The Ransom

The Ransom

by Maggie Price

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The ransom for five-year-old Matthew was one million dollars cash. And in a terrifying instant all of Kathryn Conner's dreams of a new life at her family's Texas ranch, far from the scandal of her failed Hollywood marriage, were blindsided by the only thing that mattered: saving her son.

A desperate mother will do desperate things, even turn to a man who loved and left her long ago, a man whose touch still haunted her dreams. But Clay Turner was her last—her only—hope at finding Matthew. Clay knew what was at stake, shared her pain and understood what it took for her to seek him out. Because the look in Kathryn's eyes reflected the same searing memories fighting their way back to his heart, as well.

This time, he won't let her down.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426807060
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 10/01/2007
Series: Harlequin Readers' Choice
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 208 KB

About the Author

Maggie Price turned to crime at the age of 22. That's when she went to work at the Oklahoma City Police Department. As a civilian crime analyst, she evaluated suspects' methods of operation during the commission of robberies and sex crimes, and developed profiles on those suspects.

During her tenure at OCPD, Maggie stood in lineups, snagged assignments to homicide task forces, established procedures for evidence submittal, even posed as the wife of an undercover officer in the investigation of a fortune-teller. Drawing on her 12 years experience in law enforcement, Maggie penned her first novel, Prime Suspect.

One week after Silhouette acquired the novel of romance and intrigue, the Romance Writers of America awarded Prime Suspect its prestigious Golden Heart Award for Best Romantic Suspense. When the novel was released in October 1997, Silhouette named Maggie their Intimate Moments "Women to Watch" Author for 1997.

Maggie has conducted extensive research for her novels that thrill and chill by visiting OCPD's forensics laboratory, taking aim on the police firing range, riding the graveyard shift with patrol officers, and hitting the streets with OCPD's Vice Detail during the conduct of a prostitute sting.

Maggie loves to hear from readers!

Read an Excerpt

Kathryn Conner had vowed to never again set foot on the Cross C Ranch until her bastard of a grandfather was dead.

Now he was. "You're home," Owen Daily remarked, braking his black Cadillac beneath the massive oak that shaded one end of the porch of the two-story ranch house.

Home. The word leaped into Kathryn's mind while she sat in heart-pounding silence beside the man she'd hired to handle her Texas legal affairs. Staring out the wind-shield, the knots in her stomach clenched tighter while she struggled to come to terms with her surroundings.

Bathed in afternoon sunlight, the house with its wraparound porch looked welcoming. For Kathryn, it had only felt that way when Sam was away in Austin dealing with senate business.

Always the wood had been painted white with butter-yellow trim. The wide porch had latticework at the eaves and long, sturdy columns. The swing-where she had sat so many evenings writing stories and spinning her private dreams that always took her far away-still hung from chains at the porch's far end.

Racked by emotion, she swept her gaze across the immaculate lawn toward the distant barn, the stables, the out-buildings, all surrounded by post-and-rail whitewashed fences. In her ten-year absence she had forgotten the Cross C's beauty-and only remembered her pain.

Her gaze returned to the house where yellow roses wound their way through the porch trellises. The bright blooms blurred in her vision while a nagging unease moved around the edges of her awareness, undefined, barely formed, a gray shadow.

She lifted a hand to her throat where a choking dread had settled.

"Something wrong?" Owen asked.

"I just..." Kathryn ran her other hand over the hip of her red linen slacks. "For a second it felt like someone stepped on my grave."

Owen gave the house a considering look. "You haven't said as much, but I have to figure your not coming home since that summer you left for college means not all your memories of the Cross C are good."

That summer. If only she had been wiser, more mature, she might have avoided making a fool of herself. Even now humiliation crawled through Kathryn, as hot as the hunger she'd felt for a man who'd been rumored to have an unlimited number of willing women on speed dial. But she had wanted Clay Turner since she'd been a starry-eyed schoolgirl who was stupid enough to think she would be the one who could change him. And by the time she turned eighteen that crush had transformed into love. So she'd made sure to ride over to the Double Starr the day Clay showed up to work on his uncle's neighboring ranch like he did every summer. She could still see managed the would cross paths. eyes on him. A another man, Matthew's health, her crumbling dissected by the again had a dark such corrosive to dull the pain.

Willa was one of the good memories. And one of the people Sam had done a truly good, unselfish thing for.

Turning, Kathryn looked over her shoulder. Matthew hadn't stirred since he'd fallen asleep almost before they'd driven out of the airport. He was a sturdy five-year-old with thick blond hair and brown eyes that sparkled with mischief. Now, though, he looked almost cherubic, stretched on the back seat in his jeans and Western shirt, his miniature dachshund, Abby, curled against his stomach.

No one would suspect he'd been near death two years ago.

She gave him a gentle shake. "Wake up, Matty. We're here."

Thick blond lashes fluttered off his cheeks. Yawning, he pushed up off the seat, fists rubbing his eyes. The movement had Abby stirring. The dachshund levered up on her short legs and shook her head, the sunlight turning her reddish coat a deep mahogany.

Willa pulled the car's back door open and leaned in. "Is there anyone who can help me find a missing chocolate chip cookie?"

"Grandma Willa!" Grinning wildly, Matthew unhooked his seat belt then propelled himself into the housekeeper's arms. Abby rocketed after her master.

Kathryn climbed out, wincing as a gust of hot wind and dirt hit her in the face.

"Welcome to Texas," she murmured, shoving her sunglasses farther up the bridge of her nose.

"Bet I can find that cookie," Matthew insisted to Willa. Willa's eyes sparkled. "Think so?" A wayward strand of gray hair that had slipped from the bun at her neck waved like wheat in the breeze.

Standing on tiptoes, Matthew poked a hand into one apron pocket, then the other. "Right here!" he exclaimed, pulling out a cookie the size of a man's fist.

"How do you suppose it got there?" Willa slid a hand into a pocket on her dress and pulled out a rawhide chew bone. "Well, I'm carrying around all sorts of surprises today." Abby barked, her entire body waggling like a bass on a hook. "Guess you'll make good use of this," Willa said before tossing the bone a short distance away.

Owen grinned at Kathryn, his denim shirt and jeans making him look more ranch hand than attorney known for his scorched-earth tactics. "They've done this before, right?"

"A standing routine," she answered. "It started about the time I flew Willa out to California for Matthew's third birthday." Her heart brimming, Kathryn stepped into the housekeeper's welcoming embrace.

"Lord, child, it's good to have you home." Kathryn shot a furtive glance at the house. In a flash of memory, she pictured herself the last time she crossed the threshold, bruised, bleeding and lying on a stretcher.

No, she told herself and ruthlessly forced away the harsh image. She couldn't allow herself to think about that. She'd returned to the Cross C because doing so was in Matthew's best interest. She could do this for her son.

Inching back, Willa cupped a palm against Kathryn's cheek. "Every time I see you, you look more and more like the pictures I've seen of your momma."

To Kathryn, the parents who had given her life and died when she was an infant had only ever been faded names in the Conner family bible. With her grandmother already deceased, it was Willa who had raised her when Sam took in his only grandchild.

After giving Willa another hug, Kathryn slipped an arm around her waist. "Matthew has chattered for weeks about living on a ranch with Grandma Willa." Kathryn glanced back toward the house. "Did our things get here?"

"I should say so. Pilar and I have spent days unpacking boxes." She ruffled the boy's blond hair while he munched on his cookie. "I expect you can wage a small war with all the tanks and toy soldiers."

"A big war." He glanced around in expectation. "Can I see the outlaw tunnel?"

"After supper," Kathryn answered. The tunnel, connected to the basement, had been dug by her great-great-great-grandfather Conner so his bandit son could sneak into the house for visits. Matthew took exceptional pride in the fact one of his ancestors had been a real life outlaw.

Willa gave Kathryn another squeeze. "The decorator finished up the remodeling you wanted done yesterday. You won't recognize your old bedroom."

That's the idea, Kathryn thought. She knew she would never walk into that room again without thinking about the final vicious fight she'd had with Sam. So she had instructed Willa to put her clothes and other belongings in one of the spacious bedrooms that the senator had reserved for guests.

Willa looked toward the porch. "Pilar, come get re-acquainted with Kathryn."

Pilar Graciano came down the porch steps where she paused and gave a polite nod. "Señorita Conner, it is nice to see you after so long," she said in the hesitant, accented English Kathryn remembered.

"Thank you, Pilar." Kathryn smiled at the thin, small-boned woman with black hair plaited into a braid. The maid had always been as skittish and shy as a newborn colt. "How is Nilo?" Kathryn asked, referring to the swarthy ranchhand who'd won Pilar's heart.

"My husband is well."

Willa patted Matthew's shoulder. "This is Pilar. Do you remember me telling you she has a boy namedAntonio?"

Matthew nodded. "You said he has a horse named Gringo."

Pilar quietly welcomed Matthew. That done, she slid her hands into the pockets of her dress and stood in silence as if awaiting orders.

A distant shout drew Kathryn's attention beyond the vast lawn to the stables. She recognized Johnny Sullivan's lean, craggy build. The Cross C's longtime foreman appeared to be involved in an intense discussion with a tall, blond man who looked distinctly out of place in a gray suit.

Kathryn turned to Willa. "Is that Brad Jordan with Johnny?"

"It is." Willa shrugged. "I expect the banker's fussing at Johnny for not getting permission before calling Doc Silver out to look at the horses you shipped here."

Kathryn's eyes narrowed. "Johnny doesn't need to check with Brad before calling the vet."

"Tell that to Brad." Willa blotted her damp brow with the back of her hand. "Everything changed once Sam's will was read and the bank got control over the Cross C."

The reminder of the last-minute codicil Sam added to his will before cancer killed him had Kathryn setting her jaw. Because all Conner land and money was held in a series of age-old trusts, there was no way Sam could disinherit her or Matthew. So her grandfather had done all he could to hobble her when it came to running the ranch. It was Sam's way of reaching out from the grave and slapping her one last time, just to prove how totally he had loathed her every day of her life.

Even now, Kathryn had no idea why her grandfather had hated her like poison.

"The bank doesn't control Cross C business," she said, forcing back the anger she'd carried with her since she learned the contents of Sam's will. "It oversees expenditures, is all."

"Well, Brad's been doing a lot of overseeing," Willa commented. "I have to show him receipts for the groceries and everything else I buy. Waste of time when I've got a house to run. I expect he'll bring all that up at the meeting you said you've got scheduled with him in the morning."

"No doubt." Kathryn looked back toward the stables in time to see Brad slide behind the wheel of a blue Jaguar. A moment later, he steered the car toward the road.

"Well now,"Willa said, cupping Matthew's chin. "How about we find some milk to wash down that cookie?"

A smear of chocolate on the boy's cheek lengthened when he grinned. "Okay."

Willa and Matthew walked hand in hand toward the house, Pilar and Abby following in their wake.

Kathryn waited until they were out of earshot to turn to Owen. "You're sure about the codicil? Positive the terms will stick?"

"They'll stick," her lawyer confirmed. "You know how Sam was-he didn't do anything without thinking it through. Same thing goes for the codicil. And don't forget the clause that states if you contest the will, a corporation made up of your grandfather's political friends has authority to take over the running of the Cross C."

"Meaning, everything stays in the Conner name, but there wouldn't be a Conner at the helm."

"Basically." Owen raised a brow. "Do you want me here in the morning when you meet with Brad?"

Kathryn pulled in a deep breath, drawing in the scents of mown grass, fresh hay and animal flesh. It was a shock to discover that the scents and the land itself still called to her.

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Ransom 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
It has been a decade since Kathryn Connor stepped on the family owned Cross-C Ranch in Texas, but with the death of her martinet grandfather she has come home accompanied by her five-year-old Matthew. However, she is hardly back when someone breaks into her home while she is sleeping and abducts Matt. The kidnapper leaves behind a cell phone with a text message warning her no cops and one million dollars in ransom or her child will die. She is frantic yet unsteady as she will learn later that her wine that she takes every night was drugged Kathryn panics because her son needs medicine everyday to prevent his body from rejecting his kidney transplant.-------------- Her ex-husband Devlin is overseas at a remote site on a film project so is difficult to reach him. Instead she turns to Clay Turner, whose parents were abducted in Columbia and knows first hand how to deal with a kidnapping although in his case doing everything right still failed to save the lives of his loved ones. He knows the person who snatched the child had intimate knowledge re Kathryn¿s habits and he arranges for an expert negotiator to take charge. he knows his one regret in life was rejecting Kathryn¿s love years ago and that still haunts him.-------------- This is an exciting second chance at love romantic suspense thriller as Clay seeks redemption and Kathryn seeks the safe return of her beloved son. The story line is fast-paced with the clock ticking. Clay points out that the kidnapper obviously knows intricate details about mother and son, but fans will wonder how anyone would know so much since she just moved back for instance that she drinks a glass of wine each night. Still readers will appreciate the deep look at the desperate mom who knows she needs help (not everyone is Mel Gibson) as she drives this exciting tale.----------- Harriet Klausner