The Protected

The FBI Psychics - 4


Shiloh Walker

Always to my family . . . my husband, J, and my kids. I love you so much.

A special thank-you to azteclacy and Ann Aguirre, who helped so much with the Spanish in this book. And to Ilona Andrews for an hour-long chat . . . thanks for listening to me gripe, thanks for the advice about this series . . . thanks for being a friend.

A special shout out to Julaine for naming Tucker’s kitty . . . hopefully, we’ll get to read more about Tucker and his cat in a later book. Julaine was kind enough to bid on the chance to name a character’s pet in Brenda Novak’s Annual Online Auction for Diabetes Research, benefiting juvenile diabetes.

Thanks to my readers, always. You’re wonderful and I love you. Also, thanks to my editor and my agent. In my head, I always think that, but for some reason, I never actually put the words out there the way I should . . . thanks so much for what you do for me.


“YOU want me where?”

Vaughnne MacMeans stared at the man in front of her and decided she really wished she’d taken more time off.

Granted, she’d already taken three months of personal time. Then two weeks’ medical leave after the case to end all cases went to hell in Orlando, Florida. Maybe she should have made it three weeks. Her head was still so not in a good place after that last job.

She could handle another week off, she thought. Another week. Two weeks. Three weeks. Three months. Three years.

Because Taylor Jones just had to be shitting her.

“Orlando,” he said again.

“No.” She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. She didn’t ever want to see that miserable, forsaken, hellhole of a city again. Just thinking about it was enough to give her nightmares. Thinking about what had happened in that dark, squalid miserable building . . . shit, sometimes she woke still feeling the despair of the women around. She wasn’t even empathic and it had gotten to her.

Of course, a person didn’t have to be empathic to feel those vibes. That much misery was enough to screw with the head of any psychic, even if it was just to leave that cloying, dark layer of despair. She’d been caught in the middle of it, and even though they’d shut that operation down, it wasn’t enough.

They’d shut down one slave ring. Just one.

Who knows how many more were out there?

“Jones, I don’t know if I can handle going back into that kind of work again,” she said reluctantly. “Not after—”

“It’s not connected to that. It’s not about Daylin, at all.”

Pain gripped her heart at the sound of that name. The wounds were still fresh and the pain was just as hot, just as vivid as it had been months ago. Was it ever going to fade?

Shooting him a narrow look, she took a deep breath and shifted her attention to the wall behind him. “I don’t want to go back there, Taylor,” she said, fighting to keep her voice level. It hurt to even think about it. To think about that place, to think about those women. Most of all, it hurt to think about her sister. The girl she’d failed . . .

“As I said, it’s not about the last case.”

She shoved away from her desk and started to pace. An echo of a headache danced in the back of her mind, letting her know that it might not have been a bad idea to take a little more time to recover. Psychics were prone to odd, undetectable injuries sometimes, and she’d wrenched the hell out of something, although it wasn’t anything a doctor could diagnose.

Overuse of their abilities could definitely do damage, and these headaches were murder.

Still, she had bills to pay and an empty refrigerator, and sitting at home had been driving her insane.

SAC—Special Agent in Charge—Taylor Jones leaned back in his seat and pinned her with a direct stare. If one was to try and find paper documentation of their unit, they’d be hard-pressed to do it. A lot of the agents knew vaguely of Jones and his odd team and there were rumors, but if one tried to look up the FBI team of psychics, they weren’t going to have a lot of luck. Technically, they didn’t really exist.

Vaughnne still wasn’t sure just how Jones managed it, but he did.

Just then, he was watching her, his blue eyes cool and unreadable, his face expressionless. That blank look didn’t mean anything. He could be madder than hell, he could be amused. Hell, he could have a scorching case of herpes and she wouldn’t be able to tell from looking at his face—she’d seen him facing down drug runners, child rapists, and psychopaths with a taste for human flesh with that exact same expression.

Inscrutable bastard.

“It’s got nothing to do with that last case,” he said again. “It’s in Orlando, yes, but it’s an easy job, mostly monitoring. It’s practically nothing more than babysitting. You can handle a babysitting job, Agent MacMeans.”

Sure she could. The problem was it was in Orlando.

Clenching her jaw, she stared at him. Babysitting. She wanted to tell him to shove it up his ass.

“Just who am I supposed to monitor?” she asked.

“A kid, for the most part. There’s an adult male who lives there. My intel is that the kid has a gift, although I’m not sure what. I need them watched, because there are people after them.”

Vaughnne ran her tongue across her teeth. “Your intel.” That was vague as hell. “And just who are these two? Good guys? Bad guys?”

“Well, as I said, one of them is a child. We don’t generally term children as the bad guy. Beyond that?” He smiled. “I’ll give you the info you need once you’re in place.”

“I still haven’t agreed to go,” she pointed out.

“Is there a reason why you can’t?” he asked, watching her the way he might study a suspect before he went in to tear them apart in an interrogation.


She was screwed.

She could either take the damn assignment. Or resign. He hadn’t said that, and she knew he wouldn’t force that on her, but she also knew she couldn’t avoid one particular area of the country, either. They were spread too thin as it was, and she wasn’t much for playing the chicken shit.

Either she could work and do her job, or she could quit and let him make room on the team for somebody who could do the job. He danced on a razor’s edge to keep their unit going, anyway.

But she’d worked too damn hard to get where she was just to walk away.

And she wasn’t a quitter. Besides, it wasn’t like her particular skill set was in high demand out there, and she rather liked being able to use them to do something worthwhile. Somehow she doubted any local law enforcement agency was likely to welcome a telepath into their midst. Sure. Welcome aboard, and instead of using the police radio, just screech out into our minds like a psycho banshee, MacMeans. Look forward to working with you!

Since she needed to work to live, she had to suck it up, put on her big-girl panties and deal with this. Moving back to her desk, she sat down and crossed her legs. Absently, she started to swing her foot, one heeled shoe

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