Locked In Ice

March 28, 2024 – Ice Breaker Cold Case Romance – Ice Breaker, Book 9

The world called him a monster, so he became one…

Guilty. Innocent? Definitely dangerous. The media chases Lane Lawson wherever he goes.  Once upon a time, he’d been locked away because the Feds believed he was a serial killer. Every single day that he’d been in that hell, he’d had to fight for survival. Now he’s out, free, seemingly clear, but he’ll never be the man he was before a nightmare ended the life he knew.

It’s his turn to be the predator.

So he hunts.  Adrenaline and rage fuel him, and he hunts the killers who think they’ve gotten away with their crimes.  He paid for someone else’s sins before, and he’s determined that the guilty will be the ones to suffer.  He’s joined up with the Ice Breakers, a team of cold case solvers—a team that helped get him out of his hell—and he will not stop until the scales of justice have been balanced.

And in this new life, he has an unlikely new partner.

PI Ophelia Raine is Lane’s opposite in every way. Fiery when he’s ice cold. Smiling when he’s ready to rip the world apart. She’s supposed to balance him, to help train him as an Ice Breaker…and, most importantly, he knows that Ophelia is supposed to keep him in check. Don’t let him go off the deep end. An order he’d heard her receive.

But the problem is that the more he’s around the gorgeous and tenacious Ophelia, the more Lane’s control begins to fracture. Because it has been far too long since he’s taken something—someone—for himself. And he very, very much wants Ophelia.  A dark and desperate desire that begins to consume him.

Ophelia has her own darkness hidden inside.

The more he’s around her, the more Lane realizes that Ophelia’s bright and beautiful veneer is just a facade. She’s hiding secrets. Secrets that she’s keeping from him and all of the Ice Breakers.  And when Ophelia’s bloody and violent past comes back to haunt her…

She will need a monster to keep her safe.

Author’s Note: Cold case solvers need to get ready—Ophelia’s past isn’t dead and buried the way she’d desperately hoped. Instead, it’s alive and well…and coming after her. She’ll need the help of a very unlikely protector—a man who claims to be no one’s hero—in order to survive the evil heading her way.  But heroes are overrated, and sometimes it’s the “monsters” who are the only ones who can get the job done.  Prepare for some huge blurs between truth and lies, ice-meltingly hot scenes, and a love that might just be worth killing for…

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Chapter One

“Well, well, well…isn’t this quite the predicament?”

Lane Lawson stopped jerking at the ropes that bound his wrists. His hands had been tied behind his back, the ropes twisted and knotted as they held him prisoner. His head stayed bowed for a moment as that warm, feminine voice washed over him.

And he didn’t just hear that voice. He felt it sinking into every cell of his body.


His head slowly lifted. Blood trickled down his forehead.

The door had opened, and light spilled into the little room. The light surrounded her, showing off Ophelia Raine in all of her glory. And, truth be told, she was a pretty glorious sight. Correction, a truly gorgeous sight. Long, thick hair that was raven black. Curves in all the right places. She wore black—Ophelia’s favored color—and the pants hugged her hips and the top cradled her high, round breasts.

“I am so disappointed.” Ophelia stepped into the room. Shut the door with a soft creak of sound. She kept her husky voice low as she told him, “You have this rep of being such an incredible escape artist.” Her booted feet made no sound as she eased across the floor toward him. “I mean, you broke out of a maximum security facility. You were the infamous inmate who busted out when it should have been an impossible feat.” A sigh. A rather forlorn one. “I had such high hopes for your skills. Yet here I find you, bound and gagged, in a three-bedroom ranch house in the suburbs. So sad. It’s always unfortunate when someone doesn’t live up to the hype.”

If he could have talked, he would have fired a response back at her. Told her that the asshole had tased him and knocked him in the side of the head with the butt of a gun. The only reason that Lane believed he was still breathing?

I’m not the freak’s preferred type. So the guy wouldn’t get off on killing Lane.

No, the jerk’s preferred type had managed to get away, thanks to Lane. He’d intervened before the killer could hurt another teenager. The cheerleader had rushed for safety while Lane had been getting hit with at least 50,000 volts from the bastard’s taser.

The scent of roses teased Lane right before Ophelia brushed against him. “You are so lucky I spotted him dragging your sorry hide in this house.”

How had she spotted him? They hadn’t been working this case together. In fact, he’d been on a solo mission. Following up a hunch that had paid off in a rather brutal way.

Four teenage girls had been killed over the last two years. They’d vanished on their way home from school, only to be discovered days later. Mutilated. Murdered. The cops had reached dead end after dead end. So some of the family members had reached out to the Ice Breakers for help.

The Ice Breakers. Lane didn’t know if the crime-solving group was his salvation or his damnation. Lane simply knew that working with them gave him a sense of purpose, more than just the fury that coursed through his blood so often. I need more than fury and vengeance.

“I swear, you’re only like, a junior Ice Breaker.” Her breath whispered over him just before her silken fingers skimmed over his cheek. “Why the hell are you even here?” She tugged the gag from his mouth.

He swallowed. Worked his tongue. Wet his lips. “Figured out who the killer was,” he rasped.

“Um. Yes. I guessed as much when I saw him dragging your unconscious body inside his amazingly normal-looking home.” Since she’d shut the door, total darkness reigned again, and Lane couldn’t make out her features. Not that he needed to see her to know what she looked like. Ophelia’s face was pretty much burned into his memory.

Fucking perfection. A delicate jaw. Slanting cheekbones. Small, straight nose. Curving brows that often arched over her incredibly pale, blue eyes. Eyes that seemed such a startling contrast to her dark, dark hair. She tended to wear bright red lipstick that just made her full lips appear even sexier. She often smiled. A wide, flirtatious grin that he was convinced she used just to disarm—and charm—those around her.

“Worried you might be dead at first,” she added as her fingers skated over his jaw once more. “You were kind of just flopping like a fish while he tossed you around.”

A growl built in his throat. “I was unconscious.

“I thought you’d been getting Ice Breaker lessons. Lesson one clearly should have been…don’t get your ass knocked out by the bad guy.

Lane locked his jaw. “Untie me,” he gritted out. Because the bad guy in question would be coming back. Actually, Lane wasn’t sure that the creep had even left the house.

A gun wasn’t the man’s normal choice of weapon. But he had tased the other victims. Marks had been found on their bodies that proved that horrible truth. So when the sonofabitch had pulled out his taser that afternoon as he crept up behind the young girl in the blue and white cheerleading outfit…

I had to stop him.

Only Lane had wound up getting tased in her place.

Ophelia’s hands slid away from his face. He felt a shift in the air and knew Ophelia had moved to stand behind him. She tugged on the ropes around his wrists. “What a clusterfuck,” she muttered. “There is no untying this, by the way. I’ll have to cut you out.”

“Then get to cutting!” Why was the woman acting as if they had all the time in the world? A serial killer was in the house. Probably heading back toward them at any moment.

She tugged again. “Where is your gratitude? Where is your thanks? Because here I am, risking myself to save your amateur ass. I was worried you were being cut into pieces, dissected while you were still alive, so I rushed to the rescue, risking myself to save you. And all I’m getting for my trouble is grief.”

“We are both going to be cut into pieces if you don’t hurry.” Lane kept his voice whisper soft. “Tell me that you have a knife on you.”


Yes. That sweet little sound had to be the sound of a pocketknife opening.

He felt another tug on the ropes. His heart slammed hard into his chest.

“I’m Ophelia Raine, PI extraordinaire,” she murmured behind him as her knife sawed at the ropes. “Of course, I have a knife. I also stopped to call nine-one-one so that the cavalry would come rushing to the rescue. But like I said, I was worried he was cutting you open, so I headed inside instead of waiting for the cops to actually arrive—”

The door opened. Not just opened. The damn thing flew against the wall and hit with a thud as Lane’s prey filled the doorway. Tall and wide. With a big belly that hung over his pleated khaki pants. Light spilled in behind him, and Lane could clearly see that the man had returned with his weapon of choice.

A big-ass butcher knife.

How fabulous.

Ophelia had stopped sawing at the ropes behind Lane.

“You should have stayed the hell away from me,” Thomas Bass told him.

Thomas Bass, high school assistant principal, neighborhood watch organizer, and serial killer. The cops had never tied him to the murders of the four teenage girls who’d been found in Cobb County, Georgia. But the Ice Breakers had pegged him as a strong suspect. One of their top five. So Lane had been watching the guy…A gnawing in his gut had told him that the biology teacher turned assistant principal had secrets.

“You were going to take another victim,” Lane snapped. “You were stalking her. A girl in your damn high school. No way was I gonna stay away while you hurt her!”

Thomas hit the light switch. Illumination flooded into the room. “I gagged your ass,” he snarled.

Oh, shit. Yes, he had.

Thomas lumbered forward. “How the hell are you talking to me? How’d you get that gag free?”

Thomas hadn’t seen Ophelia. Was she hiding behind the chair? Had to be. Ophelia was pretty small, so she’d stayed hidden. But while she was back there, why the hell wasn’t she sawing the ropes? Why had she stopped?

Even as he had the question, Lane felt her slide the handle of her knife into his palm. He grasped it as best he could and started to saw the ropes himself.

Meanwhile, Thomas brought up the butcher knife and pointed it at Lane—

“Hi, there!” Ophelia said brightly as she popped to Lane’s side.

For a moment, Lane squeezed his eyes closed. For the love of God, Ophelia!

“I am so sorry to interrupt what appears to be a kidnapping-slash-murder event,” she continued as Thomas gaped at her. “But I feel like you should know that the cops are coming to this location. They are on the way as we speak. My advice to you? You need to run now and leave my ah, friend here, alone.”

Thomas didn’t run. His grip did tighten on the knife. And he angled his body—and the knife—toward Ophelia.

Oh, fuck. Lane sawed faster at the ropes. Had she just given him her only weapon? Thomas had at least a hundred pounds on her. Probably a whole lot more. And while Ophelia was older than Thomas’s usual preferred prey, the man’s beady eyes had lit up when he looked at her, and he was practically licking his lips. “Don’t even think it,” Lane snarled as he sawed with all his might. “You are not hurting her!”

Thomas laughed. “Who the hell is gonna stop me?” He motioned with the knife. “Lady, you picked the wrong—ah!” His words ended in a scream as his whole body jerked and vibrated. Electrodes flew at him, and the knife fell from Thomas’s hand. It clattered onto the floor a second before Thomas hit the hardwood, too.

I’m going to stop you,” Ophelia told him. “Little old me, and the taser that I found in your bedroom when I snuck in through the unlocked window. I set it at maximum voltage and, judging by the fact that you just pissed yourself, I’m guessing max voltage feels like hell, am I right?”

Thomas couldn’t answer. He was too busy jolting and shuddering and pissing himself.

The ropes gave way around Lane’s wrists. Hell, yes. He immediately went to work on his ankles because Thomas had bound each ankle to a chair leg.

“I should tell you.” Ophelia edged closer to Thomas. She kicked his butcher knife across the room. “Marjorie Mayweather sends her regards. Do you remember Mrs. Marjorie? She’s in her late seventies now. A sweet grandmother. Or, she would have been, if you hadn’t killed her only daughter. Patience, that was her name. She was stabbed one night at a local fair back when you and Patience were juniors at Oak Lawn High School. The cops never found her killer. Who would have guessed that it was football player Thomas Bass? The boy most likely to grow up to be a serial killer?”

One ankle was free. Lane kept his eyes on Thomas. The assistant principal had stopped shaking. And Ophelia was way too close to him. “Uh, Ophelia…”

“Everyone else forgot about Patience, but Marjorie didn’t. A mother never forgets her child, no matter how much time passes. She hired me, and guess what?” Ophelia glared at Thomas. “You’re going to rot in jail for Patience’s murder because when I entered your bedroom, I found your treasure box. I saw Patience’s class ring. I saw—”

“Ophelia!” Lane roared.

Too late. Thomas had grabbed her legs and tackled her to the floor. The bastard drew back his hand to hit her.

But Lane leapt from his chair. The last rope had given way. He grabbed Thomas’s fist, stilling the blow.

“Shit,” Ophelia whispered. “That tasing did not keep him down long enough.” Then she yanked up her knee and rammed Thomas in the groin.

He howled in pain. With his right hand, Lane still held one of the assistant principal’s beefy fists. Lane’s left hand drove at Thomas’s jaw. The powerful blow had Thomas’s head whipping to the side. “Get away from her!” Lane blasted.

Then he hit again.

Thomas fell back onto the floor. Ophelia quickly scurried away.

Lane attacked. Right punch. Left. Powerful hits again and again. Thomas tried to bring up his hands and shield his face, but that effort was useless. A killing fury had seized Lane. This was one of the sonsofbitches who got off on pain. Who’d been torturing and killing for years while hiding beneath the guise of being one of the “good” guys out in the world.

“You thought you got away with it, didn’t you?” Lane snarled. “Over and over…you thought you got away with it.” Another punch.

Thomas wasn’t fighting back. He sprawled on the floor. The cut ropes and the chair had fallen next to him.

Lane drew back his hand.

“Slugger, he is down for the count.” Ophelia caught his fist.

His head whipped toward her.

“It’s me,” she said.

He blinked. “I know it’s fucking you.” His breath heaved in and out. In and out.

“Oh, good. For a moment there, I just thought you were lost in the ass-kicking zone and you were about to take a swing my way.”

Hit her? Her? “Never.”

A quick nod. “Excellent to know.” Her hand tightened on him. “He’s not fighting back now.” Her gaze fell on the man who was, indeed, apparently unconscious on the floor.

Lane crouched near his opponent. Blood covered Thomas’s face.

“The cops are here,” Ophelia continued in what he realized was her “soothing” voice. Nice and musical. Easy. “I heard doors slamming outside. They’ll be rushing in any moment, so I thought it would be best if you weren’t actually in the act of beating a man to hell and back when they fly to the rescue.”

Lane swallowed. “He was…going to hurt you.”

“Well, we’re going to make sure that he never hurts anyone again, aren’t we?” Still her soothing voice.

He managed a jerky nod.

“I don’t want the cops coming in here and seeing you attacking him. Let’s look like the victims we are, shall we?” She used her grip on his hand to tug him upward. Slowly, he rose. The sound of Lane’s heartbeat seemed incredibly loud in his ears. Drumming over and over. Boom. Boom. Boom.

Her gaze flickered downward. “Sonofabitch.” Then she stomped her right foot. Hard.

His own stare flew to the floor. She’d just stomped her boot on Thomas’s wrist. He’d been trying to stretch his hand for the knife that she’d kicked away earlier. The killer wasn’t out. He’d been faking.

She stomped down harder.

Thomas screeched in pain.

And Lane heard the pounding of footsteps rushing toward them.

“Hands up,” Ophelia warned him even as she let him go and lifted her own hands.

Uniformed cops spilled into the room. Their weapons were drawn. Their faces tense and hard.

“Thank goodness you’re here!” Ophelia cried out. “That man…he attacked me and my friend!”

One of the cops squinted as he stared down at Thomas. “Principal Bass?”

Thomas clutched his right wrist. Blood poured from his busted lips. “They broke into my house!” Blood and spittle sprayed with each word. “Attacked me!”

Oh, the hell he was gonna play the victim.

“Check the bedroom,” Ophelia retorted flatly. “Look at the box on top of his bed. Left it there for you, all helpful-like. This man is a killer—”

“Victim!” Thomas bellowed. More blood flew.

“Victims don’t have souvenirs of multiple murders in their bedrooms,” she threw right back even as she somehow managed to appear both vulnerable and tragically brave as she faced the cops. “And they also don’t tie up people in their guest rooms.” Her shoulder bumped into Lane. “My friend needs medical attention. He was knocked out by this monster.”

Lane stiffened. He’d taken a blast from the taser and gotten slammed in the head with the butt of a gun. It wasn’t like it had been easy to knock him out. And he didn’t need medical attention. He was fine. Furious, but fine.

“He…attacked me!” Thomas spat out what appeared to be a tooth. He rolled and tried to get to his feet.

Lane tensed. This sonofabitch wasn’t going to talk his way out of this mess.

“The box is here!” Someone yelled from down the hallway. “Jewelry…pictures of dead girls—fuck!”

And even though cops were in the guest room, Thomas suddenly tried to make a run for it. He lunged for the little window on the right. Like he could fit through that thing.

Lane casually extended his foot.

Thomas tripped over it and barreled into the wall even as the cops swarmed him. When he tried to swing at them, the cops took him down.


Ophelia exhaled. Her hands finally lowered. So did Lane’s. She stared at him. Waited. The cops were locking cuffs on Thomas. He was raging and screaming and making all kinds of threats.

Ophelia kept her gaze on Lane. “Well?”

His head ached like a bitch. He flexed his hands. “Well, what?”

A long-suffering sigh escaped her. “You clearly have no sense of gratitude.”

His eyes narrowed.

“That should be Ice Breaker lesson number two. Always thank the people who save your ass.”

Lane leaned toward her and ignored the chaos around them. “He had you on the floor,” he said softly. “I saved you. Where’s my thank you?”

She blinked her gorgeous eyes at him. Then her hand rose and patted his cheek. “That is precious. I had him right where I wanted him.”

“The hell you did—” He stopped. Looked down. A gun pressed to his side.

His stare whipped back up to hers.

She winked. But then said, “Shhh. Let’s not say the g-word and send all the cops into a panic, shall we? They’re rather busy, and I’m sure they’ll search us both soon enough.” She tucked the gun back under her shirt before turning and strolling for the door. “Great job, officers,” she called. “Protecting and defending. Love it. Five stars.”

Lane curled his hand around her shoulder and spun her to face him. “Why didn’t you use that weapon if you had it the whole time?”

She rose onto her tiptoes. Her hands curled around his shoulders as she tugged him close, then Ophelia whispered into his ear, “Because I was trying to keep him alive. Dead men can’t give families closure. Ice Breaker, lesson number three. You should seriously be writing down the info I am giving you. It is gold. I get that you were given some guidance by Memphis Camden, and the guy is good, but I’m better.”


“Are better. Right.” Her breath teased the shell of his ear. “That’s what I said. Actually, for the record, I’m the best.” She eased back down so her heels touched the floor. Stared up at him.

And winked once more. Why did he think that wink was the sexiest thing he’d seen in ages?

The cops shoved Thomas Bass toward the door—and toward them since they were standing in the hallway. Thomas’s hands were cuffed behind his back. A female cop read the guy his rights. Fury twisted Thomas’s face as he heaved against the officers pushing him forward.

“You’re gonna pay for this!” Thomas raged at Lane. “You don’t know who I am! You don’t know what I can do—”

“Oh, we know,” Ophelia informed him as she rolled her eyes. “Not like you’re something special. You’re a twisted freak who enjoyed hurting girls. And you are about to enter your own version of hell when you get locked away.” She waved at him. “Give our regards to your cellmates. I am sure they will love meeting you.”

He broke from the cops and lunged toward them.

Lane drove his fist into Thomas’s stomach. As the killer doubled over in front of him, Lane grabbed Thomas and whispered into his ear. A private threat.

Thomas reared back. Fear covered his face. “Get me out of here!” he screamed.

The cops had clamped their hands on him once again. Hopefully, a much stronger grip this time.

“Out! Get me away from him!” Thomas’s eyes were huge. “I did it! I started with Patience—she was the first. I-I hurt them! I did it! Get me out!”

The cops pushed him down the hallway.

“My, my,” Ophelia murmured. She nibbled on her lower lip then cast a quick glance toward Lane. “Whatever did you say to him?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Oh, but I assure you, I do.” She pursed her lips. “I do hope you’ll share later.”

Don’t count on it.