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The Garden Girls: A Psychological Thriller

The Garden Girls by Jessica R. Patch

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The Garden Girls

The Garden GirlsOn a remote Outer Banks island, a serial killer collects his prized specimens. And to stop him, an FBI agent must confront his own twisted past.
FBI agent Tiberius Granger has seen his share of darkness. But a new case sets him on edge. It’s not just the macabre way both victims—found posed in front of lighthouses—are tattooed with flowers that match their names. There’s also the unsettling connection to the woman Ty once loved and to the shadowy cult they both risked everything to escape.  

Bexley Hemmingway’s sister has gone missing, and she’ll do anything to find her—including teaming up with Ty. That may prove a mistake, and not just because Ty doesn’t know he’s the father of her teenaged son. It seems the killer is taunting Ty, drawing everyone close to him into deeper danger.

As the slashing winds and rain of a deadly hurricane approach the coast of North Carolina, the search leads Ty and Bex to an island that hides a grisly secret. But in his quest for the truth, Ty has ignored the fact that this time, he’s not just the hunter. Every move has been orchestrated by a killer into a perfect storm of terror, and they will need all their skills to survive…

Book Details:

Genre: Christian Psychological Thriller
Published by: Love Inspired Trade
Publication Date: April 23, 2024
Number of Pages: 367
ISBN: 9781335463074 (ISBN10: 1335463070)
Series: FBI: Strange Crimes Unit, Book 3 || Each is a Stand-Alone Novel

To purchase The Garden Girls, click any of the following links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads | Harlequin |

Read an excerpt from The Garden Girls:



Sharp claws scrape along my neck.

Back and forth.

Back and forth.

Buzzing fills the room, and I strain to open my eyes but they’re like molasses, thick and sticky and slow-moving. My stomach jumps and the room shifts as my blurred vision registers red walls and coffee-colored concrete. I inhale a hint of bleach and incense with a spicy note as I shift to survey the rest of the room, but my muscles ripple like languid water.

The air-conditioner kicks on, and the cold air raises chills across my naked body.

I’m…naked. A fist squeezes my lungs as panic rips through my system. My memories are disjointed.

Where am I? How did I arrive here?

What is happening to me? What has already happened? Shoe soles click on the floor and silence my questions.

I am not alone. Or…I wasn’t. The door closes with a quiet click.

Get up. Move. Run!

Gripping the sides of a massage table, I roll off, and my bare feet hit cool flooring. The walls close in and shift, and my stomach roils. Something is wrong. Off.

Floor-to-ceiling mirrors cover an entire wall, and my breath catches as reality comes into view.

Pink flower buds wend through a vine of black along my neck and upper back.

Confusion clouds my senses, and I stand cemented in place gawking at the angry red skin, sore and tender and smeared with glossy petroleum jelly.

A tight knot grows in my throat, and tears stab with heated force against the backs of my eyes.

I have to get out of here.

Behind me, I spot a twin bed with luxurious sheets and a thick white comforter as well as tattooing equipment. My hands tremble. Am I in a tattoo parlor? Why is a bed in here?

Lying on the floor next to the bed is an old iron cuff attached to a thick, heavy chain that is anchored to the wall.

Why is that in here and where are my clothes?

I snatch the downy comforter and drape it over my exposed body.

Run. Run. Run!

I open the door but have no clue which way to go or where he is or how long until he finds and cuffs me to that bed.

I’ve been trapped before at the hands of a vicious predator. Old memories surface and spur me across the carpeted flooring. The hall veers left. My eyes begin to adjust to the darkness as I flee to safety—no.

To a dead end.

Defeat leaches like muddy water into my soul, and my chest aches. The only choice is to turn around.

But he’s in that direction.

Sweat slicks down my temples and spine, springing up through my pores like an underground fountain as I return the way I came.

I see what might be a crack in the wall. Light seeps in from the other side. As I  approach, I discover it’s a door made to look like part of the wall. I swallow hard and guide my fingers along the smooth wood until I feel a lever. I push it and the door releases, but it takes some grit to open it enough for me to slide through.

I expect some kind of lair or dungeon or God knows what—a wall with torture devices and cages—but it’s not.

It’s a living room with wall-to-wall windows overlooking dark water.

Where is he?

I suck in a breath as creaking registers on the stairs. There’s nowhere to hide, and the comforter is bulky and will easily give me away. I have no option but to ditch it in the corner. I can’t dwell on modesty.


I dart toward the sliding glass door, silently slide it open and slip out into the warm night air before scrambling to the edge of the balcony. I crouch to make myself small, like when I was a child and needed to obscure myself.

Maybe he doesn’t realize I’m gone, but then it hits me.

I didn’t shut the secret door concealing the other rooms.

A sob bubbles to the surface as I shake uncontrollably like I’ve woken from anesthesia. The ground is far below me. I’d die or break my legs, maybe my spine. But I’d rather die than go back to that room.

To that chain.

To more tattoo needles.

To him.

I draw up my knees and wait, pray. Hope.

When the door doesn’t open, I scoot across the deck, the raw wood digging into tender flesh, but I need to see if the coast is clear.

What if he’s standing at the door, waiting? Watching?

I hear something and freeze.

One Mississippi. Two Mississippi…I count silently until I reach Twenty Mississippi and scoot again.

I can’t be sure if he’s nearby. If he is, deep in the marrow of my bones, I know the kinds of things that await me. I know what evil men can do. I’ve seen it. Experienced it.

Finally, I muster the courage to peep through the door. The room is empty and dimly lit from the one glowing lamp. I creep inside; my brain is fuzzy and spins.

No footsteps. Only bulging shadows in the corners.

I slither across the Berber carpet and inhale the newness. A set of stairs is on the other side of the open living concept. About ten feet of space isn’t occupied with furniture which means when I make a run for it, and he enters the room, I’ll have no cover.

If he doesn’t and I make it downstairs, he could still be waiting for me.

I try to form a defense plan, but my brain might as well be sludge. Making my move, more out of my flight response than logic, I army-crawl across the open space to the stairs.

Two sets of six. I practically roll down the first set and pause.

He’s not there at the small landing.

Six more to go.

This time I move slower, ignoring the adrenaline shouting sprint. I can’t. He could be waiting and I need to listen.

One…two…three…four…five…six. I pause again at the bottom of the stairs.

No light befriends me on the ground floor. Only darkness—and darkness is never a friend. Darkness is deceptive, offering false security. Nothing good transpires in darkness. It’s not a refuge to hide. But a place to be found. In the dark, I can’t see my predator, but I know he’s lurking.

The door is five feet away to freedom, and I sprint for it.

Hope blooms in my chest.

I mutter a prayer as I run. Three feet left.


Thank God, I’m here. I twist the knob.

It’s locked.

A cry cracks loose inside me, but I hold it down and fumble with the dead bolt.

Shuffling sounds across tile.

Closer. Closer.

I manage to turn the dead bolt and pull on the door, but it sticks.

He’s coming. The clicks are methodic, slow and measured as if he’s in no hurry. Like he knows I can’t escape. It’s a game.

Please. Please. Come on!

The door opens and I slip out, forcing myself to stay calm in case my mind is playing tricks on me and it’s not him. This time, I make sure to close the door behind me. The air is balmy and the wind rustles through the grass.

The briny sea air washes over my tongue and the marsh grass swishes as I dart down a private boardwalk that leads…I don’t know where. I only know to run and eat up the ground and create distance between me and the house of horror. Between me and him.

Thick walls of clouds block the moonlight.

A door slams. Then I hear something.

Thwupt. Thwupt. Thwupt.

He’s dragging something across the boardwalk. I dare not turn to look.

He’s coming.

Slow and methodical. Silent. Only the awful dragging noise.

Nothing comes into view but marshland and water surrounded by clusters of trees. Alligators lie in wait. I can’t remember how I know this. There are snakes and snapping turtles too.

But he’s behind me.

Plopping noises in the water draw my attention, and I freeze. What is it? Will it approach me or prey on me if I enter too?

I can’t risk staying on the boardwalk. I ease myself into the icy depths and it steals my breath. Slime oozes over my feet, and I sink into mire. Murky water reaches my waist, sending a shock along my abdomen, but I can’t gasp. Instead, I push through the grass and hope the stirring due to my movement won’t alert him of my location.

Sharp twigs and rocks gouge into the bottom of my feet, and I crunch my bottom lip to keep from crying. Marsh grass appears soft at a glance, but it’s strong and sharp like knitting needles and stabs into my flesh and tender places where I’ve been tattooed in flowers.

Ahead is a patch of dense trees that would conceal me even in daylight. A huge splash sends ripples only a few feet away, startling resting birds to flight. Now I know what’s been causing the dragging noise.

A canoe.

He’s cutting through the narrow channels and at an advantage.

I can’t stop now. I push through the mud, which tries to hold me captive, and toward the dense thicket of trees. I finagle my way inside, but it’s like camping in a thorn bush, and nettles rip my flesh. A quiet cry escapes my throat, and I cover my mouth.

Did he hear me? Does he know I’m here?

I shiver in the water, my teeth chattering as something lightweight drops onto the crown of my head and skitters into the thick layers before I can catch it.

I squeeze my eyes shut and clench my jaw to muffle a scream. What hideous legged creature is creeping through my hair?

What swims unseen below my waist?

Plop. Plop. Plop.

Fish, alligators, snakes…him?

“Daaaah, daaaah, dah daaaah,” his rich buttery tone sings. It echoes through the wetland and sweeps over my skin like icy talons. “I’ve got all night,” he continues singing. “I’ll take my time.” I cup my hands over my mouth to silence my chattering teeth. He’s close. So close. “I’ll find you. There’s nowhere to hide,” he belts out as if we’re in a Broadway show. His voice is magical and terrifying. “You belong to meeeee…You want only meee…”

I can’t stay here. He’ll find me. I work as silently as possible out of the thicket and away from the concentration of his voice. I hoist myself onto the wooden boardwalk because he believes I’m in the water. Rushing is out of the question. He’ll hear my footfalls. Slow and steady is about all I can muster anyway. My legs might as well be licorice sticks.

He’s still singing and slicing an oar through the water as I forge ahead, quickening my steps by a small measure until I finally reach the end of the boardwalk and am on dry ground. In the woods.

The woods mean I’ll find a road at the clearing. Help will drive by, and I’ll flag it down to freedom.

I wait a beat while my eyes adjust to greater darkness. The trees loom overhead, and the ground is mushy and mixed with sand. I stub my toe, tripping over roots jutting out, but press on. There’s a path and I follow it. Bike path maybe?

My feet are cut and bleeding and my head pounds. The path curves, then straightens out, and I halt.

Not a road.

Not freedom.

Before me is a long stretch of beach littered with driftwood and shells that cut into my feet. Beyond the beach is the endless sea. No homes. Only wetland to my back and the sea everywhere else.

I have no boat. No canoe. Nothing to propel me to freedom.

I’m on a private island, and I finally remember how I arrived.

*** Excerpt from The Garden Girls by Jessica R. Patch. Copyright 2024 by Jessica R. Patch. Reproduced with permission from Jessica R. Patch. All rights reserved.




Jessica R. Patch — Author of The Garden Girls

The Garden Girls

Publishers Weekly Bestselling Author, Jessica R. Patch is known for her dry wit and signature twists whether she’s penned a romantic suspense, a cold case thriller, or a small-town romance.

When she’s not getting into fictional mischief with her characters, you can find her cozy on the couch in her mid-south home reading books by some of her favorite authors, watching movies with her family, and collecting recipes to amazing dishes she’ll probably never cook.

Sign up for her newsletter “Patched In” at and receive a FREE short thriller exclusive to subscribers.

Jessica is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Management.

To learn more about Jessica, click on any of the following links:, Goodreads – @JessicaRPatch, BookBub – @JessicaRPatch, Instagram – @JessicaRPatch, Threads – @JessicaRPatch, Twitter/X – @JessicaRPatch, Facebook – @JessicaRPatch
& TikTok – @readjessicarpatch

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Elena Taylor/Elena Hartwell


Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

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