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Brianna Douglas was frightened. She was very frightened. Sheer will power kept her clinging to a thin thread of control that prevented her from sinking into pure terror and a burning anger that anyone should dare to do this to her or any other human being. An anger that inspired her with the will to survive. One of her captors aimed a careless kick in her direction and she cowered convincingly. Had he been less filled with a sense of power and a trifle more alert, it might have seemed odd to him that not a single whimper of pain passed her lips even though his heavy boot had connected with bruising force against her thigh. Bree gritted her teeth in a feral smile and allowed her head to fall forward against her chest. Let them think she was on the verge of collapse, it might make them careless. She was, she realized, achingly tired. Every muscle in her body was protesting the abuse that had been heaped on it in the last eighteen hours. She longed to lay down and sink into a deep sleep. Conversely, she had to fight the urge to leap to her feet and run, anything to release the terrible tension that gripped her. She knew only too well that she wouldn't get very far. To think that twenty-four hours ago she had been contemplating nothing more exciting than a good night's sleep. After doing some light housework in her onebedroom apartment she had taken a long hot bath, a luxury that had been denied to her on her last assignment, and gone to bed early. She was looking forward to the next week of relaxation. After tramping through the South American jungles in search of animals that were more than elusive, they were downright invisible, she felt that she had earned some vacation time. She had a luncheon date with her father tomorrow—no, that had been today that she had been due to have lunch with James Douglas, Colorado state senator. She wondered with a trace of amusement what his reaction had been when he was presented, not with his well-groomed
daughter, but with an unkempt, bearded messenger informing him that his youngest child had been kidnapped. He couldn't have had any more of a shock than she had had when she was rudely awakened from a sound sleep by a muffled crash in her living room. She had reacted with a calm born of spending much of her youth in some of the world's most politically unstable areas. She rolled over in bed and slid open the drawer of her nightstand, but she barely had time to get her hand on the small but deadly pistol that lay there when the door to her bedroom was thrown open and three stocky men burst into the room. Moonlight flooded through the open curtains, lighting the scene with a milky brilliance. Bree was not a coward but she was also nobody's fool and, with the barrel of a rifle pointed at her, she obeyed the order, given in guttural English, to pull her hand out of the drawer very slowly. One of the intruders moved over and clicked on the bedside lamp before searching in the drawer to see what she had been after. Coming up with the gun, he snarled his contempt and swung his hand in a slap that knocked her against the headboard and left the taste of blood in her mouth. A sharp command from the one who was apparently the leader stopped a second blow and the man stepped back reluctantly. Bree wiped the trickle of blood from her lip and tamped down the mixture of fright and rage that simmered inside her. Her demand for an explanation was ignored as if she hadn't spoken. Gesturing with the rifle, the leader told her to get up and get dressed for a trip to the mountains. Reluctantly, she swung her legs out of bed, furious at the lack of privacy and thankful that late September in Denver was cold enough to warrant the light pajamas she was wearing instead of her preferred sleeping attire, which was nothing. She dressed swiftly, pulling on a pair of heavy jeans and a long-sleeve flannel shirt over the pajamas. She tried to think of some way to leave a message for those who would be looking for her but she was watched too carefully and the best she could hope for was that her brother Mark might
notice that she had chosen to wear the soft knee-high Apache boots that were her favorite footwear for camping. It wasn't much to hope for but it was the best she had. Of course, even supposing he did realize where she had been taken, the Rocky Mountains was a rather