One Last Breath

One Last Breath

by Lisa Jackson, Nancy Bush

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The New York Times bestselling “Sisters of Suspense” thrill readers with this page-turning new novel of suspense where the wedding of one woman’s dreams turns into a waking nightmare—and five years later, a killer bent on exacting vengeance is closer than she realizes…


Rory Abernathy’s wedding to Liam Bastian turned into a bloodbath. She fled after stabbing a masked intruder, just before a gunman opened fire on the wedding party. Five years on, Rory still has no idea who was behind the attacks. Fearful she and her daughter remain targets, she’s made a new life far from Liam and the wealthy, powerful Bastians.
But even in remote Point Roberts, Washington, she can’t hide from the past. Liam tracks Rory down, stunned to learn they have a child. Did someone in Rory’s family try to kill him for his portion of the Bastian estate? As they gradually overcome distrust in search of the truth, Rory knows one thing for certain: someone is watching her…
Time has passed, but the killer’s need for vengeance hasn’t. And as a nightmare stirs to life again, Rory will find that this time, there’s nowhere left to run…
“Superb . . . a masterpiece of romantic suspense.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on Something Wicked
“Definitely one you don’t want to read alone at night.”
Library Journal on Wicked Lies

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781420136135
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 04/24/2018
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 130,288
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

LISA JACKSON is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than seventy-five novels, including You Will Pay, After She’s Gone, Close to Home, Tell Me, Deserves to Die, You Don’t Want to Know, Running Scared, and Shiver. She has over thirty million copies of her books in print in nineteen languages. She lives with her family and three rambunctious dogs in the Pacific Northwest. Readers can visit her website at and find her on Facebook.
NANCY BUSH is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Dangerous Behavior, The Killing Game, You Don’t Know Me, Nowhere Safe, Nowhere to Hide, Nowhere to Run, Hush, Blind Spot, Unseen, Wicked Ways, Something Wicked, Wicked Game, and Wicked Lies, in the Colony series co-written with her sister, bestselling author Lisa Jackson. She is also the co-author of Ominous and Sinister, written with Lisa Jackson and New York Times bestselling author Rosalind Noonan. Nancy lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest. Readers can visit her website at

Read an Excerpt


Portland, OregonFive years later ...

Most every window of the storefronts on the street level had been smashed or broken and the ones recently installed to the apartments above, still sporting their manufacturing stickers, weren't in much better shape. Though intact, all save for one were starred and cracked, possibly from the small piece of concrete at Liam's feet.

Derek ripped off his hard hat and threw it on the ground. "This keeps happening, we'll go broke!"

The sound of an electric saw buzzing on an upper floor was a steady noise he had to shout over. Liam yelled, "Put that back on."

"I don't give a damn what falls on my head."

"Don't be an asshole."

"What should I be, huh? Calm and frozen like you? This has been going on too long and I know who's behind it."

"Random vandalism," Liam said.

"Everett Stemple," Derek spat back. "Blames you for his sister's death. Blames all of us."

"Stepsister. And she's not dead, she's MIA," Liam corrected, as he always did when dealing with Derek's insistence that Rory was deceased. It was easier for Derek to act like Rory was dead, because he wanted to blame all the Stemples all the time, including Rory.

Maybe she was dead. Maybe that's why no one had found a trace of her, apart from a bloodstained wedding dress. Not Rory's blood. Someone else's, a male's, still unidentified. Not that the Seattle police were actively looking for Rory anymore. She was on the back burner, a footnote to the shooting at the hotel by a man who had been traced to an abandoned vehicle, the fuzzy photograph from a faraway street camera was little help in identifying him. The once hot trail was now covered in ice, though Seattle PD had never closed the case, and Detective Mickelson, a heavyset older man with a world-weary face, hadn't given up believing he'd be the one to close it. According to him, he never would, and though now retired from the force and working in private investigation, he periodically checked in with Liam to let him know he was still committed to working the case. It appeared to be the man's Great White Whale, and if his obsession turned up Rory, so much the better, though no concrete leads to her whereabouts had panned out thus far. The shooter's identity was still in question as well, though Mickelson had his theories.

In the beginning, Rory's disappearance had seemed connected to the shooting, yet there was no evidence to support that argument. But something had happened in her hotel room. A knife fight of some kind, as one knife was found with the same blood that was on the dress discovered during the search in a parking garage garbage can. The knife was believed to have come from the cheese-and-fruit tray whose contents had been scattered over the floor. Liam had been desperate to find her, but as time passed the investigation led in a different direction, and finding Rory became an adjunct to the main crime: an ambush by a male shooter who'd mowed down Aaron Stemple, killing him, and injuring several other wedding attendees. Liam's father, now confined to a wheelchair, had been among the wounded, as was Liam himself. His injuries had healed, but occasionally, when his mind drifted to that day, phantom pains emanated from the bullet scars.

Detective Mickelson believed the shooter was either dead or incarcerated for some other crime, since the trail just seemed to end. The authorities had gone through thousands of interviews, trying to ascertain a motive. There had been a flurry of interest in Harold Stemple, whose prison friends had ties to released criminals who could have been involved. But Stemple had lost his youngest son in the debacle, and he was still married to Darlene, the last Liam had checked, so it seemed unlikely he would risk their lives. The man had been convicted of home invasion and attempted robbery, but he'd been in prison at the time of the shooting, and there appeared to be no credible connection.

There was the thought that a disgruntled ex-employee or subcontractor who'd worked for Bastian-Flavel might be responsible. The authorities had even scrutinized Liam's father's ex–business partner, James Flavel, a man in his late seventies who was retired and living in Arizona and had declined the invitation to the wedding. Flavel had been entirely cooperative, and though he and Liam's father had suffered a falling-out years earlier, they still considered each other a friend, and there was no serious animosity. Flavel had moved on with his life and was having a romantic renaissance, of a sort. He was the most eligible single male in the retirement community where he resided, and he spent most of his time either golfing or dating some of the women in the complex, which created ongoing tensions amongst the female residents but appeared to have no bearing on the shooting.

Liam was sick to the back teeth of the whole thing. From being desperate to find Rory, yearning for answers, yearning for her, he'd slowly grown cold and remote, the memory of their love turning from a pulsing ember to a diamond-hard stone. The fact that Derek seemed determined to keep bringing up Everett Stemple as the vandal who was harassing their projects pissed him off. Stemple still lived in Seattle, the last Liam had checked, and it wasn't feasible that he would drive three or four hours each way to commit crimes against the Bastians. Sure, Everett had been crazed with grief and fury in the beginning. His brother was dead and Rory was missing and he somehow thought Liam was responsible. But that was a mad reaction, and even Everett had eventually recognized that that scenario made no sense.

Now, Derek was talking to their foreman, Les Steele, gesticulating toward the broken windows, his dark hair flying in the wind. The saw was still buzzing, making every word a shout, so Steele merely pointed to Derek's discarded hard hat. Liam bent down to pick it up. No need to get a citation about unsafe practices just because Derek was angry, frustrated, and stubborn.

Liam met up with Steele and Derek.

"We need more security," Steele said loudly, above the racket.

"We're like bleeding money," Derek moaned.

"I'll order it," Liam stated firmly.

Steele nodded and pointed to where he was needed in a confab with a couple of other workers who were talking with a crane operator. Liam elbowed Derek, whose gaze was following Les, and once he got his attention, Liam gestured to the parking lot and Derek's beat-up, green Ford F1 truck, the vehicle they had driven to the site in as they'd been at the company office together when they'd learned of the sabotage.

Derek swept off his protective headgear again as soon as they were away from the hard-hat area. "It's our building that keeps getting hit. It's not Barlow's." He pointed to an apartment building going up several blocks away in the same Sellwood district. It was new from the ground up, whereas the Bastians' Hallifax building was a complete gut job. Maintaining the building's original walls and façade, keeping its beautiful architecture and neighborhood flavor, the project was looked on as a model for the area.

"They should be hit, not us. Barlow razed that thing to the ground. We're trying to make everybody happy here. Keep the original design."

"You like the original design," Liam reminded him.

"Yeah, I do, and so does everybody else! Well, most people around here anyway ... that's why this destructive shithead should be going after Barlow, not us! We're doing this the right way."

Though Liam saw Derek's point, agreed with it, even, he didn't say anything. Their father had wanted to blast the building to smithereens and go modern, just like Barlow Construction, and it had been Liam and Derek who'd talked him into hanging on to the old, citing the antique shops and general feel of the area. They'd believed, and Liam still believed, that their project would be welcomed by the neighborhood residents and shop owners, and that seemed to be the case ... at least at first.

As for their father, he was far too embittered to care about a design that was organic to the community. Geoff Bastian was infuriated that he'd lost the use of his legs and had never become comfortable with the wheelchair. He still tried to run his company, but he relied on his two sons to be his legs because he refused to show up at the work site being wheeled around. In some ways this made it easier for Liam; he could see for himself what needed to be done and tell his father about it later rather than have Geoff second-guess him over every decision, no matter how small. Of course, Geoff always wanted a full accounting, but Liam, with Derek's help, kept to the basics. The less said, the better.

If Derek felt slighted by the fact that Geoff put his younger son in charge, he didn't say so. Maybe he understood that his own mercurial temperament, so much like Geoff's, was the very reason he'd been passed over. Liam, with his icy control, a learned behavior that had been honed to an even finer point by Rory's defection, was better at running the show.

"What are you doing tonight?" Derek asked once he was behind the wheel and Liam was in the passenger seat. By mutual unsaid agreement, they were heading back to the Bastian-Flavel corporate offices along Portland's South Waterfront.

"Meeting Beth for dinner."


"Why?" Liam hedged.

"Where are you going to dinner? Is it a state secret?"

"We don't know yet. I'm going to text her."

"Bullshit. You just don't want me to know because you're embarrassed. She's talked you into another expensive restaurant where you'll order foie gras and lobster and a bottle of wine that would cover my rent for a month."

"You're not poor," Liam reminded his brother, hiding his anger because Derek had hit a nerve. Bethany Van Horne was used to living high on the hog. She was a good partner, great lover, but she had an expectation about money and finances that was the one reason Liam hadn't asked her to marry him. Well, that, and the fact that he was still wedded to Rory Abernathy, a situation his whole family and his would-be fiancée wanted him to rectify. And he should, he knew. It was time to get on with his life. Make a plan. Everyone thought Bethany was better suited for him. Everyone assumed that Liam and Beth were about to take the plunge. Everyone knew it was Liam who was dragging his feet. None of it was fair to Beth.

"I might not be poor, but I'm not engaged to a Van Horne," Derek pointed out. "Although I've heard rumblings that things aren't quite as rosy as they were, financially speaking."

Liam didn't respond. He'd heard the rumblings about old man Van Horne's business losses, too. Profits down in their lumber company. A possible leak of sensitive company dealings that may have squelched a potential sale. Bethany hadn't said anything about it, but she may not be completely aware, as she was only peripherally involved in her father's company.

"I'm not engaged to a Van Horne, either," Liam said as he pulled into the lot.

"You should be married to her."

"Yeah, well, a few hurdles to jump first."

"Annul that marriage, bro. I mean, c'mon. A month or two of wedded un-bliss and then she scoots out?" "I know your feelings about Rory, Derek."

"Well, know this, too. This isn't the first time she's run out on a guy. She was engaged once before, but took off before that walk down the aisle."

"I know, Derek," Liam said evenly. "She was scared of him. She ran because she didn't know what else to do."

"She told you?" He didn't bother to wait for Liam to reply. "What I heard was she ran because she figured out he was a loser who was never going to make enough money for her."

"Who told you that?"

"I've known it for years. It was all over the wedding. But nobody could talk to you about her. Still can't. I'm surprised we're even having this conversation. Maybe you're finally getting over her."

"I've been over her for years," Liam stated. "I just don't like talking about her and the wedding and Dad being in that wheelchair. It's turned him into a mean, frustrated old guy."

Derek made a face and looked past Liam. "He's always been a mean and frustrated old guy."

Liam heard something in Derek's tone, a wistfulness, maybe sadness. Derek had always been the "screw up." Except for his out-of- character marriage to Rory, Liam had been the more dutiful son.

For some reason that thought ate at him.

Derek climbed out of the truck and Liam followed suit. They headed back toward the corporate offices together, but as Liam punched the elevator call button, Derek hesitated. "Go eat fucking goose liver and fish eggs or whatever. I'm going to have a beer and ribs down at McCallum's."

"Now? It's three o'clock."

"Yeah, well, tell the old man I'm done for the day. I want to talk to some guys. See if anybody knows anything about what's going on down at the job site."

McCallum's was a favorite haunt down by the Willamette River. While it seemed like every establishment with a water view was an upscale, trendy hot spot, McCallum's stubbornly remained true to its workingman roots. A lot of the guys who were working on the Sellwood project ended up at McCallum's.

"Let me know if you learn anything."

Derek waved him away as he headed outside to his truck. The green Ford might be beat-up, but it had every bell, whistle, and electronic device available. Derek might needle him about Beth and money, but he was used to having nice things himself. He just wasn't great with finances, and his relationships with women ran along the same lines.

Like you're an expert.

Liam took the elevator up to the tenth-floor offices of Bastian-Flavel Construction. Di, the receptionist, smiled at him and said, "Your fiancée's here."

He opened his mouth to correct her, but then stopped himself. Why bother. She might not be his fiancée yet, but he was on an inevitable track, one he'd willingly stepped onto, so there was no reason to jump off and deny it existed. Instead he gave her a small wave of acknowledgment and headed to his office.

Bethany was standing by the floor-to-ceiling windows that looked over the river, a small smile of pleasure on her face. She wore a taupe linen straight sheath and matching pumps, and her smooth tresses, once blond and now reddish, an affectation she'd adopted over the last few years, were pulled back and clipped at her nape by a dull, silvery hair clasp. A faint scent of something gingery and citrus wafted his way. She looked and smelled like money.

Liam had an instant flashback to Rory. Her wild red locks, holey jeans — from use rather than design — the flip-flops or slip-on sneakers, her array of colorful T-shirts that shrank after a good washing, ones she was always tugging down to hide the peekaboo line of smooth skin they offered up, her favorite fish-skeleton earrings that were more nickel than silver, the smell of coffee surrounding her as they'd met in one of the coffee shops of the company she'd worked for.

"Hi, there," Beth said, turning to meet his gaze, her smile widening.

Liam shook off the memory. How had he ever thought Rory would fit into his world? They'd been from totally different social strata, different economic levels, different everything. Those kinds of relationships only worked in fairy tales. He was lucky she'd taken off for God knew where. Lucky.

"Thought we were meeting at the restaurant." He headed toward his desk, but she intercepted him and gave him a quick hug and kiss on the cheek.

"I didn't know where you wanted to go, so I thought we could pick out a place together. Am I bothering you? Do you have a lot left to do?"

"It's fine. I'm pretty much done here." For a moment he considered telling her about the continued vandalism at the site, but that kind of information seemed to eat at her far more than it did him. He didn't like the vandalism. It completely pissed him off, even while he recognized some of that kind of thing happened during construction. Overall, the neighborhood was happy with the building's renovation, but there was always a faction against change, or maybe it was just random, like he'd told Derek. No matter what the root cause, Bethany wasn't the one to talk with about it. Bad things happening at his business made her uncomfortable and anxious, a product of her father's topsy-turvy years in business, he suspected. Beth had never felt safe. Whenever Liam mentioned any kind of problem, he had the sense she wanted to clap her hands over her ears and shake her head. She needed to believe everything was fine and good. Smooth. Easy. Perfect. She would always change the subject from business as soon as she could. Her interests lay elsewhere, and Liam had learned over the last few years to tell her as little as possible about his work.


Excerpted from "One Last Breath"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Lisa Jackson, LLC, and Nancy Bush.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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