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Far Gone

Andrea Finch had never been dumped at a barbecue joint, but there was a first time for everything.

Her date looked out of place at the scarred wooden booth in his charcoal-gray suit. He’d come straight from work, as she had. He’d ditched the tie but still seemed overly formal in a restaurant that had paper-towel rolls on every table and classic country drifting from the jukebox.

“So.” Nick Mays took a swig of beer. “How was your day?”

Andrea smiled. He sounded like a tired husband, and they’d only been dating a month.

“Fine,” she said. “Yours?”


For the dozenth time since she’d sat down, his gaze darted over her shoulder. When his blue eyes met hers again, she felt a twinge of regret. He really was a nice-looking man. Good eyes, thick hair. A bit of a beer gut, but she didn’t mind, really. His main problem was his oversized ego. Andrea was used to men with big egos. She’d been surrounded by them since she’d entered the police academy, and they’d only multiplied once she earned her detective’s badge.

“Listen, Andrea.” He glanced over her shoulder again, and she braced for the speech. “These last few weeks, they’ve really been great.”

He was a terrible liar, which was too bad. As an assistant district attorney, he was going to need the skill if he planned to run for his boss’s job someday.

He opened his mouth to continue just as a waitress stepped up and beamed a smile at him.

“Y’all ready to order?”

Nick looked pained. But to his credit, he nodded in Andrea’s direction. “Andie?”

“I’m good, thanks.”

He glanced at the waitress. “Me, too.”

“So . . . y’all won’t be having dinner with us?” Her overly made-up eyes shifted to Andrea. She tucked a lock of blond hair behind her ear and looked impatient.

“Just the drinks for now.” Nick gave her one of his smiles, which seemed to lessen her annoyance as she hustled off. The smile faded as he turned back to Andrea. “So I was saying. These past few weeks. It’s been a good time, Andie. You’re an interesting girl.”

She gritted her teeth. If he insisted on using frat-boy speak, she was going to make this way harder for him. She folded her arms over her chest and cast her gaze around the restaurant, letting his comment dangle awkwardly.

The cowbell on the door rattled as a family of four filed outside. Tonight’s crowd was thin, even for a Monday. Maybe the weather was keeping people away. Austin was set to get sleet tonight, and her lieutenant had called in extra officers, expecting the roads to be a mess.


She looked at him.

“I said, wouldn’t you agree with that?”

The cowbell rattled again as a skinny young man stepped through the entrance. He wore a black trench coat and clunky boots. His too-big ears reminded Andrea of her brother.

She looked at Nick. “Agree with what?”

His mouth tightened. “I said it seems like neither of us is looking for something serious right now. So maybe we should cool things down a little.”

She glanced across the room as the kid walked toward the double doors leading to the kitchen. She studied the line of his coat, frowning.


What?” Her attention snapped to Nick.

“Christ, you’re not even listening. Have you heard a word I said?”

She glanced at the kitchen, where the clatter of pots and pans had suddenly gone silent. The back of her neck tingled. She slid from the booth.


“Just a sec.”

She strode across the restaurant, her gaze fixed on the double doors. Her heart thudded inexplicably while her mind cataloged info: six-one, one-fifty, blond, blue. She pictured his flushed cheeks and his lanky body in that big coat.

A waiter whisked past her and pushed through the doors to the kitchen. Andrea followed, stumbling into him when he halted in his tracks.

Three people stood motionless against a counter. Their eyes were round with shock, and their mouths hung open.

The kid in the overcoat stood a few yards away, pointing a pistol at them.

His gaze jumped to Andrea and the waiter. “You! Over there!” He jerked his head at the petrified trio.

The waiter made a strangled sound and scuttled out the door they’d just come through.

Andrea didn’t move. Her chest tightened as she took in the scene: two waitresses and a cook, all cowering against a counter. Possibly more people in back. The kid was brandishing a Glock 17. It was pointed straight at the woman in the center, Andrea’s waitress. She couldn’t have been more than eighteen, and the gunman looked almost as young. Andrea noted his skinny neck, his freckles. His cheeks were pink—not from cold, as she’d first thought, but emotion.

The look he sent the waitress was like a plea.

“You did this, Haley!”

The woman’s eyes widened. Her lips moved, but no words came out.

“This is your fault.”

Andrea eased her hand beneath her blazer. The kid’s arm swung toward her. “You! Get with them!”

She went still.

“Dillon, what are you—”

“Shut up!” The gun swung back toward the waitress. Haley. The trio was just a few short yards away from the gun. Even with no skill whatsoever, anything he fired at that distance would likely be lethal. And who knew how many bullets he had in that thing?

Andrea’s heart drummed inside her chest. The smoky smell of barbecue filled the air. The kitchen was warm and steamy, and the walls seemed to be closing in on her as she focused on the gunman.

His back was to a wall lined with coat hooks. She counted four jackets and two ball caps, probably all belonging to the staff. Was anyone else hiding in the back? Had someone called for help?

You did this!” the gunman shouted, and Haley flinched.

Andrea licked her lips. For only the second time in her career, she eased her gun from its holster and prepared to aim it at a person. The weight in her hand felt familiar, almost comforting. But her mouth went dry as her finger slid around the trigger.


She thought of everything she’d ever learned about hostage negotiations. She thought of the waiter who’d fled. She thought of Nick. Help had to be on the way by now. But the closest SWAT team was twenty minutes out, and she knew, with sickening certainty, that whatever happened here was going to be over in a matter of moments.

“I trusted you, Haley.” His voice broke on the last word, and Haley cringed back. “I trusted you, but you’re a liar!

“Dillon, please—”

Shut up! Just shut up, okay?”

Ambivalence. She heard it in his voice. She could get control of this.

Andrea raised her weapon. “Dillon, look at me.”

To her relief, his eyes veered in her direction. He was crying now, tears streaming down his freckled cheeks, and again he reminded her of her brother. Andrea’s stomach clenched as she lined up her sights on his center body mass.

Establish a command presence.

“Put the gun down, Dillon. Let’s talk this through.”

He swung his arm ninety degrees, and Andrea was staring down the barrel of the Glock. All sound disappeared. Her entire world seemed to be sucked by gravity toward that little black hole.

She lifted her gaze to the gunman’s face. Dillon. His name was Dillon. And he was eighteen, tops.

Her heart beat crazily. Her mouth felt dry. Hundreds of times she’d trained to confront an armed assailant. It should have been a no-brainer, pure muscle memory. But she felt paralyzed. Every instinct was screaming for her to find another way.

Dillon’s attention slid to Haley, who seemed to be melting into the Formica counter. The others had inched away from her—a survival instinct that was going to be of little help if this kid let loose with a hail of bullets.

Loud, repetitive commands.

“Dillon, look at me.” She tried to make her voice firm, but even she could hear the desperation in it. “Put the gun down, Dillon. We’ll talk through this.”

His eyes met hers again. He rubbed his nose on the shoulder of his coat. Tears and snot glistened on his face.

“I’ll kill you, too,” he said softly. “Don’t think I won’t.”

“I believe you. But wouldn’t it be easier just to talk?” She paused. “Put the gun down, Dillon.”

She could see his arm shaking, and—to her dismay—hers began to shake, too. As if she didn’t know how to hold her own weapon. As if she didn’t work out three times a week to maintain upper-body strength.

As if she didn’t have it in her to shoot a frightened kid.

He was disintegrating before her eyes. She could see it. His Adam’s apple moved up and down as he swallowed hard.

“You can’t stop me.” His voice was a thread now, almost a whisper. He shifted his stance back toward Haley, and the stark look on her face told Andrea she’d read his body language.

“I’ll do it.”

Andrea’s pulse roared in her ears. The edges of her vision blurred. All she saw was that white hand clutching that big black gun.

She took a breath.

Far Gone
by by Laura Griffin