Shattered (Harlequin Intrigue Series #1501)

Shattered (Harlequin Intrigue Series #1501)

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by Alice Sharpe

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Deputy sheriff Nate Matthews doesn't know what to think when he arrives in Nevada and discovers his friend murdered. He is sure about the beautiful woman pointing a rifle at him. Sarah Donovan is a liar, she may

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Deputy sheriff Nate Matthews doesn't know what to think when he arrives in Nevada and discovers his friend murdered. He is sure about the beautiful woman pointing a rifle at him. Sarah Donovan is a liar, she may have murdered her father…and she stirs something inside him he can't possibly explain. 

But before they can solve one murder, Nate and Sarah find themselves dodging bullets. Being on the run brings new emotions into focus. After a night of passion in a snowbound cabin, they start closing in on the truth—someone means to strike terror in America's heart….

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Rescuers Series , #1
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After giving the congested waiting area a once-over, Nate Matthews approached the flight center of the tiny Shatter-horn, Nevada, airport with his customary long stride. After hours behind the wheel, it felt good to finally move around. A woman standing behind the counter cast him an anxious smile as she looked up from her computer. He guessed the lousy February weather was playing havoc with things like schedules.

"I'm running a little late," he explained, "and I'm supposed to meet some friends here but I don't see them. Can you tell me if they've arrived?"

"In this weather? I doubt it," she said. "No private planes have landed for at least an hour. Let's take a look. What's their name?"

"Jessica and Alex Foster from Blunt Falls, Montana. He's flying his own singleengine Cessna."

She checked the computer screen, then thumbed through a sheaf of papers, leaving for a moment to talk to a man sitting at a desk behind a glass partition. When she returned, she was shaking her head. "There's a record of Mr. Foster filing his flight plan, but none of him landing here. Looks like you arrived first. Really, though, I'm not sure I'd expect him tonight. The weather is deteriorating quickly, especially at higher elevations."

Nate leaned against the counter for a second. The drive had not been without mishap; in fact, he'd barely survived a blown-out tire and the near collision that followed it. And then he'd found the spare was flat, too. Arranging a tow truck to haul him back to Vegas to get the tire fixed had eaten up time. Alex and Jessica should have landed way ahead of the storm.

The man behind him cleared his throat impatiently and Nate moved away from the counter. Finding a quiet corner, he called Alex's house just in case something had come up at the last moment. Jessica answered the phone.

"Hey," he said after identifying himself. "Is everything there okay?"

"Sure," she said, but her voice sounded stressed. "Is Alex with you?"

"No, that's why I'm calling. Did he leave on time?"

"Yes. He should have been there by now."

"I thought you were coming, too."

"I didn't feel well," she said after a brief hesitation.

He took a deep breath. "I don't mean to alarm you, but I hear there's a storm in the mountains."

"Maybe he had to land somewhere else," she said.

"Maybe. Wouldn't he call you?"

"Not necessarily." There was the edge again. "Anyway, if anything can go wrong with phone service or the radio, you can bet it will. All his equipment is ancient."

Nate stared at the snow falling outside the window. "I'll alert them here. I think you should do the same on your end, just to be safe."

"I will," she said. "But he'll show up. He always does. What would the Blunt Falls police department do without him?"

"Yeah," Nate said, certain now that something was going on with Jessica. His immediate concern, however, was Alex, though he didn't have the slightest idea what he could do about it.

He and Alex had made plans to meet at the airport and then hook up with a third man, a guy by the name of Mike Donovan. They'd only met Mike once, but it had been on a Labor Day afternoon none of the men would ever forget. Alex had told him that this time Jessica was coming along for the ride and maybe a side trip down to Reno.

Nate asked the airport to notify the right people about Alex's flight, tried Mike's cell phone and walked back to his truck through growing snow flurries. Chances were good Mike was sitting at the mall, too distracted to even hear his phone.

He'd been that way lately, posting long emails full of conspiracy theories. Being a deputy in a small town in Arizona, Nate was no stranger to people losing their grip on reality. He just hoped Mike wasn't suffering some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder. Nate himself had struggled coming to grips with what he'd experienced that late summer day, and he'd been in law enforcement his entire adult life. Mike had spent his career either working on the family horse ranch or selling appliances in town.

Even driving up to the cluster of pale stone buildings that constituted the Shatterhorn Mall brought back a hundred unbearable memories for Nate. Last time he'd been here, he and Alex had been returning from an Alaskan fishing trip. When Nate's flight was delayed, the two men had hiked down the road a bit, winding up at this mall, where they found dinner in the food court.

Just an idle diversion to eat up some time on a Labor Day weekend when the place was crammed with kids buying back-to-school clothes. Nate's plan had been to return to the airport in a couple of hours and continue on to Reno and, from there, home. Meanwhile, Alex would fly the Cessna, which he'd left at the airfield ten days before, back to Montana.

Things hadn't exactly turned out as planned.

Today, entering the mall through the doors closest to the food court put a knot in Nate's stomach that twisted tighter with each footstep. It wasn't a big mall by urban standards, but for a small town, it was busy. That was probably why the carnage that had occurred here had upset the nation; this wasn't the kind of town that was supposed to suffer random shootings and mangled teenagers.

Then again, what town was?

The food court was a grand name for ten or eleven fast-food outlets grouped around a few dozen tables. The clientele seemed oblivious to the devastation that had once littered the space. The shattered windows had all been replaced, the bullet holes mended, torn flesh healed or buried… Life went on.

For a moment, Nate stood there, buffeted by the acoustics created by the dome overhead, scanning faces for Mike's, then he turned to leave. As he did so, he caught a glimpse of a familiar face, but it wasn't Mike's.

Jason Netters stood fifteen feet away, very close to the cookie kiosk that came complete with a boatload of tortured memories. Nate had herded a group of kids to the shelter of that kiosk and told them to stay put while he went to help another child. The kids had panicked and left the shelter. The two girls hadn't made it far before being shot and killed, just like two other kids a short distance away.

Jason had survived.

The boy was compact in size but muscular like a wrestler. He had straw-colored hair and green eyes. He must have felt Nate looking at him. Their gazes met and it was as if the past five and a half months had never happened.

The knot grew so tight it was hard to breathe, but Nate took a step forward, unexpectedly moved to see the boy again.

Jason looked away almost at once. Within seconds, he'd disappeared, swallowed up by the crowd, and gone in less time than it took to say it. But the look on his face before he turned unsettled Nate in a way nothing else had.

The boy didn't want to see him. No way. Not one bit.

Nate understood in a moment of clarity that this was the real reason he'd come back here. Not because he believed Mike had earth-shattering news but because this place had cost him a whole lot that September day. He'd walked in one man and left as another, something his fiancée had been quick to point out right before she left for good.

It was come here and face his demons or change careers, because you couldn't be a decent officer when you woke up in a dead sweat every night. His boss was pressing him to run for sheriff in the coming election, said he'd win in a landslide because of the positive light the mall shooting had focused on him. Confused, disgruntled and undecided, he'd taken a leave, parked his career at the door, so to say, while he figured out what the rest of his life looked like. Right now, it was just a blur.

As just about anything was better than spending another minute in this mall, he decided to go find Mike. At least it would put a little distance between himself and the past…for a while, anyway.

His actual destination, programmed into the truck's onboard GPS, was thirty miles west of Reno. He knew Mike lived on a horse ranch he'd inherited from his father and that he was divorced, with one daughter from whom it seemed he was estranged. Nate wasn't sure where the daughter was now. Boston or New York or maybe Washington, D.C., somewhere on the East Coast. He'd read a brief account of Mike's family in the newspaper after the shooting.

Thanks to a cold, brisk wind, the driving was tricky, but the roads were mercifully clear of snow and ice, at least at first. Too preoccupied to take note of the scenery, even if he'd been able to see it through the weather and darkness, he traveled in a cocoon of steel, falling into an odd trancelike state where he could have been anyone going anywhere. He kind of wanted to keep driving forever.

After thirty minutes, the directions had him turn off the highway and drive uphill over another ten miles of increasingly untended roads. Maybe the reason Mike hadn't shown was as simple as Alex's—the storm and the inclement weather had prohibited travel. Nate had snow tires on his vehicle, chains in the back and nowhere else to go, nothing else to do, so he kept driving.

He finally came across a sign hanging from a frame by one rusted chain. He emerged from the truck to find the snow deeper here. He'd get stuck if he wasn't careful. Picking his way forward, he tilted the dangling sign toward his headlights and read, "Donovan's Fine Quarter Horses Since 1936."

The place had obviously seen better days, as was increasingly evident as he drove the remaining distance up the overgrown road. He broke out into a clearing upon which sat numerous outbuildings and what appeared to be empty pastures, though he could hear the noise of a horse somewhere nearby. The house itself was dark and looked abandoned. Nate pulled his vehicle to a stop beside an older truck that could have been sitting there an hour or five years. It was quickly being buried in the snow, which was falling fast now. He had no idea what Mike drove. He gritted his teeth as he dug a flashlight out of his glove box.

Had Mike succumbed to the weather or was it more serious, something like a heart attack or a stroke? Was he inside that house, dead or dying? That would explain why he hadn't answered any of Nate's calls.

Nate flashed his light over the broken pavers that jutted out of the snow. He stumbled over a planter that had frozen and shattered, spilling its contents sometime in the past. He recovered without falling, catching himself by grabbing a porch rail that wobbled when he grasped it. As he flicked the light over the door, shivers that had nothing to do with the temperature raced down his spine and across his back. The door was ajar but he could see no glint of light through the opening.

Since Sept. 11, police officers were allowed to carry weapons across state lines, but Nate had left his behind with his badge. In his head, the two went together. But now, unarmed, he felt naked, a sensation that echoed the way he'd felt months before when hell broke loose in the mall. Now, he swore to himself, come hell or high water, he would never step foot in Nevada again without a gun.

With the flashlight, he nudged the door open quietly, relieved when it didn't creak or groan. He flashed the light around and took in a large entry with three connecting doorways that seemed to lead to a dining area, living room and hallway.

He tried a light switch and was surprised when it worked. He thought he heard a sound from somewhere deep in the house, but at that second, in the improved light, he caught a glimpse of something that focused all his attention ahead.

A body lay sprawled facedown on the floor right inside the living room. Nate gasped a shallow breath. This sure explained why Mike was late.

* * *

Nate knelt beside the body and rolled it over, knowing who and what he would find when he did so. Or at least he'd thought he knew. The who was easy. Mike was dead. The what was a shock.

Not a heart attack, not a stroke, but a massive gunshot wound to the chest had ended Mike's life. His clothes were soaked in blood, his pale eyes half-open, his lidded gaze fixed and empty. Nate had run across more than his share of shooting victims, and now he scanned the area for some sign of the weapon that had caused this catastrophic damage. He felt for a pulse, knowing he wouldn't find one, and did his best to block out the smell of blood. He quickly searched Mike's pockets for a phone or anything else that might help explain what had happened before he died. He found nothing.

He sat back on his heels. Poor Mike, poor guy. To survive the mall, to actually be the one to wrestle the wounded killer to the ground and hear his dying words, only to end up like this five and a half months later in his own home…

There was that noise again. Was the killer still in the house? From the look of things, an intruder had walked right in and caught Mike coming from the living room. He wore an unzipped jacket, as though he'd been in the process of leaving the house. The room had the appearance of having been searched, and none too carefully, either.

The house was cold, no lights, no fire in the grate, impossible to tell how long ago this had happened. There was no smell of gunpowder in the room, but with an open door that didn't really mean much.

He listened carefully as he stood up, once again scanning for something with which to arm himself. All he could see was a fireplace poker, and that struck him as pretty low-tech when it came to confronting whatever had taken down Mike. On the other hand, it was better than nothing. He crossed the room silently, snatched the poker from atop the hearth and stood stock-still, listening.

Another noise, like a door closing. He followed it across the living room and into the entry. He was certain it came from down the hall. He had a quick look at the kitchen and the laundry room, noting the disarray of cupboards and drawers. What in the heck had someone looked for—and had they found it?

The outside door was locked. He turned around and retraced his steps, switching on lights as he moved. Whoever was here must have heard him rustling around, probably seen the lights come on. There was no possibility to surprise them.

A more prudent plan of action would be to head for the relative safety of his truck and call the police, but then the intruder might escape through a back window or destroy evidence. All but holding his breath, Nate nudged open the first door on his left.

From the threshold, he could see the room held a lone twin bed and nightstand, a small chest of drawers and a few boxes stacked in the corner. The closet doors were folded open and the overhead lamp revealed three hangers. There were a couple of empty cardboard boxes inside the closet, their contents heaped beside them. Ditto the boxes in the corner. The drawers were all open.

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Meet the Author

I was born in Sacramento, California where I launched my writing career by "publishing" a family newspaper. Circulation was dismal. After school, I married the love of my life. We spent years juggling children and pets while living on sailboats. All the while, I read like a crazy woman (devoured Agatha Christie) and wrote stories of my own, eventually selling to magazines and then book publishers. Now, 45 novels later, I'm concentrating on romantic suspense where my true interest lies.

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Shattered 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
ToryMichaels More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book. I wasn't entirely sure who to trust and who was behind what, but Ms. Sharpe made the ride entirely worth it. I had suspected one of the villains, but because I didn't initially realize this was a mini-series of books (the Rescuers series), I didn't realize one of the main plots would be carried over. It was and wow. I CAN'T WAIT! Sarah - she's got some rough stuff in her past, and has to make some hard decisions when it comes to her mother (as we learn through the course). I like how when Nate tries to push her back for her own protection, she doesn't just meekly go. She might be struggling with her personal feelings about her mother and her mother's manipulations, but she's still strong and tough when push comes to shove. Nate - I can't imagine going through a mall shooting, much less being the one to stop the leader of the shooting. YEt Nate survived that, even if it did forever change him. I liked the road he traveled in this book, wanting to figure out what he wanted to do in life (law enforcement wasn't really a good fit he believed any more), yet when he comes into town and finds his friend dead and Sarah cowering in a closet, he puts those skills to work. These two played well off each other. They didn't play stupid games or lie to one another (well, they didn't lie to the point of stupidity - Sarah had no reason to just trust Nate in the very beginning, and the same went true for him). They acknowledged there was definitely some heat there and when push came to shove, they gave in. There were a lot of little threads woven in. The mall shooting dealt with several months before the start of this book turns out to be much more than anyone realized at the time. The discoveries Sarah and Nate make as Sarah tries to avoid the men after her (she's trying to rescue her mother from a stupid decision) left me awestruck and hungry for more. Definitely check out this book. Four and a half gargoyles (no pictures today because I'm on a weird computer). Gimme more Alice Sharpe and Rescuers! Book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
rhonda1111RL More than 1 year ago
4 STARS The suspense keeps you guessing till Alice wants you to know. Lots of drama, action, mystery and even a treasure hunt. Their is a love scene that I skipped over. Some violence. I liked Nate Matthews. He is a good guy hero all the way. He does not know what he wants right now. Sarah Donovan character you are not sure what she is hiding. She is a strong character, with a mystery about her. Nate is meeting two friends in Nevada. He is delayed getting their but his friends are even later. The weather is bad but he decides to drive to his friend's ranch and he finds a dead body. Soon someone is trying to kill him he has no idea why or who it is. Is it someone after Sarah and whatever she is up too? Or is it whoever killed her father? I did figure out one clue before Nate and Sarah did. I did not put the book down till I had to. Their was non-stop action, drama that kept me wanting to know more. I want to read the next book in the series Stranded. I will read more books by Alice Sharpe in the future. I was given this ebook to read and asked in return to give honest review of it by Netgalley and Harlequin.