Authors: Colleen Coble
Tags: #ebook, #book
OTHER NOVELS BY COLLEEN COBLE INCLUDE
The Lightkeeper's Daughter
The Rock Harbor series
Without a Trace
Beyond a Doubt
Into the Deep
The Aloha Reef series
Â© 2009 by Colleen Coble All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any meansâelectronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or otherâexcept for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Published in Nashville,Tennessee.Thomas Nelson is a trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
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Publisher's Note:This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Printed in the United States of America
09 10 11 12 13 â 5 4 3 2 1
For my husband and real - life hero, Dave.
When I first met him, he was in an air force uniform.
Is there anyone more handsome than a man in uniform?
Love you, honey!
There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”
âC. S. LEWIS
N A FEW MINUTES, SHE'D BE A MARRIED WOMAN
at the silk encasing her hips and drew a deep breath that did little to calm the flutters tapping against her ribs. San Diego traffic rumbled past her small rental house, but she blocked out the noise and focused on the way her life was about to change.Things would be better now. Cid had changed. She was sure of it.
Hope tugged at her hand. “Mommy, we should pray,” she whispered. The dimples in her round cheeks flashed before her expression turned serious again.
Gracie smoothed her five-year-old's dark curls, so unlike her own fine, blond locks. She might not love Cid, but her daughter did. She couldn't disappoint Hope, who wanted him for her daddy. “Okay, honey.” God didn't answer her prayers anymore, but praying would pacify the child. She sat on the edge of the bed and gathered her daughter onto her lap.
Hope folded her hands and closed her eyes. A smile tugged at Gracie's lips as she did the same. “Jesus, you know Hope needs a daddy. And we both need a home.May this day bring the fulfillment of all our dreams. Amen.”
“Amen,” Hope echoed, her eyes popping open. “I have to potty.”
“Hurry, we need to meet Cid in fifteen minutes.” Gracie smiled when she saw her daughter hiking the hem of her ruffled pink dress before she reached the bathroom.“Shut the door,” she called. “Someone might come in.”
Gracie rubbed her perspiring palms together and wished the ceremony were over. Soon this dump would be just a memory. Hope would have a princess room with ruffled curtains in the window that overlooked a park. Their furniture would be better than this mismatched collection of things from the Salvation Army.Hope could hold her head high at school in new clothes that weren't hand-me-downs.
When the knock came at the door, she glanced through the window and saw two men in suits standing outside. She lifted the hem of her dress off the floor.The dress rustled in a delicious manner as she went to the door.When had she last worn something so beautiful?
She opened the door. “Hello,” she said, smiling. “Can I help you?”
The tall blond man flashed a badge that identified him as Roger Hastings. “Federal officers, ma'am. We'd like to talk to you a moment.”
Every muscle tightened as her vision blurred. She stepped aside to allow them entry. “What's this all about?”
The younger one glanced her way with something that looked like pity in his eyes, but Hastings kept his expression impersonal. “We'd like to talk to you about Cid Ortega.”
Goosebumps raised on her arms. “My fiancÃ©. Can't this wait? Our wedding is in just over an hour. I have several things to attend to before the guests start arriving.” The guests would be Cid's family and a few of her coworkers. “What's this all about?”
“I'm afraid it can't wait. Have you observed him transferring anything to others? A box, a briefcase, a bag?”
She needed to sit down.“No,” she said.“What is it you suspect him of doing?”
The two men exchanged a glance. “Think,” Hastings urged in a harsh voice. “Maybe in the park?”
“What is this about?”
“We have reason to suspect he is turning a blind eye to gun-and-drug traffic through his district.”
Gracie took a step back and put her hand to her throat. Cid had not changed after all. The fact that she didn't spring to Cid's defense told her more than she wanted to know about their relationship. Her main priority had been to make Hope happy, no matter the cost.
“We'll know more when we talk to your fiancÃ©. I suggest you let us take you into protective custody.When he's arrested here, the cartel will assume you helped us and may retaliate.”
“But wouldn't that make me look even more guilty in their eyes? The minute you let me go, they'd come looking for me.”
Hastings shrugged. “Then you'd better get out of town until this blows over.”
The news had been full of the Mexican violence that had spilled over into the United States. Beheadings, mutilation.The list was long and horrific. Every impulse told her to grab her daughter and flee now, but did she owe Cid the courtesy of listening to his side?
Tires squealed outside, and Gracie turned to peer out the window. “It's Cid.”
Hastings pulled a paper from his jacket and headed toward the door. “Stay back, ma'am, in case it gets dangerous.”
“He doesn't have a gun,” she protested.
“That you know of,” Hastings said. “Stand back.”
Gracie backed away from the door as the men exited and approached Cid's car.With the door partially shut, she peered out into the street. Cid exited the car and turned toward the house. The younger agent pulled out handcuffs. A battered brown van veered to the curb with a shriek of brakes, but she barely noticed with her attention focused on the exchange between Cid and the federal agents.
When the first
pop, pop, pop
came, she thought a car had backfired. Then she saw three men, their guns smoking, spill from the van.The men weren't familiar to her. She slammed the door and locked it, then peeked through the open window in the entry. Cid's car blocked her view. She didn't see the agents at first; then she noticed a shiny pair of black shoes by Cid's back tire. And a second pair of shoes.There was no sign of Cid.Was he dead too?