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The Baby's Bodyguard

Cover of The Baby's Bodyguard

The Baby's Bodyguard

A shocking discovery

When an anonymous text message arrives with photos of tiny hands and feet--and GPS coordinates--Florida cop Ethan Clark believes it's a prank. Then he follows the coordinates to an abandoned toddler. Handing Janie Doe over to caring child services worker Kelsey Rogers, Ethan thinks his job is done...until the little girl turns out to be a kidnap victim. To protect the child, Ethan and Kelsey stumble into an investigation that digs up a tragedy from Ethan's past. Will they uncover the truth before the kidnappers bury the trail forever?

A shocking discovery

When an anonymous text message arrives with photos of tiny hands and feet--and GPS coordinates--Florida cop Ethan Clark believes it's a prank. Then he follows the coordinates to an abandoned toddler. Handing Janie Doe over to caring child services worker Kelsey Rogers, Ethan thinks his job is done...until the little girl turns out to be a kidnap victim. To protect the child, Ethan and Kelsey stumble into an investigation that digs up a tragedy from Ethan's past. Will they uncover the truth before the kidnappers bury the trail forever?

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    Ethan Clark had always preferred the gentle slap of water on a fishing boat to the raucous houseful of boys that he'd grown up in. He still had that old wooden fishing boat he'd inherited from his grandpa, but these days his ride was a dual-outboard powerboat fitted with blue lights.

    Policing Florida's waterways kept Ethan Clark out of his house. Away from the memories. Away from concerned friends and relatives, from walls painted with cars and trucks—a room his little boy would never again sleep in.

    His cell phone buzzed in his uniform pocket. He started to reach for it, but hesitated, his fingers curling into a fist. He'd been getting text messages for the last two weeks. Close-ups of a baby—a tiny foot, the curve of a cheek, a little hand, chubby and creased.

    He had a trace put on the number, but it was untraceable—a throwaway cell phone. He slowed the boat to a troll, barely making waves, and opened his phone.

    This time it wasn't a photo. It was geographical coordinates.

    Ethan keyed the numbers into his onboard navigating system. It was his job to know the ocean well—and as the map popped up, he recognized this spot. Shallows about four miles out, half an hour from his location.

    If the FWC—Florida's Fish and Wildlife service—had a plane in the area, they could scope it out from the air. He called in the coordinates and asked for aerial backup, really the only kind available on short notice out here.

    He gunned the big engines on his boat, sending it plowing through the waves. Every stop, even the routine ones, had the potential for danger. A situation like this had all the earmarks of an ambush.

    The radio squawked. "Marine Four, this is Eagle Two-ten. We've got eyes on that location. Looks like an abandoned boat. Over."

    "Copy that, Eagle Two-ten. Thanks for the look-see. Over." Abandoned could mean a lot of things. Engine problems. Drugs. Crime scene.

    Considering the text message directly to him, it definitely could mean the boat was set as some kind of trap. He had a lot of enemies from his time spent in the FBI. The fact that he'd laid low in the years since didn't mean squat. Some of those guys had extremely long memories.

    "We'll circle until you're clear, Marine Four. Over."

    "Roger. Marine Four out."

    The boat in sight now, Ethan slowed his launch to a crawl. Waves slapped against the bow, spraying arcs of salt water into the air. He trolled closer. Even through binoculars, he could see no movement on the anchored craft.

    Flipping his speaker on, he announced his presence as law enforcement and his intention to board the craft.

    Nothing. Not a sound, not a movement. The large pleasure cruiser rocked on its anchor with the motion of the waves.

    Ethan cut his motor.

    He dropped and set anchor in fast, efficient movements, prepping to board the other boat. Despite everything, he didn't have a death wish. Pulse thudding in his veins, he checked his sidearm, took a deep breath...and leaped.

    The other boat rocked as he landed on the foredeck and braced his feet. He pulled his weapon and swung around toward the driver's position. Nothing. He blew out the breath he didn't realize he'd been holding.

    Used to the roll and pitch of the ocean, he moved easily toward the stern, checking for signs of what might've happened here. There was no sign of struggle. Every cushion was in place. No scratches or scrapes marred the fiberglass surface of the deck.

    Ethan heard a sound and whipped around. A little kid's sippy cup rolled in one corner of the otherwise completely empty boat.

    A blue waterproof tarp covered one section of seats and the space underneath. Only one thing to do.

    He jerked the tarp...

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