printed copy

Lullaby and Goodnight

Wendy Corsi Staub

ISBN 9781420131437
Publish Date 11/6/2012
Format Paperback
Categories Thriller/Suspense, Zebra
List Price: $7.99

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ePub Paperback

Hush Little Baby, Don’t You Cry…

At thirty-nine, Peyton Somerset has an enviable life, with a thriving advertising career and a beautiful Manhattan apartment. And now she’s going to have the one thing she wants most—a baby. Peyton’s biological clock went off just as her fiancé took off, leaving her at the altar. So Peyton’s going it alone. Already, she’s making plans for the little one inside her…buying the layette, daydreaming, and worrying over the littlest things. That’s only natural. All mothers do. But Peyton has reason to worry. In fact, she has every reason to be terrified…

Mama Won’t Be Singing Any Lullabies.

As the months pass, Peyton can’t help feeling that something is terribly wrong. She’s certain that someone has been in her apartment, that she’s being followed, that someone is watching her. Maybe it’s just hormonal paranoia that makes her distrust everyone around her. Or maybe her maternal instincts are dead on. Maybe there’s someone close who doesn’t think she should give birth at all. Someone who would do anything to have a baby. Anything…

“If you like Mary Higgins Clark, you’ll love Wendy Corsi Staub.”—Lisa Jackson

Praise for the novels of Wendy Corsi Staub

“Keeps readers in the dark until the final pages…offers a challenging puzzle and some eerie chills.” —Publishers Weekly

“Bunker down for a great read!”—Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author

Prologue

“Please. Please don’t hurt me. I just want to have my baby....”

“Oh, you will.” The stranger’s lips curve upward to reveal chalk-white, even teeth. “You’ll have your baby.”

Far from reassuring Heather, the words—and the smile— strike her as sinister, sending a new wave of dread shuddering through her.

She struggles to keep full-blown panic at bay, her pregnancy- swollen body tethered to the four posts of the bed. She can’t possibly escape. Even if she were left alone long enough to work the ropes free, even if she were in prime condition to run, she wouldn’t get far. She has no idea what lies beyond the door of this room. She was brought here blindfolded, at gunpoint. The blindfold is off and the weapon now concealed, but she senses its deadly presence nearby. She can’t take a chance.

And so, physically helpless, she can only search wildly for a mental way out, for some logical explanation to grasp.

The only rationale Heather’s fear-muddled brain can conjure is that she isn’t really here; this simply cannot be happening. She must be home in bed. This has to be another one of those crazy nightmares she’s been having these last few weeks, between bouts of heartburn and frequent nocturnal trips to the bathroom.

Squeezing her eyes closed, she promises herself that when she counts to ten and opens them, she’ll see familiar pink-and-white-striped wallpaper, her Beanie Baby collection, the bulletin board above her bed, still decorated with pictures from the prom with Ryan and from cheerleading camp last summer.

One...two...three... Mom made her go to camp. The year before, Heather had begged to go and Mom said they couldn’t afford it. This year, her mother somehow scraped the money together despite Heather’s protests. She wanted to stay home to be near Ryan, who was lifeguarding at a borough pool.

Of course, Ryan was the very reason Mom wanted her to get away from Staten Island for the summer. She thought they were spending too much time together. She was worried that what had happened to her would happen to Heather. No amount of begging would change Mom’s mind about camp.

“You’re going, Heather. Period.”

...four...five...six...seven...

Period. Ha. She didn’t even realize she had missed hers until she got home from camp. Overnight, she had become a walking stereotype—the Roman Catholic schoolgirl who lost her virginity on prom night and found herself pregnant. She had become her mother’s worst nightmare.

No, she had become her mother.

...eight...nine...ten!

There is no pink-and-white-striped wallpaper.

No Beanie Baby collection.

No bulletin board.

Renewed despair launches in Heather’s gut as she gazes frantically around the nondescript box of a room. Painted white walls. Dresser, chair, four-poster wooden bed. One window with the blinds drawn and plain beige curtains hanging from a metal rod.

Where the hell am I?

A wave of longing sweeps through her; longing for the frilly white priscillas Mom bought on clearance at Kmart last year. At the time, Heather complained that they were too babyish for a fifteen-year-old. Now she’d give anything to see them again. To see Mom again.

“Please...” she whimpers, succumbing to the realization that this is no nightmare.

This is real.

As her captor looms over the bed, she’s certain that her life—and her baby’s life—is in danger.

“What’s the matter? You’re afraid, aren’t you? Poor thing.”

The eyes that gaze down at her are oddly vacant, betraying no hint of human empathy. Gone is the cheerful voice that asked if she needed a hand loading her packages into the car, having given way to an eerily detached monotone.

“It’s almost over. Don’t worry.”

What’s almost over? Oh, God. Please help me.

Heather has been transformed into yet another stereotype: the pretty teenaged girl who’s disappeared from a shopping mall.

Once again, she has become her mother’s worst nightmare.

“You should calm yourself down. All that shaking isn’t good for the baby, you know.”

Oh, please. Please.

I want my mommy.

I want to go home.

“Are you hungry? What am I thinking? Of course you’re hungry. You’re eating for two, and it’s almost six. Time for dinner.”

Only six o’clock?

Hours seem to have passed since she waddled out of the mall and across the icy parking lot through freezing rain.

Heather automatically attempts to lift her left wrist to check her watch, but it’s held fast by the twine that binds her hand to the bedpost.

She whimpers in frustration, closing her eyes. A series of images rush at her.

The shocked expression in Ryan’s beautiful blue-green eyes when she told him the EPT was positive.

Bitter disappointment, etched with resignation, on her mother’s face.

A shapeless blob on an ultrasound screen, one she wished would miraculously disappear so that Ryan would reappear in her life.

But that was eight months ago.

That was before she ever heard her baby’s rapid heartbeat; before she felt the little flutters of life stirring beneath her swelling belly; before the flutters gave way to kicks and punches and sometimes, the staccato taps the doctor told her are the baby’s hiccups. Somehow, the hiccups made the whole thing seem real.

The pregnancy she once cursed has transformed into a blessing; she now longs with anticipation for the date she once dreaded. And it’s almost here.

Less than forty-eight hours until her due date.

She’s been so exhausted, and the weather was so crummy. Why didn’t she just stay home? Why did she feel compelled to make one last trip to Baby Gap and Gymboree?

Because she hated that her baby’s layette was so skimpy. Because she convinced herself that the baby would need a few more Onesies, a few more little knit caps and tiny socks...

And maybe, because some part of her longed for one last trip to the mall; longed for that link to the carefree teenaged days she’d left behind as her stomach ballooned and Ryan and her girlfriends abandoned her.

“Hey!” A painful jab in her arm startles Heather back to the horrific present. Her eyes snap open to face her tormentor once again. “You didn’t answer my question. Are you hungry?”

Oh, God. Please. Please don’t let this sick lunatic hurt me. Please.

“I want to go home.”

A surprisingly gentle hand strokes her head. “Hush. Everything will be all right.”

Hush...

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word...

The melody of the folk lullaby she’s been humming for months, whenever she’s alone, drifts into Heather’s head.

“Please. Please let me go home.”

Please. I want to rock my baby and sing lullabies. Please.

“Sorry, that’s not possible.” Her captor’s smile has been replaced by an all-business demeanor that strikes Heather as even more chilling. It’s as though there is a specific agenda, a purpose to her being here.

“What do you want to eat? Do you have any cravings? Pickles and ice cream, maybe?”

The laughter that follows is maniacal, subsiding just as rapidly as it began.

“Now, what can I make for you to eat?”

Maybe this is just a harmless crazy person, Heather tells herself. Maybe the best thing to do is go along until somebody shows up here to save her.

Wherever here is.

She has no idea which way they traveled after she was shoved into the back of a van that was parked close to her mother’s car in the mall parking lot.

The van was so damned close. Why didn’t she notice that? Why didn’t she carry her own damned packages?

Why didn’t she listen to Mom when she said never to talk to strangers?

“I’m waiting,” the stranger says now, in almost a singsong voice. “Tell me what you want to eat.”

About Wendy Corsi Staub:

New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub is the award-winning author of more than sixty published novels. Under her own name, Wendy achieved New York Times bestselling status with the single title psychological suspense novels she writes for Zebra Books. Those novels and the women’s fiction she writes under the pseudonym Wendy Markham have also frequently appeared on the USA Today, Barnes and Noble, and Bookscan bestseller lists.

Currently under contract with five major publishers, Wendy will release a total of 10 novels in an eighteen-month period that extends into autumn of 2007. Notable among those are New York Times bestseller The Final Victim (Zebra, April 2006); her subsequent thriller, Don’t Scream (Zebra, May 2007); Most Likely To Die (February 2007), a suspense novel she co-wrote with fellow New York Times authors Lisa Jackson and Beverly Barton; and Lily Dale #1 (Fall 2007), the launch book in her new young adult paranormal suspense series. Also included are her Christmas time travel romance, If Only In My Dreams (NAL/Signet December 2006); the latest titles in her bestselling chick lit series, Slightly Engaged (Red Dress Ink, February 2006) and Slightly Married (Red Dress Ink June 2007); a romantic comedy, Love, Suburban Style (Warner Forever, July 2007); and two reissued suspense novels, The Last To Know (March 2006) and All The Way Home (April, 2007).

Having won two RITAs®, romance publishing’s “Oscar,” and the Washington Irving Prize for Fiction, Wendy was honored as one of Westchester County, New York’s Millennial Authors in 2000. Her novel, Slightly Single, was selected as one of Waldenbooks’ 100 Best Fiction titles of 2002. Her thriller, The Last To Know, was nominated for the RT BOOKclub Reviewers Choice Award, and three of her novels, Mike, Mike And Me, Hello, It’s Me, and Bride Needs Groom, were awarded a month’s top pick review by RT BOOKclub. Her work has been translated into more than a dozen languages worldwide, and a number of her titles have been selected as features for Mystery Guild, Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Large Print Book Club and Rhapsody Book Club.

Wendy grew up in a large, close-knit family in rural southwestern New York State and decided while in third grade she wanted to become an author. An English major at the State University of New York, she worked in two independent bookstores during college, then moved alone to New York City at age 21 to pursue her dream. After stints as a book editor for a Manhattan publishing house and an account coordinator for a majo radvertising agency, she sold her first novel, the supernatural young adult thriller, Summer Lightning. Early in her writing career, she published in various genres, including suspense, horror, historical and contemporary romance, television and movie tie-in and biography. She also co-authored a mystery series with former New York City mayor Ed Koch and ghost-wrote for a number of bestselling authors and celebrities. Wendy now lives in the New York City suburbs with her husband of 15 years and their two young sons.


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