Dangerous Secrets Book 0.5
by RM Alexander Genre: Romantic Suspense
Failure isn't an option…
Ken Shepherd's witness is murdered, leaving him to want more than just to arrest the criminals and walk away. A career change to the Witness Security Program gives the opportunity to help people who made bad decisions find a second chance. But will high expectations lead to happiness or is death lurking around the corner? Never isn't as far as it seems in this action-packed prequel to the Dangerous Secrets series.
Rush hour. Why did it have to be rush hour?
Ken Shepherd groaned as he darted and zagged through the Denver traffic, horn blaring as he screeched by passing cars. Nearby drivers swerved in a panic as he tore past, but they didn't have a reason to be afraid. Specialized training taught him how to drive, and how to stay cool under pressure.
He zipped in between a gray sedan and navy van. No problem with the driving although he felt anything but cool. Instead, perspiration beaded his forehead as Ken checked the time. It'd been ten minutes since the call came through, and every passing second could be the difference between life and death for the witness.
How things got so out of control… Local patrol had been assigned to keep Nate Dunnican safe. If he died, someone would have to answer for the failure.
Ken's eyes narrowed, questions playing over in his mind. Why he got the call was a mystery, and how Nate got the private number a bigger one. Ken wasn't the man's attorney or his protector. As an FBI agent, Ken's job had been arresting Nate, bringing him in to face the charges. From there, Nate's case had been turned over to other agents who arranged for him to rat on his organized crime buddies. So why would he come back to Ken?
Ken's jaw set in a cold, hard line. It didn't matter. The call didn't bother him nearly as much as the fear in Nate's voice.
"I'm going to die," he had said, "I'll die if you don't come here now."
Something in the words screamed of truth: the desperate, raw kind that ripped at a man's core and stripped him bare. The chill clung to his bones and, though Ken knew he shouldn't care, no one would ignore that kind of terror.
Ken sped through the last red light, gritted his teeth, glanced at the clock again. Fifteen minutes since the call. Nate hadn't said if anyone else was in the house, or where the threat was coming from, but fifteen minutes was long if someone wanted to kill him. The turn of a dime, a single second, and the key witness would be dead. If he made it time, Ken thought, the plan was to get Nate through the night. After the trial, Nate would leave the city for good. Ken gripped the steering wheel. Agents thought the substantial risk of bringing him back to New York could be managed. Clearly, they were wrong.
A mixer truck barreled into the intersection and Ken tore at the wheel as he swerved and narrowly missed a collision. He grumbled and stomped the gas pedal as he glanced in the rearview mirror. The truck skidded to a stop behind him and avoided hitting another car by a fraction of an inch. Any other time, Ken would have stopped and checked on everyone, but there was no time for that now. Nate waited.
Ken pulled into the post-war neighborhood. For the most part, a quiet suburb with little crime. A decent place to hide a safe house where witnesses could feel a sense of security. But there were always exceptions to every rule, and Ken searched for hints of those exceptions as he raced past two blocks of homes.
The car jolted forward as Ken threw it into park in front of a tiny brick bungalow. He glanced around. No one on the streets, no apparent threat. He pulled the sidearm from his holster and stepped onto the sidewalk. The small brick home appeared quiet enough. Maybe Nate panicked with what he was about to do the next day in coming face-to-face with men who would rather he was dead than ever see the inside of a courtroom. It was a possibility.
Ken headed up the walkway, careful, gun in hand. His long legs took the two concrete steps in one stride to a small, open porch. Back against the brick exterior, Ken peeked through one window into a small living room furnished sparsely with a couple of lawn chairs and a small television. No people. He shimmied a few inches to another window. Empty dining room littered with clothes, garbage, no furniture, no people.
Ken knocked on the door, "FBI. Open the door." No answer. "Nate, open the door or I'm coming in."
He waited for an answer, then kicked open the door, the molding splintering from around the deadbolt.
Passing the two front rooms he viewed through the front windows, Ken rounded the corner into a galley kitchen as a gun fired. Nate Dunnican dropped to the floor at Ken's feet, gray matter and blood spraying the kitchen. Ken fell back behind the wall. "FBI, drop the weapon!"
Ken eased around the corner and met the even gaze of a man in his early twenties, far older and meaner in street years. Dressed in sagging jeans and a black shirt, he was nothing more than a street runner doing the dirty work for an organization he didn't understand. "Drop the weapon!"
The man responded with narrowed eyes and an icy grin, then raised the gun level with Ken's chest.
Ken opened fire and the man sunk to the floor with a vacant stare.
He raced to Nate's side. There was no reason to think the witness may be alive, but Ken knelt and pressed two fingers against the carotid artery. No pulse. He sunk to the floor next to the body and shook his head. The young man was dead. All hope for a better future stolen by a single bullet and a lifestyle the average American fought hard to bury under the carpet.
Sirens blared outside the home and Ken stood, backed away from the body and returned to the sparse living room. With hands in his pockets, Ken shook his head. He should have waited for backup. Not that additional man power would have saved Nate, but protocol was protocol for a reason. The boss was going to have a good firm slap on the wrist ready when he returned to the office.
He glanced down at Nate's body, and then at the man lying opposite of the witness. Two young lives, extinguished. Now the first responders would take over, sort through the why's and how's, and what happened next.
For his part, he'd go to court and testify the witness died. With Nate gone, the mafia would slink back into the shadows, pull more young, impressionable children into a life of guns and money and death. Trapped.
Ken provided the customary statement and left the house in time for the coroner to carry out two body bags.
A slow ride back to the office gave Ken a chance to think. Reflect. Nate Dunnican could have been better protected than the services provided by local police. Witness Security would have been a far better option, one no one ever brought to the table.
But, as he pulled into the U.S. Marshal parking lot, Ken's mind shifted from Nate to a decision he'd toyed with in the past. Investigating and arresting criminals was a challenge but not as fulfilling as he'd thought it would have been when he entered the bureau ten years earlier. He yearned to make a difference, to see witnesses like Nate Dunnican have a fighting chance to start over. To have better options.
Maybe it was time for a career change.
Dangerous Secrets Book 1
When everything is taken from you, all you have left is what comes next...
The perfect career became the perfect nightmare. Now the only solution is for Colton Paine to leave his life behind to enter the Witness Security Program. Though he has many regrets, abandoning Savana Wyler, just as she's entering remission from cancer—and before he has a chance to tell her he loves her—rips his heart out. But Colton will do whatever it takes to protect her, even leave forever.
Relocated to a tiny northern Washington tourist town, Colton fights to regain his footing in a new life constructed of lies. Haunted by thoughts of Savana, he breaks the rules and keeps track of her. When the same people who want him dead appear on Savana's news broadcasts, it becomes clear leaving wasn't the answer.
Convinced Savana is left unprotected, Colton abandons WitSec in a desperate attempt to save her. But did his impetuous actions endanger them both?
Tomorrow was never more uncertain.
Colton sat at the table with a pen in hand and glanced at the duffel bag waiting at the door. Precious time ticked away—if he was going to leave, every second mattered. The explosion minutes before ensured law enforcement would be banging on the door soon and, once they came, there would be no getting away.
With a heavy breath, he placed pen to the paper, and then lifted it off. Going home could mean death, but as he tapped the pen on the table, other options seemed limited. With a heavy breath, he quickly scribbled down the words he would leave behind.
I consider myself a smart man. Not brilliant. Not Ivy League, genius-scoring, Einstein-equal kind of smart, but, you know. Smart. I also consider myself a good man who admits to making mistakes. I became involved with the wrong people, was driven by the buck. And the biggest mistake I made was putting those I love in danger. That, and never telling her I loved her before it was too late. We do that, don't we? We never realize the importance of someone or something in our lives until that someone is gone. There's a reason that parable exists. And if you want me to be completely honest with you, I do have regrets. I regret ever meeting Red, ever seeing the dollar signs instead of the questions, or his reasons for coming to someone so freshly assigned to managing accounts. I regret my ego driving the bus instead of my head. But I don't regret anything as much as I regret not telling her I loved her. Just don't tell anyone else I said so.
Colton folded the paper in half and left it on the table, stared at it for a couple seconds with consideration. A chance existed that the wrong person would find the note. There was some risk in leaving the note behind.
Good thing he was a gambling man.
He hurried to the door, snatched the bag from the floor, and ran outside to the canoe.
RM Alexander is an author of romantic suspense. With driven characters who suffer the worst kinds of betrayals, RM's novels promise a good read with unexpected twists and turns.
When she's not writing, RM spends time with her husband and two children. She loves to travel, especially to Walt Disney World, and is addicted to orange juice and Ghiradelli chocolate. She is often found on Twitter and Facebook chatting with other authors and readers.