Appalachian Abduction

By: Debbie Herbert

CAST OF CHARACTERS

Charlotte Helms—A dedicated undercover cop who’s traveled to the north Georgia mountains to help a young girl escape from a human-trafficking ring. She trusts no one, not even the small-town deputy whose help she needs to find the victim.

James Tedder—After returning from his last military deployment, he wants nothing more than to settle down to small-town life as a deputy sheriff. He suffers from PTSD and has withdrawn from close relationships—until the fiery redhead arrives in town. She’s an enticing mystery, one he would love to solve.

Maddie and Richard Stowers—A rich couple from Atlanta who own a luxurious cabin in the exclusive Falling Rock community on Blood Mountain. They’re respected members of the community, so no one believes that behind their closed doors at the luxury mountain retreat there might be young girls imprisoned for the human-trafficking trade.





This book is dedicated to all my author friends who help me,

especially: Gwen Knight, Lexi George, Ash Fitzsimmons,

Michelle Edwards, Tammy Lynn, Fran Holland and

Audrey Jordan!

And, as always, to my husband, Tim, my dad, J.W. Gainey,

and my sons, Byron and Jacob.





CHAPTER ONE

Only one road climbed Blood Mountain to the exclusive Falling Rock community and its luxury mansions. But Charlotte had no interest in accessing the gated community through the pretty lane lined with oaks and vistas of manicured lawns and gardens.

No, the backside view of the swanky neighborhood was where she’d find clues to the ugly mystery of Jenny’s whereabouts. And to get to this precious vantage point in the hollow, she’d hiked a good two miles down from neighboring Lavender Mountain. She raised her binoculars and focused on the nearest cabin’s massive wooden deck.

Nobody milling about there.

She slanted them to the cabin’s impressive wall of windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jenny—or any other young teenage girl, for that matter. The bastards.

Still nothing.

But she wasn’t discouraged. If nothing else, her career as an undercover cop had taught her patience. She waited and, after a few minutes, scanned the row of houses yet again before dropping the binoculars and taking a swig from her water bottle.

Faint voices rumbled through the air, low, deep and indecipherable. Quickly she raised the binoculars to search for the source. But the field glasses weren’t necessary. Near the base of the cabin, only one hundred yards away, stood two men armed with shotguns and wearing walkie-talkies belted at their waists. Where had they come from?

Suddenly the muscular guy on the left raised an arm and pointed a pair of binoculars at her.

Oh, no.

She’d been spotted, despite the fact that she was dressed in camouflage and had tucked her red hair into an olive ski cap. The man on the right raised a shotgun to his shoulder and scanned the area. Charlotte dropped to the ground on her stomach, praying she was out of sight. Three deep breaths, and she raised her binoculars again. The men had disappeared.

Strangely, she wasn’t comforted by that realization. They could be creeping their way downhill to find her. Time to get the heck out of Dodge. Charlotte tucked the binoculars and water bottle into her backpack and withdrew her pistol. Not the standard-issue one provided by the Atlanta Police Department—they’d forced her to turn that in—but the personal one she always kept stashed in her nightstand. If they found her, she’d be ready for them. The cool, hard wood snuggled in her right hand provided a surge of comfort, just as it always had on those nights when she’d been home alone and whispers of danger made her imagine some ex-con had discovered where she lived.

Charlotte eased the backpack onto her shoulders. Cocking her head to the side, she paused, listening for anything out of the ordinary.

Wind moaned through the trees, and dead leaves gusted in noisy spirals. Then she heard it: a methodical crunching of the forest underbrush that thickly carpeted the ground. At least one of the men was headed her way.

Damn it.

She jumped to her feet and ran, heart savagely skittering. Its pounding beat pulsed in her ears, loud as the echo of dynamite. A slug whistled high above her, and bark exploded from near the top of a pine sapling eight feet ahead.

Did they mean to kill her or merely frighten her off? Because if their aim was the latter, it was working. Charlotte kept running, this time darting behind trees every ten yards or so. No sense providing them with an easy target. The path seemed to stretch on forever, though, and a stitch in her side finally screamed in protest at the brisk pace. Charlotte stumbled behind a wide oak and sucked oxygen into her burning lungs.

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