I Stole Her Innocence And Then She Vanished, So Everyone Blamed Me.
Now I’ve Been Given Chance To Save Her… Hopefully It’s Not Too Late!
We had the time of our lives and I finally stole her innocence. Then someone stole her. Now I’m stuck in the hot seat, being grilled under the bright lights. Sitting here, all I can think about is going out there and finding her. At this point, however, it’s going to take a miracle just to stay out of jail. Unfortunately, I’m not the type who attracts miracles or even luck for that matter.
Olivia Bennett is the only woman I’ve ever loved, but I lost her after choosing the Marines instead of college. Now her daughter is missing and the blame has been pinned on my only nephew. With twenty years of military and DEA experience, I know I can hunt down the bastard who took her and bring her back alive. If I succeed, it will heal some old wounds with my family and give me another shot at winning back the woman of my dreams.
I return to consciousness being face down on a stinky piece of cheap, prickly carpet. My head is pounding. I can’t open my eyes. I try to move my arms, then my legs, but both are tightly bound. All I hear is the sound of tires humming against the pavement. I try to scream, but my lips are pressed so tightly together that I can barely muster a moan. My mind goes blank as I scramble to think of any way of improving my odds. I have no idea where I am, where I’m headed, who has taken me or why? My heart races out of control as tears soak the blindfold that relentlessly keeps me in the dark. I find myself spiraling into utter despair.
**Lost Summer is a full-length (92,000 words) stand alone Romantic Suspense with No Rape Scenes, No Cheating and No Cliffhanger. If you like a fast-paced book that you can’t put down, you will love this one!
As Summer Bennett slowly began to regain consciousness, she was greeted by the stench of musty old carpet. Its coarse fibers pressed mercilessly against her cheek. Something had gone terribly wrong, but her foggy mind struggled to recall anything that had occurred in the preceding hours. An attempt to open her eyelids was met with immediate failure, leaving her stuck in a world of darkness. Panic welled up within her as the gravity of her situation suddenly became obvious. In addition to being blindfolded, her mouth had been securely taped and her hands were bound behind her. Wiggling back and forth, she quickly realized that her feet had been anchored in place as well. Desperate for clues, she rubbed her face against the filthy carpet, trying to rid herself of the blindfold that covered her eyes. It wouldn’t budge, causing an additional spike in her anxiety level. She was stuck, alone in the dark, with nothing but a heartbeat that was racing out of control.
After several excruciatingly long minutes, she sensed the vehicle slowing down. The hum of the tires continued to lessen until she felt the vehicle turn to the right. Soon after making the turn, the smell of gravel dust filled the air, along with the sound of rocks hitting the underside of the vehicle. She pictured herself bound and gagged in the back of an old creeper van, headed down a dark, desolate gravel road. Her imagination was spot on.
A million thoughts raced through her mind as the foreign sounds and smells continued to torment her. Utter despair began to creep its way through her body and she began hyperventilating against the duct tape that held her mouth so tightly closed. Hot, steamy tears saturated the blindfold, which remained stubbornly fixed in place. Who had taken her? Where were they going? And why?
Leo Sullivan focused intently on the road ahead, the dim headlights of his van providing just enough light to make his way through the darkness of the rural night. Navigating the winding trail toward the gulch that concealed his home was challenging even in the daylight, so he never ventured out at night. This time, however, the cover of darkness had been a necessity so he had made a rare exception. The van rocked wildly back and forth as he traveled the final half-mile on a path that had never been converted to an actual road. It was a simple trail that deer and other wildlife used to visit one of the most reliable watering holes in the county. The abundance of water, wild game and fish in the area had been the primary reason his father had chosen to homestead this particular spot.
Tree branches scraped against the faded white paint as he pulled the van into a thicket located right at the edge of a small lake. Leo carefully camouflaged the vehicle just the way his father had taught him to ensure that no passerby ever detected its presence from the road. Going around to the back of the van, he opened the doors to retrieve the groceries and other supplies that he had bought while in the city. Initially, he ignored the hysterical noises emanating from his reluctant passenger. He grabbed the grocery bags that rested alongside her and carried them to an old rowboat. The boat would provide passage for the final leg of their journey.
Summer let out a terrified, muffled scream as he latched onto her ankles and pulled her across the floor toward him. The smell of stale carpet immediately gave way to an even fouler smell of body odor as he hoisted her into the air and slung her over his shoulder. Blood rushed to her head as he began walking. The sound of snapping twigs beneath his feet confirmed that they were well off the beaten path. Was he going to kill her and dump her body out here? Good God . . . was this filthy man going to rape her? Tears once again burst from her eyes, which remained concealed by the unwavering blindfold. She struggled to catch her breath and tried to plead for him to remove the gag, but her lips remained stubbornly pressed against one another.
“Shh! We’re almost home,” he grunted, struggling under her weight as he made his way down the uneven bank of the gulch.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said softly while setting her down on the floor of the boat and placing a square seat cushion behind her lower back. His breath was equally as foul as his body odor, instantly turning her already upset stomach.
Her feet remained bound together and were now propped up in front of her. She struggled to reposition herself, but she wasn’t able to move more than few inches in either direction. She heard splashing, and the boat moved slightly. It suddenly shifted to one side as he crawled onboard, taking a seat next to her feet. Next came a series of hollow groaning and splashing sounds as the boat moved away from the shore. She was in a rowboat, and the sound of the oars was something she hadn’t heard in years, not since she’d played in her grandfather’s boat as a young child. He continued to row in deafening silence, with the exception of an occasional grunt.
He had snatched her from her parents’ home, driven her out into the wilderness, and now he claimed that he wasn’t going to hurt her? It made no sense. There was obviously an evil intention behind his actions. She cringed at the thought of what it might be.
Dylan Chase struggled against the rigid metal chair, trying to find a comfortable position. Nothing about the chair or the entire room, for that matter, was designed to be comfortable—just the opposite. There were three stark white walls and a fourth, which consisted of a one-way mirror to conceal the lurkers who watched the proceedings from the other side. A rectangular metal table with a white Formica top was all that separated him from two highly abrasive officers whose common goal was to secure his confession. A bead of sweat trickled down the left side of his forehead, a result of spending over ninety minutes under the oppressive heat of a half-dozen halogen floodlights beating down on him. Everything about the interrogation room had been designed to irritate, to intimidate, and to break the weak. Dylan, however, was anything but weak.
He had been forced to grow up suddenly at age eleven, when his father was killed in Iraq. He had been the man of the house for nearly a decade, helping his mother keep things together and raise his two younger sisters. His father had been a member of Army National Guard, signing up as a weekend warrior in exchange for free college tuition. At the time, he never imagined that he would actually see active duty, much less be deployed to a godforsaken one hundred and fifteen-degree desert. He was stationed far from the frontlines and wasn’t even carrying a weapon on that fateful day, but the IED that killed him didn’t care who he was or his intent. It only sensed the weight of his body as his foot depressed the trigger. Dylan’s father was the first member of his guard unit to be killed in a military conflict in over forty years.
The memories of all the flags and the crowds of people who turned out for his father’s funeral were permanently etched upon his brain. He was incredibly proud to be his son. After that day, however, he was forced to bear responsibilities not normally handled well by men twice his age. At age fifteen, JE SUIS PRET was the first tattoo Dylan had done on his right shoulder in memory of his father. It was the motto of the infantry division his father had been a part of, and it meant, I Am Ready. Only a sophomore in high school at the time, Dylan felt as though he was ready to take on the world. At the time, he was oblivious to the cold, cruel realities of the world that awaited him.
“Can you explain the blood and other stains on the passenger seat of your car?” Sergeant Reed continued his inquiry with a steely look in his eyes. “If those are a positive match to her DNA, I would say you are pretty much fucked, boy.”
“I didn’t hurt her. She’s the only girl I’ve ever loved,” Dylan countered defiantly. “What would be my motive?”
“You had sex with an under-aged girl,” Detective Thomas chimed in with his gravely baritone voice. “Maybe it wasn’t consensual.” He lowered his head just slightly to join the other officer’s death stare.
“She turns eighteen a week from Friday. I’m only a year older than her.” Dylan rolled his deep brown eyes and shook his head from side to side. “It’s not like I was robbing the cradle or anything.”
“Well, if those tests are conclusive, you will be charged nonetheless,” Sergeant Reed added, slapping his hand on the table. “We’ll hold you on a statutory rape charge and hopefully obtain enough evidence to charge you with additional crimes.”
“Her dad is behind all of this, isn’t he?” Dylan asked, looking with piercing eyes toward the reflective glass. “I didn’t hurt Summer. We love each other, and you can’t stand it!” he yelled at his own reflection, seething in frustration.
“You settle your ass down, boy,” Detective Thomas yelled back at him. “You’re the one who is in the hot seat here.”
“I know, but I didn’t do anything to her. I would never hurt her!” Dylan shifted nervously in his chair. Everyone around him seemed intent on holding him personally responsible for Summer’s disappearance regardless of whether he was actually guilty.
Summer’s father, Ryan Bennett, was a local businessman whose family had struck oil on their vast land holdings. He had made it clear that he didn’t like Dylan from the moment he laid eyes on him. His dark hair, which he had often let grow too long, the tattoos on his arm, which had transformed into a sleeve, and the way he swaggered into the house, flashing that condescending smirk of his all grated on Ryan’s nerves. In his mind, Dylan was a loser who had no business chasing after his daughter. Now that same daughter had gone missing, and Dylan was the prime suspect, the only suspect. He was determined to see that the spotlight remained on him until overwhelming evidence to the contrary came to the surface. In that unlikely scenario, he still intended to pursue the statutory rape charges.
Dylan had been the last person to see her and had admitted to being at their house until eleven-thirty that night. A nosy neighbor had watched him back out of the driveway, providing a strong third-party confirmation of the timeline. Thirty-five minutes later, her parents had arrived home to an empty house. Angrily, Ryan had called her cellphone. His anger quickly transformed to angst, however, when he tracked down her ringing phone inside her purse, which was lying beneath her jacket in the bedroom next-door.
Ryan’s next call had been to the police chief, Chuck Sanders, a friend whom he knew would go the extra mile to locate his daughter. He gave him Dylan’s name, address, and cellphone number. He was in custody within thirty minutes of the call being placed. Detective Thomas had been rousted from bed to do a quick vehicle inspection, which led to the discovery of bodily fluids on the passenger seat. Those little stains would likely ensure that Dylan spent at least a night or two behind bars.
“I’m not saying another word until I’ve had a chance to speak with an attorney,” Dylan told them, leaning back in the chair and shoving his fingers through his hair. Despite his cool and collected appearance, he was shitting his pants on the inside.
“Well, you’ll have to make bail, and the judge is out until Monday morning. So . . . you might as well settle in,” Sergeant Reed replied snidely, slapping his hand on the table for emphasis before rising to his feet.
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