Toni Blades leaned back in the ancient chair, ignoring its squeal of protest at her shift in position, and closed the file she was working on. Another pimp in custody and another uncover role as a prostitute completed. She exhaled as she pushed the folder away from her and closed her eyes. It was a good way to end this phase of her FBI career before she requested a desk job.
She curled her lip. The mere idea of sitting behind a desk for hours on end made her back spasm in revolt.
A promise is a promise.
Toni repeated the words to herself for the hundredth time in the past week alone.
Her jaw popped, and she massaged it, not realizing she was clenching it. Toni rubbed her hands over her eyes and flipped her shoulder-length blonde hair from her face as she pursed her lips. She didn’t blame her family for making the request. After losing her father to a heart attack, they couldn’t bear the thought of her putting herself in harm’s way any longer. But knowing that didn’t make it any easier to walk away from her position.
She’d worked hard over the past six years to get here, she was a well-respected agent, and turning her back on her accomplishments stung. To make the situation even more awkward, her mother and twin sister had put her fiancé, Leo, up to making the request. Not that he didn’t hint at the same thing. When he convinced an entire class of Las Vegas police recruits to serenade her as he proposed, they agreed in two and half years, they would each request less dangerous positions, get married and start a family. The date seemed so far away then. Now, two years later, Toni was having second thoughts.
Not about her relationship with Leo, but about the arrangement. What were they thinking? He was a detective on the Las Vegas Metro PD; she was a special agent with the FBI. They were intelligent people. They could figure out a way to make a marriage work despite the risks of their jobs. And children? She wasn’t ready to consider them after what her past few years undercover.
“Here you go.” Her partner, Caleb Jones, dropped a thick file folder on her desk. “Get yourself up to speed because they want us back out in the next few days.”
She reached for the folder, scanning the contents. The words leaped from the pages inside: missing kids, runaways, sex trafficking. She flipped through a few more pages realizing the full scale of the case. This was huge. Her dark eyes widened as she looked up at Jones in surprise.
“You must have impressed someone with the job you did on that last one.” He sat on the corner of the desk. “Most agents wait a lifetime for a case this big and they’re putting us in charge of it.”
Most of the file appeared to be intelligence, surveillance and information gathered from numerous stake-outs and previous cases that had overlapped. Now, with a significant amount of material accumulated, the FBI had enough to dive in. The FBI was ready to assign a task force to the case, a group of agents to go undercover, discover who was leading the trafficking ring, and make the arrests.
Jones waved his hand in the air over his head, tracing an invisible marquee. “I’m seeing a promotion in our futures.”
She rolled her eyes at him. Her partner for the three years, she and Jones worked well together, even if he insisted on acting like an older brother, antagonizing her every chance he got. She knew he had her back and would put his life on the line for her. She hated turning down a case that would ruin this opportunity for him too.
Toni tossed the folder back on the desk. “I can’t take it.”
He looked at her, his brows pinching as the lines around his wide mouth deepened. “What do you mean, ‘you can’t?’”
“I told you. That prostitution case was my last undercover. I promised Leo and my sister.”
Jones unfolded his lean, six-two frame from the edge of the desk. “Then un-promise them. You realize what this means, for both of us, right?”
“I do, but you know I can’t do that.” She crossed her arms and scowled back at him.
“Come on, T. Something like this doesn’t come along but once in a lifetime. Besides,” he began, his eyes lighting up, “if we solve this, a promotion would guarantee you never have to go undercover again.”
She sighed. He was right. A promotion would put her into a supervisory position. She could walk away with her head high, proud of what her accomplishments, rather than tucking her tail between her legs and backing down for no real reason other than a hasty promise made several years ago, before she or Leo realized what it would mean for their careers or how far they might come in that time.
“This case might take years. Leo and I are getting married next summer, remember?”
“Yeah, I remember.” Jones plucked the file from the desk. “What kind of guy makes you quit your job? Is he quitting his?”
“We’re both requesting desk positions.”
He arched a dubious brow. “You sure about that? Because that’s not what I hear, T. Word on the street is that he took on another missing girl case.”
She felt the surprise jolt through her but schooled her face to remain stoic. Leo wouldn’t demand something of her he wouldn’t do himself. Unless he’d forgotten about it, in which case, she could claim the same. Take this case, finish it as fast as possible and then settle into the supervisory position without remorse.
“Maybe it’s an open and shut case?” She knew it was almost unheard of, especially with missing persons.
“Or maybe he won’t hold you to a promise you made two years ago, before you both realized the trajectory you’d be on in your careers,” he countered. “It’s not like he isn’t kicking ass and taking names down at the PD either, T.”
She opened her mouth, ready to offer him another reason she shouldn’t take it. Her mother and sister needed her. Even if Leo had forgotten about the promise, her sister, Rose, hadn’t failed to remind her about it at least once a month. Weekly since their father’s recent death.
“Just read the file. There are so many ways for us to gain a foothold on this. It’ll be easy. In and out. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am, slap on the cuffs and call it a day.”
She shook her head at him, biting back a smile at his ridiculousness. No case was ever that easy but, from the look of the intel, much of the early footwork was done. They knew who they were looking at and how to reach them. If everything went perfectly, they might close it in six months. But that was a big if.
However, it was a big case, the biggest of her career. Closing this would solidify her position as an agent at the FBI and give her some leverage when it came time to request a desk position. Her stomach clenched, and she cringed at the thought but pushed aside the disappointment. She promised her family and Leo and she loved them too much to go back on it. But, if they managed to solve this case within the next six months, then it would be a win-win situation for everyone. She hoped Leo and her sister saw it that way.
Sometimes you have to do the wrong thing for the right reason…
Just one more case…
After her father’s death, FBI Special Agent Toni Blades promised her fiancé she’d step down as an undercover agent. But that was before the biggest case of her career landed on her desk – a large scale, sex trafficking ring and she’s tasked with finding its leader.
It’s only one last undercover job, what could go wrong?
Las Vegas Detective Leo Castellano made the same promise to Toni and planned to keep his word, as soon as he closed his last missing persons case. But when his case overlaps with hers, it takes a turn neither was prepared for. The future Toni and Leo imagined is suddenly jeopardized and now, neither can walk away.
Will they find the ringleader before it’s too late, or will Toni’s broken promise turn deadly?