Deputy Marshal Garrett McKendrick does not get involved with witnesses he's tasked to protect. Especially when his boss has a very personal reason for keeping Samantha Hutchinson alive. Can you say off limits?
But as Garrett battles to keep Sam safe from the powerful and influential people out to silence her
Read an Excerpt
The phone in Samantha Hutchinson's pocket vibrated with a text as she dropped off a pizza at one of her tables. It was nearly time for her break, and excitement flared at the idea of spending those ten minutes reading a text from her boyfriend Lance.
Lance was a software consultant, which meant he spent a lot of time on the road. In fact, Sam couldn't even remember where he was this time. No doubt he'd told her, but the information was overshadowed by one fact. He wasn't in Baileys Crossroads with her.
He had a tiny apartment in D.C., the same one he'd had when she'd met him their senior year at Georgetown University, but he spent little time there.
She wiped off an empty table and straightened the salt and pepper shakers. Even though this was a second job, she took it seriously. Truth be told, she kind of liked her job at Santiago's Pizza better than her daytime job as a media sales coordinator. Unfortunately, she needed both jobs to make rent and pay the bills.
Giving her boss Anthony Santiago a nod, she pointed to the back door. He nodded back, and she hurried through the restaurant to step out into the cool October night. The alley was deserted. The perfect place to craft a sexy text.
A smile pulled at her lips when she saw the long text. But as she took her private spot in the alley between the building and the edge of the enclosure that held the dumpster, horror flowed over her as the actual words sank in.
I'm sorry to have to do this by text, but I know you're working and I couldn't wait another minute. I've met someone else. It doesn't mean you're not great. You are. But I want to be with her. I hope we can still be friends. Oh, and if you wouldn't mind, can you drop my spare key off in the mailbox?
"Friends?" she whispered as she slid down the wall, the corner of the bricks snagging her sweatshirt.
It took a few minutes for the tears to come. But eventually they did. Six years wasn't an eternity, but she'd really thought they might end up married someday.
Squaring her shoulders and wiping her eyes with her sleeve, she worked to pull herself together. A car was coming down the alley. And she had to go back to work.
But first, she needed to vent. Her thumbs flew across the screen with profanities and accusations as she texted him back. Her jaw ached from clenching it so hard. Before she hit send, her rant was interrupted by a woman's scream.
Sam shifted around as the cry was abruptly cut off with a loud smack. Leaning back so she could see into the alley from behind the trash enclosure, she noticed a black car parked just beyond where she was crouched. At the front of the car, a woman was being pushed to the ground. She was bloody and barefoot, her black skirt ripped, and her crisp white shirt was splattered with blood. The woman whimpered and tried to get up, her blonde hair coming loose from its fashionable twist. A menacing man in a suit loomed over her.
Sam stood to go help. This wasn't right. How many times had she intervened when one of her mother's boyfriends got rough? She opened her mouth to yell when she heard two whizzing sounds. The woman's body fell limp against the pavement.
Instinct forced Sam back down behind the dumpster as the man put a gun — long and deadly — inside his coat and rushed to the driver's door to get in.
It wasn't until the car had squealed off down the alley that she truly realized what she'd seen. It was as if her brain were trying to protect her from the impossible. But it wasn't working.
That poor woman had been shot.
Right in front of her.
Sam muttered useless curses while her trembling fingers automatically dialed. Her whole body shook as she held the phone to her ear. At first, all she could hear was the rushing of blood as it pumped through her temples, but then she heard a woman's voice.
"911. What's your emergency?" Sam gripped the phone harder, unable to speak. "Help," she finally squeaked.
The operator asked other questions, but while Sam was able to form the answers in her mind, she couldn't get them out in words. She had studied all forms of stress and trauma disorders while in college, but at the moment, she didn't know how to make herself function.
She was frozen inside, unable to process what was happening. It seemed to take forever to form a thought, and even longer to react. She rose shakily on legs that didn't feel up to the task of holding her up. The blood drained from her head at the abrupt motion, and sparkly shadows encroached on her vision. She put her hand out, gripping the cold brick to steady herself.
She looked back toward the body, but didn't let herself actually see the poor woman lying there. Instead, she stumbled into the restaurant, still carrying the phone with the 911 operator prompting her for answers.
The smile fell off Anthony's face as she hurried up to him, waving toward the alley. While she couldn't form words, she tried her best to communicate the terror she was feeling.
Grabbing her phone, he ran out the door as he spoke to the operator. Sam followed and pointed toward the woman, and this time her gaze moved straight to the woman's still body.
Sam saw her. Saw everything. The woman's hair was blonde, about the same shade as her own, but discolored by the dark puddle surrounding her head.
Anthony immediately spun Sam around and wrapped his arms around her, protecting her from the sight.
But she would never be able to erase it from her mind.
Time moved both too fast and incrementally slow as the sound of sirens filled the chilly night air. Soon, hordes of police cars packed the alley, followed by an ambulance.
She could hear the rumble of Anthony's voice talking to the responders, but she didn't know what he said. She stared at the blue and red lights as they reflected off the wall, making everything surreal.
He left her standing with one of the officers as he ran inside a few times and then came back to check on her. She vaguely heard him tell her he had closed the restaurant and was ready to go with her to the police station. She wanted to thank him, but again, her brain was too numb to get the words out.
She'd always thought she was tough. Growing up with a mother who'd brought home a lot of disreputable men had made her that way out of survival. Sam had thought she was prepared to handle any type of situation, but she wasn't handling anything at the moment.
A woman was dead, and Sam had done nothing to help.
Granted, it had only taken a few short moments, and Sam most likely would have become the gunman's second victim, but nevertheless, the weight of guilt bore down on her shoulders.
The best she could do for the woman now was to help the police find the killer and bring him to justice.
"Your name and some ID?" the officer asked.
"Samantha Hutchinson." Her voice sounded far away, and her hands fumbled while getting the ID out of her wallet. She was glad for Anthony's help. After the cop made a few notes, he handed back her driver's license and asked her to come with him.
With a nod, she let Anthony lead her to the police car. He was her boss, but he was also a great friend. She appreciated the warmth of his arm around her as she tried desperately to think of clues that would be helpful. Nothing came to her. It was as if a rain shower had washed away all her memories of the event that had happened only a half hour before.
She could remember drink orders and pizza toppings all night long, but at the moment, she couldn't remember what the killer looked like. All she could recall was the size of his gun.
Anthony whispered soothing words and patted her hand the whole way, but she was numb. The night had been chilly, not overly cold, but she couldn't stop shivering. She managed to give him her phone's passcode so he could call her best friend Nikki. He left a message telling her, "Sam is fine, but she needs your help."
It was a lie. Sam wasn't fine.
Not by a longshot. She was falling apart on the inside, but was too frozen on the outside for anyone to notice. Worse, the numbness was fading and she started to feel all the things she'd been avoiding. The fear, the anger, and especially the helplessness. Her mind wouldn't stop. She kept trying to think of something she could have done.
At the police station, she was brought into a room with dingy, green walls. She sat in a navy-blue chair in front of a metal desk and focused on her breathing. Anthony was sitting next to her, holding her hand and rubbing an irritating circle on her skin with his thumb. She wanted to pull her hand away because it was uncomfortable, but she was afraid her arm might break if she moved it. Afraid everything would break if she moved, at all.
"Ms. Hutchinson?" There was a man sitting at the desk now. She wasn't sure if she'd missed him when she'd walked in, or if he'd just sat down. "I'm Detective Richards."
She looked up at him and tried to focus. There was something she needed to know first. "Is she ... Is that woman going to be okay?" Deep down, Sam knew the answer already. She wasn't an idiot. She'd seen enough movies and TV crime dramas to know when someone shot another person in the head at close range, they would never be okay.
"I'm sorry. She passed," he told her, straightening some papers in front of him.
Passed. It sounded like he was talking about a test, or what happened on the highway when someone was going too slowly. It wasn't the right word for being dragged out of a car and shot twice at close range.
Tears welled up in Sam's eyes.
"Did you know her?" the detective asked.
She shook her head as Anthony squeezed her shoulders. "It's okay, Sam," he encouraged.
"We haven't confirmed the victim's ID yet, but the license in her purse was for a Heather Riddell. Does that name ring any bells?"
Sam shook her head again as Anthony said, "I didn't recognize her, either."
"Ms. Hutchinson, can you tell me what you saw?"
She opened her mouth to speak, to give them the information needed to put that monster away, but her throat was so dry, only scratchy whispers emerged.
"I'll get you something to drink." The detective abruptly rose and left the room, his movements so quick she jumped.
She jumped again when her phone rang with Nikki's ringtone from inside Anthony's pocket. He rushed out to the hall to take the call as the detective handed Sam a can of soda with a straw.
After she took a few sips, the detective cleared his throat. "Ms. Hutchinson?" he said, getting her attention again. "Let's go through it slowly. Tell me what you saw."
She nodded and began telling the story, starting with how Lance had broken up with her by text. Explaining why she was in the alley, sitting on the ground and crying, to begin with.
She told him how she'd heard a noise, and had seen a woman being dragged out of a black car. Then the part where she heard the gunshots and the woman stopped moving. Once she was able to speak, she couldn't seem to stop. Every detail of what happened came rushing out of her.
She explained how the gun sounded. How it didn't make loud cracks, but airy, whizzing sounds.
"A silencer, most likely," the detective said. Which also explained why it had looked so long as he'd put it back in his coat. "So, you saw him?" "What?" She blinked in confusion.
"You saw him put the gun back in his coat. You know his suit coat was black. You saw him."
All the details seemed to float out into the ether, leaving her with nothing. Of course she'd seen him. She must have. She squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to draw up the image of the man, but all she could see was the gun as he tucked it inside his coat. She shook her head and tried again.
She must have seen his face. Why wouldn't her brain work?
"All I can remember is the gun. I'm not sure if I saw his face. I was too focused on the girl and the size of the gun. I'm so sorry," she said.
Fear and guilt washed over her and she rubbed her temples. She hadn't been able to stop this woman, Heather Riddell, from being killed, and now her faulty brain was going to fail her in death.
"It's okay," said Richards. "Don't try too hard with his face. Let's back up. You said his suit was black?"
She understood this tactic. She had taken psychology in college. Asking too many questions too quickly made a person shut down. She tried not to shut down. She needed to be strong so she could help find the man and bring him to justice for what he'd done. For Heather.
"Yes. I'm pretty sure. It was dark."
"Do you remember his size? Think about the suit. Was he broad across the shoulders? Thin? Tall?"
She thought about it. "Tall. He seemed to tower over her as he pointed the gun. I don't remember if he was thin, but he wasn't fat. He must have been strong. He pulled her out of the car with one hand."
"Let's talk about the car. What kind of car was it?"
"Black?" he repeated, as if he expected her to change her mind.
A black suit, a black car in a black alley. She could maybe see why he was skeptical.
"It was definitely black. With chrome door handles. A sedan."
"License plate?" the detective asked hopefully.
"No. I couldn't see the back of the car. The dumpster was blocking it. I could only see the front passenger side."
She frowned. She was being no help at all. "I'm sorry, I'm trying." She glanced up at the clock above his head. It was nearly eleven. It felt like it could have been eleven the next morning.
"It's okay. You're doing an excellent job," the detective reassured her.
She wasn't doing an excellent job. She'd remembered all the unimportant things like the sound the gun made and how long it was, but she couldn't remember what the man looked like or the license plate number. She was useless.
Just then, Nikki burst into the room.
"Sam! Are you all right? Anthony told me what happened. I had to get someone to give me a ride. Are you okay?"
Nikki didn't stop the questions long enough for Sam to answer.
"You look like hell," Nikki said, and turned to the detective. "Can she go home now? Look at her. She's exhausted."
"I have a few more questions, then you may go."
Nik nodded and took the seat next to her while Anthony hovered by the door. "Do you have her? I was going to head out," Anthony said as he handed Nikki Sam's phone.
"Yes. Thanks for calling me."
Detective Richards asked his other questions, most of which Sam couldn't answer.
When he finished, he stood. "Usually, when we find a dead girl in an alley, she's a prostitute. But we haven't come up with a rap sheet for Heather Riddell, and she wasn't dressed like a hooker. Plus, the fancy car and the silencer lead me to believe this was more than a john who couldn't come up with the money after the fun was over."
His bluntness should have bothered Sam, but she was so tired she probably wouldn't have understood if he'd tried to sugarcoat it.
"I'll have an officer drive you to your car so you can go home and get some rest. Tomorrow you can come in and look through the mug books. Maybe something will jog your memory."
She nodded, hoping he was right.
Nikki helped her up. She felt stiff from sitting so long. Detective Richards called for a patrol car to take her to the pizza shop where her car was parked. She and Nikki sat silently in the backseat like they were guilty of something.
Sam was guilty.
She should have thought more quickly. She should have used her phone to get a photo of the man or the license plate, but she'd panicked and blown it.
As she stared out the window, berating herself, a Metrobus came up next to them at a stoplight. She just about threw up. The man in the photo on the side of the bus ...
Oh my God.
He was the killer.
Sam had seen the man before. He'd been in every other commercial for months. He was running for reelection to Congress. Apparently, it was a tight race, and he wasn't taking any chances.
She couldn't believe she hadn't recognized him in the alley right away.
It was so obvious now, but her mind had most likely rejected the idea that a United States congressman would shoot a woman in cold blood in an alley behind a pizzeria. Or maybe she was so exhausted her mind was playing tricks on her.
Nikki looked back and forth between Sam and the bus, no doubt noticing she'd frozen as she looked at the bus. "What?" she asked.
Sam shook her head, glancing at the officer who couldn't care less what they were talking about. She needed to think it through before she accused a government official of murder. The officer dropped them off at the restaurant, and Anthony came out from his upstairs apartment to check on her.
Excerpted from "Witness in the Dark"
Copyright © 2017 Allison B. Hanson.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
## Just OK for me. Didn't really like the hero. Didn't like that the heroine kept throwing herself at him. Have some pride lady. Won't be reading again.
I enjoyed the story. Action, drama, romance but had moments of nail biting to see what happens next. Garret, a U.S. marshall has to keep Sam safe until she can testify after witnessing a murder of a woman. They are on the run and hiding from goons the congressman has hired so she can't testify against him. During the time, they work together to do what they have to stay safe and try to keep their hands off each other.
Story flowed and characters were enjoyable.
Liked the story very much. Like the main characters relationship with each other.
Loved the book.
I was in a facebook group that hosted this author. I throw my name in the hat for a signed book at the same time the host asked me if I would be interested in reviewing it. YES YES of course I would it sounded like a wonderful read by a new author I had never hear of. I got the ecopy and shortly started reading it. I was very excited when I got an email that said I was one of the winners for the signed book. I love my signed books…. In the mean time I picked up my ebook and stared reading it. I was hooked, very hooked I had trouble putting this down. Samantha could not have started out with a worse night as her night got longer she found out just how worse it can get. She has a boyfriend she adores she goes out back to send him a sexy text but finds one from him that put her in tears. With tears in her eyes she hears a car and cannot believe what she just saw. In shock from the text and what she saw she runs back in to have someone call the cops. This puts her life spinning out of control and on the run trying to stay alive with only one person to trust who pulls her behind him with a gun in his hand….. This is a new author to me she really blew my mind with an outstanding plot and characters. Sam is very outgoing and it is hard for her to stay inside the box that Garrett has made for her. She is sassy but has a wonderful sense of humor, tough and not willing to give up easy. She knows what needs to be done and does it even if it means putting her live on the line. Garrett is a man with secrets. Not one to put his live out there he holds his cards close. He is a man of mystery, strong and knows how to take care of his self. If you were in trouble and running for your life this is the man you want beside you, holding your hand and pushing you to do your best. There are some major shockers here, mind blowing shockers that will keep your heart beating double time. Lots of action, passion, secrets, danger and things going BOOM, this author had no trouble holding your attention giving you a page turner like no other. Just when you think it is going to level out something else happens that makes you hold your breath. I loved the danger, the excitement, thrills and near death moments. The author wraps all this around humor that will keep you laughing while your heart is still in your throat. Every year I close my eyes and pick my favorite book of the year this is defiantly in the running. You will not believe how great, wonderful, exciting and humors this book is. I can’t wait to read more of her work. I really hope you pick this up getting the thrill only this author can give you as life is held on the edge and passion fills the room why secrets get in the way as you keep one step ahead of the people who are trying to kill you.
This was a great read. This is most definitely a suspense romance with a lot of twists. Samantha is trying to have a normal day at work. However, after her boyfriend breaks up with her, witnessing a murder, and being betrayed over and over again she is reaching her breaking point. So the only way to survive is by trusting her own instincts and learning everything about winning fights from Garrett. But she definitely can not trust him as she can not trust anyone in the government after being betrayed. Throughout this book Sam changes into a women who will do anything to protect those she cares about and she will do anything to protect herself. She changed into a women you would most definitely want on your team in a battle. Garrett will do whatever is needed to protect Sam and not as part of his job. He sees something in her, and she is his responsibility. How the heck is he going to balance his job responsibilities, his protective instincts with Sam, and the intense desire he feels. This was a suspenseful romance that you will not want to put down. I would highly recommend Ms. Hanson as her writing style was superb and her plot was amazing. There was sexual content and a lot of action scenes including murder so if that is not something you feel comfortable reading then you should definitely skip this book. Otherwise happy readings :). ~A Book Obsessed Chicks Review Team Selection.
This is, quite simply, brilliant! I thoroughly enjoyed this action packed suspense from start to finish and have no hesitation in highly recommending it. After inadvertently witnessing a young woman being callously murdered, Samantha Hutchinson realises that a prominent politician is the perpetrator and identifies him to the police. To keep her safe, she’s put into the witness protection programme but dangers still lurk and she ends up endeavouring to stay alive with the help of Deputy Marshal Garrett McKendrick. The two are in enough danger from the politician’s influential friends, unsure who they can trust but when mutual attraction flares between them, too, life is sure going to get more complicated for them both! This is a fast paced page turner that I didn’t want to put down until I had finished reading it. It has well developed characters, a plot with so many twists and turns it leaves you unsure which way to turn next and is an engrossing, highly entertaining read. There are plenty of surprises along the way in this enthralling story - but you'll have to read it yourself to discover just what they are! I’ll definitely be looking out for more from this author in future! I requested and received a copy of this novel, via NetGalley. This is my honest review after choosing to read it.
when samantha hutchinson finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time in witness in the dark, she doesn't expect her honesty to put her life in danger. but doing the right thing puts her in the crosshairs of some powerful people who have no scruples when it comes to silencing her permanently. if deputy marshal garrett mckendrick has anything to say about it, she will stay safe and protected from all harm, even if it means his life is forfeit. the attraction and relationship that sparks up between sam and garrett is both instant and slow-burning. the attraction is there from the first moment they meet, but how their relationship builds on that attraction to become something deep and meaningful is just perfectly done. there's action and suspense and twists and turns aplenty. and the chemistry between these two leads is so hot. i just loved this one. **witness in the dark will publish on november 27, 2017. i received an advance reader copy courtesy of netgalley/entangled publishing (amara) in exchange for my honest review.
What a great book this is. I loved every intense moment. It's truly a page turner. We meet Sam early on, who while on break in the alley behind her part time job; reading a I'm dumping you text from her boyfriend witnesses a murder. Determined to do the right thing, she decides to proceed with telling the police who she saw. He happens to be a high ranking snake in government. The next thing she knows she's placed under federal protection, acquires herself one helluva hot Federal Marshall to keep her safe before the trial, which could take months and after her death is staged, she sets about trying to normalize a very abnormal situation. Garrett is her main retriever, his job is to hand her off to the first set of witness protection agents, but when Sam overhears them talking about her, she escapes. Of course Garrett finds her and after some discussion she's left in his charge. His job is to not only keep her alive, but to teach her how to keep herself alive. Obeying his immediate commands is task number one. After a little taming, she does things without even a blink and is good with what he's teaching her. I loved these two together, there's a point too in the story that you can tell there's another undercurrent at work, not just them avoiding being ambushed and killed, which happens a couple times, but something else. The way it's written, you honestly don't know what it could be. So many twists and turns and a couple "Wow didn't see that coming..." I love a girl who can shoot a 9mm. The story has a great flow, the chemistry between these two was perfect and a couple of the side characters were just enough that you didn't really like them, but you didn't dislike them either. His boss included. This is my first read from Allison and I hope she writes another after this. This was a fantastic romantic suspense book (if I had to label it) and worth a second read! **arc from NetGalley and Entangled in exchange for a fair review**
Fantastic book that is high energy with tons of action, suspense, a bit of humor, and romance. Great characters that are well developed, a nice pace to the story, and great writing made this a very enjoyable read. Samantha Hutchinson was definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time and now she's running for her life. Luckily she has the very capable, determined and incredibly sexy US Marshall Garrett McKendrick to help keep her safe. Garrett has always followed the rules and never gotten involved in a protectee. Until Samanatha. Now it's personal and he'll do whatever it takes to keep her safe. I highly recommend this one.
Witness in the Dark by Allison B. Hanson Love Under Fire #1 What would you do if you were the only eyewitness to a murder? Would you call the police? Would you be willing to testify? Would doing so be worth risking your life? Would you be willing to turn your back on everything and everyone to do what is right then start a new life in witness protection? Well, these are the question Samantha “Sam” Hutchinson faces one night when she accidentally sees a woman murdered and once she decides she can’t let a man with a high profile “get away with murder” her life changes forever. Each day brings Sam something new to deal with as she wonders if this day might be her last. AND if you were the one thinking today might be your last day…what would REALLY be important? I was caught then kept engaged throughout this book wondering just what would happen next. I found Sam to be a strong female lead that was definitely a good match for Garrett. I loved the twists and turns and unveilings as they arrived and wondered how a woman likely going into witness protection would end up with a HEA. At the end of the book I wondered who will have their story told next in this series and whether or not this couple will show up at some point in the future. Thank you to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the ARC – This is my honest review. 5 Stars
Wow! One of the best books I've read in awhile! I wish I could give it more than five stars!!!! I loved the characters, from Sam with her sudden problems that made me care about her, to Garrett, the sexy marshal who, despite pulling a gun on her, is all that stands between her and certain death. Add in the secrets that Garrett is keeping from Sam that at some point will come out, and that he doesn't think she'll be able to forgive, and you have the perfect and somewhat tortured, hero. Fast paced romantic suspense at its best. This is a must read for fans of the genre. I can't believe its the first book I've read by this author, but she is now at the top of my must read authors' list.
This is the first book I read by this talented author, and it definitely will not be the last. I absolutely loved it. Samantha (Sam) Hutchinson is taking a break behind the pizza restaurant she works at, so she can read a text from her boyfriend, soon to be ex. She hears a cry and ends up witnessing a murder. At first in shock, she has obliterated the face of the murderer but once she remembers she is determined to do the right thing and she tells the police. She realizes that her life will likely be changed forever, and may have to go into the Witness Protection Program, but her sense of duty and belief that justice should be served, encourages her to tell what she saw. Sam is taken under protection by US Marshals. When she is almost killed while under protection, Deputy US Marshal Garrett McKendrick takes over. What should have been a simple case of protection, gets complicated and feelings developed. Even during stressful times in which Garrett tries to keep her safe, there are moments that you will laugh and admire Sam’s resourcefulness. Still at others, you will be heartbroken for these two individuals who are aware that a future together is not in the cards. The suspense will keep you on the edge of your seat never sure if these two will survive long enough for Sam to testify. I can’t wait for the next book in this series. I was gifted this copy by Netgalley and Entangled Publishing. The opinions expressed are solely my own.