Though I am now a writer, I attended the Rhode Island School of Design to study photography. I learned I didn’t want to be a professional photographer, but I also learned a lot about creativity. I also got to know and understand artists in their many forms.
Counterfeits was my chance to explore the world of art and artists, in an unusual setting. Jemez Springs is a real town in the Northwestern part of New Mexico. I have attended many writing retreats at Hummingbird Music Camp, where Mrs. Higgins, 94 at the time of this writing, still sometimes flings pancakes to guests at breakfast.
Hummingbird was the inspiration for the children’s art camp my heroine inherits. Other sites mentioned in the book, such as Battleship Rock and Soda Dam, are real. All events are fictional – as the theft of rare Rembrandt paintings brings danger to Jenny and her friends, isolated in the remote New Mexico mountains.
Painter Jenny Kinley has spent the last decade struggling in the New York art world. Her grandmother’s sudden death brings her home to New Mexico, but inheriting the children’s art camp her grandmother ran is more of a burden than a gift. How can she give up her lifelong dreams of showing her work in galleries and museums?
Rob Caruso, the camp cook and all-around handyman, would be happy to run the camp with Jenny. Dare he even dream of that, when his past holds dark secrets that he can never share? When Jenny’s father reappears after a decade-long absence, only Rob knows where he’s been and what danger he’s brought with him.
Jenny and Rob face midnight break-ins and make desperate escapes, but the biggest danger may come from the secrets that don’t want to stay buried. In the end, they must decide whether their dreams will bring them together or force them apart.
Counterfeits is romantic suspense in the Southwest that will interest fans of Terry Odell, Mary Stewart, Lillian Stewart Carl, and Barbara Michaels.
“Counterfeits is the kind of romantic suspense novel I have enjoyed since I first read Mary Stewart’s Moonspinners, and Kris Bock used all the things I love about this genre. Appealing lead characters, careful development of the mysterious danger facing one or both of those characters, a great location that is virtually a character on its own, interesting secondary characters who might or might not be involved or threatened, and many surprises building up to the climax.” 5 Stars – Roberta at Sensuous Reviews blog
“Counterfeits is a good mystery and will keep people guessing for most of the story. In fact, I was flipping fast through pages because I wanted to know how the story ended. There were lots of secrets and lots of surprises, so that moved the pace of the plot along nicely and kept me engaged in the story. Kris Bock is a mystery mastermind and did a nice job with that aspect of the story. I also liked the complex relationships in the story. Jenny never had it easy, and it was nice to see a heroine struggle to make it work with her friends and family (like it can be in real life).” – Readers Favorite Reviews
Jenny rose from sleep slowly, her body resisting. She could see nothing in the pitch black. Where was she? She blinked, trying to make sure her eyes were really open.
Memories broke through the fog. The phone call, the rush across country, the late arrival. Crawling into bed in her grandparents’ upstairs guest room. She groaned and pulled up the blanket. Morning must be hours away, given the darkness.
The old house creaked, but no sounds drifted in from outside. Maybe that’s what woke her; she was used to the murmur of city sounds all night long. Who’d have thought that would become normal?
Her head pounded. Probably dehydration from the high elevation and dry air. She should get up, drink a glass of water, take a couple of aspirin. Her head would thank her in the morning. If only she could make herself move.
The house creaked again, followed by a rhythmic sound – like footsteps. Jenny jerked upright, her ears straining. Had she heard a voice?
She shook her head. She must still be half asleep, dreaming. Imagining her grandparents were still here. Wishful thinking.
Downstairs, a door closed. Jenny clutched the blanket. Imagination be damned. She was not alone.
For a long moment, she sat frozen. During her ten years in New York City, she had never been burglarized or mugged. It seemed impossible that such a thing should happen now, here, in an off-season art camp five miles outside of Jemez Springs, New Mexico.
Maybe it was someone her grandmother knew. But what were they doing there in the middle of the night? And if they’d come to see Jenny, they should have knocked, rung the bell. Waited for morning. Anyway, who knew she was there? Even Ms. Lucena didn’t know when she was supposed to arrive. She hadn’t told anyone her travel plans; she’d just gone.
She had to do something. Jenny rose and eased open the bedroom door, praying she had somehow been mistaken, that everything would make sense if… when…. She couldn’t imagine a benign explanation.
She stood with her ear to the crack and heard a low chuckle, and then a male voice. She couldn’t tell if the laugh and the voice were the same person. Either way, that suggested two or more people, at least one of them male.
Why would a man be laughing in her grandmother’s house, in the middle of the night, two days after her grandmother’s death? No good reason came to mind.
She fumbled for her phone on the bedside stand. But even before she activated the screen, she gave a frustrated grunt. She wouldn’t get reception here. The only place in camp that got cell phone reception was the southeast corner of the parking lot. The landline was downstairs, in the kitchen.
Something crashed in a room below. Jenny jumped and dropped her phone. It hit her thigh, then her foot, and went skittering under the bed with a faint scrape against the wood floor.
A man was swearing downstairs. Hopefully that had covered up any sound she’d made. Jenny clenched her hands to control the trembling. She couldn’t imagine her grandmother being friendly with anyone who swore like that.
She had to get out of the house. She wouldn’t wait upstairs for the burglars, if that’s what they were, to find her. If she could get to her car – damn. Her keys were in her purse, which was downstairs on the living room couch. So she couldn’t drive, but she could still go to the Lodge, break in if she had to. Use the phone in the office, call the police.
Still shaking, Jenny crouched and felt along the floor for her shoes. She was wearing flannel pajama bottoms and a tank top; no need to waste time putting on clothes. She was already cold, but her jacket was downstairs, lying over her purse on the couch. It didn’t matter. She just had to get out.
Jenny slipped from the room and down the hall. She paused at the top of the stairs, which were open to the living room on one side. She had to figure out where the intruders were, so she didn’t walk right into their arms. She stood taut, senses straining.
A screech sounded, maybe a chair leg on tile, and then kitchen cabinets clattered open and closed. The kitchen was as far away as they could get from the front door. But were they both – or all, if there were more than two – back there?
What choice did she have? If they kept going through the house, eventually they would find her. She refused to think about what that might mean. She had to get out.
She crept partway down the stairs, sliding one hand along the banister for balance as she craned her neck to search the room below. Nothing moved in the dim living room, but light spilled down the hallway from the kitchen. She thought she heard two voices back there.
Jenny took a breath and held it. She had to go now.
She ran lightly down the stairs. By the time she hit the bottom, she’d reached full speed. The door was slightly ajar. She wrenched at it and hurled herself through. She swung around the door, pulling it nearly shut behind her to hide the sign of her exit. She had one moment to glance toward the back of the house before the door closed. Nothing but the light showed that something was wrong.
Jenny spun around and took one big step away from the house – and slammed into a hard body.
Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. In The Dead Man’s Treasure, estranged relatives compete to reach a buried treasure by following a series of complex clues. Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com or visit her Amazon page.