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Authors: Debra Mullins

Tags: #Fiction, #Paranormal romance

Prodigal Son (36 page)

BOOK: Prodigal Son
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“He called once,” Cara said. “That was a couple of days ago. I lost my cell phone for a while and just got a new one, so I don’t know if he’s tried to get in touch with me again.”

“We might be able to trace the phone if it has GPS or trace the signal to the nearest tower,” Mendez said. “I’ll put Weatherly on it.”

“Sounds good,” John said.

“I’ll get my team assembled.” Mendez left the room.

“How much does he know about us?” Rafe asked.

“I haven’t told him anything,” their father said, “but he doesn’t ask questions, either.”

“Let’s keep it that way,” Gray said.

“I was planning to.”

A few minutes later, Mendez came back into the room, three armed, black-clad men following him. “This is Weatherly.” He indicated the thin young guy right behind him who carried a laptop bag over his shoulder and two silver cases that looked like electronic equipment. “Ms. McGaffigan, let’s see if we can find your stepbrother.”

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Jain Criten sat outside on the balcony, sipping his mimosa over the remains of a five-star breakfast, and watched the world awaken. The spa in Sedona boasted individual luxury villas, and the view from his included the pool, a meditation garden, and more green trees than he’d ever expected to see in the desert. In the distance, beyond the lush tree line, rose two majestic mesas of red stone, lines of white and gray threading through them, capturing the glow of the rising sun.

Gadi had done well.

There was something about this place that energized him, something that ignited the power within him and sent it racing through his veins, intoxicating him like hard liquor. Was it the sun, so strong in this part of the world? Or maybe it was Sedona’s famous vortex energy. The so-called power of the vortexes had attracted all types of New Age people to the area, many of them setting up shop in town. Given the way his power sparked and shimmered along his skin, practically visible, he had to believe the stories that vortex energy thrived in this area.

He wondered if he could tap it. Use it to enhance his own powers.

A sparrow fluttered to a landing on the back of the empty chair across from him. He watched as it considered the scraps of food on the table, turning its head from side to side as if gauging the risk.

With a half smile, he ripped off a piece of croissant and threw it on the ground. The bird leaped into flight and followed, landing inches away, then hopped closer to the bread, always cautious. Just as it got near its goal, Criten flicked his fingers. The food jumped a foot away.

The sparrow hesitated, then hopped toward the bread again. Criten flicked his fingers again. Red sparks trailed in the wake of his hand as the bread jumped again. Power hummed beneath his skin, rushing to his head. He could feel the vortex energy nearby, strong and masculine, sweeping through him, stealing his breath and leaving his flesh tingling. Closing his eyes, he reached for it.

It surged into him like a dam that burst, saturating his senses with glorious power. The bird chirped, and he opened his eyes, grinning as he aimed his hand at the piece of bread and let go.

Energy gushed from his hand, red as blood and just as draining. He tried to control the flood, but it poured from him, blasting the bread into cinders, leaping to the bird. The sparrow let out a peep of alarm, leaped into flight. Sparks ignited its feathers, the flames overtaking it with a soft whoosh, snuffing its life in seconds. The carcass hurtled to the ground, blackened and smoking.

He tried to stem the flow, but still it bled from him, using him as a conduit and burning a deep groove into the tiles of the balcony.

Would he die here, victim of his own power? He’d come so close to finding the stone, to tracking the girl—

A vision exploded in his mind. The girl. The house. The men. The plan. Never before had he seen so clearly. Information flooded his mind. Overwhelmed his nerve endings. Blurred his vision.


Baku,
” he whispered, closing his hand into a fist. “Enough.”

Gradually he managed to slow the flow of energy, from a river to a stream to a trickle. By the time he’d stopped it completely, he’d slid to the floor, curled into a ball, his palms burned and blistered as he tried to breathe.

The vortex energy had run rampant through his system, sublimating his power pathways for its own. But even as it had warped his Channeling abilities, it had somehow enhanced his small, often intermittent gift of Seeing—at least while the energy held him in its grasp. He’d seen Cara McGaffigan and the Montana house, the men who worked for the Montanas and the plans they made even now to recover the stone. He’d seen the vault of treasures in the house and Cara McGaffigan opening that vault for him.

He’d seen enough to know he’d be triumphant today.

He was not blind to the irony that, even as
Mendeku
demanded the death of Seers, the only other being who could use the Stones of Ekhia was a Channeler with a minor Seeing gift. That family secret, passed through the generations, was the reason why only his ancestor Selak had been able to use the stones. It took the exact combination of the two gifts at particular strength for a non-Seer to even activate the stones. For anyone else, even their strongest Channelers and Warriors, such action would result in death.

It had taken these many generations for another like Selak to be born—himself—to at last bring to fruition the possibility of claiming the power that should belong to all Atlanteans, not just Seers.

Cradling his injured hands to his chest, he called to Gadi telepathically for help. He would take back the stone today. He’d seen it.

And the universe never lied.

*   *   *

“Got him.” Weatherly turned to look at Mendez. “Cangialosi activated the phone, made a call, then turned it off. But I got a ping.”

“Where is he?” Mendez asked.

Weatherly grinned. “Here in Sedona.”

“And I found that foreign national.” A man they called Murray stepped forward and handed Mendez a paper. “Also in Sedona. President Criten is staying at Los Robles Resort and Villas. He checked in last night.”

“Well, well. Looks like a party.” Mendez handed the paper to Rafe’s father.

“Can you tell where Danny is?” Rafe asked. He’d tried a couple of times over the last hour to find Cara’s stepbrother, but his senses had only given him the same big nothing.

“Just within a certain square-mile range.” Weatherly pulled up a map on his laptop and pointed. “It’s a pretty big chunk of area.”

“We could take some men and split up the grid,” Rafe said. “We’d find him faster with more feet on the ground.”

Mendez’s mouth thinned. “Maybe you should leave this to us, son.” Distrust came off him in waves.

The universe confirmed it for him with one glance in the team leader’s eyes.
He doesn’t want you anywhere near this op. He thinks you’re reckless and dangerous.

Well, maybe he was both those things, or had been. But not today. There was too much riding on this one.

“I know you don’t trust me much,” Rafe said. “And I might not trust me either, not after what happened. But I’ve been working in bail enforcement for over five years now, and my record is solid. You can’t afford
not
to take me.”

Mendez leaned in. “Wanna bet?”

“Rigo.” Rafe’s father spoke quietly, but the word might as well have been a shout in the now silent room. “He will be an asset.”

Mendez gave a short nod, but he didn’t seem convinced. “If you say so.”

“I do.” John looked over the rest of the group. “We’ll go in pairs to cover more ground.”

“I’m going.” Rafe’s mother stepped forward. “You may need me, John.”

For the stone
.

Rafe didn’t know if his father heard the mental message she sent to them or if he just trusted his wife, but John nodded and said, “You’ll be with me, Maria.”

“I’ll go with Rafe,” Darius said, drawing surprised glances. He bared his teeth in a sardonic smile. “I want baby brother where I can see him.”

“Nice,” Rafe said. He threw sarcasm behind the word, but only to hide his startled pleasure. Either Darius had truly forgiven him, or he really did want to keep an eye on him. Maybe even both. But either was preferable to the way things had been before.

“I thought I would go with Rafe,” Cara said.

“No,” Rafe said. “I want you to stay here, where it’s safe.”

“But—”

“He’s right, Cara,” John said. “We’re all trained for this sort of thing. You’re not. I think you should stay here.”

“I’ll leave a couple of men behind,” Mendez said. “Weatherly and Murray, you run the base here and stay with the women.”

“Yes, sir,” both men answered.

“What do you mean
women
?” Tessa asked. “I’m going with you.”

Mendez frowned. “I know you’re very capable, young lady, but we have enough people to run the search. Three teams—”

“Four,” Adrian corrected. “I’m going, too.”

Mendez’s frown deepened. “And you are?”

“Adrian Gray. I’ve got training that will be useful.”

“He’s right,” Rafe said. “We can use him.”

“He got through my security like it was nothing.” Rafe’s father scowled at Gray, but he couldn’t hide the hint of admiration beneath the annoyance. “We should take him.”

“Then I’m going with
him,
” Tessa said. “If he’s such a badass, I should be perfectly safe.”
And I can keep an eye on this guy
.
I don’t trust him.

Gray sent her a look of amusement, letting everyone know that he, too, had heard the telepathic part of Tessa’s remarks.

“Fine.” Mendez shook his head. “Big show for one small-time punk, but if he leads us to the shooter, let’s do it. Harmon, you’re with me,” Mendez continued. “Weatherly, assign everyone an area.”

“Yes, sir.”

*   *   *

While Weatherly printed off maps and Maria made coffee, Cara leaned over and whispered to Rafe, “Can I talk to you for a minute? Alone?”

“Sure.” He glanced around, then stood up as she did. “We’ll be right back,” he said to his father, who waved as he listened to whatever Mendez was telling him.

Rafe took her hand and led the way out of the dining room, through the kitchen and out onto the patio. A wrought iron table and chairs complemented the tile work, and flowers surrounded them, some in planters and boxes and others in beds. Before them stretched a huge, natural rock swimming pool. Tall trees surrounded them, but the house stood high enough on the mountain to see the stunning red rock formations in the distance. He never got tired of looking at that view. He hadn’t realized how much he’d missed it living in Vegas.

“If this was my house,” she murmured, “I’d eat breakfast out here every morning. The sunrise must be amazing.”

“It is. But you didn’t pull me out here to talk about the scenery.”

“No.” She turned her gaze from the view and looked at him. “When all this started, it was just you and me looking for Danny. Now we have a SWAT team, and your family and Adrian Gray, a guy I don’t know if we can trust a hundred percent. I’m worried.”

“Mendez’s men aren’t SWAT.”

“I know, I know. But they’re a special team, right? The one you wanted to join?”

He gave a short nod. “Yeah.”

“So we have a special troubleshooting team—men with guns. And Adrian Gray. We don’t even know if he’s one of the good guys.”

“For now he is.”

“He may be after the stone.”

“It’s possible.”

“I don’t want Danny hurt. You can take your stone back—”

“It’s not
my
stone.”

“—and you can even take Danny into custody. I just want him to be okay.” She stepped closer and locked her gaze with his. “I want to be there when you bring him in.”

“No. It’s too dangerous.”

“I need to see him, to talk to him.”

“You can do that, but after he’s safely in custody.”

“He won’t hurt me.”

Her plaintive tone struck a nerve. “Cara, you have a blind spot about this guy. He’s taking advantage of you, and it ticks me off.”

“You’ve said that before.” She turned away, folding her arms, and stared at the mesas in the distance. “I’m not stupid. I know I let Danny get away with too much. But what am I supposed to do?”

“Say no once in a while.”

“Easy for you to say.”

“Easy for you, too. One simple word.”

She bent her head. “I’m all he’s got.”
And he’s all I’ve got
.

He heard the thought as it drifted through her mind, and it made him ache. He came to her and rested his hands on her shoulders. “He needs to learn how to solve his own problems, and he can’t do that with you wiping his butt all the time.”

She spun to face him, her mouth falling open. “I do not—”

“You keep riding to his rescue.”

“Because he needs help.”

“Sometimes the best help you can give is to let someone fall so they learn to get back up again.”

“Tough love and all that?”

“Yeah. So no, you can’t come along.”

“Fine.” She laid her hand on his chest, right on top of the crystal, and stared into his eyes, her own intense. “Promise me you’ll look out for him. Don’t let them shoot him.”

“Nobody wants that. But if he starts shooting first—”

She gave a shaky laugh. “Danny hates guns. Won’t touch them.”

“Then everything should be fine.”

“Promise me anyway.”

“I promise.”

“Okay.” She let out a slow breath. “Thank you.”

He laid a hand over hers, and the crystal beneath started to warm.
His mate
. All she had to do was come near him for fireworks to happen. When she was close, he could think of nothing but her.

And that could get us both killed
.

Which was why he had to let her go. As much as he longed for exactly what she represented—a partner, a home, the possibility of a family—he couldn’t let her take the chance. Sure, she had seen the Hunter, but what if he had to fight, to kill, and she got caught in the crossfire?

“You must be pretty happy,” he said. “It’s almost over. You’ll be able to go home soon. Get back to your life.”

BOOK: Prodigal Son
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