mind bender


Miranda Steele stretched and yawned in the buttery soft leather passenger seat of Parker’s midnight blue Lamborghini. That was a nice long nap. She flexed her arms and looking up, caught sight of the big green signs for Peachtree Street and GA-400 looming ahead.


They were nearly home. She almost didn’t want to go back.

After a nerve-racking case that had taken a toll on both of them, she and Parker had retreated to their favorite spot in the North Georgia Mountains. For a whole week she’d lazed around with him in bed in their high-end rustic cabin. They’d gorged themselves on the country fare and made love whenever the mood struck. They’d strolled over rolling mountain trails where the magnificent fall foliage boasted a heart-stopping array of gold and orange and burnt red hues. They’d waded in a babbling forest brook. She’d even fed a deer from her hand. She was starting to really love that area.

It was healing, therapeutic. But then, Parker always knew exactly what she needed.

She leaned over and took his hand. She loved him more than she thought was humanly possible. Marrying him was the smartest decision she’d ever made.

He smiled at her. “You’re awake.”

As if he didn’t know.

He sat behind the wheel with a commanding pose, dressed in his casual look. Designer jeans and a polo shirt in a shade of blue that made his dark hair and salt-and-pepper edges look more sophisticated than the expensive suits he wore in the office. The glow in his gray eyes made her melt.

“Yeah.” She let out a sigh. “Wish we could stay in that fairytale world forever.”

“I would have stayed longer.”

“Yeah, I know.”

The plan was to stay two weeks, but Colby had called yesterday and said Mackenzie was making a speech at the PTA meeting this afternoon—on the dangers of vaping for young people, no less.

Miranda couldn’t miss that.

Parker lifted his wife’s hand and pressed her fingers to his lips. Out of the corner of his eye, he stole a glimpse of her and his heart went to heaven, as it had so many times since they’d met. With her wild dark hair and her flashing blue eyes, she possessed a beauty she didn’t know she had. From the first he’d been drawn to her determination, her sacrifice, her boldness. He felt a oneness with her he’d never felt with another woman. But on their last case, she had done something for him that went beyond anything he imagined. He couldn’t be more grateful. Or more intensely in love with her.

If only he could pay her back by soothing her anxieties about her daughter. Not so easy to accomplish. He was worried about Mackenzie, as well.

“Are you nervous for her?” Parker said causally.

Miranda eyed him, knowing he was reading her mind. “I don’t know what to feel, Parker. She’s done such a one-eighty.”

“Most parents would consider that fortunate.”

She took her hand back and let out a sigh. “I just can’t help worrying. How can she go from vaping with some guy on the school grounds and getting expelled for it, to a crusade against it?”

“She’s a fourteen-year-old.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Or it might be symptoms of a traumatic reaction to finding out her real father was a serial killer.

Parker kissed her hand. “It’s prudent to assume the best until proven otherwise.” He was being clairvoyant again. He knew what was troubling her.

“I know. I know.”

Maybe it was force of habit. After enduring thirteen years of an agonizing search for her daughter, after nearly seeing her shot by that bastard of an ex-husband she’d had, after learning what a psycho her real father was, a normal life seemed too good to be true.

But she’d try.

Forcing herself to think optimistically, she glanced at the dash. Just past noon. They had plenty of time to get home, unpack, maybe even get in another lovemaking session before the meeting at five.

The ringtone on Parker’s phone broke into her thoughts. It was that chicken dance song she’d snuck on there a few days ago while he was in the shower.

Parker scowled. “I wish you’d stop doing that.”

With a satisfied smirk, she looked at the display on the dash and saw the caller. “Holloway? What does he want?”

“I’ll find out.” Parker pressed the button on the screen to answer the call. “Good morning, Detective. What can I do for you?”

Holloway’s light Texas accent came through the speaker. “I’m sorry to bother you, sir. I know you’re on vacation. But I need the rest of the day off.”

Parker’s scowl deepened. “You’ll have to speak to your manager about that. Fortunately, she’s in the car with me now.” Parker gave Miranda a nod, transferring his scowl along with the call.

She pressed her lips together in annoyance. She’d never wanted to manage a team, especially not her old work buddy, a guy who resented the arrangement as much as she did. Besides, she knew Holloway was royally po’d she hadn’t taken him along on their last case.

But the job was the job. For now.

“What is it, Holloway?” She made sure to add a touch of the irritation she was feeling to her tone. She’d given the team the option of down time before she’d left with Parker for the mountains. Holloway had opted to stay in the office. Now he wanted time off?

“I need the day off, Steele,” he said, sounding as grouchy as she did.

She didn’t really care if he took it off, but why did she have to be the one to say yes or no? She heard traffic in the background. “Sounds like you’ve already taken it.”

“Actually, I have.”

“Why did you call in, then?”

“Following protocol.”

Protocol would be calling in before you left. She couldn’t bring herself to point that out. Instead she said, “Okay. Why do you need the day on such short notice, Holloway?”

Did Gen have some cozy cushions ready for them to try out at her apartment? By now Miranda was pretty sure Parker knew Holloway and his daughter were dating, but surely Holloway would have enough sense not to blurt out something like that now.

“It’s an emergency.”

She rolled her eyes. “The toilet flood in your apartment?”

She heard an angry huff on the other end. “I got a call from my ex-wife a few minutes ago.”

Ex-wife? Holloway hadn’t mentioned his ex-wife in a long time. She was under the impression they weren’t in contact with each other. “What did she want?”

“There’s bank robbery in progress in downtown Buckhead. She’s being held hostage. She called me for help.”

Miranda looked at Parker. Bank robbery? This really was serious. “Which bank? We’ll get there as fast as we can.”

“I don’t need your help, Steele.”

“Of course, you do.”

“I’ve had the same training you have. I’ll handle it.” And he hung up.

Parker’s jaw was tight as he reached for the radio.

“I’ll do that.” Miranda pressed buttons, scanning through country music, a talk show, and static before she got what they needed.

“We interrupt this broadcast with breaking news,” said a man with alarm in his voice. “A few minutes ago gunshot broke out at the South Exchange Bank in downtown Buckhead. Police are arriving at the scene now, and there seems to be a hostage situation in progress.” The reporter went on to interview a bystander who didn’t know much more than what he’d already stated.

Miranda was on her phone, looking up the address. “South Exchange Bank. It’s close to the office. Just off Piedmont.” And near Parker’s penthouse, too.

“Hosea must be there already,” Parker said darkly.

Parker and Lieutenant Hosea Erskine of the APD went way back.

“Probably. Let’s go.”

Her stomach lurching, she watched Parker cut the steering wheel and speed down the exit, heading for Piedmont Street.

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