A Golden Heart award winner and EPPIE award nominee

Seven years ago Lily Brent believed she donated a kidney to her estranged sister. But when Lily is called across the state to identify her sister’s body and take custody of the child she never knew her sister had, the past starts to look foggy. To make matters worse a madman is hot on her trail, willing to use deadly measures to get the child back.

When a woman with a small child crashes her car into his remote mountain gas station, closely followed by an assailant with a silencer-equipped pistol, Miles Goodwin is forced to come out of his self-induced emotional coma to save their lives. Three years of inactive duty seem like they never happened as the ex-cop springs into action. All at once he’s a police officer again, but Miles hasn’t recovered from the tragic deaths of his wife and daughter. He isn’t prepared to take on a beautiful woman and a golden child who remind him of the family he lost.

 

 

Chapter 1

Miles Goodwin tipped his chair back as he took a slug from his beer. The remainder of the day was a bloody smear on the horizon, the setting sun sliding away almost mockingly. Another day gone, and you’re still here because you don’t have the courage to put your revolver in your mouth.

He smacked at a mosquito on his neck. The bugs were relentless at dusk, but this was Miles’ favorite time of day. Swallowing darkness was moments away, when he wouldn’t recognize each agonizing minute in the passage of time. Night was limbo in the personal hell his life had become.

It was a chore to drag himself out of bed every morning, painful to endure every endless hour. The mark of each sunset brought him one day closer to the end he longed for. Closer to the end he didn’t have the courage to seek on his own. Suicide was a sin, and if there was a sweet hereafter, he wouldn’t join Sara and Michelle there if he took his own life.

The roar of an engine pulled his attention to the dark tunnel of Northern pine where the highway wound out of sight. The front legs of his chair fell onto the porch with a thunk. He rarely saw a customer at his little gas station after six. By now most of the tourists were already in town at the expensive restaurants, sipping their second martinis.

A classic Mercedes two-seater raced around the bend and went into a drift on squealing tires.

The car fishtailed before regaining traction. Clouds of white smoke poured from the exhaust as though it had blown a head gasket. As it barreled down the highway at breakneck speed, chunks of rubber flapped at the right rear wheel. The car was out of control, but the driver wasn’t trying to stop.

Sparks flew from the rim as the last shreds of the tire disintegrated. The car careened down the embankment on the side of the highway and launched itself off the incline, headed directly for his small station.

“Jesus!” Miles leapt to his feet and dove off the porch, narrowly missing the rusted edge of a twisted bumper as he hit the ground. He scrambled to his feet and ran, still clutching his foaming beer bottle, as the car crashed into the pumps.

A dull whuff pressed on his eardrums as the pumps exploded. For the space of a heartbeat the dusky forest was as bright as high noon.

Miles hit the emergency shut-off lever at the side of the garage and the tanks sealed off, but the car was already on fire. There were no sprinklers at the historic station’s stand-alone island.

Nobody could have lived through an explosion like that. At that horrific moment, he knew there was at least one dead body at Goodwin’s Garage.

The irony suddenly hit him—there could have been two. What had made him run? He’d been longing for death for three years, aching for it more with each day that passed. Yet at the first sign of danger he’d been on his feet, preserving his sorry ass. It had been instinct as much as police training.

Damn it to hell.

Momentum had taken the car past the worst of the flames. The windshield was a shattered milky spider web, but still held.

Conditioned by police training, he ran toward the car without thinking, more concerned for the driver than for himself.

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