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Three siblings searching for the truth about their family are about to find more than they bargained for....
When shy and reserved Maggie Ferringer is called for jury duty, she never expects to be kidnapped by an escaped convict. But when Cain Cannon, disguised as a prison guard, pulls a gun, she has no choice but to be taken hostage. Cain claims that he’s innocent of killing his girlfriend six years ago, and now he wants revenge on the people who put him behind bars.
Soon Maggie becomes more than just a hostage to Cain. As they slowly begin to share the secrets of their respective pasts, Maggie discovers that she wants to fight for Cain’s freedom—because he just might be the kind of man she can love.
“Lisa Gardner's work has the chills and thrills to excite, and the heart to draw you in." —Sandra Brown
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Lisa Gardner is the New York Times bestselling author of fourteen previous novels. Her Detective D. D. Warren novels include Catch Me, Love You More, and the International Thriller of the Year award–winning novel The Neighbor. Her FBI profiler novels include Say Goodbye, Gone, The Killing Hour, The Next Accident, and The Third Victim. She lives with her family in New England, where she is at work on her next novel.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Maggie Ferringer looked up blankly from her seat on the wooden bench outside the second-floor courtroom. Eight fifty a.m. and she hadn’t had coffee yet. She was tired, disgruntled at being called for jury duty and still preoccupied with how she was going to rearrange all her appointments for the next five days. Plus, one of her cats was sick. She was thinking she’d better take him to the vet.
“Don’t move,” the prison guard repeated, and this time his voice was very hard.
She blinked rapidly, looking at the man with mild con-fusion. Strangers were always approaching her. There could be one hundred people on the street and the tourist would stop and ask Maggie for directions. She supposed it was because she was so unassuming. At five feet, she had a slight build and pale skin that only burned, never tanned. Her clothes ran toward the admittedly conservative—she had a weakness for low-slung, sensible pumps. Today, she’d matched her favorite pair of beige heels with a brown plaid wool skirt and simple pink blouse that declared, I am an intelligent, professional woman with really boring taste in clothes.
Last week, her mother—one of those tall, wildly beau-tiful women who could actually wear leopard-print jump-suits—had flown into town, greeted Maggie with two fofooey cheek kisses and dramatically exclaimed, “My God, Maggie darling! How did I ever give birth to a creature who will probably marry an accountant?”
And Maggie, who felt the same sting she always felt when trying to understand her exotic mother, had the sud-den urge to toss back her red hair and retort fiercely, “At least an accountant would come home every night for din-ner!” She hadn’t said any such thing, of course. She was still slightly surprised she’d bothered to think it. After twenty-seven years, she’d come to the realization that Stephanie would always be Stephanie. Getting angry with her self-centered, extremely un-Mom-like behavior was as productive as hating the sun for shining.
“Lady,” the guard was now growling, “I said move!”
“Move where?” she asked him politely. As far as she could tell, the second floor of the old courthouse was still deserted. Space should not be a problem for him.
Then Maggie noticed the gun. The big gun. The big black gun pointed right at her, here, in the middle of the vast gray marble hallway of the Multnomah County Courthouse. The hallway was quiet, hushed as a courthouse should be hushed—particularly one that had opened its door just five minutes before. But just one floor beneath them, she could hear the reassuring hum of people entering and the parrot-like chirp of the metal detectors working as they helped pro-tect the courthouse doors.
She stared at the gun still held unwaveringly in front of her, blinked, then stared at it again.
The prison guard abruptly jabbed her in the ribs with the barrel. Oh God, it was real. She was being attacked by a prison guard!
Maggie stopped breathing.
Hello, her mind whispered. Somebody come up here and do something. Somebody jump out and tell me I’m on Candid Camera.
The only person who moved was the prison guard.
“Do exactly what I say,” the light-haired man said, his gaze boring into hers. He shifted, positioning his solid body between her and the top of the stairs, where the first smartly dressed morning commuter was now appearing. That man was followed by a woman in a paisley-print dress, then another man in a suit.
The guard in front of her shifted again and her uni-verse was reduced to bulging biceps, a granite chest and a pair of chilling green eyes that told her he was bigger, better and badder than she would ever be in her whole entire life.
She would grant him that. She was one of those people who could never even get the lid off a pickle jar. C.J., Brandon...help!
“Listen up and don’t make a sound,” the “prison guard” commanded. His voice didn’t waver; the gun didn’t waver; his gaze didn’t waver. He exuded one-hundred-percent-focused, honed control. She was a dead woman.
“Okay.” Maggie’s gaze flew from his face to his brown uniform, to the badge on his chest. Then her eyes fell lower and she realized the shirt was too tight across his chest, the pants unbuttoned at his waist, the hems ending a good two inches above his ankles. His feet were squashed awkwardly in the shiny black boots, as if he was forced to walk tiptoe by the constraining leather.
“You’re not a prison guard!” she exclaimed softly.
The left corner of his lips twisted up. “Very good, you win the double-jeopardy question. Next time, give your an-swer in the form of a question. Now stand up and do exactly as I say.”
The gun dug into her ribs again and she jumped to her feet as if it had been a cattle prod. Her oversized beige purse promptly fell off her lap and vomited onto the floor.
“Damn!” her prison guard/captor swore. With an impa-tient gesture, he planted one broad palm on her thin shoul-der and shoved her down. “Grab it and let’s go.”
“Okay,” she said again, her fingers trembling so hard, she scrambled lipstick tubes, a set of house keys, four throat lozenges, two cat rabies tags and her checkbook all over the floor.
“I don’t know what I’m doing!” she cried out perilously loud. The ringing footsteps of one man’s dress heels against the marble floor came to a suspicious halt.
The guard hunched down. One sweep of his broad hand and everything was back in her oversized leather purse. He leaned so close, she could feel his breath on her lips, as well as see the burning-green determination of his eyes.
“One more stunt like that,” he told her quietly, “and you’re dead.”
His fingers wrapped around her thin arm. He dragged her to her feet, her body pressed against him as if she were weightless. And all she could think was that her tax dollars had probably paid for the prison barbells that had made him so strong.
Her captor yanked her toward the top of the stairs. Maggie caught the gaze of a startled man in a deep gray suit still watching her. Run, yell, do something, she thought. Fingers dug into her upper arm and she smiled at the halted man instead. He politely nodded, then walked away as Attila the Hun dragged her down the rapidly flooding stair-case.
They were going against the flow of traffic, but no-body seemed to mind. The stream of humanity split around them without a second glance. Executives in their suits passed so close, she could touch them with her fingertips. One judge already in his black robe ascended the broad steps just two feet away. Court clerks in professional, but not too professional, clothes chatted about the beautiful spring weather as they moved to one side so an escaped felon could pull her down to the front doors.
Say something, do something, her mind whis-pered. Lydia always said your hair marked you as one of the legendary Hathaway Reds, and all the Hathaway Reds were women of great courage and passion. So do some-thing! Just this once, actually do something!
As if reading her thoughts, the man clamped her arm more tightly and quickened his pace. She had to half jog to keep up with his long strides. Obviously, the man not only lifted weights but ran on the prison treadmill machine. Did they give convicts StairMasters, as well, so they could climb skyscrapers as modern-day versions of King Kong? She was definitely writing a letter to her state congressman after this. Definitely, definitely, definitely.
They made the turn of the sweeping staircase. The huge bay of glass doors loomed before them, guarded by the standing metal detectors. For a moment, Maggie felt hope soar in her chest. The second he dragged her through the detectors, his gun would set them off and she’d be home free!
Then she realized the detectors were only for the people walking in. There were no such protective devices for the people walking out.
His footsteps moved even faster and she was help-less to stop the momentum.
The security desk was to her left. Three men sat there in uniform. Look over here, darn it! Hey, hey, someone set down your jelly doughnut and look at me!
But they only watched the people entering the build-ing.
Maggie rolled her eyes frantically to the right. Phones, the bank of phones. If she could twist away, make it to the phones. Her brother would help her. C.J. had joined the Marines when he’d turned eighteen and taken to it like a seal to water. He had more medals than their grandpa had gotten in World War II and Korea combined; no one messed with C.J. Or maybe her older brother, Brandon. Where was he these days? Since burying his young wife two years ago, he’d taken off and traveled the world in a manner frighten-ingly similar to their late, departed father.
She made an instinctive lunge for the phone banks. At least she thought it was a lunge. Her captor glanced at her quizzically as if she’d hiccuped, then proceeded to drag her through the broad glass doors like his own personal Raggedy Ann.
She blinked beneath the sudden glare of sunlight. A part of her was instantly relieved. It was daylight, after all, prime commute time on a bright spring day in downtown Portland, Oregon; everyone knew bad things only happened after midnight in dark alleyways where streetlights reflected off murky puddles.
Attila, however, showed no signs of slowing down. He dragged her to the corner, then came to an abrupt halt. She was so unprepared for the stop, she tripped in her low heels and practically flung herself around him. He caught her hundred-pound body, not even swaying from the im-pact. Strong hands gripped her shoulders and righted her curtly. Again, she did her impression of a blinking owl.
“Who taught you how to walk?” he muttered.
The crossing signal’s green man lit up, indicating for pedestrians to proceed. Her captor dragged her briskly across the street. Drivers watched them politely; fellow commuters rushed by hurriedly. Abruptly, Attila pushed her into the park, ducking them both behind a four-foot-high hedge. Maggie had time for one gulping gasp of air; then he pinned her between the prickly hedge and his rock-hard frame.
She blinked, then blinked again. No matter how many times she did, he remained standing before her, his steely thighs clamped around her legs.
“P-p-please,” she begged weakly. Her body began to tremble, and her eyes squeezed shut; she had no pride. She was very scared and she would do anything if this man would just let her go. “D-d-don’t hurt me...”
“Look at me.”
She had no choice. She opened her eyes to find his face looming over hers, bright green eyes hooded by thick blond brows. This close, she could see the sweat beading his forehead and upper lip. His cheeks held the faded gold stamp of old sun and the fresh pallor of a man who hadn’t been outside in a long while. His jaw appeared to have been carved from a mountain. His neck was so strong, she could see corded lines of muscle from the tense way he held his shoulders.
He didn’t look like a man who believed in compro-mise. And those lips were only an inch from hers, the clos-est any man’s lips had been in a long time.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” he said quietly.
She giggled hysterically; she couldn’t help herself. In response, he jammed the gun against her side so sharply that she hiccuped.
“Any minute now,” he continued, voice all business, “a half-naked guard is going to come running out of that court-house. You don’t want that to happen, because if that hap-pens, you’re my insurance. It’s going to be you standing be-tween a convicted murderer who needs to escape and a cor-rections officer who doesn’t want a black mark on his record. Understand?”
Slowly, he nodded. “After killing the first person, the second is easy.”
She flinched, once more shutting her eyes. Faint, Maggie. Just faint and then you’ll be no good to him and he’ll leave you alone.
“Tell me where your car is.”
Her face crumpled further, the hysteria rising up in a sickening mixture of giggles and hiccups. Oh God, she was incapable of fainting. Whoever would’ve known? It wasn’t as if she was a particularly strong person. Nor was she an ad-venturesome, temperamental wild woman like her mother. She lived alone in the suburbs with two cats. These days, buying a new brand of panty hose constituted a major event in her life. Really, she thought she ought to be able to faint.
“Are you listening to me?”
“I don’t have a car. Want a bus pass instead?” She tried for a hopeful smile.
“Damn!” His voice was suddenly urgent in her ear. “Start walking. Fast!”
Her eyes popped open. Behind her she could hear a commotion. The real prison guard, she thought. He was coming out. And then she remembered what her captor had told her about her future opportunities when the real prison guard appeared. She started walking fast, her cap-tor’s hand still clenched tightly around her arm.
“Car,” he commanded again. “We need a car. I’m not lying.”
“I don’t have one,” she whispered back just as in-tently. “Honest! I took the bus! Don’t you know what traffic is like on the Sunset Highway these days?”
“Oh sure. In prison we listen to the traffic reports all the time. It would be such a shame to be caught in rush-hour traffic on our way over the wall.”
He dragged her down the street, pushing bodily through the morning pedestrian traffic. His hand was so tight around her arm, there was no way they looked like lovers casually strolling. But no one gave them a second glance as he pulled her past rapidly filling office buildings, then Star-bucks, overflowing with well-dressed caffeine junkies des-perate for a fix.
That was big-city life for you, she thought resentfully. Where was a hero when you needed one?
He yanked her into a public parking garage. “Do you have any money in your purse?”
“Do you have money?”
“Good. You can pay for our parking.”
“But we don’t have a car.”
“We do now.” He gestured to the expanse of a second-floor parking garage filled with shiny, gleaming automobiles. She stared at him with horrified shock until he arched a single blond brow. “Did you really think I was a Boy Scout?”
“But...but stealing is wrong.”
“Uh-huh,” Attila the Hun said dryly. “We’ll take that van. Let’s go.”
He pulled her forward. She wanted to resist. She’d taken self-defense classes; she knew you should never let them get you into a vehicle. Once in the car, there would be no way to run, no way to break away. She’d be trapped as effectively as a moth pinned to a tray.
He outweighed her by a good hundred pounds. He looked to be in tremendous shape. Those arms...Heavens, he could probably pull a tractor out of the mud single-handedly. Or wrestle an ox or pin a steer. Her footsteps slowed. She tried to dig in her sensible pumps; she yanked back her arm.
He didn’t even look at her. His fingers tightened, he murmured, “Don’t be an idiot,” and dragged her forward without ever missing a beat.
He was definitely going to get her into a vehicle.
My God, Maggie, what are you g...
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