My newest novel, Abducted, will be released next month. It'll be available on all platforms, but right now you can pre-order it on Kindle, Kobo, and iTunes. And hey, while you're here, check out the first chapter below.
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It was just past three o’clock in the morning when Ashley Gilmore pulled into the gas station.
A bell jangled when she opened the door of the station’s minimart, causing the clerk behind the counter—a young guy with long hair and beard, maybe twenty-three years old—to glance her way before doing a double take.
“Hi,” he said, smiling as he sprang up from the stool he’d been sitting on. “How’s it going?”
Ashley smiled at him but said nothing as she wandered down the first aisle, out of his line of sight. A TV on the counter played the news, or what sounded like the news. It was simply background noise as she moved from one aisle to the next, her hand hovering over the display of snacks, their wrappers a bright iridescence, before settling on a tiny bag of pretzels. Next she detoured by the drinks and selected a large bottle of water. As she let the door slam shut, she saw a sign on the cooler announcing a sale of two bottles for three dollars, but she didn’t bite.
At the counter, the clerk hadn’t sat back down. He smiled at her as she approached.
“Forgot to tell you,” he said. His nametag read SETH. “Happy Thanksgiving.”
She forced another smile. “Happy Thanksgiving to you too.”
“Did you have a nice holiday?” He squinted at her scrub bottoms. “Oh shit, you had to work, didn’t you?”
Smiling again, she nodded.
“You’re over at the hospital?”
“So you missed out on a big Thanksgiving dinner?” He sounded genuinely bummed at the mere notion of this.
“There’s always leftovers.”
Seth shook his head sadly. “Still, that sucks. I feel your pain. I’ve been working a double. No turkey dinner for me. I did try some of the turkey jerky we have over in aisle three, but it tasted like shit.”
She nodded, her gaze momentarily shifting toward the TV. It was playing CNN, a pretty reporter talking to the camera while a picture of two men hung over her right shoulder. Mugshots. Both looked scruffy with long hair; one had a beard, the other had a goatee.
Seth said, “Crazy, huh?”
His eyes went wide. “The jailbreak!”
She glanced back at the TV. “I heard a little bit about it. When did it happen?”
“Yesterday morning. At least, that’s when they found the two convicts had escaped. They dug right out of their cell, just like in that Morgan Freeman movie.” He nodded at the TV. “That’s them right there. The one on the left is Neal Palmer. The other is Sean Wescott. They were both in for murder.”
“Yeah, the guy on the right, Wescott, they say he murdered an FBI agent a couple years ago. The other guy, Palmer, murdered someone too, but, I mean, shit, an FBI agent? That’s hardcore.”
“Where’d they escape from?”
His eyes, incredibly, went even wider. “Wrightsville. It’s only, like, forty miles away from here.” He paused, considering something, and shifted on one foot so he could look past her out the front windows. “Where are you parked?”
Ashley said nothing, keeping her focus on the TV to avoid his eyes.
“I’m not trying to be creepy or anything,” he said, “it’s just that those two assholes could be anywhere.”
Ashley motioned at the tiny bag of pretzels and bottle of water. “Can I …”
“Sure, sure.” Seth nodded quickly as he started scanning the items. He paused, squinted over at the cold cases. “You know, there’s a special on this water. Two for three.”
“I just want one bottle,” Ashley said.
“But, like, you’re saving a dollar. You’re practically getting the other bottle for free.”
On the TV, they’d cut to another reporter, this one a man, stationed outside the prison. He stood bundled in a jacket, a microphone to his mouth. He said, “I’m here in Wrightsville, New York, standing outside the Wrightsville Correctional Facility where sometime last night two inmates managed to escape.”
Ashley said, “I’m okay with just the one bottle.”
Seth shook his head as if this made no sense. “But—”
“Look”—her voice taking on a hard edge—“I appreciate the thought, but it’s been a long night. I just worked a double shift. My feet are killing me. I’m exhausted. All I want to do is get home to my kid and sleep ten hours.”
For an instant, the hurt flashed in Seth’s eyes. But he blinked it away, nodded, said, “I totally understand. Hell, I can’t wait until I get home. Gonna play some Fallout and then sleep for, like, twelve hours. Anyway, that will be three forty-seven.”
She handed him a crumpled five-dollar bill.
As he made change, he asked her if she’d like a bag.
“No thanks,” she said, already collecting her items and turning toward the door.
Seth said, “Would you, um, like me to walk you to your car?”
She turned back around as she reached the door, forcing another smile. “Thanks, but I’ll be okay.”
She opened the door—that bell jangling again—and stepped out into the frigid night.
The highway was deserted except for one pair of headlights in the distance. She watched them as she walked toward the Mazda parked around the corner.
A state police car slowed almost to a stop as it drove past the gas station, not pulling in. The trooper glanced at her, at the store, then at the bank across the highway, before the car’s engine revved as it accelerated away.
Ashley stepped off the sidewalk. The Mazda was only yards away. The tiny bag of pretzels and bottle of water clamped in one hand, she used her other hand to dig into her jacket pocket for the keys. As she brought them out, a man stepped toward her, materializing from the shadows by the building.
Ashley gasped, dropping the pretzels and water, and held up her keys as if they presented some kind of protection.
The man took another step toward her and then stopped.
For a moment, there was complete silence.
Which allowed her to hear the crunch of pavement behind her as another man stepped up close and pressed the tip of a knife against her neck.
“Scream”—the new man’s breath hot on her ear—“and I’ll cut your throat.”