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eBook by N. C. Anderson
eBook Category: Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: When Maggie Rand's estranged husband Joshua and adopted sons are killed in an acciden, Maggie finds herself alone and pregnant--and pursued by Josh's ex-boss, Kenneth Remley. Remley insists that she has major financial obligations brought on by her husband, and he needs her acquiescence in serious business matters. If she refuses to cooperate he will have to consider her a liability--one he will have to eliminate.
eBook Publisher: The Fiction Works, Published: http://www.fictionworks.com, 2004
Fictionwise Release Date: August 2004
Chapter 1Sunnyville, California
4 Reader Ratings:
"Liability is a fast read, that left me guessing what was really wrong until the end. Ken Remley made an excellent villain, and Ben and Maggie worked well together as a couple. Ms. Anderson will soon have a following of loyal readerswith books of this caliber."--Karen Larson
"Liability is an entertaining romantic-suspense novel that will thrill fans of the sub-genre."--Harriet Klausner
Heartsick and frustrated, Maggie Rand watched her friend Sue as she climbed into her car and headed for her own home down the street. She hadn't wanted to hurt Sue's feelings, but there hadn't seemed any way around it. Her friend just didn't understand how unbearable the situation had become, and though Maggie had tried, she couldn't make Sue understand that she no longer trusted Kenneth Remley. Her friend saw Ken as a hero, a real trooper. But it was Ken's constant prodding, accusations, and cryptic demands that were driving Maggie away from this house, this town.
Maggie couldn't tell her friend how much she desperately needed to change her life now, or Sue would still be standing in the kitchen, arguing, and would probably tell Ken. The last person Maggie wanted knowing about her plans was the man she no longer considered sincere.
She touched the rounded swell of her belly and felt the movement within. If things would just go right, she could have everything perfect and waiting for the baby. A new life, a new outlook, and the healing she needed.
She glanced around the bare living room. She had to leave this house if she wanted to survive this nightmare. First she'd had to accept separation from Josh several months ago--Maggie stifled a sob--then she'd had to face the sudden deaths of everyone she had ever loved. It was ripping the heart from her chest; it was as if she were bleeding to death. She had found herself lying awake every night, listening for the boys--for their sweet laughter.
And she couldn't bare hearing Ken maligning Josh or breathing down her neck for even one more day.
Maggie went to the coat closet near the front door, opened it and removed a suitcase, thankful Sue hadn't seen her put it there. Sue and Jacob Campbell, were the best friends she'd ever known, but they would try and change her mind about the choice she had made. She knew that an argument with them would drain the last of her energy.
Her two dogs, Shane and Cricket, danced around her as she reached for the front door knob. "This is the last of it," she told them. "We'll be on the road in an hour."
After placing the suitcase in her small utility trailer, she returned to the house and reached to open the front door. Shane, the biggest of the two dogs, began growling. Maggie turned to find out why.
Muscular arms wrapped around her, and she found herself clamped tightly against Ken. The air whooshed from her lungs, forced from her body by the sudden collision with his broad chest and because he'd startled her. Not bothering to struggle against his superior strength, she rested against him until he relaxed his hold.
Ken grinned amiably. "Why don't you put that ugly mutt somewhere so we can talk?" His voice was pleasant, but then, it always was. Maggie realized he wasn't asking, he was telling, and at that point Shane reacted to Ken as the animal always did, curling her lip and emitting a deep growl.
You're so darned smart, Shane, Maggie thought, and you can see right to the heart of people. It had taken a while, but Maggie finally realized Shane was telling her something about Ken that she had avoided listening to even when she started experiencing an eerie, bone-chilling dread of him. Well, she was listening now. That chill was all around her.
"What do you want, Ken? And by the way, this mutt stays with me all the time," Maggie said softly, sweetly. "But, you already knew that."
Ken's face registered an impatience she'd witnessed twice before. His caring act slipped more with each of his visits to her. With one hand clasped firmly on her arm, he wrenched the knob, opened the door, and guided her inside.
"I said we need to talk, and I don't have much time."
To Maggie's surprise, his voice was almost as much a growl as Shane's, who was right on his heels, plainly waiting for him to get out of line just a little more.
Maggie shook his hand away and stepped beyond his reach. "All right, Ken, what is it you want?"
He leaned against the door, his facade congenial again. "I have an important appointment in a few minutes. I stopped to let you know that I'll be picking you up about seven for dinner."
His face appeared unemotional, yet his frosty, steel-gray eyes looked hard, and she knew he would never accept the no she intended to give him for an answer.
He moved from the entryway toward her. "Tonight we have a client to impress," he said. "Josh owed this client money. I need your help persuading him not to collect, but to make investments. We, you and I, are going to be extremely nice to him."
Maggie turned her head quickly in an attempt to cover her real thoughts. The hell she was! She couldn't prove Ken was doing anything underhanded; but he was always evasive, and she didn't trust him any more than Shane did. This would be the second dinner he had arranged. The first one was shock enough as he wined and dined and persuaded a couple to extend the holdings of a trust instead of taking it to a different law firm for another opinion.
Maggie had already given him a wealth of funds to cover what she and Josh owed jointly in their marriage. That was as far as she would take her responsibilities. If Josh actually had other debts, he had made them alone. Ken took the insurance money, she sold her home, her friends wouldn't listen to her doubts about Ken, and now--now she'd had enough.
"Seven o'clock did you say?" She forced what she hoped was an innocent expression as she faced him.
The look Ken turned on her said he thought she was a total idiot. She would be one too, if she allowed him to manipulate her any longer. She'd fallen for his act of friendship too easily. He had been Josh's boss, but Josh was dead.
"Yes--and, Maggie, we're going to discuss the future. You obviously need my help to get some purpose back into your life. You've been muddling around in a dream-cloud for more than six months." Ken seized both of her upper arms, and Maggie sensed a desperation in his grip and voice that she hadn't noticed before. "We have serious business to clear up, and it won't happen until you wake up."
He suddenly released her. "You're nearly out of money. Some of the people Joshua became indebted to are thinking they should start some litigation against you." Ken shook his head and folded his arms across his chest. "All you need to do is sign some papers, and I can probably stop their initiative. I certainly wouldn't want to see your pretty little ass in jail."
Maggie subdued the nervous fear his words created as once again he tried to shove her into a proverbial box; a cage that contained absolute destitution if she submitted. He would get no more of her money, because she would fight him. And the fight would take every last dime she had, every last dime she needed for her child. "Why would I go to prison for anything?" she asked, trying for the umpteenth time to force him to explain. "I don't know about Josh having other bills, or using anyone's money. Why don't you just clarify what you're talking about?"
"People generally don't take it kindly when their money disappears. Separated or not, Josh was your husband and your name is on the investments. Now that he's gone, they have become your problem." Ken's mouth narrowed in a grim line. "I think you should be more grateful for all the things I've done for you."
Maggie ignored his last words. "If my name is on investment documents, then someone else put it there," she said, gritting her teeth so tightly her jaw hurt.
His expression was one of angry shock. He has to be lying she thought. His gestures and words were adding fuel to her suspicions. Ken had lived around the law since birth, and if anyone was clever enough to twist the system it was Ken. But the cost of an attorney, one honest and competent enough to prove her suspicions, would leave her in poverty. Maggie had made her choice; her child came first no matter what.
Ken rubbed his index finger across his nose then dropped his hand to his side, visibly softening, then smiled and took her hand gently in his. "I apologize, Maggie, I shouldn't have said that. I was wrong. You haven't had enough time to recover. We have some complicated business investments to go over so you'll understand the seriousness of your predicament, and the whys and hows." He moved forward. "We can talk about this when you're more relaxed and ready to understand the details."
Placing his hands on her shoulders, he pulled her closer, his arrogant mouth coming toward her cheek. Maggie felt her ability to handle the situation slipping from her like a wet, squirming fish. With immense self-control, she swallowed the rage bubbling in her at his continued evasiveness. Questioning him further would gain nothing, and she might alert him to her plans if she spouted off in anger. She'd given him his last chance--enough was enough.
He always wore expensive clothes and expensive cologne, but the scent burned inside her nose, and she hated the smell of it. Maggie couldn't stand the idea of his touching her and jerked away just as Ken bellowed a yelp of surprise. He stepped back and Maggie saw the reason; Shane's teeth firmly gripped the calf of his leg.
Maggie knelt and, after a touch from her, Shane released Ken. She rose to her feet quickly, wondering what Ken would do next. If he tried the slightest violence, Shane would have hold of something much more vital than his leg. Although Shane had sound guard training, if she thought Maggie was in certain danger it might take a bit more than a touch from her to make the dog release him.
"That damn dog will be out of here tomorrow. I'll see to it personally." He was practically screaming with rage, and his face changed to a blotchy, dark red.
"You!" he demanded, shaking his finger near her face, "be ready by seven o'clock." He turned and strode to the door, yanked it open, and slammed it behind him.
After waiting five minutes Maggie lifted her purse from the kitchen counter, called the dogs, closed and locked the door to the place she'd called home for most of her adult life. She got into the car and pointed it eastward.