Home > Three is a War (Tangled Lies #3)

Three is a War (Tangled Lies #3)
Author: Pam Godwin

A heavy fog smothers my senses, trapping me in a netherworld between dreams and nightmares. Did I fall asleep? Am I awake? Why do I feel so uncomfortably warm and fuzzy?

I struggle to understand, my brain sluggish and not cooperating. Somewhere in the distance, the sound of a heartbeat whooshes a muffled rhythm.

My heartbeat?

Slowly, softly, my hearing clears. Then silence.

Something isn’t right. I was outside just a second ago, freezing my tits off. Wasn’t I in my car?

Think, Danni. Think.

I blink, and blink again. Why am I lying on my back staring at a ceiling I’ve never seen before?

Memories blur to the surface, each one spooling in a drunken ribbon of confusion. The car wouldn’t start. I climbed out to call a tow truck. Lost my balance. Ate the pavement. Then everything starts to warp—the buzzing in my ears, tunnel vision, disorientation. Shouldn’t I be in pain from the fall?

I lift my hands toward my face, and my fingers contort in front of me, familiar yet strange. A piece of medical tape peeks around the base of my thumb, and I turn my wrist, following it to a white bandage on my palm.

Only one hand is wrapped. Did I catch myself on the driveway? With one arm?

I was holding a coffee cup.

As if a switch is flipped in my head, my senses snap online, launching me into a coherent state of realization.

Cole or Trace left coffee on my doorstep.

The car engine wouldn’t turn over.

I fainted.

The coffee.

Oh my God, there was handwriting on the bottom of the cup.

It’s not over.

What’s not over? Cole’s secret job? The revenge attempts against him? Whatever it is, I’ve been pulled into it.

A jolt of adrenaline spikes through me, energizing every muscle in my body. I lurch into a sitting position, swaying with wooziness.

Where am I?

The large bed beneath me sits across from an open doorway that leads to a dark hallway. Sheer drapes cover two perpendicular walls of the bedroom, filtering what appears to be full-length windows and a gray sky. If the sun is setting, I’ve been unconscious for hours.

Panic rises, chopping my gasps. Whose house is this? How did I get here?

I force myself to go still, listening.

Dead air.

It’s so quiet the hairs lift on my nape, and every breath I take sounds like a hurricane. I need to get the hell out of here.

I need a weapon.

A round glass lamp sits on the side table. No clock or phone. But the massive bedroom reeks of wealth, from the opulent crown molding to the intricately carved wood-burning hearth.

My attention locks on the fireplace tools that hang on a stand. The wrought-iron poker looks heavy. And sharp enough to stab someone.

I shove a fleece blanket off my legs. I’m dressed in jeans, a sweater, and socks—everything I put on this morning. My knee-high cognac boots sit on the floor beside the bed.

No coat, which is where I stored my phone. Fuck.

Slipping off the bed, I yank on the boots and tiptoe toward the fireplace. Every step creaks the wood floors, shattering the stillness and chilling my spine in a cold sweat. I feel weak, unsteady, and slightly buzzed.

Someone delivered my favorite coffee to the back door of my house.

I was drugged.

It’s the only explanation for my blackout and transport to…wherever this is. Neither Cole nor Trace would do this to me, but their enemies would. The sort of enemies who get their throats cut in my house and leave devastating photos in my car.

My heart rate explodes as I run the final few feet to the fireplace and snatch the poker. It won’t stop a bullet, but it’s better than nothing.

Cole and Trace would go ballistic if they knew someone touched me, let alone sedated and kidnapped me. Is that what this is? A kidnapping? I’m not tied up or beaten, and the bedroom door is open. But I didn’t consent to this.

Full-body tremors lock my joints and quiver my chin. Why am I here?


Torture for information?

I lift my wrapped hand and peel off the bandage. A few minor scrapes redden my palm, nothing deep enough to warrant first-aid. If someone intends to harm me, why bother mending me at all?

None of this makes sense. I’m so out of my league and terrified it’s crippling. I need to do something before they come in to check on me.

The curtained windows loom at my back, pulling me in that direction. Maybe there’s an exterior door?

I step toward it, keeping an eye on the ominous hallway while fighting to silence the heaving of my breaths. Everything inside me wants to curl up and hide, but I keep moving until I reach the closest exterior wall.

Wrestling with the linen curtains, I find the seam, pull them open, and choke on a sharp inhale.

Gray leafless trees bristle like spines on hillsides that ripple toward the horizon. The woodland surrounds a calm inlet of water and a well-kept private dock. I’ve vacationed in southern Missouri often enough to recognize the vista of forest, high bluffs, waterways.

Given the position of the sun behind the lake in the distance, I must’ve been unconscious for four or five hours. Long enough to make a drive from St. Louis to the lower part of the state.

Someone carried and transported my limp body. Anything could’ve happened to me while I was dead to the world. My skin crawls, and I jump at the sound of an air vent clicking on.

The windows appear to slide open like doors along a track. When I pull on the handles, they don’t budge. A keypad on the wall requires a code to open them. Shit.

I test the weight of the poker in my hand. If I swing it at the glass, it’ll only jar my arm and alert whomever is here. I need to find another way out.

The 180-degree view gives me a decent layout of the back of the house—a massive one-story manor veneered in stone that wraps around several outdoor living spaces with walkways that lead into the woods. From the largest terrace, a bridge arches over a ravine, providing access to the covered dock on the lake.

I bet there’s an enclosed slip at the dock. Maybe several. With boats. I’ve never operated any kind of watercraft, but I’ll figure it out if it’s a means to escape.

First, I need to leave this room, and the hallway is my only exit.

I feel like I’m going to throw up with every step toward the door. My heart is a booming drum, my insides frozen and trembling. At the threshold to the hall, I tighten my grip on the poker and strain my hearing.

The faint vibration of rock music thumps from somewhere at the other end of the house. It doesn’t sound far away. More like the volume is set on low.

A knot of nerves strangles my throat as I creep along the hallway, following the random-sized pieces of slate that tile the floor. Some of the doors I pass are locked with keypads. Others are open, revealing more large bedrooms, each vacant and tidy, with the same natural hues and picturesque windows.

Whoever owns this place is wealthy and wouldn’t need to capture a woman for ransom. Unless the payment for my release isn’t related to money.

Trace could afford this property, but the modern design isn’t his style. I can’t picture him hanging out in a huge contemporary mansion in rustic-nowhere Missouri away from his work. Besides, if he wanted me here, he wouldn’t drug me to make it happen.

Holding the poker out in front of me, I sneak around a corner and stop.

The corridor descends down a gradual slope of stairs that spill into a brightly-lit living room. Brown leather furniture occupies the center, and it isn’t empty.

Someone’s sitting on the couch.

I press my back against the wall and hold my breath. I can only make out a man’s denim-clad legs, bent at the knees where he reclines. Did he see me? My heart hammers so loudly he can probably hear me freaking the fuck out.

The low rumble of a rock song drifts along the blond maple flooring and echoes through the soaring ceilings. The sound is coming from the TV on the wall beyond the sitting area. I know the melody—the dynamic vocals over electronic and heavy metal instrumentation. I squint at the song title on the bottom of the screen.

Go To War by Nothing More.

A chill trickles down my spine. I’ve heard Cole play that song while working out. Maybe it’s just a coincidence.

I tighten my grip on the poker and fix my attention on the man’s legs. Frayed jeans, tanned bare feet, spread knees. I can’t see the rest of him, but it looks like Cole.

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