The Hidden, Book 2
Grand Central Publishing (January 28, 2014)
ISBN-13: 9781455523207 ♦ ISBN-10: 1455523208
They are the Hidden.
Not quite human. Far from normal.
And never, ever safe…
My name is Violet Castanega. Yeah, one of those Castanegas. My clan’s violent history haunts me, but I love them dearly, faults and all. It makes up for the fact that I’m pretty much shunned in society. What guy would want to marry into my mess of a clan?
Meeting someone like Kade Kavanaugh is a double-edged sword. I am drawn by the honor that’s attached to his position in the Guard, but I know I’ll never be good enough for someone like him. And I sure as hell shouldn’t be drawn to him in the first place. I expected the Guard’s dismissal of my request to investigate my brother’s murder, but I sure didn’t expect Kade on my doorstep, supposedly to help in the investigation of my brother’s murder. And while every cell in my brain screams not to trust him, every cell in my body aches to get closer. Either way, Kade is the kind of bad news I can’t resist.
Connected Books: The Hidden
Miami, a city of decadence, sunshine, and Dragons, Angels, and Sorcerers. As humans who hold the essence of ancient gods, Crescents walk the knife's edge between the mundane and the Hidden, a world of dark magick, deadly power, and hot passion.
Read an Excerpt
She was either making a huge mistake or saving her family. Too damned bad she didn’t know in advance which it was going to be. Violet stood on the steps of the Guard’s headquarters. She’d heard that it was fashioned after the government buildings on the Crescents’ ancestral island of Lucifera, and that this building had been here since the beginnings of Miami.
There was no written history of Lucifera, only legends handed down orally over many generations. As in many ancient cultures, Luciferians worshipped gods specific to the island. A fluke of nature allowed several gods to become physical on the Earth plane, where they fell to sensual temptations. Eventually, two disgruntled gods and one overly righteous angel decided procreation was a bad idea and instigated a war between their progeny. The war caused a violent schism that not only reversed the gods’ physicality but broke the island apart, forcing the inhabitants to flee to Florida.
Etched symbols like hieroglyphics adorned the two-story columns along the front of the otherwise nondescript building. Violet recognized several symbols, mostly the Dragon gods with which she was familiar. Some of her Crescent jewelry store customers requested pieces with the symbols for various gods. No one ever requested a necklace depicting the Tryah, the trio who started the war.
And we’re on the verge of war now.
Maybe rage and violence was in the blood, the vengeful tendencies just a throwback to the flawed beings that sired them so many generations ago.
The imposing dark blue doors did not invite the curious. Crescents knew the “financial services firm” was a front for the Hidden’s police force. Couldn’t go to the Miami police complaining that your neighbor’s magick was disrupting your satellite signal. Or that your brother was murdered by a Dragon. The Guard’s main focus was enforcing Rule Number One: Crescents must never expose their magick to the Mundanes. Then there were Crescents who’d gone Red, their term for magick psychosis.
Violet betrayed her clan with every step she took toward those ultra-tall double doors. As much as she hated the idea of going to the Guard for help, she had no choice. There was going to be a lot more bloodshed if she couldn’t convince them to intercede. She took a deep breath as she clutched the steel handle. Act like none of your family has ever been on the wrong side of the law.
Compared to the bright Miami sunshine, the lobby was dim and cool, dominated by shades of blue. Even the woman behind the reception desk wore a dark blue blouse.
“I need to speak to someone about a murder.” That last word caught in Violet’s throat. When the receptionist asked her name, “Castanega” came out even hoarser. She had to repeat it, and the woman’s eyebrows rose.
Yes, I’m one of those Castanegas.
The woman’s previously placid expression soured. “Did you commit murder or are you reporting on behalf of the victim?”
She opened a drawer, pulled out four pieces of paper, and clipped them to a board with a practiced hand. “You’ll need to fill these out.”
Violet could only stare at the words DEATH REPORT at the top. Her fingers trembled as she reached for the clipboard. The woman jabbed a pen in her direction and walked into the back room.
Crescents in general had their prejudices against Fringers, viewing them with the jaundiced disdain bestowed to “hillbillies.” Since Fringers didn’t want outsiders poking into their business, they happily perpetuated the stereotype. Mostly it worked, and the Guard only stepped in when illegal activities might draw the attention of the Mundane police.
The joke was on the Crescent population, really. Fringe families had taken land no one else wanted so long ago and cultivated it. The marshes and swamp areas were the most beautiful, richest, and most private of all the inhabitable land in the area. To Violet, the busy, loud city was the unwanted area.
The receptionist returned a few moments later. “Someone will be with you shortly.”
She bet right. Once all the papers were filled out, with the cold facts of her brother’s life and death crammed into lines not nearly long enough, she spent the time checking emails on her phone and confirming a couple of appointments with jewelry stores. Finally she played a couple rounds of Angry Birds before a voice penetrated. “Miss Castanega.”
A young man stood in the open doorway with that same sour look. He’d drawn the short straw, evidently. She was so sick of being judged by her name, her family.
She swallowed the weariness and plastered a professional expression on her face. He took the clipboard and said nothing more, just walked into a large room filled with desks. Expecting her to follow, she assumed. The Guard’s officers wore business attire, not uniforms. She didn’t need to see his magick tattoo identifying him as the lowest officer, an Argus. The fact that he led her to one of the desks crammed into the center of the room said as much. There were only two levels of officers in the Guard. Vegas handled the higher level issues, and Arguses handled the everyday Crescent matters.
Several other officers sat at their desks, engaged with a complainant. She heard snippets of conversations about the crazy neighbor releasing orbs from his roof and Aunt Betty running naked down the street. Those officers not busy watched her openly, as though they were ready to be amused. Someone whistled the banjo theme from Deliverance.
Idjit. That movie was set in Georgia, not southern Florida.
She gripped her alligator purse handle tighter. The skin came from their farm, the purse from the company that fashioned them into four-hundred dollar bags and belts. She wanted to tell these people that their operation used every part of the gator so nothing went to waste. That the income from their various enterprises provided well for the families it supported, far better than the Guard probably paid their employees. They also ensured that the alligator population thrived, that the nests in the wild were protected.
Violet met a few curious gazes, most giving her a dose of a sneer. Her Dragon rolled over her senses, bringing everything into hyper focus. She felt its heat as it pressed close to the surface.
Back. Not a good place to show yourself. You’ll—we’ll be pounced, blasted, and incinerated before we can blink.
She pushed it back deep inside her and found the more tolerable sight of paintings situated between doors, done in various mediums, styles, and probably eras. Depictions of the gods, even the ones who fell. For younger generations, the gods were mythical, part of distant history. Her clan descended from Mora, Dragon goddess of creativity and beauty. Here she was illustrated as a gorgeous green Dragon surrounded by flowers and butterflies. She was about to snap her fangs around the neck of a bird with bright plumage.
The man led her to a female officer’s desk. “Here, K, this one’s all yours.” He shoved the clipboard at her. “I’ve got better things to do.”
Mia Kavanaugh, according to her nameplate, gave him an acidic look but turned to Violet. “Please sit.” Her gaze skimmed the top of the report, and Violet could tell the moment her last name registered.
Mia’s moss green eyes took her in, swirling with trademark Deuce mist that, like Dragon’s flames, could only been seen by Crescents. Mia set the clipboard down and met her gaze. “Ms. Castanega, please tell me your family hasn’t killed the Mundane who is screaming to the world that there’s a gator ape in the swamp. The supposed huge alligator that walks upright at times.”
Dragonfire, that’s where she was going? “Even though Smitty’s always sneaking around on our private land with his video cameras, we have refrained from harming him. This has nothing to do with him.”
“You piqued his interest. One of your family members obviously revealed your magick. Which makes you a reckless element—”
“This has nothing to do with that idjit, and we are not reckless.” Well, most of the time. Wild, daring, and a little bit crazy, yes, but all aware of the punishment for breaking Rule Number One: death. “The murder I’m here to report is my brother’s.”
Don’t cry. You’re good at holding back tears after years of being teased by three brothers. Now two …
She held back the rest of her thoughts and the sob that threatened to erupt. “My brother Arlo was murdered yesterday by a Dragon who Breathed his power. He was attacked on our property without provocation. But—”
“You know the Guard doesn’t interfere with the swamp clans’ feuds.” Mia lifted the clipboard, her face relaxing as she thought her job here was done. “We will, of course, file the proper paperwork.”
So his death would be filed with the government but not the suspicious nature of it. No need to involve the Muds—the Mundane police force.
“I’m not just here because of my brother’s murder.” Violet pulled out a piece of paper and laid it on the desk. It contained the names of the other deceased Fringers. Swamp trash, she knew they were called more often than the Fringer moniker they’d given themselves long ago. “As I was about to say, there have been five similar murders in the last ten days. All Breathed. Someone’s inciting the feuding clans.”
Mia barely glanced at the list. “The feuding clans are inciting the feuding clans. That’s what you do down there.”
“We’ve been at peace for the last ten years. But it won’t last. My family is ready for blood. I’m sure these other families are too. That’s how it works: someone’s killed for ‘good reason’ and there’s a retaliation murder, and then another.” She thought of one family in particular that had been completely wiped out twenty years ago. It pained Violet to know her family was responsible, even if the Garzas deserved it.
Violet pointed to the list of names. “I bought time by doing this research to show a pattern. But my family is only going to hold out for so long before they start looking for justice.” She met her gaze. “You can prevent bloodshed by finding out who’s behind this. A teenage boy died.”
Movement beyond the woman caught her eye. One of the office doors opened, and a man walked out. Her Dragon snarled at the sight of the Deuce Vega who had tangled with her family on several occasions in the name of the Guard, Kade something or another. The one she’d attacked, but let’s just forget about that, shall we? His green-eyed gaze honed right in on her. Something fiery sparked between them, surprising her because she didn’t know what it was exactly. Sure as hell wasn’t that. She turned back to the Argus. “Will you investigate?”
Mia shook her head. “I’m sorry, but this looks like typical Fringe infighting, and we are way too busy to deal with that particular kind of crazy right now. Maybe it’s the effect of living on the edge of the Field. Who knows what the lack of full Deus Vis does to you after a while—”
“We get plenty of Deus Vis.” Latin for “god force,” it was the essential energy that sustained Crescents’ deity essence. The supernatural energy emanated from the crystals that comprised the island of Lucifera. The energy was still present. Ships and planes in the Bermuda Triangle found that out firsthand when their instruments malfunctioned. The Field of Deus Vis extended in a crescent shape into the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale area, fading at the edges. The Fringe lay at the southern curve of that edge.
“But how would you know? I don’t mean to sound derogatory, but to give you an example, if you grow up crazy, that’s your norm.”
If Violet cared to consider it, maybe it made sense. The Fringers were on the edge, in more ways than one. But she didn’t care to consider it. This Deuce had a lot of nerve to write off her concerns, to dismiss the death of her brother and four other Fringers as the byproduct of a Deus Vis deficiency.
Violet stood, snatching up her paper. Her cheeks burned when she saw those who had been listening, smirks on their faces. Kade’s expression, as he paused outside the door, held curiosity, as though he were trying to figure out who she was. The last time he’d seen her she was grimy with mud, having just come from feeding the alligators.
Kade stood near a brass plate that read LT. ALEC FERRO. Maybe the lieutenant would be more open-minded. She aimed for Kade, pasting on a docile expression.
Kade wasn’t buying it, not by the way he shored his shoulders and shifted his body to face her. The jerk was a waste of honey-colored hair and a mouth made for sin. Too bad a scar marred his gorgeous face, though the waves of his hair partially hid it. She remembered when the wound was fresh, bleeding like a bitch down the side of his cheek. His mouth curved in a smile. He was looking forward to tussling with her.
She feinted left at the last second, pushing open the door and approaching a middle-aged man at his desk whose fire in his eyes indicated he was Dragon like her. Good. He came to his feet.
“I’m sorry to barge in on you, but your officer isn’t taking me seriously. My name is Violet Castanega.”
A hand clamped onto her arm, followed by the scent of sandalwood. Kade took her in with a surprised expression. “You’re Violet Castanega?”
Yeah, the one who jumped on you. She tried to yank her arm away and focused on Ferro. “I need to talk to someone reasonable.”
“I’ll escort her out, sir.”
Kade started to pull her away, inciting her Dragon. Getting into an altercation with a Vega at the station—or Catalyzing to Dragon–was only going to prove how uncivilized Fringers were. Or crazy, as the Argus had implied. She would not prove them right.
“Dragons are being murdered.” She kept her gaze on Ferro as Kade pulled her toward the door. “Someone is targeting the Fringer families, starting a war … ”
Ferro held up his hand. “Wait, Kavanaugh.”
She’d been out the door, but Kade stopped at his commanding officer’s order. Ferro crooked his elegant finger, indicating that Kade close the door. Several officers, including Mia, hovered, ready to tackle her.
Mia Kavanaugh. Ah, the two green-eyed jerks were related. Even though Kade looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties, he felt older. Mia was probably younger than Violet.
She focused on Ferro, who felt much older. He was distinguished and poised, the benefit of having lived a long life filled with privilege and pride. Behind him, a large, gilt-framed portrait showed a Dragon incinerating a village. The plate mounted on the bottom of the frame read DRAKOS. Dragon god of war, and one of the Tryah. This man apparently idolized him. Maybe not so good.
Ferro said, “Finish what you were going to say.”
Her control had paid off. She pulled free of Kade’s grip, handing Ferro the paper on which she’d outlined the timeline of deaths. “Someone is killing and Breathing Dragons, and they’ve chosen the Fringe clans because they know the Guard will figure it’s us misbehaving. One of the most vengeful families was targeted first. An unprovoked attack on the Peregrines guarantees backlash, so who in their right mind would do it? Then the Peregrines killed one of the Wolfrums, their biggest and closest foe.”
Ferro leaned back in his chair, perusing the list. “Sounds like the typical barbarian activity we’ve seen before.”
“But the initial attacks weren’t provoked. You hear things in the Fringe, at the least, rumors. Three people were killed, so the victims’ families felt they had reason to take revenge. We don’t kill without reason. Someone wants war. I’m asking you to find out why.”
“What would one hope to gain by inciting the clans?” Ferro rubbed the gold pendant he wore, a symbol for Drakos, “That’s what I’m hoping you can find out. Being the authority, and outsiders, maybe you could ferret out more information than I can.”
“Fringers aren’t exactly cooperative where the Guard is concerned. Which, frankly, is why I’m surprised that you’ve come to us. Does your family know you’re here?”
She almost snorted. Thankfully she held it in. “No. We don’t have a cordial relationship with the Guard.”
Kade did snort. “If only you would stop breaking the law … ”
She flashed him a flame-eyed look, even if he was right. The Fringers, her clan included, had a long history of flouting authority. When they claimed the land at the edge of the Field over three hundred years ago, they’d decided they also lived on the edge of the law. “If the Guard intercedes and conducts an investigation, the clans would back off.” She hoped.
Ferro glanced at her list, then at her. “I know it’s upsetting to lose one of your family members, but these feuds have been going on for … well, since Lucifera. I remember the warnings about wandering into the pirate clan territories.”
“You were there? On Lucifera?” The island had been destroyed ages ago.
He gave a curt nod. “Even then, the Castanegas and other clans had a reputation. The island’s Deus Vis drew ships to it like a magnet, trapping the inhabitants the way we are trapped here. Some were pirate ships, crewed by barbarians. Those pirates were already enemies, and their hatred for each other erupted into battles. They were banished to the far side of the island and carved out territories adjacent to one another. Just as they did here.”
She craved more information about the island and the legends. None of her living clan members had been on the island. “So you remember the war?” She nodded to the painting.
“I was only eight at the time. I remember fighting, but the Tryah were scapegoats.” He gave her a tight smile. “At least that’s my opinion. But you’re not here to discuss Lucifera.”
No, she wasn’t. “This isn’t about the feuds.” She pressed her hand to her solar plexus. “I feel it here. Something isn’t right.”
“I think it’s probably a combination of the temperament down there, plus the unusually strong fluctuations we’ve been seeing from the impending solar storm.”
That again. “We’ve felt the effects before, and they’ve never incited anyone to murder.”
“I would suggest you weather the storm and stay out of trouble.”
He was dismissing her.
Violet’s gaze went to a map of Miami on the wall behind him. Went, in fact, to a red pin at the western edge of her clan’s territory where Arlo had died. She took several steps forward, Kade shadowing her.
“You know about the murders.” She tapped her photographic memory and pictured where the other Fringers had been killed. This map pinpointed each gruesome location with a red pin. “What are the yellow pins for?”
Ferro moved to block her view of the map with his compact muscular body. “We are investigating, Ms. Castanega. As you can see.” His words grated out. “But I cannot discuss the details of the case at this time.” This didn’t make sense. He was dismissing her, yet he knew about the murders. “Thank you for your concern,” he said. “I’m sure it took a lot of courage for you to come here.” He looked beyond her. “Escort her out.”
Okay, that was a dismissal. Kade put his hand on her back to guide her out the door. The prickles that zinged through her at his touch were as odd as what she’d felt when their eyes had met. She involuntarily jerked away from that electric touch. He grabbed her arms and shoved her face first to the wall, pinning her wrists with his iron-grip hands.
“No more fast moves,” he said, his voice a growl in her ear, his breath hot on the back of her neck. “Or I’ll remove you from the premises bodily.”
Bodily. Which meant, his hands on her body, carrying her right out of there. The idea crackled across her skin like the heat flush she got when she had to go into the alligator pens. Except Kade smelled a hell of a lot better. And she knew that firsthand, since all of his hard, muscular body was plastered against hers. Which should piss her off, not make her want to spin in his arms and test him on that bodily thing. Fortunately, she couldn’t budge an inch, squashing that insane temptation.
“Going for another cheap thrill?” she rasped, her cheek mashed against the wall.
She lowered her voice to a near whisper and turned to look at him. “You grabbed my boob on our last tussle.”
“That was an accident, and you know it. Come on, you think I need to cop a feel on a suspect to get off?”
No, she supposed not when he looked like that. Arrogant son of a bitch. “It wasn’t just an accidental brush. You lingered. And spread your hand to cover more area.” In her peripheral vision, she sensed other officers at the ready, but Kade’s body heat enveloped her, overwhelmed her senses—and had her Dragon panting.
He kept his voice low too, his mouth close to her ear. “Interesting how you’d remember every nuance of it. You must have enjoyed it.”
She bucked, anger pulsing through her. “I should have reported you, for all the good that would have done.” Wait a minute. She could swear a hard ridge pressed against her back. Ignoring the odd sense of triumph, she said, “Mm, seems like you’re enjoying this.”
“It’s just an adrenaline reaction from a potential altercation with a troublesome Dragon.”
“If you say so. I was only moving away from you. I don’t like being touched. If I promise to be a good girl, will you let me go?”
The mist in his eyes swirled provocatively. “Can you be a good girl? Is that even possible?”
“Try me.” She shifted her eyes to the group of officers behind him. “After all, you have plenty of back up.”
A spark of playful challenge lit his eyes. “Oh, baby, I don’t need back up.”
What were they talking about? Oh, Heathe, Dragon goddess of sensuality, were they flirting? No. Not possible. Why was heat throbbing through her body then? Why was her Dragon shivering with a lust she hadn’t felt in forever?
Enemy! I know it’s been awhile, and then only with boring ole Mundanes, but really. Have some self-respect, beast!
“I’ll be a good girl,” she said, hearing the contriteness in her voice.
“Mm. We’ll see about that.” Kade released her, and she rubbed her shoulders where he’d held them. “I can find my own way out.”
“Sorry, policy.” His fingers settled on her mid-back again as he guided her toward the door. “I have to escort you.”
She heard someone whisper, “Wouldn’t want her to go bat-shit crazy in here.”
Her mouth tightened in response, the only one she would show.
Another man murmured, “Kade said she’s as nuts as the rest of the Fringers. I wouldn’t mind her going nuts on me.”
Several men chuckled, the thick sound of innuendo charging their laughter.
Kade lifted his hands, not looking the least bit contrite. “You did go crazy. Jumped me, tore a chunk of my hair out.”
“You were beating my brother to a pulp.”
“He deserved it. I came to arrest him. He should have gone peacefully. Instead he Catalyzed and went all scales and fangs on me.”
She swallowed back the angry things she wanted to say as the memory of that terrible day returned. She eyed the fine line that lanced Kade’s right eyebrow and across his temple. “Nice scar.”
He paused at the door that led out to the reception area, drawing his finger across it. “Yes, it is. Scars are a badge of honor in the Guard. Arlo did me a favor.” He arched that eyebrow. “And the ladies like it. Gives me a dangerous look.”
“How’d that shiner work for you? Did that make you look mad, bad, and dangerous too?”
A black guy who reminded her of Wesley Snipes hovered nearby, amusement on his face. “Kavanaugh, you didn’t tell us this little girl gave you that shiner.” He eyed her up and down, the kind of survey that made her feel marginalized. His taunting gaze remained in place as it shifted to Kade. “You must be getting soft.”
Now it was Kade’s mouth that tightened into a line. This was not friendly camaraderie, especially since the black guy was jabbing Kade in front of her.
Why the hell she had the insane urge to defend him, to say that he’d fought … well, like a tiger, she had no idea. No, take satisfaction at humbling him in front of his colleagues. And umbrage at the Wesley guy calling her “little.” Not at five-foot-seven.
Get me out of here. She turned the door handle.
It wouldn’t move. Damn. She wanted to leave. Now.
Kade leaned close, pressing a series of buttons and pushing the door open for her. “Allow me.”
She gave him a look that, while it may not kill, hopefully would singe him. Except, no … he gave her a bemused half-smile. She stalked out. Behind her, she heard the muffled laughter of the people who had no doubt heard every word of their exchange.
Kade watched Violet Castanega’s sassy little ass sashay through the lobby to the entrance. He could tell she wanted to look back at him; she started to but snapped her head straight, pushed the door open, and slammed it shut behind her. Wow, did she look different from the last time he’d seen her.
When he’d arrested Arlo six years ago, someone jumped on his back, wrapping her long legs around his waist and arms over his shoulders. He’d known instantly it was a woman—her breasts crushed against his back had been the first clue. Her shrill voice blasting his ear with, “Let him go!” the second.
He’d reached back to dislodge her and accidentally grabbed her boob. Okay, maybe he’d lingered on that firm and soft and luscious mound of flesh. She’d nailed him in the eye with her elbow. It was only after he’d thrown her off that he realized it was Violet, the once-lanky, scrappy teenager he’d seen during an earlier investigation into Arlo’s activities.
Before she could launch another attack, he reminded her that assaulting an officer would result in arrest, and she backed off. She’d been wearing tattered jeans, a muddy tank top and boots, and smelled of earth. A red scarf covered her dark brown hair, but her braid had hung down her back and tendrils of hair had escaped. To his surprise, her untamed self had tugged at the rebellious, wild side he’d had to stuff deep inside. And it still did apparently.
The spark between them was bizarre. Never would he nail a Fringer, doubly so, since they were all Dragons. Not even one with silky hair falling over her shoulders and a long, lean body. He returned to the pit, where several pairs of eyes were on him.
“Did you spank her for giving you that shiner, Kavanaugh?” Treach called out, followed by a chorus of guffaws.
“I think you were a little too distracted and let her get the best of you,” Baker said. “You wanted to spank her.”
Kade shook his head, learning long ago that to respond was the weaker action. He headed to his office, a tantalizing image of Violet sprawled across his lap while he spanked that lush behind flashing into his mind. That was not helping his hard-on.
His sister, Mia, sidled up next to him. “What was that about?”
“The shiner?” He waved it off. “She was fast, nailed me while I was dealing with her brothers.” He wasn’t getting into the boob part.
“No wonder you never mentioned who’d given you that black eye. These chauvinistic bastards will never let you live that down.” She shot them a derisive glance and lowered her voice. “But that’s not what I was talking about. There was an erotic vibe in the way you dealt with her, and ooh, the way the mist in your eyes is swirling now.”
He kept all expression from his face, including annoyance at her observation. “I was making sure she didn’t cause a scene. Nothing more.”
She gave him a skeptical look, which he deserved because he knew exactly what she was talking about. He didn’t have an answer for it either, because no way was he attracted to a Castanega. Even a sexy, sassy one. “Take note, little sister. With people like her, you’ve got to establish dominance immediately. The moment they think they’ve got the upper hand, they do.”
The usual light of admiration returned to her eyes, the way it did whenever he imparted his wisdom to her. “I see that. You didn’t let her get away with anything, while she completely got away from me. That’s why you’re one of the best Vegas in the department.”
He loved her admiration, and he didn’t. He knew too well how betrayed one felt when the object of your admiration fell and shattered to pieces. She was too young to remember when all the years of their father’s sterling service to the Guard exploded in scandal. A woman had made wild accusations about a member of the Concilium, the government entity that oversaw the Hidden and instituted the rules. Somehow their father had gotten involved, emotionally, maybe romantically. Stewart Kavanaugh had helped the woman escape, and both were killed.
Everyone had kept the ugly details from Mia, then age seven. As far as she knew, a crazy woman escaped and attacked their father. Weeks later, their mother had taken her life, unable to deal with the betrayal and scandal. She was a selfish, weak woman who cared more about her reputation than her young daughter.
On top of that, Kade had been demoted to Argus. Some people complained that he’d been fast-tracked to Vega because of his father’s influence and that he didn’t deserve his position because his reckless behavior made the Guard look bad. Maybe that was true, but they conveniently forgot the thirty years that he was a Vega who closed almost every case. Five years of towing the line, exemplary work, and living by the rules had earned him Vega again. Humiliating, belittling years that changed him from cavalier and edgy to a sterling, model officer.
“Kavanaugh,” Ferro called out, leaning out of his office. He saw Mia and added, “Kade.” Ferro remained standing once Kade closed the door behind him, looking at the map with the tacks on it. “Take the Castanega woman out.”
The words hit Kade like a cold slap, so out of the blue he had to clarify in case he’d misheard. “‘Take her out’? You mean kill her?”
“I thought you were beyond needing the terms explained.”
Kade bristled. “For barging into your office?”
The corner of Ferro’s mouth twitched. “You’re questioning the order?”
“It seems extreme, sir.”
“It has nothing to do with her conduct here.” Ferro lifted the paper she’d brought in. “We’ve been watching her for a while now. These killings are connected to her, and her act about being concerned is just that.” He let the paper drift down to his desk. “Worthless pieces of trash, all of them. A blight on Crescent society.”
Those words prickled across Kade’s skin. He’d heard them spoken about his father after the debacle.
Ferro continued. “Their skirmishes act as population control, but in the age of the Internet and instant news, they threaten to expose what we are. Eliminating her will serve as a warning to anyone else involved.”
The Guard didn’t have people killed for less than a good reason. Kade wasn’t always privy to the reasons, and frankly, he’d never been concerned about it. Orders were orders. Still, the prospect of whacking Violet sank his stomach. Because he’d felt her body against his? And felt arousal?
Think with your right head, Kavanaugh.
Vegas were akin to Special Ops, called in when the mission was dangerous, tricky, or required a special skill. He had to trust his superior. He would carry out his task as ordered.
“I’ll take care of it, sir.”
Praise & Reviews
“So far this is a wonderful series. This world that Ms. Rush has created seems so real you find yourself drawn into the story from the first page.” —Night Owl Reviews
“Dark schemes are hatching as Rush makes a splendid return to her world where Dragons, sorcerers (Deuces) and angels walk hidden among us. Bigotry and tight-knit clans are proving to be a killer’s best accomplice, forcing one stubborn Dragon to attempt to stop the carnage. Rush continues to stake out her territory in the paranormal romance world by delivering exciting, complex and passionate tales.” —RT Book Reviews