Read Dream Huntress (A Dreamseeker novel) (Entangled Ignite) Online
Authors: Michelle Sharp
Dreams can be murder...
Narcotics detective, Jordan Delany, has a gift—not one she’s particularly happy about. In her dreams, she’s able to connect with dead victims of violent crimes. Her isolated life as a drug cop is a perfect fit for hiding the freakish ability, until her newest investigation has her posing as a cocktail waitress. While working at the down-and-dirty strip club, she’s saved from a drunken customer by a handsome stranger. The heated chemistry that erupts is exactly why she intends to keep Mr. Knight-in-Shining-Armor at bay. But learning he’s the new bouncer for the corrupt strip club she intends to bust just might be the one reason why she can’t.
Tyler McGee suspects a drug ring operating out of the local strip joint is flooding the quiet streets of his hometown with heroin. Determined to get answers, he plays the part of a fallen cop and lands the job of head bouncer. What he discovers is that the club owner isn’t the only deadly obstacle he’s facing. His attraction to an intriguing cocktail waitress with a penchant for danger just might kill him first.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 by Michelle Sharp. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
Entangled Publishing, LLC
2614 South Timberline Road
Fort Collins, CO 80525
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Ignite is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
Edited by Tracy Montoya
Cover design by Fiona Jayde
Manufactured in the United States of America
First Edition June 2014
To my biggest fan, to my greatest source of strength and support, to the one person who has always believed in me much more than I have ever believed in myself…I love you, Mom.
She’d been cursed at, spit on, beaten up, run down, and shot at. And still Jordan Delany found each of those events considerably less repulsive than the grimy hand planted on her butt.
She squelched the fantasy of putting a bullet hole in the center of the drunken cowboy’s unibrow and reminded herself to play nice.
“Lewis, you better leave one hell of a tip, since your hand has spent more time on my ass than my underwear has.” Okay, so maybe playing nice wasn’t her strong suit. But she hadn’t permanently rendered his right hand useless, either, so all in all, she’d used admirable restraint.
Slinging beer at Buck’s Nightclub wasn’t exactly Jordan’s idea of a good time, but the intel her team had gathered led straight to Titus—Middle of Nowhere, Missouri. As a St. Louis County Detective who worked on the largest drug task force in the Midwest, she’d been on several undercover operations. This was the first one that had taken her so far outside of the city limits.
About an hour and a half from St. Louis, the rural, backwoods town promised more trouble than any place she’d ever worked. And that was saying something, considering she’d been undercover in some fairly disturbing places, including a meth lab and a crack house. Even the crack junkies hadn’t assumed it was fine to stroke her backside whenever the mood struck.
“Come on dollface, let Lewis take you someplace private. I’ll teach you what our favorite pastime is here in Titus.”
Not in this lifetime or any other, slick.
She forced a smile and politely served him his beer. Her undercover experience, combined with ten years of narcotics and vice work, made her hands down the best candidate for this job, but damn, just once couldn’t the job take her to a five-star hotel?
Rolling her head from side to side, she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. There was no one to blame but herself. She was just one of several St. Louis area detectives who had teamed with the FBI and DEA to wage war on the staggering influx of drugs into Missouri. She’d spent the last year attempting to connect local traffickers back to their more powerful Mexican cartel roots, specifically, the Delago Cartel.
But when two cops in deep cover—two friends, two guys she’d shared many beers with—had been butchered and left on display as a warning, she’d had to fight like hell to even remain on the task force.
She swallowed, blinking back the burn that tended to lance through her at the most inopportune moments.
A dirty, callused hand snaked out and grabbed her arm. “Seriously,” Lewis said with a drunken slur, “I’d like to take you out sometime.”
Seriously, I’d like to cut off your groping hands and superglue your dick to your ass crack.
Realizing that comeback wasn’t likely to win any waitress-of-the-year awards, she bit her tongue and struggled for a more appropriate response. “Sorry, we’re not allowed to date the customers. Buck’s rules.” Of course, touching was against Buck’s rules, too, but that hadn’t put a damper on the number of times her butt had been pinched and palmed. Being stroked by unfamiliar jerks in various states of drunkenness made her teeth itch. She’d pummeled men for less.
But not tonight. Not on this case.
In fact, she’d let the old-school sexist thing work in her favor. She’d bet money that Arlo Buck didn’t expect a tall, lanky female with a navel piercing and wild blond hair to be his undoing. A decent ass and pearly pink lip-gloss had opened more than one door to the underworld.
Arlo “Big Daddy” Buck ran a questionable entertainment establishment
with his son, Warren, on the outskirts of Titus.
The place oozed impurities like an infected boil badly in need of lancing. Illegal prostitution, gambling, and underage drinking were more prevalent than the common cold.
“Kudos to the cocktail waitresses of the world,” she mumbled, stalking through the crowd and thinking that undercover narcotics work had nothing on slinging beer for drunk, horny men. She gave her order to the bartender, then turned to study the customers while she waited.
She hadn’t worked at the nightclub long, but already she’d compiled a mental list of suspicious people who piqued her interest. Like the man who arrived daily with a duffle, drank a beer, and disappeared into Buck’s office. Also, the dancer with red eyes and blackened teeth who spent a hell of a lot more time in the VIP rooms than she did on the stage. And most interestingly, Buck’s son, Warren, who liked his whiskey straight up and often. Yes, she’d seen more than enough to know Buck’s was a breeding ground of illegal activity.
So, on a chilly November night in Titus, she served drinks, made nice with the customers, and decided that the lingering exhaustion from back-to-back cases was the reason for the red-hot irritation prickling up her spine. Of course, it could’ve also been caused by Lewis’s hand stroking across her backside. Again.
It’s just a hand. Don’t let it get to you. Serve drinks. Stay calm.
Might as well be back in the Stone Age, where women were nothing more than objects, just playthings for male pleasure. To top off her frustration, the information she’d gathered so far was nowhere near good enough to spring her from the backwoods town. Still, there were a few hardcore truths that were hard to miss.
First, most of the women who stripped in Buck’s did so more out of desperation than choice.
Second, customers packed in like sardines, which gave every male in the place an excuse to grope the waitresses as they passed by.
And last, she believed the intel on Buck’s Nightclub was spot-on. Arlo and Warren Buck were very likely major distributors of the ultra-pure and deadly form of heroin known as China White.
It wasn’t the only drug being pushed, but it had become the fashionable drug of choice among the younger generation. Not only in Titus, but in St. Louis and all across the Midwest.
That knowledge made all the greedy, sex-seeking hands a small price to pay. She could deal with the drunks, the hands, and the come-ons. Because at the end of the day, she’d not only bring the Bucks down, she’d enjoy every last minute of watching them crash and burn. And if she happened to come face-to-face with the son of a bitch who’d ordered the kill on their deep-cover cops, all the better.
If she saved just one person from the gruesome nightmare she’d lived through as a result of drugs, it would damned well be worth it.
Tonight was going to be interesting. Tyler McGee knew it the second he stepped into Buck’s Nightclub and inhaled the scents of stale beer and fresh sex. He was in a lousy place, with lousy people, and about to grovel for a lousy job he didn’t want. Yeah, interesting was about the best way to sum it up.
The half-dressed women were as plentiful as the bottles of beer. Between eight and ten o’clock, it was two-for-one ladies’ night at Buck’s. The music blared loud enough to take your head off, and the smoke hung still and dense.
A huge T-shaped stage filled the center of the enormous barn-like building. Flashing stage lights and dozens of small, circular tables surrounded the dancers while they stripped. Four VIP rooms were partitioned off behind the stage for private dances.
Arlo Buck’s notorious reputation had been well established in Titus for years. Even as a kid, Ty remembered hearing about what a seedy bastard he was. Still, Buck managed to turn a dirty, rundown barn into the hottest nightclub since the Playboy Mansion.
Certainly had just as many scantily clad women, though most looked significantly older and less optimistic than Heffner’s girls.
Apparently, Buck was smarter than he looked. Because Ty had always thought he looked like a huge, overgrown linebacker who’d had his big, meaty head pounded one too many times. His double chin and thick, round neck topped a six-three, four-hundred-pound body, and his sausage-like fingers usually held a soggy, foul cigar.
But as ugly, round, and mean as Buck was rumored to be, everyone in Titus County hung at his nightclub. Ty’s jaw clenched just thinking about the son of a bitch’s luck.
He glanced over at Big Daddy Buck, wondering if he could muster enough tolerance for this hellhole to ask for a job. Nerves made his hands sweaty. He smoothed them down his thighs, and his thumb snagged on the ring in his pocket. A ring that would never be worn. His gut tightened against the memories and reminded him exactly where the tolerance would come from.
“Here goes nothing.” He headed across the room to Buck.
“Good evening, lucky ladies and gents.” The boom of the microphone rattled beer bottles and vibrated off the walls. Peripheral lights faded dark, but the stage flashed bright as the mic boomed again. “Welcome to Lucky Ladies Tuesday, where the drinks are cheap, and the women are cheaper. Only kidding, ladies. Now put your hands together for the lovely Fionaaaa.”
Irritating Buck during Fiona’s striptease was probably not the best timing in the world. Not when Ty was determined to be gainfully employed by Big Daddy before the night was over. Deciding to wait out the stripper’s dance, Ty dropped onto a barstool at the edge of the stage.
He’d barely sat when he heard glass shatter behind him. He whipped around and caught sight of a cocktail waitress bobbling one last bottle before it crashed to the floor with the others.
With a defeated sigh, she turned in his direction and briefly closed her eyes. The moment barely lasted a second, but it was long enough to appreciate her…assets.
Slender. Sexy. Stunning.
Different. Different from anyone he expected to see in Buck’s.
“Damn it,” she said. Even over the pounding music, Ty picked up on the bristly impatience in her voice. She tossed long, blond hair over her shoulder, but when she bent to pick up the pieces of broken glass, the wavy mane tumbled in front of her again. An impulse to hold the silky strands out of the way almost had him sliding off his stool.
Laughter and applause broke out around her. A quick, sizzling ache enveloped his chest. Probably a sharp pulse of sympathy for the harassment she was enduring.
After plucking the large shards of glass off the floor, she stood. His eyes locked on long, slim legs that trailed up to a strip of denim entirely too small to be considered shorts. Above the denim waistband, a tiny, shimmering rhinestone gleamed in her belly button. His gaze continued the journey up to her breasts. Generous, rounded, spectacular breasts.
“Wrong set of eyes, cowboy. I’m up here.” Her brow molded into a scolding arch, irritation plain on her pretty face.
His pride was hurt. He wasn’t a typical male who goggled at women and talked to their chests. Not usually. But, okay, this one caught him by surprise. Embarrassed that he’d gawked like a teenager, he tried to redeem himself. “I’m sorry. I was noticing…your rhinestone.”
“Uh-huh.” She snorted. “That’s the first time I’ve heard them called that.”
Busted. He concentrated on keeping his eyes more respectfully on her face, although it was just as intriguing as her body.
She looked him over with attitude and piercing, emerald eyes.
Her wild, wavy hair ended precisely where the bikini top started. Though he damned well wasn’t going to shift his eyes to look, not if it killed him. Thankfully, though, he had excellent peripheral vision. Even without so much as a southward blink, he was well aware of the two miniscule triangles of shiny gold material and string barely covering her chest. If she was that good looking and working as a waitress in Buck’s, she must not be the sharpest pencil in the box.
Leaning in to be heard over the music, she asked, “What can I get you, cowboy?”
Her clean, flowery scent overpowered the club’s stench of sweat and smoke. His body tensed like an over-tightened guitar string. He swallowed hard. “Do I look like a cowboy?”
She cocked the brow again, probably wondering if he needed alcohol to further diminish his brain function. “Not at all.” Her voice strained over the beat of the bass. “The boots and denim shirt practically scream tax attorney.”
“Come on, baby, it’s a freaking desert in here,” a drunk at another table hollered. “How long is it gonna take for your tight little buns to bring me a beer?”
“Keep your pants on, Lewis,” she growled back. “Listen, the natives are restless, and the show’s up there”—she pointed to Fiona dancing on the stage—“not here.” She jerked a thumb back toward her chest. “Can I get you anything or not?”
“A real smile and a beer too much to ask?”
Apparently, he’d finally charmed her, because her full lips tilted toward a genuine smile, until some guy squeezed behind her and slid obscenely against her bottom.
An irritated scowl replaced any hint of a smile. She whipped around to face the man.
“I was only trying to get by, sweetheart. It’s crowded in here.”
She turned back and rolled her eyes. “I can get you the beer…”
The dancing and music ended abruptly. The house lights edged brighter, and Ty’s eardrums vibrated in the absence of the thundering bass.
“…but the smile’s gonna be harder to come by.” She lowered her voice to a normal decibel. “House draft okay?”
He nodded and grinned, then watched her walk away. It was barely a conversation, only a couple of sentences to judge by, but she didn’t seem like the brainless beauty he’d pegged her for.
Her narrow hips swayed away from him and toward the bar, but her head snapped toward a scuffle a few feet away. Ty watched her zero in on a couple of college-aged guys giving Dave, one of the regulars, a hard time. She tossed her tray onto a table and stalked toward the commotion.
Dave wasn’t your typical, everyday regular. He wasn’t your typical, everyday anything. He was special. There were a million bad things about living in a small town, but the way people pitched in and took care of one of their own was definitely one of the pluses.
Dave had special needs. He hadn’t finished school and couldn’t read, but he worked hard bussing tables and doing dishes at the local diner. At thirty-four years old, he still lived with his mom, talked with a fairly severe speech impediment, and couldn’t drive.