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Amish christmas abductio.., p.1

Amish Christmas Abduction (Amish Country Justice Book 3), page 1

 part  #3 of  Amish Country Justice Series

 

Amish Christmas Abduction (Amish Country Justice Book 3)
 

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Amish Christmas Abduction (Amish Country Justice Book 3)


  KIDNAPPED IN AMISH COUNTRY

  After catching a glimpse of something she wasn’t supposed to see days before Christmas, Irene Martello is run off the road and barely survives. More shocking is the backseat whimper of an Amish toddler stowaway and the familiar sight of their rescuer—the man who’d let her down years earlier. Police chief Paul Kennedy fears Irene stumbled onto a kidnapping ring with two dangerous agendas: retrieving the girl and silencing the witness for good. Only Paul can keep them safe for the holidays. Guarding Irene means risking his heart—and his secret—but to save the child and the woman he never stopped loving, it’s a risk he has to take.

  The sound terrified her.

  The child’s scream.

  She shot up the stairs, wishing Paul were here.

  The child shrieked again and a voice growled, “Shut up or I’ll do it for you.”

  Irene crept down the hall and saw him. The man she’d have nightmares about. As he lunged at her, she grabbed a vase and slammed it into his head. He staggered, giving her the moment she needed to grab the child.

  “Irene!”

  Paul! He’d come to save her!

  As the man pulled a gun, Irene rushed into the bedroom and locked the door. From out in the hall she heard gunfire, a crash. Then quiet.

  Her fear subsided when Paul busted open the door. From the look on his face, she knew the gunman had gotten away.

  “I’m bringing the child home with me.”

  She waited for the argument. Instead, he nodded. “We’ll keep a detail at your house.”

  Then his face went ashen. “Irene, this isn’t over. They’re after the child, and because you’re the only witness, you.” She knew what he didn’t say. They’d keep killing till they got her.

  Dana R. Lynn grew up in Illinois. She met a man at a wedding who she told her parents was her future husband. Nineteen months later, they were married. Today they live in rural Pennsylvania with their three children, two dogs, one cat, one rabbit, one horse and six chickens. In addition to writing, she works as an educational interpreter for the deaf and is active in several ministries in her church.

  Books by Dana R. Lynn

  Love Inspired Suspense

  Amish Country Justice

  Plain Target

  Plain Retribution

  Amish Christmas Abduction

  Presumed Guilty

  Interrupted Lullaby

  Visit the Author Profile page at Harlequin.com.

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  AMISH CHRISTMAS ABDUCTION

  Dana R. Lynn

  Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.

  —Matthew 5:4

  Rachael, Bradley and Gregory. There is not a day that I don’t thank God for the blessing of being your mom. Love you forever.

  Brad...thanks for loving me and encouraging me to live my dream. Love you!

  Acknowledgments

  To my family and friends, who supported me and held me up in prayer...I appreciate you so much. Thank you with all my heart.

  To my editor, Elizabeth Mazer...thank you for all your guidance. It’s a joy to work with you.

  To my agent, Tamela Hancock Murray...thanks for believing in me. I am grateful for all your efforts on my behalf.

  To my Lord and Savior...thank You for Your presence in my life. I am nothing without You.

  Contents

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  EPILOGUE

  DEAR READER

  EXCERPT FROM YULETIDE SUSPECT BY LISA PHILLIPS

  ONE

  “Didn’t you see the sign? This is private property.”

  Irene Martello stepped back from the door, her raised hand falling to her side... The man who answered the door glared at her. It was the most vicious stare she’d ever encountered. Anger at being treated so rudely warred with apprehension. She was here alone...unprotected. Would this man turn violent?

  “I’m sorry to bother you,” she managed. “I was trying to find the Zilcher residence.”

  She shivered as he glowered, his heavy brows lowering over black eyes. It was difficult to see his mouth through the thick black beard, but she had the distinct impression he was scowling.

  “You have the wrong house. They live there.” He jerked his head sharply toward the house next door.

  “Sorry...” She opened her mouth to apologize for any inconvenience, but stopped when there was a movement behind Black Beard. A young woman, somewhere in her late teens or early twenties, stood in an open doorway deeper inside the house. As the man whirled around and speared her with a glance, she fled back out of sight. Was that a child crying? Irene leaned forward instinctively, straining to hear. He returned that glare to Irene, and she straightened again. It was none of her business if he had children, she chastised herself. He narrowed his eyes at her, and she felt true fear at the way his eyes blazed at her.

  Turning on her heel, she moved briskly back down the steps. Only the fact that the ground was covered with snow kept her from running as she hightailed it back to her SUV. After getting in, she started the engine with a shaking hand, then backed along the driveway and onto the dirt road. She drove past the mailboxes on the side of the road and realized that what she’d thought was a 1 had actually been a 7. A natural mistake to make.

  In no time, she was in the driveway of the correct house. She fumbled around for her purse and laptop bag, completely aware that the man had moved outside and was watching her from his porch.

  After pushing open the door of her SUV, Irene stepped from the vehicle, glad she’d opted for warmth rather than fashion as her heavy boots crunched the snow beneath them. Against her better judgment, she peeked at the man from house number seven. She instantly regretted it. His face had darkened even more. Turning quickly, her face heated as she felt his glare continuing to bore into her back. She took a deep breath, refusing to admit to herself how unsettling her encounter with the man had been.

  Trying to appear calm, she pulled her belongings from the dark red SUV and shut the door with her hip. Slammed it, actually. Even though she refused to look, she was aware that he was still there. Now she was getting mad. Why was he watching her like that? What did he expect? That she’d drive back over to chat? Not likely.

  Enough! She had a job to do. A job she loved, even though she’d only been working with the Early Intervention program for two months. Today she was meeting a new family. She shifted the red bag carrying both the laptop and her file of papers for the family to sign.

  Determined, she made her way up the narrow walkway to the small house, careful to avoid looking at the man on the porch. It didn’t help matters any that the family had requested a late meeting, due to
the father’s work schedule. It was already going on four o’clock. By the time the meeting ended, it would be almost five. LaMar Pond started getting dark around that time in December. At least it was Friday. After this appointment, she could pick up her own kids and enjoy a quiet evening at home.

  Come on, Irene. One more home visit, then you’re all done.

  Once, only once, did she glance to the right. Her eyes switched targets as she became aware of movement from the side window. The same young woman she’d seen in the house was peering out of the blinds. She had the most hopeless face Irene had ever seen.

  Something wasn’t right.

  The door in front of Irene opened. Taking her eyes off the creepy house, she forced herself to smile at the young couple waiting anxiously. For now, she needed to focus on work. But as soon as she was done with the meeting, she had every intention of calling her brother, Lieutenant Jace Tucker, and filling him in on the house and the woman. If her instincts were correct—and they usually were—that was a woman who needed help.

  It might be nothing. But Irene knew she wouldn’t rest easy until she had called. Maybe Jace wouldn’t be able to do anything, but there was always the possibility that the police would keep a closer eye on the area.

  Irene was very familiar with the police. Not only was her older brother a lieutenant, but she’d been married to a cop for six years, six wonderful years, before he’d been killed in the line of duty a little over three years ago.

  The familiar ache in her chest when she thought of Tony was almost comforting.

  Once inside the warm house, she was escorted into the dining room. She focused on the young family. The little boy she was there to evaluate was adorable, his little head bald except for a light fuzz. He was almost two years old, and had just been diagnosed with a vision impairment. Irene’s job as the service coordinator was to decide if the child qualified for Early Intervention services. The meeting was merely a formality. Having a diagnosis almost always guaranteed that he would receive services.

  In less than an hour, the meeting was completed and Irene was pushing her feet back into her winter boots.

  “I will call you when I have the IFSP meeting scheduled,” she told the mother, referring to the Individualized Family Service Plan meeting with the family and the therapists who would become part of the little boy’s team.

  After bidding the Zilchers goodbye, she pulled the door open and stepped outside. It had started to snow while she was inside. She tried to keep her focus on her car, but it was no use. The other house drew her gaze like a magnet.

  The man was probably still home. There were three vehicles in the driveway—a truck, a Jeep and a small sedan. But no one was standing outside. The man must have gone inside.

  Relief coursed through her. And quite a bit of embarrassment. Imagine getting so upset because someone was watching her! What a goose she was! It wasn’t like he had threatened her or anything like that.

  Getting to her car, she frowned. Her door wasn’t locked. She must have been so rattled by that man that she’d forgotten to lock it. She shrugged. It wasn’t out of the norm to leave doors unlocked in LaMar Pond, especially out on the back roads. She had friends who didn’t even lock their house doors at night.

  She quickly climbed into the car and shut the door, making sure to lock it the moment she was inside. After starting the car, she turned up the heat to help rid herself of some of the chill, not all of which was from the weather. Lifting her head, she froze.

  There, in the Zilcher family’s front room window, a large Christmas tree sparkled and shimmered. The tree hadn’t been lit when she’d arrived or she would have noticed it, no matter how freaked-out she had been. It was probably on an automatic timer. It was beautiful, looking at it through the snow. She swallowed the lump in her throat. She wasn’t looking forward to Christmas, just a few weeks away. It would be the third since Tony’s death. Her boys would go through another holiday without their father. A father little Matthew hardly remembered. He’d only been two. Now he was five. Seven-year-old AJ had more memories, but had forgotten so many details. It broke her heart.

  A soft ping signaled an incoming text. Irene sighed. And this would be her mom, asking her to attend late-night services with her and the family on Christmas Eve. Just like Irene used to do every year before God abandoned her and her babies. She glanced at her phone. Oh, yeah. Just as she thought. She would hear about it later, but she was going to just ignore the text. For now.

  A door slammed. Startled, her head jerked up in the direction of the sound. It had come from the man’s house.

  He was back, his eyes burning with anger. She could almost feel the menace emanating from him. Thankfully, he wasn’t looking at her. He appeared to be searching for something, though, as his dark gaze swept over his yard.

  Dropping her phone, Irene put her car into Reverse and started to back out of the driveway. Thankfully, there was no traffic on the road, so she could pull onto the street, away from the man, without waiting. But moments later, she heard a shout.

  He was running her way!

  Panicked now, she jerked the gearshift into Drive and peeled out. The vehicle fishtailed. Her grip tightened on the wheel. It straightened out and she continued, exhaling in relief.

  Steering her SUV up the hill, she drove as fast as she dared before braking for the stop sign at the T on top of the hill. There was only one car coming. She edged her car forward, ready to turn right. She waited for the other driver to pass, drumming her fingers nervously on the steering wheel.

  Come on. Come on.

  Her back windshield shattered.

  Irene screamed. What had just happened? A look in the rearview mirror confirmed her nightmare. The pickup truck she’d seen in the neighbor’s drive was right on her bumper, and the man with the black beard was leaning out the window, some sort of rifle in his hand. She wasn’t going to give him the chance to take a second shot. She shoved her foot down on the gas and whipped her car forward. She drove as fast as she could. She couldn’t stop now to call the police. If she didn’t concentrate on getting out of here, he’d get her for sure. But the moment she could pull over...

  She heard a roar behind her. A glance in the mirror showed the pickup was coming up on her bumper. It was moving faster than she was, dangerously fast given the slick condition of the roads.

  Now would be a good time to pray...if she still did that.

  Since she didn’t, she was on her own.

  The truck slammed into the back of her SUV. She shrieked and pushed her foot down as hard as she dared on the gas pedal. She had never been so grateful for four-wheel drive. Pushing her foot down a little farther, the SUV lurched as it sped up. The truck stayed on her tail, then slammed into her again. Her SUV went into a full spin and slid off the road into a ditch. She was stuck.

  Tears tracked down her cheeks. She was going to die! Her babies would be completely orphaned. Suddenly, her boycott on God no longer mattered. There was no one else who could help her.

  Lord, help me. Please. Oh, please. Help.

  * * *

  Chief Paul Kennedy was driving back from a two-vehicle accident on the outskirts of LaMar Pond when the dispatcher announced shots fired near his location. A young woman had called 911, screaming that her neighbor was shooting at her son’s service coordinator and had taken off in his truck after her.

  Paul switched on his siren and pushed the hands-free button to answer the call. “Chief Kennedy here. I’m less than a mile away, heading that direction now. Send backup.”

  Disconnecting as soon as she confirmed, he said a prayer for the safety of all involved. It was never pleasant to handle road rage. Adding a gun and winter weather into the mix could prove to be a disaster in the making.

  He came around the curve, his headlights cutting through the dark. The snowflakes caught in the beams
made him think of a snow globe. Then they hit a sight that chilled his heart.

  A red SUV was stranded in a ditch. He knew that SUV. It belonged to Irene Martello, his best friend’s younger sister. The girl whose trust he’d shattered so many years ago. She was also the widow of one of his officers, shot down on his watch. Three good reasons he’d never, ever want to see her in danger of any kind. But it looked like that was exactly what was happening.

  Directly behind her car, he could see a dark pickup truck had pulled off and parked on the side of the road. And not to help. The driver, a large man with a fierce scowl on his bearded face, had opened his door. He had started to step out of the vehicle, a rifle in his bare hands. This man meant to harm Irene.

  The moment Paul appeared, though, he halted. The bright lights and the loud wail of the siren made the bearded man jerk back into his truck before speeding off in the opposite direction. Paul wanted to chase him, needed to stop the maniac. But he needed to check on Irene more. Quickly, he called in a description of the truck and the driver, and called for an ambulance.

  Parking his cruiser on the side of the road, he kept his lights on to warn any oncoming traffic to slow down. Then he strode to the driver’s-side door. She was watching him, her face bloodless. From fear, or was she in shock? Either way, he sent up a silent prayer of thanks at the sight of her alive and alert. He rapped on the window. It wasn’t necessary. She was already rolling it down.

  “Irene? Are you okay?”

  “Paul!” She choked out his name. For the first time in years, her gaze wasn’t cool when she met his eyes. Fear and gratitude took precedence over wounded pride. “I thought he was going to kill me!” Her voice wobbled slightly, but she wasn’t crying. Anymore. The streaks left by earlier tears were evident.

  He needed to calm her down, see if she was injured. “Easy, Irene. He’s gone. Are you hurt anywhere? Anything broken?” He scanned her carefully.

  She shook her head, then winced. His gaze narrowed in on her forehead. She wasn’t bleeding. There was a dark shadow on her temple that concerned him. It could have been nothing, or a bruise forming. Hard to tell without proper lighting.

 
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