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Her First Mistake

An utterly gripping psychological thriller with a breathtaking twist

Carey Baldwin

Books by Carey Baldwin

Her First Mistake

The Cassidy & Spenser Thrillers Series







First Do No Evil (Blood Secrets Book 1)

Confession (Blood Secrets Book 2)



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43


Hear More from Carey

Books by Carey Baldwin

A Letter from Carey Baldwin



For Dottie, Sue Ellen and Suzanne

With love


Twenty years ago

Somewhere in the woods—San Diego County, California

Mia covered her mouth with her hand; she mustn’t cry out. Her mother had promised this would be the last time she’d lock her in the shed, and Mia believed her—or at least she was trying to.

Tonight or maybe tomorrow I’ll tell Arnie all about you.

Mia’s heart fluttered at the remembered promise. She couldn’t wait to meet Arnie, and not only because it was dark and cold in here. Shivering, she adjusted the blanket, spreading it to better cover her shoulders, and then tucked it beneath her arms to make a coat. Her teeth chattered, and the tips of her fingers tingled. She hated the cold, but the dark was so familiar she hardly minded it. She had a flashlight for when she really needed it, but she knew better than to waste the batteries. They cost money, and money was hard to get. If she used the batteries too fast, it made life hard for Mommy.

Mommy talked about Arnie all the time. She said he was tall and had dark wavy hair and a scar on his cheek he got fighting bad guys when he was in the Navy. By now, Mia knew her mother’s Arnie speech by heart:

I couldn’t tell Arnie about you straight off because I figured he didn’t like kids. You remember my friend Sid left on account of he didn’t want the burden. Said he wouldn’t trust himself to look after a dog, much less a little girl. I told Sid you didn’t need looking after, and he left me anyway. But turns out Arnie isn’t like Sid at all. He smiles when I talk about having kids someday. Mia, I finally got a man who likes children!

Next, her mother would clap her hands and hug her. So tonight’s the night. I’ll wait ’til he’s had his whiskey and is in a real good mood so he won’t be mad I fibbed to him. Then I’ll tell him all about you and what a good little girl you are, and you won’t have to hide when he comes over anymore. Why, next thing you know, he’ll be taking us both out for ice cream. What kind do you want, baby?

Then Mia would answer, chocolate, even though she couldn’t remember how chocolate ice cream tasted. Mommy talked about chocolate scoops on top of a sugar cone the same way she talked about Arnie. Like nothing else in this world could beat them. Ice cream and Arnie. Arnie and ice cream. These were the things her mother’s dreams were made of.

Mia secretly wished her mother would go on and on about her to Arnie like she did about him to her. But that couldn’t happen because he didn’t know Mia existed. The hope chest in the front room was used to hide her things—coloring books, a bear with the stuffing leaking out, and clothes usually kept folded in the bottom drawer of the dresser in the bedroom she and Mommy shared when Arnie wasn’t around.

Tears stung her eyes, and she sucked in a breath. She was not supposed to be jealous of Arnie.

Mommy loved them both the same—that’s what she always said to Mia right before she locked her in the shed and told her to be good.

Make Mommy proud.

Mia fought back her tears.

Mommy would come for her soon.

But where was she? Though Mia didn’t know how many days had passed, she was sure Mommy had never left her this long before.

Mia moved her thumb over the button of the flashlight. She hesitated before pushing it. After Mommy had closed the door, and the board that bolted it had groaned into place, Mia had kept the flashlight on until she could see better in the dark, then quickly switched it off. Now, its light looked yellow, and she understood that meant the battery was almost gone, even though, after those first few minutes in the shed, she’d only used it when she had to eat or drink or needed the baby potty in the corner. She swung the dull light around letting it bounce off the row of opened cans lined up against the wall.

One, two, three… eight cans.

She counted them after every sleep. There wasn’t much else to do, and she liked counting. She was six and a half years old and could already make it to one hundred. And because she could make it to one hundred, she knew if she had to, she could get all the way to infinity.

Mia, a smart girl like you can do anything you put your mind to. That’s what Granddad used to say.

She didn’t go to school, but whenever Mommy wasn’t saucing it up, she worked with Mia on letters and numbers. Saucing it up was what Granddad called it when Mommy drank beer until she couldn’t walk straight.

Last year, after he caught a cough that wouldn’t go away, Granddad died, and Mia and Mommy got kicked out of his apartment. That’s when they found the cabin in the woods where they lived now. Mommy said the cabin was a blessing, and that someone must’ve left it especially for them because they had no place else to go.

Mia thought a real house would have been more of a blessing, but

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