Authors: Dina Given
Tags: #The Gatekeeper Chronicles
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The Gatekeeper Chronicles
Copyright © 2014 Dina M. Given
Cover Design by
Published by Team D Enterprises, LLC
All rights reserved.
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the author of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
To my loving husband and two children who didn’t complain too much when I came home from my day job just to start working my night job writing this book. Juggling is tough, and I couldn’t have done without their support.
I love you guys!
An extra special thank you to my sisters, Natalie and Jennifer, at
Love Between The Sheets blog
who held my hand through the entire process. Their help and expertise were invaluable.
Finally, thank you to my terrific beta readers Mary Tatar, Stephanie Phillips and Rez Estevez.
old marble pressed against my face, numbing my cheek. My stomach roiled from the spinning of the room, threatening to release my dinner. I took a deep, ragged breath and tried to keep the dizziness under control. A voice in my head screamed at me to get up and defend myself, but my body wouldn’t obey. With a herculean effort, I pulled my legs under me in an effort to rise.
I felt the vibration in the floor before I heard the heavy thud of footsteps. The bastard was back for more.
It must be my lucky day.
A vice clamped around my ankles, and I slid along the smooth stone floors of the mansion. Crystal chandeliers and Renaissance paintings streaked across my vision as I was pulled through an open doorway.
I twisted and flailed, scrabbling to clutch the doorframe to stop my relentless slide into the darkened room. I tried to make it a rule to never be forced into a room when I didn’t know what lay within.
I managed a weak handhold on the doorframe, but with a sharp tug, my captor caused me to easily lose my grip. He—because only a man could own hands that large and strong—“accidentally” slammed me into a coffee table before coming to a stop without releasing me.
The concussive grenade that was triggered when I had been finishing my sweep of the last room in the mansion had left my temples throbbing, preventing me from lifting my head to get a good look at my captor. I needed to pull myself together if I was going to fight my way out of here.
Swallowing hard, I took a silent inventory of my injuries: a few bruises, no broken bones, no bleeding. Sweet. This was going to be easier than I’d thought.
Compartmentalizing the pain—a trick I had learned years ago in the Special Forces—I readied myself to twist sharply to the side in an effort to release my ankles and make a run for it. Then another set of bear paws clamped down hard around my wrists, pulling them over my head.
This would make escape a bit more difficult, although not necessarily impossible. I simply had to be patient enough to wait for an opening, and patience was not one of my virtues.
“I know you are thinking about trying to escape, Miss Hayes. I would advise you against it,” said a smooth, male voice. He spoke very proper Queen’s English, as if he came from old money and would never dream of using a contraction. It made me think of those period British romance movies like
Sense and Sensibility
. I pictured him wearing a Victorian tailcoat and ascot, with a smarmy-looking mustache adorning his face.
I managed to lift my head a few centimeters off the hardwood floor. With my feet and the person holding them hidden in deep shadows, it was impossible to make out anything more than a crouched, hulking figure.
The English man was sitting in a cozy-looking, red leather armchair. A colorful Tiffany lamp cast a dim glow that didn’t extend very far into the room, and a thick folder sat next to it on the table.
When the Brit leaned forward, the scant light illuminating his features, I recognized him at once.
“Mr. Darko, I must say, it’s quite a surprise to see you here.” My visions of Hugh Grant disappeared, replaced by the sight of the father who had hired me to find and recover his little girl, Sarah.
Vincent Darko wasn’t wearing coat tails, but his well-tailored gray suit probably cost more than my Ducati. He wasn’t unattractive, yet I wouldn’t describe him as handsome. He was slim, almost slight, with an effeminate air about him. Maybe it was the way he crossed his legs at the knees or the way his hands hung a little limp at the wrists. Coupled with that egotistical over-confidence, he had the air of a man trying to prove he was no longer the little kid who could be bullied on the playground.
“Did you grow a set of balls and choose to find your daughter on your own?”
He chuckled deeply in response, though the amusement never reached his eyes. “I’m glad to see that, even in your current predicament, you haven’t lost your usual charm.”
“Oh, I’ve been in worse situations.” I managed a small shrug, which also served to test the grip of my captor who had my wrists. It was solid, but he clenched tighter for a moment when I moved, telling me he was somewhat relaxed and not holding me as tightly as he could have been. “So, what brings you to the Mexican jungle? Wait, let me guess. Your daughter never was kidnapped, was she?” I made a show of eyeing him up and down. “I actually have a hard time believing any woman would have sex with you, so I’m willing to bet Sarah doesn’t even exist, does she?”
“Oh, but that’s where you are wrong. Come!” he called, like he was commanding an unruly puppy.
The child who emerged from the shadows was a scrawny, bedraggled little thing. Her emaciated frame gave her the appearance of a six-year-old, not the ten-year-old that Darko had claimed her to be. Tear tracks stained her grimy cheeks, and she was hunched over, hugging herself, her matted hair falling into her face.
I ground my teeth together as I looked upon her. A fury rose up through my gut and threatened to explode, but it would have been impotent in my current situation. I choked it back down, holding it in reserve for the right time.
“I did need sufficient motivation to get you here, after all, and most humans seem to have a soft spot for these little creatures,” Darko said.
His odd word use put a chill on my fury. What was that supposed to mean?
Not only was Darko a jackass, he may also be a little crazy. In my experience, crazy was dangerous because of its unpredictability. I needed to break the hold on my wrists and ankles, overpower the guards, grab the girl, and make my way out while avoiding pursuit and capture. That was a tall order, even for me.
I did have accomplices outside of the building; however, Darko would have known I hadn’t come alone. He knew I had assembled a small team for this mission. His men were likely scouting the surrounding jungle, looking for Jason and Daniel right now. I assumed they hadn’t been found yet; otherwise, Darko would use them as hostages against me to more easily get whatever he wanted. If Jason and Daniel hadn’t been compromised, they would come for me when our pre-arranged twenty minutes was up and I didn’t show. So, at most, I only had to stall for about another eight minutes.
I forcibly relaxed my body. I needed my captors as loose and off-guard as possible. “Besides my obviously sparkling personality, why else would you want to bring me here?”
“Possibly for nothing.” He paused, a small smile tugging at one corner of his mouth. “And possibly for everything.” He reached for the folder and slowly opened it without taking his eyes from me. The cover of the folder was labeled TOP SECRET: DESERT FIRE. That didn’t ring any bells for me, and I knew about most of the top-secret military operations conducted in the last century. Darko lowered his gaze to the top sheet of paper and began reading. “Emma Hayes, female, brown hair, green eyes, five-foot-four, birth date unknown.” He paused dramatically on that last statement. “How is it that your birth date is unknown?” he asked with false curiosity.