The elevator doors opened and Dale Markham stepped out, looking around. Nick had never liked him—just a gut thing. He was a good agent, but something slimy shifted in his eyes at times, like a shadow behind a mask.
So Nick didn’t call out, just nodded when their eyes met, and opened the trunk to put his briefcase away. When he shut it, Dale was standing next to his car, smiling.
“Agent Markham?” A warning buzzed in his head—something off in Markham’s gaze.
“Hey, Nick.” The man put a hand to the inner pocket of his coat and drew out a thick envelope. “A friend needs a favor on the Vargas kid’s case.”
“I don’t take bribes, Dale,” he said as loud as he could in case Dale wore a wire. “What the hell are you thinking?”
“Hold on, there. I told him you’d say no.” Dale pocketed the envelope with a sly grin and pulled out a box from another pocket. “No one’s listening, and the security cameras are disabled. Open this.”
Nick put out his hand, temper rising, and Dale dropped the box onto his palm. Nick took the cover off. He stared in shock at the pale gray finger, naked in the loose plastic wrap except for purple nail polish smeared with blood.
“Look familiar? Look closer,” Dale urged him.
Nick rolled the finger slightly. His sister Jordan had a tattoo of the marriage equality sign on the ring finger of her left hand in support of her brother and sister. Recognition blinded him for the moment, a veil of terror over his eyes. Nick took a step toward Dale, who stepped back. Two men detached from the shadows where they’d been lurking and flanked Dale.
“What have you done, you bastards?” Nick shouted, his voice echoing around the empty parking garage. He reined in his anger and terror, shaking with the effort. “Where is she?”
Reviews of Ardent:
New Release in Gay Historical Romantic Suspense
February 1st 2017 from Manifold Press
“In ARDENT, Heloise West takes us to the fascinating world of the painters of Renaissance Italy. A high value is placed on the work of master painters – and also on the dyes and pigments they use. In the turbulence of Medici Florence, this can mean life or death, even for the innocent let alone those who try to rig the system to their own advantage. Into this corrupt world arrives master painter Morello, who has yet one more deadly secret to keep – he has fallen hard for the workshop’s assistant, Benedetto, a young man as intelligent as he is beautiful. Can either of them survive the intrigues surrounding them … ?” From Manifold Press