Excerpt from HIS CHERISHED LOVE
Patience was not one of his virtues. Not that he had many of those, either.
The chief studied him a moment as Jack lowered himself onto the padded navy chair. Jack kept his face as straight and unreadable as possible, hoping like hell he masked the pain that battered his system. It was more of an annoyance now than a hindrance.
Yeah, his arm hurt like a son of a bitch at times. Lately, between the doctor mandated physical therapy and his own need to return to his post, he’d been pushing his body and abused muscles to the point of exhaustion. That was the thing no one told you about recovering from an injury or surgery. It could be damn painful business.
The first time he’d run after his injury, he had tossed the entire contents of his stomach afterwards.
The chief steepled his fingers as he stared. Jack liked the man. He had a weight of responsibility that would cripple most people and he made carrying it look easy. The chief finally responded. “Be that as it may, I would rather err on the side of caution before tossing you back to the wolves. Which brings me to the gentleman beside you. Detective, I would like you to meet Special Agent David Carson. He has requested assistance on a case he is working in the area and I think it would be perfect for you.”
Jack nodded. See? A fucking Fed. “Good to meet you, agent. What’s this case you want the JHPD’s help with?”
Special Agent David Carson looked to be in his forties, given the gray dotting his black hair, trimmed in a short military style cut. Carson shifted his tall, lean form in his seat so that he faced Jack. “Let me start by saying, I’m glad you survived the injuries. Chief Sheffield informed me about the particulars of the case. It can be tough to get hurt on the job and have to go back. I’m a handler overseeing an individual who is in the US Marshalls’ witness protection program. It is the Bureau’s belief that her life is in danger. Again, unfortunately. Your job will be to tail her, keep an eye on her at home and at work.”
“You mean you want me to babysit?” Jack’s voice dripped with derision. The case was on par with desk duty.
Carson’s face hardened, which turned his hawk like features uber sharp. His blue gaze contained a cold fury. “Look. She helped the Bureau bring down the Giancarlo organization ten years ago. This town is the third place she has started over in the last decade. We believe Dominic Travino, the man who took over the mob connections from Giancarlo, is after her. Even after going underground and shifting his operation into online scams, he’s never stopped hunting her.”
Well, fuck me.
The Giancarlo mob case? Jack remembered seeing all the reports on the news about the case. It made whoever the witness was infinitely more interesting, and the stakes in tailing her that much higher. He tried recalling all the particulars of that case but drew a blank. However, the name Travino rang a bell. The man had a particular skill set for vengeance, and meting out that vengeance in bloody, brutal ways. He would execute someone only after he’d beaten them until their face was unrecognizable and dental records the only thing that could identify the victim. “And you think Travino is in Jackson Hole trying to locate the witness? Why not move her?”
“Yes, we do. Recently, he was sighted on street cameras in Laramie. That’s far too close for comfort. The Bureau does not want to move the witness again, if at all possible. Don’t get me wrong, we will if we need to, considering what our witness did to help us break this case wide open. The Bureau and I would like her to be able to live her life without constantly having to look over her shoulder. Our objective at this time is to force Dominic Travino into the open so we can apprehend him. We don’t know how many of his hired thugs he has with him. But knowing Travino, I’d say he has at least half a dozen men.”
Jack studied the agent and leaned back in his chair. “You plan to use this person as bait to catch him. Is it the Bureau’s policy to put someone under witness protection in clear and present danger?”
Agent Carson nodded in the affirmative. “More or less, that’s the plan. She already is in danger. Her life has been on the line since the moment she agreed to help us out and became an informant. I hate even contemplating putting her life in the line of fire once more, considering how much we owe her. But until we catch him, she will be running for the rest of her life.”
“What’s the catch?” There was a hell of a lot more involved here. And this case was proving far more interesting than a simple tailing job.
The agent’s brow quirked. Probably didn’t expect that Jack would pick up on that. But he’d been in law enforcement for too long to realize that nothing was as simple as it seemed. Even the best laid plans encountered hiccups. “She can’t know you’re tailing her. I’ve worked with her over the last decade. If she knows that Dominic has caught her trail again, she’ll run, and it will get her killed.”
“What does it matter to you whether she lives or dies? And why aren’t the US Marshalls working on this? I thought they were in charge of WITSEC, the Witness Security Program.” There was a part of the equation Jack was missing. The agent was far too invested in this witness. Why would a Federal Agent be involved and not the US Marshalls? Not that he shouldn’t care about an individual that helped them crack a huge case, Jack did with each of his victims, but he also kept an emotional barrier up between them. Emotions clouded one’s perception. The fact that they kept creeping into his cases lately had almost gotten him killed.
“When this case first began, to collect the evidence needed to convict Raoul Giancarlo, my partner Nicolas went undercover. He spent an inordinate amount of time with the witness. He began to worry that his cover was blown and made me swear that if anything ever happened to him, I would ensure she was protected at all costs. And there’s not a day that has passed since he lost his life on that case when I haven’t watched over her. It’s the least I could do. When she was placed into the Witness Security Program, I requested the US Marshalls keep me involved in her protection.”
Jack respected the hell out of that. It was never easy to lose a partner. His first partner had died of a heart attack a few years back. Even under normal circumstances, it had been difficult. Losing a partner in the line of duty was not something a person would recover from well—if ever. “And who is the woman your partner fell in love with undercover?”
“Raoul Giancarlo’s daughter, Victoria.”
“We have Victoria Giancarlo living in Jackson Hole? Get the fuck out! But her image was splashed all over the place by the media. Surely, I would have recognized her if I crossed paths with her.” Jack tried to recall images of Victoria Giancarlo. They had been plastered across the headlines for months following the trial. All he truly remembered were her haunted, sad eyes the color of burnt caramel.
“Doubt it. She underwent some plastic surgery after Travino found her the first time in Santa Fe. He beat her pretty badly. Broke her nose and jawbone before my team and I reached her. The surgery altered her features enough that she can play it off as a case of mistaken identity. And the fucker still managed to get away.”
“And what is her alias now?” Jack asked, more intrigued by the case than he wanted to admit.
“Before I go any further, I need assurances that you are one hundred percent in on this. That I can trust the information shared in this office goes no further—not your partner, not the other officers in the department, not your girlfriend. It is essential that her identity remain hidden. There cannot be a casual word uttered on Main Street and a journalist catch a whiff of it. She would be hounded, and the media would be able to get a clear image of what she looks like now while Travino is still on the lam. My office, in coordination with the Marshalls, is working to catch this fucker.”
Jack blew out a breath. He glanced at the chief. The chief gave him a blasé stare, leaving the decision up to him. It wasn’t his normal protocol. The chief was doing it to give him a chance to ease back into work, to take a job that would likely be more boredom than anything else. If Jack said no, the chief would put him on desk duty for the foreseeable future. That was worse than having to babysit. They had tag-teamed him and backed him into a corner. With a nod of agreement, he said, “You have it.”
“Her name is Rayna Thompson.”
Shock riddled Jack. And he wasn’t shocked often. Rayna was Victoria Giancarlo? Rayna, who steered away from him every time he got near her? Rayna, with her sweet little body and heart-shaped ass, about whom he’d wondered more than once what she looked like naked.
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A Cuffs & Spurs Novel
Rayna Thompson’s entire life is a lie. She avoids relationships as if they were the plague – mainly because the people who get close to her wind up dead. And yet her newest next door neighbor, the sexy, stoic Jack Stone, is making her want to break all her rules. The problem is, he’s a cop, and she doesn’t know how long it will take before her past catches up to her and all her secrets are revealed.
Jack believes in law and order. He keeps his work life separate from his personal life. Not that he has much of a personal life as a Detective with the Jackson Hole Police Department; most of it is relegated to the private lifestyle club where he is a member. However, during his latest assignment, he begins to blur the lines between professional and personal.
Rayna pushes each of his boundaries and makes him question everything he knows about the law and what he’s willing to do for love. Will their newfound relationship survive when her past comes back to haunt them?
Publisher’s Note: This steamy, suspense-filled contemporary romance contains themes of power exchange. While it is part of the best-selling Cuffs & Spurs series, it can be read and enjoyed as a standalone.
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About Anya Summers
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Anya grew up listening to Cardinals baseball and reading anything she could get her hands on. She remembers her mother saying if only she would read the right type of books instead binging her way through the romance aisles at the bookstore, she’d have been a doctor. While Anya never did get that doctorate, she graduated cum laude from the University of Missouri-St. Louis with an M.A. in History.
Anya is a bestselling and award-winning author published in multiple fiction genres. She also writes urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance under the name Maggie Mae Gallagher. A total geek at her core, when she is not writing, she adores attending the latest comic con or spending time with her family. She currently lives in the Midwest with her two furry felines.
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