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Authors: Jessica Andersen

Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Love Stories, #Colorado, #Police, #Romantic Suspense Fiction, #Suspense, #Policewomen

Rapid Fire (3 page)

BOOK: Rapid Fire
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Three
minutes, thirty seconds.

 

She tried
not to think about her first impressions of the theme park, how a sniper could
sit up on the low ridge of hills nearby and fire down into the crowd she had
assembled in a too-convenient knot. But what other choice did she have? She’d
needed to get them the hell out of the park, and the vehicles weren’t an
option.

 

Three
minutes.

 

Then she
heard sirens in the distance, approaching rapidly.

 

“Thank
God,” Maya whispered to herself, knowing she couldn’t say it aloud, couldn’t
let the crowd know she was worried.

 

They
needed her to be strong, to keep the peace.

 

Precious
seconds ticked by as the Bear Claw cops pulled in, led by Alissa and Cassie,
riding with Tucker in his he-man truck. The chief’s car followed moments later.
The sight of her friends loosened the tight band around Maya’s heart, even as
the suspicious looks she got from the other arriving officers made her feel
worse.

 

Uniforms
ranged out around the rapidly quieting crowd. As the tension subsided a degree,
a youngish cop jogged over to Maya and said, “We’ll take it from here, ma’am.
The chief would like a word with you.”

 

She tried
not to wince at the “ma’am,” which served only to underscore her status as
not-quite-a-cop. But there wasn’t time for regrets, not while her wristwatch
clicked down past two minutes thirty seconds.

 

She
hastened to the knot of cops gathered near the chief’s car just as two vans and
a box truck arrived in a cloud of dust, bearing John Sawyer, the leader of the
Bear Claw Bomb Squad, along with his team of experts.

 

“He said
I had ten minutes,” she told the group. “We’ve got two-thirty left, give or
take. The park is cleared of people, but there’s a petting zoo in the livery
building and close to three hundred head of bison pastured right behind the
buildings.”

 

“Not much
we can do about that now,” Chief Parry said pragmatically, but his grizzled,
careworn face settled into deeper lines at the prospect of bloodshed, human or
otherwise. When Sawyer joined the group, the chief quickly updated him. The two
put their heads together to rough out a plan, which gave Maya a moment to
glance at the others.

 

Alissa’s
honey-blond hair was tied back in a ponytail and stuffed under a navy BCCPD
ball cap, while Cassie’s straight, nearly white-blond hair was shorter now, cut
near her shoulders. Tucker stood just behind Alissa and off to one side,
shoulders stiff and protective. A wolf guarding his mate. Knowing that the task
force had remained active even after the capture of Nevada Barnes three months
earlier, Maya was faintly surprised by the absence of Special Agent Seth
Varitek. Cassie’s nemesis-turned-lover had been loaned to the task force for
help with the evidence work, but perhaps he was off on another case.

 

In
Varitek’s place, a stranger stood at the edge of the group, part of the
conversation but apart from the center of it. He was maybe a shade over six
feet tall, lean but muscular. He wore navy pants and a crisp white shirt at
odds with the heavy boots on his feet. His close-cropped sandy hair was
standard military, as was his stiff-backed posture, and she sensed him studying
her from behind his dark sunglasses.

 

She felt
a shimmer of familiarity. A cold crawl moved across her shoulders and up her
neck to gather at the base of her skull.

 

Who was
this guy?

 

Her watch
beeped to indicate sixty seconds left in the countdown. Thirty.

 

In silent
accord, the cops turned toward the Chuckwagon Ranch as the seconds bled away.
There was no way they could search the entire place in time. They didn’t even
know where to begin.

 

As the
final few seconds ran down on the digital display, Chief Parry nodded to Maya.
“Good work getting everyone out. They’re safe, thanks to you.”

 

It was
the first time he’d spoken to her since he’d taken her badge. The recognition
warmed her, but she said, “I was just doing my job.”

 

Then the
time ran out. Her watch beeped the end of the promised ten minutes. They braced
for an explosion.

 

Nothing
happened.

 

Seconds
ticked by. Then minutes. Still nothing.

 

Maya’s
brain sped up. Her thoughts quickened to a blur, but it was Sawyer who said,
“Think it’s another dud?”

 

During
the Museum Murder investigation, Cassie’s house had been rigged with a gas leak
and a detonator that hadn’t triggered. Sawyer later determined that it had
never been intended to blow. It’d been a fake, designed to confuse them. Scare
them.

 

Could
this be the same?

 

“It would
fit with the Mastermind’s pattern,” Maya said quietly. “Hell, there might not
even be a device. He probably got off on phoning in a threat and watching us
scramble.”

 

She told
herself not to be ashamed by the false alarm. There was no way she could have
known, no way she could have chanced ignoring the call.

 

But
still, she squirmed at the sidelong glances of her former coworkers and the
stranger in the dark glasses.

 

Sawyer
gestured to his team. “We’ll suit up and search the property to make sure.
It’ll take a few hours.”

 

“With all
due respect,” Maya said, “I’d suggest you check the vehicles first. The
tourists are pretty edgy to leave.”

 

“With all
due respect,” the chief said, “you should go with them. The media will be here
any minute. If they catch wind that you’re involved with this bomb scare, the
next thing we know, it’ll be splashed across the six o’clock news. Suspended
cop receives bomb tip. Film at eleven. Hell, they’ll want to know why you
received the call. Is it because you’re the last Forensics Department cop to be
targeted? Or maybe it’s completely unrelated. Maybe this is about the Henkes
trial next week. Lord knows, you’ve ticked off more than a few people with
that.”

 

His words
dug at Maya’s suspicions, at the places she hadn’t yet managed to armor. “That
would make it completely related,” she snapped. “Why do you think I was here in
the first place? Henkes is—”

 

“He’s
right,” Alissa interrupted, though her voice was laced with apology when she
said, “You should go. Leave your cell phone with us for analysis. Tucker and I
will swing by your place later to get a full statement.”

 

Ouch.
Maya fought the wince, crossed her arms and nodded tightly. “Of course. I’m
sorry.” She forced the words through a throat gone tight with resentment.

 

Was this
what she’d been reduced to? Waiting at home for her friends to drop by with a
crumb of information?

 

When
nobody argued, she swallowed the anger and pushed through the group. Her path
brought her between Alissa and the stranger.

 

Alissa
touched Maya’s arm and mouthed, “I’m sorry. We’ll talk later.”

 

The
stranger just looked down at her through his shaded lenses with an intensity
that set off warning bells.

 

Maya had
the wild, uncharacteristic urge to reach up and pull those glasses down so she
could see his eyes. But wild urges were self-destructive. She knew that much
from experience. So she sniffed and pushed past him, bumping his arm with hers
to let him know she wasn’t intimidated.

 

Damned if
he didn’t flinch.

 

 

 

THE FLASH
CAME THE MOMENT she touched him.

 

Blood.
Death. Violence. Heat. Thorne held himself rigid and weathered the sensations,
which were part memory, part anticipation. He gritted his teeth and forced
himself not to show the whiplash of mental flame, of pain.

 

Hell, he
thought when she was gone and the images faded, what was that?

 

It was a
stupid question. He knew precisely what it had been. But why here? Why now? It
had been years since his last vision, years since the doctors had assured him the
flashes were nothing more than random synapse firings, courtesy of the drugs
he’d been given during his captivity on Mason Falk’s mountain.

 

Years
since he’d blocked the images, which had often come too close to prescience for
his comfort.

 

He rubbed
the place on his arm that she’d touched, where the contact had arced through
the fabric of his shirt and punched him in the gut with the flash.

 

Or had
that been nothing more than memory of their brief history?

 

She
hadn’t recognized him. He shouldn’t have been surprised, given how much he’d
changed since his brief stint teaching at the High Top Bluff Police Academy.
His hair had been long then, and he’d been weak from the aftereffects of his
captivity. Twitchy from the post-traumatic stress. He’d taken his first drink
at ten each morning, and spaced five more whiskeys out through the day, staying
sober enough to teach his classes, buzzed enough to avoid the memories. The
visions.

 

He didn’t
remember much about the half year after his captivity, but he remembered her.
The moment he’d heard her name again after all these years, an image of her
face had sprung into his mind full-blown.

 

Now,
seeing her in person, he realized that she hadn’t changed a bit. She was still
tiny, with every piece of her perfectly proportioned, just as she’d been when
she’d taken his Advanced Criminal Psych class. Her dark hair was styled
differently, hanging to her shoulders now in soft waves, but the face below was
the same as he’d remembered, making him wonder whether the image in his mind
had been memory or something born of another power, one he’d fought to block
for nearly five years now.

 

He shoved
his hands in his pockets and turned to watch her make her way down to the
parking lot, shoulders tense beneath her blue short-sleeved shirt.

 

How could
she still look the same when he was so different?

 

A phone
rang, startling him with its strident digital peal.

 

“You take
it.” The chief tossed him Maya’s cell.

 

Thorne
caught it on the fly as it rang a second time. He struggled to refocus, to
bring his wayward brain back from places it had no business being. His voice
was gruff when he said, “Wouldn’t it be better to have one of the women answer
and pretend to be Dr. Cooper?”

 

Parry
shook his head. “He’ll know. During the other cases, he spliced a line into the
PD security cameras so he could watch us at headquarters. Same thing at the
museum when Barnes was captured. He’ll be watching somehow. You can bet on it.”

 

Accepting
that, Thorne flipped open the phone and punched it to speaker before he said,
“Hello?”

 

There was
a pause—a long, thin stretch of silence with absolutely nothing on the other
end.

 

“Hello?”
Thorne prompted again, aware of the others watching him.

 

There was
still no answer. Moments later, the call was disconnected.

 

Thorne
muttered a curse. “Nothing.” He shook his head and returned the phone to Chief
Parry, who had his own cell in his hand, perhaps to call in reinforcements at
any hint of a break in the case.

 

Parry
held Thorne’s eyes. “Nothing at all?”

 

Knowing
what the chief was asking, Thorne shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m a cop,
not a magician.”

 

Before
the chief could respond, Sawyer’s voice crackled from a nearby radio. “We’ve
done a quick scan and we haven’t found a thing.”

BOOK: Rapid Fire
5.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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