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 . . .
After Sandoval left, Zach took out his cell phone and called his second-in-command. Despite the time, Gavin Chase answered at once with a cheery, “What’s up, boss?”
“Got a job,” Zach said.
“Who do you want for it? I’ll round them up.”
“It’s not something that requires the team. I have this one, but I need you to run a check on the guy who hired us. South American named Rafael Sandoval. His country’s been in and out of the news in the last year. Sandoval’s father, the president and dictator, died about a year back and Sandoval has taken up the reins.”
“Yeah, I read about this guy. He says with his father’s death he wants to put an end to the old ways. Wants to democratize the country. He’s been in talks here about doing that. What does he need us for?”
“It’s a personal matter. His wife left him. She wandered off. She’s not well and needs to be found now. I told him I’d find her. Get on this right away, Chase.”
“You got it.”
Zach showered and dressed and by the time he left his bedroom, Chase was back on the phone.
“I found a newspaper photo of him and a hot blonde,” Chase said. “The photo accompanied an engagement announcement. Wife, Allison, maiden name, Kent, is from D.C. She was a school teacher. Both parents still living. One sibling, a sister. Allison met Sandoval a year ago while she was taking her fifth graders on a tour of the White House and he was on his first diplomatic visit.”
Chase added background and current information on Sandoval, including the hotel where Sandoval was staying, though Zach knew for security reasons Sandoval’s location would be kept confidential and not be disclosed to the media or the public. That hadn’t stopped Chase from finding out.
Chase provided details of Sandoval’s accommodation and who, among his personal staff and bodyguards, were traveling with him.
“No red flags, Zach,” Chase concluded. “Nothing on him.”
It was a routine check Zach never overlooked with a new client. He didn’t like surprises. “I’ll be in touch.”
Zach ended the call. Allison Sandoval had been missing for some time. He needed to find her.
* * *
Allison had remained huddled into herself throughout the night. Her muscles had stiffened from bunching them as tightly as she could in an attempt to combat the cold and from the cold itself. The alcove had cut some of the wind but could do nothing to dispel the bitter chill of the air.
It was now dawn. Rafael was supposed to fly home this morning. She had no illusions her escape would be that easy. That he’d just leave and she was free. She couldn’t afford to stay put any longer. She had to get moving. She had a destination in mind. Once she reached it, she’d truly be free.
Her stomach growled. She didn’t know when she’d last eaten. Her throat was parched. These discomforts were bearable. She’d endured so much worse. Once she got to where she was going, there’d be food there. She’d eat then. She could wait until then.
She put her hand out, pushed off the brick and exited the alcove. A gust of wind blew into the alley. She shivered and hunched her shoulders. She moved as quickly as she was able, driven by the cold and by her desperate need to get where she was going. By the time she reached the end of the alley, she was almost running. She turned onto the sidewalk and collided with a man on his way into the alley.
She hit the man squarely in the chest that was rock-hard and took her breath with the force of the impact. She would have landed on the ground but his hands came up to steady her. Big hands like the rest of him. His body was all muscle, solid. In another lifetime she would have appreciated how good the man looked but right now her stomach clenched at hearing her name on his lips and all she could think was that he was formidable. She looked up at him. He had piercing eyes in his handsome face and those eyes looked as hard as the rest of him.
“Mrs. Sandoval,” he repeated.
She had to get away. She brought her knee up. The man dodged the blow easily. His grip on her tightened, not enough to hurt but enough to remove any notion that she could get away from him.
“I’m not going to hurt you. My name is Zach Corrigan. I’m here to help you. Your husband sent me to find you and take you back to him.”
The man—Zach—took one hand from her, unclipped his cell phone from his belt and held it out to her.
“Call your husband to verify he sent me,” Zach said. “I won’t hurt you. All I want is for you to be back with him safe again.”
Allison’s throat closed. Her chest tightened and she couldn’t breathe. She wouldn’t go back to Rafael. She began to fight this man with everything she had in her.
Zach tightened his hold, pinning her arms. “You don’t know me and you have every reason to be cautious, but the truth here is I outweigh you by about seventy pounds and top you by a foot. If I wanted to force you to accompany me, you’d already be in my vehicle. Please. Call your husband.”
Allison shook her head. “You can’t take me back to Rafael. I can’t go back to him.”
“Your husband is worried about you. I’m here to help you.”
“Please. Please. If you really want to help me, then let me go.”
* * *
Allison Sandoval looked very different from the photo Zach had seen—a shell of the woman in the picture. Traces of her beauty were there, but despite the liberal application of cosmetics, her skin was pale, her eyes too huge in her face that was now far too thin. Her hair was done up, showing the delicate bones in her cheeks and jaw, and long glittering fake earrings that matched the rest of the fake jewelry she was decked out in. Jewelry that looked too heavy for her. Her fine gown hung on her skinny body. The woman looked ravaged by her illness. No wonder Sandoval was so desperate to find her.
Despite the change in her appearance, Zach found he was unable to look away from her. She looked terrified but there was more than fear. Her mouth was pressed tightly in anger and defiance. The woman had fight in her. She was not the meek woman he’d expected. It made him wonder what Allison Sandoval had been like before she became ill. Zach would bet she’d been a lot more than just a pretty face.
Allison strained against his hold. Despite the fact that she was doing her best to break away from him, he lightened his grip. The woman felt like she’d break under his hands.
She glanced at his phone—at him—as if he were a snake. How to reassure her? “I’ll help you,” he said softly. He held her gaze and nodded once slowly.
“By taking me back to Rafael?” Her eyes flashed in anger. “That isn’t helping me. Rafael will kill me.”
Her words shook Zach. He reminded himself what Sandoval had said about her mental condition. That she suffered from paranoia. “No one is going to kill you. Your husband wants you safe.”
He was still offering his phone. She still made no move to take it and he returned it to his belt. The woman was trembling and not just from fear but from the cold. Her dress was long and had sleeves but the material gave no insulation from the biting wind.
“You’re freezing,” he said gently. Keeping one hand on her, he removed his jacket. With his free hand, he draped it around her. It fit him to the waist but fell below her knees. He didn’t know if she was even aware he’d placed it on her. She continued to watch him as if she thought he might pounce on her. He knew how to incite fear but he didn’t want that now. He didn’t want Allison to be afraid of him. It was time they got moving. “My vehicle isn’t far. Let’s get you out of the cold.”
She made a sound of distress. “I won’t be going with you.” Her words came fast. Her voice was harsh with terror. “I’ll continue on my own.”
He couldn’t let her do that. “No reason to. Let me help you.” He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to get through to her, given what Sandoval had told him about her mental state. “This way to my vehicle.”
“Just turn your back and let me walk away. I know Rafael must be paying you a lot of money to take me back but I’ll find a way to repay you. Just, please, let me go.”
The woman was begging him and her pleading got to him but he couldn’t let himself act on it. She wasn’t in a position to determine what was best for herself. He had to harden himself against her pleas. She wasn’t well. “I can’t do that and it isn’t because of the money. I can’t in good conscience let you go off on your own.”
She laughed then, a harsh bitter sound. “Conscience? You work for Rafael, you have no conscience.”
Zach didn’t respond. He took a step but she dug in her heels. He could force her to move of course, or scoop her into his arms and move her himself. No, he’d just let her be. He unclipped his phone once again and made the call to Sandoval.
Sandoval arrived quickly. The limousine pulled up to the curb. Sandoval waited for the driver to round the car and open the door for him, then slowly stepped out.
Allison looked at Sandoval and shuddered. Zach still had one hand on her and felt it. Her eyes became opaque with terror and then a look of resignation and hopelessness filled them that kicked Zach in the gut.
Sandoval nodded to the muscle who served as his driver and the man took Allison by the elbow. Zach realized he was still holding her and released her. The driver led her to the car where she disappeared behind the tinted glass.
“Mr. Corrigan,” Sandoval said.
Zach forced himself to look away from the limo and to the man.
“I will be taking my wife home tonight,” Sandoval said. “Goodbye.”
Sandoval withdrew an envelope bulging with cash from inside his coat and held it out to Zach. When Zach didn’t reach for it, Sandoval tossed the envelope at Zach’s feet. That done, he returned to the limousine and the vehicle drove away.
Meet the Author
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
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