Lie by Night ONLY
an Out of Darkness novel by Cathy Marlowe
When Emma Bailey’s brother disappears, leaving her in possession of dangerous information, there’s no one she can turn to for help. Her desperate search for her brother leads her to a remote island where she discovers the one man who can help her is a man she can’t trust.
Cole Stevens is on a mission to bring down the drug mastermind who threatens to destroy the lives of his family. His plans take an unexpected turn when Emma runs head first into his investigation. Not only is she a danger to his heart, but her brother is one of his key suspects.Cole and Emma reluctantly join forces to unravel a web of deceit that reaches deeper into their lives than either had imagined.
As the lies unravel they will be forced to choose between fear of betrayal and their willingness to put their emotions on the line in order to save the people they love.
Title: Lie by Night (Out of Darkness, #1)
Author: Cathy Marlowe
Length: 316 pages
Release Date: March 2014
Imprint: Select Suspense
Lie by Night
by Cathy Marlowe
Copyright © 2014 by Cathy Marlowe. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
To find Jacob, go to the old flower seller on James Island in the South Atlantic. He will take you to the Dark Island. Follow the path from the east boat dock to the warehouse. Tell no one. Jacob’s life depends on it.
The man released his grip on the pen, and it clattered to the table. He slammed his palm against the wood. What was he doing? He’d never even liked Jacob. And Jacob’s sister, Emma? Sure, he’d cared about her. Maybe even loved her with the ignorance of youth.
Loved her for a brief moment when he thought he might escape his miserable upbringing, trapped under the thumb of that bastard, Alistair Forrester.
In his life today, however, the damn woman was none of his business.
Help her, chanted the stupid voice in his head.
To hell with it. He folded the carefully printed instructions and shoved them into the self-stick envelope he’d addressed earlier. She’d never know the letter came from a man she once knew as Jack.
He peeled off the surgical gloves and replaced them with leather ones. No finger prints, no hand writing analysis. No way to trace the letter back to him if it fell into the wrong hands. He grabbed his suitcase and scooped up the letter. He’d drop it at the hotel desk on his way out.
After that, Emma Bailey was on her own.
Three days later
Emma clutched her buttery soft travel bag in her lap as her guide tied his boat to a well-built dock that seemed out of place on this remote island deep in the south Atlantic.
The words of the anonymous letter she’d received yesterday raced through her mind. She’d found the flower seller on touristy James Island. When money hadn’t convinced him to bring her to a place the locals called the Dark Island, she’d resorted to tears. Whatever worked.
Her brother, Jacob, had disappeared seven days ago. Courageous and daring, he’d pursued a career in the military before joining Bryson Consulting, current front for work so top secret she didn’t know precisely which branch—or agency—claimed him.
She’d chosen the safe and stable life of a college professor, where the greatest danger lay in university politics and the quest for tenure. She and Jacob had been alone in the world since the death of their parents on 9-11. They’d responded to the tragedy in vastly different ways, Jacob seeking justice and the moral high ground, while she burrowed into a secure world where the quest for knowledge took her no farther than her laptop or the NYU Library.
For the first time, she regretted her choice. She knew full well she was unprepared for this mission. Thank God Jacob insisted she take self-defense training each year, because that and her brain were all she had to see her through. Although her brain served her well in her career, it was woefully uneducated in search and rescue.
She rose, forcing her fingers to relax, and set her beautiful, apricot-colored bag in her seat. A gift from her brother, she’d clenched it like a talisman as the slow boat meandered across the ocean to this little island. He’d been urging her to get out and see the world.
Well, here I am little brother.
“You…?” The old man gestured toward the desolate shore with one gnarled finger, a deep frown on his weathered brow. He swung his hand back to his face, scratching the whiskers on his chin. His broken English might challenge her comprehension, but his expression conveyed his message just fine. Are you crazy?
She nodded as she slipped a band from her ponytail, not caring that she confirmed both her desired location and her state of mind. She captured the brown strands and rebound them in a tight knot at her nape. Was it crazy when you had no choice? She grabbed her black stocking cap from the side pouch of her travel bag and hid her hair under the jersey fabric. Her navy rain jacket hid her slim frame. Jeans and hiking boots—the real, steel-toed kind designed to protect your feet from rough terrain—completed her ensemble. She was as ready as she’d ever be.
She nodded again to the man who’d brought her to the island in his rickety old skiff. It was a miracle they’d arrived at all.
“I’ll be back. You wait?” She motioned in what she hoped was a convincing gesture of don’t leave.
She locked gazes with the old man. She bit the inside of her cheek as she waited. Intelligence shone in his dark eyes. She felt her chances of returning being weighed. The man nodded.
“Bad, bad place.” He grunted the words and then settled in the captain’s chair. Somehow he managed to appear sturdy and reliable in the wobbly, wooden seat.
She smiled her thanks and stepped from the boat. The rocky shore ran only one hundred yards in length. The line of trees that ringed the beach beckoned atop a steep slope a mere fifty yards away. She understood the old man’s uncertainty, first back on the mainland and now as he released her into this unknown. No matter how glorious the foliage or how brightly the climbing sun lit the sky, a disturbing darkness emanated from the small island.
She squared her shoulders, resolute. This remote island held answers she desperately needed. Brushing her hand against the zippered, inside pocket where her instructions rested, she forced one step after another until her reluctant feet settled into a steady rhythm. She didn’t need to read the instructions; she’d memorized them hours ago on her flight from the United States.
Slightly winded by the time she reached the top of the hill, Emma paused to breathe deeply of the sunlit air. She ran five miles a day, and this climb posed no true challenge to her fitness. She didn’t need a doctor to tell her that adrenaline—and though she hated to admit it, fear—fueled her breathlessness as she approached the tree line and stood before the mouth of the path. Worrying her lip, she entered the forest.
The world transformed. The beach might have been lonely, but the mid-morning sun had warmed the abandoned earth. Here in the jungle, only the smallest rays of sunlight penetrated. Sound seemed oddly muffled and yet magnified at the same time.
As she shoved the twisted vines and branches out of her way, she was glad she’d worn thin gloves, even though the temperature didn’t quite warrant them. They featured textured palms and finger and thumb pads that allowed her to interact with her touch screen. She swallowed. Unfortunately, her phone had stopped registering any service long before they reached the island.
Brushing low-hanging branches from her face, she journeyed deeper and deeper into the artificial twilight. A bird of prey screeched in the distance, startling her. Something whispered through the grass behind her. She twisted around, bumping her head on the branch she’d just shoved aside. Large protruding eyes stared at her. She forced down a scream.
A lizard longer than her forearm blinked lazily. Chills ran down her spine. She hated bugs. And, apparently, lizards. Shuddering, she turned and hurried along the dirt trail.
She stumbled once, then again, despite her careful steps. Saw grass grew in abandon, determined to fully claim the neglected trail. Large, green fronds dipped gracefully overhead, the tips brushing her hat as she maneuvered toward the heart of the island. Something slithered to her right, and a slick, scaly body brushed her cheek. She jerked to the side, tripping over a rock hidden amidst the grass, and sprawled on her jean-clad butt.
Instinctively, she thrust her right hand into the pocket of her rain jacket and yanked out her Mace. She pointed in the direction of the hideous beast. An evil moss-covered branch drifted back and forth in the faint breeze that penetrated the undergrowth, mocking her pounding heart.
A freaking branch.
Unmoving, she sat there, the spray clenched in her trembling hand. The sounds of the rain forest faded as blood rushed through her ears.
She released the hot pink canister. Designer pepper spray, her standard birthday gift from a brother consumed with her safety. It zipped back into her jacket courtesy of the homemade, retractable string she’d jerry-rigged using her university ID. The string anchored the spray in her pocket. If the old man could see the ingenious leash she’d created, he wouldn’t worry she was crazy. He’d be certain.
She rose from the ground, brushing dirt from her faded jeans.
Squaring her shoulders, she ignored the call of relative safety the old boat offered. Other-worldly light filtered through the leaves, illuminating her way and taunting her at the same time. She’d never felt this completely isolated.
She should have insisted the gardener come with her, but the strange, little man made it clear en route that he refused to step foot on the island. She hadn’t completely understood his broken English, but the gist of it seemed to be bad mojo. Hell, she knew all about bad mojo. She was the queen of bad mojo.
The only good mojo in her twenty-seven years had been Jacob. He was her best friend, her only family. And he was missing. His last communication with her had arrived in a package along with her birthday Mace. Using a silly code they’d invented as children, he warned her that he’d discovered something frightening. Something deadly.
There’d been one more item in the package. A microchip hidden in the base of the Mace that he’d promised to retrieve within 48 hours. He’d never arrived. With no idea how to figure out what was on the chip, her woefully insufficient plan consisted of keeping it safe and with her—and trusting no one.
She turned a corner and stopped. The trail opened into a large clearing. At the back of the open ground stood her objective, a two-story, metal warehouse rising in the midst of verdant foliage. An abomination in the midst of tropical splendor. Similar to the path, the surrounding forest crept into what must have once been a pristine circle in which the unattractive warehouse held the questionable place of honor.
This was it. Looking around the open area and finding no evidence of human presence, she stepped cautiously into the clearing.
An eerie silence settled around her. Was it her presence that silenced the raucous birds? Her scent that drove the four-legged mammals deeper into the forest? Or something more sinister?
She unzipped her jacket partway and reached inside the internal pocket to read her instructions once again. Although she’d memorized it, still the message demanded to be read.
To find Jacob…
Tell no one.
Jacob’s life depends on it.
Jacob’s life. Emma tucked the note back into her pocket and zipped it closed. She bit the inside of her lip and took a step forward. Then another. And another. She was here for answers, and nothing, no snakes or insects or fear, was going to stop her. Ha! She ate fear for breakfast.
A furry mammal broke from the undergrowth and darted across the clearing. Her heart climbed into her throat. Okay, so maybe fear occasionally took a bite out of her.
The building cast an ominous shadow that swallowed her whole as she advanced.
She scanned the metal siding. A cold shiver ran down her spine. Something was wrong.
The sound of pounding feet barely registered before strong fingers wrapped around her arm and jerked her away from the building. Her startled cry ended abruptly as her feet left the ground. Her body lofted into the air. She glimpsed dirt and clumps of grass just before impact.
Strong arms cushioned Emma’s landing, wrapping around her to take the brunt of the fall. The arms imprisoned her as the stranger rolled them across the clearing. Kicking, she fought to free herself. She struggled to reach her trusty Mace.
A massive explosion shook the clearing, and the rolling stopped. The stranger pressed her into the dirt as debris rained down around them. Stunned, she ceased to fight.
Panic flared to life. The warehouse! What if it held more than information? What if Jacob was in there?
She renewed her struggle for freedom, desperately trying to see the warehouse. “Get off,” she hissed as the crackling of fire and smell of smoke fueled her strength. “I have to get him. I have to save…” When her furious bucking and pushing failed to dislodge the body, Emma turned her head sideways and bit the hand cradling her face.
“Damn it!” a deep, male voice growled. “There’s no one in there. Calm down.”
Emma froze. She knew that voice.
His weight shifted, and she turned her head to stare into the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. Eyes she remembered quite well from six months before.