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Four years ago...
Skye Kellerman was attacked in her own bed. She managed to fend off her knife-wielding assailant, but the trauma changed everything about her life. As a result of that night, she joined two friends--also survivors--in starting The Last Stand, an organization to help victims of crime.
Her would-be rapist is getting out of prison. Skye knows that Dr. Oliver Burke hasn t forgotten that her testimony cost him his reputation--and his freedom.
Sacramento detective David Willis, who investigated her case, believes Burke is a clear and present danger--and guilty of at least two unsolved murders.
And now Burke is free to terrorize Skye again. Unless David can stop him. Unless Skye can fight back. Because Oliver Burke has every intention of finishing what he started. And that s a promise. Trust me.
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New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has penned over 45 novels. A two-time Rita nominee, she's won The National Reader's Choice, The Bookseller's Best, The Bookbuyer's Best and many other awards. She runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at www.brendanovak.com. To date, she’s raised over $2 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
"You already heard, right?"
David Willis glanced up at the man leaning into the cubicle surrounding his cluttered desk. Detective "Tiny" Wyman, his best friend on the force and a damn good cop, was even larger than he was, with skin like burnished copper and a ready smile that always seemed at odds with the depth of sadness in his brown eyes. He took his crime-fighting seriously; he also wasted few words. When he talked, most people listened. Including David.
"Heard what? That I'm behind on my paperwork again?" he joked.
Tiny shoved giant hands into the pockets of his khaki pants, but the casual pose didn't make him look any more comfortable in his clothes. Tiny just wasn't the kind of man who was meant to wear slacks and a sports jacket, let alone a tie. "You're always behind on your paperwork," he grumbled with a crooked grin. "You think I'd waste my valuable time pointin' that out?"
When his smile didn't linger, David knew he hadn't stopped by to spar with him. "No," he said. "What's up?"
Tiny yanked at his tie as if it were choking him. "'Member that guy we put away for attackin' that little blond woman in the middle of the night?"
David had handled enough cases over his thirteen years with the Sacramento PD that, with such a sketchy description, he might not have instantly recalled this particular assault. But Tiny's mention of "that little blond woman" brought the details immediately to mind. Probably because those details hadn't been that deeply buried to begin with. He hadn't talked to Skye in a few months, but she was never far from his thoughts. "Yeah, I remember. Burke got eight to ten."
"Turns out it'll be closer to three."
Rocking back in his chair, David tossed his pen on the stack of paperwork he'd been forcing himself to complete.
"I knew he was coming up for his first parole hearing. But last I heard, there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell he was going to get it."
"He shouldn't have gotten it," Tiny responded. "Burke is dangerous. But..." He gave up fiddling with his tie, his attitude one of surrender to another day at the office. "I guess he ratted out a fellow inmate, which meant San Francisco PD could close two previously unsolved homicides. They recommended him to the parole board."
David shot to his feet. "Didn't anyone read my damn letter? Why didn't they call us first? Check this guy out?"
"Apparently they contacted Chief Jordan several weeks ago."
"Did he tell them the body count along the river stopped once our friendly dentist went to prison?"
"Of course. And they said it could just as easily be a coincidence." Tiny finally cracked his usual broad smile.
"I say they can bank on our intuition. But they want more."
More. That was why the chief had questioned him about the unsolved cases, wanting to know if he was any closer to developing a solid connection to Oliver Burke. Jordan had been looking for something tangible to contest San Francisco's opinions. And David hadn't been able to give it to him. But their meeting hadn't concerned him too much. He hadn't realized what was on the line. He'd figured he'd have at least two more years to uncover the missing link.
"This is bullshit." David nudged his friend aside as he squeezed through the opening of his cubicle, intent on finding Jordan. But Tiny grabbed his arm.
"Save your breath, man. There's nothing he can do. The decision's been made. Dr. Burke walks next week."
"Next week? Doesn't anyone care what he might do?" Two other detectives in the violent crime unit stuck their heads out into the hall. David used a pointed stare to encourage them to mind their own business and shifted his attention back to Tiny.
"Seems that San Francisco cares more about closing old cases," Tiny said. "By rewarding Burke, they give others an incentive to step forward. There're some gangbangers in there who know a lot of shit. I think the SFPD would've fought this all the way to the governor, trying to get a pardon if they had to."
Obviously, it hadn't been necessary to go that far. Burke's early release had been far easier to accomplish than David would've believed possible. "But if he attacks again, he'll know better than to leave his victim alive to testify against him. He made that mistake once and it landed him in prison."
"Which was Chief Jordan's argument."
"He was told we can't take every 'might' into account or we'd never be able to do our jobs."
"Skye Kellerman is a 'might' that should matter!" Tiny ran a hand over his bald head. "She matters to you, right?"
As usual, Tiny's voice was a low rumble, but David couldn't help noticing the subtle inflection. He ignored it, as well as the memory of Tiny warning him that he was getting too emotionally involved with Skye. Then, as now, he'd been trying to reconcile with his ex-wife.
"I wouldn't put it past Burke to seek her out—to take what he couldn't get from her, along with an extra measure of revenge." The image created by his own words made him sick.
Tiny's gaze remained steady. "Neither would I."
"We have to do something."
"What? Unless we find the proof we're missing on those old murders, or he commits another crime, there's nothin' we can do." He released a long, laborious sigh. "You want me to call her?"
David wished he could let Tiny deliver the news. Or someone else. This was the last thing he wanted to tell Skye. But he refused to take the easy way out. It had to be him. "No, I'll do it."
"I'm sure." With a curse, he smacked the divider as Tiny left. Tiny didn't bother to look back. He knew David too well, shared his frustration. But several heads popped into the hall again.
"What are you staring at?" David growled.
Everyone disappeared, but intimidating his coworkers didn't make him feel any better. How was he going to tell Skye that the fear she faced daily—after surviving Burke's attack—was about to get a lot worse?
Skye Kellerman's shoulder blades tensed as she heard tires in her gravel drive. It was a cold morning in early January, not dark, but a thick blanket of fog made her feel completely isolated. Cut off from the rest of the world.
Hurrying to the antique secretary she'd inherited, along with the house, when her mother passed away a year earlier, she selected her Kel-Tec P-3AT semiautomatic handgun over her Sig P232—because it was lighter, thinner and easier to conceal. Carrying it with her, she ran to get a T-shirt from her bedroom. She wanted to cover the cleavage and stomach revealed by the jogging bra and Lycra shorts she wore while working out. She was self-conscious about her breast size, which drew more attention than she felt comfortable with.
A car door slammed and footsteps approached the house. Heavy footsteps. The footsteps of a man.
Pulling on a baggy T-shirt that said The Last Stand: Where Victims Fight Back, she went to peek through the wooden shutters of her front windows, then the peephole she'd drilled in the door. But the fog was too thick, the morning shadows too murky to make out more than a large, dark shape coming toward her.
The metallic taste of fear rose in her throat and soured her stomach. This was probably just someone who was lost and needed directions. Sherman Island, which only had 175 residents, sat in the heart of the Sacramento River Delta. Few outsiders were familiar with the sloughs, natural waterways, drawbridges and levees that made the wetlands so unique. But she would no longer assume that strangers were safe. Not since she'd been startled awake in the middle of the night by a man wearing a hood and wielding a knife.
Burke was now in prison—thank God—but because of The Last Stand, the victim's support organization she'd started with her friends Sheridan Kohl and Jasmine Stratford two years ago, she'd made a lot of enemies. This could easily be Tamara Lind's husband, a wife-beater who blamed Skye for Tamara's recent desertion. Last week, he'd threatened to bomb The Last Stand. Or it could be Kevin Sheppard. Kevin had appeared at their offices after a flurry of newspaper articles praising TLS for financially backing an investigator who'd uncovered new evidence on a high-profile murder. Kevin had wanted to help out as a volunteer, but Skye turned him away when a background check revealed accusations of stalking, at which point he'd grown unreasonably angry and stormed out. No one had seen him since.
The doorbell sounded, followed almost immediately by a sharp rap.
She imagined turning off the alarm and opening the door as far as the chain allowed, only to have it kicked wide—and felt her palm begin to sweat on the butt of her gun. Calm down.
She had damn good aim. But nerves could wreak havoc on the best marksman in the world. So she wouldn't open the door. She'd pretend to be gone and hope he'd go on his way.
Holding her breath, she pressed her spine more firmly to the wall, wondering what the students from her various shooting classes would think if they could see her now— sweating and shaking over some fog and an unexpected visitor. Most viewed her as indestructible when she had a gun in her hand. They acted like their own guns made them invincible, too. But they didn't understand what it was really like in a desperate standoff, didn't fully grasp that a woman could own a million firearms and still be vulnerable. Unless she was prepared to pull the trigger.
Was she willing to kill Kevin Sheppard? Or Tamara's estranged husband?
If she had to...
She hadn't made a move or a sound, but her visitor didn't seem to be buying that she wasn't at home. He rang the doorbell again. Knocked. Then his body blocked the window as he tried to see in.
"Skye? Skye, are you there? It's me, Detective Willis." Exhaling slowly, she consciously released the pressure of her fingers on the gun. David... She wasn't in mortal danger. But knowing he was standing on her front step certainly didn't slow her heart rate.
"Your car's in the drive," he yelled. "You gonna answer?" Taking another steadying breath, she flipped the safety on her gun, dropped it in the pocket of her coat, which hung on the hall tr...
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Book Description Mira Books, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110778324125
Book Description Mira Books, 2008. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Regular Print/Single Titl. Seller Inventory # DADAX0778324125