A Harmless Little Plan (Harmless #3)

A Harmless Little Plan (Harmless #3)

Meli Raine

Chapter 1


There’s a gun in my ribs, right above my hipbone, and Mark Paulson smells like metal and death.

It’s a beautiful Southern California day, with not a cloud in the sky. The air smells like salt and sweet freedom. Freshly-mowed grass tickles my nose as a light breeze sweeps past, just a passing fancy, an airborne visitor.

This is Hollywood perfect. We could be on a movie set. But we’re not.

“Lindsay,” he says, his face hidden by my proximity to him, his arm holding me close, as if he’s protecting me as he escorts me to the stairs to board the helicopter.

But if he’s protecting me, why is he holding me at gunpoint?

What the hell?

That’s not Mark.

My world pinpoints. I can’t see his face, but that’s not his voice. I know that voice.

I’d know it anywhere.

John Gainsborough.

I look back at Anya, who just walked me out to the landing strip, leaving me at the halfway point. Like the good little girl that I am, I followed. They’ve trained me well, right? Besides, I’m surrounded by my security detail. What am I supposed to do – disobey?

Certainly not now.

My knees buckle. His grasp is hard, holding me up, not caring that my high heel snaps, my feet an afterthought. I try to look over to the building, the helicopter blades slicing through sound itself, taking over.

I’m about to faint.

No. I can’t faint.

Drew, I want to scream. Where are you?

“Get in,” John says in a pleasant voice, as if we’re taking a day jaunt to a private island. As if we’re off for a pleasant sun-filled trip with yachts and jet-skis, cavalier and free, troubled only by our own stresses and worries about not conforming to the expectations set by our peers and parents.

If only.

I can’t scream, because the sound of the helicopter blades takes over all the available space for noise. Nothing I do will get anyone’s attention.

How’s that for irony? The whole point of coming home was to blend into the scenery and be a boring prop for Daddy’s family image.

And now I can’t make myself stand out long enough to be saved.

Daddy said I was going back to the Island. Even he couldn’t lie to me and pretend his coffee plantation plan was real. Gentle yet firm, he’d sat me down last night to explain it all.

And I’d complied, because good girls do what they’re asked, right?

All the while, I’d rubbed my hands together, worrying that little Band-aid next to my thumb.

Nothing they do matters.


Not Daddy, not Stellan, Blaine and John, not my mother – no one.

Because Drew’s smarter than all of them.

And he’s coming for me.

No matter what.

That thought comforts me as John shoves me, hard, up into the helicopter. My shin bangs against the iron step, the metal’s edge scraping up the long, thin bone so hard I know it’ll leave a speckled bruise in the morning.

He’s strong, with tight muscles. That’s right. Baseball player. John Gainsborough, big league pitcher extraordinaire. His knuckleballs are un-hittable, and those same knuckles dig into my ribs. Top of his game, and in prime condition. A guy like that has some serious discipline, right?

I should scream. Pain sears me, his scent a swift reminder of the past, John’s musk drifting into my nose.

I’m transported back four years.

Only this time, I know what he’s about to do.

What they’re about to do.

I’m not sure which is worse.

Not knowing or knowing.

I go limp. I’m not making this easy for him. The longer I delay, the more time Drew has to rescue me.

“Cute,” he hisses in my ear, licking the shell. Horror bursts through me, my blood carrying messages to my limbs, my brain, all screaming danger! as I stop breathing. My breath halts as if it can’t continue.

Just can’t.

“If you think your participation in anything, including walking, is optional, Lindsay, you’re sorely mistaken. We’ve been waiting for you. We have quite the plan.” His voice is filled with glee.

“You’re so screwed,” I whisper, the defiance unable to keep itself inside. My words come out in a whoosh as my body remembers to breathe.

“Screwed? We’re all about to be screwed. And so much more.” John’s face splits into a grin.

When we were in high school, I had a mad crush on him. We all did. Tall and muscular, with pale gray eyes and the look of an athlete with a fine brain, he was the golden boy. The guy every girl wanted for her own.

I find him repulsive now. Being touched by him is like being caressed by an angry slug.

“Drew is coming for me.” The words are out before I know it. I have made a mistake. I know I have, yet I’m emboldened by saying it. Acknowledging the truth gives me power, even as the world turns to white and black dots before my eyes. He is. I know he is, my cells screaming for him, sending signals to the man who loved me enough to spend the last four years readying for this moment.

Which is unfolding without him.

“Drew?” John’s laughter is bitter and nasty, condescending and so self-assured that a zing of electric fear shoots from my teeth to my ass. “Drew is in police custody for stalking you.”

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