Deadly Vacation (Hardy Brothers Security Book 10) (6 page)


“Which way did he go?” Grady asked, leaning over so he could catch his breath.

The Hardy brothers were at a crossroads. Literally. Two streets were connecting, and they had no idea which way the purse-snatcher fled.

“Well, we have three directions to choose from, and three people to cover each one,” Finn said. “Let’s split up.”

“Okay,” James said. “Everyone be careful. Don’t do anything stupid. I say we only give this fifteen minutes and then go back to the restaurant. If we haven’t found him in that amount of time, we’re not going to find him.”

“Be careful,” Grady said. “This isn’t our city.”


believe that just happened.” Sophie was still staring down the street, even though James, Grady, and Finn had been gone for almost two minutes.

“I shouldn’t have just left it on the table,” Emma said. “I wasn’t thinking.”

“We were all sitting here,” Mandy said. “It should have been fine. I can’t believe someone would be that … brazen.”

“We live in the suburbs of Detroit and you can’t believe anyone would be that brazen?” Sophie lifted an eyebrow.

“You know what I mean,” Mandy said. “How desperate do you have to be to grab a purse when there are three men sitting right by it?”

Sophie shrugged. “You make a good point. This area is still recovering, though. It’s been a long time since the hurricane, but things still aren’t back the way they were. A lot of people are still struggling with poverty.”

“Did you have anything important in the purse?” Mandy asked.

“No,” Emma said, shaking her head. “I took everything out like James told me to. I just had some lip gloss, some Tums, and a little bit of cash. It wasn’t more than twenty bucks.”

“Well, that’s one purse snatcher who is going to be sorry to have his ass beaten over twenty bucks,” Mandy said. She sat back down at the table. “Do you think we should wait here or go back to the hotel?”

“I think James is going to have a righteous fit if we leave,” Sophie said. “They expect to find us here. Let’s wait.”

“Well, this was a sucky end to a great night,” Mandy said.

“Oh, don’t say that.” Three men appeared on the sidewalk next to them. The iron fence separated the two parties, but they were still close. Mandy recognized the men immediately. It was Shane – and his two friends. “You’re all far too hot to have a sucky night.”

Mandy narrowed her eyes as she regarded them. This was the third time they’d just happened to run into each other. Of course, if the men were staying on Bourbon Street – like they were – they might not want to risk going too far off the main drag in case they got lost.

“Shane,” Mandy said brightly. “It’s nice to see you again.”

Shane smiled. “You, too.”

“You know him?” Emma asked, shifting her gaze between Mandy and Shane nervously. “How do you know him?”

Mandy exchanged a look with Sophie, unsure. “Well, I saw him when we were in the voodoo shop earlier,” Mandy said. “We had a short discussion.”

“You saw him and didn’t tell me?” Emma’s voice was bordering on shrill.

“Emma, we didn’t want you to get upset,” Sophie said. “They were in the store. It was just a coincidence.”

Mandy wasn’t so sure, but she nodded in agreement. She wanted Emma to relax. It wasn’t good for the baby for her to get too worked up. “He just thinks you’re cute, Emma. He knows you’re engaged and expecting a baby. I told him.”

Shane’s face was immovable as he studied Emma. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just walking back to the hotel with my friends. This is Philip and Kent, by the way.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Sophie said. “Where are you guys from?”

Shane didn’t miss a beat. “Ohio.”

“Why are you here?”

“We’re on vacation. We all had some time off, so we decided to come.”

“And what do you do?” Since she was a reporter, Sophie was used to asking questions. She was doing it rapidly now, not wanting to give the men time to think of a lie. She was also absorbing all of the information they were giving her in case she could catch them in a falsehood later.

“I’m a landscaper.”

“A landscaper?”

“I mow lawns,” Shane said. “I’m still trying to find a job in my field. I graduated from college last year. It’s been … tough.”

“And what’s your field?”

“You ask a lot of questions,” Shane said.

“I’m a reporter. That’s what I do.”

“And where are you from?” Shane asked.

“Not here,” Sophie replied. “You didn’t tell me what your field was.”

“Software design. Where … ?”

Sophie cut him off. “What college did you go to?”

“Notre Dame. You’re really suspicious, aren’t you?” Shane was smiling, but there was something else lurking behind his green eyes.

“Emma just had her purse stolen,” Mandy said. “We’re on edge.”

“Oh, that is terrible,” Shane said, instantly contrite. “You should have told me. Do you need us to call the police?”

“Not just yet,” Sophie said.

“Shouldn’t you file a report?”

“We will if it becomes necessary.”

“Why wouldn’t it be necessary?” Shane asked.

“There’s a chance that our mugger is already in custody,” Mandy replied. “Our friends took off after him.”

“Your friends?” Shane lifted an eyebrow.

“My husband and his brothers,” Mandy said pointedly. “They’ll be back any minute.”

“It wasn’t very smart of them to leave three women alone after a mugging, was it?” The man Shane had identified as Kent finally spoke. “They should take better care of you.”

“We don’t need anyone to take care of us,” Sophie said, leaning back in her chair and focusing on the three men. “We’re very capable of taking care of ourselves.”

“I’m sure you are,” Kent said, shooting Sophie a small wink. “It’s just … if you were mine … I would never leave your side.”

“That sounds like a nightmare,” Sophie said.

“Yeah, no one likes a needy guy,” Mandy agreed. Without realizing what they were doing, Mandy and Sophie had pressed their shoulders together and were forming a wall between the men and Emma. To the outside world, they looked relaxed. Inside, they were both poised for action. Neither one of them liked Shane’s interest in the shy model.

“You have a mouth on you,” Kent said. “How does your husband put up with it?”

“He happens to like it,” Mandy said, unruffled. “When he gets back, though, you can ask him yourself.”

“Why? Is he a big guy?”

“You’ll have to gauge that for yourself.”

“I think you’re just making up being married,” Kent said. “I think you guys tell people you’re married – or engaged – just to get rid of them. What do you think about that?”

“If it were true, I’d say that thinking that makes you a total creep,” Mandy said. “That would mean you know we don’t like you and yet you’re still hanging around.”

“Hey, we don’t want any problems here,” Shane said. “We just thought you might like us to buy you a drink.”

“We already have drinks,” Sophie said, lifting hers up for emphasis. “And, since Emma is pregnant, she can’t drink.”

“She doesn’t look pregnant,” Kent said.

“Well, looks can be deceiving,” Mandy said. She turned her attention to the quiet man loitering behind Shane. “What’s your deal? You’re not saying much.”

“I didn’t want to bug you in the first place,” Philip said. “I told them you weren’t interested. Shane just can’t get your friend out of his head. He’s a slave for love.”

“Well, unfortunately for you, Emma is already a slave for love with someone else,” Mandy said. She really was at a loss. The guys seemed mostly harmless, but two run-ins on the same day were making her overtly suspicious. She wanted to believe they were just horny guys on the prowl. The past year of her life had taught her that letting her guard down would be a mistake, though.

“Just let it go,” Philip said, tugging on Shane’s arm. “They clearly want to be left alone.”

“I really didn’t mean to upset you,” Shane said, casting a sad look in Emma’s direction. “I certainly didn’t mean to scare you.”

“I … it’s fine,” Emma said. “I’m just a little nervous these days.”

“Well, sure,” Shane said. “You’re expecting a baby. That’s probably enough to make anyone a little crazy.”

Sophie narrowed her eyes. “She’s not crazy. We told you her purse was just stolen. She has a right to be nervous.”

“You’re right,” Shane said. “I … do you want us to walk you back to your hotel?”

This guy just never gave up, Mandy internally grumbled. “My husband and his brothers will be here any minute,” Mandy said. “We’ll be fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“We’re sure.”

Shane glanced at Kent and Philip and then shrugged. “Okay then. Sorry to have bothered you. Have a good night.” His expression was so hangdog as he walked away, Mandy had to fight the urge to laugh.

Once they were down the street, Mandy glanced at Sophie. “What do you think?”

“I think that Shane dude is in love with Emma from afar,” she said.

“What do you really think?”

“I don’t like that they keep appearing,” Sophie said.

“I know,” Mandy said. “It bothers me. The problem is, if they’re staying at a hotel on Bourbon Street, maybe they just don’t want to wander too far away. I know that’s what we’ve been doing.”

“I know,” Sophie said. “They seem … normal.”

“So do a lot of people,” Mandy said. “I don’t like being mean to them, but they have to buy a clue.”

“I agree,” Sophie said. “You weren’t really mean. You were just blunt.”

“I’m always blunt.”

“It’s a good quality,” Sophie said. “Especially at times like this.” She leaned forward and peered down the street. “Here they are.”

Mandy followed her gaze to a point on the sidewalk where James, Finn, and Grady were walking together. Finn had Emma’s purse in his hand. “It looks like they found him.”

“Are they covered in blood?” Emma asked, worried.

Sophie snorted. “They look fine.” She stood up. “Hail to the heroes.” Grady broke into a jog when he saw her and grabbed the front of her shirt so he could kiss her over the fence.

“What happened?” Mandy asked as James neared.

“He just dropped the purse,” James said. “We split up at the crossroads up that way. I happened to be the one who found him. When he saw me, he dropped the purse and ran. I figured getting the purse was good enough.”

“We didn’t want to be away from you for too long,” Finn said, handing the purse to Emma. “Make sure everything is inside.”

Emma glanced inside the bag. “Everything looks like it’s here. I didn’t have much. I put everything in the hotel safe like James told me to do.”

“See, some women listen to me,” James said, tweaking Mandy’s nose. “You should take a page out of her book.”

Mandy wrinkled her forehead. “I listened to you this afternoon. You’re listening to me tonight.”

James grinned. “Speaking of that, let’s get out of here. I have a few hours before I need to go to sleep – and there are a few things I want you to do to me while we have time.” He held out his arms. “I’ll lift you over.”

“I’m perfectly capable of climbing over myself,” Mandy said.

James sighed, but he took a step back.

Mandy lifted her leg to climb over the fence and then lowered it, frowning when she realized the problem in front of her. “If I do it that way, everyone will see I’m not wearing underwear.”

“You’re not wearing underwear? Good grief. That is just too much information,” Grady said, lifting Sophie over the fence as he made a face.

“Blame your brother,” Mandy said, fixing her eyes on James’ mirth-filled brown orbs. “You knew this was going to happen, didn’t you?”

“Did I know Emma’s purse would be stolen and you would have to climb over a fence? Yes. I’m a super villain.”

Mandy shook her head but held up her arms. “Lift me, stud.”

“You’re so much work,” James grumbled, pulling her over the fence and holding her flush with his chest. “I’m going to make you earn your keep when we get back to the hotel. You know that, right?”

Mandy was prim as she looked into his eyes. “Bring it on.”


“Okay, ladies, tell us about your day,” James said over breakfast the next morning. “And tell us fast. We have to leave in ten minutes.”

“You really are bossy,” Sophie said. “Can’t you just give us five minutes to wake up?”

James shot her a dark look. “You’re really not a morning person, are you? I thought Mandy was bad. You put her to shame.”

“Don’t pick on my woman,” Grady growled. “She’s perfect at every hour of the day.”

“And that’s why you and I get along,” Sophie said, tugging on his ponytail and giving him a soft kiss on the cheek. “I could never love a man who didn’t understand my dislike of mornings.”

Grady cupped her chin and caught her mouth for a quick kiss. “Hey, you get my hair, and I get your dislike of mornings. We’re a perfect match.”

“I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit,” James said. Mandy pinched his knee under the table. “Ow! You’re vicious sometimes, wife.”

“From the guy who practically spouts platitudes every time he sees a certain blonde, I’ll take that as a compliment,” Grady drawled. “What are you guys doing today, though?”

“We’re going on a cemetery tour,” Emma said.

“Well, that had to be Mandy’s idea,” Finn said.

“They’re supposed to be beautiful,” Emma countered. “They’re above ground, and they have all these neat mausoleums. Plus, if we’re lucky, we’ll get to see a funeral. They’re supposed to have great music and parades.”

“For a funeral?”

“It’s New Orleans,” James said. “That’s what they do. If you ask me, that sounds like a much nicer funeral than all the others I’ve been to.”

“It’s an organized tour, right?” Grady pressed. “You’ll be with a group, won’t you?”

“It’s an organized tour,” Mandy said. “I wanted to go on our own, but Emma didn’t like that idea. She says I’ll get lost.”

“You do have a negative sense of direction, baby,” James said. “Okay. Do me a favor and text me a couple of times throughout the day so I know you’re safe.”

Mandy furrowed her brow. “Are you worried about the mugger following us?”

“That was just a coincidence,” Emma said. “Right?” Her pretty face was drawn and tight.

“I’m sure it was,” James said. “I just don’t like the fact that it was your purse that was stolen right on the heels of your room being broken into.”

“Oh, no,” Emma said. “I hadn’t thought about that.”

Finn rubbed her shoulders. “I’m sure it was just a coincidence, sweetie.” He glared at James. “Nice.”

“I’m sorry,” James said. “That was a stupid thing to say.”

“Emma, it was just because you put your purse on the table so close to the fence,” Mandy said. “You won’t make that mistake again. Wrap the purse around your neck so someone can’t grab it. You don’t have anything in there again, right?”

“Just a little bit of cash.”

“Put that in your pocket,” Mandy said. She turned to James. “I put my credit cards in the safe like you wanted.”

James smiled at her. “Thank you. You’re the best wife ever.”

“I need more cash.”

James immediately reached for his wallet and handed her a wad of bills. He’d learned his lesson regarding money jokes. “Is that enough to get you through the day?”

Mandy counted it. “No.”

“That’s five hundred dollars,” James said.

“The tour costs three hundred. We still have food.”

“And shopping,” James finished. “That’s all I have right now. I’ll hit the ATM when I can. Grady, do you have cash?”

Grady fished his wallet out and handed Sophie more money. “Is that enough?”

Mandy looked to Sophie for confirmation. After counting it, the brunette reporter nodded. “We should be good for the day.”

“You women are so expensive,” Grady teased. “I guess you’re worth it, though.”

“They’re always worth it,” James said, getting to his feet. “Don’t forget to text me today.” He gave Mandy a smoldering kiss. “If you’re good, I’ll have a surprise for you when I get back.”

“Is it the same surprise you gave me yesterday?”

“Would that be a problem?”

“No,” Mandy said. “I just want to know how big I should set my sights.”

“Huge,” James said, holding his arms out for emphasis. “I promise you’ll love it. I just have a few things to finish up before I can tell you.”

“I can hardly contain myself,” Mandy deadpanned.

“Work. Work. Work.” James gave her another kiss. “Have fun. Be safe.”

“All of you be safe,” Finn said, giving Emma a hug. “Stick together, and have a good time.”


I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to see a cemetery when you suggested it, but this is really cool,” Sophie said, glancing around Lafayette Cemetery with bright eyes. “It’s really charming.”

“I think there’s more than one Lafayette Cemetery,” Mandy said. “Where is your map?”

Sophie dug around in her purse until she found it and then handed it over. “How many cemeteries are there?”

“It’s a big city,” Mandy said. “I’m guessing there are quite a few.” She studied the map for a moment. “Do you know what we need to do before we go?”

“Do they have a shark museum or something?” Sophie teased.

“No,” Mandy said, rolling her eyes. “They do have a wax museum, though. It’s supposed to be really garish.”

“Oh, I don’t want to see that,” Emma said. “It will give me nightmares.”

“They have regular parts, too,” Sophie said. “You don’t have to go to the scary parts. I’ve always wanted to go to a wax museum. We should definitely check it out.”

“I think that’s something we should do with the guys,” Mandy said. “I think James will want to see it, too. We can go at night.”

“We’ll have to figure out whatever surprise he has planned for you and go from there,” Sophie said. “Do you know what it is?”

“I have no idea,” Mandy said. “Knowing him, though, he’ll go all out.”

“It’s sweet that he does that,” Emma said.

“I hate surprises, though.”

“No, you don’t,” Sophie scoffed. “You say you hate them, but every single one he’s sprung on you has been something you absolutely loved. I’ll bet this new one is just par for the course.”

“You’re probably right,” Mandy conceded. “I just wish he’d tell me.”

“That would ruin the surprise,” Sophie said. “Has he told you what his expansion plan for the house is yet?”

Mandy scowled. “No. He’s being extremely tight-lipped.” She searched Sophie’s face for a moment. “You know, don’t you?”

“Of course not.”

“You know!”

“I might have an idea,” Sophie said. “And, no, I won’t tell you. If it’s what I think it is, you’re going to be thrilled beyond belief. Just … let him have this. He loves you. He loves seeing your face when he surprises you. Why can’t you just let him surprise you?”

“I have no idea,” Mandy admitted. “I love him, and I want him to be happy, but not knowing drives me crazy. You should understand that. You’re a reporter.”

“I do understand it,” Sophie said. “This is something that is going to give both of you joy, though. Trust me.”

“Fine,” Mandy said. “I’ll just wait until I get home and get it out of Ally.”

“Oh, Ally doesn’t know,” Sophie said, laughing. “As far as I can tell, I’m the only one who knows – and that’s because I was with him when he came up with the idea.”

Mandy racked her brain.
When had Sophie and James been alone together?

“Oh, you’re never going to figure it out,” Sophie said. “Just give it up. Come on. Let’s look around the cemetery. I think, when we’re done here, we’re supposed to get lunch. Then we’re going to another cemetery.”

“Another cemetery?” Emma didn’t look thrilled with the prospect.

“I thought you wanted to see the cemeteries,” Mandy pressed.

“I did. We’ve seen one. I’m sure the next one will look exactly the same.”

“Well, let’s get lunch and figure it out from there,” Mandy said. “If you don’t want to see another cemetery, we’re going to have to find another way to get back to the hotel.”

“That is not going to put James in a good mood,” Sophie pointed out.

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that,” Emma said, biting the inside of her cheek. “We should stay on the tour.”

“Don’t worry about James,” Mandy said, brushing off their concerns. “I can handle my husband.”

“Are you sure about that?” Sophie was dubious.

“Of course I am,” Mandy said. “I know exactly how to distract him.”


“I have whipped cream and massage oil now, too.”


I’m acclimating to the spices or the baby is developing a taste for New Orleans food,” Emma said, pushing her empty plate to the middle of the table and leaning back to stretch.

Sophie raised her eyebrows appreciatively. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen you clean your plate.”

Emma wrinkled her nose. “Do you want to know the truth?”


“I’ve had to watch what I eat for so long, it’s hard to get out of that mentality,” Emma said. “Now that I’m almost done having to be so … rigid … things are looking up for me.”

“I think things started looking up for you the day you met Finn,” Mandy said. “You guys are a good match. You get him, and he gets you.”

“He does,” Emma said. “I never thought I’d find anyone who could look past what happened to me and … .”

Emma’s father was a notorious child molester, and he hadn’t spared his own children from his abuse. Emma had been scarred when she came into their lives. She was still timid, and often worried, but she’d grown so much over the past year she was almost unrecognizable.

“Finn loves you because you’re you,” Mandy said. “Don’t ever doubt that. I know the baby kind of brought up old fears, but Finn doesn’t want anyone but you.”

“He doesn’t,” Sophie agreed, not looking up from the map she was studying. “So, we’re too far away from Bourbon Street to walk back, especially in this heat, but do you know what we
close to?”

Mandy shook her head.

“They have street cars,” Sophie said.

“Oh, yeah, I’ve seen them,” Mandy said. “That’s a great idea. We can ride the whole length of the city and just relax.”

“Are they safe?” Emma asked.

“Compared to what?”

“I have no idea,” Emma said. “I just don’t want the thing to derail and kill us all.”

“You really are a ray of sunshine sometimes,” Sophie said, rolling her eyes. “I’m sure it’s perfectly safe.”

“Can we walk to one of the stops from here?” Mandy asked.

“Yeah. It’s about two blocks away. Let’s buy some bottles of water before we go, just to be on the safe side, though.”

“I think we should also tell the tour guide we’re leaving,” Mandy said. “We don’t want them to panic if they can’t find us.”

“Don’t forget to text James,” Sophie said. “If he doesn’t hear from you soon, he’s going to have some sort of meltdown.”

“Oh, good idea,” Mandy said. “I’ll text him and you tell that perky tour guide we’re going.”

“What are you going to tell him?” Emma asked.

“The truth.”

Emma looked doubtful. “Really?”

“There’s no reason to lie. We’re perfectly safe. James isn’t nearly as bossy as you guys seem to think he is. Trust me.”

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