Sergei shut down the throwaway he’d purchased at a gas station in Seattle. The last thing he needed was a trace on his messages. He imagined the frustrated anger on Martin’s face when he read the e-mail sent to the sheriff’s office in that little shithole town of his. A whistled sigh of satisfaction slid past his lips. He glanced at the children asleep on the bed. Unlike Chenglei, he meant them no harm. They would be safe enough with him. Unless Martin didn’t fulfill his demands, then all bets were off. He tossed another log into the potbelly stove and lifted his hands to the warmth.
Driving country roads for what seemed like hours in the dark, the deserted cabin had suddenly risen out of the landscape as if calling to him. The overgrown drive and porch full of fallen leaves told him it was probably a summer getaway. He’d locked the kids in the trunk, ignoring the pleading sobs. Then, gun in hand, he checked the area, freezing when the stairs creaked beneath his weight. When nothing moved within, he did a quick search by the light on his phone. The window was layered with musty smelling dust and showed a single room, bed in the corner, wooden table and chairs, and the stove. He’d found the key under the flowerpot, and opened the creaky door. On a small countertop with a single sink, he found a kerosene lantern and matches. His nose crinkled with the pungent aroma as he pumped the lamp, then lit the wick.
To ward off the chilly fall night, he’d started a small fire in the stove. They were far enough away he felt reasonably safe, at least until daybreak when the search would move to high gear. Next he went back to the kids. Guilt grabbed hold when he opened the lid on their terrified faces. To combat it, he said, “Unless you want to stay here in the dark, do as I say.”
Excerpt from The Rebel's Redemption by Jacquie Biggar
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