Colters woman, p.24
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       Colters Woman, p.24
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         Part #1 of Colters Legacy series by Maya Banks
Page 24


  Adam looked at the others and shrugged. What sicko had taken the child and left him here in the cold to freeze to death?

  He reached down and picked Sam up, cradling him in his arms. “We’re going to take you home now, Sam. Your mama’s been awfully worried. ”

  “Don’t let the bad man hurt her,” Sam mumbled against Adam’s shirt.

  “Don’t worry, son. He can’t hurt your mama. ”

  Sam raised his head. “Not Mama. The woman. The bad man said he had to take care of a woman. ”

  Icy prickles danced up Adam’s spine. He glanced over at the others, tendrils of dread clinging to him like a vine. “Take him for me,” he directed Ethan.

  After Ethan hefted the boy into his arms, Adam dug for his cell phone. He punched in his home number and waited as it rang. He let it ring twenty times before he closed his cell phone. He swore softly.

  “It’s the middle of the night,” Lacey offered. “They’re probably asleep. ”

  “Yeah and my signal sucks,” Adam said, trying to dispel the heavy foreboding that swelled in his gut. “I’ll try again when we get to town. ”

  “Ready to head out?” Lacey asked as she secured the rope to the rescue sled.

  Ethan laid Sam down and arranged blankets around him. Then he and Adam took the rope and began pulling the sled through the snow. It was at least an hour trek back to town, and Adam carried a knot the size of a softball in his stomach.

  Forty-five minutes later, out of breath and slogging much slower through the snow, Adam and Ethan stopped a moment to rest.

  “It’s not much further now,” Lacey said.

  Adam nodded, too winded to speak. The peal of his cell phone ringing rent the night air. Adam dropped the rope and dug frantically for his phone.

  He flipped it open. “This is Adam. ”

  “Adam…” Holly’s voice, faint and wavery, filtered through the line.

  “Holly?” Relief surged through him.

  “Adam, thank God. ” Her voice got a little stronger. “I don’t have much time. ” He could hear tears, thick in her voice, and his pulse began pounding in his head. “He killed Ryan,” she sobbed.

  Adam’s blood ran cold. “Holly, Holly, baby, where are you? Are you all right?” he shouted.

  “I don’t know where I am,” she said, her voice desperate. “He took me. Please come get me. ” Her voice broke.

  “You bloody bitch, give me that!”

  Adam held the phone, paralyzed as he heard the scene play out over the phone. Holly cried out. Adam heard the smack of flesh. Then the phone went dead.

  “Sweet Jesus. ”

  Ethan grabbed him by the shoulder. “What the fuck is going on?”

  “Holly,” Adam said hoarsely. “She said Ryan’s dead. Someone has her. ”

  Ethan dropped the floodlight he’d been carrying.

  “We have to get to the cabin. Ryan. My God. ” Adam couldn’t form another coherent thought.

  “You two go on,” Lacey said. “I can take Sam from here. You’ll go quicker without the sled. I’ll radio for backup, get a car out there as fast as I can. My guys are still out on the east end coming off their search. ”

  Adam didn’t wait to hear anymore. He and Ethan began running through the snow. Ryan. Dead. The words hummed over and over, running through his mind in a sick litany.

  The bastard had lured them out, kidnapped a child, and now he had Holly. His blood ran cold. Colder than the snow that wrapped around his legs. Holly would die if they didn’t get to her and get to her fast.

  Ahead, the shine of the town lights glistened off the snow. Adam put on a burst of speed, his single-minded focus to get to the Land Rover as fast as possible. Ethan kept pace beside him, neither voicing the fears uppermost in their conscience.

  The reached the back of Riley’s store and raced around to the parking lot and across the street to where the Land Rover was parked. Several townspeople, including Sam’s parents called out to them, but Adam ignored everything but the Land Rover.

  He threw himself into the driver’s seat, started the engine and threw it into reverse. Ethan barely made it inside before Adam roared down the street.

  The drive up the mountain took forever, and every minute, Adam whispered a prayer. God, don’t take them from me.

  He gripped the steering wheel, taking the turns and switchbacks faster than he ever had. Let him be okay. Don’t take Ryan from us.

  They tore into the driveway, and both men bounded for the door. The house was dark. Adam burst in, shouting Ryan’s name. Ethan shoved past him, flipping at the light switches.

  Ethan swore a blue streak when the lights failed to come on then shouted Ryan’s name again.

  Adam stopped cold when he heard a low moan. He leaped over the couch toward the hallway leading to the guestrooms.

  “Get me a light!” he barked back at Ethan.

  “Ryan! Ryan!” Adam threw himself to the floor beside his brother’s crumpled form.

  Ethan appeared with a flashlight and shined it over Ryan’s body. His chest was bathed in blood, but his eyelids fluttered as the light hit his face.

  “Ryan, it’s me, Adam. Can you hear me?”

  “How could I not when you’re yelling in my damn ear?” Ryan grumbled.

  Adam wilted in relief, his body going slack. “You ornery bastard, you scared ten years off me. ”

  “Holly,” Ryan began, his voice cracking. “He got Holly. ”

  “Where are you hit?” Adam demanded, not focusing on Holly for just a moment. He had to take care of them one at a time, and at this minute, he had to make sure Ryan was okay.

  “Shoulder,” Ryan said, his breath coming in short gasps.

  “Can you get up?”

  Ryan moved then moaned in pain.

  “Adam!” Lacey called from the door. “You in here?”

  “Over here,” Ethan called, shining a light toward her. “How’d you get here so fast?”

  “I dumped the kid in town and got up here as fast as I could. Jesus Christ, what the hell happened?” she demanded as she knelt beside Ryan.

  “Help me up, damn it,” Ryan said desperately. “He’s got Holly. ”

  “Who has her, Ryan?” Adam demanded.

  He and Ethan lifted Ryan, and Adam wrapped an arm around him so he wouldn’t fall. They guided Ryan to the couch and set him down.

  “We’ve got to get you to the hospital,” Ethan said.

  “No. ”

  “Ryan, you’re in no shape to be anywhere but in the hospital. ”

  “It’s a flesh wound,” he ground out. “I’m not going anywhere with Holly out there with that bastard. ” He broke off. “He hurt her. I heard him hit her. ”

  Adam clenched his fingers into tight fists. He’d also heard the asshole strike Holly.

  “What else did you hear, Ryan? Did he say anything? We have to find her. ”

  “He made a phone call. He said something about a remote cabin and tying up loose ends. ”

  “Christ. ” Remote cabin. Like there weren’t enough of those spread out across the Rockies.

  “He acted like it was close,” Ryan said as he put a hand over his shoulder. Bright red blood smeared across his fingers.

  “You’ve got to get to the hospital. Lacey, can you make sure he gets there?” Adam asked.

  “I’m not going,” Ryan bit out.

  “You’ll only slow us down,” Adam said. “We can’t afford to waste a minute. He’ll kill her. ”

  Ryan looked bleakly at Adam. “I failed her. ”

  “She thinks you’re dead,” Adam said. “The best thing you can do is get your ass to the hospital so what she thinks doesn’t come to pass. ”

  Ryan surged to his feet. “How do you know what she thinks?”

  Adam quickly explained the phone call then he made arrangements for Lacey to get Ryan to the hospital. His mind worked furiously, trying to come up with a plan of acti

  “Let’s go, Ethan. ”

  He stopped long enough to collect more ammunition for their rifles then he raced out of the house to the Land Rover. Ethan jumped in beside him.

  “Close, remote cabin. You think he could be taking her to Blythe Meadow?” Ethan asked as Adam roared down the drive.

  “Good call,” Adam said. “It certainly fits. If not there, maybe the old miner’s cabin. We’ll hit both. ”

  Ethan stared out the window in silence. Then he turned agonized eyes to Adam. “What if we’re too late?”

  Adam shook his head and pressed his foot into the accelerator. “We can’t be too late, Ethan. We just can’t. ”

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Holly slowly opened her eyes, surprised at the effort it took. The air was frigid around her, and her jaw ached. She didn’t recognize her surroundings. She was in a one-room cabin, lying on the floor. She tested her arms and found they were free from the handcuffs she’d worn earlier.

  Pale shades of light beamed through the one window. Dawn. So she’d been here at least two hours.

  Tears leaked from her eyelids. Ryan. She’d never even told him she loved him. And now she’d never get that chance.

  A sound startled her then pain assaulted her hip as her captor kicked her.

  “I see you’re awake. Good. Now get up. ”

  She gazed warily up at him. It was the first good look she’d gotten of him. She’d expected a mean brute of a man, but she stared at what appeared to be a mild-mannered man of average height and size.

  He smirked as if reading her thoughts.

  “Don’t let my appearance fool you, my dear. Now you can get up of your own accord or I’ll get you up, and I assure you, it won’t be a pleasant experience. ”

  Terror washed through her system. She wanted to vomit. She put her hand out to prop herself up and shoved herself from the floor. As soon as she stood, the man grabbed her arm and jerked her toward a chair.

  “Have a seat. ”

  She sank down in the chair situated by an old desk. The chair heaved and groaned as she settled her slight weight on it, and for a moment, she feared it would collapse.

  She put out her hand to the desk to balance herself. She was cold. Colder than she’d ever been in her life. There was no heat in the cabin. No protection from the biting cold. Her limbs felt like blocks of ice. She shivered uncontrollably. Once she started, she couldn’t stop.

  The man lit a cigarette and lazily blew smoke. He leaned against the small sink and watched her with cold eyes.

  “I won’t beat around the bush. I’m going to kill you. ”

  Panic flooded her. Her throat tightened, and for a moment she couldn’t breathe. She didn’t want to die.

  “But I’m going to be civil about it. ”

  He looked amused at his proclamation. He even emitted a dry chuckle.

  “I’ll offer you a choice. A very quick, painless death, or,” he paused for effect, “it can be a very messy, very prolonged, very painful death. Your choice. ”

  Her mouth went dry.

  “All you have to do is tell me who all knows what happened on your wedding night. Very simple. Mr. Bardwell is very keen to protect his interests. Which would be difficult in a jail cell, as I’m sure you can imagine. ”

  He took out a large, sharp-looking knife as he spoke. He caressed the sleek metal with his fingertips, running them over the edge to the point.

  Holly’s mind raced. He was a talkative bastard. He was clearly enjoying the situation. Obviously if she talked, it would be over with in a matter of minutes. She eyed the knife, abject terror raging through her body.

  She closed her eyes and tried to summon her courage. She pictured Ryan and bit the inside of her cheek to keep from weeping. She couldn’t allow this bastard to get away with what he’d done.

  “So what will it be, Mrs. Bardwell? Shall we enjoy a brief conversation before your untimely demise?”

  Her hand splayed out over the desk and she stood to her feet. “Go to hell,” she spat.

  His eyes hardened. He crossed the space between them and without warning, grabbed her arm and yanked it behind her back. He whirled her around until she faced the desk. She cried out in pain as he continued to exert enormous pressure on her arm.

  Higher he pushed. She screamed in agony and then she felt a pop. He’d broken her arm!

  He let go and her arm fell, dangling at her side. Spots dotted her vision, growing larger until she feared she’d black out from the pain. Her hand scraped the desk trying to hold herself upright. Her fingertips brushed across a pencil and she curled her hand around it.

  Rage taking control, adrenaline pumping through her veins, she whirled around, pencil in hand and plunged it into his face. It sank into his cheek, and he stumbled back howling in pain.

  She wasted no time. Ignoring the horrific pain in her left arm, she flew at him, ramming her knee into his groin. Once, twice and a third time until he fell to the floor.

  She didn’t hesitate even for a moment. She ran.

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