Candice’s voice.

Blake was off the bed and putting himself back in his shorts in seconds while I wildly tried to take in as much oxygen as possible. He roughly pulled my pants up just as the key could be heard in the lock and took the few steps toward the door to flip the light on before coming back to my side. When the door opened, Blake was standing at the side of my bed looking down at me. The light brush of his fingers over my throat and his solid glare were clearly a warning. But I was still on the verge of fainting, now from trying too roughly to inhale.

Candice said good-bye to whomever she’d been talking to as she shut the door. “Oh, hey, cuz! I didn’t mean to—” Blake turned to look at her and Candice’s eyes went wide when she saw me. “Oh my God, Rachel, are you okay?!”

She rushed over to me, but Blake touched her arm and pulled her away. “She was attacked by a couple guys outside Starbucks tonight. She called me about half an hour ago. She’s in shock but she’ll be okay.”

“What?!” Candice screamed, and tears instantly filled her eyes.

What? No. No, no, no. My head shook back and forth as I choked on a sob and my breathing got even faster and heavier. I tried to tell her that was wrong, that he was lying, but all that came out was the ragged sound of my breathing.

I could see Candice and Blake’s mouths moving, but I couldn’t hear anything else. Everything tilted to the side and the blackness came back full force. I reached out for Candice but missed her arm as the dark claimed me.



“DO YOU KNOW what we’re being pulled in for?”

I glanced over at Mason like he’d missed the massive pink elephant in the room. “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe if you hadn’t punched Juarez in the face . . .” I trailed off.


“That little piece of shit spit on me with his meth saliva! You expect me to let that go?”

“Not like it was the first time you’ve been spit on.”

“He’d just taken a hit not even ten minutes before!”

“Mason.” I shook my head as I held my badge up so we could get into the locked doors. “The dude was so strung out he couldn’t stay standing and he was in cuffs.” As soon as we were in the door, I smiled at the ladies behind the plate-glass windows and continued back to Chief’s office. “Not to mention the guy is so thin he gives a new meaning to the phrase skin and bones and you look like you’re on steroids.”

“Whatever, for what we put up with from him and his crew for the last six months, he deserved it.”

“And that’s probably why we’re here. Swear to God, Mase. If you get me put behind a desk for this shit, I’ll hate you for life.”

He snorted nonchalantly, but I could tell the thought of being a desk bitch instead of on the streets terrified him. “You can’t hate me for more than a day. Who would feed you?”

“Oh, I’d still make you feed me. I’d just hate you.” We got to Chief’s door and we both stopped to collect ourselves. I looked over at my best friend and work partner and clapped his shoulder. “Ready to see what your latest fuckup has gotten us?”

“Fuck you, Kash,” he sneered, but he was fighting a smile.

Mason and I had met while going through the police academy, and for some genius—or more likely stupid—reason they’d partnered us not long after we’d both gotten hired on at Tampa Bay Police Department. We had barely gotten out of our time with our different field-training officers and been put on patrol before we were partnered up and moved to a whole new scene of TBPD: the undercover narcotics division. And I promise you, it’s not as exciting as it sounds or looks on TV.

With my half sleeves of tattoos, and with Mason looking like a ’roided-out freak, Chief thought we’d be perfect for it. And though we liked to complain about it, I could say for both of us that we loved what we did. Not that what we did was something either of our families were okay with, but it was our job, and one that a lot of cops didn’t want. In the last three and a half years of being undercover, we’d successfully taken down three different major suppliers in the Tampa Bay area. Mason and I didn’t break down doors or run in with the SWAT team to do drug busts. We were the ones who had to be manhandled and cuffed and put in the back of cars until everyone involved in that drug ring was hauled away. Only then were we let out and able to lead the rest of the officers to where all the goods and money were. That way our cover was never blown.

Until now.

We’d never gotten in with a crew faster than we did with Juarez’s, and we’d also never taken one down as fast. But as soon as our guys burst in, we realized why. We’d never fooled Juarez for a second and his boys had guns drawn on Mason and me the minute the door flew open. Thank God they’d all just taken hits and weren’t coherent enough to get shots off before they were taken down, which led to Juarez spitting in Mason’s face and Mason breaking his nose in return. And that leads us to now.

Mason knocked, and after a quick murmur from the other side of the door, he let us in. Once we were seated, I knew our days infiltrating drug dealers were over. The look on Chief’s face said it all.

“He was cuffed, Gates.” Chief spoke low to Mason, but Mason knew better than to reply yet. “Man was cuffed, and you punched him in the face. You have ruined not only your undercover career but Ryan’s as well.” He gestured toward me. “Wanna tell me your side of the story, gentlemen?”

“Cover was already blown. They knew; they all had guns pointed at our heads the minute the narcotics team busted down the door,” Mason answered, and I nodded my agreement. My heart still raced when I thought about that moment.

Our jobs meant living with scum and dealing with drugs, lots of money, and idiots who had no idea how to handle weapons on a daily basis. But yesterday morning had been the first time in our three different takedowns that I was scared for my life. Our guys knew not to ever hurt Mason or myself, no matter what was going down. And we knew how to stay out of the way and help them out if a bust resulted in gunfire. But to have five guns drawn on you by meth heads was another thing all in itself.

“So, because your cover was blown, you felt it appropriate to punch him. He’s lawyered up and is going for police brutality, Gates.”

Mason snorted. “Please.” But he quickly snapped his mouth shut when he saw Chief’s look.

The room stayed tense as we all stared at each other in silence for what felt like hours. Finally, Chief sighed and handed two files to each of us. “Look, we’ll take care of the police-brutality thing, but I don’t think it should come as a shock to you that you are out of the undercover narcotics division.”

Do. Not. Say. Desk.

“But since Juarez already had his suspicions of the two of you, he had guys lined up in case he was taken down. And we just caught wind of it this morning. There’s a hit out on both of you.”

“What the fuck?” I whispered mostly to myself as I looked through the top file. There were new credit cards, a driver’s license . . . everything I would need to start over. Except the name didn’t say Logan Kash Ryan. And the state sure as shit wasn’t Florida. In its place was Logan Kash Hendricks. Texas. I glanced over at Mason, who was now scrambling to see what was in his file, before looking at Chief. “Chief, for the last three and a half years we’ve lived—almost the entire time—with thugs, dealers, and druggies. When don’t we have someone wanting us dead?”

“This is a serious hit. What we’re doing isn’t exactly witness protection. But it’s getting you away from here until things calm down, and before you say anything”—he held his hand up and I snapped my mouth shut—“you’ll still be working. Just not with narcotics. You’ll still be undercover.” He grabbed both files that had been under the ones with our new identities and opened them. “Do you remember the college girl who went missing and was found tortured to death in that basement about two years ago?”

I skimmed quickly over the file and newspaper clippings. We’d been neck-deep in another operation at the time and hadn’t been paying much attention to the news. But that had been huge. She’d been the third girl in what they were now calling the Carnation Murders. All the girls had looked alike and each had been found tortured, murdered, and with one white-and-pink carnation lying on her chest. The last girl had been right in our backyard.

“A few of our detectives have found some things other than physical appearance, type of torture, and the flower that are starting to link all of them together. Whether we’re about to go on a wild-goose chase or not, we don’t know. But they’ve been studying this trail for a few months now and we just got the okay to send in some of our guys.”

“All right. And . . . ?”

“And we’re sending the two of you.”

Glancing down at my new ID, I peeked at Mason’s file and saw that he had a Texas driver’s license with the last name Hendricks as well. “I’m sorry. Let me see if I’m understanding all this. You’re getting us away from a hit that may or may not be out for us, we have Texas IDs all of a sudden, and you’re sending us somewhere. You’re sending us to cowboy country?!”

“You always were a quick one, Ryan,” Chief said, deadpan. “Or should I say, Hendricks.”

“If you’ve followed this trail to Texas then it’s out of our jurisdiction. Let Texas law enforcement deal with it.”

“Austin detectives have already been sent all of the information we’ve collected on this James Camden guy, and they’re expecting you on Monday.”


Chief continued like we hadn’t spoken. “Mind you, there’s never been an actual suspect that has had any credibility, and when the victims’ family and friends were shown a picture of James Camden, no one had ever seen him before. And no one can actually track Camden down, so it’s possible his identity has been stolen.”

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