Desire is more dangerous than anything in Deep Into Trouble, the next Unbroken Heroes novel from Dawn Ryder.
Saxon Hale lives for the hunttaking down the bad guys, stopping them dead in their tracks. His latest mission has him in New Orleans, where people go for the party that never ends. But fun is the last thing on Saxon’s mind now that he’s a breath away from closing in on a vicious overlord known only as the Raven. Until an innocent young woman unknowingly enters the very deadly game…
Ginger Boyce is a librarian who’s growing tired of being so buttoned-up on the job, and when she attends a conference in the Big Easy, she decides to taste the wild side of life. But when her dance with darkness becomes lethal, she’s in dire need of protectionand ends up in the embrace of a man who radiates danger and desire. Soon Saxon finds himself Ginger’s shield against an enemy whose power they haven’t yet begun to face. But will he be able to keep his mind on his mission while the very woman under his care drives him beyond distraction?
About the Author
Dawn Ryder is the contemporary romance pen name of a bestselling author of historical romances. Her official naughty inner child. She is commercially published in mass market and trade paper, and digi-first published with trade paper releases. She is hugely committed to her career as an author, as well as to other authors and to her readership. She resides in Southern California
Read an Excerpt
Deep Into Trouble
By Dawn Ryder
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Dawn Ryder
All rights reserved.
"You are not seriously going to take a book back to that stripper you met?"
Ginger rolled her eyes and kept a firm grip on the book in her hands. Karen was making a half-hearted grab for it, then glared in reprimand when Ginger refused to relinquish it, but there was a gleam of envy in her eyes, too. A very knowing one from years of being cohorts in misadventures.
"Yes I am," Ginger confirmed. "A promise is a promise. I'm keeping it."
Karen fluttered her eyelashes. "I really hate you right now."
"I know," Ginger replied as the elevator reached the lobby of their hotel. There was a chime before the doors slid open. She strode out of the car with a confidence she didn't get to indulge in as often as she liked. Karen was grumbling. From long years spent together devoted mostly to indulging in their passion for mayhem, Ginger knew what the root of her friend's distemper was.
"Sorry, Karen, but you" — Ginger pointed at her friend — "have a lovely panel to do on something really important."
"Really boring, you mean," Karen mumbled under her breath as they walked past other people attending the same conference. "Why did we become librarians?"
"I'm just nosy," Ginger responded. "Next thing I knew, I had enough credits to graduate and start doing that 'adult' thing. Now I get paid to read through people's details."
Karen snorted at her. "Yeah, research. It's not snooping. Honestly. And there's another thing, why did you manage to snag the position with the State?"
"Like I said, I'm nosy and CPS needs to know the dirt on people." Ginger held up three fingers in the Scout salute. "It is my job after all."
"You were never a Girl Scout," Karen accused her softly.
"Cause that cookie selling shit is boring," Ginger responded. "And the boys wouldn't let me into their troop."
"The scoutmaster was scared of your mom," Karen was pressing her lips together to keep her snickers from carrying across the lobby.
"I'm still scared of my mom, but threatening to call her won't stop me," Ginger said before she tapped the book nestled in her cross-body bag. "Wild horses couldn't keep me from taking this book to Kitten."
"Fine," Karen was trailing her through the lobby, past the bar and toward the large revolving doors that led to the entrance of the hotel. "I'll look forward to living vicariously through your stories of adventure."
Now that they were outside, Ginger shot Karen a look her friend knew well. It produced a glitter of anticipation in Karen's eyes.
"Vicariously my ass," Ginger said. "I'll go scout the area and we'll have some fun tonight. We can sleep on the plane home."
Karen grinned. "The conference might be boring, but it's in New Orleans." She cast a look out toward the street, longing on her face. "Which makes up for a lot of stupid panels. I really hate you for being done first."
"Text me," Ginger said as she took off toward the sidewalk.
It led the way to Bourbon Street. Ginger smiled like a kid embarking on Halloween trick-or-treating. There was a vibe in the air, pulsing through her body and putting a spring in her step.
Adventure was calling her name, which meant she needed to ditch her librarian attire.
There was a muggy warmth to New Orleans that made it permissible to take some layers off. It was like a gate unlocking or something, because Ginger shrugged out of her sweater and hung it through the shoulder strap of her cross body bag. She was dressed like a professional librarian in deference to doing the "adult thing" and earning a living. Seriously, some people had such a hang-up when it came to the human body. Her wool blazer was completely ill-suited to the environment. Leaving it all behind in the huge, air conditioned hotel gave her a huge shot of relief that was ever-so-welcome. It was like someone had taken a concrete block off her chest because she was finally able to breathe.
She was going to savor every last moment of freedom, too. After all, she might have to toe the line during work hours, but there was no way she was going to sit around in a lobby when Bourbon Street was a couple of hundred yards away.
The mixture of people on the sidewalk was vivid and amazing to see; the colors, the smells floating around from the restaurants, the music drifting out from countless bands playing in the bars. Her brain was on overload, in that crazy, gut wrenching tingle down her spine to her toes way.
Fricking awesome ...
She turned into a little boutique. A bell rang as she pushed the door in, a charming little old-world detail that made Ginger smile.
"Can I help you?" The woman had the New Orleans drawl in her voice. She was sitting behind a counter with a huge tabby cat in her lap. The animal looked at her with one blue eye and one brown one but didn't seem to think Ginger was important enough to leave the petting the lady was giving it. The shop was filled with the sound of its purring.
"Yes," Ginger said. "I was hoping to find an outfit a little more suited to this climate."
The woman flashed her a smile that revealed two gold-crowned teeth. She picked the cat up and deposited it on the counter where it turned around in a circle before settling down to watch with a twitch of its tail. "Come here, we'll get you fixed up."
* * *
"She goes by the name of Kitten." Captain Bram Magnus held his phone out for Special Agent Saxon Hale. "Word is, she pulls in the contacts the Raven wants to see. Poses as a stripper on the street while she's on the lookout for her boss."
"That makes sense. Tells me more about why no one sees the Raven's face and still, he runs a major underground empire," Saxon Hale answered.
He considered the street in front of him. The French Quarter never seemed to go completely quiet. Maybe the day after Fat Tuesday, but that would be about it. There were still people roaming down Bourbon Street, mostly tourists and escapees from work conventions intent on stealing a little time away from marketing seminars. They milled around with ties stuck in their pockets in an effort to unwind.
Saxon was looking for the locals, those who did their work under the cover of darkness and behind the shield of the public. He'd followed his tips there, but the residents of the community were tight-lipped.
Well, it wouldn't be the first case he'd cracked through persistence. Just because no one admitted to ever setting eyes on the underworld figure known as the Raven, didn't mean he was leaving before he had the guy in cuffs and the evidence to keep him locked up. But that wasn't all. No, he had a personal reason to be there, and it all centered on the photos Bram's team had captured of one former Special Agent Tyler Martin.
Tyler Martin was someone Saxon was very interested in taking down before Tyler took another shot at Saxon or his brother. Bram was there for the same reasons. Tyler was a rogue, one who didn't care who he sold out, so long as it got him what he wanted. He was a traitor, the worst kind because Saxon had once called him a superior among the Shadow opps teams.
"When Kitten pops her head up, well see what she does tonight." Saxon replied. "And just what part Tyler Martin has in it."
"You can bet it won't be pretty," Bram answered. "I've got surveillance on her taking three of the most recent victims into various bars but since half the bar owners around here swear she's one of their strippers ..."
"It proves nothing," Saxon confirmed. "Except that the Raven should have used another girl because now we have a reason to follow this one."
"There's one major problem with being a bad guy," Bram answered. "You need to throw us good guys off your scent, while keeping the number of people you work with at a minimum so you can maintain that ever-so-important secret identity."
"Yeah," Saxon agreed. "Guess it's a good thing we're the good guys."
Bram nodded, keeping his eyes moving as well. He was a seasoned man, one who knew death only needed one little opportunity to turn an agent into a fallen hero. It was the reason they were there, risking their necks to seal up a leak that had taken down men on both their teams. Whoever the Raven was, his reach went deep into the black-market world as well as all the way to the White House. The reason was money. It made the world go round.
Time passed. Saxon kept his eyes moving. Bram shifted, taking up a new position that allowed them to have different viewpoints.
Yeah, that's what they were, and it meant that they spent a lot of time waiting for the bad guys to pop up out of the gutter while making sure no one noticed them.
Saxon took a sip from his beer bottle. He was using the beer as a reason to remain in the area, watching to see who went down the alley. Their source was dead, a Russian who had gone by the name of Pratt. He'd been the Raven's right-hand man, and the number of bodies showing up said whoever the new man was, he was cleaning house. It was the chance to catch the Raven red-handed. While the blood was flowing. It was a gruesome aspect of his job, one he shouldered because it made the world a better place. Shadow opps teams took the assignments no one else wanted.
Across the way, their backup team was seated in a restaurant. Dare Servant had been working the case for a solid two months without so much as a bread crumb. Then Saxon's brother Vitus had hauled in the catch in the form of Congressman Ryland's daughter Damascus being held in one of the buildings behind the famed Bourbon Street. It wasn't the first time cases had overlapped, and Saxon intended to take full advantage of it.
Now, he just needed the sun to set so Kitten would come out to ply her trade.
* * *
"Now, you look like an 'Orleans lady."
Ginger turned to look at herself in a vintage oval-shaped dressing mirror. The wood finish was cracked, giving the thing character. The top of the dress was gathered up into a band that tied in back of her neck, the fabric falling in loose waves over her breasts to where a waist band gave her shape. As she moved, the skirt of the dress twirled up to give off a flash of her thighs. With a saucy smile, the woman had given her a pair of boy shorts to wear under it. When she turned faster, the edge of those boy shorts came into sight, so it wasn't completely indecent and really sort of sexy.
Her father would collapse if he saw her in it, but she was kind of certain her mother would laugh.
Fine, that means you're buying it. Spicy.
Besides, her parents were Ying and Yang. Honestly, giving them something to debate was just a little gift to help them find a reason to make up afterward.
You're so wicked ...
She was, and unrepentant at that. Ginger dug into her purse and found her bank card. She gained another glimpse at the gold crowns before the woman rang up the sale. "I'll send your clothes up to your hotel. Just write the room number."
"Send your friends to see me," the woman encouraged her with a twinkle in her dark eyes.
The bell rang again when she opened the door. The cat took the opportunity to jump back into its owner's lap, a loud purring starting up behind her before Ginger stepped out onto the street and the door closed behind her.
The dress was a lot more comfortable in the balmy air. It took only a moment for Ginger to adjust to the strappy sandals the woman insisted went with the dress. The two inch heels gave her hips a sway that made her cheeks heat.
With excitement ...
Anticipation was making her giddy. She passed by a restaurant that smelled amazing, deciding to wait for Karen before she ate. Up ahead, the doorways were filling up as dancers tried to pull people in from the streets to fill their bars. She contemplated her options and decided on business first.
She looked down at the book in her hands. It was a signed copy of The Silenced by Heather Graham. She'd stood in line for three hours to get it, and there was no way she wasn't going to deliver it. Okay, maybe the real reason she'd promised to bring it back was to have a reason to venture away from her professional venue tonight. But if Ginger was being completely honest, she needed to admit that there was something mysterious about Kitten, and, as Ginger had told Karen, she was nosy by nature.
A fatal flaw perhaps. Tonight though, it felt pretty damned fun.
Yup. Guilty as charged.
Ginger considered the bars ahead of her, they all ran together in a bright, music-pumping tapestry. She racked her memory, trying to recall exactly where she'd encountered Kitten.
She had beautiful mocha skin with black eyes that looked as deep as the night. "Stripper" wasn't the right word for what Kitten did. No, her motions were too erotic, too hypnotic for such a cheap label. She was like a burlesque dancer from the thirties, a woman who captivated her audience as she teased them and used skill to titillate. The ease that she embodied as she danced made Ginger envious. To be so comfortable in your own skin, it was something she admired and longed for.
Bet she knew how to have great sex.
Ginger felt the teasing heat of a blush but didn't chastise herself for her scarlet thoughts.
She was serious.
Sex, well, at least the sex she'd had was sort of awkward. It could be fun except Ginger realized that she lacked the confidence in her body that someone like Kitten displayed in spades. That firm, unwavering belief that every part of her was just the way it was meant to be and nothing could distract from the moment when she pressed herself against another person.
Yeah, she was totally envious as well as determined to cultivate some of the same sense of being in herself. No, she wasn't going on some sex binge, just making sure she was ready when she ran into a guy she wanted to get naked with.
Ginger looked through the open doors of the bar nearest her, but the girl working on the pole was Caucasian. She moved a little farther down, peeking in doorways as she laughed over the fact that she was looking for an erotic dancer.
One more little thing that would give her father a fit.
Poor daddy, she did love him, but he was so straightlaced. She just couldn't help but tease him a little, at least in her thoughts. Peter Boyce was a respected member of his community. His daughter shouldn't be walking down Bourbon Street looking for a dancer named Kitten. But hey, what daddy didn't know wouldn't hurt him. In two days, she'd be back in her economy coach airline seat, bound for normality. Sure, she knew that playing on the dangerous side was bound to blow up in her face, but she just couldn't resist flirting a little with it while she had the opportunity.
Living in the moment.
"What you looking for honey?"
A bartender in a striped vest and sporting a perfectly trimmed mustache was leaning against the doorframe of the next bar she came to. He had a black hat tipped down on one side of his forehead, making him look perfectly at home.
"I'm looking for Kitten," Ginger said working to make her voice husky. "She's expecting me."
The man's expression changed, hardening a little, even if his lips remained in a small grin. He racked her from top to bottom, his lips splitting to give her a glimpse of his teeth. She felt assessed, in a purely carnal way. It was blunt and a touch seedy but she'd be lying if she didn't admit to being just a bit buzzed by the knowledge that she measured up. The glint that appeared in the bartender's eyes told her that much.
"Right then. Go on back, past the kitchen, keep going across the alley and into the next place. Kitten is working a private party. Tell the doorman she's looking for you."
"Perfect," Ginger said as she stepped up into the bar. There was a definite contact with her bottom and a slight squeeze as she passed the guy, making her close her lips to keep from snorting at him. She heard him chuckle and ordered herself to keep moving. Sure, she should have taken issue with him for touching, but there was something about the setting that seemed to make it fit. She'd think about how inappropriate it was later.
The place was full of pub style tables. A few of the men turned as she walked between their stools. Clearly looking at her ... assets. It fit with her idea of the evening ... adventure first, lamentations and common sense in the morning.
Worry when they stop looking, girl.
Ginger let her hips settle into a sway that made her feel as sensuous as she'd decided Kitten had looked the night before. It was natural and exciting and a real fricking relief to be free. She felt like she was always stuffing herself into a tin can to please those around her or at least those who controlled her income.
Sometimes, she wanted to be wicked.
The fabric of the skirt swished over her thighs, teasing the receptors in her skin and making her feel like a woman more keenly than she'd allowed herself to feel for a long time.
It was going to be a night to remember.
Excerpted from Deep Into Trouble by Dawn Ryder. Copyright © 2017 Dawn Ryder. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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