Very excited to share just a bit of the beginning of this book that will take Gwen Proctor into new dangers, against new enemies and old ...
The phone is a new one. Another disposable, with a brand-new number. Only five people have the number, and two of them are asleep in the room with me.
I can’t trust anyone outside that vanishingly small circle. All I can think of is the shadow of a man walking through the night—walking, not running, because I don’t believe Melvin Royal is on the run, though half the police in the country are hunting him—and the fact that he is coming for me. For us.
My ex-husband is a monster, and I thought he was safely contained and caged, awaiting execution . . . but even from behind bars he ran a campaign of terror against me and our kids. Oh, he had help, some of it from inside the prison, some outside; how wide and deep it went is still in question, but he also had a plan. He maneuvered me, through targeted fear and threat, into the place he’d wanted me: a trap we’d survived, but only just.
Melvin Royal stalks me in the brief darkness when I close my eyes. Blink, and he’s on the street. Blink, and he’s walking up the stairs of the motel to the second floor’s open walkway. Blink, and he’s outside the door. Listening.
The buzz of a text arriving on my phone makes me flinch so hard it hurts. I grab for the device as the room’s heater rattles on; it’s loud, but it’s efficient, and warmth glides through the room in a slow, welcome wave. I’m grateful. The blankets on this cot aren’t up to much.
I blink my tired eyes and bring the phone’s screen into focus. The words say Number Blocked. I turn it off and put it under my pillow, and try to convince myself that it’s safe to sleep.
But I know it isn’t. I know who’s texting me. And the double locks on the motel room door don’t seem nearly enough.
I am twelve days out from rescuing my children from a murderer. I am exhausted, sore, and plagued with headaches. I am heartsick and tired and anxious and most of all, most of all, I am angry. I need to be angry. Being angry will keep us all alive.
How dare you, I think at the phone beneath my pillow. How dare you come at us now.
When I’ve stoked my anger to a boiling, almost painful temperature, I reach beneath my pillow and pull out the phone again. My anger is a shield. My anger is a weapon. I click the message firmly, expecting what it will hold.
But I am wrong. The text message is not from my ex-husband. It reads, YOU’RE NOT SAFE ANYWHERE NOW, and it is followed with a symbol I recognize: Å.
Shock diffuses my anger, sends it flowing in hot, electric waves through my chest and arms, as if the phone itself lashed out. My husband had help—help manipulating us, help abducting my children—and Absalom was that help . . . a master hacker who manipulated me into the trap Melvin had planned for him. I’d dared to hope that maybe with the end of that plot, Absalom wouldn’t have more to threaten us with.
I should have known better.
For a moment I feel a wave of sheer, visceral terror, like all the childhood fears of ghosts have been proven real, and then I take in a deep, slow breath and try to think through the impossibility of dealing with this, again. I am guilty of nothing more than defending myself from a man who wanted to kill me, who gained my trust over the course of years, and gradually led me to the place meant for my execution.
But that doesn’t make the message on the screen go away.
Absalom isn’t working alone. The hacker has someone else coming for us. The thought runs through me like a lightning bolt, dries my mouth, makes all my nerves fire at once, because it feels right. Something has been bothering me all these long days while we’ve been in hiding and moving for our safety . . . the feeling that we’re being watched, still. I’d put it down to paranoia."