Sneak Peek: Killer Cult – Addison Moore

Sneak Peek: Killer Cult

Sneak Peek!

Killer Cult

Book Description:

When FBI Agent Fallon Baxter returns to her hometown of Pine Ridge Falls to join the local field office, she expects a fresh start and a chance to mend her broken past. Instead, she’s thrust into the heart of darkness when a string of brutal murders shakes the quiet community.

Chapter 1

Emily Gannon

Panic grips me like an icy claw that squeezes my chest as I sprint through the dense underbrush that leads outside the compound. 

The sky is black, not even a sliver of moonlight to illuminate my path or give me away. For that small mercy, I’m thankful.

I need to get out of here. 

I need to get home, the home I closed my mind and my heart to all those years ago. Sarah and Lindsay flit through my mind. My living dolls, my little sisters who I abandoned. My rambunctious brother, Nate, who was forever teasing me yet loved me like no one else.

Tears sear my vision as my feet move faster.

The sound of my labored breathing enlivens the night, and the frantic beating of my heart echoes in my ears as dry leaves crush beneath my feet. 

The air is warm against my skin despite the late hour. It’s been hellishly hot during the day, the night no better, but it beats a Colorado winter by a mile. That’s exactly why I had to wait for this time of year to begin with. 

The heavy scent of pine stings my nostrils as my feet pound the dampness of the forest floor. It’s quiet as death out here, a stark contrast to the adrenaline surging through my veins.

I never imagined the serene wilderness with its towering aspens, the distant hoot of an owl, would play a part in my nightmare. 

I dart past the silhouettes of trees, fleeing from shadows that seem to loom at every turn despite the blinding darkness.

I remember the day I heard about Paradise. It had been a rough week—the kind that makes you question every decision you’ve ever made. I was wandering through Denver feeling more lost than usual when I stumbled upon a couple of girls. They were so charming, so fun, so full of everything I thought I wanted to be. They promised a community that offered what I had been seeking for so long, a sense of belonging, understanding, a true family. 

My own family was never close-knit. My mother held her social clubs in higher esteem than her children. My father held his revolving door of mistresses even closer than that. I craved a connection that I never felt at home.

Stepping into Paradise was like stepping into a dream. People from all walks of life came together, united by a shared vision of living in harmony away from the chaos of the outside world. We cut ties with our past, which I did without a second thought. They said we were building our own Garden of Eden, a self-sufficient haven where love and community were all that mattered—despite the dark undercurrents, the dark things they made me do, and the darker things they did to me. I believed it, and wholeheartedly a part of me still does. 

The days blended into one another, each filled with communal tasks, meditation, the devilish things done under the cover of darkness, and teachings from our leaders, whom we revered. They spoke of higher purposes, of souls intertwined, of a destiny far greater than any we could imagine alone. 

It was everything I wanted to hear, to believe, and to have. 

But there were discrepancies in what we were told versus what I saw. Once I became aware of them, they were ever-present. I couldn’t deny them and neither could they.  

But now it’s all spiraled into this hellish sprint through the woods, fleeing from the very people I once considered my saviors. I came in seeking a family, and instead stumbled into a den of wolves. Now, here I am, running for my life, with the truth twisting in my chest like a knife.

I’m going home to Sarah, Lindsay, and Nate. My siblings whom I never should have left to begin with. I thought they’d be fine without me, but I’ve grieved for them deeply and I find it hard to believe they haven’t grieved for me, too. 

I’ll get help as soon as I can. I need to get Grady out of that hellhole and our sweet baby girl Evelyn, too. I should have seen the signs when they started taking away pieces of myself—when they were taking pieces of others away, too. 

In Paradise, every child is your child, a concept I was more than thrilled with right up until I had my own. Bonding was verboten. I was so on board with that before I had Evelyn. I still remember the way the mothers begged for their children and I gleefully kept them apart. They were in my arms, in my care for the first year of their life.

A one-year cleansing was to help bond the children to the rest of my so-called sisters. But people were forever sneaking children back to their mothers, something I disapproved of until one day someone put Evelyn right back in my arms. 

And Grady, how much I love him. I never thought in a million years I’d meet the man who would steal my heart in the middle of the hell I’ve just escaped. 

In Paradise, there is no perfect partner. All men are our husbands; all husbands are our perfect partners. Everyone is so very happy with that. Everyone but me. It killed Grady to see me with other men. It killed me even more. 

Those dirty blue tents come back to mind and I quickly push them right back out.

Instead, my thoughts reel to my brother. He would kill everyone here if he knew what had happened to me. My precious Nate. We had our love of art in common. I would give anything to listen to him talk about politics for hours on end. But then, time has marched on, years slipping under the bridge as easy as water. My siblings are older now. Sarah is probably in grad school. Lindsay might be, too. Nate is probably looking forward to hunting in the fall. 

I’ll go back to school. I wish I never dropped out. If they don’t let me back in, I’ll apply to an art school. Heck, I’ll eschew my scholastic dreams altogether and lose myself in my paintings. I hope my mother didn’t throw any of my old work away. 

The barn was my oasis where I could lose myself for hours in a world of oils and acrylics. 

My father will welcome me home with open arms. 

My mother will be harder to win back, but I don’t care. I’m not above groveling at this point. I’m not above sleeping on the front porch if that’s what it comes down to. I need them now more than ever before. 

I need the freedom I had that I was too blind to see.


My panting increases as I struggle to catch my breath.

I can almost taste the freedom.

Freedom to do as I wish, when I wish, with whom I wish.

A dull laugh stifles in my throat. 

Those were the exact reasons I gave when I chose to embrace the lifestyle in Paradise.

So many lies.

So many bad bad things they made me do, that they did to me.

I hate them.

I hope they rot in Hell.

My foot catches on a root, and I stumble, nearly falling. Panic surges in me anew. I can’t slow down, not even for a second. 

I think of my parents out there somewhere, possibly still searching for me. 

Do they know what I’ve gotten myself into? Maybe they think I died all those years ago. 

The guilt gnaws at me, but right now it’s overshadowed by the primal urge to survive.

The chilling sound of a branch snapping echoes from behind. 

“They know,” I pant. 

Too close. 

I push myself harder, faster, and choose to ignore my burning lungs and legs screaming in protest. 

The quiet solace of the night is something I once found comforting, and yet now it seems menacing, each rustle and whisper igniting the fear within me.

My foot catches on a branch this time. 

A hand grasps my shoulder, yanking me back with horrifying strength, and I spin around to see my nightmare come to life, that red hood covering his features. 

My breath catches in my throat. 

“You can’t outrun your destiny,” he says, his words slicing through the night air like a knife.

My heart sinks because right now there are no truer words. 

He grips his hands around my neck, and try as I might to fight him, I’m helpless to evict him. His grip is unrelenting.

Whoever the hell he is, I hate him. 

My fingers claw at his arms, his hands, his neck.

Can’t breathe. 

Lungs burn.

So much pain.

I glance to the stars for one final plea of mercy.

The world fades in and out like a fever dream.

The last few years of my life run through my memory in jags. 

Each moment was a fatal mistake.

I clamp my hand over the top of his head and pluck the hood right off of him.

And then I see him for who he is.

His grip momentarily loosens as his eyes widen with surprise.

“It’s you.” I gasp just before he clamps over my neck with twice as much strength.

This time the world fades to black forever.

Chapter 2

Special Agent Fallon Baxter

They say there’s no place like home, but what they don’t tell you is that sometimes, home is where your darkest nightmares are waiting to come to life. 

In the case of my hometown, they already have. 

I could have made the drive from Reno to Pine Ridge Falls blindfolded if I had to. I have a feeling no matter where I was in this great nation, my internal compass would always be set to home, and I would always be able to make my way there. 

After all, I know the way to Hell. I’m headed there now.

As I steer my car around another winding curve, the familiar rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains welcome me like a pair of open arms—like the old friends they are. It’s been two long years since I last drove these roads, two years since the chaos of my life made me swear off Pine Ridge Falls for good. Yet, here I am, heading back, drawn by both duty and desperation.

The little dusty gem of a town pops up abruptly, as it always does, tucked away in a valley that’s lush with evergreens in the shadow of the towering mountains. 

My heart thumps unnaturally at the sight of the waterfall that stands at the helm of Pine Ridge Falls. Its water cascades down with a force that seems to shake the entire planet. It always does. 

I roll down the window of my 4Runner and let in the fresh, misty air that carries the unmistakable scent of pine and wildflowers. It might be early summer, but there’s still snow on the ground in patches and the frozen breeze does its best to steal the warmth from my truck. Despite the fact, I take in a deep breath and the scent of Pine Ridge Falls brings back a flood of memories, some good, most painful.

The rolling hills, the sharp crags of the mountain, I can’t seem to drink them in fast enough as I navigate along the cobbled streets where most of the businesses are lined up like poorly performing fiscal soldiers. 

I wouldn’t say time left Pine Ridge Falls behind. It has its fair share of technology, usually by way of a glowing screen tucked into the palm of every hand, but something about this place screams mid-twentieth-century time capsule.

I navigate the familiar streets, noting how little has changed. The same old wooden sign that reads Welcome to Pine Ridge Falls stands proudly at the town’s entrance. There’s a carving of a bear cub hinged over the top of it, looking just as adorable as I remember. The sign looks a bit more weathered but just as welcoming. The old grocery store zips by, and the bakery flashes by as well with its windows glowing warmly against the backdrop of the mountains. It’s comforting to see that some things remain constant.

A fancy new coffee shop greets me, then the laundromat, a bookstore, a candy shop—a real draw for tourists, but we don’t get many. And lastly, I see exactly what I came for.

My destination is just ahead—Bea’s Diner. 

Bea as in Beatrice Baxter, my mother.

The sight of it squeezes my heart. 

Mom’s diner is quaint with a slightly faded sign. The red checkered curtains in the window give it a homey appeal. There’s a smaller sign next to the door, promising of the best blueberry pancakes this side of the Rockies. 

I press my lips together as I blink back tears. It looks exactly as I remember. Exactly how I remembered it that night.

I park in a spot out front and sit for a moment to gather my thoughts. 

Returning here wasn’t an easy decision. 

My sister Erin blinks through my mind. My sister Riley does as well. Next, it’s my father’s turn, but with him I just see the blood splatter. Then lastly, my mother with my Glock in her hand.  

“Wonderful,” I mutter as I force myself out of the truck before I change my mind and head straight back to Nevada. 

No sooner do my feet land on the ground than the sound of the distant falls embraces me like an old friend. It’s late morning, but the fog is still hugging the ground and I can feel the mist brushing against my skin, a cold reminder of the mysteries that lie hidden in this town. 

I pull my jacket tighter around me, steeling myself as I head for the entrance. It’s not just the warmth of the diner or my mother’s embrace I’m here for—it’s the search for truth in a place that, for all its beauty, harbors a very dark secret beneath its surface. 

As much as I’d like to brag that I know each and every one of them, I have a feeling I know just enough to be dangerous.

The sign reading Bea’s Diner flickers above the entry. Like a lot of things in Pine Ridge Falls, it’s holding on to its charm by a thread. The windows are streaked with the muddy trails of countless storms and a part of me wonders if it’s a harbinger for things to come.

Inside, it’s light and bright, a touch too warm with the scent of freshly grilled burgers and fries alerting me to the fact it’s just about lunchtime. 

Eighties music plays softly from the speakers, and just above that is the chatter of happy customers. A few families sit scattered about, a handful of couples, and just about as many singles are hunched over their meals and coffee.  

The interior, much like the exterior, wears its age with a certain dignity quickly overshadowed by a cry for renovations. Red Naugahyde seats pepper the place with color, their surfaces cracked and peeling just like the walls. The black and white checkered floor, once pristine, now shows signs of wear. The ample counter up front is chipped and faded and yet stands proud like a true testament to years of service. The last three of those years has been in the hands of my mother. 

She was the head waitress here just before that, ever since she graduated from high school. It’s safe to say I’ve grown up here, but that was when it was called the Corner Café. 

In elementary school, I’d help my mother wait tables, in junior high, I hid behind a stack of menus from the embarrassment of being seen at my mother’s place of employment, and in high school, I sat in the alley out back with the stoners hoping the cute boys would notice me. That last bit didn’t happen until much later and not in Colorado. It turns out, the boys in Virginia found me much more their type, especially the boys in Quantico. 

I half-expected to see my mother behind the counter as soon as I set foot in this place. She knows I’m coming, so that’s the reception I rehearsed in my mind. Her presence is as much a part of this place as the diner itself. 

Instead, my eyes fall on another face, one that feels just as much like family, and I make a beeline his way.

“Well, well,” I say with a laugh trapped in my throat. “I knew I was in Hell, but I didn’t think I’d get to see the devil himself.”

His lips curl at the tips because he knows I’m right.

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