Saturday, December 13, 2008
When Night Falls
I am part of the Love Inspired Suspense continuity series for 2009. What Sarah Saw, coming out next month, is the first book in the series. I was asked to write the prequel to that book when my hero and heroine first met in New Orleans a year before the series starts. Below I have posted the first chapter of the novella (really a long short story) and given you a link to download the whole story from Harlequin Steeple Hill. When Night Falls is in PDF format, and when it comes up, I right clicked to download the pages to my computer (on a Mac it says Save Pages As...). The link to the free download for the novella is HERE.
I hope you enjoy it, and if you want to read more about Sam and Jocelyn, get What Sarah Saw in January.
When Night Falls
In the dead of night darkness, closed in on Dr. Jocelyn Gold as she approached her car, parked in the last row in the large lot, full of vehicles but not people.
Glancing up at the security light, she couldn’t remember it being out when she arrived at the apartment building earlier. She’d been meeting with Sam Pierce to consult with him and interview a teen in an FBI case. She should have waited for Sam and left with him, but she’d wanted to get home. Usually place was teeming with people. She checked her watch. One in the morning. That would explain the emptiness. She’d been here longer than she thought. She hurried her pace, clicking her remote to unlock her car.
She reached for her door handle of her yellow Thunderbird. A sweaty hand clamped over her mouth. The taste of salt gagged her as a large body flattened her against her vehicle. The force of the action knocked the breath from her lungs and her purse from her grasp. A knife pressed into her neck while a musky odor assailed her nostrils.
Terror held her immobile. Her breath trapped in her lungs, she tried to recall her self-defense training. Her mind blanked.
The man leaned into her, the scent of beer chasing away all other smells. “You should have left my daughter alone.”
The gruff, muffled sound of his deep voice pierced the thundering of her heartbeat in her ears. Daughter? Who?
Her assailant shoved her head into the soft top of her convertible, his hand no longer over her lips, the sharp weapon no longer at her throat. But before she could scream, he stuffed an oily rag into her mouth. With her body still trapped between her car and him, he tied a gag on her. When he lifted the knife, even in the darkness she could see its glinting steel. She squeezed her eyes closed, anticipating the bite of the knife.
The hammering of her heartbeat in her ears proclaimed she was still alive. She stared at the black shroud of night, the apartment building a hundred yards away. He shifted, bearing his full weight on her body.
Then it came--the steel blade sliding across her flesh, nicking her. The sweat running down her neck stung the cut. A cold, clammy feeling washed over her.
“I’m gonna enjoy slicing you up. But not here.” He used the tip of the knife to toy with the shell of her ear.
The threat shoved her survival instincts to the foreground. Snippets of her training finally leaked into her thoughts. She ground her foot into his, and the instant his hold lessened, she jabbed her elbow back into his soft stomach. A whoosh of air blasted from his lips.
The hulking man struggled to breathe. His grip loosened even more. Jocelyn went limp, totally slipping from him. Wrenching away, she swung her arm against his wrist, and the knife flew from his grasp. The clanking noise reverberated in the quiet. She kicked his shin, then whirled and ran toward the building.
The sound of his pounding footsteps filled her ears. Her own breathing shallow and ragged, Jocelyn knew the distance between them was shrinking, but she dared not look back.
I can make it. She tore at the gag over her mouth.
Sixty. She spat out the rag. She felt a catch in her side.
A hand grabbed her jacket. She shrugged out of the garment and kept going.
Forty more yards and safety.
But the thud of his footsteps sounded right behind her. She screamed.
He slammed into her, and she crashed to the asphalt, all the air rushing from her. Pain shot up from her knees and palms. A heavy weight pressed her into the cement, constricting the rise and fall of her chest. The grit of the pavement dug into her cheek. Her lungs burned with the effort to draw oxygen into them.
Suddenly the pressure on her back eased. She started to scramble away when he yanked her arm up, hauling her to her feet, facing him. Over six feet tall, he towered in front of her. Through the slits in the black ski mask she felt his gaze boring through her although it was too dark really to tell.
“I’ll make you pay for destroying my family.”
His mumbled threat, a menacing whisper, hung between them. They were only mere inches apart. Squeezing her arm so tight that her fingers were going numb, he yanked her closer until her length mashed into his. Again the smell of beer accosted her. Bile rose into her throat. With one hand fisted in her hair and the other digging into her arm, he began dragging her toward some bushes off to the side. She fought to block the pain and focus on getting away.
She screamed. Her voice barely worked. Swallowing hard, she started to shout again. He locked his arm across her front and braced his fleshy palm against her mouth.
Her attacker jerked around, taking her with him. He knocked her to the ground, then fled.
“Jocelyn, you all right?”
She blinked and looked up. Sam Pierce hovered over her, his gun drawn.
“Yeah,” she answered in a raw whisper while the blackness around her threatened to swallow her.
He thrust his cell into her hand. “Call the police. I’m going after him.” Sam raced after the man who had a good minute head start.
* * *
The pounding of his feet ate up the distance. A picture of Jocelyn with her long, blond hair clutched in her assailant’s hand and her blue eyes full of fear and pain spurred him even faster.
He glimpsed the large perpetrator dash into a dark alley. Sam followed. Thoughts of hearing Jocelyn’s scream propelled him into a situation he knew was dangerous. When he got his hands on the man, he would regret messing with Jocelyn. Rage fed Sam until he realized he’d lost sight of the attacker.
Slowing his pace, Sam searched the shadows. He had to stay focused on his target, not on his anger. He saw a movement up ahead and increased his speed. His grip on his weapon tightened, all his instincts sharpened. The only illumination came from the buildings lining the sides of one back alley after another.
When he reached a dead end, a chain link eight-foot fence towered before him. Scaling it, he leaped to the ground and scanned the inky curtain surrounding the abandoned warehouse. He dug into his suit pocket and retrieved his penlight, then made a sweep of the area.
A crashing noise jerked him around to the left.
* * *
Jocelyn picked herself up from the pavement. Her legs wobbled. She stumbled and nearly went down. The trembling started in her hands and quickly spread throughout her. She hugged her arms across her chest and trudged toward the apartment building.
At the double glass doors that led inside, she pulled on one and nearly cried out when it didn’t budge. Yanking on the other produced more frustration. The locked lobby afforded no safety for her. She raised her hands to hammer her fists against the glass when she saw Sam’s cell. Quickly she made a call to the police, then wilted to the pavement before the doors, hoping they arrived soon.
Finally Jocelyn looked down at herself and gasped. Through her torn black pants she could see her bloodied knees. Turning her hands over, she examined her scraped and bleeding palms. She brought her finger up to her neck and felt the sticky wet of her own blood.
What if something happened to Sam because of her? That question renewed all her panic and fear. With everything else going on in her life, how would she forgive herself if it did?
* * *
A white cat darted in front of Sam, and for a few seconds he relaxed his tense body, drawing in a calming breath.
Then he continued his search of the tall weeds and trash littered yard encircling the warehouse. Nothing but a black wall greeted his inspection.
Suddenly he realized where he was. The assailant had doubled back around. The apartment parking lot was nearby. Visions of Jocelyn at knifepoint flashed through his mind.
Sam set out in a jog, skirting the abandoned structure. Lord, protect her.
He rounded a corner when something hard whacked him across the chest. He stumbled and fell to his knees. The grip about his weapon momentarily went slack.
Sucking in gasping breaths, he lifted his head at the same time he strengthened his hold on his gun. A two-by-four came at him, catching him on the side of the head. He collapsed forward. The sight of white tennis shoes was the last thing he saw before darkness rushed in.
* * *
Jocelyn hugged Sam’s cell phone as though that would protect her from her attacker if he reappeared. She continually scanned the parking lot, so tense that her muscles ached.
A movement in the shadows at the edge of a pool of light from the nearest security lamp caught her attention. A figure emerged. She struggled to her feet, praying it was Sam coming back.
In the distance a siren broke the stillness of the night.
The unknown person froze, stared down the street then spun about and ran.
Jocelyn slid down the glass as patrol cars came to a shrieking halt. Two police officers raced toward her. One placed a call while the other homed in on her.
“Jocelyn, I heard the dispatcher and came as quick as I could.”
Relief washed over her. She knew her. Terri Morgan. She quickly explained what happened, finishing with the fact Sam was still gone. Her mounting fear crept into her voice as the other officer joined Terri.
“I called for an ambulance,” the newcomer said.
“Why?” Jocelyn asked, trying to stand, needing to go look for Sam.
“Jocelyn, stay right there until the paramedics can check you out.” Terri placed a hand on her shoulder.
“No! Something’s wrong. I can feel it.” Her voice rose.
“You’re hurt, Jocelyn.”
The patience in her friend’s voice did nothing to alleviate her dread. “I’m okay. Find Sam.”
She took a step forward and sank to the pavement, Terri’s arm about her in support. Her body throbbed in pain.
More sirens disturbed the night.
An ambulance slammed to a stop in front of the building. One paramedic jumped out and hurried toward her while another opened the back of the vehicle.
She shook off Terri’s assistance and shoved to her feet, determined to remain upright. “You don’t understand. I’m not going anywhere until I see Sam. Make sure he’s all right.”
The other policeman murmured something in her friend’s ear, then made a call for backup. Panic surged through her.
Where was Sam?
A paramedic wheeled a gurney to her. A protest welled up inside her, but before she could utter it, a figure staggered out of a dark alley across the street and pitched forward.