Her past is a secret—even to her.
Discovering it will be the most dangerous move of her life.
TV reporter Laura Nilsson, known as the "Baghdad Babe," spent eighteen months in an Al Qaeda compound after being kidnapped live on the air. Two years later, she's still wondering why.
No rescue mission in Javier Corbray's fourteen years as a Navy SEAL affected him the way Laura's rescue did. No woman has stirred his protective instincts the way she has. And he wants her more than he's ever wanted anyone.
As Laura and Javier's passion ignites, so does Laura's need to discover the mystery of her past. Especially when she learns that her abduction was not random—and that she's still a target for a killer with an impenetrable motive. Now Javier will have to rely on his skills to keep the woman he loves from being struck down before she dares uncover the truth.
Read an excerpt below...
A nominee for RT Book Review's Best Romantic Suspense of 2013
"This sixth I-Team installment sees Clare at her very best, combining scorching desire with a gripping, often painful, exploration of healing and redemption. The plot's mystery and suspense elements are exceptionally well researched and expertly plotted, but the real achievement lies in her beautifully crafted main couple. Her heroine's ordeal is unspeakably painful, but her strength never wavers. The chemistry with her steadfast hero never lacks for sizzle, but the emotional bond they share allows them to go beyond the physical to a profound, unforgettable love."
—RT Book Reviews, 4.5-stars Top Pick
"Fast-paced and addicting, Striking Distance will keep you chained to the pages long after the story has ended. ...The camaraderie between all the couples and friends amps up the feel-good quotient of the story and makes you want to keep on spending time with these remarkable individuals. Striking Distance is an absolute 'must-read,' easily one of the best romantic suspense stories of the year!" —GraveTells.com, 9.2 out of 10
"A steamy story filled with action, intriguing twists and an unexpected emotional wallop." —Christie Ridgeway of BookPages, Top Romance Pick for November
Order your copy today!
February 17, 2011
Near Parachinar, Pakistan
15 clicks west of the Afghan border
22,000 feet altitude
SOCS Javier "Cobra" Corbray sat in the dimly lit belly of the modified C-130J "Super" Hercules, waiting with the other operators of Delta Platoon for the signal to start their oxygen. Banter had given way to silence as the men turned their minds to the night's mission. They'd trained for months for this one, the pre-deployment workup one of the most grueling Javier could remember in his twelve years as a SEAL. Endless fast-roping drills. Night jumps, rock climbing, and uphill PT runs in full night combat gear. Close-quarters combat practice. Mock raids on a scale model of the compound.
The stakes were high tonight—for both the U.S. and for Javier personally.
Then again, the stakes had been high on every deployment since 9/11.
Abu Nayef Al-Nassar, a Saudi national, had been high on Uncle Sam's list of most-wanted assholes for five long years. The leader of an al Qaeda splinter group operating out of northwestern Pakistan, he had masterminded simultaneous bombings in Hamburg, Paris, and Amsterdam that had killed hundreds, not to mention orchestrating attacks against U.S. citizens in the Middle East and Shia Muslim villages around Pakistan. Al-Nassar was also the sugar daddy for a network of AQ groups, turning heroin profits into cash for weapons, travel, forged documents. If Delta Platoon managed to bring him in alive, along with his computers and cell phones, they would strike a major blow against AQ—and give the alphabet soup intel agencies a crack at uncovering his operation both abroad and in the homeland.
That was Javier's duty and goal as a SEAL. His goal as a man was simpler.
"Hey, senior chief!" Eric Krasinski had been with the Teams for about a year now. Nicknamed Crazy K for his love of rough water, there was no one more at home in pounding surf than Krasinski. "This asshole—he's the one who kidnapped and killed the Baghdad Babe, isn't he?"
The Baghdad Babe.
U.S. troops had given her that nickname back in 2007 during The Surge when they'd crowded around mess hall televisions to watch her nightly live broadcasts from Baghdad. Tall and slender with pale blonde hair and big, ice-blue eyes, she'd fueled the fantasies of every man in uniform, though not Javier's. Oh, she'd been one sexymami, but her Nordic good looks and reserve had been a bit too cold for a man with a puertorriqueña mother and a Scots-Cherokee father. He'd take a woman with curves and the heat of the island in her blood over a Valkyrie like Laura Nilsson any day.
Or so he'd thought until the night he'd met her.
He'd been touring Dubai City on his way home after a long deployment. She'd walked into a hotel bar where he was having a steak and a beer and had sat at a table nearby. He'd recognized her instantly. When two big Russian men had wandered over and started hassling her, he had intervened. It had pissed her off, but it had also gotten her attention.
What had followed was a weekend of the most amazing sex Javier had ever experienced. She might have seemed cool and reserved on the outside, but beneath her skin Laura Nilsson had been pure fire, igniting Javier's blood, sending him into a kind of sexual meltdown, the two of them risking not only their careers but also flogging and prison time. Unmarried sex was illegal in Dubai, even for foreigners.
If he closed his eyes, he could still taste her, still feel the softness of her skin, still hear the breathy sound of her cries as she came. She'd been a fantasy come true, more woman than Javier had ever hoped to hold in his arms. He was nothing more than a kid from South Bronx who'd enlisted in the Navy after nearly landing his ass in prison, a simple man who drank beer, played guitar, and fixed up old motorcycles when he wasn't deployed. She'd been classy, refined, and sexy, all silk and sophistication.
She had blown his mind.
The only thing that had kept Javier from calling her and trying to see her again was their agreement that the weekend came with no strings. Laura had told him flat out that she wasn't interested in marriage or motherhood. That had been fine with Javier. He already had one divorce under his belt—a hazard of being a frogman—and didn't want another. He'd flown back to the U.S hoping they'd meet again.
Two months later, she'd been gone.
Her last broadcast had come from a women's safehouse in Islamabad where she'd been reporting on the ongoing epidemic of fatal burnings in Pakistan—hundreds of young women burned alive every year by husbands and in-laws, their excruciating deaths blamed on "stove accidents" and never investigated. One moment she'd been interviewing a young burn victim, and the next the room around her had exploded with AK fire. Her security detail, her camera crew, and the safehouse director had all been killed. She'd been dragged fighting and screaming from the building while the abandoned camera continued to broadcast from its tripod.
That had been the summer of 2009.
Javier had been at home in Coronado Beach when it happened. He'd seen the live broadcast, had found himself on his feet, helpless and thousands of miles away. Her screams had ripped him apart. They haunted him still. When Al-Nassar's group had claimed responsibility for the attack weeks later and bragged that they'd decapitated her, there hadn't been a U.S. serviceman anywhere in the world who hadn't wanted to send Al-Nassar straight to hell—and that included Javier.
Now Delta Platoon was going to hit that target.
Javier had pushed hard to get his guns into this fight, had done everything he could to make sure Delta Platoon got tasked with this job. To this day, no one knew about his weekend with Laura, and he couldn't tell them or they would question his ability to handle this operation. Did he want to bring Al-Nassar down? Hell, yeah, he did. For his country andfor Laura. And that made him the right man for the job as far as he was concerned.
Canto hijo e la gran puta.
Dirty son of a whore.
"Yeah, he killed her." Javier met Krasinski's gaze. "But she had a name, and it wasn't Baghdad Babe. It was Laura Nilsson. Show her some respect, man."
She'd been one hell of a journalist, an incredible lover, a smart and beautiful woman. She deserved that much.
Krasinski's expression was hidden by shadows and by the black and green face camouflage, but there was regret in his voice. "You got it, senior chief."
A voice came over the speaker. "Forty-five minutes till drop."
"Masks on!" Boss, known to the rest of the world as Lt. Matthew O'Neill, shouted out the order, making the motion with his hand.
JG—Lt. Junior Grade Ben Alexander—repeated it, as did Javier, before fastening his O2 mask in place.
The men breathed normally, inhaling 100 percent oxygen to eliminate the nitrogen from their bloodstreams so that no one would die from the dramatic increase in atmospheric pressure on the way down. This was a HAHO jump—high altitude, high opening. The mountains were too full of insurgents for them to risk the noise of parachutes opening close to the ground.
As the minutes ticked by, Javier ran through the details of the mission in his mind. Al-Nassar knew how to hole up—that much was for damned sure. His lair was built on a plateau with a fifty-foot cliff at its back, elevation giving him a clear one-eighty view of the landscape below. Caves at the base of the cliff provided Al-Nassar a handy place to stash weapons, ammo, explosives, heroin—and men. They also gave him a place to hide should he see anyone headed his way.
That's why Delta Platoon wasn't going to drive up and ring the doorbell.
They were being dropped over a mountain valley west of Parachinar about 3.5 clicks from Al-Nassar's hideout. They would hike their way from the DZ to the cliffs. There, the Boss's squad would divide into two elements. He, Howe, Force, and Murphy, the platoon sniper, would remain atop the cliffs with suppressed Mk12s, an FN M249 Para for suppressive fire, and a M72A2 LAW grenade launcher to watch the men's six, while the rest of the platoon would fast-rope down to the compound. JG would take the caves with LeBlanc, Johnson and Grimshaw, setting charges to demolish any ordnance they found, while Javier infiltrated the compound with his squad—Krasinksi, Ross, Zimmerman, Salisbury, Wilson, Reeves, Desprez. When Al-Nassar was in custody and the compound was secure, three modified CH-47D Chinook helos would swoop in for extract. As they lifted off, JG would blow the caves to hell.
Of course they weren't being sent up against a high-value target like this without backup firepower and air support. They'd be in touch with their tactical operations center, or TOC, throughout the night. A drone with thermal/infrared capability would patrol the sky above the job site, giving them a bird's eye view of the action. If things got messy, two Marines special operations teams—MSOTs—would arrive in Blackhawks to make them messier.
Provided nothing went wrong, it would be a piece of cake.
Forty minutes later, a voice came over the speaker. "Two minutes to drop!"
The men switched from the pre-breathers to their bottled O2, careful not to inhale room air in the transition. Then both squads got to their feet, boots thudding dully against the steel plating, each of them carrying more than a hundred pounds of gear on his back. With an efficiency born of constant training, each checked his gear and that of the man in front of him. They'd already passed a jumpmaster inspection, but in their line of work there was no such thing as being too prepared, too careful.
The ramp and door began to open, icy, thin air rushing in. The two squads moved toward the yawning exit, waiting for the signal to jump. Javier touched a gloved hand to the chest pocket that held the photograph of his abuelita, Mamá Andreína, that he always carried with him. She was his good luck charm. She kept a candle lit for him, prayed novenas to Santa Clara for him every night.
The light flashed green.
The men moved together, tumbling almost as one into the slipstream, Javier leading his squad out of the Hercules and into the black night.
She knelt on the carpet facing Mecca, going through the motions of the first Rak'ah, doing her best to say each word of the Sura Al-Fatiha correctly so that no one would find fault with her.
Inshallah. God willing.
She kept her voice quiet, barely a whisper. This morning while praying Fajr, she had failed to do so, and Zainab had claimed that Abu Nayef's guests, who were not family—not mahram—had heard her. Zainab had struck her, making her lip bleed.
But then Zainab always struck her.
"You will never learn, Hanan!" Zainab had shouted in her face. "You are as stupid as you are ugly!"
"I am sorry, Umm Faisal." She never dared to call Zainab or any of the other women by their given names, for they would deem it disrespectful and beat her. "You must help me to do better, sister."
She'd called Abu Nayef's wives her sisters, but only Angeza, who'd been given to Abu Nayef by her Pashtun father in payment of a debt when she was only fourteen, had ever treated her with kindness. Angeza had sneaked her food, helped her study the Suras, even protected her from Zainab and Abu Nayef. Still, she was the least of all the women here, and that is why she prayed at the back of the room, behind all of the other women and girls. And yet Zainab still seemed to see every mistake she made.
The women bowed, and she bowed with them, standing up straight once more before performing Sujood, prostrating herself, her nose, hands, knees and feet, touching the carpet, her belly pressed against her thighs as was proper for a woman, the odors of sweat and dust rank in her nostrils. She rose, caught a glimpse of the mirror across the room, but could not see her own reflection. She prostrated herself again, the prayers and motions flowing together in a rhythm that was familiar, even comforting, as they finished the first Rak'ah and moved without pause into the second.
But as they began the third Rak'ah and prayed at last in silence, her heart began to pound. It was time for her nightly rebellion. She clenched her hands to hide their trembling, afraid that Zainab, Nibaal, Safiya, or one of the other women would notice her nervousness and guess what she was doing. If they knew what she was thinking, they would surely denounce her to Abu Nayef.
Then he would do what he'd always promised to do and cut off her head.
Pulse racing, she reached secretly for her Swedish and English, words she didn't dare to speak burning in her mind like a fever.
Mitt namn är ...
My name is...
My name is Laura Nilsson.
She lay in the dark in the corner of the small back room that was hers, her bed an old blanket, her head pillowed on her neatly folded burka. Her mind ached for sleep, but sleep wouldn't come, chased off by the knot of dread in her stomach. It was the same dread she felt every night until she was certain everyone was in bed asleep.
In the next room, Safiya's new baby girl cried.
She would have offered to help. She wanted to help. Safiya was only twenty-four and already had six children. But Safiya wouldn't let her near the baby. No one would. They all believed her unfit.
A creaking door. A man's deep voice. Footsteps.
She held her breath, listening until the footsteps faded away.
Would he come tonight?
She'd seen him take Nibaal to his room. Surely, Nibaal would be enough for him and he would leave her alone.
She squeezed her eyes shut, hoping with everything inside her that he would stay away. Angeza had once told her that Zainab struck her only because Abu Nayef came to her bed so often. But she would gladly have traded places with Zainab. If only she could! She cared nothing at all for Abu Nayef. In truth, she hated him.
She hated the feel of his old man's hands on her. She hated the sour odor of his skin, his breath, the coarseness of his beard. He was always so rough with her, even when she lay still and didn't fight.
Stay away. Stay away. Stay away.
She drifted off, only to jerk awake at the sound of a man's voice.
His door opened, closed, soft footfalls sounding in the hallway as Nibaal made her way back to the room she shared with her four children.
She exhaled, certain she'd been spared for the night, her body relaxing, sleep stealing over her at last.
She sat bolt upright on a rush of adrenaline and grabbed her burka, drawing it over her head just as the door to her room crashed open.
A dark shape filled the doorway.
A man with a weapon.
He aimed it at her, a red dot dancing over her chest.
Too terrified even to scream, she shrank back against the wall, her heart hammering, her mouth dry, fear making her mind go blank.
A light blinded her.
He aimed his weapon at the corners as if he expected someone to be hiding in the room, then shouted in heavily accented Arabic. "Come with me!"
She wanted to do as he'd asked. She didn't want to be shot and killed. But fear kept her grounded to the spot, her breath coming in terrified pants.
"Clear! All clear! Got another female here, senior chief," he said, crossing the room in two big strides. "Bring her to the courtyard. Roger that."
The sound of his American English made her breath catch.
"Come." The man spoke more softly this time, motioning for her to get to her feet and come with him.
As if in a dream, she rose, her heart beating erratically in her chest, his uniform and his American accent awakening something nameless and terrifying inside her.
He nudged her ahead of him, his weapon still raised. "Go!"
Her legs seemed to be made of water as she walked down the stairs, across the main room and out into the frigid night, where the other women were huddled together in their burkas with their children, all of them crying, some praying aloud.
"Hanan!" One of them reached for her, called to her in Arabic. Zainab. "Hanan, sister, come here to us!"
She felt a rush of warmth to hear Zainab call her "sister," something comforting in Zainab's concern for her. The older woman's fingers dug into her arms as she drew her roughly into the cluster of women, pushing her to the center, where other hands reached out, grabbed her, held her.
And then she saw.
There, in the center of the courtyard, lay Abu Nayef.
All but naked, he lay face down in the dirt, his wrists bound together behind his back, a tall uniformed man standing guard over him.
A dead man lay on his side not far from Abu Nayef, his eyes open, part of his head missing, a spray of blood and brains on the wall behind him.
Her stomach seemed to fall to the ground, vague memories of another day, of flashes of blood and dead men sliding into her mind. She looked away and swallowed hard, fighting to keep down her supper.
"They are going to kills us all!" Nibaal sobbed.
"Is this true?" Angeza whispered in frightened Pashtun.
She shook her head, whispered back. "They won't hurt us."
She couldn't say why she was so sure about this, but she was.
Armed men in heavy uniforms seemed to be everywhere—on the rooftop, in the courtyard, inside the house. Their faces were covered in black paint, making them look like shadows in the darkness. They seemed to be searching for something.
"Where are your tears, Hanan?" Zainab pinched her. "Do you see what has become of our husband? Do you see what these Americans have done to him?"
The nameless terror inside her grew stronger.
But she couldn't bring herself to weep, not for Abu Nayef. She loathed him. Instead, she listened to every word the men in uniform said to one another.
"Hey, JG, we've got a dozen terrified women and kids here. Are they going to be safe when you blow those caves?" asked the tall one standing over Abu Nayef, speaking into a slender mic near his painted lips. "Roger that."
"Hey, senior chief, we got nine hard drives, four cell phones, a handful of flash drives, and a box full of CDs, along with some files."
"Bag 'em," the tall one said. "Boss, we're good to begin our exfil. Yo, boys, it's time to go!"
Chills shivered up her spine.
"What is that? Do you hear that?" Zainab looked up.
It was the thrum and whir of distant helicopters.
She looked up through the mesh of her burka at the starless sky, saw nothing, the night having taken on an air of unreality.
One of the women—Safiya—started to sob, clutching the crying baby to her chest. "They're taking him away! What will become of us?"
Out of the dark sky appeared three helicopters, black against the black night, each with one rotor in back, another in front. One lowered itself to perch against the cliffs above, men in black uniforms rising like ghosts from the ground and climbing aboard, weapons in their hands. Another landed at the base of the cliffs. Still another landed inside the compound, its giant rotors blowing dust everywhere.
The house had been surrounded, and they hadn't even known it.
One of the men began shouting to the women in bad Arabic, telling them to take shelter inside the house for their own protection, warning them that the caves in the cliffs had been set with explosives and were going to blow up.
She found herself caught up in a panicked tide of blue and black as the burka-clad women pushed her toward the house, Zainab's fingers holding fast to her arm, digging deep into her flesh. She looked over her shoulder to see the tall one standing guard while two of his men lifted Abu Nayef by his elbows and dragged him toward the waiting helicopter and up its rear ramp.
They were leaving.
The Americans were leaving.
There was a buzzing in her brain, her pulse pounding so hard it all but drowned out the sound of the helicopters, that nameless fear gathering momentum, rushing against her like a wave, the terror in her mind coalescing into a single, heart-stopping thought.
I'm an American, too.
"Ana amrekiah." She didn't realize she'd stopped walking or spoken aloud until Zainab jerked her arm.
"Shut your mouth, or I will cut out your tongue!"
Strong hands shoved her toward the house, making her stumble. She looked back, saw the tall man watching them, and she realized he was waiting to board the helicopter until the others were safely back inside. Then he, too, would disappear up that ramp.
As the women reached the door, he took two steps back, then turned away from them, speaking words she couldn't hear into his microphone.
The Americans were leaving—without her.
Dizzy with terror, she jerked away from the other women. "Wait! I'm an American, too!"
But her words were blown away by the roar of the helicopter's rotors.
Wait! I'm an American, too!
Javier caught the words over the drone of the helos, but it took them a moment to register. Had that come from beneath one of the burkas?
"Senior chief, watch out! You got one running up behind you!" Ross ran down the ramp, dropped to one knee, aimed his weapon.
Javier pivoted, weapon ready, and saw the tallest of the women running toward him, the red dot from Ross's laser sight dancing on her covered forehead.
"Hold your fire!" Javier aimed his M4 at her. "Stop! Get down!"
But she had already fallen to her knees, turquoise blue cloth billowing around her, her breath coming in terrified sobs. She cried out again, her accent American. "H-help me! I'm - I'm an American, too!"
He started toward her, just as one of the other women broke out of the group, this one holding a knife in her hand. She shouted something in Arabic and ran not toward Javier, but toward the woman on the ground, her intent clear.
Without hesitation, Javier raised his M4 and dropped her with a double-tap, her knife falling to the dirt.
JG's voice sounded in his ear. "Senior chief, what the hell's going on?"
"I think we've got a hostage." He strode quickly to the terrified woman, grabbed a fistful of blue burka, and ripped it aside, exposing her completely.
For a moment all he could do was stare, his gaze taking in the tears and bruises on her cheeks, her swollen lip and thin face, her threadbare nightgown, the shock and terror in her eyes.
And then his training kicked in. "This is now an AMCIT recovery. I say again: This is now an AMCIT recovery. Do you copy?"
Ross and Zimmerman ran down the helo's ramp and took up defensive positions, ready to take out anyone who threatened Javier or Laura.
"We hear you lima charlie, senior chief," the Boss answered from the third helo several hundred feet in the air above them. "Get her, and let's go. We've got enemy QRF pushing our position from the east. We need to get airborne now!"
The second Chinook was already nosing its way downwind. Slow and cumbersome at lift-off, the helos would all make great targets for the Soviet-era RPGs that AQ combatants loved to fire at them. If the pilots couldn't get them in the air and up to speed before the enemy got within firing range...
"Roger that." Knowing the others were covering for him, Javier clipped his M4 into his tactical sling, lifted Laura into his arms, and turned toward the last helo, covering the ground in long, fast strides. Without a glance back, he ran up the ramp and settled Laura in his jump seat, Ross and Zimmerman pounding up the ramp behind him.
"All boots onboard!" Zimmerman shouted.
"Ramp!" The shout was repeated as the cargo ramp was raised.
The helo rotors accelerated, seconds ticking by like hours as the big bird slowly left the ground, heading into the wind, the pilot fighting for translational lift. Javier listened as the pilot relayed their altitude, enemy QRF drawing ever closer.
A shell exploded not far from the helo, its blast wave making the helo lurch and drawing a gasp from Laura. Javier put a gloved hand on her shoulder, hoping to reassure her. "Sit tight."
Too damned close.
The seconds ticked by, punctuated by two more explosions, each of them more distant than the last as the helo gained speed. Then came the deep rumble as JG detonated the explosives in the caves.
"We did it, senior chief!" Krasinski pointed at Javier. "Cobra strikes again!"
"We're not done with the mission till we get back to home plate, Krasinski." Heart beating hard, Javier leaned back against the webbing that lined the helo, grabbed it for balance, catching his breath, ratcheting down on the adrenaline, taking stock of his men, of the situation. Reeves had caught a round in the shoulder. Wilson, the platoon medic, had already treated it. Reeves would need surgery and PT, but he'd be fine. Apart from a few bruises and scrapes, no one else was wounded. Al-Nassar was battered but alive, his laptops, cellphones, disks and drives bagged and tagged.
Delta Platoon had done what they'd been tasked to do on this mission—and they'd come away with something extra.
He let his gaze drop to Laura, felt a tangled rush of relief and rage. Clearly in shock, she sat there shivering in a white cotton nightgown that left little to the imagination, her face downcast, her long hair tangled. She was rail thin and pale, as if she'd recently been ill or hadn't eaten a good meal in months. There were fresh bruises on her face and her arms, proof that the other women had tried to restrain her.
All this time—eighteen goddamned months—she'd been here alive.
Son of a bitch!
Al-Nassar's group had claimed they'd executed her. They'd lied. Why?
He glanced at Al-Nassar, whose gaze was fixed on her, hatred mingling with something predatory in his eyes.
The asshole had wanted her, had used her, had hurt her.
Like some trapped wild thing, Laura looked around at the helo full of men, her vulnerability tearing at Javier. He drew a blanket out of the webbing and wrapped it around her shoulders.
She hugged the blanket tightly around herself and looked up at him as if she wasn't quite certain he was real. "Th-thank you."
"You're welcome." He'd never told her he was a SEAL, and he was certain she didn't recognize him beneath the uniform and camo face paint.
One by one, Javier's men acknowledged her with polite nods.
"We're happy to have you on board, ma'am."
"Welcome back, Ms. Nilsson."
Then Al-Nassar began to speak, muttering something to her.
Her pale face went a shade whiter, fear in her wide eyes.
And something inside Javier snapped.
He smashed his fist into the bastard's face—once, twice—the blow and the pain in his knuckles doing nothing to satisfy the burning anger inside him. Realizing what he'd done, he stepped back, fists clenched as he fought to rein himself in. "Wilson, gag and blindfold this motherfucker before I kill him."
"You got it, senior chief." Wilson grabbed a wad of gauze from his pack, rammed it into Al-Nassar's mouth, tying it in place with more gauze.
Al-Nassar began to struggle, trying to pull his head away, blood trickling from his nose and a cut on his cheek.
Zimmerman stood, restrained him none too gently while Wilson tied a tourniquet over the bastard's eyes. "You need to shut the fuck up and leave her alone, asshole. Got that? Yeah, I know you understood me. Went to Oxford, didn't you? Paid the Brits back for your first-class education by trying to blow them up."
Shaking with unspent anger, Javier looked down at Laura again. She probably thought they'd come to rescue her when the truth was they hadn't even known she was there. If she hadn't shouted out for him, if she hadn't run...
He didn't want to think about that.
What counted was that she had run. She'd found the strength and the guts to break free, to shout out, to let them know she was there.
And now they were taking her home.