His family never fully recovered from the kidnapping of his siblings decades ago. Now Boone McGraw finally has a lead on his missing sister’s location, but it means working with feisty private investigator C.J. Knight. Desperate to solve her partner’s murder, C.J. doesn’t believe her case could possibly be connected to the sexy horse breeder’s investigation…until they find themselves running for their lives.
Whitehorse, Montana: The McGraw Kidnapping
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
By B.J. Daniels
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2017 Barbara Heinlein
All rights reserved.
Boone McGraw parked the pickup at the edge of the dark, deserted city street and checked the address again. One look around at the boarded-up old buildings in Butte's uptown and he feared his suspicions had been warranted.
Christmas lights glowed in the valley below. But uptown on what had once been known as the richest hill on earth, there was no sign of the approaching holiday. Shoving back his Stetson, he let out a long sigh. He feared the information the family attorney had allegedly received was either wrong or an attempted con job. It wouldn't be the first time someone had tried to cash in on the family's tragedy.
But he'd promised his father, Travers McGraw, that he would follow up on the lead. Not that he believed for a moment that it was going to help him find Jesse Rose, his sister, who'd been kidnapped from her crib twenty-five years ago.
Boone glanced toward the dilapidated building that reportedly housed Knight Investigations. According to the family's former lawyer, Jim Waters, he'd spoken to a private investigator by the name of Hank Knight a few times on the phone. Knight had asked questions that supposedly had Waters suspecting that the PI knew something more than he was saying. But Waters had never met with the man. All he'd had for Boone to go on was a phone number and an address.
The phone had recently been disconnected and the century-old brick building looked completely abandoned with dusty for-lease signs in most of the windows and just dust in others. No lights burned in the building — not that he'd expected anyone to be working this late.
Boone told himself that he might as well get a motel for the night and come back tomorrow. Not that he expected to find anything here. He was convinced this long trip from Whitehorse to Butte had been a wild-goose chase.
His father had been easy prey for twenty-five years. Desperate to find the missing twins who'd been kidnapped, Travers had appealed to every news outlet. Anyone who'd watched the news or picked up a newspaper over the past twenty-five years knew how desperate he was since each year, the amount of the reward for information had grown.
Boone, suspicious by nature, had been skeptical from the get-go. The family attorney had proven he couldn't be trusted. So why trust information he said he'd gotten? His father hadn't trusted the lawyer for some time — with good reason. He swore under his breath. All he could think about was how disappointed his father was going to be — and not for the first time.
But he'd promised he would track down the PI and follow up on the information no matter what it took. And damn if he wouldn't, he thought as he started his pickup. But before he could pull away, he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. A dark figure had just come around the block and was now moving quickly down the sidewalk. The figure slowed at the building that housed Knight Investigations. He watched as the person slipped in through the only door at the front.
Across the street, Boone shut off the truck's engine and waited. He told himself the person he'd seen could be homeless and merely looking for a place to sleep. It was late and the fall night was clear and cold at this high altitude. Butte sat at 5,538 feet above sea level and often had snow on the ground a good portion of the year.
Boone hunkered in the dark, watching the building until he began to lose patience with himself. This was a waste of his time. The cab of the truck was getting cold. What he needed was a warm bed. A warm meal didn't sound bad, either. He could come back in the morning and —
A light flickered on behind one of the windows on the top floor and began to bob around the room. Someone was up there with a flashlight. He squinted, able to finally make out the lettering on the warbled old glass: Knight Investigations.
He felt his pulse thrum under his skin. It appeared he wasn't the only one interested in Hank Knight.CHAPTER 2
Climbing out and locking the rig, Boone headed for the door where he'd seen the figure disappear inside. A sliver of moon hung over the mountains that ringed Butte. Stars twinkled like ice crystals in the midnight blue sky overhead. Boone could see his breath as he crossed the street.
The moment he opened the door, he was hit with the musky scent of the old building. He stopped just inside to listen, but heard nothing. Seeing the out-of-order sign on the ancient elevator, he turned to the door marked Stairs, opened it and saw that a naked bulb dangled from the ceiling giving off dim light. He began to climb, taking three steps at a time.
As he neared the top floor, he slowed and quieted the sound of his boot soles as best he could on the wooden stairs. Pushing open the door marked Fifth Floor, he listened for a moment, then stepped out. A single bulb glowed faintly overhead, another halfway down the long empty hallway.
The building was eerily quiet. No lights shone under any of the doors to his right. To his left, toward the front of the building, he saw that there were four doors.
The last door, where he estimated Knight Investigations should be, was ajar. A faint light glowed from within.
As quietly as possible, he moved down the hall, telling himself maybe Hank had come back for something. Or someone else was looking for something in the detective's office.
He was almost to the doorway when he stopped to listen. Someone was in there banging around, opening and closing metal file cabinet drawers. Definitely searching for something.
Boone leaned around the edge of the doorjamb to look into the office. In the ambient light of the intruder's flashlight, he saw nothing but an old large oak desk, a worn leather chair behind it and a couple of equally worn chairs in front of it. Along the wall were a half dozen file cabinets, most of them open. There seemed to be files strewn everywhere.
With Knight Investigations' phone disconnected, he had assumed Hank had closed down the business. Possibly taken off in a hurry. Now, seeing that the man had even left behind his office furniture as well as file cabinets full of cases, that seemed like a viable explanation. Hank Knight was on the lam.
His pulse jumped at the thought. Was it possible he did know something about Jesse Rose and the kidnapping? Is that why he'd taken off like he apparently had?
Boone couldn't see the intruder — only the flashlight beam low on the other side of the desk. He could hear movement. It sounded as if the intruder was rustling through papers on the floor behind the desk. Looking for something in particular? Or a homeless person just piling up papers to make a fire in the chilly office?
Stepping closer, Boone slowly pushed the door open a little wider. The door creaked. The intruder didn't seem to hear it, but he froze for a moment anyway. For all he knew, the person going through papers on the floor behind the desk could be armed and dangerous — if not crazy and drugged up.
Pushing the door all the way open, he carefully stepped in. He took in the crowded office in the ambient light of the intruder's flashlight beam. The office had clearly been ransacked. Files were all over the floor and desk.
He realized that this intruder hadn't had enough time to make this much of a mess. Someone had already been here. Which meant this new intruder was probably too late for whatever he was searching for. If that's what he was doing hidden on the other side of the desk.
The line of old metal file cabinets along the wall all had their drawers hanging open. In the middle of all this mess, the large old oak desk was almost indistinguishable because of piles of papers, dirty coffee cups and stacks of files.
He moved closer, still unable to see the intruder, who appeared to be busy on the floor behind the large worn leather office chair on the other side of the cluttered desk.
The flashlight beam suddenly stilled. Had the intruder heard him?
Boone reached into his pocket, found his cell phone, but stopped short of calling 911. His family had been in the news for years. If the cops came, so would the media. He swore under his breath and withdrew his hand sans the cell phone.
Boone had a bad feeling that anchored itself in the pit of his stomach. He reminded himself that the person behind that desk might be someone more dangerous than he was in the mood to take on tonight.
He looked around for something he could use as a weapon. He had no desire to play hero. He'd always been smart enough to pick and choose his battles. This wasn't one he wanted to lose for a wild-goose chase. Seeing nothing worthy of being a weapon, he took a step back.
The person on the other side of the desk had stopped making a sound. The beam of the flashlight hadn't moved for a full minute.
He took another step back. The floorboards groaned under his weight. He swore under his breath as suddenly the flashlight beam swooped across the ceiling. The figure shot up from behind the office chair. All he caught was a flash of wild copper-colored hair — and the dull shine of a handgun — before the light blinded him.
Instinctively, he took another step backward. One more and he could dive out into the hallway —
"Take another step and you're a dead man."
He froze at the sound of a woman's voice — and the imminent threat in it. Not to mention the laser dot that had appeared over his heart.
C.J. stared at the cowboy standing just inside the door. The gun in her hand never wavered. Nor did the red laser dot pointed at his heart move a fraction of an inch. He was a big man, broad-shouldered, slim-hipped and rugged-looking. He wore Western attire, including a Stetson as if straight off the ranch.
"Easy," he said, his voice deep and soft, but nonetheless threatening. "I'm just here looking for Hank Knight."
He frowned, holding up one hand to shield his eyes from the flashlight she also had on him. "That's between him and me. How about I call the cops so they can ask you why you're ransacking his office." He started to reach into his pocket.
She lowered the flashlight so she was no longer blinding him and shook her head. "I wouldn't do that if I were you," she said, motioning with the gun. "Who are you and why do you want to see Hank?"
"Why should I tell you?" She could see that he was taking her measure. He could overpower her easily enough given his size — and hers. But then again, there was that "equalizer" in her hand.
"You should tell me because I have a gun pointed at your heart — and I'm Hank's partner. C.J. West."
He seemed to chew on that for a moment before he said, "Boone McGraw."
She took in the name. "Kidnapping case," she said, more to herself than to him. Fraternal twins, six months old, taken from their cribs over twenty-five years ago. A ransom was paid but the twins were never returned. That was the extent of what she knew and even that was vague. The only reason she knew this was because of something she'd recently seen on television. There'd been an update. One of the kidnappers had been found dead.
"Your partner was looking into the case."
"That's not possible."
"Our lawyer spoke with him on two different occasions, so I'm afraid it definitely happened. So how about lowering the gun?"
Frowning, she considered what he'd said, still skeptical. She and Hank talked about all their cases. It wouldn't have been like him to keep a possible case like this from her.
But she did lower the gun, tucking it into the waistband of her jeans — just in case.
"Thanks. Now, if you could please tell me where I can find him ..."
"Day after tomorrow he will be in Rosemont Cemetery."
He'd been looking around the office, but now his gaze shot back to her. "Cemetery?"
"He was killed by a hit-and-run driver three days ago." Her voice cracked. It still didn't seem real, but it always came with a wave of grief and pain.
She wondered if he planned to keep echoing everything she said. She really didn't have time for this.
"Clearly you're too late. Not that Hank could have known anything about the kidnapping case." Picking up one of Hank's files, she shone the flashlight on it and then began to thumb through the yellow notebook pages inside.
Not that she didn't watch Boone McGraw — if that was really his name — out of the corner of her eye. She'd learned never to take anything at face value. Hank had taught her that and a lot more.
The cowboy swore as he looked around the destroyed office. His expression said he wasn't ready to give up. "If you're his partner then why is the Knight Investigations phone disconnected and this office without electricity?"
"Hank was in the process of retiring. I have my own office in my home. I was taking over the business."
"So you hadn't spoken for a while?" He was guessing, but he'd guessed right.
"We were in transition."
"So you can't be sure he didn't know something about the kidnapping case."
She gritted her teeth. This cowboy was impossible. "Hank would have told me if he knew something about the case. I'm sorry you've wasted your time." She just wanted him to leave so she could get back to what she was doing.
Since Hank's so-called accident, she'd been hard-pressed to hold it together. All that kept her going was her anger and determination to find his killer. She was convinced that one of his cases had gotten him murdered. All she had to do was figure out which one.
The cowboy moved, but only to step deeper into the room. "You said he was killed three days ago? Is that when he returned from his trip?"
"His trip?" Now she was starting to sound like him.
He frowned and jammed his hands on his hips as he looked at her. "My father's lawyer talked to him over two weeks ago. Your partner told him that he was going to be away and would get back to us. When we didn't hear from him ..."
She shook her head. "He didn't go anywhere."
"Then why did he lie to our lawyer? Unless he had something to hide?"
C.J. threw down the files in her hands with impatience. "Mr. McGraw —"
"Boone, you didn't know Hank, but I did. He wouldn't have lied."
"Then how do you explain what he told our lawyer?"
She couldn't and that bothered her. She studied the cowboy for a minute. Had Hank gone on a trip — just as he'd told the McGraw lawyer? C.J. thought of how distracted Hank had been the last time she'd seen him. He hadn't mentioned talking to anyone connected to the McGraw kidnapping and for a man who loved to talk about his cases, that was more than unusual.
A case like that didn't come along every day, especially given Knight Investigations' clients. But it also wasn't the kind of case Hank would be interested in. If it was true and he'd called the McGraw lawyer, he must have merely out of curiosity.
She said as much and picked up more files.
"It wasn't idle curiosity." Boone stepped closer until only the large cluttered desk stood between them. He loomed over it. His presence alone could have sucked all the air out of the room. Fortunately, all he did was make her too aware of just how male he was. He didn't intimidate her, not even for a moment. At least that's what she told herself.
"I guess we'll never know, will we?" she said, meeting his steely gaze with one of her hard blue ones.
"If there is even a chance that he knew the whereabouts of my sister, Jesse Rose, then I'm not leaving town until I find out the truth. Starting with whether or not Hank Knight recently left town. It should be easy enough to find out. How much?"
C.J. stared at him. "How much what?"
"How much money? I want to hire you."CHAPTER 3
Boone was surprised by the young woman's reaction.
"Sorry, but I'm not available." She actually sounded offended.
"Because you're too busy going through dusty old files?"
She looked up from where she was leafing through one and slowly put it down. "The reason my partner is dead is in one of these files. I need to find his killer."
"Wait, I thought it was an accident?"
"That's what the police say, but they're wrong."
He shook his head. He'd run into his share of stubborn women, but this one took the cake. "You seem pretty sure of yourself about a lot of things."
She put her hands on her hips and looked like she could chew nails. "Hank was murdered. I'd stake my life on it."
"If you're right, then there is probably a good chance that's what you're doing."
"He would have done the same for me. Hank ... Everyone loved him."
Well, not everyone, but he knew now wasn't the time to point that out. He could see how hard this was on her and told himself to cut her some slack. But if he had any hope of finding out if Hank Knight had known where his kidnapped sister was, then he needed this woman's help.
"I'm sorry. Apparently the two of you were close," he said, which surprised him since Waters had said Hank Knight was elderly. She'd just said the man was in the process of retiring.
Excerpted from Rough Rider by B.J. Daniels. Copyright © 2017 Barbara Heinlein. Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.