Tyler Karras is an honest man, a transplanted Brit living the American dream, but his charmed life takes an unexpected turn when his brother, Nick, is coerced into joining ranks with San Francisco’s Russian mafia. Ty intervenes to secure Nick’s freedom, yet only succeeds in incurring their wrath. With no choice but to accept Nick’s new life, Ty returns to his own, but his dreams are dashed when his wife—pregnant with their first child—is killed, the victim of a reckless crime.
Despondent and bitter, Ty macerates his grief in alcohol. From the depths of the bottle screams a voice, howling for vengeance. His target is a stranger, the woman who drew his wife toward her death. He doesn’t know her, but he’ll find her, and when he does, he will make her pay, for a deal has been struck with Nick’s Russian associates, enslaving her into a life of bondage. But as Ty moves forward in a cloud of alcohol, he mistakes the wrong woman for his intended victim and now all his plans have gone straight to hell.
With his eyes made clear by the stark reality of his mistake, Ty is driven, compelled by remorse and a relentless sense of guilt to make amends and protect Hannah Maguire, the innocent woman whose life he has derailed. He vows to keep her safe and out of the Russians’ hands, but they’re holding Nick as leverage to force Ty to complete their deal and turn over the girl. Once again, he must fight to free his brother, miring all three lives in further jeopardy. But Ty can’t do it all: Save the girl, his brother and his own soul. One of them must make the ultimate sacrifice.
God, I didn’t want to do this. Just thinking about it had my gut tied in knots, but I was out of options. My brother had given me no choice. I was tired of his promises, sick of his attitude, of everything always being someone else’s fault, never his. While my fiancée, Jillian, and I had discussed what I should say to him, I continued to rehearse, point by point, during my short commute home. But who was I kidding? I knew damn well, no matter what I said, my brother would throw every word right back in my face, like he always did. But I didn’t care anymore. After four long weeks, he had overstayed his welcome, and now it was time for Nick to leave.
The confrontation loomed only minutes away, and I was dreading it. And if that wasn’t enough, there was the fog. Cold and persistent, it clung to the road like a drowning man to driftwood. It was the one thing I’d never grown accustomed to here in San Francisco, the summer fog burning off each afternoon only to reappear a few hours later, denser than ever. Add to it the waning twilight and you couldn’t see much at all, just indistinct shapes of black and grey. I could barely make out the colorful Victorian facades standing shoulder to shoulder along my street. The painted ladies simply faded into the mist.
I pulled into my driveway and shifted into park, a long sigh escaping at the thought of what waited for me inside. As I grabbed the roll of blueprints next to me, a movement outside caught my eye, a dark shape on the sidewalk a few doors down, writhing about in the murky shadows. I strained to see what it was, an injured animal perhaps, though it seemed too large for that, at least in this part of The City. Golden Gate Park maybe, but that was blocks away. I snatched my keys from the ignition, shut the door to my truck, and ambled up the front walkway, my gaze fixed on the squirming silhouette. There were no noises or crying that I could hear, but then again, the fog had a way of deadening all sound. After wrestling in the dark with the deadbolt, I shot one last glance over my shoulder then pushed through my front door.
“Nick?” I called out, my keys jingling as I worked them from the lock. “Why are all the lights off?” I switched on the hall light and kicked off my shoes as I waited, but I heard no reply, so I tried once more, only louder. “Nick, you hear me? Where are you?”
A disturbing silence hung in the air, uncomfortable and creepy. Unexpected since my brother was supposed to be home, day and night, no exceptions. He’d recently gotten himself into a heap of trouble, and now there were some large men gunning for a little payback. Par for the course for my little brother. He was always getting into one scrape or another. But this time was different. Nick was scared. Really scared. Scared enough to ask if he could hide out at my place while he tried to straighten out the mess with the men he’d crossed, a gang of Russian thugs from his neighborhood in the Outer Richmond District here in The City. One wrong step, like out the front door, and Nick might not see the light of another day, or so he told me.
I glanced upstairs, but it, too, stood dark and quiet. Something definitely wasn’t right. The hair pricked on the back of my neck, and the knots in my stomach morphed into a swarm of butterflies, all battling to escape. I threw down my keys and blueprints and walked through the house, turning on lights in my path.
“Nick, answer me! Where the hell are you?”
I don’t know why I expected a response that third time. Maybe I was just praying for one instead, but the silence was all the answer I received. I stood still, deep in thought, worried about what might have happened. He wouldn’t have left the house, would he? I turned toward the entry hall. Oh God, no. I dashed back out the front door, pausing on the porch as I scanned for the dark form. It was still squirming on the sidewalk, but it appeared even larger now.
The streetlight out front was just beginning to dance to life. Sporadic bursts of pale pink light illuminated two feet as they kicked and twisted in the hazy air. The single shape expanded into three distinct forms—all human—one prone on the ground and two bent above, their arms sawing up and down and back and forth with hands clenched tight into fists.
“Oh, God. Nick!” I sprinted toward them in a panic, anxiety blossoming into fear.
“Tyler!” he wailed, but his cry was cut short by pounding thuds.
The other two men—both built like bulls and panting in exertion—stood up straight. They turned toward me with their fists pulled back. And as the streetlight overhead finally flickered on for good, the one inside my head flashed bright then flamed out.