Cold as Ice – Allison Brennan

Michael Thompson sat in the jail cell after his arraignment. He hadn’t spoken a word since his arrest, except to his lawyer. Even with his lawyer, he was brief and to the point. His plea was not guilty, even though he had killed the man. He had expected this day for years. Not because he felt remorse for his crimes—those he killed had committed far worse crimes—but because he still, deep down, believed in the system. That someone would see him, a camera would catch him, an alert cop would arrest him. It was none of the above. It was a mistake on his part, a stray fingerprint that led back to him. He was normally careful. Unlucky thirteen, he mused. Spending the rest of his life in prison didn’t worry him. If he was given the death penalty, he would accept it. Dying did not scare him. He’d been dead inside for seven years.

Seven years, two months, four days. The day his daughter’s broken body had been found. A crime that could have—should have—been prevented. A crime that killed his daughter, gutted his marriage, destroyed him. “You have a visitor.” Mike looked at the guard, then rose from his cot. “Walk to the bars and turn around, please.” He complied. He had no beef with the guards here. They were just doing their job.

They’d shown him respect and he would return the same. He was handcuffed through the bars, then the guard motioned to the control room to unlock the gate. Beep. Click. Slide. The guard escorted him down three halls and through two locked doors. Buzz. Click. To the row of rooms that were reserved for prisoners and their lawyers. It wasn’t his lawyer sitting in the small room.

It was a friend, a colleague of sorts. Mike doubted he knew the man’s real name, and it didn’t matter. What mattered was that they worked for the same man, a true visionary. The guard unlocked his handcuffs, then reattached the cuffs to the ring on the table. He left the room without comment. Did he know the truth? He might. His friend was not a lawyer; he shouldn’t be here. “I am sorry,” Mike said. “There is no reason to be sorry. We talked to your lawyer and cultivated a source in the police department.

The evidence is fairly solid, and they have also connected you to the situation in San Antonio.” Mike nodded. He’d feared at the time that the girl had seen him; she had at least seen the rental car. He also suspected his image had been captured at the rental car pick-up, even though he did everything reasonable to trick any surveillance. Though he hadn’t used his own identity—he never used his real identity when working a job—it would only be a matter of time before they were able to trace that burned identity to him. He hadn’t expected it to take two years, but that was two more years of righting wrongs. He couldn’t complain. “He wants you to know that he appreciates your loyalty and that he loves you as a son. Getting you out of this situation might be difficult—” Mike shook his head. He—his mentor, his savior—had given him hope when he had none.

“I don’t expect to get out of it. I’m okay with that. I’m at peace.” “You shouldn’t be here.” “But I am. And I have a second mission here, inside, that I can fulfill. Please, thank him for the new life he gave me. Thank him for his faith and support. The police will push, will want to know who hired me, but I will never betray him.” “He knows.

You have remained silent—which is exactly what you should continue to do. Your imprisonment will ultimately help us in the long term. Our boss finally sees a way to punish Sean Rogan. But it’s a difficult and complex plan which will take time to implement. A year, maybe longer.” “I have time.” “You won’t see me again; it might be too risky. If it works, you’ll know during the trial. I may be able to find a liaison so you have all the information you need. It won’t get you freedom, but we will fight against the death penalty.

” Mike said, “I’m not afraid to die.” His friend reached out and shook his cuffed hand. “I’m really going to miss you, Mike. When this is all over, I’ll visit as often as I can.” When Mike was back in his cell, he mulled over what the plan might be, and how Sean Rogan would be punished. He didn’t know the man, but he had heard plenty of stories. He’d offered to add Rogan to his list, but his boss said no. “There are other ways to right wrongs, and death is too good for Rogan.” Chapter One WEDNESDAY OUTSIDE MONTERREY, MEXICO Siobhan Walsh Rogan watched as her new husband and his team helped the six terrified girls into the old Hummer. Even before he took her hand to help her into the vehicle, she could read his mind.

“No,” she said. She jumped back down and stared into Kane’s brilliant blue eyes and knew her instincts were right. “No,” she said, more emphatic. “Do not go after him.” She ignored the gnats flying around her head, the distant sound of a lone rifle, the curses of the man restrained in the doorway of the house Kane and his men had raided. He didn’t say anything. He stared at her, face blank. Almost blank. Was he actually smiling? “See, you can’t even argue with me!” “I’m not going to argue with you, Red. Get in the truck.

” “No.” His gaze narrowed just a fraction, but it added three levels of mean to his expression. “It’s an order.” “Don’t even.” He pulled her away from the truck, away from his team and the girls, all of whom were watching them far too closely. “I will find him; I will stop him.” “It’s not worth it.” “Was it worth it to rescue Hestia nine years ago?” “This is not the same thing. We have the girls! We’re getting them to safety. Just like we did with Hestia.

” “Blair escapes, more girls are at risk. You know it, I know it. Dyson and Lucky will take you to the convent. Ranger’s with me. I know what I’m doing, Siobhan.” He looked like the cold, hardened mercenary he’d been when she first met him. The mercenary she had loved and hated. The hero she wanted and feared for. She couldn’t stop him. She knew that.

She wanted to—because she had never loved like this before. But she loved Kane Rogan because of who he was, and this was who he was. He hadn’t wanted her to come because the rescue was dangerous, but he also recognized that her unique skill set working with young victims would be instrumental in making the extraction easier than it might have been with only four armed men. He trusted her when she knew it was difficult for him to put her in danger. She had to trust him. This was who Kane was. She didn’t want to change him. She couldn’t if she tried. She didn’t want to lose him. Yet another reason why she loved him so much.

“Don’t get killed, Kane Rogan. I will never forgive you.” He kissed her. So hard it almost hurt, then he touched her face, and she saw the love in his expression, the love he had a hard time showing. “I love you. Go.” She went to the truck. Dyson handed her a gun, nodded to Lucky that they were ready. “Eyes open, Red,” he said. Ranger had already made sure the girls were both secured and unarmed.

He squeezed Siobhan’s hand and said, “I’ll protect him.” She nodded, even though she wanted to scream that this was too dangerous, foolhardy. Human traffickers were a dime a dozen, and even though Peter Blair was one of the worst out there—an expatriot who would do anything for money—they could find him another way. They didn’t have to follow Blair into territory he knew better than they did, when he was surrounded by people loyal to him, willing to kill for him. It’s too dangerous, Kane. Change your mind. Lucky turned the ignition and drove away, down the mountain. The last thing she saw was Ranger following Kane back to the house that had once held these victims. Four dead men littered the ground; the fifth was injured and trussed up by the door. Kane dragged him inside the house; Ranger followed and closed the door.

Peter Blair had gotten away, an evil man Siobhan had been tracking for even longer than Kane. Yet, though she’d seen the brutal handiwork of Blair and his men time and time again, she didn’t want to know how Kane and Ranger would find out where he went. Lucky sped off toward the setting sun and Siobhan prayed for Kane’s safety. I love you, too. Chapter Two FRIDAY SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS Three years ago if Sean Rogan had seen two police cars and an unmarked sedan in front of his house, he would have driven by until he knew exactly what was going on. But now, his first thought was fear. Lucy. He immediately dismissed the thought that Lucy had been injured in the line of duty. Someone from the FBI would have called him. And while his son now lived with them, he’d dropped Jesse off at school not ten minutes ago, so these cops weren’t here because of something related to Jesse or the school.

Still, that twitch in his gut had him seriously wanting to pass by without a glance at his house, and he usually trusted his instincts. He wished he’d trusted them now, but he clicked the garage door opener and pulled his Jeep Wrangler into his parking slot on the right. Lucy’s spot on the left was empty; she had left for work more than an hour ago. A quick glance over his shoulder confirmed that the cops were here to talk to him. The uniformed officers were getting out of their cars, and two detectives emerged from the sedan. He didn’t recognize any of them. If it was one car, he wouldn’t be concerned. RCK—the security consulting firm his brothers had co-founded, and for which he served as a principal—worked closely with law enforcement on a variety of projects. At the end of last year, Sean had assisted in an SAPD case. Between him and Lucy, they knew several cops on the force.

But this was three cars and he knew none of the cops. That worried him. He walked around to the back of the Jeep, looked straight in the eye of the cop closest to him. Plainclothes. Detective. Six feet tall, blond hair, blue eyes. The other detective was female, younger, Hispanic, not a good poker face. She clearly didn’t like him, but Sean had never met her before. “Can I help you?” he said, his voice sounding calm and chatty when that was the last thing he felt. “Sean Rogan?” “That’s me.

” The detective smiled, trying to put Sean at ease, but that only made Sean more uncomfortable, especially since the female detective stood there as if she was ready to draw and fire on him. “Detective John Banner,” he said. He didn’t offer to shake his hand. He was keeping his distance, about twelve feet. “This is my partner, Kris Mendez. We were hoping you could come down to the station and answer some questions.” “About what?” “Mona Odette Hill.” Mona? Shit. “Why don’t you come inside?” he said, motioning toward his house. “I’ll make coffee.

” “Ms. Hill was murdered Monday night and we’d like to talk to you about that. It would be better if you come with us.” What the hell was going on? Mona was dead? Monday. Sean had gone to Houston on Monday and met with Mona. So these cops might have a witness who saw him near her condo. Fine. But that didn’t mean he would go down to the fucking station and talk. “No, thank you, I’m happy to talk with you here.” It took all his control not to tell them to screw off and call a lawyer.

Something was going on, and Sean had the distinct impression that they thought he was involved. Banner had said Mona was murdered. They wanted him to come to the station. Nothing good would come from him going to the station. What did you get yourself into, Mona? Banner glanced at his partner. They communicated silently for about two seconds, then Banner said, “Mr. Rogan, you’re under arrest for the murder of Mona Hill.” Banner nodded to one of the officers, who cautiously approached Sean. “What the hell?” he said, though he knew he shouldn’t say a word. “First you want to talk, now you’re arresting me?” “Turn around,” the officer said.

“Kneel, and put your hands on the top of your head.” Sean didn’t move. He was being arrested for murder? He took everything in. The two detectives. Four uniformed officers. Coming to his house—after Lucy was gone, after he returned from dropping Jesse off at school. Did they know his routine? Did they plan it this way? How long had they been watching him? “Mr. Rogan, please comply,” Banner said. “I know your wife is a federal agent, and you have friends in the department. I don’t want this to become a sticky situation.

” He had no choice. “I’d like to call my wife.” He actually wanted to call JT Caruso, the head of RCK. JT would know exactly what to do and would get him the best lawyer. You know what to do, Sean. Don’t say anything. Not one more word. You’re innocent, but that doesn’t mean squat. Keep your mouth shut and don’t piss of the cops. “You’ll be able to make your calls as soon as you’ve been booked in Houston.

” “Houston? You’re taking me to Houston?” So much for keeping his mouth shut. Mona Hill lives in Houston. “Yes, Mr. Rogan,” Banner said. “We’re with Houston PD. The San Antonio officers are assisting us this morning.” So they’d planned to arrest him from the beginning. They wouldn’t have brought the officers if this wasn’t the endgame. “I’m armed,” Sean said. “I have a concealed carry permit in my wallet.

” “Thank you for that,” Banner said. “Are you carrying anything besides a handgun?” “A knife in my right front pocket.” He hated this. Everything about this. It was bullshit. He considered resisting, but that wouldn’t do him any good, and could get him shot. You should have driven by when you saw the cop cars. You’ve turned soft, Rogan. The SAPD officer repeated, “Turn around and kneel, put your hands on the top of your head.” Sean didn’t like that his partner had his hand on his holstered gun.

Did they think he was going to run? Fight? Shoot? He said to Banner, “If you just tell me what’s going on, I can come down on my own with my lawyer.” “That won’t be possible.” “Why the hell not?” Sean snapped, hating that he was letting his fear take over. “You know my wife is a federal agent. My sister-in-law is a fed. You must know I have government contracts, security clearance. You can ask me to come in and talk and I’ll be there.” “I did.” “I mean on my own, with my lawyer.” “Too late.

” “You didn’t give me the fucking choice!” “Are you going to make this difficult, Mr. Rogan? Do I need to add resisting arrest?” “I’m not resisting, I’m talking.” “You’re a flight risk, Mr. Rogan,” Banner said. “I’m sorry it came to this, but I have no choice. I’m only going to ask you one more time. Turn around, put your hands on your head, and kneel.” He could bolt into his garage, the house. Lock the door. It was steel-reinforced.

His security was the best. He could go to the panic room he’d recently put in and wait this out until he figured out what was going on. But that would make him look guilty. So he complied, resisting an overwhelming urge to run. His entire body tensed; he would not do well behind bars. He already felt like a caged animal and the cuffs weren’t even on his wrists. Then two of the SAPD officers approached him. One searched him and removed his gun, handed it to his partner, who unloaded it and handed it to Mendez. She put it in an evidence bag. The officer found his knife that he kept in his pocket and also handed that to his partner.

“Do you always arm yourself to take your kid to school?” the cop said. Sean couldn’t let him bait him. This cop was nobody, and Sean wasn’t going to say a word until he knew exactly what was going on and why these cops thought he killed Mona Hill. He’d already said too much, arguing with Banner. His left wrist was cuffed, pulled behind his back, and then his right arm was brought down. “Relax, Mr. Rogan,” the officer said. He tried. He couldn’t. He valued his freedom more than anything.

He’d spent a few days in jail before, he could not—would not—spend the weekend behind bars. “Come on now,” the officer said, pulling his arm tighter than necessary. “Mr. Rogan,” Banner said, “you’re drawing attention from your neighbors.” Sean’s face heated. He didn’t look around. He wasn’t resisting, but he couldn’t force his body to relax. He winced as the cop jerked his arm up and back and clicked on the handcuffs. Murder. They’re arresting you for murder.

You didn’t kill Mona Hill. Why do they think you killed her? They wouldn’t arrest him solely on the word of an eyewitness—there had to be evidence. Question him, sure—but they wouldn’t arrest him. What did they have? Why did they believe he killed her? Anything they had would be circumstantial. He was in her condo. He couldn’t tell anyone, especially the cops, why he was there. Not until he talked to a lawyer. Unfortunately, he hadn’t told Lucy. There were two reasons he hadn’t told her, not the least of which was because Lucy didn’t like Mona. Neither did Sean, but they had an understanding, and in this particular situation they had a common enemy.

You should have told Lucy. He had a very, very bad feeling that this was all a setup. You are screwed, Rogan. Banner said, “Can we take a look in your car?” He glanced over his shoulder and looked Banner in the eye. “Do you have a warrant?” He took their silence as a no. “We’ll get a warrant; you can just make this easier.” “I do not consent,” he said clearly. The officer who had cuffed him took hold of Sean’s elbow and pulled him to standing, then escorted him to the squad car. “Watch your head,” he said and helped Sean into the back. The cop closed the door and Sean was alone.

His eyes burned. Rage and embarrassment tore him up inside. And fear. Fear that this setup was going to get him killed. He had enemies in prison. So did his brother. So did Lucy. Maybe that’s why he was bring framed for Mona Hill’s murder. It wouldn’t matter when the cops realized he was innocent, by then he might already be dead.

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