Hide & Seek - Nicole Edwards

Chapter One

Monday, November 9, 2020

“Donuts and coffee,” JJ said. “Breakfast of champions.”

“Coffee, yes. Donuts, no,” Baz insisted. “Tacos are a key morning staple.”

“Key?” Reese snorted. “Coffee’s the staple. Take or leave the rest.”

Brantley Walker looked up from his desk at the three members of his task force. Well, technically, it was Governor Greenwood’s task force, but Brantley was the man in charge, overseeing the work, which involved solving missing persons cases, both cold and current, so he figured he had the right to call it his. The very group formed by a horrific ordeal that had directly affected Brantley’s family when his five-year-old cousin was abducted by a crazed bitch hell-bent on revenge. The team had been officially inaugurated when they solved a decade-old case of a missing girl from their hometown of Coyote Ridge, Texas.

It had been nearly two months since Kate Walker was snatched from a field trip at the state capitol, and during that time, they’d accomplished quite a bit, including solving three major cases, one of which had resulted from their digging into that cold case, but it counted as far as he was concerned. And the hub of their operation? A four-thousand-square-foot old horse barn that Brantley had repaired and converted back before he could’ve known any of this would happen. The barn, dubbed HQ, had gotten a few updates in recent months, including a new set of stairs leading up to the old hayloft and some furniture to make it usable.

Seeing his team there, all hard at work on a Monday morning—arguing about their breakfast preferences—made him smile.

Been a good couple of months, he would say.

And he had them to thank for it.

Jessica James, a.k.a. JJ, was his hacker extraordinaire. They’d grown up together, their friendship surviving the seventeen years he’d served in the US Navy and her on-again, off-again relationship with the town douchebag. Although she was pretty with her auburn hair and light green eyes, the woman’s wit was her most charming feature. Plus, she was a whiz with a computer. Didn’t matter what they needed, JJ could ferret it out of the deepest, darkest corners whether by weeding through data or a little cyber B-and-E. She was damn good at what she did. Oh, and JJ found old cases daunting and she had a penchant for donuts.

Sebastian Buchanan was the newest member, an APD detective who’d been brought in during the last case. When the governor’s daughter had gone missing, Baz was the one who stepped in to handle for the Austin Police Department. Blond hair, blue eyes, chiseled everything, the guy would’ve come off as one of those uppity frat boys if it wasn’t for his laid-back charm. Since Brantley tended to do things his own way, he figured it was good to have Baz there to keep them walking that fine, legal line. The guy claimed he had a problem with authority, but it was his willingness to adapt to the situation that had made Brantley bring him on board permanently.

And last but certainly not least: Reese Tavoularis. Six feet, five inches of prime sin, Reese was Brantley’s partner in every sense of the word. The man he’d fallen in love with, the man he now shared a bed with every night. He was the one Brantley trusted his life to, the guy he wanted to have his back from now until the day he took his last breath. It had been a rocky transition to this place in their lives, mostly due to the fact that, before Brantley, Reese had never been with a man, much less fallen in love with one. Brantley was honored to hold that title.

Now that they were all there and the day was underway, Brantley was ready to tell them what their next assignment was. An important task they had to knock out before they could do much of anything. Their objective? Decide on a fucking name for their task force. He hoped like hell at least one of them could come up with something, because if they had any hope of establishing a reputation with law enforcement agencies across the state, they had to be something other than “the governor’s task force.”

“First order of business,” Brantley said, getting to his feet.

“Breakfast?” JJ replied. “Yes, please. But not donuts. Unless they’re Round Rock Donuts. But that’s too far, so…”

“I nominate tacos,” Baz chimed in, leaning back in his chair and propping his booted foot on his desk.

“You always nominate tacos,” JJ grumbled. “What’s wrong