Spider GameBy: Christine Feehan
For Manuela Barth, for all the help you give me with my community welcoming new members and answering questions when I’m so immersed in my writing, I forget everything else. I appreciate you more than words can say!
For My Readers
Be sure to go to christinefeehan.com/members/ to sign up for my PRIVATE book announcement list and download the FREE ebook of Dark Desserts. Join my community and get firsthand news, enter the book discussions, ask your questions and chat with me. Please feel free to email me at [email protected] I would love to hear from you. Each year, the last weekend of February, I would love for you to join me at my annual FAN event, an exclusive weekend with an intimate number of readers for lots of fun, fabulous gifts and a wonderful time. Look for more information at fanconvention.net.
With any book there are many people to thank.
In this case, the usual suspects: Domini, for her research and help; my power hours group, who always make certain I’m up at the crack of dawn working; and of course Brian Feehan, who I can call anytime and brainstorm with so I don’t lose a single hour. I absolutely need to give a shout-out of thanks to Neil Benson, owner of Pearl River Eco Swamp Tours. He graciously took me out into the swamp several times on both day and night tours and patiently answered every question I asked. I’ve been to New Orleans many, many times and learned more from him than I had in all my other visits put together. I will be using his information in many upcoming works.
The GhostWalker Symbol Details
The GhostWalker Creed
We are the GhostWalkers, we live in the shadows
The sea, the earth, and the air are our domain
No fallen comrade will be left behind
We are loyalty and honor bound
We are invisible to our enemies
and we destroy them where we find them
We believe in justice and we protect our country
and those unable to protect themselves
What goes unseen, unheard, and unknown
There is honor in the shadows and it is us
We move in complete silence whether
in jungle or desert
We walk among our enemy unseen and unheard
Striking without sound and scatter to the winds
before they have knowledge of our existence
We gather information and wait with endless patience
for that perfect moment to deliver swift justice
We are both merciful and merciless
We are relentless and implacable in our resolve
We are the GhostWalkers and the night is ours
Trap Dawkins sighed as he tilted his chair on two legs, automatically calculating the precise angle and vector he could tip before he fell over. He was bored out of his fucking mind. This was the fifth night in a row he’d come to the Huracan Club, a Cajun bar out in the middle of the fucking swamp, for God’s sake. Peanut husks covered the bar and round, handmade wooden tables with a crude variety of chairs covered the floor. The bar was constructed of simple planks of wood set on sawhorses surrounded by high stools also hand carved.
To the left of the bar was a shiny, beautifully kept baby grand piano. In the bar that was mostly a shack out in the middle of nowhere, the piano looked totally out of place. The lid was open and there wasn’t a dust spot – or a scratch – on the instrument. It was also completely in tune. The piano sat on a raised dais with two long steps made of hardwood leading up to it. There were no peanut husks on the platform or on the stairs. Everyone who frequented the bar knew not to touch the piano unless they really knew how to play. No one would dare. The piano had gone unscathed through hundreds of bar fights that included knives and broken bottles.
Trap glanced at the piano. He supposed he could play. Sometimes that helped his mind stay calm when it needed action. He couldn’t take sitting for hours doing nothing. How did these people do it? That question had occupied his brain for all of two minutes. He didn’t really care why they did it, or how, it was just plain a waste of time. He wasn’t certain he could take much more of this, but on the other hand, what alternative was there?
He’d come looking for her. Cayenne. In spite of the fact that no one could accurately describe her, Trap knew she frequented the bar. This was where she chose her victims. The robberies in the swamp were only rumors, whispers, the men too embarrassed to say much. They were always drunk. Always on their way home. They were men with bad reputations, men others steered clear of. She would choose those men and they wouldn’t be able to resist her. Not her looks. Not her voice. Not the lure she used.
He sighed again and glanced toward the bar, wishing he had another beer, but seriously, it was nearly one in the morning. She wasn’t coming. He would have to endure this nightmare again.
“Fuck,” he whispered crudely, under his breath. He had discipline and control in abundance. But he couldn’t stop himself from the destructive path he was set on. He had to find her, and that meant coming to this hellhole every night until he did.
“How you doin’, Trap?” Wyatt Fontenot asked, as he put a fresh bottle of beer on the very rickety table in front of his fellow GhostWalker and toed a chair out so he could straddle it. “You ready to leave? You’re lookin’ like you might be startin’ a fight any minute.”
Trap would never, under any circumstances start a fight. But he’d finish it, and he’d do that in a very permanent way. That was why half their team came to the bar with him.
“Can’t leave,” Trap said. Low. Decisive.
Not that he didn’t want to leave, Wyatt noted. Trap said can’t. There was a big difference. He’d told Wyatt he was looking for Cayenne, the woman he’d rescued from certain death, but knowing Trap, that was so far out of his reality that Wyatt hadn’t really believed him. But now…
“Trap.” Wyatt kept his voice low. Steady. His gaze on one of his closest friends.
Trap was a very dangerous man. He didn’t look it, sitting there, legs sprawled out in front of him, his chair tipped back and his eyes half closed, but there was ice water running in his veins. More, he had a brain that worked overtime, calculating everything even as he observed the minutest detail of his surroundings.
He had a steady hand and the eyes of an eagle. He was silent and deadly when he stalked an enemy, and he was known to go into an enemy camp alone, death drifting in and the reaper drifting back out. He killed without a sound and thoroughly, taking out the enemy without raising an alarm. When he returned, he was the same exact man – cool and remote, his brain already moving on to solve another problem.
Trap raised those piercing glacier-cold eyes to his. An icy shiver crept down Wyatt’s spine.
“I’ve known you for years,” Wyatt continued. “You get caught up in problems, Trap. Problems that need solvin’. Your brain just won’ let it go. This woman is a problem. That’s what this is.”
Trap sighed. “You know better. You, of all people, know better.”
“You don’ become obsessed with women. Hell, Trap, you hook up for an hour or two and then you walk. Not a night. An hour or two at the most.”
Trap didn’t deny it. “I fuck ’em and then walk away because I don’t need the entanglement but I need the release.” He stated the fact mildly. Unashamed. Uncaring.
“This woman is a problem to solve to you. That’s all she is. This has nothin’ to do with the woman herself, just the mystery of her. You have to know that.” Wyatt’s Cajun accent was becoming more noticeable, the only thing that betrayed his wariness.
Trap’s expression didn’t change. His icy gaze didn’t leave Wyatt’s face as he took a long pull on the beer and set it down. “You grew up in that family of yours, Wyatt. You got your grandmother. Sweet and kind. You had all this.” He gestured toward the swamp where Wyatt had grown up. “Running wild. Living a life. Having a family. You know what that’s like.”
Wyatt remained silent. Trap never talked about his past. Not ever. They’d met in college when they were both still teens and worked together on numerous projects that made both of them very wealthy. Wyatt had joined the service, and ultimately the GhostWalker psychically enhanced Special Forces unit. Trap had followed.
In the years they’d known each other, Trap had never once alluded to his past. He sounded like he was gearing up to do just that, and Wyatt wasn’t about to blow the opportunity to learn more about what had made his friend as cold as ice. He simply nodded, keeping his gaze just as steady on Trap’s, mesmerized by the blue flame that burned ice-cold under the glacier.
“I had two sisters and a brother. Did I ever tell you that?” Trap’s fist tightened around the neck of the beer bottle, but he didn’t lift it to his mouth. “My name wasn’t Dawkins back then when I had them. It was Johansson.” He said the name like there was a bad taste in his mouth. “Changed it legally in order to keep that shit out of the spotlight. To keep my enemies from finding me. Didn’t work with the enemies, but it did with the press.”
Had. Wyatt’s heart clenched hard in his chest. He regarded Trap as a brother. He had for years. He shook his head slowly. What kid had enemies they had to hide from? Enemies so dangerous they needed a name change? Wyatt remained silent. Waiting. Letting Trap take his time.