From USA TODAY bestselling author Laura Scott
Keeping out of sight
is the only way to survive.
A frantic call from a witness whose Colorado safe house is breached sends US marshal Slade Brooks to Robyn Lowry’s side at Christmastime. But when he reaches her, she doesn’t remember him—or the crime she witnessed. With the trial just days away, someone won’t stop until Robyn’s dead. And while she might recover her memory in time, keeping Robyn alive long enough to testify is Slade’s hardest mission.
From Love Inspired Suspense: Courage. Danger. Faith.
Book 1: Soldier's Christmas Secrets
Book 2: Guarded by the Soldier
Book 3: Wyoming Mountain Escape
Book 4: Hiding His Holiday Witness
Book 5: Rocky Mountain Standoff
Release date: October 26, 2021
Print pages: 224
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Hiding His Holiday Witness
Robyn Lowry couldn’t sleep, frowning when she heard a scraping noise against the side of the safe house. An unusual sound and something she hadn’t heard in the past week. She froze, then quickly slid from the bed. Pulling a dark sweatshirt over her head, she grabbed her jeans and shrugged into them. After stuffing her feet into navy blue running shoes, she silently eased the basic cell phone provided by the US Marshals off its charger.
Marshal Craig Wainwright should be sitting in the main living area of the house. Unless he’d gone outside for some reason, like to make rounds? Was that what she’d heard? She didn’t know Marshal Craig very well; Marshal Slade Brooks covered the day shifts, leaving nights for others.
Only she didn’t think the marshal was outside. He wouldn’t leave her alone without a really good reason. Every one of her instincts was flashing red alert.
Something was wrong.
Flattening herself against the wall, she peered through the bedroom window. She didn’t see anything but darkness, the moon obliterated by clouds and only a glimpse of the snowcapped Rocky Mountains off in the distance.
Her imagination? After what she’d been through, she wasn’t about to ignore her gut. And right now, everything inside was screaming at her to get out.
Abandoning the window, she tiptoed through the dark house, making her way toward the living area. There was no sign of Craig. She swiftly crossed to the front door. The scraping sound had come from the back of the house, and the safe house was located on a dead-end road.
The house across the street was supposedly empty, the owners away on a three-week cruise over the Christmas holidays.
Her pulse quickened. By the time she called for help, the bad guy would be inside. There was no time to waste. Looking through the front-door window, her gaze scoured the front yard. It was bare of anything but frost-tipped grass and one tall aspen tree, not large enough for anyone to hide behind.
Okay, then. She turned the knob on the front door. Why was it unlocked?
She heard glass shattering.
Someone was breaking in!
Robyn flew across the yard, her sneakers making indentations in the frosted grass. She sprinted toward the vehicle parked on the road, hoping, praying she’d find Craig out here for some reason. But as she stared at the windshield, there wasn’t anyone behind the wheel.
Was she mistaken? Could the broken glass have come from the federal marshal? But if so, why?
She wrenched the car door open, praying the keys were in the ignition.
No time! She couldn’t waste any more time!
In a low crouch, Robyn eased alongside the vehicle, then stopped abruptly when she saw a small dark puddle forming beneath the trunk of the car.
She stared, her brain unwilling to believe. But there was no mistake. Drip. Drip. Drip. No, no, it couldn’t be—in her mind she envisioned the body of the dead marshal in the trunk. Her stomach heaved, but there was no time to be sick. She touched the car. Maybe he was still alive and she could help him.
She heard a door slam. Her pursuer must have left the house.
Move, she told herself. Go! She ran across the street to the vacant house as fast as her feet could carry her, imagining she was back in college running track and determined to win.
Or, in this case, stay alive.
The back of the house offered little protection. Fearing her footprints were leaving a trail that a blind man could follow on the stiff grass, she tried to choose her path carefully. December temperatures had been milder than normal, but it was still chilly at this hour of the morning. When she reached the next street, she instinctively veered to the left. She paused in the shadows of a large oak, searching for her phone when she heard the muffled thudding of footsteps against asphalt.
No! He was following her!
Panic gripped her by the throat. Whoever the guy was, he’d already harmed a federal agent. And there was no doubt she was the ultimate target.
A dead witness couldn’t testify against the mighty Elan Gifford, gunrunner and general mobster extraordinaire.
Putting on a burst of speed, she darted across the road, searching for cover. This section of the small town of Timnath, Colorado, didn’t offer much in the way of protection. Which, ironically, had been one of the reasons the federal marshals had chosen the location.
Close enough to get to Denver for the trial.
Far enough out of Denver to be safe.
Only she wasn’t safe. Not anymore. Maybe never again.
Robyn needed to find a hiding spot so she could call Slade Brooks, the US deputy marshal she trusted the most. She sent up a silent prayer of thanks that Slade wasn’t injured or, worse, dead in the trunk of a car, and asked God to watch over Marshal Craig.
She ran, her mind frantic. Where should she go?
She jutted around another corner and sprinted toward the church that was about a mile off in the distance.
She’d run farther for less.
Keeping to the shadows as much as possible, Robyn made her way in a zigzag pattern to the building. It would be locked in the middle of the night, but the quaint structure called to her in a way she couldn’t explain.
Ten minutes later, she reached her destination. She didn’t stop until she was hidden in the shadows alongside the church wall.
For long minutes she could only hear her ragged breathing and the thundering beat of her heart. She struggled to calm herself, needing to listen closely in order to determine if the bad guy had managed to keep up with her.
Thankful for the dark clothing she wore, and the lack of snow, she crouched low and swept a keen eye over the area from which she’d come.
Just as she was about to pull out her phone to call Slade, she saw her follower. A man dressed in black lightly jogging across the road and taking cover behind a tree.
The same tree she’d hidden behind minutes earlier.
A panicked scream clawed up her throat. She melted back against the building, moving with excruciating slowness toward the rear of the church while keeping her gaze locked on the tree and the shadow of the man in black.
He hadn’t moved in the time it took her to reach the church corner. Was he standing there because he wasn’t sure where she’d gone? Maybe God had helped cover her footprints.
Then he crept out from behind the tree, turning his head from side to side as if looking for her.
The clouds moved away from the moon, and a shaft of moonlight illuminated his pale profile.
Shock sent a horrified stillness through her. No, it couldn’t be. She’d cared for him.
Betrayal cut like a knife. The sick certainty sank deep into her bones.
How had he found her?
She had no answer, but the need to get somewhere safe intensified.
Because if he’d been sent by Gifford’s men, she knew he wouldn’t stop until she was dead.
She eased around the corner, scanning the area behind the church for somewhere to hide. The back door of the parish caught her eye, and she hurried over to check the door just in case. Holding her breath, she opened the screen door first, then tried the inside door handle.
It was unlocked!
Sending up a quick prayer of thanks to God for providing this chance to escape, she pushed the door open and crept inside. The darkness swallowed her, but she didn’t mind.
Being here felt safe from the hunter outside.
She locked the door and eased farther into the back of the church. She wasn’t familiar with this section of the building, behind the pulpit. She’d attended church twice and always sat in the back row. When she was far enough from the rear door, she pulled out her phone and called the only number she had listed in the device.
The phone rang three times before his sleepy voice answered, “Robyn? Something wrong?”
“Yes.” The sound of his low, husky voice brought an overwhelming sense of relief, but she still couldn’t relax. Her pursuer was out there, and just as she was about to tell Slade what was wrong, she heard the knob to the back door rattle, as if someone was trying it to see if it would open.
She froze. She couldn’t leave. He might see her. Her eyes lit on another door, and she pulled it open, careful not to make any noise. Just as she was about to take a step down into the building’s basement, her toe caught on the lip of a tread.
Thrust off balance, she dropped the phone while trying to grab something for support. Her fingers caught the edge of the doorjamb, then slipped away as she slid down the stairs.
Pain ricocheted through her brain, and then there was nothing but darkness.
“Robyn? Robyn!” Slade jackknifed out of bed, reaching for his clothes. There had been loud thumping noises through the phone, but then nothing but silence.
He grabbed his gun and his badge, then shoved his feet into his shoes. He hit the front door of the rental house like a linebacker going for a quarterback. As he ran to the car, he tried to reach Craig Wainwright, the federal marshal on graveyard duty at Robyn’s safe house.
The call went straight to voice mail.
It was a bad sign. Craig was a good marshal; he should answer his phone. Where was he? And where was Robyn? Slade hit the gas, sending the car careening out of the driveway and onto the street.
For security reasons, his rental house was on the other side of the small town of Timnath. It was the main place they slept when they weren’t on duty. Earlier that day, Tyler Ryerson had gone back to Denver with the news his wife was about to deliver their baby, so Slade was on his own. Thankfully he wasn’t too far from Robyn’s safe house.
There was no traffic on the streets at two in the morning. A good thing, since he drove straight down the middle of the road, his gaze sweeping the area for a sign that Gifford’s men had found the safe house.
It was impossible to imagine how they had accomplished such a feat. No one had access to the federal marshals’ safe house location.
Their job was to keep federal witnesses alive.
If something bad happened to Robyn... He couldn’t finish the thought.
She had to be okay. She just had to be!
He called his boss, James Crane, using the hands-free function as he drove. “Robyn Lowry’s safe house has been breached. I can’t reach Craig and need backup. Tyler Ryerson is still in Denver.”
“I’ll send the locals there immediately.”
Slade disconnected the call, having reached the safe house in record time. Craig’s vehicle was parked on the street, but he barely gave it a second glance, his gaze focused on the safe house. There were no lights on that he could see. But as he jumped out from behind the wheel and headed up toward the front door, he sucked in a harsh breath when he saw it was hanging open.
Holding his weapon in two hands, he swiftly and silently entered the house.
The main living space was clear, no one hiding beneath the table or in the closet. He made his way down to the bathroom, which was also empty, then to the bedrooms.
They were empty. But in the bedroom that Robyn was clearly living in, there was a broken window.
He made quick work of clearing the rest of the house. Returning outside to Craig’s vehicle, he found the driver’s-side door wasn’t closed all the way. Careful not to disturb any fingerprints, he opened the door and looked inside.
Nothing. Where was Craig Wainwright?
On a whim, he hit the switch for the trunk and hurried around back.
Craig’s body was stuffed in the trunk, a bullet hole in his temple.
He stumbled back from the horrific scene, his mind whirling. There was no time to grieve for his fellow marshal. Robyn was in deep trouble.
The urge to begin searching the area was strong. Where in the world was his backup?
Moving away from the vehicle, he searched the ground for footprints. He found what looked to be a small footprint in the frozen grass, likely from a running shoe heading away from the safe house and toward the vacant house across the street.
Red and blue lights lit up the sky, and he turned, relieved the locals had arrived. He quickly brought them up to speed on what had happened. It went against the grain to include them in a federal case, but he didn’t have a choice.
Robyn needed to be found and kept safe.
“Marshal Brooks? I’m Officer Ted Michaels, and this is Officer Wendy Allen.” Michaels got a glimpse of Craig’s body. “Who is that?”
“Federal Marshal Craig Wainwright. He’s been murdered, and my witness, Robyn Lowry, is in extreme danger.” He flashed his five-point marshal badge. “I need you to put out a BOLO for Robyn Lowry, with instructions to keep her safe from harm. She’s roughly five-five, weighs 125 pounds and has long, straight blond hair and is likely wearing dark clothing. She’s unarmed and in danger, from the person who shot Marshal Wainwright, understand?”
“Got it.” Officer Wendy Allen reached for her radio to relay the message.
“Spread out and search for the woman while keeping an eye out for the shooter, who we know is armed and dangerous.” Slade gestured in the direction the footprints pointed. “I’m going that way to the south. I need each of you to head north and east. There’s nothing to the west except the Poudre River.”
“Are you sure she’s alone? Maybe the guy who shot your cop has her,” Officer Michaels suggested.
“Anything is possible, but I’m hoping he hasn’t caught my witness yet. Let’s cover the area on foot, see if we can find anything.” He swallowed a flash of irritation at the way they were wasting time. “Take my phone number and call if you find anything.”
He rattled it off and was impressed that Wendy was able to capture the numbers, punching them into her phone and then hitting the talk button to make sure the call went through.
“Thanks.” Slade turned and headed out at a light jog. He knew Robyn was a runner and felt certain she would have done a good job in putting distance between herself and the shooter. Especially if she’d gotten a head start.
They’d run together a few times, and she’d easily kept pace with him. He felt certain that she could beat him in a race if needed.
Raking his gaze over the area, he tried to see it through her eyes. She’d be looking for a place to hide and call for help.
He caught the occasional disturbance on the ground—flattened grass,
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...