From #1 New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen, an explosive thriller featuring fan favorite Margaret Douglas, an animal psychic
ON THE RUN
Margaret Douglas has worked hard to put her painful past behind her. Raised off the grid in an abusive home, her only escape was the nearby forest where she sought refuge whenever she could. There, in the peaceful woods, she discovered a strange gift: the ability to understand animals and to communicate with them. Now, Margaret wants nothing more than to live a quiet life, close to the animals and under the radar. But her abilities have not gone unnoticed…and there are those who would use them for their own purposes. Determined not to be a pawn in anyone’s game, every time someone gets too close, Margaret uproots her life and outruns them.
INTO THE LINE OF FIRE
When CIA operative John Lassiter breaks into Margaret’s apartment, she vanishes again. Still, Lassiter has good reason to be persistent: one of his men is being held captive by an unrelenting enemysomeone who has set his sights on Margaret. Which means that Lassiter must control her to use her as bait…With danger in hot pursuit, Margaret finds herself matching wits with a man who refuses to stop or be stopped. Turning from the hunted to the hunter, Margaret must use everything she has ever learned to not only survive, but to defeat a great evil. And to prove once and for all that she’s no easy target. . .
This edition of the book is the deluxe, tall rack mass market paperback.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
IRIS JOHANSEN is The New York Times bestselling author of Hide Away, Shadow Play, Your Next Breath, The Perfect Witness, Live to See Tomorrow, Silencing Eve, Hunting Eve, Taking Eve, Sleep No More, What Doesn't Kill You, Bonnie, Quinn, Eve, Chasing The Night, Eight Days to Live, Blood Game, Deadlock, Dark Summer, Pandora's Daughter, Quicksand, Killer Dreams, On The Run, Countdown, Firestorm, Fatal Tide, Dead Aim, and more. And with her son Roy Johansen, she has coauthored Night Watch, Sight Unseen, Close Your Eyes, Shadow Zone, Storm Cycle, and Silent Thunder.
Read an Excerpt
No Easy Target
By Iris Johansen
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Johansen Publishing LLLP
All rights reserved.
San Diego Zoo
Don't get angry. Margaret Douglas tried to make the thought soothing. But there was little you could do to soothe a female tiger as bad-tempered as Zaran. Margaret had only just forged the link between them and it would take time and patience to influence her. Even now the Sumatran tigress was baring those sharp white teeth and glaring menacingly at her. She was probably not going to listen. I'm just asking you to consider that the cub might be your own. Everyone here at the zoo appears to think so.
Stupid. Not mine.
Margaret tried something else. Let me try to help you remember when the cub was born. It might —
The thought was immediately followed by a roar. The tigress's green eyes were blazing as she gathered the muscles in her powerful body and then bounded at top speed across the cage toward Margaret!
Zaran's lunge just missed Margaret as she dove out of the cage and slammed the gate behind her.
Margaret drew a deep breath as she got to her feet and stared back at the roaring tiger through the bars.
Close. Very close.
Not polite, Zaran. I'm just trying to help.
The tigress was still pawing through the bars at her. Stupid!
"What the hell are you doing?" One of the zookeepers was striding toward Margaret. "You volunteers are supposed to feed and water the animals, not get them all upset."
He evidently hadn't seen her in the cage, thank heavens. "The tigers are a little testy, aren't they?" She smiled. "I wasn't feeding her. I was just thinking about cleaning her cage. Maybe I'll wait for a while."
"You shouldn't be near her anyway. Why do you think she's not in the habitat? The vets are having problems with her. She's not been accepting her cub."
"Right. Sorry." She started to walk toward the road. "I'll go help out at the vets clinic instead."
She glanced back over her shoulder at the tigress. But think about it, Zaran. I'll get back to you later.
We'll see. ...
Not exactly a successful session with the tigress, she thought ruefully as she paused to get a Coke at a refreshment stand. But no one else at the zoo had gotten any response at all and they might give up soon. She couldn't let that happen. It would have a lifetime of consequences for that cub. She would just have to let Zaran settle down and then go back later and try again.
Her phone was vibrating in her pocket and she vaguely remembered it also doing that when she'd been in the cage with the tigress. Not surprising that she hadn't paid any attention to it.
She pulled it out and checked it.
A text from Eve Duncan.
She smiled as she dropped down on one of the green park benches at the side of the road. She hadn't talked to Eve in too long a time. Eve could be demanding, too, when it suited her, but she was one of Margaret's few friends. And she'd much rather try to soothe Eve than that tigress. She started to dial Eve's number at the lake cottage.
* * *
"No arguments, Margaret," Eve Duncan said firmly after making her wishes known. "I want you here at the lake cottage by the end of the week. I'm going to prepay an airline ticket to Atlanta for you, and Joe will pick you up at the airport. I'd do it, but I don't want to expose Michael to some of those germs floating around airports."
"And you can't bear to leave the baby yet," Margaret teased. "How old is he? Six months?"
"Six months going on six years," Eve said softly. "He's totally amazing, Margaret. You'll see when you get here. Yes, I'm besotted, but at least I'm trying to expose him to other people and experiences. That's why I'm demanding your presence. He should get to know my friend Margaret, who helped saved both my life and his big sister Cara's. How soon can you get here? What are you doing now?"
"I'm working at the San Diego Zoo. But it's mostly volunteer." She thought about it. "Four days' notice. But you don't have to buy me a ticket. I know a pilot for a movie company who has a studio in Atlanta whom I can hitch a ride —"
"No," Eve said immediately. "No hitching rides with anyone. Not safe. Joe lectured you about that the last time." She paused. "Is it that you don't have ID in your own name to get on a commercial plane?"
"Don't worry about it. This pilot is a good guy and he owes me for —"
"Hush, Margaret," Eve said resignedly. "Under what name should I buy this ticket? And don't give me any bull about it not being necessary. Someday I'm going to persuade you to tell me what's going on with you, but I owe you too much to force it right now. I just want you here to meet my son. What name?"
Eve wasn't going to be dissuaded. Oh, well, she really wanted to see Eve's baby. She'd find a way to reimburse her later for the airline ticket. "I've always liked the name Margaret Rawlins."
"You've got it," Eve said. "It will be at Delta Airlines in four days." She was silent an instant. "Everything okay with you, Margaret?"
"Everything's always okay with me. What could be wrong?"
"That's what I want to know. You're the closest thing to a Gypsy that I've ever met and you're always operating under the radar. Put those two things together and it usually spells trouble."
"Not for me. It's all in the attitude. I'll see you in a few days, Eve."
"Yeah, take care, Margaret." She hung up.
And I'll probably be bombarded with subtle and not-so-subtle questions when I reach the lake cottage, she thought as she hung up. No problem. She was used to fielding questions, and Eve would be so involved with that new baby and her career as a top forensic sculptor that she wouldn't press it too far.
That reminded Margaret of Zaran and the brand-new tiger cub. She needed to find a solution on how to make the tigress accept the cub before she left for Atlanta. Which meant she should get working on it right now. If she couldn't work out the problem with a few suggestions to the vet about the way to handle it, she might have to pull an all-nighter on her own. Tigers were never easy. Females were twice as difficult when they were as unstable as Zaran.
So get moving so that she could finish her job before she left to go to see Eve and her son, Michael. She finished her Coke, got to her feet, and headed for the clinic. She could feel the happiness zinging through her at the thought of all the new things on the horizon. Babies and tiger cubs and friends she could love and trust. She wished she could explain to Eve that, in the end, nothing else was really important. All the fear and the running could be handled as long as she kept one truth in mind.
Life is good.
Summer Island Caribbean Caribbean
"Yes, I see him now, Officer Craig. He's near the exercise fields, talking to one of the techs." Dr. Devon Brady's narrowed gaze was fixed on the tall man in khakis and a black shirt, who was talking to Judy Wong beside the high white wooden fence. His back was to her, but she knew a great deal about body language, and she relaxed a little. "No sign of aggression that I can tell, but you were right to let me know he was on the island. I don't know how the hell he got this far without a security escort."
"I don't know, either," Craig said grimly. "He flew in early this morning and just slipped under the radar. Johnson was on duty at the airport terminal and said he seemed to be a nice guy and that the Gulfstream he was flying was pretty awesome. He didn't seem a threat to the clinic."
"That's not good enough," Devon said sternly. "He could be anyone from a rival researcher to a journalist. The Logan Institute doesn't want publicity about our work here. We're doing terrifically well and we want to keep it that way. How did he slip away from Johnson?"
"He doesn't know. Johnson turned his back for a minute and he was gone. We've been looking for him ever since."
Devon didn't like that, either. People who just flitted away from experienced security personnel could be either very clever or exceptionally well trained. This man had evaded the hunt of the island's very efficient security team for the past few hours, so he might be both. "Then you'd better have a few refresher training sessions with your men. And get some people down here right away."
"I'll come myself." He hung up the phone.
He knows his job is on the line, Devon thought. Craig was a good man, but this breach should never have happened. Just because they weren't dealing with biological agents or weapons on this island, everyone tended to let down their guard occasionally. They thought that just because the people here were working with very special dogs and documenting their unique, sometimes almost incredible abilities, there was no real threat. But industrial espionage was entirely possible considering the groundbreaking results they were getting working with the dogs these days.
And men like the one she was approaching now managed to take advantage of that carelessness. She studied that body language again.
No aggression, but something else ...
Persuasion. He was bent toward Judy Wong and every line of his body was focused and aimed at her. He could not have been more intent or interested.
And Judy was responding. Oh, yes, she was definitely responding to that persuasion. She was looking up at him and she was smiling, her cheeks flushed, and she appeared a little starstruck. No, more than a little.
She increased her pace. "Judy, do you need me?" she called. "Do we have a problem?"
"No." Judy looked startled. "Everything is fine, Dr. Brady. I was just explaining to Mr. Lassiter what my job is with the dogs. He was interested in how I —"
"I'm sure he was," Devon said drily. "But suppose I explain it to — is it Mr. Lassiter? You need to get back to the morning exercises, Judy."
The man turned, and for the first time she saw his face. "John Lassiter. And you must be Dr. Brady, who is in charge of the clinic and research facility. Judy is a great fan of yours." He smiled. "Did I step on toes?" He turned back to Judy. "I didn't mean to get you in trouble. I was just so interested. Forgive me?"
"Sure." Judy grinned and turned back to the exercise field. "Anytime."
No doubt she would have forgiven him if he'd nailed her to a cross, Devon thought sourly. Lassiter wasn't movie-star handsome, but that was a fascinating face. Pale green eyes, high cheekbones, and wonderfully shaped lips, not more than thirty-something, but he had a few threads of silver in that dark hair. But it wasn't that face so much as the powerful charisma he exuded. She found herself being drawn as Judy had been.
"Please don't be hard on her," Lassiter said gently. "She's a nice girl. I'm sure you're lucky to have her."
"Yes, I am. And I don't appreciate your taking up her time with your questions. What are you doing on this island, Mr. Lassiter?"
He smiled. "Not trying to extract research secrets. I'm sure you do fascinating, humanitarian work here, but I have no interest in it. Actually, I'm here to try to locate a former employee of your clinic. I should probably have gone to your office in the beginning, but I thought I'd amble around and see if I could find out a little on my own."
"We don't encourage 'ambling,'" she said coolly. "We work very hard here and strangers tend to be a disturbing influence."
"Oh, sorry, then I won't waste your time. Suppose we go to your office and I'll ask my questions and then get out of your hair." His smile remained, but Devon was aware of a subtle change in attitude. He had seen that she wasn't responding to that personal magnetism and had discarded it and gone on to the next stage of getting what he wanted. "I'm sure you've sent for security by now. But you don't really want them to get in our way when it would be so easy to end this by answering a few questions."
"I don't mind them getting in my way."
"But I do," he said softly. "So please accommodate me. Only a few questions."
There was just a hint of steel beneath that velvet softness, and she stiffened. "What questions? What employee?"
She tried to keep her face expressionless. "I haven't seen Margaret in a couple years. I believe she's left the area. However, I don't know. She's never requested a reference."
"And you haven't been in contact with her? Strange. Judy was telling me that you were good friends when she worked here."
"Once someone leaves a job, they often cut off relationships. Why do you want to know where she is?"
"I may want to offer her a position." He tilted his head. "You see, we both have questions. We should really go up to your office at the clinic and discuss it."
She hesitated, gazing at him. Cool. Very cool. The threat was subtle, but she could sense its presence. He appeared to be as many-faceted as a glittering kaleidoscope. And who was to say that he wouldn't discover another way to find Margaret if Devon didn't satisfy him.
And the last thing Margaret needed was to have to deal with a threat like John Lassiter.
So maybe she should expose herself to the threat and try to find out more to tell Margaret when she warned her.
"Whatever," Devon said casually as she turned away. "I can give you an hour or so before my next appointment. But I can tell you now that I'm not going to prove very helpful to you."
"I appreciate your time, Dr. Brady." He fell into step with her and that smile had returned. "And you can never tell. I've found when it concerns Margaret Douglas, I always need to make it a practice of taking what I can get."
San Diego Three Days Later
Margaret's phone rang as she was walking out the door to go for her shift at the zoo. She glanced at it casually and then stiffened warily.
It might be nothing, but she never liked to get a call from Summer Island. They were too close to what she considered ground zero, only several hundred miles from the place where all the nightmares had begun. And that made the threat not only to Margaret but to everyone on the island itself.
And this was Devon Brady. Margaret considered her a friend, but as head veterinarian at a cutting-edge experimental station that dealt not only with taking gigantic steps in improving health but actually extending the life of the dogs in her care, Devon was far too busy for casual chitchat.
Well, then don't waste her time.
She accessed the call. "Hi, Devon. How are things down there? I've been thinking about going back to the island for a month or two, if I'm still welcome. How are the goldens doing? Still as much —"
"Don't come," Devon said curtly. "Don't come anywhere near here, Margaret. We had a visitor three days ago."
"Visitor." Her hand tightened on her phone. "Who?"
"John Lassiter. Do you know him?"
Relief. "I've never heard of him. Maybe it will be okay."
"He doesn't look okay to me," she said grimly. "He looks like big-time trouble. He talked to a few of the techs before I even knew he was on the island and managed to dazzle them a bit. Then he went on the offensive from the minute he sat down in my office. He's sharp as a stiletto and he's used to getting his way. He moves from strength to strength. Tough. Very tough. I had a few problems fending him off."
Margaret had trouble believing that and it made her nervous. She knew that Devon was a powerhouse of both efficiency and skill. "What kind of questions?"
"All about you. He gave me some bull about wanting to hire you for a job on his property in Texas. Where you are now. Where you came from. Who you associated with while you were on the island. Whether you had any off-island visitors. It went on and on." She paused. "I didn't tell him anything and I got rid of him as soon as I could. But that wasn't the end of it. He evidently doesn't like being frustrated. Because we had a security break-in the next night."
"Only the file cabinet containing your records. Not that there was much in them anyway. You made sure that they were pretty scanty before you left the island. But he must have wanted to know every single detail about Margaret Douglas." She paused. "One other thing. I think he managed to hack my phone. Which means that he has your phone number. And if he's as sharp as I think he is, he might be able to trace your phone location. I thought you should know."
"Yes, I should." She could feel her heart start to pound. Calm down. John Lassiter. As she'd told Devon, she didn't know the name. He didn't have to be connected to Stan Nicos, the monster who had tormented and almost broken her. "Thanks for calling me, Devon. I'm sorry you had to go through this."
"Don't be ridiculous," Devon said bluntly. "Besides your being the best tech I've ever had, or ever hope to have, I don't want you to end up in the same shape we found you when we stumbled over you on that beach. I didn't think you were going to make it."
Excerpted from No Easy Target by Iris Johansen. Copyright © 2017 Johansen Publishing LLLP. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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