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Cape Charade #2
August 20, 2019
Available in: Paperback, Audio, e-Book
What Doesn’t Kill Her
One secret, one nightmare, one lie. You guess which is which.
1. I have the scar of a gunshot on my forehead.
2. I have willfully misrepresented my identity to the US military.
3. I’m the new mother of a seven-year-old girl.
Kellen Adams suffers from a yearlong gap in her memory. A bullet to the brain will cause that. But she’s discovering the truth, and what she learns changes her life, her confidence, her very self. She finds herself in the wilderness, on the run, unprepared, her enemies unknown—and she is carrying a priceless burden she must protect at all costs. The consequences of failure would break her. And Kellen Adams does not break.
What doesn’t kill her…had better start running.
Listen to an audio excerpt:
The route took them north on I-5 out of Portland, across the state line into Washington, then cut west on highway 12 toward the Olympic Peninsula. During her time at Yearning Sands Resort, Kellen had studied the terrain, read the maps. For her, who had fought in a war zone, knowing your environment made good tactical sense.
What she had learned filled her with awe. The Pacific Ocean battered the wild coast with storms. The earth moved with the roiling fiery hell beneath; earthquakes were always a threat, and for as long as the ocean had existed, cold blue tsunamis had swept the beaches clean and white. The mountains grew with every earthquake; every violent storm fought to bring them down with torrents of rain and wind and snow.
Kellen stopped along a lonely stretch of coastal road and let Horst out to take a leak. He'd been complaining ever since she took the "wrong" turn onto a highway small enough to barely be a mere scratch on the map. But she knew where she was going, and her sense of wrongness increased every time Horst picked up his phone to text. He cursed furiously when he discovered this region was so isolated cell service was sporadic, and cheered when they drove through a small town and he was able to send his barrage of texts.
Now she watched him in the rearview mirror, and yes, he did take his leak, but as soon as he was done he had his cell in his hand again, and when he glanced guiltily at her, she used her finger and pretended to be applying lipstick. When he glanced away, she adjusted the pistol on her left hip so she could grab it with her right hand, aim and shoot. Maybe she wouldn't have to. But that sensation of odd continued building, and she had learned, again, to trust her instincts or die.
Horst climbed back in. "Whew! I feel better. You need to go?"
"I'm fine, thank you."
"You've got the bladder of a camel."
"You're not the first guy to notice." What was it with some men that even urination was a contest? "Ready?"
"Let's go." He didn't fasten his seatbelt. He wanted to be ready for action.
They reached the junction of highway 101 and Kellen turned onto the Olympic Mountains.
"You seem to know where you're going." He sounded annoyed.
"You showed me the map."
"If you remember so good, how come you took the wrong road back there?"
"A little diversion in case we were being followed." She gave him time to digest that, then, "How much do you think that marble head is worth on the illegal market?"
"I don't know." His hand inched toward his pistol. "Maybe not so much."
"Enough to kill for."
"The courier could have died by accident."
Earlier, he had pretended not to know about the courier's death. In a calm voice meant to soothe and explain, she said, "The trouble with trouble is, if you get mercenaries involved, and they kill one person, they're not going to stop. You were in the Army. You know what mercenaries are like. They'll keep coming. They'll betray the people who work for them to keep an extra dollar." She felt like she had to give him warning before this went any farther.
"What do you know about it?"
"I've got experience. Why do you think I got called on this job?"
He stared as if he couldn't decide whether to believe her or not.
She added, "No honor among thieves, and all that."
For one moment, his hand stopped inching. But he'd already proved he wasn't the brightest guy, and now he moved more quickly, as if he wanted to handle the matter before she talked him out of it.
He pulled his pistol.
She heard him release the safety.
He turned toward her, pistol leveled at her, arm outstretched to grab the wheel.
She slammed hard on the brakes.
His head thumped the windshield hard enough to send a spider web of cracks across the safety glass. The pistol flew out of his hand. Didn't go off. Thank God.
She goosed the van.
He slammed back into the seat hard enough (she hoped) for whiplash. But no — he recovered fast, proving he had great reflexes and not much in the cranium. He lunged at her.
She leveled her pistol and shot him in the chest.
The impact drove him against the passenger side door. He looked surprised—but not dead.
Figured. He was a professional. He wore body armor.
He gasped in agony. Taking a shot from that close, he probably had a couple of broken ribs.
She slammed on the brakes again, released her seatbelt and kicked him against the passenger side, a good solid blow to the chest, then leaned past him, opened the door and shoved him on to the road.
She drove off, door swinging, moving as fast as she could along the narrow, rutted road. Dust boiled in the still-open door, and she watched the rearview mirror for any sight of a cloud created by a following vehicle. Deliberately, she went past her turnoff, then eased to a stop, backed up and turned onto President Roosevelt Road.
If the map was right, she would wind up and down and around the mountains, through the forest, and eventually end in a parking area. There hikers and mountain bikers took off on their jaunts to lakes and peaks.
She drove unhurriedly, making sure she raised no betraying dust, and when she had gone several miles, she came to a halt and allowed herself one despairing moment with her head on the steering wheel.
She was in trouble. She needed help, and she didn't know who to call. Max? Nils? Her Army buddies? None of them would get here fast enough to help her. She was going to help herself, and save that marble head, and she didn't know how her situation could get any more dire.
Something rustled behind her.
Her pistol leaped into her hand. She turned and pointed it, straight-armed, into the back seat.
Her seven-year-old daughter Rae sat there, a bruise on her cheek, eyes wide, trying to smile through trembling lips. "Mommy, I came to bond with you."
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