The Stolen Girl
Miranda Steele swung her foot through the air and smacked Parker square in his gorgeous chest.
He made an “ugh” sound and took a step back, but she suspected that was fake.
“Don’t you think it’s time to call it a night?” he said in his seductive Southern voice.
She scowled, eyeing the sweat beading on his brow and the dark hair with its sexy touches of gray that had fallen over his irresistible face.
She took a moment to admire his tall muscular frame, then gave him a smirk. “You wussing out on me, Parker?”
She turned the other way, raised her other foot, and was about to get him in the side when he caught her calf in his bare hands.
“Not at all. I was thinking about our dinner date at Parker Towers.”
She bounced on her free foot to keep her balance. He’d made reservations for eight o’clock. “I see. You were holding out on me. I’ll get you for that.”
“Oh, will you?” He pulled her leg up and down she went onto the mat.
He followed her fall, pinned her hands over her head as he drank her in with his toe-curling gaze.
It was after hours, and they were on the fourteenth floor of the Imperial Building in the ring in the Parker Agency gym. The same place where they’d had their very first kiss.
In about the same position.
But Miranda wasn’t in the mood for kisses now. Not even with Parker’s muscled chest expanding and contracting over her, his warm sexy breath fluttering over her face, and desire glowing beneath her waist.
Well, maybe a little. But she couldn’t afford to lose focus.
He bent his head and her stomach fluttered. She took in the raw virile scent of him, nearly succumbing to his charms. But as soon as his lips brushed hers, she got her knee under him and gave it a shove.
“No fair,” he growled as he pivoted away and she got to her feet.
She danced to the end of the ring, batting the air with her fists.
Parker went to the opposite corner and reached for a towel. “We’ve been at this for an hour, Miranda. It’s time for a break.”
She stopped prancing and let her fists fall to her sides, the relentless anxiety eating away at her. “I’ve let two desperate creeps get the best of me on our last two cases. I can’t let that happen again.”
Worry peppered his face as he wiped his brow. “You’re fighting skills are better than they ever were.”
Were they? And would they ever be good enough?
Parker studied the determined angles in his wife’s lovely face.
Their last case had been a month and a half ago. But the image of her swimming for her life in the cold Atlantic Ocean would not leave him. Courageous as always, she had done her job. The job she considered her destiny. And yet he wondered if it had been his fault she’d ended up in the ocean. Had putting her in charge of the team been too much for her?
He crossed the ring to her and put his hands on her waist. “You did see Dr. Wingate this morning, didn’t you?”
She turned her head away.
He took her chin in his hand. “Miranda?”
“I did, yeah. Of course.” But she’d ended up mostly talking about Mackenzie.
She’d seen her daughter a few times over the holidays, but it had been a lot like her birthday. A little talk, a little food, a little unwrapping of presents, and then the girl would go upstairs with her friends. Miranda had noticed she was wearing the silver heart-pendant she’d given her. Then she’d wondered if Mackenzie had done that only because she knew Miranda was coming over.
She obsessed over her too much.
“Did you ask Dr. Wingate about the mind control drugs?”
“What? Oh. Yes, I did.”
“What did she say?” Parker’s deep gray eyes bore into her, demanding information. He was worried about her.
“She didn’t have an answer, except her usual therapy. She knows a specialist who might have an opinion.”
“Who is it? Is she going to contact him?”
“I told her not to bother.”
“Because I don’t want to be somebody’s guinea pig, Parker.”
“Oh, my darling.” He took her in his arms and pressed his lips to hers.
This time she couldn’t resist.
She was thinking about sliding to the mat and finishing what they’d begun here so long ago when she heard the iron doors clang and the sound of heels tapping across the gym floor.
Talk about déjà vu. Was that Gen?
She broke Parker’s kiss and peered over his shoulder to see red-flaming hair, lots of gold around the neck, and a deep green dress that made her eyes shine like emeralds.
It wasn’t Gen. It was Wesson.
Her matching green heels stopped short about five feet from the ring, and her expression turned to shock as she took in the sight of her two bosses making out.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt—uh—anything.”
“It’s all right, Janelle,” Parker said in his most understanding boss voice.
Miranda eyed the dress. “You’re here late.”
“Oh. I was going to meet someone nearby for a date and was waiting around. I guess I’ll have to cancel.”
It wasn’t until then that Miranda noticed Wesson was staring at her phone, and seemed really out of it.
“What’s wrong?” she and Parker said at the same time.
“Sister?” Miranda remembered Wesson telling her about a sister when they were on the Boudreaux case. She and Wesson hadn’t spoken in a long time, as she recalled. “The one in California?”
Wesson nodded. “She’s in LA now. West Hollywood.” She put a hand to her face. “I just can’t believe it.”
“Believe what?” Miranda started to climb out of the ring.
Parker followed her.
“Olivia was pregnant when I last saw her. And she was still with that guy.”
“The biker dude?” Miranda remembered Wesson saying that guy had beat her sister up.
Wesson nodded. “But I guess she broke up with him. And now—” Her eyes teared up.
“What, Janelle?” Parker touched her arm gently.
“She’s been kidnapped. Olivia’s little girl, Imogen, has been kidnapped. She needs our help.”
Miranda felt as if Wesson had slapped her across the face. “Kidnapped? How old is she?”
“Seven. She’s in first grade. Olivia said she went to school this morning and didn’t come home on the bus.”
The bottom dropped out of Miranda’s stomach. She knew only too well what it felt like to have your daughter snatched away from you. She could imagine what Olivia must be going through.
“Is she sure someone took the girl?” Parker asked.
Wesson nodded. “She was about to call the school when someone called her cell. It was a distorted voice from what I could tell.”
“The caller used a voice changer,” Parker said.
“Yes. They told her not to call the police.”
Miranda put her hands on her hips. “Did they ask for money?”
“No. They didn’t ask for anything. Didn’t say if they would call again. Just said ‘don’t call the police or you’ll never see your daughter again’.”
Miranda pressed a hand to her forehead, her stomach aching for the poor mother. “We’ve got to do something, Parker.”
“Has she asked for help?” he said.
Wesson glanced around the gym looking lost. “She wants me to come out there, but I don’t think I can find Imogen by myself.”
Miranda didn’t know if any of them could find the girl. But she was determined to try. She turned to Parker. “We can go, can’t we?”
“Olivia said she’d be willing to pay your fee. She’s got her own beauty salon now and has some high end patrons. Apparently she’s done really well for herself. I had no idea.” Wesson looked totally bewildered.
“Okay, then. It’s settled.”
Parker nodded to her. “Do you want to bring anyone else from the team along?”
Oh, right. She was still in charge of the team.
She thought a moment. Becker couldn’t go. Fanuzzi was into her second trimester, and the doctor said she needed more rest. Becker had been helping his pregnant wife with her catering business.
Holloway had been mad when he’d learned he’d been left out of the last case. He’d bite her head off if she didn’t take him along on this one.
“We can use Holloway,” she said. “Is that okay?” She didn’t want to rack up expenses.
Parker nodded. “The Agency can cover anything your sister can’t afford.”
“Sounds good.” She turned to Wesson. “You want us to take you home so you can pack?”
“No, I’m all right.” She seemed calmer and more focused now that they had a plan.
“Let’s meet at the airport, then,” Parker said. “I’ll text you the information as soon as I have it.”
“Yes. All right. Thank you, sir. Thank you, Steele.”
“It’s what we do.” Miranda headed for the door with Wesson and Parker beside her. “Who knows?” she said trying to give her some hope. “With any luck, maybe we’ll learn this is just some sick joke someone’s playing on her.”
Wesson gave her a half smile. “Yeah. Let’s hope this is a wasted trip.”
But as the three of them hurried through the doors and out the rear entrance of the building, Miranda didn’t think that was likely.
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