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Grounds to Believe [Paperback]

Shelley Bates
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 7 2004
He'd find Kailey someday. One assignment at a time. One prayer at a time . . .

Ever since a cult took his daughter, police investigator Ross Malcolm's mission has been to protect children. So when a secretive sect in Hamilton Falls, Washington, comes under suspicion for child endangerment, he's on the job, seeking evidence from the latest recruit's aunt, Julia McNeill. Though disdainful of her restricted lifestyle, Ross finds himself wanting to teach Julia the truth of God's love.

Accustomed to living in her sister's shadow, Julia is unaware of her own strengths. Though she's been taught to fear outsiders, conscience compels her to risk everything to help Ross protect her nephew and find his daughter. But Julia's actions unleash a dangerous chain of events. And now Ross must save three lives from the evil that threatens them . . .


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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.

Romans 8:33

The pager beeped as Ross pulled off the freeway for gas. He glanced at the number and frowned. What was the matter with those guys? Couldn't they survive for two days without yanking on his electronic leash for help?

He tilted the motorcycle onto its side stand at the deserted pump and pulled the pager off his belt. He frowned at the number on the display and stalked over to the pay phone next to the ice machine.

His partner picked up on the first ring. "Organized Crime Task Force. Harper."

"This had better be good, pal." Ross leaned on the dented metal of the bracket protecting the phone from the weather.

"Oh, it is. How's the vacation?""Two days isn't a vacation. It's a weekend. I'm scheduled for five days leave, Ray. Five. You page me, you better be telling me my apartment building's burning down."

"Nope. Worse than that. They got a live one."

"Who?"

"Hamilton Falls. We just got a memo asking for your services. The lieutenant out there says their fink just blew the whistle. A near-miss this time—which adds up to two and a half kids total over the last couple of months. That's "reasonable and probable grounds to believe," in my book."

Ross stood silently, watching a flock of children spill out of the fast-food place next door. Shrieking, their giggles high-pitched, they tumbled into the play area.

One small town. Two deaths and a near-miss in four months.

"Ross?"

"I'm thinking."

"Think fast. Harmon knows I'm talking to you."

So much for his hard-earned five days. "Tell him I'll call him from Hamilton Falls."

"What about your vacation?"

"I guess scenic Interstate 90 was it. Look on the bright side. The woman of my dreams could be anywhere, even in Hamilton Falls."

Ray Harper snorted. "Just make sure she doesn't have kids."

Ross sipped a cup of coffee and considered the manila file folders on the blotter. The lieutenant who usuallyoccupied this office was out at an accident scene. At the front counter, a uniformed patrolman just out of the academy took a complaint, while a telephone rang insistently at an empty desk in the bullpen. Outside the door of his borrowed office, a laser printer began to wheeze.

He had never been to Hamilton Falls before, but the familiar government-issue furniture, the beige linoleum, the numbering system on the files, and even the bad coffee combined to make him feel at home. He could have been in any law-enforcement office in the state.

Ross stretched as the caffeine hit his bloodstream. He ran his fingers through his thick brown mane. Hair. One of the perks of working on the Task Force.

He stacked the files and spread the contents of the first one on the blotter. He hated reading this stuff.

The autopsy report on the so-called SIDS baby, Andreas Wyslicki, lay on top of a transcript of a police interview with the pediatrician, MichaelArcher. Ross started with the interview, reading slowly. His approach to such a witness was to absorb details not of medical procedure, but of personality, of speech patterns, of hints to the habits and preoccupations of the speaker. And Archer was definitely preoccupied.

Archer advises the baby arrived by ambulance approx. 18:40 March 12th. Parents reported that the baby alarm had gone off because he had stoppedbreathing. They had done CPR to no effect. Paramedics could not revive him, and he was pronounced DOA at the hospital.

Ross took another sip of tepid coffee.

Archer cannot account for victim's death. Has been victim's pediatrician since he was born two months ago. Archer requests he be allowed to view autopsy report when completed.

No doubt.

The station clerk's voice penetrated his concentration. "He's in Lieutenant Bellville's office, Harry."

A uniform leaned in the door. "Investigator Malcolm?" Ross put his hands on both arms of the chair and levered himself to his feet. "Yes. You're Harry Everett?"

"The same. Glad you could join us."

"I'm not. I was two days into a five-day leave." The other man looked intimidated until Ross smiled. Then Everett smiled back.

"Sorry about that. But these kids...well, we needed the help."

"Yeah. I've been reading the reports. I'd like to get some background on your informant."

"No problem." He leaned out the door. "Jenny, would you bring me the fink file on Rita Ulstad?" Ross watched as the station clerk, a pretty blonde with a Meg Ryan haircut, sashayed out to the records room and returned carrying another manila folder. That short skirt did less forher than she probably imagined. "Thanks." Everett smiled absently and opened the file she handed him.

"Anything for you," Jenny crooned to Everett as she moved away, but her glance remained on Ross, sparkling with interest. Ross had no doubt about the message. He considered it briefly and rejected it. If there was a woman in his future, he hadn't met her yet. That was one thing he was happy to leave up to the Lord.

"So." Ross tilted back in the chair and laced his fingers behind his head. "What do you have in mind for strategy?"

Harry Everett handed him the file to give himself a moment. "I've heard about you," he said finally. "That you got broken in at Waco."

Ross frowned and moved restlessly. "You heard wrong," he said shortly. "That was long before my time."

"But you're a cult specialist, right? The only one the Task Force has. You did that bunch of Aryan wanna-bes in the hostage situation in Spokane, right?"

Ross fought against the memories that welled up out of the dark place inside him, a place he tried to keep scabbed over and undisturbed. His last sight of Annie and Kailey floated in his mind's eye for a moment, the way it did every time he busted into a run-down apartment or staked out a house, searching for evidence of the organized crime these little cults were so good at hiding. The kids were the worst. Big frightened eyes. Utter distrust. Just like Kailey, screaming at the sight of him.

Ross came back to the present with a jolt and struggled to remember what Harry Everett had been talking about. Oh,yeah. Spokane. "I was involved." He got the conversation back on track with an effort. "Tell me what you need."

Everett backed off and got to the point. "I think we need an undercover. I think you need to buddy up to one of the members and find out as much as you can. I'd suggest our informant, but she's lost their trust and doesn't interact with them anymore. There's got to be a reason for these deaths, but no one knows enough about the Elect to find out what it is. They could be into blood sacrifice, for all we know, and faking the accidents afterwards."

"What does your informant say?"

"She says they're not like that. But there's two and a half dead kids. That's evidence of something weird, in my opinion."

"Two of them were natural, weren't they?"

"You have to ask yourself. Look at the last one. A pillow and some steady pressure wouldn't be very natural."

"But to what purpose? If you're going to make a blood sacrifice, why do it that way, with no ceremonial?"

Harry shrugged. "Who knows how they think?" "Okay. So where do I find these people?" "Easy. Pick the most upstanding citizens in Hamilton Falls and you'll find one. The principal of the high school. A fireman. A bookshop owner." He nudged the informant's file and it slid off the stack. "We'll arrange a conference for you and our fink can give you the details."

Ross pulled his notebook out from under the folders and began jotting down notes. "All these upstanding citizens belong to a cult? Usually cult members isolate themselves, don't mix.""They don't. You can't get them to socialize at all. They won't even let their kids play sports."

"Then why are they so successful in Hamilton Falls? Do they have something on the mayor or what?"

"That wouldn't be hard," Harry scoffed. "I didn't vote for the guy. But these people are honest, even if they're trusting to the point that it's easy to rip them off. They don't believe in lawsuits or stereos or anything."

"And this makes them a cult?"

"You tell me. You're the expert."

"I will, when I know more. So who else belongs?"

"You'll love this. The doctor on all these cases." Ross's eyebrows lifted with interest. "Yeah? The pediatrician?"

"Couldn't find a thing on him. But maybe you can— from the inside."

Sounded like the logical place to start. "Tell me about the most recent family." Ross turned a page of his notebook.

"The Blanchard kid is the son of the high-school principal. You should see the wife. What a doll. The sister's not bad, either, if you like the wholesome type."

Ross set his teeth and ignored the bait. "How did they come to your attention?"

Everett jerked his chin at the folder. "Ulstad. She's a nurse at the hospital, and to hear her tell it, these people are knocking off their kids one by one. She used to belong and got kicked out. You've got to take her with a grain of salt because she's got a massive hate on for these people, but her information is worth looking into. Especially with the Blanchard kid. He was the near-miss.""How soon can I talk to her?"

"I'll try to get it set up for this afternoon. After that, you're on your own as far as finding a way in. Although I have a few suggestions."

He gave Everett a long look. "Like what?" "The sister I just mentioned." "What about her?" "She's single." --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.


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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A+++++ Debut for Shelley Bates July 3 2004
Format:Paperback
I just finished reading GROUNDS TO BELIEVE and I loved it!!! I have been an avid reader of fiction for many years and had believed I'd grown cynical of finding good thought-provoking interesting novels. Everything I read seemed to be the same old boring storylines just rearranged. Not so with GROUNDS TO BELIEVE. For one thing, Ms. Bates grabbed my attention by bringing me into the cult believing system and giving me an idea of what that kind of life is like. I really liked both Julia and Ross. They were believeable sympathetic characters and I felt like I really knew them. My heart went out to Julia as she struggled to go against all that she'd been brought up to believe. The only thing I found hard to believe was how quickly Kailey accepted Ross back into her life. But overall I thought this was a wonderful book and I recommend it to everyone!
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read March 1 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Grounds to Believe is the best inspirational romance I've ever read. Shelley Bates creates characters that draw the reader completely into the story. The heroine's struggles to find a true faith are both believable and compelling. The hero is strong in his faith--and yummy as well! I found the description of the cult particulary sensitive and balanced. This truly is a wonderful book.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing Inspirational romance April 13 2005
By Camy Tang - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had started reading Shelley Bates' "Grounds to Believe" a few days ago and got only a little ways into the book when I had to stop. I took it up again when I was eating a solitary dinner tonight, and it was so riveting that I finished dinner and kept reading.

This is a bit different from the normal fare from Steeple Hill, in a good way. The author never writes about body parts or sexual innuendos, but the chemistry between the hero and heroine is almost tangible. What a rush to read some of their scenes. This is a hero I can swoon over (don't let the pastor-lookalike on the cover fool you, the hero is rough-and-tumble and sexy as sin . . . well, in a Christ-like way. LOL).

The heroine is a bit like Jamie from "A Walk to Remember," sweet and innocent. But Julia is also real--struggling to understand the paradoxes between the teachings of her "Shepherd" and the Truth in the Bible.

The topic of cults and toxic churches is very appropriate in these days when many churches deviate from the Bible and follow man-made rules. Julia's church talks "church speak" but doesn't act as Jesus would, and the members ultimately care only about themselves while professing to be sacrificing the world for God. There is no room for grace, no service for others. It is all appearance, not Christ's love. It's frighteningly like the modern world.

The prose flows seamlessly and I got sucked into the story. The writing is masterful--each character is unique and distinct, there are no clichés or stereotypes here. Despite Julia's sheltered upbringing, I found myself liking her and relating to her as she fought to gain her self-esteem, her identity in God.

I have already pre-ordered the author's next book, "Pocketful of Pearls," which also discusses toxic churches and other tough issues. This is totally refreshing Inspirational Romance.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read March 1 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Grounds to Believe is the best inspirational romance I've ever read. Shelley Bates creates characters that draw the reader completely into the story. The heroine's struggles to find a true faith are both believable and compelling. The hero is strong in his faith--and yummy as well! I found the description of the cult particulary sensitive and balanced. This truly is a wonderful book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best debut novel I've read in years April 17 2005
By Michelle Sutton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Grounds to Believe captivated me from page 1. I read the story almost straight through, looking for opportunities to sneak away and read a little more until I finished. I wish all stories were as unique and egaging. The hero was awesome and the heroine was a very well-developed character. I liked the way the author took something complex like a cult and peeled the layers of the onion off very slowly, showing how real people were active members, usually because they knew nothing else. And the dysfunction in the heroine's family was portrayed very well. Having worked for 18 years with child abuse cases, the details involved with the nephew's near-demise were unfortunately all too true. Very realistic and well done. I can't wait for Shelley's next novel to be released.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this book! Sept. 20 2004
By Singer Woman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Its refreshing to me to read a Christian romance where a man is the main character. I also appreciated that 'The Elect' weren't all just a bunch of robots. Each character from the group was treated as an individual. I look forward to reading Shelly's next books in this soon-to-be trilogy!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A+++++ Debut for Shelley Bates July 3 2004
By R. Stoeber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I just finished reading GROUNDS TO BELIEVE and I loved it!!! I have been an avid reader of fiction for many years and had believed I'd grown cynical of finding good thought-provoking interesting novels. Everything I read seemed to be the same old boring storylines just rearranged. Not so with GROUNDS TO BELIEVE. For one thing, Ms. Bates grabbed my attention by bringing me into the cult believing system and giving me an idea of what that kind of life is like. I really liked both Julia and Ross. They were believeable sympathetic characters and I felt like I really knew them. My heart went out to Julia as she struggled to go against all that she'd been brought up to believe. The only thing I found hard to believe was how quickly Kailey accepted Ross back into her life. But overall I thought this was a wonderful book and I recommend it to everyone!
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