Authors: Jannine Gallant
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
A Deadly Love
COPYRIGHT © 2012 by Jannine Gallant
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Crimson Rose Edition, 2012
Print ISBN 978-1-61217-309-2
Digital ISBN 978-1-61217-310-8
Published in the United States of America
MAYBE THIS TIME
“The course of true love never ran so sweetly... I couldn't stop turning the pages!”
~The One Hundred Romances Project (5 Stars)
“From the beginning I loved this story. The plot was well written... The dialogue was great... Well done, Ms. Gallant.”
~The Romance Studio (4.5 Hearts)
AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
“This book was a great Friday night read, I fell in love with all the characters...a wonderful story.”
~Happily Ever After Reviews (5 Tea Cups)
“This is a delightful novelette that had me staying awake late, so I could continue reading—I just could not put it down...”
~Night Owl Reviews (5 Stars)
LONELY ROAD TO YOU
“An amazing read. When I first began reading it, I had no idea that Kate and Tyler would have such an amazing adventure together.”
~Siren Book Reviews (5 Siren Stones)
VICTIM OF DESIRE
“Another brilliant story from Jannine Gallant...an edge of your seat thriller at its best.”
~Single Titles (5 Stars)
To my daughters, Tara and Kristen.
You bring joy to my life!
The sniveling creature crouched on the cot was a disappointment. Where was the stunning woman from the big screen who incited his lust no matter how hard he tried to suppress it? This pathetic shell bore no resemblance to the sassy teen who’d starred in so many of his youthful sexual fantasies. Where was the girl who’d stolen a piece of his heart?
She’d given up completely, taking the fun out of the chase. Perhaps he’d made a mistake in keeping her here alone. If she had someone with her to offer support and encouragement… Not that he’d ever been on the receiving end of such basic human kindness.
He set the lantern on the dirt floor and stared at her.
Nearly made him want to end the game immediately and start fresh with the next one. But that would ruin his carefully constructed plan. Still, maybe a few adjustments were necessary. He couldn’t wait for another full moon, couldn’t stand another two weeks of cowering ineptitude. The new moon was tomorrow…
A smile slid across his face. Two at a time was the answer. The pulse in his neck throbbed thinking about the possibilities. In the meantime, a pep talk might motivate his current guest. He stepped forward and frowned as she shrank into a smaller ball. Nothing was visible but the top of her blonde hair and the billowing white nightgown tucked around her drawn knees.
“Maybe tonight will be the night you escape, Cybil. I’ll give you a bigger head start.” A mewling sound from the cot grated on his nerves. His breath whooshed out. “Tell you what. Tomorrow I’ll bring you some company. Would you like that?”
Her head snapped up, and lusterless blue eyes stared at him. For a moment, there was a spark of animation.
Finally, a reaction.
“No.” She shook her head from side to side. “No. No. No. Don’t do this to someone else.” Her voice rose in a shriek. “Just kill me and be done with it.”
“Where would be the fun in that?” he snapped. Stalking forward, he unlocked her shackles and jerked her off the cot. “Get up. It’s time to play.”
Fog shrouded the towering redwoods, swirled around the massive trunks, and settled on the fern covered floor of the forest. Brooke Wakefield clutched the steering wheel, straining to see the road through the dense mist creeping in from the Northern California coast. Swearing under her breath, she leaned forward, her gaze focused on the barely discernable yellow line down the center of the highway.
Why didn’t I stay in Eureka?
Another bad decision on her part, and there’d been far too many of them lately. A sign loomed ahead, its reflective paint just visible in the gloom.
“Ah, there’s our exit.” She slowed the Subaru to a crawl and turned onto the narrow county road leading to Woodvale. Gradually, she increased her speed. Warm air blasted through the heater vents, and she hummed to an old Rolling Stones tune playing on the radio. “Almost there, Otis. I can’t wait to get out of this miserable fog.”
The dog hung his shaggy head over the seat and moaned. Drool dripped on her shoulder. She loosened her white-knuckled grip on the wheel and gave him a shove. “Back off, boy. Only a couple of miles to go now.”
A flicker of movement caught her eye seconds before a figure in white burst onto the road. The woman threw up her arm and blinked in the headlights’ glare. A cloud of dark hair surrounded a white face dominated by terrified eyes. A blood-chilling scream rent the air.
Brooke slammed on the brakes and jerked the wheel. Fear lodged in her throat as the tires slid on damp pavement, caught, then slid again. The giant trunk of a redwood rushed toward her, and a tremendous jolt hurled her into oblivion.
Dillon Tremayne saw the mangled car through the thinning fog and swerved, narrowly missing its rear bumper. Rocking to a stop, he backed his truck up and pulled to the edge of the road. He flipped on the hazard lights, threw open the door, and hit the ground running.
His headlights lit up the interior of the car, illuminating the woman draped across the steering wheel. Rivulets of blood ran from a gash on her forehead and matted her blonde hair. Blood soaked the front of her pink sweater.
When he yanked open the door, a low growl greeted him from the rear seat. Dark eyes stared out from beneath shaggy brown fur. The dog shook his head and curled his lip. Teeth gleamed.
“Easy, big fellow.” Keeping an eye on the dog, he touched the woman’s throat. Her pulse was strong. He let out a breath.
Dark eyelashes fluttered against pale cheeks. She moaned and slowly opened her eyes. He stared into their deep blue depths, and recognition stirred. A vision of a teenage girl standing in his neighbor’s front yard—long, blonde hair shining in the sunlight and blue eyes sparkling—flashed through his mind.
Her eyes widened. Her voice was a whisper of sound. “Dillon?”
He nodded. “Stay still. I don’t know how badly you’re injured.”
She lifted her hand and touched her face, stared at the blood on her fingertips, and shuddered. “My head hurts.”
“I bet. You’ve got quite a bump. Any severe pain I should know about before I try to move you?”
Slowly she leaned back in the seat. “I ache all over, but I don’t think anything is broken.” She closed her eyes and breathed through her mouth. “I feel a little sick to my stomach. Give me a minute.”
“You probably have a concussion.” He studied her as she swallowed several times. Her skin was waxy pale and tightly drawn over high cheekbones. Dark brows and lashes contrasted with streaky blonde hair that hung past her shoulders. He pushed a lock behind her ear. The silky strands teased his fingers.
She opened her eyes and took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m ready to get out of here.”
“I’ll lift you. Tell me if anything hurts.” He slid his right arm behind her back. The dog barked deafeningly in his ear.
Brooke gasped. “Otis! Hey boy, I forgot all about you.” Her eyes were wide and anxious. “Is he hurt?”
“He’s been keeping a close eye on you, but he hasn’t made a peep other than a few warning growls. I think he’s fine.”
She turned her head. “It’s all right, boy.”
The dog pushed between the seats and watched as Dillon lifted her from the car.
She nodded and winced, her lips pinching in a tight line. Cradling her in his arms, he carried her to the truck and eased her onto the seat.
“I’ll get your dog and be right back.”
“Thank you. Do you mind grabbing the small bag out of the back of the car? I’d like to have something to change into when I get to Grandma June’s.”
“Sure thing.” He collected her belongings from the front seat, then pulled the two smallest suitcases out of the rear storage area and jogged back to the pickup. Setting the luggage on the seat, he gestured to the dog. “Get in.”
Otis landed with enough force to rock the truck. Dillon shut the door and hurried around to the driver’s side. He handed Brooke her purse and a small backpack. “I thought you’d want these.”
Her lips turned up in a brief smile. “I do. Thank you. Thanks for everything. If you hadn’t come along...”
Dillon glanced over at her before focusing on the road. The gash on her forehead and glazed look in her eyes worried him. He reached under the seat, pulled out a rag, and handed it to her. “This should stop the bleeding. Crappy night to be out driving.”
She pressed the cloth to her head. “I should have stayed in Eureka, but I didn’t want to stop so close to—to home. I was doing okay until the woman ran onto the road.” She turned to face him. “Oh God, I didn’t hit her, did I?”
“There was a woman. She had dark, curly hair and was wearing something white. I swerved to avoid her and hit the redwood tree. I don’t remember anything after that.” Dropping the rag, she rocked forward on the seat. “Oh God. Please tell me I missed her.”
“I didn’t see anyone, and I’m pretty sure I would have noticed a body, even in the dark.”
“Then why didn’t she stick around to help?”
“I suppose she could have been thrown clear, though it doesn’t seem likely. I’ll call the sheriff’s office, and they can send someone to check more thoroughly.”
As they entered Woodvale, he slowed the truck at a stop sign before accelerating through the intersection. A few porch lights glowed dimly in the dark, but the street was deserted. He pulled into a graveled parking area next to a large yellow house and turned off the engine. Her face was a pale blur in the darkness.
“Right now I’m more concerned with you than your mystery woman. Let’s get you inside.”
She frowned. “This isn’t Grandma June’s house.”
“No, it belongs to Doctor Shaw. He sees patients in the downstairs rooms.”
“It’s late. He’ll be asleep.”
“Then we’ll wake him. That bump on your head is nasty looking. It needs to be checked by someone who knows what they’re doing.”
She sighed. “You don’t leave me much choice.”
“I’m a stubborn SOB. Ask anyone.” He patted her hand where it rested on the seat, then opened the door. “Sit tight. I’ll be back to get you just as soon as I raise the doc.”
Dillon pounded on the door and waited. Fingers of fog swirled around him. He shivered. Lifting the brass knocker, he gave it a few more whacks before sticking his hands in the pockets of his down jacket. Finally, the door opened.
Carter Shaw was tall, even taller than Dillon who topped six feet. He wore a navy blue bathrobe and an irritated expression. Shoving his hand through thinning blond hair, the doctor leaned against the door jam. “This better be good. It’s almost midnight.”
“I have an accident victim in my truck. She smashed her car into a tree and has signs of a concussion. I thought you should take a look at her.”
He nodded. “I’ll get my exam room ready. Bring her inside.”