Unseen

Unseen

by Nancy Bush

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781420125894
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 08/05/2011
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 384,881
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Nancy Bush is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over 30 novels, including The Killing Game, Nowhere to Run, I'll Find You and Hush. She is the co-author of the Colony series, written with her sister, bestselling author Lisa Jackson, as well as the collaborative novels Sinister and Ominous, written with Lisa Jackson and Rosalind Noonan. A former writer for ABC's daytime drama All My Children, Nancy now lives with her family and pug dog, The Binkster, in the Pacific Northwest. Please visit her online at nancybush.net.

Read an Excerpt


UNSEEN



By NANCY BUSH
ZEBRA BOOKS
Copyright © 2009

Nancy Bush
All right reserved.



ISBN: 978-1-4201-0340-3



Chapter One She wished him dead.

She knew about him. Witnessed the way his gaze ran lustfully over some preteen girl. Saw how his eyes glued to her athletic limbs and small breasts, how his lips parted and his cock grew hard.

But wishing wasn't enough. It almost was, but it wasn't quite. Sometimes wishing needed a little push. So, she waited for him to go to an unlucky place, the kind of place where bad things happened. Deaths. Accidents. Poisonous secrets. She knew about those places better than anyone because bad things had happened to her at an unlucky place a long time ago, and she'd spent many formative years getting payback for those bad things.

She waited with her jaw set. She was good at action, not patience. But today it had all come together, his unlucky place had materialized: a soccer field, with lots of tweens, their limbs flashing in nylon shorts and jerseys. She herself was very lucky and when people asked her name, which wasn't often because she avoided encounters with strangers as a rule, she told them, "Lucky," and they generally oohed and aahed and said what a great name it was.

People were stupid, as a rule.

The soccer fields were full of young bodies. A jamboree was taking place: kids of varying ages playing half-hour games and then moving on to another field to challenge another team. The boys were playing on the north-side fields, over by the water tower. The girls were closer in, on the hard-packed dirt of the south-side fields-fields that looked as if they'd been forgotten by the parks department. Fields good enough for girls, not for boys.

Her lip curled. Figures, she thought. She wasn't a man-hater, but she had definite thoughts about certain members of the male sex. She was responsible for the deaths of several of their gender and didn't regret any of them.

She waited in her stolen car. Well, not stolen exactly. Appropriated for a specific purpose. She'd learned a few things during the twenty-seven years she'd been on the planet. She knew how to take care of herself. She could accurately fire a gun up to twenty yards. Well, fairly accurately. And she could break into and steal older-model vehicles-the only kind she would drive because she distrusted air bags. Those things could kill you. She knew a guy who would dismantle them for her, which was a good thing, because it was getting harder and harder to find vintage cars available for her purposes, although she currently had a ready supply from Carl's Automotive and Car Rental. Hunk O'Junks. That's how they were advertised by the amateurish spray-painted sign posted off Highway 26, about fifteen miles east of Seaside, Oregon. Hunk O'Junks. Yessirree. They could be rented for $19.99 a day, but Lucky didn't bother with that. A sorry line of tired-looking vehicles they were, too, but they served the purpose. No one noticed when they were gone. No one commented when they were returned.

Cars were a simple matter to hot-wire. And she was adept at using a flat bar to slide down the inside of the window and pop the lock. It was then child's play to dig under the dash, yank the wires, spark the ignition and drive away.

But the Hunk O'Junks were perfect in one more aspect: the owner left the keys under the mat. In the early hours of this morning she'd simply helped herself to the one farthest from the flickering vapor light at the corner of the automotive garage and driven away. The horny mechanic and sometime car thief who'd shown her the ropes and introduced her to Carl's Automotive had been as unfaithful as a rutting bull. She'd used him as a means to an end and they'd almost parted friends. But he'd pushed it, had actually attempted to rape her. Lucky had been down that road before and nobody was going to try that again and live. She'd grabbed a nearby table lamp's electrical cord and wrapped it around his neck. He'd been bullish enough to scarcely notice, so involved was he in spreading her thighs and jamming himself into her. She'd pulled the cord taut with all her strength, with all the rage of injustice she'd nursed from years of abuse. He passed out and she held on. It hadn't been his face she was envisioning; it was someone else's. Someone faint in her memory, yet dark and looming. Twenty minutes later she'd surfaced slowly, as if awakening from a long illness, her fingers numb, her mind clearing. She didn't have much faith that anyone would believe her about the attempted rape, so she gathered up the lamp and its cord from the dirty and sparse living room he called home, wiped down everything she'd touched, and left someone else to find his body. She'd made the mistake of entering his home after this, their last car-thieving lesson, because she'd begun to think they were friends.

She hadn't made that mistake since.

Now, she slouched behind the wheel of her current Hunk O'Junk, her gaze centered on a light brown van parked near the jamboree parking lot exit. This maybe wasn't the best venue for what she'd planned, but it could be worse. And it was where he trolled. And it had that unlucky feel she could almost taste. Edward Letton wasn't aware that he was being followed. Didn't know she'd found him out, that she'd tailed his van through parks and malls and schools, the environs of little girls.

Lucky had originally picked up on Letton by a means she didn't fully understand herself. They'd crossed paths in a small clothing store in Seaside, a place that specialized in beach togs and gear. She'd brushed past him and read his desire as if he'd suddenly whispered his intentions in her ear, making her skin crawl. Glancing back, she saw the way his gaze centered on a young girl who was trying hard to display her breast buds as the real deal, the tiny buttons pushed up by an underwire bra, the girl thrusting them forward, her back arched like a bow. She was around eleven. Gawky. Unformed and unsure. She both hung by her mother for protection, and stepped away from her scornfully, as if she couldn't bear the idea that Mom was so old and completely uncool.

Letton stared and stared. He was so hungry Lucky felt his lust like a living thing. It filled her senses as if he were secreting pheromones. Made her ill. So, she started following him. That day she tailed him a good fifty miles, all the way back to Hillsboro and the untidy green-gray house where he lived with his adoring, mentally-suspect wife. Not the brightest jewel on the necklace, her. Letton was some kind of middle-grade manager at a machine-parts company. Lucky had watched him from the parking lot of his workplace and followed him around, in and out of restaurants, to an all-you-can-eat place where she seated herself in the booth in front of him, her back to his. Even though he was with a co-worker she sensed he'd unerringly watched the girl in the T-shirt serving soup whose chest was so flat she could have been a child.

He didn't drive the van to work. It was parked in his garage, and Lucky didn't know about it at first. Neither did his dimwit wife. His garage was his domain. He drove a Honda Accord to work, new enough to be reliable, old enough to be forgettable. She knew those kinds of cars well.

And then she realized he used the van when he went trolling. Nobody had to tell her what he was planning. She knew that hunger. That build-up. That need. She'd been on the receiving end of it and it hadn't been pretty.

He had almost grabbed a girl at the mall, but she was with friends and hard to snatch. Lucky had watched him, her gloved hands tensing on the wheel of her appropriated car, but he'd passed up the chance, though he'd climbed from his van and paced around it, watching with distress as his victim and friends meandered across the parking lot, ponytails flouncing, out of his reach.

But here he was, a scant week-and-a-half later. Saturday morning. Cruising past soccer fields was one of his favorite pastimes. She'd parked today's Hunk O'Junk, an early '90s model, half a block down from his house, dozing a bit as she'd risen before dawn. When he backed the van out of the drive, she let it disappear around a corner before she started to follow. He didn't try any tricky moves on the way to the fields. He drove straight to the jamboree. Once there, he circled around, parking at the end spot near the girls' fields, nose out. It was early, so Lucky parked her sedan across from him, a couple of slots down, and let him see her as she locked the vehicle and strolled across the road toward a strip mall with a coffee shop, its door open to the cool morning air. She wanted him to think she was just another soccer mom, biding time before the games, going to buy a latte or mocha.

As soon as she was across the street, she circled the east building of the strip mall and settled behind a row of arborvitae directly across from the jamboree parking lot. Hidden behind the trees, she put a pair of binoculars to her eyes, watching Letton through the foliage.

More cars arrived. Teams of boys and girls. Letton watched and waited as the girls banded into teams, running in their uniforms, blurs of red, green, yellow, and blue, young legs flashing in heavy shin guards and cleated shoes.

She had never played soccer herself. That had not been the kind of childhood she'd experienced. Mostly she'd plotted and dreamed of escape. Sometimes she had thought of murder.

Now she waited until another crush of people arrived-more vans spilling kids and equipment onto the pavement-then hurried back, blending in with the other moms, sliding into her silver car. Letton was too enthralled by the bounty of adolescent flesh to even notice her. She was pretty sure he was jacking off in the driver's seat.

The teams began to gather in groups, readying for play. Every group was a tight, wiggling pack, like a hive of bees on the move.

And then a young girl, ponytail bobbing, broke free, running across the fields toward the parking lot, her gait stuttering a bit as her cleats hit the pavement. What worked on grass didn't offer the same kind of purchase on asphalt. She was clomping toward the portable bathrooms, passing directly in front of Edward Letton's van. He called to her. Lucky had rolled her own window down and now she turned on the engine and slipped the car into gear, foot light on the brake.

"Hey, you're with the Hornets, right?" Letton called to the girl, climbing from his seat. He was obviously quoting from the back of their jerseys, which displayed their teams' names in block letters. He left the door ajar for a quick getaway. She could hear the thrum of excitement in his voice as he headed toward the side door of the van, sliding it open. His pants were still unzipped.

"Yeah?" the girl said warily.

"I've got those extra balls your coach wanted. Let me get 'em. Maybe you could take some back."

"I'm going to the bathroom."

But Letton was already reaching into the van. The girl hesitated. A soccer ball rolled out and started heading toward her. She automatically went after it, the movement drawing her closer to the van. She picked it up and said, "I can't take it now, I'll come back for it," reaching toward him, intending to hand it to him. He didn't make a move to meet her, just waited for her to approach.

Don't go, Lucky thought, foot off the brake. Stay back.

The girl hesitated. Lucky could practically feel when she made the decision that Letton was "with" their team.

Before the girl could take another step forward Lucky smashed her foot down on the accelerator and jammed the horn with her fist. The car leapt forward like a runner at the gate. The girl jumped back, startled. Edward Letton forgot himself and lurched for the girl, but she'd automatically moved out of range of the silver car shooting down on them, running for the safety of the soccer fields. Letton glanced up darkly, his plan foiled, glaring murderously at Lucky. His mouth open to ... what? Berate her for unsafe driving? He looked mad enough to kill.

She slammed into him at thirty and climbing. Threw him skyward. Threw herself forward. The steering wheel jumped from her hands. The sedan's grill grazed the back bumper of the van. Someone screamed. She grabbed the wheel hard, turning, both arms straining, sensing calamity. Then she spun past the van, tires squealing. Letton's flying body thunked off the roof of her car and bounced onto the asphalt, an acrobat without a net. He lay still.

In her rearview mirror Lucky stared hard at Letton's body. She drove away with controlled speed, slowing through a tangle of neighborhoods, weaving her way, heart slamming hot and fast in her chest, zigzagging toward Highway 26. She had to get this car out of the area and fast.

It was only when she was safely away, heading west, keeping up with fast-moving traffic, that she saw the blood on her steering wheel.

A glance in the rearview. Her face was covered with blood. The impact had smacked her face into the steering wheel. Her left eye was closing. She hadn't even noticed.

There was Windex in the back. Rags. Bleach. She would wipe up the evidence, clean herself and the car. All she had to do now was keep the growing pain and swelling under control. Her vision blurred.

She had to get to an off road near Carl's Automotive, one of the myriads of turn-outs on this winding highway through the Coast Range. Later tonight she would sneak the car back onto the weed-choked gravel lot and hope that the front grill, lights, and body weren't too damaged. The vehicle needed to stay undiscovered at the Hunk O'Junks lot for a long time.

She swiped at the blood running down her forehead, blinding her.

Not good. Not good at all.

But she was lucky. She would get away with it. She would ...

She just hoped to hell she'd killed him.

Chapter Two Surfacing from a yawning pit of blackness, her eyes adjusted to an unfamiliar room: cream vertical blinds, cream walls, television on a shelf bolted high on the wall, blankets covering what must be her feet, wood veneer footboard.

A hospital room.

Her heart clutched. She thought of surgery. Pain. Inside her head was a long, silent scream.

Automatically, her hand flew up and touched the bandage wrapped around her head. One eye was covered. She didn't know why, but it wasn't the first time she'd blacked out. Far from it. But this time she'd hurt herself, maybe badly. What had happened?

She had a terrible moment of not knowing who she was.

Then she remembered.

I'm lucky, she thought, memory slipping back to her, amorphous, hard to grasp, but at least it was there. At least some of it was there.

And she was angry. Hot fury sang through her veins, though she couldn't immediately identify the source of her rage. But someone had to pay. She knew that.

A nurse was adjusting a monitor that was spitting out paper in a long, running stream. Red squiggles wove over the paper's lined grid. Her heartbeat. Respiration, maybe? She closed her eye and pretended to be sleeping. She wasn't ready for the inquisition, yet. Wasn't ready to find out the whys and wherefores of how she'd come to be at this hospital.

She heard the squeak of the nurse's crepe soles head toward the door. A soft whoosh of air, barely discernible, said the silent door had been opened. Not hearing it close, she carefully lifted her eyelid. As suspected, the wheelchair-wide door was ajar. Anyone could push inside and stare at her, which consumed her with worry. She had to stay awake.

The last vestiges of what seemed to be a dream tugged at her consciousness and she fought to hang on to the remnants but they were slippery and insubstantial, spider threads. She was left merely with the sensation that she was heading for a showdown, some distant and unwelcome Armageddon that was going to shatter and rearrange her world. Maybe not for the better.

But then she always felt that. Always awoke with that low-grade dread which followed the gaps in her memory. Maybe someday she would wake up and not know who she was at all. Maybe her memory would be gone for good.

What would happen then?

The door swung in noiselessly and a man in a light-tan uniform entered the room. He was with the county sheriff's department and, seeing her looking at him, he said, "Hello, ma'am. I'm Detective Will Tanninger with the Winslow County Sheriff's Department."

She nodded, eyeing him carefully. He was in his mid-thirties with dark brown hair and serious eyes, but she could see the striations at their edges, from squinting them in either laughter or against the sun. "Where am I?"

"Laurelton General Hospital. You've been admitted as a Jane Doe. Could you tell us your name?"

He was steely polite. Alarm bells rang. What had she done? It took her a long moment to come up with her name. "Gemma LaPorte." She hesitated, almost afraid to ask. "Are you here to see me?"

"We don't know how you got here, Ms. LaPorte. You walked into the ER and collapsed."

Her hand fluttered to her head once again. "Oh ...?"

"Did someone bring you? Did you drive yourself?"

Gemma moved her head slowly from side to side and she felt a twinge of pain. "I don't remember."

Will paused, regarding her with dark, liquid eyes. She could sense his strength and knew he was good at his job. A tracker. Someone who never gave up. Someone dogged and relentless. She shivered involuntarily as he said, "You don't remember the circumstances that brought you here?"

"No."

"What's your last memory?"

Gemma thought about it a minute. "I was making myself breakfast at home. Oatmeal and cinnamon. I was looking out the window and thinking we were drowning in rain. It was a downpour. The dirt was like concrete and the water was pouring over it in sheets."

The deputy was silent for so long that Gemma felt her anxiety rise. She sensed that he was deliberating on an answer.

"What?" she asked.

"It hasn't rained for three days."

Will Tanninger regarded the woman with the scared green eye and stark white bandage with a healthy sense of skepticism. Her skin had paled at his words. He understood about trauma-induced amnesia. More often than not, serious accident victims couldn't remember the events that led to their hospital stay. But they usually lost a few hours, not days. In Gemma LaPorte's case, he couldn't tell if this was a ploy or the truth. The half of her face he could see was swollen and bruised, blue and purple shadings of color already traveling from her injured side to the other. Even so, he could tell she was rather extraordinary looking. Smooth, prominent cheekbones and a finely sculpted nose beneath a hazel-colored eye that glinted green when hit by the hard morning light coming through a twelve-inch gap in the hospital drapes.

(Continues...)




Excerpted from UNSEEN by NANCY BUSH Copyright © 2009 by Nancy Bush. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Unseen 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
She awakens confused in a bed that is obviously in an Oregon hospital. Winslow County Sheriff's Department Detective Will Tanninger is at her side and tells her she is at Laurelton general Hospital; he asks her name and after a hesitation says Gemma LaPorte. Her last memory was making breakfast while it was raining outside; he tells her it has not rained near here for three days. Finally he explains that she is his prime suspect in a hit and run that critically injured child molester Edward Letton, also in the hopspital but with much more severe injuries. Gemma suffers from traumatic induced amnesia, but could the trauma be hitting Letton as her face is battered perhaps from a steering wheel and she suffered a concussion. She also does not look close at the description provided by the young soccer player Carol Pelltor who Letton was targeting when he was mowed down. However, the mystery spins further as a serial killer who burns his victims somehow connects to Gemma's slowly returning memories. This is an exhilarating suspense thriller that cleverly contrasts a romantic subplot between Will and Gemma with a dark mystery. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action. However, the key to this tale is the comparisons as Will and Gemma's relationship slowly turns warmer and lovingly, a serial killer turns nastier. Fans will relish Nancy Bush's taut thriller as she leaves the colorful Jane Kelly mysteries for a much darker and intense suspense. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good read. The last third of the book was great!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like mysterious secrets, you will like this tale. it is very fast-moving and I could'nt wait to keep reading. Many surprises.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great plot, great story, will continue to read her books.
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betteboop1 More than 1 year ago
I have read all the books in this series and loved them. Fast moving and keeps you on your toe's. I have read a lot of Lisa Jackson books and recently found out that Nancy was her sister. I have gotten Most of Nancy's books now too. Love them both, so keep it up Nancy I am on your team. :)
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Just was so boring it was taking me forever to read I was really surprised about nancy bush
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Different than usual thriller
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