Justice for Mackenzie
A member of the famed Texas Rangers, Daxton Chambers has dealt with more than his share of depravity. But the Lone Star Reaper takes evil to a whole new level, kidnapping and burying women alive. It's Dax's job to help keep San Antonio safe, but even with help from friends in various law enforcement agencies, the killer remains two steps ahead. It's hardly the ideal time for a relationship, but Mackenzie Morgan is too luscious to resist. Dax wants her--which makes her an instant target for his newfound enemy.
When the Reaper gets personal, it will take every ounce of Daxton's considerable skill and training to keep Mack alive.
**Justice for Mackenzie is the 1st book in the Badge of Honor: Texas Heroes Series. Each book is a stand-alone, with no cliffhanger endings.
Release date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: Susan Stoker
Print pages: 298
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Justice for Mackenzie
Daxton Chambers barely concealed his impatience with his friend and fellow law enforcement officer, Thomas James “TJ” Rockwell.
“Shut up, TJ. The only reason I agreed to come tonight is because I lost that ridiculous bet.”
“Yeah, only you were stupid enough to bet the SAFD would win that basketball tournament. You should’ve gone with the boys in blue rather than those hose jockeys.”
“Hey, I’ve played against some of those guys and they’re killers on the court, that’s why I thought they’d win. They just had a bad day. Driftwood and Crash played in college, and Squirrel and Taco played in high school. The rest? Doesn’t matter, they’re usually just there to cause havoc so the others can handle the ball.”
TJ laughed. “Yeah, you might be right, but whatever happened, they still lost, so suck it up. This charity thing is only gonna last for a couple of hours. Just be thankful they didn’t decide to have a bachelor auction. I think that’s been way overdone and is totally cliché, but it’s easy and kinda fun in a warped way. But for tonight, we just have to show up, flex our muscles a bit, then leave.” TJ ran a hand through his dark, wavy hair.
Dax watched as a tableful of women nearby checked TJ out and then giggled, whispering softly to each other. He chuckled. “Don’t look now, but I think you’ve got an entire table of admirers over there.”
Of course TJ looked, but immediately turned back to his friend. “Jesus, Dax. They’re barely out of college. No thank you. That time in my life is over. I’m looking for a woman who’s serious about a relationship, not a badge bunny who only wants to sleep with as many cops as she can. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”
“Well, when you find one, hopefully she has a best friend or a sister for me.” Dax slapped TJ on the shoulder. “Come on, let’s go get a beer and hide out in the corner until this shindig is over. What kind of shifts you got this week? Want to go to that new steak place the guys have been talking about?”
“Let me check and get back to you. They’re changing the shifts around and I’m not sure what I’ll be doing after next week.”
TJ was an officer with the Highway Patrol and Dax was a Texas Ranger. They’d met at a crime scene, and had been friends ever since. Now they were able to collaborate more readily on cases and hang out at law enforcement conferences.
“Are Cruz and Quint coming to this thing tonight?” Dax asked. Cruz Livingston was an FBI agent who worked at the San Antonio Station and Quint Axton was an officer with the San Antonio Police Department.
“Yeah, I think so. Calder, Hayden, and Conor are also supposed to show up. The nonprofit group tried to get law enforcement from all over the city to attend. I haven’t seen them in a while and it’ll be great to catch up.”
Calder Stonewall was one of the medical examiners for San Antonio. Both TJ and Dax had gotten to know him through their cases. Hayden Yates was a sheriff’s deputy, the only woman in their tight-knit group, and she’d earned all their respect in a recent rape case. Rape was never easy to investigate or prosecute, and Hayden had worked hard to get justice for the teenager who had been violated by three college men while she’d been attending a party.
The last man in their law enforcement posse was Conor Paxton. He was also probably the person they all knew the least. He worked for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Law Enforcement Division, a member of the SCOUT team that assisted in critical incidents. There were only twenty-five SCOUT members in the entire state of Texas. Conor was quiet and focused, but made a hell of a partner in emergencies.
“Well, we might as well get settled in. There are some speeches first, right? Then the kids are coming out for the talent show?” Dax asked TJ.
“Yeah, our table’s off to the side. I asked the organizers not to put us in the middle in case any of us get called away.”
“Good thinking.” The men walked around until they found the table with their names on the seating cards. As requested, Cruz, Quint, Calder, Hayden, and Conor had also been assigned seats at the same table.
“As much as I bitched about this tonight, I’m glad I’m here. The kids are always so cute singing and dancing, and it’s not often all of us get to be in the same place at the same time, especially when it’s for fun and not for work,” TJ said after they’d gotten comfortable at the table.
“Agreed,” Dax said while nodding. TJ and Dax settled into their seats and waited for their friends to show up and for the entertainment to start.
* * *
“Sandra, make sure the kids and their parents know what order everyone is performing. We can’t have too much of a break between the acts. We gotta keep this moving.” Mackenzie Morgan put her hands on her hips and surveyed the crowd mingling in the large ballroom. This was the second year she’d almost single-handedly organized the annual charity event. It was a rewarding experience, and the law enforcement personnel who showed up were mostly easy on the eyes.
Mackenzie worked for a nonprofit agency called San Antonio Cares (SAC). The company helped all sorts of people in the city, from children to the elderly. They held auctions, charity events, and generally raised money for the less-fortunate people living in the large metropolitan city in Texas. Sandra was the administrative assistant, and one of Mackenzie’s biggest helpers for the event. There was no way she’d be able to pull it off without her.
This event was one of their biggest. SAC invited law enforcement officers from all over the city and they usually had a phenomenal turnout. Tonight was no exception. Mackenzie had always liked working with law enforcement. The men and women were almost always very polite and courteous. It was a fallacy that they were all good-looking, though. Mack had seen her share of policemen and women who wouldn’t win any beauty contests anytime soon.
However, tonight for some reason, everywhere her gaze landed, she saw almost nothing but good looking officers. Most were in uniform, many wore cowboy hats and boots. Even though the women were also in uniform, Mackenzie was a little jealous of how strong and, yes, beautiful many looked. Mack had always wanted to be svelte and muscular, but she’d been blessed with her mother’s genes. She was short, about five feet four, and had too many curves to ever be the type of woman men noticed and fell immediately in lust with.
At a hundred and forty pounds on a good day, Mack was lush. She wasn’t embarrassed by her weight or her looks, but with every year that passed without finding someone who she wanted to spend the rest of her life with, she’d begun to worry she never would. At thirty-seven, Mack had dated her fair share of men, and while she’d honestly loved one or two, she’d never felt an all-consuming love; one in which she didn’t think she’d be able to live without the other person.
Mackenzie looked around the room once more, her trained eye straining to pick up any problems so she could fix them before they got too big to handle. Her eyes stopped at a table off to the side of the room.
There were two men standing to greet a group of other officers who’d just arrived. They caught her eye because every single person was wearing a slightly different uniform. Usually the men and women tended to clump together in groups of their own kind, for lack of a better word. The SAPD members sat with each other, the FBI agents sat together, and so on. As Mackenzie watched, the six men and one woman sat down after shaking each other’s hands and entered into what seemed like a lively conversation.
The man holding a cowboy hat caught Mack’s attention and held it. While the other men were all extremely good-looking, Mack made a mental note to suggest to her boss that they revisit the law enforcement calendar for a fundraiser next year. For obvious reasons, this man with the cowboy hat stood out. He had short brown hair. He was tall, but then again, almost every man seemed tall to Mackenzie. She couldn’t tell his exact body type, as she was across the room and he was wearing a long-sleeve uniform, but she liked the way he looked people in the eyes as he greeted them, making sure each person knew he was paying attention to them.
Hell, Mackenzie had no idea what drew her eyes to the man, especially since there were handsome men all around her. But there was an attraction, and it was instant and baffling at the same time. She’d never felt a zing like the one she felt looking at this man.
A shout drew her attention past the table to one of the little girls who was supposed to be performing later on. She was shouting at one of her friends as she ran, not paying attention to what was going on around her. A waiter carrying a tray full of empty beer bottles and glasses was right in her path.
Mackenzie immediately started across the room, knowing she wouldn’t be able to prevent the accident, but hoping she’d be able to keep the little girl from being hurt.
The little girl crashed into the waiter just as Mackenzie reached them. Performing what had to be an award-winning snatch-and-grab, Mackenzie caught the little girl around the waist just as she bounced off of the waiter’s legs.
Mack watched as he teetered and then lurched to the side, trying to avoid dropping the tray on the little girl’s head. Inevitably, the tray slid, unbalanced by his sudden movement, and all the glasses fell to the floor in a loud, very noticeable crash.
Mack took a few steps away from the mess on the floor and kneeled down to speak to the child, wanting to make sure she’d gotten there in time to keep her from getting cut by the glass.
“Are you all right?” Mackenzie looked at the nametag attached to the startled girl’s sparkly dress. “Cindy? Did the glass hurt you?”
Cindy sniffed and shook her head, putting her thumb in her mouth and sucking hard.
Mackenzie looked up to see a woman striding toward them, and Cindy reached up for her as she got close.
“I’m so sorry, Ms. Morgan,” Cindy’s mom said as she comforted her daughter.
Seeing Cindy’s mom relieved Mackenzie. She liked kids, but wasn’t very good with them. “It’s okay; I’m just glad Cindy’s not hurt. Go ahead and take her to where the other kids are getting ready, I’ll take care of this and we’ll start the show in a bit. All right?”
“Sure. And thanks. I’ve never seen someone move so fast before.”
Mackenzie nodded absently, already turning back to the waiter. Relieved, she saw two of the caterers there, already cleaning up the mess.
“Are you all right, miss?” Startled, Mackenzie looked up—right into the eyes of the man she’d been admiring earlier.
Wow. He was even better-looking up close. She briefly noticed the Texas Ranger star on his chest and nodded her head in answer to his question. Damn, Rangers were the best of the best in the state. They had a great reputation and she knew he was way out of her league. Besides, as much as she might want to, she didn’t have time to chitchat.
“Yeah, I’m good. It’s inevitable that something like this happens with this many people around. You’re okay too, yeah? Was anyone hit by the glass? Crap, I gotta make sure they put up a ‘wet floor’ sign, I don’t want anyone slipping. Just what I need, to have a cop slip and hit his head. I’d probably get sued or something. That would be bad karma for sure. Anyway, yeah, I’m good, I gotta get going. Got a shit-ton of stuff to do. Glad you’re okay too.”
Mackenzie shifted away from the Ranger, knowing she was babbling but not able to stop. She had a tendency to go on and on, especially when she was nervous. She moved away from the man with a pang of regret. She wasn’t being coy, she really didn’t have time to talk to him. She had a show to get started and a mess to make sure was cleaned up.
Dax watched as the brunette walked away from him and over to a woman in black pants and white shirt, who looked as though she worked for the catering company. He smiled, not taking his eyes from the curvy woman’s backside. She’d adorably talked on and on, not quite looking him in the eye. It was a refreshing change from the women he encountered on a daily basis. They either flirted shamelessly with him solely based on his looks and the fact he was a Ranger, or they were shifty and elusive, lying their asses off to get out of whatever crime they’d committed.
“Come on, Dax. Get your ass back over here. Calder wants to know what the hell you were thinking, siding with the firefighters over the officers last week,” Cruz yelled from the table.
Dax took one last look at the woman, now talking with the lady from the catering company, and sighed. He didn’t know her, and had really only said a couple of words to her, but she was cute babbling on with him. Not only that, she had the kind of body he was most attracted to. But he’d had issues in the past with women not wanting to put up with his crazy schedule, and figured with his luck, this woman would probably not be any different.
He turned and headed back to the large table with a deep breath. It would be a long night, taking the good-natured ribbing from his friends. He wouldn’t change it for the world.
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