Authors: Mary Behre
Titles by Mary Behre
InterMix Books, New York
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright Â© 2015 by Mary Behre.
copyright Â© 2015 by Mary Behre.
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-19799-2
InterMix eBook edition / July 2015
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Penguin Random House is committed to publishing works of quality and integrity. In that spirit, we are proud to offer this book to our readers; however, the story, the experiences, and the words are the author's alone.
Tidewater Police Officer Zig Harmon finished typing the riveting report on eighty-year-old Mrs. Fleishman and her stolen underwear when the first call for an actual case came into the station.
Another victim of the Construction Site Killer had been found on the east end of the city. Damn, he wanted to be working that scene. Zig hadn't seen action since October and while he'd always thought the burglary division would be his home, he'd discovered he was better suited to work homicide. He loved piecing together mysteries and putting the killers behind bars.
Zig had barely passed on the message when a second call came in. This time it was a four-alarm blaze in progress at Whitmore Clothier near the opera house. Presumably, this was another fire set by the arsonist known only as Flames. A tag the asshole had left at the site of his last two burned buildings.
Hell, Zig wouldn't have minded working the arson case either. Anything would have been better than being stuck in the station, manning the reception desk.
With revved excitement, every cop not assigned to desk duty hauled ass, eager to get outside despite the frigid February afternoon. While Zig got the glorious job of data entry, like a rookie. Trying to ignore both the ache in his shoulder and the kernel of resentment in his gut, he picked up the stack of reports that still needed to be entered into the system.
Zig stretched, dropping them in his inbox, and remembered too late he'd pushed too hard in physical therapy last night, only to have one of the detectives from homicide clap him none too gently on said shoulder on his way out the door to the murder scene.
“Hold down the fort, Harmon,” Reynolds said, dropping a meaty paw mere inches from the scar where the knife had gone in.
Zig managed not to wince, despite the pain radiating down his arm. “Sure thing.”
You meant sure thing, Detective,
,” Reynolds' partner, O'Dell, chimed in. He made a show of zipping his jacket over his holstered weapon. “You want to move up in the ranks, you need to show respect for your superiors. Just because the mayor gave you a medal doesn't guarantee your promotion. You want off the desk, you gotta show some respect. If you do, we'll put in a good word for you.”
Superiors, right. Let's see your award, dickheads. Wait, you'd have to solve a case first.
“Can we go now,
?” Detective English, with his typical no-nonsense scowl asked with an exaggerated emphasis on the last word. Equal in rank to the homicide detectives, he had no reason to ever “sir” them. “There are cases that need our attention. Or would y'all rather
head up the Construction Site Killer case?”
Reynolds stiffened. “We're the lead detectives in homicide,
“Then I suggest you go.” English gave them one of his rare smiles. It was more of a wolf baring its teeth than anything warm and friendly. Something Zig would love to be able to do. English's scowl could make even the toughest of cops retreat a step or two.
After Reynolds and O'Dell hustled out the door, English gazed at Zig. The wolf smile was gone. Instead, there was that damnable pity in his eyes.
Zig gritted his teeth. “Detectiveâ”
“Thank you for saving my fiancÃ©e.” English cut him off.
The words were so unexpected, Zig stood dumbfounded. Receiving the Silver Star didn't mean half as much as this man's quiet words. And English knew the truth. It had been a timing issue. Zig had seen the suspect in the jewelry heist case and stopped to question him. And nearly died in the process. Yeah, his actions were real heroic. He'd fucking bled all over English's fiancÃ©e, Jules. Still, English stared at him with true gratitude in his eyes.
As if he understood Zig's discomfiture, English nodded once and headed to the front door. Reaching it, he paused with his hand on the knob then turned back and said, “Jules wants to know if you're up to coming for dinner next Monday. She has a friend she'd like you to meet. Thinks you two will, uh, hit it off.”
A blind date?
Heat rose in Zig's cheeks. It had been four months since the incident and Jules still wanted to thank him. Again and again. First cards and flowers, then dinner invites, now setting him up with a woman. Zig hated that Jules felt so indebted to him, especially since she'd saved
life. He'd have died if she hadn't acted quickly. But he couldn't say no to Jules. Not after everything. “Sure. That'd be great. Please tell her I'll be there.”
English nodded then was gone.
Silence fell like a suffocating curtain in the now-empty room. The aged clock's bent arms limped around its face. Each tick boomed in the quiet, reminding Zig how lonely and freaking bored he was. Music, he'd turn on some tunes for the lastâdamnâ
minutes of his shift. Otherwise he might go stir-crazy. Usually it was only like this during the graveyard shift. Never in the middle of the afternoon on a Friday.
Why wouldn't the damned phones ring again and give him something to do other than type up reports? Hell, he'd take a nutter walking in off the streets reporting a UFO landing on Atlantic Avenue over the drudgery of paperwork.
If only something, anything would happen.
Karma McKinnon De La Cruz parallel parked her ancient purple Toyota in front of the Tidewater Police Station and cut the engine. It backfired like a shotgun going off. She half expected cops to pour out the front of the building, weapons drawn on her as they searched for a bomb. They didn't. Nobody came out at all. A few passersby huddled against the sleet and scowled in her direction before hustling away.
She wondered briefly about the two jerk detectives who'd been ducking her calls for the past forty-eight hours. She'd like nothing more than to march inside and give them a piece of her aura-seeing, psychic mind. Although, she hoped they hadn't caught her less than spectacular parking job. Yeah, they definitely wouldn't take her seriously if they'd seen the way her car limped into the parking space only to fart black smoke everywhere.
No sense worrying about that now. She had a job to do. A mission to complete.
But she couldn't uncurl her fingers from the steering wheel. What if one of her cousins was inside? The McKinnon clan had a long history in law enforcement.
Her heart raced at a frenetic pace.
Stop it. Just stop.
She wouldn't think about that now. She wasn't here to try to mend fences with her family. Not yet. She was here to find a missing baby.
A tiny child the whole world believed was dead.
She knew differently. Not that she could prove it. Exactly. She fingered the diary she'd found in Gwyn's apartment then stashed it back in her purse. She'd show the police the journal. Then they'd have to listen to her.
Madre de Dios
, would she ever get used to the freezing cold again? She picked the absolute worst time to come back to Virginia. What locals called “chilly,” she found downright artic. Buttoning her pink floral jacket to the neck, she mentally rehearsed what she'd say to the detectives in charge of her friend's case.
Still she sat. Shivering yes, but stalling too. Maybe she could find a way to get the info to the cops without going in. Without risking running into one of her many McKinnon cousins. Yeah, right.
And maybe she'd wake up tomorrow and not see auras around every stranger on the street. She picked up Baby Wesley's photo, comforted by the spark of life in his eyes and the soft blue glow shining around his face. He was alive. She knew it. She just had to convince the world. If only she could do it from a distance.
Wishes are for sissies.
She was not a sissy. She was a woman on a mission. Squaring her shoulders for the anticipated battle, she climbed out of the car.
She needed help. Real help. And one way or another, she'd make those cops see that she wasn't a crackpot. That Gwyn wasn't some suicidal baby killer. More important, that Gwyn's precious baby was still alive. Somehow, Karma would find a way to prove her friend innocent. Even if that meant doing the one thing she'd vowed not to do: call her father's family for help.
And nothing. Absolutely nothing could be worse than facing them again.
Nineteen minutes left of Zig's shift and his stack of files was complete. Word came in over the radio that the officers were finishing up at the crime scenes. And Zig was still bored out of his freaking mind.
Please God, give me a little excitement.
The front door opened.
Frosty air gusted in, blowing with it a curvy woman with short, curly brown hair, striking espresso-brown eyes, and flawless skin the color of warm caramel. The exotic beauty wore a tight floral knee-length jacket that hugged the soft contours of her hourglass figure and Zig's heart rate triple-timed.
Carmelita De La Cruz, the last woman Zig thought he'd ever see again.
Karma. His first love. The woman he'd planned to marry.
For a heartbeat maybe two, every ounce of love he hadn't realized he still carried for her swamped him. He hated the rush of relief that flooded his veins at seeing her healthy and whole. He had loved her with every part of his naÃ¯ve young soul, and she'd walked out on him.
Left him eight years earlier, when they'd been nineteen years old. Abandoned him without a word of explanation. The woman could apparently, even today, make the pulse hammer in his veins and his cock go rock hard.
Fuck that. He wasn't a kid anymore and the only feeling he still held for her was contempt. The kick start to his heart rate was pure lust. That's all.
Damn, if she was back, trouble had to be close behind.
Be careful what you fucking wish for.
The wind whipped through Karma's short hair and bit at her bared neck. She shuddered and ran her fingers through her hair to tame her wild curls. While shoving the door closed behind her with her backside, she swept her gaze briefly around the foyer. The fake woodâpaneled office was barren except for an ugly blue-green Naugahyde sofa and a seven-foot-high, brown desk where someone might or might not have been seated. It was impossible to see over the podium-like piece of furniture, even in her heels.
Pine cleaner and bleach permeated the air as if the place had been recently sanitized.
“Hello?” Her floral satin heels sounded like gunshots to her nervous ears as she crossed the linoleum floor. Leaning around the desk she strained to see. “Is anyone here?”
“Hello, what can I help you with today?” His voice, rich enough to melt frozen butter, made her heart skip a beat.
It had been eight years since she'd actually heard his voice but Karma knew Zig Harmon's deep masculine tones anywhere. Probably because she heard them nightly, calling her name during her sweaty, sex-filled dreams. And in every one he held her in his arms whispering, “I love you, Karma. Always.” The way he'd said it when they had been young and so in love. Before the day she'd given him up to save his future.
Damn. She'd expected she might run into some member of her family but not the man she'd sacrificed all those years ago. Her heart skipped a beat, fracturing with old heartbreak.
Zig Harmon loped around the desk in a lazy fashion that belied the intensity in his blue-blue eyes. Older than the last time she'd seen him. His chest had filled out, but he was still smoking-hot. At nineteen, he'd been a man-child. That lovely place where the man he would become was visible in the boy. Zig was all man now. His auburn hair had darkened to more of a reddish brown, its short military cut giving it a mahogany hue. His eyes were hard and flat. Seeing, calculating, judging: a cop's eyes. No trace of the happy frat boy he'd once been.
“Hi Ziggy. It's me, Karma.”
Right, like he doesn't remember my name. Stupid.
Zig didn't say anything, simply stared at her as if she were a wide-mouth bass flopping around the linoleum. Surprise, heat, disgust, and some warmer emotion she couldn't identify glittered briefly in his eyes before they went flat again. His lip curled in a way that might have hinted of a smileÂ .Â .Â . or a sneer. Otherwise, he showed no reaction to her.
She tried again. “I'm here to talk to the police. I have some information on a crime that, uh, needs reporting. So can you help me, Ziggy?”
She searched for his aura, just as she'd always done. And like always, it remained firmly hidden from her. In a world where she saw the aura of every living human being, she couldn't see it in the only person who had ever made her pulse thrum like there was a Mariachi band playing in her veins. Life was so unfair.
“My name's Harmon. My friends call me Harm or Z. You can call me Officer Harmon. What sort of crime do you need to report? Someone steal your stereo?”
She'd forgotten about that. That was how they had met in college. Someone had stolen her stereo and she'd gone to campus police to report it. And met Ziggy.
Back then he'd been sweet, charming, and a little shy. Today, he studied her with a cool indifference that made her insides shrivel.
Zig crossed his arms over his chest, then grimaced and dropped them to his sides again.
“Are you hurt?” Karma asked, stepping closer.
“No.” He threw up a hand to stop her advance. “What do you want, Miss?”
Zig let the rest of the question dangle as if he couldn't quite remember her. And an ache like a molten hot lead ball formed in her chest, burning her insides and stinging her eyes. He couldn't really have forgotten her, could he?
“De La Cruz. Karma De La Cruz.” No reaction. Not even a slight widening of the eyes, which told her he did indeed remember her. She smiled and shook a finger at him. “Don't pretend like you don't know who I am. I mean, I'm pretty sure after that night we spent on the Ferris wheel, you remember me. At least a little.”