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When Lucy Parker is carjacked by an escaped prisoner, her fun weekend in the mountains takes a nightmarish turn. Now she’s caught up in a dangerous world of stolen money, vicious drug dealers, and murder, and the only thing keeping her alive is her oh-so-hot captor. With their lives on the line, the race is on to get to Las Vegas before they're killed...and they're running out of time.
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Risking his own life is one thing. Risking hers is another…
It was supposed to be a girls-only weekend in the California mountains. But when Lucy Parker is carjacked by an escaped prisoner, her fun weekend takes a nighmarish turn. Now she’s caught up in a dangerous world of stolen money, vicious drug dealers, and murder, and the only thing keeping her alive is her oh-so-hot captor.
Imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, undercover cop Jake Dalton wants answers-now. Worse, he’s dragged Lucy into the mix, and she’s now guilty by association. With their lives on the line, the race is on to get to Las Vegas before they’re killed…and they’re running out of time.
"Not only was the writing captivating and fast-paced, but the story was just a fun read altogether." - Alison Bliss, Author
"I loved this book - it is a great romantic suspense that drew me right in." - Linda Quick, Goodreads Reviewer
"Jake is one hot cop, and the chemistry between him and Lucy made sparks fly off the pages." - J.L. Hammer, Author
Cathy has always loved writing, but that pesky thing called Real Life cast writing into the backseat for years. Now she has reunited with her first love, and still can't find enough time for all the plots and characters milling about in her imagination. She admits she never has less than four new story plotlines floating in her subconscious.
When she's not writing contemporary romantic suspense or historical romances, Cathy likes to travel read, bake, and take long walks with her husband (the inspiration for her happily-ever-afters). Cathy looks forward to many, many years of writing for readers' enjoyment.
C’mon, Luce, it’ll be fun. A girls-only weekend. We can do manicures, pedicures, take walks along the lake, and dish about men.
As Lucy Parker drove along the deserted highway toward Big Bear Lake that morning, she hoped the “fun” her BFF, Jane, had promised would be worth the drive, the full tank of gas, and the unfinished office work she normally took home on the weekend.
Problem was, the drive was boring. Spotty cell reception meant she couldn’t chat with her girlfriends to pass the time, and her temperamental CD kept skipping. Not that she really needed to hear the lyrics to the twangy country song—she was already living the refrain. Brokenhearted, down on her luck, and with a beat-up Honda in place of a pickup truck. Okay, so maybe her heart had only a tiny ding from breaking up with Jobless Bob last May. It had been her pride that had taken more of a dent, but still…she was swearing off men.
Bob had come at the end of an impressive line of losers and, after kicking him to the curb, Lucy feared she was more like her four-times-divorced mother than she cared to admit. Better to stop dipping into the dating pool while she was ahead and not end up like her mom: sour and disappointed with her life, seeking redemption in the company of Mr. Jack Daniels.
With that depressing thought circling in her head, she accidently passed the freeway off-ramp for the Southern California mountain resorts. Her second-hand GPS harped, “Take the next exit in one-point-two miles… Take the next exit in one-point-one miles…”
“Argh,” she growled, looking for the next exit sign. She didn’t know this unpopulated area at the mountains’ foot. Her weekends never included skiing, hiking, or fishing. She’d never had the time for such activities.
“Take the next exit in nine-tenths mile…”
“Shut up. I knew I should have bought the automatic reset model.”
She zipped past a roadside work crew cleaning up trash. Glancing at the workers clad in their bright orange jumpsuits, she figured they were from the nearby prison. That might mean there was an off-ramp nearby where she could turn around.
Finally, a sign loomed ahead. Turning onto the ramp with relief, her stomach dropped when she heard, “Take the next exit in two-point-two miles… Take the next exit in two-point-one miles… Take—”
“Oh, for crying out loud.” Too late she realized that the off-ramp led to an interlinking highway heading east-west instead of north-south, with no easy way to turn around except for an illegal U-turn across the dirt median—and with the deep ditch at its center she had serious doubts about being able to make it up the other side. She was travelling farther away from her destination, with no solution in sight.
Lucy pulled over to the emergency lane and came to a stop, slamming the car into park along the deserted roadway lined on both sides with waist-high weeds and scraggly pines.
“Proceed forward and take the next exit in two miles… Proceed…”
In defeat, she closed her eyes and leaned against the headrest. “Proceed forward and take the next exit…”
This was a minor setback, she told herself. She wasn’t lost. All she had to do was get on the other side of the road, return to the original highway she’d been travelling on, and—
The whoosh of the passenger door flying open snapped her eyes wide. A blurred orange figure blocked the daylight and threw himself into the passenger seat, roaring in a gravelly male voice, “Get the car moving now! And don’t even think about jumping.” He brandished a rusty file that had a nasty pointed end like a knife. “Do it!”
Lucy screamed. Just opened her mouth and let it rip, all the startled, adrenaline-rushing fear boiling up from her stomach like lava. The sound didn’t faze the man beyond a widening of his wild, brown eyes. He grabbed the front of her black Hello Kitty sweatshirt and hauled her close, nose to nose. “Shut the hell up right now and do what I said.” He stared into her face for several tense seconds. At last he shoved her away from him.
While Lucy cowered in the driver’s seat, he kicked his left leg over the console and pounded on the gas pedal with his heavy foot. The car revved, yet remained unmoving, still in park.
“Damn it all to hell,” he snarled.
His attention shot to the gear shift knob, and Lucy recognized the moment for what it was: her one and only chance to escape. Gathering the scattered shreds of courage within her quaking body, she slipped her fingers over the door handle, sucked in bolstering oxygen, and wrenched open the door, flinging herself into precious freedom—
Only to be snapped back into the confines of the ancient Honda like a Bungee jumper on a too-short cord. She hadn’t unfastened her seat belt.
She turned toward the intruder. Her eyes collided with his and she saw her reflection in their shadowy depths. He shook his head slowly at her.
“That was stupid.” He motioned with his knife hand for her to shut the car door and face forward. After staring into his sooty-fringed eyes for another chilling second, she complied.
He continued speaking. “Now, put this piece of shit into gear and drive until I tell you otherwise. And we’d better not get pulled over, because I have nothing to lose, and I’ll take you with me in a blaze of glory. Do we understand each other?”
With no other choice, she nodded dully, shoving the shift knob into drive and punching the accelerator. Both their bodies slammed back against the car seats as they blasted off like a race car.
Oh my God. Oh my God. What am I going to do? Hysteria threatened to shut her brain down.
Oblivious to the life-or-death situation, her GPS decided to continue its one-sided conversation. “Take the next off-ramp in three-point-three miles… Take the next off-ramp in three-point-two miles…”
The man in the passenger seat growled, “Shut that damn thing up.”
Scrambling to placate her captor, Lucy tapped on the GPS, futilely pressing buttons while maintaining her breakneck speed. “Take the next off-ramp in two-point-eight miles…”
Without warning, her passenger slammed the heel of his fist into the GPS, splintering the cheap plastic and cracking its screen. Like music slowing on a carousel, the GPS spluttered drunkenly, “Ta-ke the n-next exxx…” until blessed silence filled the vehicle.
Lucy shot bug-eyed glances at the man while he examined a thin line of blood dripping from his hand. Raising challenging eyes to hers, he lifted the hand to his lips and sucked the blood away like he savored it. Lucy gulped and turned her eyes back to the road. She clutched the wheel while taking calming breaths.
Maybe fifteen minutes passed while they barreled down the blacktop. Every minute or so, she sneaked a scrutinizing look at the convict. He grasped the makeshift knife in one fist as his head lolled on the headrest and his injured hand lay in his lap. He seemed to be relaxing slightly, if his posture was any indication. Lucy hoped to memorize his features so that if—when, not if—she escaped, she’d be able to describe him right down to those sharply-angled cheekbones, the scraggly beard that hid much of his lower face, and that shaggy hair hanging over thickly lashed, dark eyes—
“Take a picture. It’ll last longer.”
She jumped when the man spoke and snapped, “That’s so juvenile.”
She half expected a hand to smack her in the mouth, or the dirty knife to gouge into her body. Instead, a rich laugh erupted from her kidnapper. “I’m sorry. I skipped the classes on social comportment in prison. My bad.”
Surprised a little that his advanced vocabulary didn’t match the rest of him, she said, “So you’re an escaped convict.”
“Of course I am. Did you think I was auditioning for the Great Pumpkin in this orange jumpsuit? Prisoner number 241053, at your service.” He pinned her with another one of his penetrating looks. The tiniest flutter of awareness zinged through her—seriously, how messed up was that?—and she ruthlessly stomped it down. The guy might look more like a model than a murderer, but that didn’t mean he’d hesitate to hurt her.
She pressed harder on the accelerator.
The convict leaned forward and opened the glove box, sifting through it as if looking for something. Seeming satisfied with his search, he snapped it closed, sat back, and spared a glance at the lifeless landscape blurring past them: fall trees with faded leaves trickling off brittle limbs, dark green evergreens stark against the cold blue sky and fawn-colored earth.
Lucy shuddered, realizing how desolate her chances were the farther she drove on this unfamiliar highway. She’d watched enough CSI and Law and Order reruns to know being a witness put her in a dangerous situation. Did he plan on killing her since she could identify him? Or would he hold her hostage? She knew as long as she was at the wheel she was worth more to him alive. But what would happen when they eventually stopped? She didn’t want to hang around to find out. She needed to escape.
Wait! Her phone. In her purse. Fully charged. Another chance at freedom. If only she could reach it…
As if using telepathy, the convict asked, “Where’s your purse, Pretty Kitty?”
Pretty Kitty? The comment had a major creep factor, but then she remembered her Hello Kitty sweatshirt and relaxed just a bit.
He leaned over the center console to peer into the backseat, bumping her with his shoulder. Then he dragged her purse onto his lap and pawed through her most personal possessions. With that final escape route lost to her, she was now truly at his mercy. She fought the sobs threatening to escape her throat as the convict pulled out the phone, his grin as gleeful as a child emptying a Christmas stocking.
“Eureka!” He brandished her cell. “Shiny little thing, ain’t it, with all those girlish sparkles and shit?”
He shoved it into his front jumpsuit pocket, catching sight of her fear-filled gaze. “If you still want it, feel free to go fishing for it. Just be aware of what else you might come up with.”
Ignoring the innuendo, Lucy begged, “Please, let me go. Let me call my friends. You can dump me on the side of the road. Take my car. They’re waiting on me, and they’ll be worried if I don’t show up soon.”
She held her breath and shot a sideways glance at him. He seemed lost in thought, perhaps weighing the merit of her proposition. Though he was probably just a few years older than her, the lines at the corners of his eyes spoke of a harder life. But then, prison wasn’t exactly puppies and cupcakes.
Suddenly, he roused from his introspection. He met her look with a flinty one of his own. “As generous as that offer is, it’s not happening. I need some down time and you’re going to provide that by driving. I have no intention of hurting you. You’re just a means to an end, so stop whining.”
The convict reclined the passenger seat and settled more comfortably in the chair, closing his eyes with a nearly inaudible sigh. Within seconds his breathing evened out, enraging Lucy even more as she realized she was driving blindly with no avenue of escape.
As that thought crossed her mind, she lifted her foot from the gas pedal. “Don’t slow down, sweetheart,” her companion said without opening his eyes. “I wake up at the slightest movement. You learn to be a real light sleeper in prison, if you catch my drift. Now, how much gas do we have? I’m guessin’ you don’t go anywhere without a full tank under your belt, am I right?” Without waiting for a reply he added, “All I need is twenty minutes. You can handle that, can’t you?” On a single grunt he eased back in his seat once more.
Swiping a shaking hand across her eyes, Lucy continued on her hurtling path into the unknown wilderness with a sleeping criminal by her side.