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Zebra, Genre: Suspense (July 2015)
ISBN-10: 1420134647 ISBN-13: 978-1420134643

Read an Excerpt

The man in the hospital bed came back to consciousness slowly, aware that he’d been cocooned from sensation for some reason, yet also aware that he could feel a heavy weight of worry bearing down on him.  Where was Maxwell?  Where was he?  The question had plagued him, circling his brain and disturbing his sleep, though without any meaning he could understand.

There were voices around him.  They rose and fell sporadically.  People coming and going, he realized at the same moment he understood he was in a hospital.  Nurses, doctors, friends. . ?

Where was Maxwell?

The explosion, he remembered suddenly, then realized at the same moment that he’d lost hearing for a while.  His ears still rang a little, but at least the problem had apparently been temporary because he could make out words. 

He was injured.  Numb and dull-feeling.  Pain-killers, most likely.  He’d gone to find. . .Maxwell. . . .but his brother-in-law hadn’t been there.          

The explosion was meant to kill Maxwell, he thought dully, sorting through the flotsam and jetsam left in his shaken brain.  Maxwell, his confidante and informant.  His friend.  Except Max wasn’t there.

“Mr. Danziger?”  A woman’s voice.  One of the nursing staff?


And then another woman, loudly, “Can you hear me?”

Maxwell wasn’t there because he’d known about the bomb, or whatever it was, and stayed away.  It hadn’t been meant for Maxwell, he thought with a jolt.  It had been meant for him.

And Maxwell had known and had purposely been gone.

“You’re sure he was waking up?” the first woman asked skeptically.

“Yes.  His wife wants to see him.”

“Took her long enough to get here.”

Wife?  Carmen?  They’d been emotionally separated for years. . .divorced for months. . .though they’d kept the same residence, mainly so that people – people like Maxwell – wouldn’t know that their marriage had crumbled.  Carmen’s idea, not his, but he’d been happy to play the charade – anything she wanted – because he just wanted out.

“Mr. Danziger?” the second nurse asked, a bit more urgently.  “Your wife’s here to see you.”

“He’s not waking up,” the first said in a superior tone.

Jay Danziger felt himself start to fade away again.  Good.  He didn’t want to think too much.  Where’s Max? his mind asked again, but this time he answered himself:  Far away from the accident that was meant to kill you.

When he resurfaced again – opening his eyes before he was awake enough to remind himself he should keep them closed – he didn’t know how much time had passed.  A while, for sure.  Hazily, he realized a woman was seated beside him, holding his hand.  Her palm was sweating. 

“Mr. Danziger,” a man’s voice greeted him.  He zeroed in on the voice with an effort, moving his eyes carefully as there was a dull ache in his head, to take in a man in a white lab coat who stood at the foot of the bed, holding a manila file.  “We wondered when you would return.”

The man’s name tag read Dr. William Cochran.  Again, carefully, he swiveled his eyes from the doctor back to the woman seated beside his bed.  She was somewhere in her late twenties, he thought, with dark brown hair in a loose bun and tendrils escaping to curl slightly at her temples.  It was the same style Carmen wore hers, most times.  No wonder they thought she was his wife.  He was pretty sure he’d never laid eyes on her until this moment.

She murmured, “So glad you’re okay, Jay.  You had us all worried.”

He thought about saying something, calling her out as a fraud, but held his tongue.  Worry was exactly the emotion filling her hazel eyes just now.  She was petrified of something, most likely that he would blow her cover because she sure as hell wasn’t Carmen.  He didn’t know her from Adam, and the fact that she was impersonating his ex-wife was disturbing, though not full-out alarming, which said something about his confused mental state, he supposed.  He should have been thoroughly concerned, especially with the new and ugly realization that Max had meant for him to die.  Or, had he been warned away?  Was that why he wasn’t there?  No. . .it didn’t feel like it.  Dance sensed he knew something in the deep recesses of his mind, some hidden nugget of truth that escaped him now yet made him question Maxwell’s motives.  And if the bomb, or whatever had caused the explosion, hadn’t been meant for him. . .if it had just been some kind of terrible accident that had gone off and sliced up his leg –

Immediately, he glanced down to his left leg.  It was wrapped from hip to below his knee.  A thigh injury.  He had no sensation of pain, though; the meds must be good.

“Max has been asking about you,” the woman holding his hand said, a current of urgency running beneath the words.

Maxwell Saldano.  She knows about Max.

Jay “Dance” Danziger had trusted his instincts on numerous occasions and that trust had saved him from all kinds of trauma during the last ten years that he’d worked investigative journalism.  He trusted them now, so he looked “Carmen” straight in the eye and croaked out, “Take me home.”

Her lips parted.  Before she could answer the doctor inserted, “We need to check some tests.  Make sure you’re all right.  Surgery went well.  A lot of muscle damage that was repaired.  As long as there’s nothing unexpected on your MRI, you could get out of here as early as tomorrow.”

“Today,” Dance muttered.

“Well. . .maybe. . .”

“I’m leaving today,” he said positively.

“I’ll check the tests.”  The doctor left them, and as soon as Dance was alone with his hand holder, he slid her a silent look. 

“Home might not be the safest place,” she said carefully.

She was warning him, in her way.  Though they were alone in the room, her gaze shifted toward the open doorway.  Maybe there were listening ears just outside the door.  “Where should I go?” he forced out with an effort.

She glanced at him, then down at their still clasped hands, then shot a quick, darting look back at his eyes before letting her gaze wander away.  “I know a place. . .” 


“Just somewhere I know.”

“What do I call you?”

She flicked another look toward the outer hallway.  “What do you mean?” she asked cautiously.

The meds were fading a little, he thought.  He could feel pain knocking at the door, eager to remind him that his leg was in bad shape and his head could hurt a lot more, too.  “Well. . .not. . .Carmen. . .”

He sensed, then, too, that he was fading out himself.  Blessed twilight was coming to take him into oblivion for a while longer.  So softly he almost missed it, she said, “Jordanna.”

“Jordanna,” he repeated, unaware that his voice was inaudible as he succumbed to unconsciousness.