Hidden Prey

By: Cheyenne McCray

CHAPTER 1





The nightmare had been so damned real. Landon Walker sat on the edge of his bed, his eyes bleary and his head aching like a mother. He had to stop trying to find peace at the bottom of a bottle of Jack D because all it was doing was making him feel like hell the next morning. Didn’t matter what he did, because he didn’t think he’d ever have peace again.

His dream had replayed every last detail of that night when a hit and run drunk driver had sideswiped Landon’s motorcycle, sending Stacy flying and pinning him beneath the wreckage. A helmet and protective gear hadn’t been enough to save her. After he’d managed to get out from beneath the motorcycle, he’d crawled to her, dragging his shattered leg. He could still feel her broken body in his arms.

He ran his hand down his face, the stubble and scar along one cheekbone rough against his callused palm. Fourteen months to the day that Stacy had died in the accident, an accident that had been his fault.

Would he ever stop marking time by the date of his fiancée’s death?

He turned his head to look at the alarm clock and winced from the pain the sudden movement caused. Damn. He was going to be late if he didn’t get his ass out of bed. His job was no punch the clock forty-hour workweek. But Mondays still sucked.

Early Monday mornings he used to play basketball with a bunch of guys who were in law enforcement. On Friday nights, those who weren’t working usually played poker. But after the accident, Landon had pulled away from everything but his job. He still worked out—sometimes excessively—in the fitness room in his home. Not only to stay fit, but because the strenuous activity burned off excess anger at himself and sometimes at the world.

With his head still aching, he stepped under ice-cold water in the shower in an attempt to wake up. He braced his hand against the smooth white tiles, his head lowered, goose bumps prickling his skin as he let the water flow over him. He kept the water cold as he washed his hair and soaped his body. When he finished, he shut off the water and shook his head, droplets flying before he toweled himself off.

The cold shower had done its job and he felt marginally better by the time he pushed open the shower stall’s glass door. He might just make it through today after all. Last month had been the first month he hadn’t taken flowers to Stacy’s grave. For the first year he’d visited once a month on the date of her death, but after a year, he’d made the decision to move on to save his sanity. Damned if he knew how.

After he dressed in jeans and a faded blue T-shirt, he slid his Glock into its holster on his belt. He slipped on a white overshirt to cover his weapon then stood in his kitchen and wolfed down a breakfast of toast and scrambled eggs. He stuck the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and headed out.

He climbed into his charcoal gray Ford Explorer, stuffed his key into the ignition and started the vehicle. He headed down the dirt road leaving his ranch and continued onto the paved road that would take him to Douglas.

When he finally left the ranch, he had just enough time to make it to the office and take care of a few things. Then he’d head to Bisbee to meet with his man who’d been working deep undercover. It was a twenty-five mile drive from his ranch in Sulfur Springs Valley to Douglas and to DHS’s ICE office outside of Douglas where he worked.

He’d been a special agent with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for eleven years now, and had given himself completely to his career since Stacy’s death. He’d always been married to the job, and he regretted not being there for Stacy more. Now he lived and breathed his work. What the hell else did he have? The job would take his soul one day and that was ok with him.

When he arrived at the office, he spent some time going over aspects of the case that he’d been working for months. The Jimenez Cartel’s tentacles reached far from Mexico, into Arizona. When they chopped off one arm, another one grew to replace it. The cartel had to be cut off at its head. There was no other way.

They had to get to Diego Montego Jimenez, known as El Demonio to everyone around him. The Demon. It was a fitting nickname for the bastard.

It was early afternoon when Landon headed out of the office. On his way out, he saw Dylan Curtis, another DHS special agent, and one of Landon’s good friends. At six-three, Dylan was a good two inches taller than Landon. He wore a Stetson over his dark hair and his ice-blue eyes were appraising as always.

Dylan paused in front of the entrance. Landon stopped, too. “When are you going to join the boys for basketball again?” Dylan mimed going up for a shot. “Had some good games this morning. You need to show up and get your ass back in it.”