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The Deadly Match: The Second Wife, #3
The Deadly Match: The Second Wife, #3
The Deadly Match: The Second Wife, #3
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The Deadly Match: The Second Wife, #3

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Our past is proof we survived...

 Equipped with a new identity and a new family, Ally shut the door on her past and refused to look back.
But when her new life falls apart, she discovers the key to protecting her future lies in the hands of the very man who forced her into hiding.

Eddie stayed away for her sake and his own.
But when elements beyond his control come into play, he has no choice but to step in before she winds up dead.

In the final installment of The Second Wife Series, Eddie and Ally find themselves sucked into an international game of cat and mouse where the line between love and hate becomes blurred, loyalties will be challenged, and a past that refuses to stay buried threatens to destroy them all.

PublisherKishan Paul
Release dateSep 17, 2019
The Deadly Match: The Second Wife, #3
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    The Deadly Match - Kishan Paul

    Table of Contents






    Chapter One: Nadiya

    Chapter Two: Homecoming

    Chapter Three: Leanna

    Chapter Four: Rambo

    Chapter Five: ALPS

    Chapter Six: Goats

    Chapter Seven: Mark of Ice

    Chapter Eight: The Ferry Ride

    Chapter Nine: The Soldier’s Truth

    Chapter Ten: Dinesh Patel

    Chapter Eleven: Time

    Chapter Twelve: A Chance

    Chapter Thirteen: Remembering

    Chapter Fourteen: Philadelphia

    Chapter Fifteen: Reunions

    Chapter Sixteen: Commando

    Chapter Seventeen: Trains

    Chapter Eighteen: Sanaa Khalis

    Chapter Nineteen: Securing the Asset

    Chapter Twenty: Omar

    Chapter Twenty-One: Safe

    Chapter Twenty-Two:: Reunion

    Chapter Twenty-Three: Preparations

    Chapter Twenty-Four: Showtime

    Chapter Twenty-Five: The Drive

    Chapter Twenty-Six: The Van

    Chapter Twenty-Seven: Bribes

    Chapter Twenty-Eight: Rafi

    Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Leak

    Chapter Thirty: Khalin

    Chapter Thirty-One: Holes and Games

    Chapter Thirty-Two: Love

    Chapter Thirty-Three: Wassim

    Chapter Thirty-Four: Fierce

    Chapter Thirty-Five: Friend or Foe?

    Chapter Thirty-Six: The Roof

    Chapter Thirty-Seven: Protection

    Chapter Thirty-Eight: Creeping

    Chapter Thirty-Nine: Little Bird

    Chapter Forty: Hope

    Chapter Forty-One: Nikki

    Chapter Forty-Two: Om

    Chapter Forty-Three: Shadows

    Chapter Forty-Four: The Tunnel

    Chapter Forty-Five: Duct Tape

    Chapter Forty-Six: Handing off the Baton

    Chapter Forty-Seven: The Grave

    Chapter Forty-Eight: Sticky Notes

    Chapter Forty-Nine: Cannon Beach

    Chapter Fifty: Roads

    Chapter Fifty-One: The Sun

    Chapter Fifty-Two: Ice Cream

    Chapter Fifty-Three: The Night

    Chapter Fifty-Four: On Notice


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    Special Cut Scene from The Deadly Match

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    Also by Kishan Paul

    About the Author






    Read The Deadly Match

    Kish’s Collective


    Other books by Kishan Paul

    About the Author

    In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, eBooks are not transferable.

    They cannot be sold, shared, or given away. It is an infringement on the copyright of this work to do so.

    This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

    The Deadly Match: Book 3 of The Second Wife Series

    Copyright © 2019 by Kishan Paul

    ISBN-13: 978-0-9985294-8-6

    Edited by Tera Cuskaden and The Editing Hall

    Cover by Original Syn

    Formatting by Anessa Books


    "The only force capable of giving us the will to keep fighting, to keep moving

    forward until our dreams become reality."

    ~ Ally


    Publishing The Deadly Match is bittersweet. It means the end of The Second Wife Series. A series that has been a seven-year, all-consuming commitment. The characters became an integral part of my life, my dreams. Their names a constant in my brain. (I even asked if we could name our new dog Ally. Sadly, my family said no.) Ally and the people she called family became my family. They are a part of me and will always be.

    I learned so much during this process: How to kill people, how to bring them back to life, the struggles of having a chronically ill family member, the ugliness and utter beauty of people. Much of what I learned came from the support and guidance of those more knowledgeable than I, and I would like to take this time to thank them all for helping me make the best version possible of The Deadly Match.

    My greatest gratitude goes to the higher power: The One who made everything possible.

    To my family and friends: your support has been invaluable. You've tolerated my crazy ramblings and have been unfazed by my blank stares when my brain goes into plotting mode. I hope you've been keeping track of all those things I promised you I would do once the book was done. Because I haven't.

    To my fabulous pundits: Thank you to Sharon Persaud, Senior Public Relations Manager of DKMS, and Paul Scribner and Leigh Clark of Aplastic Anemia and MDS Int. Foundation for their patience and willingness to educate me and their valuable insights into Aplastic Anemia and the donor process and challenges. A special thank you to the families and patients who shared their stories. In particular, Robert Le Francis for giving me insight into your experiences as a father of a child struggling with blood cancer and for sharing Princess Anya's story with me. To Cory Adams for allowing me into your personal battle and victory with Aplastic Anemia. I am humbled by all of you and your willingness to allow a stranger access into your world. To Anish Khanna and Marina Cherian for your guidance and feedback on all things Mumbai. To Jim Gerlach, owner of Nasi Orchards in Vashon Island, Washington. Your property was the inspiration for the orchard in The Deadly Match. Thank you for answering my very random questions. To my tactical advisors: Amber J Bates, US Security Contractor Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan and Craig S Swaford, LCDR SEAL, USN (Ret.) for explaining all things weapons related, surveillance, and how a soldier might talk and think. To my medical advisors: Dr Bindhu Oommen and Dr Julie Mani, for not blocking my number and answering all my questions about strange and disturbing medical scenarios.

    To my beta readers: April Stone, Renee P, Kristen Sanchez, Jennifer Daniels, and Jaya M. All of you have been with me since The Second Wife. I am humbled you've stuck around. You took a jumbled hot mess and helped it become something so much more. Thank you for not holding back on your thoughts. And thank you to my proofreaders: Deb Jones Diem, Maquila Porter, Nicole Ulrey, and Anjali Banerji for your thoroughness and attention to detail. This series is better because of each of your insights.

    To my amazing editors: Tera Cuskaden (you tore this baby up and handed it back to me in pieces and said now go fix it) and Chris Hall of The Editing Hall (for threatening to show up at my door if I didn’t send you chapters and for your critical eye). You both have been part of my journey from the start. You’ve pushed me to finish and then ripped it apart once I did. I have learned so much from you. You two are my rocks.

    Thank you Syneca Featherston of Original Syn for all three of the amazing covers in The Second Wife Series and Meredith Bond at Anessa Books for her mad formatting skills. To Heather Roberts of L. Woods PR for your help in getting this book out there.

    To Nicole Ulery, my author’s assistant. There are so many parts of this job I love and so many parts I don’t. Thank you for taking over the parts I don’t enjoy, so that I can focus on the parts I do love. I would have run for the hills if it wasn’t for you.

    To my readers: Thank you for loving Ally and following her journey. I am humbled by your outpouring of love and support. I truly believe that there is a part of Alisha Dimarchi in all of us. We are all survivors, each possessing a deep instinctual desire to fight no matter how hard or painful life becomes. Wear that survivor banner proudly my friends.

    Please keep reading to the very end to learn how you might be able to help someone else become a survivor.



    Sweat glued Raz’s denim-clad ass to the plastic yard chair he sat on. Positioned in front of a little outdoor café in a western suburb of Mumbai, the afternoon summer sun was cooking him alive. He shifted in his seat and pulled his shirt away from his slick skin while scanning the perimeter. Hidden in the chaos of heat, smells, sounds, cars, and humans was the one person he waited for. Although the identity of the person was a mystery, the importance of the meeting was crystal. Moisture from his forehead formed streaks down the polycarbonate lens of his glasses.

    It wasn’t the heat alone that tormented him. Located in the middle of one of the city’s busiest shopping centers, the oversaturation of sounds and smells exacerbated the pulsing in his temples.

    "Clean your lens," the voice in his ear ordered.

    What’s the point? he grumbled and slipped them off. He wiped his forehead while muttering a stream of curses under his breath. Perspiration oozed from parts of him he never realized perspired. He cleaned the smudges and droplets off the glass, raising the frames over his head to ensure they were spotless before returning them to their rightful spot on his nose. Not that they helped his sight in any way; he had perfect twenty-twenty vision. The purpose of the overpriced glasses was to aid the other members of his team to see what he saw. One of those members sat miles away, surrounded by computer screens monitoring every face and movement within a ten-mile perimeter of the meeting point.

    He sucked in a lungful of the blistering air and grimaced. The heavy heat had a way of cooking the city’s individual odors in to one powerfully thick, smoky, and overwhelming concoction. The pungent aroma made every breath he took more painful than the one before. In this case, the mixture was a combination of the scents of savory dishes cooking from nearby restaurants and the fumes from local factories, and the diesel and gasoline exhaust from the vehicles swarming around the city.

    Raz pressed on one of the tiny screws that secured the glasses to the lens. A second later, a click echoed in his ear. Comms check, he mumbled while shifting in his seat.

    "Hearing you loud and clear, and by the way, it’s a lovely twenty-six degrees Celsius here," Sai replied.

    Asshole, Raz muttered and wiped sweat off the back of his neck.

    The asshole’s laughter reverberated in his ear, easing some of the tightness in Raz’s muscles.

    "Check, Moose announced. And affirmative. He is an asshole."

    Raz assessed the business complex across the street. He couldn’t see him, but perched on its roof with his rifle aimed directly at him was their best sniper.

    "Check," Ari chimed in. Raz had spotted him earlier. Disguised as a local, he wandered through the street pretending to check out shoes at a nearby stall.

    Vehicles of all forms—cars, auto-rickshaws, trucks, and motorcycles—moved through the congested intersection, and weaving through the mess of traffic were people. Like ants, Mumbaikars scurried around the vehicles and made their way to and from the center's walkways. Horns blared. Pedestrians yelled at the drivers who honked and cursed back for blocking their paths. Others chatted either with those beside them or to their cellphones. Vendors positioned their portable stalls laden with goods up and down the street and called out to passersby, hoping to entice them to check out their merchandise.

    There were eyes everywhere. All of them on high alert, waiting for the meet to go down.

    "Check." Boss. The man who wore a hundred masks. Their leader, trainer, he directed their missions and made sure no one died.

    "Ditto, and enjoy the AC. Retribution will be painful."

    He glanced through the glass wall of the cafe at the individual making the threat. Dressed in drag, the operative carried a tray with cups of coffee to waiting customers. Every ceiling fan inside circulated on high, and still, the armpits of his white blouse were dark with perspiration.

    "Have any of you ever noticed what a nice ass Tay has?"

    Ari’s question had Raz scanning the curve of their drag queen’s hips, who currently leaned over to place drinks on the table.

    "Nope. I was too busy checking out his breasts," Moose deadpanned.

    "Fuck you," Tay growled as he made his way to kitchen.

    Raz hid his laugh under a cough and tapped his nails against the table. One person hadn’t checked in yet. The last Raz had seen him, he was wandering around the back parking lot, pretending to be on the phone.

    "Rear lot all clear." And there was Om.

    After a few more inappropriate assessments of Tay’s assets, the feed went quiet. He checked the time. The unknown should become known any second.


    He picked up his coffee and waited for Boss to continue.

    "At least try to look like you don’t have a stick up your ass."

    He ignored the chuckles from the others, nodded, and took a leisurely sip of the overly sweetened drink, trying to follow the directive. Boss was right. He needed to cool it. Considering all the cases he’d worked in one capacity or another, nerves shouldn’t have been an issue. But this one differed for a shitload of reasons. The weight of the world rested on his shoulders. Okay maybe not the world, but the life of one kid did.

    "Suspicious black BMW pulling up to the back driveway of the jewelry store."

    His pulse quickened at Om’s announcement. He lifted his phone from the black-and red-checkered tablecloth and scrolled through the social media apps.

    "Sai, get eyes on it," Boss ordered.

    "Already there."

    Raz slipped a hand under the long plastic tablecloth, rested it atop the weapon on his thigh, and listened to the chatter.

    "Male passenger exiting back seat of vehicle. About five-eight, in jeans, white tee, denim jacket. Gun in the back of his jeans…" Om paused in the middle of his commentary. Fuck, he mumbled.

    Raz’s hands stilled as silence permeated the comms.

    "Translation?" Boss hissed.

    "It’s Adil…" Sai answered for the now silent Om.

    Raz stiffened at the mention of the brother he hadn’t seen since the day they escaped Sayeed’s compound.

    "Repeat?" Boss ordered.

    "Adil is the fucking target. Turning in to the alley between the jeweler’s and the coffee shop. Headed your way."

    Irritation prickled along Raz’s neck. Adil worked with Wassim. This shouldn’t have surprised him, but it did.

    Boss’s mumbled curses filled his ear. "Moose?"

    "Locked in, came the sniper’s quipped reply. And affirmative. It’s Adil."

    Raz had put the word out that he needed to meet with Wassim. When he got a reply of time and place, he’d hoped the man would show but figured it would be someone else. Just hadn’t figured the someone to be one of his own.

    "Son of a bitch, Boss hissed. Okay, we have thirty seconds before he makes Raz. You need to decide now if we complete this mission or shut it down."

    A valid question, considering for six out of seven of them, the target was someone they called brother. Abandoned by their birth parents, they’d survived the hell of the orphanage together, and then a few more years under their adoptive father Sayeed’s custody, only to be torn apart and scattered across the globe when he died.

    "Complete it," Moose answered first.

    "Agreed," Sai affirmed. Ari, Om, and Tay’s one-word agreements quickly followed.

    Silence filled the feed while they awaited the final reply.


    He stared at the red and black checkered print of the table. Could he do this? Especially if this meant killing one of his own.


    He pretended to text on his phone and reminded himself of the reason he asked for the job. "In."

    As soon as he gave his consent, Boss shot out his next order. "Sai, access all available dash cams. We need to find out who else is in the BMW."

    "Done. One driver. On the phone. No one else. Checking facial recognition and cell phone feeds."

    "Target coming at you, Moose whispered. To your right in…"

    Raz dropped the cell and gripped the smooth steel of the coffee mug, his attention aimed in the direction Moose indicated.


    He lifted his drink with one hand while he shifted his weapon in the direction of the alley where Adil would appear.


    He pressed the warm metal to his lips and took a swallow.

    "…three…" The comm went silent and would stay dead unless necessary.

    Clean shaven, streaks of red running through his brown hair, and a phone pressed to his ear, Adil materialized from the alley beside the cement wall of the coffee shop. While he searched the spot for Raz, Raz searched him. The scrawny kid he remembered had filled out and grown taller. When their gazes locked, the target grinned, slipped his cell in his jacket, and made his approach.

    Phone, jacket, right pocket. Smart watch, right wrist. Weapon left ankle, Raz mumbled against the lip of his cup before returning the coffee to the table.

    He leaned back in his chair and grinned up at the man who approached. Adil? Is that you?

    "Razaa. It’s good to see you, Bhai. It’s been too long." Adil stopped once he was at Raz’s side and gave his shoulder a firm squeeze.

    Yes. Raz’s chest tightened. Sit. He slid the bag off the seat across from him and watched as Adil lowered onto the spot. I never thought I’d see you again. He didn’t have to feign sincerity.

    Fate manages to surprise us sometimes, no? Adil mused, his eyes glistening with emotion.

    The two stared at each other, neither speaking. Recollections of a childhood he shared with the man seated across from him flooded Raz until Boss’s cough in his ear reminded him of the purpose of this visit. Where did they send you after Sayeed Babba’s house exploded? It was a question he already knew the answer to. He’d made it a point to track down all of his brothers in the past year.

    Istanbul, Adil confirmed. To live with a general from the Special Forces Command and his lovely but lonely wife. Life wasn’t too bad until the general realized I kept his wife and his bed warm when he went off on a mission. Adil winked. It was fun while it lasted though. I heard you didn’t fare as well.

    Raz tipped his head. You heard correctly. I wound up in Inshas with one of the trainers for the Thunderbolt, an Egyptian special unit. His jaw tightened. He grabbed the empty cup and pretended to take a sip. Trust me, there was nothing warm about my placement. I ran as fast as I could.

    Adil nodded. And, like me, you wound up in Mumbai?

    He ran his finger along the rim of the vessel. No. I’m here for a meeting. One that should be happening any second now.

    Raz willed Adil to prove him and the others wrong. To say something indicating his arrival was a coincidence.

    Instead, his brother laughed and planted his elbows on the table and leaned forward. Well, wait no more. I am your appointment.

    He lifted his brows and feigned surprise. You’re working with Wassim Bhai, then?

    Yes, and—his brother scanned the area before leaning in—for some reason he thinks you are trying to kill him.

    Me? Raz laughed.

    I shared a similar reaction. You’re the most loyal person I know. Hell, from what I’ve heard, you snuck in to the States and killed our dear Sara’s husband. What greater proof of loyalty is there?

    Raz’s grip on his weapon tightened.

    But he insists you’re untrustworthy. Adil chuckled. Poor guy’s a little paranoid. I’m one of the few he trusts. Even then, he refused to let me come. I insisted. You’re my brother. You won’t hurt me. So, here I am.

    Although his tone sounded light, from the intensity of his gaze, Wassim wasn’t alone in his beliefs.

    Here you are. Raz tipped his chin in Adil’s direction. And you brought a gun or two…

    The armed brother in question shrugged and waved at the waitress. You remember Babba’s saying: Hope for a stroll, but—

    Be ready for a sprint, the men recited in unison.

    Adil’s eyes filled. It’s been a long time, brother.

    Disgust and disappointment squeezed his chest. Sprinkled in with the other two emotions was a heavy dose of guilt. If he’d gotten to him sooner, could he have prevented the current situation? Why haven’t you responded to any of my messages?

    Adil shrugged. Many of us have moved on from our pasts and don’t want to go back to the old ways.

    Makes sense. Raz leaned back and crossed his arms, studying him. Kidnapping and imprisoning people tends to keep one busy.

    His brother’s brows rose. You’ve been following up on me?

    Not any more than you’ve been following up on me.

    "Stay on task," Boss snapped.

    He cleared his throat. The man across from him was a target. Something he needed to remember. I’ve been searching for all my brothers and Wassim Bhai for years.

    Now you’ve found us. Tell me, why the urgency to meet Bhai?

    He slid the empty glass to the side, planted his arms on the table, and leaned forward. Someone important to him needs his help.

    "I’m en route," Tay said.

    Adil mirrored his pose. What kind of help?

    What can I get for you, sir? Adil jumped at the waitress’s question, silencing them both.

    Raz watched for any indication that Adil recognized the brother hidden under the wig, makeup, and women’s attire. The top buttons of Tay’s white blouse were unbuttoned, revealing the tops of his prosthetic breasts and the black lace bra, which held them in place. When he bent down to slide the tray onto the table, Adil took the opportunity to gaze down their waitress’ shirt.

    Another coffee, please. Raz placed his now-empty vessel on the silver tray.

    And you? Tay inched closer, fixing his kajal-rimmed eyes on the target and smiled his bright-red stained lips.

    I’m hungry, Adil confessed while he admired his waitress’s cleavage, making his desires clear. What can you offer me?

    The server began a five-minute lecture, listing off the various baked items from the menu and sharing unnecessary details on how each item was made. At the end of the lengthy speech, the waitress grinned down at Adil, allowing him to answer. Cold orange soda and the chicken rolls for me and my brother, please. My treat.

    Brother? Tay planted a manicured hand on each of their shoulders and searched their faces. I don’t see the resemblance.

    The two shared a knowing glance. We are brothers, but not in blood, Raz explained.

    After the waitress retreated inside the cafe to get their orders, an awkward silence fell between them.

    "Buy me time." Tay’s whispered voice filled the feed.

    Raz pushed his glasses farther up his nose and grinned. Do you remember how I saved your life?

    Adil laughed. Please, I could have handled Fat Musa Samosa without your help.

    Fat Musa Samosa’s hissed whisper of curses echoed in his feed, followed by Boss’s order for Moose to shut up.

    Really? Because what I remember is you wetting your pants while your bloody nose turned your face and clothes red, screaming for help while he beat the living shit out of you. You’d be dead if I hadn’t pulled him off. Why the hell would you call someone as big as him a name in the first place? I don’t think he’d have touched you if you’d just kept your mouth shut.

    Adil chuckled and shook his head. I was an arrogant little shit, wasn’t I? The man’s smile vanished. My asshole of a father had just dropped me off at the orphanage, leaving me two choices, either kill myself or someone else. Fat Musa Samosa seemed the perfect target. But you botched it up by—

    Saving your life? Raz interjected. And how many times did I have to do that because of you and your nicknames?

    Adil shook his head, a proud smile stretched across his face. Those nicknames were golden. Except for you. I couldn’t come up with a good one for you.

    Raz smiled back. You were an all-around asshole. Remember when you stole Umber’s favorite pillow?

    I did Dumber Umber a favor. Eight-year-old boys shouldn’t be crying all the time, much less needing to hug their favorite pillows when they do…

    He kept him talking about their past and their brothers until Tay returned with their order.

    When he bent over and placed the tray of food on the table, Adil’s interest returned to Tay’s cleavage. He inched closer, granting him a better visual. Here are the soda and the chicken rolls you ordered.

    Too fixated on the cleavage, Adil hopefully didn’t notice Tay returning the cell phone he’d swiped from him when he took his order. Since the cook just made fresh muffins, I threw a few in just for you two. He winked, placing the cakes in the center of their table. Enjoy.

    Neither spoke until the waitress disappeared inside the store. Adil took a sip from the straw poking out of the long neck of his orange bottled cola. Have you seen any of the others?

    Some. Raz grabbed a muffin from the plate and bit in to it. Warm sweet bread with hints of berry melted on his tongue. Others, like you, haven’t responded. He slid the plate toward his brother. They’re good. Reminds me of Alyah Mummy’s cakes.

    There’s a name I haven’t heard in years. Adil searched through the platter of hot bread before selecting one and popping it in his mouth. Speaking of the mummies, Bhai thinks you are buddy-buddy with Sara Irfani. He grabbed one of the chicken wraps and bit into it as well. That’s not even her real name.

    Raz took another nibble of his bread before responding. I am close to her. She will always be like a mother to me.

    Adil wiped the corner of his mouth with a paper napkin. A mother who killed your adopted father, his wife, his brother, his father, and many more.

    That’s one theory. There are several others.

    Is that why you’re here? He wadded up the napkin and tossed it on the table before reaching for his soda. To explain the other theories?

    No. Remember, I didn’t know I would see you. He copied his brother and sipped his coffee. But even if I did expect you, I know better than to share my theories with you. I came here to meet Wassim Bhai, or at least pass along a message.

    Adil waved his hand for him to continue.

    I need something from him.

    His brother grinned. He is a generous man. Tell me what you need, and I will pass it along.

    He reached inside his messenger bag, noting the way his brother stiffened at his movement, and pulled out the picture and a narrow white packet, placing them both on the table. I need him to take a test. Razaa slid the kit across the table. Everything he needs is in there. All he has to do is rub the cotton tip inside his cheek and mail it back in the envelope. To protect his identity, I registered him as Dinesh Patel.

    Dinesh Patel. Adil stared at the package with disdain. And why would he do this?

    He pushed the picture to his brother. Because it could save this child’s life.

    Or it could be poisonous. Adil took a long sip of his drink while he stared at the image of a child. Who is he?

    That is information Wassim Bhai will decide if he wants to share with you.

    A lazy grin stretched across his face. Bhai tells me everything.

    Raz shrugged. Apparently, not everything.

    His response had the intended result. Adil scowled and pushed the image and packet toward him. I understand him well enough to know he will not risk putting poison in his mouth for a random boy.

    If I wanted to have him killed, don’t you think I’d have come up with a more creative way?

    They stared each other down, neither speaking for a beat. Raz broke the staring match and waved his hand at the envelope. It is not poisonous. Just a cotton swab. Everything is clean and untouched. He will put it in the envelope and mail it. They will test Dinesh Patel’s sample to see if he can help the child.

    Adil steepled his fingers and rested his chin on them. Why would he risk all he has to help this brat?

    Give him the picture. He’ll fill in the rest. Raz tapped his finger on the image. And I assure you, he will kill you if you don’t.

    Adil surveyed him as if trying to read inside his head, amusing Raz. He sipped the now lukewarm coffee and waited. Once upon a time, the man across the table looked up to him and considered him a trusted brother. Their loyalty so strong, they’d have died for the other and asked questions later. It was sad to see just how easily the bonds of loyalty frayed.

    I put my number on the pictures. Raz leaned back in his chair. In case he surprises you and wants more information.

    What guarantee do I have there is no tracker on it?

    He has the technology to scan for those things.

    Adil picked up the packet and picture, slipping them in his pocket. I will send it to him. But I assure you the only thing he will want is Sara Irfani’s head.

    Their eyes locked. If he is a match, that can be arranged.




    Arms crossed, Ally’s attention flitted between the six monitors affixed to the rear wall of her surveillance room. Tense muscles coiled tighter while she scrutinized the black SUV with dark-tinted windows. It had sat idle in the same spot for the past ten minutes, right outside her front gates.

    For the hundredth time, she inspected the other screens for additional threats. Each one live-streamed views and angles of the perimeter through cameras strategically placed throughout her sixty-plus acres of property. Some flashed aerial views of the apple and pear orchard. Another set displayed a full three-sixty of her two-story red-bricked Tudor-style home and of the second smaller fence that encircled the house and lawn. Other cameras focused on her barns and the driveway lined with cherry trees leading up to her home. All of which appeared undisturbed.

    She dialed into the intercom and cleared her throat before speaking to the receiver of her cell. This is Nadiya Lane. You are trespassing on my property. Identify yourself or leave.

    The silence that greeted her made the sound of her pulse thudding behind her ears seem louder. After several minutes of nothing, she disconnected and pressed one on the speed dial.

    Her orchardist and best friend Leanna, or Lee as she called her, picked up on the first ring. Still no response, I take it?

    No. Can you make out the occupants?

    One passenger and the driver. It’s all I can make out. The windows are too dark. It’s a rental. No other vehicles. You seeing the same?

    Ally zoomed in as much as she could before answering. Yes. With all the cameras and safeguards they had in place, how could this happen?

    Time to call Justin?

    She considered the option. The sheriff of the local police department was the only person on the island who understood their real story. He was an invaluable ally who’d come to their aid on more than a couple occasions the past few years. She bit her lip and watched the SUV. Let’s give it a couple more minutes. If they don’t drive away, I’ll call him. She disconnected the line and tightened her grip on the phone as she willed the SUV to drive away.

    Who’s here, Momma?

    She jumped at his voice. So engrossed in the mysterious vehicle, she hadn’t noticed Jayden entering the room. Ally drew in a few breaths and calmed herself before plastering on a smile, glancing over her shoulder at her son and the two dogs who’d become his steadfast shadows. Large pale green orbs, currently double in size, stared past her at the screens. The sharp edges of his collarbone peeked out from under his shirt collar when he craned his head to study the SUV on the monitors. Barely over four feet, two inches tall, the little guy leaned his head back the closer he got to the images secured on the wall above him.

    Momma, who’s that?

    She shook her head when he asked her the same question a second time. I don’t know, she mumbled.

    I bet it’s Bhai. His face lit up. Maybe he’s finally home!

    She rested her hand on his unruly brown