Major Nanny Mass Market Paperback – Large Print, October 11, 2011
"Devoted" by Dean Koontz
For the first time in paperback, from Dean Koontz, the master of suspense, comes an epic thriller about a terrifying killer and the singular compassion it will take to defeat him. | Learn more
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About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
There were screams. Always screams. The training never prevented the screaming.
You're not in Iraq. You're in Austin, Texas, and a bomb just went off. Get your backside in gear.
Over a decade of Marine Corps training taking over as chaos unfolded around him, he scanned the area for a quick damage assessment. Car bomb. Not a huge onethe blast radius wasn't anywhere near the size of something like Oklahoma Citybut the dais where Governor Lila Lockhart had stood moments earlier was a ruin, reduced to jagged metal and splintered wood.
Was the governor buried somewhere under the debris?
The crowd surrounding the platform had already begun to disperse in panic, leaving behind some of the fallen. Many were still moving, trying to drag themselves to safety. Others lay motionless in the grass in front of the dais.
Triage, he thought, pulling out his cell phone to call 911. His call was one of many, he discovered. To his relief, the dispatcher told him units were already responding. But he couldn't sit tight waiting for the cavalry to arrivesome of these people might not survive the wait.
As he hurried toward the first fallen victim, a slim, dark-haired woman raced across his path, heading toward the collapsed platform. Blood stained the side of her face without obscuring her delicate profile. Pretty, he thought. Scared as hell. She looked familiar.
"Governor!" she cried, trying to pull away a piece of metal from the pile.
Harlan raced forward to stop her. The wrong move could bring the rest of the debris falling down on top of anyone buried underneath. And the last time he'd seen his boss, Bart Bellows had been only a few feet from Lila Lockhart.
"Don't try to move anything," he barked, his voice coming out more gruff than he'd intended.
She turned a fierce glare his way. "The governor is under there."
"And if you do the wrong thing, you could bring the rest of this mess crashing in on her."
Her nostrils flared. "You were with Bart."
"Harlan McClain." He nodded, remembering where he'd seen her before. "You're the governor's aide, right?"
"Stacy Giordano." She pressed her fingertips to the side of her head. When she drew them away, they were bloody. Her face went even paler. "What happened? Was it a bomb?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure."
She shook her head, looking stunned and scared. "But Frank Dorian is in jail."
He'd had the same thought. Even Bart, who was a suspicious old cuss, had thought that stopping Frank Dorian solved Governor Lockhart's problem. Dorian had come damned close to killing the governor before Wade Coltrane had stopped him, but once he was in custody, everyone at Corps Security Investigations had thought the trouble was over.
Harlan should have known better. Trouble never went away for long.
"We need to help the injured." He caught her arm, making her gasp. He loosened his grip, tried to soften his voice. She looked shell-shocked and he didn't need to spook her any further. "Go find as many able-bodied people as you can. We need to start some sort of triage"
She straightened, as if she'd found her core of steel. "Okay." Her chin lifted and her eyes flashed with determination as she headed out in search of help.
He wasn't surprised when she returned a few minutes later with several people in tow. Most had clearly survived the blast themselves, their clothing covered with grime and fine debris. Some, like Stacy, had cuts and scrapes, but they all seemed relieved to have a purposesomething to take their minds off witnessing their world upended.
Sometimes, Harlan knew, finding something useful to do was the only thing that kept you sane in a crazy world.
He sent Stacy Giordano and her army in search of people who were moving around, while he checked on the ones who weren't moving. Unlike his civilian helpers, he had plenty of experience in dealing with mortality. Too much experience.
He found two D.O.A.s and a couple more who might not make it. As he moved to the next bodya man in a state trooper uniform lying near the mangled remains of the daishe heard sirens approaching at a clip.
"It's Chip!" Stacy Giordano rushed past him toward the state trooper. "He's part of the governor's security detail."
Harlan raced to catch up, not sure what she'd find when she reached the trooper's still body.
Stacy crouched next to the man, her fingers on his carotid. "He's alive," she said briskly. Her hands moved over his body, searching for injuries. She moved with a sureness that caught Harlan by surprise. "You a nurse or something?"
She glanced at him. "No. Search and rescue medic training. There's a lump here at the back of his head. Skull feels intact, but it may be a concussion." She checked the man's eyes with a small penlight attached to a keychain. "Pupils reactive. Good sign."
The man made a low groaning sound.
"EMTs are arriving. We should back off, let them work," Harlan suggested.
"There aren't going to be enough for everybody. Not yet"
He caught her arm and tugged her to a standing position. "We'll be in the way. And we don't know that we've seen the last of the blasts."
Her eyes widened. "You think there could be more coming?"
"It's possible," he admitted. "Sometimes there's a secondary device"
"To hit the first responders." Stacy's jaw squared. "Then we'd better find the governor and get her out of here." She started toward the back of the dais before he could stop her.
He jogged to catch up.
"She was standing back here," Stacy called over her shoulder, "so if she dropped with the dais"
Harlan spotted a flash of pale blue under the tangle of metal piping and wooden slats that had once constituted the bunting-draped platform where Lila Lockhart had declared her intention to run for higher office. Lila had been wearing a light blue suit, hadn't she?
"Lila!" Stacy dashed forward. "Lila, can you hear me?"
"I'm stuck under this damned mess!" Lila called out, her voice surprisingly strong. "I must've bumped my headI was out a few seconds"
"Hold stillyou don't want to cause yourself more injury," Harlan warned. "Did you see what happened to Bart?"
"He was right behind me"
"I'm over here." A man's voice, weak and strained, came from somewhere behind Harlan.
Harlan turned to see a large chunk of the dais had broken off and flown backward in the blast, landing sideways in a shallow rill in the capitol grounds. "Bart?"
"Knocked me clean on my backside!" Bart called out, his voice a little stronger. "But I can't get my chair up."
"Keep her from moving," Harlan ordered Stacy before he hurried to the second debris site. To his relief, Bart had been thrown clear of the twisted tangle of wood and metal, but the old man and his wheelchair both lay on their sides in the grass beyond the rill.
"I'm afraid this is probably a goner," Harlan said as he picked up the wheelchair, pushing it away from Bart's useless legs to free them. He grimaced as his scarred right hand twinged where he gripped the chair handle.
"Is Lila okay?" Bart asked.
"She's alive. She's trapped under the debris, but she sounds good. The paramedics are on the way."
"Who did this? Frank Dorian's in jail."
"I don't know." Harlan ran his hands over Bart's body, looking for injuries. He didn't feel any obvious broken bones, and the old man seemed bright-eyed and lucid. "Do you have any pain anywhere?"
Bart shook his head. "The explosion flung me like a rag doll, but I reckon I landed that way, too. Probably saved me a broken bone or two." He clapped his hand on one useless leg. "Not that I'd have noticed."
Harlan looked again at the wheelchair. The control panel had been damaged by the impact, but the wheels and frame looked surprisingly sturdy. "Let's get you into the chair and see if we can't do this the old-fashioned way."
He picked up Bart and set him in the wheelchair, taking another chance to look him over. Bart's well-seamed face was scraped and dirty, but he didn't seem to have any worrisome injuries, to Harlan's relief.
"Quit lookin' at me like I'm about to keel over any minute," Bart groused.
Harlan bit back a grin. "Let's go check on Lila."
The wheelchair wasn't easy to push over the uneven, grassy terrain, especially with Harlan's hand starting to ache as if he'd taken the shrapnel injury moments earlier rather than months ago. But Harlan was so relieved Bart seemed to be okay that he barely felt the pain.
When they reached the edge of the debris pile, Stacy was crouched outside near the governor, peering through the maze of steel and splintered wood. "It looks as if the main thing trapping her is that crossbeam," Stacy told Harlan as he hunkered down beside her. She pointed to a large steel support bar that once had been one of the stabilizing structures for the dais. It didn't look particularly heavy, but the way the bar was wedged between the ground and clumps of the fallen platform, it wouldn't budge. Lila was effectively pinned in place, unable to move more than a couple of inches in any direction.
"You're a big, strappin' fellow. Can't you move it?" Lila asked.
Harlan smiled. "No, ma'am, I'm afraid it's probably going to have to be cut apart to get you out." Especially with his ha...
- Mass Market Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0373746261
- ISBN-13 : 978-0373746262
- Product Dimensions : 4.22 x 0.8 x 6.61 inches
- Item Weight : 4.8 ounces
- Publisher : Harlequin Intrigue Larger Print; Original Edition (October 11, 2011)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #15,549,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This book is one of those "can't put it down until the end" books. There are really two stories going on in that even once this book ends with its HEA there is still a mystery unsolved which will travel through the rest of the book in the series.
The series is going to be really interesting because it stars ex-soldiers who are no longer in the service who are working for Bart Bellows who is an eccentric Texas billionaire who is head of Corps Security and Investigation. He is determined to protect the governor and her family at all costs.
The heroine in this book is Stacy Giordano who is the governor's aide-de-camp and the mother of a son ~ Zachary ~ who suffers from Asperger's syndrome. Having had dealt with children with this syndrome I can verify that Paula does an excellent job portraying it in Zachary and it gives this book a little something extra.
Harlan McClain is an ex Marine Corps sniper and also a member of the governor's security detail. His job is to protect Stacy and the governor from whoever is trying to kill them. He learns to deal with Zachary as well. Stacy is determined to do her job, protect Zachary and the governor but not fall in love with Harlan and he is determined not to fall in love with Stacy and Zachary. But while each is determined they both fail and fall in love anyway.