A daring escape by a dangerous fugitive puts US marshals Eric Hanning's and Hailey Shelder's careers and lives on the line. With the criminal vowing revenge, Eric feels duty-bound to protect his risk-taking partner. He doesn't agree with her methods, but he's drawn to the single mom who wants to prove she can make it in a demanding job. When her daughter is almost kidnapped, Eric and Hailey go from uneasy partners to a true team. But with floodwaters threatening the town and a killer on the loose, can their newfound trust survive the final showdown that awaits them?
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The shackled man in the orange jumpsuit sat between US Marshal Hailey Shelder and her new partner. The SUV rumbled down the dark highway at two in the morning while rain pounded on the windshield. It had been raining for days, a torrent that left ranches and farms waterlogged and roadways covered with a sheet of water.
Hailey tapped her foot. The excess adrenaline of a prisoner transfer coursed white-hot in her veins, leaving her wide awake. But all she was doing was sitting in the backseat waiting for nothing would be great. No activity at all. Just the routine movement of prisoner to airplane, and then they could go home.
Hailey should have been dead asleep in a food coma after her evening watching back-to-back cartoon movies with Kerry that they'd both seen a million times alreadynot to mention all that popcorn. But she wasn't going to skip her Friday night movie date with her twelve-year-old daughter, not even for a middle-of-the-night fugitive transfer. And definitely not when her ex-husband had Kerry every other weekend.
Half an hour out of town, the SUV pulled into the tiny airfield they used for covert, nighttime prisoner transfers. It was an out-of-the-way airport usually used for scenic tours of central Oregontours that strategically circled around the valley where the federal penitentiary was located. The airport was only two buildings and the runway, which was enough for them to make use of. The Marshals Service didn't need the audience a bigger airport would give them.
"I can't believe it's still pouring." Hailey's new partner, Eric Hanning, leaned forward to look around the fugitive. "What is with this state? Is it ever going to stop raining?"
Hailey couldn't stop the little flip of her heart every time he turned those blue eyes in her direction. Even though it was dark in the car, she could still picture them. She shrugged, as if his presence was all the same to her. Maybe if she pretended for long enough it would become true. Besides, it wasn't like they got along.
"Maybe in a week or two." Hailey didn't want him getting his hopes up that the weather would clear. The rainfall had exceeded record amounts days ago, but the Arizona transplant didn't know that.
She and Eric had butted heads at every available opportunity since he'd joined the team. His insistence on learning and then implementing every nuance of procedure was exhausting. At least the difference in their personalities served to defuse whatever attraction was there.
Office lore said Eric Hanning had been transferred from WITSEC. It must have been hard for him to go from something that cushy to a fugitive apprehension task force. But she wasn't going to cut him any slackthat wasn't how their world worked.
Hailey was the only woman on the eight-man team, and she was finally not the rookie anymore. Eric Hanning might shape up to be useless as a field marshal, but he was at least good for getting her out of the lowest spot.
Truthfully, Eric was so good-looking she could barely form sentences when his attention was on herbut she was trying to beat that, because those feelings had gotten her in trouble before. It didn't mean he was anything special, just that God had chosen to give him a face that could've been in movies.
And while Eric was probably a perfectly nice guy, Hailey was done with romantic relationships. Her ex-husband had soured her on even the idea of getting back into all that.
Deputy Marshal Jackson Parker, her coworker and tonight's driver, wound the vehicle between the office and the hangar. Yellow floodlights illuminated the corrugated walls of the building on her side. The prisoner shifted, and Hailey whipped her head back around to look at him. The last thing she wanted was any funny business. This needed to go smooth and easy, because she had every intention of getting home in time for Saturday-morning waffles.
Deputy Marshal Wyatt Ames sat in the front passenger seat. Both he and Parker were big guys, and it was squished enough in the backseat with the fugitive in the middle of Hailey and Eric.
The fugitive didn't move again. The shackles on his wrists and ankles didn't afford him much reach, but he'd still be able to do some damage in such close quarters. And Steve Farrell was notorious for the damage he could do.
His rap sheet was a lengthy list that included assault and murder, and he'd been found in possession of drugs and a stash of deadly weapons big enough to start a coup. He didn't discriminate either. Men, women and children had been left in his wake. In her estimation, he was about a millimeter south of pure scum, but soon he would be off to his permanent stay in the California federal prison system.
Visibility outside was six feet, barely. But a jet on the runway would have been unmistakable. Hailey craned her neck and looked out each of the windows. "It's not here."
Eric lifted his watch so she could see the display. Who even wore a watch these days? Not that she could have gotten to her phone right now with all the gear she had on and the rifle she was holding. The illuminated screen on Eric's watch read 2:07 a.m., so they had another eight minutes until the plane was due.
Eric said, "I'm ready to get this done and get home."
Ames turned back to them from the front passenger seat. "Prisoner transfer cutting into your beauty sleep?"
Parker and Ames both laughed, though their humor had an edge to it, which wasn't surprising. None of them would totally relax until the prisoner was safely on the plane and out of their custody. Hailey didn't react. She knew what it felt like to be on the receiving end of their razzing.
Parker left the engine running and they waited. Five minutes later the radio on the dash crackled to life and the plane's pilot radioed in that they were two minutes out. Hailey heard the transmission echo in her earpiece.
Parker confirmed they were in place and ready. After he said, "Over," he nodded to Ames, who called the office on his cell phone and confirmed they were ready to begin the transfer.
Ames hung up the phone. "Green light."
"Let's get this show on the road." Parker accepted his rifle from Ames, who'd been holding both weapons.
"Seriously, that's the best you can come up with?" Ames asked. "'Let's get this show on the road?'"
Parker sneered. "Excuse me if my mental faculties are otherwise occupied."
"Yeah, it must be tough to have to concentrate on walking the orange jumpsuit from here, to down there." Ames pointed down the runway.
"Let's just go, okay?" Eric was apparently determined to be the voice of reason, but Hailey didn't mind.
She said, "Agreed. If we're going to get drenched anyway, then I'd rather get out now and get on with this."
Parker turned to them, his eyes on the prisoner. "Let's move."
They climbed out and walked to the runway as the four corners of a square, with Steve Farrell in the center. The downpour drowned out all sound except rain hitting the concrete and her jacket. In the distance, the airplane's lights came into view, high in the sky.
Rain poured off the sides of her helmet as Hailey scanned the area, keeping her senses open in case Farrell tried something. Her clothes had gained fifteen pounds of water that penetrated through to the tank top underneath. Even her socks were wet in her boots. When she took off her helmet later, her hair was going to be a giant red fuzz ball.
Out here in the middle of the night Hailey wasn't an individual, but part of a team made of four marshals guarding one fugitive. They had to get the man onto the airplane, and nothing else mattered beyond that, their most important objective. Any help they could call in was half an hour away.
"Go!" On Parker's command they speed-walked the prisoner to the runway. There was no hanging around. This wasn't about any of them. Except in the case of a debilitating injury, each marshal just had to do his or her job. It was a far cry from WITSEC, but getting his cover blown as an inspector for witness protectionby a reporter, no less well, that hadn't been in the plan either.
Two months now. Two months of his life being upside down. Two months of fugitive apprehension and prisoner transfers. Two months on a team with Hailey Shelder.
He'd denounced romantic relationships altogether after his fiancée had been paralyzed. Because while Eric would have stayed with Sarah forever, she'd pushed him away and refused to believe he still loved her. He'd tried to get her to listen, but eventually he'd been forced to face the fact she didn't want him anymore.
Eric risked a glance across the huddle as they strode to the plane. Hailey was all business, just one of the guys, dressed in the same bulky outfit they all wore. Her gun wasn't even trembling, not like the tiny shift of his. Wasn't she scared? His whole body was shaking, but if asked he'd have claimed it was the rain and the cold. Oregon seasons were killer to a guy who'd lived in Phoenix almost his whole adult life.
Parker yelled, "Let's go! Pick it up!"
They had to get Farrell on that plane.
Eric's earpiece crackled. A voice came on, male. The man instructed the pilot there was a problem and he shouldn't land. The wording was precise, using a code they only employed when there was an imminent threat.
The team shifted. The only one who didn't falter was Parker. "Hold."
The pilot radioed back. "Confirmed." The plane banked left and circled around, flying away from them.
"Huddle up." On Parker's order, they closed in and turned outward. Anyone who approached would have to face one of them, no matter what direction they were coming from.
Ames said, "What's going on? Who was that?" Parker, the former SEAL, shouted over the pounding rain. "We're going back to the vehicle. On my"
Something bright cut through the darkness, barreling through the air from the tree line. Their SUV exploded.
Eric choked on his gasp. He could see Hailey was itching to run. The fugitive, Farrell, began to laugh.
They were cut off until someone could get there to assist them.
Eric scanned the darkness, but he saw nothing. Even with the light of the SUV engulfed in flames, there was no sign of the threat in the deluge of rain.
The fugitive bobbed from one foot to the other. His orange jumpsuit was drenched and his bulletproof vest was dripping, but he was still a beacon in the night. Someone out there had their eyes on the target. Whoever it was didn't want Farrell on that plane. But were they here to kill him, or help him escape?
A canister hit Eric's foot, and gas began to pour out in a cloud of smoke. "Gas!" Eric called out the warning, but they couldn't get to masks they didn't have. They couldn't even move from their positions.
Two more canisters were tossed at the edges of their huddle and more smoke chugged out of them. The cloud cut off what visibility they'd had and Eric's lungs protested the noxious smell of tear gas. How long could he hold his breath? Hailey coughed, and then Ames did, too. Parker looked like he was still breathing normally. What did they do to SEALs in their training?
Then there was nothing but smoke.
Parker yelled, "Hold!"
Deputy Marshal Ames hit the floor.
Something slammed into Eric's neck. It felt like a tiny rock. He tried to suck in a breath, but the floor swept up and hit him. Gunshots. Parker and Hailey both fell, too.
Eric touched the side of his neck and pulled his gloved hand back, but there was no blood. He could barely breathe. It felt like the time he'd been winded playing paintball. The bruise had been on his sternum for weeks.
Booted feet crowded around them. He tried to move. The team was all down and the fugitive was laughing full out now, a sickening sound.
Steve Farrell stepped on Eric's stomach on the way over his body. Still laughing, he walked away. Their assailants looked like a swarm of cockroaches to Eric's blurred vision. He wiped away the tears streaming down his facea product of the gasand tried to focus.
The assault team was going to disappear into the darkness with an escaped fugitive.
Eric grasped about for his weapon, grabbed it and managed to aim at the man in orange.
One of his teammates fired.
Eric fired, too.
Just after nine on Friday morning, almost a week after Steve Farrell's escape, Hailey slumped into the back row of the briefing room beside Eric and handed him his coffee. The whiteboard at the front of the room was covered with pictures of Farrell, showcasing his life of crime over the last few years, along with his known associates. Beside it was a map marked with sightings of Farrell that had been called in to the tip line.
No one knew who had helped Farrell escape.
Jonah Rivers, their supervisor and the fugitive apprehension task force team lead, stood at the front of the room. They had another boss, Marshal Wilson Turner, an old-school marshal who oversaw the whole office, but Jonah was the hands-on man.
Jonah stood with his feet hip-width apart and his arms folded. "The blood found on the runway was sent off for testing. We still don't know who hit who, given both Marshal Shelder and Marshal Hanning fired their weapons."
Hailey's cheeks heated. Lying on the ground, thinking she'd been shot in the helmet, she'd realized she was unhurt and tried to do something to help the situation.
Beanbag rounds. Like suddenly it was important for them not to hurt anyone.
And apparently Eric had managed the same thing, because they'd both fired.
Too bad all she'd done was wing someone as they ran away. If she'd even hit the person at all. It could just as easily have been Eric.
Eric shifted beside her. She glanced over at his notebook, where he dutifully recorded everything Jonah was saying. He scratched above his ear with the lid of his pen. Maybe he wouldn't turn out like the rest of them. He did seem more studious than the rough-edged marshals in the room. That could be a good thing.
Eric shifted and pulled out his phone. The display said Aaron. He stopped the vibrating and slid the phone back in his pocket.
"Who was that?" Eric looked up. "Huh?"
"The phone. Who's Aaron?"
"Oh, he's my brother."
Hailey studied Eric. There was no way that was all it had been. She knew for a fact her partner was keeping secrets, but for now, she'd let him be evasive. She couldn't imagine what it would be like to give up everything you had built, and move to a completely new city and start over. Still, WITSEC? That had to have been cool.
Her life had fallen apart in a different way when her marriage ended. She'd been tempted to get herself a new life, but around that time Kerry had been starting school and her dad's construction business was slowing down. Now he only took the odd handyman job to stay busy. It was just how things had worked out, but it meant Hailey had spent her whole life in this one county.
The marshal in front of Hailey raised his hand and said,
"What about the rain?"
Jonah nodded. "They're expecting localized flooding around the river, so the sheriff and the police chief are coordinating efforts to minimize the damage. The radar doesn't look good, though, and I honestly think the mayor's downplaying it. We'll see how it plays out and adjust accordingly. Rain or not, Farrell is still our target."
She tried not to flinch at Jonah's mention of the mayor, but it didn't help when two of the guys turned to smirk at her. So what? She and Charles had been divorced for seven yearswhatever he was or wasn't doing in his mayoral duties had nothing to do with her.
She felt Eric's attention on her. "Something I should know?"
Hailey's cheeks warmed even morea definite downside of having red hair and freckles. She turned to her partner. "Why would there be?"
His face said he didn't buy it, but she wasn't going to tell him all the details of her personal life if he wasn't going to do the same. They just weren't that type of partners, regardless of what most people thought of law enforcement. Hailey didn't bring her life to work. Not that the guys respected her need to keep her private life private. But that was a whole other set of problems, and she had enough to deal with.
Jonah said, "The clock is ticking. Let's get to work."
Eric's eyes were focused on her. She started to figure out how to explain, but her phone vibrated. She read the email and motioned from Eric to the door with a flick of her fingers. "Let's go."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Manhunt is an exciting story dealing with US marshals. The suspense is just getting intense when the city starts flooding and the dam threatens to break! Talk about excitement! The new team of marshals, Eric and Hailey, have to put their pasts behind them and trust each other and God to bring them through safely. Author Lisa Phillips does a great job of showing how God can help us overcome our past, whatever it was, and learn to trust him. I highly recommend this romantic suspense. I won this book in a giveaway. This is my honest opinion.
What happens next?! Manhunt is Lisa Phillips’ newest book. It comes after Star Witness and follows Eric Hanning, Aaron’s twin brother. I have immensely enjoyed Ms. Phillips’ previous books and was very excited when I realized this was Eric’s book. I love it when an author continues in something of a series and connects the books and characters, rather than leaving us hanging, wondering what happens to them. I can happily say that I loved this book! Ms. Phillips does an excellent job with the details and descriptions, bringing the town and characters to life. It is very obvious that she did extensive research for this book to accurately portray the U.S. Marshal Service. I would have liked a few more character descriptions, but that probably would have made the book too long for this particular publisher. I really enjoyed getting to know Hailey Shelder and her daughter, Kerry. Hailey is very strong and determined, a good trait for someone working what many consider to be a man’s job. I could easily relate to her desire to prove herself. She works around men all day who see her as a “little girl.” While she isn’t excited about getting a new partner, she does appreciate the fact that he takes some of the attention away from her. She is also a single parent and struggles to balance her job and being there for her preteen daughter. I liked getting to know her and learn who she is behind the U.S. Marshal badge. She has made mistakes in her past, but she doesn’t let them weigh her down. I appreciated her strength, but also her ability to be vulnerable, even though she does fight it at every turn.Eric Hanning is an interesting hero. We met him in Star Witness as Mackenzie’s WITSEC contact, but after his position being revealed, he is transferred to fugitive apprehension. He is a somewhat reluctant hero in that he really doesn’t want to be there, in fact would rather be anywhere but there. Eric is also strong and stubborn, maybe more so than Hailey. He also has a soft side that he shares with few, but seems to come through whenever he’s with Hailey and her daughter. After being hurt in the past, he has shut himself off from almost everyone. I quickly fell in love with Eric and was anxious to see his wounded heart healed. I really enjoyed Hailey and Eric’s relationship as well. The story covers a relatively short amount of time, but I was surprised to find that their relationship didn’t feel rushed. There is actually little in the way of romance in the story, which undoubtedly helped. It was more of them getting to know each other while trying to survive a flood, catch their escapee, and investigate a years old jewel heist. They don’t exactly have time for anything beyond that and most of their conversations revolve around everything that’s happening. The spiritual element is always fairly low key in Lisa’s books, but it resounds just the same. They discuss forgiveness and both think about trusting God, though they each have their reasons for why they’re struggling. Despite the lack of page time, God is clearly woven throughout and I enjoyed Eric and Hailey’s spiritual journeys just the same. They both ask questions that challenge me and cause me to think. Lisa definitely excels at suspense! This book kept me on the edge of my seat from almost the first page and I didn’t want to put it down. Things happen rapid-fire and just when you think nothing else can happen, she throws another wrench into it. I loved the guessing, trying to figure out what might happen next and when they might finally catch the villain. My only complaint is that one of the last chapters seemed a little like something out of an action movie and I didn’t find it overly realistic. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy suspense with a bit of romance! I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.