her forgotten betrayal


Upload: anna-destefano

Post on 09-Mar-2016




0 download


Excerpt of opening chapter


Page 1: Her Forgotten Betrayal
Page 2: Her Forgotten Betrayal

Her Forgotten Betrayal


Anna DeStefano

Coming in June from Entangled Publishing

Image by Jen Talty

Cover Art will be revealed the week before release!

Page 3: Her Forgotten Betrayal

Chapter One


The thought screamed through Shaw Cassidy’s mind, her entire body,

every instinct demanding that she escape.

“You’re not going anywhere,” she silently scolded herself. “Not until

this is over.”

The cramped darkness around her shrank closer, choking off her

oxygen like a fist clenching around her throat. She fought to swallow. She

crouched behind the closed closet door. On the other side, an angry

argument escalated. Unholy plans seethed like brutal, living things.

“That’s not the price we agreed upon!” someone shouted, every

syllable laced with the threat of violence. The words held a foreign accent,

even though the man’s English was impeccable.

“The parameters of our deal have changed,” answered a raspy voice

that was familiar, yet she couldn’t place it. “I’ve absorbed enormous risk to

get you what you need. Pay up, or our deal is off. And I assure you, sir, no

Page 4: Her Forgotten Betrayal

one backs out of an agreement with me.”

The coldness of the second man’s response made Shaw’s stomach roll

as they continued to argue. She shivered. What had she stumbled into?

If she made the slightest noise, she’d be discovered crouching amidst

surplus office equipment and supplies. Frozen to the spot, she strained to

hear each word, her heartbeat pounding in her ears. This was insane. But

she had to know everything these men were up to, even if it took all night

for them to finish so she could get away and finally alert the authorities.

The world she'd created from her empty life was imploding around

her. These bastards’ clandestine activities would ruin her. They were putting

countless lives—countries, even—at risk. Her multi-national corporation,

Cassidy Global Research, and the valuable work they did were the center of

her world—if she didn’t count Esmeralda, who condescended to being

petted twice a day when Shaw filled her geriatric Siamese’ food bowl. Every

other waking moment was consumed by her research, client conferences,

her smartphone, and an endless stream of reports and deadlines.

Her research made a difference. Her companies provided the

government and other select clients with top secret technology and

scientific innovation in various fields, while she was rarely required to

venture farther than her office or her labs. At thirty-two, she was successful.

She was content. She was as close to happy as she’d been in fifteen years.

As close as she’d ever be again. No way was she letting these men rip that

away from her.

Page 5: Her Forgotten Betrayal

She hunkered deeper within the cloying dimness.

The only light was a sharp seam of illumination cutting across her bent

knees from where the door didn’t completely meet the carpet. She’d been

lying in wait for these guys, certain of the timing of the meeting, even

though there was no mention of it in the Cassidy scheduling system. She

had to stop them. She needed more information, incontrovertible proof of

the security breaches she’d uncovered. Otherwise if an official investigation

was launched, the trail of evidence would lead authorities straight to her,

not these dangerous men.

She shifted her balance. Fresh blood circulated through her legs. Pain

seared up her thighs. Pinpricks of sensation swarmed like bees.

“You won’t get away with this madness!” the foreign-sounding man


“I will,” shouted the raspy-voiced man. Then he calmly added, “I

always have.”

The verbal sparring escalated to even greater decibels. She winced. At

any moment, they’d come to physical blows. Who was arguing like they

wanted to kill each other in her father's abandoned conference room?

A winter storm battered rain against the outer windows, drowning out

more and more of what was being said. One of the men moved closer to her,

a body blocking the light filtering under the closet door. She cringed, her

hand grabbing the doorjamb, until the person stepped away.

How had she convinced herself that the solution to stopping their

Page 6: Her Forgotten Betrayal

criminal activity was to spy on them herself? In a closet. In the middle of the

night. With an ominous wail, wind buffeted the high-rise that housed her

corporate headquarters. An agonizing cramp grabbed at her right calf. Her

leg slipped, her shoe banging into the closet's wall.

The room beyond her stilled, the sudden silence terrifying her. She

held her breath, her hands plastered against the door, hoping. Praying.

Maybe they’d think the noise had been caused by the storm.

Someone approached again. This time, she could hear his footsteps.

Steady. Measured. The tread of men's dress shoes, muffled by carpet. He

slowed, stopped, stalling mere inches from her. Another pointless wave of

fear sucked away the air around her. Her lungs burned. Her hands balled

into fists. She wanted to pound them against the door.

God, how could she have been so reckless, so stupid?

The doorknob turned. She grabbed it, as if she could prevent

whomever was there from getting inside. The knob was wrenched away.

Light from the conference room pierced her hiding place. She blinked

against the brightness, and squinted. The barrel of an ancient-looking

revolver emerged through the glare. Her gaze tracked from its muzzle up an

arm and then a man’s torso, both covered in an expensive, dark suit coat.

Until she was staring into the face of a monster.

Her mind seized.

Reality seemed to contract, then expand. One second, she thought the

carpet was rising up to smack her. The next, she realized she’d crumpled to

Page 7: Her Forgotten Betrayal

the floor, in a boneless heap at the man’s feet. Her thoughts blanked to

nothingness, except for the conviction that it wasn’t possible. He wasn’t


“You...” said the raspy, eerily familiar voice. A menacing hand

grabbed her hair. Its grip kept her from crawling away. He jerked her head

up. The muzzle of the gun bit into her temple.

“No!” She stared at her captor and saw nothing but death. Her mind

refused to process the rest.

The ruthless, emotionless logic she’d mastered since she was a

teenager deserted her. She fought the all-consuming confusion that

replaced it. She strained to focus. To really see him. But his features

wouldn’t register. There was only the gun and the terror, the ominous sound

of a vicious storm, and the absolute certainty that he was going to kill her.

“I don’t understand,” she said. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be


“Kill the bitch,” said the man with the foreign inflection. “She’s heard

everything we’ve said.”

“No, please…” Shaw struggled against his hold, hating that she was

begging, that she once more felt like a desperate teenager—petrified,

fighting for her life, and crumbling under her fear. “I won't tell anyone you

were here. I swear.”

Pain burned across her scalp, her hair pulling out from its roots. She

tried to crawl away. Her legs tangled in something from the closet.

Page 8: Her Forgotten Betrayal

“Sorry, Shaw,” said the man restraining her. His tone was annoyed,

hassled, maybe even a little amused, as if killing her was a special treat just

for him. “It’s time for you to learn your true place in my world.”

She heard a click. The sound of a revolver’s hammer being cocked.

She stared up at him in defiance, wanting to spit in his face so he’d know he

hadn’t won.

Instead, she screamed when the gun fired and her world dissolved into



Cole Marinos jogged through biting-cold rain toward Atlanta Memorial

Hospital’s ER entrance. The entire eastern seaboard had been socked in by

slushy winter storms. It had been a bitch of a night to catch a flight in from

New York, and then a cab to midtown from the airport.

Stepping inside, he shucked his leather jacket, which was soaked even

though there’d only been a few feet between the cab and the sliding doors

that now whooshed shut behind him. Rubbing a hand over his face and

through his longer-than-regulation hair, he dripped water onto the

admissions counter.

“Sorry.” He flashed his badge, then asked for the directions he


An older woman in a starched white shirt and pink jumper consulted

her computer, then jerked a tissue from the box at her elbow.

“Sixth floor,” she grumbled. “Ask at the desk.” The button pinned to

Page 9: Her Forgotten Betrayal

her shoulder said she was a hospitality volunteer. Evidently, three o’clock in

the damn morning was no place for hospitality to make an appearance.

Just as Atlanta was no place for Cole himself tonight.

He draped his jacket over his shoulder, dampness soaking through his

T-shirt. The foreboding that had hounded him since boarding the plane grew

stronger as he strode to the central elevators, rode to the sixth floor, then

followed a second set of directions given by an equally irritable nurse, down

the hallway to their right. After flashing his badge twice more at plain

clothed officers who were either Atlanta Police detectives or Federal

Marshals or, like Cole, FBI, he stopped at the room’s observation window

and stared inside.

The patient was a fragile-looking blonde, even though he’d read she

hit the private gym at her corporate headquarters seven days a week, and

was a devotee of several eastern meditative disciplines. The single light

over the bed shrouded her in shadow. If it weren’t for the bandage covering

the right side of her head where a bullet had grazed her skull, the breath-

taking beauty would have appeared to be resting peacefully. Like a princess,

awaiting the hero who would kiss her back to awareness. Cole rubbed a

hand across his still-damp neck, echoes from their childhood whispering

through his mind. He brushed them away.

He didn’t have to look to know that the man stepping to his side was

his latest supervisor. Cole tensed, instinctively anticipating the worst. He’d

been summonsed to Atlanta ostensibly to offer an in-person consultation on

Page 10: Her Forgotten Betrayal

the their task-force’s prime suspect. But he wasn’t buying it. The escalating

stakes of the Cassidy Global situation had put their team on high alert. With

Shaw Cassidy’s shooting on top of everything else, there were too many

unanswered questions now for their investigation to continue without a

significant shift in tactics.

“You said she was hysterical, ” Cole began.

“The doctors had to sedate her again,” Chief Inspector Rick Dawson

replied, unwrapping a stick of chewing gum and slipping it into his mouth.

The faint, cloying scent of tobacco clinging to the man hinted that Dawson

still hadn’t fully kicked his addiction. “Each time she wakes up, it’s as if she

realizes that she can’t remember anything all over again. It’s happened

twice already. At this point, the doctors think it will take considerably longer

for her condition to resolve itself.”

“For her memory to return?”

Dawson nodded stiffly and chewed faster.

“Like what?” Cole asked. “A few more hours?”

“Days. Weeks. It could be months, for all they know. Or possibly never,

if we push her too hard for answers, and her fucking mind closes down for

good. That’s what the experts say, anyway.”

Cole winced. He reminded himself for the dozenth time that the

spiraling-from-bad-to-worse circumstances of this case meant nothing more

to him personally than any of his others assignments had. “Because of her


Page 11: Her Forgotten Betrayal

“Because of the trauma of whatever happened. Her brain’s intact, but

it’s shutting down for some reason. We’ll try interviewing her, but—“

“Don’t you mean interrogating?” Cole snapped.

“Whatever.” Dawson shot the gum wrapper at a nearby waste basked

and missed.

The calculating look in his gaze said he’d relish the opportunity to

close this case once and for all. Any way he could. Shaw had been on their

radar since the beginning of the Cassidy Global investigation. Yet legally

they’d been unable to touch her. Most of the team would be happy to use

any means necessary to finally get some real answers.

Including ruining a woman’s mind.

Dawson’s jaw clenched in frustration. He patted his pants pockets, as

if searching for a pack of cigarettes that didn’t materialize.

“The neurologist says to give her time,” Dawson said, chewing even

louder. “Quiet. Isolation. Familiar surroundings. Additional agitation or

trauma will worsen her condition. Maybe make it permanent. Which means,

at least for now, we still keep our hands off.”

Cole gave the taller, fairer man a measured stare. Feeling as if a

guillotine had been positioned precariously above his head, he shrugged

back into his soggy jacket, already calculating how long it would take him to

backtrack to the airport. “Then me interviewing her personally is a non-

starter. Of all the people who might agitate her, I assure you I’m tops on the

list. ”

Page 12: Her Forgotten Betrayal

Dawson’s focus tracked back to their patient. “I didn’t call you in to

interview her.”

Cole froze. The moment that he’d somehow known was inevitable had

arrived. He let his head fall forward, picturing a razor-sharp blade swiftly

dropping toward him. He glanced into Shaw’s hospital room again. “Then

why am I here?”

“Don’t you still own that piece of junk fishing cabin up on her family’s


Ah, hell.

Page 13: Her Forgotten Betrayal

Chapter Two


Shaw woke in the dead of night, kicking at the attacker who’d

discovered her in the conference room closet.

Awareness returned, her nightmare’s lingering hold as sickening, as

real as every other time she’d dreamed it since her shooting. But,

thankfully, there was a pile of suffocating pillows beneath her, not office

carpeting. There was no faceless man or brutal grip restraining her. Instead,

her arms and legs were tangled in linen sheets, the fabric so fine and so old

it was gossamer-soft to the touch.

She forced her eyes to open completely.

She wasn't being dragged to her death by a murderer. She was sitting

alone on an overstuffed mattress, fighting her bedding and losing her mind,

and grasping for the details of that night’s memory before they once more

slipped beyond her reach. Just as every other recollection of her life before

Page 14: Her Forgotten Betrayal

the shooting had stubbornly refused to return. Which left her smack-dab in

the middle of a living nightmare, in a world beyond her control that her

detail-obsessed brain refused to make peace with.

“This is ridiculous, Esme,” she said to the cat winking sleepily at her

from the foot of the bed. “And it’s not working. How did we end up here?”

Here being Shaw’s grandmother’s bedroom, on a secluded, mountain

estate she couldn’t remember any better than she did her family or the life

in Atlanta, Georgia, she’d been whisked away from.

Her body and flannel nightdress were drenched in sweat. Her mind,

her thoughts, every part of her was shivering. Not from fear. But from the

possibility that she might never remember what she had to in order to

reclaim the successful life she’d been assured she’d lived before that awful


She wrapped her arms around herself and gave her mind a mental



Maudlin much?

A bedside lamp illuminated the room. Its cheery glow was no match

for the dark spell the dream had cast. Something thudded softly beyond her

closed bedroom door, jerking Shaw’s gaze toward the hallway, then back to

her cat.

“Did you hear that?” she whispered…

Page 15: Her Forgotten Betrayal