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Hostage tells her story in book released today

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ATLANTA _ Ashley Smith, the woman held hostage for hours after the March 11 Fulton County Courthouse shootings, reveals in a book released today that she gave alleged gunman Brian Nichols drugs the night he held her captive.

Smith, 27, was thrust into a national media spotlight after talking her way out of Nichols' captivity and then calling police. In "Unlikely Angel: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Hostage Hero," Smith shares details of her seven-hour ordeal as a hostage in her apartment, and for the first time tells of giving Nichols drugs.

Nichols asked her for marijuana, she writes, but she had only a small amount of crystal methamphetamine. She thought offering him the drug might curry favor, but she says she refused to take the drug with him.

"I was not going to die tonight and stand before God, having done a bunch of ice up my nose," she writes.

Smith's book, the 272-page "Unlikely Angel" (co-written with Stacy Mattingly), goes on sale today. Publisher William Morrow reports a first printing of 400,000 copies, an ambitious number for a memoir by anyone who is not a celebrity or a national politician.

Smith is scheduled to appear on Oprah Winfrey's talk show Wednesday and then will begin a publicity tour.

Here are a few excerpts from "Unlikely Angel":

-- On Brian Nichols:

"He was bare-chested underneath his blazer. His pecs were rippling in between the black lapels; and seeing where the jacket seams hit his shoulders, I could tell just how broad those shoulders really were. I know I'm in good shape, but man, if this guy comes at me, I'll never have a chance to fight him off."

-- On what she said to Nichols:

"Nobody else needs to get hurt, dude. And if you don't turn yourself in, somebody else will get hurt. You'll keep going and you'll kill more people and you'll probably die too."

-- On what Nichols said to her:

"You know, Ashley, I wish I would've met you at a different time and under different circumstances. We could've been friends."

-- On her battle with drugs:

"I haven't touched drugs since walking out of my apartment on March 12. . . . . Initially I did not volunteer the information about the drugs (that she gave Nichols). . . . I was afraid. Later I came forward and shared the details about the drugs with the appropriate authorities, but I regret not having done so at the very beginning. I remember what Jesus said: The truth will set you free. That's how I want to live my life _ I want to be an honest person and experience the freedom that goes with it."

-- On her faith:

"Instead of running away from God's voice, now I seek it and try to learn from his words. . . . I still pray all the time for the friends I knew in the drug scene. . . . I pray that what has happened in my life will impact them in some way. I want them to know that God loves them no matter what they've done."

Jennifer Brett writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail:

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