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Abduction (Killer Instinct #1.5)

By´╝ÜCynthia Eden

an...took me...from the pier parking lot." Her words were whispered and terror clawed at her as she remembered those desperate moments. "H-he hurt me. Tied me up. But Hayden got me out... Hayden helped me." Hayden saved me.

The only sound she could hear was the ticking of the big clock on the wall. Jill's desperate gaze flew around the room.

Her grandmother was crying.

The sheriff who'd been yelling at Hayden was staring at her in shock. And...

"I can take you back to him," Hayden said, his voice oddly calm and still sounding so deep and...strong. "When he took Jill from the pier, I followed him on a bike. I wrecked it near the cabin, smashed it good. So we had to run on foot to get back, but I remember everything about the place. I can take you there."

* * *

AND HE DID.

Hayden led the cops back to that little cabin that was nestled near the marsh. The authorities went in with sirens screaming and guns blazing. Jill sat huddled in the back of a patrol car, her grandmother's arms constricted around her. Hayden was beside them looking watchful, intense.

The sheriff and his deputies searched the cabin. They brought in dogs to track the man who'd been there, but he was long gone...

"It's okay, Jill," Hayden whispered.

Her head turned toward him.

"I'll make sure you stay safe."

Such a big promise but...

She believed him.

Hayden Black wasn't trouble. Her grandmother had been wrong about him.

He was a hero.

And he was her friend. Her very best friend in the whole entire world.

Chapter One

The world was dark and twisted. It was filled with monsters and evil.

FBI special agent Jill West kept a strong grip on her service weapon as she rushed into the little house at the end of Clover Lane. Her teammates were with her, moving quickly, efficiently. They were the agents on the Southeastern Division of CARD, the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team, and their job was to find missing children.

Or in this specific case...one missing child. A sixteen-year-old girl named Jessica Thomas. Jessica had been gone for three days, but they'd tracked her abductor to this location, they'd followed their leads, they'd raced against time and now...

Be alive. Please, please, be alive.

There were too many cases that ended in tragedy, in funerals with grief-stricken families. Funerals with mothers and fathers who were too devastated to even speak. Her team needed a win...because those tragedies were pushing them all too close to the breaking point.

"Stay the hell back!" A man ran from the back room of that little house, a bloody knife gripped in his hand. "You ain't taking her from me! No one's taking her from me!"

In that instant, Jill realized three very important things.

One...the knife had recently been used on someone. The screaming man before her showed no injuries, so odds were high that the perp had attacked Jessica.

Two...the jerk was definitely on something. His speech was slurred, and he was weaving as he staggered toward her and the other agents in their bulletproof vests.

And three...this man wasn't going down easy. He was lunging forward to attack her-

"Stand down!" Jill yelled. "Drop the weapon, now!"

He didn't. He just screamed louder and lurched toward her.

Jill fired. Not a kill shot, she'd never taken that shot yet, but a shot that blasted into the man's right shoulder. The knife fell to the floor with a clatter as he screamed and his blood soaked his shirt. "Perp down," Jill snapped. She was wired-all of the agents were-and her earpiece had a microphone that would pick up her words so she knew the agent monitoring the team would immediately dispatch medical personnel. Then she hurried forward, kicking the knife even farther out of his way.

Agent Henry Shaw was at her side. He kept his gun leveled at the man howling on the floor. Henry, a tall, distinguished African-American agent, was the leader of their team. A damn good leader. "I got this guy, Jill," Henry told her, his eyes never leaving the perp. "Find the girl."

Jill gave an abrupt nod and hurried to the back room. She kept her gun at the ready. All of their intel had indicated that they were only looking for one assailant, that Neal Matthew Patrick had become obsessed with the sixteen-year-old victim after first meeting her in an online chat room. He'd abducted her, determined to live out that obsession.




But just in case the guy did have a partner, in case someone else was waiting to attack in that back room, Jill didn't lower her guard.

The door was partially open. She used her foot to swing it all the way inward and then-

"Help...me..." Such a weak whisper, completely at odds with the desperate howling coming from Neal.

Jessica was on the floor, her hands pressing to her stomach-trying to stem the heavy flow of blood that had already soaked her shirt. Her face was stark white, her eyes so big and scared in her young face.

"Victim needs assistance!" Jill called out, knowing the monitoring agent would act immediately. "Get help in here, now!" And Jill ran to the girl's side. She needed to see just how bad the damage was but the fear in her heart already told her...

Bad...it's too bad.

"I-I want...m-my mom..." Jessica whispered.

Jill looked at the wounds-multiple stab wounds. So deep. A pool of blood was under Jessica's body. "We'll take you to your mom, don't you worry, okay?" She applied pressure, fear nearly choking her.

"I'm sorry..." Jessica's voice was even softer now. She was starting to shake. "T-tell her...s-sorry...n-never...should have...g-gone..."

Because Jessica had made a date with Neal. She'd snuck out of her house to meet him at her high school football field. She hadn't realized she was going to meet a man who'd long gone over the edge. She couldn't have known how dangerous that meeting would be for her. Just a date. A sixteen-year-old going

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