Authors: Cheyenne McCray
Tags: #romantic suspense
Copyright © 2014
Hidden Prey by Cheyenne McCray
All rights reserved. No part of this e-Book may be reproduced in whole or in part, scanned, photocopied, recorded, distributed in any printed or electronic form, or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or hereafter invented, without express written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Published by Pink Zebra Publishing.
To the great people of Bisbee, Arizona: I may have taken liberties with our fair town, but it was done with love.
The nightmare had been so damned
Landon Walker sat on the edge of his bed, his eyes bleary and his head aching like a mother. He had to stop trying to find peace at the bottom of a bottle of Jack D because all it was doing was making him feel like hell the next morning. Didn’t matter what he did, because he didn’t think he’d ever have peace again.
His dream had replayed every last detail of that night when a hit and run drunk driver had sideswiped Landon’s motorcycle, sending Stacy flying and pinning him beneath the wreckage. A helmet and protective gear hadn’t been enough to save her. After he’d managed to get out from beneath the motorcycle, he’d crawled to her, dragging his shattered leg. He could still feel her broken body in his arms.
He ran his hand down his face, the stubble and scar along one cheekbone rough against his callused palm. Fourteen months to the day that Stacy had died in the accident, an accident that had been his fault.
Would he ever stop marking time by the date of his fiancée’s death?
He turned his head to look at the alarm clock and winced from the pain the sudden movement caused. Damn. He was going to be late if he didn’t get his ass out of bed. His job was no punch the clock forty-hour workweek. But Mondays still sucked.
Early Monday mornings he used to play basketball with a bunch of guys who were in law enforcement. On Friday nights, those who weren’t working usually played poker. But after the accident, Landon had pulled away from everything but his job. He still worked out—sometimes excessively—in the fitness room in his home. Not only to stay fit, but because the strenuous activity burned off excess anger at himself and sometimes at the world.
With his head still aching, he stepped under ice-cold water in the shower in an attempt to wake up. He braced his hand against the smooth white tiles, his head lowered, goose bumps prickling his skin as he let the water flow over him. He kept the water cold as he washed his hair and soaped his body. When he finished, he shut off the water and shook his head, droplets flying before he toweled himself off.
The cold shower had done its job and he felt marginally better by the time he pushed open the shower stall’s glass door. He might just make it through today after all. Last month had been the first month he hadn’t taken flowers to Stacy’s grave. For the first year he’d visited once a month on the date of her death, but after a year, he’d made the decision to move on to save his sanity. Damned if he knew how.
After he dressed in jeans and a faded blue T-shirt, he slid his Glock into its holster on his belt. He slipped on a white overshirt to cover his weapon then stood in his kitchen and wolfed down a breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs. He stuck the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and headed out.
He climbed into his charcoal gray Ford Explorer, stuffed his key into the ignition and started the vehicle. He headed down the dirt road leaving his ranch and continued onto the paved road that would take him to Douglas.
When he finally left the ranch, he had just enough time to make it to the office and take care of a few things. Then he’d head to Bisbee to meet with his man who’d been working deep undercover. It was a twenty-five mile drive from his ranch in Sulfur Springs Valley to Douglas and to DHS’s ICE office outside of Douglas where he worked.
He’d been a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for eleven years now, and had given himself completely to his career since Stacy’s death. He’d always been married to the job, and he regretted not being there for Stacy more. Now he lived and breathed his work. What the hell else did he have? The job would take his soul one day and that was ok with him.
When he arrived at the office, he spent some time going over aspects of the case that he’d been working for months. The Jimenez Cartel’s tentacles reached far from Mexico, into Arizona. When they chopped off one arm, another one grew to replace it. The cartel had to be cut off at its head. There was no other way.
They had to get to Diego Montego Jimenez, known as El Demonio to everyone around him. The Demon. It was a fitting nickname for the bastard.
It was early afternoon when Landon headed out of the office. On his way out, he saw Dylan Curtis, another DHS special agent, and one of Landon’s good friends. At six-three, Dylan was a good two inches taller than Landon. He wore a Stetson over his dark hair and his ice-blue eyes were appraising as always.
Dylan paused in front of the entrance. Landon stopped, too. “When are you going to join the boys for basketball again?” Dylan mimed going up for a shot. “Had some good games this morning. You need to show up and get your ass back in it.”
Landon shrugged. He probably should—one more step toward getting back into his life…
“This leg isn’t what it used to be.” Landon rubbed his leg that had been shattered in the accident.
“Who gives a shit?” Dylan shook his head. “Monday mornings, same time, same place as it’s always been. Bring the bum leg.”
Landon nodded. “I just might be there next Monday.”
“You’d better or I’m gonna kick your ass.” Dylan hooked his thumbs in his belt loops. “And don’t forget poker this Friday night. It’s time you rejoined the living and you might as well go all in.”
Landon shook his head. “Maybe.”
“Maybe, my ass.” Dylan switched subjects as he asked, “On your way to meet Miguel?”
“Yep.” Landon nodded. “Any news on the delivery?”
“I’m hoping Miguel can give you a concrete time.” Dylan frowned. “All I have is what you do—it’s tomorrow, but no time or location.”
“I’m sure Miguel has it for us.” Landon reached for the door handle. “I’ll call you as soon as I get intel from him.”
Dylan gave a nod. “Tell the bastard hello for me.”
“Will do.” Landon pushed open the door and walked into the sunny afternoon toward his SUV. Soon Landon was on his way to the once booming town that was nestled in the Mule Mountains.
The summer sky was a brilliant blue with occasional puffs of cotton-like clouds. They’d had an unusual amount of rain, and everything was greener than usual. The grass along Highway 80 waved in the stiff breeze.
Once he reached the east-side town limits, he guided his vehicle along the roundabout that locals had called the traffic circle for decades. The roundabout let him out onto the road that took him on to Old Bisbee after he passed the Lavender Pit near the famous Copper Queen Mine.
He continued driving through Old Bisbee and on to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church where he was scheduled to meet with Miguel. He headed up Tombstone Canyon and then Higgins Hill, where he parked outside the church.
A replica of a church in Ireland, St. Pat’s sat two hundred feet above the floor of Tombstone Canyon and had been around just shy of a century. The towering terracotta building with its soaring ceilings was filled with stained glass windows and marble. Jesus Christ on the cross looked down on the congregation, as did the statues of the Virgin Mary and St. Patrick behind the altar.
The interior of the church was cool and dim and smelled of incense and candlewax. The heavy double doors closed behind him as he passed the shallow well of holy water. He did not dip his fingers in the water or make the sign of the cross. He slid into the second to last pew in the back on the far right, so that from where he sat he could see the doors by turning his head slightly.
Only two parishioners were inside. A tiny woman in black, wearing a white lace mantilla, knelt in one pew, and an older man leaned against the back of the bench seat in another. The old man’s head was up and he stared at the effigy of Christ. He had a broken look about him, as if this place was the only solace he would find in this world.
Landon mentally shook his head. He’d been raised Catholic but had pushed away from the church once he got a look at just what a cruel world it could be. How could a God allow evil men to kill or abuse women and children? Or to enslave them, forcing them to serve as sex slaves? And how had He allowed someone as sweet and good as Stacy to die as she did? Landon would have given his own life for hers.
Clenching his teeth, he looked down at the padded wood kneeler at his feet. The kneeler was pushed up, but would be lowered by parishioners when they knelt during service or prayed when they came into the church to worship.
For one wild moment he thought about getting down on his own knees and praying to a God he wasn’t sure he believed in any longer. He blew out a breath and ran his finger along a hymnal in the wooden rack in front of him. No, his days of praying were long gone.
He pulled himself out of his thoughts and concentrated on the moment. He checked the time on his cell phone and saw that he was a few minutes early, and hoped Miguel wouldn’t be late. Unlike Landon, Miguel was a devout Catholic, and he liked to meet at St. Pat’s where he said he felt closer to God.
Sometimes, as Landon left, Miguel would head to the confessionals at the front right. Landon had worked undercover many times and had been forced to commit sins that he wished could be absolved by confessing to a priest.
Landon let his gaze drift over the almost empty pews, noting everything. From the moment he’d arrived, he’d been keenly aware of his surroundings and the double doors behind him. He didn’t like having his back to the doors, even though he could casually glance in that direction with his side vision. But if he wasn’t safe inside St. Pat’s, he didn’t know where he would be.
The old man got up from his seat and went to the front of the church, to the left of the altar, and lit one candle among rows of little red jarred candles. Some were lit but most were dark. Landon stared at the flickering candlelight for a moment, remembering a time when he was just a boy. In the church he’d grown up in, he’d lit a candle and had prayed to God with all he had to save his grandfather who’d been dying from cancer. It was the first disappointment of many by a God who never seemed to answer his prayers.