When an international ring of sex traffickers kidnaps an eight-year-old girl in Boston, FBI Agent Lucas Randall heads undercover. But his rescue operation goes disastrously wrong and Lucas barely escapes with his life. Now the ruthless traffickers are hunting him down, along with everyone else who threatens their operation.
Computer expert Ashley Chen joined the FBI to fight against evil in the world—evil she experienced firsthand. She has mad skills, and deadly secrets, and once she starts working with Lucas, she also has big trouble, because after years of pushing people away, she’s falling for the guy. The feeling is more than mutual, but as Ashley intensifies her online pursuit of the trafficking ring, her traumatic past collides with her present and suddenly Lucas can’t tell which side she’s on. And as the case escalates into a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, it turns out Ashley isn’t the only one with something to hide.
If neither can trust the other with their secrets, how can they trust each other with their hearts?
“You want me to provide an alibi?” The glow drained from her cheeks.
Tension sizzled through the air as Mac watched her body language to see if it matched her words. “You know I have to ask.”
She crossed her arms, every line of her body defensive and resentful. “I don’t remember exactly where I was on Monday morning.” Her eyes moved up and right.
Shit. She was lying. People lied to cops and FBI agents all the time. The question was, what did she have to hide?
“But this morning, when the DJ was shot”— She’d already put together what the cops were officially refusing to admit—“ I was in a coffee shop and then on the Metro.”
“Got people who can verify that?”
She gave him the name of a coffee shop near Tenleytown and the metro stop where she’d got off the train.
“Don’t tell them why you’re asking,” she said. “Please.”
She cradled her forehead in her hand and looked like she suddenly felt ill. Because, really, what were they going to think when the FBI started asking questions about her movements? He made himself push on. She wasn’t his friend or his date. He had a job to do.
“Any idea who might be committing these murders?”
“I told you. I’m not in touch with anyone from that life anymore.” “What about your brother?”
“Eddie?” An ugly laugh escaped. “I don’t have anything to do with that wacko.”
Eddie Hines was still incarcerated in the Idaho State Correctional Center. They’d pulled a bullet matched to his gun out of a SWAT officer’s vertebrae. The policeman had been lucky to not be paralyzed. To prove that point the officer turned up in a borrowed wheelchair and a “here but for the grace of God” sign every time Eddie came up for parole.
“I meant your other brother.”
She reached out to hold on to the back of the couch. “He doesn’t know about any of this.”
Mac frowned. “You mean the murders?”
“No,” she bit out sharply. “Any of it. Not the Pioneers. Not Kodiak Compound. Not who our family really is. Nothing.” Her fists clenched and unclenched. “And I want it to stay that way.”
What the hell? “Where does he think he comes from?”
“I told him we were the children of Trudy’s second-cousin on her mom’s side. I told him our parents died up in Oregon and Trudy took us in.”
“You lied to him about his parents?” Holy shit.
She put her hand on her hip. “Don’t use that judgmental tone with me, Assistant Special Agent in Charge Steve McKenzie.”
“Sorry, Tess.” He strode toward her until they were only a foot apart. “I didn’t realize you had the monopoly on changing your identity.”
She flinched and blinked rapidly as if fighting tears. “If anyone should understand why I wanted to leave that ugliness behind it should be you. You need to leave. Now.”
When he didn’t move she went to the front door and opened it, waiting for him to take the hint. Damn. He’d blown it. When he stood in front of her again he opened his mouth to speak.
She beat him to it. “Don’t leave town, right?” Bitterness was rife in the lines around her mouth. In the bite of her tone.
“I was going to say that if anyone from Kodiak gets in touch—”
“But if they do—”
“They won’t!” She appeared on the verge of crying, but fighting it.
He’d seen all sorts of tears during his time on the job. It was always the ones that didn’t fall that affected him most.
He pulled a business card out of his pocket, took her hand and folded her fingers over it. The skin on skin contact made something unexpected spread through his body. Despite her anger she felt it too— he could tell by the way her pupils widened and her lips parted on a gasp. She tried to pull away but he didn’t let go and he didn’t back down.
Instead he pulled her toward him into a stiff embrace. His breath brushed her hair as he kissed the top of her head— like she was still that little girl he’d known all those years ago.
“I’m not the bad guy here, Tess,” he murmured against her hair.
She kept her head bowed, and eyes closed, hand pressed like a fiery brand against his heart.
“Neither am I, but no one seems to care.”
She pulled away, and he let her go. Then he walked away just like he had nearly twenty years ago.
He sat in his car, staring at the house, knowing she was inside watching him right back.
The unexpected attraction had caught him off guard. He’d forgotten what it felt like to actually want someone. But he couldn’t afford to start something with the daughter of one of the most notorious white supremacist leaders in history. That would not look great on his résumé.
That stupid hug had knocked him off balance and made him sit here like a damn stalker. He’d hoped to neutralize some of the antagonism his turning up out of the blue had created and keep her onside should he need her help in the future. But now the fresh scent of her shampoo invaded his nostrils, and the feel of her soft skin tantalized his senses. The sight of her in that damp robe— knowing that she was naked underneath— had distracted the hell out of him. And damned if that embrace hadn’t felt like coming home.
Chances were she wasn’t involved in the current murders. It didn’t seem likely that an accountant, raised by a woman of color, would turn around and start killing people based on her daddy’s evil doctrine. But who knew? He’d seen crazier things in his career. Tomorrow he’d check out her alibi and cross her off his to-do list.
More’s the pity.
And so what if his mind turned dirty. It wasn’t going to lead anywhere. She was off limits. And he was in control of his wants and needs.
About Toni Anderson
New York Times and USA Today international bestselling author, Toni Anderson, writes dark, gritty Romantic Suspense novels that have hit #1 in Barnes & Noble's Nook store, the Top 10 in Amazon and Kobo stores, and the Top 50 in iBooks. Her novels have won many awards. A former Marine Biologist from Britain, she inexplicably ended up in the geographical center of North America, about as far from the ocean as it is possible to get. She now lives in the Canadian prairies with her Irish husband and two children and spends most of her time complaining about the weather.
Toni has no explanation for her oft-times dark imagination, and only hopes the romance makes up for it. She's addicted to reading, dogs, tea, and chocolate.
If you want to know when Toni's next book will be out, visit her website (http://www.toniandersonauthor.com) and sign up for her newsletter. If you want to read other fascinating stories about life in a city that, during winter, is sometimes colder than Mars, friend her on Facebook: (https://www.facebook.com/toniannanderson).