“Martin is superb.” —RT Book Reviews
At Brodie Operations Security Service, Inc., following your instincts is company policy . . .
M. Cassidy—Luke Brodie had heard the name before, some novice bounty hunter working Seattle, catching tricky skips with more success than a newcomer should expect. But the dark curls, sparkly top, and impressive cleavage were not what Brodie had pictured.
Emma Cassidy is tough and smart and sexy as hell. She’s also popping up a step ahead of him every time he’s close to the capture he wants most . . . and there’s no room for learning on the trail of this monster.
Emma has idolized Luke Brodie, the bounty hunter who can bring anyone in. The big man in the soft shoes, with a face like a fallen angel and a reputation for breaking hearts. Watching him in action is intoxicating. But her fight with Rudy Vance is fiercely personal. If he gets too close, Brodie will find out just how ferocious she can be . . .
About the Author
A resident of Missoula, Montana, Kat is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she majored in Anthropology and also studied History. She and her author husband, L.J. Martin, spend their winters in Ventura, California. She is currently writing her next Romantic Suspense. Visit Kat at www.katmartin.com. Or join her Facebook page. (www.facebook.com/pages/Kat-Martin).
Read an Excerpt
Into the Firestorm
By Kat Martin
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Kat Martin
All rights reserved.
The first thing she saw was the blood. Thickened into a syrupy dark red mass, it formed a scarlet river down the hallway into the entry of her sister April's home. Nausea hit her and her stomach rolled. The packages Emma was carrying, purchases she had made at the mall, fell from her nerveless fingers.
"Ginny! Ginny, where are you?" Emma Cassidy raced across the hardwood floor, a scream tearing loose as she spotted Eleanor Harris, the housekeeper, lying motionless in the hall, her head bent at an odd angle, her neck and chest soaked in blood.
Fear expanded inside her. "Ginny!" She ran past Eleanor, whose throat had been cut in a single long gash. The housekeeper's eyes were open, staring lifelessly up at the ceiling.
Emma started shaking. "Ginny!" Her voice cracked as she shouted her niece's name. Moving beyond the dead woman, she swallowed the tears and bile in her throat and continued down the hall. Her sister was at work. Emma raced toward her niece's bedroom, her lungs burning with the effort to breathe.
As she reached the open door, a sob escaped. Her pretty little fourteen-year-old niece sat curled up in bed, her back against the headboard, her jeans gone, her T-shirt in tatters, her arms crossed over her budding breasts. Ginny's fine brown hair hung in a tangled mess around her slender shoulders. A bruise darkened her cheek. Big brown eyes stared straight ahead as if she looked inward and saw nothing at all.
Emma's heart simply shattered. She dragged in a shuddering breath, her hands clenched into fists. She had to stay calm, had to be strong for Ginny.
"It's okay, sweetheart." Approaching slowly, afraid she would frighten Ginny even more, Emma crossed the floor to her bedside. "It's Aunt Em, Ginny. You're okay, sweetheart. You're safe."
But was she? What if the man who had done this was still in the house? What if he came back and murdered them the way he had poor Eleanor? Dear God, she needed to call the police but her cell phone was in her purse, lying among the packages scattered on the floor in the entry.
She wanted to reach out and pull Ginny into her arms, tell her everything would be okay, but she didn't dare. Not until the police were on the way. She pulled the sheet up over Ginny's half-naked body, leaned down, and kissed her forehead.
"I'll be right back, sweetheart. I'm not leaving you. I need to get my phone." Emma turned and ran toward the door.
The whisper of her niece's voice halted her before she reached the hall. "It was him ..." she said. "It was ... Rudy."
Emma couldn't move. Hearing his name spoken out loud made the horror somehow worse.
"He tore off my clothes," Ginny said in that eerie monotone that sounded nothing like her. "He tried to ... tried to ..."
"It's all right, honey." She swallowed. "Everything's going to be okay."
"Eleanor stopped him ... but he ... killed her."
A thick sob escaped Ginny's throat. "He says he's coming back for me."
Emma pressed her trembling lips together. "I've got to call the police, honey. I'll be right back." She had to get help but she could barely see through the thick glaze of her tears. She raced back down the hall, her sandals slipping in the housekeeper's blood, grabbed her purse off the floor in the entry, and dragged out her cell phone with a hand that could barely hold on to it.
It took three tries to punch in 9-1-1.
"This is police dispatch. What's your emergency?"
"There ... there's been a murder. A woman named Eleanor Harris. And ... and a young girl has been ... has been attacked." Her voice broke. "Please ... Ginny needs medical attention. She ... she needs an ambulance." She swallowed past the heavy lump in her throat. "Rudy Vance ... He's the one who did it. He might still be in the house. Please, you've got to help us."
"Ma'am, please stay calm and stay on the line." The dispatcher repeated April's address. "Is that correct?"
"Yes, that's right. It's my sister's house, but she's ... she's at work." Fresh tears rolled down her cheeks. She kept the phone against her ear as she hurried back down the hall.
"The police are on the way," the operator said. "Ma'am, please stay on the line until they get there."
But Emma no longer heard her. She had to reach Ginny, had to keep her safe.
Two weeks ago, Rudy Vance, a man her sister had only just met, had broken into the house and raped her daughter. April had blamed herself, had barely been able to cope. Rudolph Vance had been arrested, but he had been released.
Emma bit back a sob. If only she'd been at the house with Ginny this afternoon instead of out shopping, maybe Eleanor wouldn't be dead. And Ginny. Dear God, what about Ginny?
As Emma rushed back down the hall, she thought of the man who had destroyed her family. The man who was still out there, free to do his evil again. The man the judge had released on bail when he should have stayed locked in prison.
She would find him, Emma vowed, a promise that burned through every cell in her body. She would personally make sure Rudolph Vance never hurt anyone again.CHAPTER 2
Seattle, Washington Ten Months Later
Sitting at the long, neon-lit bar in Rocker's Karaoke Lounge, Luke Brodie sipped a cold Corona and eyed his quarry. A bail skip named Skinner Digby leaned back in a chair at a round Formica-topped table a few feet away.
"You here for Skinner?" Eddie Mullens, the bartender, a string bean of a guy with gold wire-rimmed glasses, followed Luke's gaze to where Digby sat nursing a Jack and Coke. Eddie knew everything that went on in this part of Seattle. For a little cash once in a while, he kept Luke informed if anything interesting went down.
Luke took a sip of his beer. "Digby skipped on a DUI."
"Seems like small potatoes for you."
Luke was a bounty hunter. He went after FTAs, failures to appear, guys released on bail that didn't show up in court. He got twenty percent of whatever the bondsman had posted for their release and would have to forfeit if the fugitive wasn't rearrested. Luke specialized in the toughest and most profitable cases, bail skips whose bond sometimes ran into the millions.
"I need to ask Skinner some questions." That was the way it worked. You went after the small fish to get your hands on the big ones. "Figure I might as well make a few bucks while I'm at it."
Luke took a swallow of beer and returned his attention to his quarry. Digby had been flirting with a petite little brunette no more than five foot three in a tight black skirt and low-cut silver top who laughed at one of his dirty jokes.
Luke was getting irritated. Skinner, with his bulldog face and beer belly, was no ladies' man. Luke wished the woman would just take the free drink he offered and move on.
Instead, she sidled a little closer and leaned over to whisper in his ear, giving him a bird's-eye view down the front of her sparkly top at some very impressive cleavage. Skinner pulled out a chair, inviting her to join him.
Luke softly cursed. If the woman was going to hang around, he was going to have to make his move. He didn't like putting a woman in the middle of a situation that might go bad, but he needed to talk to Digby. The lady was giving him no choice.
He set the beer bottle down on the bar and came off the stool. Luke couldn't hear what the little brunette said, but Skinner snarled a curse and started up from his chair.
Luke couldn't believe his eyes when the lady grabbed Digby by the nape of the neck and shoved his head down, slamming him hard onto the top of the table.
Skinner groaned and his muscles went limp. The brunette twisted one of Skinner's arms up behind his back, pulled a pair of handcuffs from the handbag on her shoulder, and shackled his wrist, doing the same to the other one. Looking even more stunned than Luke, Digby swayed, his legs wobbly, as the brunette hauled him to his feet.
Sonofabitch. Luke turned to Eddie, who stood chuckling behind the bar. "What the hell just happened?"
"She's something, ain't she? Looks like the lady got to your bail skip first."
"Who is she?"
"Name's Cassidy. She's a bounty hunter. Pretty amazing, huh?"
Luke was torn between annoyance and curiosity. "That's M. Cassidy?"
"Yeah, short for Emma. The guys call her Em."
Em Cassidy. He knew the name, thought it was a man. He watched the petite brunette — nine inches shorter than Digby's six-foot frame and no more than a hundred ten pounds — haul Skinner out the side door into the parking lot. Luke reached for his beer, took a last swallow, tossed a little extra cash on the bar, and followed the lady outside.
It took him a minute to spot her beneath a lamppost at the edge of the parking lot. He sauntered into the shadow of a car in a nearby space, got a real good look at her this time.
Late twenties, petite, but curvy in all the right places, thick dark hair that hung in heavy curls around her shoulders.
A bounty hunter. That was a laugh.
The smile on his face slipped a little as he watched her handle Skinner. She had the guy sitting cross-legged on the grass, hands cuffed behind him. She was pressing him to answer her questions — exactly the same questions Luke wanted to ask.
"There's a guy you know," she said. "His name is Felix Riggs. He's your supplier. I want to know where to find him."
Felix Riggs. Same guy Luke was hunting.
Skinner just grunted. "Yeah, right. Like I'm gonna tell you anything. You damn near knocked me out, you bitch."
Emma lightly cuffed the back of Digby's head, and Luke bit back a grin.
"You skipped on a drunk driving charge," the lady said. "Third offense, Skinner. They're going to stick your butt in jail for at least a year. Tell me what I want to know and I'll let you go."
She'd let him go? Luke hadn't expected that. Now he was even more intrigued.
Digby sat quietly, considering his options. "Take off the cuffs, then I'll tell you what you want to know."
"Not a chance."
Digby shook his head. "If Riggs finds out I told you, he'll kill me. He don't like snitches."
Frustrated, Emma nibbled her bottom lip. It was plump and damp, and Luke felt a curl of heat he hadn't expected.
"You want to walk or go to jail?" she asked, pushing, but not quite hard enough, only willing to go so far.
Luke glanced around. If Digby didn't spill in the next few minutes, there was a chance the cops would arrive. Always somebody there to dial 9-1-1.
He stepped out of the shadows and Emma spun toward him, went into a wide-legged, self-defense stance. He pointed to the bail enforcement badge clipped to his belt and she relaxed.
"I didn't hear you walk up," she said.
Luke ignored her, zeroed in on Skinner Digby, crouched down in front of him. "The lady asked you nice and polite where to find Felix Riggs. You know who I am?"
Skinner grunted. "I know who you are. You're Brodie."
"That's right. I'm going to ask you the same question just one time. You don't answer, you won't have to worry about dealing with Riggs. You'll have to deal with me."
"Now ... where is Felix Riggs?"
Skinner ran his tongue over his lips. There was a lump turning purple in the middle of his forehead. "Riggs is ... he's out of town. Won't be back till Monday."
"Where can I find him?"
Skinner gave a sigh. "Hangs around the Polo Club. There's a bitch he's got the hots for."
"What's her name?"
"Lila Purdue ... like the college, you know?"
"Yeah, I do." Luke rose to his feet, turned to the lady standing a few feet away. The moon was out. She was prettier than he had first thought, with big doe eyes, fine features, and a firm little chin. He was a boob man and from what he could tell, hers were prime grade A.
"Emma Cassidy," she said by way of introduction.
"Luke Brodie." He glanced down at Skinner, who was grumbling beneath his breath, then looked back at Emma. "Nice work," he said.
Luke glanced across the parking lot. "Here comes Skinner's ride. I'll see you around." He started walking as a black and white patrol car rolled into the lot. Interesting lady, he thought, ambling over to his battered old Bronco. Pretty and feminine with a hot little body.
The very last person who should be running around trying to hunt down criminals.
Luke just shook his head.
He wondered why she was interested in Felix Riggs. Riggs wasn't wanted, though he should be since he was a low-life scum. Maybe he knew something about another bail skip she was hunting. Luke hoped like hell Emma Cassidy wasn't going to confront the guy. He didn't think she'd come out as unscathed as she had tonight.
None of your business, he told himself as he crossed the lot, slid in behind the wheel of his beat-up old Ford, and fired up the powerful V-8 engine.
The Bronco, the perfect, nondescript surveillance vehicle, had been completely rebuilt. A powerful Ford Racing Aluminator XS 5.0 liter Coyote Engine — 500 plus horses — idled like a predator under the hood. The Bronco had a Cobra jet intake manifold and fully CNC ported aluminum heads.
Welded restraints had been fitted into the back to hold any prisoners he had to transport to jail. Luke loved the Bronco. Like driving a rocket disguised as a paper airplane.
He checked the rearview mirror, saw little Emma Cassidy hauling butt-ugly Skinner Digby over to the patrol car. Why she would want to be a bounty hunter he couldn't begin to guess.
He'd never understood women.
Clearly that hadn't changed.
* * *
Emma watched Luke Brodie's rattletrap, black-and-tan Bronco pull out of the parking lot. The vehicle was old and beat to high heaven, but as she listened to the primal roar of the engine, it sounded more like a race car than an SUV headed for the junkyard.
She'd recognized Brodie the minute he'd stepped out of the shadows, though he'd moved into them as silently as a cat. Maybe it was the soft-soled, knee-high moccasins he was wearing. More likely, just the long-limbed, easy way he moved. She knew him from photos she had seen in a dozen different stories about him on the Internet, and from the research she had done.
Thirty-two years old, six-two, a hundred and ninety pounds, medium brown hair, and blue eyes. Tonight she had actually seen him in the flesh. Not just handsome, as he appeared in the photos, the man had a devil-angel face that would drive any red-blooded female crazy. His eyes weren't just blue, they were a fierce electric blue that had made her breath stall when they'd lasered in on her.
The snug, olive drab T-shirt and jeans he'd been wearing did nothing to hide the wide-shouldered, narrow-hipped, rock-hard body underneath.
She appreciated his help with Digby. She was still new at this, still learning the tricks. Interrogating a subject wasn't that easy.
Emma pulled her cell phone out of her purse and checked the time. It wasn't quite midnight. She was tired but high on her success. Digby's arrest had gone down just the way she'd planned.
Once she finished her paperwork, she was heading down to the Hide and Seek, a bar where some of the local bail enforcement agents hung out. Not Luke Brodie, who lived in Bellevue, on the other side of the lake.
It was almost one when she pushed through the door of what looked more like a biker bar than a local pub, with its worn board floors, long wooden bar, and rickety bar stools. Balls clattered against each other on pool tables in the rear.
Emma spotted Xavier Castillo, a bounty hunter friend, playing darts with another bail enforcement agent, Bobby Grogan, and Bobby's girlfriend, Melissa.
Xavier, the X-man, was as big as a house with skin the color of teak. He was part black, part Hispanic. He had no idea how to speak Spanish, didn't speak Ebonics, either.
Like Emma, he was still learning the trade, trying to break into the business. Emma wasn't certain the soft-spoken man had the right personality for the business, but she had only officially been at it six months herself.
Xavier waved, left the dart game, and walked over to join her at a scarred wooden table, flopped down in one of the captain's chairs, making it creak with his colossal weight.
Mattie Jackson, the owner, who also worked as a waitress, gave him the evil eye. "Easy, big boy, or you'll be buying that chair." She was in her early forties, auburn-haired and big-busted, popular with everyone who came into the bar.
"Sorry," X said, color washing into his cheeks. For all his size, Xavier was extremely shy, kind of a gentle giant.
Excerpted from Into the Firestorm by Kat Martin. Copyright © 2017 Kat Martin. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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