by Tagan Shepard
I’ll see you in Chicago.
Those words echoed in Marisol Soltero’s mind as she sprinted across Bogota. Back in Chicago, she waited outside Governor Sabrina Sloane’s luxury condo, needing to see the woman she loved return to safety. But Sabrina didn’t return. Not to Chicago and not to Marisol.
That was six months ago. Now a series of disappearances in Humboldt Park provide the distraction Marisol needs. Her people are going missing. Snatched off the street right under her nose. Clues are sparse, but Marisol’s gut tells her the culprit is her old enemy.
Governor Sabrina Sloane has become a shadow of herself. She haunts the halls of the Governor’s Mansion, both her work and personal life flooded with nightmares. She knows Marisol is in danger, perhaps even more now that she’s back in Chicago, and Sloane will do anything it takes to keep the woman she loves safe. Even if it means confronting the man at the center of her nightmares.
But when two chess pieces are directed at the same enemy, they can get in each other’s way. If Marisol and Sabrina get the moves right, they could tango back into each other’s arms. If not, all of Chicago could pay the price.
|Publication Date||February 17, 2022|
|Cover Designer||Kayla Mancuso|
The cattle prod’s twin probes slammed into Marisol’s side, sending waves of electricity through her muscles. Her fingers locked into claws and her wrists shook under the tightly knotted ropes. She jerked in spasms. Just when she thought she’d lose control of her bladder, the stick was yanked away and a last, sputtering lightning bolt arced between the probes.
A fist slammed into her right side, pounding into already bruised flesh. The pain eclipsed sound for a long moment and she thought she’d gone deaf. Just as her hearing returned, a fist smashed into her other side, glancing off her rib so the blow to her kidney was partially deflected. This time her hearing sharpened, the blood roaring in her ear, muting the rest of the world. Marisol thought she heard muffled laughter from above, but it evaporated as the first fist buried itself in her abdomen.
Brin screamed, begging for help, but Marisol couldn’t move. Her legs were like lead and she couldn’t feel her arms at all. She tried to shout, tried to scream as loudly as Brin, but not even a whisper escaped her lips. Her ears rang with evil laughter and the sound of fabric ripping.
Marisol Soltero awoke screaming. Fear wrapped around her like a vise and she sprang from bed, flinging her torn sheet aside. The room was cold and she was hot. Sweat beaded on her forehead and across her bare skin as she crossed to the window.
Moonlight and the fluorescent glow of streetlights came through the half-open slats of her wooden blinds and fell across her naked body. She turned abruptly at the window, scanning the shadows for dead enemies and absent lovers. She was alone, but the ticking of her living room clock echoed in the hollow space and the white noise of the Chicago streets swallowed the sound of her panting.
Marisol sighed as she opened the blinds to the city lights. Matching pale scars stood out on her golden-brown wrists. Her heart rate dropped to normal the moment she saw the row houses and apartment blocks of home. The bass from Club Alhambra’s lively dance floor below hummed up through several floors, vibrating in Marisol’s toes. A pair of unfamiliar cars slowed for a group of late-night partiers to cross the street. Marisol watched the cars drive out of sight. As her skin cooled, her eyes were drawn back to the line of scars.
It had been six months since her kidnapping. Since The Bishop, her enemy with money and power but no soul, had snatched her and Brin, flying them out of safety to his compound in Colombia. She’d been hung by her wrists from the rafters of a remote shack and tortured for hours. Brin had been forced to kill The Bishop’s minion. They’d both been broken, but they’d both survived.
She reached out a shaking finger and touched the tortured skin on her wrist, her quickened pulse detectable underneath. Her pulse was in those scars. Her heart was in them. She had accepted these scars—those on her skin and those in her mind that disturbed her sleep—because they were a trivial price to pay for what had come after. For the sweltering heat of her single, blissful night with Brin. Marisol held her breath and counted, closing her eyes and allowing the scenes of that night to play across her mind’s eye. Brin’s pale skin in paler moonlight. Dust and sweat. Laughter and tears. Sweet, tender kisses.
“Five,” she whispered into the night and opened her eyes.
Marisol had made it home from Colombia. Her faithful bodyguard, Gray, had been waiting at the rickety little airstrip on the edge of town. He’d hustled her aboard as the plane was taxiing to the runway. She’d cheated death by moments. They stopped in a dozen little airports between Colombia and Chicago, and made it back alive, her promise to meet Brin in these streets still ringing in her ears.
But Brin had not met her. Marisol had perched on the saddle of her motorcycle for more days and nights than she cared to admit, watching Brin’s condo to see her home safely. Long after the media had left. For days, Marisol thought Brin had been recaptured. Her nightmares then had been of the woman she loved tortured all alone in a hot, stinking basement somewhere. Marisol had not handled those nights well, driving herself crazy with regret and anger. Gray had pushed her into a broom closet one day and demanded she explain, but she had refused—would always refuse—to endanger Brin by telling him the truth. She had been more cautious after that and Gray had backed off.
Marisol received her first report a week after her return to the States. Governor Sabrina Sloane was on a well-publicized tour of South and Central America, drumming up support for international business interests key to Illinois. Marisol had seen it on CNN. She nearly hit the floor with shock to see Brin, composed as always, no hint of her kidnapping and mental torture. She was the perfect politician. She visited hospitals, orphanages, and Indigenous settlements as often as she visited factories and corporate offices. Soon enough Marisol began to question her sanity. Had they really been kidnapped, flown to Colombia, and forced into a daring, deadly escape? Only the nightmares and the physical scars kept her sane.
Just as suddenly as the governor’s tour had begun, it was over. Brin had boarded a plane and Marisol waited to find a way to contact her in Chicago. Only, Brin did not return as she’d promised. She was back in the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield and she had not set foot in Chicago once in the previous six months. More evidence their trauma in Bogota had been real. Before the kidnapping, Brin had come home to her apartment in Chicago every other weekend. Now she was sending a clear message—she didn’t want to be anywhere near Marisol.
“Can you blame her?” Marisol growled to herself.
The empty room and her empty life offered no argument. Before she could start another spiral, Marisol marched to the shower. It wasn’t quite three a.m., but that was close enough to morning and Club Alhambra would be open for another hour. She still had a life to live and a bar to run, even if she didn’t have the woman she loved.