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Defiance (Masters of the Shadowlands #14)
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Z’s day begins with sadness
And then turns deadly
Master Z is a Dom, a husband, a father—every instinct drives him to protect those under his care. When the police can’t catch his stalker, he must take matters into his own hands.
He must keep danger far from those he loves.
As long as his impetuous and all-too-observant wife, Jessica, doesn’t discover he’s using himself as bait.
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“You know what an Irish wake is, Grayson?”
Sitting in his office, Zachary Grayson pulled in a deep, pained breath, not able to process the question. Because his old friend had cancer. Cancer.
And Mako was dying.
Grief thickened Zachary’s voice. “Yes, Mako, I know what a wake is.”
“Well, boy, my sons will handle the funeral, but would you do me a solid and set up a happy send-off for after? I don’t want all the sitting with the body shit. Find a place with decent booze where whoever shows up can raise a glass and tell a few stories. Share the stupid shit I did when I was younger. So the boys can remember me alive and not in a box in the ground.”
“I can do that.” Zachary rubbed the sting from his eyes. Dammit. Hold it back. “I’ll even tell one or two myself, First Sergeant. Maybe about how a bunch of streetwise foster children ended up in the wilds of Alaska.”
As the raspy laugh rang through the phone, Zachary knew that cancer might steal the sergeant’s life, but death didn’t frighten Mako. It never had.
“Good enough. My lawyer has your name and number. He’ll contact you when the time comes.” Mako’s harsh voice went a degree softer. “It’s been an honor to know you, Zachary. Thanks for looking out for the boys.”
The silence said Mako had disconnected.
Dammit, Mako. Would Zachary ever hear his voice again?
Setting the phone down, he rested his eyes on a tranquil scene of white-capped Alaska mountains and forest, a painting he’d purchased when visiting his friend.
He had a feeling he’d be hearing from Mako’s lawyer soon. Aching inside, he murmured the old Irish blessing. “Until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”
Pushing away from the desk, he glanced at the time. Almost five. He kept Mondays light, so there were no more counseling appointments today, and he had a need to hold his wife and daughter.
Out in the waiting room he shared with two other psychologists, Mrs. Ward smiled at him. Tactful, yet firm, she reminded him of his favorite grandmother. “Done for the day, Dr. Grayson?”
“Yes. I’ll finish my paperwork at home so Sophia can keep me company.” Not that he got much accomplished when she did.
Having met his eighteen-month-old despot, Mrs. Ward laughed.
“Is there anything urgent in the mail I should deal with tonight?”
“Here you go. I already removed the junk mail.” Mrs. Ward handed him a stack.
Zachary glanced through the letters and tossed most into his in-basket for tomorrow. Since former patients often sent news of their progress, he opened the letter with a hand-printed address.
“Dr. Grayson? Zachary? Is something wrong?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.” Silently, he read the letter again.
You arrogant asshole, you’ll pay for what you did.
One bullet should do it.
“I seem to have received my first death threat.”
“That’s…” Mrs. Ward realized he wasn’t joking, and her face went pale. “The police. You have to notify the police.”
“I’ll stop by there now.” The local station wasn’t far, and clients here might react badly to an influx of police. It would be best to visit them.
Careful not to add new fingerprints, he tucked everything into a manila envelope.
A minute later, he stepped out of the air-conditioned building into the hot humid air of early October in Tampa. A thunderstorm was just breaking over the city. As thunder echoed off the buildings, fat raindrops splattered on the cars in the parking lot.
Terrified at the cracks of thunder, a little five-year-old boy, a patient of Zachary’s associate, huddled next to the building, ignoring the rain.
“Calm down. It’s just thunder, Cody.” His mother’s attempts to get him moving sent him further into a ball.
“He’s not having a good day, is he?” Zachary stopped next to her.
“Dr. Grayson. Hello.”
“He’ll do better inside and out of the noise. May I pick him up?”
She let out an exasperated breath. “Please.”
Putting his own worries to one side, he touched the boy on the shoulder, projecting calm. “I’m going to pick you up, and we’ll go inside where it’s quieter.”
When the boy didn’t react, Zachary simply scooped him up, waited for the mother to open the door, and walked back inside. The lobby, decorated in calming blues and greens, had comfortable chairs lining the tall windows.
“Take a seat, please,” he told the mother, and when she complied, he set Cody in her lap.
“There. This isn’t as noisy, is it?” Dropping down on one knee to be level with the child, he smiled at the mother. “At his age, it’s normal to be frightened of our loud Tampa storms. There are techniques that will help. Ask your counselor, or even look online.”
“I shouldn’t have been so impatient.” She hugged her son. “We just moved here from Seattle, and we’re used to nice quiet drizzles. These thunderstorms scare me, too.”