Read an Excerpt
Out Of Nowhere
By Rebecca York
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneShe had lived a life of terror. A life of deprivation. A life in which nothing had been free or easy. She had learned how to get along in the world any way she could.
But she had never been as frightened in her life as she was now. Because the moment was almost here - unless her pounding heart exploded inside her chest, and she died first.
"You thought you knew what you were getting into," she murmured. "But you were only fooling yourself."
Over the past months she had come to understand that the people holding her captive had placed an impossible burden on her shoulders.
They had trained her in the skills they said she would need. They had crammed a foreign language and a million facts into her head. They had made her spend hours in the gym, honing her body into a fine-tuned machine. They had hardly given her a moment to herself.
But now that the time for departure was almost here, nobody would look her in the eye. Alone, she sat in the molded-plastic chair encased in her tight-fitting one-piece suit.
Underneath that layer of protective clothing, her stomach was churning and her heart was racing.
She pressed her booted feet to the cement floor and looked at the metal door, waiting for one of them to come get her for the final trip to hell.
Her pep talk from Angelo that morning echoed in her head. At first he had sounded almost kind, which was a departure from his usually harsh and frightening tone.
"You are tough," he'd said. "You are smart, and you are as well prepared as a human being can be. But I cannot emphasize enough what I have told you so many times. You must rely on your own skills. You can trust no one."
"But what if I need help?"
"The enemy will try to stop you. Trust no one. They may even be waiting for you."
"I do not know. But that could be what went wrong the other times," he'd said in a grating voice. The voice she remembered so well. The Angelo she remembered.
She might have tried to run away. But there had been no place to go. And she knew Angelo would only hunt her down and punish her for her failure of nerve.
So she was here. Waiting for the end of her life as she knew it.
Hermosa Harbor was the perfect town for murder, Max Dakota thought as he breathed in a draft of the sea air, then glanced from his fishing line to the pink-and-orange-tinged sky. Well, at least for a murder investigation.
He was here on the Atlantic coast of central Florida, in a veritable tropical paradise, with nothing to do but figure out who had dumped Jamie Jacobson's body in the marshland outside of town.
The killers had tried to make it look like an accident. A drunken man falling facedown in the swamp and drowning in a few inches of water.
The local police didn't seem too concerned about his death. But Jamie's mother was paying the Light Street Detective Agency to solve the murder. Max hoped she wasn't going to hate the final report, because he was just getting to the good part. And it wasn't pretty.
His small boat drifted along one side of the channel leading from the ocean to the harbor. It wasn't a particularly good spot to catch smallmouth bass. But it was an excellent vantage point to watch traffic on the fifty-foot-high drawbridge over the channel. Probably some of those vehicles were moving drugs from a storage point to dealers who were going to take the stuff north.
Max had been in town for a month, and as far as anyone knew, he was just a guy who'd pulled out of the dot-com bubble before it burst. Since then, he'd been enjoying his early retirement.
Of course, his last name wasn't really Dakota. He had been born Maxwell Daniels, although he hadn't actually used that name in a long time. Max Dakota was one of the aliases he'd picked up during his spy career.
After stowing his fishing gear, he started the outboard motor, then steered toward the bridge, heading back to the marina at a slow pace because this was a high-traffic area.
He'd already learned that Jamie wasn't the only poor jerk who had cashed in his chips in Hermosa Harbor in the past few months. A federal agent had been found floating facedown in the harbor. And a local fitness instructor had taken a dive off his high-rise balcony.
Max was pretty sure Sheriff Bert Trainer was helping to protect the Hermosa Harbor drug trade. At the least, he was willing to look the other way when shipments moved in and out of the community - probably through Nicki's Paradise, the favorite nightspot in town. If the owner, Ms. Nicki Armstrong, wasn't using the club as a storage depot for pot shipments from the Caribbean, Max would eat his baseball cap.
So Max was playing it cool. He'd spent what looked like an indolent afternoon fishing. But suddenly the evening didn't seem quite so lazy. There was something hanging heavy in the humid air. An unsettled feeling of expectation.
Unable to check himself, he looked quickly toward shore. All he saw were small waves lapping against the weeds and a blue heron looking for dinner in the shallows.
He should have been reassured, yet he couldn't shake the feeling of being in the crosshairs of somebody's scope. Getting shot in cold blood was unlikely, he told himself. The other recent murders were all set up to look like accidents.
Still, he knew something was making the skin prickle on the back of his neck. It was like the tension in the atmosphere as a storm was about to break.
It wasn't just a feeling in the air. He was picking up an unpleasant smell, too. Taking a deep breath, he tried to place the odor. Ozone. As though lightning had struck something metal nearby. But he hadn't seen a flash of light.
He was about to chalk up his jangled nerves to the bowl of spicy fish chowder he'd eaten for lunch, when a deep rumbling sound made him jump.
Then in front of him, a wavering pattern of light crackled across the darkening sky.
Excerpted from Out Of Nowhere by Rebecca York Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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.