When You're With Me

By: Wendi Zwaduk

Prologue





“Nine-one-one. Please state your emergency.”

Jude hugged her knees and rocked on the floor of her art studio. Instead of the art supplies, all she saw was the vision from behind the club earlier. Her hands trembled as she clutched her cell phone. The memory of the blood, the smell… Her stomach lurched and bile filled her mouth.

“Nine-one-one. Your emergency, please?”

“I’d like to report a murder.” Jude blinked and drew a long breath into her lungs. She needed to calm down or she’d never make it through the call. Tears burned behind her eyes. She shouldn’t have been in hiding. She needed to be right there with her friend.

“Okay, can you give me the location?”

“Thirteen hundred Broadway. Behind the Silver Steel.”

“Silver Steel gentlemen’s club?”

“Yes.” She closed her eyes and once again the vision gripped her. She’d only been asked to dump Astra’s things. Astra ran off to Vegas with Slade. She’s not coming back. Just pitch her trash. She bit back the sour taste of vomit in her mouth. Tiny had never asked her to dump trash before. That was Corey’s job.

“Ma’am?”

“I’m sorry.” Jude cleared her throat. The best thing to do was just to explain what she’d seen. “I took out the garbage behind the club and, when I opened the compactor, there was a hand.”

“A hand?”

Jude nodded. How in the world did the dispatcher manage to stay so calm? “Yes. My friend Astra Devlin and her boyfriend Slade McMann were supposed to have gone to Vegas, but they didn’t.”

“And how do you know, ma’am?”

“Because it was her hand in the compactor.” Jude rocked back and forth. The vision of the hand remained crisp in her mind—bloody and reaching towards the opening to the compactor. The smell of rot and decay held fast as well. Her stomach lurched again.

“We’ve got a unit on the way. Can you give me your name?”

Her name? Oh shit. Jude trembled. If she gave her name, her boss would know who had alerted the cops. If she’d been confident enough to tell them her name, she’d never have run from the scene straight to the safety of her studio.

She stared at her cell phone, unsure of what to do.

“Ma’am?”

Jude snapped the phone shut and gave it a fling across the room. If the cops wanted her badly enough, they’d no doubt find her. She’d seen enough crime dramas to know the police had a lot of tricks for finding people.

Just as long as her boss didn’t find out. If he remained in the dark, she’d be safe.

If.





Chapter One





“I need a lover who will drive me crazy in all the right ways…”

Detective Drew Alwyn tapped his pen to the beat of the song in his head while he waited for Lieutenant Wallace to begin the briefing session.

In his twelve years with the Carrington Falls Police Department in Ohio, Drew had never imagined being alone. Wasn’t a cop supposed to have a good woman to come home to? The next time he walked into his apartment, a wilted spider plant would offer the only comfort, and Drew wasn’t the type to talk to greenery.

The scent of day-old coffee and industrial cleaner wafted into the cramped, grey discussion room. Drew rubbed his stomach to quell the rumbling. Coffee sounded awful, but a sandwich sounded so good—something with roast beef and cheese. When had he eaten last? The club sandwich at eleven-thirty. He flicked his wrist to check the time on his thick watch. Five-fifteen. Damn.

He grabbed the bottle of soda from his backpack and uncapped it, then took a long draw. The sugar wouldn’t quiet his hunger, but the caffeine would keep him awake when he ventured on duty in an hour. He took a pen from his notebook, clicked the button at the top and began doodling. The sound of conversation in the hallway did nothing to take his mind off the undercover operation or the death of his friend and colleague, Sergeant Randy McCall.

Drew’s partner, a bear of a red-haired man named James Mateo, strolled into the room and sat down in the closest chair. “You ready for this one?”

Drew looked up from his sketch. “This one what? We knew the bastard couldn’t stay underground for long. We just gotta prove he’s the one who took McCall down and put him in the dumpster.” He shuddered thinking about the photos of Randy hacked up and left to rot behind the gentlemen’s club.

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