Ransom At Christmas

By: Barb Han

He’ll do anything to protect

a mysterious woman from an unseen foe.

Minutes after finding an unconscious woman on his land, bullets whiz right by rancher Will Kent. Who is this woman? Who’s targeting her? Before long, Kelly Morgan’s secret past emerges and they discover she has a fiancé she’s afraid of...but can’t remember why. For her safety, Will takes Kelly into hiding. But with time ticking down and a Christmas deadline just around the corner, how can he stop an unknown enemy?

“This is twice in two days that you’ve been there when I needed a friend.”

The last word came out a little stiff. It was silly to think there could ever be more between them even if an out-of-touch piece of her heart wanted more.

He lifted his chin, like he was doing what any decent man would.

Little did he know there’d been a shortage of decent men in Kelly’s life.

“Thank you for making so many sacrifices in order to help me.” She held tight to his hand. “I don’t know where I’d be right now if it wasn’t for you, but I’m fairly sure it wouldn’t be anywhere I’d want to be. And I’m also pretty sure that I seem like a train wreck to you, but I’m actually pretty normal.”

More moisture gathered in her eyes.

Will thumbed away a rogue tear.

And then he leaned in and pressed a kiss to her lips. “I’ve never been especially fond of normal.”

Chapter One

Torpedoing through trees at breakneck speed, Kelly Morgan drew a frustrating blank as she glanced down at the intricately detailed bodice of the white dress she wore. Branches slapped at her face and torso, catching the puffy layers of the full-length dress. She pushed ahead, anyway, because a voice in the back of her mind rang out, loud and clear.

It shouted, Run!

Trying to recall any details from the past few hours, let alone days, cramped her brain. All she remembered clearly was that there’d been a man in a tuxedo trying to force some kind of clear liquid down her throat.

Other than that, Kelly was clueless as to what she was doing in a white dress and her dress cowgirl boots barreling through the woods on a random ranch.

A cold front had moved in and she was shivering in her formal attire. Instinct told her to follow the creek.

As she fought her way through the underbrush, a vine caught the toe of her right boot. Her ankle twisted, shooting pain up her leg and causing her to stumble forward a few steps as she tried to regain balance.

Those couple of steps couldn’t stabilize her.

Momentum shot her forward onto all fours.

Thankfully, she missed banging her head on a mesquite tree by scarcely two inches. Her knees weren’t so lucky. They scraped against thorny branches. Rocks dug into her palms as she landed on the hard, unforgiving earth.

It was probably adrenaline that stopped her from feeling the pain of her knees being jabbed by rough edges and her hands being cut by sharp rocks.

Or whatever was in that glass of water the tall, bulky tuxedo-wearing male figure had forced down her throat.

“Tux” seemed familiar but she couldn’t pull out why. And the drink he’d tried to shove down her throat? Kelly had instantly figured out that it was laced with something. The second that tangy liquid had touched her tongue, she realized how much trouble she was in. The tacky metallic taste must be what it would have been like to lick a glue stick that had been dipped in vinegar.

Of course, she’d spewed out as much of the liquid as she could, but then the dark male figure—why couldn’t she remember who he was or the details of his face?—had pushed her a few steps backward until her back was flat against the wall. He’d pressed his body against hers, pinning her. He’d been so close, mere inches from her face, and yet she couldn’t recollect the details of his face. She’d struggled for control of the glass before he forced the liquid into her mouth.

All she recalled next was the gross metallic taste and the overwhelming feeling she wanted—no, needed!—to vomit. The cool liquid had made gurgling noises in her throat as he forced back her head. The room had spun as a dark cloud wrapped around her, squeezing, suffocating her.

Instinct told her to fight back and get out of the bride’s room of the small wedding chapel. But why she’d been there in the first place was still fuzzy.

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