Thursday, 2 December 2010

Excerpt Day – Three's Allowed: Rescued © L.E. Harner



Chapter One

Graeme fumbled for the phone in the dark. He hated middle-of-the-night calls. He’d thought he’d escaped that when he’d traded his Phoenix detective shield for the small-town sheriff’s badge, but a quick glance at his clock showed it was two thirty-one in the morning, which meant someone was probably dead.


“Kennedy,” he said, already turning on the light, ready to write down the location of the scene.


“Sheriff, it’s Sally. Sorry to disturb your…sleep,” she said.


He noticed the pause, knew she was fishing. She’d been trying to dig into his personal life ever since he’d arrived and had made it known she was available, if he was interested. He wasn’t.


“What is it, Sally?” he asked, keeping his tone neutral.


“Got a strange report of a domestic at the rest area. Tim is just south of Flag, tied up with a motor vehicle accident. He’ll be there at least another hour. There’s a fatality involved. You said to give you a call before I called in Department of Public Safety. Do you want to check it out? It’s probably just some kids. The caller hung up and didn’t leave many details.”


“I’ve got it. Send the details to my unit. I’ll be on the road in five.”


* * * * *


Oh god. How could this be happening? Elizabeth wiped the blood from her eye and examined the car, trying to figure out the safest way to help.


The driver had saved her life, and now he was unconscious. The front tires of his SUV were barely hanging on the edge of the precipice, and it was a clear drop of a hundred feet to the red rocks below. She needed to make the vehicle stable and then get out of there before anyone found her.


If she could prevent it from rolling forward until he regained consciousness or until help arrived, the stranger could get out. He would be okay. He had to be.


She limped forward, carrying the biggest rock she could lift, and pushed it in front of the rear tire. She returned again and again until both rear tires were wedged tight.


Her head whipped around at the sharp snap of twig behind her. Then a soft, purely evil laugh sliced through the cold night air.


“Looks like you’re fresh out of Prince Charmings again, Elizabeth. Funny how they all seem to disappear on you. I wonder why that is? I think it’s fate. You’re mine, and no one else is allowed to have you. Not ever. Come on now, Elizabeth. It’s time to go home. We can kiss and make up.”


There was nowhere to run. He would catch her, and this time he would kill her. She was sure of it.


Movement from inside the SUV caught her attention. She glanced down in time to see a strong hand raise a gun through the broken window. In one smooth motion, the man aimed toward the brush and fired.


The SUV slid forward. Ears ringing from the gunshot, she didn’t hesitate. She yanked the car door opened, then pulled the man’s arm with every bit of strength she possessed. He came free from the crushed metal and tangle of seat belt just as his car lost the war with gravity.


Michael tumbled out of his SUV and bowled the woman over. Rolling fast, he covered her with his body, gun pointing into the brush, eyes searching for the source of that disembodied voice. He could hear nothing after the retort of the gun except the sick crunch of his custom hybrid Tahoe as it died a humiliating death at the bottom of the canyon. Shit. He’d just bought that car!


The trip had started so beautifully, his new beginning. No more working all night, no more losing track of the days, no more heart attack waiting to happen. Thirty wasn’t old; he was just overworked in an obsessive-compulsive kind of way.


Enwright Security had grown to be the top high-tech security business in the country and had nearly eaten him alive in the process. Not that he hadn’t loved every bit of starting his own company. He had. But when one of his top technicians died at his workbench after another fourteen-hour shift, Michael knew it was time to make a change.


A little over two hours ago, he’d loaded a suitcase, laptop, and a few other gadgets into his Tahoe and headed north from Phoenix with no particular destination in mind. He’d stopped at the Sunset Point rest area, resisted the temptation to call the office and check on the production statistics, and just stood gazing into the gathering darkness. No destination meant no reservations, no plans. He felt lost. With a sigh, he’d gotten back into the car.


He’d noticed the woman first. She’d burst from the backside of the restrooms, running toward the brush with quick looks over her shoulders. A moment later, a man dressed all in black gave chase.


Her face had been a mask of terror, and Michael hadn’t hesitated. He’d pushed the four-wheel drive into action and barreled over the curb and into the brush surrounding the rest area, following the path of the man. He’d figured it was a domestic dispute and reasoned if he could get to the man, he could calm the situation. If not, he’d knock the asshole out. Either way, he couldn’t sit by and watch a man chase a woman into the wilderness.


The gunshots came as a complete surprise. Four bullets right to the windshield. The bullet-resistant glass did its job, but the stars splintering across the front effectively blocked his view. The Tahoe pitched over a boulder, and Michael had a terrifying glimpse of the edge of the world before his head slammed into the door frame and the lights went out.


All that had led to his current predicament. He was lying on top of a beautiful woman, his gun in his hand, looking into the night for a rat bastard he now planned to kill.


“Police. Drop the gun, and lock your hands behind your head, motherfucker,” the voice a low growl behind his ear.


Michael turned his head slightly only to find the barrel of a gun pressed against his temple. He dropped the gun. The woman beneath him whimpered.


Graeme’s heart rate was nicely elevated. He cuffed the suspect where he lay, needing to secure him before he risked a look at the woman. Jerking the man’s arms, he dropped him unceremoniously and was rewarded with a muffled thud as his face hit the ground.


“Ma’am, are you okay? I need you to stand up slowly with your hands to the side where I can see them.”


He wasn’t taking any chances. They could both be assholes, and he was out here without backup. The woman got to her knees and pushed herself up from the ground, careful to keep her hands in view.


“Turn around,” he directed.


She turned slowly, her long sweep of auburn hair hiding her face. It didn’t matter. There was only one head of hair like that. Elizabeth Ashford. Fuck.


He reached her in two strides, brushed the hair back from her face, and saw the bruises and blood. “Elizabeth, honey, are you okay? Where’d you come from?”


He walked her over to sit far enough away from the suspect and lowered her to the ground. Kneeling beside her, he said, “I’m sorry, Elizabeth. He’s not going to hurt you anymore. Don’t worry, sweetheart, I’ve got you now. Can you talk? Can you tell me what happened?”


“Beat me,” she gasped and then she pulled away from his arms and ran a few steps into the woods and vomited.


He figured she’d want a few minutes to recover, so he sauntered over to the bastard that beat the most beautiful woman he knew and the only one he’d ever loved. He grabbed a fistful of hair as dark as his own and pulled the man’s head back to take a look. One eye was swollen shut while the other showed a slice of steely blue peaking out between swollen lids. Red sand and pebbles clung to the blood that covered the unfamiliar face. So it wasn’t her bastard husband after all.


He dropped the head and was again gratified by the sound of flesh on ground and a small moan at the rough contact. He checked the man for more weapons, removed his wallet and his cell phone.


“What’s your name, asshole?” he asked as he gave a rough kick, his boot connecting with the suspect’s hip in order to turn him over.


The man made a harsh sound that could have been a laugh, spit blood and dirt from his mouth, and said through swollen lips, “Fuck you!”


Graeme smiled. He would enjoy questioning this prick. He flipped open the man’s wallet, just as Elizabeth came back to the small clearing.


“Elizabeth, do you know this here—” he glanced down at the man’s driver’s license “—Michael Enwright?” The name was familiar, but he wasn’t sure where he’d heard it before.


“No, wait, Graeme, you’ve got it all wrong, and don’t call me that,” she said running over to the downed man, even as he tried to stop her.


“It was Barry that beat me. This man saved my life. Barry very nearly killed him, too. He shot at him and caused the accident. Help me,” she pleaded as she tried to help Enwright sit up.


This was all such a mess. What was she going to do? She probably needed a doctor. She knew her ribs were bruised where Barry had kicked her. He usually confined the blows to her stomach and thighs, places that wouldn’t leave a mark. He’d been especially violent tonight. She’d recognized the signs, known it was coming. Yet she hadn’t been able to divert him, and the rage came on fast and furious. He’d worked himself up as he enumerated her failings, ending on the tragically familiar accusations that she didn’t love him and she was having an affair.


It was hard to argue with the first. She didn’t love Barry. An affair was out of the question. The only man she’d ever wanted was standing in front of her wearing a badge, and he was a big part of the reason she’d stayed married to Barry for as long as she had.


* * * * *


Fuckin’ cunt! She had no business running. Sneaking out the goddamn backdoor of the bathroom. She’d planned to run away all along. It was why she’d whined for the last thirty minutes about having to go pee at the next rest stop.


He wouldn’t have hurt her, not really. Sure he’d given her a tap, but she’d had it coming. He’d planned to take her to the cabin where he could really teach her a lesson before they made up. Now she’d gone and caused all this trouble. It was her fault he’d had to shoot that prick in the fancy SUV. He knew who it was, though. He finally knew who her fucking boyfriend was. The fancy Enwright prick. Rich bastard. Asshole had practically fucked her on the ground with her husband standing there watching. Goddamn it!


He would make them pay. Elizabeth was his. Nobody took what was his. Nobody! He’d learned things in Afghanistan that would make her pretty little red head spin. He would make her watch. He would skin Enwright alive, cut off his dick, and feed it to her. Then she would learn. Elizabeth would learn.


He pressed his knuckles against his temples. Have to calm down, have to think. Once Enwright was dead, she would settle down, but now they couldn’t go home. They could still go to the cabin. No one knew where that was. Not even Elizabeth. Need money. Enwright has money. Just need to get some of Enwright’s money before I kill him. Need a plan. Need a plan. Need a plan.

* * * * *


“You’re sure Lizzie?” Graeme asked, using her preferred name and deliberately blocking her view of Enwright, who sat in the dirt rubbing his wrists. “I can keep you safe, no matter what’s going on,” he added.


“For Christ’s sake, she said she was sure. We are both victims here, Sheriff. I’ve never met the woman before in my life. I saw a man chasing her, I followed. He shot at my car, I wrecked. I shot at where I thought he might be hiding, and my Tahoe started to slide off the edge. The lady helped pull me from the SUV, and I was covering her body while I looked for the gunman. You know the rest.”


The radio at his side squawked. “Sheriff Kennedy, come in. We have an emergency near your location. Possible kidnapping. State police and FBI are on their way. Repeat, we have an emergency—”


“Sally, will you please remember to use alternate channels and proper protocol under unusual circumstances. I’ll call you on my private line, standby.”


He stepped away to get some privacy, uneasy about leaving Elizabeth so close to the Enwright fellow.


“What is it, Sally?” he demanded as soon as the call connected.


He listened, grunted directions, and disconnected.


“Do you know what that call was all about, Enwright?” he asked.


“I have a pretty good idea,” Michael answered, a slight smile on his face.


“It seems your fucking Tahoe is equipped with a satellite tracker and called the police automatically when the crash was recorded and you didn’t answer.”


Enwright didn’t respond, just waited.


“Why didn’t you tell me who you are?” Graeme gritted out through clenched teeth.


“You didn’t ask. You were too busy dropping me face-first into the dirt and kicking me. God forbid you worry about who I am or what might have happened to me. If you’d like to return my phone, I imagine I can at least keep the FBI from showing up here,” Michael said, holding his hand out for his phone.


He hit the speed dial.


“Shit, Michael, are you okay? It’s a royal cluster fuck here. The FBI are all over the place. They said it was likely a kidnapping. What the hell’s going on? First you need a break, like some Mr. Goddamn Sensitive, now you trash the Tahoe.”


“I’m all right, Jolynn. It was a freak accident. Call off the dogs. Tell the FBI to go home. I suppose I’ll stay around here a day or two to supervise the extraction of the Tahoe. Have Walker ferry up the spare Tahoe, and he can take this one back. I’m afraid we’ll have to salvage it for parts. Call and order another one and have Walker use the same specs for customizing,” he said. “Send me all new technology. You know what I need. Send it care of the local sheriff’s office.” He ended the call.


He paused, thinking of what else he needed to do. In the momentary silence, he heard the sheriff asking the woman—asking Elizabeth, he amended—where she would stay. Her tearful reply that she had nowhere to go tugged at his heart.


Michael interrupted. “Elizabeth, I’m sorry, I know we’re meeting under unusual circumstances, to say the least. My name is Michael Enwright, and my company specializes in security. Considering what we’ve been through together tonight, I want to offer you all of the resources available to Enwright Security. We’ll stop your husband. My company will put you up in a secure location while we track his movements. Believe me, we’ll find him. It’s the least I can do for your saving my life,” he finished sincerely.


“Like hell you will. Lizzie will be staying with me. We’re old friends. I can keep her safe, and I have plenty of room. Besides, this is a matter for the local officials,” the sheriff said stiffly.


“If that’s the case, Sheriff, you know the Phoenix Police Department will be taking over, and you’ll be shut out. Now that you know who I am, I imagine you know what I can do, what strings I can pull. I suggest we work together. I’ll have access to far more resources than you will, but I’ll be willing to share. I won’t even press charges against you. On one condition.”


“What’s that?” Graeme asked suspiciously.


“I’ll be staying with you, as well. Her husband got a good look at me. He’ll know who I am by tomorrow, if he watches the news. He’ll likely come looking for both of us, and together, you and I can keep her far safer than one of us alone.


© L.E. Harner

Three's Allowed: Rescued

Author: L.E. Harner

Publisher: Cobblestone Press

Genre: Ménage

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Elizabeth Ashford tries to escape her wife-beating husband before he kills her, by running into the wilderness near a highway rest area. Michael Enwright is a self-made millionaire and expert in high tech security. At the first rest stop of his long overdue sabbatical, he sees the fleeing woman and intervenes, saving Elizabeth’s life, while nearly losing his own.

Unfortunately, Michael’s help is misinterpreted by the local Sheriff, Graeme Kennedy, who has Michael handcuffed and face down in the dirt before Elizabeth can set him straight. In order to protect the only woman he ever loved, Graeme is forced to work with Michael and bring both of them to his cabin for protection.

Graeme finally has Elizabeth under his roof, right where he’s always wanted her. So why is he jacking off to visions of the drop dead gorgeous and take-charge Michael? Some things never change. 


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