This mysterious stranger just helped rob a convenience store. But that doesn't explain the bruises on her jaw and rope burns on her wrist. Though intrigued, Roan is suspicious of her claim that she doesn't remember what happened. Two things are clear to Roan. One: she's lying. Two: someone is trying to kill her.
There's only one place safe enough for a lady in danger. Right by his side. Because in Louisiana, a man holds on to what he wants .
About the Author
Jennifer Blake was born near Goldonna, Louisiana, in her grandparents' 120-year-old hand-built cottage. She grew up on an eighty-acre farm in the rolling hills of northern Louisiana. While married and raising her children, she became a voracious reader. At last, she set out to write a book of her own. That first book was followed by more than forty others, and today they have reached more than nine million copies in print, making Jennifer Blake one of the best-selling romance authors of our time. Her most recent novel is Love's Wild Desire.
Jennifer and her husband live near Quitman, Louisiana, in a house styled after old Southern planters' cottages.
"From the Paperback edition."
Read an Excerpt
The chance Victoria Molina-Vandergraff was waiting for came on the third night. She was ready, primed with rage, disgust, and a tentative plan. Still, she almost missed it.
One minute, she was trussed up on the floor of the stolen panel van as it careened around a curve on the dark dirt road, silently cursing the two jerks in the front bucket seats and cheering the cop who was hot on their tail. The next, she was tumbling over the gritty carpeting as they slid on rain-wet gravel. The vehicle left the roadway and bounced across what felt like a shallow ditch. For a breathless instant it was airborne. Then it slammed into a tree.
The screeching crunch of folding metal filled the air. Safety glass rained with a musical tinkling. Tory slid helplessly, scraping dirt from the carpet with her cheekbone before she hit a side panel. The van jolted back, shuddering. The engine died.
Headlights stabbed the darkness as the police car rounded the bend behind them. Brakes screamed and gravel flew as it slued to a halt. Seconds later, the officer's amplified voice, deep and edged with anger, blared from the unit's loudspeaker.
"Out of the vehicle! Hands in plain sight. Move!"
"Holy shit! What we s'pose to do now?"
The kidnapper that she'd dubbed Zits long miles back along the road from Florida growled the question as he glared at his pal behind the wheel. Big Ears whined an excuse as usual, even as he started the van and slammed it into reverse, spinning its wheels in the mud.
Zitslet fly a string of curses as uninspired as they were virulent. Craning his neck to see out the window, he said, "Christ, if it ain't the sheriff of that hick town back there. Says so on his car hood."
"All I see is his big-ass gun," Big Ears moaned. He gunned the van hard, hunching in his seat at the same time as if he could make the vehicle move with his body. "We gonna die. I told you ripping off that convenience store was a dumb idea. 'Nah,' you said. 'They're backward as hell in a little old place like Turn-Coupe, Louisiana. Won't be no security camera,' you said, 'No alarm, no cops this time of night ...'"
"How the hell was I to know?"
"You're the brains, ain't you? Now we're screwed. Backcountry sheriff like that don't give a shit who he shoots."
"It ain't gonna be me!"
Zits hit the glove compartment latch with his fist and reached inside for his pistol. Then he heaved from under the mangled dashboard and crawled between the seats into the cargo area.
"Where you going?" Big Ears demanded, even as he gunned the van again, gaining a few inches.
"To fix us a way out."
"And how the hell you gonna manage that?"
Zits, going to one knee beside Tory on the canted floor of the van, didn't answer.
She could see his teeth glinting in the glare from the police cruiser's headlights. She pressed back against the side panel as he shoved the pistol into his waistband and pulled a knife from his boot. Before she could draw breath to scream, he slashed the duct tape around her ankles. Jerking her upright, he cut the tape at her wrists, then ripped it off along with several centimeters of skin.
"There now," he drawled in vicious sarcasm. "Looks like it's your lucky day."
"What are you going to"
Zits didn't let her finish. He hauled her around and gave her a hard shove toward the rear cargo doors, even as he pulled his pistol free again with his other hand.
In that instant, Big Ears shifted the van into drive and stomped the accelerator. It roared and bucked forward into the tree again. Tory plunged toward the back door. Zits crashed into her. His shoulder hit her head, smacking her into the door glass. Her brain jarred in her skull. She was blind for a second as a red haze appeared before her eyes and pain surged in her head. Still, somewhere in her mind was the memory of the hollow thud made by Zit's pistol as it fell to the floorboard.
Zits cursed. Shoving away from Tory, he scrambled for the lost gun.
"Out of the vehicle! Now!"
"Damn lawman's coming after us," Big Ears gabbled in panic. "We got to rock this heap free, get her moving."
Suddenly, everything was surreal to Tory. The deep, vibrant voice of the sheriff coming out of the night was like that of some hero in an action movie. She dragged herself upright in slow motion. Through the back door glass, she could see the sheriff as a dark silhouette against the glare of the patrol car's headlamps. He stepped forward, and his shadow stretched across the road as tall and wide as that of some legendary giant. Behind her, Big Ears rammed the van's engine into reverse again, spinning the wheels until the stench of burning rubber filled the air and double sprays of mud spewed from the ditch to plop across the gravel road like small explosions.
"Yeah, we'll get out, but our gorgeous rich bitch is going first." Zits reached past her to shove open the rear door.
He meant to use her for a shield. It worked in the movies, using the victim to gain safe conduct, but Tory wasn't so sure the hick sheriff out there would cooperate. He had no idea she'd been kidnapped, didn't know her from Adam's Eve.
"Wait a minute!" Big Ears yelled as the van plunged forward again, rocking in its ruts. "We moved, feel it? We're 'bout outta here!"
She wasn't going with them.
Tory surged to her feet as Zits turned his head to measure their chance of escape, but the lurch of the van sent her sprawling. Her elbow came down on the missing pistol. Instantly, she shifted position, scooped it up.
Zits swung around. She saw the flash of the knife in his hand.
"Stop!" Tory leveled the pistol, tightened her finger on the trigger. She could use the weapon, thanks to private lessons in self-defense before she went off to college. And she would if it was her only choice.
Zits wrenched to a halt. They hovered in a stand off.
"I got it, Chris!" Big Ears yelled. "We're gone!"
The van was moving. She had to get out. There was no time to think, no time to plan. Lunging away from Zits, she scrambled for the open back door. She grabbed the frame and staggered upright, wavering an instant to gain balance. Then she jumped.
It was sheer instinct, what happened next; the results of years of adolescent gymnastic lessons and demonstrations from a skydiving team captain on how to hit the ground without breaking your neck. Tory rolled with her forward momentum, letting it carry her toward the sheriff, away from her kidnappers, At the maneuver's peak, she found her feet and came erect with wobbly grace and the heavy pistol still in her hand. She faced the sheriff, threw the heavy ponytail of her hair behind her back to clear her vision as she searched his dark features for some sign, any sign, of safety.
Then Tory knew. She felt it coming even before she saw the tall man in front of her steady his weapon, before she saw red-orange fire streak from its bore.
The single shot exploded like a cannon's roar. It punched her backward like a hard blow to the upper chest and shoulder. Her ponytail whipped over her shoulder and across her face. The pistol flew out of her hand. The gravel roadbed rose up and slammed into her. She lay too stunned to breathe, staring into the night sky while at the periphery of her vision the dark stain of blood spread across the dirty silk of her once-white jogging suit top like some night-blooming flower.
She heard the van's engine revving in the distance, felt the jolt in the roadbed beneath her as the vehicle spun free in a hail of mud and gravel. The lawman shouted an order, fired again. She flinched at the sound, a muscular reaction without meaning. But the van with Zits and Big Ears inside didn't stop. It hurtled forward with a clash of gears and the screech of dragging metal. Then it roared away into the night.
The pain hit Tory in a silent eruption. It tore at her shoulder and chest, a living thing clawing under her collarbone. She wanted to cry out, needed to fight it or get away from it. She couldn't. Her lips parted in a gasp of silent agony.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This series of books is my all time favorite. Luke, Blake, Roan, Clay, Adam (this story is in the 'southern touch' book which I discovered by mistake) and especially Wade, which is my very favorite book ever are all good in different ways. You have to read them all in order however to get the full effect of this family. Wade is a super book and I own this series and it is a part of my permanent collection of favorites.
This is by far the best book I have ever read in my life. I am a big Sandra Brown fan and Jennifer Blake knocked her off the map with this one. I have read it twice and will keep reading it over and over again.I just cannot get enough of Roan.The other Benidicts do not compare to him.
Jennifer Blake is too good. I read almost all of her books; I just can get enough of this woman. I CAN NOT BLIEVE THIS... WHEN THREE YEARS A USE TO BE A ... STRAIGHT UP NORA ROBERTS'S FAN. Jennifer has POWER'S because she got me GOOD!
Turn-Coupe, Louisiana Sheriff Roan Benedict fires at the suspect jumping from the rear of the getaway car holding a gun pointed at him. He hits the person, who turns out to be a woman claiming she is a kidnap victim. Her wrists show rope burns, but she participated with two other thugs in holding up the local convenience store, owned by a relative of the sheriff. Victoria Molina-Vandergraff claims she does not remember her name, but that she is innocent, a kidnap victim. Tory is trying to buy herself time before figuring out how to deal with the two ¿companions¿ she dubbed Zits and Big Ears. Tory knows that her fiancé, Harrell Melanka, wants her dead because she has learned the truth about his shady dealings. She has no one to turn to for help, especially her stepfather who would probably lock her away like he did her mother. Tory is attracted to Roan and decides to stay near him for the moment. As Roan places Tory under his personal protective custody, they fall in love, but Harrell has other plans. New York Times best-selling author, Jennifer Blake, shows why she is so popular with a fast-paced romantic suspense that will keep reader¿s interest from start to finish. ROAN never eases up on the throttle yet finds time to develop the lead characters so that the audience fully understands their actions. Anyone reading Ms. Blake for the first time will clearly seek out her pervious two novels in the ¿Louisiana Gentlemen¿ series, KANE and LUKE because the writer is that good. Harriet Klausner