Hidden Prey by Cheyenne McCrey

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Blurb:

Danger

Tori Cox, a talented and sought-after musician, heads back to her roots to a small southwest town in Arizona as she flees an abusive relationship. When she arrives she witnesses the execution of a federal agent by the head of the Jimenez Cartel. The drug cartel kingpin orders his men to kill Tori before she can testify.

Desire

Landon Walker, a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security, rescues Tori from members of one of the most ruthless cartels in the world. He sets out to protect her, but soon protecting her isn’t enough. The fire between them makes him want her in a way that he’s never wanted another woman, despite his wounded heart.

Death

Diego Montego Jimenez will do everything in his power to kill Tori, the young American woman, who threatens his business and family. No one lives to testify against the Jimenez Cartel.

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and sexual assault.

Publisher’s Note: This book has been previously released elsewhere. It has been revised and re-edited for re-release with Totally Bound Publishing.

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Hidden Prey is the first in a new series by Cheyenne McCrey about a circle of friends and the spine-tingling suspense they all go through while finding love. I have to say that this kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time and there was no way I put this book down. I’m guessing you won’t either.

Landon Walker lost his fiancée 14 years ago and still blames himself. He works as a federal agent and likes his job. He’s visiting family when a woman comes running out of nowhere, terrified, with someone chasing her. He decides to help.

Tori Cox is a musician on the run from an abusive ex. But she sees something she shouldn’t and becomes a target. Landon saves her, but while on the run, secrets and lies could mean danger, especially for Tori.

An action packed, sexy love story that you’ll just suck up! A wonderful beginning to this series, and I can’t wait for the rest!

5 Sexy Suspenseful Stars!

5starreview

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Excerpt:

The nightmare had been so damned real. Landon Walker sat on the edge of his bed, his eyes bleary and his head aching like a mother. He had to stop trying to find peace at the bottom of a bottle of Jack D, because it only made him feel like hell the next morning. Didn’t matter what he did, because he didn’t think he’d ever have peace again.

His dream had replayed every last detail of that night when a hit-and-run drunk driver had sideswiped Landon’s motorcycle, sending Stacy flying and pinning him beneath the wreckage. A helmet and protective gear hadn’t been enough to save her. After he’d managed to get out from beneath the motorcycle, he’d crawled to her, dragging his shattered leg. He could still feel her broken body in his arms.

He ran his hand down his face, the stubble and scar along one cheekbone rough against his callused palm. Fourteen months to the day Stacy had died in the accident, an accident that had been his fault.

Would he ever stop marking time by the date of his fiancée’s death?

He turned his head to look at the alarm clock and winced from the pain the sudden movement caused. Damn. He’d be late if he didn’t get his ass out of bed. He didn’t work some punch-the-clock forty-hour workweek. But Mondays still sucked.

Early Monday mornings he used to play basketball with a bunch of guys who were in law enforcement. On Friday nights, those who weren’t working usually played poker. But after the accident, Landon had pulled away from everything but his job. He still worked out—sometimes excessively—in the fitness room in his home. Not only to stay fit but because the strenuous activity burned off excess anger at himself and sometimes at the world.

With his head still aching, he stepped under ice-cold water in the shower in an attempt to wake up. He braced his hand against the smooth white tiles, his head lowered, goosebumps prickling his skin when he let the water flow over him. He kept the water cold as he washed his hair and soaped his body. When he’d finished, he shut off the water and shook his head, droplets flying before he toweled himself off.

The cold shower had done its job and he felt marginally better by the time he pushed open the shower stall’s glass door. He might just make it through today after all. Last month had been the first month he hadn’t taken flowers to Stacy’s grave. For the first year, he’d visited once a month on the date of her death, but after a year, he’d made the decision to move on to save his sanity. Damned if he knew how.

After he’d dressed in jeans and a faded blue T-shirt, he jammed his Colt .45 into its holster on his belt. He slipped on a white overshirt to cover his weapon then stood in his kitchen and wolfed down a breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs. He stuck the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and headed out.

A light morning breeze slid over his skin when he climbed into his charcoal-gray Ford Explorer. He stuffed his key into the ignition and started the vehicle. He headed down the dirt road leaving his ranch and continued onto the paved road that would take him to Douglas.

He had just enough time to make it to the office and take care of a few things prior to heading to Bisbee to meet with his man who’d been working deep undercover. He’d make the twenty-five-mile drive from his ranch in Sulfur Springs Valley to Douglas and to DHS’s ICE office in twenty minutes.

Landon had served as a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency for eleven years now and had given himself completely to his career since Stacy’s death. He’d always been married to the job and he regretted not being there for Stacy more. Now he lived and breathed his work. What the hell else did he have? The job would take his soul one day and he didn’t plan to fight it.

At the office, he spent some time going over aspects of the case he’d been working for months. The Jimenez Cartel’s tentacles reached far from Mexico, into Arizona. When they chopped off one arm, another grew to replace it. The cartel had to be cut off at its head. No other way would stop or even slow the activities of the organization that dealt in drugs, death, destruction.

They had to get to Diego Montego Jimenez, known as El Demonio to everyone around him. The Demon. The nickname for the bastard fit him like a glove.

Landon headed out of the office in the early afternoon. On his way out, he saw Dylan Curtis, another DHS special agent and one of Landon’s good friends. At six-three, Dylan stood a good two inches taller than Landon. He wore a Stetson over his dark hair and his ice-blue eyes were appraising as always.

Dylan paused in front of the entrance. Landon stopped too. “When are you going to join the boys for basketball again?” Dylan mimed going up for a shot. “Had some good games this morning. You need to show up and get your ass back in it.”

Landon shrugged. He probably should—one more step toward returning to his life as it had been before.

“This leg isn’t what it used to be.” Landon rubbed his leg that had been shattered in the accident.

“Who gives a shit?” Dylan questioned. “Monday mornings, same time, same place as it’s always been. Bring the bum leg.”

Landon nodded. “I just might be there next Monday.”

“You’d better or I’m gonna kick your ass.” Dylan hooked his thumbs in his belt loops. “And don’t forget poker this Friday night. It’s time you rejoined the living and you might as well go all in.”

Landon shook his head. “Maybe.”

“Maybe, my ass.” Dylan switched subjects as he asked, “On your way to meet Miguel?”

“Yep.” Landon nodded. “Any news on the delivery?”

“I’m hoping Miguel can give you a concrete time.” Dylan frowned. “All I have is what you do—it’s tomorrow, but no time or location.”

“I’m sure Miguel has it for us.” Landon reached for the door handle. “I’ll call you as soon as I get intel from him.”

Dylan gave a nod. “Tell the bastard hello for me.”

“Will do.” Landon pushed open the door and walked into the sunny afternoon toward his SUV before heading to Bisbee, a once-booming town nestled in the Mule Mountains.

His thoughts drifted like the occasional puffs of cottony clouds scattered across the brilliant blue summer sky. The grass along Highway 80 waved in the stiff breeze as he drove by. An unusual amount of rain had made everything greener than usual.

Once he reached the east-side town limits, he guided his vehicle around what the locals had called the traffic circle for decades. The roundabout let him out onto the road that took him on to Old Bisbee after he passed the Lavender Pit and the Copper Queen Mine. He headed to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church to meet with Miguel.

A replica of a church in Ireland, St. Pat’s had perched two hundred feet above the floor of Tombstone Canyon for nearly a century. Stained glass windows and marble filled the towering terracotta building. Beneath the soaring ceilings, Jesus Christ on the cross peered down on the congregation, as did the statues of the Virgin Mary and St. Patrick behind the altar.

The icons seemed to look down on him, judging him for his absence from the Church and for his abandonment of God. Hell, God had abandoned both him and Stacy when He’d let her die.

The cool, dim interior of the church smelled of incense and candlewax. The heavy double doors closed behind him as he passed the shallow well of holy water. He did not dip his fingers in the water or make the sign of the cross. He slid into the second to last pew in the back on the far right, so he could see the doors by turning his head slightly.

A tiny woman in black, wearing a white lace mantilla, kneeled in one pew, and an older man leaned against the back of the bench seat in another. The old man’s head tilted up so he could stare at the effigy of Christ. The man had a broken look about him, as if this church served as the only solace he would find in this world.

Landon mentally shook his head. Raised Catholic, he had pushed away from the Church once he’d gotten to see what a cruel world it could be. How could a good and just God allow evil men to kill or abuse women and children? Or to force them to serve as sex slaves? How had He allowed someone as sweet and good as Stacy to die as she had? Landon would have given his own life for hers.

Clenching his teeth, he took in the padded wood kneeler at his feet. The kneeler, currently in its upright position, would be lowered by parishioners to kneel on during service or while praying when they came into the church to worship.

For one wild moment he thought about getting down on his own knees and praying to a God he didn’t think he believed in any longer. He blew out a breath and ran his finger along a hymnal in the wooden rack in front of him. No, his days of praying were long gone.

He pulled himself out of his thoughts and concentrated on the moment. He checked the time on his cell phone and saw he had arrived a few minutes early. He hoped Miguel wouldn’t be late. A devout Catholic, Miguel liked to meet at St. Pat’s where he felt closer to God.

Sometimes, as Landon left, Miguel would head to the confessionals at the front right. Landon had worked undercover many times and had been forced to commit sins he wished could be absolved by confessing to a priest.

Landon let his gaze drift over the almost empty pews, noting everything. From the moment he’d arrived, he’d been keenly aware of his surroundings and the double doors behind him. He didn’t like having his back to the doors, even though he could casually glance in that direction with his side vision. But if he wasn’t safe inside St. Pat’s, he didn’t know where he would be.

The old man got up from his seat and went to the front of the church, to the left of the altar, and lit one candle among rows of little red jarred candles. Some were lit but most were dark. Landon stared at the flickering candlelight for a moment, remembering himself as just a little boy. In the church he’d grown up in, he’d lit a candle and prayed to God with all he had to save his grandfather who’d been dying from cancer. The first disappointment of many to come, by a God who never seemed to answer his prayers.

The old man stood in front of the candles for a long moment before turning and walking beneath an archway between the walls and thick marble columns. Out of the corner of his eye, Landon watched the man leave, a large swathe of sunlight spilling into the church as he pushed one of the doors open. Then the heavy door eased back into place, leaving it dim again.

Landon checked his cell phone. Late. Miguel, normally punctual to the minute, had yet to arrive. Landon didn’t let his mind wander beyond his objective. If he did, he’d spend time dwelling on things that couldn’t be changed.

Time passed and Landon’s gut tightened. Even though Miguel hadn’t made it yet, Landon knew he shouldn’t be concerned. After all, he’d forged his way deep into the Jimenez Cartel. When El Demonio said, “Jump”, Miguel didn’t ask how high. He did what he had to do to remain embedded in the organization.

Landon’s phone vibrated a couple of times and he read the two short text messages then returned his phone to its holster on his belt. His mother, asking if he would be able to make it for Sunday dinner. One of his sisters, telling him not to let their mother down and to show up on Sundays more often.

He blew out his breath. His family had been pushing him for the past year to make it to get-togethers. He’d drawn away once Stacy had died. Maybe he’d grieved long enough. Knowing he should let go of the past and move on didn’t mean it would be easy.

Basketball and Sunday dinners would be a start.

Two more parishioners came in and out of the sanctum. The woman in the mantilla hadn’t moved since Landon had entered the church. She kept her head bowed in prayer and her white lace mantilla shadowed her face.

More time passed and the two parishioners who had come in thirty minutes prior lit candles before leaving. Landon checked his cell phone yet again and saw he’d been waiting for nearly an hour. The woman in the mantilla and Landon were now the only people left in the church.

Frowning, he got up from his pew and made his way outside, blinking when he walked into the late-afternoon sunlight. He stood at the top of the steps that went down on either side of him.

The fact that Miguel hadn’t shown up wasn’t anything to be too concerned about. Any number of things could have come up. Miguel wouldn’t call or text anyone at DHS, to ensure nothing could be found to tie him to law enforcement.

A hand with a vise-like grip clamped around Landon’s left wrist.

He went for his Colt instinctively as he pivoted before stopping abruptly.

It was the tiny veiled woman who had been in the church since he’d arrived.

He released his grip on the butt of his handgun and left it in its holster. How the hell had she snuck up on him?

The stooped, elderly Hispanic woman pushed the mantilla away from her cheeks and his gaze met small dark eyes nearly lost in a sea of wrinkles. She looked well over a hundred years old, older than his grandmother. Her face reminded him of a withered apple, but her eyes were bright and knowing.

“You will die if you tell her the truth. If you don’t tell her, she will die.” The woman spoke in a low, tremulous voice, in broken English, with a heavy Hispanic accent.

Despite the fact that he didn’t believe in crap like premonitions, chills rolled over Landon’s skin and he broke out in goosebumps for the second time that morning. He tried to jerk his arm away from the woman’s grip but she wouldn’t let him go and he didn’t want to inadvertently hurt her.

“Remember my words.” She released his arm and turned away.

While remaining completely aware of his surroundings, he watched her as she held on to the handrail and slowly walked down the steps. Her words echoed in his head no matter how he tried to force them out.

‘You will die if you tell her the truth. If you don’t tell her, she will die.’

He shook his head and a natural-born instinct to help the elderly had him realizing he should be helping the old woman down the stairs. But she’d already reached the last step when he came to his senses.

In a town where most houses were built on mountainsides, Landon wondered how someone so old and frail could navigate her way around the steep inclines that could give San Francisco a run for its money.

A black Mercedes pulled up in front of the church, answering his question. A newer model vehicle, it had dark-tinted windows and looked as if the owner had washed and waxed it this morning. A Hispanic man of about thirty, wearing a bright white button-up shirt and dark slacks, climbed out of the driver’s side and held the back passenger-side door open. He assisted the elderly woman as she slid into the vehicle and closed the door behind her.

The Mercedes was out of place in the small town of Bisbee, Arizona—Landon had never seen a vehicle matching it any of the times he’d been in town. He wondered who the woman was and if she owned the over-seventy-thousand-dollar car in a place where some houses could be bought for close to the same price.

He mentally noted the license plate number and jogged down the steps, heading to his Explorer. When he reached the vehicle, he climbed in and grabbed the electronic tablet he used for work, pulled up the app he needed, then put the plate number into the database.

The car was registered to a Juanita Salcido at an address farther up Tombstone Canyon. He saved the data. Maybe he didn’t need to, but the whole experience had been odd enough that he intended to hold on to the information.

He set down the tablet as he thought about Miguel. Likely he’d been held up, the situation being one where the agent didn’t have the ability or freedom to call without compromising himself and his cover.

A gut-deep sensation twisted Landon’s insides and he gritted his teeth. Like a blow to the solar plexus, a bad feeling struck him hard.

A real bad feeling.

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