Natalie had faced trouble before. As a highly trained agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service, she'd known heartache and passion and fear. But never before had she been pushed into a corner with no way out. Until now... The man the Lazlo Group sent to help her, to protect her, was none other than her husband, Sean McGregor. After two years of mourning a man who had never died, would she have the time ...
Natalie had faced trouble before. As a highly trained agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service, she'd known heartache and passion and fear. But never before had she been pushed into a corner with no way out. Until now... The man the Lazlo Group sent to help her, to protect her, was none other than her husband, Sean McGregor. After two years of mourning a man who had never died, would she have the time to forgive him—or would the brutal actions of a madman leave her widowed, once again?
Karen Whiddon started weaving fanciful tales for her younger brothers at the age of eleven. Amidst the Catskill Mountains of New York, then the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, she fueled her imagination with the natural beauty that surrounded her. Karen now lives in north Texas, where she shares her life with her very own hero of a husband and three doting dogs. She divides her time between the business she started and writing. Check out her website, www.karenwhiddon.com.
If reinforcements didn't show up soon, Natalie Major thought grimly, she might as well paint a target on her chest and leap into the open. The unknown assassin— or assassins—were that close. The decaying concrete warehouse she'd holed up in only had two ways out—and one of them had been blown to rubble.
She needed help. Corbett Lazlo, her father's oldest friend and owner of one of the top private investigative agencies in the world, had promised to send someone. She'd asked for the best.
Now she wished she'd asked for the most prompt. Gallows humor. She'd never been particularly good at it before, though she'd grown more proficient.
Her husband wouldn't even recognize her now if he were still alive. Once, he'd been Lazlo's top agent. She'd married a Lazlo Group spook, just like her own father had been. Retired now, and in a wheelchair, her father lived in relative seclusion. Her beloved husband, Sean, hadn't been so lucky. He'd been killed two years ago this week. Lazlo's group seemed to be the ruin of everyone she loved, so in honor of her dead husband and disabled father, and in defiance of the Lazlo legacy she could easily have embraced, she'd worked her way to the top of SIS, the British Secret Intelligence Service. There was no job too difficult, no task too dangerous for Sean McGregor's widow.
She scouted the area. Trapped inside the abandoned warehouse, she was fast running out of options. The concrete walls made a good shield against bullets, but she needed to see her enemies. Right now, she could only hear them. And it was hard to fight when you had no idea who the enemy might be. Or where they were hiding.
Plus, cement wascold and hard and reminded her too damn much of a tomb.
The shooters fired off another round of shots. AK-47s. Random bullets ricocheted crazily and dangerously off the cement walls and floors. She couldn't even dodge them, having no idea where they'd go.
She'd found the abandoned warehouse two days ago. A concrete bunker in a run-down area of Glasgow had seemed relatively safe. Not wanting to endanger others by staying at a B and B or hotel, she'd used the concrete warehouse as her base, returning to sleep and regroup while attempting to gather information on whoever had sold out her team. Since Millaflora—a low-down, no-good mole operating as a double agent inside the SIS—had already been caught, she had no idea who she was looking for.
Officially, she was on administrative leave, supposedly holed up, incognito in an unknown luxury hotel on the French Riviera. No one in her office knew she'd come to Glasgow, not even her supervisor.
And though she'd tried to take extraordinary precautions similar to those she used when deep under-cover, her enemy had found her.
Whoever "they" were.
She supposed the whys and the hows didn't matter. Not now. All that mattered was that if help didn't arrive soon, she was dead.
Her ammo nearly gone, no backup, and no alternative plan—pretty shoddy situation for an undercover agent who'd recently been promoted to team leader.
It had to have something to do with the code. Natalie was sure of it. She'd been so close to cracking it. She and her team.
Now they all were dead and she was on the run.
And she had only herself to rely on. In seven years of service, she'd never had a single casualty. Until now. Now she'd lost her entire team. They'd been eliminated, killed in a way that left no doubt she was next. All the codes they'd been working on had disappeared, at least as far as anyone knew. She'd told no one that she'd made her own private copy.
Not knowing who was on her side, she hadn't dared to contact SIS. She'd called her father, knowing he'd contact Corbett, knowing Lazlo would help.
"Come on, reinforcements," she muttered. Her father'd told her Corbett had promised to send help. The head of the Lazlo Group never went back on his word.
A movement across the alley caught her attention. Finally! Someone had arrived to help her out of this hellhole.
She took another look and blinked, wondering if the stress had finally claimed her mind.
Out of the mist and smoke, a dead man strode toward her, keeping close to the wall, staying in the shadows, but coming. For her.
Natalie began to shake.
Shots rang out. Crouching, the man began to run. More shots. So far, he hadn't been hit. He'd always been lucky that way.
At least, until the day he'd died.
Dead. He was dead and buried.
Rocking back onto her heels, she rubbed her eyes and took another look.
She hadn't been wrong. The man she'd loved more than any other, her soul mate, her husband, the man she'd mourned, the man she'd never thought to see again, kept moving toward her.
Frozen, she watched as he continued, his low crouch purposeful and unafraid. Or maybe he didn't care. After all, a man couldn't die twice, right?
Her heart drummed in her ears. Sean. Her husband, Sean. This couldn't be real, couldn't be happening.
She wasn't the type to faint—not anymore. Too many hard lessons learned. Instead, she'd taught herself to push back, to fight.
But how did one battle a ghost?
From the smoke and the grave, against the periodic bursts of gunfire, he continued to come toward her. He moved exactly the way she remembered—purposeful and bold, dodging bullets as though he were untouchable. She'd often thought that very arrogance had been what had gotten him killed.
Yet here he was, ducking under the concrete overhang into her shadowed hiding place, solid and real and alive.
When he reached her, he stopped, his dark gaze intense. She couldn't move. He was still beautiful, even in the dust and the dirt and the danger. She caught her breath, unable to speak. "I'm here," he said, his voice husky, as though too long unused, a hint of wariness in his gaze.
"I…" She moved toward him, inspecting him, still unable to believe what the fates had just returned to her.
"Get down," he snarled, yanking her behind the concrete wall with him as the shooters let loose with several rounds of shots.
"What the—" he cursed, letting her go. "They've got AK-47s. You must have royally pissed someone off. Why are they trying to kill you?"
She still couldn't find her voice. Unable to help herself, she let her gaze roam hungrily over his muscular body—the way her hands used to.
"Either I'm dead, dying or you're not dead," she said, feeling like an idiot, still not sure what to think.
"No." His dark gaze locked with hers, daring her wrath. "I'm not dead."
"Sean." Fierce joy rose in her. Joy and disbelief and…anger. Anger, fury, rage. Hard and hot, pushing away everything else. "I went to your funeral. You died in a car crash on your way to the airport."
He dragged his hand through his hair. "It was set up," he said, unsmiling. "I went into hiding. But your father called Corbett, who told me you were in trouble. I've come to help."
To help. Not because he loved her or missed her, but because his boss had requested it. Of course.
Anyone who'd pretend to die, who'd let his wife grieve and mourn…
Speechless, all she could do was shake her head. Then suddenly, tears streamed down her cheeks as she began to weep, crying in great big, gasping sobs.
Another round of shots rang out. They both ignored them.
"Don't." Reaching for her, his expression looked pained, and she remembered how he'd always hated it when she'd cried. He'd welcome a fight, maybe even a discussion, but he'd never been able to deal with a woman's tears. Or, more specifically, hers.
Suddenly, she hated him. "Stay away from me." "But I—" "No." Still crying, she felt rage again knife through her, chasing away the pain. Blinding fury, the kind she'd had to draw upon again and again to get through her grief.
Then, she'd been angry with him for dying. For leaving her. Now, she was enraged to learn he'd lived.
She looked lovelier than he'd remembered, which shouldn't be possible. Her face had haunted his dreams each and every night of the two years they'd been apart. He'd kept track of her from a distance, relying on Corbett Lazlo to keep him up to date.
Now, he stood before the woman he hadn't seen in two long years, the woman he'd never stopped loving, and prepared to face her wrath. After all, he'd expected it, and God knows he deserved it.
Another round of gunshots shattered the concrete floor in front of them.
"This way." Grabbing her, Sean dove deeper inside the building.
Because she had no choice, she went with him. "What are you doing? I've walked the perimeter— there is no other door. We'll be trapped."
"Yes there is. You must have missed it. I had the satellite check out this place before I got here. There's another way out, though it's on the other side of the shipping area. This warehouse has apparently been abandoned for a long time. Vandals have busted out the back loading doors."
"How do you know the shooters won't already be there?" Despite her question, she shook off his grip and pushed ahead of him. When she glanced over her shoulder to make sure he followed, her face was absolutely expressionless. Not the fury he'd expected, not even sorrow. Instead, she had the cold, calculating look of a seasoned undercover agent, one prepared to do what had to be done to make it out alive.
"I don't. Where's your backup?" he asked her.
"I don't have any. I'm not supposed to be here."
Ignoring him, she kept moving.
Wary, he stayed close behind her. This was Natalie, and knowing how much his return from the grave must have shocked her he wasn't sure what to expect.
More gunfire, closer this time. "They're moving in," he said. She didn't respond.
He grabbed her arm. "Nat, stop."
Her eyes narrowed and he braced himself for the storm.