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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Lethal Nights

A Brute Force Novel

Brute Force (Volume 3)

Lora Leigh

St. Martin's Paperbacks


chapter one

Emma Jane Preston wasn’t certain what brought her awake, but between one second and the next she was fully aware, heart pounding, her mouth dry in fear.

She wasn’t prone to night terrors, nor was she often plagued by nightmares. At twenty-seven, she’d known her fair share of heartbreaks and, since her divorce, faced enough nights so that the creaks of the house no longer sent her imagination spinning.

This wasn’t a creaking house or her wayward imagination. This was something else. It was something more.

This was a full-on panic attack with no rhyme or reason.

It was asleep one second, fight or flight in the next.

Sitting up, she stared around her bedroom. The pretty white curtains and lace sheers, pale gray walls, and heavy chestnut chest and dresser her mother had given her loomed as dark shadows around her.

Everything seemed fine. But the stillness of the night was too damned still.

Damn, she knew she’d set the alarms on the new security system before going to bed. If someone had tried to enter the house, the shrieking blast of sound would be deafening.

But there were no alarms going off. There was nothing but complete silence.

Sliding from the bed, she hurriedly pulled on the pale peach robe that matched her gown and grabbed her cell phone from the bedside table and the handgun she kept beside it. Her father had made her promise she’d keep the weapon handy at night.

Standing by the bed, she fought to hear something, anything to explain her fear.

She’d never awakened like this, even during the worst years of her marriage. She’d never been this scared in her whole life. So scared that instinct kicked in.

Moving soundlessly into the bathroom, she hit her father’s number on the phone and waited, listening careful. He answered on the second ring and just as quickly she disconnected the phone before sliding over the edge of her garden tub.

She listened, not that she could hear anything over the rapid thud of her heart, but she tried anyway. And all the while she was cursing herself for not taking her brother up on his offer to loan her that maniac Rottweiler of his.

And she still hadn’t heard anything.

Not a creak of the floorboards, or the normal sounds of someone breaking in. Sounds like glass shattering, or whatever accompanied someone invading a home.

It wasn’t like she had experience in this. No one had ever broken in on her before.

God help that demented ex-husband of hers if it was him. She’d shoot him just for being the dick he was in scaring the life out of her.

But Matt wasn’t a quiet person. He wouldn’t go to the trouble to sneak anywhere. He’d be banging on her door. And he wouldn’t have a clue how to get past her security.

Maybe it was her imagination.

It had to be her imagination, because she couldn’t hear anything.

Drawing in a deep breath and gripping the gun in both hands as she lay in the tub, she considered creeping out of it. Her father would be there any minute, along with her brother and probably the demon-from-hell canine as well. And of course, they’d laugh at her for being so paranoid. Her father would try to convince her to go home with him and her mother. Again.

As she tensed to pull herself out of the tub, the crash of her bedroom door being thrown open and the sudden explosion of gunfire all but stopped her heart in her chest. The chaotic violence of sound seemed never ending as her life flashed through her mind.

She was going to die.

Her father would find her in her bathtub dead. Her brother would go insane searching for who killed her.

Oh God, her father was on his way.


He’d die trying to kill someone …

The sound stopped as abruptly as it started.

Her heart was pounding so loud she couldn’t hear anything else. It was booming in her ears, stealing her breath.

She stared into the darkness of her bathroom, straight up, waiting. If they were going to kill her, she might get lucky and get at least one of them. One of them would be enough.

And she knew there was more than one. She could hear their voices though she couldn’t process the words. They were angry though, furious.

They knew now that she wasn’t in her bed.

There were so many sounds filling the night now. The flash of lights through her bathroom window, blue and white. Sirens were screaming. If the sirens were from her security system, it was a little late.

Nothing made sense.

The sudden shrieking, the lights, shouts—she could barely make sense of anything but the rapid crash of sound in her ears.

Her heart.


She didn’t want to die yet.

There were things she wanted to do. So, they weren’t big things, but they were things to do.

“EJ!” At first, the nickname her family used for her didn’t make sense.

“EJ!” Louder, filled with fear, and so familiar.

“Daddy. Oh God. Daddy.” She was sobbing as she fought to get out of the tub.

The gun clattered from her hand to the bottom of the tub as she all but fell out, desperate to get away from certain death.

“EJ…” He caught her as she fell out of the tub, nearly going to her knees as she fought to find her legs, to make them hold her up. “EJ. What the hell…”

She latched on to her father’s broad shoulders, shaking so hard her teeth were chattering, fighting just to breathe.

He was here. He was here with her.

“Oh God. Dad. Who was it? What happened?” Disjointed, broken by sobs, the words spilled from her as her father wrapped his arms around her and held her tight.

What had happened?

Why in God’s name would someone shoot up her bedroom?

chapter two

Ilya was restless.


What the hell was wrong with him?

He could feel the strange malady as it pulsed just beneath the skin the tattoo marked. It was like an itch he couldn’t quite scratch, a prickling of his skin that was driving him insane. It was an ache that went deeper than he could describe, even to himself. Deeper even than the bullet that had struck his chest six months before.

Copyright © 2019 by Lora Leigh.