Dead By Nightfall

Dead By Nightfall

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by Beverly Barton
     
 

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The Fear. . .

Malcolm York is a sadistic monster, guilty of unspeakable crimes. And with his endless wealth he's funded a series of depraved hunts. The few who survived can never forget. They can only be thankful the terror is over. Until rumors start swirling. . .

Only Stops. . .

Griffin Powell knows the twisted depths of York's madness. He's

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Overview

The Fear. . .

Malcolm York is a sadistic monster, guilty of unspeakable crimes. And with his endless wealth he's funded a series of depraved hunts. The few who survived can never forget. They can only be thankful the terror is over. Until rumors start swirling. . .

Only Stops. . .

Griffin Powell knows the twisted depths of York's madness. He's also sure that York is dead. But then Griff's wife, Nicole, disappears and the phone calls begin—that familiar voice taunting him, promising to destroy everything Griff loves.

When You Die. . .

Using all the resources of the Powell Agency, Griff searches for Nic, aware that every step propels him further into a madman's web. Because the only way to keep Nic safe is to join one last perverse game where winner kills all, and the loser is dead by nightfall. . .

Praise for Beverly Barton's Don't Cry

"A shivery read. . . Tight twists and hairpin turns will keep readers racing through the pages." —Bookpage

"Barton delivers a solid mix of romance and terror in her latest thriller." –Publishers Weekly

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Library Journal
Malcolm York, sadistic, depraved, and noted for his bizarre, murderous hunts, is finally dead. So is villain Anthony Linden. But then Griffin Powell's wife, Nicole, is kidnapped, her bodyguard is blown away, and the taunts begin. Now, Griff is no longer sure. As his search for Nic zeros in on the target, it soon becomes clear that participating in one of York's insane hunts is his only chance to keep Nic safe. VERDICT With swift, relentless intensity, Barton ups the fear to a fever pitch as the final game is played in this chilling trilogy (Dead by Midnight; Dead by Morning). After keeping readers on the edge, it delivers, at last, with satisfying, brutal finality. Sadly, Barton died in April.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781420110364
Publisher:
Kensington
Publication date:
12/01/2011
Series:
Dead by Trilogy, #3
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
275,037
Product dimensions:
4.24(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.25(d)

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Dead By Nightfall


By Beverly Barton

ZEBRA BOOKS

Copyright © 2011 Beverly Beaver
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4201-1036-4


Chapter One

Maleah Perdue pulled her Chevy Equinox in behind Nic Powell's black Cadillac Escalade, parked, and hurriedly jumped out of her SUV. She and Nic had spent some wonderful girlfriend weekends here at Nic's sprawling mountainside cabin in the Smoky Mountains. Happy times. Not like today when she had come here to lend support and comfort to her dearest friend. It had taken Maleah longer to say good-bye to her fiancé than she had planned. But knowing she might not see Derek again for days, perhaps weeks, she had taken time for a long, romantic good-bye before leaving Griffin's Rest to follow Nic into her self-imposed exile. She understood Nic's reasons for putting some distance between her and her husband, for wanting to be alone to sort through her feelings and decide what she was going to do about her shattered marriage. However, leaving the safety of Griffin's Rest put Nic in danger, a risk she had been willing to take to get away from Griff. Maleah would have gone with her earlier today, but Nic had insisted on her staying with Derek since the two of them had only recently fallen in love and were newly engaged.

Maleah was grateful that Derek had understood and supported her completely when she had told him that Nic shouldn't be alone with no one nearby except a bodyguard keeping watch outside her cabin.

"Right now, Nic needs you," Derek had told her. "We'll have plenty of time to plan our future together once the Powell Agency is no longer under attack from some crazy madman."

Maleah rushed up the steps and across the cabin's wide porch. She knocked on the front door. No response. She knocked harder and repeatedly. Nothing.

"Nic? It's me, Maleah. Please, let me in."

Silence.

Maleah turned and surveyed the area around the cabin. A warm summery breeze flitted through the treetops, swaying the tall, skinny pines. Somewhere in the distance, bushes rustled and wild creatures stirred. Several birds soared overhead and a dog's howl echoed through the hollows below the mountainside house.

And then it hit her.

Spinning around, she stared at the two SUVs parked in the driveway. Two vehicles. There should be three. Where was Cully Redmond's Hummer? For that matter, where was Cully Redmond, the Powell agent sent to follow Nic and protect her?

"Nic!" Maleah screamed as she pounded on the door. Frantic with concern, she grabbed the door handle and much to her surprise, it gave way and the door opened.

Not locked!

Without a moment's hesitation, she reached inside her holster and removed her pistol. Gun in hand, Maleah entered the cabin and hurried cautiously from room to room searching for Nic.

The house was empty. She located Nic's unopened suitcase inside the master bedroom closet. The door leading from the living room out onto the back deck stood ajar. She eased outside, keeping her back to the rough-hewn log walls, and made her way carefully from one end to the other. No sign of a single soul.

Where was Nic? Where was Cully?

Something was wrong. Badly wrong.

Damn it ... damn it!

Why hadn't she tried to talk Nic out of leaving the safety of Griffin's Rest? Why had she let her best friend leave without her?

Maleah pulled her phone from her jacket pocket, hit the programmed number, and tried to control her frazzled nerves as she waited.

Deep breaths. Don't panic. Think positive thoughts.

"Hey, Blondie," Derek said. "Are you there all safe and sound?"

"Yes, I'm fine. I got here about five minutes ago. Derek ..."

"What's wrong?"

"Nic's not here. And neither is Cully. Nic's Escalade is parked in the drive, but there's no sign of Cully's Hummer. I've checked the house and there's no one here. And Nic's suitcase is in the closet."

"Get out of there now," Derek told her. "Put your butt back in your car and—"

"We have to do something. We have to find Nic."

"We will, but it may not be safe for you to stay there. Come back to Griffin's Rest. I'll handle things from this end."

"Griff will go ballistic when he finds out," Maleah said. "Oh, God, Derek, what if—?"

"I'll talk to Sanders first. We'll get some operatives out there to do a complete search for Nic and Cully. But I want you back here ASAP. Understand?"

"Yes, I understand. I'm leaving now." She choked down her tears as she walked back inside the cabin. "She's not dead. Please tell me she's not dead."

"She's not dead," Derek assured Maleah. "Nicole is far more valuable alive than she is dead."

* * *

Damar Sanders clutched the house phone with his meaty fist. "Yes, I will inform Mr. Powell. Thank you for acquiring the information so quickly, Mr. Mitchum."

"Dreadfully sorry the results were not what you wanted," Thorndike Mitchum, the head of the Powell Agency's London office, said. "But at least we now know the man's true identity."

"Yes, of course. Mr. Powell will be in touch with further instructions very soon."

Within minutes of ending the conversation and settling the receiver onto the phone base in his office, Sanders heard the doorbell ring. As he walked swiftly toward the foyer, he encountered Barbara Jean guiding her wheelchair down the hallway.

"I will see to our visitors," he told her.

He could tell by the way she looked at him that she knew something was wrong, but she simply nodded, turned around, and wheeled back down the hall.

Barbara Jean Hughes was his assistant, his dear friend, and his lover. During the past few years she had become an essential part of his life. He admired her and respected her and counted on her understanding and support.

When he reached the foyer, Sanders paused for a moment, squared his shoulders, and mentally prepared himself for what he suspected was more bad news. Since Griffin's Rest was on red alert, the security at the entry gates and throughout the compound had been reinforced. No unauthorized personnel entered or exited. Whoever their visitors were, they had passed inspection and had been allowed entrance.

Sanders opened the door and found two uniformed officers standing there, somber expressions on their young faces. The taller of the two, a freckle-faced guy who could not be a day over twenty-five, introduced himself and his fellow officer. "I'm Deputy Josh Taylor and this is Deputy Chris Meyer. We would like to speak to Griffin Powell."

"Mr. Powell is not available. May I help you? I am Sanders."

"We need to speak to whoever is in charge of the Powell Agency," Deputy Meyer said.

"I am second-in-command at the agency." Sanders took several backward steps and said, "Would you gentlemen please come in."

The officers entered the foyer. Sanders closed the door behind them.

"The Sevier County sheriff 's department notified us of an accident—a single-vehicle wreck—that occurred in their county today. The driver of the vehicle found in a ravine was Cullen J. Redmond. His ID showed that he was an agent for the Powell Private Security and Investigation Agency."

Sanders's stomach knotted painfully. "Is Cully—?"

"I'm afraid Mr. Redmond is dead," Deputy Taylor said.

Sanders tensed. If Cully was dead that meant Nicole was without protection. Griffin had assigned Cully as Nicole's bodyguard and sent him after her when she'd left Griffin's Rest this morning. His instructions had been to follow her from Douglas Lake to her cabin retreat in Gatlinburg and guard her with his life. Nicole had known Cully was right behind her, so why, when he had not arrived at her cabin, had she not called Griffin's Rest to find out what had happened to him?

"You said Cully was killed in an accident?"

"No, sir. I said he had been involved in a single-vehicle accident." Deputy Taylor shifted his feet nervously and cleared his throat. "Mr. Redmond died of a gunshot wound. A direct hit to his head is what we were told."

Sanders took a couple of seconds to absorb and correlate the information. Cully had been shot in the head. Murdered. Assassinated. He had been sent to protect Nicole and now he was dead.

Managing to put aside his fears for Nicole and his personal grief over the loss of a valuable agent and a fine man, Sanders faced the young officers. "The Powell Agency will cooperate with the Sevier County sheriff 's department in every way possible. And we will contact Cully's nearest relative, a sister in Louisville."

"Thank you, Mr. Sanders. You and Mr. Powell have our deepest sympathy," Deputy Meyer said.

Sanders escorted the two young men outside, shook hands with both, and watched until they got in their car before he returned to the house. After closing and locking the door, he stood in the foyer for several minutes, deciding how to handle this situation. And then he went to find Derek Lawrence.

Derek and Sanders met on the stairs as Derek headed down, intending to find Sanders and tell him about Maleah's frantic phone call. The moment Sanders saw Derek, he stopped and the two men stared at each other. Derek instantly sensed Sanders had bad news for him. But what could possibly be worse than the news that Nicole Powell was missing, as was her bodyguard?

"Were you looking for me?" Derek asked.

Sanders nodded. "And you were coming downstairs to speak to me?"

"Sure was." Derek glanced past where Sanders stood four steps up from the foyer and in the direction of Griff 's study. "Is he still in there?"

"Yes. He has not come out since Nicole left this morning."

"I have some information that he needs to know."

"As do I," Sanders said.

"But you and I need to talk first."

"Agreed."

By unspoken mutual agreement, they met in the foyer and went straight into the living room where they would not be disturbed.

"You first," Derek said.

"Two deputies left here a few minutes ago. They came to tell Griffin that Cully Redmond was involved in a single-vehicle accident." Sanders paused, allowing Derek time to assess the info and respond.

"Is he dead?" If Cully had been hurt in an accident, perhaps Nicole was with him at the hospital. Please, God, let that be what happened, Derek prayed.

"Yes, he is dead, but he did not die from injuries in the accident. He was shot in the head."

"Son of a bitch."

"You need to contact Maleah immediately and warn her that—"

"Maleah is on her way back here," Derek said.

"But Nicole—?"

"Nicole is not at the cabin. Her Escalade is parked in the driveway and her suitcase is in the closet, but she's nowhere to be seen."

Sanders remained silent for a full minute, his dark eyes unfocused and his sturdy, compact frame totally rigid. Then he took a deep breath and said, "We must work under the assumption that whoever killed Cully has taken Nicole. Do we agree?" He looked Derek right in the eye.

"We agree."

"And Griffin must be told as soon as possible."

"Absolutely."

"I believe I know who murdered Cully and kidnapped Nicole."

"How could you possibly know?" Derek asked. "And please don't tell me that it was Malcolm York."

"The real Malcolm York is dead."

"Then who?"

"Anthony Linden."

"But Linden is dead. Luke Sentell took care of that unpleasant chore."

"I received a call from Thorndike Mitchum shortly before the deputies arrived. The expedited autopsy and DNA testing on the body we assumed was Linden's showed that the man Luke killed was not Anthony Linden. He was a man named Neal Hinesley, who, like Linden, is on Scotland Yard's Most Wanted list."

"We should have known Linden was too smart to get caught. He brought in Hinesley, switched places with him, and set him up to kill or be killed when Luke found him," Derek said. "He's a clever bastard. And if he has Nic ..."

God help Nic. Nic had discovered only yesterday that she was pregnant. A fact that her husband didn't know. She had shared the news with Maleah, as women often do, because they were best friends, and Maleah had told him.

"If Linden kidnapped Nicole and if he was hired by the man who is calling himself Malcolm York, then odds are he is planning to take Nicole to his employer. After months of attacks on Powell agents and their families, Linden has captured the prize."

"We don't know who this pseudo-York really is or where he is," Derek said. "If he does have Nic, we also have no idea what he will ask in exchange for her life."

"We will know soon enough," Sanders said. "I am certain that it will be only a matter of time until he contacts Griffin."

Nicole's head throbbed unbearably. She struggled to open her eyes. The first attempt failed. Dear God, she felt as if she'd been drugged.

On a flash of fear-induced adrenaline, her eyelids popped open and her heart rate shot off the charts. Muted gray darkness surrounded her. The steady hum of an engine droned in her ears. She bolted upright and quickly realized that she had been lying on a bed.

Whose bed?

And just where the hell was she?

Checking to make sure she wasn't bound and gagged, Nic extended her arms on either side of her and raised them up and over her head. She lifted first one leg and then the other. After swallowing hard, she whispered aloud, "What happened to me?" and blew out a relieved breath when she heard the sound of her own voice.

She wasn't bound or gagged. And other than the mother of all headaches, she wasn't in any pain. So what had happened to her and how had she wound up unconscious and confined in a room with no windows or—?

As her eyesight began to adjust to the murky light coming from beneath what she assumed was a door, she surveyed her prison, listened to the thrumming of a loud motor, and sensed the vibration of a moving vehicle. This wasn't a room, not in the strictest sense of the word. It was a cabin. But she wasn't in a car or on a bus or a train.

Nicole suddenly realized that she was on an airplane.

But not the Powell jet.

Think! Damn it, Nicole, think!

Shards of memory returned to her, the sudden unexpectedness like an excruciating blow to the gut. She remembered now. Her husband had been lying to her for years, every day—every hour, every minute of their marriage. He and his dear old friend Yvette Meng had been lovers. He could have fathered the child Yvette had given birth to nearly seventeen years ago.

Griff 's child.

What about my baby!

Nic wrapped her arms around her midsection, her open palms spreading instinctively across her still-flat stomach. She had discovered that she was pregnant only a few days before Griff had confessed the ugly truth about his past. Yvette had been forced to give up her newborn shortly after birth, never knowing whether it was a girl or a boy; and she, Griff, and Sanders had been searching for the child all these years.

As if they were a row of unbalanced dominoes, her memories fell into place, one quickly toppling the other. She had fled her home at Griffin's Rest despite her husband begging her not to leave him, to stay and give him time to make her understand why he had not been completely honest with her. But she had fled, unable to bear the sight of him. Even knowing that someone had targeted Powell Agency employees and their families, she had refused to stay with Griff where she would have been safe. Foolishly, she had believed that, together, she and her bodyguard could protect her from whatever danger threatened everyone associated with the agency.

She had been wrong. Dead wrong.

Too late she now realized that her wounded pride had not only put her life in danger, but the life of her unborn baby.

Shortly after her arrival at her Gatlinburg cabin, high in the Smoky Mountains, a man had walked in on her, informed her not to expect help from her bodyguard, and then introduced himself.

"I'm Anthony Linden."

"That's not possible," she had told him. "Anthony Linden is dead."

"Yes, I know. And so is Malcolm York. And yet here I am, in the flesh, come to take you to see another dead man. Mr. York is eager to meet you."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Dead By Nightfall by Beverly Barton Copyright © 2011 by Beverly Beaver. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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