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Cornered: A Kira Brightwell Novel (Kira Brightwell Book 6)

Cornered: A Kira Brightwell Novel (Kira Brightwell Book 6)

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Kira Brightwell knows where to find the Procurer.

Finally, after four long years, a level playing field. But the serial abductor knows how to cover his tracks. And any animal can become even more dangerous when cornered. Kira’s hard-won window of opportunity to capture the Procurer remains narrow in a race against the clock.

Kira’s other problem?

Someone else wants to find him first.

The ongoing battle of wits between Kira and the Procurer comes to a head in this tense sixth novel in the Kira Brightwell mystery series.

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Ginette Waters paced the length of her bedroom on silent feet. The plush carpet gave way beneath her slippers, muffling her light footsteps. She was surprised she hadn’t worn all the way down to the underpad by now, with her constant stalking across the well-appointed room.

She gave her silk ivory dressing gown an absent tug around her slender shoulder and tossed back her long, dark hair. She took a deep breath, inhaling the traces of her own subtle fragrance that lingered in the air in an effort to soothe herself.

Surely her men must have completed their mission by now…

Only the lamp on the bedside table was lit, illuminating a turned-down bed of fine, linen sheets that showed no sign of being slept in. Heavy, velvet curtains had been drawn across the large windows that overlooked the sprawling backyard of the Waters’ estate. The sun hadn’t risen yet, but morning wasn’t far off.

Ginette caught sight of her own reflection in the mirror of her dressing table. Between her flawless, dark skin and the ivory dressing gown, she looked like an apparition in the pale light. Her full lips twitched in wry amusement.

The Pale Lady.

Men and women whispered the name in hushed voices, unsure of whom to trust—blissfully unaware of the enemy that walked in their midst. No one had guessed her alter ego. And why should they?

The Pale Lady was an infamous blackmailer who took advantage of the dirty scandals of La Valentia’s wealthiest and leveraged them to help support those who were less fortunate. In her victims’ minds, she was a ruling member of the criminal class—surely not one of ‘their kind’. To her employees and the causes she quietly supported, the Pale Lady was a hero.

Meanwhile, Ginette Waters was the adopted daughter of wealthy gentleman scholar Walter Waters. She rubbed elbows with La Valentia’s elite and had an impeccable reputation. Her charity functions were always the talk of the town.

Ginette had been careful. Not even Walter knew her secret, and Wally knew everything. No one aside from the Pale Lady’s employees had any reason to associate her with Ginette Waters.

No one, except Kira Brightwell.

Kira had even made the connection on her own, which only made her more interesting. Despite the risk it posed, Ginette had been both delighted and impressed.

She had found herself drawn to Kira the more she had learned of the other woman’s story through the local press and her own private investigations over the past few years since Kira’s abduction and infamous escape. It was only natural, really. They were two sides of the same coin. Both of their lives had been changed by the Procurer. Both of them worked to make the world a better place.

Both of them wanted to take the Procurer down.

Ginette knew Kira wouldn’t agree with her methods. Despite their similarities, both women had a very different moral compass. While Kira played by her own rules, she didn’t consider herself above the law. She merely worked around it to help things along.

Ginette was another story.

Ginette would do anything—anything—to get vengeance for what she had suffered. She had no interest in seeing the Procurer rot behind bars.

Yes, it had been the Procurer’s uncle who had been mainly responsible for her childhood abduction and sale to child rapist, Xavier Waters. But according to Kira, Russell Harrow had been killed long ago—most likely by his own nephew. None of that mattered to Ginette.

Someone had to pay.

The Procurer—Kurt Harrow, she reminded herself—had been the one to lure her off into an alley where his uncle had grabbed her. Yes, Kurt had been a child himself at the time, but he had known what he was doing. The way he and his uncle had acted in the van as they had driven her off to her new home convinced her it wasn’t Kurt’s first time.

And it wasn’t exactly as if he had gone on to do great things since bumping off his uncle. How many others had he abducted since going into business on his own?

No one knew.

No, Kurt Harrow was a feral animal that needed to be put down. Kira would be able to see that once the deed was done. She would probably even be relieved.

After all, what prison could hold someone like the Procurer? The man had been active for years, and the police knew practically nothing about him, but it was clear his contact list was both deep and extensive. He had been able to reach inside the jail at the LVPD to kill Peter Croft. Ginette wasn’t prepared to allow the police to underestimate him.

Kira would thank her for it later.

Ginette went to her bedside table and took a sip of water from a glass sitting beside a porcelain pitcher. The water was room-temperature, but helped to soothe her dry throat.

Why hadn’t anyone contacted her yet?

The plan to lure Kurt Harrow out into the open to capture him had been sound. She had stolen it from Kira, after all. And made a few minor alterations, of course.

Had the Procurer been whistling when her men had found him? Kira had told her that he liked to whistle ‘Sentimental Journey.’ If anyone else had claimed such a thing, Ginette would have laughed it off, but she remembered the haunted look in Kira’s green eyes when she had told her…

The burner phone sitting on the bedside table started to vibrate. The display showed an unlisted number from a list she had memorized. She snatched up the phone with cold fingers.

“Yes?” she answered in a rich voice that held a hint of impatience.

“My lady,” a male voice greeted her with a trace of a Portuguese accent. Armand.

“Well?” she prompted with an irritated wave he couldn’t see.

“I’m sorry, my lady,” Armand said. His voice was filled with regret. “We have failed you.”

Ginette took a steadying breath. “Tell me everything.”

“Everything was as you said it would be.” Armand sounded as unruffled as always, but Ginette heard a trace of irritation. “We lured Simon Reid to the retirement home with the story of his dying mother and took him. He killed the old woman before we got there.”

Armand didn’t know Simon Reid was only a cover for the Procurer. As always, Ginette’s men followed her instructions without question.

Ginette closed her eyes in regret. She had known her plan would put Iris Reid in danger, but she had not wished the old woman any harm. She straightened her shoulders.

No matter. The Procurer had already killed Iris’s son and taken his place. There was no one left to mourn her—no one left to dispute Simon Reid’s identity. And if Iris’s death brought Ginette closer to capturing the Procurer…

“Continue,” she said in an even voice.

Losing her temper would serve no purpose. Besides, she could hardly start shouting at this hour with Wally sleeping a few doors down. She adored her adoptive father. He had taken her in, even after learning she had murdered his pedophile brother.

She would never do anything to put him in danger.

“We took Reid back to the old estate, just like you said,” Armand said. “He was secure in the basement, as you asked. But then we had company.”

“Who?” Ginette demanded, even though she already suspected she knew the answer.

“The girl you met at the dance studio and two men. One was a cop—the man you asked us to keep an eye on.”

Ginette’s dark eyes narrowed. “Nick Foster.” It wasn’t a question.

“Sim,” Armand agreed in his own tongue. “The other man was blond. I’ve seen him coming and going from the girl’s apartment.”

“Trevor Wright.” Ginette said in an absent tone. Her free hand balled into a fist. She didn’t dare speak Kira’s name aloud.

I always knew there was a chance she might get in the way.

Ginette had done her best to play fair with Kira so far, but now…

“My lady, there is more,” Armand continued. “The girl and the two men have Reid. I managed to slip outside when we first discovered there was an intruder. They’ve taken him to the LVPD. The estate is crawling with police now. A few of us managed to get away, but many are in custody.”

Ginette mentally dismissed those who had been captured. She knew none of them would talk, and her lawyer would take care of them—without linking back to her, of course. She required absolute loyalty from those who worked for her, but she knew well enough that it had to go both ways to keep her dubious employees faithful.

“How many of you got out?” she asked as the wheels of her mind continued to turn.

Armand hesitated. “Only five. What do you want us to do?”

Only five. The words echoed in her mind.

Out of how many? Ginette shook her head. She had thrown all her available resources at this task. She knew better than to underestimate the Procurer. But somehow, she had managed to underestimate Kira Brightwell—a mistake she wouldn’t make a second time.

Still… Five would be enough.

She didn’t like what she was about to do, but Kira had given her no alternative. The Procurer would be hers. The knowledge that she had missed out on her vengeance on Russell Harrow made Ginette physically ill. Her stomach was in knots at the idea of his nephew Kurt slipping from her grasp now that she had gotten so close…

A vision of Kira’s face flitted through her mind. Her green eyes were haunted and filled with accusation.

She shook herself. Kira would understand, when all was said and done.

Ginette would make her understand.

She cradled the burner phone to her ear and took a steadying breath.

“This is what you’re going to do…”

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