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A Warrior's Mission
By Rita Herron
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
"Holly Langworthy's three-month-old son has been kidnapped from his crib." Colleen Wellesley leveled her gaze at the group of operatives she'd assembled in the secret meeting room at the Royal Flush, the 6,000-acre cattle and horse ranch where the Colorado Confidential organization based its operation. The surveillance room had videos of the ranch access points and of the ICU offices in Denver, and computers that linked to the Department of Public Safety, the DMV and other government agencies on a limited basis.
Ten years ago, Colleen had founded a private investigation agency, Investigations, Confidential and Undercover, or ICU, which took on typical P.I. work - divorces, missing persons, blackmail and other cases. Six months ago, ICU had been recruited as the newest branch of the Confidential organization, Colorado Confidential. ICU's office in Denver had become a cover for Confidential activities. The private detective business still operated on a highly selective level, but most of the work now was done for the DPS and the federal government.
Confidential agent Night Walker jerked his head toward his boss in shock.
Holly Langworthy had a child?
The beautiful, chestnut-haired, sexy and pampered daughter of Samuel Langworthy, the former governor? Holly - the woman he had shared one incredible night with before her father had run him off and ordered him never to darken the doors of the Langworthy estate again?
"Everyone, this is my brother, Michael." Colleen continued. "I've asked him to join us today to offer suggestions and observations."
Night tuned out the introductions. His mind was still reeling from the bombshell Colleen had just dropped about Holly Langworthy. Did Colleen know about his previous relationship with Holly?
How old was the baby?
Fiona Clark and Shawn Jameson, two other Confidential agents, sat across from him, their expressions unreadable.
"Although the Langworthy family had not made public the fact that they have a grandchild," Colleen said, "the baby has been living with his mother at the Langworthy estate in Denver since his birth three months ago. Holly's father, former governor, Samuel Langworthy, has suggested that the kidnapping is connected to the upcoming gubernatorial election." Colleen continued, "Of course, now that the media has gotten wind of the story, it will be major news."
Really major news, since the former governor was a millionaire and his son Joshua was firmly entrenched in the upcoming election as a prime candidate. Even more major news as Night mentally counted back the months and realized the baby might very well be his own son.
A son Holly Langworthy had not bothered to tell him existed.
NIGHT STRUGGLED with the idea that he might have a son as he drove at record-breaking speed away from the Royal Flush, located between Fairplay and Garo, toward the Langworthy mansion in Denver. All his life he had been a loner. His father had died when Night was little, leaving his white mother to raise him in a world that hadn't wanted her Cheyenne half-breed son. She'd eventually taken him to live on one of the reservations, hoping the people there would be more welcoming, but he had felt just as alone in the midst of his native American Indian cousins as he had in his mother's world.
He had never expected to have a family. Had blamed his father for leaving him, had thought that loving meant only pain. Especially when love involved the mixture of cultures.
But that one night with Holly had lingered in his mind. He had wanted to see her again, to call her, to touch her, yet he'd known a relationship between them would never work. Had she given birth to his son? A son who might need him?
A son who had crossed the lines between the Cheyenne and the white man, just as he had?
The snowcapped peaks of the Colorado mountains became a hazy blur as the facts of the case imprinted themselves in his brain. According to Colleen, Holly was distraught and had been avoiding the press since the kidnapping. The Langworthys had suggested that Governor Todd Houghton and his buddy Senator Franklin Gettys had instigated the kidnapping to distract Joshua Langworthy from his campaign. In turn, Governor Houghton suggested the Langworthys had staged the kidnapping to garner sympathy for Joshua in the election. Either scenario sounded feasible.
Both disgusted Night.
The odd details of the crime had the police perplexed. How had a kidnapper breached the walls of the Langworthy mansion? Langworthy had topnotch security. Night should know - he'd worked security detail at the estate a year ago. Was there someone on the inside who'd been a conspirator?
The other details were odd, too. Traces of Merino sheep wool, eggshells and dirt from the southern part of Colorado had been found at the scene, in baby Langworthy's nursery. Colleen had sent Fiona to check out Governor Houghton and Senator Gettys's ex-wife, Helen Gettys. Michael was assigned to check out the Merino sheep ranch partially owned by Gettys. Shawn was staying on with Colleen.
She had assigned Night to watch Holly.
He had a helluva lot more than watching in mind. Holly owed him some answers. And if she'd had anything to do with staging her own baby's disappearance, if that child was Night's ...
The fury and anguish he felt at the realization that he might have a son he had known nothing about obliterated his ill-spent desire for Holly. Protective instincts unlike anything he'd ever felt before rose to the surface for the infant. The thought of any child, much less his own offspring, missing, being in danger, being used as a pawn in some kind of political game sickened him. The other possibilities that lurked behind the obvious political ones were even more maddening.
But what if the baby wasn't his? Would he be able to tell by looking into Holly's eyes?
He barely noticed the Denver lights as he maneuvered through traffic toward the Capitol Hill area, his mind on autopilot as he made his way to the Langworthy estate. He gave his name at the security gate to the fenced-in Victorian mansion, wondering if Langworthy had blackballed his name from the acceptance list, but as Colleen had promised, he got through with no problem. Apparently, the exgovernor wanted ICU's help badly enough to tolerate him. Emotions breathed like a fireball in his belly as he drove down the long drive to the house.
His hand trembled as he lifted the photograph Colleen had given him of Holly's son. The Langworthys had released the picture to the public in an attempt to find out who had taken the three-monthold infant from their home in the middle of the night.
Excerpted from A Warrior's Mission by Rita Herron Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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