BY: JD DAVIS
Kit Harwick has just experienced a tragedy that no one expects to go through. She thought she had all she ever wanted until her fiancé, Officer Anderson Slade, was murdered in cold blood, leaving her broken hearted. Forced to work through her grief and navigate life on her own, she decides to leave town and move closer to her grandmother, heading to the South and a new way of life. Her new neighbor, Rex Jennings, had to make the tough decision to leave his job on the New York City Fire Department to come back to a place where he swore he would never return. Trying to reinvent himself and reintegrate himself in his hometown, he wonders if this place has anything for him besides painful memories. He falls into a pattern of monotony until Kit moves in across the lake. The two of them could not be more different, and they find themselves at odds. Still, Rex would be happy to offer her all the “Southern Comforts,” then Kit begins receiving messages from the past, reminding her that Andy’s killer is still at large, and now he’s after her…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Southern Comfort by JD Davis, Kit Harwick’s police officer fiancé has been murdered, so Kit moves to the South to be closer to her grandmother. Kit first meets her new neighbor, Rex Jennings, when he is skinny dipping with a woman in the lake. Kit thinks Rex is rude, uncouth, and amoral, but when she starts receiving mysterious messages from someone about her fiancé’s murder, Rex is the one who steps up to help and protect her, making her feel safe again for the first time in a long time. That is, until whoever is leaving the messages tries to get up close and personal.
Like Davis’s other two books, this one is well written, fast paced, and the characters are marvelous. A really great read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Southern Comfort by JD Davis is the story of a young woman whose fiancé, Officer Andy Slade, is murdered in cold blood. His killer is not caught, and a year later, Kit moves down South to a small town where her grandmother lives. She thinks it will be more peaceful and quiet than in the big city. And she’s right, at first. Then someone begins leaving envelopes at her door—envelopes with reminders of Andy’s murder. She feels threatened and turns to her neighbor, bartender and volunteer fireman, Rex Jennings. She doesn’t really care for Rex and thinks he’s a playboy, but he’s there when she needs him. And need him, she will—if she wants to stay alive.
Southern Comfort cleverly combines mystery, suspense, romance, and superb character development for a touching and poignant story that is hard to put down.
The leaves crunched beneath his feet as he surveyed the situation before him. He had been at his post for hours, hidden under the town’s water tower. From there he had a clear view of the police department and counted carefully the number of uniforms that had entered and exited the building.
It was important that he get this right. His life depended on it. If everything went according to his plan, justice would finally be served. He was going to take matters into his own hands, and he knew he had waited long enough. He had come out here every night for months and felt fairly competent that he had learned their routine.
He knew their schedule and knew that, at shift change, the officers would meet at the station. The daytime guys would relay the information from the calls of the day and the night time men would report for their duty.
He bided his time while the squad cars, one by one, retreated back to their homes, and through the well-lit office, he could see the two men left standing, refilling their coffee. Anxiety filled him, and he tried to school his breathing as beads of sweat rolled down his back beneath the black hoodie.
He checked his pockets for the extra rounds of ammo. The weight of the bullets calmed him as he rolled them around in his hand. If everything went according to plan, he would only need one. And if everything didn’t go to plan, well, then he was going to be in much bigger trouble.
It was a risk he was willing to take. It was time this sleepy little town woke up. It was time they realized just who they had messed with. If they couldn’t do their job, he would have to do it for them. He had waited long enough.
When one officer was left standing at the desk, he knew he had to act, or it would be a wasted opportunity.
He started forward, his eye on the prize. When he reached the foyer, he pulled his hood down over his face, careful to avoid revealing too much to the camera. He pushed the buzzer and saw the officer look up from his place behind the computer. He gripped his weapon firmly in his hand, and when the door opened, he raised his arm and fired.
The shot rang out, and the uniformed man wore a look of surprise and then one of fear before he gasped and grabbed his side. He never had time to retrieve his weapon and return fire before he hit the deck.
As much as he would have liked to revel in his accomplishment, he knew he needed to move. As the other officer came running to his friend’s aide, the shooter’s feet were already pounding the pavement.
The last thing he heard was the other man screaming into his radio. “Officer down. Shots fired. We need an ambulance.”
When he got back to his vehicle he wasted no time firing up the engine and peeling away. He was only satisfied when the sound of sirens was headed in the opposite direction toward the station. When he was a safe distance away, he ripped off the mask and wiped the sweat from his brow. He couldn’t believe he had actually done it, and the nerves set in. He had to work as he gripped the steering wheel to keep from shaking.
He looked at the picture on his dash. “That was for you. Now you will have justice.”
Kit was just about to switch off the light on the nightstand beside her bed as she set her alarm for the next day, when there was a knock on her door. The sound startled her.
It was an intentional hard knock that someone put some force behind as they beat against the wood. Before she could swing her legs over the side of the bed the doorbell rang.
Instantly she was alarmed. Who could be coming by at this time of night? She checked the bedside clock. Ten after eleven. What in the world? She grabbed her robe and hurried toward the door, and the bell rang out again, protruding through the silence of the rest of the house.
She could see the flashing red and blue lights blur through the window, lighting up the living room, and something inside of her told her that when she opened the door her life would never be the same. Her hands were cold and clammy, but she managed to get a grip on the door handle and forced herself to turn it.
On the other side of the door stood a face she had grown accustomed to seeing. The rookie that had been riding along with her fiancé for months stood wringing his hands. He wasted no time.
“Kit, it’s Andy. He has been shot. I am so sorry, but there is no time. We have to go. He has been air lifted to Mercy Medical. We’ve got to go now.”
She felt dizzy. “No, it can’t be. Is he?” She couldn’t bring herself to ask the dreaded question.
“I don’t know.” He looked miserable. “Please, there is no time to waste. We must go.”
Without looking back, she ran wildly to the squad car waiting to drive her to her worst nightmare. She was oblivious to the fact that she was wearing a night gown, housecoat, and slippers. To the officer’s benefit he seemed unaware of her wardrobe as well.
They barely talked on the way to the hospital as the lights and sirens allowed them to blaze through every intersection and stoplight. The car had barely stopped in front of the emergency entrance when she hopped out and ran in to see Andy’s brothers in blue gathered around grimly.
“Where is he?” she screamed wildly. “Someone please tell me where he is?”
The sergeant on duty grabbed her elbow. “He is in surgery, Kit. He lost a lot of blood. We are waiting to hear—”
“What happened? What happened to him?” she pleaded, waving her hands in exasperation and angst.
The officer looked down at his feet. “He was ambushed. Never saw it coming.”
“How could this happen?” she cried.
Just then a surgeon came out to meet them. Exhaustion was etched on his face, and his scrubs were stained with blood. Her stomach lurched in to her throat and her heart leapt from her chest.
“Is Officer Slade’s family here?” he asked.
The sergeant responded. “We’re all his family, but this is his fiancé, Kit Harwick. How’s he doing?”
The doctor shook his head sadly. “Hello. I’m Dr. Witten.” He paused. “I’m sorry. We did everything we could. His injuries were too significant. I’m sad to say he didn’t make it.”
Kit didn’t remember what happened next. She just knew that everything went hazy, and she could no longer stand. After she fell onto her knees, her screams echoed through the building.
One Year Later:
“I think that is the last of it, Ms. Harwick,” the moving man stated as he hefted the last box inside.
“Thank you, Joe,” she said as she looked at his name tag once again and dug into her wallet, looking for a tip.
The man deserved more than what he had charged her after all the hard work he and his crew had put in. Moving was hard work and unpacking it all would prove to be just as tedious as loading all of her belongs had been.
“Thank you, ma’am, but really it isn’t necessary. Your grandmother already took care of the bill.”
He looked at her sympathetically. She knew that look all too well. He knew about her heartbreak. That was part of the reason she had had to leave. She couldn’t exist in a world where she was constantly being given sad puppy dog eyes and whispered about before she was even out of earshot.
They would talk in hushed tones. “That’s the girl I was telling you about. Her fiancé was murdered in cold blood.”
No, she hated being pitied and, although people meant well, she could never move on in the small rural community of Watertown. There were too many reminders of what her future could have been like, should have been like. There were too many sympathetic stares for the fiancée of the slain Officer Anderson Slade. Not to mention the unsettling fact that they had never caught the man responsible. A killer was still on the loose. How could she walk the streets and ever feel the same?
She couldn’t go to the grocery store or stay out after dark, much less find sleep in the bed that was to be the same one they shared as a married couple while there was a dangerous man out there.
A year later and they were still no closer to finding the man responsible for ruining her life.
“Taking a trip down memory lane dear?” her grandmother, Mellie, asked her.
“I was just thinking of how much work I have ahead of me. That’s all.”
“Give yourself time. It will all come together.”
“Right. I hope so.”
“The ladies of this family are strong and so are you. This is a fresh start, Kit. You will see.”
Kit smiled at the wrinkled woman beside her. Strong was an understatement. She hoped she could find that inner strength in herself someday.
“Just put one foot in front of the other, and before you know it, you will be getting somewhere. Are you sure you don’t just want to stay with me? My house is awfully big and there is room enough for the both of us.”
“I appreciate the offer, but the cottage is fine. You have done enough. If I’m going to make a life for myself here, sooner or later I’m going to need to learn to live on my own again.”
“I suppose I understand your way of thinking, but I just want you to have the right mind set. The south is a different way of living. Promise me, you’ll keep an open mind.”
“I promised before I moved to Middle Bay that I would be accepting to change and I intend to keep my promise. You act as if I didn’t come from a small town and that I have never been accustomed to the rural quaintness and quirkiness that can come with it.”
“Yes, but living in the Midwest suburbs is a bit different than the southern hospitality. I just want you to see its charm and possibilities.”
“I am not afraid of disliking country traditions as much as I am of not fitting in.”
“Oh, poppycock. The people of Middle Bay will love you. Just watch out for alligators and stock up on mosquito repellant, and you will be just fine.”
“I’ll try and stay out of the swamp, Grandma. Now, my biggest fear is tackling these boxes.”
“You will get to it when you get to it. It’s the southern way. Now, I’ll fix us some tea. Do you prefer sweetened or unsweetened?”
“Sweetened, I suppose, is the correct answer.”
“See. You’re learning already. A little sugar and hydration will bring some color back into those cheeks. Sweet girl, if I am being perfectly honest with you, you look absolutely skeletal and peaked. Some Arkansas sun and a good meal is just what you need.”
Kit doubted that vitamin D was going to cure her blues from all of her misfortune, but at this point, she was willing to give anything a try, including ice tea drinking and front porch sitting.
The cicadas hummed and the humidity left the air soggy and heavy. A breeze that was ever so slight pushed through the branches of the weeping willow that overtook the whole right side of the front yard. The branches swayed and danced in the wind, leaving her entranced at the simple beauty of nature.
Suddenly, laughter broke into her thoughts and a shrill woman’s squeal drew her attention away from the tranquility of the afternoon. Kit stood and, after a moment, followed the sound of the screams. She hustled down the walkway and pushed some of the low hanging branches out of her line of vision, ducking her head as she went. Holding the handrail, she tentatively stepped down onto the narrow wood dock.
Laughter rang out in the midst of all the splashing.
“Rex, stop. Give me back my clothes. Oh, you are truly wretched, aren’t you?” a female voice said with a laugh.
“Come out and get them,” the male teased.
Kit felt like she was intruding but couldn’t help herself. She leaned forward, positioning herself around a hanging limb. She nearly gasped out loud when she saw the man was completely naked. The woman had ditched her clothes and was skinny dipping in the small pond. The man held her clothes teasingly trying to beckon her out of the mossy water. She squealed and protested a little too loudly, but her tone and body language said she was secretly delighted.
Kit watched the exchange of the strange mating call while admiring the man’s muscular back and toned buttocks. His body was a sight to behold, and she shifted her weight to her other foot causing a stick to crack loudly. “Shit, shit, shit,” she whispered, hoping it went unnoticed.
No such luck. The man whirled around in a full monty.
Kit’s eyebrows shot up and, against her will, she glanced down before looking away as quickly as she could.
“I—I am sorry,” she stammered. “I didn’t know anyone was down here,” she lied.
Out of the corner of her eye she could see him smirk.
“No harm done,” he said easily.
“Okay, well then. I’ll be leaving.” She turned and scurried up the stairs.
She could hear him chuckling behind her and couldn’t resist turning around.
He had covered his groin with a Hanes T-shirt that had long since been white. His grin was wide and cocky as he lifted his hand in a small wave.
She turned and continued running back to her cottage where her grandmother waited with the tea.
“Do you know that a man and a woman are skinny dipping in your pond in broad day light?”
Her grandmother barely looked surprised. “I see you’ve met your neighbor, Rex Jennings.”
© 2019 by JD Davis