Hide by Karen Fenech – Cover Reveal

HIDE-- The Protectors Series -- Book Four -- Large Cover -- Author Karen Fenech

 

Synopsis

THE PROTECTORS: Though they work independently and at times are oceans apart, their ties to each other remain strong. They’re related by blood or bond – this group of men and women in law enforcement, government intelligence, and the military who do what others cannot to serve, defend, and protect.

HIDE: THE PROTECTORS SERIES — BOOK FOUR

Allison Sandoval is on the run after discovering the secret her new husband, Rafael, the leader of a South American country, has kept hidden from the world. She must tell what she knows and stop Rafael but she is on her own, physically weakened by his abuse, and she is running out of time.

Zach Corrigan, owner of a Special Ops organization, accepts the job to find Allison, a woman he is told is mentally ill and who suffers from hallucinations and paranoia. But when Zach finds her, something isn’t right and after he returns her to her husband, Zach can’t get her out of his mind or the belief that he’s made a mistake in taking her back.

Zach is determined to right that wrong. What began as a job is turning into something more. With Zach, Allison finds a refuge and something she’d given up on, hope. But Rafael isn’t the only one hunting Allison. The CIA wants her too. Zach will do everything in his power to make Allison safe, beginning with finding a place for her to hide. But with enemies all around them, there is no place to hide . . .

Meet the Author

Karen Fenech -- Author Photo

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Karen Fenech writes contemporary and historical romantic suspense and suspense-mystery. Her novels, originally released in hardcover by Gale under the Five Star Expressions imprint, have received critical acclaim and have been praised by New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors Kat Martin, Maureen Child, and Debra Webb. Her novel BETRAYAL has been translated into Japanese, and her short fiction has been translated into Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. She lives with her husband and daughter.

If you’d like to know when the next Protectors novel is available, sign up for Karen Fenech’s notification-only news at: http://www.karenfenech.com/books.html

Praise for Karen

{GONE} Karen Fenech’s GONE is a real page turner front to back. You won’t be able to put this one down!” —NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR KAT MARTIN

{GONE} “Karen Fenech tells a taut tale with great characters and lots of twists. This is a writer you need to read.” —USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR MAUREEN CHILD

{GONE} Readers will find themselves in the grip of GONE as this riveting tale plays out. GONE is a provocative thriller filled with a roller coaster ride that carries the suspense until the last page.” —DEBORAH C. JACKSON, ROMANCE REVIEWS TODAY

{BETRAYAL} “An excellent read.” —DONNA M. BROWN, ROMANTIC TIMES MAGAZINE

{THE PROTECTORS SERIES} “Romantic suspense at its best!” —USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR MAUREEN CHILD

{UNHOLY ANGELS} “. . . a superbly intricate tale of greed, power, and murder. . . a suspenseful and believable story that will keep you reading into the wee hours of the morning. Highly recommended! —D.B. HENSON

 

Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

It was now or never. Allison Sandoval took one last glance over her shoulder. The ballroom was crowded on this Saturday evening, filled with the dignitaries and diplomats who’d gathered to honor her husband, Rafael, on his last night on U.S. soil. In the morning, he’d be flying back to his native South America. But he’d be leaving without her.

Rafael was tall and the height advantage gave him a wide view of the room, but the crowd around him was thick. Allison had been slowly working her way from his side. At any other time, it would be impossible for her to take more than a step away. He, or one of the men Rafael publicly called her bodyguards but who were in reality her jailers, always pulled her back. But the men around Rafael tonight were as tall as he was and Allison took the opportunity to blend in with those milling around him.

Her grip on the champagne flute stretched the skin tight across her hands as she forced herself to move slowly, not to make a mad dash for the exit. She was sweating. Could feel perspiration trickling down her neck, left bare with her hair swept up into an intricate style, and continuing down her spine beneath the flowing silver gown.

At the door, an elderly man was making his way into the room. He held the door open and Allison walked by him into the hall. With regret, she bypassed the coat check. Her dress had sleeves that covered her arms, but the late October air was cold. She’d been out of the States for six months and in the South American heat. She’d forgotten how cool the nights could get in New York at this time of year and this year, this part of the state was experiencing unusually frigid weather. Didn’t matter. She would not retrieve her coat. The place was crawling with security people who missed nothing. She could not risk anyone suspecting she was about to leave the building.

She’d almost reached one of the Ladies’ rooms on this level of the luxury hotel. Earlier, when she’d accompanied Rafael on a tour of the building, she’d taken note of where the washrooms were located, seeking one that wasn’t at the end of a corridor. What she’d found wasn’t ideal, but she’d make do. She chose the restroom that provided the best access.

She turned down that corridor and kept walking. A door at the end of the hall led to a staircase. She made her way down the six flights. Her heels clicked against the steps, echoing in the stairwell, and she glanced back over her shoulder, fearing she would give herself away. But no one came charging through the door after her.

Rather than take the exit that opened to the lobby, she continued down to the underground garage. There would be a way to the street from there and freedom.

She dropped the glass of champagne she was still holding in a garbage can and left the hotel. The cold air hit her and while it stole her breath, it was also bracing. She was a long way from being free yet, but it was the closest she’d come since marrying Rafael. The last months had been horrific. Tears sprang to her eyes. She blinked them back but some still fell. She swiped them away, angry with herself for going back there. For allowing Rafael to torture her even though she wasn’t with him. She had been strong before. She would be again. She would not let that pain and fear defeat her. As hard as he’d tried, Rafael hadn’t broken her. Her eyes stung with tears again and again she forced them back. Her life was not the only one that depended on her getting away from Rafael.

A woman turned to look at her. Allison couldn’t afford to be noticed, to have anyone recall she’d passed this way. She stepped out from beneath the street lights, went into the shadows cast by the tall buildings and increased her step as much as she was able.

What she really needed to do was to stop and lean against one of the buildings. She was so tired. It was a struggle to remain on her feet. The small burst of strength she’d mustered to make her escape had waned. She was breathing hard, a combination of her body’s weakness and terror. It was the terror that kept her moving. She couldn’t be caught. If Rafael found her . . . For an instant, fear cut off her breath. No, she would not be caught and taken back to Rafael. She had to finish this with him. She could not fail.

She didn’t know how long she’d walked, dragging her feet, when the tall buildings gave way to smaller structures spaced wider apart. Traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, was thin here. One of the small buildings looked to be a factory of some kind. Whatever it was, the place looked deserted for the weekend. Could she spend the night there? Did she dare stop moving?

The place would be locked but it was possible she could find something in the alley beside the building to break a window. She winced at doing that but as she shivered in the bitter cold, she tamped down on her conscience.

Moonlight lit her way into the alley. She bent and got down on the ground. She spotted a wine bottle, minus the cap. Would the bottle be enough to break the window? She wasn’t sure, but she had to try.

She was about to reach for it, then curled her fingers into her palms. When she reached out would she find she was mistaken and the bottle wasn’t there, that there wasn’t any bottle at all? She couldn’t always trust what her own eyes told her. She closed them briefly, afraid this would be one of those times. But, no. When she forced herself to reach out, her fingers closed around the neck of the bottle. Her pulse sped up.

Allison left the alley. It was a weekend. No one should be back to work in that building before Monday. Still, she hesitated. She couldn’t afford to make a wrong move. If she came upon someone police would be called. Then Rafael. Fear had the back of her neck prickling.

No lights were on inside the building. The building did look closed up tight. She could barely keep herself upright now in her exhaustion. Her body swayed toward it but she didn’t take a step. She remained where she was. She faced her reality. As much as she needed somewhere to sleep and to hide for the night, even if the door was wide open, she couldn’t go into that dark place.

She closed her eyes at her weakness, fighting back tears. She was now shaking and huddling into herself in a futile attempt to get warm. She went back into the alley, to the small alcove dug into the side of the building, and went as deep inside it as she could.

 

* * *

 

Zach Corrigan was sleeping when the monitor beeped, signaling the secure perimeter around his place had been breached. He was instantly awake and on full alert. He rolled onto his side and punched buttons on the small panel in the wall, bringing up a view of the outside. He owned a large stretch of isolated land in Blake County, New York. A long, unnamed dirt road, bordered by trees, led only to Zach’s place. Anyone on this road would be coming to see him. Moonlight provided excellent light tonight, making the lights around the place unnecessary. Zach’s house came into view, a big ranch-style, as did the extension off the main house that served as the base of operations for his organization. Behind was a huge pond, currently frozen over. The cameras he had set up at strategic points on the grounds showed several views of the place. Zach would see his visitors long before they reached his front door.

The vehicle making its way to him was a limousine and though the occupant likely had no idea he or she was being monitored, there was no attempt to conceal the approach. An assassin wouldn’t announce his arrival.

It was just shy of two in the morning on a Sunday. Zach’s business didn’t run nine to five and late callers weren’t unusual. But if this were one of Zach’s government contacts coming to his door about a mission, they would have called first. Zach’s line of work made it essential that he be cautious. He made no apology for it.

He tracked the progress of the limousine. Decided to let it proceed. If he’d misjudged his visitor, he’d soon rectify that.

He slept naked and now put on jeans and a T-shirt. His gun was on his nightstand, always ready. He secured it at his back, under the shirt, then left the bedroom.

A coffee maker was on a timer set to start at seven a.m. He got the machine going. As the rich aroma of the strong dark brew filled the air, the monitor beeped again, this time to indicate a presence on his driveway.

Zach called up the images on the kitchen monitor. Two men emerged from the limousine. One was built like a brick, clearly muscle for someone, but he stood against the hood of the black car, making no attempt to follow or shield the other man who moved briskly to Zach’s front door and rang the bell.

Zach filled a mug of coffee for himself and drank a bit before going to the door to meet his visitor. He opened the door and checked out the muscle. The guy hadn’t moved from the limo. He stood with his arms folded at his chest, his hands tucked under his arms to ward off the cold.

Zach focused on the man in front of him. His cashmere coat flapped in the breeze. The wind put color in his cheeks that were sallow and drawn. His eyes looked heavy from lack of sleep. “Help you?”

“Are you Zachary Corrigan?”

Zach clocked the man at around his own age—early thirties. The guy had an accent. South American. Zach had spent enough time in that region to be able to pinpoint exactly where on the continent his visitor was from. This man was from a remote area. Zach had learned of a diplomatic visit to the U.S. from the country’s leader in a bid to secure financial aid. That leader was Rafael Sandoval, the man now standing here with Zach.

“I’m Corrigan,” Zach said.

The man extended a gloved hand. The leather was of the finest, soft as melted butter.

“I am Rafael Sandoval,” he said. “Mr. Corrigan. I need your help.”

Sandoval’s expression was earnest and desperate. Zach stepped back from the door and led the other man to the kitchen.

Zach topped up his mug. “Coffee?”

“No, thank you.”

The man didn’t look like he needed the caffeine. He looked about to jump out of his skin. Zach leaned back against the dark counter. In addition to jobs for Uncle Sam, Zach’s organization also took on work from other countries and from private clients. “Who sent you to me?”

“Roger Morse told me about you,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval named one of Zach’s government contacts. “What do you need my help with?”

“Mr. Morse does not know the reason I have come to you,” Sandoval added.

Zach narrowed his eyes. “Which is?”

“Before I begin, I must confirm that you are a military man.”

Zach kept his gaze on Sandoval, wondering where this was going. “I’m sure you already got from Morse that I was a SEAL.”

Sandoval let out a long breath. “I am also a military man. There is a code of honor among us. I need to ask for your utmost discretion.”

“Why don’t you tell me what this is about?”

Sandoval’s shoulders slumped then he straightened his posture. “I need you to find my wife.”

“I’m not a PI.” Zach wasn’t going to elaborate on what his organization did. His contracts for the government were classified, sending him and his people into places in all parts of the world where others couldn’t or wouldn’t go. He maintained the same level of confidentiality for the jobs he took from private clients.

“I do not need an investigator,” Sandoval said. “I need someone with your skills and your discretion. I am here in your country in an attempt to secure aid for mine. I cannot let word about my wife’s disappearance become front page news. I cannot allow the focus to shift away from my country’s very real need. This is a personal matter. My wife, Allison, and I were attending a gathering in my honor yesterday evening. It was to be our last night in your country. We were to fly home this morning. One moment Allison was standing at my side and the next she was gone. I confess I was distracted. An agreement with your country would mean so much to mine.” Sandoval rubbed his gloved hand back and forth across his brow with what appeared to be enough force to shred skin. “I was not paying enough attention to Allison.”

Zach leaned forward. “If your wife was abducted—”

“No. She was not abducted.” Sandoval squeezed his eyes shut so tightly the skin at the corners puckered. “She walked away.”

Zach pushed off the counter. “Unless your wife is a minor, she’s perfectly free to come and go as she pleases. There’s nothing I can do for you.”

Sandoval rubbed his brow hard again. “Obviously, she is of legal age. You do not understand. She must be found.”

Zach repeated his earlier statement. “I’m not a PI. I can recommend a good investigator though I’m not sure you need one. You have your own people to look for her, my government and law enforcement would also look for her. You don’t need me.”

“My wife is delicate. Fragile. Law enforcement and government agencies would overwhelm her when they find her. She must be handled gently.” Sandoval withdrew his wallet and from it a photograph he held out to Zach. “This is Allison.”

Zach glanced at the picture without taking it. The woman was a stunner. Waves of blond hair fell to her shoulders. Big eyes in a deep green rather than the blue he expected to go along with all that fair hair. She was dolled up and dressed to the nines in what looked like a pose for a State photo—wife of the country’s new president. Zach raised his gaze from the picture and back to Sandoval. “This isn’t the type of work my organization handles.”

Sandoval ran a shaking hand back through his hair. “My wife is not a well woman.”

The idea of an ill woman out on the streets without help didn’t sit well with Zach, but if she were sick, why would she leave? There had to be a reason Allison Sandoval had left her husband. Zach eyed Sandoval and asked him straight out. “Why’d she leave you?”

“It was not deliberate. Allison wandered away from the ballroom last night. She does that if I do not keep a close watch on her.”

Zach crossed his arms. “What aren’t you telling me?”

Sandoval’s face drew tight in an expression of pain. “My wife suffers from delusions, hallucinations and paranoia. She cannot determine what is real from what is imagined. She is on medication but she has been gone since last night and has been without it. And it is so cold to be outside. She must be found now. She will not survive long on her own.”

Zach frowned. Clearly, the woman needed to be found quickly. He had no doubt he could do that and a lot faster than if he sent Sandoval on his way to find someone else to do the job. It wasn’t his usual recovery mission but Allison Sandoval needed to be recovered. Zach addressed Sandoval. “I’ll find her.”

 

 

 

 

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