Putting her faith in someone who lies for a living isn't the safest thing Dr. Jillian Mahoney has ever done. But to stay alive, she has to believe the undercover agentwho's kidnapped her to prove his innocenceisn't a traitor to the FBI. And to help him, she must deny their intense attraction as they run from two vengeful killers.
Her captor, Alex Malcom, has lived a life of liessome worse than others. Still, there's one truth he's reluctant to disclose to Jillian, the woman of his dreams. One that could stop their relationship cold.
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"The National Weather Service has issued a severe winter storm warning for the DC metro and surrounding areas
You should get going."
Dr. Jillian Mahoney glanced up from the computer screen and blinked. Her friend Carla stood in front of her, wearing neon-green scrubs that were bright enough to land planes at Dulles airport. It was a color Jillian could never wear, thanks to her Casper-the-Ghost-like coloring, but it looked good against Carla's cafe-au-lait complexion.
"You're very green today," she observed, turning back to the computer screen.
"I was feeling festive this morning," Carla replied dryly.
"Christmas is still over a week away. Besides, I'm pretty sure neon is not a holiday color."
"It is in my book." Carla leaned across the desk, casting a shadow over the keyboard. "I'm serious, Jilly. You need to get out of here before the storm hits. We're supposed to get twelve inches of snow. That's a foot." She held her hands out in an exaggerated approximation of distance, her expression earnest.
"I know," Jillian said, typing faster. "I just need to finish up these charts."
"Got enough food to last you a couple of days?"
Jillian huffed out a breath. "For God's sake, Carla, it's just a bit of snow. It's not the end of the world or anything."
Her friend cocked an eyebrow and narrowed her eyes in a gimlet stare. It was an expression Jillian had seen before, one used to great effect with uncooperative patients or egotistical doctors. She'd never had it directed at her, though, and she ducked her head, feeling chastened.
"Sorry," she muttered, clicking through to the next page of the chart.
"I'll let it go, because I know you're tired," Carla said. "But I worry about you. I know you've been too busy to go to the grocery store, but with this storm coming, you don't want to have to get out in the next couple of days. You need to take the time to relax and recharge, maybe get some sleep."
"I'll order in," Jillian said, entering the final notes with a flourish.
"There's no delivery when the city has shut down," Carla said, her tone reproving.
Jillian pushed back from the desk and stood, reaching for her coffee. "I'll be all right," she said with a smile, knowing her friend was only trying to help. "I'll stop at the store on my way home, pick up the essentials. You don't need to worry about me."
Carla nodded, apparently satisfied with this plan. "Be careful getting home," she said. "And try to enjoy the next few days off."
"Thanks," she said, rounding the desk and setting off down the hall. "And good luck," she called back, remembering that tomorrow was a full moon. Carla gave her a mock glare and Jillian chuckled. She shook her head, thanking her lucky stars that she was off for the next seventy-two hours. A full moon and a winter storm? The ER would be crazy, and she'd had enough crazy this week to last a lifetime.
She retrieved her coat from her locker in the doctors' lounge, not bothering to take off her white coat before shrugging into the outer layer. The puffed black jacket came down to her knees, long enough to cover the telltale fabric. Normally she didn't like to wear the white coat when out in public because it attracted too much attention, but today, she was too tired to care if anyone saw the hem of her coat.
Keeping her head down, she walked quickly through the hall, wanting to make it out of the hospital before anyone stopped her. She'd been on for the past three days straight, and though by all rights she should have left an hour ago, it was all too easy to get caught up in the eternal rhythm of the emergency room. All it would take was one question from a medical student or an interesting case from an intern, and she'd be sucked back into the vortex. Given the coming storm, she had no desire to be waylaid, as it would likely result in her being stuck until the weather passed. As much as she loved her job, she did not relish the thought of sleeping on the stained, lumpy couch in the doctors' lounge, subsisting on cafeteria food and bad coffee for the next three days.
She made it to the entrance without incident and she breathed a sigh of relief as she walked out into a blast of arctic air. Huddling into her coat, she pulled it closer to her body while she made her way to the parking lot. She didn't have a car, but the employee lot was much closer to the Metro station, so she frequently cut through it on her way to and from work.
It had already begun to snow. Small flakes drifted down, landing on the exposed skin of her face and melting into her hair. She was damp within a few paces of the entrance, her nose and ears already going numb as the wind picked up. Great. The grocery store would likely be packed, if the shelves weren't already bare. She'd probably have to be content with frozen dinners, and she could forget about fresh milk and vegetables. In the face of any winter weather, city inhabitants descended like a plague of locusts on the grocery stores, stripping the shelves of supplies and leaving dented cans and ripped packages in their wake. Given the dire predictions of snow, Jillian would be lucky to find any type of food. It was almost enough to send her back into the hospital to scrounge up some pudding cups from the cafeteria.
The streetlamps cast an eerie yellow glow over the parking lot and she picked up her pace, her mind already focused on the comparative warmth the Metro station would provide. With her head down, she didn't see the man step out from between parked cars, would have never known he was there had he not spoken.
She turned reflexively, stopping out of habit. Encouraged, the man stepped closer, emerging into the light. She wished he hadn't. He was big, tall and broad through the chest and shoulders. Scruffy, too, with several days' worth of beard on his face and dark hair that was a bit on the longish side, curling over his ears and at the nape of his neck. She couldn't tell the color of his eyes, but she felt the intensity of his gaze like a brand.
Jillian took a small step back, alarm bells jangling in her mind. He didn't seem overtly threatening, but he wore only a hooded cotton jacket against the chill. Hunched though he was, she could see his muscles were drawn tight, tense with cold or withdrawal, she couldn't tell which. It wasn't unusual for junkies to patrol the neighborhood surrounding the hospital, although she wasn't sure what they thought they would find. Occasionally violence would erupt when one desperate soul tried to rob another in a bid to get the next fix.
The man standing in front of her didn't appear to be an addict, even though the burned-plastic smell of meth smoke clung to his clothes. He was too big, too healthy-looking, for one thing. He lacked the gaunt, haunted look that was so common among users, although he did have the same fierceness to his gaze. He reminded her of a coiled snake, ready to strike, and she had no desire to be in the vicinity when he did.
"If you're injured, the emergency room is right there." She withdrew her hand from her coat pocket to point. He didn't seem hurt, but it was hard to tell in the shadowy light of the parking lot.
"It's not me, it's my friend. Can you please help me?"
Jillian bit her lip, feeling torn. As a doctor, it was her duty to help people, even if they gave her the willies. She glanced around, searching for his companion. There was no one else in the lot, and she took another step back, suddenly feeling very alone.
"Let's find an orderly. Then we can get your friend inside." And you away from me.
She turned to head back to the hospital, but the man moved quickly to stand in front of her, blocking her path. She stepped back, a strangled yelp dying in her throat.
"There's no time for that. He needs help now."
Jillian stared up at him, her mind racing. She could try to scream an alarm, but the hospital entrance was at least a hundred feet away and, with the doors closed, it was unlikely anyone would hear her. She glanced around, hoping against hope that someone was just arriving, late for their shift, but the parking lot was still and silent. There was no one around, no one to help her.
"Please, you're a doctor, right? Can't you please help him?"
She halted her slow retreat, the need to help warring with her desire to get away. Don't be an idiot, she chided herself, knowing the right thing to do was to return to the hospital. There was no telling what kind of injuries his friend had sustained, and she couldn't exactly treat him in a dimly lit parking lot. No, better to retrieve a wheelchair and bring it back to collect the injured man.
But she couldn't exactly do that with this man standing in front of her, blocking her path to the emergency room entrance.
"I'm just going to get a wheelchair," she said, speaking calmly as if trying to soothe an angry dog. "It'll be easier to move your friend into the ER if we can put him in the chair, and I'll be able to examine him better once we get him inside."
The man let out a huge sigh, his shoulders slumping further when he dropped his head. Jillian stepped to the side, intending to skirt around him. He muttered something that sounded strangely like, "I hoped it wouldn't come to this," but before she could process his words, he moved, his hand shooting out of the darkness to grip her arm with painful strength.
This time she did yelp, but he hauled her up against his broad chest so quickly the breath whooshed out of her before she could gear up to scream. She kicked and clawed at him, but he grabbed her other hand and tugged both arms behind her back, braceleting her wrists with one hand and effectively restraining her. Desperate, frantic, she jerked her knee up, hoping to land a crippling blow between his legs. He swerved to the side, easily deflecting it, so she brought her foot down hard, aiming for his instep. Another miss.
Just as she sucked in the air to scream, he flipped her around and clamped a hand over her mouth. He released her wrists to band his arm around her torso, locking her own arms by her hips and effectively rendering her helpless.
He picked her up and hauled her between the rows of parked cars, pulling her into a dark corner of the lot. Part of her brain screamed at her to resist, to make noise, to do something! She kicked furiously, her legs windmilling in the cold air but missing him completely. Her foot made contact with a car and a sudden numbing pain shot up her leg. She blinked back tears and bit down on the hand clamped over her mouth. She was rewarded with a mouthful of leather, the taste so foul it made her gag.
The man ignored her attempts to escape, maneuvering her easily through the lot, as though he did this kind of thing all the time. Maybe he did. He stopped next to a dark, four-door sedan and removed his hand from her mouth so he could open the back door. He quickly pushed her inside before she had a chance to scream, but took care to keep her from bumping her head against the frame.
A considerate kidnapper.
The burned-plastic smell that clung to his clothes was even stronger in the car. Habitual drug use had saturated the upholstery, and she dimly wondered if she would get high just from sitting on the fabric. He released her wrists and shut the door. She waited until he rounded the hood to scrabble at the handleif she could get the door open, she could run. She had a head start; she could make it back to the ER.
But the door wouldn't open. She threw herself against it, hoping it was just stuck, but it remained stubbornly closed.
She heard the driver's door open and the man slid inside. "Gotta love child locks," he said, eyeing her in the rearview mirror. She glared back, defiance and anger quickly replacing the numbness in her limbs as she began to thaw out.
A soft moan next to her made her jump. She shrank against the door in a bid to get away. What she had thought was a shapeless pile of clothes was in fact a person. One who was in bad shape, if the pitiful sounds coming from the opposite side of the back seat were any indication.
"That's Tony," the man said softly. "He's been shot."
So the friend really did exist.
"I don't know what you want me to do about it," she snapped. "If you really wanted to help him, you'd let me take him inside instead of kidnapping me like this."
The man shook his head as he started the car. "That's not an option."
"How do you expect me to treat him when I don't have any medical supplies?"
He reached across the front passenger seat and lifted a paper bag, which he handed back to her. It was rather heavy, in a bulky, awkward way. Jillian glanced inside, surprised to find a large collection of vials, syringes and bandages. She lifted one out, straining to read the label as they drove. Ketamine.
"Where did you get this?" She picked up another vial. Acepromazine. Controlled substances, both of them, and neither of them routinely used in human medicine. Veterinary medicine, on the other hand
"Does it matter?"
She shrugged. "Not really, but I typically don't work with these drugs."
She did, pulling out a vial of Buprenex. The amber glass shone warmly in the glow of the streetlamps, the liquid inside turbulent as they hit a deep pothole.
"You can work with that."
She glanced up to find him staring at her in the rear-view mirror. "Oh?" He sounded so sure of himself; she couldn't resist poking him just a little. Who was this man and why did he think he knew what she needed to treat his friend?
His eyes narrowed briefly before he returned his focus to the road. "You know that's a morphine derivative. It'll help calm him down so you can dig the bullet out."
How the hell did he know that? Did he have some kind of medical background? But if that was the case, why did he need her? She glanced over at his friend, who was leaning against the door, his body limp. The sound of his labored breathing let her know he hadn't died, but neither was he unconscious, as evidenced by the faint moans he released every time they hit a rough patch of road.
"Where were you shot?" She scanned his body, searching for blood, but it was too dark to see anything. No way was she going to touch him without glovesshe was a doctor, but she had her limits.
The man didn't respond, but his eyes flickered open in response to her question. He stared at her for a beat, then leaned his head against the window and closed his eyes again.
"The chest," the driver responded. "I think he punctured a lung."
Jillian clenched her jaw, frustration mounting. "If that's the case, then we really need to get to a hospital. He'll need a chest tube, scans and quite possibly surgery to remove the bullet."
"He could die!"
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed the fast pace and high energy of this book. A desperate man does things he's not proud of. In order to clear his name Alex kidnaps Dr. Jillian Mahoney. Never in his wildest dreams would he have thought she would believe his story or try to help him, but she does both. Working together they escape one run in with a gang, and make plans to find the mole in the FBI. Things go awry more people are hurt leaving Alex back at square one. Another kidnapping, a grand escape and they both think they are in the clear, they didn't count on secrets being kept, or Tony the gangster that Jillian patched up. How will they overcome all these obstacles and learn to trust each other again? *I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
Lethal Lies by Lara Lacombe was the first book that I have read by this author but it won't be the last. Dr. Jillian Mahoney is an E.R. doctor and as smart and independent as any heroine that I have "met" while reading a book. She is scared when she gets kidnapped; but being a doctor in an E.R. has taught her to think on her feet. She agrees to help to save the life of her kidnapper's friend. Her experience in the E.R. has also honed her people assessment skills and she realizes that Alex is much, much more than he appears at first. Alex Malcom has kidnapped Jillian to save a gang member's life. Alex is actually one of the good guys, an undercover FBI agent, on the run for his life. His cover inside the gang has been blown by someone inside the FBI. Alex is strong, determined and flawed. He has become very disillusioned while undercover and no longer likes what he sees in the mirror. His concern for Jillian's safety showed how much good was still there throughout the story. This story is fast paced and sometimes very emotional. The characters are well developed and very realistic. The romance develops slowly as Jillian gets to know the "real" Alex which is why this story worked for me. I really enjoyed reading this book and couldn't turn the pages fast enough to find out what happens next. I won this book from BookEnds, Inc. as part of their First Looks program and I am very appreciative of my good fortunate because I have found a new author to look for when I want a good romantic suspense.