Snippet 4

(I know it’s not Friday, but my brain is mush this morning. So, instead of not blogging, I’m going to post the next snippet. This will probably be either the next to the last or the last snippet since Nocturnal Interlude will be coming out today or tomorrow, depending on whether the conversion process borks or not.)


Chapter Four

“Listen up,” Mac said the moment she stepped into the squad room.

Instantly all conversations stopped and all eyes were on her. Good. She wasn’t in the mood to put up with any more foolishness. She’d had enough of that to last the rest of her life. Now she studied at her detectives and the uniformed officers assigned to her command. As she did, she saw the looks of concern and disbelief and even anger reflected in some of their faces. She could understand the first two but not the third – until she glanced to the door leading to the break room and saw Sears standing there.

“I know you have questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. However, I have one question for you. Why didn’t a single one of you pick up the phone and call to tell me my partner had disappeared?” Voice hard, she looked each of them in the eye before letting her gaze rest on Sears.

For a moment, no one said anything. They didn’t have to, not when their eyes went from her to Sears and stayed there. Not when she heard a couple of them curse angrily. Then Timothy Nguyen, one of the newest members of the squad and Sears’ partner, got to his feet and moved forward.

“LT – or should I call you captain?” He nodded to her MCCUUs.

“When I’m in uniform, Captain or Cap is fine. Otherwise, it’s LT. If you want, you can simply call me Santos. The only thing that’s changed is the uniform I’m currently wearing.” She didn’t like it, but she did have an image she had to live up to as long as she was working with Flynn and the others.

“Cap, what do you mean you weren’t notified?” Nguyen’s voice was as cold as her own had been when she’d asked Sears why no one had notified her.

“I’m saying exactly that, detective. I didn’t know what happened until I arrived home this morning and then I didn’t hear it from any of you. I learned about it when I was informed that I’d been reactivated and put on detached duty to Homeland Security. Now answer my question. Why did none of you let me know what was happening?”

“We were told you had been contacted, ma’am, but that you were having difficulties getting a flight back home,” Norwood said, his voice tight. The way he glanced at Sears confirmed Mac’s suspicions.

“All right.” Much as she wanted to have it out with the woman she’d thought was her friend, she didn’t have time to. “I will deal with this matter but after we discover what happened to Pat and the others who have disappeared.”

“Others?” Detective Banner repeated.

Before answering, Mac took another look around the bullpen. No wonder it seemed more crowded than usual. Not only was the day shift present but so was most of the night shift. Word of her return and more had obviously spread quickly.

“Yes, others. We know of six who have disappeared, including Pat. But this isn’t an isolated case. It’s happened at least four other times in other cities around the country. Each time, between six and ten people have disappeared never to be found again. Many of them have ties to law enforcement. . . .”

Mac briefed her squad on what she could, promising more information as she got it. She also informed them that she would not tolerate any dissension in the squad until after the case was closed. Then they’d have to trust her to deal with the person or persons responsible for keeping her in the dark. She could tell most of the squad, those who had been with her the longest, didn’t like it and she understood. Hell, she wanted to deal with it right now but she couldn’t. She had to stay focused on finding out what happened to Pat and the others.

And she prayed to God none of them were harmed because then she wouldn’t be responsible for what happened to Sears.

“Ma’am, I’ve got to ask. What’s with the MCCUUs?” Norwood said as her briefing wound down.

“As I said, I’ve been put on active duty until we figure out what’s going on. Because of the fact this has happened in other cities before Dallas and that law enforcement personnel or their families have been involved, Homeland is worried we are looking at domestic terrorism of some sort, possibly from one of the drug cartels. I’m still your lieutenant but I’m also a Marine Corps captain and that persona is now the official liaison between DPD and DHS.

“What that means is that I will be directing the investigation but reporting to both Captain King and to Homeland. Now, I am only going to say this once. If there is anyone here who has a problem with this to the extent that it will affect your work investigating what happened to my partner, then I’ll approve your transfer, effective immediately.” She paused, waiting as everyone looked to where Sears stood. Mac was a little surprised when she simply shook her head. Well, she’d be keeping a close eye on the woman until this was cleared up.

“Now, hit the streets. Work your CIs and see what you can find out. I’m going to check out Pat’s apartment as well as where the other victims were taken from. Unless you are following a hot lead, I want you back here at five for a briefing.” It wasn’t long, but it would give them a chance to get started. “Norwood, my office.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Santos?” Nguyen still stood looking between her and his partner and back again.

“Tim.” Her voice was soft and she moved to stand next to him and put a hand on his arm. “I know you weren’t responsible for not contacting me. I will deal with your partner later. But right now, I need you out on the streets and working. If you can’t work with her, let me know and I’ll find a uniform to go with you. Otherwise, what did or did not happen regarding contacting me is off-limits. We have to focus on finding the missing.”

“Understood, ma’am, and you can count on me.” The unspoken implication being he wasn’t sure she could count on his partner.

“Get to work and let me know if you find anything.” She didn’t wait for him to reply. Instead, she turned and walked to where Norwood waited for her at the door to her office.

“Norwood,” she began as she closed the door to give them some privacy. “I know you are part of my cousin’s unit. You will shortly receive word that I have been added to that unit. So you and I are going to be working closely together on this. The first thing you need to know is that, unless I have completely misread things, Sears has been working for IAB. I don’t know for how long but I plan to find out. The second is that we should be receiving some files from IAB in a few minutes. They’ll be from a Detective Deeks. He was supposedly looking into what happened to Pat. I want you to take possession of the files, review them and then compare what’s in them with the information we will be getting about the disappearances from the other cities.”

“Understood, ma’am.”

“If anything jumps out at you, let me know. I’ll be in the field.”

“Ma’am, not alone. Your cousin would have my head and other parts of my anatomy that I’m very fond of if anything happened to you.”

Mac couldn’t help smiling because she could picture Mateo telling the younger man exactly what would happen if Mac was hurt. “I won’t be alone,” she assured him. “But where I’m going, I need someone specific to go with me.”

“Keep in touch then, ma’am. You scare me, that’s the truth, but your cousin scares me more.”

“I’ll be good,” she promised. “Now get out there and wait for the files from IAB. If they don’t get here in the next–” She checked her watch – “hour, contact Captain King and him them know.”


“And let me know if there are problems in the bullpen, even if I’m in the field. It’s obvious I’m not the only one Sears fooled.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Mac sent him off and reached for her phone. Time to get to work. But before she could, she needed to get out of the MCCUUs and into something else. For this first stop, she didn’t want her quarry knowing she was working with the government.

 *   *   *

“Are you sure about this?” Jackson asked as Mac parked her car in front of the three story brick office building.

“I am.” She slide the transmission into park and switched off the engine. Then she turned in her seat to look at him. “The first thing we have to do is confirm that Ferguson really is one of the missing. The best way to do that is to confront Branson. You’re here as our pride’s second to his pack’s second. I’m the muscle.” She smiled to see the automatic protest that formed on his lips only to die away as quick as it formed. She knew he was male enough, in both forms, not to like being the one to act as protector. “If he is missing, I need a feel for Branson to help determine if his disappearance really is involved with what’s happened to Pat or if it is some sort of pack politics.”

“All right.” He looked at the building and she could see him preparing for what was about to come. “I’ll follow your lead.”

“Sweetheart, I’m going to do whatever is necessary to find out people.”

“I know, babe, and I will be right there helping you.” Anger laced his voice and she nodded in satisfaction. Good. He’d made the mental shift from banker to predator.

Satisfied, Mac gave his hand a quick squeeze before climbing out of the car. As she did, she reached for her cellphone and activated the record function. Then she dropped it back into her jacket pocket. She wanted a record of what Branson said. Now, if only luck was with them and the man was actually in his office.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve coming here,” Jacob Branson, second to pack leader Connor Ferguson, said as the door to his office closed behind Mac and Jackson a few minutes later.

Mac fought the urge to step between Jackson and the three weres at the opposite end of the office. She’d know Branson hadn’t been alone even before they’d been shown into his office. She’d scented the other two weres. Whether they were there trying to figure out what had happened to their pack leader or they were discussing what to do now that he was gone and Branson could take over the pack, she didn’t know. Frankly, she didn’t care as long as they had nothing to do with what happened to Pat and the others.

Standing a step behind and on either side of Branson were a man and woman. Mac recognized them from when the pack and pride had appeared before the Conclave. Sizing them up, she felt confident she could handle the two of them. Branson was a different matter. If it were just the two of them, she’d feel better about her chances. But with his two companions, she knew if it came to blows, her first duty was to get Jackson out of there. He’d be able to hold his own if shifted, but fighting in human form was not his forte.

“Three of our own are missing. From what we’ve heard, so is your pack leader and at least one other member of your pack,” Jackson began.

The man standing to Branson’s left inhaled quickly at Jackson’s words. That was enough for Mac to know their information had been right. Now all they had to do was get Branson to cooperate and share information. Of course, parting the Nile might be easier.

For a moment, Branson didn’t say anything. In fact, other than the quick look of warning he shot at the man to his left, there was nothing to betray that he’d even heard what Jackson said. Then he stepped forward, closing the distance between them. That was Mac’s cue to move. She stepped around Jackson, putting herself between him and the were.

“Santos,” Branson sneered. “As I said, you’ve got your nerve coming here.”

“I take it by your oh-so-cordial greeting that our information is correct.” She matched him sneer for sneer.

“As if you didn’t know. Your people took them,” the taller of the two weres flanking Branson said.

“If we had, we wouldn’t be here.” Jackson moved to Mac’s side, motioning with a nod of his head for her to step back. “What’s happened to our people, yours and mine, has happened to at least four other packs and prides across the country. Those are the ones we know about. Our people disappear and are never found, not even their bodies. I don’t plan on letting that happen this time.”

“You don’t plan on letting it happen?” Branson gave a bark of laughter. “You can do nothing. You are only that bastard King’s second. If your kind were going to do anything, he’d be here.”

“You still haven’t learned anything, have you, Branson?” Mac let just a hint of contempt creep into her voice. She was bad cop to Jackson’s good cop. “Our pride leader isn’t here because people would wonder why he wasn’t personally supervising the investigation into the disappearance of one of his detectives and a member of the District Attorney’s Office. But if you want to confirm he knows we’re here and that he did, in fact, give us instructions to come, take my cellphone and call him.”

Branson just looked at her. She knew he was weighing his options. For the first time since arriving, she scented the fear and worry of his two companions. It had been there all along but she’d been so focused on watching for Branson’s reactions that she’d missed it. That was the final confirmation she needed to know Ferguson and the others were also missing. But it also meant they had to tread carefully or there might be real trouble before she managed to get Jackson out of the office.

“All right.” Branson turned and motioned for the two lycans to move back to where they’d been sitting when Mac and Jackson arrived. Then he returned to his chair behind his desk. “Our pack leader and two others are missing. One, Claire Hughes, is a member of the pack. The other, a Jay Hanks, was here visiting from another pack. They went missing over the last two days. We’ve been waiting for some contact from them or from whoever took them but there’s been nothing.”

“It’s been the same with our people,” Jackson said as Mac made a mental note to expand their search. If Branson had told them the truth, there was one more lycan missing than they’d known about.

“You said this has happened before.” It wasn’t so much of a question as it was a prompt for Jackson to continue.

Mac closely watched the lycans as Jackson told Branson about the other cases they knew about. As he did, there could be no mistaking Branson’s surprise, a surprise quickly replaced by anger. At least that was something she could understand since she felt the same way.

“Then why in hell hasn’t the Conclave given warnings about this?” the man demanded as he pushed to his feet and began to pace.

“That I can’t tell you because I don’t know,” Jackson replied honestly. “Now, will you work with us to find out what’s happened to our people or are you going to be an obstacle?” Now his voice turned as hard as Mac had ever heard it.

“Well, well, well, the pure has some fight in him after all,” Branson chuckled.

“You have no idea,” Jackson said with a sneer. “Now answer my question before I decide to do as Mac suggested and call her grandmother.”

Mac almost laughed as Branson blanched at the mere mention of her grandmother. He clearly hadn’t forgotten his one meeting with Ellen. Good. Maybe that was something she could play on now.

“I’ve been wanting to work with her again, Jackson. Perhaps I should go ahead and call her.” She made a production out of reaching into her pocket and producing her cellphone.

“No need.” Branson sounded like a sulky boy. “What do you want?”

“I want to know everything you and your people know about what happened. I also know you aren’t just sitting here doing nothing – at least not unless you’re planning on taking over pack leadership.” Jackson spoke almost casually but Mac noticed how he shifted slightly so he could see all three lycans in case one of them decided to attack.

“As long as you share your information, Caine.”


“Then sit and let’s see if we can figure this out.” Branson motioned to the two chairs before his desk. Then he reached for his phone and instructed his secretary to cancel the rest of his appointments for the day.

*   *   *

There was a slight change in air pressure in the small room and Pat lifted her head. She’d quickly learned that meant the door had opened. Waiting, heart beating faster, she listened. Not being able to see who, or what, was approaching made everything so much worse. Fear spiked and she swallowed hard. Why wouldn’t they say something, anything?

Why wouldn’t they tell her why they’d taken her?

She started nervously as a hand cupped her right cheek. Before she could jerk away, fingers twined in her hair and held her head still. The hand against her cheek moved and she felt it checking the band around her waist. Then the hands were gone and she sensed rather than heard the man step back.

“Are you listening?” the same rough voice she’d heard when she’d first regained consciousness asked.

A nod. Then, when he didn’t say anything, she licked her lips and spoke. “Yes.”

“I’m only going to say this once. I am going to free you from chair. If you do anything to try to escape or to piss me off, I will strap you back in it and leave you here. You will die slowly and painfully from dehydration. Do you understand?”


He didn’t say anything else. A moment later, she felt him working at the chains securing her arms behind the chair. When her left arm was free, it flopped forward, numb from being in one position for so long. Before she could react, he’d grabbed that wrist and brought it up behind her head. By the time he was done, he had her wrists secured to the collar she wore. She ground her teeth in frustration. This was even worse.

“You are doing very well. Keep it up and you’ll live a little longer.”

Then he was at her feet, freeing them from the chair. Again, he worked quickly and she guessed he was linking a chain between the bands about her ankles. A quick tug confirmed it. She could pull her feet maybe ten inches apart but that was all. Even if she could see where she was going, she wouldn’t get far. Not secured like that.

Finally, the strap around her waist was removed and then the chain running from her collar to the chair. When the man pulled her to her feet, she groaned softly. She’d been in the same position for so long, her muscles screamed in protest at the sudden movement. Then he was leading her away from the chair, to where, she wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

“You’ve done very well so far,” the man purred later as he returned her to the chair and once more secured her to it. “As a reward, I’m going to remove your blindfold. I think it’s time you start learning what is going on.”

When he’d taken her to the bathroom, Pat had been just as surprised as she had been the first time he’d done it. But now, hearing he was going to remove her blindfold, her fear spiked. That wasn’t good. Not good at all. No kidnapper with the slightest sense of self-preservation would let his victim see his face. Of course, maybe he was wearing a mask. Then she’d not be able to identify him.

And maybe she’d be able to slip out of her chains and find a way out before being caught.

Fingers fumbled at the back of her head and light suddenly blinded her. Blinking, her eyes watering, Pat looked down at her lap. If the man wasn’t masked, she didn’t want to see his face. She needed to be able to hope that she’d manage to get out of there alive somehow.

Then her head was jerked up, her scalp screaming in pain. She couldn’t hold back her gasp at the sight before her. Connor Ferguson stood across the room. His ankles were chained to bolts in the concrete floor and his arms were chained over his head in a spread-eagle. There was a metal collar around his throat. A chain ran from it to the ceiling. It was pulled tight and Pat knew if the pack leader attempted to shift, he’d hang himself.

But he wasn’t the only one there. Secured in an identical manner across from Ferguson was Zee. The coyote shifter and Assistant DA looked from Ferguson to where Pat sat, his eyes widening in a shock Pat felt. Then the pain in her scalp eased as the hand holding her head up let go.

“Very good, little cougar,” the man’s voice purred in her ear. “I see you recognize the lycan and the coyote. They aren’t our only guests. We’ll let you see the others later, after we play a game.”

“What do you want?” Fury and frustration filled her as she once more struggled against her bonds.

“Oh, it’s very simple as you will see in a few minutes.”

As he spoke, the door opened and another man entered, pushing a cart in front of him. He looked at their prisoners and smiled. After positioning the cart between Ferguson and Zee, he whipped off the cloth covering the cart’s contents with a flourish. Pat’s eyes grew wide and her stomach rolled to see the various surgical instruments and other, more frightening implements that glistened in the light.



Nocturnal Interlude is the third book in the Nocturnal Lives series.

 nocturnaloriginscoveralternatenewNocturnal Origins (Book 1)

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

nocturnal SerenadealternatenewNocturnal Serenade (Book 2)

In this sequel to Nocturnal Origins, Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

Nocturnal Haunts (novella)

Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.

(As always, the snippet is from the pre-final edited version and all copyright protections and restrictions apply.)


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