Twisted Emotions - Melissa Schroeder

Twisted Emotions

Book 6 in the Task Force Hawaii Series

Part of the Harmless World

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The final book in the TFH series!

She has always been the woman for him, but he thought he lost her forever until a cold case brings them back together.

Adam Lee is a man at the top of his game. Or he should be. He’s ready to take control of TFH Team Alpha, and he should be happy, but he’s not. There is something missing–someone in particular.

Jin Phillips made one mistake years ago, and she paid for it. After enduring something that would break most people, she was too broken for a man like Adam. He didn’t turn away, but was there as her friend supporting her. But when a cold case she covers on her podcast turns hot, Adam and Jin have to work together to find a killer.

Each minute they are together remind Adam why he fell in love with her all those years before. For Jin, she discovers that she still has it in her heart to find love and take a chance on love. But someone is hunting Jin, and Adam will do anything to protect her–even sacrifice himself.

Come along as the entire gang comes together to solve a cold case murder and help Jin and Adam find their happily ever after!

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Twisted Emotions

Book 6 in the Task Force Hawaii Series
Part of the Harmless World

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“I swear by all that is holy, I will hunt you down and kill you!”

The very feminine screech brought Adam Lee out of a deep sleep. Alarm raced through him. What the hell was happening, and why was there a banshee screaming in his house?

He blinked, trying to gain his bearings. He’d had a late night thanks to a hit-and-run with a diplomat. From the sunlight peeking through his blinds, it was after ten in the morning. He had gotten to bed after four.

That threatening voice had been from Makana, his youngest sister. She was the loudest, and that was saying something considering his sisters. He rubbed his hand over his face as another piercing cry reverberated through his tired brain. His sisters were fighting. Again. They always fought over anything and everything.

“I didn’t touch your skanky mini-skirt.” This came from his middle sister, Nanii. “It’s at least a size too big.”

Oh, damn, they were out for blood this morning.

“Take that back,” Makana said, her voice lowering an octave but just as loud as her yell. That was a sure sign there might be a dead body at the end of the argument. He was trying to figure out if he cared.

“I don’t see why. It’s true.”

This is what he got by moving back home. When his mother lost her job a few years ago, he’d moved back home to help with the bills. It was then that he realized his mother was a saint for not begging him for help with his sisters. He was ten years older than Kailani, his oldest sister, so he was out of the house before they all hit puberty. When his mother had found another job, he had decided to stay. Being a single parent hadn’t been easy on his mom, especially with the three always sniping at each other.

Nope, scratch that. Makana and Nanii were constantly at each other’s throats. Kailani tended to ignore them unless they wouldn’t shut up when she was studying. Since it was after eight, she was probably on rounds at the hospital already. She was in her last year of residency.

He slipped out of bed, pulled on a pair of jeans, then stepped out of his room. Yes, his sisters had decided to argue right outside his bedroom. It wasn’t that their house was big, but there were other places they could have this fight.

“What the hell is going on?”

Both of his sisters turned to glare at him. They were so different from him; they were delicate, where he was broad, and beautiful, where he was a beast. Still, both of them were about to learn that waking him up after such a shitty night wasn’t the smartest thing to do.

“Please explain to me why I had to wake up to a fight about a damned skirt?”

“You heard what she said,” Makana said, her stubborn glare focused on their middle sister. She was trying to look fierce, but the youngest Lee sibling was so soft that it didn’t come off as intense. She was two inches shorter than his other sisters, so she was tiny compared to Adam. Where both of his other sisters were more athletic, Makana wasn’t. She was soft and a little more rounded than the other two. She was also sweeter.

“I did. What I don’t understand is why you two had to argue outside of my door? You know I was on call last night.”

Being second in command for Task Force Hawaii wasn’t the easiest job in the world, especially when dealing with a drunken diplomat who thought he could drive away from the scene of an accident.

“Girls, what’s going on?” his mother asked, peeking around the corner. He could see one of her reusable grocery bags hanging from her arm.

Merri Lee was a tiny woman with dark black hair now threaded with gray-blue eyes and always a ready smile. Her life had not been easy, raising four kids on her own after her husband died in the line of fire, but from what she’d said, she’d had fun.

“Akamu is being a pain,” Makana said. Akamu was Hawaiian for Adam. He had been named for his father, although all his sisters insisted on using the Hawaiian form.

“Makana accused Nanii of wearing her skirt, then Nanii said that Makanna’s clothes were too big for her to wear.”

His mother shook her head. “Both of you get out of here. Adam was working late last night.”

“Working?” Nanii asked a devious glint in her greenish-blue eyes. “Is that what you call it?”

“Yes, that’s what he calls it when he has to go out and deal with some haole who hits another car and then runs.”

“Traffic cop?” That snide comment came from Makana.

He opened his mouth to respond, but his mother had had enough. “It is when the person in question works for the Brazilian Consulate.”

Adam raised one eyebrow, but he knew better than to question his mother’s sources. The Auntie Network, as he called it, always seemed to have their fingers on the pulse of what was happening on Oahu. TMZ had nothing on those women.

His sisters grumbled, but they headed off to get ready for work.

“You need more sleep.”

“Kind of hard to do that with two banshees standing outside my room arguing over a skirt.”  He shook his head. “They’re both adults.”

“First, Makana just turned nineteen last week, and they’re sisters.” She shrugged. “It’s the way they are.”

He didn’t roll his eyes, but it was close. “I guess I’ll go in.”

She tsked. “You need more sleep.”

Adam shook his head. “You know I’m leading the office this week since Del finally took a week off.”

Typically, he would answer to the commander of Task Force Hawaii, Martin Delano. Both of them were overworked, with more time saved than the state could ever give them. When the boss hurt his back the week before, his wife Emma used it to get him to stay home.

He heard his phone go off.

“Duty calls.”

His mother shook her head as he headed back to his room.

“Lee,” he said.

“Hey, Adam, it’s Rome Carino.”

Rome was their liaison with the Honolulu Police Department.

“Hey, do you need something?”

“I understood Del was off, and you’re in charge.”


“Great. Well, not great since we have some bones up here near Waimea.”


“Yeah. They’re scattered around like the boars have been after them, so we aren’t sure how old they are yet. But considering the complexity of Waimea Valley, the governor wanted TFH in charge.”

Over the years, there had been a lot of controversy about the development on and around the valley, so that made sense. “So it’s just my lucky day,” he said with a chuckle. “Give me thirty, and I’ll be there.”

“You got it. Do you want me to call Elle?”

“No. I’ll call Drew. Elle’s been sick.”

“It’s your funeral when she finds out.”

Yeah. Their ME was a hard worker, but she was also filling in for the HPD ME. He knew the area Rome was talking about. It was a tangle of vines, and she did not need to be out there looking for bones, not when Drew was trained in collecting forensic material.

“No. I would rather deal with her than her spouse. He’s a pain in the ass, and right now, I need his head in the game.”

They were down a few people. Del was off—although Adam was pretty sure his boss would end up in the office at some point—Marcus and Seth—their newest members—were busy training, and things at TFH were kind of in a tizzy. Team Bravo members would start their training process within Task Force Hawaii. Add in the fact that Elle had just entered her eighth month of pregnancy—or, as her husband Graeme called it, the crazy month—so she wasn’t always in the best physical health. Luckily, Drew was fully able to handle the autopsy if needed.

Adam texted Drew the location and got a thumbs up to both the area and that they weren’t telling Elle until they collected the bones. There would be hell to pay, but he could handle women yelling at him. It was sort of his life.

Within ten minutes, he was on his way to the site. He’d prefer his Harley, but a storm was moving in later. With Gabby Pahinui serenading him, he started to think about what the next year would entail for them at work. They were splitting up the teams. The primary team—Team Alpha—would handle most cases, while the others—Bravo and Charlie—would handle other procedures. Bravo would have more of a search and rescue element, with at least one dog handler on the team. They would also handle any kind of regular cases on Maui and Kauai. There hadn’t been many, but with the extra money allotted to them, the governor thought it was better to be safe than sorry.

Team Charlie would handle terrorism threats. All three teams could handle that, but they would specifically look out for those threats and train the other teams. They would also cover Hawai’i or the Big Island. Both teams would be trained to fill in for Alpha. That way, they could quit working overtime type of hours.

In less than ten minutes, Adam reached the edge of the scene. Tape had been put up, and there were guards. They would have a fun day keeping tourists at bay. Some of them treated Hawai’i as an amusement park and not as an actual state, with people living there full-time. The tourism industry supported their state, but it was sometimes beyond annoying to deal with.

He nodded to the two guards and slipped under the tape.

A uniformed officer smiled at him. “Lt. Lee. Howzit?”

He knew Officer Chen. He’d graduated with his oldest sister. It was the way of Oahu. If you lived on the island for any amount of time, you would know about seventy percent of the people, especially if you had siblings or a family member who had served in HPD.

“Doing okay but would be doing better if I wasn’t out in this spit this morning.”

“I hear ya. Carino is up over the hill, then off to the left. That’s where they found the bones.”


He made his way up the hill, his feet slipping here and there in the mud. It was always wet here, it seemed.

When he saw Carino, he almost laughed. The detective wore his trademark dress pants, but he’d rolled up the legs so as not to get them muddy. He was wearing a pair of hiking boots. It was odd-looking, to say the least.


“Rome. Nice outfit.”

“Suck it,” he said with little heat. Rome Carino was now married to a former FBI agent turned writer. A transplant from Seattle, he had moved here for a new start in life after a bad case on the Seattle PD. TFH thought of him as one of their own and therefore gave him shit all the time.

“So, the bones?”

“Yeah. A hiker found them this morning. Why anyone would want to be out here in this crap, I have no idea. Tourist,” he muttered. He might be a haole—an island newcomer—but he started sounding like kama’aina.

“I feel you. I was thinking your officers were going to have a shitty day dealing with them.”

“Yeah. Even with a storm moving in, they’ll be up here complaining that they planned their day and won’t change their plans. Just like when the box jellyfish show up.”

Each month, the box jellyfish showed up to the islands. Several beaches would post warnings, but some people would refuse to heed the warnings. They paid for a vacation and refused to go to another beach to avoid getting stung.

“We’ve been collecting the bones, and…” Something caught his eye over Adam’s shoulder, and he laughed. When Adam turned around, he inwardly cursed, even if he did chuckle. Elle Middleton-McGregor was making her way up the hill with the help of her big, burly hubby, Graeme. She was dressed in her jumper for work, covering her clothes. Of course, she was hugely pregnant, so she resembled a penguin. Being a man who had grown up and still lived with women, he knew better than to make that observation out loud.

She was frowning at him when she stopped in front of him. “Seriously? I can’t walk up a muddy hill because I’m pregnant?”

“You’re the ME. Not the forensic tech.”

One eyebrow rose. “And you know that I have a police scanner, right?”

He looked at Graeme, who had a bleak look on his face. “Fine, but they already picked up most of the bones.”

She tossed him a dirty look, then turned her attention to Rome. “Male or female?”

“Not sure.”

She rolled her eyes.


“Definitely an adult. The bones were scattered probably because of the boar.”

“Let’s not make up what this is before we know, shall we?” Her British accent deepened over the words. Yep, she was pissed at them.

“Not even sure about the primary scene yet.”

She glanced at him, and they shared a look. Rome was a great detective, but what Rome didn’t understand about Elle was that she would see this through. She was a British transplant who had dealt with the darkest side of a case, being attacked by a man they had been hunting. She’d once confessed to him that she had become even more obsessed with justice after that.

“Let’s go look at the area, then we can get out of this bloody rain,” Graeme muttered. The Scot was constantly grumpy. He helped his wife up the hill, and Adam turned to follow when he saw Drew and Cat making their way up.

“I saw Graeme was here,” Drew said.

“Bullshit. You got a text and knew Elle was coming. Just give me a heads-up next time.”

Drew nodded, and they all followed Elle and Graeme the rest of the way up the hill.

Elle was already near the scene where many techs seemed to be milling. They were looking for bones.

“This is primary over here,” Elle said. “Or at least the body dump.”

“I have a feeling the person was killed here,” Rome said. “It would take a lot to haul a body up here. There’s no way of getting a vehicle up here without raising suspicion.”

“Unless they did it at night,” Cat said. The TFH member was a local like him, and she had spent a lot of time hiking on the trails. “They might get away with it at night if they had help.”

“But this area is closed at night,” Rome said. “Of course, if you killed someone, you might not care about rules.”

“Depends on the age of the bones. Was this the part of the valley added a few years ago?” Cat asked.

“Not sure, we would have to check that out.”

“What are you talking about, for the haole in the group?” Rome asked.

“The Waimea Valley was split up at one time. In 2003, there was talk of development with restaurants,” Cat explained.

“The protests stopped that,” Adam said. “Thankfully.”

“Agreed,” Rome said. “So, you would have to check into that. Good luck with all of that.”

The smirk on his face told Adam he was happy not to have that headache. He hoped the person had just died of natural causes. There were always people who did dumb shit and got hurt. Doesn’t matter how many warnings they put up on the Haiku Stairs, also known as the Stairway to Heaven, people got stuck up there. He was happy they were finally removing the structure because some people didn’t have the best judgment.

“Once we get an age on the bones, we can narrow down a time and start looking through footage. Most of these places don’t have surveillance. Still, the roads leading here do,” Adam said, making a mental note to mention it to Charity, their forensic specialist.

“There are clothes here,” Elle said. She kneeled. “They look like a man would wear them, but they might not be his. You need to bag these.”

The forensic techs hurried to do her bidding. They all had mad respect for her since both she and Graeme had solved a cold case years ago. But it had more to do with the grumpy giant helping her up out of the mud.

“Now, can we leave?” he grumbled.

“Yes. According to Brett, they have already sent most everything to the lab,” she said, smiling at one of the techs. The tech smiled back until he saw Graeme’s face. He paled and got to work. Elle rolled her eyes.

“That’s what I told you, but you insisted on coming here. And for what?”

“I found those clothes. That’s what for.”

They continued to bicker as they headed down the hill.

“Cat, I want you to stay with Drew and oversee the rest of the evidence. If the boars did get to the body, they could have scattered his possessions all over the place. Hell, the guy could have died from a heart attack or a drug overdose. It’s a mess out here.”

She nodded. “I hate to say it, but I hope it’s natural or an overdose.”

“Same.” He didn’t want it to be a murder case, but there was something niggling him. Something that told him this would not be an easy case.

“Hey, it could just be a Night Marcher,” Cat said.

Adam shook his head, and Cat laughed. Night Marchers were the spirits of Hawaiian warriors that were said to haunt Hawai’i. Making eye contact there would end with the person’s soul being ripped from their body and taken to the other world.

“I have serious doubts about that,” Adam said. Cat opened her mouth to respond but was stopped by someone shouting about ten yards away.

“I found a skull!”

Adam turned his attention—as did everyone else—toward that person. He and Rome made their way over to the area.

“Well, fuck,” Rome said as he took the skull.

He turned it so Adam could see the back of the skull. There was no way it had been natural or an accident. Not with the small hole in the back of the head indicating he had been shot execution style.

“Well, I guess that answers that question,” Rome said. He slapped Adam on the back. “Good luck with that.”

Damn. He should have known the screaming banshee wake-up call was a bad sign.

End of Excerpt

Twisted Emotions

by Melissa Schroeder

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