We’re only 7 days away from the conclusion of the Dirty Hacker duet, Risky Love! I can’t wait for you to see how it all ends!!
DYING to know what happens next? Today I’m sharing the first chapter of Risky Love. But be warned…it has a HUGE spoiler if you haven’t read the first book, Sexy Liar!
USA Today bestselling author Stacey Kennedy is back with the thrilling and emotional conclusion of the Dirty Hacker duet about a hacker who doesn’t back down on a case, a sexy CIA agent who is more than a little overprotective, and two slightly reluctant but perfectly matched hearts.
Tracking a killer is the last thing hacker Alex McCoy expected out of her vacation to New York, but after rekindling her one-time romance with sexy CIA Agent Rowan Hawke, she can’t refuse his request for help. Waiting for a break in the case proves to be more challenging than Alex expected, especially because it gives her too much time to think about her growing feelings for Rowan. Feelings she would much rather write off as the intensely hot chemistry between them.
Rowan knows that Alex has a lot of emotional baggage, but every day as they work together, he becomes more certain she’s the woman for him. Unfortunately, Rowan’s instinct to protect her is put to the test when secrets come to light and Alex throws herself in the line of fire to help Rowan solve the case. As Rowan falls deeper for Alex, he must open up about his past and give her the chance to prove that she’s the right partner—in work and in life.
Alex and Rowan are up against a powerful perpetrator, with only their courage and their love for each other to help them through. But Alex’s choice to run head-first into danger might be the one thing that breaks them apart…permanently.
“That dirty, fucking psychopath,” Alex McCoy grumbled beneath her breath as FBI Director, Carl Lewis, exited NYPD police headquarters. The street was bustling with cars and congestion, horns blaring through the dark night, while Alex sat in the driver’s seat of her rented SUV. Lewis strode with purpose toward the limo waiting at the curb, with all the arrogance and entitlement that he’d been handed. In the public’s eye, Lewis was the face of the investigation of New York City’s latest serial killer whom the media had coined the Casanova Sadist. Only thing: Carl Lewis was the Casanova Sadist—the man responsible for killing six women he’d stalked on the BDSM dating app SiR for his sadistic games. Typically, the app was used by sane people looking to keep their kinky interludes private, but it also gave Lewis the perfect hunting ground. Two more women were still missing. And the FBI had no suspects, no DNA evidence…nothing.
The dark night had crept on Alex at some point while she’d waited for Lewis to exit the police station. On the outside, Lewis was like any other businessman in a suit. His dark hair was styled with gel. His round face clean-shaven. His suit, crisp and clean, and fitting him perfectly. On the inside, Lewis was a disgusting human that needed to be put down. And as the best hacker in North America, Alex was going to catch him.
“That dangerous, dirty, fucking psychopath, you mean,” the low, seductive voice said through her earpiece. The voice belonged to CIA agent Rowan Hawke, her one-time lover in Paris five years ago while they’d worked a case together, turned again lover these past days they’d been working the Casanova Sadist case, and the man who would officially end Lewis. Lewis’s latest abduction victim was Rowan’s younger sister, Mia.
A major error in judgment on Lewis’s part.
Rowan would never stop looking for his sister until she was home and safe.
As Lewis climbed into the limo, Alex turned on the ignition of her rented silver Honda Civic. “It’s been two days of following this prick. When is he going to fuck up?”
“We have to consider we might be wrong,” Rowan said, his voice tight through the earpiece.
Alex pondered that as she pulled out in traffic a few cars back from the limo. They were getting nowhere fast, but she still trusted her instincts. Lewis exposed himself as the Casanova Sadist all because of his own ego. He’d been in control of this case from the inside. When he tried to exert that control over Alex, bringing her in to interrogate her about why she worked a case that didn’t have approval from both the CIA and the FBI, he said the words balls to the wall and tipped himself off as the killer. He meant it as a way to get a fire burning under his team, but Mia had told Rowan that the new man in her life she texted often said the line.
While it was an odd identifier, the saying was unusual enough that Alex knew they had their guy. Instincts most times didn’t make sense. But her instincts all pointed in Lewis’s direction. Particularly because Mia had also mentioned her new guy had a large military tattoo on his back of a soldier with a gas mask and a helicopter beneath it, which Lewis had too.
“He’s our guy,” she said, glancing at Rowan out the passenger side window as she drove by while he sat on his sleek silver motorcycle. He wore all black, which included a black helmet. Rowan was all muscle, all man, and for the past few days, he was all hers. And she happened to like that. Even now, at the worst time possible, just the sight of Rowan made her skin flush. His helmet turned, following her direction while she drove by as she went on. “I’ve got no doubt in my mind.”
“And you’ve got my trust,” Rowan replied.
Alex felt the warmth of his words touch her chest. She quickly refocused on following the limo. They had enough going on without diving into a conversation they should have had five years ago. The one that would put two people who didn’t do relationships firmly into one. Five years ago, they’d both run to avoid that question.
But that was then. And even Alex felt the shift in her that indicated maybe this time she wouldn’t run when it came time to talking about their future.
Soon, they eased out of Manhattan traffic and into Brooklyn’s busy streets, until the roads cleared and they were heading into a swankier area with mansions sitting atop manicured gardens with flowerbeds and plant art for as far as the eye could see. Alex wasn’t exactly sure where Rowan was, never heard the hum of his motorcycle behind her, but he’d stay close. She trusted him too.
“Do you know where he’s going?” Alex asked.
“Give me a few on that,” Ryder Blackwood said through the earpiece, having kept quiet so far, as this was not his show. Ryder owned Blackwood Security back in San Francisco, and he was also Alex’s boss. When he retired from the Army Rangers, Ryder had formed a security company, hiring many of his military buddies. There was no one better when it came to tactical security, something the government knew and contracted him for.
A big part of Alex didn’t want Ryder anywhere near this. Not with this killer now aware they were coming after him, and certainly not when Ryder had a wife and new baby son at home. But Ryder was careful and cautious, and she knew without a doubt he’d taken all precautions and that he likely appeared to the FBI as if he were working another case entirely. She trusted him as a boss, she loved him like a brother.
She followed the limo down another street to the right and then spotted Lewis’s limo driving up to a gated house. Alex caught the number before driving by. “The house number is 1002.”
“Yeah, we see that,” Ryder said. He was working out of his New York City headquarters, set up with his command center back in San Francisco, no doubt following Lewis with satellite imagery the government gave Ryder full access to.
“I’m taking up location on the east side of the property,” Rowan said.
Only then did Alex see Rowan on his bike whizz by her and turn left, vanishing from sight. She pulled over behind a construction company truck, hoping that kept her out of view. Just as she cut the ignition, she spotted the gate opening again. “Limo’s leaving. No idea if Lewis is in it. Do I follow?” she asked.
“Stay put,” Rowan said. “I want to know why he came here and whose house this is.”
Ryder’s team in New York City had already investigated Lewis’s condo in Manhattan. They didn’t discover anything, which included not finding a personal computer. Alex needed to get her hands on his PC.
“It’s his great aunt’s house,” Ryder finally answered. “She’s been dead a year.”
Alex glanced back at the gates and scanned the area, reassessing. The mansions had to have price tags upwards of ten million dollars. “Does he spend time here?”
“Checking on that,” Ryder said. The limo had vanished down the road when Ryder reported, “Not that we can see. He seems to split time between Washington and New York City, but he’s got an apartment here that he uses, not this house.”
A beat passed. Hope silently passed through the air between them all, as this was the first location Lewis had been to where he didn’t have a good reason for being there. Add that to the fact that his holding onto the property made no sense.
Rowan broke the silence. “We need to get into that house.”
“I’m coming to you now,” Ryder said. “Don’t make a move without me.”
Unsure if Rowan would follow that order, Alex turned on the car and made her way over to the east side of the property. She quickly spotted Rowan sitting on his bike parked on the side of the road, one boot on the curb. On this side of the street, there were no gated entryways or streetlights. She parked behind him and grabbed her backpack of supplies, then exited the car. His shoulders were tense and rigid when she approached. Before she said a word, she clicked off her earpiece and waited for Rowan to remove his helmet to do the same. “Ryder won’t be long,” she told him.
Those steely gray eyes met hers. Urgency sparked between them, as he nodded, no doubt torn between wanting to do the smart thing and have backup, and rushing in to find his sister. Rowan put out the kickstand and hopped off his bike, leaving his helmet on the gas tank. He moved to the small compartment area beneath the seat and took out his gun, loading it with bullets then offering it to her.
“Ah, yeah, so that’s your and Ryder’s job,” she said, taking a step back.
Rowan caught her hand. “We don’t know what we’re walking into.” He placed the gun in her hand. “Don’t hesitate.”
She wrapped her fingers around the cool metal.
Rowan gave a firm nod of approval.
By the time he got himself armed to the teeth, Ryder arrived, pulling in behind Rowan in his rented truck. Ryder strode toward them and offered them both bulletproof vests. “Safety first.”
“Thanks.” Alex quickly got into hers.
“You clear upstairs,” Rowan said to Ryder, fastening his vest. To Alex, he added, “We’ll clear the basement and work our way up.”
Alex restrained her smile at Ryder’s small frown. He’d want her with him, she didn’t doubt that, but he must have trusted Rowan slightly since he finally nodded. “Be aware of odd placements of rugs, cracks in walls. Lewis may have a room that’s not visible.”
“Can you do a thermal scan on the property?” Alex asked.
Ryder’s mouth twitched. “The team’s already on it.”
“Thank you,” Rowan said, then looked at Alex, his lips thinning. “Stay close.”
She gave a quick nod, holding her gun how Ryder had taught her, down and out, ready to act if needed. It surprised her that Rowan let Ryder lead the way, but then she realized by Rowan’s closeness right in front of her, there was a very good reason for that.
He kept his body like a shield in front of her, seemingly aware of her behind him, as he trudged into the forest and she followed, her eyes quickly adjusting to the dark night. The moon was bright, both illuminating their path but also letting their whereabouts be known. When the looming house appeared, there wasn’t a light on or any sign indicating Lewis was still in the house. The mansion stood like a dark shadow, and a sliver of hope ran up her spine. This place provided the exact location Lewis needed.
Ryder reached the house first and quickly picked the lock of the basement’s door. In seconds, they were inside. The basement was an open space full of boxes. Rowan clicked a flashlight on, and Alex followed as quietly as she could. Barely breathing, walking lightly on her feet, she stayed behind Rowan as he moved through the basement with lethal precision. When Rowan went right, Alex went left, glancing over the floor as she went, looking for any sign of a trap door. She then studied the walls, but only found concrete.
When she reached the stairs to the upper floor, Rowan met her there. “It’s clear that way,” she told him.
He nodded. “Let’s go up.”
They quietly traveled up the stairs that Ryder must have gone up too. The door was left ajar, and they made it onto the main level. Rowan cleared the kitchen, and Alex searched the living room and sitting room, finding nothing out of the ordinary, except clean furniture. And that in itself still rubbed her wrong. Why put such care into a property he didn’t use?
Alex ended up in the library, where she spotted the computer on the grand desk. She moved there immediately and grabbed a portable hard drive from her backpack. She plugged it in and powered up the computer, and it booted up to the cloning utility. In the minutes it took her to clone Lewis’s computer, Rowan had strode into the room, looking frustrated but at ease, with Ryder following.
“Nothing?” Alex asked softly.
Rowan shook his head. “Lewis isn’t here, and neither is my sister.” He gestured at the computer. “Got anything there?”
“Just cloning the files.” When the application stopped running, she took out the portable hard drive. “I don’t know if this actually belongs to Lewis, but if it does, I’ll have work to do to get into his secured files. He’d be smart about his security.” She rose. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Right as she took a step, Rowan held up a hand, then reached for his phone that had obviously vibrated as it rang. He had it to his ear in the next second. “Hawke.” A long pause followed as Rowan’s expression went totally closed. “I’m coming now.” He shut his eyes, and the phone was still pressed to his ear, even though Alex suspected the call had ended.
The space between them suddenly felt cold. She needed to get closer, and hurried to his side, reaching for his hand, clutching his trembling fingers. “What’s happened?”
“That was Wes”—his buddy that worked for the FBI and had been working the Casanova Sadist case—“they found Mia.”
Ryder took a step closer.
“God, Rowan, I’m so sorry,” Alex barely managed. She understood all too well how it felt to lose a sister. She lost hers when she was seventeen. Her chest hollowed at the darkness around him. She recognized that pain, and she wanted to drain it from him, squeezing his hand tighter, hoping he knew she was in this with him. They’d fought through all this together, and his pain now felt like hers too. “I’m just so damn sorry we didn’t get there in time.”
He finally opened his eyes, and she sucked in a harsh breath at the raw emotion flaring there as he said, “They found her alive.”