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New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Laura Griffin started her career in journalism before venturing into the world of romantic suspense. She is a two-time RITA Award winner (for the novels Scorched and Whisper of Warning) as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award (for Untraceable). Laura currently lives in Austin, where she is working on her next book. Visit her website at LauraGriffin.com and on Facebook at Facebook.com/LauraGriffinAuthor.
Courtney Glass whipped into the gravel lot and cursed the man toad who'd invited her here. This was August. Texas. It was ninety-nine degrees outside, and any halfway sane person was holed up in an air-conditioned building right now, not parked at a deserted hike-and-bike trail, hoping to score after lunch.
Did he think this was romantic? Spontaneous, maybe? Despite the Ivy League diploma, John David Alvin could be a real idiot.
Courtney huffed out a breath and flipped down the vanity mirror. Idiot or not, she wanted to look good. Looking good was the best revenge, especially when it came to ex-boyfriends.
But the Beauty Gods weren't smiling on her today. The humidity had turned her hair limp, and her makeup was practically melting off. She dug through her purse, seeking inspiration but finding little. She blotted her forehead with a tissue and fluffed her hair. She started to put on lipstick, then decided to hell with it. Who cared if she impressed David? He was the last person she wanted to see right now. She shouldn't even be here, really, but his insistent messages were driving her crazy. They needed to hash this thing out, once and for all.
A flash of movement in the rearview mirror caught her eye. He was here. She watched the black Porsche Cayenne glide up alongside her. He'd traded in the red Carrera, apparently, which shouldn't have come as a surprise. Suddenly nervous, she cast a glance around her Buick Skylark, a hulking testament to the emptiness of her bank account. Courtney could work wonders with drugstore cosmetics, and she was a bloodhound for treasures in a thrift shop, but this car was beyond help. Until she climbed out of credit card debt, she was stuck in a '98 clunker with a temperamental AC. She turned up the power now and adjusted the vents.
David sat in his SUV, but didn't get out. Courtney could feel his gaze on her while she cleared clutter off the front seat. She refused to make eye contact. This was his meeting, and he was going to have to come to her. She didn't relish the thought of talking to him in her heap, but she wasn't stupid enough to give up her home field advantage by getting into his Porsche.
From the corner of her eye, she saw him exit the car and fist his hands on his hips. She set her chin. She could match wills with him any day of the week. Sweat beaded between her breasts as she waited, silently, gazing through the windshield at the dragonflies playing in the sunshine.
Finally the Buick's door squeaked open, and he slid into the passenger seat. He wore a crisp white shirt with monogrammed cuffs, a red power tie, and his usual dark pants. In an instant, the Skylark smelled like Drakkar Noir.
Courtney looked at him with disgust as she rolled down her window.
"Well, what?" she shot back. "You called me."
"I most certainly did not."
"Text message. Whatever." God, he was such a prick. Just smelling him again made her want to retch.
He gave her an annoyed look. "I don't have time for this shit. This is bordering on harassment."
Suddenly the back door jerked open. Courtney turned around and found herself face-to-face with a black ski mask.
The man pulled a gun out of his pants and pointed it at David's nose. "Gimme your phone."
All the breath whooshed out of Courtney's lungs. She gaped at the gray eyes glaring out from holes in the mask.
He jabbed the gun at David's neck. "Now, asshole!"
She glanced at her ex-boyfriend. His arrogance had morphed into fear, and he wasn't moving. Do it! She tried to tell him mentally, but he was frozen. At last, he braced a hand on the dashboard and jammed the other into his front pocket.
She cast a panicked look outside. No one. This was unreal. It was the middle of the day. Granted, it was hotter than hell outside, but there had to be someone --
The barrel swung toward her, and her stomach dropped out.
She stared at the twisting pink mouth and tried to process the words. Hers, too. Her phone. He wanted her phone. Did he want her money, also? Her phone was in her purse, along with her Mace.
David tossed his phone at the guy, and it landed with a clatter on the back floorboard. The man scooped it up and shoved it in the pocket of his tracksuit.
Then the masked head turned toward her. "Now, or I'll blow his fucking brains out."
David went pale. He sent her a desperate look. "Hurry, Courtney!"
Her purse was near her feet. On the floor. And her Mace was in there. She dragged the bag into her lap and thrust her hand inside. She groped for the tube of pepper spray but couldn't find it amid all the junk she lugged around. I can't die yet. There's so much I haven't done.
"Now!" The eyes watching her through the cutouts squinted.
Her clammy fingers closed around the phone, and she pulled it free. She held it out to him.
Time stretched out as the phone hovered there in her trembling hand. He reached for it. He wore tight black gloves, and she knew -- with sudden certainty -- this was going to end badly.
He squeezed her wrist, and the phone dropped to the floor. He didn't let go her hand.
"Take my wallet," David said, yanking it loose from his back pocket. "Take whatever you want."
Courtney watched, transfixed, as the black-gloved hand pried open her fingers. Did he want her ring? The cheap silver trinket from Santa Fe?
"I've got cash." David's voice hitched. "I've got a Rolex."
The pistol slapped into her palm. The thick black fingers squeezed her hand around the grip. Suddenly she realized what was happening. She tried to yank her arm away, but couldn't.
"No!" she shrieked, pulling her arm until her shoulder burned.
David's gaze met hers.
Their bodies jerked in unison. Surprise flickered in his eyes as red bloomed on his white shirt. He sagged sideways, thunking his head against the windshield.
Courtney's ears rang. A high-pitched noise rasped in and out of her throat as she stared at the gun in her hand. The gloved fingers closed around hers again, and she thrashed sideways, trying to wrench her arm away.
"No!" She used her free hand to punch at the ski mask as hard as she could. Her whole arm reverberated from theblow.
The windshield exploded. Screaming, she hunched down in her seat. Her gaze landed on her purse, wedged between her leg and the door. The Mace was there, peeking out from inside the bag. Her right hand was being crushed as the man forced her unwilling fingers around the grip. With her left, she grabbed the Mace. Her wrist twisted painfully. The gun barrel turned toward her.
Her thumb found the top of the vial. A stream shot out, straight at the ugly pink mouth in the hole of the mask.
She crashed backward into the steering wheel as her arm was released. Curses and moans filled the car as she clawed frantically at the door latch. The door popped open, and she pitched sideways onto the gravel. She tasted dust and jerked her legs free from the car. She glanced back over her shoulder and saw David slumped against the dashboard.
The back door squeaked open.
She scrambled to her feet and ran.
Nathan Devereaux fed a few quarters into the hospital vending machine and ordered up some lunch. His tour had started at 2:00 this morning, and he'd been running for fourteen hours straight on nothing but coffee.
"Want anything?" He glanced over his shoulder at his partner, who stood on the other side of the waiting room. The guy was peering through the miniblinds at the traffic on North Lamar. Either he didn't hear the question, or he was being an asshole. Nathan had known Will Hodges less than forty-eight hours, but his money was on the latter.
The guy's gaze shot up. "Yeah?"
"You want anything?"
Asshole it was. Nathan fished his Mars Bar from the vending machine and wandered toward the hallway, hoping to see the forensic artist they were waiting on. No sign of her. It had been nearly an hour, and the door to Room 632 was still shut, meaning that she was still in there interviewing his witness for the suspect sketch.
Nathan ripped open his lunch. On days like this, he really felt his age. He hadn't even hit forty yet, but ten years as a homicide detective and a steady diet of junk food hadn't exactly kept him in peak condition. He still looked good enough to get his share of come-ons at bars, but his energy wasn't what it used to be.
He watched his new partner from across the room. The kid looked like he could bench-press a VW. He probably ate protein shakes for breakfast and made it to the gym six times a week.
Give him a year.
Nathan chomped into his candy bar and glanced at his watch.
He turned around at the familiar voice. Fiona Glass stood in the doorway holding her battered leather art case and a sheet of paper. She wore a conservative beige pantsuit and had her reddish-blond hair pulled neatly back in a headband.
Nathan crossed the room to take the sketch she held out to him. One look at it had his gut twisting.
"A profile? That's all she saw?"
"She says he grabbed her from behind and the only real glimpse she got was when he fled the scene."
Nathan heard the edge in her voice and glanced up. "What's the deal?"
She darted her gaze around the waiting room, as if to make sure no one else could overhear. She paused briefly on Hodges, and Nathan knew she didn't trust him yet. Fiona was slow to warm up to people, and Hodges had been with Austin PD less than a week.
"What's the problem?" Nathan prompted.
"Everything." She nodded at the drawing. "What does that look like to you?"
"I don't know. Black male. Twenty-five. Average features."
"And his expression?"
He stared down at the picture. She had drawn it in charcoal on a sheet of thick gray art... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.