From #1 New York Times bestselling author Fern Michaels comes a new, action-packed novel.
The Sisterhood: a group of women bound by friendship and a quest for justice. Now their male allies, the Men of the Sisterhood, have formed a top-secret organization of their own, with the same goal of helping the helpless and righting the wrongs of the world…
With the women of the Sisterhood away on a covert assignment, their significant others could be expected to kick back and enjoy a little drama-free downtime. But that’s not the way Jack, Ted, Harry, Charles, and the rest of their comrades roll. An urgent call has come to the headquarters of their organization, BOLO Consultants. Bert Navarro, head of security for Countess Anna de Silva, suspects that Annie’s deluxe casino, Babylon, is being stealthily and expertly robbed. But figuring out who’s hacking into Babylon’s security system proves more difficult than expected—and may have implications for one of BOLO’s own. The security expert working for them has unlocked one hard fact—that there are more than enough suspects to investigate. But the men of BOLO will do what it takes to prove that, even in Vegas, there’s no gambling with justice . . .
Praise for Fern Michaels and her Men of the Sisterhood Series
“Michaels listens to fans and delivers one hell of a punch in this book.” RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars, on Double Down
About the Author
FERN MICHAELS is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of the Sisterhood, Men of the Sisterhood, and Godmothers series, as well as dozens of other novels and novellas. There are over one-hundred ten million copies of her books in print. Fern Michaels has built and funded several large day-care centers in her hometown, and is a passionate animal lover who has outfitted police dogs across the country with special bulletproof vests. She shares her home in South Carolina with her four dogs and a resident ghost named Mary Margaret. Visit her website at www.fernmichaels.com.
Hometown:Summerville, South Carolina
Place of Birth:Hastings, Pennsylvania
Read an Excerpt
Fast and Loose
By FERN MICHAELS
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Fern Michaels
All rights reserved.
Jack Emery, Cyrus on his heels, walked aimlessly from room to room in the old farmhouse that he and Nikki had recently purchased from Judge Cornelia Easter. Nikki, along with the other girls, had been gone only two days on a special project for Interpol that was so NTK, she wasn't even able to tell Jack where she was going, much less why. All she could tell him was that she and the sisters would be gone for at least a month, possibly longer.
Jack looked down at the massive German shepherd, which, in his opinion, was more human than animal, and said, "A month, maybe longer! Do you have any idea how long that is, Cyrus? It means you have to make your bed probably forty-five times. With our luck, it will turn out to be two months. We have to cook for ourselves, clean, do laundry, plant the garden, go to the office to check on things, and try not to be lonely. It sucks! I don't mean that Nikki did all that stuff. We share everything, you know that. Here's the straight skinny. I'm pissed that Nik wouldn't tell me anything. I'm her husband, for God's sake. Like, who am I going to tell? If you can't trust your spouse, who can you trust?"
He dropped to his knees and cupped the big dog's head in his hands until they were eyeball-to-eyeball. Jack was so close that he could feel the dog's warm breath on his cheek. Cyrus whined until Jack hugged him and whispered, "It's going to be okay. We're going to survive. We did the last time Nik and the girls went away."
This time, Cyrus reared up and let loose a shrill bark, which Jack took to mean that Cyrus was in agreement.
"Okay then. I say we head into town and hang out at the BOLO Building and get caught up on our paperwork. We can always plant those flowers when we get back. The weatherman said it might rain later this evening, so that will work. While I get my stuff ready, it's your job to fold the towels, so get cracking, pal. And ... get your gear ready. Two things, Cyrus, and not your security blanket."
Jack grinned to himself as he watched Cyrus head to the laundry room, where he slapped one massive paw on the dryer door, stood back, then nudged it all the way open. Then he dragged the four towels out onto the floor. He barked once, a shrill sound, to let Jack know he'd done his chore before he trotted off to the family room, to his basket of treasures. Jack quickly folded the four bath towels and set them on top of the dryer.
A year into ownership of the big shepherd, Nikki had heard that a dog whisperer was in town, and she wanted to take Cyrus because she thought he was acting depressed. Jack had gone along with her and had watched, absolutely amazed, as man and dog seemed to communicate with each other. The end result was that, according to the dog whisperer, Cyrus was depressed because he had no duties to perform and didn't feel worthwhile. "He needs a schedule, praise, and a timeout when he doesn't hold up his end of the bargain." The expert had gone on to say they both needed to sit down with Cyrus and lay it all out for him as to what they expected. Which they had, and to their amazement, Cyrus now made his own bed, took the towels out of the dryer, picked up after himself, and answered the phone by knocking the receiver off the hook and barking once. The only other rule he had to obey, apart from performing his duties, was that though he was allowed to chase the squirrels, he was not allowed to catch them.
Jack opened the back door to let Cyrus out. "Don't take all day, okay?"
Cyrus looked over his shoulder, as much as to say, "You're kidding, right?"
Jack shrugged; the dog had it down to thirteen minutes. While Cyrus was doing his thing, he spent the time checking and packing up his briefcase for the trip into Georgetown. He heard the sound then, one that was familiar, one that he hadn't heard in a long time. The ringtone of the special encrypted phone Avery Snowden had supplied to all of them, the sisters and the boys, too. Where was it? Somewhere in the bottom of his briefcase, buried in a mound of papers. Finally, he found it.
Cyrus let himself in the kitchen door and ran to the table the moment he recognized the strange sound coming from Jack's briefcase. He forgot all about the treat he always got when he came in from doing his business, because he knew that when he heard that particular sound, it meant action. He sat back on his haunches as he listened attentively to what Jack was saying.
"Bert!" Jack's trouble antenna went straight up in the air. "Talk to me, big guy!" Cyrus was on his feet, his tail between his legs, his ears flat against his head at his master's tone of voice. Jack listened, frowned, grimaced, and finally said, "Yeah, yeah, I get it. I'll call a meeting. We're on it! You do know the girls are off on some mystery mission that Interpol requested. Except for Maggie. She's holding down the female fort, so to speak. No, no, no communication until their return. Six weeks, possibly longer. Yeah, yeah, we're on our own here! That's not a bad thing, Bert!"
He listened again and said, "Abner will be my first call. I'll get back to you sometime later, after I call a meeting. Other than that, how are things in Macau?" He listened again to a detailed progress report, then broke the connection.
Jack stuffed the encrypted phone into one of the pockets in his cargo pants. He looked down at Cyrus, knowing the big dog wanted an explanation. "Trouble is looming, buddy. Gotta call the guys for a meet at the BOLO Building. You know that old saying, 'Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get your wish.' Well, ten minutes ago, I was wishing for something out of the ordinary, and here it is. Saddle up, Cyrus. Get your gear, and let's hit the road."
Cyrus didn't need to be told twice. Within minutes, he had clutched in his teeth a tattered, whiskerless yellow tabby named Goldie and a pink-and-purple dragon with half the stuffing missing that Nikki had sewn and resewn, a gift from Lily Wong that was the dog's pride and joy and that Nikki had named simply Dragon. He was good to go.
There was a lilt in Jack's voice and a spring in his step when he ordered Cyrus to the kitchen door that led to the garage and his brand-new farm pickup truck. Cyrus was as excited as a six-month-old puppy. In dog language he noted that at last he had something to do besides make his bed, fold towels, and chase squirrels he wasn't allowed to catch. Life was good, he thought as he hopped into the F150 and secured his seat belt. For now, along with his owner, he was king of the road. Yep, life was good.
* * *
An hour later, Jack parked in a no parking zone at a deli across the street from the BOLO Building. The name BOLO, an acronym for "be on the lookout," was a law-enforcement term. He ran in to pick up the order he had called in en route. Ham, cheese, and roast beef on rye, along with a tub of pickles, for himself and the guys. Yogurt and salad for Maggie, and three all–roast-beef sandwiches for Cyrus. He paid for his order and sprinted back to his truck at the curb, grateful no diligent cop had stuck a parking ticket under one of the windshield wipers.
Jack unlocked the security door, which had a special, one-of-a-kind lock, and entered the building, turned on the lights, and reset the thermostat. He moved around, getting out paper plates and utensils, something Maggie usually did, but since he was the one who had brought the food, he'd decided to save her the trouble. He then prepared the Bunn coffeemaker, which would give him and the others an almost limitless supply of coffee for the meeting that was about to go down.
Everything under control, Jack knew he had at least a good ten minutes, so he used them wisely by watering the huge banana tree in the foyer, a gift from Maggie when she had been stalking them and trying to find out what he and the others were up to back when he and the boys had just been getting organized. In the end, because she'd been so relentless, they had taken a vote and had allowed her to become a member of the Men of the Sisterhood. But that had been during a time when the girls didn't know what the boys were up to when they traveled off-site on a mission. They knew now, and everyone was okay with Maggie being a member of an all-guy team. Cyrus was also okay with it, even though Maggie always arrived smelling like her cat, Hero.
The hands on the nautical clock in the kitchen were straight up at noon when the last member arrived and took his seat at the huge plank table where they ate and discussed business. They all ignored Charles's edict not to discuss business while eating, simply by saying he could say and do whatever he wanted when he was at Pinewood, the Sisterhood's headquarters, but here in the BOLO Building, he was just one of the guys, and no one person was in charge. Charles acquiesced gracefully.
The questions came hard and fast.
"Is this an emergency? A mission?"
"Does it have anything to do with the girls?"
Cyrus decided it was time to voice an opinion, and besides, he had just wolfed down his three sandwiches and was trying for a little extra from those at the table. He barked his one, two, three bark, which meant all of the above.
Jack eyeballed Cyrus and warned him, "You eat any more, and it's thirty minutes on the treadmill tonight and one solid hour of yoga. You know how you hate doing yoga with Nikki."
Cyrus growled and walked away.
Maggie got up and cleared the table. "Don't any of you get the idea that it's my job to clean up after all of you. It is not. I'm doing it so we can get on with it. Looks like we might need another pot of coffee. Raise your hand if you want more."
Every hand in the room except Harry's went up.
"I'm making you tea, Harry," Maggie told him.
"Good, good. I think we're going to be here awhile, so until we're all settled, let's just sit here and chitchat," Jack said. "The reason is that I'm going to need your undivided attention when I tell you all why I called this meeting."
The group talked about the weather, the possibility of rain later in the evening, the newest updates on the latest plane that had gone missing out over the Indian Ocean on the 24/7 news channels. The moment Maggie signaled that the coffee was ready, they made a beeline for the pot, filled their cups, and were back at the table, their eyes expectant at what was to come.
"Spit it out, Jack," Ted said. "Whatever it is, we're ready."
Jack withdrew the special encrypted phone from his cargo pants and placed it in the center of the table, then pressed the PLAY button. Bert Navarro's voice in China was crystal clear as he started to talk. The amenities over, he got to the point of his message.
"Jack, I want you to listen to me carefully, and then I want you to call a meeting with the guys, at which point I want you to call me back. What I'm going to ask you to do involves everyone, and we all have to vote on it. Here it is in a nutshell. As you know, while I was at Babylon, I ran the whole show, the security, the banking, the hiring, the firing, the whole ball of wax. I did that for the nine years I worked there prior to coming here to China, where it looks like I'm going to be spending, at the very least, another year.
"Dix is running Babylon. By running it, I mean he is in charge of everything except the financial end of things. I am still doing that from here. I have a lot of free time on my hands over here, so I've been going through the financials and have been in touch with the accounting firm that handles things. Something is wrong. We'll talk about that when you return my call. For now, I want to ask if you, the boys, and Maggie can head to Vegas and do a little recon for me. Dix doesn't know you guys, but he's smart. He might figure it out. Make a plan and get back to me.
"Jack, this is about as serious as it gets. I haven't even told Annie, and I'd like to keep it that way, at least for now. I know they're off on a mission that doesn't include any of us. Hopefully, you guys and Maggie can get a handle on this and settle it before their return, which I understand can be anywhere from one to two months down the road. Call me when you're all together so I can explain better."
Jack reached across the table and turned off the encrypted phone. He looked around at the serious expressions on everyone's face. "Okay, you heard him. I'm sure you all have questions, so let's get started."
Before anyone could speak, Cyrus let loose with a loud bark to weigh in and show he could follow instructions.
"Count me in. I can come up with several scenarios that will allow me to be in Vegas. I think Ted, Esposito, and Dennis fall into that category along with me. We do work for the Post and Annie, and Annie owns Babylon. What could be more natural? Good PR, and we can throw Bert in there, along with what's going on in Macau. We can make it work, Jack," Maggie said.
Jack nodded. "Sounds good to me." He made a note on the legal pad in front of him.
"With the girls gone, Fergus and I are at loose ends. Count us in," Charles said.
Fergus nodded in agreement.
"Sounds good to me," Abner Tookus said happily. "My problem is that I can't fly, so I'll drive. I've got some colleagues who live near and around Vegas. Good chance for me to hook up and compare notes. It's a whole new security cyber circus out there these days."
"Do you mean your hacking buddies?" Dennis asked.
"Yeahhh," Abner drawled.
"If you get caught, you could endanger the mission," Dennis said fretfully.
Abner's jaw dropped. He looked at Jack. "Tell me he didn't say what I just heard him say."
Jack laughed and stared down Dennis. "Yeah, he said it," Jack drawled, "but he didn't mean it. Did you, kid?"
"Guess not," Dennis mumbled.
Jack turned to Harry. "Can you get away, Harry? With Yoko gone, who is going to look after Lily?"
"The nuns at Saint Teresa's. That's where Lily goes to school these days. She stays there during the week and comes home Friday night. The nuns will look after her, and she will love it. If I have to, I can take the red-eye on the weekends. I don't see a problem. We're at our spring hiatus at the dojo, which means we're just doing maintenance and refresher work. Quon and Chin can handle things. I'm in."
All eyes turned to Jack Sparrow, the current director of the FBI. "Count me in. I owe Bert big-time. I have a bundle of vacation time due me. I just have to put it through, and that will take at least three days.
"Okay! That means all nine of us are headed for Vegas, as per Bert's request," Jack said.
A loud bark from under the table caused Jack to correct his mistake. "All ten of us are going to Vegas, per Bert's request." Cyrus barked his thanks for the correction.
"Let's talk and firm it up before we make the call to Bert. We need a plan. Charles, it's what you do best, so let's hear your thoughts," Jack said.
Charles toyed with his pen, pushing the point in, then out. The clicking sound irritated Fergus, who grabbed the pen and stuck it in his pocket.
"I can't hatch a plan with so little information. I need to know more," Charles said. "Assuming this concerns the millions of dollars that wash through each and every casino every day, we still need to know what specific thing triggered whatever it was that put Bert on this path. Is it a sudden happening, or is it something that has been going on that he just became aware of? How privy are we going to be to the accounting firm? Or are we depending on Abner to get us that information, or is Bert going to provide it? Maggie's suggestion that the four of them go as a team carries weight. I think it's plausible, as well as credible. What happens in Vegas doesn't have to stay in Vegas, not when there are five-star investigative reporters milling about."
"Anyone else have any questions or comments?" Jack asked.
Harry raised his hand. Startled, Jack just stared at him. Harry never asked questions. "What?" Jack asked.
"If you recall, Jack, my pictures were plastered all over Vegas when we were on that Chinese caper with Wing Ping. I've attended martial arts trials and participated in the ones held in Vegas. Customers won't recognize me, but the heavies will, and the security will for sure. Right now, I'm the number one in the whole country. That carries some publicity. How do you want to play that? Dude me up with a disguise? You know how I hate that crap. Let me go in as a shill? I'm all for going. I just don't want to compromise the mission by being so exposed."
"Harry's right," Dennis said boldly.
"You're right, kid. Charles will figure something out. He always does. We are not going anywhere until we have a foolproof plan of action," Jack said.
Excerpted from Fast and Loose by FERN MICHAELS. Copyright © 2016 Fern Michaels. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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