Authors: Kadi Dillon
Dancing with Deception
Book One in the Avery Family Saga
Copyright © 2012 by Kadi Dillon
All Rights Reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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This book is dedicated to my mother—Kaisha.
For every encouraging word.
I’ve always been lucky to have you.
Tires squealed. She sucked in a breath as the car took yet another sudden turn. Her shoulders bumped against something hard and solid again and again. Fighting the urge to pee, she squirmed, wishing she could be anywhere but there. She winced when a horn blared, the sound amplified
her aching head.
In the trunk of a rundown sedan, Rebecca Channing attempted to squeeze out of the ropes that bound her wrists together. The complete darkness inside the trunk didn’t help her with her task. Each bump or turn in the road jostled her, making her disoriented.
Her shoulders throbbed with pain and her hands were numb, but Rebecca kept trying. She visualized the knot in her mind as she twisted her wrists. Her breath shuddered out when she felt the rope begin to loosen, easing the piercing pain in her shoulders slightly.
She had lost all sense of direction once the car started moving. Not only had the bastards slammed her head onto the car when they tied her hands, but one of them actually had the nerve to strike her. He would pay for that. She thought of several moves she had learned in the self-defense course she had attended the summer before. She imagined cracking the bastard’s nose with the heel of her hand.
If only she’d thought of that in the first place, then she wouldn’t be in this mess. She could have used any basic self-defense move and had those goons crawling off crying for their mothers—if they had mothers. And instead of being tied up in a nasty-smelling, cramped trunk with two morons taking her to God knew where, she would be meeting her best friend Brittany for lunch. Then maybe they would have scoped out some sales. She could have used a new pair of heels. And a girl can never have too many purses.
“Finally,” she muttered when the rope slipped off her wrists.
Her arms screamed in agony as she flexed her stiff muscles. She massaged her bruised wrists and imagined giving the short, bald idiot a nice scissor kick to the back of his head.
With her hands free, she made quick work of the ropes at her ankles. She’d been a ballerina for years, but she’d never suffered the kind of agony her ankles had endured for the past half hour. She felt around in the dark, but failed to find a latch to pop the trunk open from the inside.
, she thought as the car took another sharp turn. She would just have to be ready for them when they opened the trunk. Surely it would be soon. She really had to pee.
She had read somewhere that if this ridiculous situation ever occurred, the captive was supposed to kick out the tail lights and try to signal for help that way. Unfortunately, having the law’s attention in the matter would only make things worse for her. She was on her own.
She knew too well that although her father had gotten her into this mess, he would show up only after she cleaned it up. He had shown up the month before out of the blue—
, she thought with a sneer. The guy had split when she was eight and she hadn’t heard so much as a word from him for sixteen years. Then Austin Channing must have realized the daughter he’d left behind could be of some use. So he’d stashed a painting in her bedroom. The same painting she’d promised to keep safe until he came back to collect it. The same damn painting the two goons had roughed her up for, were going to do worse for.
But did she hand it over to them?
Of course not
, she thought bitterly, because unlike her father, Rebecca knew how to keep a promise.
When the car came to a stop, Rebecca’s breath caught in her throat. This was it. Thankful she wore her sturdy boots today, she turned her body so her feet were closer to the opening. She used her hands to press against the wall of the trunk, remembering to wrap the strings of her gym bag around her arm. She’d need that bag and the change of clothes inside. Hopefully, she could find a place to change into her gym clothes to disguise herself.
She heard only one door open and close. Good, she thought, bracing. She had a chance. When the trunk popped open, she saw with great satisfaction it was the tall one of the two—the one who’d hit her. With a grunt, Rebecca put all she had into the kick and caught the goon right on his crotch.
He screamed in pain—a high-pitched whine that rose several octaves—and crumpled over. Before he even hit the ground, Rebecca was out of the trunk and running through the parking lot they had stopped in. One of them shouted at her to stop, but she only ran faster. Two shots rang out behind her and her heart jumped to her throat. They were actually shooting at her!
She rounded a corner, thankful for the temporary cover. The streets were so crowded with tourists that Rebecca had to weave her way between the throngs of people. Her boots clicked on the pavement as she ran. A woman shouted at her as she almost plowed into her, but Rebecca didn’t dare slow down. Crossing a crowded street, she dodged around the cars. She didn’t even hear the horns blasting behind her. She could only hear the frantic pounding of her heart beating in her ears.
She came to another corner and stopped to catch her breath. She pushed her long fall of black hair back from her face. Looking around, she realized she had two choices: water or the crowd of people.
Knowing that the crowd would shield her better, she took a step toward the street.
When she heard another commotion behind her, she
took off toward the pier without a thought. Too late, she realized her mistake, but there was no time to turn around.
She almost lost her balance when she reached the wooden dock, skidding across wet wood, but she kept running. If she were confident enough, she wouldn’t hesitate to steal a boat, but she wasn’t sure she could get it started before the goons reached her; then she’d be a sitting duck.
She chanced a look behind her and let out a breath of relief when she couldn’t see them. The dock seemed endless and was slippery beneath her feet from the lake water.
Rebecca crouched behind the bow of one of the docked boats to catch her breath again and plan. She let the air rush into her tortured lungs, grateful for this minute reprieve. Gritting her teeth, she thought of all the ways she would make her father pay for putting her in the middle of his problems.
She thought momentarily about climbing into one of the docked boats and hiding, but the thought of sitting and waiting for them to come for her was unappealing. She’d rather be mobile and ready to run.
She heard a faint humming sound and looked behind her. The boat moving through the water was massive, white and sleek. Under different circumstances, she would be admiring its beauty and power as it sliced through the waves. She whipped her head around again when she heard shouting. They were making their way down the long pier. The little goon was yelling at the tall one. His hairy face was pinched in annoyance, his steps hurried. They’d lost her, but if they kept walking, they would step right over her.
Rebecca turned again and saw the boat was seconds away from passing the end of the pier. She wasn’t usually impulsive, but she didn’t even think long enough to consider all the possible outcomes of this insane idea. She took off toward the end of the pier. She knew the moment the goons noticed her; they began shouting at her to stay where she was.
She increased her speed. She saw a man at the helm on the boat and prayed he would let her ride with him to another dock, anywhere but there.
With a sound bordering on pain, Rebecca leaped off the pier and into the whipping wind, aiming for the deck of the boat speeding out of the harbor. If she missed, if she hit the side, or God forbid the motor, she only hoped she’d die quickly. Almost anything would be better than being killed by Dumb and Dumber.
She sucked in her breath to keep from crying out. Even with her arms spread out for balance, her legs managed to come out from under her. She saw stars when she hit hard, hip-first on the polished floor of the boat deck. Momentum had her sliding once she landed and her fingers gripped for purchase. She rolled twice before she stopped and sat up quickly to see if the goons had dived in after her. Her vision had doubled. She shook her head to clear it.
They stood on the edge of the pier. To her horror, the short one held up his gun and aimed it at her.
“Damn it!” She crawled across the deck, thinking she could dive over the other side and swim until her body gave out. Before she reached the edge of the boat, however, two hands caught her in an iron grip and ripped her away from the rail she had just latched onto.
She gasped as the man she had seen driving the boat flipped her over and pressed her back into the hard floor. A sweaty, hard, naked chest filled her vision.
“Who the hell are you?” His voice was low and as firm as the body that pinned her. She wondered if she would have been safer being shot at on the shore.
She brought her gaze up to his face. His eyes were dark, so dark that Rebecca wasn’t sure if they were grey or black. His hair was as black as hers and it touched his shoulders in wild disarray. She thought he looked like an irate pirate. Then all her thoughts fled when a bullet whizzed past the furious man’s head.
With a violent curse, he ducked until his face was a scant inch from hers. She sucked in her breath and the pleasant scent of lake and sweat and
surrounded her. Another shot rang out and the man craned his neck toward the shore.
“Who are they?” A muscle rippled in his neck.
“I don’t know.”
“Why are they shooting at you?”
“They were trying to mug me. I kicked the big one in the crotch and ran.”
He slid off her, but before she could feel relieved, he took her by the arm and hauled her to her feet. He pulled her toward what she thought was the cabin area. When they reached the small stairway, she found the strength to struggle while panic clawed at her throat.
“Listen, just let me jump ship. I can swim somewhere.” She hated the plea in her voice, but couldn’t seem to steady herself. She yanked back from him, but his grip was like a steel trap. She had the sinking feeling that she was the terrified rabbit caught in its clutches.
“Don’t be stupid. If you’re going to—”
His words ended with a grunt as Rebecca plowed her elbow into his stomach. His abdomen felt like a rock and sent tingles of pain shooting up her arm. He was stunned enough to loosen his hold on her. She used this moment of distraction and bolted toward the water.
She underestimated him. When he grabbed her again and spun her to face him, she brought her knee up straight into his groin and had the satisfaction of hearing him curse. He didn’t release his hold on her this time, however. She struggled to find another vulnerable body part to injure, but he was quick and strong and without much fuss, he had her pinned beneath him on the hard surface of the boat.
As she continued to squirm beneath him, she thought she heard him call her a psychotic bitch, among other things. She would have cursed him back if she could have drawn in enough air for it.
Weakening, Rebecca realized that even though she had fought him with all her strength, he hadn’t hurt her at all. He’d cursed her and held her down, but unlike the brutes who had bashed her head against their car and backhanded her, this man had yet to actually hurt her. Judging by the size of his fists, he could do much more damage than the other guys, yet he’d restrained himself so far.
It should have been a relief, but it wasn’t. He was still trying to get her into his cabin, and her strength was fading fast. She couldn’t catch her breath. She was still struggling against his firm hold, but she was barely moving at all.