King's Ransom (Tall, Dark & Dangerous #13) - Suzanne Brockmann Page 0,2

went away, courtesy of what had to have been a rifle-butt to the back of his head.

Why hadn’t they killed him?

He honestly didn’t know.

Thomas now looked up at the sky, trying to judge what time it was—to figure out how long he’d been unconscious in that ditch. But thick, gray clouds hid the sun. It could’ve still been early afternoon—or less than an hour before sundown.

He wouldn’t know until the sun actually set.

He could smell smoke—something, somewhere was on fire despite the rain—and he could see the darker gray of its haze mixing with the overcast skies. But he couldn’t tell where it was coming from.

Instead, he squinted inwardly at his foggy memories of the drive, also accessing the detailed map of the area that he’d burned into his brain before leaving San Diego. Had the general store with the big sign out in front of its old-school single pump saying “Last Gas” been forty miles down the road or fifty? Either way, there had been no new buildings or other signs of civilization for quite a distance, no turn-offs or side roads back the way they’d come, either.

One thing he knew for sure was that the road ahead—up this part of the mountain range and then back down into a valley before heading toward the bigger peak, atop of which sat the Ustanzian royal family compound—remained as desolate and isolated. There were no tourist attractions—selling sweatshirts or, you know, pants—just around the next bend.

The royal family had chosen this location specifically for its remoteness.

And Thomas guessed that the last gas station was forty miles down the road. If he were staging an abduction, he’d go no further than necessary into the middle of nowhere. There was virtually no chance, out here, of being stumbled across by casual passersby.

Especially since it was well-known that any guests to the Ustanzian compound usually flew in and out via helo.

Still, both the truck and the van that had blocked the road had been pointed—just slightly—back down the mountainside. That could’ve been a misdirect, but he doubted it. The abductors had positioned their vehicles that way in case they needed to make a quick escape.

Trusting both his meticulous training and his instincts, Thomas began the long hike back the way they’d come, down toward that last gas station, in the direction those vehicles had been pointing, certain that whoever had taken Tash had gone that way, too.

It didn’t matter that he was naked and cold, or that his head was throbbing painfully with every beat of his heart.

I promise, I’ll find you...

He’d never uttered truer words in his life.

He would find Tasha and make sure she was safe—and God help anyone who got in his way.

Chapter Two

Twenty-four hours earlier: Saturday

Thomas King’s brain was on fire.

His head had full-on exploded at Admiral Francisco’s request. Just... boom.

I need you to do me a favor, Lieutenant. I know you’ve got some downtime coming, and, well, Tasha insists on going to meet her boyfriend’s family at their ski lodge in the mountains in a remote part of western Maine—she’s flying out on a red eye tonight, and... Mia and I need you to go along to just... you know. Make sure she’s safe.

Thomas couldn’t say no—at least not the way he wanted to, with hysterical laughter and a loud Are you fucking kidding me...?

First of all, lieutenants, particularly those who were junior grade like Thomas, didn’t drop f-bombs in lunchtime conversations with admirals—even admirals they’d known since their high school days. Even admirals they still sometimes called Navy—in private, of course—which was the nickname he’d given this man back when Thomas was a kid of seventeen and Alan Francisco was still just a lowly lieutenant.

Although these days—in private, of course—Thomas mostly called his longtime mentor Alan. Especially when talking to the admiral’s wife Mia, who’d been a friend to Thomas long before they’d both met Alan and his precocious red-headed niece, Tasha.

Tash was now twenty-three, a college graduate, living in Boston. She still had masses of red curls, and she was also still as independent and ferociously strong-willed as she’d been as a child.

Back when Thomas had first met her, she’d been a little obsessed with him, purely because his last name was King. Back then—God, she was maybe five years old at the time—she’d liked to pretend she was a princess. Tash’s mom—Alan’s sister, Sharon—had been a hot mess, so Thomas understood the little girl’s desire to lose herself in fantasy.

Funny thing was—yeah, that was definitely humor Copyright 2016 - 2024