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Authors: Cami Checketts

Tags: #romance, #running, #kidnapping, #suspense

Dying to Run

BOOK: Dying to Run
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Dying to Run

by

Cami Checketts

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Dying to Run

 

COPYRIGHT © 2012 Camille Coats Checketts

 

All rights reserved.

 

Published by Birch River Publishing

 

Contact information:
[email protected]

 

Cover design by Janna Barlow

 

Edited by Nancy Felt

[email protected]

 

Published in the United States of America

 

Acknowledgments

 

Thanks to my many critique partners for being quick and thorough and making the book so much better than I could make it on my own: Amber Argyle, Laura Johnston, Charity Bradford, Emily Tippetts, Heidi Bigelow, Janet Jensen, JoLynne Lyon, and Daniel Coleman.

Thanks to my editor, Nancy Felt, for always finding the problems that I miss. Your insight is much appreciated.

Thanks to Janna Barlow for designing the most beautiful covers. Your talent amazes me.

Thanks to my mom for being my cheerleader. I hope someday to be as good as you think I am.

Thanks most of all to my husband and boys for being patient and babysitting the wild baby so Mom can pursue her dreams. I love you all.

 

Table of Contents

 

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

About the Author

 

Chapter One

 

A gunshot echoed through my peaceful neighborhood.
Not again
. Two weeks without someone trying to kill me was apparently too long.

I dropped to my hands and knees before realizing the light was still on. My trembling hand slid up the smooth wall to the switch; tanned arm contrasting with the white paint. If the shooter looked up at the window right now he could make me an amputee before hunting me down. Shaky fingers closed around the switch and the room plunged into darkness.

I crawled towards the window. Though it was October, the day had been so warm I still had the window open to cool off my second-story room. My ears strained for any out of place sounds, but the chilly air revealed nothing. I peered down into the darkness, our feeble porch light losing the battle against the night.

The shooter didn’t make me wait long for his dramatic appearance. He lumbered towards the front door, steadying himself against the railing. The porch light cast his mammoth shadow against the ground.  

Yikes! There was a giant on my front porch who had either just been shot or just shot someone else. My fingers dampened the windowsill with sweat. Nana was downstairs snoring without a worry. Could I get to her in time?

The man pulled a key from his pocket, turned it in the lock, and eased through the door.
What the crap?
Who was this beastly dude and how did he have the key to our house?

I dialed 9-1-1 on my cell phone and searched the floor for some kind of weapon. My hand closed around a twenty-pound dumbbell. Seriously. I was bringing a dumbbell to a gunfight. I tried to think of a better option, but the dumbbell was heavier and could cause more damage than anything else I owned.

Pushing to my feet, I felt my way through the darkness to the stairs. I kept telling myself I’d dealt with scarier situations than this, but my heart beating nutso-like assured me this was another real live nightmare. All I knew was I had to protect Nana from that dude.

“Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?”

Finally
. “A guy just broke into my house,” I whispered. Sweat drenched my back. Here I was talking, giving away my position, and that guy was probably waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs.

“Your address?”

I rattled off our address.

“Tell me exactly what happened.”

I panted for air, terror constricting my throat. “Just come!” I shoved the phone in my bra; there were no pockets in my T-shirt or yoga pants. The dispatcher’s tinny voice squeaked through the cotton material. If she didn’t shut up that guy would find me. “Shh,” I whispered, more to myself than the lady.

I couldn’t see the guy when I reached the bottom of the stairs, hopefully I could spot him and whack him before he grabbed me. I wiped my palm on my pants, and then gripped the weight with both hands. The porch light shining through the gauzy curtains didn’t reveal his position when I reached the landing, but a quiet shuffling to my left prompted me to start swinging.  

The weight connected with something solid. I heard a grunt of pain before the dumbbell was stripped from my hand. A strong arm wrapped around my waist and a large palm cut off my scream. I bit into the hand. I shouldn’t have. His fingers tasted like dirt and he didn’t even flinch when my teeth nipped him.

“Cassidy,” the man panted in my ear. “Don’t . . . Scream.” He took a couple of long, rattling breaths.

I didn’t stop to ask how he knew my name or why I should listen to his advice, I elbowed him in the gut. He grunted and doubled over, leaning against my side. A bear lying on top of me would’ve been less pressure. I pushed against his weight, but we slowly slid to the floor. The bottom step dug into my back as I tried to shimmy out from under him.

“They’re coming,” he gasped. “Run.”

The man loosened his grip and fell sideways onto the hardwood floor with a loud thunk. I crawled a few feet away, staring at his smooth brown head as I tried to think. Who was coming? Who was this guy? If he was one of the traffickers who tried to kill me two weeks ago, why would he tell me to run?

Quiet footsteps on the front porch and scratching against the door signaled the arrival of help. Thank heavens. I had no idea what to do with this beast when he woke up.

Nana padded in from the kitchen.  

“Stay back.” I finally caught a full breath. It was over. The police could help us sort this out and we were safe.

I pushed off the floor, a sticky red substance clinging to my palm. I wiped it on my pants before realizing it was blood. Gross. “Some guy broke in, but the police are here now.” I turned to the door.

“No,” Nana hollered. I winced. Nana didn’t comprehend volume control, hopefully she wouldn’t wake the unconscious giant. She pointed at my feet. “That’s Sham and the police wouldn’t be picking our lock. Get over here.”

I could see the lock turning. Nana was right. The police would pound on the door and announce their presence. My heart rate increased again as I realized we were definitely not safe. I ran the few steps to Nana’s side. But wait, what about Sham? I turned back to him as the door burst open and several men spilled into the dimly lit room. Nana grabbed my arm. She pulled me through the kitchen and into her bedroom, slamming the door behind us. And here I was thinking I needed to protect her.

Nana struggled with an oak dresser, her yellow mumu fluttering around her like an angry bee trying to move its hive. I threw my shoulder against the dresser. Wood scraped against wood as it slid across the floor and banged into the door. I pushed Nana down and dropped to her side, wedging my feet against the bedframe and my back against the dresser. The drawer handles gouged my back, but I ignored the discomfort and pushed harder. They were not getting through this door.

They jiggled the door handle and hammered on the door. We didn’t budge. Nana’s face was covered with sweat and distorted with effort. “Keep pushing,” I begged.

My heart beat in sync with the men’s fists on the door. I pulled my phone from my bra. The 9-1-1 operator was calling out to me.

“There are more men in my house and a good guy has been shot. Where are the police?” I yelled over the noise.

“They’re coming.”

I tossed the phone onto the bed and strained against the dresser. Hopefully it was my imagination, but I could’ve sworn it was moving. How long could we hold them off? Should we abandon the dresser and try to climb through Nana’s window? What were they doing to poor Sham? If only I’d recognized him. But why was Sham here and not in Mexico helping my father protect children?

A barrage of bullets assaulted the bedroom door. I hit the floor, pulling Nana down with me. The dresser banged into us. I forced myself to sit up and dig my feet in again. My legs were cramping and my back ached but I wasn’t about to give up.  

“Stop shooting my house,” Nana yelled over the noise.

“They’re going to kill us! Who cares about the house?”

Nana studied me like it was the last time she might see me breathing. “I won’t let them kill you.”

I just stared. We both knew who they were after, but she was crazy thinking she could protect me. These men worked for the jerks who had murdered my mother, repeatedly tried to kill my father, and two weeks ago almost succeeded in taking me out at the St. George Marathon. They weren’t going to listen to an old woman or be sweet-talked by her famous snickerdoodles.

The dresser moved another few inches. I didn’t dare make a sprint for the window and hope Nana could follow. I had to focus on keeping her safe until the police got here. I pushed—legs quivering, wood digging into my back, the floor getting sticky with my sweaty palms. The ugly barrel of a gun inched through a hole they’d made in the wall.

“Nana!” I screamed, knocking her to the floor as they started shooting again. My head banged against Nana’s, light swam in and out of focus, the deafening barrage of bullets adding to the pounding in my head. Nana scurried away from the door and around the edge of the bed. I crawled after her, the hard floor digging into my knees.

The dresser slammed against the bed as the door splintered from its frame. Dozens of bullets smacked into the old plaster walls. Dust showered us. It reeked of mold. I sneezed and pushed Nana towards the window as she tried to do the same thing to me. “Open it and climb out,” I said.

“You first,” she shot back.

“Stop shooting,” a man yelled. Within seconds the only sound was Nana and I panting for breath. They were going to rip us from our hiding spot any second.

“We want this one alive.”

My heart stopped. With clammy hands I clung to Nana and whispered, “Damon?”

Her nod was like a punch to my gut. Damon was out of jail. Damon was in our house. Damon wanted me alive. Cold fury washed over me. I could barely restrain myself from jumping over the bed and clawing at the face of the man who’d pretended to like me so he could find my father.

“Cassie?” Damon called out. “Have you missed me?”

I bit my tongue so I wouldn’t tell him off and reveal our hiding spot. Slow, calculated footsteps tapped across the floor. Icy terror froze the sweat rolling down my back.

Blue and red lights lit up the room. Shots began again, but this time the men were shooting out our front door where I prayed a whole squad of policemen were coming to take Damon out.

“I won’t leave you, Cassie,” Damon’s voice was almost above my head.

I slowly raised my eyes to meet his cold, blue gaze. He was leaning over the edge of the bed. He smiled and offered his hand as if I would go with him willingly. I jumped to my feet and smashed my fist into his jaw. His head snapped back. He recovered quickly, grabbing my wrist and yanking me towards him. My legs slammed into the side of the bed and kept me from flying into his arms.

Nana stood, hitting at his arm. “Let her go!”

“Damon,” one of his men yelled, “We’ve got to move!”

I wrenched my arm free, backing out of his reach. He stepped forward. One of his men dragged him away. “Later,” the man said.

“I’ll be back,” Damon yelled over his shoulder.  

I sank onto the bed.

Nana sat beside me and pulled me into her huge bosom. “Filthy turncoat,” she spat out. “What kind of a dirty judge would release that scum on bail?”

We sat there for a few minutes listening to the gunfight raging, wheels squealing, and sirens blaring. Quiet descended and our favorite police detectives called our names. Relief flowed over me like a warm shower. We were truly safe now. I stood, pulling Nana to her feet, and answered, “Shine, Fine, we’re in here.”

“Why can’t you ever call them the right names?” Nana scolded.

I shrugged, too tired to fight with her or to remember Shine and Fine’s real names.

Detective Shine poked his bald head through the doorway. He wiped some sweat away. “You’re okay.”

“Barely,” Nana said. “How slow are you people?”

Fine leaned around his partner. “Guess this means we aren’t getting fed tonight?”

Nana softened at the sight of him. He was so good-looking most women probably offered him what he wanted. “Maybe a few gingersnaps if you caught that stinking Damon.”

Shine shook his head, light reflecting off the top. “We only caught one of them. Two teams are following the rest, but we assigned ourselves to check on you.” He smiled to soften the blow.

BOOK: Dying to Run
8.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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