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Two On The Run
By Margaret Watson
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAS SHE LOCKED THE DOOR of the Midland, Illinois, public library and stepped into the evening heat of the parking lot, Eleanor Perkins realized that once again she was the last to leave. All her colleagues had left long ago. But then, she told herself, they all had someone waiting for them at home. The only thing she had to look forward to was a quick dinner and the romance novel she'd begun reading the night before.
Clouds drifted across the moon, deepening the shadows that surrounded her car. A chill danced across her skin and slowed her steps, but she gave herself an impatient shake. "For heaven's sake, don't be a goose," she said out loud. "This is the library. What could happen here?"
Holding her keys firmly in her hand, she headed for her car, a sedate, four-door sedan. It was just like the rest of her life, she thought suddenly. Boring, predictable and beige. Far too beige.
For a moment she imagined a snappy red sports car in place of the sedan. She would get behind the wheel, shake out the pins confining her hair in a prim bun, lower the convertible top and roar through the streets of Midland, letting the wind comb wild fingers through her locks.
She shook her head. It would take more than a sports car to change her life. It would take a miracle. And she'd never believed in them.
As she inserted the key into the lock, she heard a rustling in the bushes beyond the car. Her heart leaped into her throat and she froze. Then she rolled her eyes. "Don't be an idiot."
"You're not an idiot," a voice said in her ear. "I saw you hesitate before you walked over here. You should have paid attention to your instincts."
She jerked her head around. A man was standing far too close to her. He crowded her against the door, and she opened her mouth to scream.
"Don't do that," he said in a low voice. Slowly he raised a gun. "Come around to the other side, and don't make any sudden moves."
"What do you want?" Stupid question. What do you think he wants?
"I want you to get in. Then I'm going to get in. And then we're going to drive away."
She stared at the gun in his hand. Moonlight glinted off the dark metal, making it appear huge and deadly. A spasm of fear shot through her, but she managed to shake her head. "I'm not getting into the car with you. That's what all the self-defense classes say - never get into a car."
Her heart beat frantically against her chest and her legs wobbled like soft Jell-O. But she forced herself to meet his eyes. "So you might as well shoot me right here."
If she hadn't been so terrified, she would have sworn a tiny grin flickered across his mouth. For a fraction of a second his eyes twinkled with humor, then they hardened again. "I don't have time to discuss your options. I don't want to hurt you," he said. "I won't hurt you as long as you do as I say. I need to get out of here, and I need to do it now. Move!"
She threw the keys toward him. "Take the car. Go wherever you need to. You don't have to take me with you."
He caught the keys without taking his eyes off her. Slowly he shook his head. "And let you call the police as soon as I'm out of sight? I don't think so."
"I won't call them. I promise."
"Right. And I bet you'd tell me that the check was in the mail, too." He froze for a moment as if listening to something, and she heard the distant wail of a police siren. Then he clenched his jaw and grabbed her arm. "Let's go. And we're going together."
He pulled her around to the other side of the car and she grabbed at the antenna, trying to prevent him from forcing her into the vehicle. Her purse smashed against the taillight and pieces of plastic spattered onto the asphalt. Her attacker peeled her hands away from the antenna and pushed her into the seat. She twisted to face him and managed to kick him in the thigh. He stiffened, sucking in his breath as if she'd hurt him.
Yes! She tried to lunge out the door.
He raised the gun again.
"Move over into the driver's seat."
His dark eyes were flat and cold, hard as granite. Any trace of humanity, including that hint of a smile, had disappeared from his expression. All that was left was cold resolve. And the gun that was now pointing steadily at her.
There was no way past him. And looking at his shadowed face, so hard and bleak, she had no doubt he would use the gun. "All right."
Watching him carefully, waiting for any momentary advantage, she slid onto the driver's seat and tensed as he eased himself into the car. He winced as he pulled the door shut behind him, then turned to point the gun at her again.
Her hands shook so badly that it took two tries before the engine turned over. Finally she looked at him. "Where do you want me to go?"
"Start driving west. I'll tell you where to turn." He shifted in the seat so he was facing her. "And don't speed or run any red lights or flash your headlights." His voice was icy and pitiless. "Don't pull any of those tricks they taught you in your self-defense class. I know every one of them."
"Can I ask where you're taking me?"
"You can ask anything you want. That doesn't mean I'll answer."
She looked down at the gas gauge. "I hope you're not planning on going too far, then."
"Why?" He leaned toward her.
She nodded toward the gauge, where the needle was hovering close to the large red E. "Because I'm almost out of gas."
She heard him swear under his breath, a short, ugly word.
"Don't you know you're supposed to fill your tank when it's three-quarters empty?"
"Sorry. If I had known I was going to be carjacked, I would have stopped to fill up on my way to work," she snapped.
Too late, she realized she'd let fear and temper get the better of her. She waited for him to explode in anger, to shove the gun into her side and tell her to shut up. To her surprise, instead of snarling at her he leaned back in his seat, and she saw that half grin hovering around the corners of his mouth again.
"You've got a mouth on you, don't you?"
It was the last response she had expected. But it was good, she told herself as she struggled to subdue her fear. She could bond with him. Wasn't a criminal less likely to harm a victim he'd bonded with?
"I'm a children's librarian," she told him primly.
"I know the value of being firm. Children respond well to firmness."
She could have sworn he smothered a chuckle. "I'll keep that in mind."
She would remember that chuckle, she promised herself fiercely. Just as she would remember that glint of humor in his eyes. She would remember everything about him, from his hard, angular face to the breadth of his shoulders beneath his shirt to the lean, sinewy length of him.
Excerpted from Two On The Run by Margaret Watson Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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