About Vigilante Mine
Internal Affairs be damned, Detective Amanda Werner’s ditching protocol to hunt the vigilante whose bullet landed her on the bench. But this is no vendetta. Evidence suggests he’s the zealot offing corrupt public officials–the same zealot who’s promised to set the city ablaze by week’s end–and she’ll risk her career and her life to save her hometown. Too bad she can’t find anything stronger than Kevlar to guard her heart against her primary suspect: a masked man with a telepathic German shepherd, unstable supernatural hearing, and lips that invite a whole different brand of investigation.
All businessman Ryan McLelas, a.k.a. Klepto, wants is redemption. But even if Amanda could forgive his itchy trigger finger, Ryan still has to convince her that his alter ego’s no serial killer. No small task, with syndicate-paid police officers turning up among the dead. He’d better keep his own syndicate ties close to his chest and Amanda even closer, because if Klepto is unmasked while he’s hunting the real killer, their passionate affair could mark Amanda as the next dirty cop on the hit list.
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Word Count: 98,885
Vigilante Mine Reviews
Wicked Faerie's Tales and Reviews: 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Overall this was a good first book in a new series that will leave you wanting more. I for one can't wait to get my hands on the second book in the series when it's released. I highly recommend this one for fans of Jaye Well's Sabina Kane series, or Patricia Brigg's Alpha & Omega series."
Mignon Mykel: Reviews: 4.5 of 5 Stars
"I loved Ryan and his thoughts, and quite honestly, I loved his dog, too. He was very... Dug (Up!) to me. I just could hear Romeo speaking in that 'tone of voice'."
Vigilante Mine Excerpt
RYAN MCLELAS WAS NO SUPERHERO. Sure, the alter ego he shared with his brothers wore a mask and used a different name—Klepto—to hide their true identities, and they had each been gifted with certain . . . abilities. But Klepto hid in the shadows, cutting deals with crime syndicates. For all that it meant keeping the peace in Relek City's streets, after dark, the McLelas family stood on the wrong side of the law.
Tonight's stakeout only served as more proof.
What hero would bring a bag of cash to slip to some drug lord's courier?
A late courier, at that. Ryan worked off a glove and rubbed his aching temples with chilled fingers.
How long will you give him? I'm hungry, Romeo whined over their telepathic link. The German shepherd rolled a loose block of pavement into an overflowing puddle.
"If it wouldn't trash the ceasefire, I'd let you eat Captain Punctual." He burrowed his bare hand into the damp, thick ruff of Romeo's neck. "We wait."
Ryan's inhumanly-sensitive ears were already tuned to a wide perimeter, seeking footsteps, raised voices, anything out of the ordinary. "I'll keep an ear or two open, yes."
He'd be a fool not to. Everything about this rendezvous set Ryan's nerves on edge. Blaine had rushed the exchange, offered the schedules and manifests for upcoming port shipments too readily, insisted on a courier instead of coming himself. He'd been too urgent in his need for cash. The meet was set at the border of another syndicate's territory. Dull yellow squares and dots, Shaw Family's marks, were spray-painted on a wall not far away, and Blaine's "8's" decorated the opposite side of the road. A few steps in the wrong direction, not to mention an unsanctioned trade done on the wrong side of syndicate lines, would bring trouble.
Worse still, after a rain, those lines blurred. The whole damned alley reeked of sushi and visibility was minimal, steam curling up from the pavement.
He opened his mouth to send Romeo on a patrol when his supercharged ears finally caught something new: the crystalline hiss of shattering glass. A slurred series of curses followed, and then weaving footsteps. Only one pair. A drunk, perhaps. Still not—
"Klepto! Bet your sister's gotta pay the johns t'get some action," came a slurred greeting from down the street. Footsteps staggered closer. "Where are ya?"
The courier. Ryan sucked in an irritated breath. Better drunk than dead. Now, to keep him that way until the trade was done and Blaine had his money. Ruthlessly, he smothered the concern. His father had never failed to keep the syndicates from each other's throats. Behind the same mask, Ryan wouldn't either.
As if the universe heard—and laughed—his ears caught static from a distant police radio.
He ground his teeth. Police interference wasn't any more an option than a dead courier.
As the courier came into view, Romeo shifted on his haunches. Muted lamplight gleamed in ribbons over his black fur. He's on the right side of the border.
Make sure it stays that way, Ryan sent back through the link. Klepto's persona came with a wealth of arrogance, and he embraced it, burying his doubt as he stalked forward. All teeth, Romeo edged out beside him.
"Cops are close," Ryan growled. "Make this quick."
"Don't be rushin' me, Klepto." Soaked by the earlier downpour, the courier huddled in an oversized coat that likely hid multiple knives, as well as a gun. The smell of alcohol-borne courage tangled with the lingering odor of fish carcasses. He sneered. "Cash."
Ryan crossed his arms, dangling a duffel bag from his fingers. "The information better be dry."
A small device sealed in plastic sailed through the air and smacked the toe of one of his combat boots. He summoned Romeo to check it and kept his gaze fixed on the courier. Would booze make him belligerent enough to pull a weapon on Klepto? Stupid enough to try to walk away with both the information and the cash? Both? Ryan flexed his hands, feeling the promise of adrenaline.
Micro USB, Romeo confirmed. Water-proofed.
Ryan sent approval through their mental connection. If the shipping data's not all there, we'll make a quiet return visit. Once the ceasefire was secure.
Romeo's bared teeth flashed wider.
"Tell your boss the Cousins send their regards." Ryan tossed the bag of cash.
The courier caught it without so much as a fumble. Ryan narrowed his eyes. Sober. Acting.
He bent to scoop up the USB key as if unconcerned about making himself a target. But he listened. Zipper teeth clicked. Fingers ruffled stacks of unmarked bills. The bag closed at high speed. As he slipped the device into his pocket, his ears snagged on the slide of metal on fabric.
Romeo let out a guttural warning bark.
"Dumb mutt." The courier's blade flashed low in the streetlamp.
No one attacked his dog.
Ryan dashed forward and clamped his hand around the courier's arm.
"Forget you have somewhere to be?" He squeezed as the courier tried to scramble backward, grim satisfaction in the way his gloved fingers dug into a prime pressure point behind his elbow.
The courier squeaked like one of Romeo's plush toys, and the knife fell to the ground.
"Get Blaine his money and maybe I don't tell him you wanted it for yourself." After the courier gave a stilted nod, Ryan let his arm drop and waved Romeo aside.
Resentment scored the courier's face, but he took the cash and vanished into alley shadows. Waiting for the now-sober footsteps to fade, Ryan rubbed behind Romeo's ears in silent praise.
Romeo glanced up. You are projecting pain.
"Just the weather," Ryan assured him.
Before his teens, he'd had discrete—fully installed—cochlear implants. They'd only been partially removed after his power kicked in, and rain made the now-defunct remnants itch. Even the earpiece Zach had built for him couldn't help. White noise filters in the new tech helped him hold the volume of his hearing in check, so he wouldn't be laid flat with every sound in the vicinity amped to 1000. The filters were stable too, no extra vibration to irritate the remnants of hardware in his head. But they couldn't do anything about air pressure.
He stifled another urge to massage his temples. At least his misery meant that instead of running around on the streets as Klepto, both of his brothers were safe in the HQ—the security offices under McLelas Financial.
He tapped on the combo mic, speaker, and noise reduction device hooked over his ear. "Find me a way home, boys. Law's on the street tonight."
"Aye, aye, Mr. President." Jay, his youngest brother, sounded far too chipper for midnight.
Ryan shoved both hands into his trench coat pockets and turned away from the alley. "How much diesel-sludge have you had to drink?"
"Coffee? What am I on, Zach? Three?"
Ryan grunted. "Pots?"
The middle McLelas brother, Zach, barked a laugh over the speaker. "Hey, few more gigs like this, you're gonna wish you partook."
"Normal people function just fine without it." Ryan shook his head.
Morning board meetings at McLelas Financial were a trial, but he'd never admit it to these two.
"Normal?" Zach let out a snort. "Making chummy with the local bads is normal, bro?"
Footsteps, cautious, lighter than the courier but heading the same direction, brushed Ryan's hearing. A retort froze in his throat.
Criminals were bold here, not careful.
His gut clenched. If they grabbed the courier now, confiscating the money so close to the deal, Blaine would think he'd been set up.
Open warfare on the streets.
Run interference, Romeo. Ryan backed under a fire escape. The first nudge to his earpiece kicked off the microphone and the feed from his brothers. Tapping it again turned off a single layer of white noise, unleashing more of his power.
He sucked in a deep breath.
Then he opened his ears.
Ambient notes spun out around him like strokes on a canvas, draping the streets in mellow electrical humming, scurried movements of insects, and innocent and guilty whispers behind walls, windows, and closed doors. A block to the east, the express rail wobbled along its tracks, brakes squealing before the S-curve. Skirting the edge of his range, the Shaw Family's sniper of choice—crazy bastard—on a rooftop, flirting with a tranq dart. Occupied, not hunting. One by one, Ryan rapidly sorted the early morning sounds, shoving each audible thread aside until he found the footsteps again.
Two pairs of feet. Slow, steady, barely churning the loose pavement and broken glass.
"10-4, Dispatch," a man's voice said. His footsteps were heavier than his partner's.
Only two officers. Easy to divert.
Ryan exhaled hard. The white noise went back up to protect his enhanced hearing even as he bolted after the officers. Hitting the corner, he shot a look up, scanning for other snipers. Some of his tension eased. No extra shadows dotted the skyline.
Then he eased around the crumbling brick wall and eyed his nearest plainclothes target.
A woman, the Glock in her hands aimed and locked straight ahead. Ryan moved his gaze past her and swallowed a curse. He was too late. They had the courier pinned in a dead end.
Romeo, where are you? No answer. His chest squeezed. Bad time to go AWOL, furface.
"Relek City PD. Turn around nice and slow," the female officer said. Her voice was low and husky, like a jazz singer swirled with a shot of Jameson.
Interest rolled through him, wicked and harsh, a wave of unexpected magnetism. The itching in his head intensified the longer he watched her. And he had been watching. Staring, even, at curves, tight jeans . . .
Shaking off the bizarre sensations, he forced himself to consider options. This wasn't going to be pretty. The city couldn't afford for Blaine and the Cousins to go to war.
Klepto had to step in.
"Two against one doesn't seem fair, does it?" He injected an extra dose of gravel into his voice as he strode from the shadows.
The officer to the right spun and yanked his gun higher. He squinted. "And just what the hell are you supposed to be?"
"Angry," Ryan said. "But I'll be considerably less so if you let my friend go and walk away."
"I've got this, Jackson," the woman said, and again, her voice curled over his senses like a caress.
In perfect sync, the plainclothes officers traded targets. Her face was in shadow, but there was no mistaking the confidence in her tone, her stance, and the rock-steady grip on her weapon.
"Do you, now?" Ryan took a step forward.
"Keep on coming," she said. "Plenty of room in our cruiser for you, too."
Lord, she had guts. Ryan smiled and so did she, a feral curve of warning that made lust fire on all cylinders. His jaw clenched against the torrent of images—the backseat of a car, with this woman's voice and curves for company. Timing from Hell.
The courier moved. Low to the ground, cash in hand, he raced toward the far wall. In no time, he'd skirted the second officer and ducked through an opening Ryan had missed.
Relief warred with fresh irritation at his lack of focus.
"Got him?" the female officer called. She didn't so much as twitch a muscle.
"Got him," her partner shot back, already on the courier's heels.
When they'd gone from sight, Romeo sidled up, limping like an old stray. The woman's gaze narrowed and she turned slightly away from Ryan, her stance suddenly rigid. Surprise? Fear?
Not one to question good fortune, he dashed to her side. Smooth as a dance, he blocked her trigger finger and anchored his arm around her waist. Her heel slammed onto his instep. As she went for his shins, he pried her fingers from the gun. They both missed catching it. The weapon hit the ground, skittering across the pavement.
Ryan spun her in his arms, and her back hit the wall. Her slim fingers groped at pressure points well-protected by leather. A good attempt, but a moment later he pinned her wrists with his hands, her body with his hips.
No chances. This one knew how to damage valuable goods.
Lamplight threw her face into relief. She tilted her head back, honey-brown hair sliding over her shoulders to rumple against a spread of blue and gold graffiti. Her sharp blue eyes narrowed at him, sizing him up as if she were calculating how best to take him down.
"You should walk away from this one, rookie," Ryan said.
He wasn't certain if he was talking to her, or himself. She wasn't a rookie, but he sure as hell felt like one. Having his coherent thoughts shattered by wicked attraction was amateur league.
"Detective," she corrected. "And this, right here, is called a 'felony.'"