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A decade ago, eight-year-old Aubree Lansing peeked\r\rfrom her hiding place in the closet and saw the unthinkable:\r\ra dead body on her bedroom floor and a\r\rman standing close by with a gun in his bloodstained\r\rhands. A man she called daddy.
\r\rAubree_ã_s courageous testimony during the murder trial\r\rled to a hefty prison sentence for Stone Lansing — and placed a heavy weight on his daughter_ã_s heart.\r\rWhen Aubree_ã_s mother married Reginald Kern, one\r\rof Stone_ã_s former defense attorneys, and the new family\r\rwelcomed the birth of twins, it seemed that Aubree\r\rhad left her tragic past behind. But at age eighteen,\r\rher nightmare suddenly resumes: Stone Lansing\r\ris out of prison, and he_ã_s looking for the daughter\r\rwhose words sent him there. In the wake of a death\r\rthreat, Aubree flees with her twin half-siblings aboard\r\rthe cruise ship Stargazer and finds protection in the\r\rcare of its young sea captain. But there_ã_s more than\r\rone menace closing in on Aubree, as the cold tide of\r\rvengeance threatens to drag her under.
- Size: 6x9
- Pages: 261
- Published: March 2011
- Book on CD: Unabridged
About the Author
Clair M. Poulson retired after twenty years in law enforcement. During his career he served in the U.S. Military Police Corps, the Utah Highway Patrol, and the Duchesne County Sheriff’s Department, where he was first a deputy and the the county sheriff. He currently serves as a justice court judge for Duchesne County, a position he has held for nineteen years. His nearly forty-year career working in the criminal justice system has provided a wealth of material from which he draws in writing his books.
Clair has served on numerous boards and committees over the years. Among them are the Utah Judicial Council, and FBI advisory board, the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, the Utah Justice Court Board of Directors, and the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice.
Other interests include activity in the LDS Church, assisting his oldest son in operating their grocery store, ranching with his oldest son and other family members, and raising registered Missouri Fox Trotter horses.
Clair and his wife, Ruth, live in Duchesne and are the parents of five married children. They have twenty-two grandchildren.
Stone Lansing was well aware that he wasn’t exactly up to speed on
the goings-on of the outside world. In all, he had been on the inside
for a total of almost eleven years: nearly one year in jail awaiting his
trial, and then ten years in prison. The most pressing example lay with
his estranged family. Though he had seen their pictures from time to
time in various newspapers that had been allowed in the prison, he had
no idea where his ex-wife and daughter now lived. As he walked, he
mulled over the possible ways of locating them. But even as he considered
them, he knew that finding his ex-wife and daughter would be the
least of his difficulties.
First things first, he thought with a sigh, patting his nearly empty
pockets. Although he had the money he’d been given when he walked
out of the prison—money every parolee received—he’d spent much
of that on a hotel room and food the previous night. Until he could
access his bank account, he wouldn’t be able to purchase new clothes,
transportation, or anything else he needed to begin a new life on the
outside. He knew that there should be well over fifty thousand dollars
in his account—unless Vanessa had somehow gotten ahold of that as
Looking at the clock and seeing it was nearly nine, Stone prepared
to leave the hotel room, intending to visit the bank as soon as it opened.
Then, at long last, he would be prepared to set in motion the plan that
had consumed him for the last ten years.
“I’m bored, Aubree!”
Aubree smiled and put down her hairbrush as she turned to face
Brandi. “I’m sorry you have to stay in all day, pumpkin.” As Ryan appeared
at the doorway as well, she reached out to tousle his golden
curls. “Have you two already eaten breakfast?”
“Yeah, Francesca made eggs. The runny kind,” Ryan said grumpily.
“Uh-oh. Well, I’ll tell you what. After I’m finished getting ready,
we’ll play a board game. Sound good?”
The twins’ expressions brightened, and they nodded eagerly.
“Okay, then, you two pick one out and get it set up. I’ll be down
in a minute.”
As her siblings hurried down the long hallway, Aubree turned back
to the mirror, running the brush through her long black hair a few more
times. When she was finished, she studied herself for a moment with a
critical eye. Vanessa often told her that she would one day be a model
like her—that she had the looks, the slender build, the grace, and the
smile that would take her to the top of the profession. In fact, Aubree
had already been photographed with her mother a number of times, and
her own picture had appeared in several magazines. However, though she
was glad that her small ventures into the world of modeling pleased her
mother, her heart simply wasn’t in it. She was enrolled to begin college in
the fall at UCLA, and she was much more interested in studying business
management—something Francesca Bruno, the Kernses’ cook, who also
looked after the children, encouraged. She smiled as she thought of the
short, stout Italian woman. Francesca had been with the Lansing/Kern
family for as long as Aubree could remember, and she and Aubree had
developed a close friendship—even if she did make runny eggs.
With one last glance in the mirror, Aubree turned and headed downstairs
to play with the twins. She glanced at the clock and, seeing it was
only nine forty-five, sighed. It was going to be a long day. Though she
felt much calmer after a good night’s sleep, she was certain that the hours
until her parents came home weren’t exactly going to fly by.
Stone Lansing had plenty of money in his pocket now. With a relieved
sigh, grateful that at least his pittance of an account had been preserved,
he stepped back out into the street and headed toward the nearest pay phone with a determined step. Digging in his pocket for some change,
he slipped the coins into the slot and then thumbed through the phone
book. When he had located the number he wanted, he leaned back
against the booth and waited as the rings sounded in his ear. He knew
it was a long shot, but it was somewhere to start.
“Pinnacle Studios, this is Russ,” a young male voice answered brightly.
“Hello, I’m trying to reach Vanessa L—” Stone coughed to cover
up his mistake and finished, “Kern.”
The young man’s voice took on a note of irritation. “I’m sorry, but
Vanessa is unavailable.”
Stone waited a moment, but when Russ didn’t ask him to leave a
message, he pressed. “Do you know when I might be able to reach her?”
“I’m sorry, but no. Who did you say you were? Vanessa is a very
busy, very in-demand model, and anybody who actually has a valid
need to talk to her has her cell phone number.”
Stone bristled but forced himself to keep his cool. Thinking quickly,
he replied, “My name is James Patton, and Vanessa left this number
in an e-mail inquiring about cello lessons for her daughter.” Stone had
no idea if this was plausible or not, but he continued. “Slots are filling
quickly, and lessons begin next week, so if you could put me in contact
with her it would be much appreciated.”
“That’s right. So if you wouldn’t mind giving me her cell phone
“Sorry, pal. I don’t know who you are or what you want with Vanessa,
but she’ll be out of the country with her family next week,” Russ
replied icily. And with that, the line went dead.
Stone hung up the receiver, his face drawn in a grimace. Then he
slowly began to thumb through the pages of the phone book once
more, unwavering in his determination.
“Kern and Stanton Law Office,” a reedy female voice answered a
few moments later.
“I’m returning a call from Reginald Kern.” The man’s very name
left a bitter taste in Stone’s mouth, and he felt the need to spit.
When the receptionist replied, “I’m sorry, but he’s with a client.
May I take a message?” he sighed in relief and declined, then hung up.
He’d learned what he needed to know. Reginald wasn’t at home.
By the second time through Candy Land, it was clear that the game
had run its course in keeping the twins occupied. Aubree looked longingly
out the window at the beautifully manicured lawns lined by tall
palms. A gardener worked in the expansive flowerbeds that lined the
walkway, and the sun glinted off the pond near the tennis court. And
although her mother and stepfather hadn’t forbidden it, she couldn’t
bring herself to leave the safety of the house.
Glancing at the clock and seeing it was eleven thirty, she announced,
“Let’s go see what Francesca’s cooking for lunch.” Smiling
teasingly, she nudged Ryan and added, “Or maybe she’s got leftovers
from breakfast saved for us.”
“Ew.” Ryan giggled as he and Brandi jumped up and headed toward
Poking their heads through the large kitchen entryway, Aubree
smiled when she heard Francesca softly singing to herself as she sliced
fruit for the large platter on the granite countertop nearby. Turning
around, her face lit up. “Ah, my hungry little ones, I am making you
something special for your lunch today. Come, sit at the table.”
“It smells delicious,” Aubree said appreciatively, her stomach rumbling
as the three siblings sat at the table.
“I know it is a difficult day for you,” Francesca said, her dark brown
eyes filled with concern. “So I try to help.” She placed the platter of
fruit on the table in front of them, then turned back to the stovetop
and the steaming pot of clam chowder—Aubree’s favorite.
As Francesca began ladling the thick soup into serving bowls, a
sharp rap on the door caused her to pause mid-ladle. Waiting a moment
to see if another servant would answer, she finally looked at Aubree
and said, “I will be right back.”
Aubree listened anxiously as Francesca opened the door. A few
tense seconds later, she breathed out a sigh of relief as she heard Francesca
tell the delivery man that Reginald had been waiting for this
package. Aubree picked up a saltshaker from the center of the table
and turned it over in her hands while Brandi and Ryan continued to
eat slices of watermelon.
At that moment, Aubree heard Francesca inhale sharply, then direct the deliveryman in first Italian and then English that she had to shut
“But you haven’t signed—”
“I’m sorry. Good-bye!” Francesca cried as the door slammed shut.
Aubree jumped to her feet as the twins watched, wide-eyed, then
she ran to the door, where she found Francesca standing with her back
against the door, her face pale and her body trembling. “Children,
please go back into the other room,” Francesca directed.
Aubree remained rooted to the ground, however, staring out the
glass panes adjoining the doorway. She saw the deliveryman standing
a few feet from the doorway, a confused look on his face. Then she
looked beyond him down the walkway where another man was standing
at the end of the driveway.
The man had jet-black hair and was wearing tan slacks and a blue
sports shirt. He stood where he was for a few more seconds then began
striding toward the house. Though it had been ten years, Aubree
recognized her father instantly. And he appeared to be looking directly
at her. Even from this distance, his black eyes looked cold and determined.
Aubree’s heart began to pound so fiercely she almost wondered
if it would burst.
“Francesca,” Aubree whispered frantically.
“Take the twins upstairs, dear. You’ll be safe here in the house. Call
the number your mother gave you—you remember where it is?”
Aubree nodded then turned and rushed back to the kitchen, where
Brandi and Ryan still sat. “Come on, you guys,” she said quickly, grabbing
their hands and trying to remain calm. “We need to go upstairs
“Is the bad man here?” Brandi asked fearfully.
“Yes, but we’ll be safe inside,” Aubree told her, hoping she sounded
Grabbing her cell phone from her pocket, Aubree and the twins
left the kitchen through the back entrance and hurried upstairs where
they huddled together on Aubree’s bed. Downstairs, Aubree heard a
sharp knock on the door.
Frozen with fear, Aubree held the cell phone in front of her for a
moment without so much as breathing. When, after a few moments of
silence, the knock came again, harder this time, she sprang into action and with shaking hands dialed the number she had saved in her phone
the previous evening.
As the line rang, all she could think of was that her father—the
man she feared more than anyone else—was mere feet away.
by Carol - reviewed on May 07, 2013
Clair does a great job of weaving a romance into a crime novel. He keeps us on our toes wondering what will happen next. No dull, boring, or drawn-out filler paragraphs.
a page turner from the beginning
by Dena - reviewed on April 08, 2011
I agree with Jill; the reader for the audio version wasn't good. I listened to the prologue and then switched over to the paperback. I'm so glad I did because I couldn't put it down. Poulson doesn't waste time building the suspense, he just jumps right in. There are a few grammatical errors and a couple of spots were the structure of the sentence felt strange, but other then that, it was a great read.
Disappointed in reader
by Jill - reviewed on April 04, 2011
Very disappointed in the reader of this audio book. She makes the book sound like a cheap novel and because of that it is diffficult to want to hear more. We love Clair Poulson books but we're not sure we can even finish hearing the book. Is this a new reader for Covenant Communications? I have to ask, did anyone listen to this before it was sold to the public? We listen to lots and lots of audio books and this one I wouldn't recommend to anyone.