Saturday, August 4, 2018

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Marshals by Mary Calmes Part 2

Tied Up in Knots #3
Miro Jones is living the life: he’s got his exciting, fulfilling job as a US deputy marshal, his gorgeous Greystone in suburban Chicago, his beloved adopted family, and most importantly, the man who captured his heart, Ian Doyle. Problem is, Ian isn’t just his partner at work—Ian’s a soldier through and through. That commitment takes him away from Miro, unexpectedly and often, and it’s casting a shadow over what could be everything Miro could ever dream of.

Work isn’t the same without Ian. Home isn’t the same, either, and Miro’s having to face his fears alone… how to keep it together at the office, how to survive looming threats from the past, and worst of all, how to keep living without Ian’s rock-solid presence at his side. His life is tied up in knots, but what if unknotting them requires something more permanent? What would that mean for him and Ian? Miro’s stuck between two bad choices, and sometimes the only way to get out of the knot is to hold tight to your lifeline and pull.

Together Tied #3.5
To celebrate Valentine's Day, you're all invited to spend some time with my marshals. I put a short novella on Instafreebie of Miro and Ian having dinner with their boss Sam Kage and his husband, Jory Harcourt. What could possibly go wrong?

I hope you all enjoy it and I hope you all have a wonderful, shmoopy, candy and flower filled day.

Twisted and Tied #4
Deputy US Marshal Miro Jones finally has everything he ever wanted. He’s head-over-heels in love and married to the man of his dreams, his partner Ian Doyle, he’s doing well at work, and all his friends are in good places as well. Things are all tied up nicely… until they’re not.

Change has never been easy for Miro, and when situations at work force the team he’s come to depend on to break apart, and worst of all, his and Ian’s individual strengths put them on two separate paths, he’s pretty certain everything just went up in smoke. But before he can even worry about the future, his past comes for a visit, shaking his world up even more. It’s hard to tell what road he should truly be on, but as he learns some paths are forged and others are discovered, it might be that where he's going is the right course after all. If he can navigate all the twists and turns, he and Ian might just get their happily ever after.

Tied Up in Knots #3
Original Review September 2016:
Miro and Ian are back!  They may not be quite up to Sam and Jory caliber in my heart but they are definitely giving the boys some competition coming in at a very close second.  In this third installment, we see the boys apart for some of the story as Ian does his duty as a green beret and Miro back on the job after his torture at the hands of escaped serial killer Chris Hartley.  When the pair is reunited, it isn't all chocolate and roses, they face both old and new enemies.  Tied Up in Knots is filled to the brim with mystery, romance, humor, and friendship in the form of intriguing plots, mesmerizing main characters, and interesting secondary characters.  Another winner from the amazing Mary Calmes.

Together Tied #3.5
Valentine's Day in the Marshals world is just as dangerously interesting as every other day with roses and chocolates mixed into the death and destruction that seems to follow Miro and Ian around.  You want to throw in dinner with the boss and his husband and the restaurant better have bullet proof menus.  Together Tied is a wonderful little Marshals novella that has everything packed into it that Mary Calmes brings to the novels.  When I saw that Miro and Ian were going to be having Valentine's Day dinner with Sam and Jory, I just knew we were in for one helluva ride.  I won't say anymore as its a short story but its a definite winning combination and addition to the series.

Twisted and Tied #4
Miro Jones has everything he's ever wanted with his marriage to his partner Ian Doyle.  Their strengths and weaknesses have made their personal and professional lives mesh but now it seems that those same strengths and weaknesses are leading their professional lives on separate courses.  When Miro's past resurfaces, it gives Miro, Ian, and the rest of the team a huge jolt.  Between the past coming back, the team's new paths, and married life will Miro and Ian find time for their happily ever after?

I can't believe it's over.  With the end of the Marshals series at hand in Twisted and Tied, maybe its no surprise that it slipped down my TBR list till now, perhaps it wasn't just a blip of unforgivable forgetfulness on my part but a subconscious need to prolong saying goodbye to Miro and Ian?  Who knows.  I have now read Twisted and hate the idea there won't be any more Miro Jones and Ian Doyle, however something tells me they may not be front and center any more but I doubt we've actually seen the last of them, after all we've seen Sam and Jory pop up once in a while so I'm sure Miro & Ian will be seen around the water cooler again.

So onto Twisted and Tied, well as you know I don't do spoilers but as this is the final entry in Mary Calmes' Marshals series I'll touch on the plot even less.  I will say its a wonderfully written tale of love, drama, mystery, family, friendship, moving on, and of course it wouldn't be Miro and Ian without some heat.  Married life has not dampened their spirit, if anything the manic bickering is even more charged now that they have that piece of paper tying them together.

If you haven't started Miro and Ian's journey yet, there is no better time to get your feet wet because you can experience their journey from beginning to end without the dreaded "waiting" between entries😉😉  But seriously, you won't regret it.


Tied Up in Knots #3
Chapter Two
I WALKED through O’Hare at seven Friday morning, and I was surprised when I came through the security area and had Kohn and Kowalski there to meet me.

“The fuck?” I said by way of greeting.

“Nice work in San Francisco,” Kohn said, smiling wide. “My city is the shit, huh?”

“It’s hilly” was all I gave him. “I didn’t get to appreciate much of it running through alleys and chasing down dirty DEA agents.”

He shrugged.

“So what’s with the reception?” I asked him and his partner.

“Well,” Kowalski began, smiling smugly. “We’re here to take you to breakfast and then officially give you back custody of your children.”

I was confused, and it must have shown on my face.

“Those fuckheads, Cabot and Drake,” Kohn snarled. “Jesus Christ, Miro, that shit is a full-time job!”

I chuckled, even though I knew he was right. Drake Ford, now Drake Palmer, and Cabot Kincaid, who used to be Cabot Jenner, were two witnesses Ian and I not only took custody of, but took under our wing. A lot of it had to do with the fact that they were young, both eighteen when they entered WITSEC, and we were the ones they bonded with.

“First you ask us to watch them last year when you and Doyle were in Phoenix, and then after when you were gettin’ better from the whole kidnapping, and—”

I called him on his bullshit. “That’s crap, man. Ian and I took them back from you as soon as I was off desk duty.”

“Yeah, but then you left the boys with us when Doyle was deployed and you were sent to San Fran, and we’re here to officially give them back.”

“What’d they do?”

Kohn threw up his hands. “Drake saved a little girl who fell in the water at Navy Pier.”

I scowled. “Why is that a bad thing?”

Kowalski shook his head. “The saving was good, the forgetting to call us before he talked to a reporter… was not.”

“Oh shit,” I groaned.

“Yeah, so we’re all set to ship him and his boyfriend off to New Mexico or wherever, but they’re crying about school and jobs and mostly—I shit you not—you and Doyle.”


“I told you before, those guys are way too attached, and Kage says you have to ship them out or they’re out of the program.”

“Out of WITSEC?”

“Apparently the shit they were in for is over. They’re not considered targets at this stage.”

“You checked with the Feds?”


“And the investigation is closed?”

“He and the boyfriend are cleared, but because of the threat from Cabot’s father to both he and Drake that you noted in his file, the call can be made to keep them in the program, but just not in Chicago.”

I understood. “So they can be out of WITSEC altogether and stay in Chicago, or remain in WITSEC and move.”

“You got it,” Kohn told me.


“Kage is giving you today and the weekend to get it all sorted out. Come Monday morning he wants a status report.”

“And why’s he sending that message with you guys and not telling me himself?”

“He sent you a memo,” Kohn clarified. “And us. Do you need him to yell at you too?”

I did not, no.

“I mean, he can. We both know he’ll be fuckin’ happy to do it. I think he was just cutting you some slack until Doyle got back.”

“Which’ll be tomorrow,” I informed them.

“Good,” Kohn said, grinning at me. “So what, you ready to eat?”

Kohn wanted to take us to Jam over on Logan, but Kowalski wanted mounds of food and something closer, so we hit a diner on our way from the airport, some greasy spoon where a short stack of pancakes was six high. Just watching Kowalski eat was terrifying.

I cleared my throat. “That doesn’t frighten you?” I asked Kohn, tipping my head at Kowalski’s shovel of a fork.

“I make sure to keep my hands away from his mouth and we’re good.”

It was fun to watch sleek, metrosexual, model-handsome and manscaped Eli Kohn partnered with the belching mountain of muscle that was Jer—short for God knew what because he’d never tell me—Kowalski. Their banter was always fun to listen to, especially about fashion, but heaven help you if you threw out a dig about the other in his presence. I’d seen Kowalski put an FBI agent on the wall—like, several feet off the ground up on the wall—for quietly insinuating Kohn was more interested in his hair than in taking down a fugitive. The guy was lucky to keep his lungs.


I looked back at Kohn from my plate.

“You sleeping okay?”

I was really sick of people asking me if I was or wasn’t. I could see the dark circles under my eyes as well as anyone else—I just didn’t want to talk about it. There was nothing to say. The dreams would stop when they stopped. “Why, don’t I look all right?” I teased.

“You look like shit,” Kowalski apprised me, his raised eyebrow daring me to contradict him.

“I’m fine,” I muttered, going back to eating even though I wasn’t that hungry.

“Oh fuck,” Kowalski groaned after the bell on the door jingled, bumping Kohn with his elbow. “It’s this shit again.”

Turning in my seat, I was surprised to see Norris Cochran, along with another guy I’d never met, walking toward me.

“He can’t eat in peace?” Kohn barked at Cochran as he closed in on us.

Cochran gave him his arrogant cop grimace that didn’t hit his hazel eyes, and when he reached us, grabbed the chair beside me, turned it around, and flopped down. The man I assumed was his new partner took the seat on the other side of me so I had to lean back to keep an eye on both of them.

“The fuck do you want?” I asked my ex-partner.

“Nice,” Cochran said, forcing a chuckle. “Didn’t I tell you he loved me, Dor?”

The guy to my right nodded.

“Miro, this is Dorran Barreto. Barreto, my first love, Miro Jones.”

We didn’t shake hands. I didn’t offer and Barreto didn’t either.

“What do you want?” I asked Cochran again.

“You ain’t even gonna ask after my kids?”

“Your wife and I are friends on Facebook,” I informed him. “I know how the kids are.”

That surprised him. I could tell from the flicker of annoyance and the trace of something else crossing his face. But it had been a long time since I’d been around him, so I was out of practice reading him. Not that it mattered. We weren’t friends.

“So what, detectives stalk marshals now,” Kohn baited.

Cochran glanced over at him. “If you had just told me when he was coming back instead of giving me the runaround, I wouldn’t’ve had to do that.”

“And I told you,” Kohn replied fiercely, leaning forward, pointing at Cochran, “that we are not in the habit of giving out personal information to people who are not family or friends of members of our team.”

“I’m his ex-partner and I’m a cop.”

“And cops in the city are, of course, to be trusted,” Kohn scoffed.

“Yeah, maybe not, huh?” Kowalski rubbed salt in the open angry wound that was the ongoing Justice Department investigation of the Chicago PD. “I’m not sure any of you fuckers know what procedure is.”

Before things escalated, I got up and headed for the door. Cochran was no more than a half a step behind me.

Outside, I rounded on him, already annoyed that my food was getting cold, and he took a step back so he wouldn’t run into me.

“What do you want?” I growled, venting every bit of irritation, not caring, not bothering to filter as I would with practically everyone else.

“A gun,” he answered flatly, crossing his arms, his gaze locked with mine.

“Explain.” A demand, clipped and cold.

“It’s about Oscar Darra.”

Everyone knew the story. “The ex-mob enforcer?”


I had to think. “I thought he was dead.”

“Yeah, so did a lot of people, but he turned up last week in a routine sweep of a Turkish bath down on Cicero.”

“No shit.”

He shrugged.

“Where the hell’s he been all this time?”

“He’s been laying low down in Springfield with some cousin.”

I grunted, leaning back against the wall of the diner. November in Chicago right before Thanksgiving wasn’t arctic yet, but it was cool. I was glad I had on a hoodie under my leather jacket. The wind would have blown right through me. “What does any of this have to do with you being here?”


“Is this gonna be a long-ass story?”

He didn’t answer, just coughed and put his shoulder against the wall so he was facing me. To anyone walking by, we looked like two buddies out shootin’ the shit.

“Fine,” I sighed. “Talk.”

“Okay, so after we pick him up and get Darra back to the station, he starts telling us that if we agree to cut a deal with him, he’ll tell us where the gun is that was used to kill Joey Romelli.”

I shook my head. “You lost me.”

“You don’t remember Romelli?”

“I remember Vincent Romelli, who was in charge of the Cilione crime family, but he’s been dead awhile. Who’s Joey?”

“His son.”

“He had a son?”

“‘Had’ being the operative word, yeah.”

“And how’d he die?”

“Well, according to Darra, he was shot by one Andreo Fiore.”

“Who?” I could feel myself getting annoyed all over again. I hated playing name the thug and I especially didn’t want to do it with Cochran.

“He was Vincent Romelli’s muscle back in the day.”

“Okay, so lemme get this straight,” I began, turning to face him. “You guys pick up Darra because he’s in town for whatever reason, and when you grab him, he wants to give up this Fiore to cut a deal.”


“And you care about this why?”

“Well, we don’t at first. Barreto and I figure it’s bullshit, right? But we go to where he says he’s stashed the gun and—”

“This is already fucked up, Nor,” I said, slipping back into calling him by a nickname like we’d never been apart. It just came out. Shit. “I mean—”

“Just stop.” We stood there in silence, him staring at me and me finally looking away because I had no idea what the hell to say.

“It was good you caught Hartley.”

My eyes were back on him.

“I’m sorry we—”

“It’s not—”

“It is,” he croaked, stopping me, hand slipping around my bicep, squeezing tight. “We—I didn’t know what to do with how that went down. It would’ve been better off if you let me shoot him.”

I cleared my throat. “I know.”

“More people died because you let him live that night.”

I yanked free of his hold and took a step back. “I know that too,” I retorted, angry but quiet, feeling my body wash hot, then cold with regret and shame.

He moved forward into my space, grabbing hold of my jacket. “But it was right, what you did.”

I searched his face for clarity because he was making no sense.

“If I’d shot him, I would’ve been guilty because I had him.”

I understood like no one else could because I was there. Hartley had me in his hands, a knife shoved into my side, and Cochran was looming above us, gun in both hands, and he could have shot Hartley, killed him if I hadn’t used my body to cover the psychopath and keep my partner from becoming a murderer.

“You—” His voice bottomed out. “—did it to protect me, not him.”

That revelation had only taken close to four years. “Fuck you,” I raged, the hurt and anger over his betrayal—he’d never even visited me once when I was in the hospital—boiling over like it always did whenever I revisited that time in my life.

He had been my family, his wife and kids, his parents, his siblings, and in one moment he was gone and so were all the rest of them. His wife had come around, finally, but no one else did, and it still hurt. Mostly it was that helplessness that came from things being taken away while I’d had no control. I hated that. I was a foster kid, so I’d never had a say about any part of my life, and to have that happen again when I was older had made me gun-shy of partnership and putting my faith in anyone. Ian was the one who changed that, the only one strong enough to break through the wall I’d put up.

From the beginning, Ian had simply assumed I belonged to him, his backup, his friend, his shadow, and because he took me for granted, I had uncoiled, relented, and finally trusted. Anyone but Ian, anyone who wasn’t a battering ram, all prickly vulnerability, dangerous temper, and raw, primal heat—constantly in my space, close, leaning, bumping, touching—I would have kept at a distance. But there was no saying no to Ian Doyle. The ache that welled up in me made it hard to breathe.

“Fuck me?” Cochran yelled.

I couldn’t even be bothered to have my head in a fight. That was how much I didn’t care about Norris Cochran. After shoving him back, I strode to the edge of the parking lot. He was there fast, walking around in front of me.

“So,” I demanded shortly, meeting his gaze. “If Fiore killed Romelli, where did your guy get the gun?”

He took a breath. “Well, so Fiore shot Romelli, Darra’s sure of it. He was in the bedroom when he heard the shot, and when he came out, he saw somebody run out the front door.”

“So he followed him out to the street?”

“No, Romelli was killed in his penthouse.”

“Oh, so your guy follows this Fiore down however many stairs.”

“Yeah,” he confirmed. “And when he gets there, he follows him into an alley and watches him stash the gun in a drain.”

“Why would he do that? Why not just take the gun with him?”

“Well, I don’t know if you remember, but at that time, with his father having just been murdered—everybody was watching Joey. They found him that night like a half an hour after the shooting.”

“And this Fiore, he was a mob enforcer like Darra?”

“No, not at all. Like I said, he was just one of Vincent Romelli’s goons.”

“Then why kill his son?”

“We don’t know.”

“Does he still work for Strada?”

“No, I ran him through the system and he’s clean. He’s always been clean. He was a known associate of Vincent Romelli and he was questioned when Vincent Romelli was gunned down, but he and his buddy Sal something were the only ones who got out.”


“Oh, and Joey Romelli.”

“The son was there when his father died?”

“Yeah. Fiore was the one who got him out of the massacre.”

I needed a second. “I’m sorry, what?”

“I know!” he snapped at me. “It makes no sense.”

“So Fiore saves him and then turns round and kills him?” I was incredulous. “This is what Darra would have you believe?”


“Tell him to go fuck himself and charge his lying ass.” I was done and turned to go.

He grabbed hold of my shoulder to keep me there, and I rolled it, out of habit, instinctively, because someone I didn’t like was touching me. “Wait,” he barked. “The gun he gave us, the ballistics matched.”

“What gun? The gun he turned over to you?” I said, exasperated that I was having to stand there and listen to his bullshit.


“Well of course the ballistics match. He killed Romelli, probably on orders from Tony Strada. The last thing you fuckin’ want around when you’re the new boss is the old boss’s kid.”

“Yeah, that’s what we thought, but when we ran the DNA on the gun—there was Romelli’s on the muzzle, like the gun was shoved down his throat—and someone other than Darra’s on the grip.”

“So?” I was so aggravated. Cochran had always taken forever to get to the point.

“So Romelli was killed execution-style with a bullet in the back of his head. That’s why everyone figured it was a mob hit.”

“Then what?”

“Well, now we think whoever did it shoved his gun in Romelli’s mouth first—probably so he’d know who was pulling the trigger—and then shot him like he did to make it look like everyone would expect.”

“Okay, so lemme wrap my head around this. You have the gun, the ballistics match, so it’s for sure the one used to kill Romelli, but Darra’s DNA isn’t on it, and he says it was Fiore.”

“Yeah, plus we have Fiore’s prints.”

“You have Fiore’s prints on the weapon?”

He nodded.

“So bring his ass in.” I almost growled. “The fuck does this have to do with me?”

“We can’t.”

“Why not?” I retorted, done, at the end of my rope. I wanted to eat and go home and pass out. “You’ve got prints, DNA—get a court order and test Fiore’s DNA.”

“Yeah, we can’t get an order.”

“Why the hell not?!”

“Because we don’t have the gun.”

“What do you mean you don’t have the gun?” He was making no sense and I was a second away from walking—hoping he’d try and grab me again. I really wanted to hit him. Some of it was his fault because of our past and because he’d always been fucking irritating. But a lot of it was Ian and how much I missed him and how stretched thin with yearning I was. I needed my man home, and this close to getting it—a mere day—I was in that headspace where anticipation became panic racing around in my head like a cat scrambling after a mouse. I was scared something was going to happen and Ian would be gone again. I was taking it out on Cochran, but he was taking for-fucking-ever to get to the point. “You just said you got prints and DNA and—”

“We don’t have the gun ’cause it was transferred to the marshals by mistake,” he explained almost sheepishly.

“Come again?” I asked, incredulous, beside myself.

He cleared this throat. “My lieutenant—”

“Who’s that now?”


“Okay, sorry, g’head.”

“Yeah, so Cortez transferred three guns to your office because, like your guy said in the diner, lots of cases are being looked at by Justice right now, and lots of evidence is being reexamined. So our gun went back to evidence after ballistics and prints and DNA was run, but from there it was accidentally transferred to you.”

“What does it matter? It was tested for prints, which you got, and you’ve got the sample of whoever’s DNA was on it, so just get Fiore’s sample and match it… or not. It’s done either way.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Of course it is. The prints will compel the DNA sample.”

He shook his head. “No.”

“No? How the hell you figure no?”

“The ASA assigned to the case—Sutter—she says that without the gun, it’s our word against Fiore’s that the prints were from the gun. She says they could’ve come off anything, and it could look like we’re trying to set him up. Fiore could make a case for tampering.”

“Are you serious?” I asked, overwhelmed with the stupidity of all of this.

“Yeah, I’m serious!” Cochran flared. “Without the goddamn gun, we can’t make Fiore give us a DNA sample.”

If I thought about it logically, that made sense. No judge in their right mind would issue a court order to compel Fiore to give them a DNA sample if the item his DNA was supposed to be on was, in fact, missing. What if it was always missing? Never found? What did that say about the police department that they’d had the weapon in their possession but didn’t anymore? What if the prints in question had come from somewhere or something completely different, and Andreo Fiore had, in fact, never even been in the room where Joey Romelli was killed? It was a mess.

“I get it,” I admitted. “You need the gun.”

“Fuck, yeah, I need the gun, and that’s where you come in.”

“How?” I could hear how icy and stilted I sounded, so no way Cochran was missing it.

“Chain of custody says it’s in your property room.”


“But your boss says the gun’s not there.”

Now I was really lost. “Okay, wait. You’re telling me that you already questioned the chief deputy about the gun?”

“Barreto and I did, yeah.”

This finally felt like the gist of it. “And?”

“And like I said, he told us that it’s not there.”

“Then what the fuck, Norris? If he says it’s not there, it’s not there.”

“But I think it is, and I think he’s lying.”

“What?” My brain was ready to explode. “How dare you fucking—”

“Calm the fuck down!”

“Don’t tell me to calm down!” I roared, drilling two fingers into his collarbone. “You don’t know shit about Sam Kage because if you did you’d never—”

“I think your boss is purposely hiding the whereabouts of that gun,” he yelled over me.

“For what reason?” I shouted.

“I have no idea.”

“Does Sam Kage even know Andreo Fiore?”

“Not that we can tell. There’s nothing at all that links them.”

“Then why the hell would you think he would lose the gun?”

Cochran cleared his throat. “You know, back in the day, his partner was dirty, and guess where that guy went—into WITSEC,” he said offhandedly.

“What are you insinuating?” I asked, feeling my skin heat under my clothes, afraid of what I would do if the words actually came out of his mouth. Irritation, annoyance, all of it was gone, replaced solely by anger. How fucking dare he.

“Dirty partner… you understand.”

“I don’t think I do,” I said flatly, my vision tunneling down to him, lost on the edges, going black, my throat dry, my heart beating so fast I wondered how he couldn’t hear it.

“C’mon, Miro, don’t be stupid.”

“That was a long time before my boss was even a marshal,” I ground out.

“Whatever. It’s not right and you know it.”

“What isn’t?” He had to be clear. I couldn’t bury his career if he wasn’t.

“Your boss is fuckin’ dirty.”

It was worse than I thought it would be, hearing his words, having them out there, the accusation making my stomach churn.

“Did you hear me?”

The rage filled me up, made me see red, and fisted my hands at my sides. Only the thought of Kage, his disappointment if I surrendered to my base instincts, kept me still. “You don’t know him at all.” I bit off each word.

“Like I said, I know of him. I know his partner was dirty and he—”

“Well, I know him,” I spat out, my voice hoarse. “And he would never, ever, tamper with evidence, any evidence! If anyone is screwing with you, it’s your boss. Who the fuck transfers the wrong guns to the Justice Department?”

“Cortez signed a piece of paper to transfer a crapton of evidence, not just one gun! Do you have any idea how many cases and reports and everything else Justice is going through? It’ll take years for them to get through it all.”

“And then they can start looking into Homan Square,” I blasted.

“Fuck you, Miro!” he yelled, shoving at me hard but barely moving me, as I was prepared for his reaction. I knew Norris Cochran; his fuse was far shorter than mine. “You know I never—”

“I don’t give a shit that you never,” I roared, knocking him back several feet. “But don’t you dare come at me with some bullshit accusation about my boss covering up a crime by tampering with evidence. For all we know, the goddamn gun was never even there in the first place!”

He threw a wild roundhouse punch that I ducked easily, and I would have tagged him right in the jaw, but someone grabbed me from behind and got my arms pinned behind me.

As I struggled to free myself, Cochran caught me in the right eye, but I managed to twist hard enough to take the next one in the right shoulder instead of the side of the face, and the last one in the gut. He was ready to hit me again; I saw the fury all over him, knew he’d been waiting years, ever since we arrested Hartley the first time, to kick the shit out of me.

Then we both heard a bellow of outrage. I was released instantly, and before I hit the gravel, I was in Kowalski’s arms.

“You better fuckin’ run!” he thundered after them. “I’ll have both of your motherfucking badges for this!”

“For crissakes, Jones,” Kohn grumbled as he reached us. “We can’t leave you alone for a second? Why didn’t you yell for us?”

“I didn’t know he had backup. How is this my fault?” I railed.

“Jesus,” he moaned, “lookit your face, man. I think we’re gonna have to get you to the hospital.”

“Fuck that,” I groused, spitting out a mouthful of blood. “Nothing’s broken. Just take me home.”

“We’ll call Kage on the way.”

I couldn’t argue with that.

Twisted and Tied #4
Chapter One
My day had gone from being moderately normal by deputy US marshal standards to insane in a matter of seconds, all because the one person I counted on to always make rational choices had done the exact opposite.

He wasn’t supposed to jump off buildings.

In the movies people always talked about seeing their whole lives flash before their eyes when they thought they were going to die. I always sort of figured that for bullshit, but the moment I saw my boss, the chief deputy marshal of the Northern District of Illinois, Sam Kage, leap after a suspect into nothing, there it was, whoosh, me in a freaky-fast montage that brought me to the moment where I was sure I had no choice but to follow the man into the sky. Who knew that shit actually happened?

It all started that morning when SOG, the Special Operations Group—the marshals’ version of Special Forces—led the way into an enormous warehouse on 48th Place. They were followed quickly by TOD, Tactical Operations Division—our badass SWAT-style guys covered in body armor and Kevlar, toting serious firepower—with the marshals behind them, then uniformed Chicago Police Department bringing up the rear. Just with that many guys, the opportunity for a clusterfuck was already a possibility.

The point of this operation was to apprehend or stop Kevin and Caradoc Gannon, neo-Nazi pieces of crap who had gotten their hands on a small quantity of VX gas, and so SOG was deployed to execute the men responsible for threatening the civilian populace of Chicago. With TOD there was a good chance of survivors, and nine times out of ten, everyone came out in one piece. The SOG guys would make the decision right there on-site whether to put people down. It didn’t happen often. Unlike how it was in the movies, capturing a fugitive normally went fairly smoothly. The marshals rolled up somewhere, and some of us went around back while the rest of us went in hard through the front. Sometimes we even knocked.

My partner and now husband, Ian Doyle, went in with the first wave alongside SOG—how, I had no idea—because we’d rock-paper-scissored for who would take point in our group and who would hang back and keep an eye on our boss. Ian and I were stuck watching him because we were last on the scene. That was the agreement among the investigators on Kage’s team: whoever rolled up behind the big man had to babysit. Not that we would ever say that to his face, none of us being suicidal or insane, but it was simply understood.

So Ian was inside the warehouse with the rest of the guys and the tactical experts, and I was keeping an eye on my boss. When Kage saw a guy drop out of a second-story window onto the top of a delivery truck and then down onto the pavement, he shouted and gave chase, and I followed.

This was not supposed to happen.

There were good and bad things about being Kage’s backup. The positive part was if I was the one charging after him, then I was in the best position to protect him. I would be the one to guard him, and make sure he went home to his family that night, and stayed at the top of the food chain in charge of an entire team of deputy US marshals.

The flipside was exactly the same. Being his backup meant if I fucked up, not only was I screwing up the life he shared with his family, but also luck of the draw said the next man in his job would be worthless by comparison. Kage carried all of us on his shoulders, above the shit of red tape and politics, and he also provided shelter and protection, so losing him was not an option. For that reason, I liked him safe in his office. But Kage was on-site because it was his circus. He was the top stop of information for the marshals service in Chicago, as his boss, Tom Kenwood, had to travel back and forth a lot to Washington as well as all over the great state of Illinois. So when something big went down and the press got wind of it—as they always did—then Kage had to be there to do his voice-of-God thing and give short answers to reassure the public without confirming or denying squat.

At the moment, however, the man in question was flying down the sidewalk in front of me, his long legs eating up the concrete in pursuit of an escaped felon.

I had no idea Kage could run like that. He was fiftysomething, definitely not the thirty-three I was, so I was honestly surprised that not only could he run, but run pretty fast. Plus he was six four, with massive shoulders and a lot of hard, heavy muscle, really big, so his speed was even more shocking. He not only kept pace with the much younger fleeing fugitive but was gaining on him as well.

A parked car didn’t stop our suspect; he did an impressive parkour leap over it, completing a maneuver that had him using his hands to go down on all fours for a second before he vaulted the ancient Oldsmobile. Kage didn’t stop either, doing the classic Dukes of Hazzard slide over the hood that all the men in my life had perfected.


“Why is going around the car so difficult?” I roared after him.


Because apprehending the fugitives was a coordinated strike, I had a stupid earpiece in from when the breach happened, and we were all connected. But after things got squared away afterward, everyone else dropped off except the guys I worked with on a day-to-day basis. Normally I was the only person in my head, but because I was chasing Kage and they were all thinking they were being helpful, I had my entire team of deputy US marshals not only checking on me but shouting directions at the same time.

“Can you see him?” Wes Ching yelled.

“Pull your gun, Jones, just to be on the safe side!” Jack Dorsey suggested loudly. “But don’t shoot him, for fuck’s sake.”

He was being a dick. “I’m gonna shoot you when I get back!” I growled. We never ran with our guns out. That was a rookie move.

“You gotta stay right with him!” Chris Becker barked into my ear.

Like I didn’t know that?

“If he slows down, don’t leave him!” Mike Ryan insisted with a snarl.

Because I couldn’t stop or mess with my momentum in any way, there was no time to reach up and pull out the tiny earpiece to silence them. “Will you guys quit with the screaming already? Fuck!”

“Yeah, don’t leave his side, Jones!” Ethan Sharpe demanded, ignoring me.

“I know,” I roared to everyone in general. “For fuck’s sake!”

“Make sure you yell for people to get out of his way!” Jer Kowalski instructed.

“Really?” I snapped. “‘Yell for people to move’ is your advice?”

“Somebody’s pissy,” he commented snidely. “I suggest more running, less talking, Jones.”

“Keep up with him!” Ching cautioned.

I needed all these orders because clearly I’d only been a goddamn marshal for one day.

“Are you close enough to shoot anyone who tries to touch him?” This from Chandler White, who normally didn’t try to boss me around but was clearly making an exception this time because, again, I was apparently some kind of newb who couldn’t tell his ass from a hole in the ground.

“You have him in your line of sight, right?” Eli Kohn wanted to know.

“Fuck, yes!” I shouted.

“You gotta get close, but not too close,” Sharpe felt the need to tell me.

I growled.

“Try and get in front of him. That would be better,” Kowalski suggested.

“I swear to fuckin’ God, you all—”

“You know he can’t do that,” Eli objected. “Since Kage is the first one in pursuit, Miro can’t—”

“Kill the chatter,” Ching broke in angrily. “You’re all lucky Kage doesn’t have an earpiece in, or we’d all be dead.”

It was true, but since Kage was in the command center during the initial breach and was only allowed to come out when we got the all-clear, he never put in an earpiece like the rest of us.

I saw the guy turn into an apartment building and Kage follow right behind. “No, no, no,” I grumbled under my breath.

“God fucking dammit, Jones, you better not let any—”

“Will you guys all lay off!” Ian warned gruffly, and his rough whiskey voice was a welcome relief. “You know Miro’s got this covered. He’s not stupid; he knows what he’s doing. Give the man a little fuckin’ credit!”

It was good to have someone on my side who didn’t doubt my mental or physical ability and who would champion me to the others. But that wasn’t surprising; I could always count on Ian. The moment of silence that followed his outburst was soothing.

“But you can see him, right?”

“Ian!” I howled, utterly betrayed.

“I’m just asking!” he yelled back defensively.

“You can all go straight to hell!” I bellowed before I tore through the front door of the apartment building after Kage, going up the stairs right on his heels, one level after the next, Ian in my ear the whole time along with everyone else.

“You’re very sensitive, M,” Eli commented.

“Kiss my ass,” I said, careening around a corner as I followed Kage up and up.

Funny how much Eli and I had changed in the past five months. From November to March, Thanksgiving to St. Patrick’s Day, our friendship progressed, and he’d evolved from Kohn to Eli, a permanent shift in my head.

“And Ian, you can—”

“Are you still on the street?” Eli pressed.

“Where the hell is Ian?”

“He’s offline. The SOG team made the secondary interior breach,” Dorsey informed us. And while I wasn’t crazy about that, he was one of many, not leading the rest of the men.

“Miro, where the fuck are you, because GPS is showing you now at—”

“Shut the fuck up,” Dorsey griped at Eli, who’d spoken. “Miro, did you turn in somewhere? Because it looks like we lost you on the last corner.”

“The fuck do you mean, you lost—Miro, where the hell are you?” Becker yelled.

But I’d run flat-out after Kage for at least eight blocks, and we were on the fifth floor now. I was done being able to form words.

I heard Kage hit the door that led to the roof—it had a panic bar, and that sound, like a giant rubber stamp, was hard to miss—and charged out into the open after him. From where I was, maybe ten feet behind him, the sound of leather-soled shoes scraping over the rough concrete sounded like nails on a chalkboard, and the noise added to my quickly ratcheting fear the closer they got to running out of roof.

I thought Kage was going to stop.

There was no way he wasn’t going to stop.

As many times as he had said to me, “Marshals don’t jump off buildings, Jones,” I would have bet my life on the fact that when the other guy took a running leap toward the next building over, Kage would come to a stop. He didn’t. He followed, and I was so astonished that I found myself sliding awkwardly, my feet slipping on the gravel, arms windmilling for balance, out of control for a moment as I finally came to a bracing halt at the edge of the building I too would have had to hurdle as I’d just watched Kage do.

And then came that second, my life in a blur up to that moment when I realized the one person I knew I could always count on… was gone.

No one but Ian could ever understand what Kage meant to me. It was cliché, yes, but I’d never had a father; there was never an older man who took me under his wing, never one who was both mentor and guardian, not just because he had to but because he wanted to. I would never be the same from this second on.

What was worse was that I knew him even better after just one awkward, ridiculous, scary dinner in February. One weird Valentine’s Day, and everything was different. It wasn’t like we were buddies or that I understood at all how his mind worked, but I did know how much he loved his husband and what lengths he would go to keep him safe. It wasn’t every man who took a bullet for someone he loved. Ian and I knew a secret others didn’t, because he hadn’t even told the rest of the team he’d been shot. Instead he simply showed up for work the following Monday, having taken the two days of vacation already on the books, like nothing remotely interesting had happened. Since he liked to look bulletproof, Ian and I saw no reason to muck around with that perception.

I knew the loyalty I saw him give his men, give me and everyone else who worked for him, extended to his friends as well. He worried about his family, his friends, his team, and honestly, just seeing him grounded me. But now….

My heart clenched, my stomach sank, and my breath caught as I closed my eyes for a second and tried to reconcile what I believed in—his invincibility—with what I’d just seen—his death—before I stepped up to the wall and peered over the side.

There, braced on a thin lip of what could only be called an ornamental flight of whimsy on the architect’s part—no more than molding on the building—was Kage, dangling by a one-handed death grip over a fifty-foot plunge, holding on to the guy he’d been chasing with the other.

I nearly dropped dead.

“Take him,” Kage growled while heaving the guy up to me.

I couldn’t have done it. Ian couldn’t have done it. It required muscles neither of us possessed and the ability to deadlift at least two hundred pounds. And he was doing it from basically the shoulder alone.

I was strong, but not like that, and I couldn’t imagine the concentration needed to keep the guy from falling in the first place.

I grabbed the fugitive, realized I was looking at none other than Kevin Gannon—which was why, of course, Kage took off after him in the first place—hauled him up over the edge, and then cuffed him. “Don’t move,” I warned. Normally I put a knee on a suspect’s back when I had them on the ground, but this guy wasn’t fighting or squirming. He just lay there, limp.

“No,” he said between gasps, “not moving.”

Bending back over, I saw Kage had both hands on the top edge of the roof. I leaned forward to offer him a hand.

“Secure your prisoner, Jones,” he ordered gruffly before he pressed himself onto the ledge, turned to sit and swing his legs around, and then stood.

I stepped back, watching as he gave himself a quick dusting, straightened his navy suit, adjusted the tie, and then faced me.

I couldn’t stop staring.

He scowled.

I had no clue what to say.

“Don’t tell anybody,” he instructed before turning for the door of the roof.

Don’t tell anybody? Was he fucking kidding? I could barely breathe!

Holy motherfucking hell.

I had to concentrate on not hyperventilating.

Once I could move air through my lungs again—because Jesus Christ, I thought Ian was good at stopping my heart—I finally turned to look at my prisoner.

“That man is insane,” Gannon said.

I nodded in earnest.

“But, yanno,” he said on a sharp exhale, “kind of awesome.”

He got a wan smile from me that time.

Kage waited for us at the bottom of the last flight of stairs and then opened the door to seven uniformed CPD officers. Because his face was now recognizable, along with those of the mayor, the police superintendent, and the state’s attorney, they straightened, holstered their drawn weapons, and waited for his order.

He only glowered and told them to move so we could get through. When we got closer to the warehouse, I saw Ching and Becker waiting for us along with Dorsey and Ryan, plus Sharpe and White. I didn’t see Ian anywhere, which didn’t concern me since the area of operation was swarming with law enforcement. Kowalski and Eli weren’t there, instead back at the office on desk duty, running warrants and playing liaison to those of us in the field. Technically it was Ian’s and my day to do it, but Eli had his cousin Ira coming in from San Francisco, and he didn’t want to be stuck in the field when he was supposed to be picking the guy up at O’Hare. I understood. With our job, it could go off the rails at any time. It was best to simply not engage than to try to get away.

“—secured, and all the VX gas canisters have been recovered.”

My mind had been drifting, so I was lucky the glut of information was not directed at me.

“But SOG was called to an emergency in Hyde Park, so they’re gone.”

“We need to run warrants on all these men,” Kage began, indicating the people lying on the ground, facedown with their hands zip-tied behind their backs. “Run everyone through NCIC and then—”

“Is that really necessary?” asked Darren Mills, the new supervisory deputy who took over Kage’s spot after he was promoted.

First, holy God, he interrupted Kage.

Second, not only did he question our boss, his boss, but what he asked was stupid.

I glanced at Ching, who shot a look over to Becker, who winced. It was not the first time Mills, who had been chosen by a committee without the benefit of endorsement from Kage or Kage’s boss, Tom Kenwood, had opened his mouth and inserted his foot. He had also missed a filing for Asset Forfeiture, so we missed the monthly auction where we got the cars we drove, or sometimes didn’t want to drive but got stuck with anyway—a horrific carnation-pink Cabriolet came instantly to mind—and he still didn’t know who did what in our building.

Over the years, I’d come to realize there were two kinds of transfers, which was probably true of all workplace environments. There were people who came in quietly, got the lay of the land, and worked really hard to make sure everyone saw they could be counted on to do the job. Then there were others like Mills, who swaggered in, put on airs, and pretended to run the place and direct the team. In his defense, the investigator team normally did report to the supervisory deputy, as we all did to Kage when he was in that position, but when he moved up, Kage changed the reporting system so the lead investigator, currently Becker, remained in direct contact with him—basically circumventing Mills. In response Mills had spoken to Kenwood, US marshal in charge of the Northern District of Illinois, one of the ninety-four men appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, to complain that Kage hadn’t relinquished all his duties.

That was the gist of it, anyway, and I only knew that much because Dorsey and Ryan had been in the office processing a fugitive when Mills barged into Kage’s office without an invitation.

“Really?” I’d deadpanned over wings, eating one after another, licking my fingers and listening while we sat at Crisp on Broadway. Ian was shoved up beside me, laughing as he watched me but also listening. “Mills just rolled into his office without checking with Elyes?”

Kage had needed an assistant for as long as I’d known him, and he finally got one in the form of small, slender, hyperefficient Elyes Salerno, easily one of the most beautiful women I’d ever met in my life. She had a pixie cut, dark tan skin with bronze undertones, and huge chestnut-brown eyes with the thickest black lashes I’d ever seen. She had fantastic fashion sense, and as many compliments as I gave her, she gave me the same back, telling me often that if only her husband had my shoe collection, she’d have no complaints. The fact that she could be midsentence with me, check her email, and answer a question for Kage if he popped his head out of his office all at the same time told me she was absolutely on top of all facets of her boss’s life, from remembering when he was supposed to be somewhere to intuitively knowing what report he needed. Elyes only left the office when Kage did. So the fact that Mills disregarded her and walked past her into the office was, I was sure, his first mistake.

“Yep,” Dorsey reported, sighing when the server put the next basket of wings down on the table. It was always good to go to Crisp with Dorsey and Ryan because they ate the same wings as me and Ian: the Seoul Sassy and the Crisp BBQ. The others liked to mix it up, but I never saw the appeal of straying from the tried and true. “Mills yells at Kage and says he’s got Kenwood on the line, and he’s about to slam the door when Kage leans out, apologizes to Elyes, and then closes the door behind him.”

I couldn’t control my smile. “Ohmygod, I can’t believe Mills is still breathing!”

“Right?” Dorsey chuckled.

“So what happened?” Ian asked, smiling as he wiped the side of my mouth. “Jesus, I can’t take you anywhere.”

I waggled my eyebrows at him as Ryan snapped his fingers between us. “Listen, this is about to get good.”

“It is,” Dorsey promised, smiling evilly. “’Cause alluva sudden Mills straightens up like you see people do in the movies when they’re freezing or turning to stone or something.”

Kage’s office was a wall of windows, so the show had to have been a good one, from where Ryan and Dorsey sat in the bullpen.

“Yeah,” Ryan agreed, grinning with his deep dimples and the glinting blue eyes that explained how he had so many women hanging off him when we went out. He was one of those guys you didn’t realize was handsome until he smiled. “Mills goes rigid, and his face turns this bright red, and then Kage does that thing where he turns and looks at you like you’re the stupidest fuckin’ thing on the planet.”

“I’ve seen that one,” Ian and I said in sync.

Dorsey scoffed. “We all have. It’s the one Phillip—”

“Call me Phil, there, buddy,” I chimed in, and Dorsey, Ryan, and I all made gun motions at each other instead of pointing.

“I think I missed something,” Ian commented, squinting.

Ryan gave a dismissive wave. “You missed nothing. Tull was the nozzle who sent us all over the fuckin’ place when you were deployed and Kage was on vacation.”

“Oh, when you were in San Francisco.” Ian made the connection, wiping my mouth again and running his thumb over my bottom lip in the process.

The heat in his eyes made me shift a bit in my seat, my chinos suddenly tighter. He had a very decadent effect on me. “Yeah,” I croaked.

“Tull was a fuckin’ douchebag,” Dorsey assured Ian, “and Kage made sure he understood that his time with the marshals service had come to an end, and when he was doing it in front of all of us, he gave him that same look, like, you are such a fuckin’ fucktard, how are you even in my goddamn office right now?”

Ryan was laughing and nodding because, just like the rest of us, he was familiar with the Kage glare of disapproval.

“He wanted to go back to JSD, but those guys work too hard to have to deal with assholes like him,” Dorsey went on, mustering up even more disdain for Tull.

“Agreed,” I said as Ian curled a piece of hair around my ear. I had been letting it grow out for a while and was still waiting for Kage to say something. “Judicial security doesn’t need a guy like Tull any more than we did.”

“So what happened with Mills?” Ian asked, wiping his hands before draping an arm around the back of my chair.

Dorsey chuckled. “He stands there for a second, looking back at Kage, and then he whips around and almost runs out of the office without closing the door.”

“Oh shit,” I breathed. “Then what?”

“Then Kage walks over to the door, gives me and Mike a head tip, and then slowly closes the door,” Dorsey wrapped up. “I mean, I don’t know what Kenwood said in there, but I’m betting things didn’t go down how Mills thought they would.”

Ryan cackled. “What a dick.”

So now even after that debacle—when Mills knew his decision to try to go over Kage’s head so epically failed—still he asked him, in front of all of us, if checking warrants was necessary when every marshal on the planet knew that was procedure. Kage said it because he was programmed to say it, not that he didn’t think it was our first step. He was like a parent reminding a child to put something away, habit and nothing more.

“Yes,” Kage said with a huff, the annoyance rolling off him. “We must.”

Mills coughed nervously.

“Where’s Doyle,” Kage snapped.

“Oh, uhm, he left with the SOG team,” Mills answered, clearly flustered, fidgeting, shifting nervously from one foot to the other.

“On whose authority?”

“Mine,” he said, darting his eyes to Kage’s face.

“Do you have his earpiece?”

He cleared his throat. “I do.”

Kage tipped his head at me. “That’s his partner. Give it to him.”

“Oh, yes,” he acknowledged, passing me the earpiece Ian should have turned back in the second he finished the operation. “SOG lost a man on the breach. He’ll be okay but had to be taken to the hospital, so Lieutenant Saford asked for Doyle, and I gave the okay.”

I glanced at Kage, whose clenched jaw told me he was not happy with that.

“Between Doyle volunteering for their ops, Saford requesting him, and you approving it—I think maybe I should look into reassigning him.”

I realized, horrified, that he was looking at me. “Sir?”

Seriously, why the hell was I in trouble? Guilt by marriage?


I had no idea what I was supposed to say.

“May I make an observation?” Mills asked.

Kage didn’t answer, but he gave him his attention.

“You know as well as I do the command of SOG here is vacant, and a former Green Beret, who’s also a marshal, would be a great fit for that office.”

Kage crossed his arms, giving Mills, who looked as though he was actually shrinking before my eyes, a look that would have peeled paint. “Really? He’d be a good fit, you think?”

I could tell when it hit Mills that maybe he’d overstepped. Like his boss hadn’t come to that same conclusion a long time ago, eons before.

“But of course you know that already, sir.”

Kage made a noise like an irritated grunt and then turned to me. “Run warrants and prints on everyone. You and the others are here until it’s done.”

Why he said it again, I had no clue, but I didn’t dare groan—he’d gut me—so instead I nodded and turned away, tugging my prisoner with me, walking with Becker and Ching.

“So Captain America bailed again, huh?” Ching taunted as soon as we were out of Kage’s earshot.

I flipped him off.

“So touchy.” Becker snickered before pointing at the end of the twenty-four-man line.

“Jesus,” I muttered, looking at all of them, wanting to find out where Ian was—and more importantly, how he was—but instead I was stuck running fingerprints and checking warrants for what looked like hours yet.

Earlier that morning before work, when I’d been making breakfast and he was reading his email, he’d suddenly asked me what “upcycled” meant.

“What?” I asked, turning away from the eggs in a basket.

“You don’t know what that is either?”

“I have a guess, but gimme some context.”

“Well, Josue says he’s getting an Etsy shop, and he’s going to upcycle vintage jewelry,” he answered, looking up at me, squinting. “The fuck does that mean?”

Josue Morant, who used to be Josue Hess, was a witness I had brought back from Las Vegas last November. He had become, like Cabot Kincaid and Drake Palmer before him, more than a witness. He was like a ward to Ian and me. The fact that he was emailing Ian meant he was trying to circumvent me for some reason, and I could hazard a guess as to why.

“Etsy is an online site where artists and folks like that sell stuff they make,” I explained.

“Okay,” he said as if I hadn’t helped in the least.

“And I’m guessing ‘upcycling’ means repurposing.”

“Whatever,” he said dismissively, done, I could tell, discussing things he didn’t give a crap about. “I just reminded him that he can’t use his real name, can’t use any name remotely attached to his former life, and can’t post a picture of himself, or one he created, so we’ll see what he does from here.”

“Poor kid. He was supposed to testify in February.”

“Yep.” Ian yawned and stretched. “That’s what happens when rich criminals get good lawyers. Trials get pushed back.”

“I think that—”

“Hungry,” he whined petulantly, “need food. How long does it take to drop eggs into a hole in a piece of bread and fry them? I would’ve had this done hours ago.”

I scoffed, turned back to the eggs looking good at the center of the sourdough bread, and put the red peppers I’d sautéed earlier on top.

“And not that I’m complaining, because you cooking for me is very domestic and all, but we usually just have coffee, so what gives?”

“I just—I’m worried that something will come up and you won’t get a chance to eat,” I answered, and a second later was surprised to find him there at my back, mouth on the side of my neck, biting gently. “Knock it off. You’re gonna turn me into a giant goose bump, and I’m trying to make the presentation on the eggs perfect, which is why it’s taking so long.”

He didn’t listen, instead nuzzling my hair and then kissing my ear, his warm breath making me shiver as he wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me against his hard body, my ass pressed to his groin.

“Jesus, Ian,” I groaned, going boneless in his arms, my head back on his shoulder, as always loving the feel of him, his strength and heat, the power in a simple hold.

“Let’s move this off the burner so I can get what I really need,” he rumbled, one hand on my belt buckle, tugging my dress shirt out of my pants with the other.

“You need to eat,” I managed hoarsely, the way my voice cracked not hot in the least. It wasn’t my fault, though; Ian could make me forget my name with not much work on his part. He had a drugging effect on me that was utterly sinful. “I want to feed you.”

“Well, I wanna—”

“Eat,” I asserted, grinning.

“Eat something,” he assured me before he turned me around, moving the pan off the burner at the same time, then laid a kiss on me that left no doubt in my mind about what he wanted. If his stomach hadn’t picked that moment to growl so loud it startled us both, I knew we would have been late for work.

I chuckled as he stepped back.

“Shut up.”

“Maybe you should eat, huh, baby?”

He grunted.

“What do you think?”

“Maybe,” he allowed, coming clean. “And don’t smile at me.”

I couldn’t help it. Just looking at him made me stupidly happy.

Minutes later, as he was inhaling his food, I got a begrudging smile coupled with flashing eyes that made my knees wobble as I clutched at the counter. There was no doubt about it. Ian Doyle had me wrapped around his finger.


Brought back sharply to the present from my wandering thoughts, I saw Kage gesturing to me, and I looked back at Becker.

“I got him,” he said, taking hold of my prisoner’s arm. “Go.”

I bolted over to Kage, and he put a hand on my bicep—which he never did, not a big touchy-feely guy, my boss—while still listening to others standing in a semicircle around him but clearly about to give me directions.

He turned his attention on me, and I saw the concern there in his eyes. “You remember the marshal from Alabama who came in last week, the one working out of the Middle District in Montgomery?”

“Yeah, uhm.” I had to think a second. “Juanita Hicks. She was looking to talk to the couple from Madison who were put into WITSEC here.”

He nodded. “Well, it turns out that wasn’t Hicks. She was killed two weeks ago, and that woman is Bellamy Pine, Dennis Pine’s wife.”

“Oh shit,” I sighed, suddenly glad I’d put her off because of protocol. It was simple dumb luck: because I had put the adorable young couple into witness protection in Chicago, I had to be the one to go with her to see them. Since I hadn’t had time until this week, she’d had to wait, much, I recalled now, to her annoyance.

They were a nice couple, a ballet teacher named Jolie Ballard and her website-designer husband, Brett, who did not deserve to have Dennis Pine in their home at three in the morning along with three other men toting two witnesses. How they managed to witness Pine killing three people—the two he planned, plus one of his own who’d grown a conscience—and get out of the house with their two dogs was a miracle. They did it with misdirection and, apparently, as Jolie told me, a well-timed leap—or grand jeté, as she called it—over a smallish sinkhole in their backyard. Jolie could do it, years and years of intensive ballet training, even carrying her Pomeranian, but Pine went down, and that was that. Brett told me the county was supposed to fix the sinkhole, and he’d never been more thankful for red tape in his life.

As it turned out, Pine’s trial was in two weeks, and if Jolie and Brett took the stand, Pine would get the needle. His wife, Bellamy, was trying not to let that happen.


“Yeah, I-I was supposed to call her today.”

He nodded. “Well, you need to keep that meeting. We’ll monitor you because Hicks had a partner, Christopher Warren, and he’s missing as well. They discovered Hicks’s body this morning behind an RV park in Mobile, but no sign of Warren.”

“So they want to take Bellamy alive.”

“That’s the plan, yes.”


“Did Doyle go with you to meet Bellamy? Will she think it’s odd that you come alone?”

“No, sir, Ian went with Sharpe and White on the fugitive pickup out in Skokie last week, the guy who busted out of that prison in California—I forget which,” I told him honestly. “But that’s when I met with her, when most everyone else was out.”

“Okay, then,” he said, meeting the eyes of everyone else there, some in suits, some in tactical gear. “We need you to call her and meet her, and we’ll do the rest.”

“Yessir,” I replied, reaching for the phone in my back pocket.

He put a hand on my arm to stop me and then glanced around the circle, making sure everyone understood he was talking to them. “All eyes on my man, you understand?”

And everyone listened to him, like always.

Author Bio:
Mary Calmes lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and two children and loves all the seasons except summer. She graduated from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, with a bachelor's degree in English literature. Due to the fact that it is English lit and not English grammar, do not ask her to point out a clause for you, as it will so not happen. She loves writing, becoming immersed in the process, and falling into the work. She can even tell you what her characters smell like. She loves buying books and going to conventions to meet her fans.


Tied Up in Knots #3

Together Tied #3.5

Twisted and Tied #4


Release Blitz: The Selkie Prince's Fated Mate by JJ Masters

Title: The Selkie Prince's Fated Mate
Author: JJ Masters
Series: Royal Alphas #1
Genre: M/M Romance, Mpreg, Paranormal
Release Date: August 4, 2018
Cover Design: Megan Parker of EmCat Designs
A Selkie prince forced to produce an heir. An omega destined to become a royal’s fated mate...

Prince Kai’s life as he knows it is now over. As the firstborn alpha to the Selkie King of the North, he’s required to produce an heir. Whether he wants to or not. When the Selkie Seekers finally present his fated mate, he dreads being tied to this stranger for the rest of his life. He can only hope his omega will be easy on the eyes and somewhat intelligent.

Raised in a family of good breeding, Luca always knew it was possible he’d end up the mate for an alpha of nobility. Only to whom, he never knew. Every time the Seekers summoned him for the humiliating presentation ceremony to royalty of all levels, he feared being stuck with some unbearable, abusive or very unattractive alpha. As an omega he doesn’t have the choice to say no. Not only is it his obligation, it’s the law. If he refuses, he and his family would become outcasts and banished from the Selkie community.

However, as soon as Kai enters the Great Hall of the North, it’s clear that the handsome prince is his alpha. Luca’s pleased with the choice the fates made until the king demands that not only he become pregnant within six months but produce an alpha pup with his son, otherwise he’ll be cast aside. And getting pregnant mightbe a problem...

Note: A 56k word m/m shifter mpreg story, this is the first book in the Royal Alpha series. Due to the “knotty” times in this book, it is recommended for mature readers only. It can be read as a standalone and, of course, has an HEA.

Luca wandered around the large suite feeling a little overwhelmed. He had been brought here by a beta servant right after finishing dinner. Not that he had eaten much since his stomach had been tied in knots.

How could it not be? He had sat for two long hours next to his new alpha. Imagine that! Hisfated mate turned out to be an actual prince and next in line for the throne as the King of the North.

That meant whatever heirs he produced with this prince could eventually succeed the throne. Whatever pups he bore would be princes in their own right.

But that wasn’t what made him slick with excitement. No, that wasn’t it at all. It was the alpha himself.

Being raised in a family of good breeding, Luca always knew that it could be possible he’d end up being the fated mate for an alpha of nobility. Who and where he never knew. As soon as he had become “of age,” the Selkie Seekers had summoned him time and time again to present him to royalty of all levels. From a king all the way to the lowest level of Selkie nobility, a baronet.

He couldn’t say he enjoyed any of the presentations. They were somewhat humiliating. However, over the last ten years, he’d gotten used to them. Well, as much as he could get used to being nude in a head down, ass up position in front of a crowd. Sometimes for up to an hour at a time.

Each time he was summoned he had hoped he wouldn’t get stuck with some unbearable, abusive or very unattractive alpha. Because if he did, he knew he had to do his duty no matter what and rut with whomever it was. As an omega, he didn’t have a choice to turn away the mate fates handed him.

It was his obligation and, more importantly, it was the law. If he refused, he and his family would be banished from any and all Selkie communities. They would become outcasts.

However, as soon as Prince Kai had entered the Great Hall of the North, he knew that the male was his alpha. Luca’s slick glands had started to leak just slightly, and his hole had loosened in preparation for mating. At that point, it took all that Luca had to remain in place, to stay in his submissive position as the alpha strode around them, inspecting the offering of omegas.

Of course, Luca had snuck in some peeks here and there and was pleased to find that his alpha was in his prime. Tall, broad-chested, dark-haired, and... simply handsome. When the regal prince had brought Luca to his feet, he’d lost his breath as he stared into those Caribbean blue eyes. The ones that bore straight into his soul.

Luca had been overcome with relief that his alpha was not only easy on the eyes but not much older than him. And from what he could tell over dinner, even though conversation was a bit difficult with the table being so long and the royal family being so spread out, his alpha seemed to be intelligent.

Author Bio:
J.J. Masters is the alter-ego of a USA Today bestselling author who writes hot, gay romance filled with heart, humor and heat. J.J. became fascinated with mpreg romance as soon as she figured out what mpreg stood for. She loves to write about "knotty" men!

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