Firefighter Pat Ryan is stunned when he hears gunfire and two strangers crash through his door. An anonymous tip led journalist Rachel Davenport to a ramshackle cabin, where she helped an abducted teen escape. With Pat and his K-9 rescue dog’s help, they go on the run with deadly kidnappers in pursuit. But with innocent lives at stake, Rachel and Pat must battle foes and fears to live through the night.
Rachel’s heart ached to slow down, comfort the girl, assure her everything would be okay. But it wouldn’t be. Not unless she could get her out of there without drawing any attention. Her mind begged her to shove all compassion aside and move faster. She risked a quick peek out the front window. Bathed in the light cast from the boat stood six men. Four more had joined the two she’d already seen, presumably from the boat. Rachel started to turn away, but a familiar form caught her attention.
Ben Harrison. She’d recognize his stride anywhere, though the confident swagger she’d once found endearing, comforting even, now seemed more like an arrogant strut. For just a moment, her heart soared. Even if they hadn’t spoken in years, surely Detective Harrison would help her and Jane out of this mess. Although, if he was undercover, she could be putting him in danger too. Unless…
She and her cousin Ben had been so close once upon a time. Growing up, he’d been her best friend, her confidant, the one person she trusted with all her heart. And then he betrayed her at the time she needed him the most. He’d taken up with a bad crowd and blown her off when she’d begged him for help finding her sister, Rebecca, when she went missing. Then, when Rachel had nowhere else to go for help when the police botched the investigation into Rebecca’s disappearance, he’d turned her away. Her parents assumed Rebecca had run away and gave up on her, retreated into themselves until it was too late to save her. And in abandoning Rebecca, they’d all abandoned Rachel as well, leaving her with no one to depend on but herself.
When she heard he’d joined the police academy and then made detective, she’d hoped he’d left the bad crowd behind him, turned over a new leaf. She even held out hope he might reach out to her one day, apologize. Not that it could change what had happened with Rebecca. A niggle of fear crept in, raised goose bumps, and she slid deeper into the shadows.
As Ben strode straight toward the shack barking orders, the others fanned out behind him. But if Ben was undercover, why would he appear to be the one in charge? She’d stopped talking to him years ago because she didn’t trust him. No sense changing that opinion now.
“Come on, Jane. We have to go.” She grabbed Jane beneath the arm and hauled her up to stand. “Now.”
Jane staggered but stayed on her feet as Rachel propelled her toward the door through the narrow gap she’d managed to open and out onto the deck. Hopefully, the cold air would help Jane regain her senses enough to run.
All they had to do was make it across the clearing and they could disappear into the heavily wooded Pine Barrens. Maybe. Flurries started to fall, fat white flakes drifting lazily to the ground. A deceptive start to the forecast storm that would soon grip Long Island in its bitter fury.
With a firm hold on Jane’s wrist, Rachel hurried across the deck and started through the stiff dead grass, ignoring the loud crunching sound each footstep made. The girl’s captors would be on them any minute. Stealth wouldn’t do them any good now. Only speed might save them.
Rachel started to run, prodding Jane to move faster, half dragging her by the arm.
A gust of wind carried the sounds of raised voices. A man shouted from inside the shack.
They weren’t going to make it to the tree line, and there was nowhere to hide in the open clearing.
“Run straight for the woods. Go.” She shoved Jane forward. “Now.”
Dazed, Jane glanced over her shoulder toward the shack. Her eyes went wide, and tremors tore through her. Like a deer caught in headlights, she froze, vulnerable.
Six black-clad figures emerged from the shack with Ben in the lead.
The two men who’d been guarding Jane flanked him with their very large guns trained on Rachel and Jane.
Ben poked a finger against one man’s chest. “You were paid to watch her, not dump her in an unsecured shack so she could escape.”
“But we drugged her.” Keeping his weapon level, trained on Rachel, the man turned his head toward Ben. “She was out cold a minute ago.”
“Yeah, well, she’s not now, is she?” Ben pointed his weapon at the man’s chest and fired.
The man crumpled to the ground.
Rachel wheezed in a breath.
“Hey.” The other man started backing up, his gun still aimed at the women. “Hey, dude, I was just the—”
Ben’s second gunshot dropped the man midsentence. Ben gestured for one of the men to go back toward the front, then started forward with the remaining three. “We need the girl alive.”
Bile surged, burning the back of Rachel’s throat. He’d just killed two men. Two of his own men.
She turned to Jane, gripped her shoulders and stared into her unfocused eyes. She shook her once, hard. “You have to run.”
The girl nodded, her eyes seeming to clear a little, then turned and fled toward the woods.
Rachel yanked her weapon from the harness as she ran after Jane.
More shouts reached her. The men were almost on them. She was going to have to turn and fight.
A shot rang out.
Jane went down hard on her stomach, barely getting her hands under her in time to catch herself.
No, no, no! “Are you hurt?”
Jane didn’t answer.
Crouching beside her, Rachel searched desperately for an escape route.
Another shot hit a tree not far from them. Either the gunman was a lousy shot, or the two shots fired so far had been meant as a warning, which was probably the case. If Shannon was correct, and she had been so far, and Jane was set to be sold, the girl was worth too much money for them to shoot to kill. And Ben had said to take the girl alive. He hadn’t said the same about her companion. In the darkness, made even more so by the thick cloud cover and the flurries, they most likely couldn’t tell the two apart. Once they got closer and that changed, Rachel would be expendable.
Another shot sent Jane scrambling to her feet and bolting toward the woods. It seemed the bullets whizzing by her had finally cleared some of the stupor.
Rachel followed, keeping her head down.
Shouts followed them, along with the sound of a car engine turning over. Ben must have sent the guy to get the SUV out front. It would only take a few seconds for them to make it around the small shack to the clearing and join the others chasing them on foot. She had to try to stop them. Or at least slow them down.
Jane dove behind a tree.
“Keep going. I’ll be right behind you.”
The plea for God’s help popped unbidden into her head. She caught herself, remembering the last time she prayed, begged God to return her sister safely, He hadn’t answered. It had been more than fifteen years since Rachel had prayed, and if only for her own sake, she wouldn’t pray now. How could she ask God to help her after she hadn’t trusted Him in so long, after she’d turned away from Him at the moment she’d probably needed faith the most? Please, help me save this child. I failed Rebecca. Please, don’t let me fail Jane.