When Lucy Bell is kidnapped after a celebration in the lively city of Illusion Town, she is left wandering the endless maze of the underground Dead City. She’s promptly found by Guild Hunter Gabriel Jones but being rescued is only the start of her problems, as no one believes she was kidnapped in the first place. With her reputation aboveground in tatters, Lucy’s life quickly begins to unravel. The last thing she expects is for Gabriel to come back to town for her.
But the Lucy that Gabriel finds is much different from the one he rescued. This Lucy is sharp, angry, and more than a little distrustful of Gabriel. With a killer hunting her, Lucy quickly realizes that the only person she can rely on is Gabriel—both to believe she’s telling the truth and to protect her from the danger that followed her back home.
"I assume you found me because you followed Otis?" Lucy said.
Gabriel took a healthy bite of pizza. "He certainly got my attention."
"He approached me in the Dead City ruins near the Storm Zone Wall about an hour ago. I was trying to locate the staircase you might have used to go into the Underworld."
She thought about that for a beat. "You knew where to start the search? Sounds like my message to Veronica got through. Amazing. The kidnappers drugged me at the reception, you know."
"Did they?" Gabriel said, his tone a little too polite.
She knew disbelief when she saw it. She sighed and reminded herself he had no reason to believe her version of events.
"By the time they put me in a cab I was hallucinating wildly," she continued. "When I got out of the cab I was at the edge of the Storm Zone, so I ran for the nearest hole-in-the-wall. I managed to get on my phone long enough to leave a message for my friend Veronica. I knew she was working that night. I only had a few seconds. No time for a detailed message, so I texted my location."
"Storm Zone Wall."
"The cops told me that much. They said that when your friend saw the text she didn't know what to make of it at first. She thought maybe you were at an after-party that was being held near the Storm Zone. When she got home in the morning, she realized you hadn't returned. She filed a missing persons report, but the police wanted to wait the usual twenty-four hours before they got serious about opening a case. Evidently your friend insisted they send a search and rescue team into the ruins to start the search immediately."
Lucy smiled. "People, especially men, tend to do what Veronica wants them to do."
“I haven't met the lady, so I'll take your word for it. Your father was notified, and he put pressure on the locals, as well. The result was that after forty-eight hours of searching the ruins and the nearby neighborhoods, the authorities decided they needed outside help. The Cadence Guild was contacted."
"And here you are. I must admit this is pretty damn impressive rescue work."
"I lucked out when Otis showed up with the pizza. He was wearing this around his neck." Gabriel reached into the pocket of his leather jacket and took out a dainty black crystal necklace.
A thrill of relief splashed through Lucy. "That's mine. The bride gave identical necklaces to all of the bridesmaids. After Otis showed up with the first pizza delivery, it occurred to me that someone might notice the necklace and follow him down here. I gave it to him."
Gabriel nodded appreciatively. "It was a good plan. It worked."
"I couldn't think of anything else to do. I was trapped in this room. The kidnappers took my handbag, my wrap, and every piece of nav amber that I had on me. They didn't bother with the necklace, because it wasn't amber. How long have I been gone? I've lost track of time."
"The wedding reception was three nights ago."
Lucy glanced at the stack of empty pizza boxes. There were five of them. "That's what I was estimating. Otis arrived soon after I crashed in this chamber. I've been waiting for the effects of the drug to wear off before trying to follow him back to the surface. But every time I think I'm coming out of the fog, I get hit with another wave of hallucinations. The visions are absolutely unbearable when I get close to the entrance."
Photo by Marc von Borstel
Jayne Castle is a pseudonym for Jayne Ann Krentz, author of more than fifty New York Times bestsellers. She writes contemporary romantic suspense novels under the Krentz name, as well as historical novels under the pseudonym Amanda Quick. Learn more online at jayneannkrentz.com.