Cal Hart walks a blurred line of honor. The rock-hard former Marine has his lethal skills at the service of the highest bidder. Until a contract comes in to kill Lana Vanderpoel, the sultry, charismatic heiress and billionaire’s daughter. She’s way too sexy to end up at the wrong end of a silencer. So Cal takes the job—and starts planning how to get Lana to safety while he unearths who’s behind the threat . . .
Lana only knows she’s been kidnapped—and she’ll fight tooth and nail against whoever has snatched her from her life. Her stern-faced captor sends a tremor of ice through her veins, yet a thrill lies beneath her unease. He’s dark and dangerous, his body ripped, honed, and capable. But lust isn’t the same as trust—and whether or not she can believe what Cal’s telling her, there’s at least one person close to Lana who wants her dead . . .
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A bead of sweat broke out on his brow, and he wiped it away with his sleeve. Despite the cool air, he was roasting in his black camouflage gear. She should be home and in bed by now. Last Saturday night she'd been home by midnight, and even earlier on other nights of the week that he'd conducted surveillance. His pulse beat steadily against his eardrums with impatience. It didn't matter. He'd be waiting for her when she decided to come home. There was no chance in hell he was backing out of this job now.
Headlights cut through the night as a car pulled up to the front gate. Determination tensed his muscles, and his lips curved.
It's about damn time.
The passenger door opened. He sunk lower in the shadows, pressing his back against the outside of the garage. He was out of sight, but still had a direct view of his target. Satisfaction brought his breath to a steady pace. Once she got inside, he'd give her some time to fall asleep, and then he'd make his move. Her delicious bare leg stepped out of the car, revealing a barely-there miniscule dress. She laughed hysterically and pitched forward, nearly doing a face-plant on the pavement. He closed his eyes and shook his head. Just great. She was wasted.CHAPTER 2
"Shit." The spike of her five-inch pump caught on the foot well as she stepped out of the car. She grabbed the car door for support and righted herself.
"Go to bed. You're drunk," teased Carly from the driver's seat. Lana tugged the hem of her tight minidress and leaned back into the car.
"Am not." She stuck out her tongue, then grinned and shut the car door. She'd only had a glass or two of champagne the entire time they'd been at the nightclub, and was completely sober now. Well, mostly anyway.
The cool midnight air caressed her exposed skin. She waved good-bye as she approached the property gate, punched in the code, and waited as the wrought-iron hinges swung open. The stamped concrete drive split into two like the long tongue of a snake. One direction led off to the main house and wrapped itself around the mountainous stone fountain. The other path stretched to the guesthouse, where she lived. The isolation from the main house granted her the privacy she needed from her father and stepmother.
Her high heels scuffed against the slick concrete as she strode down the mouth of the one-hundred-foot drive. Patio stones dotted the grass off the drive to the guesthouse beyond the pool. A line of bushes and tall shrubs peppered the front of the guesthouse.
Thunder rumbled from the sky, and a raindrop plopped on her forehead. The fountain in the backyard gurgled as water rushed over the massive stones to collect at the pool beneath. In the daylight, the sounds from the fountain were calming, but tonight it was too loud. Too invasive. The smell of moisture hung in the air from the rain earlier. It was chilly, but a coat would have clashed with her outfit.
She opened up her rhinestone-encrusted clutch to fish out her house keys. A movement out of the corner of her eye made her feet hitch. She grasped her keys in her fist and scanned the yard around her. The breeze kicked up and rustled the leaves overhead.
Just the wind.
Large elm trees and strategically groomed shrubs decorated the grounds. Tonight, the brooding mosaic of shapes gave her the creeps. The Mediterranean-style monstrous house hovered behind her. One lone light on the main level switched off like a creature closing its eye. Anne, the maid, would be the only one home.
Once she disappeared into the back, Carly backed out of the drive. The headlights sliced through the night before vanishing. The sensor light above her head flickered before going out. Her spine stiffened. She stepped through the grass and onto the patio stones, the safety of the guesthouse only feet away. Soon she would be in her cozy warm bed.
Carly dropping her off was a sour reminder that she still lived under the household of her parents and her lack of independence. At least in the guesthouse, she was concealed from their scrutiny and could come and go as she pleased. Thankfully, this weekend they were away for one of her father's business meetings in Monaco. He wouldn't find out until later in the week that she'd gone out tonight.
A shiver raced up her spine as the chilly breeze disturbed the placidity of the night. It was darker than usual. A cloud crept over the moon, shielding it against its will. The obscurity of its glow rippled in warning. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.
Someone was watching her.
Her throat closed. Razor-sharp fear bit into her. Her eyes darted around the shadowed yard in search of a predator. Tall, freshly groomed shrubs swayed in the breeze. Goose bumps raced over her flesh. Paranoia bubbled up in her throat and threatened to strangle her.
She braced for the attack, but it didn't come.
Get a grip, Lana.
She stabbed her key into the lock and swung the door open. Inside the house, her hand sought the light switch and flicked it on. She slammed the door, her fingers fumbling as she snapped the lock shut.
She was too old to be getting spooked.
At least for tonight, the closeness of the main house was a slight comfort. She raced from room to room and flicked on every light.
She exhaled a pent-up breath.
She dropped onto the edge of her bed and began to undo her shoes. Her fingers stilled on the clasp of the black leather strap. Her eyes fixed on the closet door. Had she left it closed? She couldn't remember. The room crackled with tension. Her heart beat triple time. Her breath came out in short, sharp puffs.
She rose to her feet. Sweat moistened her palms. Shoe gripped in her hand, the heel wielded like a spear, she advanced on the closet. Her hand closed around the smooth metal knob. Her pulse raged with the force of a fire hose.
She yanked the door open.
Rods and racks of clothes and shoes stared back at her like the blank eyes of the stuffed animals that crowded her dresser.
She released her held breath through tight, exasperated lips. The shoe dropped from her limp fingers and landed to the carpet with a soft thud.
She raked her tingling hand through her loose hair and squeezed her eyes shut. What is the matter with me?
She had been on edge for days. She needed to get her mind off of the nagging presence that plagued her. She'd call Gina. Gina always made her feel better, and it was never too late to call her. Gina would find it hilarious that she'd gone out tonight against her father's wishes. She didn't like lying to him, but there was a heck of a lot less drama when she abided by his rules. At least when he thought she abided by his rules.
Edward Vanderpoel had his squeaky-clean reputation and a pristine image to uphold. Every move she made played a part. She was a grown woman, for God's sake. At twenty-six years old, she was tired of living under his thumb and his ideals. She was single, but mostly because her father had never approved of her boyfriends. Besides, men sucked.
She worked hard; her father had never let her take their money for granted. She loved her dad dearly, and Grace, her stepmother, too, but it was past time she got her own place. With that thought firmly planted in her mind, she slipped out of her dress and pulled on a pair of light cotton pajamas. She reached for the phone and dialed. The nights were cool at this time of year, but her suite was always too warm. She stepped into her en suite bathroom and began to remove her makeup and get ready for bed.
"Hey, girl, how was your night?" Gina's cheery voice washed away the dark shadows.CHAPTER 3
One locked door stood between him and his target. It wasn't the lock that had him concerned. It was the cameras. There was a rotating camera attached to the roof of the main house. He would have to time it perfectly. It shouldn't take him more than ten seconds to get in, but it would be tight.
He slithered across the lawn, his footsteps cushioned by the lush grass. Edging around the corner of the guesthouse, he waited and watched the camera make its rotation, timing it. Twelve seconds. Perfect. He had been close to snatching her in the yard, but a light had switched off in the main house. Had he moved then, she would have seen him and been able to scream loud enough to wake the neighborhood. He waited fifteen minutes after her bedroom light had turned off. Now it was time.
As soon as the camera turned toward the driveway, he made his move. He gripped a small penlight between his front teeth and pulled his lock pick set from his jacket. He inserted the two small tools. The tinkling sound of metal on metal made his movements slow and softer than they would have been.
He stepped into the dark foyer and closed the door, shutting out the eye of the camera.
If people only knew how easy it was to pick locks, even dead bolts, they wouldn't even bother. Fact of the matter, if someone wanted in and had the skills to do so, he or she was getting in. Case in point.
He pointed the penlight to illuminate the room, and his soft-soled shoes glided over the tiled floor. He had scoped the place out for the last week and knew the basic layout of her suite.
From the foyer, he would enter the kitchen. It was on the small side, but from what he had previously observed, she wasn't much of a cook. More of a soup-and-sandwich kind of girl. An eat-in breakfast bar separated the kitchen from the living room. Next to that was her bedroom with a large en suite bathroom.
He waited at the door. He trained his ears for any noises in case she'd gotten out of bed since he'd left his spot in the bushes. Her being drunk might pay off. She was probably passed out. He checked his watch. Nearly 1 a.m. He would have preferred to wait until he was certain she was asleep. But in less than two hours, he would be getting the call. By that time, he needed to check in at his location — with his captive.
He stood tense and rigid, his feet braced apart. He stepped into the dark kitchen. His mouth went dry as he put all of his tools back into the inside pocket of his jacket. He checked to make sure the next items that he would need were easily accessible. His right pocket held a soft white rag, his left a small vial of chloroform.
Feeling the rag in his pocket, his chest constricted. He was a criminal, a goddamn sicko. What in hell was he doing? He knew he was stuck, that if he decided to leave, someone else would come and finish the job. Only they would kill her.
He took a deep breath — he didn't have a choice.
The dark kitchen encouraged him to peer into the shadowed and uninhabited living room. The smell of toasted marshmallows — or was that vanilla? — wafted through the spic-and-span kitchen from some kind of decorative dish that was plugged in on the counter. His house usually smelled like floor cleaner after his housekeeper left. Other than that, it smelled like his gym bag or whatever food he had recently eaten. He crept across the kitchen and into the living room. He paused, only feet away from her bedroom door.
A giggle erupted.
What the hell?
He skirted the few feet across the room and threw himself behind the couch. Her bedroom door opened. Was someone else here? How in hell had he missed that?
Miss Lana Vanderpoel waltzed out of her bedroom, her cell phone glued to her ear. Jesus Christ. Only a woman would be sitting in her room, drunk and talking on the phone in the dark. He shook his head at the image and breathed a sigh of relief. Had she come out seconds earlier, she would have caught him. Not that he couldn't take her, but the chances of her screaming would have been high and, at the very least, would have alerted the person on the other end of the phone.
"Oh my God!" Her sudden shriek made him jump and freeze. Had she seen him?
"He didn't! What did you say?" He relaxed the tense muscles in his neck. Damn, he'd nearly gone into cardiac arrest. From here, he could peer around the side and see straight into the kitchen, and to his left, to her bedroom door. He watched from around the side of the couch in time to see her stretch up onto her tiptoes to pull a glass out of the cupboard. Her legs were sleek and toned, her feet small and bare against the tile floor.
When she turned from the sink, the slight curve of her slim body made his throat tighten. His gaze dragged from the top of her luscious, shiny locks all the way down to her pretty little toes, savoring every inch in between. Her tiny white pajama shorts barely reached the tops of her supple thighs. Her breasts were full and high, the small outline of her nipples visible through the thin white pajama top she wore. He grew warm at the sight of her.
Her dark hair hung in loose waves nearly to her waist, and her skin was smooth, soft, and pale. Her hair was longer and softer in person. She was shorter than she looked in pictures. But then, she wasn't in her neck-breaking high heels. Even though she wasn't wearing a hint of makeup, he could see how beautiful she still was. Lana was a knockout. His throat constricted as she paced the kitchen with her back to him. All he could see was her ass. Not that he was complaining. His dick hardened at the image of having her panting beneath him, those delicious legs wrapped around his waist.
His mouth firmed. He shouldn't be having this reaction to her — didn't want it. But the sexy little thing in front of him made something unfamiliar twist in his gut. He needed to get this over with.
"My father is going to kill me when he gets back and sees I went out tonight. Damn those paparazzi." She listened for a minute. "Okay, Gina. Yeah, I'm heading to bed now too. We should get together for lunch this week. Text me. 'Night." She hung up and dropped the phone on the island counter. He watched, fascinated, as she brought the glass of water up to her delicate, full lips and sipped.
She carried the glass with her back through the living room. The light switched off, and she disappeared into her bedroom. She didn't close the door. Perfect. The fewer barriers between them the better.
With her parents out of town, this was almost too easy. He waited ten minutes, giving her the chance to drift off. As he waited, his tension grew. He didn't know whether he was capable of this. She would panic and freak out. Hell, who wouldn't? Maybe she would be asleep, and he would only have to place the rag over her mouth. God, he prayed it would be that simple.
The urge to sneak out as easily as he'd snuck in weighed on him. But he was her only chance. If he left, she was as good as dead.
He rose from his position and took a deep breath. He pulled his black knit cap over his eyebrows and gave his latex gloves a tug. He moved toward the bedroom. He stopped at the door frame. A sliver of moonlight poured through a slit in the curtains, illuminating the small mound in the center of the bed. He entered the room. Lana made no movement. She was curled on her side, her back to him. The thick carpet cushioned the weight of his feet as he lurked, closer and closer. His eye caught a lone high-heeled shoe, carelessly strewn in his path. He stepped over it, bringing him only a few feet from the edge of her bed. His pulse slowed, and his breath came out in a steady, silent rhythm. His hands hung loosely at his sides, and his eyes stayed trained on the gentle rise and fall of her breathing. He reached the side of her bed and hesitated. Jumping her from behind wasn't how he had planned it. If he put any weight on the bed, she would easily feel it and wake up. He would have to pounce on her or risk tiptoeing around to the other side of the bed.
The air changed in the room.
She stopped breathing.
She knew he was there.
Adrenaline surged through him. She bolted. He threw himself onto the bed and lunged for her. He snagged her waist with his arm and hauled her back down. She screamed, piercing his eardrums. His free hand clutched roughly over her mouth, choking the scream off almost as soon as it started.
He had to move fast.
"Don't move!" he whispered fiercely. She was panicked. Her fingernails pinched his skin through the latex glove as she clawed at the hand on her mouth. She tried to scream, her cries pitiful from behind his hand. He wouldn't be able to knock her out until she calmed down a bit.
"Stay still," he rasped against her ear. He held her tight against his chest, until her thrashes slowed.
"I'm going to move my hand now, and we're going to get off the bed. Don't scream." She jerked her head in response. He released his death grip on her jaw. He winced at the stiffness in his hand. Her fingers settled over her face to replace his. Shit. He had hurt her.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Abducted"
Copyright © 2018 Samantha Keith.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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