Kendra had a memory.
A wistful memory.
Creeping up from the cobwebs of the past.
…She was sitting on a children’s swing, breathing in the smell of freshly cut grass, and he was behind her, pushing her harder, higher, and she squealed and laughed, gripping the rattling chains, her knuckles white, her feet damn near touching the sky…
They were both teenagers back then.
Much too old to be horsing around like that.
But it didn’t matter.
Because it was summer, and they had each other.
Kendra blinked, and the vision was gone. Dissolving like ash. And she coughed and wheezed, her cheek flat against the pavement. Her mouth felt dry; shrivelled up. And her ears were humming.
Everything sounded distant, hollow.
Alarms ringing out.
Muscles taut and shivering, Kendra groaned. Rolled on to her side, then her back. Cupped her face with her hands. Her skin felt raw. Tingling like electricity. And she shook her head from side to side. And slowly, very slowly, the throbbing and nausea eased.
Jaw clenched, she staggered to her feet. Felt her joints creak and pop. And she listed this way and that before she found her bearings. Steadied herself against a lamp post. And, rubbing her eyes, she peered past dust and tears, and everything came into focus.
The bookstore was on fire, and the air was thick with smoke and ash and swirling paper, and traffic had piled up all along the street, and stunned bystanders intermingled with bloodied survivors, and it was chaos, absolute chaos.
Kendra jostled through the crowd, skipping over grit and rubble, craning her neck, panting, searching. But the blaze was too strong, too blinding, and there was no way anyone within the kill zone itself could have survived.
Her stomach churned with grief and rage and confusion. And she felt like crying. Like screaming. But—no, no—she swallowed back the urge. Forced herself to breathe. To breathe.
Doubling back, Kendra found the operator—B—still at the bench directly opposite the bookstore. Only… his posture was all wrong. He was sagging back. Drooping halfway off his seat.
When she got closer, she saw why.
A jagged shard of glass had stabbed him right through the neck. He had a white-knuckled grip on it, and blood was fountaining through his fingers. And he sounded like he was retching. Choking.
Kendra wrapped her hands over his, applying as much pressure on the wound as she could, being careful to keep the glass immobile. ‘Hey. Hey. Can you hear me? Who are you? What kind of op were you running?’
All the man gave her was a pale and vacant stare.
His grip on the glass was weakening.
Kendra used her knee to nudge him. ‘Come on. Stay with me. Why were you tailing Ryan Hosseini? Why?’
The man convulsed, retching harder. Spit bubbled on his lips. And, with a final exhale, he went slack. His eyes rolled back, and he slid off the bench completely and crumpled against the ground.
Like a damn marionette puppet whose strings had been severed.
Frustrated, Kendra checked the man’s pulse. Confirmed his vital signs were nil. And she dabbed her hands against his shirt, wiping the blood off, and she proceeded to pat him down.
She found a smartphone. A wallet. A car key attached to a fob. A holstered pistol accompanied by a sound suppressor and ammo. And, finally, a tactical-folding knife.
Kendra didn’t have time to ponder the significance of what she had uncovered.
Curious onlookers were already gathering around her, rubbernecking, murmuring.
Bending over, she used her body to hide the sight of the weapons from them. She clipped the knife on the inside of her hip pocket. Secured the gun under her waistband, between her navel and her appendix. And stuffed the rest of the items into her other pockets.
Then, coolly, calmly, she rose and stepped away.
‘Oh my God,’ a woman gasped. ‘Is he dead? Please tell me he’s not dead.’
Kendra ignored the woman and pushed past.
And—shit—that’s when she froze.
A man on a motorcycle was accelerating around the intersection ahead, needling his way between gridlocked cars, heading southbound on Queen Street.
The man’s face was hidden behind his helmet.
But Kendra recognised his clothing, his posture…
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Genre – Romantic Suspense
Rating – PG13
Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.