Authors: Julia Sykes
By Julia Sykes
© June 2014
For everyone who read
and asked for more Master and Kathy.
Series Reading Order
While the books in the
series can be read as standalone romances, the following is the chronological order of the stories:
Please note that
is directly connected to
It is not necessary to read those books before reading
in order to follow the story, but it will enhance the reading experience.
I’ll be watching you today. And every day, until I finally take you. Don’t worry, Kathy. I don’t want to break you. But I do want to make you scream. I want to make you mine. Come and find me. Come to me, pet.
My stomach began to churn before my mind could fully process the words. It was as though they stared up at me from the dirty scrap of paper they were scrawled upon, as though the eyes of the person who had written them were piercing my soul. I felt violated, dirty. The wash of horror made my throat convulse as bile rose. How could nothing more than ink on a page affect me so viscerally?
It could, because the intent behind those words was so abhorrent that it made me want to lash out at my invisible assailant like a wild, cornered animal. But there was no assailant, and my adrenaline burned through my veins, scorching them when it found no outlet.
“Katie? You okay?”
I whirled, and my fist swung in a practiced arc. In the half a heartbeat it took for me to register the familiar voice, I managed to slow the punch. My hesitation gave my partner the split second of warning he needed to catch my wrist, blocking the hit.
“Whoa, Sparrow. What’s got your panties in a twist?”
Don’t sneak up on me like that.” It was much easier to turn my fear into ire, even if it wasn’t warranted.
He gave me a small frown, and he didn’t release my wrist. He lowered it so that it hung at his side, almost as though he was holding my hand. “I wasn’t sneaking. I said your name three times before you tried to pop me across the jaw.” His fingers squeezed in reprimand. “Thanks for changing your mind at the last second there.”
All the aggression left me on a heavy sigh. I ran my hand through my hair. The familiar weight of the copper curls was comforting, as was the little tug on my scalp as I pulled on the strands. The sensation helped ground me, tethering me to the moment so that I could leave my fear behind.
“Sorry. I’m just tired, that’s all.” I didn’t want to tell Dex about the note. He would just freak out and go all alpha male protective on me, as though I was one of the victims we worked with all too often. I wasn’t
a victim. As a member of the Violent Crimes Task Force for the FBI, I was the hunter, the one who put away the bastards who turned those poor women into victims.
I shifted my body to place myself firmly between Dex and the evidence. His frown deepened, drawing his masculine features down into something forbidding, if no less handsome.
Pale blue eyes shot through with navy glared down at me, and the way the light caught his close-cropped blond hair made him look like an avenging angel. I couldn’t deny that Dex was intimidating when he got like this. It was one of the reasons why he was such a good FBI agent.
“Don’t lie to me, Sparrow. I can always tell. What’s bothering you?” Dexter Scott, human lie detector.
Another quality that made him a good agent. And a pain in my ass.
My sigh was one of annoyance this time. “Don’t call me that. I get it. My surname sounds like ‘bird.’ I don’t like the cutesy nicknames at the office. I’m an agent, just like you.”
His fingers squeezed my wrist again. “Okay, then,
What’s really bothering you?”
“Has it ever occurred to you that if I’m being evasive, it means I don’t want to share? Social niceti
es dictate that you back off.”
Even the casual shrug of Dex’s shoulders was intimidating. The movement called attention to his imposing stature. At five foot eight, I don’t consider myself short, but when being stared down by a six foot four, heavily muscled god of a man, I felt as small as a child.
“No.” He informed me. “Tell me what’s going on with you, Sparrow.”
It was no longer a friendly question. It was an order. Dex didn’t outrank me, but I found myself cracking anyway. My body shifted, and my eyes cut to my desk, where the note lay on my keyboard. From a distance, it didn’t look like anything more than a scrap of paper, but I could feel malevolence rolling off it.
Dex’s long fingers snatched it up.
“Don’t!” I protested, but his eyes were already scanning the sickening words. In the five seconds it took him to read it, his features twisted from disapproval to rage.
His eyes were twin blue flames when they found mine. “Who sent this?”
“I don’t know. I just found the envelope in my box. It’s probably not even for me. It might be evidence from a case someone didn’t label properly. It’s addressed to Kathy, not Katie.”
Dex’s hard expression told me I was being willfully ignorant. “Kathy can be short for Katherine. Don’t pretend like you don’t know it’s for you.”
“I don’t know that,” I snapped
to cover the fact that I suspected he was right. I couldn’t show weakness. Not at the office. Not ever. “Like I said, it could be mislabeled evidence. I’ll see if I can track down what happened. You shouldn’t be touching that without gloves.”
“Well, it’s too late for that now. We’ll have to take into account the fact that you and I touched it when we run it for prints.”
“Thank you for being sensible.” Relief sank into me at his agreement that the note had nothing to do with me personally. “I’ll just take this to the lab and-”
“Not yet, you won’t,” Dex cut over me. “We’re showing this to Frank.”
“Why? It’s part of one of my cases. He doesn’t need to-”
This time he stopped me
with a low growl. His fingers tightened around my wrist again. “I already told you to stop pretending. We both know this is a personal threat, Katie. And I’m not letting you bury it just because you’re scared.”
“I’m not scared!” I insisted.
I couldn’t let him see that I
scared, even if he was my best friend. “You’re just being unreasonable.”
“You’re lying again.” It was a cool statement of fact.
I tugged against his hold on my wrist. He didn’t even seem to notice. “Just leave it, okay? Even if it is for me, it needs to be processed just like any other piece of evidence. Let me take it to the lab. I can deal with this.” I was reassuring myself just as much as I was trying to persuade him of that fact.
“I know you can deal with it, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it on your own. It’s okay to be scared, Katie. This is some scary shit. And that’s why I’m not going to let you quietly try to handle it by yourself.”
“You’re not going to
me?” That truly got my hackles up. I didn’t usually mind my friend’s pushiness, but right now, with my emotions fraying, I couldn’t face it. “Careful, Dex. Your alpha-douche is showing.”
To my surprise, he chuckled darkly. “Oh, Sparrow, you haven’t even glimpsed my ‘alpha-douche.’ I can assure you, he would most certainly
appreciate that title.”
I shifted uncomfortably. His touch on my wrist suddenly burned much hotter. My eyes slid away from his. “Damn it, Dex,” I muttered
, my confident façade cracking ever so slightly. “Don’t make this a big deal. Please.”
“I’m not making it a big deal. This is serious, Katie. You’re going to talk to Frank about it, and you’re going to keep me updated. Don’t keep things like this from me. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
I glanced up at him and saw a hint of fear for me flash through the righteous anger in his eyes. That swayed me more than his demands. My partner cared about me.
“I wouldn’t let anything happen to you, either, Dex,” I admitted. “Thanks for looking out for me.”
The taut lines around his full mouth softened. “Always.”
A long moment passed between us, and I felt that the weight of his stare was more significant than just concern for my safety. There was something else there. It was answered by a stirring of affection deep within me.
“I’ll take the note to Frank, then,” I finally broke the intense silence.
“Good.” Dex’s voice was a touch deeper than usual as he delivered his approval. It made me feel warm inside, and I gave him a small smile as I took the piece of paper back from him. It wasn’t as scary now that my partner shared the burden of its contents.
Well, it had gone from terrifying to mildly horrifying on the fear-inducing scale. But at least now I could touch it without feeling like vomiting.
Dex finally released my wrist. “Go on, then.” The upward curve of his lips was softly encouraging.
I nodded. “I’ll let you know how it goes.” With that, I skirted around him before my courage failed me. Trepidation and a touch of shame bled into the sense of calm I had found with Dex. Not only was I worried about Frank’s reaction to the note, but I was also embarrassed to show him such an overtly sexual threat. Franklin Dawes might be my boss, but he was also a father figure to me. What girl wants to discuss something like this with her dad?
I shook my head. Frank might have known me since I was a teenager, but I wasn’t a girl any longer. And my real father was dead in the ground, along with my mother. I had never known her, but I had lost Dad when I was seventeen. Frank – Dad’s partner and one of his
closest friends – had helped fill that gap. He had even helped guide me to my job with the Bureau. I had faced some heinous crimes with him, but none of them had ever involved me personally.
Even though I held it gingerly between my thumb and forefinger, the paper seemed to burn them by the time I knocked on Frank’s office door.
“Come in.” His voice was deep and calm, as always. Frank never lost that sense of composed control, no matter what crime we faced. He was an incredibly strong man, emotionally as well as physically. Even if he was a touch stern, I always felt safe around him. His consistent moods made his supportive presence incredibly comforting, and they gave me the strength I needed to match that calm control when it came to facing the sick criminals I hunted.
Focusing on that knowledge, I took a deep breath and stepped into his office.
His face lit up when I entered. “Katie,” he beamed. He always had that warm smile for me. It was the only time I ever saw his cool demeanor melt. It made me feel special, cared for. The faint crow’s feet around his polished mahogany eyes deepened, and his perfect white teeth flashed.
Frank cared about me. He would help me through this.
“What can I do for you?” He asked genially.
“This…” I fumbled. “This w
as waiting for me when I came back in this afternoon.” I dropped the note so quickly that it fluttered through the air for a second before landing on the desk in front of him.
He reached for his gold wire framed reading glasses and lifted the paper closer to his eyes. His brows rose nearly all the way to his meticulously-styled steel grey hair. After a moment, his expression went carefully blank, and his gaze returned to me. Tension gripped my muscles at the sight of it. The warmth he usually afforded me was gone, as was his usual calm. It was as though it was taking all his effort to conceal his emotions.
“Who sent this?” His voice was softer than I had ever heard it.
“I… I don’t know. It was in an envelope in my box when I went to check it just now.”
Frank placed it carefully on his desk. “We’ll run it for prints. Has anyone else touched it other than you and me?”
He held it.”
His lips thinned in disapproval. “I’ll make sure no one else does. I’ll personally deliver it to the lab.”