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Captive in Retribution Bay (ebook)

Captive in Retribution Bay (ebook)

Aussie Heroes: Retribution Bay - Book 8

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She’s grappling with the betrayal of someone she once trusted. He’s battling with conflicting loyalties. One choice could change both their fates forever.

In the remote coastal town of Retribution Bay, secrets lurk beneath the surface, threatening to unravel the fragile peace. Senior Constable Nhiari Roe finds herself in the clutches of Lee Slater. Once lovers, now adversaries, their lives collide in a dangerous dance around the notorious crime syndicate, Stonefish.

With time running out and danger closing in, Nhiari and Lee embark on a treacherous journey to uncover the truth. But as they navigate the murky waters of deceit and betrayal, they realise that the line between ally and enemy is blurred, and trust may be the only thing that can save them.

In this gripping small-town romantic suspense novel, love and danger collide as Nhiari and Lee fight to survive against all odds, determined to bring down the darkness threatening to consume their world.

Captive in Retribution Bay is the thrilling finale to the Aussie Heroes: Retribution Bay series.

Chapter 1 Look Inside

Chapter One

The kidnapped boys would be terrified. Senior Constable Nhiari Roe’s body ached with tension and she tugged on her braid. Beside her, Sam drove with confidence, pushing the four-wheel-drive hard as they raced towards the ranges. In the back seat Nhiari’s brother, Matt, Arthur ‘Sherlock’ Hammond, and Gretchen sat just as tense. They were racing to rescue Gretchen’s son, Jordan, and his best friend.
The ten-year-olds had been snatched from school by Jordan’s father, and the man holding them was someone she’d been hunting for months.
Lee Slater.
Her gut clenched.
He had lied and seduced her with his words. She’d thought he could be the one until his lies came to light.
Now she had to stop him.
Lee was a loose-cannon. No one really knew what he was capable of, though he’d already killed at least one man.
She had to protect the people with her; Sam and Sherlock were ex-military, but Matt and Gretchen were civilians. They were all likely to go off half-cocked and get themselves injured or killed.
“Can’t you drive any faster?” Gretchen called, the worry in her voice clear.
Sam’s chuckle was strained. “Not with a police officer in the car.”
Nhiari grunted. Like that mattered. He was pushing the car as fast as it would go. “When we get there, I go in first. You wait until I give the all-clear.”
She felt the resistance to her statement as Arthur shifted in the back seat. He was as concerned as Gretchen, after protecting both her and her son, Jordan for a few days now. But it was Matt who piped up.
“Not going to happen, gunyjan. None of us are letting you in there without backup.”
She flinched. Her knowledge of her native language wasn’t as good as her brother’s, but he always used the endearment when he wanted something. “I’m in charge. You’ll do as I say.”
Sam took his eyes off the track to glance at her. “With all due respect, that’s not in our nature. We’re a team and we protect and support the team.”
Nhiari ground her teeth together. They weren’t in a team any longer. They were civilians, but she knew from experience nothing she said would change their minds. And they were right. There wasn’t another cop who could back her up fast enough. Though it didn’t mean she had to like it. “I’m going to throw the lot of you in gaol when we get back.”
“You do what you need to do,” Sherlock said. “Just like we will.”
Matt directed Sam onto a dirt road. Nhiari gripped the handle above the door as the car bounced over bumps, and she focused on the ranges in front of her. They ran the entire length of the peninsula, and the boys could be anywhere. Matt’s fiancée, Georgie, thought she knew where they’d be. Apparently she’d met Lee there occasionally, despite him being a wanted felon. Nhiari would have words to her about that later.
As they got to the base of the ranges, they pulled up behind an abandoned Parks and Wildlife four-wheel-drive.
Matt sprang out before she could stop him and yelled, “Georgie!” He swore as his call echoed off the ranges. “I told her to stay with the car until we got here.”
Which meant Nhiari might have another hostage to worry about.
“You just lost us the element of surprise,” Arthur grumbled as he got out of the car, but Nhiari paid them no attention. Her gaze took in the red ranges, the shrubby bushes behind which someone could hide, and the dark openings of a few caves in the hillside. Too many options. Nhiari pulled out her gun and started forward. As she neared the closest cave, she glanced behind her.
Sam had moved to the opposite side of the gaping hole and had pulled a gun from somewhere, Arthur had Gretchen protected behind him, and Matt was right behind her. He would have been in front if he’d had any kind of weapon.
“Where are they, Lee?” Georgie’s voice echoed out of the cave.
“I told you, I don’t know.” His voice was full of frustration, but it sent an unwanted shiver of warmth through Nhiari. That voice had promised her pleasure and understanding. A potent combination.
The man was her enemy. She needed to remember that. She held up three fingers, knowing Sam and Sherlock would understand. She lowered one at a time and on zero, they stormed into the cave. “Hands on your head, Lee.”
The darkness in the cave momentarily blinded her, but she blinked rapidly. Matt dragged Georgie out of the way, but her focus was on the slim Asian man in front of her. He held no weapon, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have one. A thin film of red dust covered his black slacks and wrinkled striped shirt, but he looked remarkably well considering he’d spent months living in this cave system. His dark hair was dishevelled, no longer the precision cut and style of the photographer he’d pretended to be. His lean body was even thinner, perhaps because of his inability to come into town for food. What had he been living on? Had someone been helping him, providing him with sustenance? Surely he couldn’t have survived out here on his own.
No, he had to be in contact with someone if Kurt had involved him in the kidnapping.
What was Lee’s role in all of this?
Not for the first time she wondered whether he was the ringleader, the person in charge of Stonefish, the crime syndicate they’d been trying to break since the start of the year. He’d not hesitated to kill when required, silencing those who may have provided information about the organisation.
He slowly raised his hands.
“Where are Jordan and Cody?” Sherlock demanded, striding forward while Nhiari kept her gun aimed at Lee. He acknowledged everyone in the cave, no fear in his eyes, but his gaze lingered on Nhiari. His chocolate brown eyes showed no emotion, but it was as if he was waiting for something from her. Finally he said, “They escaped.”
It took Nhiari a second to remember the question he’d been asked.
“What?” Gretchen asked.
He moved his gaze to the frantic mother. “Your son and his friend escaped their bonds.” He shook his head. “I don’t know how.”
The obvious surprise in his voice made Nhiari frown and reassess. This area was deserted. No roads, no tourist lookouts, no fresh water unless you knew where to look. And it was hot. It would have to be close to thirty-five degrees outside today. The boys could be in serious trouble.
“Why didn’t you take better care of them?” Gretchen demanded.
“What happened?” Sherlock moved closer, his voice low and dangerous.
Nhiari glanced at him. Was she going to have to stop him from doing something stupid?
“I had the boys cable-tied in here,” he said. “They were safe, but I didn’t know if anyone from Stonefish was coming to get them, so I had to keep them tied.” He directed the last comment to Gretchen. “I heard someone approach, so I went outside to investigate. It was Georgie. I was gone five, maybe ten minutes.”
“I taught the boys how to remove cable ties,” Arthur said, a hint of pride in his voice.
“How long ago did you leave?” Gretchen asked Lee.
“I’ve been arguing with Georgie for a few minutes, so it’s been no more than fifteen minutes since I saw them.”
Gretchen went to the mouth of the cave. “Jordan! Cody! Come out.”
“Where were they tied?” Arthur asked.
Lee motioned to the back of the cave, which had a tunnel running off it. Matt and Arthur examined the ground, Arthur shining his phone torch to get a better look. Nhiari stayed where she was, keeping her gun trained on Lee.
“Everyone stay where you are,” Matt said. He shone his light down the tunnel, and then shifted towards the entrance. He glanced at Arthur. “Did you teach them to backtrack?”
Arthur nodded.
“Good job. There are footprints leading into the tunnel and ones leaving the cave.”
“They’ll have left the cave,” Arthur stated.
“Impossible. I would have seen them leave,” Lee said, sounding offended.
She couldn’t deal with egos right now. “We don’t have time to argue,” Nhiari stated. “We need to find those boys before it gets dark.” She turned to Lee. “You know these tunnels?”
He nodded.
She holstered her gun and walked over, handcuffing him, ignoring the roughness of his palms. “You and I will search the tunnels. The rest of you search outside. We’ll meet back here in an hour. If we don’t find them by then, I’ll call in search and rescue.”
“I’ll call Parks and Wildlife now. Get my colleagues to look for them,” Georgie said.
Good idea. There could be rangers nearby.
Arthur joined Gretchen at the entrance. “The footprints go that way.”
Nhiari waited for her friends to leave the cave, and turned her attention to the man beside her. His cuffed hands hung behind his back. Awareness and tension smothered her. “Let’s go.”
“It’s good to see you, Nhiari.”
She stiffened, ignoring the way his soft words caressed her skin. He was a killer. He had lied and used her. She would not be sucked in again.
“Move, Lee.” She gave him a none too gentle shove towards the tunnel at the back of the cave. He didn’t budge.
“Let me explain.”
She wasn’t revisiting their past now. “There’s nothing to explain. We have two missing children, and you’re going to help me find them.” She hoped they had left the cave like Arthur suspected, because the tunnel system was a maze that few knew their way around. Though Lee was probably one of the few.
Lee nodded. “We’ll talk later.”
She didn’t correct him. The only thing happening later was him heading straight to gaol. She switched on her torch and followed Lee to where the tunnel branched off from the cave. Two smaller sets of footprints were clear in the sand.
Nhiari was impressed by the two boys’ ingenuity escaping their bonds, but right now she only wanted them found, safe and sound.
She shone the light down the tunnel, keeping a step behind Lee; far enough that he couldn’t catch her unaware, close enough to catch him if he ran.
The tunnel narrowed, the rock walls closing in and the ground becoming rocky. Nhiari wiped the sweat from her forehead. It was like an oven in here. She’d thought the caves would offer relief from the heat outside, but it seemed to absorb it, locking it inside.
“The trail has stopped.”
There was enough space in the tunnel for her to squeeze past Lee to see for herself. They weren’t much more than fifty metres from where they started. There was enough room to slide through the gap in the rock, and the boys could have done so, but would they have? They had no light, and the sunlight didn’t reach this far into the tunnel.
She shone her torch through the gap and called, “Jordan! Cody!”
Only her voice echoed back.
A light rattle like metal on metal behind her made her spin. Lee stepped closer, his body pressed against hers, and he slipped a hand down her side.
What happened to the handcuffs?
The question became insignificant as she realised what he was doing.
Going for her gun.
Adrenaline spiked and she shoved his hand away, bringing up her knee, but he was too close for her to do any actual damage. He reached towards her, grunting as she twisted and elbowed him in the gut. The torch fell out of her hand. He released the clasp over her gun, but she stepped away and hit the hard rock wall. Pain shot down her back. Trapped between it and him.
His firm body pressed into her, reminding her of their night together. She blocked the thought as his other hand snaked out and lifted the gun from her holster.
No!
Nhiari grabbed his arm, desperate to stop him.
He shoved her back as if she weighed nothing and brought up the gun to point directly at her.
“Stop, Nhiari.”
Shit. She sucked in a breath as her heart raced.
“I don’t want to hurt you.” His face was shadowed in the light shining from the torch which lay on the ground behind him. She couldn’t see his eyes, but his tone held regret. The gun didn’t waver.
“What are you going to do now?” She kept her own tone even as she cursed herself for letting him get her gun. She should have known he had the skills to get out of handcuffs.
He was quiet, as if figuring it out for himself. “If I let you go, you’ll come back, won’t you?”
She said nothing. No way she would let him go free.
He cursed quietly. “We’re going back to the cave.” He stripped her police vest of all her weapons, tucking them into various pockets, and gestured for her to move past him.
The cave would give her more manoeuvrability and was closer to the cars. She might be able to make a run for it. She walked slowly back down the tunnel, blinking as the sunlight grew brighter. She’d only get one chance to disarm him.
As she entered the cave, she spotted a day pack tucked behind a rock. That had to be Lee’s.
In the distance, Gretchen called for her son. They weren’t far away. Sam and Arthur had guns, but she didn’t want this to become a shoot-out.
Lee went over to the backpack and rummaged around in it one-handed.
Perhaps she could tackle him while he was distracted. She stepped closer.
Lee pointed the gun at her. “Don’t do it.” His gaze held no emotion. He was a completely different man from the one she’d had dinner with. The photographer had been slightly awkward, sweet and open in his interest in her.
An act.
Just like with so many other men in her life.
And she’d fallen for it, again. Too dumb to realise they didn’t want what she wanted; a companion, a partner, a lover. No, the men she dated only wanted sex or information. Perhaps it was time to give up on finding someone who loved her.
She never learnt.
Nhiari raised her hands in surrender and he extracted a notepad and pen from the pack.
Lee switched the gun to his other hand and wrote in the notebook.
She shifted her stance, judging how much he was paying attention. The gun straightened. Probably adept with both hands. The man was well trained. Her handcuffs dangled from one wrist. Had she locked them properly? She couldn’t remember using the key. Idiot.
Lee ripped the note from the book, folded it in half and placed it under a rock in a prominent position in the cave. Then he jimmied the other handcuff with a slip of metal he retrieved from his back pocket until it clicked open and tucked them into his back pocket.
Her police radio crackled with static and Lee held out a hand. “Radio and phone.”
She stared at him a long moment before removing the radio and handing it to him. He switched it off. “Phone.”
She scowled and retrieved it from her vest. He pressed the power button until the screen went black and tucked both into his backpack. “Let’s go.” He lifted the pack onto his back.
“Go where?”
“Camp.”
She laughed. “You expect me to go with you?”
He nodded. “You don’t really have a choice, do you? I’m close, Nhiari. I have to finish this.” For the first time he let emotion into his voice and it sounded like desperation.
“Close to what?”
“Ending Stonefish.”
She pressed her lips together. Georgie thought Lee was working against the organisation, but there was no proof. “You work for them,” she pointed out. “You took Cody and Jordan.”
“Only as part of my cover. I wouldn’t have let them hurt the boys.”
Easy to say now the boys were gone. “What would you have done if Stonefish had arrived before we did?”
He glanced towards the entrance of the cave. “They escaped on their own anyway.”
“And if they hadn’t?”
Lee seemed unperturbed. “I knew you would come.” He sighed. “There’s no way the Stokes would have let Kurt get away with the treasure. Not with Brandon, Sam and Sherlock there. The men are skilled.”
He knew too much. Was Georgie feeding him information? “What treasure?”
Lee looked at her with a bemused expression.
Right. She wasn’t touching that. Besides Jordan had taken a gold coin to school, which had prompted his kidnapping and made it difficult to deny the treasure existed. Still she had no idea how he got his information. She changed the subject. “What will you do with me?”
“Keep you with me until this is over.”
Over her dead body. She couldn’t spend time with this man. “You’re kidnapping a police officer?”
He scowled. “Add it to my list of crimes.”
It would be very easy to dispose of a body in the ranges. No one had completely explored the eighty kilometre length of it.
So if she wanted to stay alive, she needed to play along. “Will you share the information you have?” He might not want to hurt her, but he would if she ran. While she bided her time, she could use his resources to put an end to Stonefish threatening her friends and using her town as its base.
“As needed.”
Annoyance swept through her and she forced her hands not to clench so he didn’t know she was riled. “Do I have a choice?”
“No.”
If he had wanted to kill her, he could have done it in the tunnel. She would be safe for the moment at least. She’d get her opportunity to get her gun back, and then she’d be the one calling the shots.
But maybe, just maybe, he meant what he said.
And they could bring down Stonefish together.
She sighed. Still being far too trusting and optimistic. Still her options were limited. “Lead the way.”

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Kaylene McCormack
Leaving this series: loved it all

Wow! Leaving is such sweet sorrow! But there is so much in this last book. Seeing so much through other characters eyes brings new clarity. Getting to know Lee, and Nhiari, better is awesome. They’re two people deserving of this novel. This is a series (and finale) that deserves to be read again! And again! Even so I’ll miss the people and places that stole my heart.