No One to Trust

By: Melody Carlson

DANGER IN THE DUNES

In a deserted area of a beach town, Leah Hampton is helpless against the stranger trying to drag her away at gunpoint. But a handsome man comes to her rescue, risking his life for her. Suddenly, she and Jon Wilson are being hunted by very powerful, dangerous people. Why? Could she have been a target for the human trafficking ring that Jon’s mother suspects is taking over the tiny town? Leah and the brave, love-shy man who saved her are now being framed for their pursuer’s crimes. Hiding out among the fog-shrouded dunes, Leah and Jon must outsmart the ringleader before they’re silenced forever.





The guy had a gun trained on the woman Jon had seen earlier.

“Call off that dog!” the man screamed at Jon.

“Come here, boy,” Jon said with authority. His tail between his legs, Ralph slowly approached and Jon scooped him up. The little dog’s body was tense, as if on high alert, as if something was still very wrong.

“Now get outta here!” the guy yelled, waving his weapon.

The frightened woman watched Jon with a tear-streaked face. He knew he needed to do something—but what?

“I warned you!” The man looked flustered and agitated—as if trying to make up his mind. Probably deciding which one of them to shoot next.

In that same split second, Jon looked at the woman and made his decision. “Run!” he yelled at her.

As the man with the gun turned to the woman, Jon sprang at him and knocked him flat onto the graveled road, making the revolver fly from his hand.

“Run for your life!” Jon yelled at her.







ONE

Jon Wilson hoped to see her again today—the runner who’d caught his eye on the beach almost a week ago. The woman he’d been looking for every day ever since. But by the time he and his dog, Ralph, made it to that section of beach, it was late in the afternoon and the fog was rolling in. Not likely she’d be out for a run now. Why hadn’t he stopped painting a couple of hours ago?

Ready to turn back, Jon wanted to kick himself for not getting her name when he’d had the chance. Instead, he’d tried to appear like the “responsible pet owner” by scolding Ralph for chasing after her. Even though she’d seemed to enjoy the silly dog romping alongside her. And Ralph, fully enamored with the pretty blonde with the sunny smile and swinging ponytail, had acted as if he were her new best friend. Too bad Jon hadn’t taken Ralph’s “hint” and befriended her himself. Now it was probably too late. At least for today. Jon glanced down at his ensemble and chuckled. Perhaps it was for the best. In his hurry to get down here, he still had on his old paint-smeared flannel shirt over a faded T-shirt and raggedy cargo pants, also paint-smeared. Even his shaggy hair was overdue for a haircut. Not exactly dressed to impress.

As he called Ralph to go home, a siren sounded. The loud shrill blast was cut short, as if in warning, but it seemed to originate in the small parking area where the beach road ended at the foot of the dunes. The same place he’d suspected the runner might’ve parked her car when she’d come to run the other day. And the same reason he’d been walking down this far once or twice a day. Hoping to “casually” meet her again. With Ralph’s help, of course.

Curious as to what was up, Jon was just considering investigating when Ralph decided to take action. Giving out a sharp bark, he took off, racing toward the dunes that bordered the road. Jon thought about calling him back but, well aware of how his mother’s stubborn terrier took orders, he knew it was pointless. Besides, it might be important to know what was going on. His parents, who visited their beach cabin fairly regularly, had mentioned various rumors of criminal activity in these parts. Both retired attorneys, they had their different theories about what was actually going on. His dad seemed to think it was nothing, but his mom was suspiciously wary. Maybe Jon would discover a new piece of the puzzle for them. Besides, he needed to get Ralph.

* * *

Leah Hampton felt her stomach knot as she watched the uniformed officer from her rearview mirror. His plump face appeared flushed and slightly irritated in the late-afternoon sun. Glancing around the deserted dune area, as if worried someone else was around, he adjusted his dark glasses and sauntered up to her old Subaru. She’d noticed the unmarked car several miles back but hadn’t been concerned. She hadn’t been speeding on this isolated stretch of beach road—her car’s worn shocks couldn’t take it.

A wave of fresh anxiety swept over Leah as she reached for her wallet, ready to fish out her driver’s license and insurance card. She hoped her car’s registration hadn’t expired or that a taillight hadn’t burnt out. Those infractions could result in fines—expenses she couldn’t afford right now. She remembered the last time she’d been pulled over several years ago and how she’d talked her way out of a ticket. But she’d been dressed to the nines that night. Not so today.

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