*fair warning* There are some spoilers here if you haven’t read Night is Darkest yet!
Isabella Buchanan Carrington has lived a life of luxury. Or at least it would seem that way to the outside world. Youth, beauty and a fairytale marriage to the wealthiest man in the state mean nothing when her husband violates her, forcing her to leave him. Only he isn’t about to let go that easy. On the run, Isabella has nowhere to turn. Who can protect her from a man with infinite resources and a mean streak a mile wide?
James “Razor” Reoser spent the long winter months rehabbing after several bullets cut him down in the line of duty. He’s learned his lesson about innocent-looking women. They’re never to be trusted. When the department assigns him one last undercover operation—posing as a hometown hero on a local Pro-Am dance competition—he’s determined to resist the allure of his sexy partner and regain the respect of the other men in blue.
For Isabella, staying in the limelight is one way to keep from ending up dead. But is she running from dire straits or just making it look that way to save her pretty ass? Razor’s career depends on him being able to hone his dulled instincts and discover the truth.
Both their lives depend on him getting his edge back.
Chief Leigh only chuckled.
“For Christ’s sake! I’m a cop, not some twinkle-toed ballroom dancer.” Razor gawked in horror when his superior officers didn’t flinch. They were dead serious.
“Listen, kid. You don’t have a lot of options these days. Your cover is blown. We can’t use your baby-face to bust up drug rings in the schools anymore. Not since you’ve been plastered all over the news this last year.”
No one mentioned the reason why. They pitied him too much to talk about how fucking stupid he’d been—how he’d let his dick lead the way straight to hell.
After five months in rehab, thanks to the two bullets he’d caught with his chest and the one that had skimmed his thigh, James “Razor” Reoser had reported back to duty. Only to find the department planned to farm him out on some feel-good publicity stunt as a hometown hero. Some damned hero. Maybe they didn’t trust him with real police work anymore.
He wouldn’t blame them.
But why were Mason Clark and Tyler Lambert in on this meeting? They’d been at the core of the fiasco that had landed his ass in the hospital for months. Thank God his fuck-ups hadn’t cost them, or their woman, their lives in the end. He never could have survived that.
“They’re screwing with you, Razor.” Ty broke the tension, letting him off the hook. “There’s more here than some bullshit assignment.”
The Chief nodded. “If you think you’re up to it…”
“I am.” He didn’t need the man to finish.
“I have one last undercover op for you.” His boss retrieved a manila folder from his desk and handed it over. “You’ve heard about Mrs. Isabella Buchanan Carrington leaving her husband?”
“Uh… yeah.” Razor scrubbed his hand through his hair as he tried to recall the society news. Not exactly his usual cuppa. In fact, he fast-forwarded through those stories to get to the local sports scores on his DVR most nights. But the second the captivating woman’s picture had flashed on his screen a few days ago, her interview had fascinated him. Or at least he’d studied her luscious mouth as she recounted her sob story.
Disgust had rolled through his gut when his cock got hard for the first time AG—after Gina. All for a damsel in distress who’d probably staged the whole drama to get some cash out of the sucker she’d married while she schemed to run away to Mexico with the pool boy.
“She’ll be your partner on the show.”
His gut cramped.
“Is this some kind of sick test? To see if I can keep my hands to myself?” Razor hated that they might think him incapable of remaining impartial. More, he feared they were right.
“That’s not very reassuring,” he grumbled.
“Let’s say there are advocates in the administration for your early retirement.”
“Fuck! I’m twenty-four, sir. I’ll be the only retired rookie in history.” Just when he thought things couldn’t get any more miserable. Now he’d have unemployed to add to crippled and gullible.
“It’s not going to come to that. You need to get your edge back, that’s all.” Mason clapped his giant hand onto Razor’s slighter shoulder. He always felt like a freaking hobbit compared to the hulking man. “You’ve got this. Ty and I will have your back.”
“Tyler, brief him.” The chief monitored the city playing out on the other side of his seventh story window.
“Isabella Buchanan Carrington. Age, twenty-two. Height, five-foot-two. Blond, gorgeous sky blue eyes, I’m guessing 32C…”
“Ty!” Mason wasn’t in the mood to fuck around.
Razor appreciated it. Regaling the movie-star looks of his new mark couldn’t possibly help.
“Yeah, yeah. She comes from money. Lots of money. Married more money. We’ve been after Malcolm Carrington for years but no luck on proving he’s supplementing his inheritance with dirty deeds. Yet, his tastes run to more expensive shit than he should be able to afford. And, believe me, that’s saying something. He’s been involved in Buchanan business for years. The day Isabella turned eighteen they were spotted together at The Summit. The gossip columns billed them the perfect couple despite the fact that he’s nearly fifteen years older than her.”
Razor couldn’t imagine that kind of lifestyle. Hell, he’d have to save for the next five years to have an appetizer at the swank restaurant. He supposed that’s how you snagged the hottest, richest lady in the state. Hell, maybe the country.
“When she turned nineteen, Carrington proposed in front of a quaint gathering of five hundred guests at the country club both he and pops belong to. They were engaged for a year and married the day before her twentieth birthday.”
“This guy was on a schedule, huh?” Razor blew out a sigh.
“Seems like it. Didn’t hurt that she was set to inherit some of her mother’s cash either, I bet.” Mason’s disgust for Carrington rang through the room.
“Seems when her mother died in an accident at their mansion, a clause in her will left her share of the wealth to the daughter. Unless she were to marry into a family better off than hers—hard to conceive of—in which case old man Buchanan could keep the dough to support himself in retirement. Like the bastard needs it.
“Lambert, that’s enough.” The chief beat them at politics every time. One reason he’d made the grade and they never would—never wanted to.
“What kind of douche takes from his own kid, even if he’s allowed?”
“So the babe gave it all up for her husband. Who, by the way, was spotted by one of our watchers with another woman in the garden at his own fucking multi-million dollar reception paid for courtesy of daddy’s new stash I’m sure.”
“And she fell for all this?” Razor could have kicked his own ass when the three other men in the room stared at him without uttering a single word.
When he thought the supercharged atmosphere might spontaneously combust, the chief said, quietly, “Malcolm could be an expert con man. What chance would a sheltered girl have against a shark like him?”
“It looks like she might be wising up now.” Mason added.
“Or she was in on it from the beginning.” Razor scrubbed a hand through his hair and tried to ignore the subtext. “So why do we care? Yeah, maybe they shat on her one time too many and she decided she wants out, maybe wants her nest egg back, but there’s nothing criminal here. Just greed. All of their greed.”
“On the surface, you’re right.” Tyler snatched the briefing. “But lately we’ve been picking up some chatter. The Carrington-Buchanan holdings are vast. They’re into lots of legitimate businesses and a few that skirt the line. This time they may have gone too far. Ever hear of Black Lily?”
Razor paused. Should he admit that? In front of his boss? Who already had reason to doubt his judgment when it came to sex? Fuck it. No sense in lying now. “Uh… yeah. I know what it is.”
“Ever been there?” Mason arched an eyebrow.
“Maybe once or twice.”
“Malcolm Carrington is the proud owner of the establishment. On paper. Lots of people say Buchanan has controlling interest but doesn’t want the trail leading in his direction.” Tyler winked at him. “Again, nothing illegal about people enjoying consensual BDSM scenes in a private club. However, we’ve heard rumors of something… darker going on in the reserved rooms.”
“What do you mean? Prostitution?” He’d heard whispers the last time he’d visited—forbidden offers—but it’d been a while.
“Worse.” Mason spoke through clenched teeth. “They’re allegedly trading sex slaves in the dungeons. Offering test drives, rent-to-own deals and other things I can’t comprehend. One of our moles reported seeing someone resembling Mrs. Carrington on site.”
Razor cursed under his breath. One psychotic woman who thrived on power games was enough for any man’s lifetime, wasn’t it?
“We need to know if she’s involved or if she can give us information. With trouble in paradise, she could help us crack the case, bring Malcolm down.”
“And you think I’m going to be able to figure out the truth? You think I can fucking tell if she’s lying—if she’s up to her perfect tits in trouble or masterminding the plan? We all know I can’t tell jack shit when it comes to the femme fatales of the world.” He hated the panic squeezing his vocal chords until his pitch rose.
“I believe in you.” Tyler looked straight into his eyes as he offered the reassurance Razor never could have asked for but desperately needed. “You won’t get fooled again. We’ll be at every show, watching, helping.”
“You’re on the case. You better get your act together.” The chief didn’t turn around from his place at the window. “Or I won’t be able to overrule the administration again.”
“It’s all about your edge. You have to hone your instincts. Get back on the horse.” Mason nodded in his direction. Not a single trace of doubt tinged the more experienced cop’s expression.
Razor didn’t have a choice. He was being pitched into the lion’s den. Again. “There’s just one thing…”
“Yes?” The chief hesitated a moment before answering.
“I don’t do sequins.”
Mason and Tyler’s laughter boomed through the office. The chief turned, flashing a hint of a smile. Ten tons lifted from Razor’s shoulders. If he could pull this off maybe things could return to normal.