Forgotten Memories (SWAT: Top Cops)

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9780373446858: Forgotten Memories (SWAT: Top Cops)
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FORGETTING THE PAST CAN BE DEADLY... 

When Gabriella Fielding is kidnapped, she's terrified...until she's rescued by SWAT cop Shane Hawkins. Running for cover, Shane vows to protect the beautiful doctor who once saved his life. But can he really believe her claims that she has no knowledge about why her captors set their sights on her? Or is she hiding a dangerous secret? Somehow Shane has to help Gabby unlock her buried memories—before their mutual attraction breaks down the barriers around his heart. And before a desperate enemy determined to keep the past hidden strikes again and makes sure Gabby never remembers. 

SWAT: Top Cops—Love in the Line of Duty

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About the Author:

Laura Scott is honored to write for the Love Inspired Suspense line, where a reader can find a heartwarming journey of faith amid the thrilling danger. She lives with her husband of twenty-five years and has two children, a daughter and a son, who are both in college. She works as a critical-care nurse during the day at a large level-one trauma center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and spends her spare time writing romance. Visit Laura at www.laurascottbooks.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Dr. Gabriella Fielding walked outside into the starry night, grateful to be leaving the busy ER behind. It took a minute for the chilly September air to penetrate the haze that clouded her mind.

Exhaustion didn't come close to describing how she felt. Every muscle in her body ached, especially the soles of her feet. And the pounding in her temples matched the beat of her heart.

Even her eyelashes hurt.

She'd been up over twenty-four hours straight, running trauma resuscitations and performing surgery for what felt like forever. Summer had given way to fall, but Milwaukee's trauma season wasn't over yet. The injured patients had continued to roll in. This was what she'd trained for, what she was meant to do, healing people who were victims of violence. Yet right now, responsibility weighed heavily on her shoulders, and it was all she could do to make it through one day at a time.

She hadn't eaten since breakfast, but she was too tired to be hungry. Her shift was finally over, should have been over several hours ago, except that the last surgical case had been a two-physician job, requiring her to stay. Her patients always came first, so she hadn't complained.

But now she wanted nothing more than to go home and crawl into bed. With any luck she'd be able to sleep for a good twelve hours.

Thankfully, the cold air was helping to wake her up a bit. She only lived a mile away, but decided it might be better to drive home with her windows open, using the cold air to help stay alert.

A brisk north breeze hit her in the face as she left the shelter of the hospital building. She shivered and wrapped the edges of her lab coat together, quickening her pace as she headed across the street toward the concrete parking structure. All she could think about was that every aching step took her closer to home.

Without warning, two men dressed in black appeared out of nowhere. One grabbed her right arm, his fingers biting deep into her flesh, while the other guy roughly clasped her left arm. Terror roiled through her, but her reaction time was sluggish, and by the time she opened her mouth to scream, one of them clamped his hand over her mouth while the other guy rammed what felt like a gun painfully into her side.

"Don't make us kill you," the man with the weapon said in a low, gravelly voice.

She wanted to struggle, to fight, but she was outnumbered and didn't have the strength to fight two big, muscular armed men. Besides, she knew, with far too much detail, how much damage a bullet could do to internal organs.

What did these thugs want with her? Gabby racked her brain, desperately trying to figure out what was going on. She didn't have her purse, but she did have a little cash in her pocket. However, so far they hadn't demanded money...

A huge four-door black truck suddenly came rolling out of the parking structure, stopping right at the curb. The guy with the gun yanked open the door to the backseat.

"Get in," he said.

She began to balk, to search frantically for help, but the man with his hand over her mouth lifted her up as if she weighed nothing, and shoved her inside the vehicle.

Petrified, she attempted to cry out, but only managed to make grunting sounds over the hand he kept plastered over her mouth.

"Shut up," he barked, following her inside. Despite the small space, he crawled over her so the guy with the gun could get in, too. Seconds later, the driver pulled away from the curb, taking her away from the hospital.

Gabby's heart beat frantically in her chest. Somehow this didn't seem like a random attack. But she still couldn't imagine why she was a target. Unless...they knew she was a surgeon and were taking her somewhere because they needed her help.

Yes! That actually made a crazy sort of sense.

She'd done a house call once before, for the brother of one of the ER nurses. Shane Hawkins had been seriously injured while working undercover and couldn't afford to go to the hospital, knowing that all gunshot wounds were immediately reported to the police. Since he didn't know who within the force he could trust, she'd followed Leah's directions, coming to the remote cabin where Shane was on the verge of succumbing to a serious infection.

Was this a similar case then? Someone driven to extremes because they needed a surgeon's help? Kidnapping at gunpoint seemed a bit drastic, but she'd rather believe that than the alternative.

"Don't hurt her too badly—Creighton wants to talk to her," the driver said in a low voice.

Creighton? Who was Creighton? And why did he want her?

"I know the plan," the man on her right responded in an irritated tone. The guy on her left unexpectedly took his hand away from her mouth and for a second she gasped, filling her lungs with badly needed oxygen.

If she screamed would anyone hear her?

Then her brief moment of relief vanished as he took what appeared like an old rag and jammed it hard against her mouth, forcing her jaws open. She thrashed her head from side to side, trying to evade the gag, but it was no use. He pulled the ends hard enough to cause pain before tying them together behind her head.

The rag tasted and smelled awful, a mixture of oil and gas, and her stomach lurched as she gagged. Feeling desperate, she fought back the urge to throw up, knowing she'd only choke to death on her own vomit. Thankfully her belly was empty.

There had to be some mistake. She didn't know anyone named Creighton! Would they kill her outright if they found out they'd grabbed the wrong person?

"Here, use this," the guy on her left said, holding out a length of rope. Before she could blink, the guy on the right had wrapped the rope tightly around her wrists.

Tears pricked her eyes as the truck took her farther and farther away from the medical center campus. So far, neither man had seemed interested in sexual assault, but maybe that was yet to come? Her gut knotted painfully at the thought. Her past experience with a guy she dated during her residency wasn't reassuring. She'd managed to get away back then, but there were three guys this time around. No way would she beat those odds.

Panic welled in her chest and she had to concentrate on slowing down her breathing through her nose so she didn't pass out. How long before anyone knew she was gone? She wasn't due back at the hospital for the next two days, although she was on secondary call, which meant if trauma cases continued to come in, it was possible she'd be required to assist.

But she was afraid that by the time anyone realized she was missing, it would be too late.

Milwaukee county sheriff's deputy Shane "Hawk" Hawkins was headed toward the ER entrance of Trinity Medical Center when he caught a glimpse of Dr. Gabriella Fielding hurrying along the sidewalk that paralleled the side of the hospital building. She was easily recognizable by her profile, her dainty features etched in his memory, not to mention her long curly red hair and slender frame. Despite the cool September night, she wasn't wearing a jacket but held her white lab coat wrapped tightly around her as if to shield herself against the chill.

Shane scowled. Why on earth was Gabriella walking alone at midnight? Was this normally the time her trauma surgery shift ended? The medical center was located in a relatively safe neighborhood, but she should at least have a security escort taking her to her car.

Gabby had helped Shane six months ago when he'd been injured during an undercover operation. His sister, Leah, had called in a favor, asking Gabby to come to the isolated cabin where he'd been hiding to help out. The pretty trauma surgeon had been younger than he'd expected and had not only skillfully done surgery to remove the bullet from his shoulder, but provided fluids and antibiotics, too.

Gabriella had saved his life.

For which he owed her a huge debt of gratitude.

Shane was supposed to go inside Trinity Medical to obtain the bullet from their most recent shooting victim, but on impulse he quickly changed direction, bypassing the ER entrance to follow Gabby. He'd only seen her once since she'd saved his life, but she'd been busy during a trauma resuscitation and probably hadn't noticed him standing off to the side. This time, he had the chance to actually talk to her.

He was driven by the need to thank her again for what she'd done for him. And, if he were honest, he'd admit that he'd thought of Gabby often over the past few months, even though he wasn't interested in a relationship. Being burned by his former fiancée had taught him that he was better off alone. Linda had mistaken gratitude for love, and had found someone else even while they'd been engaged. A fact he'd discovered six months before the wedding.

He realized afterward that he should have known better. He'd helped Linda get rid of her abusive ex-boyfriend and she'd been the one who'd turned their friendship into something more. He'd fallen for her, but once the danger was over, she eventually discovered she hadn't felt the same way.

Maybe he'd rushed into things because he'd wanted a family. He and Leah had bonded in the years since their mother died. They'd taken care of each other and he'd thought—well it didn't matter. No way was he willing to go down that path of caring about someone again.

Shane would be content being the uncle to Leah's son and any other children she and his buddy Isaac were blessed with.

Besides, would Gabriella even remember him after all this time? She took care of dozens of patients. Was he a fool to try and talk to her?

Probably, but even knowing that wasn't enough to deter him. He'd thank her for saving his life, she'd accept his gratitude, and then they'd smile and go their separate ways.

As Gabriella approached the entryway of the parking structure, two men dressed in black suddenly surrounded her. Shane quickened his pace, watching in horror when a large black pickup truck pulled out of the parking structure in time for the two men to roughly shove Gabby inside.

No! Shane reacted without thinking, sprinting after the truck, keeping in the shadows as much as possible. Thankfully, his black SWAT uniform helped him blend into the night. The driver of the truck wasn't speeding, obviously smart enough to know he shouldn't attract undue attention. As the vehicle slowed at the stop sign, Shane chose that moment to dart out of the shadows and grab on to the edge of the tailgate. He hung there, his muscles tense with the effort, and silently prayed the driver wouldn't notice.

The truck picked up speed and his fingers began to cramp as he clung precariously to the rear end of the truck, bracing his feet awkwardly on the bumper. When the vehicle hit a pothole, the back end bounced wildly, nearly throwing him off. He tightened his grip on the tailgate, determined to stick like glue.

He needed to swing himself up and inside the open bed of the truck, but also couldn't afford to tip off the men who'd kidnapped Gabriella. He was seriously outnumbered. There were at least three of them inside—the two men who'd grabbed her and the driver. But with the tinted windows hiding them from view, he couldn't discount the possibility of a fourth man, who could be sitting in the front passenger seat.

Three to four men for one hostage? Seemed extreme. They'd obviously come prepared. And why on earth did they want Gabriella?

A red traffic light loomed up ahead and Shane waited for the truck to slow down before making his move. The momentum of the vehicle's deceleration pushed him closer against thee metal frame. Using that to his advantage, he carefully eased one leg over the edge of the tailgate, hoping the driver wasn't looking in his rear-view mirror.

The light turned green and the truck picked up speed. He hung there with one leg over the tailgate for a moment, before he was able to push upward with his other foot to get over the edge. He rolled over and landed inside the truck bed with a thud that sounded unbearably loud to his ears.

He froze, his pulse skyrocketing as he hid his face beneath the black sleeve of his arm to avoid being detected. He prayed that the men who'd taken Gabriella wouldn't look back there to find him. Several moments passed before he realized he was safe.

For now.

Shane carefully lifted his head to look around the bed of the truck. There wasn't anything back there from what he could see, so he belly crawled to the front, hugging the top edge directly beneath the rear window. He had to brace himself to avoid being tossed from side to side across the open space like a sack of potatoes. When the truck turned a corner and then accelerated even further, he hung on and peered over the edge, squinting against the harsh wind rushing past while trying to focus on landmarks.

A large sign loomed above him, confirming his suspicions. They were on Highway 45, heading north.

His radio was clipped to his lapel and he knew he needed to call for backup. He should have called immediately, but he'd been determined not to let the truck get away with Gabriella inside. It was a split-second decision he didn't regret.

He pressed himself into the corner of the truck, hoping that no one would see him if they happened to look through the back window. He flipped the switch on his radio, covering the speaker with his hand.

"This is unit twelve," he whispered urgently. "Crime in process, officer in need of assistance."

"You're breaking up, please repeat," the dispatcher said in what seemed to be an excruciatingly loud voice.

Shane winced and continued to hold his hand over the speaker to muffle the noise as much as possible. "Ten thirty-one," he hissed, giving the code again for crime in progress. "Hostage situation. Black four-door truck heading north on Highway 45."

"Ten-four," came the reply.

"No lights or sirens," he added. The last thing he wanted was for Gabriella to be caught up in some sort of high-speed chase. "Going radio silent."

He shut off the radio, knowing that was against the rules but not willing to jeopardize his precarious position.

Or Gabriella's life.

Shane didn't want to think about what she might be suffering at the hands of her kidnappers. A wave of helplessness washed over him. He had no idea what was going on, or why anyone would take a trauma surgeon hostage from the hospital in the first place. Dragging in a ragged breath, he closed his eyes for a moment, praying the men wouldn't hurt her.

He'd learned to lean on his faith at times like this, and turning to God helped him remain calm.

The truck slowed down, so he peeked over the side in time to catch a glimpse of the exit sign for Highway 60. He frowned, trying to figure out where they were going. There were plenty of wide-open spaces out in this area of Wisconsin. Pike Lake State Park wasn't far from here. Was that where the truck was headed?

Shane had no idea, but he needed some sort of plan for once they arrived at their final destination. And he would have to act fast, using the element of surprise to his advantage.

When the truck picked up speed, he ...

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