her son away forever. Fearful the perpetrator would return, Lydia Sloan
fled to an island of refuge off the Georgia coast. As she attempted to
unravel the tangle of lies left by her husband, Lydia knew that with the
murderer only a step behind, her son was far from safe.
Matt Lawson, the fiercely handsome security guard, seemed to be the
only one she could trust with her secret. Yet as danger rose with the
evening tide, Lydia was left with nowhere to hide.
|Publisher:||Steeple Hill Books|
|File size:||169 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
"Not my baby!"
In a split second, Lydia Sloan saw everything unfoldthe black Mercedes parked in the deserted school yard, the tinted window partially lowered, her six-year-old son's hesitation before he stepped toward the stranger's car.
Fear shoved her heart into her throat.
She swerved to the curb, clawed at the door of her SUV and leaped into the late-afternoon storm. The wind pulled at her hair and rain slapped against her face as the buzzer on the dashboard blared a warning she'd left her key in the ignition. All she cared about was the alarm going off in her head.
Someone was trying to kidnap her son. "Tyler!" she screamed as she ran toward him. Her feet splashed through puddles. Water splattered her legs. She slipped, caught herself, then continued on, desperate to reach her son.
Her lungs burned like fire. If anything happened to Tyler, she would never breathe again. Over and over, she cried his name, but the storm drowned out her words.
Her son moved closer to the Mercedes.
Lydia surged forward, flailing her arms. "Tyler! No! Stay away from the car!"
He was oblivious to the warning. "God, help me." She cried.
Lightning ripped through the sky. Hit its mark. Thunder exploded behind her.
Tyler jumped at the sound. He turned, saw her and stepped away from the car. The door opened. A hand reached out to grab him. Fingers hooked his book bag.
He jerked free. "Run, Tyler!"
A moment later, he was in her arms. His small fingers dug into her neck. She hugged him tight, both of them crying as they clung to one another.
The door of the Mercedes slammed shut. The sedan sped out of sight.
Lydia's heart pounded against her chest. Her breath came in ragged gulps as she struggled to control the panic threatening to overpower her. Falling to her knees, she ignored the pouring rain, thinking only about the softness of the body pressed against her. She rubbed her hands over Tyler's shoulders and down his back, wanting to touch every inch of him. She raked her fingers through his wet hair, pulled his head back to stare into his troubled blue eyes and then drew his trembling body even deeper into her embrace.
It had been seven months since her husband's death and she had tried to pretend everything would get better. But it hadn't. The pinpricks of fear that randomly tickled her neck weren't her imagination. The footprints in the mud behind the apartment had been real. Someone had been watchingand waiting.
Why had the police chosen today to reopen the questioning about Sonny's death? They had grilled her for hours until she demanded to be released to pick up her son from school. But her timing was off. Friday-afternoon traffic and she'd almost arrived too late.
Tyler looked at her, his eyes swollen with tears, his blond hair plastered against his round face. "He said he was a friend of Dad's."
Lightning slashed through the sky and thunder rolled across the empty school yard.
"It's okay, honey," she said, hoping her voice belied the terror that had taken hold of her.
A black Mercedes had tried to run Sonny off the road just days before his death. Now, someone driving the same make of car had attempted to grab Tyler. Without a doubt, the person or persons who killed her husband were also after her son.
But why? Because of the evidence Sonny had hidden? By taking Tyler did the murderers think they could get to her? Maybe convince her to turn over the names of the influential people involved in the corruption? Names she didn't have. Information she'd never seen.
If only Sonny hadn't been so secretive. So deceptive.
Lydia pulled in a deep breath as a surge of determination coursed through her veins. She had to protect her son. More than anything, she and Tyler needed a safe haven where they could hideat least for a few days.
Only one place came to mind. "Tyler, we're going to Sanctuary Island."
The night surrounded Lydia, dark as pitch and sinister as the man who had tried to grab her son earlier in the day. Wind howled through the tall Georgia pines and mixed with the roar of angry surf crashing upon the beach as Lydia steered her vehicle down the unlit path.
A flash of lightning momentarily illuminated the foreboding structure before her. Safe haven? The island home looked about as welcoming as a witch's den with its deep recesses and dark shadows.
She braked the SUV to a stop and pushed open the driver's door. Fog seeped from the sodden ground as she stepped into the damp night. The smell of musky earth and sea brine hung heavy in the air. Beside the house, a giant live oak stood guard. Draped in Spanish moss, its branches twisted skyward into oblivion.
"Stay in the car, Tyler."
A pot of geraniums sat on the porch right where she'd been told. She shoved the heavy clay container aside. Groping with her hand across the wet brick, she found the key and folded scrap of paper before she returned to the circle of light falling from the open car door.
Tyler watched her, his brow wrinkled with more worry than a little boy should ever have to carry. Too much had happened too fast. After all these months of trying to get their lives back together, in one afternoon everything had fallen apart. Lydia would cry if she weren't so tired. And scared.
Clutching the key, she unfolded the soggy paper Katherine had promised to leave with the security code and bent toward the light. Lydia's stomach twisted into a hard knot. The rain had blurred the ink into an unreadable smudge. A rumble of thunder rolled through the night as if the storm was gathering strength for another onslaught.
"Come on, Tyler. Let's get inside."
The boy slid across the seat and dropped his feet onto the wet pavement. "I'm afraid."
Lydia rubbed her hand across her son's slender shoulders. She needed to be strong for Tyler.
"It's okay, honey. Everything's going to be fine." The wind died momentarily, but the sound of the ocean crashing on the shoreline continued. Lydia shivered as she stuck the key in the lock, turned it counterclockwise then pushed the door open. Darkness greeted her.
One step at a time, she told herself, pulling in a deep breath and moving her hand across the wall.
She found the light switch, flipped it on, but the darkness remained.
"The storm probably knocked out the power," she said, hearing a glimmer of hope in her voice. Without electricity, the security alarm wouldn't workshe turned her head, spied the row of lights glowing from the keypad on the far wallunless the system was powered by a backup battery source. A high-pitched hum signaled the alarm was engaged, security had been breached. Thirty seconds later, a deafening screech blasted through the night.
Tyler covered his ears to block out the blare. Lydia still held the crumpled paper. If only the rain hadn't smeared the ink.
She tried to recall important datesbirthdays, anniversaries, anything that might be the correct sequence of numbers. She tapped in four digits, pushed enter then waited for the heinous noise to still.
Frantically, she tried another combination. Then another.
A lump clogged Lydia's throat as she blinked back tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks. She wouldn't let Tyler see her cry.
A phone rang, the sound barely audible over the roar of the alarm. She moved into the kitchen, worked her hand across the granite countertop, knocked the phone off the receiver, then somehow managed to grab it before it fell to the ground.
"This is Sanctuary Alarm Service," a woman's voice drawled across the line.
Lydia clutched the edge of the kitchen counter as her body slumped with relief. "I'm glad you called. The alarm"
"I'm afraid I You see, my son and I"
The phone clicked dead. Lydia dropped it back onto the receiver as Tyler moved closer.
"It's gonna be okay, Mom."
She wrapped her arms around her son. As far as she was concerned, things couldn't get much worse.
Then a beam of light sliced through the darkness as someone pushed the front door open.
Matt Lawson peered into the darkness, saw movement and aimed his gun. "Hold it right there." He raised the flashlight in his left hand. The arc of light broke through the darkness. "Sanctuary Security. Step toward me. Hands in the air."
No reaction. "Now, buddy!"
A woman moved from the shadows. Slender. Five foot six. Shoulder-length blond hair. A child peered around the counter. She shoved him protectively behind her.
"What's going on, ma'am?"
Lightning illuminated the spacious kitchen. Two seconds later, a clap of thunder confirmed a nearby hit.
Why in the world would a woman and child break into one of the prestigious homes on Sanctuary Island? The woman certainly didn't look as if she belonged in the upscale community. Wrinkled clothes. Hair hanging limp around her oval face. She reminded him of a stray cat, needing to be fed.
Matt shook his head ever so slightly. The past year working security on the island must have skewed his common sense. he'd seen plenty of female perpetrators on the streets of Miami.
Didn't matter how pathetic the woman standing before him looked, he'd still have to take her back to the office, question her and, if need be, call in the mainland sheriff's office.
No reason why this scared wisp of a thing couldn't be up to no good in coastal Georgia.
"What's your name, ma'am?"
"Who are you?" she demanded, finally finding her voice.