Read Deception Online

Authors: Elizabeth Goddard

Deception

TRAIL OF SECRETS

Jewel Caraway thought she'd left her mistakes in the past—but then her past arrives at her door. Though she's thrilled to reunite with her estranged sister, something about her sister's new husband makes Jewel uneasy. Does he know her secret? Is he the one behind the growing list of attacks against her? And if he is involved…does that mean her sister is, too? With nowhere else to turn, Jewel must rely on police chief Colin Winters—the first man to make the widow question her resolve to never love again. But will he stay by her side when her guarded secrets are revealed?

Mountain Cove: In the Alaskan wilderness, love and danger collide

Her attacker was back.

Panic sent her pulse racing. Flashlight in hand, she ran to the attic steps, taking the offensive. She wouldn't be a victim again.

“Don't move,” she shouted.

But it wasn't her attacker coming up the steps. Chief Winters came toward her. She should take a step back but she couldn't move. Something about him had her heart fluttering. He lifted her chin with his finger.

She wanted to tell him what a romantic cliché his action was, but then she'd be admitting her attraction. And she couldn't admit that. She'd never risk her heart again. Even if she were willing, something stood between them.

“What are you doing up here again?” he asked her.

She couldn't tell anyone what she'd done, especially not him. “Chief…”

“Jewel, don't you think it's about time you call me Colin?”

His voice was so gentle, she could almost forget he was here on official business. But that would be a mistake.

“Colin, I—”

But she never got a chance to speak. A scream tore through the attic.

Elizabeth Goddard
is an award-winning author of more than twenty novels, including the romantic mystery
The Camera Never Lies
—winner of a prestigious Carol Award in 2011. After acquiring her computer science degree, she worked at a software firm before eventually retiring to raise her four children and become a professional writer. In addition to writing, she homeschools her children and serves with her husband in ministry.

Books by Elizabeth Goddard

Love Inspired Suspense

Mountain Cove

Buried
Untraceable
Backfire
Submerged
Tailspin
Deception

Freezing Point
Treacherous Skies
Riptide
Wilderness Peril

Visit the Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
.

Get rewarded every time you buy a Harlequin ebook!
Click here to Join Harlequin My Rewards
http://www.harlequin.com/myrewards.html?mt=loyalty&cmpid=EBOOBPBPA201602010002

DECEPTION

Elizabeth Goddard

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

—Psalms
103:12

Dedicated to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ
who paid my ransom.

Acknowledgments

My heartfelt thanks and gratitude goes out to all those who support my writing endeavors. First I thank my family, of course—my husband and boys who put up with my frequent forays into other worlds without them. We've been eating a lot of pizza and fast food lately, I know, but hey, don't you love it when Mom gets that book money? I also want to thank my dear writing buddies, you know who you are, and my new writing friends—I couldn't do this without your encouragement and support. And as always, thanks to my amazing editor, Elizabeth Mazer, for her insights into making my manuscripts the best they can be. Last and never least, I appreciate the encouragement from my agent, Steve Laube. Signing me as a client (has it already been over five years?) was a huge validation to me as a writer. Thanks, Steve!

ONE

Dead Man
Falls
Mountain Cove, Alaska

E
dging closer to the precipice that overlooked the plunging waterfall, Jewel Caraway risked a glance down. Vertigo hit. Dizziness mingled with worry.

Meral and Buck should have beaten Jewel to the falls where they had planned to meet up.

“Meral!” she yelled.

The roar of the water that cascaded hundreds of feet below drowned out her calls, sucking them down with the rushing water. A foaming whirlpool twisted where the frothing, tumbling force pounded the pool at its base. Misty spray drifted up and enveloped Jewel in a sheen of moisture. The sound of her voice could never compete with the rumbling growl of the cataract.

She tugged out her cell phone before she remembered she would get no cell signal here. The only signal she ever had was in Mountain Cove proper. She put the cell away, her gaze drawn back to the waterfall.

Powerful and dangerous.

Beautiful and terrifying.

Dead Man Falls was a force to be reckoned with. That was if one were to take the plunge and get sucked into the swirling torrent at the base.

Kayakers had attempted to navigate the drop and failed.

Part of a rainbow, transparent and fading into the mist, caught her attention. Mesmerized, Jewel stood at the edge of the rocky, moss-covered ledge that was flanked by spruce and hemlock, firs and cedars in the lush, temperate rainforest. She watched the churning at the bottom of an endless vortex that would trap anyone or anything unfortunate enough to fall. She wondered what secrets it held in its depths—then flinched at the memory of how she had buried a secret of her own and never thought about it again. That was until Meral, the sister she hadn't seen since Jewel had eloped twenty years ago, had arrived on her doorstep with her new husband.

And now they were both missing.

“Meral!” she called again. “Buck!”

Uncertainty roiled inside, tumultuous like the falls.

Those two had gotten lost somehow, which seemed impossible. They'd been hiking together when Jewel realized she'd forgotten her water and had needed to go back. They had gone on ahead of her on the well-defined trail, and the plan had been they would stop at the falls and wait until Jewel could catch up. Where could they have gone?

A twig snapped. Before she could turn, a blunt object smashed into her back. Pain erupted along with her scream as the force of the blow propelled her forward.

Airborne, Jewel plummeted through the clouds and mist, feeling as if her stomach had been left behind on the cliff's edge.

Terror was catching up with her.

The spray of the waterfall engulfed her. At the last possible moment, she dragged in a breath and fell into the jaws of the beast she'd admired with a healthy fear only moments before. The wrath of the whirlpool plunged her deeper, twisting and tossing, bashing her against sunken boulders.

Dizziness and nausea held her captive within the vortex. The pounding water pushed her deeper, then turned her over again in the same way a crocodile rolled its meal to make it tender.

I'm not ready to die!

Lungs burning, Jewel shoved down the fear. The most important thing she'd learned from self-defense classes with local police chief Colin Winters was not to panic. The violent water was nothing more than an assailant bent on harming her. She could only escape by slipping out of its grip. On the fringe of consciousness, Jewel did a flutter kick, swimming with all her might, and forced her body down and deep below the backwash.

Then she felt it.

The smooth water.

She'd escaped!

Disoriented, unable to tell which way she should go, she allowed the current to sweep her downstream and away from the falls. Jewel opened her eyes and fought through her exhaustion to try to swim toward the surface.

I can do this.

But fear and doubt clawed at her, threatening to drag her down and keep her under. Her lungs burned and screamed as she fought her way to the surface. And in that moment, the instance before she breached, she saw rocks and trees blurred at the top of the ledge from which she'd fallen...along with a figure. A
human
figure.

She'd thought, she'd hoped, that a branch had fallen from a tree and somehow shoved her in the back, sending her over to plummet into the river.

The way the figure stood there, the wide, deliberate stance, she knew...she
knew
that he or she had pushed Jewel. Intentionally shoved her into Dead Man Falls to what should have been her death. And she hadn't made it to safety yet. She could still die today in this river.

Why? Why had she been pushed?

The figure disappeared in the thick canopy even as the current dragged Jewel away.

Finally breaching the surface, she pulled in a breath and braced herself for a new battle to survive the river with its multiple tiered rapids and falls.

Jewel couldn't be sure how long the river had taken her captive. How long she'd allowed herself to be carried away, floating on her back in order to save her energy for that moment, that one moment, when she might have a chance to escape. Except her reserves were almost depleted.

That moment hadn't come.

How much longer could she keep her head above the rushing torrent?

Her limbs grew tired and numb, even with her effort to conserve energy. She searched the bank for calmer waters to swim toward. A branch to grab. Anything.

She needed out of the water before she hit the rapids and another set of falls.

God, help me!

Just ahead she spotted the trunk of a dead tree, branches sprawling and reaching. This was her chance and likely her last one before the rapids. Before she drowned.

Jewel reached, but the current, ripping and swirling as the rapids approached, twisted her away. She had no control over her own body. Her own life. She wouldn't be able to grab the trunk.

Jewel was going to die. Despair engulfed her.

Excruciating pain stabbed across her shoulder and back. Her body suddenly jerked and her forward momentum stopped. Something had caught her. Wrenched her from the river's grasp.

Stunned, recoiling in pain, Jewel twisted around. A branch from the fallen trunk had snagged and cut her deeply, but had saved her life even as it had wounded her. She held on with everything in her.

This was the chance she'd been hoping for. She wouldn't lose it. After coughing up more water, she dragged in air and allowed a measure of relief to set in. Now to pass the next test.

This was no time to rest. She had to get out of the river.

She gripped the slick trunk and pulled herself up, higher out of the water until only her legs were beneath the surface. Slowly, she inched toward the bank.

Her left hand slipped, and she let out a cry as she slid deeper into the water. But she reached again, grappling with another branch to keep from slipping completely back into the river's grasp. If only she weren't already so weak from her injuries and exhaustion.

Finally, she reached the rocky outcropping of boulders hugging the bank and pulled herself out of the river completely. Laying flat across a slick boulder, Jewel rested her gaze on the swift river and its endless push toward the deeper waters of the channel.

I made it out. Thank You, Lord.

Jewel rallied and pushed to her knees to climb over more boulders. Every ache, every bruise, every scratch and sprain screamed in agony as the numbing power of cold water that had served as an anesthetic now seeped away.

Free of the rocky edge, Jewel crawled until the river was no longer a threat and fell face forward into the mossy loam. She clung to the dirt, breathed in the earth. She'd made it this far, and she would be grateful for small things.

She wouldn't think about getting out of the wilderness. Maybe by now Meral and Buck would have reported her missing.

How long would they wait until they called for help? How long would it take that help to find her?

Terror snaked over and around her like a living, deadly vine and squeezed. It would crush the life out of her if she let it. She shoved her growing fear down and focused on surviving. She'd escaped the river and would draw confidence from that.

But it wasn't just nature she had to contend with. Another danger loomed out there somewhere. Someone had pushed her into the falls. They could still be out there.

Had they watched the river carry her away? Were they tracking her now, on the verge of approaching to finish her off?

The pain in her back throbbed in rhythm with her innumerable other injuries. If the person who'd tried to kill her found her here now, nearly incapacitated after fighting and surviving Dead Man Falls and the river, Jewel wasn't sure her self-defense classes would do her a bit of good.

But she held on to the hope they believed she had drowned in the falls as per their intent.

Since Tracy—her friend and previous employee at Jewel's Bed and Breakfast—had dealt with a vicious stalker about two years ago, a visceral fear had taken over Jewel, a dread that followed her everywhere with the awareness of just how easily danger could get close. It had taken them all far too long to realize that the stalker, who had hidden his appearance from Tracy, had actually been staying as a guest at the B and B.

Jewel had taken the self-defense classes, hoping to instill confidence in her ability to protect herself and to push away fear. Yet now that fear twisted deeper, hooking her full and well.

If help didn't arrive soon, Jewel would have to spend the night here and rest before she could find her own way out. She crawled forward and into the brush to hide, hoping it would be enough camouflage if the person who'd tried to kill her came looking.

* * *

All Chief Colin Winters wanted to do was take the week off. The month. Or maybe even the whole year. What would it feel like not to answer a phone? Not to have an endless list of problems vying for his attention?

But when his cell rang and he spotted the fire chief's number, he answered.

“Winters.” Something in David Warren's voice had Colin on edge.

“What is it?”

“It's Jewel Caraway.”

Colin's heart seized up. He couldn't speak.

“She went into the river at Dead Falls Canyon.”

As police chief, Colin was trained to push down the panic and act. But at this news he couldn't move, couldn't think. He pressed his hand against the wall for support. “Is she...”

“Someone called the state troopers, and we have an incident number. North Face Mountain Search and Rescue is on the scene, and I'm calling you. I knew you'd want to know immediately.”

Colin heard the meaning behind David's words. David was aware that Colin thought Jewel was a special woman. They all did.

They hadn't found a body, but his relief was short-lived. Dead Man Falls deserved the name.

Colin had already exited his office and was making his way to the back door to get into his Jeep.

“We're meeting at the trailhead by the mouth of the river.”

Sherry, the dispatcher, called after him. “Chief! Chief!” He ignored her.

“I'm on my way,” he spoke into the phone.

When he plowed through the back door, a truck screeched to a stop in the parking lot.

“I figured you would be.” David leaned out the open window.

Colin shoved his cell in his pocket and climbed in. He'd let the new fire chief drive. Though he was anxious to get to the river and be part of the search, his hands trembled. He wouldn't be any good at the wheel. Nor did he want David to see how he was struggling with this news. It hit him much too personally when he had no right.

David swerved out of the parking lot and onto Main Street, going over the speed limit, but Colin wasn't about to stop him. This was an emergency.

“You doing okay?” David glanced his way intermittently.

Colin barely nodded. “What happened? Do you know?”

“According to Tracy, she went hiking with her sister and brother-in-law. I don't know what happened or how she fell in.”

“She's a skilled hiker. Knows what she's doing.” So how did this happen? He couldn't reconcile this with what he knew about her.

“I hope she's a better swimmer,” David said.

Colin thought he would be sick.
God, please let her survive.

But it seemed impossible.

Twenty aching minutes later, David parked his truck at the boat dock. Colin hopped onto the Warren family boat. Others from the North Face Mountain Search and Rescue team had already left for the scene. But David, who was on the team, too, had stayed behind, knowing Colin would want to be there.

“Thanks, David.”

David started up the boat. “For what?”

“For waiting. For taking me there.”

“Of course. You've saved my skin countless times. You were the one to figure out who had put Tracy in danger.”

All part of the job.
“Still, I appreciate it.”

“I knew you'd want to help find Jewel.”

The wind whipped over his face as the boat sped away from Mountain Cove. Colin stared ahead, going through all the possible scenarios in his mind, except the worst-case scenario. He couldn't think about finding Jewel's body.

The boat ride took far too long, and he was glad others had gotten to the trailhead and started the search before he and David arrived. Kayaks and other boats rested along the shore, all empty, all except one. Cade Warren—David's brother—stood on the deck hovering over maps. Colin followed David over to the boat and climbed aboard to speak to Cade, who was in charge of the search at the ICC, or Incident Command Center.

“Anything?”

“Nothing yet.”

“Tracy's here with Solomon,” Cade said. “You knew that, right?”

David straightened. Grinned at his brother. “I wouldn't have it any other way. Jewel means the world to Tracy. Solomon'll find her.”

Other books

Assignment — Stella Marni by Edward S. Aarons
Somewhere in His Arms by Katia Nikolayevna
Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
Special Circumstances by Sheldon Siegel
The Facebook Killer by M. L. Stewart
Seals (2005) by Terral, Jack - Seals 01
The Suburb Beyond the Stars by M. T. Anderson