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Cold In The Shadows (PAPERBACK)

Cold In The Shadows (PAPERBACK)

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Working in the shadows, CIA Officer Patrick Killion needs to figure out if feisty frog biologist, Audrey Lockhart, is a deadly assassin or an innocent scapegoat. And the only way to do that is to gain her trust—and then betray it, from New York Times best-selling author Toni Anderson.

Cold in the Shadows is the best book in the series yet. Recommended!“- Maldavian Book Reviewer’s Realm of Romance

Attacked and left for dead, Audrey is forced to put her trust in an enigmatic stranger who saves her from certain death. Then Audrey discovers her rescue was actually an abduction, and the man she thought was her savior is her captor.

Killion is falling hard and fast for his target and suddenly he has his hands full, dealing with a smart, beautiful woman who is furious at his deception. Betrayal is everywhere and Killion doesn’t know who to trust. The organization he works for? Or the woman he’s falling in love with?


*Booksellers’ Best Award Finalist.


Read a Sample

Chapter One

The old truck Audrey Lockhart had borrowed from the research station pinged noisily as she turned off the ignition and stared at the tropical surroundings of the Colombian rainforest. It was only five PM, but this close to the equator the sun set early, and it was already getting dark. She jumped out and dragged her heavy rolling suitcase from the bed of the truck before hefting two large bags of groceries, her laptop case, and a light rain jacket into her arms.
The Amazon Research Institute where she did her fieldwork was associated with local universities, who ran field courses and rented space to visiting scientists. Audrey had been coming out here on and off for the last five years and loved Colombia—the lush green forests, abundant wildlife, the salsa dancing, even the crazy road system and general lack of amenities. Life was simpler. The pressures of her academic life fell away like broken fetters. The only downside was that the little cabin provided by the institute squatted at the top of a steep hill, with no road access. She started slogging upward.
After a series of early morning flights from Miami to Bogota to Leticia, she’d driven straight to the research station to check on her frogs. She’d rushed home to Kentucky a few weeks earlier when her sister’s life had hung in the balance. Thankfully her sister had recovered. In Audrey’s absence, her grad student Mario had looked after her animals and had done such a good job she’d given him a few days off in reward.
Plastic from the heavy shopping bags cut into her fingers, and they doubled in their pain-in-the-assedness by hitting her shins with every step. Orff’s distinctive “Carmina Burana” chime sounded on her phone. She huffed out a frustrated breath and set down the shopping bags to dig her cell out of her pocket. If she didn’t answer her mother would panic.
“You didn’t call to say you arrived safely,” Sandra Lockhart said in a querulous voice.
“I was gonna call as soon as I got to my cabin.” She looked longingly up the hill.
“Considering all the other things I have to worry about I’d have thought you’d at least have the courtesy to call as soon as you landed.”
“Sorry, Mom.” Audrey rubbed her forehead. Back home in Kentucky, Audrey could go weeks without seeing her parents, but as soon as she headed south of the equator her mom freaked, and needed daily reports. It got old fast. “Everything’s okay with you guys, right?” She deflected. “No emergencies?”
“Your dad is putting Redford to bed.” Redford was her two-year-old nephew, father unknown. “Sienna went out on another date with Devon.”
And wasn’t that awkward—her drug addicted sister dating Audrey’s ex-boyfriend.
“I think he’s smitten.” Her mom sounded thrilled. Probably because Devon was heir to a billion dollar pharmaceutical fortune. She’d certainly been pissed when Audrey had stopped seeing him.
Audrey didn’t want to deal with the drama anymore. Except she was stuck with this new reality for the foreseeable future.
“Let’s just hope she can stay clean, huh?” Audrey winced at the cynicism of the words, but past experience had taught her to expect the worst. Sienna’s accidental OD in December had been the third in five years. Audrey had resigned herself long ago to it only being a matter of time before they buried her sweet, beautiful sister. But until her sister was ready to kick her drug habit nothing was gonna change, and Audrey only made it worse by pushing too hard.
Although, really, what was worse than dying and leaving your precious child an orphan?
It wasn’t Audrey’s problem—not right now. Her problem was
catching up with her research after a month-long absence. “I gotta go, Mom. I need to unpack my groceries.”
“Be careful down there.”
Audrey refrained from telling her she’d experienced more violent crime in the States than she’d ever experienced here. It wouldn’t help. She said goodbye and hung up. Then picked up her heavy bags and struggled up the hill.
The noise of insects grew increasingly loud as if they were working their way up to a rousing crescendo. The sweat and grime of the day clung to her skin even as the cool breeze stirred the hairs on her nape. She couldn’t wait to have a shower, crawl into bed, and sleep for eight hours
A wave of unease stole over her as she became aware of how dark it was. In the five minutes since she’d parked, dusk had eased into the velvet blackness of night. The porch light on the cabin hadn’t come on the way it was supposed to—the bulb must have burned out. The snap of a twig made her startle and glance around.
Oh, no, you don’t. No running from shadows.
She pushed aside the fear that wanted to rear up and forced herself to keep moving, one awkward step at a time. One tragedy was not going to define her life. She was the lucky one.
Living through violent crime made her sister’s choices all the more frustrating, but that was the beauty and burden of freedom and personal choice. Not everyone got it right. Audrey dragged her load the final few steps to her front door and searched her pockets for the key. It was so dark she could barely see her hand in front of her face. Behind her, the scream of a howler monkey filled the air.
Her heart virtually stopped. Then she laughed and the tension eased. She loved the wildlife here—except for the cockroaches. She could definitely live without the cockroaches.
Using touch alone, her fingers scraped over the smooth wood and found the cool metal of the lock. She inserted her key and stepped inside, flipping the light switch. Nothing happened. Dammit. She was going to have to head back down the hill and talk to the caretaker.
An arm snaked around her middle, pulling her roughly against an unyielding body. Terror flooded her mind as a gloved hand clamped over her mouth.
No, no, no!
Her assailant hauled her off her feet, and she dropped the groceries. Eggs smashed against the tile floor. The scent of sweat, the power in his arms, the rigid muscles of his chest told her the attacker was large, physically fit, and male. She drove her heel backward, connecting with his shin, but her sandals made little impact. Adrenaline flooded her body,
reminding her of another time, another pulse-pounding moment of terror when she’d thought she was going to die.
Reaching behind her, she dug her nails into the flesh of his waist. He hissed as she scratched him, then shook off her grip like she was an annoying fly. He carried her to the kitchen and maneuvered her until she lay face-first on the unforgiving floor.
He grabbed one of her arms, wrenching it behind her back. Pain shot to her shoulder blade and she yelped as he looped something thin and stiff over her wrist, roughly jerking her other hand to meet the first. He tightened the plastic zip ties and her arms were securely bound.
Oh, God!
He was going to rape her. She was going to die.
Panic detonated like a nuclear device inside her brain. She scrambled like a mad thing, twisting and squirming, then found her voice and screamed. His weight crashed full-force onto her chest and stole the air from her lungs. Her cry was smothered and she could barely move. This couldn’t be happening.
“No te voy a hacer daño.” The voice was a hoarse whisper of Spanish. A local? I’m not going to hurt you. Sure. That’s what murderers and rapists said so people didn’t give them any trouble while they destroyed your life. “I have a message for you.” English this time.
She wheezed. “Most people use email, asshole—”
The pressure on her back increased as he gave her his full weight. God, why hadn’t she kept her stupid mouth shut? Tears pricked her eyes. Her wrists strained against the tight plastic as he straddled her back then swiveled toward her feet. She kicked at his face, but he captured her legs one at a time, and wrapped another tie around her ankles, cinching it tight. Less than twenty-seconds and she was trussed up like a Sunday frickin’ roast. He rested on top of her for a moment, breathing heavily. She grabbed his testicles and squeezed.
He swore and shifted quickly out of reach, turning to face forward again, putting even more of his weight on her back as he lay down on top of her. Her skin crawled.
Then he chuckled. “Luchadora.”
Feisty? She wasn’t feisty, she was furious.
Nausea threatened. “Please, I-I can’t breathe.” Terror made her voice thin, and she tried to force herself to calm down even as her heart raced. It was impossible. She wasn’t too proud to beg. She didn’t want to die.
Her vision wavered. The walls pressed in on her. The sound of her heartbeat thrashed in her ears. The floor was unrelentingly hard against her cheek, the tile digging painfully into her hipbones and breasts. She went inside herself, concentrated on trying to expand her ribs. After five long seconds of silence, the man eased up the pressure on her back, enough that she could suck in a little oxygen. He moved warily, even though it was hideously obvious she wasn’t the threat. She twisted her head to look at him, but it was too dark to make out any distinguishing
features. He wore black clothes and possibly even a mask.
Maybe he wouldn’t kill her if she couldn’t identify him?
She tried to swallow, but there was no saliva left in her mouth. The last time she’d been this scared her best friend had died in her arms.
“Tengo un mensaje para ti,” the man repeated in deep rough Spanish.
“I don’t understand what you’re saying!”
He leaned closer. His warm breath brushed her ear. “Yo se cuando estas mintiendo, chica. Para que sepas.” I can tell when you’re lying, chica. Good to know.
She was obviously an American, so how did he know she spoke Spanish?
“I will say this only once. You need to pay attention.” He spoke English now with a thick guttural accent.
Pain shot along her arms whenever she tried to move. Escalating, paralyzing fear held her immobile.
“It is over.”
What! What did that even mean? Was he going to kill her? She drew in a breath to scream, but a gloved hand clamped over her mouth, the supple leather cool against her skin.
“The Gateway Project is finished.” The voice turned menacing. “Whoever is giving you orders is acting on his own. We will find this person, and we will shut them down. You do not want to be around when we do.”
He released her mouth.
“I don’t understand.” She twisted around to try and look up at him. “Is this some kind of joke?”
He ran a gloved finger over her cheek. “No joke. This is your only warning, chica. Do not make me regret not killing you.”
She had no idea what he was talking about, but anger replaced fear, and she glared at him in the darkness.
“Eyes on the floor,” he ordered.
She did as he said. The pressure eased on her chest as he climbed to his feet and she inhaled a much-needed full breath. She braced herself. For a couple of seconds there was nothing but silence. She looked around, but the man had disappeared as silently as he’d come.
Relief hit her like a two-by-four.
What the hell just happened?
More importantly, had he gone for good, or was he coming back?
Alarm propelled her into action. She used her elbow to push herself into a sitting position. She shuffled over to the unit next to the kitchen sink and put her back to the cupboard,
leveraging herself up against the smooth wood until she was on her feet. Awkwardly she jerked open the cutlery drawer, holding onto the edge, almost falling over. Her fingers scrambled through the silverware until she found a serrated blade. Trying to keep her balance, she leaned over the countertop and sawed at the stiff plastic that bound her hands behind her back. It took time because of the crappy angle. She sucked in a hiss of pain when she scratched herself on the arm. Finally, the tie came loose with a jerk and she set to work on her ankles.
If he came back...Oh, God.
She sawed faster and her legs sprang apart. She kept hold of the knife as she skirted her scattered belongings and smashed groceries, pausing when she reached the wide-
open doorway. She peered out into the night, but could see no one. A howler monkey shrieked in the jungle, but
her assailant had disappeared. She hoped the bastard was bitten by a snake, or broke his leg tripping over a tree root. Asshole.
She eased gingerly down the first set of steps, uncertain of her footing in the dark. As soon as she found the paved path she ran, heart pounding from rage and relief, chest tight from being scared out of her mind. Her wobbly legs carried her toward the caretaker’s cabin.
Please be here.
The sound of insects pierced her eardrums like tiny screams. The shadows teemed with a million unseen eyes. Sweat ran down her sides, and the scent of her own slick fear rose up to choke her. She reached the caretaker’s home and hammered on his door. “Open up! Let me in.”
It seemed to take forever, but finally she heard footsteps. The man pulled open the door, and she dipped under his arm.
“Help. Help me. Someone attacked me in my cabin. They threatened to kill me. Call the police.”
He followed her inside, dark eyes wide with alarm. “¿Estás herida? ¿Viste quién era?” Are you hurt? Did you see who it was?
Her throat was raw from the effort of holding down emotions that now threatened to choke her. “I didn’t see his face. He was talking about some Gateway thing. I have no idea what he wanted from me.”
The man’s eyes flared as they ran over her and rested on her bloody wrists, and on the knife. “Did he rape you?” He switched to English.
She shook her head, grateful to have come away from this encounter without any real physical harm—although she knew from experience how damaging the psychological aspect could be. “He tied me up and threatened me, but he didn’t actually touch me.”
The man’s eyes narrowed as he spoke to her. “There are some bad people around here. Some very bad men. Are you sure you want to talk to the police?”
Because sometimes the local cops cared more about the bad men than the victims—that’s what the caretaker was trying to tell her. Audrey was an American. She knew the difference between right and wrong, and just because the asshole hadn’t raped or beaten her didn’t mean he hadn’t done those things to someone else. If reporting this saved one person, it was worth it.
“Call the cops.” She shivered as she remembered his strange warning. “I want this bastard locked up.”
The call came at two AM.
His hand groped on the side table before he found the receiver. “What is it?”
At first the words didn’t make sense, the accent thick and hurried, making it difficult to understand. Audrey Lockhart. Attack. Masked man. He stared groggily at the ceiling of his
“Tell me exactly what she said in the report,” he mumbled.
Two words had him wide-awake in an instant. He swung his legs out of bed and padded across the room.
“Read it again,” he demanded. He could almost hear Audrey snapping irritably at the local cops. Someone had attacked her and warned her that The Gateway Project was finished, but she had no idea what that was.
He went to the window, his pale reflection staring back at him. He reached out to touch the cold glass and connected with his fingertip.
This was what he’d wanted, he reminded himself. This was the culmination of a game he’d been playing for so many years he’d almost forgotten it had to end. He was hit by an unexpected pang of grief and regret. However, he couldn’t risk anyone finding out the truth behind his carefully constructed lies.
“What should I do, amigo?” asked the Colombian on the other end of the phone.
A network of frost crept between the windowpanes and a shiver worked its way over his naked skin. Time to finish this. Time for the endgame.
“Get rid of the report. Kill the woman."

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