(Published March 2015, Ozwind Publishing LLC; formerly IDOLUM, winner of the Paranormal Romance Guild’s 2013’s reviewers choice award)
*all photos have been modified to satisfy copyright restrictions*
Dr. Lauren Harris grew up in a quiet lake community. As the daughter of prominent prosecuting attorney, Jason Harris, and the granddaughter of the county’s judge, she was naturally heir to a fortune. All of her family were involved in the legal system either as lawyers or paralegals. They were pillars of the community and everyone had a great deal of respect for the Harris family. Her mother, Beth, a simple elementary school teacher, nevertheless, served as the role model she looked to for guidance and understanding when she discovered she wasn’t like other children.
Lauren discovered at a very young age that she had a gift and she didn’t understand it. She could see the dead and communicate with them. Her first experience took place at a local park as she interacted with a young boy who had been murdered and buried under the marry-go-round. Beth and Lauren kept this secret and when Beth died, she took the secret with her, but not before sharing it with her mother-in-law Annie.
Lauren was raised by her Aunt Ingrid and Uncle Jim after her parents were viciously murdered. Her newly adopted siblings, Josh, Lucas, and Chelsey, took her in graciously and tried to comfort her after such a devastating loss. Lauren instinctively withdrew, focusing all of her efforts on scholastic acheivements. With a brilliant mind and a genius IQ, it was a simple task. She didn’t have much of a social life, much to Chelsey’s dismay. Although her free-spirited cousin was younger than her, Chelsey tried to drag Lauren to various social events. Sometimes, she’d participate, but for the most part, she stayed to herself, reading and studying.
When Lauren graduated from high school, she moved to the dorms in Columbus at Ohio State University. She majored in psychology and then went to Harvard where she furthered studies in psychology. Then she tackled the University of Nebraska’s criminology program earning yet another graduate degree. Finally, she found herself longing to be closer to home, and relocated back to her quiet hometown and completed her doctorate in psychology at Wright State.
During her doctoral studies, her grandfather and uncle invited her to help with jury selection. She gladly accepted and this opened her up to entirely new realization. She could help solve cases, so she sought a job with the State Police and local jurisdictions. She proved to be extremely valuable and began solving cold cases that had been on the shelf for decades. Not only did she use her education, but she used her paranormal gift to put the pieces together and no one was the wiser. Still, she made sure her education trumped her personal skills. Still, she prided herself in the use of science and statistical probability to formulate a criminal profile.
Eventually and shockingly, she became a therapist at a local mental health institute. Her social awkwardness didn’t hold her back from providing help to those in need. She also became nationally recognized for her talents in solving crimes and was offered a teaching position at Wright State as well as public speaking opportunities all over the world.
Lauren also taught women’s self defense and continued work with the police. Her exceptional skills for solving crimes ultimately put her on the FBI’s radar and she began consulting for them. Their behavioral sciences unit took to her quickly. This lead her to the case that would ultimately change the course of her life.
The Phantom was a special kind of horror. The serial killer was burying his victims alive, leaving no chance for them to be found and saved. Naturally, Lauren poured herself into solving the active case. She was teamed with Special Agent and Director-in-Training, Nicholas Bennette. He was an annoying sort with that typical pompous attitude she’d grown to know while helping in the bureau. She never dreamed that line between respect and hate would become blurred between them.
The Phantom case sucked her in, drawing her deeper into the abyss than she ever anticipated. It began testing her personal boundaries and every fiber of who she thought she was. It taught her some valuable, hard lessons. But, there were many times when she wondered if she would ever solve the crimes. When she finally realizes she has, she quickly discovers that it’s much too late. All of the things in her life are now undone and she has not control to change it. She finds that she is forced to do something she has failed at time and time again: trusting people outside herself. She has no choice. She’s powerless and must rely on her friends and family to pull her out of the darkness, into the light.