FBI Special Agent Hannah Cambridge is trying to rebuild her life after the death of her partner. But Jack Benton wasn’t just a fellow agent. He was her lover—and the father of her newborn baby. Now Hannah is in Boston, heading a task force to catch a serial killer. It’s a case that could make or break her career. Until the madman turns his twisted sights on her . . .
When Jack Benton went deep undercover, he thought it was a way out of a relationship that was spiraling beyond his control. He never knew Hannah wouldn’t be told about his “death”—or that she was pregnant. Turning up in Boston in the flesh, and looking better than ever, will send Hannah into a tailspin. But both will need to keep their wits about them to keep her alive—and to survive the truth about the passion that
binds them . . .
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FBI Special Agent Hannah Cambridge was in a strange city juggling work and motherhood, and failing miserably. As was her habit, she woke with a start, heart racing and feeling confused, blinking at the unopened moving boxes in her beige-walled bedroom. She was alone.
It took a moment to realize her cell phone had woken her, and when she did, Hannah untangled her arm from the sheets and slapped at the device on her bedside table, accepting the incoming call without reading the caller ID. It was summer, and though her brownstone had central air, she felt hot and sweaty as dreams lingered and reality scratched at her consciousness.
Work. Check. The baby needed to be fed and changed. Check, check.
Jack was dead ... check.
Anxiety clutched her belly and worked its way up, pressing at the back of her throat until she could barely breathe. Hannah squeezed her eyes shut, clutching the phone as she grimaced through the familiar wave of grief. Jack died last September, and his murder still threatened to cripple her with sorrow almost a year later.
Hannah pushed dark blond bangs from her eyes, blinking past tears as she struggled to speak without revealing she was upset. "Cambridge here."
"It's Ferguson. I wanted to call you sooner, but ..." She could hear the detective suck in a breath as he paused.
"What? What's going on?"
Detective Padraic Ferguson — tall, sexy, ex-military — after long hours and lots of legwork, was the one who had discovered Boston had an active serial killer on its hands for at least four months now. In her new role as FBI liaison for the task force, its team leader, Hannah heavily relied on Ferguson, even more than normal. She was just back from maternity leave, a new mom, and needed all the help she could get with the transition. There were rumors he was crushing on her big-time. Sometimes Hannah didn't mind.
"I've conferred with Lieutenant Pepperidge and the DA's office," he said. "I wanted to call you earlier, but you were exhausted, and really, there was nothing you could do, so —"
"Talk to me." She sat, swinging her legs over the bed's edge, wiping her tears.
"Hannah, there's been movement in the case. The bureau felt the need to send more personnel. They're here at the office. You need to come in. Now."
"Okay." She stood, disabled her alarm clock, and stretched out her aches and pains. Ellen had cried most of the night, so yeah, she was still exhausted.
"And Hannah?" Ferguson still sounded hesitant. "I sent a protective detail to your apartment last night."
Hannah's eyes glazed over as she turned her head toward her bedroom door, visualizing the baby's bedroom down the hall. Protective detail meant she was in danger. Her four-month-old, Ellen, was in danger. "What happened?"
"Your computer was on when I left the precinct around midnight." He paused, as if asking a question, but before she could decipher what information he was seeking, he continued. "Hannah, our killer sent you one of his emails. You're his next target."
Her legs gave out and she found herself sitting on the edge of the bed with a strange buzzing in her ears. "I'll be right in."
She hung up before she revealed her panic and triggered the detective's protective streak. Hannah had already lost so much. She refused to lose control over her life, too. Given a chance, she knew Ferguson would use this threat as an excuse to put her in bubble wrap and hide her away. He couldn't know she had other responsibilities that made that impossible. He didn't know about Ellen. None of her co-workers did.
The baby cooed from the other room as Hannah fought for composure. Clenching and then shaking out her hands, she struggled to slow her racing heart, hating her weakness, hating that her job put Ellen at risk. And most of all, she hated that Jack had been murdered and left her in this precarious position.
After his death last fall, Hannah had left the D.C. office and transferred to Boston, taking a desk job that allowed her to work from home. Pregnant, hoping to avoid the inevitable questions from her superiors, the transfer also allowed Hannah to put needed distance between herself and the Murtagh case; the one that got Jack killed. Now, she had a new life — back in the field, new city, a healthy, happy baby — but Jack's killer was still out there. Eventually, Hannah would learn to trust people again, to tell them about her daughter, but ... not today.
Hannah dialed Natalie, a fellow agent and friend, one of the few who knew about the baby, and that Jack was Ellen's father. At call's end, Natalie promised to grab the first flight to Boston and be at Hannah's apartment by nightfall.
Hurrying past the moving boxes lining the hall's edges, she stepped to her daughter's crib and found her fine, if disgruntled. Unlike the rest of the apartment, Ellen's room was decorated. Framed pictures of sunflowers hung neatly on pale yellow walls. The white eyelet drapes and bedding were new, and chosen with care. As was the new baby furniture — solid wood crib, bureau, changing table — which gave the room a cheerful vibe as morning sunlight streamed in from its two large windows.
Baby smell fragranced the air. As did wet diaper.
Ellen was on her back, shaking her drool-covered fists and kicking her feet. Blinking and scowling at her lamb mobile, Ellen saw Hannah approach and quieted, smacking her lips. The baby was hungry and their morning routine had begun.
"Hey, sweetie." Lifting Ellen, she kissed her cheek. "Yuck," she teased, wiping her mouth on her nightgown's sleeve. "You're a yucky girl, aren't you?" She laid the baby on the changing table, irrationally afraid of dropping her. Hannah's confidence was still shaky when it came to caring for her daughter. Without warning, she felt a pang of worry that she'd gone back to work too soon, but after that month-long stay in the hospital, and then three months of maternity leave ... "Mommy's got to work early today."
Putting the phone on speaker, she multitasked, changing Ellen and calling Mrs. Branaghan, a retired nurse and now Ellen's babysitter, who lived downstairs. The line connected immediately. "Mrs. Branaghan, I need a favor." She explained the situation, afraid the woman would refuse given the target on Hannah's back.
"I'll be right there," she said. A wave of gratitude swamped Hannah. Mrs. Branaghan sounded concerned. She cared, and that mattered more than Hannah could possibly express. She and Ellen were alone in the world, so they relied on their friends, and Mrs. Branaghan was once again proving she was a true friend.
"I'll make sure the police stay until Natalie arrives tonight," Hannah said. "She's an FBI special agent who specializes in this sort of thing." Another friend.
Their conversation ended quickly, and Mrs. Branaghan's prompt arrival made it possible for Hannah to leave the apartment fifteen minutes later, despite growing agitation, fumbling with zippers, and a frantic search for clean socks and Hannah's left shoe. Hair wet and clipped back, no makeup to hide her pallor ... her composure fried ... Hannah still counted it a win that she got out the door.
Sergeant Patrick O'Neil met Hannah downstairs. In his late fifties, he was New Sudbury precinct's street supervisor for the day shift. Shaved head, blue eyes, sexy as hell, O'Neil was the real deal. He handed her a paper cup filled with scalding coffee, then explained the two hovering policemen's assignments. One would watch the apartment at the front stoop, and now that Hannah had left her apartment, the other would watch her door.
O'Neil escorted Hannah to his cruiser at the curb. "You got somewhere to go, Special Agent Cambridge, you call me. Got it? I'll assign one of my guys to escort you to where you need to be."
"You're too good to me, Sergeant." She saw a dimple crease his cheek, but it was short-lived.
He pointed at her just before he got behind the wheel. "I'm serious."
Hannah nodded, lifting her coffee cup in salute. "Thanks." And she was grateful, because she was afraid. Not so much for herself, but for Ellen. Her baby had already lost one parent. Hannah refused to allow her to grow up an orphan.
Cruiser lights on, the sergeant got her through rush hour traffic to the precinct office in fifteen minutes flat. She was through security with a flash of her badge after the minor inconvenience of putting her gun and personal effects into a bin for screening. Heels clicking on the polished tile, keeping time with her anxiety-fueled heartbeat, she stepped on to the elevator, then hit the sixth-floor button. A feminine, well-manicured hand stopped the doors from closing.
"Mrs. Pepperidge, hello." Hannah forced herself to shelve her worries and dredge up a smile.
Mrs. Jolene Pepperidge, the wife of New Sudbury precinct's patrol commander, Lieutenant Cooper Pepperidge, was a regular visitor to the homicide department. Always perfectly coiffed, her roots were routinely bleached to a honey-blond, her blunt cut blown out and curved just under her chin. Rumor said she came from money and that she'd been a model in her youth. Hannah believed it. Tall, muscular in a cosmetic way, she looked stunning in her blue sheath dress and heels, towering over Hannah's five feet four inches.
"Special Agent Cambridge, I've brought muffins and doughnuts." She opened the Dunkin' Donuts box and urged Hannah to indulge. "Cooper keeps telling me I spoil his troops, but I can't seem to help myself. Food is love, right? I must be overcompensating for something." Her brown eyes twinkled with self-deprecating humor. "Does it seem as if I'm buying affection?"
"No one's complained yet." Mrs. Pepperidge was the type of person who made you feel calm by virtue of their proximity, so Hannah's tension settled more comfortably on her shoulders. She grabbed a muffin and was chewing before she remembered muffins and her nervous stomach didn't mesh.
"Well, Cooper complains," Mrs. Pepperidge said. "He blames his expanding waistline on me. The bugger." She snorted, and it clashed with her ladylike appearance.
Hannah knew from late-night confidences with her team that Mrs. Pepperidge and the lieutenant had lost at least four children to stillbirth, one just recently. The news didn't come as a surprise to Hannah. During her month-long hospital stay last spring, Hannah had lived in fear of suffering a stillbirth, too. One quiet night, when she couldn't sleep, Hannah had glimpsed Mrs. Pepperidge wandering the maternity ward in a hospital gown. She hadn't known the lieutenant's wife at the time, but the woman's striking looks made her impossible to forget. Hannah never mentioned the incident to anyone, not even Mrs. Pepperidge, because she didn't want to pry. They weren't friends. Not really. And Hannah didn't want to raise questions that might force her to expose Ellen's existence. Hannah's daughter was a secret for a reason.
The elevator door opened. "Here we go," Mrs. Pepperidge said. "The start of another day." Tucking her hair behind her ear, the lieutenant's wife squared her shoulders and was the first to step into the hall.
Then life intruded by way of 7:00 a.m. at New Sudbury precinct. The floor was already loud and still filled with the overnight crowd. Sleepy prostitutes lined the halls or were cuffed to benches. Detectives sat at file-covered desks, writing up reports, taking statements, answering one of the many incoming calls ringing and ringing. Hannah and Mrs. Pepperidge walked past the activity, down the hall to the homicide department. When they stepped through the door, all eyes focused on the Dunkin' Donuts box, which Mrs. Pepperidge set on Detective Ferguson's desk, off to the left.
The lieutenant's wife waved everyone over. "You're welcome!" she said, in response to the many ardent thank-yous. Then she disappeared into her husband's office, leaving a heavy silence in her wake.
The team focused on Hannah as Ferguson, brawny and brooding, his green eyes pinning her in place, stood before her and waited. The detective exuded strength. It was strength she envied, because Hannah wasn't feeling it this morning. She was a FBI task force leader, on the hunt for a deadly serial killer, the full might of the United States government at her fingertips, but ... she felt more like Ellen's mom, afraid, looking for someone to tell her everything would be all right. Be that as it may, it was her responsibility to set the tone for the day, and to make a statement about the case's latest development.
Hannah made a big show of rolling her eyes and grimacing. "Everyone needs to relax. This is good news. We finally have a break in the case."
Vivian O'Grady, the homicide department's IT specialist, stepped forward. She seemed uncertain, standing there in her prim skirt and suit jacket, her hands nervously clasped. The woman opened her mouth to speak, but stopped herself when Lieutenant Pepperidge — black uniform pressed, his silver badge shiny — stepped from his office.
"Let's be clear, Special Agent Cambridge. This new lead is not good," the lieutenant said.
"I would say not." Mrs. Pepperidge followed him out of his office. "This is horrible. Cooper just told me. I can't believe you didn't tell me while I was chattering away in the elevator. I feel so foolish!"
"Jolene." Lieutenant Pepperidge gave his wife a look, which she interpreted as not now.
"Fine." She kissed her husband. "We have reservations at Jimmy's Restaurant tonight. Don't be late."
"I'll see you later." Pepperidge smiled at his retreating wife. When he turned back to Hannah, the smile was gone. "You're our perp's next target and this guy is three for three. As of now your safety is our primary concern." In his late forties, sharp features, Lieutenant Pepperidge glared at Hannah. She was feeling the love.
The lieutenant stepped to the murder board and taped something next to pictures of the three victims in their case. It was another picture. Hannah's.
"Lieutenant." Ferguson's eyes widened as he raked his black hair off his forehead. "She's not dead yet."
"And we're going to keep it that way," the lieutenant said. "The district attorney and bureau chief had a confab in the small hours of the morning, and then made a few calls. Special Agent Cambridge's replacement has already arrived with his team."
Replacement? The news felt like a punch to her gut. Why hadn't Hannah seen that coming? It made sense, followed protocol, but damn ... she was losing control of this case.
Pepperidge indicated the door, and the man walking into the room. "Cambridge, I was told you know Special Agent Jack Benton."
Her first impression was a lean and muscular man. Sexy. Familiar. Then she locked eyes with him and things got fuzzy. Jack. Her mind told her not to believe it. She was seeing things. The man wasn't smiling. In fact, he looked as if he feared she'd faint. He knew her too well. Jack. Or had known her ... before he'd died eleven months ago and gave her a September from hell.
She still couldn't believe it. Special Agent Jack Benton. Her partner in the bureau. Her secret lover. Ellen's father.
Jack stepped toward her, extending his hand for a shake. The moment was surreal. Automatically, she took his proffered hand, felt his familiar calluses scratch her palm, unearthing memories of his hands on her skin, of him making love to her more times than she could count. Solid. Strong. Towering over her. His touch galvanized her and forced her to accept the truth. This wasn't a dream.
Jack is alive. This is real. This is happening.
She shivered, felt her face flush, and knew there was no hiding her shock. Now everyone was staring at her as if they feared she'd faint. Well, she wanted to faint. She wanted to curl into a ball and cry. She waited for the euphoria, for the relief that he was alive, but it refused to come.
He'd betrayed her. He'd allowed her to believe he'd been murdered. She squeezed his hand tighter. He'd allowed her to suffer such grief and pain it had killed the woman she'd been, and replaced her with someone she still didn't recognize. Someone less, someone weaker, someone she'd come to despise.
Tugging sharply on his hand, Hannah pulled him toward her and lifted her knee to strike his groin. Jack stopped it with a palm heel to her thigh, and then quickly clasped her into a restrictive hug, deftly disguising that she'd just attacked a fellow officer, a firing offense.
"I'll explain," he whispered into her ear. His breath sent a shiver through her body, leaving her trembling. This was happening. How could this be happening? "Really, Hannah. I'm not the ass you think I am. I can explain." Then he loosened his grip.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Catch A Killer"
Copyright © 2018 Kris Rafferty.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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