And, Ash assumed, there would be wedding bells soon for the one lady on their team. Joss Grant Hernandez worked a case back in October that led her into the arms of shipping magnet, Carrington Matthews. At Christmas, she let Ash know that she was expecting a baby. This was after he’d assigned her to a case that saw her chasing a stalker through a canyon behind the client’s house and after she’d been shot, not once, but twice while working the potential kidnapping case Matthews had hired them to prevent. She was a tough lady, and she made it clear that she expected to continue working until she was ready to give birth. But Ash was quietly assigning the more dangerous jobs to Donovan and Kirkland Parish, his other operative, while giving her simpler jobs, like background checks and corporate espionage, the sort of thing that didn’t involve drug cartels and automatic weapons.
Changes. He wasn’t sure he liked them.
“Hey, boss,” Joss said, coming to lean against the front of his desk. “How’s it going?”
He shrugged, as he sat back to look at her. She was wearing a pair of low-rider jeans and a long t-shirt, the swelling of her pregnancy just beginning to show. She reached up and tightened the ponytail she almost always wore her long, blonde hair in, her eyes moving over Ash as she did, as though she was trying to be subtle in her evaluation of him.
“I heard you were in Maine last week.”
A little wrinkle appeared at the corners of her eyes. “Find anything?”
He knew there was no point in playing games with Joss. She could see through his lies no matter how he twisted them. And he knew that she knew the only reason he traveled anymore was to check out leads on his missing fiancée.
Alexi was a CIA agent who worked undercover in Afghanistan while Ash was running ops there with the Green Berets. It was all super-secret, the kind of operations that he and every member of his unit had to sign non-disclosure agreements over that went above and beyond the promises made to the Army when he enlisted. He and Alexi were attracted to each other immediately, drawn not only by the danger of what they did together, but by the amazing number of things they’d had in common. If they’d met under other circumstances, normal circumstances, he fully believed they would have gotten together just the same. They might have just lacked the constant sense of urgency that had overshadowed their relationship in Afghanistan.
And she wouldn’t have gone missing during their last operation together.
He sighed, his hands dropping to his lap. “Nothing.”
He shrugged. “I believe I’ll find her someday. They never found a body, never found any indication that she’d been captured or tortured or whatever else. I believe she came back to the States, maybe with a head injury or…” He stopped, aware they’d had this conversation before and he was simply repeating himself. Joss didn’t seem to mind, but he did. He couldn’t stand becoming repetitive or, God forbid, coming off as obsessive. He wasn’t. He just believed in Alexi.
She rested her hand on his shoulder, her support clear but unspoken.
“Ash,” David said, coming over to interrupt their conversation. “Did you get a call from Mabel Watson?”
Ash picked up one of the file folders he had sitting on top of his desk. “I was just about to send this over to you for the background checks.”
“She’s a friend of Ricki’s,” David said, mentioning his fiancée. “She actually recommended that Mabel call us when she found out she was getting threats via email.”
Ash’s eyebrows rose. “Ricki keeps interesting company.”
The case involved the CEO of Cumming’s Treasure, a website that offered everything from pornographic videos to X-rated comic strips to the sale of sex toys. She was apparently getting emails from someone threatening to kill her. Ash had just gotten the call a little over an hour ago and was still running the preliminary paperwork before assigning it to an operative.
“They were friends before Mabel started the website. And, from what I understand, it was kind of an accident. She was desperate for money and a friend told her about a domain for sale. She didn’t even know what she was getting into until the ink was drying on the contract.”
Ash wanted to smile. He didn’t understand why David was making such a big deal out of this, but he suspected it was because he didn’t want his brother to think badly of his fiancée. What he didn’t know was that Ash had a great deal of respect for Ricki. Any woman who could love his brother so completely, who could accept David in or out of the wheelchair, earned his deepest respect.