The Midnight Effect
- Author: Pamela Fryer
- Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
- Year: 2009, August 25
- Genre: Paranormal Romance, Romantic Suspense
- Series: None
- Amazon Listing: The Midnight Effect
- Available Formats (As of 08/31/09):
A wounded cop. A frightened woman. A desperate race to save a child in danger…
In a single phone call, Lily Brent’s entire life—past and future—becomes foggy with confusion and danger. Her estranged sister is dead, and the body is lacking one definitive mark: a surgery scar from the kidney Lily thought she’d donated to her sister long ago.
There’s more than a mystery on her hands. There’s a niece she never knew she had, and a madman on her trail who’s hell-bent on getting the child back.
When a beautiful woman crashes her car into his remote mountain gas station, followed closely by a man with a silencer-equipped pistol, three years of inactive duty fall away as Miles Goodwin springs into action. He saves Lily and her golden child, but nothing can save him from the painful reminder of the family he lost. Retreating to his emotional coma, however, isn’t an option; they’re far from safe.
There’s something strange about a six-year-old girl who’s never eaten a hamburger or heard of Tinkerbell—and who seems to be the source of psychic phenomena so powerful, someone’s willing to kill to get her back.
Warning: Contains heart-pounding suspense, a charm-your-socks-off kid, and a compelling romance that may inspire you to combine your DNA with someone you love!
Miles Goodwin tipped his chair back as he took a slug from his beer. Across the tree line the remainder of the day was a bloody smear on the horizon. The setting sun drifted away mockingly. Another day and you’re still here because you don’t have the courage to put your revolver in your mouth.
He smacked at a mosquito on his neck. The bugs were relentless at dusk, but this was Miles’ favorite time of day. Swallowing darkness was moments away, when he wouldn’t recognize each agonizing minute in the passage of time. Night was limbo in the personal hell his life had become.
It was a chore to drag himself out of bed every morning, painful to endure every endless minute. The mark of each sunset brought him one day closer to the end he longed for. Closer to the end he didn’t have the courage to seek on his own. Suicide was a sin, and if there was a sweet hereafter, he wouldn’t join Sara and Michelle there if he took his own life.
The roar of an engine pulled his attention to the dark tunnel of Northern pine where the highway wound out of sight. The front legs of his chair fell onto the porch with a thunk. He rarely saw a customer at his little gas station after six. By now most of the tourists were already in town at the expensive restaurants, sipping their second martinis.
A classic Mercedes two-seater raced around the bend and went into a drift on squealing tires.
The car fishtailed before regaining traction. Clouds of white smoke poured from the exhaust as though it had blown a head gasket. As it barreled down the highway at breakneck speed, chunks of rubber flapped at the right rear wheel. The car was out of control, but the driver wasn’t trying to stop.
Sparks flew from the rim as the last shreds of the tire disintegrated. The car careened down the embankment on the side of the highway and launched itself off the incline, headed directly for his small station.
“Jesus!” Miles leapt to his feet and dove off the porch, narrowly missing the rusted edge of a twisted bumper as he hit the ground. He scrambled to his feet and ran, still clutching his foaming beer bottle, as the car crashed into the pumps.
A dull whuff pressed on his eardrums as the pumps exploded. For the space of a heartbeat the dusky forest was as bright as high noon.
Miles hit the emergency shut-off lever at the side of the garage and the tanks sealed off, but the car was already on fire. There were no sprinklers at the historic station’s stand-alone island.
Nobody could have lived through an explosion like that. At that horrific moment, he knew there was at least one dead body at Goodwin’s Garage.
The irony hit him—there could have been two. What had made him run? He’d been longing for death for three years, aching for it more with each day that passed. Yet at the first sign of danger he’d been on his feet, preserving his sorry ass. It had been instinct as much as police training.
Dammit to hell.
Momentum had taken the car past the worst of the flames. The windshield was a shattered milky spider web, but still held.
Conditioned by police training, he ran toward the car without thinking, more concerned for the driver than for himself.
Movement shifted behind the white-green kaleidoscope of safety glass. A hand passed over the steering wheel, and Miles knew it was a woman in the car.
She’s alive—there must be a God in Heaven.
The driver’s door opened as flames burst across the hood. She staggered out and fell to her knees.
A second explosion rocked the quiet mountainside. Still running, Miles threw up his arm to block the intense heat.
His heart caught in his throat as he rounded the coupe’s door and saw she had a little girl clutched under her arm.
The woman braced herself on the ground with her other hand as she tried to get away from the burning car. He grabbed her by the forearm and hauled her to her feet. She wobbled unsteadily as he pulled her arm over his shoulder. The child scrambled past him, headed for the backside of his garage.
A confusing mixture of past and present rocked him like a punch to the gut. She wasn’t his beloved daughter, but the sight of her blond hair tossing as she ran ahead of him sent coherence spinning away.
The woman moaned and her weight sagged on him, bringing him back to the here and now.
He dragged her away from the car. “Jesus, lady, what the hell? Are you trying to get killed?”
He was practically carrying her by the time they arrived at the corner of the building where the little girl waited, shielded from the scorching heat.
“Aunt Lily!” She threw her arms around her aunt’s waist.
The woman knelt and gripped the child by her shoulders. “Are you okay?”
She nodded, sniffing.
“I’m so sorry.” She pulled the child close. “It’s okay, Annie. We’re going to be okay.”
“Not if you keep driving like that,” Miles growled. “You just blew up my gas station.”
The woman glanced at him. The horror in her eyes made him flinch. A trickle of blood ran down the woman’s temple and spattered her blouse.
“You’re hurt,” Annie said. Her voice trembled with the precursor to tears. She reached out and touched the woman’s face with tiny, hesitant fingertips. The gesture caused his shriveled heart to jerk.
Without removing those wide, brown eyes from his, Lily took her niece’s hand and stood. Only then did she glance past him.
“Is that your truck?”
His mouth fell open. “Lady, you need an ambulance.”
Would the phone still work, or had the destruction of his station knocked out power and phone lines? Services were finicky enough up here without being rocked by a two-megaton blast.
“He’s coming,” Annie whimpered.
The horror in Lily’s eyes deepened. She glanced at the child and started past him.
“I need your vehicle.”
Before he could have guessed this night would get any weirder, she snatched up a rusted sliver of metal and whirled around, pointing it at him.
“Give me the keys.”
She’s robbing me with an old antenna? “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Aunt Lily,” Annie persisted with greater urgency.
Slivers of wood exploded from the corner of the building above his ear. Miles heard the muffled chirp over the roar of the fire. He knew what it was even before a second shot whizzed past his head. The sound sent him careening back to his eight years with the Seattle PD.