Lindsey Keeble sang along to “Fun.” on the radio, trying to pretend she wasn’t freaked out by the dark. It was one in the morning and she hated driving this lonely stretch of highway between Greenville and Boden. Rain was threatening to turn to snow. The wind was gusting so forcefully that the tall trees looming high above her on the ridge made her swerve nervously toward the center line. The back tires slid on the asphalt and she slowed; no way did she want to wreck her precious little car.
She worked evenings at a gas station in Boden. It was quiet enough she usually got some studying done between customers. Tonight everyone and their dog were filling up ahead of a possible early winter storm. You’d think they’d never seen snow before.
A flash of red lights in her rearview had her heart squeezing. Dammit!
She hadn’t been speeding—she couldn’t afford a ticket and never drank alcohol. She signaled to pull over and stopped on the verge. Lindsey lived responsibly because she wanted a life bigger than her parochial hometown. She wasn’t some hillbilly. She wanted to travel and see the world—Paris, Greece, maybe the pyramids if the unrest settled down. She peered through the sleet drenched glass as a black SUV pulled in tight behind her.
A tall dark figure approached her vehicle. A cop’s gold shield tapped against the glass. Frigid damp air flooded the interior as she rolled down the window and she huddled into her jacket as rain spat at her.
“License and registration.” A low voice rumbled in that authoritative way cops had. He wore a dark slicker over black clothes. The gun on his hip glinted in the headlights of his vehicle. She didn’t recognize his face, but then she couldn’t really see his features with ice stinging her eyes.
“What’s this about?” Her teeth chattered. She found the documents in her glove box and purse, and handed them over. Her hands returned to grip the hard plastic of the steering wheel as she waited. “I wasn’t speeding.”
“There’s an alert out on a stolen red Neon so thought I’d check it out.”
“Well, this is my car and I’ve done nothing wrong.” She knew her rights. “You’ve got no reason to stop me.”
“You were driving erratically.” The voice got deeper and angrier. She winced. Never piss off a cop. “Plus, you’ve got a broken taillight. That gives me a reason.”
Lindsey’s worry was replaced by annoyance. She snapped off her seatbelt and applied the parking brake. She’d been shafted last year when another driver had sideswiped her in a parking lot and then claimed she’d been at fault to the insurers. “It was fine when I left for work this afternoon. I haven’t hit anything in the meantime.” Goddamn it.
“Go take a look.” The cop stood back. He had a nice face despite the hard mouth and even harder eyes. Maybe she could sweet talk him out of a ticket, not that she was real good at sweet talk. Her dad could fix the light in the morning but if she had to pay a ticket as well, every hour of work today would have been for nothing.
She pulled the hood of her slicker over her head and climbed out. The headlights of his SUV blinded her as she took a few steps. She shielded her gaze and frowned. “I don’t see anything—”
A surge of fire shot through her back. Pain exploded in a shockwave of screeching agony that overwhelmed her from the tips of her ears to the gaps between her toes. She’d never experienced anything like it. Sweat bloomed on her skin, clashing with sleet as she hit the tarmac. Rough hands grabbed her around the middle and hoisted her into the air. She couldn’t control her arms or legs. She was shifted onto a hip where something unyielding bit into her stomach. She fought the urge to vomit even as her brain whirled.
It took a moment to make sense of what was happening.
This man wasn’t a cop.
Still reeling from the stun gun, she couldn’t get enough purchase to kick him, but she flailed at his knees and tried to elbow him in the balls. It didn’t make any difference and she found herself dumped into the cold confines of the rear of his SUV. He zapped her again until her fillings felt like they were going to fall out and her bladder released.
The world tilted and she was on her front, face pressed into a dirty rubber mat, arms yanked behind her as something metal bit into one wrist, then the other. Handcuffs. Oh, God. She was handcuffed. A sharp pain ripped through her chest—if she didn’t calm down she was going to die of a heart attack.
A ripping sound rang out in the darkness. She was shoved onto her back, and a piece of duct tape slapped over her mouth. It tangled with her hair and was gonna hurt like a bitch when it came off.
Something told her that was the least of her worries.
There was no reason for him to kidnap her unless he was going to hurt her. Or kill her.
The realization made everything stop. Every movement. Every frantic breath. Her heart raced and bile burned her throat as she stared into those cold, pitiless eyes. With a grunt he slammed the trunk closed, plunging her into a vast and consuming darkness. Rain beat the metal around her like an ominous drum. She was scared of the dark. Scared of monsters. Humiliated by the cold dampness between her legs. How could this have happened to her? One minute she was driving home, the next...
Where was her phone?
She rolled around, trying to feel it in her pockets. Shit. It was still in her purse in the passenger seat of her car. There was a crashing sound in the trees. She closed her eyes against the escalating panic. He’d gotten rid of her car. An elephant-sized lump threatened to choke her. She’d worked her ass off for that car, but finances and credit-ratings were moot if she didn’t survive this ordeal. This man was going to hurt her. She wriggled backward so her fingers could scrabble with the lock but there was nothing, and the panel above her head didn’t budge even when she kicked it. How dare he do this to me? How dare he treat her as if she was nothing? She wanted to fight and rail against the injustice but as the SUV started up she was immobilized by terror. All her life she’d fought to make things better, fought for a future and this man, this bastard, wanted to rip it all away from her. It wasn’t fair. There had to be a way out. There had to be a way to survive.
She didn’t want to die. She especially didn’t want to die in the dark with a stranger who had eyes as cold as death. Tears brimmed. It wasn’t fair. This wasn’t fair.
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