Keeping secrets is my job. Uncovering the truth is his.
As a highly trained operative in a family of spies, I learned a a long time ago what happens when you fall in love and reveal your secrets. Devastation. Trusting no one is the only way to survive in this world. So, no matter how charming he is, Special Agent Leif McAllister won’t convince me that he’s left the FBI and wants to join my family’s less than legal operations.
Special Agent is my title and Leif McAllister is technically my name, but “Dusty” is what everyone calls me. Been told I can talk a stone to dust. That kind of verbal fortitude makes my job easier. People trust an open book. Even if it’s filled with lies. Most people, anyway. Gracie Parish, my best way into her family’s illegal activities, just won’t trust me. No problem. I’ll use everything I’ve got–fair, unfair, and so-good-it’s-wrong–to penetrate her defenses, discover the truth, and prove my case.
As the red-hot attraction between Dusty and Gracie explodes, Dusty’s investigation ignites a deadly threat and long hidden lies. They’ll have to decide quickly how far they can trust each other, because now it’s not just Gracie’s family secrets in jeopardy. It’s her life.
**This is a creatively reimagined version of an early work The Price of Grace. It is told in first person, present tense with completely new chapters.
Praise for Reckless Grace (Spy Makers Guild Book 2)
“Stewart’s badass romantic suspense series adds a high-octane installment with this satisfying roller-coaster ride. Computer whiz and dance club owner Gracie was adopted as a child by the Parish family, a large and ever-growing group of benevolent, mostly female vigilantes. She has been raised to fight for truth and justice, but some days she’s just tired of it. FBI agent Leif “Dusty” McAllister has been on the Parish case ever since a frustrated Gracie revealed some of her family’s actions in an anonymous email. Convinced that Mukta Parish, the family matriarch, is conscripting unwilling children into her personal army, Dusty plans to infiltrate the group through feisty Gracie—but then he falls in love with her. Very little is as it seems in this intricately plotted novel. Stewart skillfully drags a number of red herrings out regarding a would-be killer, delivering an unexpected ending. Enjoyable all on its own, the novel drops tantalizing story lines for future books in the series and neatly builds upon the prior installment. Stewart’s talent shines in this suspenseful story.” Publishers Weekly
“The second installment of the sexy and suspenseful series pits a vigilante computer whiz against an FBI agent with a grudge.
Bullets are flying when Gracie Parish and Leif “Dusty” McAllister meet in the middle of a covert operation to dismantle a sex-slave operation in Mexico. The attraction is instant, but the more they get to know one another, the wider the gap between them seems. Adopted as a child by the Parish family and raised to fight injustice…, Gracie is conflicted about the heavy price exacted by the vigilante lifestyle. She’s already lost a husband and child to Parish family secrets and wonders what life would be like if her front as a club owner were really her full-time profession. Dusty’s abusive childhood at the hands of a cult leader did not endear secret groups to him. He wants to take the Parish clan down, but as he comes to know and respect his “helpful asset,” he finds himself teetering on the “shaky edge of undercover morality.” Muñoz Stewart (I Am Justice, 2018, etc.) skillfully questions the difference between loyalty and subservience, enculturation and indoctrination as she weaves a tender romance around a thrill ride of a plot that will keep readers guessing until the final pages.
Layered personalities, shifting motivations, and a smart, twisty plot push this thrilling romantic suspense series into high gear.” Kirkus Reviews
“THE PRICE OF GRACE is Diane Munoz Stewart at her best. This is action-packed, thought-provoking, sexy, with a lot of twists and turns, and at times just fun.” Fresh Fiction
“A vigilante family, a cache of secrets, a monumental threat, and an overpowering love. The dynamics in Reckless Grace are instant and intense and hot. The pages will burn your fingers.” Patricia Gussin, New York Times Best-selling author of Come Home
I’ve learned three valuable things in the last two excruciating hours driving around Mexico: the fetal position is only comfortable in the womb, my deodorant isn’t trapped-inside-a- hidden-compartment strength, and blood circulation can be lost in your forehead.
There has to be an easier way to break into a sex-slaver’s home than being smooshed inside this malodorous secret compartment while my brother and his frenemy, Victor, drive me onto the compound as they pose as mano-a-mano live “entertainers.”
Sweat salts my eyes, slicks my skin. The good news? If I die, the House of Hades will feel like a spacious oasis.
This is it. The absolutely last time I take part in my family’s insane, secret-society-type schemes. Sometimes, I wish I’d never been adopted into this mess. Ugh. Okay. That’s not entirely true. I mean, I’d do anything for my family—including risk my life. Which is why I’m here, rescuing my sister’s boyfriend.
With a flick of my jaw, I click my mic. “How much longer, Justice? I’m roasting.”
“Please, you’ve been in there for two hours. People smuggled out of Mexico stay in that compartment for days.”
Days? Days pretending to be the back seat of a car with your legs tucked awkwardly, foam padding sticking to your skin, right arm going numb, right hip screaming, and tasting exhaust. God, those poor people—and it only goes downhill from there. “Yeah, well, not me. If my cyber skills weren’t needed to rescue your boyfriend, nothing could get me into this Dante’s Inferno. Nothing.”
“Just because you’re as tall as a fifth-grader doesn’t mean you should whine like one. Chill. You’re almost inside the compound.”
My sister scores zero on the empathy meter. Ze—ro. “Easy for you. You’re on a hilltop, stretched out, overlooking this whole scene through a scope.”
“Just playing to my strength. I’m the best shot.”
True. She is a good shot. Still… “You know, this bull-poop has been going on since childhood.” Despite the fifth-grader comment, I mimic a child’s high-pitched voice. “‘Gracie’s the smallest; she can fit in that pipe. Gracie’s the smallest; let her squeeze through the vent system. Gracie’s the smallest; put her in the smuggling compartment so she can break out Trojan Horse- style inside the compound.’”
“Bull-poop? If you cursed, you’d realize bullshit is way more satisfying.” Despite her teasing, Justice sounds focused on whatever she’s seeing through her scope. “And it’s not my fault you’re a shrimp.”
“Being petite isn’t a talent.”
“You also have great red hair and hot underwear.”
Oh. God. I’m never going to live that down. “Good thing. Otherwise, I’d have no excuse if they find me. Assuming they don’t shoot before I explain that Tony and Victor hid me here as a surprise bonus to their sex show.”
“Trust me, no red-bloodied male—or female, for that matter—would shoot you after getting a look at that thong.”
Humiliating. Even as hot as I am, I can feel the blood rushing into my cheeks. The curse of being a fair-skinned redhead.
I should’ve kept my mouth shut in the plane hangar when we were discussing the mission ahead. Instead, I’d felt the need to prove myself when Justice had said, “Sure, Gracie, pretending to be a stowaway entertainer is better than nothing, but we don’t have a costume for you.”
With challenge in her eyes, Justice had looked around the desolate plane hangar, thrown up her hands, and teased, “We’re shit out of eight-hundred-dollar bras, and there’s no Agent Provocateur in sight.”
There’s something so uncontrollable about being challenge- teased by a sibling. It just seemed like a good idea at the time, but what happened next will probably go down as one of the top five most embarrassing moments of my life.
Trying to dramatically prove to Justice I wasn’t suggesting something I hadn’t thought out completely, I’d dropped my pants and lifted my shirt.
And then… and then… Justice had burst into laughter. Tony had sputtered.
Victor had whistled. “Damn, Red, if I’d known you were hiding that, I would’ve been nicer to you.”
Is it my fault that I like nice underwear?
Yeah. Top five. Definitely. And being in this car is probably in the top ten most uncomfortable places I’ve ever been. Well, maybe top fifteen, as my family does really ask the impossible of me.
“Our boys are pulling up to the compound gate,” Justice’s voice hums low in my earpiece, “so stay quiet.”
Not liking when she treats me like I’m too stupid to live, I hiss back at her, “They wouldn’t hear me if I screamed.”
Not a pleasant thought.
The crunch of gravel vibrates under the wheels and through my bones as the car turns into the compound. “Seriously, I could die trapped in here.”
“There’s a release lever.”
Yes, but the arm by the lever is numb and heavy.
The car jerks to a stop and my forehead thunks against metal. I zip it—without being told because, despite what Justice thinks, I am a professional.
Because I’m as quiet as a mouse, I hear the click in my earpiece before Justice says, “There’re five men at the gate, including the head of security—a big, USA–hat-wearing dude. He’s leaning down to the car to talk to Tony and Victor.”
Straining to hear through the metal and padding, I catch the sound of a deep voice with an American Southern accent.
Justice says, “He’s gesturing our boys out of the car.”
The car doors open then shut, and I picture Tony and Victor getting out.
Justice snorts through the headset. “Victor pirouetted to show he has nothing to hide. Hysterical. Man has balls.”
And then some. A mental image of that fine Latino pirouetting in his Magic Mike costume pops into my head. Honestly, I don’t envy Victor or Tony’s roles. They’re pretending to be men hired to feed Walid’s sexual proclivities—watching men inflicting pain on each other while having sex.
“They’re checking the car.”
Oh God. The front car doors open with a squeak of hinges. My heart jumps so high into my throat it chokes me. I can’t even swallow. Sweat rolls down my face, perches on my lips. I hold my breath.
They’re going to find me. They’re going to hear my hyper heartbeat, like in Poe’s, “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Ba- boom, ba- boom, ba-boom. They’re going to shoot me. Boom.
Someone climbs into the back seat and my blood whoosh- whoosh-whooshes in my ears.
My hearing tunnels and focuses in tight on the squeak of metal springs and the weight of whoever climbed in. Is his knee pressing on the padding over my left butt cheek?
Dear God, please. If I survive, I’ll go back to running my bar in Pennsylvania and live a normal life. A regular life. Sure, I’ll keep doing my cyber-warrior stuff on the side, but I’ll stay far away from field operations and guns and traffickers. I’ll leave that to Justice or Tony or any of my other twenty-seven adopted siblings.
Well, the older ones.
His weight shifts onto my arm. Even through the numbness, the padding and the springs press painfully. I sense—or imagine—him running his hands along the edge of the seat.
No big deal. No big deal. If they find me, I’ll play it cool. I mean, I’ve heard Mexicans love redheads.
Is that racist?
Gracie, stop overthinking.
The pressure lifts, then slides along my body and off. The door shuts with a slam.
Thank you, God. I meant what I said about the cyber stuff, remember that.
Someone gets into the front, starts the car, backs it up, then drives away.
The car stops again, and the door creaks open then slams closed. Hearing absolute silence now, I risk a low, “Justice—”
“Fuck. Parked it outside the compound. You’re like twenty feet from the front gate. You’re east of the guard tower.”
Fudge. It would’ve been so much easier if I’d been inside the gates so I could sneak out and turn off the electric fence for Justice to get inside.
Okay. Stay calm, get out of here, get inside, then turn off the fence. Hoping I sound more confident than I feel, I tell Justice, “Got it.”
Honestly. The very last time I do this.
Read the next four chapters: https://BookHip.com/BFHFDNQ