The Hunter – The Freemasons #2

Available 09/22/2015

As Right Worshipful Master of Lodge Drysor, Dominic Cacciari will do anything to ensure the integrity of the brotherhood of Freemasonry—even if it means seducing the woman determined to uncover their secrets. Gemma Hughes is tired of reporting about the social happenings of Perth’s elite, she wants to be taken as a serious journalist.

When her newly discovered father dies in mysterious circumstances, she’s on a mission to find the people responsible and make them pay for taking her father from her. Even if the people involved are from the fraternity her father once was a member of. Attraction flares to life the moment Dominic and Gemma touch. With both of them on a mission to protect the things they hold important, fighting that attraction is imperative. Only the more they’re thrown together, the more the lines between what they’re fighting for become blurred.

Will secrets be uncovered and a love lost? Or will love be stronger than the secrets of a mysterious brotherhood?

Read an Excerpt


Dominic Cacciari threw the folder down on his coffee table. The file skidded along the table, spilling its contents across the glass surface. A photo teetered on the edge before floating down to land on the floor. He picked it up and examined it again. He couldn’t deny Gemma Hughes was an attractive woman with her long dark hair, green eyes and full lips. Her joyous smile a stark comparison to the threatening emails she’d sent to him and some of the other members of Lodge Drysor. Any other time he might be interested in pursuing an affair with her. Pity she appeared to be out to destroy him, the Lodge and everything they strived for. He wouldn’t let that happen. It came down to him, as Right Worshipful Master of the Lodge, to protect the members and the actions of the Lodge. They’d worked too hard over the last couple of years to get everything in place for it to be torn down. No way would he let an upstart reporter think she could destroy it all.

He checked his watch and cursed softly. The car would be arriving shortly to take him to the Lodge’s annual charity event. He had hoped his private investigator would’ve been able to find out more about Gemma. Unfortunately, he’d got sick and then had to deal with an urgent case. Roger had only been able to gather basic information about Gemma, like where she lived and that both her parents were dead. Her father’s name seemed familiar to Dominic, but he couldn’t place where he recognized it. If he had more time he’d have searched the father’s name on the internet. Only time proved to be his enemy with regard to the investigation of Gemma and her threat.

Dominic’s gut told him to be prepared for anything tonight. He couldn’t help but feel something unexpected would happen. Something involving this reporter. He’d arranged for extra security, briefed them to watch for her. He would also be on the look out for Gemma Hughes. He had no doubt she would attempt to show up at the event. She wouldn’t get far if she did. No one was going to ruin this evening. Especially not a nosy reporter.

 

Dominic surveyed the ballroom. Everyone in attendance appeared to be enjoying themselves. He couldn’t deny Ava, Cole’s wife, had pulled out all the stops and made the event a huge success. He’d seen some of the bids on the silent auction items. It looked like they were going to raise a considerable amount of money for the charity and, in essence, for the kids who hadn’t had the type of life he’d had. Having grown up with a successful father and never having to worry about where his next hot meal would come from made him all the more determined to give back to the community. He’d started volunteering at the local food bank when he was thirteen after he’d seen a school friend come to school with nothing but a piece of bread for lunch. From that day on he always made sure he had extra food to share around.

He remembered his mother’s horrified expression when, at eight, he’d told his parents he wasn’t going to go back to the exclusive private school they’d enrolled him in. He wanted to go to the local school they drove past every day. Surprisingly, his father recognized the determination in his son’s eyes and talked his wife around. Dominic had loved going to the public school. There he could be a normal kid and not the son of mining magnate Enrico Cacciari. He’d proven to his parents a public school was just as good as a private school.

“Everything is going well, isn’t it?”

Dominic turned to the voice belonging to his cousin. “Hi Jude. Yes, Ava has done a great job.”

“Have you spoken to her or Cole tonight?”

Dominic nodded and took a sip of his wine. “I spoke to Ava earlier, congratulating her on what a great job she did for us. As for Cole, I briefly saw him when I arrived.”

“He wasn’t with Ava when you spoke to her?”

“No,” Dominic shrugged his shoulders. “I sensed a bit of tension between them.”

“When is there ever anything but tension between Ava and Cole,” grumbled Jude.

“There wasn’t always tension between them. The loss of a baby after a wedding would put a strain on any relationship. They’re perfect for each other.” Dominic looked at Jude. “Have you noticed that reporter hanging around?”

“No, I haven’t. I’ve been with Sienna. Introducing her to some of the shelter’s benefactors. Plus there’s a lot of people here. It wouldn’t be hard for her to slip by security among a group of people, no matter how vigilant they are. If she was supposed to be part of the press contingent, I’m sure Ava would make sure her name was taken off.”

“I didn’t think to check with Ava about the press invites. Let’s hope this Gemma is sensible enough to get someone to fill in for her and not follow through on her threat to expose some big secret this evening.”

“Wouldn’t that be nice, if she did stay at home?”

Dominic laughed, “You sound as convinced as I do that she’ll stay away.”

“Never underestimate the lengths a scorned woman will go to get her point across. And from the tone of her emails, she is very pissed off about something.”

“I know.” Dominic inclined his head to the right to where Sienna Townsend stood looking at him and Jude, a look of nervousness on her face. As the administrator of the shelter the Lodge worked closely with, she shouldn’t be nervous of him. “Looks like your date wants you.”

“Sienna is not my date. I’m merely introducing her around.”

“You keep telling yourself that, cousin,” Dominic murmured.

“What do you mean by that?”

“I’ve seen the way you look at her when you think no one is watching.”

Dominic chuckled as Jude rolled his eyes.

“More like watching my back to see what she’ll throw at me next. I’ve no idea why you thought she was good for the job, Dom.”

“She’s ex-military like you and she has connections. You can’t deny the information she’s been able to gather has helped our cause.”

“True. Still not the information I want though.”

Dominic laid his hand on his cousin’s shoulder. “We’ll find Renee and bring her back. I want her home as much as you do.”

“I know and I hope we get a something tangible soon. It’s been two years since she was taken off the street that night. If only I’d insisted she wait at the library for me, instead of walking to the train station. Then none of this would’ve happened.”

Even though Renee was his cousin, he felt angry that he hadn’t been able to do anything to stop her being taken either. He could only imagine how responsible Jude felt over the disappearance of his sister. Jude and Renee were so close they often spoke in riddles only they could understand. He’d spent a lot of time with Jude after Renee had first disappeared. Making sure he didn’t drink himself into trouble. Walking beside him as he roamed the streets looking to see if he could find her. But nothing he’d said or done could ease Jude’s pain.

It was another thing he needed to protect from Gemma Hughes. The Lodge might be a major contributor to the Parklite Foundation, but its members were instrumental in arranging the teams going into Malaysia and retrieving street kids and others from the clutches of the flourishing sex slave industry there. It made him sick to see and hear what those kids had gone through. That’s why it was imperative the gala be a financial success for the charity. He and Jude and their friends, Cole and Declan, all made personal donations to the charity. Those donations were always earmarked for the rescue missions.

“We will find her, Jude have faith.”

His cousin nodded as he walked off, toward where Sienna stood waiting for him. While talking to Jude, the crowd in the ballroom had seemed to thin out. People had headed to the foyer and the couches arranged around the area for casual conversation, away from the music the band played.

His phone vibrated with an incoming message. Pulling the device out of his pocket, he opened up his email. He had a message from Roger, his investigator. What he read didn’t ease his feelings about Gemma Hughes.

Dominic,

Just found something of interest. Gemma Hughes’s father, Ewan Wright, was a member of Lodge Bottlebrush. He was expelled from the fraternity before the merger of the two Lodges that formed Lodge Drysor. There could be more to the cause of his death. I’ll see what else I can find out for you.

Roger

Dominic reread the email. He knew he recognized Gemma’s father’s name from somewhere. He’d never expected him to be a former Freemason. This information added another dimension to her determination to discredit the Lodge and Freemasons in general. He needed to make sure whatever she thought she had on the Lodge never saw the light of day.

As Dominic gazed around the room, he noticed someone standing in the shadows. Immediately his guard went up. Something about the way the person stood didn’t seem right to him. He instantly thought of Gemma, but it could easily be a man standing in the shadows.

As if the person knew they’d been spotted, they stepped out of the shadows. It was no man. She was all woman. Her dress, a midnight blue, hugged every curve of her body. The material rippled down her body. Her dark hair coiled atop her head. Her long neck teasing him to get close enough to taste the creamy skin. Against his will, his body flared to life at the thought of touching her. The woman stood looking at him, not with desire sparking in her eyes, but defiance. The whole I’m-going-to-take-you-down type of defiance.

He didn’t need to speculate any longer. The woman his body currently lusted after belonged to none other than Gemma Hughes.

He walked over to her. Her arms fidgeted as if she fought the urge to cross them over her chest. Instead she notched her chin up an inch. The earlier thought he’d had when he’d looked at the photo in her file came back to his mind—if they’d met under different circumstance he’d be leading her out of the ballroom and to the nearest bed.

“Gemma Hughes, I presume,” he said, when he stopped a few feet from her.

“Dominic Hunter, I presume,” she shot back at him.

He inclined his head. “How did you get past security when you’re not on the invite list?”

“Perhaps you need to hire better security,” she smiled innocently at him. “No one stopped me when I walked in. And how do you know I wasn’t invited?”

Dominic schooled his features into a mask of indifference. He would be having harsh words with the security firm in the morning.

“Well, regardless of whether you got in or not, it’s time to leave.”

“Oh, I don’t think so. There’s still plenty of time to party, isn’t there?”

He stepped forward and wrapped his fingers around her wrist, ignoring the softness of her flesh, and the floral scent surrounding her. “Not for you. The party is over.”

“You may think you can boss me around, Dominic Cacciari, but you can’t. You don’t own me. And you can’t control me.”

Conscious of the way her voice rose and people were starting to notice them, Dominic knew he needed to get Gemma out of the ballroom—and fast.

“You’re right, I can’t control you. However, this is my party and I’m suggesting you leave. Right now.”

“Suggest all you like, it’s not happening.”

He tightened his grip as she attempted to pull her arm out of his hold. “Enough, Gemma. You’re coming with me.”

Not caring he was about to create the scene he wanted to avoid, Dominic headed toward the nearest exit, all but dragging Gemma behind him.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

He glanced over his shoulder at her. “I asked you very nicely to leave. You refused so now I’m taking matters into my own hands. And if you know what’s good for you, you won’t say another word until I tell you to.”

“Or what?”

“You don’t want to know.”

He marched her through the door, catching Jude’s eye on his way out and nodding his head to let him know he had it under control when Jude made a move toward them.

Fortunately Gemma seemed to listen and didn’t say another word. He weaved his way through the people mingling in the foyer. Smiling at acquaintances as he went by.

When he reached the bank of elevators he pressed the button to go up.

“Where are you taking me?”

“Somewhere where we can talk without being interrupted.”

“What if I don’t want to go with you?”

The elevator doors glided open and Dominic gave her a gentle push in the small of her back, encouraging her to enter the empty cart. “Doesn’t matter what you want, Gemma Hughes. You’re coming with me. End of story.”