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The Heart Never Forgets...
When world renowned psychic, Madelyn Rose, accepts a missing children’s case on the Navajo Reservation, she believes it is a case she is more than capable of solving. What she never expects is for Detective Bronx Daniels to dredge up images of their shared past life and challenge the foundation of her future. In the wide open spaces of the Arizona desert, Madelyn and Bronx are forced to rely upon each other for survival as they race to save the abducted boys from the will of a madman. But with her life on the line, will Madelyn risk it all for a love that crosses time?
A split-second decision had changed the course of her life. If she survived this, she would tell him, everything. Maddie trembled as her arms were staked onto the freezing desert ground. She fought her captor, struggling against the bonds he placed upon her body. Fear slithered through her system. A part of her, that section of herself trained in connecting with spirits and others essences, understood the gravity of her situation. Her vision was coming true.
And she knew him. His eyes no longer hid the darkness inside. The masked veneer of civility had disintegrated and revealed a fanatical monster within.
Why would he do this to her?
The scratchy rope abraded her wrists, digging into her flesh. Maddie kicked furiously, attempting to keep her legs free of the binding as he began tying a length of rope about them. The moment her legs were secure she knew it was game over. There would be no escape from the feverish glean on his face. The mad man pummeled her midsection with a solid jab and she saw stars. She gasped as the pain whooshed all the air from her body. Dazed, she felt the rope secure her legs. The hope she had for escape dwindled and she knew her time was almost up.
Regrets paralyzed her. She had never told him. Explained what she had seen about the two of them. Maybe if she had been completely honest with him, things between them would have been different. He might have trusted her more.
Maddie prayed help would arrive in time even as she sensed deep within her soul that the grim reaper patiently awaited her demise.
“Why are you doing this?” she beseeched him, attempting to make sense of everything that had happened to bring them to the point. There had to be some way she could break through the madness overriding his senses.
“I will remove Satan’s stain from this earth with your death,” he swore with the devotion of a fanatic on an unholy crusade.
A silver blade flashed in the first few rays of sunlight streaming into the canyon. Maddie cringed, aware that she couldn’t stop the forthcoming pain. She whimpered as she felt the cold blade against her forearm. He pressed the blade into her skin.
Maddie screamed. Pain lanced her body. Tears formed and flowed down her cheeks unchecked. She kicked her feet, struggling to dislodge the knife, and end the agony searing her arm. She felt blood pour from the wound as he dragged the blade farther down her arm and she shrieked as the anguish intensified a thousand-fold.
“Stop, please,” Maddie begged, ashamed of how easily she buckled under torture.
He smiled. Her pain, her cries filled his countenance with satisfied glee. The blade, slicked with her blood, was withdrawn from her arm. She whimpered in relief. Hoping that he would see reason and stop this madness.
And then the torture truly began as he carved crosses on her legs and her other arm. She felt the blood stream from each of her wounds. Her body throbbed, every new slice of the knife added to her agony until she no longer cared whether she lived or died. She just wanted the pain to stop.
He laughed the whole time. Her blood pooled around her, she felt her strength diminishing with each slash of the knife, and knew in her bones that there was no hope for rescue. Her life was over. Death beckoned with greedy fingers to take her into her unwilling grave.
“Had enough Satan’s whore?” the man snarled in maniacal elation.
“Screw you,” she spat with what little energy she had left.
The mad man snapped at her words. The blade thudded on the ground. His fingers, the skin so soft, slid around her throat and squeezed. Maddie struggled for air. Her arms were useless in their blood loss and could no longer grasp at her restraints. She was losing. Her heartbeat slowed, thudding sluggishly in her chest. And she knew her time had come. His grip tightened. She thought she heard her name screamed but then everything went dark.
And her life flowed into the cold desert ground as her heart stopped.
Five Days Earlier
The police building reminded her more of the OK Corral than a government office building. Any minute she expected Doc Holiday to waltz around the corner of the squat brown brick and tip his hat in her direction. Instead, she had Mister Crabby Ass, Detective Daniels, impatiently awaiting her arrival, his large frame illuminated in the doorway. If Maddie had not experienced the travel day from hell, she might actually be able to smile at his flippant assertiveness.
She loved the work she did, loved helping people, saving lives, and putting the bad guys behind bars. But it meant she worked closely with law enforcement and personalities that made her want to beat her head against the wall half the time. As much as she was trying to reserve judgment, Detective Daniels wasn’t making it easy on her.
He had threatened at one point today to send a search party for her with all her flight delays. Maddie snorted at the thought, she had never been lost a day in her life. Switching off the car engine, she grabbed her purse and climbed out into the desolate desert, flickers of lightning raced across the inky sky. The small town of Creekstone had already closed for the night. A lone street lamp near the one church cast its pitiful light on what served as main street for the town boasting a population a smidge over three hundred. The police station seemed to be the only business still operating at this time of night.
“About time you made it,” he said and turned before she caught a glimpse of his face. Man had been on her ass all day long. Like she called down the heavens and asked for a series of super-cell thunderstorms spanning seven states, just to ruin his day. Detective Daniels she presumed.
Arrogant jerk didn’t even give her a chance to respond. On the bright side, at least he left the station door open for her and didn’t slam it in her face.
Her luggage could stay put until he pointed her in the direction of a motel that hopefully wasn’t one of those pay by the hour deals she had noticed on the drive in. Although from the way it looked, she would be lucky to find a decent coffee shop within fifty miles. Why couldn’t she have had another case in New Orleans or somewhere that the population demanded amenities like coffee shops on almost every corner? How people lived in the middle of nowhere, away from any type of civilization was beyond her. Didn’t people watch scary movies? The middle of nowhere was precisely where the deranged psycho killer with a chainsaw showed up. She glanced around the adobe brick Navajo Nation Police Sub-Station as if it were the Bates Motel, and rubbed warmth back into her arms. Maddie’s brownstone apartment on the Upper East Side in Manhattan was twice its size.
What a day. And from the looks of it, her day was nowhere near over. She could really use more coffee and not the gut-bombing swill she normally found at every police station she worked in.
At one point in the police station’s existence the tiny building might have been a house. Cactus dotted the side yards that were now slushy, slick pools of mud. The only difference between this squat building and the other homes she’d passed was the sign posted in front of two parking spaces designating it as the police station.
Maddie ignored her sweaty palms and apprehension swirling in her body. The dinner she’d grabbed in Flagstaff threatened to regurgitate with each step forward. For the second time in her life, Maddie disregarded her instincts. When it came to kids, there was no out, not in her book.
She marched inside after him, her gaze slid over his ass encased in well-worn jeans. Well, she had to give the guy credit. He had a triple-prime, grade-A behind.
The icy breeze made her teeth chatter. Maddie pulled her coat tighter and closed the door against the chill. The fluorescent lights exposed the faded light blue paint on the walls that were tinged with grime around the edges. Some of the desert had taken up residence inside, nature’s way of trying to take back what rightfully belonged to her.
Two small pale wooden desks each competed for space with computer stations that looked like an IT person’s version of a wet dream. A multi-line phone, extra light, as if the glaring fluorescent bulbs weren’t enough to brighten the dingy place, and black computer chairs. A pewter-colored metal door stood staunchly in the left-hand corner; she assumed it led to the holding cells, and possibly a restroom, but little else.
Maddie noticed a small refrigerator in the opposite corner with a coffeemaker situated on top. There was a half full pot of, from the smell of it, burnt coffee. A trace of heady sage mingled with cedar lingered in the room. Why would the detective smell like sage and cedar? Was he a practitioner? Was that why he called her? The scents were something one would typically find in a metaphysical shop, like the one she conducted psychic readings out of when she was home in New York. Maddie practically rubbed her hands together. If he was, it would make her job so much easier.
Detective Daniels reached his desk before he turned his attention and face back to her.
She bit her lip to keep her mouth from popping open. This was no pretty boy, like the ones dominating Hollywood these days, but a rugged man’s man. Taking in the lean, rangy build encased in a blue plaid dress shirt the top button undone, as he swiveled to meet her gaze head-on, the man wasted no movements. A brown leather belt was slung around his hips, holding his firearm, and displaying his badge, accentuated his lean hips. Every step he took had a purpose behind it or he did not bother with the movement. The intensity in his gaze reminded Maddie of birds of prey. Even the straight raven hair grazing his shoulders moved in conjunction with the rest of him as if allowing a strand out of place would somehow cause too much disorder.
Maddie checked the long sturdy fingers on his left hand. No wedding band. Dark suntanned skin, rugged features from a lifetime spent in the sun with coldly assessing brown eyes. He wasn’t pure Navajo Indian, somewhere in his ancestry there was some Anglo.
The firm line of his mouth, surrounded by shadowed growth along his square jaw-line, and his stern expression told her in all of two seconds that he didn’t want her there. Absorbing the distrust stamped across his face, the man did not practice anything that was remotely off the reservation, so to speak.
He studied her with a stony glint in his eyes and firm set to his jaw that she steadfastly believed police forces around the world taught their officers. And this one sized her up, traced the outline of her loose auburn curls draped over her shoulders. His eyes missed nothing, not the dangly silver hoops decorating her ears to her brown high-heeled Steve Madden boots. Something told her he was displeased by her appearance.
“What? Were you expecting a crystal ball and broomstick?”
“No, not at all.” She could practically hear him grind his teeth.
Maddie called bullshit and from the looks of it, this case was going to bite the big one. Thinking of the kids, she swallowed any misgivings about accepting this case and her not so stellar beginning with Detective Daniels.
“It’s nice to meet you, Detective, Madelyn Rose at your service.” She held out her hand and stepped forward. The silver bangle bracelets on her arm jangled as she craned her neck to glance up into brown eyes that reminded her of molten dark chocolate they were so dark a brown.
His large callused hand enveloped hers. Sucking in a breath as the vision hit her, she felt her belly drop through the floor and panic engulfed her.
No. It couldn’t be.
She tried retracting her hand from his but he wouldn’t release her. The images she had dodged, the dreams that had haunted her existence, coalesced in this moment. An avalanche of tremors shook her soul. Her knees were seconds from giving out at the contact. It took everything Maddie had inside her not to whimper.
“I have to go. I’m sorry. I never should have come. I’ll ask my associate, Jamie Dillon, to fly in tomorrow. He just finished working a case and would love the press on this one.”
Maddie yanked her hand from his, snapping the connection. Sweet oxygen suffused her lungs. She reached the door. The steel shackles of his fingers closed around her arm. A livewire of energy, his touch ignited a fire against her skin. Heat zinged up her arm. Her vision lost focus on their present surroundings. Her heart pounded in terror at the images flashing through her conscious mind.
“Now wait just a damn minute. I have a passel of missing boys on my reservation and you can’t take a look for five minutes. I’d heard you were the best in the business, or was that a load of crap?” Detective Daniels’ energy vibrated with the strength of his anger. She didn’t blame him, but she couldn’t stay.
“Unhand me. I can’t be here.” Her heart thumped madly, threatening to burst from her chest.
Run, run, run.
Maddie had to escape this place. He didn’t relax his grip. She prayed she didn’t lose consciousness as the past warred with the present. The detective’s hair had been longer then, almost reaching his waist, and he’d worn buckskins. Shaking her head, she attempted to clear her mind, it made the past fade, but try as she might it wouldn’t release its stranglehold.
He reached behind him, grabbed a photograph off his desk and shoved it in front of her face. That way she had no choice but to look. All she could do was focus her breathing and try not to hyperventilate as she stared at the four-by-six photograph.
The little boy was four, at most, with dark black hair cropped close to his head and olive skin. He held up a rainbow-colored finger painting and beamed at the camera.
“See this child, Miss Rose? That’s Christian. He’s been missing for a week. Or how about Miguel, he was taken three nights ago. What about these boys’ parents, who no longer sleep for fear that their children are dead? And you want to walk away,” Detective Daniels snarled. Anger laced his voice and brought the present into focus, his fingers bruised her arm. This close she noticed exhaustion in his dark chocolate eyes. When was the last time the detective had gotten any sleep?
“Are you that cold-hearted? If so, there’s the door. I asked you to come here because these boys are running out of time. Decide, now. I don’t have time for your uppity bullshit. I have the lives of five children at stake.” He released her arm none too gently and marched back to his desk, not waiting for her response.
The past released its chokehold and Maddie inhaled a steadying breath. Her fate had been sealed the moment she boarded the plane in New York. If she had listened to her instincts telling her not to take this case…but she hadn’t, she’d stubbornly ignored them because she needed the absolution more. And now, could she live with herself if those boys died because she walked away? Dread settled in her stomach, a weighted lodestone tethering her to this place and that man, as she made her decision. “Okay, Detective, I’ll stay, with some conditions.”
He snorted sharply with a this-outta-be-good expression stamped across his face. “Which are?”
“We work this case my way and you never touch me again.” Maddie’s hand clasped the doorknob like a lifeline. At least that way she would have some measure of control and could try to avert the vision she had seen. If he didn’t agree, she would call for backup and extract herself from the case at the earliest possible moment.
“Done. Now if we’re finished with the theatrics, let’s get down to business. I need you to start looking through these photos and tell me what you pick up.”
On rubbery legs she strode toward his desk. The boys weren’t the only ones running out of time.
Detective Daniels was the reason she would die.