Nowhere to Run

Nowhere to Run

by Nancy Bush
Nowhere to Run

Nowhere to Run

by Nancy Bush


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When Liv Dugan ducks out of work for lunch, it’s just an ordinary day. When she returns, she stumbles onto a massacre. All her colleagues at Zuma Software have been shot. Only luck has left Liv unscathed, and that might be running out . . .

Liv suspects the shootings are tied to her past—and to the package she recently received from her long-dead adoptive mother. Sensing she’s being followed, Liv jumps into a stranger’s car and orders him to drive. Her “hostage” complies, listening carefully as her story unwinds. Skeptical at first, he ultimately begins to believe all Liv’s fears are justified . . .

Together, Liv and her unlikely confidant try to uncover the truth about her adoptive family, her birth parents, and her troubled childhood. Because somewhere in Liv’s past is a secret worth killing for, and a nightmare she can never outrun . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781420128338
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 10/24/2011
Series: Rafferty Family , #1
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 10,587
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

NANCY BUSH is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Bad Things,Jealousy,Dangerous Behavior,The Killing Game, You Don’t Know Me,Nowhere Safe,Nowhere to Hide,Nowhere to Run,Hush, Blind Spot, Unseen, as well as Wicked Ways, Something Wicked,Wicked Game, and Wicked Lies, in the Colony series co-written with her sister, bestselling author Lisa Jackson. She is also the co-author of Sinister and Ominous, written with Lisa Jackson and New York Times bestselling author Rosalind Noonan. Nancy lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. Readers can visit her website at

Read an Excerpt

Nowhere To Run



Copyright © 2012 Nancy Bush
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4201-2501-6

Chapter One

Today ...

Liv swam up from the nightmare, soaked in sweat, an aborted scream passing her lips. Heart racing, she blinked in the faint, early-morning light sneaking beneath her bedroom window shade. What time was it? Five? Five-thirty?

Closing her eyes, she willed her galloping heart to slow down, aware of the fragments of her dream but unable to completely grasp them. Didn't matter. She'd had enough nightmares to know this wouldn't be the last one—far from it—and though the dreams weren't exactly the same, they represented a deep trauma that years of therapy had never completely uncovered and erased.

At Hathaway House Dr. Yancy, who'd had enough compassion and understanding to actually make Liv believe she was really trying to help her, had once said, "I think it's something you saw."

Like no shit, Sherlock. She'd seen her mother after she'd hanged herself.

But Dr. Yancy had shaken her head slowly when Liv had been quick to point that out. Liv was always quick to defend herself. One of the problems, apparently, that had landed her in Hathaway House in the first place.

Dr. Yancy had then added, "You saw something else. Something you can't—or won't—let yourself remember."

That had caused a quickening in Liv's blood. An inner jolt of truth that had sent perspiration instantly rising on her skin as if she were having a hot flash. Her mind had clamped down hard, or so Dr. Yancy had told her, when she'd insisted she couldn't remember anything other than the horror of her mother's suicide.

But, though Liv denied Dr. Yancy's claim, she didn't completely disagree with it, though she never said so at the time. There did feel like there was something she did feel. And with it was the sensation that she was being followed. Stalked.

Now, years later, the question of whether her stay at Hathaway House had helped or hindered her still remained unanswered. None of the other so-called doctors and quacks at Hathaway House would have ever committed themselves to the kind of bold statements Dr. Yancy put forth; they all hid behind compassionate expressions and deep frowns and not much else. At the time even Dr. Yancy hadn't really wanted to show her hand to her contemporaries because they would have undoubtedly berated and dismissed her. Liv knew enough about the institution's politics to read between the lines and consequently she thought they were all a bunch of chickenshits with minimal understanding of the human condition and maximum interest in hanging on to their jobs.

But that wasn't really the question, was it? The question was: had Olivia Dugan been "cured" of her sweat-soaked nightmares and dark depression—the very reasons why, as a teenager, she'd been shuffled off to Hathaway House in the first place? Had Olivia Dugan learned to combat the triggers that sent her heart palpitating, palms shaking, thoughts colliding around inside her skull like pinballs, firing the wrong neurons, causing her to make wild, unreliable choices?

The answer? A resounding no. Though she had lied and pretended and acted and done every damn thing she knew how to do to be released from Hathaway House, as far as a cure went, the answer was still no. She didn't know how to combat the triggers that started the nightmares and increased the depression. Even if she knew what they were. Even if she told herself to stay away from them.

Because last night, one of the triggers had been pulled. A blinking red light had welcomed her home. The answering machine. A warning beacon. A voice from a stranger. She'd reluctantly picked up the receiver and listened to the phone message.

The phone message ...

Now, Liv threw off the covers, shivering a little. She climbed out of bed and padded to the kitchen, a journey that took about ten steps across the tired carpeting of her one-bedroom apartment.

The phone message.

Lawyers had found her home phone number and left her a message. That was the trigger for her nightmare. She'd tried to ignore the blinking light when she'd tossed her keys on the counter. She'd asked herself for about the billionth time why she kept the phone and voice mail at all. Most of the time she liked the idea of being off the grid completely. That's why she didn't carry a cell phone. If that made her a Luddite, then so be it. She was a little frightened of technology anyway. She didn't want to be on someone else's radar. It just didn't feel safe. Dr. Yancy had told her she was hiding from something, and she supposed it was true but she didn't care.

Still, Crenshaw and Crenshaw had found her phone number, so she'd phoned back and the lawyer—Tom Crenshaw—had asked her for her address. She'd been reluctant to give it to him. Not that he couldn't find it, she supposed; he was just asking to be polite.

He said he wanted to send her something—a package. But he was cagey as hell about what that package contained, and only when they'd gone back and forth and he'd finally convinced himself that yes, she was definitely the Olivia Margaux Dugan whom he was searching for, did he come through and say that his firm had a package for her— from her mother.

Her mother?

After that Liv had simply dropped the phone receiver, stumbled into bed and fallen into a coma-like sleep that she'd just woken up from.

Now she wondered if it was all a mistake. Her mother was dead. Had been since Liv's sixth birthday. The package could not be from her mother.

She gazed at the phone receiver. It dangled along the side of the cabinet, tethered to the base unit by a long cord, hanging in a way that made her stomach wrench. She could still see her mother's softly swaying body, the protruding tongue; an image that didn't fade with time.

Sucking in several deep breaths, she squeezed her eyes closed, then opened them again, picked up the receiver and placed it back in the cradle. More old-school technology. She didn't have a hand-held receiver. She didn't even have a satellite phone in the bedroom. Her brother, Hague, had real issues with paranoia—worse than Liv's by far—and some of his paranoia had definitely penetrated her way of thinking as well. There was a bogeyman out there. Maybe more than one. Better to be safe than sorry.

She did, however, have voice mail and that nagging, blinking red light on the base unit meant she had another call. The lawyer had undoubtedly phoned back. For a moment Liv considered the paradox that was her life. Here she was running away from almost all technological communication and yet she worked for a software company that made simulated war games mainly played by adolescent boys. Okay, she was little more than a low-level bookkeeper for Zuma Software; she'd always been good with numbers. But the irony of her situation did not escape her. She smiled faintly to herself, screwed up her courage, and pushed the answering machine's button.

The lawyer's disembodied voice came through the speaker: Ms. Dugan, this is Tom Crenshaw again, of Crenshaw and Crenshaw, Attorneys-at-Law. Please call us back so we can send you the package from Deborah Dugan addressed to her daughter, Olivia Margaux Dugan. Per our earlier conversation, this package was left in our care to be sent to you on your twenty-fifth birthday. As that date has passed, we need to make certain you receive this package soon. A pause. As if he wanted to say a lot more, then simply, Thank you, and a return phone number and the law firm's hours.

Liv pushed the button a second time and listened to the message again. It was too early to call Tom Crenshaw back. She didn't even know if she wanted to anyway. She felt hot and headachy and strange just thinking about receiving something from her mother. Her mother. Nearly twenty years after her death.

Putting the number to memory, she got ready for work, then drove her Honda Accord by rote to the business park which housed Zuma Software. The company was situated in a private cul-de-sac, separated from the other buildings by a long drive bordered by arborvitae, isolating it, giving it the illusion of more importance than it truly deserved. Or maybe it was more important. Zuma's owner, Kurt Upjohn, certainly projected an "I'm better than you" attitude.

Liv skirted the front parking lot and drove to the west side of the building, the unofficial employee parking lot. The building itself was concrete on all four sides, with a glass atrium entryway complete with double doors and a guard of sorts, Paul de Fore, a total tool, in Liv's biased opinion.

Liv parked nose out, climbed from the driver's door, remote locked the Honda and started around to the front of the building. She didn't even think of using the back door as Upjohn wanted all his employees to enter through the front. The back door automatically locked whenever it was used, and could only be accessed from inside. Upjohn was very, very cautious about anyone learning anything about his newest game models created by the nerds/techies who worked in the upstairs office with its glowing screens and simulations and miles of computer code. Liv had only peeked in once when Aaron, Kurt's son, had practically dragged her up the stairs with him, and she'd been half-awed at the way the room looked like a control room straight out of some high-tech adventure movie.

Now, as she entered through the mahogany front door—a door surrounded by windows—Paul gave Liv a narrow-eyed once-over, as if he'd never seen her before. Liv clutched her purse harder, an automatic reaction she couldn't quite repress even though she would never bring her handgun to the office. She wasn't that crazy.

Jessica Maltona, Zuma's receptionist, smiled at Liv as she entered, then slid a sideways look toward Paul who was still standing by the front door, arms crossed, watching Liv walk across the polished floor to her cubicle on the far side of the large room. Though the two women weren't friends exactly—they didn't know each other that well, Liv's fault mostly—they shared a silent communication about Paul whom neither could stand.

Liv smiled at Jessica as she passed. He's a tool, all right. To which Jessica, as if hearing her, nodded emphatically.

Settling herself at her desk, Liv stuffed her purse into a lower cabinet with a lock. She twisted the key and pocketed it, then settled down to the night before's bookkeeping entries. It wasn't an exciting job. It was rote, by and large. But rote work was exactly what kept her from thinking and imagining and worrying. No, she wasn't bipolar. No, she wasn't schizophrenic. She was just ... damaged ... for lack of a better word. From the moment she'd discovered her mother's body, she hadn't been the same.

An hour into the job, safely ensconced at her work station, which was about a hundred feet from the front doors and the floor-to-ceiling windows splayed with the Zuma Software red neon logo in script, backward from inside the building but dramatic nonetheless, she picked up the phone and dialed the number before her brain, with its strong governor, could stop her.

"Crenshaw and Crenshaw," a woman's voice answered in that slightly bored, slightly snooty tone that seemed to invade the better law firms.

"This is Olivia Margaux Dugan returning Tom Crenshaw's call."

"Mr. Crenshaw is not in yet." There was a small rebuke there, as if she felt Liv should know someone of Mr. Crenshaw's importance wouldn't deign to get to work so early. "Would you care to leave a message?"

"Just give him this address." She told the woman Zuma Software's street address and finished with, "If he wants me to have the package in his care from Deborah Dugan, he can send it here."

"May I tell him what this is concerning? Something further?" she asked, sounding a bit miffed by Liv's high-handedness.

"He'll know what it's about." And she hung up.

Two hours later the package arrived by special messenger. Liv looked up from her computer first with annoyance, then surprise at the speed, then trepidation, as Paul de Fore walked toward her, holding out the 8 ½ x 11 manila envelope. Liv had been inputting figures into a computer program, compiling information to be turned over to Zuma's accountant, who in turn would pore over the data as if it held the answer to the universe's deepest questions, who would then pass it along to Kurt Upjohn, the original developer of the war-game-type video games that had put his software company on the map. Her head was full of numbers and seeing Paul coming her way pulled her out of that world and into the present at hyperspeed. She almost felt motion sick.

Paul slapped the envelope on her desk without so much as a word. He was no conversationalist, which suited Liv just fine.

Gingerly picking up the package, she looked it over, her gaze jumping to the return address of Crenshaw and Crenshaw. She'd been alarmed when Tom Crenshaw had asked her birth date, where she grew up, the names of her parents, and a myriad of other questions. She in turn had demanded to know to whom she was speaking. How had he found her number? What did he want really? What were his credentials? He explained about Crenshaw and Crenshaw and what a long-established, trusted firm they were. Then he told her about the package and when he invoked the name of Deborah Dugan she dropped the receiver.

But now here it was. The package from her mother, nineteen years after her death. It was a large manila envelope with her name typed on a label affixed to its center. She laid it carefully on the desktop. She almost wanted to poke it with a stick, though it was clearly just some papers. Papers about what, though? She couldn't think of anything that—

"Hey!" Aaron Dirkus snapped his fingers in front of her face.

Liv sat bolt upright, as if goosed. "Aaron," she said tightly to Kurt Upjohn's son, her only "friend" at Zuma.

"Didn't mean to scare you," he answered affably, though he clearly didn't care one way or another. Aaron's last name was different than his father's, due to some undefined wrangle between Kurt and Aaron's mother—Kurt had only managed to marry her after Aaron was born and that pissed her off but good, so much so that she'd given her son her maiden name rather than Upjohn. Then later, she and Kurt had divorced anyway. The story went something like that. Liv had never quite got it in full detail, but it didn't really matter. She'd never wanted to question Aaron further because that would have given him carte blanche to ask her about herself and she didn't want to go there. Ever.

"You're kinda in a fog. C'mon, let's go out back and have a smoke," Aaron said.

"I've got some work to catch up on." She wasn't interested in smoking anything, especially Aaron's type of cigarettes.

"Bullshit. You work too hard as it is. You're giving the rest of us slackers a bad name."

"The boss is your father. You can get away with it. I can't."

"People are starting to hate you around here, you know that? You gotta come with me."

He wasn't going to take no for an answer, and he'd been known to actually pull her out of her chair to get her to comply, so she reluctantly got to her feet. Truthfully, she really didn't take enough breaks, according to the law, so she followed him to the back door on the first floor and outside to the enclosed patio-type area, with its overhang and its gate that led to the employee parking lot. Her blue Accord was three in, facing out as if ready to take off.

Aaron normally stuffed a brick-sized rock in the door to keep it ajar, but today he actually pulled out a key and unlocked it from the outside, so that the door would stay open until he relocked it.

"Where'd you get that?" Liv asked.

"Kinda lifted it," he admitted. "Don't worry. I'll lock up before we leave tonight. I just can't stand walking by that asshole de Fore every time I want to breathe some fresh air." He shot her a quick smile as he pulled a joint and lighter from his pants pocket.

Aaron liked to smoke "maree-wanna," as he called it. Liv stayed away from all drugs; she'd been encouraged to take enough during her yearlong treatment at Hathaway House to last her a lifetime and then some. She liked a clear head and, apart from a very occasional drink, mostly steered clear of alcohol, too.

"You don't say much," Aaron observed with a sideways look as he belched out a lungful of smoke. "I like that about you. Although you're kind of shut down."

Remembering her six-year-old self, Liv felt a pang of sorrow for the loss of the independent, headstrong little girl she'd once been. That girl had apparently died along with her mother.

She stood to one side, leaning against the gate to the parking lot, gazing out. Occasionally she'd left the building this way when Aaron had propped open the door. She completely agreed with him that bypassing Paul de Fore was worth breaking some rules. Paul was just one of those guys no one could stand, the type who took his job too seriously and made it hell on everyone else.


Excerpted from Nowhere To Run by NANCY BUSH Copyright © 2012 by Nancy Bush. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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