A child's life was at stake.
Little Ben had only had a few precious weeks before he'd be paralyzed forever...and the neurological interface Dr. Dylan Stryker had been developing for the federal government was his son's only hope. But someone wanted the prototype--someone who would steal, kidnap, even murder to get it. Dylan would do anything to save his little boy--even turn to FBI agent Natasha Rudolph to help him. Falling in love wasn't in the plans. With his son's life hanging in the balance, getting involved with Natasha just might get them killed. Now it was a race against time to find the madman who threatened them--and to protect woman and child at all costs....
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October 09, 2007
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Excerpt from A Father's Sacrifice by Mallory Kane
Dylan Stryker looked down at his sleeping son. He'd been working with the virtual surgery program and missed Ben's bedtime again.
In the dim glow of a caterpillar night-light, he watched his little boy's lips move slightly with each gentle breath. He looked so small, so innocent--so vulnerable.
Dylan's heart squeezed with guilt and grief and stinging regret. Looking away, his gaze landed on Ben's leg braces in the corner. In stark contrast to his son's softly lit face, the ultralight titanium sucked up the light greedily, shining with the stark whiteness of bones. They mocked him, a constant reminder that his child's handicap was his fault.
Irony twisted his gut. He'd been named a hero for inventing the computer-driven leg supports. Now his own child couldn't walk without them, and it was because of him. He knelt and kissed Ben's cool cheek.
"I love you," he whispered. "I'd die for you if it would change the past."
The bedroom door opened. It was Alfred.
Dylan's senses went on full alert. His chief of security never interrupted him when he was with his son. He slipped quietly through the door to the hall.
"Sorry," Alfred said shortly.
"What is it? Another breach of the fence?" Next week was the third anniversary of the suspicious car crash that had killed his wife and injured his child. The vehicle that had run her off the road had never been found. And despite his and the government's best efforts to cover up Ben's survival, this time each year the tabloids always rehashed the sensationalistic rumors surrounding the crash.
HORROR IN THE HAMPTONS.
Mad Doctor Hides Hideously
Maimed Son In Airless
Alfred shook his head at the latest headline, his weathered face grim. "Campbell called me," he said. "We've been hacked."
Dylan cursed. "How bad?" "In and out within a few seconds, according to Campbell. I should have waited until morning. Should have let you sleep." Alfred's face was lined with worry.
"No. I wasn't asleep. I need to know as soon as anything happens."
"What for? So you have something else on your mind to keep you from sleeping? You couldn't have stopped the hacker."
Dylan headed for the back stairs. "I could have tried." Alfred followed, laying a hand on Dylan's arm. "He's gone now. Go back to Ben. Try to get some sleep." "I can't sleep. You know that. I might as well work." Dylan rubbed his burning eyes.
"Son, this is almost certainly a domestic terrorist cell. Why don't you take NSA up on their offer of protection?"
Dylan sighed. "I talked to them today." "You've decided to move to a secure location?" Hope tinged Alfred's gravelly voice. As proud as the ex-military man was of his security measures, he'd made it clear that he'd prefer having Dylan and Ben under the government protection.
Dylan shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck. "We've had this conversation. I'm not sending Ben away. And I can't go with him. The interface hardware is at a critical point--too delicate to be moved, and we're still debugging the software. I can't afford to lose even a couple of days...." He heard the desperation in his own voice. Alfred knew as well as he did the real reason he was working night and day.
Time was running out for Ben. "So why'd you call NSA?" "I told them that if they want their damn supersoldier technology, they'll find me the best computer expert in the country. They promised me someone within forty-eight hours."
SPECIAL AGENT Natasha Rudolph wiped her palms down her slacks as the doors slid shut, locking her in an elevator that was about to take her underground. Mitch Decker, Special Agent in Charge, had warned her this assignment would be difficult.
However, he hadn't mentioned that the computer lab where she'd be working was twelve feet belowground on a secluded estate in the Hamptons. She closed her eyes as the elevator started downward.
She opened her eyes to find the military type who'd met her at the front door eyeing her hands. She realized she was clenching her fists.
"Yes? Mintz, isn't it?" She deliberately relaxed her fingers. "I'm fine. Looking forward to getting started. It's been a long day." She bit her lip. She sounded like a babbling idiot. She set her jaw and silently commanded her heart to stop fluttering and her hands to stay serenely at her sides.
Alfred Mintz frowned at her as the elevator doors slid silently open.
She wiped her palms again, and stepped out into a brightly lit hall. It looked as if all the walls were made of glass. Natasha swallowed nervously. Not very substantial. She resisted the urge to glance up at the ceiling. How did these walls hold up the tons of dirt and steel above their heads?
Ignoring the burning sensation on her scalp that signaled rising panic, she concentrated on staying calm.
Mintz started down the hall, leaving her to catch up. "You may not get to meet Dr. Stryker tonight. If he's in the virtual surgery lab, we won't disturb him."