Veiled Alliance 2 : Lockdown
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Genre: Paranormal; Urban Fantasy
Format: Trade paperback
On Sale: June 23, 2010
After surviving an attack by an inmate, prison corrections officer Gillian Priest arrives at her new unit, determined not to ever let her guard down again. Things get complicated when a handsome new prisoner enters her dreams and seduces her. When fellow officer Billy Hedron makes a pass, she’s already primed, ready to ease the arousal her sexy dreams have left with a more appropriate mate.
Billy Hedron knows his old marine buddy, Gabriel Vlahos, is posing as a prisoner to find a demon within the prison walls, and who better to hunt one than an incubus? When his buddy seduces Gillian in her dreams, Billy stands ready to serve the needs his friend stirs up in the attractive woman. But things take a deadly turn when the demon they seek decides it’s time to take them all to Hell.
Note for Readers: You must be of legal age in your country of origin to read this excerpt.
Gillian Priest felt a cool shiver slide down her spine like a trickle of ice water the moment the tall chain-link gate closed behind her. But she shrugged it off. Now wasn’t the time to let herself get freaked out. Not even a little bit. They’d smell her fear.
New job. New set of prisoners to prove she was a bigger badass than any of them.
A work crew was busy laying sod in the strip of grass between the outer fence and the one surrounding the main building. Not one of the men paused to give her a direct glance.
She knew because she gave them the same sort of look as she strode by-out of the corner of her eye, sussing them out to see how well they played the game and how well the officer watching over them controlled the situation. She nodded to him, received a cool downward jerk of his chin, noted the muscled frame, the breadth of his shoulders, and the shine off his shaved head. His dark sunglasses hid his expression; his lips remained in a straight line.
She didn’t expect a welcome, not in front of his charges. Perhaps she’d never get one. Her time at the Bentonville unit had been spent playing the hard-ass with prisoners until they’d gotten the message she didn’t accept any crap, as well as dodging lewd comments from her fellow officers.
A woman who worked in a men’s prison learned to take it because no matter how hard she might try to deny she didn’t like it, watching men piss, shit, shower and dress left her motives for working in a hellhole like this open for interpretation. And everyone there, prisoner and staff alike, were eventually brought down to their base animalistic selves.
Gillian understood it. She’d tried to fight the perceptions and learned the hard way.
New prison. Fresh start. She’d settle for that and make damn sure she stepped out on the right foot this time.
She wouldn’t make any waves. Would keep her head down, her eyes sharpened on everyone and everything around her.
She waited patiently while the gate to the inner yard was buzzed open, and then shoved it inward. A man dressed in khaki slacks and white dress shirt opened the door into the main building and he waved her forward. “Officer Priest?” he shouted.
Like he didn’t already know? The grapevine inside had likely already passed every word written in her personnel jacket along, savoring the story, committing her official photo to memory.
She was fresh meat. Only she wore corporal’s stripes now, so they’d hold back slightly on the hazing. They’d wait to see what she was made of.
She held out her hand. “Yes, sir, and you are?”
His hand clasped hers firmly, pumped once and dropped. “Deputy Warden Kalicek.” Ice blue eyes raked her frame once, and then narrowed on her expression.
She’d kept it clear of emotion. Set in non-committal straight lines. “I’m ready for duty. ”
“You’ve already been briefed. I’m teaming you up with Officer Hedron. You passed him in the yard. As soon as his crew finishes up, he’ll meet you in the control room in Housing Three.”
She nodded. “Until then?”
“I’ll take you there. Introduce you to McPhee. He’s at the console today.” He turned and headed down the long corridor, his dress shoes tapping on the linoleum.
Gillian drew a long breath, relieved she’d be getting straight into the action again. Three months out had put a dent in her confidence. As she followed him down the corridor, empty except for the porter gliding a buffer across the pristine waxed floor, she ignored the hairs rising, prickling at the back of her neck.
A week from now, the nausea would be gone and the bile in her stomach would no longer burn the back of her throat. For now she’d settle for the fact her hands were as steady as her glare. The sight of the porter’s white jumpsuit hadn’t caused her as much as a skip of nerves.
A week from now, the Caddo River Unit would prove to be just another job.
McPhee craned his head to give her another sullen glare. Closing in on retirement, the old corrections officer’s face appeared grizzled although his skin was freshly shaven. Must have been the rough texture of his cheeks and chin from too much sun. The man hadn’t stopped talking about the fishing at the nearby lake, the hunting in the woods behind his property, or his new passion-four-wheeling.
Gillian cringed, wondering what other redneck subject he’d drone on and on about. Not that she really minded or wasn’t used to it by now. Her own brother had been an avid outdoorsman. But she was restless and wanted to walk the floor, let the prisoners get a look at her while she took their measure.
Hedron had yet to show up and she was stuck watching prisoners milling in the barracks below through reinforced glass windows until he got here and walked her through the unit.
“We been short-handed for months now. Musta been why they hired you,” McPhee muttered.
She didn’t take offense. She preferred plain talk to the kind that shot arrows at her back. “I’m trained,” she said, keeping her comment short and uninflected.
McPhee’s beady brown eyes narrowed. “What’s a pretty little girl like you doin’ workin’ in a place like this anyway?”
She raised a brow and shot him a challenging glare. “What are you doing here?”
“Workin’ on a second retirement.” He leaned back in his chair, his expression turning sly. “Be careful one of these boys doesn’t try to flip you, pretty as you are.”
Gillian crossed her arms over her chest and rested her butt against the edge of the console. “If I’m so pretty, what makes you think I’d stoop to fuck one of those losers?”
His mouth opened and then sawed shut. “Just givin’ you a friendly warnin’.” His eyes narrowed farther and he tilted his head toward the floor. “There’s demons in some of those boys,” he whispered.
“Appreciate the warning,” she murmured. “But I can take care of myself.”
The last thing she wanted was for any of her fellow guards thinking they had to go out of their way to protect her. That kind of distraction led to someone getting hurt.
A light blinked on the console a second before a buzz sounded and she turned to watch as Officer Hedron strode toward them.
She straightened, noting the crisp edges of his uniform, the shine on his boots. Probably ex-marine by the look of him. So many of them fell into the prison system, their training making them ideal for the life. Without the dark sunglasses, his blue eyes nailed her from a distance.
He didn’t look happy to see her.
Too bad. They shared the same shift. He’d have to get used to it. She’d met enough men who believed a woman shouldn’t be working anywhere but in the warden’s office pouring his coffee that she really didn’t care.
“You two already meet?” McPhee asked.
“When I arrived,” Gillian interjected before the stern-faced man in front of her could get a word in edgewise. She gave him a tight smile and held out her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
He stared at her hand for a moment before taking it, pressing her fingers quickly and dropping it as though it burned. “Better get you out on the floor. The boys are already gettin’ restless.”
She liked the deep rumble of his voice, even liked the steely glare he gave her. She shrugged away the thought and gave him a crisp nod. “After you.”
As soon as she entered the floor, she could feel the tension escalating around her. A new male officer would warrant curiosity. A female on the floor only intensified the scrutiny. Slowly, men who’d been playing checkers and dominoes or watching TV formed little groups, their eyes never leaving her as she strolled by.
“Know the prisoners’ schedule?” Hedron asked, without looking her way.
“Yeah, nothing happening until lights out.”
Hedron’s gaze narrowed on a group of prisoners whose mouths were curving into smirks. Any second now one of them would pucker up and make a loud smacking sound. When it happened, Hedron’s head swung toward the con.
Gillian stepped past him, halting directly in front of the prisoner who’d kissed the air, her chin lifting and her gaze locking with his. “Got something to say?” she bit out.
“No, ma’am,” the prisoner said, his gaze sliding down her body in a blatant sexual insult. “Just tasted somethin’ good is all.”
She narrowed her gaze on him. “Be careful what you say,” she said softly. “You wouldn’t want to catch paper, would you?”
His dark eyes blinked, his expression hardening. But he lifted his gaze from hers, staring straight ahead. “No, ma’am. Don’t want no trouble.”
“Keep it that way.” She strolled by, nodded to his pals, and then moved on.
Hedron’s chest lifted. “Keezee’s got a couple of years to go.”
So the threat of being written up held some power. Good to know. She nodded that she understood. A prisoner could lose “good time” for insolence toward an officer. Incentivizing lifers to behave wasn’t nearly as easy.
They climbed the concrete stairs to the tiers, glancing into cells. Murmurs followed her, but no one else attempted to confront her. They’d wait until they got her on her own and see if her courage had been bolstered by the big man beside her or if she could hold her own.
“That’s all there is to see,” Hedron said as they headed back down the stairs from the last, third tier of cells. “They’ll be heading to the library in a little while. It being a weeknight, we’ll lock it down at ten-thirty.”
“Not carrying pepper spray on your belt?” he said under his breath.
“Why would I? Most of them would just lick it off their face. It’d hurt me more than them.”
He nodded. She hadn’t missed the fact he didn’t carry any of his own. The guards had only limited access to weapons to protect themselves-the bigger danger lying in being overpowered and a weapon turned on them rather than running into a slamming fist.
“Don’t go looking for trouble. I know it’s your first day and you might want to show them you’re tough. But if you incite a riot in my housing unit, I’ll have your ass.”
Gillian jerked her head back. “Do I look like I’m trolling to jack some prisoner up?”
“You’ve got a chip on your shoulder. And you’re too damn good-looking. That’s invitation enough.”
Gillian released a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding when he strode away. The man was tough as nails. The fact she liked it only made her madder.