Discover New York Times bestselling author Cherrie Lynn’s Deadlock, featuring a team of elite military hackers who will do whatever it takes to protect their country and the women who enter their dark and dangerous world.
Ex–Air Force hacker Jace Adams is the best at what he does. There isn’t a system he can’t infiltrate or a country his team can’t topple. But when he finds Lena Morris, the woman he hates most in the world, on his doorstep, the last thing he wants to do is help her. Or is it really Lena?
Lindsey Morris can’t believe her twin sister, Lena, is missing, with only a cryptic text to find the man Lena once betrayed. But as easy as Jace is to look at, getting him to agree to help her find her sister is a lot harder. He refuses to put his team at risk, until they find out the enemy they’re facing may be one they have in common…
As Lindsey and Jace race against the clock to save her sister, their shaky truce begins to morph into a fire they can't control. But their lack of trust might be exactly what gets them killed.
About the Author
New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Cherrie Lynn has been a CPS caseworker and a juvenile probation officer, but now that she has come to her senses, she writes contemporary and paranormal romance on the steamy side. It's *much* more fun. She's also an unabashed rock music enthusiast and lives in East Texas with her husband and two kids.
You can visit her at http://www.cherrielynn.com She loves hearing from readers!
Read an Excerpt
I'm going to kill my sister.
Lindsey Morris gritted her teeth into a smile for the photo her jolly aunt Martha snapped, the silent threat in her head becoming more of an inevitable truth with each passing moment. God knows, it wasn't unlike her twin sister, Lena, to flake out on her, but their parents' fortieth anniversary party was something the two of them had been planning for months. All for Lena to leave Lindsey holding the bag. Again.
Relieved from picture duty at last, she left her parents and hustled in her towering heels across the banquet hall to check on the champagne, dodging cousins and uncles and aunts. She hadn't seen some of them in years. If a certain sister hadn't left her running this entire show, she might have had time to stop and catch up with each of them.
All of it had come together nicely, though. Her parents were beaming in front of a life-size poster of one of their wedding pictures, forty years having done nothing to dim their happiness and love for each other. Lindsey snapped a picture of her own before slipping out the door into an echoing hallway to dial Lena. As expected, her sister's voicemail greeting chirped in her ear.
"Hello?" A long pause ensued, during which Lindsey's blood pressure spiked. "Gotcha! Sorry, you don't get to talk to me right now. If you want to talk to me later, better make it good."
Lindsey waited for the tone. "I don't want to talk to you. I want to strangle you. Dammit, Lena, where are you?"
Hours passed before she could get away to the blissful solitude of her apartment, where she hoped a glass of wine and a Simpsons marathon might make her feel a little better. But even Bart and Homer's animated antics weren't enough. Her anger had burned away to sad ashes, and she couldn't get her parents' disappointed faces out of her mind. It would serve Lena right if none of them ever spoke to her again, as drastic as it sounded, but something about Lena made one eager to trust her and believe her when she made the promises she never kept. And the anger Lindsey felt when that inevitably happened could just as easily be turned on herself for enabling her twin, for never enforcing any consequences when Lena flaked out.
But how many times had she tried? How many times had it worked?
Then her glass was empty, and she poured another, sitting alone on her couch and staring at the way the light from the TV played hypnotically through the crimson depths as she swirled the liquid in her glass. Everything she was doing to make herself feel better was having the opposite effect. The fact she had no one to vent her frustrations to made it worse. Bad-mouthing her sister to their parents wasn't an option, especially today — they were probably on the plane for their anniversary trip to Cabo San Lucas.
"I need a vacation, too," Lindsey told her wineglass. It was the only one there to listen. Then, sighing, she set it down on her coffee table and picked up her phone, shooting ramrod straight when she saw that she had somehow missed a text from Lena twenty minutes ago. She'd probably been in the kitchen scavenging.
Sorry. Ran into some trouble. Give Mom and Dad my love. I need a favor. Go to this address and ask him for help. Please. It will all become clear.
An address followed, which Lindsey's eyes scanned without seeing. Her brain had shorted out on the word "favor."
"Are you freaking kidding me?" she asked her phone, gripping it with a force that threatened to shatter it.
Lena in trouble was nothing new. Ever since high school, on through college, and even after, she'd been getting herself or someone else into shit she couldn't always talk her way out of. Thinking Lindsey would simply forget about tonight and rush in to help her was simply par for the course, but Jesus, it had to stop sometime, didn't it?
One thing was for sure. No way was she going to that address, wherever it was. To some strange place to ask someone she didn't know for — what, even? Who was she supposed to be looking for? She wasn't about to let Lena make her look like an idiot on top of everything.
No one else could get her out of her warm cocoon on the couch to face the biting cold. She didn't know what she might find at her sister's apartment; she didn't care, but she was going all the same. Lena probably wouldn't be there, but maybe it wouldn't be too difficult to nose around and find out where she was. Then she would go find her, even if she had to hop on a plane to do it.
There were some things she desperately needed to say to Lena's face, and it was well past time.
She rushed through her apartment, throwing on a coat and shoving her feet into boots, her pulse pounding in her ears. No one else on earth could push her buttons like this. Lindsey hadn't trusted Lena since college, her twin's antics during that particular time of their lives having been the final straw.
Yes, she was her sister. Yes, Lindsey still loved her as such. Gossip sessions, shopping trips, friendship ... those areas had always come easily. But real trust? That ship had sailed years ago, when Lena had pulled what was probably her cruelest stunt of all — at least that Lindsey knew of. The skeletons that could lurk hidden in Lena's closet were enough to give her cold chills. The two of them had the same face, and Lena probably had enough enemies that Lindsey should look over her own shoulder when she walked down the street.
In the back of the Uber she called because wine and rage and driving didn't mix, she white-knuckled her purse straps all the way to her sister's apartment, going over everything she wanted to say in her mind in case Lena was there. Confrontation ordinarily tied her tongue up in knots, and no doubt it would this time.
She had to have her words straight in her head or they would slip right out. But niggling in the back of her mind was the fact that their parents would never get over an irreparable rift between them, no matter the cause. It was enough for her to zero in on a few of the epithets she wished to hurl at Lena's perpetually smug face. But not many.
If Lena was off having a grand adventure with plans to show up next week thinking all was well — she added the epithets back in.
Long ago, Lena had given Lindsey a key to her apartment so she could water her plants while she was away. The plants had died anyway — Lena didn't even take care of them herself after she got home from wherever she'd been. But Lindsey had hung on to the key, and it had come in handy more than once. She stalked directly to her sister's door, lifted her fist to beat on it, thought better of it — she might not even answer — and fit the key into the lock.
The sight that greeted her as she flipped the nearby light switch caused her heart to stutter and her breath to catch, momentarily choking her.
Her sister's apartment was trashed.CHAPTER 2
Only one bulb remained in the overhead light, but it was enough to illuminate the chaos around her. Lindsey brought a shaking hand to her mouth as her mind tried to make sense of the destruction, of Lena's overturned furniture, slashed couch cushions, scattered knickknacks, broken picture frames. Terror froze her thoughts in its icy clutches, and she surged blindly forward. "Lena? Lena. Are you here?"
Only silence greeted her, terrible and absolute, broken by the crunch of glass under her feet.
She bent down to lift the remnants of a picture frame that had once held a photo of the two of them. Lindsey owned the exact same frame and photograph.
Summer Memories, the frame read, along with a cute beach scene in one corner: a chair in the sand, a bucket, an umbrella. But the picture was gone. Lindsey cast a glance around the immediate area and didn't see it. The fine hairs at the nape of her neck prickled. Whoever had come here, whoever had done this — would they be looking for her next?
Don't touch anything. Call the police. Her mind shouted instructions at her, but numb panic kept her rooted in the middle of the destruction.
There was a chance Lena might have collapsed, or been hurt, or — Don't even think it. The picture frame clattered to the floor. Lindsey charged through the apartment, flipping on lights, calling her sister's name — nothing but silence pulsed around her.
Think, think. Lena's mattress was askew in the bedroom. All the drawers had been rummaged through. Her clothes hung half off the hangers, and a jumble of sequins and silks and lace littered the closet floor. But the designer purses were all here. So was all her jewelry, even the most expensive pieces. Someone had been looking for something specific, and this wasn't a robbery.
Lena's not here.
She didn't know whether to be relieved or worried.
What if whoever did this kidnapped her? Ugh. Or she could be partying out of town, the victim of an unfortunate break-in. But why send the weird text with the address?
There was nothing she could do here on her own. Time to call the police.
She lifted her cell phone in shaking hands and had dialed the nine when the sound of footsteps reached her from the living room, and, all enmity forgotten, Lindsey sprinted from the bedroom on reflex, expecting to see her twin in the doorframe, surveying the destruction with the same shocked confusion Lindsey felt.
Then they would figure this out together, and all would be well. Despite all her machinations and flaky behavior, things always had a way of working out in Lena's favor, and nothing could be wrong with her indestructible twin, not really.
But it wasn't Lena standing in the living room. Lindsey's feet stumbled to a halt as she took in the dark-haired man she didn't recognize. The front door stood wide open — damn, she hadn't closed it behind her, had she? This guy had walked right in. All the blood in her veins froze at once.
"Who are you?" she demanded as his gaze jerked up toward her. For a split second, something like shock crossed his features before understanding settled in.
"You must be Lindsey," he said. That he came to that conclusion so quickly unsettled her a bit.
"Who are you?" she asked again.
His eyes were steady on hers when he said, "Your sister is in trouble."
That was such a familiar statement that Lindsey might have scoffed, but the disarray around her was evidence enough that Lena had reached a whole new level of trouble. And he still hadn't answered her question. His jaw tightened beneath its coating of dark stubble. Sickness yawned in Lindsey's stomach, spreading its way up into her chest, and warning bells were going off in her mind.
"What kind of trouble?" she asked, hearing the tremor in her voice.
The man drew a breath and cast a sweeping glance around. Nothing about him was menacing, even if his presence made her want to run. His gaze alighted on a picture of Lena with their parents, its frame knocked sideways on the wall, and something softened around his eyes. "I don't want to talk here," he said. "Someone could be listening."
"Follow me." Ignoring her question and without waiting for her reply, he turned and exited the apartment. Lindsey crossed her arms and rubbed her chilled flesh. All she wanted to do was slam the door behind him and finish her call, but if he might have information, maybe she needed to listen. On unsteady legs, she trailed after him into the hallway, closing the door behind her. He led her to an alcove near the elevator, where silence stretched all around them. It was almost as if everyone else in the building, the entire world, had disappeared.
"When was the last time you talked to her?" he asked, and she shuffled through her memories, fighting to maintain control of her emotions. She thought of the message sitting on her phone right now, sent only an hour ago, if that long. But something made her not want to divulge that information to this man.
"Thursday," she said and hoped the deception didn't show on her face. That was only the last time she had seen her face-to-face.
She's fine. I just heard from her.
What if Lena hadn't sent the message? What if someone else had her phone?
"Thursday," he muttered gruffly to himself, and she could see the calculations going on behind his eyes. Today was Saturday. Whatever conclusion he came to, he didn't let her in on it. Lifting his gaze back to hers, he asked, "Early? Late?"
Lindsey's brows drew together. "Late Thursday. And then I tried to call her Friday night and all day today but couldn't get her." As he began to look more concerned and more contemplative, she had to try to hang on to some shred of optimism, on to everything she knew about Lena and how she operated.
"Look, she's probably only skipped town for the weekend. Right? If I know Lena — and I promise you I do — she's in Vegas or New York right now. She didn't want to help me with my parents' party, and she'll show up around Wednesday acting like everything is normal, wondering why everyone is pissed at her. That's how she is." She gestured toward the apartment. "This? It could be a random break-in. It happens."
He was shaking his head even as she spoke. "You don't know her like you think you do."
Really? She'd shared a womb with the woman. She considered herself the leading expert on all things Lena, ahead of even their parents. "Who are you? Don't ignore me this time."
"Call me Griffin."
"She has never mentioned you. Not once," she informed him icily. "I need to get back in there. Call the police or —"
He stepped in her path as she attempted to go around him, but refrained from touching her. Good thing, because she was ready to start screaming.
"No police. Not yet. Not until we know what we're dealing with."
She swept another cautious glance over him. If anything nefarious was indeed going on, how did she know he wasn't in on it and this wasn't some setup or trap? So many terrible things Lena could have gotten mixed up in, if she wasn't indeed partying it up somewhere.
He seemed to interpret her thoughts. "She wanted to be there for the party. She was looking forward to it. She wouldn't have missed it." He drew a deep breath. "I was supposed to go with her."
"Are you her boyfriend?"
He chuckled grimly. "I wouldn't go that far."
Lena had mentioned nothing about a man lately, boyfriend or otherwise, and she was usually loose-lipped about even her most casual sexual conquests. Lindsey's wariness factor notched up a bit. He was Lena's type, though. She liked them dark and intense. Lindsey usually preferred cute and nerdy.
"And you just happened to show up here at the same time as me? Checking up on her?" What if Lena had texted him, too? Her mind was so crammed full of suspicion and possibilities that she couldn't see a clear path. She shook her head as he opened his mouth to speak. "I don't know what to think. But I'm family, and you're not, and this whole thing is making me uncomfortable. You should leave."
"Just don't go to the police yet. All right?"
He turned to go, leaving her with five million questions zinging through her brain, but she couldn't settle on one to ask, and she wanted him gone anyway. He creeped her out. No police? When there was obvious trouble? He had to be shady. When someone says don't call the police, that's when you should.
The question that chilled her to the bone was this: How shady was Lena?
"Jesus," Lindsey muttered to herself after the elevator doors closed on Griffin's brooding expression.
Lindsey didn't want to think her twin was capable of getting caught up in any criminal activities, but she wasn't sure. What secrets would an investigation uncover?
She didn't know what to do. She hated the fact that protecting Lena and making excuses for her had become second nature. She hated thinking her sister might be a victim ... but she almost hated thinking she might be corrupt even more.
"Okay," she muttered to herself, letting herself back into the apartment and trying not to let the horror of finding it this way engulf her again.
If Lindsey had seen that text and written back, Sure, sis, whatever you need, I am your willing servant, and not gone straight to Lena's apartment, she would never have known about this.
The safest bet right now was to leave everything untouched. In case ... Well, she didn't want to think about possible outcomes that might involve the place becoming a real crime scene if Lena wasn't found. Everything could be cleaned up later. After she came back. Safe.
I'll even help you. Like always. Jesus, Lena.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Deadlock"
Copyright © 2019 Cherrie Lynn.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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