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By Ann Peterson
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAndrea Kirkland clutched the steering wheel with trembling hands and squinted into the rearview mirror. The black pickup pulled closer. So close the headlights glared through the back window of her Lexus.
Flipping the mirror to cut the reflection, she forced herself to draw in a deep breath. The truck's driver was probably just in a hurry. He couldn't have anything to do with the memories she had suppressed, the memories that had finally broken through this evening. Memories of her husband Wingate crumpling to the floor, of his blood soaking into the Persian rug, of his fixed stare.
She eased her car close to the edge of the country highway to allow the truck to pass. She was going as fast as she dared on the dark road. If he was in such a hurry, he would have to go around.
The truck remained glued to her bumper.
Andrea's throat closed. Fear scrambled up her spine. The road was straight for another quarter mile. Then it grew curvy as it wound its way around the quarry. Any ordinary impatient driver would have grabbed the opportunity to pass while he still could.
Unless this was no ordinary impatient driver.
Her heart slammed against her ribs. She hadn't told anyone her memories were returning. Not when they'd started filtering back in flashes of nightmares, nor when she'd put all the pieces together this evening, after the crack of deer hunters' rifles had her break out in a cold sweat.
She'd made a single call. To the tiny Green Valley police station. And explained her memories to a single person - the receptionist. But when Ruthie had told her all three officers in the department were busy on a call, she'd decided she couldn't wait. She had to get away from that house. Away from the memories of blood. Of death. So she'd set out for the police station.
And now here she was with a black truck breathing down her neck.
She didn't need the rearview mirror to know the truck's bumper was only inches from hers. She swallowed the fear rising in her throat and piloted the Lexus into a sweeping curve. Trees lined the edge of the road. The sparkle of moonlight on water glittered through thinning autumn leaves. The police station was still a good three miles away. On the other side of the old quarry. On the other side of the world.
Her hands were damp, slippery on the steering wheel's leather cover. Another sharper curve loomed ahead. She pushed her foot down on the accelerator. Surely her sporty Lexus could take a turn better than the large, boxy truck behind her. She swept into the turn just as she felt the first hit on her bumper.
The steering wheel jumped in her hands. She tightened her grip, digging her nails into the leather. Pulling her foot from the accelerator, she fought to gain control.
The truck swerved into the opposite lane and pulled up beside her. Its windows stared down at her, tinted black. Its shadow loomed beside her like a specter of death.
The truck's side slammed against the Lexus. Steel screeched against steel. Her neck snapped to the side. The wheel ripped from her grip. She fought to regain control, fingers slipping on leather.
The truck drew back and hit again, plowing its side into her. Pushing her off the road. Toward the steep bank. Toward the moonlit water of the old quarry.
Tires skidded on pavement, on gravel. She gripped the wheel with all her strength, trying to right the car, trying to keep from plunging down the bank and into the water.
The truck hit again, its full weight slamming into her car. Steel buckled. Wheels churned, spewing gravel. Scrub brush and tree branches scraped against her car like frantic fingers. But nothing could slow her down. Nothing could stop her.
Andrea braced herself and prayed. The Lexus flew over the edge, weightless for a moment. Then gravity dragged her down to the black water below.
She hit the surface with a bone-jarring thud. Her head lurched forward like a rag doll's. Her forehead grazed the steering wheel, her body held in the seat only by her seat belt. The car dipped low and sprang backward. It bucked on the waves before settling in the black water.
Andrea's head rang with the impact. Dizziness threatened to swamp her, to pull her under.
Black water swirled around the car and lapped over the hood. The headlights glowed, already under the water, the heavy engine dragging her down. Frigid water crept over the pedals and up the floorboards, lapping at her feet.
Oh God, she was going to sink like a stone.
She had to clear her mind. She had to get out of this car before it was too late.
She lurched forward, trying to move, but something pinned her to the seat. The seat belt. She had to release the seat belt. Concentrating hard, she made her unsteady fingers close over the latch and push the release button. Nothing. The belt still held. She pushed the button again. It still didn't release. Forcing herself to hold on to some shred of calm, she jammed the button as hard as she could. The belt pulled free.
Pain throbbed in her head and shot down her neck with each movement. Nausea swirled in her stomach. Black water washed against the door and the front corner of the window. She had to get out. Now. She pressed the button to lower the power window. Nothing. Heart in her throat, she tried all the buttons. No luck. The water had short-circuited the windows. She would have to open the door and hope she could get out of the car before the black water swamped it.
She groped a hand along the door. Her fingers brushed the cool steel handle. She'd have one chance. Once she opened the door, the water would rush into the car. It would fill in a matter of seconds. She had only one chance to get clear of the sinking hulk of steel before she was dragged to the bottom.
Drawing in a deep breath of courage, she grasped the door handle and pulled. The latch released. She pushed the door with her shoulder.
It didn't move.
She shoved again with all her strength.
It wouldn't open. Water pressed against the door, keeping it shut as effectively as if whoever had run her off the road was on the other side, pushing it closed. Waiting for her to drown.
She closed her eyes, struggling to keep a lid on her panic. She had to think. There had to be a way out.
Excerpted from Incriminating Passion by Ann Peterson Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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