Wind River Wrangler

By: Lindsay McKenna

To Tara Gavin, Executive Editor, Kensington Books

Tara and I go back nearly thirty years of working as a great writing/editing team. It’s time I honor her for all the wonderful direction, suggestions, and pointers over the years. She has helped me become the writer I am today.

She’s the BEST editor I’ve ever had the privilege of working with in the thirty-five years I’ve been in this business. Best of all? The readers will make out on this one because the WRITING DREAM TEAM is back together once again!

Together we changed the face of publishing two different times. And I’m looking forward to doing it again with her. When you put two incredibly creative heads together, it’s bound to be a good thing for publisher, readers, and us, too!

Chapter One

The doorknob slowly, soundlessly, turned.

Shiloh Gallagher stood, her hands clasped against her chest, her whole focus on the slow movement. Oh, God, it was her stalker! Again. Painfully, she swallowed against a tightening throat. She stood in her New York City apartment, feeling almost faint with fear. The police didn’t believe her. They said it was all in her head. Some even suggested that because she was a New York Times best-selling author, she was making such a big deal to get publicity. Oh, God . . . Her entire body was so tense she felt like she might snap and fall into a million terrified pieces.

The doorknob slowly turned in the other direction.

Her heart was pounding so hard in her ears she couldn’t hear anything else. Her hands were damp and clammy, fingers white as she gripped them together. She wanted to cry out for help. But no one would come. No one cared.

The doorknob stilled.

Would her stalker try to break in? Instantly, her gaze flew to the four locks she had on the thick mahogany door. It was a solid door. She lived in a tenth-floor apartment in an old building from the 1930s. Things were made to withstand the test of time. She licked her lips, praying her stalker would leave.

This had happened nearly every day of the week for the past two weeks.

The police were tired of her calls. They had come out to investigate. Dusted her doorknob for fingerprints and found nothing. No one else in the building had seen anyone, either, as the officers canvassed her floor.

Her knees were quivering so badly Shiloh thought she would fall. Who was doing this to her? First, faxes had come over her machine with the words: “I’m going to get you.” And then, her landline had a message with a man breathing heavily. The police said because she was a romance writer, one of her crazed fans, a man, was behind the notes and calls. Harmless.

For six months, she’d been tortured daily. Shiloh couldn’t write. She lived from one mysterious noise, sound, fax, or phone message to another.

A crazed fan?

Was that her stalker’s identity? A man who read her best-selling romance novels? A sick, perverted bastard?

The doorknob slowly started moving counterclockwise.

Shiloh gasped, her hand against her mouth. Her eyes widened enormously. What if he had a way to get past her deadbolt locks? She lived like a terrified animal in her small apartment. Afraid to go out. Afraid to walk the hall any longer, fearing someone was waiting for her. She’d stopped having lunch with her editor, Molly Williams. Every time Shiloh tried to sneak out to go get groceries or see her editor, the hair on the back of her neck rose in warning. As if someone were watching her.

The knob stopped turning.

Her heart thundered. She tried to hear over the pounding of it in her ears.

Desperately, Shiloh wanted to call the police. They were so tired of her calls after the first two months, they’d say yeah, they’d send over a cruiser, but no cop ever showed up. Lip service. No one believed her.

Had she ever seen this guy? the police always asked. No. She never saw him. God knew, she was looking for him, but on a crowded New York City street, he could be anyone. What did a crazed romance fan look like?

The knob turned again.

Her breath jammed in her throat. She was shaking physically now. Her knees felt so weak, Shiloh thought she might fall onto the carpeted floor.

The knob stopped turning.

A sizzling bit of relief tore through her. How many times was it going to happen? Who was standing on the other side of that door? What did he want? She instinctively knew this man wanted to kill her. She felt it. The policemen just nodded, as if bored, when they came to her door on other occasions, and she could see they didn’t believe her.

Her whole world was on a slow-motion reel of destruction and she felt as if life was one long, unending nightmare. Tears squeezed out of her eyes as she pressed her hand hard against her mouth. Her gaze was riveted on the doorknob, breath jammed in her aching throat. She waited.