Artist Mia Kearney has the perfect life: A successful career, a home she loves,
amazing friends…until her world explodes one hot August morning. Lone survivor
of a nuclear accident, Mia awakens in a government facility, faced with Homeland
Security agent Nicholas Price, a man who wants answers she knows she doesn’t
When Mia escapes, Nick has a choice to make. The CIA wants him off the case,
but instinct tells him not to let Mia out of his sight.
Now the web of deceit that’s woven tightly around them is about to unravel,
and someone out there won’t be satisfied until Cedar Branch’s last
surviving resident is dead…
Crossing her arms, Mia fought to contain a shiver. Now she knew what
Alice had felt like at the bottom of the rabbit hole. Only she didn’t have
a little bottle to help her get out of the door.
if on cue, said door swung open sending her scrambling for the bed.
“You’re up.” The man in the doorway was a stranger. And unlike
the rest of the staff attending her, not dressed in scrubs. It was almost absurd
the relief she felt at the sight of someone so seemingly normal.
“I was just testing my legs.” She sat down on the bed, her feet
swinging above the floor making her feel all of about two. Resisting the urge
to stand up again, she tucked her legs underneath her instead, careful to keep
the blue cotton gown covering all the strategic places.
The man smiled, the expression easing the harsh cast of his features. Not handsome
by any kind of standards, his face was still interesting, and her fingers itched
for pencil and paper. The sharp angle of his jaw was bisected by the faint white
line of a scar. Dark hair curled around his ears and temples, a silky wash of
blue on black. His mouth hinted at a sensuous side. The sardonic twist of his
lips almost making her want to reach out and touch them.
She fisted her hands. This was a dangerous man, his stance predatory, his veiled
gaze cautious and knowing all at the same time. Whoever this was – he was
not her friend.
“So how’d it go?”
For a moment she had no idea what he was talking about, then realized he was
looking pointedly at her legs. “Better than yesterday. I think all the drugs
are playing havoc with my coordination.” Of course she wasn’t actually
taking all of them, but he didn’t know that.
“They have a way of doing that,” he shrugged, his eyes still probing
hers as he held out his hand. “My name is Nicholas Price.”
Mia hesitated, not sure exactly why she still had reservations about touching
him. Maybe just because he was the first person who’d been anything but
perfunctory with her since she’d woken up to find reality altered. “Mia
Kearney,” she said, shaking his hand for only the briefest of moments, and
then retreating back farther onto the bed. “But then I suspect you already
“Yes, I do.” His voice was mild almost soothing, the sound puzzling.
Nicholas Price didn’t look like a gentle man. “I understand you’ve
been through quite an ordeal.”
“So I’ve been told. But I don’t remember anything traumatic.
Except maybe being in here.” She hadn’t meant for the last to slip
out. And an ugly idea occurred to her. “Are you a shrink?”
Nicholas laughed, the sound genuine, buoying her heart even as she questioned
his sincerity. “If you only knew how ridiculous the idea is. No. I’m
not even a doctor. I work for the government.”
Her mother had always made that word seem dirty, but Nicholas Price used it
as though it would explain everything. “Who exactly is it you work for,
“Most people call me Nick.” There was a false note of congeniality
in his voice. As if he wanted her to believe he was her friend.
But he wasn’t.
“I’m not most people.” She pitched her voice to match his
tone, and offered a smile.
Amusement crested in his eyes. “I can see that. Mind if I sit down?”
He tilted his head toward the lone chair in the room. A dilapidated ladder back
that looked as though it had seen better days.
“It’s your prison.”
“Now why would you say that?” His expression was back to guarded,
and she wondered what she’d said to put him on alert.
“Because the door’s locked?” She waved at the door as if
just looking at it would prove the point.
“Maybe they just want to be sure you stay put.”
“Now there’s a blinding glimpse of the obvious. Look, why don’t
we just skip the social niceties. I’m a captive audience, Mr. Price. So
just get on with it.”
She might have been mistaken but she thought she saw the slightest hint of
admiration in his face. Not that she gave a damn.
“I want to know what happened out there, Mia.” His use of her first
name grated on her nerves. She wasn’t a kid and she didn’t know him
from Adam. But she held her tongue, there wasn’t much point in arguing.
“I already told you, I don’t remember anything.”
“Well, I’m not sure I believe you. Your doctors say there isn’t
any physical reason why you can’t remember.”
“So maybe I wasn’t conscious when it happened.”
“The nuclear meltdown or whatever it was. They haven’t really been
all that forthcoming.”
“It was an explosion. At least that’s what the briefing papers
“Papers?” She couldn’t help the question.
“That’s all we’ve got to work with at the moment. The site’s
too hot. No one’s going in there right now.”
“The site. You mean Cedar Branch?” She frowned, trying to assimilate
the information. “So is everyone else here too?”
“As far as I know you’re the only survivor.”
“I’m sorry?” Panic rose, bitter in throat, threatening to
cut off her air supply.
said you’re the only one who survived.”
“People were killed?” The surprise in her voice must have alarmed
him, and he looked away, clearly realizing he’d said too much. “Come
on, Mr. Price – Nick – you can’t just drop something like that
on me and then clam up.” The back of her eyes tightened with tears. “How
many people are dead?”
He paused, still staring down at his hands, then looked up. “Everyone
was killed, Mia. Everyone living in Cedar Branch is dead.”