Debra Webb Traceless

ISBN 13: 9780312942229

Traceless

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9780312942229: Traceless
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She's in search of JUSTICE.
Emily Wallace has no doubt about who killed her best friend ten years ago: Clint Austin, her then boyfriend. The key witness in his trial, Emily put Clint behind bars with her tearful testimony. But when Emily learns that Clint has been released on parole, she returns to her Alabama hometown to confront him--and make sure he never forgets the damage he has done.
 
He is dead-set on revenge...
After serving ten years for a crime he didn't commit, Clint knows only the truth can set him free. Ignoring warnings from his old friend, now the chief of police, Clint will let no one stand in his way as he tries to prove his innocence--including Emily, the girl he once loved who ruined his life. Prison has made him a hard man, yet he yearns for Emily...and he can see in her eyes that, in spite of herself, she feels the same. But even if he can convince Emily to trust him, it might be too late to clear his name--before the real killer strikes again.

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About the Author:

Debra Webb is the bestselling author of Everywhere She Turns, Anywhere She Runs, Missing and Safe by His Side. Born in Alabama, Webb wrote her first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. But it wasn’t until she spent three years working for the military behind the Iron Curtain—and a five-year stint with NASA—that she realized her true calling. A collision course between suspense and romance was set. Webb lives with her family and two dogs in Alabama.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One Holman Prison South Alabama Monday, July 15, 8:05 a.m. The gray prison walls loomed behind Clint as he moved forward, his steps hindered by the manacles connecting his wrists and ankles with lengths of chain designed to impede movement. The shackles had been one last humiliation. For old times’ sake, the warden had said. The guards on either side of Clint had snickered and snorted as they carried out that final order. Clint had simply stood there and allowed the bastards to do what they would. For more than ten years his choices had not been his own. Accepting that reality had equated to survival. No more. The early-morning sun drew his gaze to the sky. Clint closed his eyes a moment to relish the welcome warmth. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been allowed to come outside. It had been months, at least. The law said he got one hour a day in the fresh air, but that privilege had been cut long ago with a sham of an excuse. The guards liked putting pressure on inmates, amping up their anxiety level. They especially liked doing it to Clint. Just another attempt at causing him to fuck up. Clint hadn’t let the bastards get to him. He’d taken the punishments, the beatings for no apparent reason, the forgotten meals, all of it . . . without so much as a word in argument or the slightest effort in retaliation. He’d played by every single rule. Now his freedom was so close he could taste it . . . smell it. There was nothing anyone could do to stop him from walking away. As if to deny that certainty, fear, bone cold and irrational, trickled inside him. A muscle in his jaw jerked with the pressure of holding back the questions about what happened next that he suddenly wanted to ask. The parole board had made its decision. He was free. The guards, the warden, no one here could prevent Clint from leaving. The affirmation rang hollowly inside him. The command was given and the twelve-foot-high gate topped with its concertina wire yawned open, creaking and groaning as if it, too, was reluctant to permit his long-awaited departure. The boddom, the pits of hell called Holman Prison, didn’t like vomiting back up the men it devoured. At least not until they were properly punished as God and the warden saw fit. That trickle of fear widened into a stream of pure panic, knotting Clint’s gut, clamping around his chest like unyielding arms. He’d waited for this moment for so long. The blood rushed to his brain and exploded there in a burst of sheer terror, urging him to go back . . . to seek the security and sanctuary of that five-by-eight cell—the only place he’d felt the least bit safe for so damned long. Fighting the impulse, he aimed his attention on the hope that open gate presented. His hands clenched into fists as the muscles in his legs cramped with the compulsion to run, but the shackles and the fear kept him paralyzed. Sweat squeezed from his pores as the air sawed in and out of his lungs. He ordered himself to be still. To focus. No sudden moves. The remembered pain from far too many reminders of that hard-earned lesson stung through his body. The guard on Clint’s right unlocked the cuffs around his wrists, then gave him the key. He bent down, his hands shaking, and released the steel bands circling his ankles. As he straightened, he handed the key back; then he froze. What now? He’d been given no specific exodus orders, no directions on how to proceed. Reason had deserted him, leaving his already raw senses cluttered with confusion and doubt. “What the hell you waitin’ for, Austin?” The guard on Clint’s left nudged him in the spleen with his baton. “Get the fuck outta here before we decide to keep your sorry ass.” Clint’s heart rammed against his chest, urging him to act. Another prod from the baton ignited his long-slumbering fury, fueling the courage that had betrayed him this morning. He stepped away from the impotent shackles, resisted the temptation to break loose and run without ever looking back. The guards would be watching, hoping he would make a move of aggression . . . itching to use the weapons stationed at their hips. The snipers in the towers would be clocking his every move through the scopes of their high-powered rifles, praying for the opportunity to rid the planet of one more worthless piece of shit. It didn’t matter that he was unarmed; they would have a story to cover up whatever played out this morning. Not going to happen. He was out of here. Clint took the four paces necessary to put him beyond the boundary of the fence that surrounded what had been his home for an eternity; then he stopped stone still. He turned around slowly, his hands hanging loosely at his sides in the expected submissive stance. His gaze met the warden’s where he stood shielded by the guards, and Clint felt himself smile for the first time in over a decade. He didn’t say a word, didn’t bother with any dramatic offensive gestures, no matter how deserving; he simply stared at the man, forced him to face the cold, hard truth . . . he had lost this battle. Those three or four brief seconds almost made the years of pain and suffering worth it. Almost. Turning his back, Clint walked, his steps measured and deliberate, toward the visitor’s entrance where his ride out of here waited. The feel of unwashed denim and stiff polyester chafed his skin. His toes were stuffed into the cheap shoes that had no doubt been ordered a size or two too small for the sole purpose of ensuring his discomfort. It was one of the perks of surviving an Alabama prison. When and if you were released, you left wearing new clothes and in possession of whatever personal items you’d surrendered upon arrival. In Clint’s case it wasn’t much. His wallet that contained an expired driver’s license and twenty bucks. There wouldn’t be much in the way of financial assets waiting for him back home. But he would have full access to the one thing that he wanted nearly more than his next breath . . . . The people who had stolen his life. Samford Medical Research Facility Birmingham, Alabama 9:15 a.m. Your concerns were duly noted, but the decision has been reached and executed. Emily Wallace sat at her desk, her fingers clenched on the arms of her chair, as the words reverberated inside her. How could the parole board let this happen? A convicted killer was being allowed to walk after only ten years—half his sentence. Unwillingly, she filled her lungs, the repetitive action suddenly a burden. Medical records and reports that needed to be filed stood in mounds on her cluttered desk, vying unsuccessfully for her attention. She hadn’t been able to concentrate on work for the past week. Hadn’t been able to think of anything but the results of the hearing. And now it was over. She thought of the somber faces on that board as she’d offered all the reasons for Clint Austin’s continued incarceration. Not so much as a flicker of emotion had slipped past those unfeeling masks as Heather’s father had echoed those same pleas. They didn’t care. It wasn’t their daughter or friend who had died. One board member had gone so far as to say that she had read the trial transcript and felt the preponderance of evidence had been insufficient for a conviction in the first place. She’d gone on to toss out scenarios suggesting Clint Austin’s innocence, each one a slap in the face to those who had loved Heather Baker. Only moments ago the district attorney’s office had called to confirm Emily’s worst fears. She hadn’t been able to move since dropping the receiver back into its cradle. It was official now. He was free. The wail of Emily’s own remembered screams filled her head, drowning out all other thought. She told her mind to quiet, but it refused. Like a faulty fluorescent light, images from that night flickered one after the other. Her old room in the house on Ivy Lane with the retro sixties stripes and the posters of her rock star idols plastered on the walls. The tie-dyed comforter on her bed . . . and Heather lying there in a pool of blood. Gaping wounds marring her beautiful face . . . her slender arms. He was there. His hands on Heather’s throat, blood all over him. Emily had tried to pull him off, but he was too strong. Beyond the horror in her room she had heard the sirens in the distance . . . so damned far away. Finally she’d managed to push Clint Austin aside and then she’d seen the other wound on her friend’s throat. Nothing Emily had attempted had stanched the flow pulsing from that fatal gash . . . all that blood had just kept seeping out around her fingers. And then the police were everywhere . . . the paramedics had urged Emily out of the way. Everything had happened so fast and yet it was all too, too late. Heather was dead. The room tilted and Emily’s stomach churned violently. Moving with extreme caution, she stood, her legs trembling, then walked stiffly, slowly, to the ladies’ room. Fortunately, all three stalls were empty. Having anyone bear witness to her breakdown would only lead to questions. Questions she couldn’t bear to answer. She went into the first stall, closed the door, and dropped to her knees in the nick of time. Her stomach heaved viciously. She vomited until there was nothing left before wiping her mouth with the back of her hand and collapsing on the cold tile floor. She couldn’t be sure how much time passed, but she cried until no more tears would come, until pain had gathered in a fierce band around her skull. Each breath proved a monumental task with the weight of guilt crushing against her chest. She had failed. Her friend was dead. Emily hadn’t been able to save her all those years ago and now hadn’t been strong enough to keep her killer behind bars. Emily had failed her friend twice. A decade’s worth of rage lashed so abruptly inside Emily that she twitched with the force of it. The fury obliterated the weaker emotions in an instant. She sat up straighter and leaned her throbbing head against the wall of the stall. He was out. How the hell could she sit here wallowing in self-pity like this? There was more she could do. More she had to do. The law could set him free, but that didn’t mean she had to give up for one second on proving what she knew in her heart. He was guilty. He would pay for what he’d done. A mere ten years wasn’t nearly compensation enough. There had always been the possibility that this day might come. All she had to do was be strong. It wasn’t over until she said it was over. Emily braced a hand on the toilet seat and levered herself to her feet. Still feeling a little unsteady, she flushed the toilet and pushed out of the stall. She washed up and headed back to her office, mentally ticking off the list of things she would need to do before leaving: clear her desk, transfer her calls to the switchboard, and divide up her workload between two of the file clerks in her department. In a few hours she could be on her way to Pine Bluff to do what had to be done. Clint Austin would not be free for long. Copyright © 2007 by Debra Webb. All rights reserved.  
 

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9781250054760: Traceless

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ISBN 10:  1250054761 ISBN 13:  9781250054760
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin, 2007
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