Lauren Pennington is celebrating her junior year abroad when life comes to a screeching halt. At Munichâs HofbrÃ¤uhaus, she engages in an innocent flirtation with a charming stranger for the length of a drink. Drink finished, Lauren leavesâonly to be snatched from the streets and thrown into an unmarked van.
Officially, Aidan Deveraux is a communications expert for one of the largest financial firms in the world. In his secret life, the former Marine heads the Zermatt Group, a covert team of military and spy agency operatives that search the data stream for troubling events in an increasingly troubled world. When his artificial intelligence system detects Laurenâs kidnapping, Aidan immediately sees the bigger picture.
Silicon Valley: Laurenâs father, Vance Pennington, is about to launch a ground-breaking technology with his company NanoUSAâa technology that the Chinese are desperate for. No sooner does Aidan arrive on Vanceâs doorstep to explain the situation than the father receives a chilling text message: hand over the technology or Lauren will be dead in a week.
In a globe-spanning chase, from the beer halls of Germany, to the tech gardens of California, to the skyscrapers of China, and finally the farmlands of Croatia, Aidanâs team cracks levels of high-tech security and complex human mystery with a dogged determination. Drawing in teammates from the Forensic Instincts team (introduced in The Girl Who Disappeared Twice), the Zermatt Group will uncover the Chinese businessmen responsible, find the traitors within NanoUSA who are helping them, and save Lauren from a brutal death.
I could not put this book down, which was a shame as I got to read it over the holiday and my family wanted my attention and kept interrupting my affair with the Zermatt Group. ;(
I loved that Ms. Kane pulled characters we know and love, from the forensics instincts series, to introduce us to this new series and set the wheels in motion for an outstanding new collaboration.
Tuesday, 4:00 p.m. local time
Normally, Lauren Pennington loved the sound of her combat boots clomping across the cobblestone apron. But right now, all she could think about was the growling of her empty stomach, urging her to move faster. She was oblivious to everything elseâthe couple on the corner sharing a passionate, open-mouthed kiss, the guy puking up his over-consumption of beer into the storm sewer grating, and the man watching her every move as he talked into his cell phone in a language that Lauren wouldnât have recognized had she been paying attention.
She walked into HofbrÃ¤uhausâ main hall, took a seat at one of the wooden tables, and placed her order. Minutes later, the waitress came over and brought Laurenâs food and drink. Barely uttering a perfunctory âDanke,â Lauren bit into a pretzel the size of her head and took a healthy gulp of HofbrÃ¤u.
The semester had ended, and she was entitled to some carbs and a dose of people-watching at the historic Munich brewery. Pretzels and beer were addicting, but people-watching had always fascinated her. Despite a whole winter semester of her junior year abroad studying art history at the Ludwig Maximilian University at Munich, she still enjoyed playing the tourist. Not at school, but every time she strolled the streets, studied the architecture, chatted with the locals.
HofbrÃ¤uhaus was less than a mile from campus, but the breweryâs main hall had a reputation all its own. With its old-world atmosphere of wooden tables, terra cotta floors, painted arches, and hanging lanterns, how could anyone not feel a sense of history just being within these walls?
Maybe thatâs why Europe called out to her, not just here, but from a million different places. Museums. Theaters. Cathedrals. She wanted to experience them all, and then some. Sheâd be going home to San Francisco in July, and she hadnât been to Paris or London or Brussels. Sheâd gotten a mere taste of Munich and had yet to visit Berlin.
When would she get another chance to do all that?
Not for ages. And certainly not with the sense of freedom she had as a college student, with little or no responsibilities outside her schoolwork to claim her attention. On the flip side, she felt terribly guilty. Every February, her entire family traveled to Lake Tahoe together. It was a ritual and a very big deal, since her father rarely got a day, much less a week, off as a high-powered executive. Her mother usually began making arrangements for the trip right after the holidays. In her mind, it was like a second Christmas, with the whole family reuniting and sharing time and laughter together.
This year was no different. Laurenâs brother, Andrew, and her sister, Jessica, were both taking time off from their busy careers to join their parents at Tahoeâno easy feat considering Andrew was an intellectual property attorney in Atlanta, and Jess was a corporate buyer for Neiman Marcus in Dallas. Lauren was the only holdout. Lauren. The college kid. The baby. The free spirit who always came home from Pomona College to nest, especially for family gatherings and rituals.
Her parents had been very quiet when sheâd told them about her plans. Lauren knew what that silence meant. After the phone call ended, her mother would have cried that she was losing her baby, and her father would have scowled and written off her decision as college rebellion. Neither was true. But no matter how she explained it, her parents didnât understand. Theyâd traveled extensively in Europe, and to them, it was no big deal. But it was Laurenâs first time here, and to her, it was like discovering a whole new worldâa world she felt an instant rapport with. It was like discovering a part of her soul sheâd never known existed. And she had to immerse herself in it.
Sheâd entertained the idea of flying to Lake Tahoe for the week and then returning to fulfill her dream. Her parents would definitely pay for that. But given the long international travel, the flight changes, the time differences, and the jet lag, Tahoe would put too much of a crimp in the many plans she had for her break between semesters. Sheâd had invitations from school friends who said she could stay with them during her travelsâfriends from Germany and so many other countries.
The world was at her feet.
No, despite how much she loved her family, she had to do things her way this time. Thereâd be other Februarys, other trips to Tahoe. But this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
She was still drinking her beer and lamenting her situation when a masculine voice from behind her said, âHallo. Kann ich mitmachen?â
Turning, Lauren saw a handsome, rugged-featured guy, gazing at her with raised brows. He was asking if he could join her.
âSind Sie allein?â he asked, glancing to her right and to her left.
âYes, Iâm alone,â she answered in German. âAnd, yes, please join me.â
The man came around and slid onto the bench seat. He propped his elbow on the table, signalling to the waitress that heâd have the same as the lady. The waitress nodded, hurrying off to get his refreshment.
He turned his gaze back to Lauren. âYouâre American,â he noted, speaking English that was heavily accented.
âGuilty as charged,â she responded in English. âIs it that obvious?â She gave him a rueful look.
He smiled, idly playing with the gold chain around his neck. âYour German is quite good. But I picked up the Americanâ¦whatâs the word you use? Twang.â
Lauren had to laugh. âItâs my turn to take a stab at it, then. Youâre French? Slavic? A combination of both?â
âThe last.â His smile widened. âYou have a good ear, as well.â
âYour German and your English are excellent. I guess I just got lucky.â
âSpeaking of getting lucky, whatâs your name?â he asked.
His boldness took her aback, but she answered anyway. âLauren. Whatâs yours?â
âMarko.â He held out his hand, which Lauren shook. âIâm in Munich on business. And you?â
âIâm an exchange student. Iâm on break, and Iâm looking forward to enjoying some time exploring Europe.â
Marko looked intrigued. âI can give you a few tips.â A mischievous glint lit his eyes. âOr I could travel with you for a few days and give you the best taste of Munich youâll ever have.â
Lauren felt flushed. She was twenty years old. She knew very well what Marko meant by âthe best taste.â She should be offended. But she couldnât help being flattered. He was older, good-looking, and charming.
Nonetheless, she wasnât stupid. And she wasnât in the market for a hookup.
âThanks, but Iâm tackling this trip on my own,â she replied. âIâm meeting up with friends later, but Iâm good as planned.â
âPity.â The glint in his eyes faded with regret. âThen at least let me give you some pointers about the best sights to see and the best restaurants and places to visit.â
âThat would be fantastic.â Lauren rummaged in her purse for a pen and paper. Having found them, she set her bag on the floor between them.
She spent the next twenty mesmerizing minutes listening to Marko detail the highlights of Munich and other parts of Bavaria, as she simultaneously scribbled down what he was saying.
âThank you so much,â she said when he was finished. âThis is like a guided tour.â
âOnce again, I could do it in person.â
âAnd once again, Iâm flattered, but no thank you.â Lauren signaled for her check, reaching into her bag and retrieving a twenty euro bill when the waitress approached the table. âThe rest is for you,â she told her.
âIâll take care of that,â Marko offered, stopping Lauren by catching her wrist and simultaneously fishing for his wallet. Evidently, he was still holding out hope that she would change her mind.
âThatâs okay. Iâve got it.â Lauren wriggled out of his grasp, leaned forward, and completed the transaction.
âYouâve been a tremendous help,â she said to Marko as she rose. âIâm glad we met.â
This time it was she who extended her hand.
Reluctantly, he shook it. âI hope we meet again, Lauren. Iâll look for you the next time Iâm in Munich.â
Still smiling, Lauren left the cafÃ© and walked through the wide cobblestone apron outside. There were little tables with umbrellas scattered about, with patrons chatting and eating. Sated by the beer and pretzel, she inhaled happily, and then, walking over to the sidewalk, began what she expected to be a thoughtful stroll. Maybe sheâd text her parents this time, try explaining her position without all the drama of a phone call.
She was halfway down the street when she heard a male voice call after her, âLauren!â
She turned to see Marko hurrying in her direction. âHere.â He extended his arm, a familiar iPhone in his hand. âYou left this on the table.â
âOh, thank you.â How could she have been so careless? She protected her cell phone like a small child. âIâd be lost without thatââ
As she spoke, a Mercedes van tore around the corner and came screeching up to them.
The near doors were flung open, and a stocky man jumped out, his face concealed by a black hood. Before Lauren could so much as blink, he grabbed her, yanking a burlap sack over her head and tossing her over his shoulder.
“Merr nÃ« makinÃ«,â he said in a language Lauren didnât understand.
By this time, Lauren had recovered enough to struggle for her freedom. Her legs flailed in the air, kicking furiously, and she pounded on the manâs back as he carried her and flung her into the back of the van.
Marko jumped in behind her, slamming the doors shut and barking out something in the same dialect as the other manâneither French nor Slavicâas the stocky barbarian held her down.
Finally finding her voice, Lauren let out a scream, which was quickly muffled by the pressure of Markoâs hand over her mouth. She could taste the wool of the sack, and she inclined her head so she could breathe through her nose.
A short-lived reprieve.
Marko fumbled around, then shoved a handkerchief under the sack, covering her nose and mouth. Lauren thrashed her head from side to side, struggling to avoid it. The odor was sickeningly sweet and citrusy.
Tears burned behind her eyes. Shock waves pulsed through her body.
Oh God, she didnât want to die.
Marko clamped his other hand on the back of her head, holding it in place while he forced the handkerchief flush against her nose and mouth, making it impossible for her to escape.
Dizziness. Nausea. Black specks. Nothing.
âShko,â Marko ordered his accomplice, shoving him toward the driverâs seat.
The van screeched off, headed to hell.
Excerpt from Dead In A Week by Andrea Kane. Copyright Â© 2019 by Andrea Kane. Reproduced with permission from Andrea Kane. All rights reserved.
Andrea Kane is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-eight novels, including fourteen psychological thrillers and fourteen historical romantic suspense titles. With her signature style, Kane creates unforgettable characters and confronts them with life-threatening danger. As a master of suspense, she weaves them into exciting, carefully-researched stories, pushing them to the edgeâand keeping her readers up all night.
Kaneâs first contemporary suspense thriller, Run for Your Life, became an instant New York Times bestseller. She followed with a string of bestselling psychological thrillers including No Way Out, Twisted, and Drawn in Blood.
Her latest in the highly successful Forensic Instincts series, Dead in a Week, adds the Zermatt Group into the mixâa covert team of former military and spy agency operatives. With a week to save a young woman from ruthless kidnappers, this globe-spanning chase, from the beerhalls of Germany, to the tech gardens of California, to the skyscrapers of China, and finally the farmlands of Croatia will keep readers guessing until the very end. The first showcase of Forensic Instinctsâ talents came with the New York Times bestseller, The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, followed by The Line Between Here and Gone, The Stranger You Know, The Silence that Speaks, The Murder That Never Was, and A Face to Die For.
With a worldwide following of passionate readers, her books have been published in more than twenty languages.
Kane lives in New Jersey with her husband and family. Sheâs an avid crossword puzzle solver and a diehard Yankees fan. Otherwise, sheâs either writing or playing with her Pomeranian, Mischief, who does his best to keep her from writing.
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