agencies, solving cases with—or without—the law on its side. And
the Unit’s men are special agents in more ways than one, with
secrets that can make or break them—and the hearts of those who
fall for them . . .
the ICU has given him a chance to stay put instead of constantly
running away—from the past, from love, from the blood on his hands.
And he’s not going to screw that up, even if it means going back
home to Texas to investigate the disappearance of the woman who made
him start running in the first place . . .
but she thought it would be good for her best friend Jessie’s
career. Now, Jessie is missing and Grace will do anything to find
her. But her path keeps crossing with a mysterious and charismatic
cowboy who has his own reasons for finding Jessie. And as intrigue
draws Grace and Cowboy deeper into danger, passion starts to play by
its own rules—making promises it might not be able to keep . . .
Cowboy stared at the name in the file handed to him by his pain-in-the- ass boss. Was this a joke? If so, what the fuck? Then again Ryan Sheppard wasn’t one to play games, at least not when someone’s life was at stake. “What would you like me to do with this?”
“Read it. It involves your new case,” Ryan said, looking up from the pile of papers on his desk, apparently confused by Cowboy’s reaction.
Maybe he was totally clueless as to what that name meant to Cowboy.
You could never be certain how much the dickhead knew.
He slid the file across the black marble desktop, back to Ryan. “I don’t do missing people.” That wasn’t entirely true, but his expertise was more about being the go-to guy. Whatever the team needed to get the job done, Cowboy found. A tank, halfway across the world by noon? No problem, he had a guy. Time-sensitive explosives? He knew a guy who knew a guy. Shit, he knew a guy for most anything. That metaphorical little black book had become his way of life because if you couldn’t do it yourself, you had to find someone who could. It had been this way since he’d started surviving on his own at fourteen. But taking a lead on a missing person, especially this missing person, nope, not his thing. Although he had to admit he was curious—ok, more than curious—why Jessica Cook went missing.
“It’s not what we’ve been hired to do,” Ryan was saying. “Not entirely.
You’re to keep an eye on the missing woman’s friend.”
“And nor am I a babysitter.” That was a job for Dozier. Strong and silent, with hawk eyes; compared to him, panthers were pets that slept on your bed.
“You are now. Everyone else is either busy or not qualified.”
“Then give this to Beck. It’s what he lives for.” His fellow operative, Christian Beck, had a knack for finding and retrieving missing or kidnapped victims and dealing with damsels in distress.
“Can’t. He’s asked for time off. His wife is expecting their first child and he doesn’t want to leave her side.”
“It’s a baby, not a ticking time bomb.” Sheesh, he’d met Christian’s wife. She was no shrinking violet. He slung a booted ankle across his knee to stop it bouncing, hoping to God he wasn’t coming off as antsy as the name on that file made him.
“I’m not about to recall him when I have you doing nothing. Jesus, Cowboy, what’s the problem?”
He wasn’t going to admit he knew the missing woman because then Ryan, nosy prick that he was, would want to know how he knew her. “Nothing, but what I do for ICU doesn’t involve a pulse.”
“Since when? True, everyone on the team has their niche, but you’ve done security detail before. Is that what this is about? You don’t think you can handle it?”
“Shit no.” After living on the street, he sure as hell could handle anything Ryan threw his way. He opened his mouth to argue but his boss cut him off.
“Good, because I wouldn’t trust you with this,” he said, sliding the file back to him, “if I didn’t think you could handle it.”
“Trust? What is this, personal?”
“Not really. Chief Irvine asked for our help.”
“Since when do we help the cops?” At least openly anyway. “Since my father told me they went to school together.” And that was that. Cowboy dropped it.
Ryan’s father had retired after twenty years on the force prior to opening ICU, and Ryan may have had control of the company for the past five years, but when Sheppard Sr. spoke, his son tended to listen. It was a matter of mutual respect, Ryan said. Unlike Cowboy’s father, Sheppard Sr. had earned it. Ryan had complete autonomy to run the agency as he saw fit. Hell, he’d turned his old man’s Investigation Collection Unit into one of the most sought-out agencies in the world. With Ryan at the helm, the tentacles of the company reached further than his father dreamed, beyond the blurring of rules and legalities, solving the cases no one working within the law could. If a case was mission impossible, Ryan made it possible. The governments were happy to look the other way if it got the job done. And ICU got the job done. It wasn’t that they broke the law, only that they didn’t allow red tape, policies, and protocols to impede their hunt. So the cops took a hear no evil, see no evil approach when it came to Ryan and his team, though open cooperation was rare.
“And,” Ryan continued, “this is personal for the chief.”
“The missing girl? Or the one you want me to babysit?” If Ryan made him take the case, having the law monitoring his every move while he tried to pretend he didn’t know Jessie Cook wasn’t sitting high on Cowboy’s to-do list.
“Jessica Cook, the missing woman, is a friend of his daughter, Grace Irvine. Both women work for the Dallas Star. She convinced her editor it was a good idea to allow her friend to write this political piece. Two weeks later, Jessica Cook falls off the radar. Time is not on Ms. Cook’s side and Irvine knows his daughter well enough to believe she’ll get it in her head to look for her friend on her own. And she needs to stay out of it.”
“And he doesn’t want her to know I’m her paid guardian angel?” “Exactly.”
“And he doesn’t want our help finding the girl?”
“He claims to have that covered. But…if along the way you find anything useful, he’d appreciate you sharing.”
He should be relieved he wasn’t being hired to find Jessie. But this wasn’t the type of missing person case Ryan normally took on. For starters, their missing people weren’t usually missing, but rather misplaced by some not-so-nice folk, as in taken for ransom or bargaining purposes. Unless Jessie’s circumstances had drastically changed, he doubted she’d disappeared for either of those reasons. This looked to be a job for the police, not ICU.
As for playing bodyguard to a woman who didn’t know daddy had hired a watch dog… Well, getting his ass chewed out by an angry woman wasn’t high on any of his lists. “Have the cops linked the story Cook was working on to her disappearance?”
“It’s complicated. His daughter’s apartment, one she shared with Ms. Cook, was broken into two days ago. One day after Ms. Cook failed to return home. Irvine doubts it was a robbery. Read the file.”
“Okay, then tell me how I’m supposed to keep the other one from going missing without her knowing I’ve been hired to watch over her?”
“You’ll figure it out. Now get your butt out of my office and on to this case.”
there is nothing like a happy sigh at the end of a good book. With
the encouragement of her loving husband, she wrote her first
manuscript. An unpublished historical, it sits in a file on her
computer, there to remind her how much fun she had learning the craft
and becoming part of an industry whose books make you believe
anything is possible. A big fan of Agatha Christie, she set out to
write her first romantic suspense novel. Thrilled to be a published
author, Lucy also teaches yoga, enjoys cooking, and saying what other
people are thinking. In her fantasy world, her beautiful Siberian
husky, Loki, doesn’t shed and her three kids clean up after
themselves . Alas, that fantasy will never see fruition.
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