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SHE left her building at six for the health club up the street. Shed done this every morning for the last four days, only today something was different. A white sanitation truck had thundered up the block. Now it sat in the middle of the road like an enormous beached whale.

There was no room to maneuver now. No way to get clear, get away. From behind the wheel of the parked SUV, the stalker took a breath, remained steady, stayed calm. With the wedding next week, Breannes schedule was becoming unpredictable. Waiting any longer would pose problems.

It must be done today. This morning.

After her workout, Breanne returned to her apartment. She showered, dressed, and left for the office at seven fifteen. As her leggy strides ate up the sidewalk, the stalkers gloved hands gripped the SUVs wheel and twisted the key.

The glossy black rental looked like thousands of others on the city streets, but the stalker had taken no chances. The white New York plates had been splattered with mud. A fedora had been purchased, sunglasses worn, a collar turned up.

The location was perfect: Sutton Place, a picturesque nook of the Upper East Side. The area was quiet and exclusive. Best of all, it skirted the Queensboro Bridge, allowing swift and easy egress from a Manhattan crime scene.

At this hour, traffic was still light. The sanitation truck was long gone. Only two cars moved down the one-way street. The SUV rolled slowly, just behind the target. Breanne nattered as she moved, cell phone plastered to her fair head, unaware of the dark monster pacing her. She looked like a seagull, white and graceful, gliding with ease through the concrete canyons, wings spread, beak high

The stalkers eye twitched.

She was attractive. So? Even beautiful birds were made to die unfair deaths. This was something the stalker knew firsthand. Breannes fate was a necessary reckoning: A treasure had been taken. Now a price would be paid.

The stalkers grip tightened on the steering wheel. Several times, this course had been run. An ideal stretch was coming up, where signs warned of active driveways. No cars were parked there. No curbs were blocked-nothing to come between the bride-to-be and certain death.

Everything was perfect. Now it was going to happen. Now-

The stalker cut the wheel. Tires bounced over the concrete curb. The engine roared, and the vehicle shot forward. Breanne half turned, blond hair flying, finally aware of the threat. But it was too late. In another second, Beauty would be broken beyond repair-


But she didnt.

Before three tons of metal could smash her slender form, Breannes body was struck by another; a lunging, muscular man slammed her off the sidewalk and into a recessed doorway.

The SUV hurtled past the pair, crushing the womans dropped cell phone, mangling her designer handbag. The stalker cut the wheel again, banged off the curb, clipped a parked car.

There was screaming, shouting, commotion. The stalker checked the rearview. A man in workout sweats helped Breanne to her feet; a flash of profile told the stalker who he was.

With a raging string of curses, the stalker continued driving the route that had been planned. Breanne and her muscular savior would call 911, report the incident. In ten minutes, maybe less, the police would start looking. By then the vehicle would be off Manhattan s streets.

The SUV made the corner on First Avenue; turned again to the side street that led to the bridge ramp, headed for the Queens side of the East River. There was a place near the warehouses, deserted and dingy. The stalker would ditch the vehicle there. Then a short hike to the subway and back to Manhattan.

It would take a few days to create a new plan, but one would be made, and then it would be done. When the handsome groom saw his bride at the altar, her white gown would be replaced with a burial shroud. Yes, one way or another, Breanne Summour was going to die before her wedding day.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS | Espresso Shot | c