Genre: LGBT Action/Adventure
Series: Dangerous Ground; Previous Book: Old Poison
Special Agents for the Department of Diplomatic Security, Taylor MacAllister and Will Brandt have been partners forever and lovers for three months, but their new relationship is threatened when Will is offered a plum two-year assignment in Paris.
Will believes the posting only means postponing what they both want. Taylor fears that kind of separation will mean the end of their new and still-fragile relationship. It’s a bad time to find themselves in the middle of the New Mexico wilderness responsible for the health and welfare of a suspected terrorist. Especially when everyone else they run into seems determined to see their prisoner -- and them -- dead.
According to Taylor’s watch, it was after six in the morning by the time they started down the far side of the mountain and found the black SUV mired in mud up to its custom rims.
By then the rain had stopped and the water had receded considerably. The canyon road was a knee-high swamp of debris and water, but the danger was past.
“It could be anyone’s vehicle,” Will called as Taylor splashed through the water to peer through the tinted side windows.
“Sure,” Taylor said. “Who doesn’t go on vacation without taking their leg irons?”
Will joined him in the water-filled ruts at the side of the road, making a frame for his face and trying to see inside. “Are you sure?” He could just make out a baseball bat, what looked like a military utility bag, and, yes, metallic links that appeared to be leg shackles. “Hmm. You just might be right.”
“I guess someone could have kinky tastes.”
“You ought to know.”
“Which is one of the things I like best about you,” Will added.
“Just a born diplomat, aren’t you? No wonder you’re climbing through the ranks.”
Will had no reply to that. They sloshed through the water and clambered back to the relatively dry area of the hillside.
A flash of blue caught Will’s eye. A blue jay landed on the branch of a pine tree and greeted the morning with its harsh song. The sun was rising, and it was already growing warm. The receding floodwater had a dank, unhealthy smell to it.
Taylor wiped his forehead. “Which way do you think they went?”
“Assuming they aren’t lost or didn’t get swept away, they’ll be heading the same direction we are. They need food, water, and shelter, the same as us.”
Hedwig couldn’t climb these mountains. Could she?”
Will shrugged. “I guess if she had to, she would. I’ve seen pregnant weight lifters. In magazines.”
“She didn’t look like the athletic type to me.”
“Maybe Nemov carried her. He looked like he could.”
“He looked like he could carry his SUV. I don’t know why he didn’t.” Taylor had his BlackBerry out and was clicking away and frowning at the results. Or lack of same.
“You’re not going to get any reception down here.”
Taylor muttered something uncomplimentary, though whether to the national forest or Will was unclear.
They began to walk, continuing at a brisk pace until the sun appeared over the trees. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Pine needles glistened and sparkled in the pure sunlight..
You have to admit this is beautiful country,” Will said, shading his eyes and gazing up at the distant snowcapped mountains.
Taylor opened his mouth -- though it was unlikely he was going to admit anything of the kind -- when something big, mottled brown and gray burst out of the brush and took wing, gobbling in fright.
He jumped a foot and gazed openmouthed at Will. “Jesus. What was that?”
Will dropped against a tree trunk and tried not to laugh. He didn’t really have the breath to spare, but Taylor’s half-alarmed, half-offended expression struck him as hysterically funny.
“Wild turkey. A hen, I think. You should see the size of the toms.”
“No thanks. I prefer my turkeys on a Thanksgiving platter.”
Again, Will had to struggle not to laugh.
They resumed their hike, having found what looked like an old track. Possibly a former stagecoach route. It paralleled the highway for a time and then led up into the hills. It was Will who spotted the two sets of footprints in the mud. One large, one smaller.
“That answers one question. They both made it out of the flash flood.”
Taylor nodded. He looked as relieved as Will felt. “They’ll have holed up somewhere ahead of us on the trail. No way did he drag a pregnant woman up and down a mountainside in the middle of a rainstorm at night -- even if he wanted to. She’d never have made it.”
“Maybe he doesn’t need her to make it.”
Taylor stared at him, thinking it over. He shook his head. “In that case, I think he’d have taken advantage of the flood to arrange a fatal accident. Plenty of opportunity. Especially if he left her handcuffed. Get her halfway up the slope and then give her a little push. Oops.”
“You worry me sometimes.”
“Good.” Taylor grinned a brief and dangerous grin.