For L.A.P.D. detective Aubri Payton, the only thing worse than being abducted is learning the cost of her ransom…
For as long as she can remember, Aubri’s life has consisted of pain and perseverance. A past she can’t explain. A future she can’t quite face. Then, the last thing she wants…a new partner. One she barely tolerates. Strangely, one who seems to understand her. As soon as she begins to feel a connection to him, she finds herself in the worst situation of her life. And suddenly, Aubri is faced with the ultimate decision…save her own life and hand over the partner she thought she never wanted, or save his and make herself a human sacrifice.
even a fingerprint that doesn’t belong. The lock on her door was expertly
picked, and there isn’t a trace of a struggle. Had she even known they were
the place from which his partner has been abducted. The place he had been last
night for that oh-so-short, impromptu visit to check on her. The place he had
finally lost all sense of caution and had kissed her.
things go on, had he pressed his luck instead of drawing away, would she have
let him? Would it have ended up as more than one kiss? Would she have pulled
him into her bedroom for the night? What if? He rakes his hand through his hair
and lets out a breath. Would she still be here had he stayed?
“There’s nothing more we can do here. Let’s go.”
reality of the situation at hand. Aubri is gone, and for once, he has
absolutely no idea how to help her.
cannot let them see the recognition in her eyes at the mention of his name.
They have to think they’re wrong. She stares at the man, feeling his filthy
hand on her throat. She wants to vomit.
her head against the pipes.
me confused with another woman.”
you’re his girlfriend.”
but the situation is far too grave. “I’m not. You’re wrong. I don’t know a
thinking. She sees fury, hate, frustration. She’s pissing them off. But she
won’t give him up. She has no idea why they want him, or why they would dare go
to these lengths to get him, but she knows with certainty that if they find
him, they probably intend to kill him. How can they not know where he is?
They knew where to find her.
“So yeah, we know you’re his girl. Where is he?”
wonder what you plan on doing to him.”
Much, much worse.”
she is. Or who has her. Nothing makes sense, and it’s infuriating. He paces
around like a caged animal, trying to figure it out. Someone has gone to great
lengths to abduct a police detective from her home. They have to have a reason.
They have to want something in return for her life. But if you’re leveraging
someone, they have to know that you have what they want. And so far, no one has
come forward with a demand.
they want, there’s little to be done. If this person wants revenge against
Aubri, he’s not going to contact anyone, not going to make any demands. Because
the one thing he wants, he already has.
he’s sickeningly familiar with. He drives around, praying he’ll see something.
He talks to contacts on the street, asking about a beautiful, dark-haired
woman. No one knows a thing. It’s as if she never really existed, except in his
own mind. He goes back to her house and ducks beneath the crime scene tape.
Total silence. A heavy darkness oppresses the room. His heart squeezes. Where
is she? If she were dead, wouldn’t he feel it? He’s so in tune with
her, so in sync now, wouldn’t he know? Grasping for something to hold onto, he
tells himself he would. It’s the only thing he can do.
everything aches. None of that even compares to the idea that they want him.
And if they found her, they can certainly find him. But why haven’t they? How
much simpler would it have been to just snag Chris from his apartment? Or from
her house last night? There’s something else to this, but she can’t figure out
what. She has no idea why they gave up so easily before. She had expected them
to keep at her until they got what they want. But they hadn’t.
Where the hell is she that there is no sound? No traffic, no
voices, nothing. If she screams, will anyone hear her? No. She’s alone.
aren’t done with her. She also knows, with sickening certainty, that when they
do, they won’t give up as easily. They’ll attempt to beat the information out
of her. She imagines that at some point, they’ll decide they like the looks of
her. She’s surprised it wasn’t their first line of attack. She squeezes her
eyes shut at the thought. They’d have to un-cuff her for that, wouldn’t they?
This would be too awkward. She could fight then. They’re big, but so far she’s
seen no weapons. It gives her just a bit of hope. She clenches her fists and
relaxes them, and remembers the ink scrawled on her palm. Her fortune. I
will always save you. Trust me. She sucks in a breath, feeling her
thoughts and memories swirling around in her head. Hours to ask herself
questions. Just what has Chris Avery come to mean to her? Why is she willing to
suffer for him? Is it for him, or for Evan? Is she determined to save her
partner’s life at all costs because she’s that connected to him now, or is it
because she couldn’t save the first one? She imagines it’s just a bit of both.
Loyalty and penance. But the truth is, Chris has come to mean something to her.
Something she can’t allow herself to lose. She curls her hand and strokes her
fingertips over the ink on her palm.
against it, she begins to go a little stir crazy. She has never been prone to
panic, and she forces herself to remain calm now. But she can’t help but fight
the cuffs. She tugs, trying to pull her aching hands through. She knows better.
They’ll swell, and there will be no hope of escape. Not that she has much hope.
She’s alone, and for all she knows it’s forever.