Extreme Dangerby Shannon Mckenna
In the fifth book of New York Times bestselling author Shannon McKenna's McClouds and Friends series, good girl Becca and sexy Nick meet up and sparks . . . and bullets . . . fly.See more details below
In the fifth book of New York Times bestselling author Shannon McKenna's McClouds and Friends series, good girl Becca and sexy Nick meet up and sparks . . . and bullets . . . fly.
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.58(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.15(d)
Read an Excerpt
By Shannon McKenna
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2008 Shannon McKenna
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJust a little engagement celebration, the e-mail had said. An intimate get-together for close friends, at the bride-to-be's family's country home out in Endicott Falls.
Hah. There had to be forty-five, fifty people circulating out there on the terrace and the party was going strong, music blasting from the sound system. A definite wedding vibe. No mistaking that taint.
Nick hated weddings. Everything about them made him tense. Even the super happy ones, when the bride and groom were deliriously in love and had cartoon birdies fluttering in circles around their head. Especially that kind, Nick thought, staying in his hiding place behind the climbing rose trellis. The higher you flew, the farther you had to fall. And Sean McCloud was flying very high tonight.
Watching the guy and his fiancée, Liv, laughing and kissing, stuffing tidbits into each others' glowing faces, slurping champagne, gave him the same tight feeling in his gut that he got from shark movies. Happy little kids frolicked in the surf, and meanwhile, dadum ... dadum ... He'd never figured out why people voluntarily watched movies like that. He himself did everything in his power to avoid that kind of emotion. He'd felt enough already to last a lifetime.
He ground his teeth, scanning the room for Tamara. She was the only reason he'd come to this damn party, and the only reason that he stayed, too. One more chance to pump her for info on Vadim Zhoglo. Before she cut Nick's balls off to make herself a necklace. That was the threat she'd made the last time he'd pestered her about it.
He was pondering that unpleasant prospect while he watched Davy McCloud, one of the groom's brothers, trying to persuade his extremely pregnant wife to dance with him. He wasn't having much luck at it, but a passionate kiss with lots of tongue seemed to appease him.
Goddamn show-offs, the whole pack of them.
There were plenty of hot young single women at the party, lots of plunging necklines and come-hither glances. Some of them had been strategically positioning themselves to be on his prowl trajectory. Bleah.
He used to enjoy this kind of situation, way back in the dawn of time, before his life went to shit. He used to have a smooth way with women, at least in the initial approach. He had enough charm to get them into bed and enough skill to show them a damn good time once they were there. But not a lot else, as the ladies soon found out. It got kind of exhausting after a while.
But he couldn't work up the energy to care about that tonight.
Two young girls jostled him in the doorway where he lurked, jolting him out of his reverie. They reeled away, giggling. Cute kids. About the same age as Sergei's little Sveti. If she was still alive.
Which got more doubtful every fucking day.
"Hey. Try to contain your joy, why don't you. Your enthusiasm is a little overwhelming."
Nick stiffened at the familiar voice. He took a swallow of his whiskey, and turned to face Connor McCloud, the groom's other brother, and Nick's former colleague in the Cave, the FBI task force to which they both used to belong. The guy was clean-cut tonight, for him. Connor had probably been blackmailed into shaving and cutting his hair for the occasion, but he still managed to look rumpled. And very tired.
The cause of his exhaustion slept on his chest, nestled in a front carrier. Four-month-old Kevin McCloud. The carrier's star, moon and teddy bear motif looked truly weird with Con's dark tailored suit.
Nick frowned at the small, reddish-looking creature. "Kid threw up on your jacket," he observed with distaste.
Con's eyes went soft as he glanced down at the baby. "Sure did," he said proudly. "He's a regular little geyser. From both ends."
Nick was failing in his attempt to keep his lip from curling. He put his drink to his mouth for camouflage, took a swig.
"Excuse me for mentioning it, but that stuff is not doing your mood any good. Maybe you should slow down," Con suggested.
Nick fought the urge to snarl, and lost. "Con, it's great that you and your brothers are wallowing in conjugal bliss and baby shit. I'm happy for you all. That doesn't give you the right to preach. So fuck off."
Con's green eyes took on that piercing laser glow he got when he was in investigative mode. "It's getting to you." His quiet voice sounded worried. "That thing that happened in Boryspil. You've been tied in a fucking knot ever since. And this bug up your ass about Zhoglo-"
"It's not your bug. It's not your ass. Leave it alone." Nick turned his eyes away, and scowled out over the dark garden.
He knew what Con was thinking. He thought of it too, whenever he laid eyes on the guy, which was one of the reasons he tried to avoid his former good friend, who used to trust him with his life.
Nick's fucking finest moment. That mega lapse in judgment that had almost gotten Connor and his lady slaughtered by that psycho, Kurt Novak. And while he was torturing himself, there was Sergei to consider, split open from neck to groin, eyes still aware, pleading silently for the mercy blow. And Sveti. Sergei's twelve-year-old daughter, abducted six months ago. Who knew where, or to what.
That had been Sergei's primary punishment for betraying Zhoglo. The bloody torture and gruesome death part had been just for fun.
Nick had nightmares about Sveti's fate, when he managed to sleep at all. He'd been searching for months for rumors, clues, whispers about her. He'd gotten exactly nowhere.
Con wasn't the kind of guy to hold grudges, which bugged the shit out of Nick tonight. In his current mood, being hated was preferable to being forgiven. Forgiveness implied too much responsibility.
Con's son woke and began to squawk. The two men gazed at the infant, bemused. Con tried various cuddling and jiggling maneuvers, but the squawks rose into wails that drove into Nick's ears like nails.
"I better find Erin," Connor mouthed through the din to Nick's relief. "I think he's hungry."
Tension buzzed in Nick's body as the other man strode away, towards the glowing brunette who lit up with a megawatt smile when she lifted the squalling thing out of the carrier pouch. Erin Mc- Cloud, Connor's busty, luscious wife. The women those McCloud guys picked out to marry sure were easy on the eyes. All three of them.
The sharp poke to his shoulder made him whip into guard mode, grabbing for a pistol that wasn't there tonight.
It was just Tamara, the McCloud guys' mysterious outlaw friend. As beautiful as ever. Her currently dark hair was twisted up into a roll, her golden eyes were full of cool amusement, her perfect body was poured into a skintight gold silk minidress with a high Chinese collar.
"What the fuck was that? A stiletto?" he snapped.
She waggled long, gilded fingernails at him. "Lighten up, Nikolai."
"Don't call me that," he replied sourly. His birth name reminded him of his father. Thinking about Anton Warbitsky was a sure recipe for a stinking foul mood. He'd changed his last name to distance himself from that sadistic son of a bitch. Not that it worked worth a damn.
They shut up as a dancing couple swayed by, slow dancing to the old blues tune blaring on the speakers. It was the guy with the nose, the computer expert that hung out with the McClouds. Miles. He clutched Cindy, Connor's sexpot sister-in-law, and swung her down into a deep, flashy dip. She giggled, and he yanked her back up again for a smoochy kiss. They undulated away, entwined.
Too fucking much. At least he wouldn't be invited to that wedding. Sean's upcoming nuptials were going to be bad enough.
"Young love." Tam's voice had a metallic ring. "Sweet, isn't it?"
"I give them six months," he predicted darkly.
"Ding dong, you're wrong. They broke the six month barrier a while back. They're working on eight months."
Nick shook his head. "Tick tock, tick tock."
"Come on," Tam murmured. "This is a party. These are your friends. Laugh, Nikolai. Smile. Even I manage that, in my brittle way. Fake it. Medicate yourself if you must. You're a cigarette hole burned into the fabric of the universe."
"I could leave."
"Don't go," she murmured. "I might be able to cheer you up."
Every muscle in his body went still. "With what?"
Her smile faded to an impassive mask. "Do you want to die young, Nikolai? Or do you want to linger in an old folks' home?"
Excitement blasted like a chill wind over the landscape of his consciousness. The hairs on the back of his neck stiffened, his skin prickling coldly with a mix of hope and dread. "What have you got?"
She stared at him. "An express ticket to hell." She waited for a beat. "Don't look so eager. You make me feel guilty." She nodded her head towards the side garden, filled with dark, unlit lumps of topiary. "Let's talk."
Their feet crunched on the white gravel path. She led him to the deserted gazebo. He tried to wait for her to speak first. If he showed too much eagerness, Tam would just play him like a cat with a mouse.
She waited him out. "What have you got?" he finally snapped.
"Not much," she said. "Rumors, whispers, favors. Possibilities. You know Pavel Cherchenko?"
His jaw clenched. Oh, yeah. He knew Pavel. Pavel was one of the men who had almost certainly supervised Sergei's torture and murder.
"Met him a few times in Kiev, when I was undercover," he said. "Arms deals. One of Zhoglo's lieutenants. A real shithead. What about him?"
"I know the woman who runs the agency that supplies Pavel with his biweekly blow job when he's stateside," Tam said. "She owes me a favor. A big one."
"What kind of favor?" Nick couldn't help but ask.
Tam smiled blandly. "Her life, among other things. The last time the girl serviced Pavel, he was all upset because one of his key men had shot himself. Pavel has a problem. He talks when he drinks. Anyway, looks like something big is coming down. He needs someone trustworthy, with perfect English, to take care of housing and security details."
Nick's mind raced. "Something big? Housing? For who?"
"How the fuck would I know, Nikolai? That's for you to find out. So, in the interests of getting you definitively killed and removing this damn stone from my shoe once and for all, I asked Ludmilla to recommend you, my friend."
"Me?" He frowned at her. "How ..."
"Your alter ego, actually. Arkady Solokov," she said.
"How do you know about Arkady?" he demanded, outraged. His arms-trafficking undercover persona was a deeply buried secret.
Tam rolled her eyes. "So? Shall I give her Arkady's number?"
"Fuck, yeah." Nick was dazed. "Tam, how is it that you have all these contacts with the sex workers who service the Russian mob?"
"None of your business. Don't push your luck. I should probably go into hiding as soon as your taillights disappear, now that I've mixed myself up in your suicidal bullshit. What a fucking bore."
"Aren't you in hiding already?" he asked.
"It's a matter of degree," she grumbled. "I'll have to stay on the move, leave my comfortable house, my studio, my business. I may even find it necessary to make myself unattractive." She shuddered with distaste. "Be warned, Nikolai. Milla is doing this as a favor to me. If you fuck up, and she gets hurt, I will cut your throat."
"I understand," he said. "I just want to know if-"
"There is nothing else I can tell you," she said crisply. "This conversation is over. Do not ask me for anything else. And keep in mind, brokering arms deals undercover is one thing. Getting up close and personal with Zhoglo, as Arkady, is going to be very different. If you don't have the guts to do whatever Zhoglo might ask of you, you're dead. And if you do have the guts, you're damned. Think about it before I give Arkady's cell number to Milla."
"I'm thinking. I thought," he said promptly. "I've decided. I owe you, Tam. If you ever need anything from me-"
"You still don't get it, do you? I haven't done you any favors. I've just cut your life short by about fifty years." She glanced at the glass in his hand. "Depending on how hard you'd drink, of course."
He shrugged. "Maybe. I wouldn't know what the hell to do with those fifty years anyhow."
She sighed out a long breath, pressing her slender hand against her midriff. The look in her eyes mirrored his own.
Cold, wind-whipped wastes. Secrets in the shadows. Rocks and hard places.
"You want to do me a favor?" Her voice was low. "Do the world a favor. Kill Zhoglo. Don't just spy on him. Don't just hand him over to the law. Put a bullet through his brain stem at close range."
He thought about Sveti. "Tam, I-"
"Kill him if you can. If you can't, then God help you."
She turned, and disappeared into the gloomy shadows.
Nadvirna, The Ukraine
Vadim Zhoglo slowly sipped the fine brandy from the crystal snifter in his hand and gazed out at the snowy peaks of the Carpathian mountains. "Transport details for the first shipment are in place, Pavel?" he asked.
"Yes," the man replied stolidly. "Everything's arranged."
Zhoglo turned to look at him. "And you can vouch for each one of your people this time? No more surprises, like six months ago?"
Pavel's hand darted to the collar of his suit, tugging to make space for his large and lumpy Adam's apple to bob and twitch.
That was his answer. Again. Zhoglo closed his eyes. "What has happened this time, Pavel?" he asked with deceptive gentleness.
"Nothing serious," Pavel hastened to assure him. "But one of the men in place in Puget Sound had to be, ah, replaced."
"Killed?" Vadim frowned. "How is this possible?"
"Suicide," Pavel forced out, his voice gravelly and reluctant. "He hanged himself. Pyotr Cherchenko."
"Your nephew, no? The one you had me arrange those expensive immigration documents for? I see. Yet another wasted investment," Vadim said. "My condolences, Pavel. And his replacement?"
Sweat shone on Pavel's pale forehead. "A man named Arkady Solokov. From Donetsk. He's taking care of security on the island."
"And you can vouch for this Solokov? Without hesitation?"
Pavel's eyes slid away. "We've had dealings with him before. He was with Avia. He brokered those deals for the M93 grenade launchers and rockets to Liberia four years ago. He seems very competent. And his English skills are-"
"Seems competent," Vadim repeated, with ironic emphasis. "I invest millions in this project, and you tell me this person 'seems' competent."
"I had to get someone in place quickly, Vor, and I am sure that-"
"I am sure of nothing. Except that you're an idiot who compels me to take risks. Very well. We will proceed as planned. You may go."
But Pavel lingered, shuffling his overlarge feet.
"What is it?" Vadim barked. "You're boring me, Pavel."
"My-my sons?" Pavel faltered. "You promised that we could have Sasha and Misha back if I-"
"The agreement was that you could have your sons back if you corrected the error you made in that unfortunate business last year. But you have not, Pavel. You have compounded your mistake."
"Vor, please. My boys are just two and eleven, and-"
"I am not heartless. You may have one son back. The other goes out with the first shipment. To defray the cost of your errors."
Pavel's face drained to the color of ash. "One? But I-but Marya-" The clock ticked loudly. "Which one?" he whispered.
Vadim shrugged. "It doesn't matter. There is equal demand for vital organs from two-year-olds and eleven-year-olds." He smiled indulgently. "Take an evening to think about it, Pavel, by all means. Discuss it with your wife. Let me know your decision in the morning."
Pavel stood like a statue, eyes staring. Zhoglo pushed a button on his belt to summon two large thugs. They hustled the man away.
Chapter TwoSkinny-dipping. Skydiving. Crewing on a yacht. Camping under the stars in the Sahara. Backpacking through Europe. Getting a cute tattoo. Having passionate love affairs with untamed guys with lots of rippling muscles. The list went on and on, all the crazy things girls did before they calmed down and found The One. Things that Becca Cattrell had never gotten around to trying.
Aw, face it, already. She'd never had the nerve, let alone the time.
Becca stubbed her big toe in the dark on a board that stuck up out of the wooden walkway. She braced herself for the time it took for pain to flash through her nerves and assault her brain. That interval was significantly slowed by the alcohol in her bloodstream. It got there eventually, though, and oh crap, that hurt.
She lifted the uncorked cabernet to her lips and took another swig. The bottle felt suspiciously light. So did her head.
No matter. She had to loosen up. By brute force, if necessary. She was no longer willing to play her divinely ordained role as a dutiful, dependable, reasonable goody-two-shoes twit. She was going to work her way down that list, and do every one of those silly things.
Excerpted from EXTREME DANGER by Shannon McKenna Copyright © 2008 by Shannon McKenna. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >