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Royal Rescue Mass Market Paperback – April 7 2015

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 ratings

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Product details

  • Publisher : Love Inspired Suspense; Original edition (April 7 2015)
  • Language : English
  • Mass Market Paperback : 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0373446632
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0373446636
  • Item Weight : 99.8 g
  • Dimensions : 10.69 x 1.5 x 16.79 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 14 ratings

Product description

About the Author

Faith has always held an important place in Tammy Johnson’s life. Two of her biggest dreams were being a mother and becoming a Harlequin author. After raising and homeschooling four children, her writing dream came true. Now Tammy enjoys sharing her faith by writing stories of strong heroes and heroines who find strength in their beliefs to overcome danger and fear. She is a country girl at heart and lives in a small Kansas town with her teenage son and dachshund.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

It was easy to get lost in a crowd. Years of hiding had taught her that.

Thea James had gotten quite good at it, too. Her life had become a montage of staying one step ahead, never remaining in one place very long, keeping people at arm's length. That was the part she disliked the most—never getting too close.

Two things had gotten her through the past fourteen years of loneliness. The first and most important was her faith. The other was this day.

Her brother, Leo, was to meet her here. Meeting once a year was the one risk they took that neither could go without, and this remote Missouri city was a central location for both of them.

She checked her watch, hoping it would show she was early. They always timed it just right—5:00 p.m. in front of the courthouse. Surrounded by people all in a hurry to get home to warm houses and home-cooked meals, they could go unnoticed. For a few blissful, irreplaceable moments they could be themselves once again.

Thea adjusted the ball cap on her head, making sure her hair was still tucked up neatly beneath its worn edges. She pulled her oversize winter coat tighter and glanced around, searching for the matching cap her brother said he'd wear so she could spot him more easily. A gust of freezing wind blew against her. The icy chill in the air reached through her skin, grabbing her heart.

People bustled around her. Most of them had their heads down, scarves draped in front of their faces to protect against the biting wind. No one gave her a first glance, let alone a second, but still she sensed it.

Something was wrong.

Her fingers tightened around the medallion in her pocket. The raised family crest on its surface had nearly worn smooth from the many times she'd rubbed her fingers over it. It was all she had left of her family. Her past life faded away more and more every day into something that felt less like a memory and more like a dream. Ever since the attack at the safe house last week she'd been on edge. Every loud noise reminded her of gunfire, and every stranger was someone who might mean her harm.

But this was more than nerves.

She took a deep breath and whispered a quick prayer for strength.

The hair spiked on the back of her neck as a voice spoke behind her.

"Come with me." The words were spoken so low for a brief moment she thought she'd imagined them, that the wind had merely carried a memory to her. A firm hand grasped her elbow and she jerked around to face a man wearing a red cap identical to hers. But he was neither a memory nor her brother.

Her eyes darted around her, checking the escape route she'd planned earlier.

"That's not a good idea." He spoke as if sensing her intent to run. His voice was soft and steady with a warm whisper of empathy. "You really don't want to attract attention. Do you?"

Thea glanced up into the brightest blue eyes she'd ever seen. An eyebrow arched as he studied her, waiting for a reply. Deep in his eyes she saw a hint of compassion. But if she'd learned nothing else these past few years, she'd learned compassion could be faked. He was right in thinking she didn't want to make a scene, but if he thought she'd just stand here and meekly do as he asked, he thought wrong.

"The way I see it, you are far more likely to gain attention if you try to stop me," she said.

His grip tightened on her arm. Her eyes flew to his fingers—long and manly, they held her with a firm, confident grip.

"Maybe, but do you really want to put your theory to the test?" He tugged her against him as he spoke. Even through the layers of his heavy winter coat, she could feel his strength, sense his controlled power.

Her mind raced with options. She could scream. She could take the chance that somewhere in the hustle of the few people still leaving the building there would be one Good Samaritan who would come to her aid. There was a chance she'd be able to slip away unnoticed during the rescue attempt. There was also a chance she wouldn't. Judging by the determined look deep in his steely blue eyes, he wouldn't give up easily. Any do-gooder from the small town wouldn't stand much of a chance against him.

"I could scream and have a police officer here within minutes."

Despite the bluster of her words and thoughts, she stood frozen in compliance. Obedience had for such a long time been her first instinct. Everyone had always told her where to go, when to be still, when to run. She was good at running. But she was tired.

"That would be foolish and waste time." He held her tightly against him, barely giving her space to breathe. "Time is something we don't have an abundance of right now. Trust me. I'm here to help you."

Part of her wanted to believe him, but she didn't.

"I don't need help." She was here to meet her brother, not this man. She raised her chin and met his gaze. It had taken her a few years to discover she had a backbone. It had taken even longer to learn how to use it. "Especially not the sort of help that involves grabbing me and nearly yanking my arm off."

"I can't help you if you run. If I let go of your arm, we both know that's what you'll do."

"You must have me confused with someone else." The alarm bells that had been going off in her head resounded even louder. "As I said, I don't need your help." Slowly she jiggled her shoulder just enough to let the weight of her bag slide the strap down her arm.

"Whether you realize it or not, you do. You need to come with me." His unwavering gaze steadied on her and she stiffened, worried he sensed her intent. "Now," he added in a firm tone, his breath a cloud of frosty, minty air between them.

"What I need is for you to let go of me." She tugged against his hold on her arm.

His grip held firm.

"You are Princess Dorthea Elizabeth Jamison, aren't you?"

A prickle of unease raced up her spine. He knew who she was. In the past that had rarely been a good thing.

When she didn't deny or confirm his question, he continued.

"My name is Ronin Parrish. Your brother sent me." He took his eyes off her for a second, skimming their surroundings as if looking for something or someone. "We need to go. We've already stayed here longer than we should have."

Fear swept through her. Her brother wasn't coming.

Leo would never have stayed away willingly, and he would never have given up her location, despite what this man might say. After all these years, the people who had killed her father had finally come after her, killing her bodyguard in the process. They must have gone after Leo, as well. Whoever this man was, he knew far more than he should. The fact that he was here and not her brother could mean he had a part in keeping him away.

It could also mean he was telling the truth. But that was not a risk she was willing to take. She shook the thoughts of her brother away and dug deep for the strength she knew God had given her. She would have time later to deal with the emotions flooding her as she considered what might have happened to him. Every second she wasted ticked away at the time she had to find a safe place to think what her next step should be.

Self-preservation kicked in.

She grabbed the straps of her shoulder bag tightly in her hand and swung it with all her might toward his head. It made contact with a thud. He lost his footing, falling to one knee. His grip on her arm loosened. With a quick tug, she wrenched her arm away and ran.

She could hear him stumbling and then his feet crunching in the snow as he regained his balance. The sound grew more distant as she ran. She didn't slow. She didn't dare risk the time it would take to look over her shoulder to see how much of a lead she had.

Fear spurred her on. Her feet slipped on the icy sidewalk. If the chase continued out in the open he'd catch her easily. His legs were longer and he was doubtless well trained. He'd catch her, then he'd kill her.

The thought gave her a burst of speed. She'd shown up tonight with her escape plan in place. She'd learned from those who had protected her how important a quick getaway could be, and along the way she'd picked up a few tricks of her own.

She ducked between the evergreen bushes that lined the pathway separating the park and the courthouse. Hugging the stone wall as close as possible, she dropped the bright red baseball cap to the snow-covered ground and replaced it with a darker, woolen stocking cap from her pocket. Hopefully, the quick change would keep her from standing out. She turned the corner at the end of the block and darted between cars parked along the street. Carefully she weaved in and out of the few people on the sidewalk and slid into the diner on the corner.

The smell of fried foods hit her with the blast of warm air. Her stomach growled, reminding her of how long it had been since her last real meal. A quick glance out the large picture window showed no sign of the man, but he couldn't be far behind.

She breathed a sigh of relief. She would be safe now. The small room was nearly filled with people. Elderly men sat along the fifties-style bar with steaming mugs in front of them. Thea dashed past booths of vinyl and Formica occupied by couples and families and headed to the women's restroom at the back.

She was fairly certain he wouldn't try to break in the bathroom door in front of everyone in the small diner. Once inside she locked the door and leaned against it just long enough to take a deep breath. More likely than not, if he followed her to the diner, he'd sit outside waiting for her. As if she would have a change of heart and just walk out and docilely do as he said.

He seemed the sort who was accustomed to people doing what he told them to do.

The tiny niggling of doubt flared its ugly head again. He really could be here to help her. She dismissed it. It didn't matter. Many people had died trying to help her. She'd made a decision after what had happened last week at the safe house. The memory of those who had died trying to protect her would be something she carried with her forever. She would not be the cause of any more death. She had a chance to escape and she was going to take it.

The window above the toilet was the gateway to her future. It looked barely large enough for her to get through. The toilet bowl had no cover and the lid on the tank looked wobbly at best, but it was the window and freedom or the man and whatever plans he might have.

The strong odor of disinfectant assailed her as she stepped up onto the seat, balancing a foot on each side. Maneuvering onto the tank, she grabbed the window-sill as her support wobbled. Thea overadjusted and lost her precarious footing on the tank. Her chin came down hard on the ledge and she just managed to keep a foot from slipping into the bowl. But she was okay.

A few hard pushes on the window loosened the old paint enough to get it open, and she once again climbed up onto the tank. Knowing it would be a tight squeeze, she took off her jacket and dropped it and her bag through the window to the ground outside. She threw first one leg, then the other over the ledge and squirmed feetfirst through the small opening.

"Couldn't get out the normal way?" a familiar male voice inquired from just behind her.

A flush coursed through her body as she realized the view she must be giving him, and she shimmied frantically to dislodge herself from her position. A sharp stinging sensation shot up her leg at the same time as the sound of tearing material. The more she pushed, the more it dug into her skin and the more her jeans ripped.

"I think you're stuck on something."

Thea snorted, a very unladylike sound.

She was at his mercy. His hands grasped her hips and pulled. After a few tugs and a little more wiggling, she was free. He lifted her body with ease. As little as she wanted to admit it, he was strong. Even stronger than she'd first imagined. The feel of him holding her briefly took her back to a place where she'd felt safe. It would be so easy to relax against him and let him protect her. Just as quickly the thought was gone and she was reminded that his strength was also a means to easily overpower her if he chose to. As her feet touched the ground, she turned to face him.

The humor that had been barely noticeable in his voice hadn't yet reached his face; if anything he appeared more dangerous than he had before. "Ever heard of a door?"

"In case you hadn't noticed, I was attempting to give you the slip," she said as she picked up her jacket from the ground.

"And how's that working out for you?" This time she detected a soft hint of laughter in his voice.

"I think that's painfully obvious."

"It is, isn't it?" he said, his lips tilting into a crooked grin. Then he turned and motioned with a swing of his arm for her to walk in front of him. "But hopefully, now you are ready to come with me."

She ignored his motion and faced him, toe to toe.

"If you are here to kill me, just do it." She quickly pushed her arms into her jacket and wrapped it tightly around her. "But don't expect me to make it any easier for you."

"I'm not here to kill you, Princess Dorthea." He reached for her bag on the ground near his feet. He held it out between them, testing its weight and eyeing her suspiciously. "Are you carrying around the kitchen sink?"

"It's a brick." She grabbed for her bag, but he held it just out of her reach while removing her only means of protection. He then handed it back over to her.

"You won't need the brick anymore. As I've already said, I'm here to rescue you."

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