Private investigator Hannah Franklin's life is turned upside down after being contacted by a former employee of MAX Home Security, the leader in security services. But they're not just protecting people anymore. Hannah's informant claims to have proof that MAX has ordered the assassination of politicians who stood against the corporation. When her informant is killed and an attempt is made on her life, Hannah has no choice but to contact a freelance hacker. Her only hope now lies in the hands of a man she never expected to welcome back into her life. Ian Bradley has lost his girlfriend and his job, as well as having acquired a very annoying gnome. Now his ex, Hannah, is in danger, and she needs his help. Ian vows to protect Hannah with every resource available to him -- and as a technomage in a high-tech world, his resources are almost endless...
Hannah rested her forehead against the cool, metal desk. She anxiously awaited the moment when she could dive into bed and close her eyes. Cheating spouse cases currently flooded her office. Most of the ones she’d worked were fueled by insecurity and simple misunderstandings that could’ve been resolved through conversation or therapy. Just two more reports to file, then she’d be able to call it.
Memories of her soft blankets and the comfort of her pillow relaxed her bunched shoulders. Her eyelids drooped, and she exhaled, ready to give into her exhaustion.
Ringing jarred her from the edge of sleep. She jerked upright and rubbed her eyes. Clearing her throat, she reached for the office telephone. She used an old landline since they were more secure than the wireless communication devices on the market, which ranged from implants in the ear to high-tech cell phones.
“Franklin Investigations, how may I help you?” she asked, stifling a yawn.
“Is this Hannah Franklin? I need to speak with Hannah.” The male’s deep voice radiated urgency, with panic underlying his tone.
“This is she. Who’s calling?” Her spine stiffened, and tension tightly wound its way through her. She grabbed a stylus pen and poised it over her e-ink notepad. The electronic leaflet awoke within seconds filled with comments from her previous assignment. Tapping an icon in the top right corner, she brought up a clean page.
“Rich Granger. Listen, I can’t talk for long.” He paused. “Shit! Hold on.” Rummaging and his frantic breathing sounded over the phone. “Okay. This is the deal. I used to work for MAX Home Security. Everything was fine until a few months ago. A turnover happened with the corporate execs. You’ve heard the news, right?”
How could she not? Everyone was talking about the scandals involving the home security giant. Some of it was a bit too sci-fi weird, even for her. Yet, it also made her think of… Grrr… No, she wouldn’t do that to herself.
“Yes, I have. What’s this about?” She kept her voice professional and scribbled down notes about the new potential client.
“You know the senators who spoke against them are dead, yeah? Well, that’s not a coincidence. I have proof that MAX killed them. Meet me at the donut shop on the corner of Fifth and Main Street. You need to see this. Shit!” Sneakers smacked pavement and tires screeched over the phone line. “It’s too late,” Rich said. “They’re here. A freelance hacker I know can help you finish this. Malloc. Reach out to him. This needs to stop.”
The hackers she’d met weren’t the most trustworthy, but if he could help… And wait, she’d be finishing this? Alone? Reluctance rose within her. Her caseload was already full. Besides, after opening her own firm, she needed compensation for her time. Bills streamed in faster than paychecks. However, none of her current assignments held this level of excitement. This case could drive in more business.
“All right, I will.” She scribbled down the hacker’s name and notes about the donut shop.
Men yelling and the distant sound of thundering footsteps disrupted her thoughts.
“Mr. Granger? Rich? Hello?” She glanced at the caller ID to write down Rich’s number and turned to her computer, keying in the digits to a reverse lookup search engine. She needed to know who exactly this guy was.
A gunshot blast rang through her ear, and she jumped out of her chair, dropping the phone. Blowing out a calming breath, she grabbed the phone and listened again.
A pained whimper yanked at her heartstrings, and plastic clattered against a hard surface, presumably Rich’s cell phone hitting the sidewalk. Two more shots fired.
She slammed the handset onto the receiver, a wave of nausea and helplessness crashing into her. Bile rose in her throat, but she shoved it down. Now wasn’t the time. Slumping back into her chair, she stared at the name on her notepad. Malloc. Geez. Hackers could be impossible to track down. This wasn’t the first time she’d looked one up. The last hacker had taken several days to locate. Time wasn’t on her side now.
About the Author
Sarah Mäkelä loves her fiction dark, magical, and passionate. She is a paranormal romance author, but she’s written all over the romance spectrum with cyberpunk, sci-fi, fantasy, urban fantasy… even a sweet contemporary romance!
A life-long paranormal fan, she still sleeps with a night light. In her spare time, she reads sexy books, watches scary movies and Ghost Adventures, and plays computer games with her husband. When she gets the chance, she loves traveling the world too.