U.S. marshal Serena Summers entered three-year-old Brandon McIntyre’s room with a packing box in hand. Her heart ached for the turmoil the McIntyre family had recently suffered. Danger had touched their lives in the most horrible of ways. A child had been kidnapped.

But thankfully Brandon’s older brother had been rescued by the joint efforts of loving parents and the Marshals Service.

Serena paused, taking stock of the signs that the McIntyre family had once lived in this home. Little clothes spilled out of the dresser, as if the furniture had burped. Toys were scattered across the floor, tiny land mines to avoid. A toddler-size bed, the sheets and covers thrown back as if Brandon had recently awoken—and now the bed waited for the tiny body to once again claim slumber.

But the child wouldn’t be back. At least not to this house.

The McIntyre family no longer lived in Houston. The U.S. Marshals Service had moved them for a second time when their location had been compromised.

Only a few people within the service knew where Dylan, Grace and the kids had been relocated.

Serena and her partner, Josh, were among them. It was their job to pack up the family’s belongings and forward them through a long and winding path to their final destination. The McIntyres had been spirited away and deposited in paradise. Or as close to it as the U.S. Marshals Service could get them. Hawaii, to be exact.

Carefully picking her way around stuffed animals, train pieces and Legos, Serena went to work, gently folding clothing and stacking them inside the box. Her chest ached with empathy for the family that had almost been destroyed by the illegal activities of Dylan’s boss, Fred Munders, and his thugs.

Mr. Munders, a wealthy and well-connected lawyer in St. Louis, Missouri, had been implicated in several murders and in the illegal operation of a baby-smuggling outfit run through the adoption agency his wife, Matilda Munders, founded.

The only problem was the marshals and the FBI had found no hard evidence with which to shut Munders and the adoption agency down.

The word of several thugs and Dylan McIntyre, who worked as an attorney in Munders’s law firm, Munders and Moore, wasn’t enough to indict. The evidence Dylan had collected against his boss had disappeared from within the Marshals Service’s district offices, apparently stolen by someone within the service itself.

Serena’s fingers curled with anger around the tiny tennis shoe in her hand.

So many deaths, so many lives thrown into chaos.

The thought that someone she worked with, trusted, could have stolen the evidence and could have been leaking information to the bad guys sent Serena’s blood to boil.

If her brother were alive, he’d know how to compartmentalize the anger and pain gnawing at her day in and day out.

But Daniel was gone. Murdered. 

A sharp stab of grief sliced through her heart. Followed closely by the anger that always chased her sorrow.

She tossed the shoe in the box and abruptly rose. Restless, she moved to strip the bed. She had to keep busy, keep her mind occupied, or her emotions would overwhelm her. Something she refused to let happen. She needed to stay professional. She needed to keep up the front that her world hadn’t collapsed with her brother’s death.

“Hey, you okay in here?”

Serena glanced up at her current partner, U.S. marshal Josh McCall. They’d been paired to work the illegal adoption case. His six-foot-three frame filled the doorway. He’d taken off his navy suit jacket and rolled the sleeves of his once crisp white dress shirt up to the elbows. His silver silk tie was askew, and his brown hair looked as if he’d been running his fingers through it again, the ends standing up, making him appear as if he’d just rolled out of bed rather than put in a ninety-hour week. His soft brown eyes, shadowed by signs of fatigue and grief, tugged at her heart. She’d always found him appealing. But that was before. Now she refused to allow her reaction to show. Not only did she not want to draw attention to the fact that she’d noticed anything about him, she didn’t want him to think she cared.