Tuesday, June 29, 2021

First Chapter Reveal: Death Becomes You - A Rachel Emery Novel, Book Two by Deanna Lynn Sletten

 Hello all,

The next book in my Rachel Emery Series, DEATH BECOMES YOU, is releasing August 10, 2021, and I'm so excited about it. Readers have been so kind about the first book in the series, THE TRUTH ABOUT RACHEL, and I'm thrilled everyone has been enjoying it. While you're waiting for the next book - or if you haven't yet read the first book - here is the first chapter of DEATH BECOMES YOU for you to read.

Death Becomes You

A Rachel Emery Novel, Book Two

First Chapter Reveal

Chapter One



Rachel Emery sat at her desk, working on a romance novel cover for one of her authors.  It had been a beautiful November day in Tallahassee, and peaceful, which was fine with Rachel. After the hectic time she’d had in California in September proving she was still alive, she looked forward to the quiet. Rachel was finishing up work for the week and planned on visiting her Aunt Julie the next day for lunch. After that, she was meeting her daughter, Jules, for dinner and a movie. She looked forward to a normal day with her family.

Her phone buzzed, pulling Rachel out of her thoughts. She glanced at it and smiled. It was Ariel Weathers, one of her clients. Rachel generally didn’t give out her number to clients because she preferred to correspond by text or email. But Arial, a romance novelist she’d been working with for over four years, was different. Rachel enjoyed talking with her. She was witty and knowledgeable, and she always trusted Rachel to create the perfect designs for her.

“Hi, Ariel. How are you?” Rachel said.

“Oh, Rachel. I’m so sorry to bother you. But I had to call. I desperately need your help.” Ariel sounded anxious.

Rachel was surprised. Ariel wrote drama, but she didn’t play at it. So, if she was upset, there had to be a good reason. “What’s wrong?”

“I thought you could help me. I mean, after what happened to you and how you solved the mystery of your supposed death, well, I thought you could do the same for me. I really don’t know who else to turn to.” Ariel’s words were rushed as if she were nervous.

“Well, I’m not a professional investigator,” Rachel said. “But I can try to help.”

“My ex-husband, who died in a boating accident almost a year ago, is stalking me. I think he wants to kill me. I’m scared out of my mind. Will you help?”

Rachel pulled the phone away from her ear and stared at it, stunned. Would she help? She knew she should say no, but now, she was intrigued.




“Her dead ex-husband is stalking her?” Jules stared wide-eyed at her mother. Her expression almost made Rachel laugh. Her nineteen-year-old daughter was usually so calm and unflappable, but the crazy story Rachel had dropped on her was pretty shocking.

“That’s what Ariel said,” Rachel told Jules as she took a bite of her grilled chicken. It was Saturday evening, and they’d met for dinner and planned to go to a movie afterward. “Her ex-husband, Randall, died over eight months ago when his yacht blew up in the Gulf. Now, she keeps seeing him. She’s afraid he faked his death and is now after her to get the life insurance money.”

Jules pushed back her long, auburn hair and took a bite of her burger. “That sounds like something crazy from a thriller movie. How could he fake his death? Didn’t they need to prove he was dead before they paid her the insurance money?”

Rachel shrugged. They were sitting outside on the restaurant’s patio, and a gust of wind came up suddenly. She slipped her dark hair back behind her ears, out of her face. Since returning from California, Rachel had let her hair grow longer, and it was now almost as long as her daughter’s. But the two women couldn’t have looked more different from each other. Rachel’s five-foot, seven-inch height was no match to Jules’s tall, slender frame. Jules was wearing skinny jeans and heels that made her legs look endless. Rachel was no slouch, but next to her daughter, she felt short.

“I don’t know all the details. I told Ariel I’d visit her tomorrow at her house, and we could talk more about it,” Rachel said. “She was nervous about discussing it over the phone.”

“You’ll have to let me know what she says,” Jules said. She cocked her brow at her mother. “She’s not a kook, is she?”

Rachel laughed. “I never thought she was before. We’ll see after tomorrow.”

As they ate, they talked about Jules’ college classes and her friend, Amber, who roomed with her at the nice off-campus apartment they shared. Then Jules asked about her mother’s visit with Julie earlier in the day.

Rachel sighed. “Your Aunt Julie isn’t doing very well. Her memory is getting worse. She didn’t recognize me until I was almost ready to leave after lunch. Shirley, her caretaker at the memory unit, said her memory has been in and out. Julie doesn’t even remember Shirley sometimes.”

“That’s so sad,” Jules said. “I should go and see her again soon. It’s hard when she doesn’t know who you are, though.”

“It is. I had hoped Julie’s new medication would help her, but it doesn’t seem to be working. I was so hoping I could tell her I know the truth now—about her being my biological mother. I think if she were thinking clearly, she’d be relieved I finally know. But in her state of mind, it would only upset her.” Rachel had unraveled the family secret when she’d returned to her hometown of Casita, California in September to prove she was alive. Everyone had thought she was the girl in the grave from thirty-five years earlier when the truth was her aunt and uncle had taken her away all those years ago. After solving the mystery, Rachel had learned that her Aunt Julie and Uncle Gordon were her actual parents, which was why they’d taken her. Now, with her Uncle Gordon deceased and her Aunt Julie suffering from Alzheimer’s, Rachel couldn’t let her know that she’d learned the truth.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Jules said sympathetically. “But at least you know the truth.”

Rachel agreed. She was no longer in the dark about her family’s history.

They left soon afterward and went to see a romantic comedy. It was fun relaxing with her daughter and forgetting about everything. Two hours later, Rachel said goodbye to Jules and headed back to her home a half-hour away.

As she crawled into bed, Rachel’s phone buzzed. She glanced at it and smiled. Avery Turley, the man she’d met in California in September who’d helped her solve the mystery of the murdered girl, had texted her. They’d become very close during the investigation but unfortunately hadn’t been able to find a weekend when they both could get away and see each other. He was an FBI agent at a bureau in Maryland, and his job kept him busy around the clock.

“Hope you had a fun time with Jules at the movies. Hopefully, we can grab a movie together sometime soon,” Avery texted.

“I hope so too,” Rachel texted back. “I’ll call you tomorrow night and let you know what’s new. Something interesting has happened.”

“Hopefully, nothing dangerous,” Avery texted.

She laughed. After nearly being shot and having her head smashed in with a rock in September, meeting with Ariel was not even close to dangerous.

“No. Not dangerous.”


Rachel texted goodnight, too, and set her phone down. She missed Avery. He was the first man she’d become involved with since her husband, Carter, had died four years earlier. She really hoped to see Avery soon.

“But first, I have to find out about the dead ex-husband stalking Ariel,” she said to herself.




Sunday morning, Rachel drove her Honda CRV in the rain the two hours it took to reach Ariel’s Panama City home. Luckily, the downpour had cleared by the time she drove into the elegant neighborhood and pulled into Ariel’s driveway.

Rachel glanced around the quiet street. Ariel’s home had an island look to it with a long, covered porch and two large willow trees shading the front lawn. Each yard was separated by tall brick walls and had carefully manicured green lawns. It was a beautiful, suburban neighborhood, and Rachel couldn’t imagine anyone feeling unsafe here.

Grabbing her purse, Rachel walked up to the front door where she noticed a security camera hidden under the eaves. It was warm out, but they weren’t far from the Gulf of Mexico, and she felt its cooling breeze. She’d worn jeans and a light cotton shirt with flat sandals and hoped she hadn’t underdressed now that she’d seen how nice Ariel’s house was. Before Rachel even touched the doorbell, Ariel threw the door open.

“Oh, Rachel! I’m so glad you’re here. Come in,” Ariel exclaimed, clearly thrilled to see her.

The two women embraced, and then Rachel followed her into the large, spacious living room. The home had tall, beamed ceilings with tropical fans up high and beautiful hardwood flooring all around. The kitchen and dining room were open to the living room, and across the way, out the large patio windows, Rachel saw a sparkling built-in pool and hot tub surrounded by a flowering garden.

“Your house is gorgeous!” Rachel said, glancing around. The kitchen had white cabinets with black granite countertops. Off the dining room was another space through French doors that looked like an office.

“Oh, thank you, dear,” Ariel said, leading her to the kitchen counter and offering her a seat. “We’ve lived here for ten years and just love it.” She worried her lip with her teeth. “Well, I live here alone now, but Randall and I bought this right after we were married. It’s only a short drive to the marina where he kept his yacht.”

Rachel nodded, not sure how to respond. She didn’t know whether or not they’d had an amicable divorce. Assuming Ariel thought he was out to kill her, it couldn’t have been too friendly.

“Can I offer you a drink? Soda? Iced tea? I just made a fresh pitcher of sweet tea.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Rachel said. She watched as Ariel dropped ice into tall crystal glasses and then poured the tea from a slender pitcher. Everything in the kitchen was just as beautiful and pristine as the rest of the house—just as Ariel was. Ariel was nearly a decade younger than Rachel at age thirty-four and was the same height. She was a natural blonde with a head of thick hair cut into a swingy bob, and her skin was nearly translucent. Her ice-blue eyes shone bright, and she was as slender as a fashion model. Ariel moved like a lithe dancer and dressed artfully—the only word Rachel could think of to describe Ariel’s style. While she wore skinny jeans, a flowery blouse, and tall espadrilles, it was the carefully applied makeup and many rings, bracelets, and necklaces she wore that gave Rachel the artsy impression.

Ariel’s many bracelets jangled now as she set the sweet tea in front of Rachel on the counter. “Let’s sit in the living room. It’s more comfortable,” Ariel said, and Rachel followed her there with her drink in hand.

Once seated on the flowery cushions of the heavy wooden furniture, Rachel asked, “Why don’t we start at the beginning? Why do you think your ex-husband faked his death?”

A long sigh escaped Ariel’s pouty red lips. She reached for one of her necklaces and toyed with the golden sun charm. “About two years ago, my book sales began to soar, which I thought was wonderful after only five years of self-publishing. Suddenly, we had more money than we’d ever dreamed possible, and for some unknown reason, that bothered Randall. He’d always thought of my writing as a fun hobby—never as a way to actually earn a livable income. He was an investment broker and had always earned a good income. I think my having money scared him a little.”

Rachel frowned. “Why? Was he jealous?”

“Oh, no. I don’t think so. More like he felt less like a man if he didn’t earn all the money in the relationship.” Ariel sighed dramatically. “I don’t understand it. It was soon after that he began going to bars and having affairs with younger women, and I was just beside myself. It made no sense to me. We’d been so happy together, and he just snapped one day and changed completely.”

“That’s awful,” Rachel said, reaching out and placing a comforting hand on Ariel’s arm. “I’m so sorry. Is that what led to the divorce?”

Ariel nodded, her topaz earrings bobbing with her head. “I had worked too hard to give up my writing career just to save his male ego. And I could never live with a man who cheated. So, I kicked him out, changed the locks, and put up a camera system around the house. He was furious but finally accepted that we were through.”

“Relationships are difficult,” Rachel said sympathetically. “I’m sorry it came to that. How did he behave after the divorce? Was he angry or vengeful?”

Ariel took a sip of her drink and then placed it carefully on the glass-topped coffee table. “He tried to get back together, then gave up. Randall moved onto his yacht, and from what I heard from other friends, began throwing parties and hanging out at the bar at the marina with a different girl each night.” Ariel’s eyes filled with tears. “It hurt. I loved him so much. We married when we both were twenty-four and were so in love. We did everything together—Caribbean vacations, boating for weeks at a time—everything. It never made sense why he suddenly changed.”

Rachel picked up a box of tissues from the end table and set them next to Ariel, who dabbed at her eyes, careful not to smudge her mascara.

“Randall was such a handsome man. I can’t blame women for flocking to him,” Ariel said. “And he’s smart—really smart. He always bragged he was smarter than me, and that never bothered me because I believed it was true. But as my career escalated and I was managing advertising and marketing, I think he saw that I was no dummy, and that bothered him. I guess he just wanted a woman who hung on his every word as if it were gospel.”

Rachel had known men like that through the years. Ones that based their masculinity on being more intelligent than their wives. She had been thankful her husband had been proud of the work she did. Carter had been a good man and father. Even after four years, she still missed him.

“But then he died in the boating accident,” Rachel said to urge Ariel forward. “How did that happen?”

She shook her head. “No one knows why his boat blew up. It could have been a defect in the engine, or it could have been a gas leak. After digging into his work life, one investigator even thought a client who’d lost money on investments may have rigged the boat to catch fire. Can you believe that? It’s like something from a cheesy novel.”

“But they proved he actually died in the explosion?” Rachel asked.

“Yes, they did. I had some of his personal effects that they were able to get a DNA match from. There wasn’t much of him to find.” Tears filled her eyes again. “It was so gruesome. But they did identify him.” Ariel began wringing her hands. “That’s what makes this all so insane. How could he be dead but still be showing up, stalking me? I see him everywhere!”

“Where have you seen Randall?” Rachel asked calmly, trying to soothe Ariel’s strained nerves.

Ariel glanced nervously out the patio windows, then leaned in closer toward Rachel. “Everywhere,” she whispered. “In the grocery store. At the beach. Last night, I saw him in the backyard, standing by the pool. He was just staring at me through the window.” She shivered. “I feel like I’m losing my mind.”

Rachel felt a chill run up her spine just thinking about what Ariel had thought she’d seen. It had to be unnerving to see her dead ex-husband, even if it might be her imagination. “What do you think he wants?” she asked Ariel.

Ariel stared at her and frowned. “Don’t you understand? He’s come back for the money. He wants the two-million dollars and will do anything in his power to get it.”


Genre: Murder Mystery

Release Date: August 10, 2021

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