explain it other than he needed to see, he needed to hear, and he needed to make sure this funeral was as real as real could be. All he told Sadie was, I have to make sure your mom’s okay. Marcela didn’t sound okay. Her sobs echoed through the church.

Frustrated, he shifted in his seat. That earned him another strange look from Sadie’s redheaded friend.

The one bright spot in everything was Damien, who sat with an arm around Marcela. Sadie’s older brother was one of the few people in the church who knew the truth about Sadie and how carefully the FBI was guarding their key witness in the murder of FBI Agent Dubois. The original plan was to pack Marcela up and let her disappear with Josh and Sadie in the backwoods of Mississippi and the Witness Security Program. But Guillermo would grow suspicious if Sadie’s mom disappeared and go searching. That meant leaving Marcela behind, which didn’t sit well with anyone. But then Damien not only quit his job in San Diego, but he volunteered to move into Marcela’s apartment in Kalispell. Twenty-four hour surveillance that wouldn’t arouse any suspicion from Guillermo. Damien was just a concerned son coming home to console his grieving mother. Damien was a God-send.

Miracle of miracles, the pastor finally announced the closing hymn, “Be Thou My Vision.”

Josh bit back another smile, remembering how Sadie fretted over her own funeral the last few days.

The music has to be perfect, she had said. Especially the last song. It tells people how to feel going forward.

Josh still couldn’t believe he found someone who loved music as much as he did. But when she showed him the closing song, he never heard of it. She smiled her radiant smile then—the one that made Josh wonder how a girl like her ever looked at a guy like him.

It’s gorgeous, she said. It’s been one of my favorites since I was a little girl. I know you’ll love it—if I let you go.

He was already determined to go, but he said, I think you better sing it for me in case I don’t. Otherwise I’ll never get to hear it.

Though it took a little coaxing, he was grateful he pressed, because as the congregation started singing, Sadie’s beautiful voice filled his mind instead, quickly making it his new favorite hymn as well.

 

     Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;

     Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

     Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

    

     Be Thou my battle shield, sword for the fight;

     Be Thou my dignity, Thou my delight;
Thou my soul’s shelter, Thou my high tower:                        

     Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

 

    High King of Heaven, my victory won,                      

    May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,        

    Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

 

As Josh finished singing with the congregation, the lyrics became his silent prayer. Be Thou my vision, Thy presence my light. Joshua David Young, a man who planned his entire life out at the age of five, was suddenly leaving his last semester of undergrad, his family, his three best friends, and the entire Pacific Northwest for the unknown. Had he not been absolutely certain it was the right path, he might be overwhelmed. As it was, he prayed for God’s watch and guidance over him and Sadie in leaving, and for those left behind.

Whatever befall, he repeated, Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

And then it was done.

Damien helped Marcela to her feet as row by row was dismissed. People dressed in black stopped just shy of the door to offer their final condolences. Damien shook their hands first, and then person after person fell into Marcela’s arms.

Josh filed out of the pew behind the redhead, realizing he might get that goodbye with Marcela after all. He just had to be discreet.

As they neared the front, Deputy Harrison leaned close and whispered, “Don’t linger.”

Josh nodded.

He shook Damien’s hand first and tried to communicate with his eyes what he couldn’t say. Josh only met Damien a few days earlier, but already Josh liked him. Damien reminded him of his quirky friends, a mix of Kevin and Sam.

Then Josh turned.           

From the looks of it, Marcela hadn’t stopped crying since she left last night. She shook Josh’s hand as ritual demanded before she looked up at him. Her swollen eyes widened in sudden recognition.

“You came?” she whispered.

Josh couldn’t think of a single thing to say—or at least that he was allowed to say—so instead he opened his arms. Marcela fell into them, hands covering her face as more tears erupted.

Deputy Harrison shot Josh a dark look which he ignored. A hug was well within the realm of acceptable funeral behavior. Agent Madsen could have no complaints.

Josh whispered in her ear, “You hanging in there?”

“Barely,” Marcela squeaked. “How is she?”

Deputy Harrison grunted a warning, so Josh shortened his answer. “Strong. Like you.” Then he released Marcela and cleared his throat. “I’m sorry for your loss, Mrs. Dawson,” he added more formally.

“Thank you…uh…” Her brows furrowed, too distraught to remember his temporary name.

“David,” he said. “I know it’s hard, but you’ll get through this. And I’m sure”—he closed his eyes, willing the words to be true—“I’ll see you soon.”

He squeezed her hand one last time and moved towards the doors. It wasn’t a perfect goodbye, but it was more than he hoped.

“Wait!” She grabbed his suit coat. “You can’t go. Not yet. Please! Just another minute. I’m not ready.”

Torn, Josh stopped. Marcela wore the same expression she had a week ago—the same expression he wore a week ago—as they waited for news of Sadie’s whereabouts. Josh and Marcela had been through the war and back, and he couldn’t leave her like that. Not now. Not ever.

Shrugging at his bodyguard, he stepped behind Marcela and Damien, staying in the shadows while the church cleared out.

The look Harrison shot him could have split hairs. Josh knew he was going to hear about this later from the US Marshal, Agent Madsen, and Sadie, Deputy Harrison couldn’t make a scene. He was forced to step beside Josh, hand discreetly on the gun inside his suit jacket as he scanned each person coming through the line.

Even though he stood to the side, a few people still stopped to shake Josh’s hand. He couldn’t exactly ignore them. People wanted to talk to anyone, even a stranger, to make sense of Sadie’s sudden “death.” Names she mentioned in passing became real people overcome with grief. All of them dismissed him without a thought, too overwhelmed to realize he was introducing himself as his long-deceased grandfather.

“Hi, I’m David Peterson,” he said to the next person.

The man could barely tear his eyes away from his wife falling apart on Marcela’s shoulder. “I’m Martin. Sadie’s devastated uncle.”

Josh’s eyes widened. Martin? Martin was the BYU football fan and member of Josh’s Mormon religion. Josh was desperate to pull Martin aside and ask about his and his wife’s conversion—and Sadie’s unfettered willingness to follow suit—but Josh was forced to offer a simple, “I’m so sorry for your loss, Martin.”

Deputy Harrison caught Josh’s eye and motioned to the door. The US Marshal looked like a caged animal. Part of Josh was eager to leave as well, feeling his time with his parents and friends slipping away. He and Sadie had a four o’clock flight out of Missoula. But then he heard Sadie’s aunt talking to Marcela, and suddenly he couldn’t move.

“Where is Guillermo?” her aunt asked, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. “Augustina spoke so highly of him. I’ve been waiting to meet the man that captured her heart. He must be so angustiado, so distraught.”

Josh’s blood boiled. It wasn’t Aunt Silvina’s fault, but having anyone mention Guillermo at a time like this was nauseating. Guillermo was the reason Sadie disappeared after Christmas, the reason she disappeared a week ago, and the reason she was disappearing for a third time. Guillermo and Guillermo alone was the sole reason Marcela’s olive cheeks had been tear-stained since Christmas. Yet without missing a beat, Marcela gave the reply Agent Madsen suggested.

“I am afraid he wasn’t able to attend today. He and Augustina broke up recently, but he is aware of”—she cleared her throat—“what happened. He was even kind enough to send his sympathies.”

And Guillermo had.

Just yesterday, Marcela received a bouquet of white roses with a card saying he’d “heard about Augustina’s untimely death.” That he felt a “deep sadness at losing such a wonderful creature.” The ease of his words and quickness of his response showed his utter confidence that he’d wiped out the only witness to Agent Dubois’ murder without implicating himself. However, he mentioned he was out of the country and unable to attend her funeral. “But I shall be there in spirit.”

Or in other words, Agent Madsen explained, he’ll have spirits there for him, so make it convincing.

The note didn’t mention his multi-million dollar cabin, or the fires that destroyed it and Sam’s, but Agent Madsen warned Marcela that she could hear from his lawyers soon since Sadie was the supposed arson of both fires.

As if Josh needed another reason to loathe that man.

But the card was a stark reminder. Wherever Guillermo ran, whatever hole he found to hide, he was keeping tabs on things—on Marcela.

It was another minute before Josh cooled down enough to focus on his surroundings. By then, Sadie’s aunt and uncle were gone, and only a few stragglers remained.

Another woman approached him, hand outstretched. He shook her hand. “Hi. I’m David Peterso…”

His voice trailed off. It was the redhead he’d sat next to during the funeral. Josh already followed her through the line once. For some reason she was back, looking up at him in an eerie, hair-raising way.

“Hi Da-vid,” she said, drawing his temporary name out a little too long. “I’m sorry for your loss, but I…um…” She looked around and moved in close. “I like your beard.”

“Huh?”

“The color is perfect,” she whispered. “Sadie would have loved it.”

Josh stared at the redhead, pulse quickening.

“I’m supposed to give you something,” she said, digging through her purse. “It’s from some guy outside that—Wait,” she interrupted herself. “What is this?”

Time slowed as Josh watched her pull an object from her purse. It was small, black, and looked an awful lot like a gun.

Deputy Harrison leapt forward. “Get down!”

He shoved Josh aside. Josh flew into Marcela, sending them both sprawling as a dozen agents jumped the girl.           

 

 

 

C H A P T E R   2

  

Sadie glanced up at the clock. The funeral should be over by now. She was anxious to get Josh’s report on how her mom did—plus Damien and everyone who ever meant anything to her. It seemed cruel to drag them through a fake funeral. If she wasn’t convinced it would protect her mom, she would have never agreed.

Agent Madsen sat in a dark corner of her nursing home room that served as her recovery place. He was going over a stack of paperwork with Deputy Croff, Sadie’s new bodyguard. Madsen didn’t seem bothered by the time. She took a deep breath and tried to relax.

“Hold still, girl,” Trevor said.

“Sorry.” Sadie straightened her leg, struggling to hold up her heavily casted foot. “What are you writing anyway? A novel?”

Grinning, Trevor swirled the permanent marker as he finished. Sadie bent her leg to read his message.

     Don’t think this gets you out of snowboarding — Stud Man

She laughed. Not hard, but it stabbed her three broken ribs. Rookie move. Laughing was for lying flat in bed. She knew that. But between the neon-green cast—Josh’s idea—and Trevor’s message, she was stuck thinking about a frigid night and a bright green snow beast.

Night boarding with the boys.

She pushed herself up in the chair to find a comfortable position. “I don’t think there’s any snowboarding in Mississippi, Trevor. Or snow, thankfully.”

“No snow?” Kevin said. “What are you gonna do, Ice Woman?”

After two days of freezing—literally—in the Montana snow, that was the best part of going south. “Sip lemonade and work on my tan,” she said. “How did you get that nickname anyway, Trevor? Stud man? Really?”

Trevor looked shocked, as if he could be called anything else. But it was Kevin who answered. “Trevor gave it to himself. Shocking, right?”

Sadie was more careful when she laughed the second time. It still hurt. Stupid ribs.

Kevin took the marker from Trevor. She held up her foot again. Though it might have been a little juvenile to have them sign her neon-green cast, she was thrilled to have a piece of her friends to take with her to Mississippi, personality included.

“How am I supposed to sign your cast?” Sam asked from the small phone in her hand. He wanted to come back and say goodbye as well, but he was in over his head in medical school in California. He’d already missed the first few days of the semester when Sadie went missing and his family’s cabin burned to the ground. She refused to let him miss any more school.

Her foot grew heavy while she tried to think of something. The video chat was nice, but she wouldn’t be taking the phone with her either.

“No worries,” Kevin said. “I just signed it for you.”

For a second time, Sadie strained to see what was written. And for a second time, she forgot she was sitting up. She laughed and had to grab her ribs. “Ow!”

“What?” Sam asked. “What did Kevin write?”

Sadie read the message again with a shake of her head.

Even though you broke my heart and you’re running off with my best friend, I’ll never forgive forget you — Sam

Not only was it untrue, Sadie refused to read it aloud.

Kevin flashed her a conspiratorial grin. “I just signed your name, good buddy.”

“Kevin!” she mouthed. Sam was going to kill him if he ever saw it. Not that he would. The cast would be off long before she saw Sam again.

Still.

Trevor leaned over, read Kevin’s message, and burst out laughing. Sam’s face turned red on the small screen. “What? What does it say? Kevin!!!”

Kevin ignored him to sign the bright green cast for himself.

     To Ice Woman, the perfect woman for my man, Josh.

    Take care of him for me — Kev

By the time he finished, Sadie’s voice clogged with tears. She wanted to ask how, but she couldn’t. Nobody knew anyway. Besides, they all promised to keep things light today. Enough heavies.

“You wanna sign it, babe?” Kevin asked over his shoulder.

Kevin’s wife, Amy, shook her head. “No. That’s okay. It looks like you guys took all the room.”

They hadn’t, but Sadie wasn’t surprised. Though she’d only spent a few hours with Amy, Kevin’s wife hadn’t exactly been friendly. She laughed and joked with the guys, even with Josh’s parents, but she’d barely spoken to Sadie. Sadie didn’t blame her. Her naiveté endangered more than herself and Josh. Guillermo burnt down Sam’s cabin without a second thought. He could have easily gone after the guys.

Josh’s mom scooted closer to her. “Are you alright?”

Sadie smiled. Where Amy had been distant, Josh’s mom was the complete opposite, asking Sadie every question imaginable: where she’d grown up, what types of music she wrote, and if she liked southern cooking. Josh’s mom was easy to talk to, like an old friend. Technically she was Josh’s stepmom, but Sadie wouldn’t have guessed that on her own, not with the way she and Josh teased each other. When Kathy mentioned that she was the one who “knocked some sense into Josh’s thick skull,” she completely won over Sadie’s heart. If Kathy hadn’t convinced Josh to go back to Montana that day, he might be in school, and Sadie would be…

Dead.

She shivered. It was cold outside of her heated blankets, but she was thrilled to be in her own clothes again. No more hospital gowns. No more nursing home beds. No more pink walls and old-lady curtains. No more doctors and nurses. Maybe. Hopefully.

Possibly.

Josh’s mom looked even more concerned.

“I’m fine,” Sadie said, realizing she hadn’t answered. “I’m just ready for it to be over.”

“I am, too. Although”—Kathy’s smile faded—“I’m not ready to say goodbye yet.”

“Me neither.” Sadie barely met Josh’s parents. How long before she saw them again? Before Josh saw them again?

With a sigh, she twisted her leg around. “Do you want to sign my crazy neon cast?”

Kathy’s smile returned. “I’d love to.”

“Hey, Sadie,” Trevor said, “I got this buddy in Spokane who can rig up some internet thing where we can chat without being tracked by Guillermo or any of his—”

Deputy Croff whirled around. “Exactly what part of ‘No contact’ don’t you understand, Mr. Fillion?”

Trevor scowled but didn’t answer. Though Deputy Croff was an elegant, black woman, the kind Trevor might hit on under different circumstances, she had a commanding personality—plus she was six feet tall, towering over Trevor’s obnoxiously curly head. It was amusing to watch him squirm under her steady gaze. Sadie was glad Josh picked out Deputy Croff for her. But once Deputy Croff went back to her paperwork with Agent Madsen, Trevor leaned towards Sadie.

“I’m telling you,” he whispered, “it can be done. Nobody would be able to trace a daaa—rn thing.” He glanced up at Josh’s dad as he corrected himself mid-curse.

Sadie smiled. She was going to miss Trevor’s wild hair and wild ideas. Most especially she would miss watching him try to curb his language around a bunch of Mormons. Josh’s dad didn’t even notice.

“Sadly,” Peter said, “this setup is for the best. If you or Josh need anything, Sadie, you can always contact us through the US Marshals’ office.”

“Or myself,” Agent Madsen added from the corner.

Yes, but only in an emergency, Sadie noted silently, which there better not be any.

“What about you?” she asked Josh’s dad in return. “What if Guillermo goes looking for Josh in Spokane? Or at your house?”

Peter Young ran a hand through his peppered-gray hair the way Josh always did when he was stressed. Even his face was Josh’s, minus twenty-five years of law-enforcement-inducing wrinkles.

“It’s possible,” he said, “but unlikely. Young is a popular last name, and with my police job, we’ve kept our phone and address unlisted for thirty years. You wrote little about Josh’s hometown in your journal other than to say he was from the Spokane area. We should be fine.”

Sadie winced as she remembered her little blue journal, the one Guillermo used to convict her. The same journal the whole world seemed to have memorized as of late.

“All things considered,” Peter said, “I think it would be impossible to track us down. Plus, I’m attuned to suspicious activity. I’ll keep a watch out.”

Kathy patted Sadie’s arm. “Guillermo won’t take his revenge on Josh that far—if at all. There’s been no sign of him since he left. Really, sending Josh with you is just a precaution—not that he gave us much choice,” she added with a wink. “Don’t worry about us. We’ll be fine.”

They sounded confident enough, but Josh had five younger siblings. Could she ever forgive herself if something happened to them? Could Peter and Kathy?

Could Josh?

A deep ache filled her chest—not from her broken ribs, not from holding up her neon green cast for so long, but from how many people she dragged into her nightmare life.

Guillermo dragged. Josh was always quick to insist that everything that happened was because of Sadie’s ex and not her, even though she dated Guillermo in the first place, even though she ignored the FBI’s warnings about him, and even though she went back to Guillermo when Josh told her not to. Twice.

And now the number of affected people kept climbing. Josh’s parents. His siblings. Her mom and Damien. Kevin and Amy. Trevor. Sam. Sam’s parents. All twenty-five members of Sam’s family for that matter, since it was their beautiful cabin Guillermo burned to the ground when trying to kill her.

And what about Special Agent Stephen Dubois?

A lump lodged itself in her throat. A week ago, Agent Madsen’s former partner followed Sadie to Guillermo’s cabin. That was the night of the four shots. He’d been missing ever since and presumed dead. While Sadie wanted to believe he was alive somewhere, the FBI recently found a sample of his blood outside of Guillermo’s cabin, convincing Agent Madsen that his partner was murdered by Guillermo and those two men.

What would Dubois’ wife and two kids say if they knew Sadie stayed on the couch when she heard the gunshots, trying to save herself instead of finding a phone to call for help? Still Guillermo’s fault?

Josh’s mom squeezed her hand. “Are you sure you’re okay, sweetie?”

Sadie’s lungs began to constrict. She closed her eyes and took in a slow, deep breath. “Why don’t you come with us? All of you.”

“We’ll be fine. I promise.”

Everyone else around the room echoed Kathy’s sentiments, but none of them had been in the back of Guillermo’s black Mercedes and looked into his black, murderous eyes. None of them heard his dark laugh when he promised to hunt Josh down like it was a game. No one felt Guillermo’s fist in their face or his gun to their forehead. They didn’t know. They didn’t. But she did.

If Guillermo knew every word and every step she took from Christmas until the fire, who was to say he didn’t know theirs?

She looked at the tiled floor as hot tears pool behind her eyes. The only one who looked as scared as Sadie felt was Amy. That’s when Sadie understood. Amy wasn’t mad about the past. She was terrified of the future, the future Sadie created for them the second she stumbled into Sam’s truck.

Her fault again.

She rubbed her eyes, feeling a migraine coming back. The headaches never went away for long. She didn’t reach for the nurses’ button, though. She was done with the pain medication and accompanying fog. Instead, she checked the clock again, wondering what was taking Josh so long. They had to leave for their flight soon. Josh’s family and friends were waiting to say goodbye. Time was slipping away.

Kathy patted her hand. “Stop worrying about us and just take care of yourself and that son of mine. I’m worried Josh will be so wrapped up in making sure you’re safe, he’ll forget to eat and—”

Agent Madsen leapt to his feet. “When? Where? How?!” he shouted, holding his phone to his ear. Sadie hadn’t even noticed he received a call. He listened a second and then swore over and over again.

Before Sadie could think, Deputy Croff whipped out her phone and punched several numbers.

Madsen shook his head as he received more of the report. Then he whirled and glared at Sadie across the room.

“The funeral,” Sadie breathed.

Her pulse pounded. Something happened at the funeral.

“And Mr. Young?” Madsen asked. “Was he hurt?”

Sadie’s heart stopped. Kathy grabbed her hand.

“Josh,” they whispered together.

Madsen slammed the phone down. “Everybody out. Now!”

Augustina by Rebecca Belliston

So that’s it. :)

I wrote the first chapter of Augustina before Sadie was ever finished. I’m excited to finally be able to share it with you guys.

Less than two weeks until Augustina is out!!!

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Author: Rebecca Belliston @rlbelliston

Hopeless romantic and author of CITIZENS OF LOGAN POND, SADIE and AUGUSTINA. Music nerd and composer of RELIGIOUS and CLASSICAL-STYLE music. I live in Michigan with my husband and five kids.

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