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Authors: Rebecca York

Chained

CHAINED

A Novella

By Rebecca York

Ruth
Glick writing as Rebecca York

 

Published
by Light Street Press

Copyright
© 2011 by Ruth Glick

Cover
design by Earthly Charms

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any
means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or other—except
for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written
permission of the publisher.

This is a work of fiction.  Names, characters, places, and
incidents either are 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.

 

More Decorah Security Series Books

by Rebecca York

AMBUSHED
(a short story)

DARK
MOON
(a novel)

DARK
POWERS
(a novel)

HOT
AND DANGEROUS
(a short story)

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

PRAISE FOR REBECCA YORK

ABOUT REBECCA YORK

BOOKS BY REBECCA YORK

 

CHAPTER ONE

Isabella Flores pulled open the kitchen door and stopped in
her tracks. The house felt wrong. Come to that, it smelled wrong. The familiar
scents of the empanadas she’d cooked the night before and the cleaning solution
she used on the floor still hung in the air. But they were overlaid by the
smell of sweat and stealth.

Moments ago she’d been prepared to fall into bed and sleep
for the next eight hours, after an exhausting shift on the surgical floor at
Phoenix General Hospital.

Instead, she backed out the door and started running, not
toward the car she’d just left in the driveway but into the alley.

A blast of noise followed her, and she felt a bullet whiz
past her head.

“Cristo. Don’t let her get away,” a harsh voice shouted.

Two
hombres
. Waiting in the dark for her.

She’d hoped she was safe living in this quiet, middle-class
neighborhood, but she’d always been prepared for the worst. She kept two bags
packed, one in the trunk of her car and the other in an SUV, hidden down the
block.

She leaped the waist-high chain link fence of a neighbor’s
yard on the other side of the alley, rolled into a flower bed, and lay with her
heart pounding, praying that the men hadn’t seen her vanish into the shadows.

As two sets of heavy footsteps pounded toward her, then
sprinted past, she let out the breath she’d been holding.

 But she couldn’t stay here. When they didn’t find her,
they’d double back. Which meant she had only minutes to make her escape.

Staying low, she ran toward the front of the property where
she’d taken refuge, then crossed five front yards, keeping as close to the
buildings as possible.

When she ducked into the passage between two houses, frantic
barking stopped her. She turned to face a large German shepherd that bared
enormous teeth in warning.

Ignoring the show of aggression, she spoke in a low,
soothing voice. “Herman. It’s just me. Isabella. You know me. Come on, boy.
Give me a break.”

To her relief, the dog licked the hand she held out.

“Good boy. That’s a good boy,” she praised him as she opened
the gate and eased inside, where she crossed the yard and headed for the alley
again.

If the dog’s barking brought the men who were hunting her,
maybe his fangs would slow them down.

With a sigh of relief, she slipped inside the garage she’d
rented on a cash only, no questions asked basis.

In the darkness, she raised the main door, wincing when the
mechanism squeaked.

“Almost there,” she whispered to herself as she slipped
behind the wheel of the SUV.

As she pulled into the alley, she thought she was in the
clear, but one of the gunmen leaped into her path, his dark features
illuminated by a street lamp. She didn’t recognize him, but she knew who he
must be. One of the hired thugs who worked for General Lopez, El Jefe, who held
the Central American country of San Marcos in his iron grip.

Eight years ago, her father had dared to write exposés about
the general and circulate them secretly. When Lopez had found out who was
behind them, Papa had been forced to flee the country with Isabella.

They hadn’t even been safe in the U.S. After an assassination
attempt, her father had hired a highly recommended company, Decorah Security,
to protect them and help them establish new identities. Her last name wasn’t
even the same as her father’s. She’d used Flores since college. And she hadn’t
even seen Papa in two years.

But the general’s men had tracked her down.

She’d heard Lopez was in trouble back in San Marcos. Was he
making a last-ditch attempt to silence any enemies?

Ducking low, she pressed on the accelerator, heading
straight toward the gunman.

At the last second, he leaped out of the way. But after her
car barreled past, she saw him in the rearview mirror, raising his gun.

Before he could fire, Herman charged through the gate that
she hadn’t locked—taking the thug to the ground, his savage snarling and the
man’s screams ringing in her ears.


Dios
, don’t let him shoot the dog,” she prayed as
she barreled down the alley.

She drove for two miles, weaving a random course through the
neighborhood. When she judged she was far enough from home, she pulled in back
of a gas station and sat behind the wheel, struggling to control the shaking
that had overtaken her.

She had escaped. Now what? She couldn’t go back to her
little rental house. Or to the police. The general had a reputation for paying
off the authorities. For all she knew he had done that now.

After making sure no one was watching her, she climbed out
of the car and retrieved the overnight bag locked in the trunk. In it was a
small automatic pistol, which she placed on the passenger seat beside her.

Then she pulled out her cell phone and risked a call to her
father.

The phone rang once, twice, four times.

“Jorge Arroyo aqui.”

Her heart leaped when she heard him speak—until she realized
it was his voice mail, asking her to leave a message. Which she didn’t do.

He hadn’t answered. But that didn’t mean he was dead, she
told herself as she clenched the phone and pondered his fate—and her own.

 She hadn’t been sure where she was going when she fled the
gunmen. She’d only reacted to the immediate danger. Now that she had the luxury
of making some plans, a strong conviction came over her.

At least for the next few days, she would hole up at
El
Cayado
, the Shepherd’s Crook, the ranch outside Sedona her father had
bought, using another assumed name.

It was where Decorah Security had housed them after her
father had shot two
hombres
who had come after him. Two men. Like
tonight.

She and her father had lived at the ranch for six months
while they improved their English language skills and Decorah set up their new
identities. She had taken the Flores name and gone off to college in the East,
where she’d earned a nursing degree.

Her father had established himself as Jorge Arroyo in
Denver, where he’d started writing a book about his life in San Marcos. He had
never finished it, maybe because putting everything down on paper was too
painful for him.

She hadn’t been to
El Cayado
since she was a
teenager, but the ranch called to her now, with an overwhelming pull, which
made her think that going there was the right thing to do.

Was that a logical decision? Or purely emotional? She hoped
the former was true.

As she drove up U.S. 17, she risked one more call, where she
left a message with her supervisor at Phoenix General Hospital.

 “I’ve got a family emergency,” she told the nursing
supervisor’s voice mail. “I can’t come in for the next few days.”

The lie made her chest tighten because she was pretty sure
she was never coming back to Phoenix.

She switched off her phone, wondering if she should throw it
out the window. In the end, she decided to keep it for an emergency. Probably
that was safe as long as she didn’t turn it on.

The closer she got to the ranch, the more she thought of the
past. Especially of Matthew Houseman, the Decorah agent who’d been assigned to
protect her.

Maybe their relationship had started off as just a job for
him, but it had developed into a shared warmth that neither one of them had
been free to admit.

That hadn’t stopped her from longing for a whole lot more
with him. Even though she knew it was impossible. She was a teenager, and he
was her bodyguard.

But alone in her room at night, she’d had fantasies of
running her hands through his dark hair. Of stripping off the cowboy clothes he
usually wore and making love.

They hadn’t even kissed, but he’d taken her for rides in the
red rock desert around the ranch and made sure she knew how to use a gun. And
most evenings she’d listened to him strumming his guitar and singing out on the
back patio.

She shivered as she remembered one of the songs, “Ghost
Riders in the Sky,” about phantom cowboys chasing a herd of ghostly cattle they
would never catch.

Her heart squeezed. She’d thought she could contact him when
she was out of nursing school, but that hadn’t happened, because Matthew
Houseman was dead. Killed in the line of duty five years ago.

She thrust the painful thought away. Matthew was gone, and
maybe her father.

Two hours after her hair-raising escape, she reached the
outskirts of Sedona, where she stopped at a shopping center and bought
groceries as well as two large blocks of ice.

With the provisions in the car, she headed for
El Cayado
.
Slowing along the two-lane highway, she looked for the access road that led off
into the desert. When she spotted it, she unclenched the hands clutching the
wheel and made the turn onto the dirt track.

It was a bumpy fifteen-mile ride, but finally she saw the
outline of the low, adobe-style buildings.

As she pulled up in front of the house, she sighed, partly
in relief and partly in anticipation. Something was waiting for her here,
something that she could sense, just out of reach.

Still, it was strange to be back at the ranch. All alone.

What was it like inside the house? Hopefully it was sealed
well enough to have kept the varmints out.

She stuffed the pistol into her purse, then opened the car
door and stepped out, breathing in the desert air. It was fresh and clean, the
way she remembered. And even on a summer night, it carried a slight chill.
Which might be why she felt a tingle at the back of her neck. Or had she made a
mistake coming here?

Quietly, she turned in a circle, scanning the ranch yard and
the desert beyond. Moonlight silvered the stark beauty of the rocky landscape,
and a canopy of stars added their twinkling light, but she could see nothing
stirring among the buildings or in the desert.

She’d intended to carry a bag of groceries to the house;
instead she left her provisions in the car and started up the walk,
deliberately forcing herself not to run like a kid afraid of the dark.

She was halfway to the front door when a sound stopped her.
It came from the grove of sycamore trees down by the spring. She turned in that
direction, listening to the wind rustling the leaves. The noise started off
barely audible, then increased as though a storm were gathering. But as far as
she could tell, there was no wind anywhere else.

Suddenly the temperature dropped, increasing the prickle at
the back of her neck, and the wind gathered in intensity, moaning in the trees,
tossing the branches around with an unnerving rattling sound, building in
power.

She had taken an involuntary step back when something
invisible rushed toward her like a great raptor diving to capture its prey.

Although she saw nothing, she felt the force of the wind
like a solid wave that would have knocked her off her feet, except that it held
her fast. It felt like giant hands were on her, one clamping her shoulder. The
other locked around her neck, choking off her breath so that she couldn’t even
scream.

The unseen attacker lifted her off her feet, pushing her backwards
in a rush of chilled air toward the stable behind her.

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