Cover Me in Darkness
Amanda Sinclair has to fight harder than most for everything she has after fleeing the cult that left her brother dead at her mother’s hand. Amanda works a quiet job in quality control for a small cosmetics company, trying to leave her past behind her—until she learns that her mother has committed suicide in the mental ward where she’s been locked away for the past ten years.
At first, Amanda believes that her mother killed herself, but when she looks through the personal belongings left behind, it seems her death may be related to the upcoming parole hearing for cult leader Patrick Collier. Teaming up with her mother’s psychologist, Amanda starts to peel away the layers of secrets that she’s built between herself and her own past, and what she finds is a truth that’s almost too big to believe.
"... a hard-to-put-down psychological thriller that also offers a nuanced look at a damaged woman."
Pressure at work and home unexpectedly conjoin, driving emotionally fragile Amanda to the brink as the book builds to its melodramatic finish.
Unlikely allies drive a story in which Rendahl never lets her heroine escape her past.
Rendahl’s writing is light and sharp, perfect for a story that moves quickly—from initial crime to deep investigation—while handling intense subject material.
Friday, February 17
Somehow it seemed appropriate that I was drunk when I got the call. Well, not exactly drunk, but definitely a little bit ... loose, like I’d been that night. The night everything had come crashing down. The night my world ended. This night, however, I wasn’t a seventeen-year-old girl who had given a homeless guy twenty bucks to buy her a bottle of flavored vodka. This time, I was a twenty-seven-year-old woman who had gone out for drinks with people after work. Now I was a respectable drunk.
It was Friday and the atmosphere around the lab had been hyped up and giddy the whole day. Rumors were flying that big money was moving. Our little pipsqueak start-up might change from a choo-choo train to a gravy train. Bellefountaine Cosmetics might be bought out. Everyone’s stock options might end up actually being worth something. Possibly a lot of something. Like, life-changing amounts of something.
At fourthirty, Jesse Garcia had stuck his head into the alcove off the lab that served as my office and said, “Hey, Amanda. Two -for-one margaritas at Pedro’s. You in?”
I hesitated. Jesse asked me out for drinks approximately twice a month, and this was actually the third time in the month of February. I was starting to feel mean. It wasn’t like it wasn’t tempting. Jesse was funny and smart and good - looking enough for me to feel like he was out my league. While his attention was flattering, I had a pretty strict policy about dating people I worked with. That policy was not only no, but hell no. I looked down at the printout of results I’d been staring at for the past forty-five minutes. Something was wrong with them, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I brought it up in the Quality Control meeting the week before and no one else seemed to see what I saw. Actually, if it was something I saw, I could have explained it; this was more something I felt. About numbers. Even I knew it sounded crazy and I knew from crazy. Maybe if I read over them one more time ...
“Melinda will be there and so will Sara.” He smiled. It made the dimple on his left cheek appear.
I did really want a drink. February in Chicago was cold and dark and damp. I’d stared at the columns of numbers in front of me for so long that an ache had developed behind my right eye. A drink could be fun, festive, and practically medicinal, damn it. Pedro’s was between the lab and my condo. I wouldn’t even have to use a different train station. It was as if Jesse had picked the place for it to be convenient for me. If Melinda and Sara were there, then there was no way he could construe it as a date. Just work friends marking the end of the week, right? Where was the harm in that? Who could turn that down?
“Sure,” I said and then felt bad about the way Jesse’s face lit up. I shouldn’t have that much effect on anyone. It wasn’t safe for any of us.
“Great. See you there. I’ll go early and get us a table.” He gave a wave and left.
I really hoped this wasn’t a mistake. I didn’t generally socialize with my fellow lab rats at Bellefountaine Cosmetics. Not that there were any actual lab rats at Bellefountaine—we were 100 percent cruelty-free. Real or metaphorical rats aside, I liked to keep things separate. I liked to keep me separate. I was not going to go out with Jesse. Not ever, not nohow. It didn’t matter that he had deep dark eyes, a dimple on his left cheek, and a set of shoulders that seemed to stretch the fabric of every one of his dress shirts. There were reasons I like to keep things separate and they were more compelling than the deepest dimple. I loved my work. I loved being in the lab. I loved the reassuring solidity of reproducible results and numbers. Cute, out-of-my-league guys wanting to buy me drinks weren’t worth jeopardizing that, tempting as they might be.
It was already dark when I got off the L train at Van Buren. I stepped out onto the platform and the wind sliced through my coat, hat, and scarf like an icy razor blade. After the overheated, crowded train, the wind would have knocked me back a step, but there were so many people stepping off the train behind me that I was shoved forward against it. I adjusted the strap of my messenger bag over my shoulder, pulled the collar of my wool jacket up around my neck, and headed down the stairs, glad I had on gloves as I held onto the metal railing and even more glad that it was only half a block to Pedro’s. I put my head down against the wind and walked.
I pulled open the door to Pedro’s and the noise and the heat and the lights hit me in the face with the same intensity that the wind had a few minutes earlier. Again, there were too many people at my back to keep me from doing anything but moving forward. I was like a shark—move forward or die. I scanned the room and saw Melinda. She would have been hard to miss, as she’d stood up and done a full body wave to get my attention. I threaded my way through the other tables, trying not to whack anyone in the head with my bag. Sara and Jesse got to the table two steps before me, hands full with pitchers and glasses.
“Yay. You’re here!” Sara reached an arm around me and gave me a quick squeeze. “I didn’t believe Jesse when he said you were coming. You never meet us for drinks.”
And probably wouldn’t again if people were going to be giving spontaneous hugs before they were even drunk. What was up with that? Sara and I ate lunch together sometimes, but we were definitely not on hugging terms. I tried smiling anyway, hoping it didn’t look I was baring my teeth. “Are there any chips? I’m starving.”
“Coming right up,” Jesse said and plunged back into the crowd.
Melinda leaned in. “Tell me you’re going to put that poor boy out of his misery.”
I shrugged out of my coat and draped it over the back of the high stool at the table. “What misery?”
Melinda and Sara both laughed.
“You have got to be kidding me. He follows you around like a puppy hoping for a pat on the head.” Sara turned to watch Jesse lean over the bar to grab chips and salsa. “And I would totally rub that puppy’s belly given half the chance.”
I looked, too. It was a nice backside. Add it to the dimple, the shoulders, and the soulful eyes ... was it enough to get me to knock down some compartment walls? I poured myself a margarita from the pitcher and took a sip.
Here was the thing about me and margaritas. They tasted like soda pop to me and I drank them like they were. Too fast. I was a third of the way into my second one and enjoying that funny woozy feeling I got from drinking when I felt my phone vibrate. I almost didn’t look at it. Anna, Judy, and Bill had joined us. Judy was doing a spot-on imitation of our CEO, Will Friedrichs, right down to the way his forehead never moved. “What we want is to help make women feel as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside,” she said. Priceless. I was having fun. Like a regular person. I looked at Jesse again. He smiled back at me. Something unfurled in the pit of my stomach, something sweet and warm, like
spreading honey. Rules were meant to be broken, right? And there was that dimple to consider.
But then there was the phone. Who would be calling me on a Friday night? The answer was no one. The phone buzzed again. A shiver of uneasiness slithered through me. No one would be calling me with anything good, but that didn’t mean that no one would call.
I pulled the phone out of my pocket. My stomach dropped when I saw the number on the caller ID. I’d been right. It wasn’t going to be anything good.
“I have to take this,” I said over my shoulder, already rushing out of the noisy bar onto the street to answer.
I knew it wasn’t good to get a phone call after hours on a Friday from the facility where my mother was housed. I knew it was really not good when the person on the other end started the conversation with, “I’m sorry, Ms. Sinclair.”