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Fatal Betrayal

Fatal Betrayal

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"What I love about a Barbara Freethy story is that it feels like you are going on a big roller coaster ride. The ascent is slow because you are getting ready for what's to come, however, once you reach the top, it is fast, twisty turns, unexpected loops and there is a rush to the finish line. Buckle up as this is a good ride." Debbie on FATAL BETRAYAL

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"Barbara Freethy’s suspense novels are explosively good!" – New York Times Bestselling Author Toni Anderson

Haunted by a youthful tragedy, FBI Agent Andi Hart specializes in finding missing children, but her latest case throws her off her game when she discovers her former childhood friend turned bitter enemy has been called in to consult. 

Eighteen years ago, Cooper Bradford was with Andi the night a toddler disappeared from their neighborhood. He wanted to find the kid as much as Andi did, but her amateur sleuthing turned the focus on his older brother and destroyed his family. Since then, Cooper has made it his life mission to fight for the falsely accused and has become an enemy of law enforcement.

 With a child's life on the line, Andi and Cooper must put aside the emotional fall-out from their once strong bond and work together. But the tension between them reaches a boiling point when they uncover something far more sinister than they ever imagined and a shocking connection to their past. Suddenly nothing is what they thought it was…

Can Andi trust Cooper to have her back, and can he trust her to have his? The answer to that question could mean the difference between life and death.

This heart-pumping, romantic and suspenseful novel from #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Barbara Freethy will keep you guessing until the very end!

What the readers are saying…

"Count on Freethy to scare up a mind bender of a mystery. Fatal Betrayal is a thrilling dance with danger, heartache, and hope. With raw emotion and edge of your seat intrigue, Freethy keeps readers guessing and hearts racing until the bitter end." Isha – BookBub

"This book will have you on the edge of your seat and not wanting to put it down until you've read the very last word. It's filled with suspense, romance, family and a twist you don't see coming." Cindy – Goodreads

"I write this sleep deprived as I stayed up half the night reading this amazing book. I was hooked from the first chapter and couldn’t put it down. Barbara is terrific at weaving an engaging, action-packed, suspenseful, and emotional romance mystery." Sandra – Goodreads

"Barbara Freethy is a master at romantic suspense, and this latest book in her Off the Grid: FBI series attests to that! Wow! Fast-paced, page-turner, intense, twists and turns. There’s also drama, living with and getting past old hurts and misunderstandings, romance, and lots of emotion. I loved it! I was hooked from the first page!" Kristen – Goodreads

 

 

PROLOGUE

Eighteen years earlier….

Fourteen-year-old Andi Hart hopped off her bike as she and Cooper Bradford reached the top of the hill. Her heart was pumping, and she was sweating in her shorts and tank top. It was almost ten o'clock at night, and it was still seventy-five degrees in Beachwood Canyon, a hilly neighborhood just below the infamous Hollywood sign. The streets were steep and curvy, with single homes tucked in between thick trees. 

The moon was full tonight, giving them plenty of light, which should make their job easier. They walked their bikes behind the big oak tree across the street from where their principal, Donald Jenkins, lived. Mr. Jenkins was a married man whose wife and baby had gone to Texas for the week to visit his wife's mother. 

Andi probably shouldn't know that, but she'd made it her business to know everything about the man who had gotten her favorite teacher suspended two days ago. She couldn’t just stand by and do nothing when someone she liked was in trouble. 

"This is stupid," Cooper declared. 

She turned her head and frowned at his look of annoyance. She'd been seeing that look a lot on his face. In the past year, he'd grown three inches, his blond hair had gotten longer, and his teenage body was filling out in a way that made her feel a little uncomfortable around him. They'd been best friends since they were eight, but lately Cooper seemed to find her irritating and she sometimes felt that way about him, too. 

"It's not stupid," she said. "It's going to happen. We just have to wait."

"You don't know if anything is going to happen, and even if you're right, even if Mr. Jenkins is banging his wife's best friend, what are we going to do about it?"

"We're going to use it as leverage to get him to bring Ms. Taylor back. He only suspended her because she made us read a book he doesn't like." 

Cooper gave her a long-suffering look. "You are not going to blackmail our principal, Andi. You'll get thrown out of school. You'll get us both expelled. And I don't think our parents are going to be happy about that." 

"He won't know it's us. We'll just take some photos and send them to Mr. Jenkins anonymously. We don't have to do anything else. He won't want his wife to know. He'll cave," she said confidently. But Cooper's doubts were giving her some doubts as well. She didn't want to get expelled, although that might actually get her parents to pay some attention to her.

Cooper sat down on the curb, stretching out his long legs. "You know you don't have to make up shit just to get out of the house, Andi. There doesn't have to be a big mystery to solve. You could have just said you wanted to go for a ride, so you didn't have to hear your parents fight."

"I'm not making this up. I heard Ms. Taylor talking to her friend on the phone about how Mr. Jenkins had a lot of nerve trying to act like he was so ethical when it was clear he was cheating on his wife." 

"Then maybe she should be trying to blackmail him instead of us," Cooper said, always practical. "What are your parents fighting about tonight?"

She hated that he knew her so well. "Who knows?" She sat down on the curb next to him. "I don't like listening to them. It makes me want to throw up."

"Do you think they're going to get a divorce?"

Her stomach churned at that thought. She didn't want her parents to split up, but a part of her thought they might all be happier if they did. "I don't know. I don't want to talk about it. Look, Mr. Jenkins turned a light on upstairs, and the curtains are open."

"There aren't any cars around. I don't think anyone else is there," Cooper said. "This is a bad plan, Andi."

"You don't have to stay." 

"Yes, I do," he said, meeting her gaze. "I always do."

An odd little flutter ran through her. She didn't understand it. She didn't want anything to change between them, but it seemed to be happening anyway. Although, he did keep coming out with her, even if he spent a lot of time telling her how dumb her ideas were. Maybe they were stupid. Maybe she was just looking for a distraction, something else to think about, some problem she could actually fix. 

The lights in the house they were watching suddenly went out. 

"That's it," Cooper said. "Nothing is going to happen tonight. Nothing that we can see, anyway." 

"Maybe not," she said wearily. Now, she'd have to go home and hope that the fight was over. She reluctantly got to her feet and got on her bike. 

As they headed back down the windy hilly streets that led to their houses, which were directly across the street from each other, the wind blew her brown-haired ponytail back and she felt the coolest she'd been all day. 

She loved being out at night. In the dark shadows, she felt free. Of course, her parents didn't know she was out. They thought she was in her room, and they'd be too busy fighting to notice she was gone. 

She remembered when her mom and dad used to creep into her room after she'd gone to bed. They'd tuck her in, kiss her forehead, and whisper that they loved her. She'd always pretended to be asleep because she liked the feeling of their love. And when they were gone, she'd sneak her book out and read by flashlight until she couldn’t keep her eyes open. But they hadn't come into her room in a long time. 

Her anger and sadness sent her flying down the hill, even faster than she usually liked to ride. She was almost at the bottom of the hill when a car sped through the intersection, and she slammed on the brakes, stopping so fast she almost landed in the bushes of the house on the corner. 

Cooper caught up to her a second later. "What's wrong with you?" he asked. "Why are you riding so fast?" 

"It was a hill. Did you see that car that almost hit me? I think it was your brother's car."

"I saw a car; it wasn't my brother's. He's at a concert with Will. He probably won't be back until midnight. I can't wait until I'm eighteen and don't have to be back in the house by eleven on weekends."

She thought he was lucky his parents cared enough to give him a curfew, but he wouldn't appreciate that. Instead, she said, "I'd like to go to a concert. My mom says I'm too young." She let out a sigh. "I'm so tired of being too young."

He laughed. "You'll get there."

"Hey, you're only six months older than me," she reminded him.

"Yeah, and I've already been to a concert," he bragged.

She rolled her eyes. "Only because you have an older brother. I had to be an only child."

"Sometimes, I wouldn't mind being an only. Monica is a pest," he said, referring to his younger sister. "And Kyle—well, he's Kyle."

She nodded. His older brother definitely had some issues, but he wasn't a bad kid, just a little weird. She was about to get back on her bike when sirens pierced the air. A moment later, two police cars raced past them, coming to a screeching halt at a house around the corner.

"What's that about?" she asked. "Let's check it out."

"Andi, wait," Cooper said. 

But she was already on her bike, riding around the corner and down the block. Five houses in, she saw the cars had stopped in front of the Montgomery's house. Mrs. Montgomery was in the yard. She was crying and the nanny, Gemma, had her arm around her while Mr. Montgomery talked to the police.  

Another police car pulled up as neighbors came out of their houses, including their friend TJ Lassiter, who lived next door to the Montgomery's home. The red-haired, freckle-faced kid saw them on the sidewalk and came over. 

"Do you know what's going on?" she asked.

"I heard Mrs. Montgomery yelling that Hannah is missing," TJ said. "They were all running around the yard. Mr. Montgomery pounded on my door. Scared the shit out of me. I didn't know what was going on. I let him in our side gate and went in the yard with him to look for her, but I didn't see her. She's a baby. How could she have run away?"

"She's not a baby; she's two," Andi said, her heart pounding against her chest at the thought of Hannah being missing. She'd babysat Hannah last weekend, and she was a sweet little girl with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a big smile. How could she be gone? 

"She must have gotten out of her crib," TJ said. He paused. "Hey, there's Will." He waved to his older brother, who was walking down the street. 

"What's happened?" Will asked. 

"Hannah is missing."

"Like she's lost?" Will drawled. As he moved closer, Andi wrinkled her nose. He smelled like weed. Actually, both he and TJ smelled like that, which was becoming more and more the norm with those two. 

"Like someone took her," TJ said. 

"We don't know what happened," Cooper interjected. "I'm sure she's somewhere. She's just hiding."

"Hannah loves to play hide-and-seek," she said, having firsthand knowledge of Hannah's love of the game on the times she'd babysat for her when the nanny had the night off. "That has to be it. They'll find her soon." 

As they all turned toward the scene, she reached for Cooper and grabbed his hand. For a second, she thought he might pull away, and then he tightened his fingers around hers. 

"It's going to be okay," he told her. 

She really wanted to believe him.

THE FBI SERIES takes readers on thrilling, romantic, and suspenseful adventures! While an overarching mystery plays out over the first five novels, every story stands completely on its own and there are no cliffhangers!

The books feature complex and exciting storylines ranging from kidnapping to organized crime, terrorism, and espionage. Personal stories often play out against a bigger, broader storyline, and surprising twists will keep you up all night. Start reading today!

Check out more books in the series!

  • Perilous Trust
  • Reckless Whisper
  • Desperate Play
  • Elusive Promise
  • Dangerous Choice
  • Ruthless Cross
  • Critical Doubt
  • Fearless Pursuit
  • Daring Deception
  • Risky Bargain
  • Perfect Target
  • Fatal Betrayal
  • Deadly Trap