Enjoy millions of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more, with a free trial

Only $11.99/month after trial. Cancel anytime.

Survive the Night: 24 Hours - Final Countdown, #1
Survive the Night: 24 Hours - Final Countdown, #1
Survive the Night: 24 Hours - Final Countdown, #1
Ebook351 pages4 hours

Survive the Night: 24 Hours - Final Countdown, #1

Rating: 0 out of 5 stars


Read preview

About this ebook

Lifeand lovehang in the balance.

Pacifist Bailey Chambers fell for SWAT door-kicker Conall O'Rourke against her better judgment. A glimpse into his violent job helped her regain her senses, and she dumped the roguishly handsome cop.

Conall O'Rourke doesn't believe in surrender. He's determined to woo, win, and wed the woman he loves, despite her trepidation about his job.

But when they wind up trapped in a mall with a gang of ruthless bank robbers who've taken hostages, they must work as a team to save everyone, before time runs out.

As the deadline clock counts down, Bailey and Con each offer the ultimate sacrifice, desperate to ensure the other will survive the night.

If they both make it…will their love survive as well?

Just 24 Hours can change your life.

Previously Published as Midnight Hero

PublisherDiana Duncan
Release dateOct 3, 2018
Survive the Night: 24 Hours - Final Countdown, #1
Read preview

Diana Duncan

When her dreams of becoming a ballerina were quashed by early-onset klutziness, Diana Duncan took up the safer vocation of writing. Her first thrilling masterpiece--written in orange crayon--was titled "Perky the Kitten," and became an instant bestseller with her grandparents.  Her childhood growing up as a military brat gave her the ability to leap into a conversation with anyone, anywhere, anytime...and she always discovers a new friend in the process. This gift of gab perfectly equipped her for a career that involves making stuff up. Di is famous for using seven words when one will do. She wields smart-assery like a samurai sword, and will be the first to volunteer in a catastrophe. Of course, she was probably the one who caused the catastrophe. She's fiercely loyal to her friends and family...but in the event of the upcoming zombie apocalypse, she won't hesitate to use them as human shields. She loves her job as an author, and claims writing is the most fun she's ever had while wearing her sock monkey pajamas. She also enjoys gardening, cooking, and adopting abandoned curbside furniture to refurbish into treasures. Diana published 6 award-winning books with a traditional NY publishing house before going rogue with Indie publishing. 10% of the proceeds of every book she sells is donated to different organizations that serve those who are in need, both people and animals. Di loves to hear from her readers. Write to her at writedianaduncan@msn.com Join her on Facebook on her official author page, and feel free to stop by and ogle her kilted hunks on her website www.dianaduncan.com

Read more from Diana Duncan

Related to Survive the Night

Titles in the series (4)

View More

Related ebooks

Related categories

Reviews for Survive the Night

Rating: 0 out of 5 stars
0 ratings

0 ratings0 reviews

What did you think?

Tap to rate

Review must be at least 10 words

    Book preview

    Survive the Night - Diana Duncan



    Diana Duncan


    For my amazing husband, who encouraged me, supported me in every way, let me soak the fronts of his shirts with countless tears, and clocked literally thousands of hours of overtime so I could follow my dream and write. I love you, honey. You’ll always be my hero.

    Table of Contents



    Chapter 1

    Chapter 2

    Chapter 3

    Chapter 4

    Chapter 5

    Chapter 6

    Chapter 7

    Chapter 8

    Chapter 9

    Chapter 10

    Chapter 11

    Chapter 12

    Chapter 13

    Chapter 14

    Chapter 15

    Chapter 16

    A Sneak Peek of Survive The Hunt

    Other Books by Diana Duncan

    About The Author


    Yesterday is ashes; tomorrow is wood. Only today does the fire burn brightly.  ~ Ancient Proverb


    Riverside, Oregon New Year’s Eve, 8:00 p.m.


    SWAT team door kicker Conall O’Rourke studied the blood under his fingernails. He’d scrubbed his hands, but blood under the nails was always a bitch to clean.

    How the hell had he ended up ass-deep in bullets and blood?

    His day had started with a promotion, and he’d planned to cap it with a marriage proposal. Today was supposed to be one of the happiest of his life. Instead, he was exhausted, blood-spattered, and beat all to crap.

    Trapped ... a rat in a maze.

    Chest tightening, he stared down at Bailey, dozing beside him in the dreary chill of their murky canvas tent. His lady trusted him to keep her safe—enough to sleep in the middle of combat.

    He wouldn’t fail her.

    Her long, coppery eyelashes rested against creamy cheeks, and delicate blue veins traced beneath her eyelids. A slow pulse fluttered beneath the smooth skin just below her ear—one of her favorite spots to be kissed. Sure, his Bailey was beautiful, but he’d never dated women for their looks. He was intrigued by what went on inside them. What made them tick.

    Baby-fine, red-gold tendrils curling over Bailey’s temples made her appear as delicate as the china dolls his mom kept in a locked cabinet, safely out of reach of four hell-on-wheels sons. But his lady was no china doll. Meeting her had changed his life. Her tender, honest emotions warmed his empty heart, a bright fire in the dark wilderness. And her sharp brain was as agile as her body.

    She only looked fragile. Only thought she was weak. Bailey possessed steely fortitude and remarkable resilience. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have triumphed over childhood tragedy with guts and spirit. Wouldn’t have won freedom from a cold, oppressive mother. Wouldn’t be the caring woman he loved.

    Without her quick intelligence, he’d likely be dead right now.

    He stroked her silky hair, and she breathed out a sigh. If he bought it tonight, and Bailey had to live without him, he hoped he’d given her enough to keep her going.

    And if she died?

    His heart stopped. Then it resumed beating, steady and determined. He’d do anything to make sure that didn’t happen. Give everything.

    Give his own life.

    Grateful she’d finally succumbed to fatigue, he slumped. Now he didn’t have to fake bravado. Damned tough to project strength when he was scared shitless. Tough to stay upbeat when the odds sucked major ass. Even he, an incurable optimist, wouldn’t bet on himself in the coming battle.

    He could no longer pretend confidence, when every instinct screamed they were all gonna die.

    If it were only his life at stake, he’d launch a tactical assault, and screw the risk. But, Jesus, how was he supposed to keep the woman he loved—and three hostages—alive against six Uzi-packing bank robbers? With no escape, no backup. Armed only with a baseball bat.

    Make that five bank robbers. He’d neutralized one earlier in hand-to-hand.

    A Louisville Slugger versus five Uzis still wasn’t hot odds.

    Eerie silence prickled the hair on his nape. His glance shot up, ears straining to hear the slightest noise. Being hunted honed every sense to a razor’s edge.



    Careful not to disturb Bailey, he tore open a pack of cinnamon gum. Chewing gum focused him on the way to an incident site and in the midst of long sieges. During an assault, the spicy taste overrode the smell of gunpowder and gore. Right now he needed the concentration boost. All his focus. Four other lives depended on him.

    He needed every scrap of wits if they were to survive until dawn.

    Chapter 1


    Earlier that morning


    Conall O’Rourke was psyched to take the biggest risk of his risk-filled life. Determination and adrenaline amped his system as he strode across the cold, gloomy parking lot toward the cheerful Rose City Diner. Tucked into one pocket of his black leather jacket were two dozen gold-shield condoms. In the other was the finest platinum and diamond engagement ring a public servant’s salary could buy.

    The ring might be precipitous. The condoms were way overdue.

    Gunmetal clouds loomed on the rainy horizon like smoke over a battlefield. Con flipped up his collar to stave off the dropping temperature. The forecast predicted a nasty winter storm. But no matter what Mother Nature lobbed at him, it was gonna be a beautiful day.

    And night.

    He paused outside the door to automatically scan the lit interior, and scrubbed a hand across his hair. The habitual gesture was the secondary reason he kept his thick black hair short and spiky. Mainly, it was convenient. Getting called out on a moment’s notice to bash down doors and dodge bullets left no time to screw around with your hair.

    He checked his combat watch. 10:00 a.m. Right on time. Through the fogged window, he caught a glimpse of Bailey sitting in their customary booth at the back, and smiled. His lady’s idea of punctuality was arriving everywhere ten minutes early. As dependable as the sunrise. A heady, familiar punch of lust and tenderness kicked him in the chest—as it had the first time he’d seen her. And every single time afterward.

    His woman.

    His soul-mate.

    His future.

    Most guys would think proposing after only four-and-a-half months was moving too fast. Not him. The average SWAT assault-and-rescue, from door breach to secure status, took a mere four to nine seconds. His life and the lives of his teammates depended on his ability to devise a plan and act. Make instantaneous decisions. Smart decisions. Waffle, and you die. Worse, your buddies die because of you.

    Fast was relative.

    Bailey’s early phone call requesting a breakfast meeting was unexpected ... they already had plans to ring in the New Year tonight at the Montrose Hotel. She knew about dinner and dancing. The surprise would be his bended knee proposal followed by a sheet-scorching all-night celebration in the Ambassador Suite.

    He couldn’t wait to see her face when she saw the ring. He’d scouted out nearly a dozen jewelry shops, hating the ice-cold stones and sterile settings. Discouraged, he’d stopped for a coffee, and spotted The One, glittering in the window of an antique store next door. A flawless princess-cut diamond, flanked on either side by a smaller heart-shaped diamond. Vintage 1930’s. Like the woman he’d bought it for, the ring was unique. Old-fashioned yet stylish. Classic, yet romantic. Sparkling with warmth and personality.

    Like his love for her, it was timeless.

    As he stepped inside, a clanging brass bell announcing his arrival, plus the aroma of maple-smoked bacon and fresh-baked biscuits ratcheted his anticipation. Working up the nerve to propose heightened every sense.

    The few other patrons ignored him, but Bailey’s head jerked up. Brilliant eyes bluer than a summer sky locked with his, heating his blood and banishing the chill. He couldn’t believe his good fortune.

    Luck o’ the Irish, boyo.

    One breakfast a day for the next sixty years equaled ... 21,900 chances to sit across the table from this fascinating, intelligent, sexy woman.

    The rest of his life.

    He stroked the black velvet ring box in his pocket, fighting the urge for a premature proposal. Timing was everything. He, of all people, knew that.

    He grinned and waved. Ramrod tense, Bailey didn’t return his smile. As her wary stare watched him approach, he blinked away a discomfiting mental flash of a tiger stalking a defenseless gazelle.

    What the hell? Was she pissed at him? He replayed their date last night. They’d watched a chick flick. Sappy, but—he’d admit only under extreme torture—heartwarming and amusing. And hey, he was with Bailey. They’d eaten a huge bowl of buttered popcorn. She sipped Chablis, he drank Mountain Dew because he was on call. Then they’d gotten hot-and-heavy on her couch ... until his cell phone shrilled, summoning the team to serve a no-knock warrant on a meth lab.

    A fortunate interruption, considering how hard he’d fought his desire. He’d nearly lost the battle to subdue his raging hunger, and make her his ... in every way.

    But he recalled nothing that would’ve upset her.

    Mornin’, darlin’. Switch with me?

    Sure. Her agreement was too quiet. Foreboding itched between his shoulder blades. During a siege, things often got too quiet right before unholy warfare erupted.

    She pushed her cup of peppermint tea across the table, then rose, her usual graceful movements awkward. Sorry, I’m distracted this morning. I forgot you like to sit where you can see the door.

    As she passed, he breathed in her alluring scent of rose petals and peppermint. Hunger that had nothing to do with food whammied him. No big deal. He slid into the seat across from her and raised her hand to his lips. Deathly cold fingers quivered in his. Not passion. Distress. He frowned. What’s the matter, sweetheart?

    Before she could reply, Marion, the stocky, gray-haired server moseyed over to pour coffee for him. The usual breakfast, kiddos?

    Con looked at Bailey, and she shook her head.

    Uh, I think we need a few minutes today, he said. Thanks, Marion.

    Okay, let me know when.

    Marion sauntered toward the kitchen and Con turned back to Bailey. The dainty silver seagull charm he’d bought her on their first date nestled at the hollow of her throat. She never took off the trinket. It dangled from a fine silver chain right below where her pulse throbbed—much too fast.

    The pale yellow ruffled blouse she wore normally complemented her porcelain complexion. Today, her face was a wan contrast to her long strawberry blonde waves. Her nearly full mug of peppermint tea sat on the tabletop. Not like Bailey at all. His lady drank her favorite tea by the gallon.

    She tugged her hand away, and he tensed. Bailey, what’s wrong?

    She shifted. Scrubbed her palms on her gray wool slacks. Wouldn’t meet his eyes. The same nervous tells he’d seen in suspects sweating out an interrogation. His own tungsten nerves were taking a beating. If she didn’t get to the point soon, he’d start twitching.

    Con ... Her teeth bit into her bottom lip. Last night, his teeth had teased and tempted that lush pink lip until they’d both been gasping. I’ve struggled and worried ... and finally had to make a decision.

    He relaxed. Her new manager had been unfairly jumping down her throat for three months. Bailey gave every decision careful consideration, and devotion to her customers and co-workers warred with her desire to escape the dickhead. Bailey’s staunch loyalty was one of her qualities Con admired most. You finally decided to tell Berserker Boss to cram it, and take the supervisory position in the bookstore across town, huh? He lifted his mug in a salute before gulping hot, bracing coffee. Way to go.

    This isn’t about work. She nervously sipped tea. It’s about last night.

    He effortlessly switched gears. Okay. Like him, she’d obviously reached her sexual frustration limit. Unlike him, she felt awkward talking about it. Now, darlin’, just because I almost set your sofa on fire ...

    If you hadn’t been called out, we’d have made love.

    No. I was far gone, but maintained control. Perilously close, he’d clung to the razor’s edge. He understood Bailey well enough to know she wanted commitment before sex. But now, asking him for commitment had her tied in knots.

    She was probably afraid he’d run—a typical male reaction.

    He’d never been typical. Prime example: falling in love with quietly passionate bookworm Bailey. His previous women had been blatant extroverts. Good-time girls. Fun, but shallow as political promises. He hadn’t known he was missing a soul-deep emotional connection ... until he’d met Bailey Chambers.

    Con again caressed the velvet ring box. Hoo boy, was she in for a surprise. Baby, I wouldn’t have taken you anywhere you didn’t want to go.

    That’s the problem. She swallowed hard. I wanted you so much. I didn’t sleep all night.

    He grinned. His job required seamless improv when scenarios unexpectedly changed. Option B: propose here and now, immediately quash her anxiety, and they’d still celebrate later.

    Nerves jittered up his spine. Damn, this was dicier than dodging bullets.

    His mom would call it a life-defining moment and encourage him to remember it. He would. Every detail. Someday, he’d tell their children the story, and if his luck held, their grandchildren.

    The setting wasn’t moonlight and roses, but at least he’d take a knee and get that part right. Con slid to the edge of the seat. Bailey—

    Her shaky grip on his arm stopped him. Please let me finish before I lose my nerve. She exhaled hard. Shuddered. I’m sorry, Con. We have to break up.

    He froze.


    He’d misunderstood. Tough to hear over the roaring in his ears. Excuse me?

    His lady’s heart-shaped face crumpled in despair. It’s over.

    Con shoved aside his coffee. He couldn’t force a drop past the searing lump in his throat if someone held an AK-47 to his head. I don’t think I heard you right.

    We have to break up. I can’t see you anymore.

    His pulse scrambled, and he fought to keep his voice level. There had to be a logical explanation for her sudden change of heart. Or was it sudden? Had he misread her ... misread them? What’s going on? You know I love you. You said you loved me.

    Yes, she whispered. But ... it’s all so complicated now. I’m trying not to make this rougher than it already is on you.

    She’d sliced his guts open, and he was desperately trying to hold everything together. "If you think I’m gonna walk away without an explanation you don’t know me at all. No fu—no way in hell, Bailey. What’s changed since last night?"

    "Last night is exactly why we have to break up."

    Wait ... Huh? How is the fact that we’re sexually combustible a problem?

    I’m not a casual affair woman. And I can’t keep fighting temptation.

    Did she think he was a player who’d use her, then dump her? Maybe she didn’t know him. Funny, he felt as if he’d known her forever. I realize that, sweetheart. He thrust his hand in his pocket, and his fingers clenched on the ring box. Which is why—

    Please, hear me out. I’ve been thinking about our relationship a lot lately. My mother suggested I carefully weigh the pros and cons.

    The blurry picture morphed into painful focus. Dr. Ellen Chambers hadn’t bothered to hide her icy disapproval of him. The chilly polar opposite of her vibrant daughter, Dr. Chambers was a renowned cardiac surgeon—who had zero problem slicing up hearts. At their first meeting, the austere brunette cornered him alone in her kitchen after an uncomfortable dinner thrumming with taut silences. In a tone that flash-froze his balls, she’d told him he was a bad influence on her child.

    He’d just as bluntly reminded Dr. Chambers her daughter was an adult. And what Bailey did with her life was her decision.

    Bailey was steadfast, but even the toughest barricade eventually collapsed under relentless pressure.

    Time for serious damage containment.

    He leaned back, crossed, then uncrossed his arms. As my brothers have often pointed out, I’m far from perfect. I’m open to suggestions. What needs to change?

    Nothing’s the matter with you. We just aren’t right for each other. I don’t want to hurt you. There’s no need to dissect every—

    Shit. Wrong. Dissect it.

    I— We’re too different. She pressed trembling lips together.

    Spill it, Bailey. What’s going on inside your head?

    O-okay. You move fast and decisively, I’m deliberate. Your ideal exercise is the obstacle course/shooting range, mine is yoga. You kick down doors and nail bad guys, I sell books and visit sick kids in hospitals.

    Cotton-mouth forced him to take a drink of coffee through a throat so tight he wasn’t sure he could swallow. Sure, we have differences. Enough differences to challenge us—in a good way—and enough similarities to click. We balance each other out.

    We don’t have any similarities.

    More than you think. He gave her a crooked smile. We both love to read. We’re both intense. Both dedicated to our jobs. Loyal to our loved ones. We care a great deal about other people and their welfare. The way you show your caring is to educate, enlighten, and entertain them. I protect them. He leaned toward her. Most importantly, we love each other.

    She hesitated. Where do you see us in five years?

    His eyes held hers, his thoughts turning tender. Five years? He could see them in fifty-five years. Married. Happy.

    She gulped and looked down, breaking the connection. Where do we live? How many kids do we have? Are we financially secure? Do we have common friends? Is our relationship stable, solid? Are you still in the same high-risk job?

    He’d known her propensity for planning, but damn, overkill much? He scowled. This doubt attack stank of Ellen Chambers’s poisonous influence. Darlin’, every nitty-gritty detail can’t be scheduled. Better to keep some things simple. Ad-lib.

    The only way to be secure, have peace of mind, is to be organized and prepared. Keep everything under control.

    Life isn’t under our control. Crap happens. You deal. He’d learned that heart-shattering lesson too early. The hardest way possible. We’ll handle whatever comes, as it comes. Together.

    You can’t possibly know that. We’ve only been dating four months.

    Four-and-a-half. His index finger slid beneath her chin and tipped up her face until her eyes again met his. But I fell in love with you in four seconds.

    Those remarkable eyes filled. Sometimes love isn’t enough. Every day, you’re immersed in violence and death. I don’t understand violence, can’t be part of it. She gave him a sad, tremulous smile. I can’t even kill the mice that sneak into the storage room at the shop, even though they chew on the books. I set humane traps and let them go.

    Trap and release didn’t work with criminals. He’d arrested too many already on parole for priors. The minute the vermin got out, they crawled right back into your house. But his sensitive lady wouldn’t buy that—she saw the best in everyone.

    He lifted a shoulder. I don’t have a problem with humane mousetraps.

    This isn’t about mice, and you know it. The problem is your job.

    He narrowed his eyes. You’ve known what I do since our first date.

    And lived in denial. Knowing and seeing are two very different things. Today, the morning news forced me to face exactly what you do.

    Enlightenment hit. Ah, shit. Sweetheart, whatever you saw wasn’t the whole story. The media blows everything out of proportion, sensationalizes every detail. They juice up action shots and clip together sound bites in order to pimp out tragedies for ratings.

    She drew a ragged breath. I saw the SWAT team dodging gunshots. Saw explosions and a raging fire, and the smoking, burning meth lab caving in. I saw EMTs carrying out body bags. Crystal tears streaked her face. Four body bags. Three suspects and one SWAT officer. Her voice broke. Th-they didn’t s-say who the officer was.

    He cradled her small, cold hand in his. God. I’m sorry. I had no idea they’d broadcasted all that. The fallen officer was from Bravo Team. I had my phone out ready to call and let you know I was okay this morning, when you called me.

    Her fingers shook in his grasp. You can’t help wanting to be first in line to bounce bullets off your chest. You can’t help being a hero, because that’s who you are.

    I’m no hero. I’m just doing my damn job.

    "Accountants are just doing their damn jobs. Shoe salesmen are just doing their damn jobs. You’re risking your life. My father was a hero, and he ... he ended up in a body bag."

    Oh, sweetheart. He gently squeezed her fingers. She’d told him her father had died when she was younger. A tragedy they had in common. He’d shared the less ... ugly details about Pop’s death, but she’d said nothing about her father’s. Hadn’t said much about him at all. You never told me that.

    He was a fireman. Her entire body was shaking violently. After what losing my dad did to my mother, after what it did to me, I can’t ... Another unsteady inhale. I should’ve known better. I can’t.

    He studied her stricken expression. You’re stronger than you believe. And you want to be with me.

    Yes, but what I want doesn’t matter. I can’t let my heart make this decision. I have to make it with my head.

    "The only way to make this decision is with your heart."

    Misery shadowed her blue eyes, stark with resolute determination. No. I have to do what’s best. For your sake.

    How is this for my sake?

    I’m not the kind of woman you need. Or deserve. I don’t have the strength to support you. She was crying openly now. I’ve seen the consequences. With my parents.

    Ice balled in his belly. Could he assault-and-rescue her doubts?

    He squared taut shoulders. He never accepted defeat. On any level.

    We are not our parents. He cupped her face. Hot, wet tears dripped into his hands, making his chest ache. "You’re exactly the kind of woman I need. The only woman I want."

    I was drawn to your vitality, your heat—tempted to play with fire. I’m so much more like my father than I thought. My mother warned him, and he didn’t listen. He died. She might as well have died, too. I refuse to end up like her.

    Bailey, listen. Urgency shattered his formerly calm tone. We can make this work.

    The more we’re together, the closer we get. And the harder it’ll be to end it. I’m just not cut out for your type of adventure.

    "Life is an adventure, darlin’."

    Not mine. I need steady. Predictable. Safe. No matter how much attraction sizzles between us, no matter how much I ... I c-care about you— She choked. In the end, my fears will destroy you.

    You’re upset, understandably. He stroked her cheeks with his thumbs. Last night was ugly. On TV, the incident looked scary and chaotic, but the teams had everything under control. Once you get used to it—

    A daily dose of violence and death, and you grow immune? She shuddered. I wouldn’t.

    That’s not what I meant.

    I could never do what you do.

    Nobody expects you to. Frustrated, scared, he shook his head. Let’s go somewhere private and—

    I’m sorry. So sorry. I’m not brave enough. She pulled away. I can’t bear the inevitable heartbreak. And I would never ask you to give up your calling.


    She shoved to her feet, grabbed her purse. Goodbye, Con.

    Sobbing, she fled.

    Con sat unmoving in the tomb-silent booth, as stunned and shaken as if a flash-bang grenade had exploded in his face.

    What the fuck?

    He’d walked in pumped to ask Bailey to marry him. And here he sat.


    She’d left her coat on the seat when they’d switched places, and then run out without it. He picked it up and buried his nose in the soft brown wool. Evoking the woman who owned it—the woman who owned him—the scents of rose petals and peppermint mingled into an intriguing combination. Soft and sweet, yet fresh and invigorating.

    The world went gray. For a few moments he thought the lights had gone out, then realized the clouds outside were massing overhead. The sky darkened, until morning turned grim as midnight. Then again, maybe it was the haze blurring his vision.

    What was he supposed to do now? He’d unblinkingly faced down gangbangers bearing Uzis. Been stabbed in the forearm by a crazed crack addict during a raid and kept shooting. Rappelled out of a helo without hesitation into a line of gunfire so heavy the smoke obliterated his sight. In nine years on the force, he’d never frozen in the line of duty.

    But combat training could never prepare him for a direct assault on his heart.

    *  *  *

    Fighting the urge to run inside the diner and snatch back her fateful words, Bailey choked on sobs as

    Enjoying the preview?
    Page 1 of 1