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Sneak Peek...

Prologue Six weeks ago… He had never broken into a church before. It wasn’t a skill set he used often, but it was always a good idea to keep it handy. In his line of work, he had to think on the fly, to use whatever resources he could in the moment. Most people didn’t know he was good at breaking into stuff; it was a secret he kept well hidden from all but one person, the person who knew everything. That person was also the reason he was now committing a felony. The tumbler slid into place and the door was roughly yanked open from the other side. A man stood there, inspecting him with a scowl. “Really? Burglary? You?” He shrugged and gave the man a sheepish smile. The man shook his head with something like annoyance, bordering on disgust. “The more I get to know you, the less I understand you. You could have knocked.” “Where’s the fun in that?” “Ugh.” The man turned with definite disgust now. He followed him down a darkened hallway to a room with a large round table. He sat at the table, feeling suddenly like King Arthur of legend. They were both on quests of vital importance. He clasped his hands on the table and waited with forced patience for the room to fill up. It didn’t take long. The chair beside him was taken by a woman, an angry woman who yanked out the chair and flounced into it, her dark curls bouncing wildly like a punctuation to her bad mood. “Why? Why so late at night? Some of us have lives,” she demanded, glaring up at him. To rise to the bait she offered was what she wanted. He gave her a placid smile and was rewarded when she growled, reaching for a donut that had somehow magically appeared in the center of the table. “Leftover from bingo,” the first man said, taking a seat beside the woman. The first man waited until the table was filled and gazed at each member appraisingly. They were a ragtag group, but they would have to do. He took a breath. “I think you know why I’ve called you here today.” The woman beside him spoke. “Of course we know. This could have been a group text. An email at most.” He wanted to tell her to stuff it, but she looked a little wild and he was slightly frightened of her when she got like this. Instead he made a “pipe down” motion with his hand, inspiring another growl and another donut. He clasped his hands and surveyed the group again, hoping to convey the seriousness of the situation. “The wedding is six weeks away.” “Jason, we know,” Riley said, swiping powdered sugar from her chin. “Would you just…” he made a closing motion with his hand. He faced the group again. “In case you don’t know, the bigger an event, the more calamitous things become in Lacy’s life. This is the biggest event of our lives, until she’s pregnant.” He stopped and dabbed his brow, trying not to imagine what nine months of this sort of keep-the-woman-alive stress would be like. “We know,” Riley muttered in the growly tone. This time Tosh reached out and patted her arm. The more he got to know his future brother-in-law, the more convinced he became the man deserved some sort of medal for putting up with his crazy insane wife. Somewhere in there the woman and his sweet Lacy shared DNA, but the good parts were apparently buried deep. More power to Tosh for searching for them. Continuing as if Riley hadn’t spoken, Jason pressed his palms to the table in earnest supplication. “If we’re going to make it to the wedding, I’m going to need all of your help. I’m doing my best, but I’m only one man.” Riley drew breath to make a reply, but this time Michael preempted her. “What do you need us to do?” “From now until the wedding, Lacy can’t be alone. And she can’t be with only your mom because she underestimates the danger and doesn’t keep watch of her,” Jason said, directing this comment to Riley who shrugged with reluctant agreement. He faced the table again. “Suze will be with her at work. I’ll be with her in the evenings, Michael is in the house at night. But we’re going to have to tag team in the off moments. If I get called into work, one of you will have to be on standby to cover. Suze, if you need to leave the office you need to let Kimber and Joe know.” Kimber, Joe, and Suze traded glances, affirming the arrangement. “We should also divide the city into quadrants, in case she gets lost or unconscious. Michael and Tosh, you’ll take the city. You know all the usual danger spots. Travis, you’ll take the east side by the jail. Riley, you’ll take the west side by your neighborhood. Mr. Middleton and I will coordinate.” No one responded. He took that as agreement. Riley raised her hand. Reluctantly, Jason faced her. “Why are we having this meeting in the middle of the night?” she demanded. “Do you understand I had to rouse my sleeping daughter and take her to my mother’s and I’m going to have to nurse her when we get back, even though I’m trying to wean her from midnight feedings.” Jason pressed his palms to his ears. “Way more information than I ever needed to know about your biological functions.” Riley grinned at him, enjoying his discomfort. With effort, he resisted the urge to reach over and flick her, the same way he could see her nose wrinkle as she fought the urge to stick out her tongue at him. Michael and Tosh were a good part of the family bargain, as was baby Lucy. But Riley was something all together different, the bratty little sister of his nightmares. Truly, she drove him insane. “The reason we are having this meeting at midnight is so Lacy won’t suspect anything.” “Shouldn’t she know the hard work we’re doing on her behalf?” Riley asked. Jason quirked an eyebrow at her. “Do you want to tell her?” Riley opened her mouth and closed it again. Lacy might not be as straight up crazy as her little sister, but she had a temper. Learning her fiancé, family, and friends had been plotting ways to keep her alive until the wedding would not go down well, not at all. Jason faced the group again. “Everyone in?” “We’re in,” they echoed. He slid his hand to the middle of the table. “Let Operation Get Lacy To The Wedding Alive commence.” Everyone put a hand in, even Riley, but it was too good to be true because she raised her free hand again. “Yes,” Jason said, longsuffering. “Question: if we’re all here, who’s watching Lacy now?” For a second, they stared at each other in stunned surprise. Then nine people darted out of the room and to their cars, peeling away with a squeal of tires that, to discerning ears, sounded a lot like panic.



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