Nothing is as it seems...
For undercover FBI agent Katie Cavanaugh this was supposed to be a routine job-go in, get the evidence, catch a killer. But from the moment she lays eyes on John Brighton the intense charge in the air between them lets her know that the stakes will be higher this time around. Posing as his physical therapist allows Katie first-hand access to him but she can't let the intimacy of living together cloud her judgment. She will need her instincts sharp if she is going to find him guilty...or prove his innocence.
Left for dead along a deserted highway, John awakes to find himself physically weakened, mentally scarred, and the lead suspect in a murder investigation. The only bright point in his life is Katie, warm and beautiful, she is the one person he thinks he can trust. But as a net of suspicion closes in, and as loyalties divide, John and Katie must work together to unravel the maze of secrets and lies that threaten to keep them apart forever...
What he needed was a little excitement. Jonathan Brighton shook his head, trying to clear it, to stop the slow incessant onslaught of fatigue, forcing himself to concentrate instead on the road ahead. It was the sameness that was getting to him. The lack of anything remotely entertaining.
The hazy mountains shimmered in the distance, taunting him, the diametric opposite of the arid hell hole he was driving across. As if in testament to his thoughts, a swirling cone of dust chased a tumbleweed across the road, dissipating when it reached the other side.
What in hell had possessed him to come here? He’d needed a break from the headaches of running Guardian, but surely a nice beach located next to a five star hotel would have been a better choice of getaway. Instead he was heading for a mountain retreat that was apparently located in the middle of nowhere. Somewhere remote.
Jesus, he’d been insane.
Or rather his brother had. He’d been the one to insist that Jonathan needed something different. Something quiet. And of course, his partners had jumped right up on the bandwagon, offering their sage advice. Go here. Go there. Take this road. Take that one.
And he’d listened.
So here he was, in the middle of fucking nowhere, in a rental car that shook if he accelerated past fifty, with a radio that only worked some of the time and an air conditioner that had stopped before he’d gone a hundred miles. Another of his partners’ brilliant ideas. “Don’t drive your own car in Mexico, Jonathan. Just rent one. It’s cheap, it’s…” Crap. The goddamned thing was crap.
Oh yeah, this was the life.
Hopefully the trip would be worth it, but based on the way things were going he sincerely doubted it. He did not feel refreshed. He didn’t even feel like he was on vacation -- more like he was exiled in hell. Angrily he punched at the fan button, pushing it to high. Sun-heated air blasted out of the vent, and he gritted his teeth, reaching over to roll down the window. Nothing was worth this kind of torture.
Truth was, he wasn’t the rough-it-out-in-the-wilds type. He smiled at the thought, glancing down at his pressed jeans and polo shirt. Even they felt odd. He spent his days dressed for success, Armani his uniform of choice. The rest of the world might believe in dress-down Friday’s but Jonathan thought it was bullshit. A way for people who couldn’t afford the best to justify their situation. And he wasn’t falling for it.
With a murmured curse, he pressed down on the accelerator. The little car shook, but held its course. Oh yeah, this was turning into a hell of a day. Hopefully things were going better in Austin. Derek’s email had certainly made it sound that way. Although with his cryptic ramblings it was hard to tell for certain. Still, John was glad he’d stopped before crossing the border to check on things.
Between Danny and Derek everything would be handled properly. It was tempting under the circumstances to go home and deal with it himself, but his brother was totally competent, and Derek had as much as said that things were fine. He just needed to have a little faith.
And call the office the minute he arrived.
He sighed, leaning back against the headrest. He’d put everything he had into Guardian. It was like a child. And he wouldn’t -- couldn’t -- allow anything to happen to it. If it died, so did he.
A horn sounded behind him, breaking into his reverie. He hadn’t even heard the truck coming up behind him. Three hours in the desert and he was already losing his edge. With a frown, he pulled the rental over onto the shoulder.
The truck, its red paint faded to orangey-brown, started to pass, then slowed, matching its pace to Jonathan’s car. A stocky man in the passenger seat smiled, gesturing for him to stop. Jonathan held his speed steady, concentrating on the rutted shoulder. The truck stayed with him.
Just what he needed to top off an already perfect day -- a couple of crazy Mexicans in a beat up pick-up truck. Jonathan accelerated, the car protesting its mistreatment. The pick-up followed suit, the man waving his hand now in agitation, his smile fading.
Something glinted in the man’s hand. A badge. The son of a bitch was waving a badge. Jonathan blew out a breath, relief mixing with anger. Where the hell was his siren? Pulling the car to a stop, he turned off the ignition, already reaching for his wallet.
The cop walked up to the car and leaned down, his beefy face glistening with sweat. “Salga del coche.” Jonathan’s beleaguered brain struggled to translate as the man repeated himself. “Salga del coche.” Get out of the car.
Jonathan reached for the car handle, but before he could open it, the door jerked outward, the man’s beefy hand closing on Jonathan’s shoulder.
He nodded and stepped from the car. The big man’s partner joined them, his eyes hidden behind the mirrored lenses of his sunglasses.
“Su licencia, por favor.” Despite the word please, Jonathan recognized that the request was in fact an order.
He opened his wallet, digging for his license. “Yo no hablo el español.” He actually did speak the language, but it had been a hell of a long time, and until he understood what was happening, he thought it best to keep the fact to himself.
The two men conferred for a moment, and then the second man handed the license back, his fat friend heading back for their truck. “Where are you headed?” Jonathan returned his attention to the policeman in sunglasses. He was speaking English now, his words heavily accented.
“I’m on my way to the mountains. A place just outside of Satillo.” He was actually heading for a little village near Torreon, but again it seemed prudent to keep his destination private.
The man nodded. “You are on vacation here in our country?”
“Yeah. I needed a little peace and quiet.” Which was turning out to be a whole lot less soothing than advertised.
The policeman smiled, revealing a gold front tooth. “You have come to the right place, my friend. I think we can guarantee you nothing but peace and quiet from now on.”
Jonathan smiled back, but the hairs on his neck rose as some part of his body responded to a thread of something else in the man’s voice. For the first time he realized that neither of the men was wearing a uniform. Laughter off to his left signaled that fatty had moved, and Jonathan turned, his heart pounding as adrenalin pumped through his body.
The heavy-set man was standing a few feet away, the hot sunshine highlighting the pistol in his hand. “Duerme bien, amigo.”
There was a flash, and before Jonathan had time to think, let alone act, the sound of the gun’s report filled his ears. Then for a moment everything was quiet, the world seeming to move in slow motion. He watched as a bead of sweat dropped from the shooter’s heavily-jowled face, waiting for the inevitable, and it came -- an explosion of heat and light that obliterated all other thoughts.
He struggled to hold on, fighting to maintain consciousness. There was still so much he wanted to do. Somewhere amidst the pain in his head, he heard tires squealing as his assailants’ truck pulled back onto the highway, leaving him alone on the side of the road.
If he could have, he’d have laughed. It was an inglorious way to die, ironic really. The diametric opposite of the life he’d led. Always pushing for more. As the darkness swirled up to swallow him, his last thoughts were of all that had been left undone. What he could have been. But nothing -- not his money, not his connections, and certainly not his company -- could save him now.
With a sigh, Jonathan Brighton gave in to the dark...
Excerpt from MIDNIGHT RAIN by Dee Davis, Copyright ©2002 by Dee Davis. All rights reserved. Reprint only with permission from author. Please contact .