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Where Evil Waits
By Kate Brady
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SHE’LL RISK EVERYTHING
Special prosecutor Kara Chandler is very good at her job, so good that a homicidal mastermind vows to kill her and everyone she cares about. Desperate to save herself and her son, Kara seeks out cartel hit man Luke Var?àö?â?n. The last time she dealt with Luke, she saw him beat the system and escape prison. But now, the most dangerous man she’s ever met is the only one who can keep her alive.
HE’LL STOP AT NOTHING
Luke Varv=n isn’t who he appears to be. After spending years in the criminal underworld, he seeks redemption . . . and revenge. Yet when he sees the fear in Kara’s eyes, he can’t walk away. People around her are being murdered, and only he can help uncover the killer’s motive. Now as danger closes in, Kara and Luke must trust each other with their darkest secrets – before the evil in their lives destroys them both.
Table of Contents
A Preview of Where Danger Hides
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Seventeen years later…
Thursday, June 20, 7:03 p.m.
Kara Montgomery Chandler shouted from deep in her gut but Louie didn't hear her. Damn it. She wasn't far away but the space between them churned with noisy fans, security guards, and vendors selling everything from chili dogs to stuffed tomahawks. Streams of humanity poured toward the gates at Turner Field, with Louie and the boys sucked into the current trying to make it to their seats before the first batter came up.
Seven minutes from now.
Kara's heart beat faster. Dear God, she had to stop them. She had to stop the killing. That thought washed over her in a wave of horror. Nausea rose to her throat and her fingers clenched her cell phone—the keeper of gruesome, inconceivable horrors. She swallowed back bile, struggling to wrap her mind around what was happening. After a year of weird mysteries, a shocking reality had emerged: Her husband had been murdered. Others were dying. All because of her.
Look what you've done.
She closed her eyes, willing it to be a dream. Please, let me wake up. Let it not be happening.
Someone bumped into her and she stumbled. "Sorry, lady," the offender said, grabbing her arms. Kara looked down, checking her hand. Her phone was still there, clamped in white knuckles. No, it wasn't a dream, it was real.
So catch Louie. Hurry.
She bullied down the panic and pushed to higher ground, scanning the veins of people flowing toward the turnstiles. A flash of red hair bobbed in the crowd.
"Aidan!" she shouted. He stopped and turned, fans edging past him as he searched out the voice. His shoulders slumped and a minute later he and his friend Seth separated from the crowd and moved upstream toward her.
"Mom," Aidan groaned. Fourteen years old, and out with the guys. The last person he wanted to see was his mother. "What are you doing here?"
She forced a smile. Keep calm; don't scare him. "I need to talk to your uncle Louie."
Louie came up between his own son and Aidan. "Wait here, boys." He took Kara's arm and walked her several yards out, where the crowd had thinned. "I told you we'd talk later. I can't bail on Seth and Aidan. They did chores for weeks to buy these tickets."
"I know," Kara said. She'd paid them exorbitantly to wash her car and weed the front garden, re-organize a closet that didn't need it. Then, when Father's Day came around and they still didn't have enough for the tickets, she and Louie's wife threw in the last fifty bucks themselves. She didn't want them to miss this game, either.
But things had changed. People were dying. She had to make Louie believe her.
"I got another message," she said, her throat knotting with tension. "I have to show it to you."
"Damn it, Kara, I told you I'd look into it. I pulled the file on Andrew's accident this afternoon and talked to the chief. I also stuck my nose into the Penny Wolff investigation since you're so worried about her. There's a good team working it, but they don't know where she is. She just vanished."
"You don't know that."
"I do. That's what I'm trying to tell you. I have proof now." She held up her cell phone. "Right here."
Louie frowned, then ran his hand over his face, as if he could wipe away everything she'd told him. He glanced at the boys. "Hold on," he said, digging the tickets from his pocket. He threaded back through the few straggling fans and sent the boys off to find their seats. When they were on their way, he started back to Kara. She turned on her phone to call up the grisly messa—
Crack. A shot split the sky. Louie dropped.
Kara's heart went still. She stared and the screams started. One person, then another, and soon people scattered like billiard balls. Some dropped to the ground; others ran for cover. Louie was the only one who didn't move.
No. Kara forced her feet into action. She staggered toward Louie, dodging a handful of fans who had hit the ground. They came up as it registered that no second shot had sounded—and by the time she got close to Louie, others were there, too.
She fell to her knees beside him. A bright red stain bloomed on his shirt.
"Dad?" Seth's voice. He and Aidan pushed through a growing wall of onlookers. Someone's hand appeared on Louie's chest and pressed down, and Louie gagged on his breath. A trickle of blood formed at the corner of his mouth.
"Dad," Seth cried, sinking to the ground. Aidan crouched beside him and they clung to one another as Louie's eyes rolled, searching for focus. They stopped on Kara, glazed and wide, and his lips moved through a bubble of blood.
She bent down to listen. Only one word touched her ear.
Sasha took Louie Guilford out with the first shot. Good light, powerful scope, no wind, and Guilford made it easy by separating himself from the crowd. One squeeze of the trigger and people scattered like droplets of water on a hot skillet.
And right in the center of it: Kara Chandler.
Fuck. She shouldn't have been here.
A knot of rage tightened in the back of Sasha's skull. He lowered the rifle and looked. Without the scope, the scene was like ants scrambling after someone kicked their mound, but he could still make out Kara. She'd shown up just seconds before he fired. Bitch. This was the second time she'd interfered with his plan. First, a couple of days ago with Penny Wolff. Then, with Louie Guilford.
He took a deep breath, started to count to ten to cool off but stopped at five. Okay: Didn't matter. Wolff was dead and Guilford—if he wasn't dead by the time he hit the sidewalk—would be soon. Problems solved, even though Kara was doing her best to fuck things up. She wouldn't succeed. And he'd make damn sure she understood that she was the reason people were dying.
She was the reason for everything. And soon, she would know what that meant. She would learn the truth.
Sasha took out his earplugs and unscrewed the scope, his mood lifting as the pain in his head let up. He didn't like guns—his own brand of killing was much more personal—but now he was glad he'd spent time learning to shoot. His father had always said that practice led to perfection. Wouldn't he be impressed with this?
He loaded up the gun, anxious to show off tonight's handiwork. He wouldn't be able to get in close and take a nice gory photograph like he had with Penny Wolff but Louie Guilford was a cop and he'd just been shot down outside a Braves game at Turner Field. This would make tonight's news. The Atlanta PD would go nuts. Maybe Ted Turner would even speak.
Yes, there would be plenty of publicity to share between father and son.
And Kara? He'd have to think about her later. Right now, he needed to get out of here. He was situated on an overpass six hundred yards away—a safe enough distance for a while, but there was no sense in lingering. Authorities were too busy clearing people from sight and moving Louie Guilford to safety to analyze the trajectory of the bullet just yet, but it wouldn't take long before they did. Within minutes, they'd have choppers in the air and roadblocks surrounding this whole area of the city.
Wouldn't matter. Within minutes, Sasha would be gone.
Too bad. He'd love to stay and watch Kara suffer.
He shook his head. Patience. Her birthday was right around the corner and now that Penny Wolff and Louie Guilford were out of the way, Sasha could get back to preparations. It was a scheme more than a year in the making, one that had cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and taken him all over the country. A plan so Machiavellian it had left even his father slack-jawed.
Only one kill left now—a girl named Megan. Sasha would bring her home tomorrow night. Then all would be ready, just in time for Kara's big day.
He smiled and tossed one more glance toward Turner Field. Poor Kara. She must be horrified by now, but it was about to get worse. His reign of terror was just beginning and he'd seen to it that there was no one she could turn to for help. Nothing she could do to stop him from making this the party of a lifetime.
Three more days. Happy Birthday, Kara.
Friday, June 21, 11:56 p.m.
IT WAS AN ODD place to find Kara Chandler, at an odd time: a squalid alley in the armpit of Atlanta, nearly midnight. The air sweltered—code orange, said the news, with dramatic warnings for asthma sufferers and the elderly to stay inside—and here, in an alley off Vine Street, the odors of urine and smog and rotten trash clung to every surface like a film.
Luke Varón inched to his left, peering past a Dumpster to the sidewalk. An odd place indeed for Kara Chandler, yet there she was, looking nothing like he'd expected. The heels were gone, her normally businesslike bun now falling in gold waves over her shoulders. In place of the usual classic suit, she wore jeans and a short-sleeved blouse, and instead of a fashionable purse, a shapeless macramé sack hung over one shoulder with her right hand buried deep inside.
Luke held to the shadows. Two aluminum-caged security bulbs studded the eaves behind him but he'd broken the nearest one, forcing what was left of the sickly light toward the street. Kara Chandler paused, then took a few steps to go peek into a culvert that wasn't visible from the alley's entrance. Luke's hackles lifted: Ms. Chandler had been here before.
Her voice stroked the night and every fiber of Luke's body tightened. Damn, he shouldn't be here. In two days, eight and a half tons of cocaine cut with levamisole would arrive off the Georgia coast, and with the shipment, Frank Collado. Luke had spent the last week securing the route from Colombia. He'd returned to the States a few hours ago, longing only for a clean bed and about sixteen hours to languish in it.
What he'd found was a message from Kara Chandler: Assistant District Attorney for Fulton County and Andrew Chandler's wife. As either identity, she could threaten the security of the shipment. As both, she was downright dangerous.
"Mr. Varón?" she said again.
Luke strung the silence out another inch, then said, "Here."
She whirled, a bulge forming in the canvas of her bag. "Where? Come out, damn it."
"So you can shoot me through a wall of macramé?"
"I didn't ask you here so I could shoot you. You're not worth the effort."
"Flattery," Luke drawled. "There's a saying about where that will get you."
"I need to talk to you. Come out."
He did, leading with a G18. Her gaze dropped and he watched the details of the weapon register in her eyes: a lightweight, 9mm shooter with a threaded barrel to accommodate a silencer, and just now sporting an extra magazine that held thirty-three rounds. Tonight, he'd added the extra clip just for show, but in fully-automatic mode, the G18 could fire all thirty-three bullets in less than two seconds. It was legal only among law enforcement and the military.
Luke Varón was neither.
He didn't know what she was carrying, but it didn't take her long to determine she was outclassed. The bulge in the bag slackened.
Luke tipped the Glock skyward. "Your turn," he said, but Kara Chandler didn't move. "Lady, pull your fucking hand out. I'd hate to fill you with bullets and then learn you were going for lipstick."
An inch at a time, she withdrew her hand—empty. Luke lifted the edge of his Armani suit coat and tucked his gun in the holster. He took two steps to his left so when she angled to keep her eyes on him, the frail light caught her face. Not that he needed any reminders of what she looked like: hair the color of sunlight, bottle-green eyes dulled by tragedy, two teasing little tucks in her cheeks that flashed like lightning when she was angry and perhaps—Luke could only speculate here—when she smiled. Without her heels, she stood only a few inches above five feet, but she carried herself as if meeting him eye to eye.
On her turf—in a courtroom trying to convict him of murder, for example—Kara Chandler was the definition of cold control. Out here, she was wired so tight Luke thought she might snap if she so much as took a deep breath.
"You called?" Luke asked.
"Yes," she said, but beneath the steel nerves, Luke caught a quaver in her voice. "I have a proposition for you."
Luke feigned delight. "Now, what could a faithful public servant like you want with a common criminal like me?"
"This has nothing to do with the DA's office. It's personal."
"Even better," he said, and let his gaze run down her figure and back again. Christ, Andrew Chandler had been one lucky son of a bitch. Except, of course, that he was dead. He'd been killed by a drunk driver while walking across a street, along with the woman on his arm.
"I want to hire you," she said, and he almost blinked. He caught himself and arched a dark brow instead.
"I'm not a stockbroker or private chef, Ms. Chandler."
"I know what you are. You're a drug cartel hit man, an arsonist, and a cold-blooded killer. So this job should be right up your alley. I want you to blow up a boat and make sure its owners die in the fire."
Luke was flabbergasted. Christ.
"I'll pay you," she said. "I want it done tonight, as soon as possible…"
She rattled off details, speaking right past him as if she'd rehearsed a script. His skepticism climbed to the surface. He'd already checked the area. There were no electronics and no surveillance. The thought passed that Chandler could be wearing a wire, but she was an unlikely choice for a sting.
Besides, this didn't have the feel of a scam. District Attorney Ben Archer hiring Luke Varón to commit multiple murder? No way.
"It should be done at least two hours before sunris—"
"Why me?" he asked.
She stopped, startled. "Because you can get away with it. You proved that when you walked out of court a month ago. You can get away with anything."
"More flattery," he said. "But you must know dozens of good criminals."
Her gaze might have melted steel. "Besides you, the criminals I know are behind bars."
"Ah, yes," Luke said, letting the hint of a smile show. "You aren't accustomed to a checkmark in the LOSS column. I'm sorry I tarnished your record."
She took a step toward him. "It wasn't a loss, it was a mistrial. And you were guilty. You know it and I know it. You killed a man in that warehouse fire—some unidentified soul who went to an unmarked grave. You should be in prison for the rest of your life."
"Lucky for you I'm not. Who would you call to commit your felonies?"
She gritted her teeth. "I don't know how the evidence against you disappeared but I know there was enough to put you away for life, at the very least. The fact that you're a goon for Gene Montiel and have access to his resources is just proof that he's as dirty as the DA thinks."
"And as powerful?" Luke suggested. Kara Chandler wasn't a gracious loser. Apparently, that was especially true when the freed defendant—Luke—worked security for a multi-millionaire land developer who owned a good portion of Atlanta's businesses, police, and justice department. A man the DA claimed had ties to a major drug cartel.
The DA was right: Gene Montiel did have a tie to a major drug cartel—Luke. But that didn't have anything to do with Kara Chandler.
"I appreciate the film noir character of this little charade, Ms. Chandler," Luke said. "But is District Attorney Archer really so desperate to nail Gene Montiel that he's sending you into dark alleys to entrap Montiel's… goon?"
"This isn't a charade. I told you, this is personal."
He skimmed down her blouse buttons. "Show me you aren't wearing a wire."
Her eyes blazed, but Luke could see that she was thinking about it. Considering stripping her clothes in a lonely, dark alley with a hit man for the Rojàs cartel, just to prove she wasn't wired. Proof enough, Luke thought, and couldn't quite believe his eyes when her fingers slipped the first disk through the hole. Jesus, she was going to do it. He felt like a twelve-year-old who'd just stumbled on a Playboy magazine under a mattress, watching her cleavage and the upper swells of her breasts come into view, her flat, pale belly revealed an inch at a time. His blood drained from his brain as she slid the blouse from her arms and let it drop to the pavement with her bag.
You don't have to do this. The words rose to mind but didn't make it past his lips. She unzipped her jeans and shimmied the denim over her hips—an unconsciously seductive move from any woman in any circumstance, and almost unbearably so in the heat of night with a woman of Kara Chandler's lithe curves and unexpected mystique. Luke's mouth went dry as she stepped from the jeans, then straightened and squared her shoulders.
The notion of sixteen hours in bed took an unexpected turn. Luke swallowed and took his time looking. Long, slender limbs and gently flaring hips, lace-edged underwear cut high enough and low enough to accentuate soft curves usually encased in power suits. Her breasts strained against pale satin cups, and Luke's fingers curled into fists with the desire to trade the bra for his hands.
"Satisfied?" she asked.
"Hardly," Luke said with more honesty than he intended. He stepped toward her, noting a trickle of perspiration between her breasts even as a shiver drew her nipples tight. "You and I both know transmission devices can be almost imperceptible, except upon close inspection." He circled around her, stopping at her back to brush a hand beneath her hair and lift it from her shoulders, fanning his fingers through the waves. A sweet scent rose to his nostrils from the pulse point on her throat, an incongruous touch of elegance in the fetid alley.
But there were no electronics. If she was wearing a wire, it was installed someplace that would require exploration to find. That thought sent a surge of blood against his zipper, but a wave of anger flowed right behind it. Kara Chandler was no blushing virgin. She was a widow and a mother, an Assistant District Attorney in a major metropolis, a woman who'd taken Luke to court once for murder and whose boss was committed to destroying Gene Montiel.
And she was playing a game. Luke didn't like games when he didn't know the rules.
He coiled the mass of gold around his hand and tightened the slack, tipping her head back to expose a pale stretch of throat. "You think it's a good idea, presenting yourself to me like this? Perhaps you don't know what I'm capable of."
"I know exactly what you're capable of," she said through clenched teeth. "It's the reason I called you. And it's the reason I wrote a letter that identifies who I'm meeting, when, and where. It also contains the DA's evidence against Montiel."
Luke was careful not to react, but his gut tightened. If Kara Chandler had hijacked evidence and let it leak before the shipment arrived, the whole operation could collapse. Eight and a half tons of levamisole-laced cocaine would never make it to shore.
Neither would Frank Collado.
Luke brushed the backs of his knuckles over the warm flesh on Kara Chandler's neck. "You're lying," he said against her ear, but he was afraid she wasn't.
A breath shuddered between her lips. "I'm fully aware that you have Gene Montiel's resources at your disposal, and that you can disappear on a moment's notice to a nation without extradition. But understand that if I am murdered here tonight, nothing short of that will keep you from being arrested."
Luke tightened his grip on her hair, pulling her nearly naked frame against him. "Murder wasn't what I had in mind," he whispered. A bit of bald truth in a tangle of lies. He waited for a shiver of fear, but instead she jerked away and spun on him, teeth bared.
"Do it, then."
"You think I don't know what kind of man you are? That I didn't know before I came here what you might demand?" Her voice vibrated with anger, maybe even with disgust, but at the same time, tears bloomed in her eyes. "Your mistake is in thinking I care," she shot. "If sex is the currency you want, then get it over with. It's hot out here and it stinks."
Luke was stunned. Assistant District Attorney Kara Chandler stood in front of him with nothing but scant inches of silk and lace between them, so desperate for his cooperation that she had stolen evidence from the DA's office, contacted a hit man, and offered him money—and more—to kill someone.
Warning bells went off. Walk away. In two more days, Collado would be his. A tumble with Kara Chandler wasn't worth losing him.
Luke stepped back, scooped her clothes from the ground, and fired them at her chest. "Count yourself lucky that I'm partial to brunettes," he said, but didn't bother turning away while she hurried back into her clothes. He tried not to notice the sense of loss in his gut as she covered herself, tried not to wonder what—besides a setup—would drive a woman of the law to such extremes as to try to hire a hit.
That thought was more than Luke could ignore. She bent down to pick up her bag and just before she would have walked away, he stopped her with his voice. "Ms. Chandler," he said, "you never told me: Whose boat and whose death?"
She looked him straight in the eyes. "Mine."
KARA TURNED TO LEAVE but Varón's hand clamped on to her arm.
Yes, she thought, with a thump in her chest. Please.
"Yours?" He sounded incredulous.
"And my son's," she said. "We need to fake our deaths. We need to disappear."
He looked as if he couldn't decide whether to curse or laugh. In the end, he simply said, "I'm listening."
His hand burned her arm like a brand. He was too close again, the heat of a summer night intensified by the heat rolling off his body. And the strength. For a moment, Kara was certain she had done the right thing. Luke Varón was sheer power. In retrospect, she knew that his calm arrogance when she'd prosecuted him for murder had been born of utter certainty the charges would never hold up. The man had strings to places she couldn't begin to reach, a network of gorillas to do anything he asked, and was capable of acts of deceit she could only imagine.
"Let go of me," she said. "I won't be manhandled."
His lashes dipped to her throat, where she had buttoned her blouse all the way to the top. "Sex is okay, but no manhandling?"
"I said, let go of me."
He dropped his hand. Instantly, Kara found it easier to breathe.
Do it. Tell him enough to get him on board. "I believe my son and I are in danger," she said. "I want you to fake our deaths, then provide us with the protection and the resources I need to find out who's responsible."
Varón cocked his head. "I think you have me confused with the police, Ms. Chandler."
"I already talked to a detective."
And within hours, he was dead. Just like Penny Wolff. Both of them gone right after Kara had spoken to them.
A wave of conscience hit and she glanced around the alley, wondering if the killer was out there this very moment, targeting Varón next. She tamped back a pang of guilt. For God's sake, Varón was cold and evil and lethal. A month ago, she'd led the charge to put him on Death Row.
Besides, he was untouchable. He was the last person she should worry about.
"The police can't help me," she said. "For God's sake, do you think I would choose to deal with the likes of you if I had any other option?"
"You really need to work on your flattery."
"One week, Mr. Varón. Take us underground and give me seven days."
He crossed his arms. "What makes you think I can do what the police couldn't?"
"Don't toy with me," she snapped, taking a step toward him. "You work with a network that's better organized, better trained, better financed, and better armed than any police department in this country. You can find out anything about anybody, and you can cover your tracks doing it. I know how to run an investigation. All I need from you is—"
"A goon?" He crossed his arms. "The way I remember it, your husband's firm went bankrupt, left you with a heap of bills to pay. I doubt you can afford my services, Ms. Chandler."
Kara powered down a sneer of revulsion. "I can afford you," she said. "Name your price."
His brows went up and it was all Kara could do not to back up a step. "Well, I'll have to think about that, now, won't I?" he asked. "But what if I say yes and at the end of the week, you're still in danger?"
"Then my son and I will take our new identities and disappear. By then, I'll wager I will have committed a number of crimes—this being one of them. I won't be in much of a position to prosecute you for yours."
He thought about it for a long moment and Kara found herself holding her breath. Dear God, she needed him. She needed him to stand between Aidan and her, and a murderer. She needed him because he was capable and strong and invulnerable, and wouldn't be hindered by obeying the law.
But he wasn't buying it. He shook his head and did the one thing she'd been afraid of: He laughed.
Kara's heart plunged to her belly. The bastard. She'd risked everything coming to him. "Answer me, damn you. Yes or no?"
He stopped laughing, then reached out to smooth a lock of hair behind her ear. "No," he said. "In fact, not just no, but fuck no."
Kara felt as if she'd been kicked in the chest. He couldn't be doing this. Andrew's killer was out there. He'd killed Penny Wolff and Louie. She and Aidan had to get away.
But not with any help from Varón. He'd made that perfectly clear.
- "A well-crafted plot and strong tension lie at the heart of this story. Add to that quick pacing, edgy suspense and a few unexpected twists, and Brady's latest is a page-turner."—RT Book Reviews
- "If you enjoy a dark, pulse-pounding thriller Where Angels Rest is a highly recommended read."—USA Today (Happily Ever After) on Where Angels Rest
- On Sale
- Feb 25, 2014
- Page Count
- 432 pages