Authors: Mandy Baxter
Books by Mandy Baxter
One Kiss More
One Night More
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Table of Contents
Books by Mandy Baxter
Landon McCabe could think of a thousand things he’d rather be doing right now. Skydiving, BASE jumping, climbing to the top of Mount Hood would be nice. When did the running of the bulls begin, anyway? Law enforcement was supposed to be an exciting, adrenaline-infused career. Maybe he should have applied for the Marshals’ elite Special Operations Group when he had the chance. Of course, knowing his luck, he’d get an assignment like his friend Galen Kelly had snagged: babysitter to some foreign dignitary for a year. Prestigious? Maybe. But Landon wasn’t interested in recognition or prestige. He was in it for the action. Which was why, as he pulled up to the swanky Aspira building in downtown Seattle, he wished he were jumping out of a plane, thousands of feet from the ground. He hadn’t felt an exhilarating rush of any kind for a long goddamned time. And like any addict, he was itching for a fix.
He pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed. After a few rings, Galen answered and the fucker had the nerve to sound upbeat. “Hey, man. Did you see me on
Galen had recently come off a case that had landed him not only in the media spotlight, but in bed with the woman he’d been assigned to protect. Lucky bastard. “Yeah. And you know what? It’s true what they say about the camera adding ten pounds. You might want to think about hitting the gym.”
“Please,” Landon scoffed. “I’ve got nothing to be jealous about. You go ahead and be the poster boy for the Marshals Service while the rest of us go out and get shit done.”
Galen’s laughter rumbled through the receiver. Playful hostility was what Landon appreciated most about their friendship. Galen deserved his accolades, though. He was damn good at his job. “Have you questioned Ruiz’s daughter yet?”
The consummate professional, Galen would forgo the banter for work talk any day of the week, and as always, Landon was on the same page. “On my way up to her condo now,” he said as he flashed his badge to the parking attendant at the underground garage. The Aspira had top-of-the-line security, which might make it tough to sneak a fugitive in. On the other hand . . . it might also be the perfect place to hide someone from prying eyes. Landon pulled the phone away from his ear long enough to get directions to the public parking and pulled through the levered gate. “I doubt she’s going to be cooperative, though.”
“Who’s your contact there?”
Technically, the Ruiz case was in the Oregon district’s jurisdiction, but since Ruiz’s daughter lived in Seattle, the investigation had become an interregional effort. “Ethan Morgan,” Landon replied as he hit the key fob with his thumb and locked his black Chevy Tahoe. He pivoted on a heel as he searched out the elevators and found a bank of silver doors on the far left wall. “I’m meeting him at the office later, but I thought I’d get a jump on Emma first.”
Galen was silent for a moment, and Landon could almost picture the shit-eating grin on his face. “Get a jump on her, huh?”
“Unlike you, I’m a professional,” Landon remarked, as he stepped inside the elevator and hit the button for the twenty-first floor.
“Touché,” Galen replied.
“Dude, the French,” Landon said with a snort. “So not manly. Later.”
Galen’s answering laughter was the last thing Landon heard as he ended the call. For the past few days, he’d been staking out Emma Ruiz’s building and tracking her every move in the hopes that she’d lead them to her father. But the only thing he’d learned so far in his time on this assignment was that the more things changed, the more they stayed the same. Emma was still a hard-core party girl. She still hung out with pro athletes and rich playboys and lived her life as publicly as she dared, as though she invited the media attention and gossipmongers while simultaneously not giving a shit about any of it.
The Ruiz case had been high profile six years ago when they’d conducted their investigation into the federal judge’s dealings with Mendelson Corp. Once one of the country’s shrewdest and most successful attorneys, later, the consummate legal hero who defended the little guy, Javier Ruiz had landed a federal judgeship in Oregon after retiring from a firm that dealt primarily in environmental safety and wrongful death suits. His judgeship had taken a nosedive when his dealings with Mendelson had been scrutinized. The U.S. Marshals had gotten involved after he’d dismissed what should have been an open-and-shut FTC trade violation case against the multinational corporation. Through an anonymous tip, the feds had been alerted that Ruiz was extorting money from Mendelson, and the CEO had admitted to paying the judge in exchange for a favorable ruling in their case.
And for the last six years, Emma had been a staunch supporter of her father, declaring his innocence on several national news programs as well as on
and in the pages of
. A first-class celebutante, Emma was often categorized as famous for being famous, or whatever it was the gossip rags said about overprivileged daddy’s girls like her. She had often been whispered about in the Portland office when they’d investigated Javier. At eighteen, she had already been on the road to stop-your-heart gorgeous and had a reputation for playing fast and loose with several pro athletes. She had a mouth on her, not to mention a penchant for fucking with anyone who fucked with her dad. During the course of the Marshals Service’s investigation, she’d made it her life’s ambition to cause any deputy involved in bringing dear old daddy down a world of hurt. Landon’s team had been on the receiving end of several of her malicious pranks including the old potato-in-the-tailpipe routine. That shit wasn’t urban legend, and the blowback from the exhaust had damned near asphyxiated him. Not the best experience for a rookie on his first case.
Watching her over the past couple of weeks had stirred up all sorts of memories. One of those being the euphoric rush he experienced every time he laid eyes on her. Landon couldn’t explain it. He wasn’t usually the sort of guy who got twisted up at the sight of a pretty girl. But Emma was different. Her presence triggered something primal in his subconscious. And that instant, gut-clenching reaction bothered the shit out of him. So, yeah, he wasn’t exactly enthused about paying a visit to the now-twenty-four-year-old Emma, and grilling her about daddy’s whereabouts while he tried not to fall under her spell yet again. Landon was certain that no matter what, Emma was going to give him a run for his money. Paybacks were a bitch.
Emma Ruiz hung up the phone, her heart racing like a thoroughbred, and stared off into space as she tried to collect her thoughts. One of the benefits of living in a building with the best security money could buy was getting a heads-up from the front desk that a deputy U.S. marshal was about to pay her a visit. Not that she hadn’t been expecting it, though the timing could have been better.
She cast a furtive glance toward her closed bedroom door as a riot of butterflies took flight in her stomach and fluttered toward her throat. Everything was happening so fast and she needed to play her A-game right now. The key to a good defense was a strong offense. Any sports fan worth her salt realized that. And Emma knew that if she wanted the ball to be in her court with the Marshals Service, she needed to make sure they were
their game. She looked down the length of her purple cami top, black yoga pants, and bare feet. Not exactly an outfit that screamed
I’m in charge!
And while she’d hoped never to go toe-to-toe with those self-righteous do-gooders again, she guessed she had no choice but to suck it up and face the music. At least the next few weeks wouldn’t be boring.
When the doorbell rang a few minutes later, Emma took a deep breath and held it in her lungs before expelling it all in a rush. The cops weren’t as scary as they liked to come off. Emma wasn’t easily intimidated, and besides, she’d done this dance with them six years ago. If she could handle their pushy bullshit then, she could certainly handle it now. She could do this.
A round of obnoxious knocks followed on the heels of the bell and Emma rolled her eyes as she walked to the door. God forbid she keep the U.S. Marshals waiting. After all, they had a dangerous criminal to find and apprehend. She snorted. They were all a bunch of idiots if they thought that Javier Ruiz was a criminal mastermind. So ready to believe he’d orchestrated the perfect escape and itching to get one up on him. And of course, none of them knew how far off base they really were.
Emma curved her lips into what she hoped was a pleasant smile to mask the apprehension creeping up her spine and swung open the door. The smile melted right off of her face and her stomach did a twisting backflip that kicked out at her lungs on the dismount, leaving her breathless and a little stunned.
. They would send the guy who’d arrested her dad in the first place, wouldn’t they? The one guy who’d get under her skin. Emma clenched her fists at her sides as she wondered how much jail time she’d get for socking a U.S. marshal in the jaw.