He hurtled through the air. Arms extended, he willed his straining body onward. A roar ripped from his throat with the effort. He slammed against the back of the van, grunted, grappled on top for a hold. His feet braced on the rear bumper. Shit… This looked easier in the movies.

The van peeled around a corner, damn near on two wheels. Hugh slipped sideways, almost off. His heart pumped like revving pistons. He slapped the side, found a firmer hold on the luggage rack.

His brain raced as fast as the tires. No way could he make it to the front. He didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of climbing along the top. And if they hadn’t already figured out he was holding on, they would soon. It wouldn’t take much to jar him loose—or ram him against a brick wall.

He needed to open the back and fling himself inside.

After that?

Well, he would wing it from there. Letting the van drive away wasn’t an option. Given the island’s current state of disorder, locating this vehicle later would be all but impossible. And he couldn’t let himself think about what would happen to Amelia and Joshua in the meantime, if they even lived.

Now, he just had to wait for the right time to make his move.


Amelia braced her feet against a crate in the van as the vehicle squealed around a corner. She clutched Joshua to her chest, struggling to keep her balance.

Thank God, their kidnappers were letting her hold him. Although that made it impossible for her to open a door and leap out onto the pavement, which may have been their intent. Not that she would have left without Joshua anyway.


She leaned against a spare tire, the road bumpy, her butt jostling painfully against the floor as the guy drove, the woman parked in the passenger seat. The smell of oil and tropical fruit hung in the air. She scanned the packed space, glass rattling, and found boxes labeled as water and juice.

So much had happened so fast. She’d barely had time to process the violent shift in her life. Why the hell had she been so proud and stubborn in walking away from Hugh out of some crazy fear he would walk away first? The man and woman had escorted her out of the school/hospital at knifepoint. As she’d walked down that hall and into the parking lot, she’d known that once she landed inside the van, her chances and Joshua’s would be reduced dramatically.

Swallowing back fear of the blade nicking her neck, she had screamed and screamed again—just before the man backhanded her so hard she’d lost consciousness for a few minutes.

She’d woken again as she’d been thrust in the back of a van. Seconds later Joshua was shoved into her arms. She’d barely regained her balance before they roared out of the lot, tires squealing.

Her hands shook as she took reassurance from her nephew’s steady breaths. She struggled to stay calm, but her reserves were already depleted. Her body just wouldn’t pony up any more energy. For now, she kept her ears tuned in to the couple in front, hoping to find out something, anything, that could help her escape. Thus far, she’d only learned their names were Oliver and Tandi.

Were they low-level opportunists, preying on the current crisis? Or did they have deeper ties to some kind of illegal organization from earlier, before the earthquake? Either way, the odds were not in her favor or Joshua’s. Exhaustion and defeat left her on the edge of tears.

A thump on the back of the van startled her already-jangled nerves.

Oliver looked over his shoulder sharply. “What the hell?”

Tandi pulled a gun from the glove box, a pile of papers showering out along with the weapon. “Drive faster.”

Amelia curled protectively around Joshua, angling her back toward Tandi, toward the gleaming gun muzzle.

One of the back doors flew open. A gust of night air rolled inside before a body blocked the opening. Amelia gasped, looking closer at…

Hugh? Oh God, it was really him. Here. And filling the opening, muscles bulging in his arms as he clutched the sides.

Tandi shouted, “Swerve, Oliver. Jerk the van around. Do something.”

The woman squeezed off a shot into the back. The bullet ricocheted inside the metal cavern. Amelia screamed, huddling her body around Joshua.

Liquid spurted from one of the boxes. Her ears rung. The acrid gunshot scent stung her nose along with an increasing fruity smell. To hell with covering her head. She cared only about Hugh and Joshua.

Big and alive and unharmed, he still clung to the back even as the van lurched.

Oliver back handed Tandi. “Stop shooting, bitch. You’re going to kill us all. I’ve got this.”

The van swerved again, so fiercely she feared the vehicle would roll. Oh God, she didn’t know what to do. If Hugh fell off, he could die. If he made it in here, he could die as well… The determination on his face, tendons straining, declared he wasn’t giving up. Either way, he would die trying.

And for Joshua, she had to take whatever help she could.

She risked letting go of the baby for a flash, setting him on the floor behind a toolbox. She grabbed a handle bolted to the side, then flung out her other arm toward Hugh. She reached, fingertips grazing him, van swaying.

“Damn it,” Tandi shouted from the front. “He’s still hanging on. Oliver, we have to do something.”

The woman started to climb over the seat. The van jerked, fishtailing on the deserted road. Tandi fell back in her seat with a shriek. Hugh was flung sideways, but he held strong.

Amelia chewed her bottom lip until she tasted blood. Joshua cried. In pain or fear? She felt torn in half, making life-and-death decisions in an unimaginable situation. Things were happening so fast, she had only a split second to act.

Her fingers hooked onto Hugh’s vest, gripped, hauled. Her arms stretched in the sockets, screaming until she wondered if she might literally be torn in half. She vaguely registered Tandi shouting again at her or Oliver. Amelia tugged harder until finally—

Hugh catapulted inside. He landed hard on top of her, her nose pressed into matted tan carpet fibers.

Tandi shouted from the front again. “Who the hell are you? Where did you come from?”

“Shit,” Oliver cursed.

Amelia just held onto Hugh with arms that shook from relief as much as the exhaustion.

Tandi pointed her gun toward the back, in spite of Oliver’s warning. “One move from either of you, and I’ll let shots ricochet right into both your heads. Got it? Answer me, damn it.”

“I hear you,” Amelia answered fast.

“Uh-huh.” Hugh stayed on top of her, his arm curling around to include Joshua.

He was here. Actually here. She could hardly wrap her brain around the fact, but finally, there was hope again.

The van screeched to a stop. The back doors slammed closed from the momentum. Hugh grunted.

“No, Oliver,” Tandi screamed. “Go! Go! They’ll jump out and the Guardian will kill us.”

Oliver cursed again, and the van lurched forward. Tires squealed along with the sound of spewing rocks as the van peeled out.

Tandi leaned over her seat, silver gun in hand and pointed at Hugh. “You picked the wrong day to be a hero, big guy.”


Lisabeth Bailey was used to long days in her job as a surgical nurse. But what she’d been through in the aftermath of the earthquake surpassed anything she’d ever experienced.

She tossed the bloody scrubs into the laundry—not that clothes were getting washed, with the water shortage. Since the church was now overflowing with injured, the military engineers had set up tents outside for showers and latrines. The canvas walls flapped in the light wind that rolled in from the beach carrying the fetid odor of rotting garbage and decaying corpses. She pressed the back of her wrist against her mouth while she swallowed down bile. Strong smells were tough enough to handle in a normal situation, but this place reeked.

The garden paradise she’d loved since birth had been obliterated in a few earth-shattering seconds. Nothing about the current wreckage resembled her childhood island home, her last connection to her parents, who’d died while she was in college in the States. The loss around her, the grief and the heartbreak, festered inside her until it was all she could do to keep from vomiting during the surgery.

But her help was crucial, especially in these early hours while relief personnel and supplies were still en route. Airplanes overhead promised the arrival of more aid, but they were also faced with the shortage of nearby landing space… then ways to transport the goods and people to the critical areas.

Wind parted two tarps and revealed a bulldozer in the distance alongside a woman and man digging with shovels. The couple moved like automatons. They’d been picking through the rubble for as long as she’d been here. Looters would have left long ago. Their search was more personal. But after this much time, their odds of finding a live family member were growing slimmer.

Her gut grumbled again.

She dipped a finger into a small jar of menthol and thumbed a streak under her nose. She tipped her head back and inhaled. Exhaled. In and out, until her stomach settled. She huffed a spiral of hair off her brow.

Exhaustion steamrolled over her. She’d been on her feet for nearly five days, already exhausted when they’d arrived, racked with indecision over what to do about the adoption.

Then she’d met Joshua and fallen in love with his sweet face. Even now, she remembered the feel of his baby-soft cheek against hers. In that moment, she felt the connection, the bond. He’d become her son. She couldn’t do anything to jeopardize that.

Except now he was missing, probably dead.

Could this be God’s justice for her selfishness in wanting it all?

Sagging forward, she grabbed the rim of the rubbish bin. A mess, just like her life. She wanted to believe she hadn’t deliberately allowed herself to get pregnant. She’d only found out for sure with a pregnancy test taken during their layover in Miami on the way here to get Joshua.

And she hadn’t even begun to figure out how she would tell Aiden.

Persuading him to adopt had been tough enough. She never would have won the battle to have a biological child together. He had such immovable reasons for that decision, he would never change his mind. But they’d reached an understanding with the adoption. They’d done everything possible to prepare, taking into account the special needs that could come with international adoption. They had support and resources in place to guide them through.

But in all her preparations, she’d never taken into account one possibility.

Her hands slid over her stomach. Aiden would figure it out soon enough on his own. He was a doctor, for heaven’s sake. He likely would have noticed the signs already if he hadn’t been so distracted by the adoption.

She loved Aiden, always had since she’d they’d met at Auburn University. After graduation, she’d opted to stay in the States rather than returning to the Bahamas. Her parents had died in a boating accident. She’d felt anchorless. So she’d followed Aiden to medical school, no great sacrifice, since she loved him.

And now she’d risked losing him. Tears burned behind her eyes for him, for herself, but mostly for Joshua, the child she already loved as much as the one she carried inside her. The child inside her that Aiden would never accept.

A hand settled on her shoulder and she almost jumped out of her skin. She looked back to find her husband standing behind her and she relaxed, sagging with relief. Aiden’s blond hair was spiked wildly from the hours of work and lack of a good shower. More than that, exhaustion carved strain lines in the corners of his pale blue eyes behind round glasses.

He was handsome in a lanky, rawboned kind of way of a man who forgot to eat. He didn’t have time for recreation, so his face was burned from their time in the sun here.

Concern dug trenches in his scorched forehead. “Are you okay?”

She smoothed a hand over his brow, his angular face so dear, so familiar. “I’m only tired. What do you need?”

“I’ve got some good news, finally.” He cupped the back of her neck, his thumb stroking her hairline as he’d done a million times. “They’ve found Joshua and Amelia. Alive.”

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