Just looking at the balding now-forty-year-old put a bad taste in my mouth. His mug shot from a petty theft six years ago looked like a photo from a story you’d see on the news about a child molester. I studied his face and every description of him as Mason and Chief argued over the fact that we wouldn’t be able to tell our families where we were going but would be able to keep some forms of contact with them. This was the weirdest form of protection I’d ever heard of. And I blamed Mason for all of it.

“We have jobs set up for you as bartenders at the two places his paper trail has led to in Austin, but other than that we have nothing on him. You have bank accounts set up with money you’ll need to set up an apartment we’ve already rented out for you.”

“We aren’t—” Mason said, but was quickly cut off.

“I know you don’t bartend, and so do the owners. They have been informed of the situation, but the staff hasn’t. Just try to blend in and find Camden. This is a college town, so we have to assume he’s looking for his next victim. You will check in with the Austin police department same as you would do here for undercover assignments; you will be on their payroll for now. You are now cousins, but the rest of the cover story will be up to the two of you to decide upon. As I said before, you cannot tell your family where you are moving to, only that you are going away on another undercover assignment. Now, get out of my office and get your asses to Texas.”

As soon as we were out in the hall, I turned my glare on Mason. “Texas? Really? Your mess-up has us moving to Texas?”

“You can’t put this shit on me, Kash. Juarez had us pegged and listed already; this has nothing to do with me punching him.”

“You know my mom is going to flip and try to figure out where we’re going.”

“Your mom?” he asked incredulously. “I just told my parents and little sister I’d be there for her graduation this weekend and now I won’t. And I won’t be able to give them a reason. You know my ma, she’ll go freakin’ ballistic.”

True. She would. As we made our way out of the building, I came up with our immediate plans and shared them when we hit the parking lot. “We each get one small bag. Essentials only. Leave the apartment looking like it always does. That way if the guys Juarez hired come looking for us, it’ll look like we’re still around. I’m having dinner with my parents, then we’ll leave at ten tonight. When we get home, I’ll go in first to make sure it’s all right. Then I’m gonna go put gas in my truck and pick up my bike from storage before I head to my parents’. I’ll let you know when I leave so you can go in after; that way we don’t look suspicious. Try to crash on your parents’ couch for a few hours at least before dinner; I want to drive as much as possible tonight.” Holding up the new Texas license plates that had been in my file, I sighed as I looked at my Florida plates. “I guess we’ll change these out sometime tomorrow. Keep them hidden for now.”

Mason stopped outside the door of his truck and looked at the ground, playing with his keys. “You telling them you’re going on assignment?”

Do I ever? “Nope.”


He nodded. “All right. Call you at ten when I get in my truck. I’ll have mine filled up too.”

“Later.” I climbed in my truck and placed the files and plates on the passenger seat. Taking a deep breath, I told myself it was just another assignment. Just like the last three. Clearing my mind, I started preparing myself to once again say good-bye to my parents without their realizing what I was doing.

I HOPPED OUT of my truck, and Mason did the same. “You got the keys and everything?” he asked as he stretched.

“Yep. I’m guessing it’s . . . this way? Twenty-one oh four. First floor, Chief? Really? That’s just asking to be broken into.”

Mason followed me to the second door on the left and we both stayed silent as I put my ear up against the door. No noise. Mason inspected the handle, said it looked clean and was still locked. We’d already discussed trying not to scare any of our neighbors, so we both had our guns in their holsters on our hips under our shirts. But with the hit and the fact that this apartment had been set up for us, it felt unnatural to go in unprepared.

With a look confirming that we were both ready, he unlocked and opened the door and I stepped in with Mason directly behind me. As soon as we were in, he shut the door silently and we both had our weapons drawn as we cleared the unit. Satisfied with our search, we reholstered and opened all the blinds in the dark apartment before heading out to grab our bags.

“Mason—what the fuck?” I slammed the door to my truck shut and slung my bag over my shoulder. “I said one bag each.”

He hefted a box out of the backseat of his truck and reached in for another. “Yeah, you also said the essentials.”

“What do you deem essential?” I walked quickly over and opened the top. “I told you to leave the apartment looking like we still lived there, dumbass! How is taking this looking like we still live there?” Folding the flaps over each other, I pushed the box with our Blu-ray player and all our Blu-rays aside and checked the next box. “Our Xbox is not essential!”

“Dude, how can you even say that? Of course it is.”

“Not when we’re on assignment,” I hissed.

“We’re supposed to look normal. And when aren’t we playing Xbox when on assignment? We killed Juarez and his boys in all our online tournaments.”

Okay. He had a point. We were always playing. “But still, Mason. If someone goes to our place and sees our Xbox, the controllers, games, and headsets gone, not to mention the hundred or so movies and Blu-ray player . . . you don’t think they’ll find that suspicious?”

“Well . . .” He stood up and raked a hand through his hair. “Whatever. They were essential.”

“God, I fucking hate you sometimes.”

He shrugged, then picked up his bag and one of the boxes. “You know you’d be bitching in a week if I’d left them. You’re welcome in advance.”

“Hey, boys.”

We turned to see a short, freaking gorgeous blonde in next to nothing standing there with a coy smile crossing her face.

“I’m Candice.” She bounced once on her toes and the bikini top she was wearing didn’t do much in the way of helping keep her girls in. “I take it you’re just moving in?”

“Thank the good Lord above,” Mason whispered next to me, and I huffed a laugh. “We are. I’m Mason. This is my cousin Logan.”

“Cousins? Wow.” Her eyes went wide and she dragged her teeth over her bottom lip as she stuck her chest out even farther. God, could this girl have been any more obvious? “Do you need any help moving in?”

I almost laughed. She was the size of a toothpick. “Uh, no. We’re good, this is all we have. Thanks anyway.”

Her brow furrowed as she took in the two small boxes and bags but quickly smoothed out. “So, you’re moving into the apartment directly across from ours. We’ll be neighbors.”

Oh, joy. I sucked on my lip ring and watched Mason walk right up next to her.

“Really now? Lucky me, unless . . . you said ‘ours.’ You aren’t living with your boyfriend or anything, are you?”

“No!” She slapped Mason’s arm and giggled. Actually. Freaking. Giggled. Like a damn toddler. “It’s me and Rachel, she’s my best friend. She’s not here right now, but I’m sure you’ll like her. All the guys do, she’s the pretty one.” She pouted and I’m pretty sure I did laugh then.

Good God. I’d only been around this girl for two minutes and already she was annoying me. I was a guy. I didn’t mind if you wanted to walk around in your bikini. But the way she continued to bounce and stick her chest out as she devoured us and fished for compliments was a sure way to get me to lose interest fast. Girls who had to try that hard were better fitted for Mason. Obviously. But shit, if Candice was like this, I couldn’t imagine how bad her friend was. I didn’t want to put up with this during an assignment; living across from them was going to be a nightmare. I didn’t like first-floor apartments anyway. I wondered if Chief would let us change.

Leaving them to blow smoke up each other’s asses, I walked back to our unit and dumped the box in the living room and the bag in one of the bedrooms. We needed to go shopping for beds and couches soon. But I was too damn tired for that after all the driving we’d done. When I walked back outside, Candice was practically leaning against Mason and he was eating it up. I shook my head and punched his shoulder as I passed them.

“Help me get my bike down.”

My Harley was my baby. Usually when we were on assignments, she went into storage, but not this time. I didn’t know how long we were gonna be in Texas, and I’d already gone long enough without her. So there was no way I was leaving her in Florida. Besides, Chief had left Texas plates for her too.

“Gonna go put gas in her,” I told Mason when we put the tailgate back up.

“All right. Candice wants the four of us to go out to dinner tonight. You game?”

With cheerleaders one and two? Fuck. “Sure. Not like we have food anyway.”

“Sweet. See you when you get back. Don’t get lost.”

“Okay, Mom.”


THE LAST FEW weeks had gone by in a blur. Finals had been easier than I’d hoped, and I’d gotten pretty decent grades in all of my classes. Blake hadn’t bothered me since that horrible weekend and Candice and I had moved into our apartment two weeks ago. She was starting cheer camp next week and couldn’t wait. I was excited for her, and for me. Because all I wanted was some time to myself. What had happened with Blake had shaken me more than I’d expected it to, and I was finding it difficult to move past it. It didn’t help that Candice still viewed him as her perfect older cousin who could do no wrong.

THE DAY AFTER Blake attacked me, I woke up late in the afternoon, and the first thing I noticed was the pain in my throat and lower body and stinging in my eyes. That morning came flooding back to me and my body instantly started shaking. Candice had been sitting at her desk, but when she heard me stir, she grabbed her drink and came to sit on my bed with me.

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