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Authors: Patricia; Potter

Twisted Shadows

BOOK: Twisted Shadows
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PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF PATRICIA POTTER

“Patricia Potter is a master storyteller, a powerful weaver of romantic tales.” —Mary Jo Putney,
New York Times
–bestselling author

“One of the romance genre's finest talents.” —
Romantic Times

“Patricia Potter will thrill lovers of the suspense genre as well as those who enjoy a good romance.” —
Booklist

“Potter proves herself a gifted writer as artisan, creating a rich fabric of strong characters whose wit and intellect will enthrall even as their adventures entertain.” —
BookPage

“When a historical romance [gets] the Potter treatment, the story line is pure action and excitement, and the characters are wonderful.” —
BookBrowse

“Potter has an expert ability to invest in fully realized characters and a strong sense of place without losing momentum in the details, making this novel a pure pleasure.” —
Publishers Weekly
, starred review of
Beloved Warrior

“[Potter] proves that she's adept at penning both enthralling historicals and captivating contemporary novels.” —
Booklist
, starred review of
Dancing with a Rogue

Twisted Shadows

Patricia Potter

prologue

B
OSTON
, 1968

She was running for her life. And the lives of her children.

She clutched the twins, one in each arm, her purse slung over her shoulder.
A cab
. She had to reach a cab.

She knew she would soon hear footsteps behind her. Heavy. Hurried. Her guard—her husband's guard—would discover she'd left the doctor's office through another door. His life would be as much at risk as her own if he failed. If he lost her.

This would be her one and only chance to escape her husband. She knew that. If she failed, he would kill her. He would find out what she knew—and to whom she had given information—and then dispose of her as his family had disposed of irritants before her. Fear eddied in her stomach. Her breath was short from both terror and the exertion of carrying two eight-month-old babies, their necessities and the largest purse she owned. It contained everything she could carry without giving away her intention. Unfortunately, her possessions did not include a weapon.

Nick squirmed, protesting her protective hold. For a moment, she feared she would lose her grip. She stopped, balancing him on her hip, getting a stronger hold on him. In a moment he would start wailing. That would probably inspire Nicole to do the same. Each always followed the other's lead. They reached out for each other when separated. They seemed to take comfort in each other's company.

A loud wail now would be disastrous. She cooed quietly to him, frantically balancing the two heavy babies.

She started down the steps again, trying to run without dislodging the two children. She feared the elevator. She could be trapped in an elevator.
No, the stairs are safer
. She'd spent days considering her options, the best escape route. And, hopefully, preparing safeguards.

But her husband was unpredictable. He would be so angry, he wouldn't care that his actions could send him to prison. Or send the policeman who served the family to the electric chair.

She heard a door slam above her.

Joey. Such an innocuous name. But he was not an innocuous man. He was a made man, a man who had killed before. That she was a woman would mean little to him, particularly since his own life might well depend on his stopping her.

One more floor
.

She was wearing tennis shoes that made no noise. She had purposely been hitting tennis balls just minutes before returning to the side of her twins. Then she'd used a heating pad on Nick's and Nicole's faces to simulate a fever.

Her husband was out of town. So was her father-in-law. When she'd screamed that the children were sick with high temperatures, she'd finally won permission to go to the doctor. She'd been to the pediatrician before. She knew the offices. She knew a way out that avoided her so-called bodyguard in the waiting room.

“Bitch!” Joey's voice roared down the stairwell.

She could see the door below her. She moved faster than she thought possible, shifting, Nick again as she grabbed for the knob and jerked the door open.

Nick wailed loudly.

Another curse echoed from the stairwell as she ran across the lobby.
Please, God, let the cab be there
.

She'd called from the nurses' station, ordering a cab, promising an extra fifty if it waited outside the professional offices for a woman with two babies. If it wasn't there …

She darted between people, bumping one. “Taxi waiting,” she muttered, then made the door. She turned to see Joey bursting out from the stairwell door.

Nicole started wailing, too. Tracy knew that every eye was on her. She'd already started thinking about what she would do if Joey caught her. She would yell “Kidnap.” If some brave good Samaritan …

And if there was gunfire? If she caused an innocent's death …?

Someone entered the revolving doors, and she jumped inside one of the partitions. Then she saw the taxi. Waiting in front of the building.

She ran for it. Nick almost fell as she pulled the door open and lurched inside, dropping her son on the seat and locking the door.

“Go,” she screamed.

She heard Joey's voice behind. “Stop, dammit!”

The cabbie turned to her.

“Go,” she said again, even as she heard the waver in her voice, even as she clutched the babies closer to her. “For God's sake, go.”

He hesitated, then stepped on the pedal and darted in front of an oncoming car.

A horn blew long and hard.

The cabbie swore.

Tracy Edwards Merritta sat back and tried to calm a screaming Nick.

She struggled to take a normal breath, then looked back. Joey was frantically trying to wave down another cab.

“Where to, lady?”

“Filene's, please. Side entrance.” The department store wasn't far from a Boston MTA station. She would go in one door of the store, depart through another and disappear.

Nicole stared at her, thumb in her mouth. Nick complained loudly.

But they were safe.

For the moment
.

one

S
TEAMBOAT
S
PRINGS
, 2002

Samantha Carroll didn't frighten easily.

Still, apprehension rippled through her as two men walked into the western art gallery she owned with her mother.

She could tell at a glance they weren't ordinary tourists or typical art lovers. They wore expensive dark suits and highly polished shoes rather than casual slacks or shorts and trendy T-shirts. Yet one look at their faces told her they weren't salesmen, either.

The one in his mid-twenties wore his hair slicked back, a gold chain around his neck and a flashy watch that looked like a Rolex on his wrist. The other one had well-groomed graying hair and face. Their eyes were hard. Without humor. Without friendliness. They looked like hunters, but not the kind who were after deer or elk.

Western Wonders was unusually empty in the midst of the summer tourist season. The last customers had just left. Had the two men waited until the customers departed? She moved toward the panic button that was linked to the police dispatcher.

She didn't know why all the bells in her head were ringing. No one would rob her small gallery. Nearly everyone paid with credit cards, and the bulk of the store's business came through the web site she'd designed. She kept the finest pieces locked in secure storage, bringing them out only when she knew she had a viable buyer.

Sure, she had some ready cash, but not enough to attract a daylight robbery. The gallery had some nice western art, but no one would drag armloads of paintings or heavy sculptures out the front door and onto the main street. At least, she'd never believed so. Not in Steamboat Springs, where major crime was nonexistent.

Her apprehension deepened as the two men browsed among the paintings but seemed to have little real interest in them. Their gazes continued to roam back to her, studying her as a collector might before pinning a butterfly to a board.

She resented it. She resented anyone who diminished her. And these men were doing just that.

Sarsaparilla wandered in from the storeroom, swishing her great bushy tail. The once stray cat who now believed herself queen of all she surveyed investigated the two strangers and rubbed against the trouser leg of the older man.

He immediately jumped back, his right hand going to the inside of his suit jacket.

Her heart leaped into her throat. “Sarsy,” she scolded, forcing herself to stand fast and not show the reaction her cat's behavior prompted. Sarsy sensed people who disliked cats and went out of her way to irritate them.

Sarsaparilla gave her an indignant look, then slunk back into the other room.

“Is there anything I can help you with?” she finally asked the men. “A particular artist? Or style?”

The older man nodded toward one with a thousand-dollar price tag. “This any good?”

If she'd any doubts about his interest before, she didn't now. The painting was very good. Anyone with even the faintest interest in art would know the lighting was exceptional. The moonlight depicted in oil seemed to glow.

She looked toward the door again, willing someone else to come in. “It's the work of a local artist who is becoming very popular,” she said, unable to keep the edge from her voice.

“I'll take it,” the man said.

She didn't want to sell it to him. The painting was one of her favorites, an oil of a snow-covered mountain at night. A wolf peered out from the shadows of a stand of trees, as if ready to begin a night's prowl.

BOOK: Twisted Shadows
8.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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