The man who killed Mia Fletcher's husband is stalking herhe's dangerously intent on searching for something in her possession. But Mia doesn't know what he wants or how to stop him, so she turns to Lucas Knight, fugitive hunter extraordinaireand her former college boyfriend. When Lucas is pulled from sleep by a pounding on his door, Mia is the last person he expects to see. But after he hears about the killer who jumped bail, he has to help her even if it means risking falling for her all over again. Can the bounty hunter capture the fugitiveand Mia's heartin time for Christmas?
Bounty Hunters: Finding justice one fugitive at a time
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About the Author
Sandra Robbins, a former teacher & principal in the Tennessee public schools, is a full-time writer. She is married to her college sweetheart, and they have four children and five grandchildren. While working as a principal, Sandra came in contact with many individuals who were so burdened with problems that they found it difficult to function in their everyday lives. Her writing ministry grew out of the need for hope that she saw in the lives of those around her.
Read an Excerpt
Mia Lockhart closed her eyes as she stood on the deck of her waterfront house and listened for sounds in the dark night. The only noise that reached her ears was the soft lap of the lake as its gentle waves rippled over the rocky shoreline.
She hugged her arms around her body and shivered in the December cold. Don't let the quiet night lull you into a false sense of security, she said to herself. You're not safe. Not yet. But would she ever be? That was the question that was causing one sleepless night after another.
Try as she might, she couldn't make herself grieve over the murder of her husband a month ago. Grieving was for those with good memories of a deceased spouse, not for those who were lucky to have survived being married to a monster.
Her left hand clenched into a fist, and she flexed the arm with the broken bone that had taken so long to mend. Then she took a deep breath and exhaled. A slight smile flitted across her mouth at how much easier it was to breathe now that her ribs had healed.
No wonder she had felt no shock or sorrow when the police arrived at her door with the news of Kyle's murder. Relief, that's what had washed over her. She was finally free of the man who had controlled her life for the past seven years. Free from his possessiveness, his anger and his fists.
But she'd only been deluding herself, thinking that she'd never have to fear a man again. Freedom didn't mean she was safe, not when the accused murderer had been able to make bail and had promptly disappeared to become a fugitive from justice. Now Kyle's killer was somewhere out there, and he knew where she lived.
A gust of wind blew across the deck, and she slipped her hands into the pockets of her jacket, smiling as her fingers brushed the cell phone she'd tucked inside. Kyle had forbidden her to have a cell phone and even a landline to the house. It only made sense that her first act of freedom was to enter the digital age with a phone and a computer.
Suddenly the phone vibrated, and she tightened her grip on it. Her lips trembled as she pulled it from her pocket. An unknown number glowed on the caller ID. She knew before she answered what the voice on the line would say, but it was as if some unknown force commanded her to answer.
"H-hello," she stammered.
"Hello, Mia. It's me again."
She closed her eyes and swallowed the bile that rose in her throat. "Tony Chapman." The man who killed her husband. There was no reason to deny it. She'd known the first time he phoned right after he jumped bail.
"Why do you keep calling me? I just want to be left alone."
"I'm sure you do, and I'll be glad to do that when you give me the answers I want."
Mia's hand shook, and a tear rolled down her cheek. "I don't have any answers."
"What did you think? That you could keep it to yourself for a Christmas present from your dearly departed husband?" he growled. "If that's what you thought, then you're wrong. Dead or alive, he still owes me, and I intend to collect. So if you think you're going to keep it to yourself, you have another think coming."
"Keep what for myself?" she screamed into the phone.
"Calm down, Mia. All you have to do is tell me where it is, and you'll never hear from me again."
Her body was shaking with sobs by this time. "I don't know what it is. And even if I did, Kyle would never have told me anything about his business. Now, please, leave me alone."
"Dream on!" he shouted. "I'm through being nice. Tell me what I want to know, or you're going to be sorry."
"I'm sorry already! Sorry I ever met Kyle Lockhart and sorry I have no idea what you're talking about. If I did, I'd give it to you."
Tony was quiet for a moment. "Maybe you don't know what he did with it. But if you think very carefully, you might be able to remember something he said or did. Maybe he had a place where he kept his secrets."
"Kyle had lots of secrets, but he never shared them with me. Now I'm warning you. I've had all of these phone calls I can stand. I'm going to the police to turn this matter over to them. Maybe they know where Kyle hid whatever it is you're looking for."
"If you know what's good for you, you'll stay away from the police, or you'll end up like Kyle, with three bullet holes in your head."
Mia shook so badly she could hardly hold the phone to her ear. "Leave me alone!" she screamed.
"Not until I get what's mine. So you'd better watch out, lady. I'm coming after you."
The call ended, and she pulled the phone away from her ear. What was this all about? It wouldn't surprise her if Kyle had been involved in something illegal that had gotten him killed, but she knew nothing about it. In fact, she knew next to nothing about his life outside of this house that he'd made her prison.
Sliding the phone back into her pocket, she turned to go back inside but stopped, her eyes growing wide. A light like a tiny flame flared at the edge of the tree line near the lake and then disappeared, to be replaced by a small red glow. She squinted into the darkness and then backed away, shaking her head in denial.
She'd seen a flicker of fire that had lit a cigarette, and now whoever was smoking it stood just a few feet away as he watched her on the deck. A mewling sound of distress erupted from her mouth, and she dashed back into the house, locking the door behind her.
As she ran into the bedroom, she glanced at the clock on the bedside table: 2:30 a.m. It would be hours before the sun was up, and she couldn't stay here until then. She didn't know where she could go, but she had to get out of this house. Get away from the nightmare that had taken over her life.
She jerked a pair of jeans and a sweater from the closet and dressed as quickly as she could. Then, pulling on her coat and grabbing her purse and cell phone, she headed to the kitchen where she always hung the car keys on the hook by the door.
As she stepped into the kitchen, her gaze lit on the rack, and her stomach did a somersault. No key ring. She came to an abrupt halt and frowned. Where was it?
A sickening feeling washed over her as the answer came to her. The keys weren't on the hook because they were in her purse, where she'd placed them after a trip to the grocery store. She hadn't hung the key ring back in place because she hadn't come in through the garage. The automatic garage door opener wasn't working, so she'd left the car in the driveway.
And that's where it was now. Sitting in the driveway. In the dark. Where someone was watching from the shadows of the woods. Did she dare go outside and face being attacked? Or did she stay inside and hope he didn't decide to break in? Either choice left a lot to be desired.
Every nerve ending in her body screamed that she had to do something, and before she even realized it, the decision had been made. She jerked the key ring from her purse, opened the front door and ran for the car.
She'd just grabbed the door handle when an arm circled her neck, and the tip of the knife in her attacker's other hand pressed against her carotid artery. The smell of cigarette smoke filled her nostrils. She held her breath and tried to pull free, but the arm tightened.
A soft chuckle drifted to her ear as a warm breath fanned the side of her face. "Don't waste your energy, sweetheart. You're not getting away from me."
His voice sounded deeper than it had on the phone, more sinister and full of evil. She tried to suppress the whimper rising in her throat, but it was no use. He knew how scared she was, and that was his advantage over her.
"Let me go!" she begged. "I can't give you what you want because I don't know what you're talking about."
"We'll see about that. I think by the time I get through with you, you'll be begging to tell me all of your secrets."
The tone of his voice had grown harder, just like Kyle's used to when he told her he would never have hurt her if she hadn't provoked him into doing it. After a while she had come to believe him. She'd given in, gone along with whatever he wantedeven when all he seemed to want was a punching bag. But she would not give in to this man, nor would she let him take her anywhere. If she did, she had no doubt she would end up dead just like Kyle.
If she had never been strong in her life, she had to be now. Only a desperate move could get her out of this killer's clutches. Thankfully she hadn't dropped her car keys when she'd been attacked, and she tightened her grip on them. If she could free herself of Tony's arm around her throat, she might be able to jump in the car and drive away.
Taking a deep breath to calm her racing heart, she closed her fingers around the small canister of pepper spray dangling from the key ring she'd bought after he'd called her the first time. In a few moments she would either be free or stabbed to death in her driveway.
In one quick motion she raised the canister and sprayed the contents over her shoulder into Tony Chapman's face. His agonized cry split the night air, and his grip on her loosened as he stumbled backward.
Those few seconds were enough time for her to pull the car door open, jump inside and roar down the driveway. As she raced down the road leading to the main highway, she kept a watch in the rearview mirror, but no one followed her.
She didn't slow down until she turned onto I-240 for the short drive into Memphis. Her mind whirled with questions about what she was going to do. She had no friends. Nowhere to turn. Where could she go?
And then she straightened in her seat as the answer popped into her head. A bounty hunter, that's what she needed. Someone who could track Tony Chapman down and return him to custody. And it so happened she had once known someone who now did that for a living. Lucas Knight. But she hadn't seen Lucas in seven years. And the last time she'd seen him, he'd said he never wanted to lay eyes on her again.
A lot of time had passed, she reasoned with herself. He'd moved on. She'd seen him on TV just a few weeks ago, giving an interview with his brother and sister about the Knight Fugitive Recovery Agency, the family's bounty hunter business. He'd looked goodgreat, actually. The interviewer had said their agency had the best reputation for bringing in bail jumpers of any group in the city. But would Lucas help her?
The lights of an all-night diner off the highway caught her attention, and she exited and pulled to a stop near the front entrance. Only three other cars sat in the parking lot at 3:00 a.m. Evidently someone else had trouble sleeping at night.
She had a few hours before she could go see Lucas, and she needed to use that time to decide how she was going to persuade him to help a woman whom he had once said he would hate until the day he died. This diner offered the perfect place for her to sit and ponder how in the world she was ever going to convince Lucas to track down Tony Chapman and return him to custody.
She took a deep breath, stepped from the car and walked toward the diner's entrance.
Lucas Knight woke to a pounding at his front door. He sat up in bed, glanced at the bedside clock and groaned: 6:00 a.m. His brother, Adam, had said he'd be by early to pick him up for the trip they were taking to Nashville, but he hadn't thought he meant this early.
Muttering to himself, Lucas climbed out of bed and jerked on his jeans and the sweatshirt he'd draped across the bedroom chair before going to bed last night. If Adam thought he was going to hurry him into going before he'd had his coffee and showered, he wasn't as smart as he thought he was.
The pounding increased, and he stormed across the living room floor and jerked the front door open. "Adam, what do you mean "
His words died in his throat, and all he could do was stare in surprise at Mia Fletcher standing in front of him. He shook his head. No, Mia Lockhart. That had become her name after she'd walked out on him for the man her daddy had picked for her.
He grabbed the side of the door and hung on so that he didn't collapse right in front of her. What was she doing standing on his porch at six o'clock in the morning?
His gaze swept her, and he swallowed the tiny glimmer of pleasure at seeing her. She was just as beautiful as ever. Even though she wore no makeup and her long blond hair was pulled up in a practical ponytail, she had that fresh-scrubbed look he'd always liked. What he didn't like was the hint of fear in her blue eyes. She stared at him apprehensively, as if to say she had no idea how he would react at her sudden appearance.
He wouldn't allow himself to be glad to see her. Couldn't allow it. It had taken too long to get over her, and he wasn't about to revisit those old memories and the scars they had left deep inside of him. He should slam the door in her face and forget she'd ever come here. He started to do that, but she spoke before he could.
"Lucas, please, I need to talk to you."
His hand tightened on the door. "We have nothing to talk about, Mia."
She glanced over her shoulder, as if checking to see who might be behind her, and turned back to face him. Tears stood in her eyes. "I'm in trouble, Lucas, and I have no one to turn to. Just give me five minutes of your time. After that, if you won't help me, I'll go away and never bother you again. Five minutes. That's all I'm asking."
She shivered and clutched her jacket tighter around her. For the first time he noticed the chill in the air. The temperature had to be in the thirties, and she looked as if she was chilled to the bone. Against his better judgment, he stepped aside and nodded.
"All right. Five minutes. I'll give you that."
She brushed past him, and the scent of the fruity shampoo she'd always used filled his nostrils. The memory of that smell had kept him awake many nights when he was still a navy SEAL, but he'd never thought he'd experience it firsthand again.