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Authors: Dawn Ryder

Dare You to Run

BOOK: Dare You to Run
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About the Author

Copyright Page

 

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He grunted, the sound drawing her gaze up. He still knew too much about shadows. They were in the dark, completely hidden from the rest of the world. She would never have realized there was such a place to escape to among the high security zone of the White House and yet, he'd found it. Now, he was a dark visage, tempting her to melt against him and share the moment.

Live in the moment.… reach for what you crave … take it now, before it slips away.

She shivered, the longing to do exactly that nearly consuming her. The delicate surface of her lips felt dry and she rolled them in, drawing his attention.

“Princess.…” his tone was harsh, edged with self-loathing and a lack of discipline she understood because she was experiencing the same thing. She felt his breath against her wet lips a moment before she felt his kiss.

 

To Angela Knight.

The gift of time is more valuable than anything else. Thank you for a slice of yours

 

CHAPTER ONE

She didn't want to die.

Damascus Ryland shivered, the cold so bad it felt bone deep. In a strange way she was focused on it now because the misery confirmed that she was still alive. You couldn't hurt if you were dead.

Alive …

She drew in another breath and resisted the urge to claw at the sides of the concrete hold she was stuffed into. Above her head was a manhole cover, but all that was beneath it was a six-foot length of concrete water pipe that her kidnappers had dug out a hole for and used it to brace up the sides so she wasn't smothered. She looked up, waiting for the two quarter-sized holes in the cover to twinkle with daylight.

Not yet. It was still night. Blackness pressed in on her, threatening to smother her with how thick and impregnable it was, but she knew it could be worse. Her captors had made sure she knew it when they'd stuffed corks into the holes, because she'd screamed. She'd discovered what blackness was, spent what had felt like an eternity waiting for her night vision to kick in so she could see her own hands. It hadn't, she'd just had to endure the minutes that felt like hours while the idea of helplessness became more real than she had ever imagined possible.

Damascus stiffened and drew in a deep breath—she had to be stronger than her circumstances if she wanted to survive. So she put her hands on her face, jumping at the icy touch of her fingertips.

One … two.… three.…

She counted each one, allowing the cold to seep into her skin, and let the burning chill remind her that she was …
alive
.

There was a scraping noise, one she recognized well. The manhole cover was being twisted, so it might be lifted. The only difference was there was no light, just a strange red glow. She watched it anyway, desperate for a reprieve from the blackness. That red light came through it like the blade of a dagger, slicing it apart and giving her enough space to breathe.

It wouldn't last. She steeled herself for that harsh fact. No, the tube was hell and so were the faces that would look down on her when the manhole cover was lifted. They wore masks all the time. The old type of Halloween masks that were plastic with nickel-sized holes in the eyes. Gaily painted cartoon characters that took on a grotesque quality when coupled with the voices of her captors.

She continued to watch as the cover was lifted. It was done more gently this time, as if someone was trying to keep the noise to a minimum.

It was happening. Her mind was breaking.

It had to be, because the man who looked in on her wasn't wearing a mask. His face was darkened with some sort of black makeup. The red light came from somewhere over his ear. As she blinked, she realized he had on goggles of some sort, and a small light was attached to the side. He held a finger up to his darkened lips, a silent command, but there was a sharpness to it from the way he moved, hell from the very way he just, well, was.

She nodded, responding instinctually. There was a presence to him, one she'd never really felt before.

Yes, her mind was going. Not that she particularly cared. Not so long as her insanity came in the form of a man who cut the darkness away. He looked over his shoulder and then back down at her. A moment later, he'd reached right down into the hole and grasped the thick coil of rope that was tied around her body. It bound her arms to her chest all the way to her elbows and was tied in back, leaving her unable to climb the slick sides of the tube. It hadn't stopped her from trying though; her fingers bled from her efforts, her nails were shredded.

What had seemed impossible was suddenly happening. He sat her on the side of the hole as she blinked at him. He touched a finger to his lips again before he flipped open a knife and slipped it under the coil of rope.

A little sigh escaped her lips as he freed her. Just the softest sound, but he clamped his hand over her mouth in response. She smelled his skin, the scent making him more real. Her eyes stung but she was so dehydrated, there were no tears. He looked around and slipped his hand down to her wrist.

Her muscles were so cold, it felt like her tendons were going to snap, but Damascus ground her teeth together and stumbled behind him when he started to take her across the warehouse. He looked back at her, but she pushed her foot against the floor, ignoring the way something cut into the bottom of her bare skin.

Freedom was worth any amount of pain.

She couldn't hurt if she were dead.

*   *   *

She was a pitiful mess.

Not that Vitus Hale expected much else. A Washington debutante, one who had managed to slip away from her escort and get herself abducted. A pampered princess like that didn't have a clue what the real world held.

Vitus knew. In fact, he was on very familiar terms with the seedy part of life. It was among the shadows that he spent most of his time, and there was something about it that gave him a kick in the pants. He liked the game, enjoyed the struggle and the sweet surge of victory that came when he was more patient than those he was hunting.

Like tonight. Damascus Ryland's kidnappers had finally given into boredom and popped their heads up out of their hiding place to indulge in a little online chitchat. Vitus couldn't help but grin. He really did love it when he caught bad guys with their asses flapping in the breeze.

The grin faded as he returned to the moment and ordered himself to focus. The operation wasn't complete, he needed to keep his perspective.

Vitus pulled her behind him, watching for the man set out on guard duty. He was leaning against a shipping container, the glow from his cigarette making him easy to spot. Vitus hunkered down, feeling the girl follow his example. It was a waiting game now, Vitus held her wrist in a solid grip as he watched the sentry. The lookout finished his smoke, then dropped it before pushing away from the container and wandering down the length of the dock in the other direction.

Now.

Vitus tugged on her wrist and led them across the open space to the edge of the dock. The waves were lapping at the side of it, making enough noise to cover their steps. He glanced back just once at Damascus and pointed down at the water's surface. Her eyes widened, until she saw the surfboard he'd used to come up along the side of the docks. No motor, no light, and no one with enough brains to look over the side of the docks, which was why he'd done it.

Vitus went down first. Once he was on the board he beckoned to Ms. Damascus Ryland, daughter of Congressman Jeb Ryland. He wasn't sure what he was going to do if she blew their position, but surprisingly enough she didn't hesitate to join him. It bumped up his opinion of her just a tad. At least she wasn't wailing all over him. He could smell the blood on her and the stench of being kept in that concrete tomb for the last week. When she joined him, he realized how cold she was, but she maintained her silence, even as she stiffened when her feet went into the salt water.

Vitus didn't have time to console her. He pressed her down onto her belly, lying on top of her so that he could paddle. She offered him another little unexpected jolt as she started to use her hands to help, digging at the water as much as she could beneath him.

So she had some guts.

And it was in a nice package …

Now that was crass of him but it was also the truth, and a SEAL needed to work with reality. Lying on top of her, there was no way not to notice just how good she smelled, even beneath the grime. She'd never find out, though. Hell, a daughter of a congressman was definitely not the sort he would ever take up with.

He needed some downtime, that was for damn sure.

*   *   *

“I owe you a beer.”

Damascus blinked at the man who spoke. He considered her for a moment, in the same way her rescuer had before he reached down and hooked her wrist. They'd paddled up to another dock and this man was clinging to a ladder that went down the side of the dock and into the water.

What where they used for?

She had no idea, and what was worse, she realized just how much of the world she didn't understand the workings of. That ignorance was worse than all the aches and pains assaulting her because she could do something about it.

“Told you.”

Her rescuer reached right up and flattened his hand against one side of her bottom to push her up the ladder. Her cheeks actually stung with a blush but not because of that contact.

Again, it was due to the fact that she knew she wasn't pulling her own weight. She reached up and grabbed the next rung and pulled hard to get herself moving. A face appeared above her, the man reaching down and grabbing a handful of her tattered evening dress to haul her up and onto the pier.

Jesus, they were strong …

And she just couldn't help but notice how built they were.

She ended up on her backside, blinking as the two men came up the ladder with an ease that was admirable. Her rescuer hunkered down beside her, looking perfectly at ease. “Commander Vitus Hale, United States Navy, ma'am. SEAL.”

BOOK: Dare You to Run
4.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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