The Stranger's WifePaige PhillipsChapter OneHe had been following her since she left the market. Sure now, MegLindley quickened her pace. Only two blocks to go, but the dark streetwas deserted and a muffled footfall told her he was gaining on her.Dead leaves, a legacy of an unseasonal Santa Ana wind, crunched under her feet as she broke into a run. Overhead, drifting clouds formed avaporous army, overpowering the moon.Gripping the grocery bag tightly, she heard the can of beans clunk against the jar of peanut butter. She twisted the handles of theswinging plastic bag twice around her fist.She knew she couldn't maintain her speed; her right foot was alreadydragging. Splints and casts in early childhood had stretched her Achilles tendon to the point that no one would have guessed she'd been born with a clubfoot, and she rarely limped unless she was extremelytired. But she'd been on her feet for twelve hours, and adrenalinecouldn't overcome the aching fatigue.Even if she made it to the house, there was no way she'd be able tounlock the door before he caught up with her.My only chance is to surprise him, she thought. I've got to do theunexpected.Stopping dead in her tracks, she wheeled around to face him.She had a quick glimpse of a man whose shoulders strained the leather jacket he wore, and whose expression registered surprise as she swungthe grocery bag as hard as she could.He was too tall for her to reach his face, but she heard him grunt asthe bag struck his chest, winding him. Groceries crashed to the pavement, the jar shattering, as Meg and turned sped away.Headlights turned the corner ahead, the twin beams momentarily blindingher. Desperately she ran out into the street, waving her arms. Thecar swerved, accelerated around her and roared off into the darkness.Meg raced down the center of the street, breath grinding in her throat,right past her house. He wasn't going to trap her on the shadowed porch, she decided.