Read Endless Night Online

Authors: Maureen A. Miller

Endless Night

Endless Night
By Maureen A. Miller

A woman hiding from her identity. A man trying to find his.

After witnessing a murder, Megan Summers ran until she reached the remote coastal village of Victory Cove. She may have a new name, but she knows it’s only a matter of time before the murderer catches up with her.

Jake Grogan has come to town to unravel the mystery of his heritage. Instead of finding his grandmother at Wakefield House, he discovers an enigmatic, attractive stranger who will do anything to get him off her doorstep. Trapped by a storm, he’s forced to stay the night with Megan—a woman who keeps a handgun under her bed and closes herself off from the outside world.

Jake tries to dig deeper into his past, but he’s distracted by his fear for Megan’s safety and his growing feelings for her. Danger is drawing near and he’ll do anything to keep her safe. Will it be enough to help them survive the endless night?

Previously published, newly revised by author.

74,000 words

May 2011

Dear Reader,

I’ve always loved May, because it heralds the beginning of one of my favorite seasons—beach season! I’m fortunate to live close to the Atlantic Ocean, so every year in May, I start dreaming about the sound of waves on the sand, dolphins swimming off the coast, and me, lying in a comfortable beach chair, with a frosty beverage in one hand and my eReader in the other. Part of the fun is, of course, planning what I’m going to load onto the eReader for my beach adventures.

This month of Carina Press releases has provided me with plenty of reading material for my upcoming beach days—not that I’ll be able to wait that long to read them (I do get sneak peek copies in advance, after all). So, with everything from fantasy, to mystery, to contemporary, historical and paranormal romance, it doesn’t matter what I’m in the mood for, Carina Press has something to help me while away the time until I can make my beach dreams a reality.

I’m especially happy to introduce new novelists Maureen Miller, and her romantic suspense,
Endless Night,
and Diane Dooley with
Blue Galaxy,
a science fiction romance that’s out of this world (sorry, I couldn’t resist going for the corny joke). Of course, we also have several return authors as well, with sequels you want to be sure not to miss, including
Tangled Past
by Leah Braemel,
South of Salem
from Janni Nell,
Portrait of Seduction
by Carrie Lofty, Maria Zannini’s
Apocalypse Rising
and
Three Wishes
from Jenny Schwartz.

These books are only a sampling of the tremendous lineup we have for May, so I hope you’ll be sure to take a look at all of the releases, as well as taking advantage of the weekly sales offered on the Carina Press website. And whatever you choose to read, may it help take you one step closer to your own summer getaway!

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to [email protected] You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!
~Angela James

Executive Editor, Carina Press
www.carinapress.com
www.twitter.com/carinapress
www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

To G for supporting me, inspiring me, teaching me the proper terminology for manual transmission and rooting for my team. Love you.

Prologue

“You’re hiding from me, Margaret.”

Megan clutched the phone and slid to her knees, the tremors in her limbs rendering them useless.

“It’s only a matter of time.” His voice had the sinister resonance of an executioner uttering the words,
any last requests?

Cradled in Megan’s lap, the GLOCK felt heavy against her thigh as her uncooperative fingers gripped the handle.

“You can’t live, Margaret.”

Those raspy words incited her very obliging finger to loop through the trigger.

“I know this cell phone is being forwarded, Maggie. That poses only a slight inconvenience.”

A low hum of static filled her ear, similar to the sound of an electrical tower. She tried to place the sound. Did it divulge his location in any way? Was he close? Panic wormed into her throat, preventing her from responding, although being mute was the best option. Any response would have been confirmation that he had located her, and she wouldn’t give him that one triumph.

“It took some doing to even locate this number.” His chuckle was oppressive. “But if I had killed you that night, then I would have missed out on all this fun.”

Megan’s teeth bit down on her lower lip to contain her scream. She tasted blood.

“Sleep tight, Maggie. I will see you soon.”

There was no audible click, but the humming ceased. All that was left was the ragged sound of Megan’s breath, and the pounding of the boxer scoring a victory knockout inside her chest.

She dropped the phone on the floor, but retained her hold on the weapon. So many nights she had clutched it tight enough that her palm was permanently indented from the pattern of the grip.

But this night was different. For one year the phone had remained silent, and at no point in the last three hundred-some days had she let up. Never once was she lulled into security by his silence, knowing that this night would come.

Megan took a deep breath and looked up at the window. There was enough light left. She had a lot of work to do.

Chapter One

Victory Cove, ME

Dear Jake,

Illness and the need for you to understand your heritage have finally given me the courage to write to you. I know you went to good parents. I have my mother to thank for that. I want you to find her, Jake. I want you to find my mother. Her name is Estelle Wakefield.

I wish I had an admirable reason for not contacting you sooner, something valiant like I didn’t want to disturb your life. But the truth is simply guilt.

I loved you, son. In my dreams, I still see the gold in your eyes, eyes that looked so much like your father’s. If only you had known him.

It’s hard for me to write now. I have to end this letter. Find Estelle, Jake. Find Estelle, and find your heritage.

That was how it started.

A mysterious letter from a woman who, after thirty-five years of silence, finally decided to make contact with her alleged son.

Now eight hours from home, Jake Grogan was following futile internet directions to a town that didn’t even register on Google maps
.

Am I insane?

Also adopted, Jake’s sister, Sara, was mostly to blame for this crazy endeavor. Hell, she practically pushed him out the door with the closest directions she could manage programmed into his Droid phone. Her enthusiasm spurred on Jake’s curiosity.

Something in the woman’s words, the woman in the letter, the woman who claimed to be his mother. Something sounded so poignant. So mysterious. It was worth investigating.

Or maybe he was just looking for an excuse to leave Boston for a while. The Adams Tower project, which he had slaved over for more than a year, was finally complete. To that very same project, he’d sacrificed a relationship, like offering up a virgin to the voracious manufacturing gods.

Well, she was no virgin.

Perhaps this trip was just self-amnesty for a lifestyle that kept him too busy to cultivate personal interaction or even have the incentive to do so.

Or perhaps—he was just
damn
curious.

 

It must have been his fifth pass down the same road. Victory Cove had one main thoroughfare, an elevated street scarred with potholes big enough to swallow a small child. Antique shops and restaurants lined one side, and a craggy shoreline tapered off the other as successive gray waves sprayed against the shore. Lobster boats cosseted together, bobbed in the swells waiting for spring and their grand release from the jetty.

Grayson Path.

The gas-station attendant said that Wakefield House was on Grayson Path.

Rain plastered the windshield, the wipers ineffective against the deluge. Jake leaned forward and squinted until the profile of a lighthouse was visible atop a rocky sea cliff. The structure was tall, with a white masonry surface, its lantern and gallery painted black. He waited a breath for the beacon to flash and was dismayed when it remained dark.

Past the lighthouse. You can’t miss it.

Jake rubbed a hand through his hair, which was still damp from his last stop. He went
nearly seven miles before he saw the rutted trail in the grass.

Grayson Path
.

Potholes in the dirt jostled the vehicle as he pressed forward, twisting down into a deep ravine. He pulled up to a narrow wooden bridge and idled with his foot on the brake. A plank was missing in the middle, and he swore the whole structure listed to the right. It was the sorriest assembly he had ever seen and he prayed it would hold the weight of his Jeep. He wasn’t going to consider it a deterrent though. The bridge marked just one of many quirky obstacles in this mission.

Hands fisted around the steering wheel, Jake cautiously tapped the gas. Amazingly, the structure held up, and for one brief moment he caught a glimpse of the vicious jaws of the Atlantic to his left. Maybe the water was only a thin strip beneath this narrow bridge, but not too far away lay an entire ocean just ready to lash out with her sodden tendrils.

Another few miles and there was not even a tree to be found on this barren vista of craggy rocks and dead grass. Just as he contemplated turning around, the path began to widen. One more incline and he reached a clearing, a plateau that overlooked the Atlantic. And there sat Wakefield House
.

It was hard to see through the swish of wiper blades, but the Victorian mansion was large, guarded in front by the remnants of a wrought-iron gate, the ornamental pattern of metal closely resembling a spiderweb. The remainder of the fence was long gone, making the crooked gateway a droll deterrent. The house itself stood two stories, with a steeply pitched roof accommodating a third floor, atop which sat a cylindrical turret offering a panoramic view from its ring of portholes. Gable windows with black louvered shutters looked like hooded eyes, and the dark-planked stairs to the front door, a yawning mouth, ready to swallow.

As he walked up the path and felt the tug of the coastal wind, he suspected the railing had been yanked from its moorings by nature’s vacuum, that gaping chasm off the cliff that churned with froth and begged to be fed.

He shook off a chill.

Opening the screen panel, Jake knocked on the front door and had the sense that he was being watched. A glance at a nearby window confirmed it, as a curtain swayed back into neat pleats.

He rapped on the door again. It was a big house, and Estelle must be an elderly woman, possibly hard of hearing, but someone was in there. He would damn well knock until his knuckles bled.

The woman who yanked open the front door was neither deaf nor old. She was young, gorgeous and apparently quite ticked off.

“Hi.” He made an attempt at amiable.

“Who are you?” she demanded.

Jake saw the white turtleneck, worn jeans and socked toes, but his glance hefted back up to collide with crystal-blue eyes that were vibrant around the edges, yet dark and soulful at their core.

“I’m looking for Estelle Wakefield.”

She caught his brief perusal and returned the assessment, meeting his stare head-on, her lips thinning in disapproval—or was it apprehension?

“She doesn’t live here anymore.”

“Oh.”

Pain was pulsing in his head, the beginning stages of a migraine. To his surprise, the
woman was pushing the door closed. His hand shot out in reflex to stop her.

“Wait.”

“What?” Her cheeks paled.

“Do you know where she is? I’ve come a long way.”

Her sharp glance flicked past him to his Jeep, which was scarred by splashes of mud and grime. She met his eyes again and he nearly felt moved to touch her. She was actually trembling. He could see it in the white hand that clutched the front door and the soft bottom lip that lost circulation under her bite.

The woman was intriguing, but he was here for one reason. He didn’t particularly care what the jittery female’s problem was or why she acted like she had a chip on her shoulder that could keep Hershey’s in business for a year. He just wanted answers.

“Please. Do you have any information?” he persisted, more gruff than intended.

Her grip didn’t relax, but she released her bottom lip and he had to force himself not to stare as the blood flowed back into it.

“Why are you looking for Estelle?” It sounded like an accusation, not a question.

Jake didn’t really want to spill the whole crazy chronicle that delivered him to this moment, but with this suspicious creature he suspected the truth would produce the quickest response.

“She’s my grandmother.”

The woman started to shut the door again.

“Wait!”

She hesitated at his outburst and finally drew in a deep breath. The gesture pushed her breasts against a sweater that was much too big for her thin body.

“Estelle has no grandchildren,” she said. “I don’t know who you are, but you better leave now.”

Or else what? Was she going to call the cops?

Jake took a quick survey of the desolate property.
Yeah, they’d be here in what, three hours?

“Are you sure?” he asked. “How can you be certain she had no grandchildren? Are you a relative?”

The woman sighed. Her knuckles were still white from her death grip on the frame. Jake made note that there was no gold ring on her finger.

“Estelle had one daughter who was barren,” she declared.

That tripped him up for a second, but he pressed on. “Okay, where can I find her daughter then?”

An odd look passed through those crystalline eyes. “You can’t.” She measured him and then added softly, “She passed away last week.”

For a moment he felt a flash of pain. Or maybe it was the doused flame of hope? “She’s dead?” He had no idea what the look was on his face, but it must have had an effect on the stranger gripping the door. Her hand dropped like a fallen leaf. She did not step back. She still used her body as a barricade, forbidding admission.

“But—” he cleared his throat, “—she wrote to me, claiming to be my mother. She told me to come here and find Estelle Wakefield, my—” futility dropped the word, “—my grandmother.”

Whether the woman bought any of this or not, he simply didn’t care. He was too tired and preoccupied to acknowledge her reaction.

“Look,” she explained with less of an edge to her tone, “Estelle is in town. At the Candlelight Center.”

“Candlelight Center?”

“It’s a home for the elderly.” The woman hesitated. She cocked her head to the side, the gesture sweeping the silky hair away from a porcelain cheek blushed by the wind. “She has Alzheimer’s. She’s been there for over a year now.”

“Oh.”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

Jake’s head snapped up. For a moment he thought he heard regret in her voice, but when he met that implacable gaze he realized he must have imagined it.

“Yeah, so am I.” He dawdled, searching for something to add. “Well, thank you for your time, Miss—”

“You’re welcome.” She cut him off. Then, with husky finality she added, “Goodbye,” as the door closed in Jake’s face.

 

He had been driving for eight hours, nine if you counted that last effort to locate Wakefield House, and for what, to have a sexy woman with a short fuse slam the door on him? Jake was tempted to head back to Boston, but his sister would accuse him of “wimping” out.

Okay, he would put in the effort. Tomorrow he would go to this Candlelight Center, but as for tonight, it was getting late. Now, more than anything, he needed a drink and aspirin. The rain had stopped and the sun was just about to set, with rose bands of twilight blanketing the Atlantic as he glimpsed more of the landscape than he had on the trek in. He passed the giant lighthouse, an eerie exclamation point above the cliffs.

Entranced by the image of this silhouette that transcended time, Jake realized that his foot had slipped off the gas pedal. Snapping out of his exhausted stupor, he tapped the gas and wound down the next knoll. The road veered to the right and disappeared around a bend, and if not for his headlights, he might have just plodded forward, diving nose first into the ocean. Jarred by his lack of focus, he braked and noticed the bright, hand-painted sign.

O’Flanagan’s Inn–
1
/4 mile.

Maybe it was the vibrant colors, or more likely the sketch of a beer mug—yeah, definitely the beer mug—regardless, Jake’s curiosity was piqued enough to check it out. He wasn’t disappointed when he found the pub and inn. O’Flanagan’s offered the exact combination of activities he was looking for.

The white-stucco façade and its wooden framework gave the building a Tudor flair, making him feel like he had been transported to a Scottish village. A hand-painted sign dangled from chains atop the black door, reading O’Flanagan’s in dark green letters with gold stenciling. This inn looked like it catered to the ghostly sailors that the lighthouse had just guided in over the sandbars, but Jake was not as unsettled by it as he had been by Wakefield House. He was exhausted. And he was hungry.

To hell with the Tower project. To hell with Jessica and her addiction to his income. Damn, he was still trying to decipher credit-card statements and figure out what the heck “eyelash transplant” surgery was. To hell with the cagey hostess of Wakefield House—and yes, to hell with this juvenile search for a mother who never wanted him.

To hell with them all.

Jake yanked open the front door and was immediately blasted with an aromatic wave of lobster bisque and yeast followed by a surge of warm air from an overhead heater. There weren’t many people in the dimly lit interior, but the few who were there swung in their seats to gape at
him.

Definitely not like the city.

Jake tucked his head down and sidled up to the oak bar, craving anonymity. His shoe rested on the brass rung at its base as he stared at the ornate beer taps.

“What’ll it be?”

His head jerked up toward the cute, very pregnant woman smiling congenially at him. She looked to be as far along as his sister Sara.

Heck, what was going on eight months ago? A power outage? A big snowstorm?

What was he doing eight months ago? The Adams Tower project was in full swing. Jake had been contracted as its chief electrical engineer. Eight months ago, he was knee-deep in blueprints, wiring schematics and political headaches. No chance of him getting
anyone
pregnant. Not only was there the time constraint, but he had just come off the year-long relationship with Jessica and couldn’t even conceive of jumping back into the saddle, so to speak.

“Selfish” had been one of the least profane terms his ex had used to describe him. Of course, she’d used that adjective as she systematically emptied their shared townhouse of anything her glue-tipped fingers could latch on to. In her defense, he was too consumed with work to spend enough time cultivating their relationship, but one could argue that she’d preferred his money to his company any day.

“Sir, what will it be?”

“Oh, a Sam Adams, please,” Jake answered, still distracted.

The bartender reached for the tap and then plopped down a frosted mug before him.

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