Wild Fire (Chaos #6.5) by Kristen Ashley

Shit, shit, shit.

“Any news?” Dutch asked.

She shook her head, letting the concern leak into her eyes. “I talked to Eddie, the case is cold. They’re closing loops, moving on.”

Shit, shit, shit.

Dutch just stared at her, but he did it meaningfully.

She got closer so he knew she read his meaning.

“Dutch, every time a kid with promise, which is every kid that walks through those doors, comes here, and there’s a situation, I have to weigh whether or not I ask my husband and his band of badass brothers to wade in and sort out that situation. Carlyle is no different. And Vance and the guys cannot spend all their time sorting out the problems of the kids at King’s. They all have mortgages to pay, for one. For another, that’s my job.”

“Carlyle is a kid with a one hundred and forty-nine IQ who has full rides to MIT, Stanford and Columbia whose dad was shot dead while saving the life of a neighbor who had an intruder who was set on doin’ more than stealin’ from the woman. Carlyle is this fuckin’ close,” he held a thumb and forefinger in front of her eyes to demonstrate a point she knew better than him, “to flushing his entire life down the toilet. So I think Vance, Lee, Luke and company should tap in on this one and find the person who killed Carlyle’s dad because the cops obviously cannot.”

Vance—her husband—Lee, Luke and company being part of the band of badass brothers that made up Nightingale Investigations.

And while the cops had limited resources and rules they had to abide by, the boys at Nightingale did not.

“You know that I know about your dad, Dutch,” she said softly.

He dropped his hand and stepped away.

“I know he was targeted because he was fighting the good fight,” she kept at him.

“We’re not talking about my father,” he bit out.

“Aren’t we?” she asked carefully.

“I had a mountain of support and I’m not a certified genius,” he shot back.

“Carlyle has the same support, it just takes some kids time to work the hurt out, and the best we can do is make sure they don’t stray too far while they’re doing it,” she returned.

“And what if he strays too far?”

Her eyes narrowed.

Her husband might be in a badass brotherhood, but Juliet Crowe used to be known as The Law. Years ago, she’d gone rogue when one of her kids overdosed, and she’d set about vigilante-ing the shit out of the drug dealers of Denver.

She’d been good at it.

She’d refocused her attention to King’s, but the Lore of The Law had not died, which was most of the reason why she had so many kids there, they’d had to build onto the shelter.

And her years with the kids, her husband, her own brood of boys she and Vance had made, and her time on the streets meant she didn’t miss much.

And she wasn’t missing much now.

“What do you know?” she asked.

“He’s not keeping good company, Jules.”

“And you know this…how?” she pushed.

“I know it because when he clocked me, I saw him slip out the back of Shady’s when he’s too damn young to be in Shady’s in the first place. Shady’s is Resurrection’s hang. I asked one of the Resurrection brothers who Carlyle was talkin’ to and he shared it was a dude I did not want to know, and he wouldn’t be comin’ back to Shady’s because Resurrection wasn’t down with his presence there. And he hasn’t been back. And neither has Carlyle.”

She pressed her lips tightly together before she unpressed them to ask, “What? Drugs?”

“Black market.”

“Black market what?”

“Black market everything. Designer gear. Pharmaceuticals. Maple syrup. Freakin’ sperm. Anything and everything.”

She looked surprised. “Maple syrup?”

“Yeah. That was my reaction. I looked it up. It’s a thing in Canada. Farmers sell it under the table.”

“Whoa,” she muttered.

“This guy is part of a bigger operation,” Dutch told her. “An operation that gets their hands on a kid like that, with a brain like his, he’s hacking for the Russians at a million dollars an hour or worse.”

He now saw humor in her expression as she said, “You have a very inventive mind.”

He saw no humor in this situation at all and therefore laid it out.

“No, my dad’s throat was slit in the parking lot of a pizza joint when he was gettin’ into his truck to bring dinner home to his family. This put my mother in a tailspin it took nearly two decades for her to haul herself out of, which meant the man who loved her who was breathin’, a man she also loved, didn’t have her until it was almost too late for them to make their own family. And I know, along that road, no matter how much support I had, I asked myself the question of what the fuck’s the point? A good man tries to do good, and gets his throat slit. A good man tries to do good, and gets a bullet to the neck and bleeds out on his neighbor’s bedroom floor. So my mind isn’t inventive, Jules. I know that dark place it goes when you think this world is so fucked, the only course you got is to get what you can for yourself and fuck everyone else.”