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Personal trainer Mason Bradshaw is in the wrong place at the wrong time. What is Mason to do?
Someone is determined to kill the timid young woman who has stumbled into his protection. Can he protect Kareena from certain death?
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Cheryl Wright, Author of Romantic Suspense and More!
Mild-mannered kindergarten teacher Kareena Ellis witnesses a murder.
Stalked by the murderer who is intent on killing her, Kareena must flee.
10am Monday – In the Back Streets of the City Business District, Melbourne, Australia
Kareena Ellis looked at her surroundings.
She was dazed, confused. Out of breath. Where was she, and how did she get here? She recalled sitting at the traffic lights, waiting for them to change, but nothing more. What could have happened that her memory was so vague?
Checking her watch, Kareena saw it was mid-morning, but that didn’t help. Her brain was foggy, and her head hurt trying to remember.
She touched her hands to her face. Wet.
She glanced down. Blood covered her hands. Was she in a car accident? If that were the case, where was her car? She shook her head trying to clear the fog. That just made her head hurt more.
In the distance she could hear shouting. A vision flashed across her mind. A man with a gun. A big man with a gun.
She shuddered at the thought.
More shouting, only closer this time. She turned, saw a figure running toward her. He held a gun, just like in her vague memory. The gun was pointed at her. She did the only thing she could do, given the circumstances. She ran for her life.
As she ran, her mind began to clear. Another flash of memory – this one of a man lying dead on the ground, and the man with the gun standing over him. Kareena stumbled.
Shouting, somewhere close behind her, but she wouldn’t stop, wouldn’t look back. The vision of the gun was implanted in her brain. Why did she keep seeing it? What was the significance to her?
She rounded a corner, kept running, trying with all her might to go faster. Faster. Faster.
Her breath was leaving her, she couldn’t continue. Was sure she would be killed, but for what?
Another flash, this time the man with the gun was staring at her. His expression was shock, then anger, then finally, determination. He ran toward her but she was too quick for him.
She knew the area well, and hoped he didn’t. She knew her life depended on getting away from this gun wielding murderer.
With the fog clearing, Kareena finally understood her situation: escape or die.
* * *
Kareena woke up in the room alone. She was lying on some kind of table. The room was totally dark. Frightening. Not knowing where she was, and finally realising the depth of her predicament, Kareena panicked.
She was being held hostage. Why hadn’t they just killed her and be done with it? It took all her effort to not hyperventilate. She had to keep her wits about her for what lay ahead.
She tried to recall what had happened, how she’d arrived at this place. Her head hurt, her brain was foggy again; she reached up and touched her throbbing temple. The wetness startled her. When she looked down, her fingers were covered in blood.
She stared at them. It was all starting to come back now; the sledgehammer, running, then...
The beautiful eyes, the gentle hands. How could she forget? His black wavy hair, his... She shook her head, trying to erase the memory. It only made her head hurt more.
The door suddenly opened and he stepped into the room. Kareena heard her sharp intake of breath. She was panicking again – her breath now coming in short gasps.
Reluctantly, but out of the necessity for self-preservation, she moved her eyes toward the doorway; there were two of them. She had to get out of this torture chamber. She would take them by surprise – flee before they realised she was even awake. It was the only way she would survive.
The two men stepped further into the darkened room, the only light came from the open door. Kareena lay as still as she could, trying desperately to suppress her quickened breathing.
They were nearly there, only steps away.
Now! She leapt from the table, and made a mad dash for the door. Her body screamed with pain, but she pushed on. Almost there!
“Whoa! What’s the hurry?” Two gentle hands caught her, stopped her escape.
Kareena could feel hot tears stinging her eyes. This was the end. Why did she tell the police?
Because she had to – no ifs or buts. She witnessed a murder, and she had to report it. End of story.
End of her.
* * *
Her legs were like jelly, her heart was beating so fast she was convinced she would faint.
Now she remembered. She’d fainted, right into the arms of a stranger. The one holding her now. She felt a light spattering of sweat just above her lip.
Don’t faint. Don’t you dare! Kareena told herself over and over in her head. If she was going to die, she decided she wanted to see it coming. To face her killers.
Defiantly, she stared up at him, brushed back her mussed up hair with a shaking hand. She would not show any fear.
“Doc’s gonna take a look at you,” he said quietly. He held her gently, not rough like she’d expected.
“Huh?” She was confused, totally confused. If he was going to kill her, why would he call a doctor?
He looked as puzzled as she felt. “You’re hurt; I called the doc.” She sighed – he must have heard it. Hell, that sigh could probably have been heard three blocks away.
He led her back toward the table, the massage table – she could see it now, even in the limited light.
“I, um,” She wanted to explain, but what could she say? Someone tried to kill me, and I thought you were one of them? Yeah, right!
“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to turn on the light.” He looked at her questioningly. Kareena nodded, and flinched with the pain that shot through her.
He turned and walked over to the light switch, at the same time shutting the door. She cringed as all sorts of scenarios ran through her head, all of them feasible. No matter what, she was dead. She cradled her hands and prayed. Tears ran down her cheeks. I’m sorry, Mom, she whispered.
He approached her, frowning. Kareena took a good long look at him. He was around six-two, big compared to her tiny five-four. There was no way she could win this fight.
“What’s your name?” he asked gently, as he led her to a chair in the tiny room. He sounded kind of apologetic, as though he didn’t like questioning her this way. But still she felt annoyed. Like he had no right.
“Kareena Ellis.” She bit her lip the moment the words were out. Idiot, you shouldn’t have told him!
He held his hand out to her; his big hand, his soft and gentle hand. Had she gotten it all wrong? This didn’t seem like the sort of thing someone would do right before they killed you. Gingerly, she extended her hand. Her wildly shaking hand. Her hand covered in blood.
“Mason. Mason Bradshaw.” She grimaced as he shook her hand. “Damn. Sorry, Kareena.” He pulled his hand away. His soft, warm, and comforting hand. “Doc, take a look will you? I think there might be some glass in there.” He looked at her apologetically. Mason eased her back into a nearby chair, and the doctor opened his bag as he squatted in front of her.
“What happened – car accident?” the doc asked in a reassuring voice – the kind of voice you would use on little old ladies when they were hysterical. Was she hysterical? She didn’t think so. Not yet anyway.
Kareena licked her lips and glanced up at Mason. He had kind eyes. Kind eyes and soft hands. Right now, she didn’t know if she could trust him or not. “Kind of.”
“Kind of?” the doctor asked. He stared straight into her eyes. Reassuring voice, prying eyes.
She looked at Mason again. “Someone...” Her voice came out as a whisper. She cleared her throat and tried again. “Someone,” much better, but still not strong enough. She licked her lips – once, twice, three times. How did you actually say this? “Someone tried to kill me.”
The doctor stood up abruptly. The two men stared down at her.
* * *