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Authors: Liliana Hart

Dane - A MacKenzie Novel (6 page)

BOOK: Dane - A MacKenzie Novel
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“Becca,” Bayleigh called out in greeting,
taking the young bride’s hands in her own warmly. “It’s so great to
see you again. Come on back to the conference room. I have
everything set up for you there.”

Becca’s smile was bright enough to light up
the room, and Bayleigh remembered why she’d liked the girl so much
when she’d first come in the shop. Becca was only twenty-one and
had just graduated from college at the end of the summer. She came
from a wealthy family and she was classically beautiful—long golden
hair, bright green eyes and an innate sense of style that those of
her class seemed to be born with—and she was determined to get
married to her fiancé before the end of the year was out. That
meant Bayleigh would have a lot of work to do if Becca chose
exclusive, hand-made pieces.

“I’m so excited to see what you have for me,”
Becca practically gushed. “I want to knock Chris’s socks off on our
honeymoon.”

“You’ll definitely do that with what I have
in mind.”

For the first time since Cade MacKenzie had
disturbed her sleep, Bayleigh was able to keep herself distracted
through work. But when she slid the expensive lace, satins and
silks through her fingers, she couldn’t help but wonder if he was a
man who’d enjoy his woman wearing something so blatantly
carnal.

 

 

Chapter Four

 

 

“Captain Kelly,” Cade said, shaking the hand
his superior held out to him. “I thought I’d come in a day early,
just to check things out.”

Mick Kelly was a twenty-five year veteran of
the force and didn’t put up with anyone’s shit. He barely came up
to Cade’s shoulders, his khaki pants bagged on him, he had a coffee
stain down the front of his shirt, and his red hair was streaked
through with wiry gray, but Cade had done his research, and Mick
Kelly had been a damned good detective in his day. Now he was
damned good at being the boss, and this job wouldn’t be easy to
pull over on him.

“I was just about to call you in, MacKenzie.
Come into my office for a few minutes.”

Cade arched a brow at the order, considering
he wasn’t even official for another twenty-four hours, but he
followed behind him. Captain Kelly’s office was a big glass cube in
the middle of the precinct, and they wove their way through
haphazard metal desks filled with paperwork and empty Styrofoam
coffee cups before Kelly ushered him inside the cramped space.

The floor was industrial grade carpet and a
dead plant sat in the corner, but Cade felt at home. Cops and
agents of all kinds were inherently the same—the job always came
above comfort—and he realized he’d missed the badge more than he
thought he would. The last few weeks off had left him restless. He
took the seat across from Kelly’s desk as his captain sat in the
scarred leather chair behind it.

“I want you to take a look at these. Homicide
sent me the photos this morning, though the murder happened three
nights past. After the investigation stalled, they decided it might
be more up our alley. And after reading the reports, I tend to
agree.”

Kelly pushed the file across from him but
kept his fingers on it until Cade looked up at him in question.

“I want you to know the DEA sent me your
file,” he said, doing such a complete 180 in the conversation that
Cade wondered what the hell was really going on.

“The DEA seems to think you’re only on loan
to me for a little while. They’re expecting you to come crawling
back when you get tired of being confined to one space for too
long.”

Kelly arched a wiry brow in expectation, and
Cade had to fight back the grin. The only way he’d convinced the
DEA to release him was to promise them he’d be available for
occasional consulting work if they needed him. He had no plans to
belong to anyone after this mission was over, but Captain Kelly was
liable to get more than he bargained for in hiring Cade, because he
had a feeling the DEA wasn’t going to let him go easily.

“Yeah, son, that file was damned
interesting,” his captain continued. “Though there was a lot of
missing information. Anything you need to tell me? Like why the DEA
is suddenly my new best friend?”

Cade met his gaze evenly, giving none of his
thoughts away. The DEA could play games if they wanted to. He was
retired from the agency, and all he cared about was the job he was
supposed to do here. His neck had been itching and his gut churning
ever since he’d crossed into Texas. And Captain Kelly was nobody’s
fool, though Cade knew he’d lie to the man if he had to.

“You’re a tough son of a bitch, MacKenzie.
Your superiors say you were an agent that always got the job done,
no matter what it took. I’m giving you a hell of a lot more leeway
than the other cops under my watch, but I’m going to be mighty
pissed if you go back to the DEA after this is over. I’d like to
have a man with your experience on the force permanently. Do we
understand each other?”

Cade nodded sharply, and Kelly relaxed in his
seat.

“Tell me what you see in the homicide
report.”

Cade pulled the file onto his lap and flipped
it open, his expression never changing at the gruesome photos that
lay on top. The girl was young, no more than eighteen or twenty,
and her eyes stared open and blank—death a surprise on her fragile
features. Makeup was smeared under her eyes and across her lips,
and Cade took in the bites and abrasions on her nude body.

The syringe that stuck out of the vein in her
arm might as well have been saying “fuck you” to whatever officer
first arrived on scene. It couldn’t have been more obvious that the
girl was murdered. He read the homicide detective and medical
examiner’s reports, but he already knew what he’d find. He’d seen
it before. This was a cartel killing, and the small cut on the
inside of her thigh meant that she was the first victim they’d
claimed.

The victim, her name was Katie Ross, had left
one of the nicer college bars with a group of men under her own
free will. The camera feed from the bar had shown that damning
evidence, but not ten minutes before she’d left, she was sitting
quietly at a corner table with some friends. She hadn’t danced with
anyone, and she’d only had one beer. But her entire personality
changed after she came back from a trip to the ladies room. And
video showed any number of men passing by her that could have wiped
the drug across her skin.

“We need to look back at the surveillance
tapes and see if there was anyone wearing gloves inside the bar,”
Cade said absently. “Even a tiny amount on the skin can affect
whoever is administering it. Though if they wore surgical gloves it
could be difficult to see in the low lighting.”

After her trip to the bathroom, the girl hit
the dance floor and didn’t slow down. She’d gotten a lot of
attention from the men—a pretty girl tempting every man in the
room, obviously on the prowl. Even the bouncers had noticed her.
She’d left with six guys, to the complete confusion of her friends,
even though they’d tried to stop her. One of Katie’s girlfriends
had tried to pull her into her car to get her away from the men,
but Katie had pushed her friend to the ground and gone on with the
men who’d drugged her. It had been too late for her at that point.
With the drug in the system, all logical thought ceased to exist.
The only thing that mattered was sexual release.

One of the guys she’d left with had to be the
one who’d given her the drug, but all of their faces had been
averted from the cameras and they’d been unrecognizable, which
meant they’d known the location of the cameras before they’d ever
stepped foot inside the bar. The parking lot cameras didn’t help,
as the van the men and girl had piled into had bogus plates and it
was as nondescript as you could get. They’d planned the whole
operation very well. It was slick from beginning to end.

The girl had been taken to a pay by the hour
motel less than a mile from the bar, and the medical examiner had
found ejaculate from more than a dozen men. The others had probably
already been waiting in the room. She’d been raped and sodomized
repeatedly, and the girl hadn’t been used lightly. But there were
no signs of a struggle. That was the terrible thing about
Rabbit
. They’d never find signs of a struggle, even though
the victim knew what was happening to her wasn’t her choice.

The drug had been described by one of the
victims they’d rescued in Miami as floating outside your body,
watching yourself do things you knew you’d never do, and screaming
silently until you thought your head would burst from the pressure.
It was like being trapped in a mental straitjacket while your body
went on a free-for-all without you. It was the missing signs of
struggle that made it most difficult for those investigating the
case, because it was made to look as if it were consensual. Unless
you were familiar with the drug and what it did, and most local
cops weren’t even aware it existed.

“Jesus,” Cade said, sickened just as much as
he had been the first time he’d seen what the drug could do.

“This is some terrible shit, MacKenzie. I had
no idea what it was until your former employer informed me.”

Cade just grunted and kept reading. When the
men had finished with the girl they’d given her an injection of the
drug, ensuring her death. Miguel del Fuego’s scientists still
hadn’t been able to stabilize the drug so it didn’t have such a
high fatality rate when taken internally. It was something he knew
they were still working on in Colombia. Unfortunately, after Cade’s
true identity had been discovered, Carlos del Fuego had the
compound bombed and they’d moved their headquarters. The DEA still
didn’t know the location of del Fuego’s scientists.

“The ME says he found traces of an
unidentified stimulant in her bloodstream,” Kelly said once Cade
closed the file. “Also high traces of progesterone and
testosterone, and something the ME couldn’t identify. A plant of
some kind.”

“It’s the Yatamala root,” Cade said. “It’s
indigenous to Central America, specifically Colombia.”

Cade tossed the file back on the desk in
disgust. Anger, hot and vicious, swept through his body. He wanted
nothing more than to find those scientists and destroy every one of
them—a bullet through the brain was too easy a death. But he wasn’t
with the DEA anymore, so someone else would have to kill the
scientists. His job was here and the cartel had followed him. He
made himself sit back in the chair and meet Kelly’s eyes. He’d
always had an inordinate amount of self-control.

“They call it
Rabbit
on the street,”
Cade explained. “The last I heard, there’s only been one other
documented case of the drug being used in the state of Texas. Most
of it’s concentrated in the Miami area, as well as along the Gulf
Coast because of the location of the cartels. But a drug like this
is highly desirable on the black market, and if money isn’t an
option then it’s easily attainable if you know who to contact. It
sells for a quarter million an ounce.”

Kelly let out a low whistle and drummed his
fingers on his desktop. “We need to find out who’s supplying that
drug in our state, and where it’s coming from.”

“I have my suspicions, sir,” Cade said. “The
del Fuego cartel has been waiting for me to become visible again.
I’m afraid I’m the reason they’re here killing innocent girls.”

“They’re here because they’re crazy sons of
bitches. And you’re the one who’s going to stop them. You’ll stay
in contact with the investigating agents in the DEA since you’re
known to them. They made sure to let me know that they wanted you
working on this. But they said they won’t interfere unless you need
them. Keep me in the loop, MacKenzie. I don’t want any federal
surprises, but I’m giving you free reign.”

“Are you sure you want to do this, Captain
Kelly? Innocent men could die. This could get a hell of a lot more
dangerous than you thought when you agreed to bring me on.”

“I know that, son. I didn’t fall off the
turnip truck yesterday. But this is my city, and that drug is out
there whether you think you’re the reason or not. A drug like that
would get here eventually, and you know it. We’re just nipping it
in the bud before it can spread anywhere else.”

“Yes, sir,” Cade said with a sigh.

Maybe when the cartel was taken down once and
for all he’d go back to the stretch of land he had in Montana and
retire for good. He was damned tired of trying to save the
world.

Captain Kelly took out a gun and badge from
his desk drawer and slid them to Cade. “Looks like you get to start
a day early. Welcome aboard, son. And when this is over and the
cartel is taken down, I want you to remember what a nice guy I am
and come and work for me for real.”

The look Kelly sent him made Cade realize he
and the DEA hadn’t fooled the man for a minute, and Cade nodded in
respect. He took his weapon and badge and grabbed the file on the
desk before heading back into the chaos of the precinct.

“Oh, and MacKenzie,” Kelly called out before
he could escape. “Remember I’ve read your file. You’re a bit
unorthodox to say the least. Try not to piss anyone off for at
least a day or two. I really hate having to talk to the Chief.”

Cade smiled, his grin a bit piratical. “Too
late. You should have seen the reaction my new neighbor had when
she met me.”

 

 

Chapter Five

 

 

The man was making her crazy.

He’d lived next door to her for four days,
and her nerves were strung so tight she was surprised her brain
didn’t leak right out of her ears. He had a habit of showing up out
of nowhere, and she’d gotten to the point where she was sneaking in
and out of her house like a thief just to avoid him. Because damn,
that kiss could
not
happen again. He’d have her naked and on
her back in no time if his lips ever touched hers again. And she
wasn’t about to let that happen.

BOOK: Dane - A MacKenzie Novel
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