Authors: Vonnie Hughes
Praise for Vonnie Hughes
is a MUST read.”
~Sloane Taylor, Author
“Read the excerpt and just had to have it, Vonnie.”
Rita Monet, Author
“A witness struggling to cope, a man who needs to stay away and can’t seem to keep his personal feelings separated…welcome to
. This is an emotional and thrilling romantic suspense novel…A heated romance, staying ahead of danger, and these elements make for a nail biting thrill ride. Ms. Hughes delivers a tale that captures readers’ hearts. If you’re a fan of romantic suspense, keep this story in mind.”
Siren Book Reviews
“I don’t want to talk too much about how the story is developed, for fear of spoilers, but I will say that I was genuinely scared in places and I suspected some characters, then acquitted them, then suspected them again, more than once. In short, I was impressed. The title and cover didn’t let me down! If you like your romance spiced up with life-threatening danger, or you like your crime spiked with love-under-fire and hot sex, I’d say, give Vonnie Hughes a go.”
Imelda Evans, Wine, Women and Wordplay
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either 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.
COPYRIGHT © 2014 by Vonnie Hughes
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Crimson Rose Edition, 2014
Print ISBN 978-1-62830-629-3
Digital ISBN 978-1-62830-630-9
Published in the United States of America
Breck Marchant’s cell phone and pager buzzed simultaneously.
As he dragged his canvas bag out of the closet, he tucked the cell phone under his chin. “Uh, huh?”
“Report to intersection of Verbena and Eskdale,” a voice barked. The caller clicked off.
“Eskdale. Not far from where Kit lives,” Breck muttered to himself. “Hope the boy is safe at preschool.” Then common sense asserted itself. Why wouldn’t his son be fine?
He grabbed his car keys off the table and slammed the apartment door behind him. As he charged down the stairs, he tugged on his Armed Offenders’ Squad jacket. He’d collect his weapons and the rest of his gear at base.
Clamping the blue beacon on the roof of his SUV, he revved her up and nudged into the traffic flow, then muscled his way into the outside passing lane. As he crashed an orange light, his cell phone rang again and he frowned. No further contact until they were on scene was the golden rule. Had the situation already been defused and the call-out canceled? Taking his foot off the accelerator he leaned towards the mike, expecting to be recalled. “Marchant.”
“Baz here,” said a voice he knew well. Baz Asquith was his supervisor, a senior sergeant whose ambitions were taking him out of the Armed Offenders Squad and into the CIB.
This could be the call he’d been waiting for
. Breck badly wanted Baz’s job. Like Baz, he wanted to climb out of the herd. If he headed up an AOS squad, he had a good chance of being selected for Special Tactics, the crème de la crème of law enforcement. Lord, what wouldn’t he give to get into ST.
“Marchant, report to me before you fit out.” Baz’s voice had lost its usual drawl. “How far away are you?”
“Right.” The phone went dead.
Breck frowned again. Something wasn’t right.
As he approached the intersection, he saw Baz standing apart from the vans and tents being erected on suburban lawns by members of his team.
Leaving his vehicle in the shade of a sycamore tree, Breck grabbed his bag and loped over to join Baz.
“Marchant,” Baz greeted him. “You’re not needed on this one. But you might like to observe.”
Breck took a step back. Whatever this was about, it sure as hell wasn’t promotion.
“I’d prefer you not to be here at all, mate,” his boss continued, “but I think you’ll insist on staying.”
Breck looked at Baz’s tanned, worried face and his stomach clenched. “What’s this about?”
“Hostage situation,” Baz answered after a slight hesitation. “Breck—it’s your son. Kit is the hostage.”
Breck tasted the tinny flavor of fear on his tongue. His hands clenched around the handle of his canvas carry-all. He needed to hold on to something, and the bag was the only thing available. “How the hell…?” he croaked.
“His stepfather has him,” Baz explained grimly.
“But what the fuck is Marty holding him hostage for? It doesn’t make sense.” Breck struggled to find a kernel of logic among the questions jangling in his brain. “Kit’s not worth anything to anyone except—”
“Except you,” Baz said. “Marty’s after you, I reckon. We haven’t heard a word from Tania. Don’t know if she’s inside the house or not.”
Breck wondered fleetingly if this was one of his ex-wife’s little games, then discounted the notion as absurd. No. Tania liked to play around with the emotions of the men in her life, and she had a nasty streak a mile wide and some suspect friends, but she was a good mom. She wouldn’t endanger her children.
He glanced down the road. All he could see of Marty and Tania’s house from here was a strip of front lawn. But on the roof of the house across the road, a sniper settled himself and his gear behind the chimney.
“What happened? I mean,” he licked his dry lips, “who gave the alarm?”
“The next door neighbor heard a lot of banging and shouting and then she heard a kid crying, so she phoned us. By the time the blues got here, Marty was standing on the front steps with one arm wrapped around Kit and a .308 in his other hand.”
Breck sucked in his breath as a pearl of sweat trickled down his face. Marty had never been renowned for his calmness and the idea of an angry, armed Marty was terrifying.
“I have to be here, Baz,” he heard himself saying, but his voice was muted as if he was hearing sounds under water.
“Sit down, Breck. Now,” Baz ordered.
Breck sat. The chilly, damp earth soaked through his coveralls.
“We’ll get Kit safely out of there,” Baz assured him. “You know we will. We’ve done it again and again. Just because it’s Kit this time won’t make any difference to us. But it
make a difference to you and that’s why you can’t work the scene.”
“I understand,” Breck mumbled. His senses were dulled, as if he’d been slugged by a heavyweight with a vicious right hook.
All he could think of was Kit, his son, the boy Tania used as a bargaining tool for leeching money out of him. Kit—the boy Tania said was difficult, just like his father.
He’d let Tania have custody of Kit because she knew what she was doing when it came to raising kids and he, Breck, didn’t have a clue. Kit was much better off with Tania, even though some of her behavior was questionable.
The guilt of three years swamped Breck. Since Tania had married Marty, Breck had been worried about Kit. But had he done anything? No.
By God, he’d like to take that half-witted Marty Kerr and sling him against a brick wall till his—where the hell was Tania? He struggled to his feet, using the sycamore trunk as a prop. “I understand your orders, Baz. But I need to be involved in some way.”
He grabbed Baz’s arm. “Baz, I’m begging you. This matters more than you know. I’ve let that kid down…”
“Baloney. Let’s not go there. You’ll have to stand by in case Marty wants to bargain with you. But you’re
part of the operation. Here are the others,” Baz said, looking over his shoulder.
Breck released his grip and stepped back, clenching his hands into fists so hard his knuckles cracked. If he went against orders now, not only would the whole operation be compromised, but his job with the AOS would be over. He had two reasons for living and they were both at stake at this very moment.
Baz waved to the other operatives to kit up inside the tent set up on a civilian’s front lawn. Abel, Breck’s best friend, gave him the thumbs-up as he disappeared through the tent flap.
“I have to go, Marchant. Stay here. I promise I’ll get word to you every step of the way. We’ve got the best negotiator in the business arriving shortly. Now remember—you need to be here for Kit when it’s over, so hold it together.”
Yes. That’s what he had to do. Be here for Kit. So long as Tania didn’t try to keep him out of it. He grabbed hold of Baz’s sleeve again. “What about Tania?”
“She might be involved, for all we know.”
Breck reeled back. No. Tania was a terrific mom. She used to laugh at Breck’s inept attempts to change a diaper, and refused to let him read stories to the little fella because she said his gravelly voice would frighten the dead. She’d been a bitch to live with, but she wouldn’t endanger a child.
Breck snapped out of it to realize he was on his own. Baz raced across the road to the HQ tent to talk to a police sergeant. Breck hunkered back down beneath the sycamore tree and put his head on his knees. The earth smelled of spring and life. How could it smell so fresh on such a terrible day? No grass grew beneath the spreading branches, so perhaps the smell of new growth was deceptive. Like a lot of things in life.
What had set Marty off this time? Marty had never done anything like this before but the guy sure had a short fuse. Even Tania, who adored him, acknowledged it took very little to upset Marty’s world. How could Breck ever have thought Kit was safer in their household than with him?
Because Tania had told him numerous times that Breck’s background had not prepared him for fatherhood, that’s why. His demanding, high-achieving parents had left him doubtful of his abilities in that field. And ordinary police hours were bad enough, but coupled with his being on-call for the AOS, Tania had decided that Kit was better off with her.
And you agreed. It was easier for you that way Marchant, wasn’t it
? his conscience taunted. He rubbed his forehead, trying to rub away the worry. They sure as hell couldn’t have remained married after what he’d discovered about her. He was a cop, for God’s sake.
“Breck Marchant?” inquired a pleasant female voice. It was redolent of crisp apples and green meadows.
“Yes?” He glanced up just in time to receive a stinging slap across the face.
you?” the voice on the end of the hand exclaimed. “How could you let it get to this?”
“What the—?” Breck began. He peered at her through watery eyes. For a small woman she packed a heavy wallop. He rubbed his jaw. “Who the hell are you?” He scrambled to his feet.
“Ingrid Rowland. And before you deny all knowledge of me, think again.”
He thought. He thought that his day, which had started out so promisingly when he’d done his workout at the gym, had turned to custard. Now he had a madwoman slapping him and he didn’t even know who—yes, he did. Shit! She was Kit’s preschool teacher. He remembered that mane of astounding silver-blonde hair that she kept tightly under control. He remembered thinking that she looked as though she kept a lot of herself under control.