This week’s theme is all about Risky Business! One of my earlier books, Retreat, is a romantic suspense novel in which the two heroes accept a dangerous mission in an attempt to put the mistakes of their youth to rest once and for all.
“What the hell were you thinking? Taking on this mission.” Night scowled at his words and Jon knew his friend didn’t appreciate the comment.
“That’s funny,” Night said. “I’m wondering why the hell you aren’t taking on this mission.”
Jon ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “Dammit, Night. I’ll tell you what I just told Reilly. I’m through with that life. I’m not going back.”
“Not even if it means finally seeing Cassandra put behind bars where she belongs?”
Jon knew it had always bothered Night that Cassandra had escaped without paying for her part in the cult’s crimes. While he’d cut his losses and attempted to put the past behind him, Night seemed to take some perverse pleasure in wallowing in the memories.
He sighed. This was clearly going to be a long night. “Not even then.”
“Did you tell him about that girl?” Night was looking at Reilly and pointing at the picture of Trisha Jackson.
“Not everything.” Reilly appeared more than happy to turn the reins of this discussion over to Night and once again, Jon was taken aback by how much his mentor had aged. How tired the tireless man suddenly seemed.
Night started to plant himself on the couch but Jon halted him with a strong grip on his shirt. “You can stand up and tell me what you’ve come to say now or you can shower and then sit down to talk. You sit on that couch and I may as well take it out for garbage collection in the morning.”
Night grinned and took a quick sniff of his shirt. “Can’t smell myself anymore. Fine. Your student and her mother arrived at the compound this morning with all their belongings in tow.”
“I thought you said Cassandra wasn’t starting the Commitment Church back up again?”
Night grimaced. “If you can believe it, I think what she has planned this time is even worse.”
Jon shook his head. Quite frankly, nothing could be worse than the cult’s practices.
“A sign was hung up at the front entrance of the house today.”
“What does the sign say?” Jon asked.
Night seemed to struggle over the next words. “Olson Mountain Women’s Retreat Center.”
He tried to grasp what Night was saying, but he was obviously still missing several pieces to the puzzle. “Sounds innocuous enough.”
Night’s frown deepened. “She’s advertising the place as a safe haven for women in trouble. Wives suffering from domestic abuse, penniless young widows, runaway teen girls. Are you getting the picture, Jon?”
Unfortunately, he was. Cassandra didn’t have an altruistic bone in her body. Clearly she was luring the women there for some unsavory reason.
“You must have more than this. What’s she doing to the women?”
Night slammed his hand against the wall. “Fuck if I know! I’ve watched the place for weeks and I can’t see anything illegal happening. I’ve watched over twenty women check in—some with kids—but that’s it.”
“That’s it?” Jon felt a vague unease as he considered what could be happening within the compound.
“That’s it. They go in and they don’t come out again. It’s not like last time, Jon. No one is ever outside the main house except the guards who, by the way, are armed to the teeth. I’ve seen women walk in with small children, but the kids are never outside playing. No one’s tending the gardens or working in the outbuildings. It’s like they all go inside and drop into a black hole and I’ve never, in two weeks of surveillance, seen hide nor hair of Cassandra.”
“They could be using the inner courtyard. That would explain why you don’t see them outside.” The compound was reminiscent of a medieval castle. The main building formed a square with a small courtyard in the center. He struggled against his next words, fighting not to utter them but losing the battle. “So what’s your plan?”
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