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The pain and the regrets and everything else would work out. They loved each other, and true love could overcome anything.


Jennifer startled awake. She was cuddled against Tristan on the couch, and they must’ve slept for a while, as it was dark outside the cottage windows.

Maybe they shouldn’t have fallen asleep but they hadn’t slept well the past two nights, and today had been insanely stressful and emotionally grueling. She was surprised no one had come into the cottage or called them. That probably meant there’d been no progress in finding her mum. Her stomach knotted with worry. She cuddled into Tristan, loving the reassurance and strength he gave her. He was benevolent, forgiving, and loved her completely. He could heal the shock and pain of what they’d all been through. Would he really put that gorgeous diamond ring back on her finger? They’d of course talked about marriage throughout the years but with all her travel and missions and his heavy demands they hadn’t ever settled on a date. She was more than ready to take that step with him now.

She felt a cool breeze and glanced up. The patio door was slightly ajar. Was that what had woken her? The back patio had a small stretch of grass that led down to the lake. It was awful to imagine her mum sneaking out those doors to confront Queen Anne, shoving her friend into the icy lake, and inadvertently killing her. She shivered.

Tristan stirred, then straightened. In the murky dark, she couldn’t see his glorious blue eyes, but she could make out his facial shape and features. She knew him so well and loved every bit of him, scars and all.

“Hey, beautiful. Did you rest?”

“No,” she teased. “I just watched you drool and listened to you snore for hours.”

He laughed. “Very attractive drool and snoring, I’m sure.”

“Very,” she agreed drily. The patio door creaked open wider with a chilly breeze.

Tristan moved quickly. He lifted her off his lap and onto the next cushion, then stood and hurried to the door. He latched it and twisted the lock, then armed the security on the wall.

“I thought I’d armed that earlier,” he muttered, drawing out his sidearm.

Prickles of unease made Jennifer’s hair stand on end. She eased up from the couch.

Movement in the shadows confirmed her fears. Two large men appeared with huge rifles pointed at Tristan’s head.

“Make a move with that gun or call for help and it’ll be the last thing you do,” Naomi Rindlesbacher threatened Tristan.

Naomi and her mum stepped into the room.

Naomi had a pistol against her mum’s head. Her mum looked bruised and battered. Blood was matted at her temple and dried against her lip. Her mouth was covered with duct tape and her hands were bound in front of her.

“Mum!” Jennifer sprang to her feet.

“Don’t move unless you want her dead,” Naomi said coldly.

Jennifer had no doubt this woman would shoot. She wanted to scream for the guard that was supposed to be out front. Had they come in through the lake? A boat?

“How did you get in?” Tristan asked, echoing her thoughts.

“A very quiet motorboat.” Naomi attempted a fake smile, but her lips and cheeks didn’t cooperate very well. “Leslie told us the code to disarm the cottage security and to get in the back door during one of her ‘therapy’ sessions.”

Jennifer’s neck tightened at the thought of her mum being tortured into revealing that information.

Naomi looked around the cottage. “Where is William? Why aren’t you dead?” Naomi’s face no longer shifted in traditional facial expressions, but her eyes actually looked afraid. “When he didn’t arrive at our rendezvous point or respond to calls and texts, we came to the second rendezvous point, where we’re supposed to claim our castle and throne.”

“You’re delusional, and William is dead,” Tristan said in a level tone, as if he was telling her the weather.

“No!” Naomi shrieked. “No!” She pulled the pistol from Leslie’s head and pointed it shakily at Tristan. “I’ll kill you!”

Tristan smiled. Smiled! What was he thinking, taunting this crazy lady?

“Good luck,” he said.

Then he dropped low and kicked one of the assailant’s legs out from under him. The man toppled and knocked into the other man. They both went down on top of Tristan.

“Tristan!” Jennifer cried out.

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