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The Devlin Group: Adrenaline
By Shannon Stacey
Samhain Publishing, Ltd.Copyright © 2007 Shannon Stacey
All right reserved.
Chapter One72 Hours
Alex watched her jump when he opened the door, her mouth opening in a quick exclamation of surprise.
She looked the same, yet so different. Her mass of chestnut curls was pulled back in a loose clip, and she needed no makeup to enhance those big sapphire eyes.
Her body had changed. Her breasts under the lightweight sweater were a little fuller, as were her hips. No doubt the changes lingered from giving birth to her son, but they didn't stop the sudden, hot urge to feel her body under his.
If anything, his want was intensified. The lean girl was gone, and in her place was a woman with a body to make a man want to come home at night.
He stepped back, giving her room to enter and close the door. It was only then he realized she was watching him as well. In his pajamas, probably still coated with the sweat of his nightmare, he guessed he probably made an interesting picture.
Alex watched Grace stare at his body, but he didn't let it get to him. She wasn't here to play. And she looked like hell.
"To what do I owe this pleasure, Grace?" he asked. He made sure the words were slow and lazy, but the back of his neck tingled in warning.
That was fear in her eyes. The list of things that scared Grace Nolan was pretty damn short, and he sure as hell wasn't on it. So what was?
"What are you doing in Key West?" she asked. Stalling-gearing herself up for something.
Instead of moving toward her, trying to intimidate her as he'd done in the past, he stepped back. He might need some room. For what, he didn't know, but he had a feeling he was about to find out.
"Just a job," he said. "It's me, remember? The guy who doesn't know how not to work?"
"Devlin told you I was coming?"
Alex nodded, hating the lie even more when looking her in the eye. "But not why."
She took a deep breath, and he noted the slight hitch. "I need to know ... I need-"
Damn. Alex rested his hand on his hip, closer to the Glock tucked at the small of his back. This woman never needed anything, especially from him. But today ... something was very wrong.
He blinked. Her arm moved. He blinked again, and found himself staring straight down the barrel of her Sig .38.
"I need you to get dressed and come with me, Alex."
He spent a few seconds eyeing the barrel of the gun while he slow-breathed his pulse rate down.
What the hell was Grace into? And who was she into it with? She was supposed to be doing boring-as-hell computer support for the feds, not kidnapping people at gunpoint.
He shifted his gaze to her eyes, and he found no give there. No doubt about it. He either had to pack a bag or incapacitate her.
"I want you to untie that drawstring and let your pants fall to the floor."
"Interesting foreplay technique, sweetheart. New since last time we were together, isn't it? A little rough is one thing, but this ..."
"Let the pants drop, Alex. And let the Glock go with them." She knew him well, but he knew her, too. Oh, she sounded cool enough, but he saw the flush on her neck. Saw her nipples harden under the light sweater.
And felt the hot rush of victory. Game over.
With slow, deliberate ease Alex pulled the ends of the drawstrings loose. Wait for it.
He ran his thumbs around the front of the waistband, loosening it, and the weight of the Glock drew the silk fabric low on his hips.
Grace's eyes slid down to his groin.
He dove, launching himself at her midsection. He heard the air whoosh from her lungs as he swept his arm up and sent the Sig clattering to the opposite side of the room.
He managed to slip his hand under her head before it bounced off the floor. Grace was pinned under his body, and he squeezed his thighs together just in time to block her jabbing knee.
The Glock had slipped down into the leg of the pajamas now bound uncomfortably around his thighs, but he didn't need it. Didn't want it. He'd shot her once, years ago, and she probably still hadn't forgiven him for it. He hoped never to have to do it again.
He grabbed Grace's wrists and raised them over her head, stretching her body beneath him.
"Tell me what this is about, Grace."
"Get off me," she growled.
Alex saw the muscles in her neck tighten, and barely managed to dodge what would have been a nose-breaking head butt.
"Enough, or I'll put your ass to sleep for a while."
Grace stilled. She'd known him for years-long enough to know he never made idle threats. Staring up at him with those blue eyes, she trembled under him.
"Talk to me," he said in a softer tone. He had never seen this woman desperate. But she was desperate now.
"I need you to come with me. Please don't ask me why. Please."
"I will go with you," he promised. This woman who owned a piece of his soul was on the edge, and he sure as hell wasn't going to let her go over alone. "I'll go with you, sweetheart. But you do need to tell me why. And why the gun?"
Her throat worked hard to swallow and her eyes flooded with tears. Against his own skin he felt her stomach muscles spasm.
"What the hell?" He lifted himself from her and she curled into a ball, sobs making her entire body shake. He swore viciously. "What's the matter with you?"
He stood, letting the Glock slip through his pant leg to the floor, and refastening the drawstring at his waist. Then he dragged her to her feet. "Grace, dammit, talk to me now!"
She collapsed against him, and fear pumped adrenaline through his body. He held her for a second, then grabbed her chin in his hands, forcing her to look up him.
Her teeth chattered, and her body shuddered hard. "They took my son, Alex."
On the Edge
Shooting one's self out of a situation gone to shit was hell on the five senses. The scent of scorched gunpowder. The residual sound of ringing in the ears. The feel of sweat pooling in the small of the back. The acrid taste of adrenaline.
And the sight of a teenage girl with the gleaming blade of a hunting knife held to her throat.
"Law enforcement approaching from your six." The woman's voice in his earpiece was quiet and calm, a low murmur of reassurance. "Heat signatures show the positions of target and hostage, and we are negative for sniper position."
Tony moved to his left, putting solid wall at his back, keeping his eyes on Chavez. The girl whimpered and squirmed in the Mexican's grasp, her eyes pleading with Tony. Save me.
"All girls except hostage are extracted," the voice in his earpiece informed him. "Officers holding at ten-foot perimeter around your location. Some in interior hall, some outside the building.
"Put the knife down," Tony told Chavez. He heard a confirmation of the target's weapon in his earpiece. "If you let the girl go, you have a chance at bribing a judge and walking away from this."
"I'll walk away now, cabron. The girl and I are going to get in my helicopter and fly out of here. If anybody gets in my way, I will cut her throat."
Tony kept his body relaxed and his muscles loose, ready for anything, while he considered his options. Nine freaking months he'd been undercover in Chavez's operation. The job was to not only get to the Mexican child-trafficker, but to gather intel on the network of bastards who bought the young illegals from him. When the government had enough to go after the scumbags who bought underage Mexican slaves-for domestic, commercial and sexual reasons-he could deal with Chavez personally.
But somehow, somebody had blown his cover. It might have been five or fifty minutes since he'd been in his room, talking to Charlotte Rhames about the goddamn New York Yankees of all things, while checking his weapons and magazines. His fastidiousness about his gun saved his life.
Chavez's men had come for him. With Charlotte still on open comm, he'd fought for his life, fought for the lives of two dozen girls being held in the house. Charlotte had been there for every step. Every shot.
Now it had come down to this. Tony weighed the life of one girl against Chavez's countless past and future victims. He had to be stopped at any cost-even if it meant one girl had to die.
"I'm supposed to remind you the contract makes Chavez top priority," Charlotte said in his ear. The woman had an uncanny ability to guess what was going on, even from two thousand miles away. Frightening sometimes, but helpful. "Reasonable losses are acceptable."
Tony glanced at the girl. Her dark eyes were liquid with terror, and tears streaked her face. She was pretty, just starting to show signs of the woman she should be allowed to become. He might never know her name because she was just collateral damage. An acceptable loss.
Well, screw that. There was no way in hell Tony was going to let that happen.
"But I know that clause doesn't mean shit to you," Charlotte continued, "so the officers are standing by for a mass assault on the room. Confusion might be your best chance."
Not with that knife being held so tightly against the girl's throat she had to lift her chin to swallow.
"We've got us a bad situation here," he said to Chavez, communicating a no-go on the mass assault through the mike.
"It's not a bad situation for me," the Mexican pointed out. "You want to be a hero, cabron, so you won't let me kill this worthless puta barata."
Tony breathed in through his nose, growling low in his throat as he then exhaled. "She's not worthless, you disgusting son of a bitch."
"He's looking for your trigger, Tony. Don't let him use you."
"Then you'll put your gun down," Chavez said, "and let me and the girl walk out of here."
If Chavez walked out into the hall, he was going to meet up with a shitload of armed Texas law enforcement, and the girl was going to get hurt.
"Okay. I'll put it down and we'll talk." He lifted the nose of his gun, slowly transferring it to his left hand. Non-threatening move. Passive body language. He bent slightly at the waist, ready to set the gun on the floor.
Chavez smiled. Then he got cocky and loosened his grip on the girl.
Tony took the shot.
The bullet passed over the girl's shoulder, hitting Chavez in the clavicle. The girl screamed and broke free, falling. Scrambling across the floor.
Chavez fell, roaring with pain and fury. Blood soaked the front of his white shirt.
Tony advanced, ignoring the sobbing child moving past him toward the door. Chavez tried to crawl away from him, but Tony could see in the man's eyes he knew his time was up.
"Chingate, pendejo," Chavez spat.
"No, screw you." Tony pulled the trigger twice. A clean double tap and the job was done.
Men exploded into the room and Tony moved away. He sank down against an exterior wall and leaned his head back against the gaudy wallpaper. "Did we get them all out?"
"Yes," Charlotte responded. "Four of the girls are receiving medical treatment for injuries-one caught a ricochet and another was in the crossfire. A couple were hurt when the girls stampeded. Nothing life threatening. You did it, Tony."
"We did it," he whispered. "I don't think I could live without you, darlin'."
"It's a good thing you don't have to try, then. I'm not going anywhere, Tony."
He closed his eyes. It was a damn good day.
Excerpted from The Devlin Group: Adrenaline by Shannon Stacey Copyright © 2007 by Shannon Stacey. Excerpted by permission.
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