Loving Night: Dream Catcher Series ~ Book 2 (10 page)

BOOK: Loving Night: Dream Catcher Series ~ Book 2
2.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

For many reasons, moving to
Cincinnati was the best decision of her life. She wondered whether she was
blushing as she thought of that morning’s conversation and all of the ways Chaz
had brought fullness to her world.

“I’ve never had numbers make me
smile like that.” Cherise laughed as she poked her head through the partially
open doorway.

“Hey, boss. I wish I could give the
project that much credit.” She watched as the neatly dressed, middle-age woman
settled into a chair in front of the desk. “I happen to be married to an
awesome man.” Stephanie was always careful not to say that too loudly since
very few people knew that she and Chaz were married instead of just being

“It shows, so I almost feel guilty about
what I’m going to ask. I know you’re in love and probably spend all of your
time together, and I remember what that’s like.” Her smile dropped slightly as
a trace of pleading entered her eyes. “You’re also very new here, and this is an
unusual request. Is there any way you’ll go on a trip? James was supposed to
accompany me, but he’s home nursing a kid with bronchitis.” She misunderstood
Stephanie’s silence as reluctance. “Listen, Stephanie, you’re a natural at
reading clients and very conscientious about the portfolios you create. I
wouldn’t ask if I thought you weren’t ready.”

“I’m so surprised that I don’t know
what to say.”

“‘Yes’ would be good.”

Both women laughed and broke the
tension coming from Cherise.

“When is the trip and what would I
need to do?”

“Monday. It’s just an
overnighter—we’ll be back late the next night. And all I need you to do is be
pleasant to the client, listen carefully to his concerns about the companies
he’s taking us to visit, professionally but firmly reject his flirtations, and
be prepared to decline when he requests that you handle his account.” She held
up her hand when Stephanie opened her mouth to ask a question. “I’m going to
handle his account, even though he’ll say he doesn’t want me to. Your presence
means you’ll assist me with it, and that should be enough to keep him happy.
This is a big client, Stephanie. Otherwise, we wouldn’t make the trip.”

“May I ask who the client is?”

“Does that mean you’ll travel with

“Sure. There’s no reason not to.”

“Being a newlywed could be a
problem.” Stephanie got the impression that her marital status was crucial in
an unexpected way.

“It’ll be fine, but thank you for
taking that into consideration.”

Cherise rose and took a deep
breath. “The client is my ex-husband.”

“Oh.” Everything clicked. Stephanie
gave her boss a reassuring smile. “Should I meet you at the airport or come into
the office first?”

“We’ll meet here.” The woman
relaxed and flashed the genuine smile Stephanie was used to seeing. In that
instant, her relief and intentions were clear.

Cherise had asked James to help
with the account because a man wasn’t competition. Neither was a woman newly
and happily married. Cherise was protecting a relationship that possibly wasn’t
completely over. That’s why her strong blue hue was ringed by a wave of pink
and brown. Unconditional love and loyalty at war with insecurity in a strong
business woman who was usually calm and confident. Interesting.

Stephanie sat up and threw both
hands over her mouth to keep from laughing aloud.

She had seen them! Her boss’ auras!
She didn’t just sense them; she saw the layers and waves as the woman walked
out the door. She wanted to jump up and dance. Instead, she sank back against
her chair. This was a huge transition for her abilities. She didn’t know the
significance of the timing, but she was beyond thrilled at finally being able
to see.

She grabbed her cell phone and sent
a text to Karen and Phailin. They’d understand her joy and be excited for her.
Chaz didn’t need her to distract him twice in one day—and she needed to stop
thinking about him for a while.  There were numbers to work on if she was going
to be away from her projects for two days.

If nothing happened to make her
call him about his case tonight, they’d probably talk in the morning.





Despite how beautifully the morning
started, the day was not going the way Chaz wanted. Chris had not reset the
video feed, so there was nothing for Brian to watch when he arrived. He checked
the monitors and cables twice to make sure the problem wasn’t on their end.

Austin sent a text saying:
which meant he wouldn’t be able to make the scheduled check-in. None of Chaz’s
questions about the night before were going to get answered. It wasn’t
surprising that Damien Granger would keep everyone close immediately following
a power play against him, especially with the girls scheduled to start working tomorrow
night. But the vigilance meant that Chaz was operating blind.

On top of that, Brian wanted to be

“Look,” the frustrated team leader
said, “My personal life is off limits. If you want to talk about the case,
fine. If you want to explain about the equipment, fine. But, I’m not in the
mood for anything else.” He plopped onto the chair beside the faux fireplace
and opened his laptop. He’d deliberately chosen that seat because there was no
way Brian could come up behind him and look over his shoulder.

Chaz needed to check in with Roy.
Maybe Vanessa’s handler or the State Police knew something worth sharing. After
all, everyone was expecting the FBI to keep the undercover team on track.
They’d be willing to share if they had anything useful.

An hour after Chaz received an
email from Roy that put him in an even worse mood, a new technician from
Cincinnati’s Bureau office arrived at the safe house. Chaz stepped outside
briefly while Jesse, a tech he knew and trusted, explained to Brian that they
needed to figure out why the reset procedure didn’t work.

“What do you mean? I followed every
step exactly—twice.” He was insulted by the other man’s presence. Chaz crossed
his arms, leaned back against the counter, and didn’t take his eyes off of Brian.
Nervousness was unmistakable underneath the indignation. His eyes met Chaz’s
once and flitted away at the same time that his jaw tensed.

Jesse made a few adjustments to
cables, turned on all of the monitors, and rebooted the system. Nothing. Then,
he pulled out a roll-up keyboard, plugged it into one of the units, and typed
for several minutes while watching a miniature screen attached to his
equipment. All of the monitors sprang to life. Without even a glance at Brian,
Jesse jerked his bald head to motion for Chaz to step outside. When they
returned, two additional agents accompanied them.

Chaz shoved his hands into his
pockets and spoke in a carefully controlled voice.

“I don’t know whether you’re
reporting to Watkins or Granger, and I don’t care. But I promise you this, if
anything happens to those undercover officers, you’re complicit; and I will
personally make sure that no one even thinks about being lenient on you.” He
watched as one of the agents cuffed Brian and tossed a jacket over the chain so
that no hotel guests noticed while he was being put into the back of dark SUV.

While all of that was going on,
Jesse brought in a small cooler from the back of the vehicle. He pulled out a
beer and handed it to his friend.

“How did you know?” Jesse asked as
he brought the bottle to his mouth.

“Chris Jenkins has been designing
and installing that surveillance system for months, hardwiring most of it
during the renovations but also making sure the wireless feed was tested every
time a system change was made. It didn’t make sense that he couldn’t get his
own program back online. With what happened last night, there’s no way Granger
would allow himself to be without cameras for too long.” He popped the cap off
his beer and took a long swallow.

“I didn’t catch whatever Brian did
because we turned the monitors off last night. I was busy reading reports when
he arrived this morning, so I didn’t pay him any attention. But after I was
done, I watched the feed that recorded to my laptop from a camera I hid on top
of that cabinet.” He nodded his head toward the area behind the bank of
monitors. “I’ve watched him before; what he was doing today seemed different. I
already had a bad feeling about him, so I asked Roy to send you down. He didn’t
hesitate because he’d already done some checking and found out that Brian is
very ambitious without the patience to wait his turn. He’s been saying how he
might leave the Bureau if he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. Roy told
me today that, apparently, Brian has also been crawling around in my personnel

“Your instincts are always
impressive.” Jesse took another sip of beer. “So, tell me what we’re doing. Are
you using your real name or an alias? No one had time to brief me.” He set the
bottle on the counter and slid into a chair behind the monitors that were once
again displaying the interior of the renovated office building.

While they watched the monitors,
Chaz filled him in on the mission, his decision to use the last name Bryson for
this assignment, the undercover team members, and the target. Then, he
explained about Special Agent Vanessa Long being in deep, Granger’s legitimate feelings
for her, and the previous night’s move by Watkins.

“What about your other tech?”

“She’s good. Plus, she has a
personal reason to keep Vanessa safe and this mission on track.” When Jesse
raised his eyebrows, Chaz smiled and said, “She also has feelings for Agent
Long. It seems like they have some sort of history that goes back to the


“I feel good about this team now.
Let’s hope we’re able to get everything completed before Watkins makes his next


~ ~ ~ ~


Jesse Robertson made sure he
understood where each camera was focused so that he could follow movement from
top to bottom and room to room within the building. The place was busy on a
Saturday afternoon: liquor delivery, some sort of meeting in the club with the
women who would work the rooms and the body guards who would keep them safe, a
housekeeper going from room to room on the second floor, a janitor mopping the
hallway that led to the business offices at the back of the building.

“That must be the lovely Vanessa.”
Jesse’s eyes were glued to the monitor a few hours later as a couple arrived
outside of the building and were then seen inside the foyer.

“Yes, it is.” Chaz studied her face
for any indication of stress or discomfort. She seemed all right, so he turned
his attention to Damien Granger who was the complete opposite when he was
approached by Austin. “That’s Officer Austin Marks a.k.a. Parker. He runs the
building for Granger, so I’m pretty sure he’s providing an update on increased
security and preparations for the night. It looks like everyone is armed.” The
two men headed toward the offices while Vanessa entered the club’s main room.

Chaz watched her greet the women
before standing in front of the group and beginning a talk that had them
nodding along with whatever she was saying. She was smiling and seemed at ease.

A while later, Chris appeared
outside of the room that housed the electronic equipment. They watched him take
the elevator to the first floor. Apparently, he’d been summoned to the meeting
with Austin and Damien. So much time passed that Chaz kept checking his watch.
Eventually, all three men left and went separate directions. It was nearly

In the foyer, someone was arranging
plants and bamboo screens to shield the short hall to the elevator area from
view. It would do two things, protect the identities of men headed to the
private rooms and hide the guards who would be stationed outside of the
elevator in a grouping of plush chairs. Obviously, this was a new idea. It
might be a reaction to the previous night’s trouble.

The FBI’s plan, in conjunction with
the Kentucky State Police, was to allow the brothel to function for one week
before raiding it on next Saturday.  The original plan to observe the club for
a month to see what other shady characters visited it had hastily been
shortened in light of the possibility that Paul Watkins might soon make a
violent takeover attempt. No one wanted the law enforcement officers to get
caught in the middle. Chaz was just about to explain the set-up to Jesse when
he received a text message from Stephanie.


Will call you in 10

He completed his conversation with
Jesse before leaving the suite under the pretext of going to get dinner. Once
in his car, he drove to a nearby fast food restaurant and called his wife.

“Hey, baby.”

“Hey. What’s wrong, Chaz? You sound

“Other than our conversation this
morning, it’s been a rough day.”

“Then, I’m sorry to add to your
problems.” She paused only for a second. “Something isn’t right wherever your
team is. There’s an intense feeling of unease and suspicion, and I get the
impression that a lot of it is directed at the scruffy guy I saw in my dream.
By a lot of people. I don’t feel like his life is in danger, but maybe he’s
being watched very closely. I feel really tense and shaky and a little scared. Maybe
angry, too.”

It wasn’t what Chaz wanted to hear.
Now, he had to decide whether Austin was in enough trouble to warrant aborting
the mission. A captured agent could be worse than a dead one, simply because
torture was such an awful thing. He didn’t want to think that such an extreme
situation would happen in this particular scenario, but he also didn’t want to
underestimate Paul Watkins.

“Thanks. I’m not sure how the rest
of the day is going to go because things are pretty unstable right now. If you
don’t hear from me until late tomorrow, don’t worry, okay?”

“Okay.” She sounded a bit hesitant.

“Stephanie, I’m not where they are,
and I won’t be going in because we’re not set up for that right now. Don’t
worry, okay?”

“I believe you, Chaz.” The strength
and clarity in her voice convinced him.

“All right, sweetheart. I’ll talk
to you as soon as I can.”

When Chaz ended the phone call, he
ordered a combo meal that he didn’t feel like eating and headed back to the
safe house.


~ ~ ~ ~


“Can you locate Austin?”

“He’s at the bar in the club.”

Chaz tossed the bag with a half-eaten
burger and cold fries onto the counter and pulled a chair up to the table. His
eyes focused in on the undercover police officer. Clenched jaw. Rigid posture. Fingers
drumming on the table. Yep—Stephanie was right. He was pissed. His eyes weren’t
scanning the room, as one might expect he’d be doing if he was trying to make
sure everyone was happy and the club was operating as anticipated. Instead, his
gaze was fixed on the entrance. Chaz looked for another camera angle that might
give him a clue as to what was going on.

Just inside the doorway was a
blonde woman, about 5’4”, dressed provocatively but not indecently. She was
flirting with one of the body guards. After a few minutes, Austin got up and
headed toward her. They exchanged words. The body guard took a step toward
Austin. He took a step closer to the man and said something that made him frown
at the woman. Then, still scowling, Austin’s hand clenched around her upper arm
and he practically dragged her to the front entrance. Chaz watched another
camera that showed them step outside and disappear down the sidewalk.

“What the hell was that about?”
Jesse asked.

“I have no idea.” Chaz stood and
walked to the kitchen. He grabbed a glass and pushed it against the ice and
water dispensers in the refrigerator door. After a few long swallows, he leaned
his butt against the counter. Five minutes passed.

“Everyone is on edge,” he mused.
“Security is tighter than it would be because of Watkins. It’s the first night
of illegal activity that Austin was in charge of setting up, so he’s probably
under a lot of scrutiny. Maybe he’s feeling the pressure.” Chaz was finding
ways to weave in what his wife had revealed. “She could be a decoy to give him
an excuse to get out of there. But, if that was the case and the situation was
unbearably tense, why hasn’t he used his run code?”

Chaz and Jesse watched as Austin
re-entered the building, said something to the doorman, who nodded his
agreement, and returned to his table inside the club. The team leader continued
to study his operative’s posture: jaw still clenched, body less rigid, fingers
still drumming on the table. Was he trying to decide whether or not to run? Who
was this woman? Had she compromised him?

Tomorrow was their rescheduled
meet. Chaz expected the officer would explain then. He squeezed his tired eyes.

“You’ve been here all day; you
should take a break,” he told Jesse. “It’s going to be a long night for me, but
Sydney will relieve you soon.”

Chaz thought about Austin. It
wasn’t even 7:30 yet and drama was already starting.

Without saying a word, Jesse stood,
stretched, and left the suite. Chaz leaned his elbows on the table and let his
gaze travel across all of the screens. His eyes locked on the doorman when the
next couple arrived. He was checking each I.D. They did look pretty young. Was
that what the trouble had been about? Had Austin known the woman was underage?
Who was she to him?

BOOK: Loving Night: Dream Catcher Series ~ Book 2
2.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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