Here’s another free chapter from the suspense fiction novel The Trojan Conspiracy. Make sure you’ve read the previous chapters before embarking on this one…
Ryan had only been gone a moment when someone knocked on the front door. Groaning, Erin sat up. She waited, hoping whoever it was would go away, but when the person knocked again, she decided it was best to answer.
“Coming,” she shouted, hobbling to her feet once more. She crossed the room and opened the door.
The next few seconds were a blur. Erin heard a smashing sound and she felt herself falling backwards, but she didn’t connect the dots until she landed hard on the floor. Looking up, dazed, she could see a stocky man looming over her, silhouetted against the light outside.
The door slammed against the wall, but Erin’s attention was focused on the gun the man held in his right hand.
Before she could think, she reacted, kicking out with all her force. Her foot struck solidly against the man’s leg, but not enough to snap anything. He grunted, wincing in pain, and she scrambled to her feet. Her broken leg forgotten, adrenaline pulsing through her veins, she went on the offensive and lunged at him, her training triggering on instinct.
Her attacker was strong, and also well-trained. He deflected her attempt to disable him. She grabbed his right wrist and twisted. He shrieked in pain and dropped the gun, but his loss of control only raised his level of intensity. He swung out with his left arm and knocked her halfway across the room. Stunned, she staggered backwards until her back connected painfully with the wooden edge of the couch arm.
The man was already charging at her again, and she knew she wasn’t in a good position to fight. She considered going straight for the sliding door in the kitchen—the only other exit—but she didn’t have time. Instead, she darted down the hallway, moving as fast as she could. Through the hallway bathroom, she could double back through a second doorway into the kitchen and to outside.
She entered the bathroom and slammed the door shut behind her. She frantically locked it. The lock, while not strong, would preoccupy her assailant for just a moment, and if he was a cocky bastard, maybe he’d try to frighten her for a few minutes before breaking through, all the while she’d already be outside calling for backup.
Her plan didn’t work. When she opened the second bathroom door and stepped into the kitchen, her assailant was there to greet her as if he’d read her mind from the beginning. Unable to move or even react to the attack, the fist struck with a deafening blow to her cheek, knocking her sideways. Before she collapsed, however, the man grabbed her by the neck with his left hand and flung her against the wall.
She was running out of options. Her off-duty weapon was in the bedroom, and the closest weapons—a set of knives—were lying scattered on the floor. Her attacker kept her pinned to the wall, his breathing calm, teeth gritted. She grabbed his wrist and attempted to free herself, but he wouldn’t let go. Fighting for air, she stared groggily at the man before her, feeling his fingers bore into her throat, watching his blurry fist rise for another strike.
“I’ve waited for this day, Erin Kinsley,” she heard him say. “To feel you, to actually touch your skin, is exciting beyond words.”
The last thing she saw before his fist blocked her view were a pair of deadly, gray eyes.
Before Erin regained full consciousness, she could feel the pain. It was a low throbbing that started just below her temple and ran down to her mouth, a sensation that transformed into a stabbing pain when she tried to stretch her jaw. She could taste blood in her mouth, and feel more caked under her nose.
When she tried to raise her hand to touch her wounds, however, the reality of her situation came rushing back to her. She forced her eyes open—they didn’t want to respond—to see her lap, her gray shorts splattered with blood and mud. She was sitting, her arms and legs bound by duct tape to a creaky wooden chair. Her arms were smeared with dirt; it looked like she’d been dragged through the mud.
Erin sucked in an uncomfortable breath of air and then raised her head. She gasped as more pain shot down her spine; her neck felt like it had been run over by a semi truck.
She looked around. She was in a small cabin. She could see a door and window in front of her. The door looked like it might fall from its rusted hinges at the touch of a finger, and the window was so dirty she could hardly see outside. It was obvious no one had inhabited the cabin in quite some time. The walls were gray and infested with mildew. Ivy snaked its way through a hole in the roof. The wooden floor appeared like it would cave in at any second, sagging heavily beneath her feet. The only sign of life was a small candle flickering on the floor in the corner, underneath the window.
“Good morning, sunshine,” a man’s voice came from behind her. She heard footsteps, and then her chair shook as two heavy hands came down on her shoulders. In her ear, he said: “God, I wish I could have more time with you.”
“What do you want?” she asked fiercely, though her voice came out choked and shaky.
“Not what you think,” he pulled away from her. Leaving one hand on her shoulder, he circled around so that she could see him. Erin gazed up at the man. He was of average height and stocky, but even through his hooded sweatshirt she could tell he was all muscle. His grayish-brown hair was cut short military-style, which made his neck appear extra thick. His brow was fat and bulging, his chin slightly off center.
And when she connected with his gray eyes, she knew exactly who he was.
“Ah, you recognize me,” Christopher Morgan read her expression and smiled. “Your boyfriend’s been quite a nuisance today. Nearly killed me. Then again, I nearly killed him. Needless to say, I think I have the upper hand now. I have to admit I’ve been a bit jealous of him. I’ve been watching you for quite a while, nearly a month now…” He trailed off, letting her acknowledge what he’d just said. “I know so many things about you, things you probably don’t even know yourself. It’s amazing what you can learn about someone from afar. Amazing how attracted you get to a person, too.”
Erin tensed as the hand that had been on her shoulder dragged across her collar bone and down her chest. Morgan licked his lips as he cupped her breast through the flimsy fabric of her tank top, feeling her elevated heartbeat. He stood closer to her now, his other hand gently brushing away the straps from her shoulder. He grinned, touching the soft skin, first with his fingers, then with his mouth.
She wanted to fight, to yell, to rip a chunk from his neck, but she knew that would only excite him more. Instead, she did nothing, tried not to react. She never imagined something like this would happen to her.
“I’ve heard you fuck your boyfriend so many times,” he growled in her ear. “You want it rough but he won’t give it to you. I can tell.”
Erin couldn’t believe her ears. He’d been watching her for weeks. He’d been listening to her, to them. Christopher Morgan, the man they had been hunting for over a month, had been fifty feet away the entire time.
“I’ve wanted to taste you,” he ran his tongue across her neck. “I’ve wanted to have you. You’re a pretty thing. You try to hide it, but you are one good-looking bitch.”
And then, just when she thought it was going to get worse, he pulled away and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “I’m not a rapist. I’m many things, but I’m not a rapist. You may be asking for it, but I won’t oblige.”
For some strange reason, she believed him, and she let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding.
“The bad news for you, however,” he continued, “is that you’re not going to survive the night.”
Morgan pulled a hunting knife from his pocket, unsheathed it and watched Erin Kinsley’s reaction. Her eyes focused on the blade, but still she refused to beg for mercy. She was a tough cookie. She’d be tough until the end.
Erin looked sexy despite the fact that her face was smeared with blood and dirt, one of her eyes was nearly swollen shut and the whole left side of her face was one big black-and-blue bruise. Her dark hair, matched with those sparkling green eyes, were what did it for him. Her athletic body and shapely breasts didn’t hurt, either. If he were any other man he’d be indulging in her right now, but he had his rules and he stuck by them.
It was a shame she had to die. But if tonight was his last night, he wasn’t going to die alone.
He’d walked into a trap. He’d even seen it coming, but had ignored every instinct that had served him so well for so long. His client had tricked him into going to the cabin with his hostage. The feds should never have had a chance of finding them there. They were in the middle of the fucking woods in northern Oregon. It was when he heard the helicopter that he realized he hadn’t found salvation. His client hadn’t sent him here to rescue him; he’d sent him here to have him killed. The feds were surrounding the place, and in another hour, at nightfall, they’d move in and it would all be over. Morgan had kidnapped one of their own, and in doing so had guaranteed each and every one of them would have itchy trigger fingers.
His only chance of escape was up and over a series of foothills that rose high behind the cabin, but it would be a two-day hike to another road. By that time, it would be too late. Besides—and his client knew this all too well—that wasn’t his style. Morgan would prefer to go down shooting and take as many people with him as he could. Suicidal, perhaps. Homicidal, certainly.
“Your friends are surrounding the place as we speak,” he explained to her as he bent down on one knee. He sliced away the duct tape that kept her left leg restrained to the chair and, holding her ankle firmly, began to saw away at the cast. “Waiting for nightfall to make their attack.” Hoping to take away his advantage.
“They’ll succeed,” Kinsley said. “What do you expect to accomplish?”
“I know they’ll succeed,” he spat back at her, grabbing a big chunk of her cast and tearing it away. Her skin was milk white underneath. “They’ll gun me down. Not before I pick off a few of ‘em. How’s this feel?” He squeezed her shin hard, and Kinsley gasped loudly.
“Still raw,” he laughed, and tapped the knife’s grip hard against her bone. Tears streamed from her eyes. “I need you to know this is real.”
“Why the hell did you bring me here?” she gazed up at him, her eyes still watery.
He didn’t know why his client insisted he bring her here. Didn’t care. He didn’t ask questions like that. Better to lie. “It’s simple: you’re bait. Your boyfriend wants you safe—looking at that body of yours, I don’t blame him—and he’s going to come in with a lot of your friends to save the day. Unfortunately for him, I’m going to be waiting to take him and anyone else out with my M40. And as for you, I won’t be the one to kill you. They’ll be responsible. I’ve laced this cabin with plastic, and as soon as they open that door right there, this place’ll explode like Nagasaki.”
Kinsley looked at the door. She was hoping he was lying, but even before she saw the delicate, indiscreet wiring lining the frame—and packets of C4 crammed into rotting gaps in the wood—she knew he was telling the truth. Her friends would be responsible for her death, and she theirs.
“And with that pleasant thought, Agent Erin Kinsley, I hope you have a very pleasant evening.” This time, he hit her leg as hard as he could.
Morgan watched her head sag into her chest once more, and then stood up and put the knife back in his pocket. He smiled, his eyes perusing her frame. He knew this would be the last time he would see her in one piece. His time was almost done, but she would die sooner.