No matter how far and how fast you run, the truth is never far behind.
CIA counter-terrorism expert Manuel Ramirez has spent the last three years looking for the woman he loves, who disappeared without a trace while on a post-graduate trip to France.
Then, as suddenly as she disappeared, Jules Trehan turns up in a small-town Colorado hospital bed, injured in an explosion that killed her parents. Manny is shocked by the change in the woman he once knew. Kidnapped by a shadowy organization, Jules has been forced to become the very thing he's pledged his life to defeat--a terrorist assassin.
Knowing her testimony will finally bring down the organization, Manny races to get her to Washington, D.C. in one piece. Just when there's a glimmer of hope of overcoming her past, Jules must pull off one last job or Manny's life will be forfeit. It's a mission she must complete...even if it means betraying the only man she has ever loved.
This book was previously published under the name of Sharon Long. It has been revised and rewritten for the 2011 release.
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August 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Long Road Home by Maya Banks
Manuel watched the battle play out over her face, his gut clenching at her obvious pain. Her injuries weren't life-threatening, thank God, but her ribs had taken a hell of a beating.
He had to work to keep his hands off her. He needed to touch her, hold her. Convince himself that she was lying here in front of him, very much alive. In his darkest hours, he'd allowed himself a brief moment to believe that she really might be dead. Might never come back. Yet here she was. Changed. Very different from the starry-eyed girl who had left for France three years ago. But still, it was her. What horrors had she endured?
He tamped down the surge of impatience. His questions could be answered later. For now he would rejoice in the fact that she had come back to him, and he would see to her safety. He stood up and squeezed her hand. "Get some rest. I'll be close by."
Her eyelids were already fluttering closed as he stepped into the hall. He pulled out his phone and punched in Tony's number.
"How is she?" Tony asked immediately as he answered.
Manuel sighed. How to answer that question? She was alive, but beyond that he wasn't sure how she was at all. "She's okay, I think."
"I've arranged her transfer to a military hospital in Bethesda. The paperwork is materializing as we speak. She'll be transported to the airport by ambulance. An Army helicopter will fly her to the base in Colorado Springs. From there, she'll be flown to Maryland."
"Thanks, Tony. I owe you."
"Not a problem. Even the army won't have a clue who she is." Tony chuckled.
"You find anything else out?" Manuel asked after a moment's hesitation.
"Not yet, but I'm on it."
Manuel hung up the phone. Tony would come through. There wasn't much he couldn't find out. Being a computer geek for the CIA had its perks.
He re-entered Jules's room but stood quietly back, watching her sleep. Her pale face held such an air of vulnerability. A wave of possessiveness rolled over him, startling him with its ferocity. Though her adopted parents had played an important role in his life, his feelings for her were not those of a sibling. They never had been.
He moved quietly back to her bedside and eased into the chair by her head. To his surprise, she opened her eyes. Those beautiful blue eyes that had haunted his dreams for so long.
"You should be asleep," he said reproachfully. Unable to help himself, he smoothed a short blonde curl from her forehead and tucked it behind her ear. She'd cut her hair.
Her expression was inscrutable. "When can I get out of here?"
He arched an eyebrow. "You'll be leaving in a few hours, but don't get any ideas. I'm having you transferred to a hospital in Maryland where I can keep a close eye on you."
She frowned. "Maryland?"
"I'll explain everything later. When you're better." Though how he was going to explain his other life to her, he didn't know.
"Do you live in Maryland now?"
"You could say that," he said vaguely.
"I don't have any clothes," she said with a frown. "I can't go anywhere. Can you go out and get me something? Please? I'll pay you back, I promise."
"For God's sake, Jules. Don't worry about paying me back. But I shouldn't leave you alone."
She shrugged. "I'm sure your watchdogs won't let anything happen to me."
He stared at her in surprise. How had she known about the guards he had posted? An uneasy feeling stole over him before he shook it off. This was Jules. And all she wanted was something to wear. "I'll be back in less than an hour. While I'm gone I want you to sleep."
She nodded tiredly and sank further into her pillows. Dropping a kiss on her head, he turned and walked out the door. He informed the two guards of his plans and gave them strict instructions not to allow anyone but the doctor and nurse inside the room.
His feeling of unease followed him out of the hospital. Leaving Jules wasn't his most brilliant idea. He paused for a moment when he got to his car. Glancing toward the entrance, he considered going back. He could always get her clothes later. They weren't important. Her safety was. Digging out his phone, he dialed Tony again.
"Speak to me," Tony said.
"How are you at picking out women's clothing?"
Tony chuckled. "I haven't had any complaints. You thinking of a wardrobe change?"
"Not for me, bonehead. Jules. She wants some clothes, and I don't feel comfortable leaving her alone."
"I'll take care of it, but you owe me big-time, buddy. Buying women's clothing isn't my thing. Now if you wanted something from Victoria's Secret, I'm your man, but somehow I don't see you wanting a teddy for Jules."
Manuel rolled his eyes. "Just get her the basics. I'll make it up to you."
"Damn right you will."
As Tony hung up, Manuel grinned. He could protest all he wanted, but Tony would do just about anything for him. A sentiment Manuel returned.
Feeling better, he strode back into the hospital. He stopped briefly by the cafeteria and bought a cup of coffee. He hadn't had any in over twenty-four hours, and he was feeling it. He took a cautious sip as he stepped into the elevator. It was terrible. Had the consistency of motor oil. But it was caffeine and it smelled like coffee, so he didn't complain.
When he arrived at Jules's door, he nodded to the guards and quietly walked inside. He stopped short, nearly dropping the Styrofoam cup, when he saw her standing by her bed. Worse, she had pulled off her nasal cannula and was working on her IV. She was so intent on her task that she hadn't heard him.
He set his coffee down on a chair by the door and strode over to her. "What the hell are you doing?"
She whirled around and then swayed. He caught her against him when she would have fallen. She winced when she made contact with his body.
"I have to get out of here," she said desperately.
He held her to his chest, feeling the erratic beat of her heart. It had been so long since he had held her. He picked her up, mindful of her injuries, and placed her back on the bed. She was light in his arms. Too light. She had gotten way too damn thin.
He held up her arm to inspect the IV. Satisfied that it was secure, he looped the plastic tubes over her ears and slipped the cannula back in place. "You aren't going anywhere."
Her lips formed a tight line, but he could see the panic, the fear in her eyes, and it pissed him off. What was she so afraid of? Who had done this to her? To Mom and Pop?
He sat down beside the bed and leveled a hard stare at her. "Now, suppose you tell me where it is you're in such a hurry to go."
"I'm not safe here... You're not safe here."
His brow wrinkled as he looked curiously at her. He hadn't wanted to bombard her with questions so quickly, but if he didn't now, he might not get another chance.
"Where have you been, baby?" he asked softly. "What happened three years ago?"