Oct 21 2013 11:00am
The Kincaid Family Christmas Reunion is threatened by murder …
ALL ROADS HOME
On his way home to San Diego, P.I. Patrick Kincaid takes a detour through San Francisco to check on the wellbeing of a family friend who’s mysteriously been unreachable. What he doesn’t expect is to be shot at before he can find out why attorney Elle Santana won’t ask the police for help in finding a missing girl. Soon, he’s on the run from both good guys and bad as he and Elle race to find the witness and take down a sweatshop run by a corrupt businessman with a penchant for violence.
LEAD TO DEAD ENDS
Newly sworn FBI Agent Lucy Kincaid can’t remember the last time she spent the holidays with her whole family, but getting home by December 25th is proving to be a bit of a problem. A blizzard shut down the airports and she and her boyfriend Sean Rogan are stuck in a Denver hotel … with a dead body. And if that wasn’t all, back in San Diego Colonel Kincaid ends up in the hospital, where an even greater danger awaits … a man with a vendetta who will kill anyone who gets in his way. This Christmas, the Kincaid family needs nothing less than a miracle to survive. And time is running out.
Get a sneak peek of Allison Brennan's latest Lucy Kincaid story, Cold Snap (available October 29, 2013) with an exclusive scene!
By the time they arrived back at Elle’s apartment, they were both tired and on edge. Elle had been ignoring calls from Sandy Chin and Patrick knew the situation was bad—if the child welfare chick pushed it, Kami would the subject of a bench warrant and Elle would be in trouble with the bar. He hoped that, since it was the wee hours of Sunday morning, they could find a way to smooth things over if they found Kami soon and child welfare could see that she was safe and sound.
atrick himself was torn about what to do. He understood Elle’s concern about a possible bad cop. He’d faced a few of them in his former career. His brother Connor was forced off the force when he testified against his corrupt partner. No one in uniform wanted to admit some in law enforcement were on the payroll of organized crime and drug lords. It was a constant battle, but Patrick also knew more cops were ethical than immoral.
Yet all it took was one bad cop in the right place and people died.
Patrick didn’t feel confident about the entire situation. If he were from San Francisco, if he knew the cops and the players, he would know who to go to. But he was operating blind; he didn’t have a contact and he wanted desperately to protect Elle—and find Kami.
While Elle listened to the recording Patrick had made at Lee’s business, Patrick scrambled up some eggs and cheese—about the only thing edible she had in her apartment. They ate and listened, then Elle listened a second time.
“There’s nothing here that says they’re selling people. Merchandise can be anything, including drugs.”
“But this is good—this proves they’re doing something illegal.”
“This proves nothing except that Lee and this woman are involved in a business arrangement. Everything they said could be construed as completely legitimate.”
“And they were meeting after midnight? Right.”
“A business meeting after hours isn’t a crime, Elle,” Patrick said. “What I’m more concerned with is the fact that they know what you’re doing. You’ve become a liability to them.”
She dismissed his comment. “He said I was an annoyance, not a problem.”
“They thought I was a cop.”
“Everyone thinks you’re a cop.”
“No, only Clark Grayson.”
“Don’t even go there.”
“He assumed I was a cop, and I didn’t correct him.”
“All the kids at the center who saw you—Lorenzo’s thugs—they—”
“No. I told them specifically that I wasn’t.”
“Maybe they didn’t believe you.”
“Elle,” he said, forcing his rising temper to stay buried.
“Why are you so willing to think I’m an idiot?”
“Kami is missing and all you can think about is that my good friend Clark is involved? He’s done nothing to make me think he’s a criminal, and he’s done a lot of good with these kids.”
“Do you know how human trafficking works?”
“Don’t talk to me like I’m stupid.”
“Elle, you keep saying that, and I haven’t been. I’ve given you the lead on this. I’ve helped against my better judgment. But Grayson is in the perfect position to help Lee find the right girls.”
“Don’t. Maybe—maybe—I can see Clark turning his back on Lorenzo’s drug network. Not being involved, but not stopping it. But kidnapping young women? No. There’s no reason. No.”
Elle was getting agitated and even more upset, and that was something Patrick did not want, but maybe that’s what it was going to take to convince her that maybe her friend was involved. If not directly involved, quietly complicit.
“Maybe Grayson got in over his head—”
Patrick tried another angle. “Human traffickers pick on girls who have no support system. Girls who have run away, are probably not even from the area, or if they are they have no adult who is looking for them. They want girls off the bus, so to speak, so that if they disappear no one is going to miss them. They drug them, imprison them, break them until they don’t fight anymore, then ship them out. Most go out of the country, but there are plenty of perverts in the U.S. who will pay for their own sex slave.”
Elle didn’t want to believe Patrick. She didn’t want to listen to him, especially about Clark. She and Clark had been friends since college. She saw him all the time. They went to the movies together, had coffee on the weekends; he’d always come when she needed help with a kid. He had infinite patience with homework, and she’d seen him dole out tough love to some of the rough teens who didn’t believe anyone cared. He’d helped more kids than she could count get their GEDs; if there was a chance they could make it in college, he helped them with the applications and paperwork. He pulled money from his own pocket for admissions fees and books.
People like that—generous with their time and money—didn’t abuse the same kids they were trying to help.
“You are wrong about Clark,” she whispered.
She was surprised Patrick didn’t continue to argue. “Okay,” she said.
She turned and faced the wall, not wanting to look at Patrick, not able to think about what might be happening to Kami right now. The compassion on Patrick’s face, so different from the hard edges when he confronted Ringo and the others. It was like there were two men in Patrick: the hard, angry cop and the kind, funny kid she’d known who’d dated her sister and played baseball.
But Patrick was right about one thing. People were cruel. She had seen what adults did to kids, what kids did to each other, and it tore her up inside. Parents and guardians who abused their kids, who hurt them emotionally and physically, who killed them, who didn’t care what happened to them, kicked them out on the street, made them suffer because their own lives weren’t what they’d planned.
“Elle,” Patrick said softly. “You care too much.”
“No one can care too much.”
“It’s tearing you up inside.”
“And you don’t care about these kids?” She turned to face him, searching his face for a connection, for understanding.
“I do,” he said. “Maybe it’s because I was a cop for so long, but I have a separate place for the pain. I get just as angry as you. My sister—Lucy—was brutally gang-raped on her high school graduation day, and I nearly died searching for the man who was responsible for setting it up.”
Elle had known Lucy had been attacked and that Patrick had been in a coma, but she hadn’t known any of the details, and it was so long ago and she’d already left San Diego by that time, she’d been in law school, worried about her own life and future. She hadn’t thought much about it, other than it was horrible.
She may have been wrong about Patrick. Maybe he did understand.
Patrick continued. “The pain I felt then is just as powerful now, and it forever changed me. But I have to keep it locked up or it would be unbearable. There was a time I couldn’t look at my sister without seeing what she had suffered. But I couldn’t continue to do that, for my own sanity and her own healing. Pain is black as revenge. It’s powerful and constantly trying to eat you up from the inside. If you don’t contain it, it will destroy you. Pain, guilt, anger … they feed on each other until they consume you. You need to care, but don’t turn it into darkness. Don’t turn it against what makes you so amazing.”
He stepped closer to her, and Elle didn’t think. She reached out and pulled Patrick to her, so hard her back hit the wall. She held his head to hers, kissed him hard, passion ripping through her body so that even if she wanted to stop, she wouldn’t. Elle was a physical person. She touched. She craved contact. She wanted Patrick and wanted him to want her, at least for tonight.
The kiss was everything she’d always thought it would be. Her teenage crush exploded into grown-up lust. She could lose herself with Patrick, and she wanted to be lost right now. She was overwhelmed, but his body cured her pain and fear, at least at this moment. And that was enough for her.
Patrick was shocked when the deep desire for Elle hit him all at once, and then he was kissing her back, hard against the wall, his hands on her face, as he recognized that their mutual attraction was mutual lust.
He pulled back, but Elle held tight.
“Don’t go,” she said. “I’ve had a crush on you since I was fourteen. I never thought—” She kissed him again, hard. Then she pulled back, her eyes melted chocolate, her face flushed, her chest rising and falling as her breathing sped up. She was the sexiest woman he’d ever seen.
“I never thought it would be as good as my fantasy, but if that kiss is any indication, sex with you will be better than anything I’ve imagined.”
He shouldn’t be doing this, not here, not when Elle was emotionally on edge. Her dark eyes drew him in, the energy that vibrated in her body breathed a love for living, a passion for life that he hadn’t seen in a long, long time. He wanted her.
“You had a crush on me?” he asked, trying to lighten the mood because he was quickly reaching the point of no return.
“Had, have, will have.” She leaned forward but her lips didn’t touch his. She whispered. “I want you. Do you want me?”
Patrick grabbed her wrists and held them on either side of her head, pinned against the wall, while his mouth devoured hers. Though he had her hands restrained, her body didn’t stop moving against him, stirring him up. He kissed her neck, the back of her ear, used his teeth to pull back her shirt so he could taste her shoulder.
His teeth skimmed her breasts through the thin T-shirt she wore and her breath hitched as she said his name.
He pulled back and smiled down at her. “You want me to stop?”
“No, you don’t want me to do this?” He kissed her. She grabbed at him, but he pulled back. “Or this?” He put his hands up her shirt, underneath her bra, and held her breasts. Teasing her was driving him as crazy as it was her.
She didn’t answer him, but curled her fingers around the top of his pants and pulled him close. Her hands went down his pants, rubbing his penis until all thought of teasing and game-playing went out the window. He groaned and pulled off her T-shirt, tossing it behind him, putting his hand down the front of her jeans. “Two can play that game,” he whispered in her ear as he slipped his fingers inside her panties and found her sweet spot.
Elle’s knees buckled as Patrick rubbed her, and there was no more waiting. She’d screw him up against this wall if she had to. She pulled at his shirt and he used his free hand to help her pull it over his head. She unclasped her bra and pressed her breasts against his hot chest. She was about to take off her pants when he pulled his hand out and picked her up.
“You can’t carry me,” she said.
Patrick had muscles that she hadn’t seen under his conservative clothes. Muscles sharp and well defined and perfectly capable of carrying her. He took her up the stairs with an ease that surprised and thrilled her.
He dropped her to her bed and she grinned. “Well, Patrick, it’s all or nothing.” She reached into her nightstand and pulled out a condom, mentally thanking herself that she had them. She tossed it at him.
He caught it and dropped his pants. “All,” he said.
Elle was happily lost for the rest of the night.
Copyright © 2013 by Allison Brennan.
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Cold Snap by Allison Brennan before its October 29 release:
Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eighteen novels and many short stories. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, she lives in Northern California with her husband Dan and their five children.