Just one look, and it’s clear they’re perfect together. It’s in the way they touch, talk, and kiss. They share the same interests. The same twisted passions. They do everything together. Even kill…
ARE TOO GOOD
Julia St. James Ford has washed up on a beach near her home in Seaside, Oregon, with no memory of how she got there or how her husband, Joe, died. The police rule the case an accident. But Joe’s brother, Sam—Jules’ rescuer and her first love—suspects otherwise. While Sam tries to piece the facts together, Jules fears someone is watching, determined to find out how much she knows.
TO BE TRUE
Behind closed doors, behind Jules’ neighbors’ smiles, are terrifying secrets. A string of sordid thrill kills…and one survivor who never should have got away. And as she and Sam close in on the events of one tragic night, and the truth comes flooding back, remembering a killer’s face may be the last thing Jules ever does…
Praise for Nancy Bush’s You Can’t Escape
“One thrilling read.” RT Book Reviews
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
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By NANCY BUSH
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Nancy Bush
All rights reserved.
The woman on the beach slowly came to consciousness, the frigid water sliding up and over her, then receding. Sand beneath her fingers. She curled her nails into it, trying to focus, trying to wake up. She needed to remember something.
Get up or you'll die.
Apart from her fingers, she couldn't move. Everything was weighted down. She couldn't even open her eyes ... but ... yes ... one sand-crusted lid lifted. She was on a beach. And there was something just there ... beside her on the beach ... hunched.
She worked to open both eyes and looked right into —
The wide open blue eyes of a dead man.
She shrieked, but it came out as a whimper, and then the next wave hit and it was bigger, lifting her up, slamming her into the dead man, his arm tussling with hers until they tumbled back into the surf.
I can't ... she thought.
And then the world faded to black.
* * *
Sam Ford rattled his truck along the jetty, scanning the western horizon. The ocean was gray today, restless under a low July sun. A line of smoke could still be seen, drifting above the water the same color as the sand. A boat had caught fire and sank. Was it his brother's boat? Was she on it? Sam was still waiting to hear.
The back of his throat was gritty and raw, as if he'd been in the way of the smoke, and yet it was a mile from shore. He threw the truck into park and climbed out, grabbing his binoculars. The coast guard helicopter was hovering near the boat on a northwest trajectory from where Sam stood.
The text from Joe ran across his mind, like it had a thousand times since he'd received it: Meet me at my dock at noon.
Sam had been surprised by the message. He and Joe ... the rift between them had grown over the years and they didn't speak much any longer. Their father had thrown up his hands that they couldn't reconcile, though now his mind seemed to be playing tricks on him, so who knew what he thought anymore. Their mother had divorced their father and remarried, stepping away from her sons and starting a new life. She'd had an inkling that things were not well between her two boys, but she'd chosen to pretend everything was fine, right up until breast cancer stole her away.
Meet me at my dock at noon....
Sam gazed up at the sun. It had started its descent to the horizon hours ago, though it was long after Sam had texted his brother back and told him he couldn't make it, even though he could have. He'd come up with a dozen excuses, but Joe had never sent another text, which kinda pissed Sam off. Joe ordering him around? Playing passive-aggressive? Nope. That wasn't the nature of their relationship.
But Joe texting him at all was pretty unusual. His brother usually left him alone, and vice versa. Was he imagining the imperative note to the message? At first it had just seemed autocratic; his older brother making demands on him just because he could. But that wasn't Joe's way. If anything, he tended to leave Sam be, and that was just fine with Sam. But that text had wormed its way into Sam's brain, circling around, and he'd started thinking it was something more. A desperate plea? Why had his brother sent the message?
He'd tried to call Joe to ask him. He wasn't going to go racing down the mountains from his parents' old cabin to the beach without a good reason. Of course Joe had no way of knowing he wasn't at the condo he'd been renting, or for that matter that he could be at work. Sam hadn't told Joe that he'd quit the Seaside PD in favor of a job in Portland, which, in the end, hadn't materialized — a job that would have been a step up to detective, one Sam was more than ready for. But just as soon as he'd quit at Seaside there'd supposedly been shifts within the Portland PD — a lot of double-talk from everyone involved — the upshot being someone with political ties was slotted into the open position in Portland and Sam was out. He could've gone back to Seaside, maybe should've gone back to the old job, probably, but instead he'd taken time off to think things over. And he really wasn't sure he wanted to go backward anyway. Returning to his job as a general cop — Seaside wasn't big enough for departments — felt like that's all it would be. Also, his relationship with Dannella had fallen apart because he couldn't commit, or so she said, although it hadn't taken her long to find someone else and the last he'd heard she was married with a new baby. He'd felt a twinge of regret over that, but like his job, he'd decided to just wait and let things happen. There was nothing to do about it anyway, and really, Dannella moving on had been a good thing.
Joe hadn't answered, and he'd never responded to Sam's further texts. The morning had slipped by and finally Sam had just thought, screw it, and had driven the hour from the cabin to his brother's house on Fisher Canal, an offshoot of the Nehalem River. He'd braced himself for a run-in with Joe's wife, but the house had been deserted when he got there. He'd rung the bell and peered in the front windows, able to see through the living room and sliding glass door to the back deck and across the narrow inlet to the house on the opposite side. The neighbor's boat sat outside their dock, which had made Sam realize Joe's was gone. To make certain, Sam had tramped around the side of the house and, sure enough, there was no boat beneath the gray canopy over the boat slip, nor had it been tied to the silver cleats gleaming in the sun against the weathered boards of the dock.
While he'd been there a woman had come out from the house across the river and waved at him. Sam reluctantly waved back, aware she probably thought he was his brother, even though Joe was eight years older than Sam.
She called over to him. "Who's got the boat?"
"I'm not Joe. I'm his brother," he yelled back.
She'd clearly been taken aback, and Sam suspected Joe had never mentioned him to her. No surprise there.
"You didn't see him leave?" Sam asked.
She shook her head and motioned behind her. "Just got home," she yelled.
Sam had nodded and waved a good-bye as he headed back around the house to his truck. He walked up to the garage and cupped his hands over his eyes, looking through the narrow garage window. Two vehicles were inside. A black Explorer and a light blue Subaru Outback. He surmised Joe's was the Explorer, a Ford. His brother probably didn't hear the same grief as he did about driving something other than a Ford when your last name was Ford. His Chevy pickup had been a good deal, period.
With both cars accounted for, he'd asked himself: Are Joe and his wife together on the boat? Maybe on their way back now?
He'd checked his cell phone. Eleven fifty. If his brother was returning by boat, he was pushing it pretty hard to make noon. There were houses on both sides of the narrow waterway that led into Nehalem Bay and further to the ocean. When he shaded his eyes and gazed down the ribbon of water to the sharp bend at the southwestern end, all he saw were the houses. But Sam could tell by sound alone that no boat was approaching.
He'd waited until twelve forty-five, then had climbed back into the cab of his truck and reversed out of the drive. Punching the accelerator, he'd headed toward the bay. As he'd approached he'd seen a crowd of onlookers outside their cars in the marina's lot who were all staring toward the edge of the horizon where a line of smoke and faint flashes of orange light were a pinpoint to the naked eye.
"Boat's on fire," a gravel-voiced man had stated, his baseball cap bearing the name of a local hardware store.
Sam's heart had clutched. There was no reason other than timing to think it was Joe's boat, but still ...
A young woman in shorts that were completely covered by an oversized sweatshirt had said, "Coast guard should be there."
"Don't hear the whirly-bird," Gravel Voice had pointed out, frowning.
At that moment the whup-whup-whup of the approaching helicopter had reached their ears. Gravel Voice gave a quick nod and said, "Thar it is."
Sam had reached for his cell phone. He'd tried Joe one more time, then sent another text: Where r u? On the boat? Call me.
He'd waited another five minutes, but no answer. With growing alarm he'd gotten back into the truck and put a call in to his ex-partner, Griff.
"Hey, man," Griff had answered lazily. "I'm off today. Catch a beer later?"
"Griff, you hear about a boat accident south of Salchuk? Looks like one's on fire, out on the horizon."
"Coast guard chopper's out there," he'd answered after a minute.
"I know." Sam had debated on mentioning that it could be his brother, but Griff wasn't known for keeping things to himself. "Let me get back to you on that beer. Got a few things to do."
"You on the scene?"
"Yep. Gotta go."
"Okay, I'll be at the Gull."
Griff spent a lot of time down at the Seagull, a decrepit pub overlooking the Necanicum River in Seaside, another of the feeders to the Pacific on this stretch of coastline but thirty miles north of the Nehalem. Sam had lifted more than a few pints with his partner during their five years together on the force. Griff had been against Sam's decision to quit and was hopeful Sam would return. Maybe he would and maybe he wouldn't. He'd been tentatively offered a job with the Tillamook County Sheriff's Department, further south down the coast, as well. He knew people there, too. He just wasn't certain what he wanted yet and wasn't sure that job was still on the table, either.
He'd slid his phone back in his pocket, cursed under his breath, and then beaten down the fears that had assailed him ... told himself his brother was okay — he had to be — then had driven north to a section of sharp cliffs that reached into the ocean, a treacherous spot between Nehalem Bay and the small town of Salchuk, a sleepy ocean village that had recently become the newest, hottest place to be. The cliffs created an isolated beach that was only approachable at low tide around a pair of sheer stone arms that clawed into the Pacific. He'd parked, then half walked, half ran down the sharp, small rocks that tumbled off the massive stone walls. It wasn't a popular place to come. The beach was too narrow, the view north blocked by the cliff, the stretch of sand on the south end disintegrating into larger rocks that were arduous to cross. If you were a thrill-seeker, then you might attempt a swim around the rock arm to the sheltered beach, but the frigid water, even in the dead of summer, might give you pause.
Now, Sam's gaze moved across the horizon. He liked this stretch for all the reasons others didn't. Its inherent loneliness appealed to him. What that said about him he was pretty sure he didn't want to know, but Joe had been aware how Sam was drawn to the place, so maybe ... ? The beach itself was deserted except for an enterprising seagull who eyed him with a baleful eye. If it came to a turf war, Sam thought he might win and he strode across the sand. The gull let him get within a foot before it screeched loudly, hopped a few steps away, and flapped its wings.
Sam pulled his gaze from the haze of smoke and that's when he saw the shoe bobbing among the waves. A woman's tan, slip-on sneaker. His heart clutched again, and he could almost feel the blood pumping through his veins.
Without serious conscious thought he dropped his cell phone and wallet on the sand and ran toward the surf, meeting a wave as it was coming in. He kept his sneakers on as he dove into water cold enough to stop his breath, and he battled the surf and turned northward as soon as he could to round the stone cliff, glad for the shoes that saved his feet against the rock face.
He caught a mouthful of seawater on his mission and spat it out as he clawed his way around the last part of the jagged stone wall.
He saw the woman's body immediately. It was being teased by the incoming tide. Soon it would be sucked back out to the sea.
He let the next rush of waves hurtle him toward her, then battled the receding waters, staggering up the beach, falling down to his knees and stumbling up again. He grabbed her as she tumbled back toward the waiting ocean, clamped his hands onto both of her arms, and pulled her up the sand. The waves rushed back and he lost his balance and his grip on her. Her brown hair was a mermaid's floating crown around her head.
"Shit ..." he whispered.
He grabbed her again and this time he hauled her as far up the beach as he could. He rolled her onto her back. She wasn't breathing. Immediately he started CPR, rhythmically pushing on her chest while his head jerked around from side to side. Where was the coast guard? Where was Joe? God, was it his boat? Had to be. Why else would Jules be here?
She wasn't responding. Even though it was no longer protocol, he leaned over her, opened her mouth, blew air into her lungs, then pushed on her chest some more.
"Come on, Jules, come on," he gritted through his teeth. "Where's Joe? Come on, come on. Breathe ... breathe ... Where's Joe?"
It seemed like forever before her body lurched and she hawked up a rush of fluid from her lungs. Sam immediately turned her onto her side to help her.
Her lips were blue but her eyelids fluttered.
"Where's Joe?" he asked, unable to help himself. "God, Jules. What happened? Where's Joe?"
"Joe?" she warbled, shivering.
"Were you on the boat? Did it catch fire? Was he with you? Jules ... was he with you?"
Her gray eyes regarded him dully. She was shivering all over and he gathered her close, aware how cold she was.
"I'm going to give you my shirt," he said. "I've got to call nine-one-one. Let them know where you are. My phone's on the other side of the rock."
"What ..." she whispered.
"Stay warm. I'll just be a minute. You're safe here." For now, he thought. But with the tide coming in, maybe not for long. This whole area would be underwater soon.
He raced back into the water, calculating how much time he had. If worse came to worst, he would swim with her around the rock, but it would be harrowing. For now he just needed the chopper or a rescue boat.
He worked his way around the cliff face again, was slammed into it by a sudden, powerful wave, banged the side of his head. His vision spun for a moment before he gathered the strength to push himself around the last jut of stone, then let the waves shove him up the beach. He stumbled to his feet with an effort and staggered to where he'd left his phone. Thank God it was still dry. He dialed 911 and spoke to the dispatcher calmly, telling them exactly where they were.
Then he left the phone again, but slipped his wallet into his back pocket. It would be soaked, but he wanted the identification, just in case.
Just in case.
His trip back around the rock seemed to take forever. Inch by inch, holding on to the sharp edges, trying to gain purchase with his feet, every movement was sluggish, every stroke felt as if he were losing ground. His vision swam, his head throbbed. Aching, he realized he was hurt. A concussion, possibly. Well, hell. He'd had a few in his time. Football ... Maybe he shoulda stayed away from that game. ... He forced himself forward, around the damned rock, bracing himself against the battering, icy surf. Gritting his teeth, he squinted against the spray and saw her.
She was lying on her side, still out of reach of the waves, though their fingers were reaching ever closer. The tide was coming in. He ran toward her; at least he thought he did. More like lurching, he dimly realized.
"Wake up, Jules," he ordered sternly, seeing her eyes were again closed.
He leaned down to her, alarmed. She was breathing raggedly. But alive. From the corner of his eye he saw it: a sneaker wave that suddenly jumped up the beach, racing across the sand to snatch at her. It splashed over both of them, arctic cold, dragging them both toward open sea. With a supreme effort of willpower he held on to her and pulled against it, muscles straining, strength waning, until the wave finally reluctantly released its death grip and receded.
She'll die of hypothermia....
He pulled her up to the base of the cliff, as far up the beach as he could possibly, then lay down atop her, warming her, making sure his weight didn't interfere with her breathing. He had to find Joe ... had to ... But Jules beneath him ... ? All he could think about was her dove gray eyes, her ironic smile, the feel of her silky skin. ...
Just like old times, he thought.
In a strange twilight consciousness, he remembered making love to her. Being in love with her. Thinking of making a life with her, before everything happened. He'd been an asshole, he knew. But she'd proved her faithlessness in the end, just like he'd feared. She'd married Joe, for God's sake, and then —
Excerpted from Dangerous Behavior by NANCY BUSH. Copyright © 2017 Nancy Bush. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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