When her parents left one day, never to return to their children, Olivia became the driving force between her and her brother. Now, years later, they still didnt have much, but Olivia gave everything she had to supporting and nurturing Kevin. Unfortunately, he had other ideas and the harder she tried to give them a better life, the harder he worked at bringing them down. His drive to find a quick fix and an easy buck led to a gambling addiction that was close to destroying them.
Meanwhile, ex-soldier Devon was becoming more and more restless, and the flashbacks of his time in Afghanistan were coming back to haunt him. His saving grace was his job as a paramedic, which gave him something to do that he found fulfilling and kept his mind busy.
Then one cold snowy night, on a run for the fire department, he rescued a woman who immediately disappeared, leaving him determined to track her down. Her bruises were proof that she needed someone to step in and help, and he was equally determined that he be that man.
Shocked at what he learned when he finally found her, Devon becomes even more determined to find a way to make her life better. Her stubbornness at remaining independent and her refusal to accept his help drives him to distraction. When she comes up missing, though, he knows that he needs to find her. To lose her now would destroy him.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Devon jerked awake, breathing heavily as he sat up, pushing the constricting covers off his body, looking for the enemy he knew was lurking in the shadows.
Damn it, he whispered to himself, as he heard a car backfiring out on the street, now realizing that that was probably what had awakened him and that he was still safe in the firehouse. Wiping the sweat from his forehead with unsteady hands, Devon shook his head, frustrated that the slightest noises were beginning to trigger more flashbacks.
Glancing around the room, he checked to see that he hadn't disturbed the other men sleeping in the cots lined against the far wall. With the moonlight shining through the windows, Devon was able to see that there was no movement under the blankets and sighed in relief that they were still asleep. Swinging his legs over the side, he leaned down and grabbed his clothes from the floor, dressed quickly, and made his way below to the kitchen. He knew there would be no more sleeping for him tonight so a cup of strong coffee seemed in order.
As the coffee brewed, Devon leaned against the counter patiently waiting.
He loved his job as a paramedic for the town of Palmer. He loved the camaraderie as he worked alongside the other men in the department, and he especially liked the feeling he got when he responded to a call and felt like he had actually helped to save a life. He only questioned his choice of profession when a call didn't go as hoped. Losing a patient before he and his team even had a chance to get them to a hospital was the worst. Those moments brought back the demons he carried and the horrid memories of how close he had come to his own demise in the mountains of Afghanistan.
It did something to a man to feel like he was always in the debt of his closest friends. No matter how hard he tried, there was never going to be a time when he didn't feel indebted to them for saving his life. This only added to the stress of the flashbacks and their resurfacing.
Hearing the beep of the coffee machine as it completed brewing, Devon turned and grabbed a cup from the cabinet and filled it to the brim. Taking a sip, he sighed in pleasure. Most of the guys in the fire station sucked at brewing coffee, either making it so strong that he swore hair popped out on his chest or so weak he knew it was just colored water he was drinking. But this ... this was the nectar of the gods, if he did say so himself.
Sitting at the large table, Devon glanced around. Although he only worked part-time now, he loved his shifts at the fire station. He especially loved the early hour like now when it was quiet. There was something to be said for having the peace but still knowing that his fellow paramedics and firemen were asleep not too far away. He had the quiet, but also the knowledge that he really wasn't alone.
Which — now that he thought about it — was really starting to bug him. Being alone had never bothered him before so why did it get to him now? Even the flashbacks from what had happened in Afghanistan were starting again, and it was puzzling to him exactly why that was happening. He would have thought that after nearly five years he'd be done with that. Sure, he understood why he had them when he first got back, but he dealt with them. He went to the mandatory counseling that the Army provided while he was recovering from his injuries and had managed to spend several years free from the nightmares that used to plague him. But now ... why were they starting again now?
The only thing he could think of that might have triggered his returning nightmares was the recent trip to Mexico he went on with his best friends and former unit members to save Travis's girlfriend, Callie, from the San Letas drug cartel. Now that he really thought about it, that trip had to have been the catalyst for everything starting again. Being with Travis, Ethan, Jack, and Mitchell dressed in fatigues and carrying guns surely was the cause. And while Ben, who hadn't served with them, was there, he was certainly as much a part of the whole military mindset and blended seamlessly into the group as if he had always been a part of them.
Feeling as if he had solved the mystery of the flashbacks, Devon cupped his hands around his coffee cup and sighed. Finally an answer that made sense!
Hearing a noise, he looked up to see Mitchell Beckett walk into the kitchen.
"What are you doing up?" he asked, looking Devon up and down as though he were examining a bug under a microscope.
"Drinking coffee," Devon replied sarcastically. "What are you doing up?"
"I've got some paperwork I didn't get finished last night. Thought I'd do it while the station was still quiet."
Mitchell was the fire chief for the town of Palmer and took his responsibilities very seriously. He was one of the calmest, most low-key people Devon had ever met. Even during their time together serving in the Army's elite, most highly trained fighting division, Devon had never seen Beckett lose his composure. It's what made him a perfect fit to run the fire department and still have the ability to play the town politics that went with the job. Something Devon knew he wouldn't have the patience to deal with. It's what also made him one of the best friends Devon could imagine having.
"Seriously," Mitchell continued. "What's going on with you?"
"Carter's snoring woke me up," Devon joked, attempting to shift Mitchell's attention to the man who occupied the bunk next to his when they worked together.
"Just how bad are the flashbacks?" Mitchell asked quietly, cutting through the bull that Devon had tried shoveling.
It unnerved Devon that Mitchell had read him so easily. "Not too bad."
"You know it probably has to do with our little trip to Mexico," Mitchell offered.
"I just came to that conclusion a few minutes ago."
"Want to talk about it?" Mitchell asked quietly.
"Is it going to be a problem?"
Mitchell eyed him for a few seconds. "Good enough," he answered as he turned and poured himself a cup of coffee. "I'm here if you change your mind and need to talk," he finished with his back to Devon.
"Thanks," Devon said before standing up and walking toward the counter, shoving his mug under Mitchell's arm indicating he wanted a refill.
Mitchell had just finished filling his cup when the siren in the station went off, indicating there was an emergency call. Devon quickly went up to grab his gear as Mitchell went to the dispatch desk and wrote down the information. When the on-duty firemen and Devon and fellow paramedic Lyle were surrounding the fire truck and the ambulance, Mitchell yelled out the details.
"Car accident on Warren Road near the railroad tracks. Witness said there was one injured, not sure how seriously hurt. Police are responding but it looks like we'll get there first. Keep your heads in the game, gentlemen, not many details on this one. Stay alert," he shouted, as he grabbed his own gear and hopped onto the fire truck.
Devon jumped into the driver's seat of the ambulance and waited a few seconds as his partner for the night, Lyle Carter, got into the passenger seat.
"I hate winter calls," Devon grumbled as he turned the sirens on and followed the fire truck out of the station. "It's December 28th, for god's sake," he said, glancing over at Lyle. "Shouldn't people be home with their families where it's warm and not out on the road this early in the morning?"
"I don't disagree with you," Lyle said conversationally. "But this is what we signed up for when we took the job."
"I know that," Devon acknowledged. "But it's the holiday. People should be tucked in their warm cozy houses, not out on the roads."
"And yet here we are," Lyle countered.
"Indeed," Devon muttered as he looked out the windshield. "Here we are," he mumbled as he looked through the glass and saw the snow shimmering through the headlights of the ambulance as they barreled through the night to answer a call for help.CHAPTER 2
Olivia was scared out of her mind. Getting grabbed off the sidewalk and forced into the backseat of a car after fending off several blows to her face and torso was more than a little frightening. Now sitting with her hands tied behind her back, her terror was mounting.
Several days prior she had been robbed at gunpoint, roughed up a little in the process before having her purse stolen and every nickel she had to her name taken from her. At first, part of her thought the two events were related but this ... this was different. Besides, her logical mind reasoned, what were the odds of these occurrences happening to the same person all in a span of just a few days?
Conclusion: they wouldn't.
Which meant that in all likelihood the man who now held her captive in the back seat of his car had nothing to do with the prior robbery and most likely everything to do with her brother.
Resting her head on the back seat of the vehicle, Olivia thought back to the night before when her brother, Kevin, approached her and asked to borrow two thousand dollars. She never, ever had that kind of money lying around, much less after having just been robbed.
The desperation she saw that came over his face when she told him she had nothing to give was a sure sign that the promise he made to stop gambling lasted for about two seconds.
Older by two years, her brother should have been the one to look out and protect her. But he always seemed to be the weaker of the siblings, always looking for the quick fix, the easy way out or the million-dollar scheme that would earn him the easy life. The thought never occurred to him to simply put his head down and work hard to get what he wanted in life.
Olivia felt bad for the hand they had been dealt so she excused his bad behaviors and did her best to help him. The products of two drug-addicted parents who barely managed to keep a roof over their head when they were growing up screwed with both their lives. Olivia was the one who went out to find them food or worked washing dishes in the small diner in their neighborhood for under-the-table wages that kept what little food they had in their bellies. For some reason, it never seemed to occur to Kevin that he should be the one looking out for his little sister.
When their parents eventually disappeared from their lives entirely, leaving two children the ages of fifteen and seventeen behind, Olivia took on the role of protector and provider and spent the majority of her life getting her brother out of one scrape after another.
As if reading her thoughts from the front seat of the car, the stranger looked at her in the rearview mirror and grimaced. "Your brother owes me some money. One way or another I intend on getting it back," he informed her.
Thinking of Kevin, Olivia suddenly became more afraid. What if the surly man who just confirmed that her brother was a part of this had harmed Kevin? What if he was lying hurt and bleeding somewhere and he needed her? She had to think of some way to get away from him so she could go find Kevin.
Glancing out the window, Olivia watched the snow blowing around the car as the man in the trench coat drove through the night. It was obvious that he was concentrating on the roads trying to keep the vehicle steady so Olivia could only assume that the pavement was slick. This was just the opportunity she was looking for.
Taking a deep breath, she scooted forward a little to lift her tied hands higher up her back and rested them against the seat for leverage. Slowly raising her feet, she took a few deep breaths and lifted her legs as high as she could get them and just as the man turned to see what she was doing, she kicked her feet up and over the seat and knocked the man in the head as hard as she could.
Lowering her legs as fast as she could, Olivia braced herself as the car slid to one side of the road, knocking into a tree and bouncing back onto the road toward the other side. She looked up in time to see a large boulder come into view. The man driving must have been knocked out because he wasn't performing any counter measures to avoid the rock. Knowing there was nothing she could do, Olivia closed her eyes and prayed hard as the car hit, then flipped over. The vehicle landed back on its tires but started slipping down an embankment. She saw a lake quickly coming into view and knew that there was nothing she could do to stop what was about to happen.
Hearing a voice yelling from behind, Olivia opened her eyes. She must have passed out at some point but had no idea for how long. Pulling herself up from the floor of the backseat, she looked over and saw that the vehicle was resting against a broken wooden fence that surrounded a part of the lake. Realizing how close she had come to crashing through the icy waters and probably dying shook her up more that she wanted to admit.
Shakily she leaned forward and reached out to check on her abductor slumped behind the steering wheel to see if he was still alive. While he was the one who had forced her to defend herself, she had no desire to carry the guilt of causing someone else's death. Feeling a weak pulse, Olivia sighed in relief.
Looking to her right she could see nothing but black water rippling in the moonlight. The snow continued to blow around, even coming into the car and sticking to her eyelashes because all the windows had been broken on impact. Not sure if the man would come to or not, Olivia knew that she had to get out of the car and as far away from him as possible. She had no idea if his intentions were to kill her or merely rough her up, but she wasn't about to stay around to find out.
She tried opening the back door first, but the metal was too twisted and bent to move. Knowing there was no other way, Olivia scooted to the back window and squeezed her body through the opening, cringing as her hands and legs were cut on the shards of broken glass.
When she was finally out of the car, Olivia stood next to it, breathing heavily, swaying from the bump to her head that had knocked her out. There was no time for weakness, though, and the moan from the man who took her got her legs moving.
She could make out a set of headlights reflecting off the snow-slicked highway from the top of the embankment and heard someone yelling out. But Olivia couldn't hear what was being said and her only concern had to be getting out of there. Ignoring the woman flapping her arms, Olivia took off in the opposite direction, trying to put as much distance between her and the car as she could.
* * *
Devon stopped the ambulance and jumped out to grab his gear. As the fire truck roared to a stop beside him, a woman was standing next to her vehicle waving her arms.
Thinking she was hurt, Devon quickly approached, his partner, Lyle, right behind him.
"Ma'am, where are you hurt?"
"It's not me," she insisted. "Look," she yelled pointing to a car at the bottom of the hill resting against a cracked fence. "I saw the car swerve and called it in. A woman just now crawled out of the back window. See ... she's walking in the wrong direction."
"I've got her, Lyle," Devon urged. "Go with the guys and see if there's anyone else in the car."
When Lyle nodded, Devon took off at a fast jog to catch up with the woman who was staggering away from the accident. When he caught up to her, he gently took hold of her arm and pulled her to a stop. "Ma'am, are you all right?"
"I ... I think so," Olivia mumbled, pushing the hair away from her eyes.
"Let's go this way," Devon insisted. "The ambulance is over there. Can you walk? Here, let me carry you," he said as he knelt down to pick her up in his arms.
Olivia stepped aside quickly, brushing his hands from her body. "I'm fine," she said.
"No offense, ma'am, but you don't look fine. You're bleeding."
Olivia looked down at her arms, surprised to see red all over her coat. "No," she stammered. "I'm okay. I need to go."
"You need to let me check you out. Come over to the ambulance with me and let me have a look. I need to make sure you're okay." Glancing down the embankment toward the car the woman climbed out of, Devon saw that his partner was helping another victim. Seeing that the firefighters were assisting him he turned his attention to the woman.
"Fine," she grunted, seeing the determination on the man's face. There was no way he was going to allow her to just walk away so she did the most expedient thing and allowed him to usher her to the ambulance.
By the time he had her sitting on the gurney, the heat from inside the vehicle started warming her chilled skin. She sat still as the kind man gently helped her off with her coat, then began wiping at the scrapes and cuts on her arms and face. She was mesmerized by the flecks in his whiskey-colored eyes as he dabbed at the blood on her cheeks. Olivia sat still as he gently probed the bump on her head that she hadn't even realized was there.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "A Single Night"
Copyright © 2018 P. L. Byers.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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.