Read an Excerpt
Gabriel West: Still The One
By Fiona Brand
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePort Moresby, Papua New Guinea
The man walked out of the night, moving without haste, yet not dawdling, his gait fluid, smooth. He was big and sleek with muscle, his broad shoulders stretching his black T-shirt tight so that it clung like a second skin. The subtle arrogance to the tilt of his head, the gleam of light sliding over the taut swell of biceps, warned anyone who gave him so much as a passing glance that he wasn't an easy mark. He carried no discernable firearm, but then he didn't need an overt display of firepower; the body itself was a weapon.
The yellowish glare of a streetlamp slid over deceptively sleepy amber eyes and exotic cheekbones, a full, beautiful mouth framed by a square, stubbled jaw. A dark, masculine mane hung loose about his shoulders, accentuating the impression of danger.
The man was beautiful in the mesmerizing way of a fallen angel; the looks were a rare gift and a curse that had taught him early on to defend himself, then later, to assert enough dominance to ensure that he was left alone. The fact that his name was Gabriel was pure chance, a whim on the part of a mother who wasn't sure which one of her paying customers had fathered him, or what had possessed her to carry the child to full term in the first place. Whichever way you looked at it, Gabriel West considered himself to have little in common with angels, fallen or otherwise.
Ahead, light slicked along metal as a car door swung open. West's head came up, nostrils flaring, drinking in the steamy tropical scents of city and night as he deliberately let his mind drift, picking up on peripherals. A flicker of movement across the street signaled the presence of one of Renwick's mercenaries. The inky darkness off to the left was a dead-end alley. Renwick would have placed another man there.
His lips barely moved as he relayed the information to the mobile unit that had shadowed him as far as the street corner, the dull black van blending with the night and the shabby conglomeration of buildings that lined the docks and signaled the edge of what passed for the red-light district in this town. The tiny state-of-the-art communication device masquerading as a stud in his ear gave two bursts of static in response, indicating that McKee, Sawyer and Lambert were in place.
He strolled from light into shadow, then back into light again, his gait unaltered as he passed the point of no return. He was committed.
Ahead, Renwick uncurled himself from the low-slung curves of a late-model Maserati. The door swung closed with an expensive thunk. The arms dealer was lean, dapper, ostensibly relaxed - on target for another profitable night. Everything was going to plan. Something was wrong.
Adrenaline pumped: West's gut clenched in reflex. Renwick was alone; the absence of visible support was wrong. Somehow, in the few hours that had passed since their preliminary meeting in Renwick's drab downtown office, the deal had gone sour.
He relayed the warning, knowing as he did so that the team would move in, poised to get him out if they could. Not that a clean rescue was probable now; he was well within Renwick's circle of influence.
His options weren't good. He could go for cover, and risk being pinned down, maybe even shot before the other team members could get to him, or he could keep his cool, get in close, use the car as a shield and Renwick for collateral to negotiate his ass out of there.
The cold warning increased the closer he got to Renwick, culminating in a preternatural tingle that stirred along the length of his spine and settled at his nape. He could feel the impending combat, almost taste it.
West felt the familiar shift inside, the peculiar calmness that came with battle - an altered state that freed him to act and react without conscious thought - and the odd, light-headed sensation, as if a part of him had drifted free, a cold observer to the act. He didn't question the shift; it was as natural to him as breathing, a survival mechanism that had been in place since childhood, and one he'd consciously honed with years of meditation and martial arts. Odd as it seemed, the cold discipline required for both activities had dovetailed perfectly with the despair and savagery of his upbringing, binding the drifting, disparate parts of his being into a formidable whole. He'd learned early on to fight with everything that he had, and that included his mind. No matter how much edge he gave himself with weapons and a well-trained body, there was always someone bigger waiting to take him down.
A trickle of sweat eased down his spine. The muted thud of his boots hitting the pavement echoed dully, the sound almost instantly absorbed into the heavy press of the night.
He carried a knife in a spine sheath, another in a custom-made slot in his boot. A pocket-sized Walther was strapped to his left ankle; the small-calibre sidearm as slick a piece of hell as he'd ever handled. The meet with Renwick stipulated no fire-arms. Naturally, West had ignored the stipulation. Strolling into an arms deal without the benefit of a semi-automatic was about as close to naked as he ever wanted to get.
Renwick's head lifted in a brief signal of recognition, his gaunt face taking on a yellowish hue in the glare of the sodium streetlamp, his dark gaze hooded. West noted the bulge under his left arm. He was carrying - naturally - a handgun so big it was wrecking the line of his jacket.
Grim humor dissolved the tension knotting his belly. Oh yeah, Renwick was an asshole: no style, no class.
A surge of recklessness flowered inside West, shafted through him on a hot, savage beat. His mouth curved in a slow, cold smile and he resisted the urge to close his eyes and ride out the hot feeling. That would get him killed for sure.
God, he was crazy. Certifiable. Renwick was itching to use some of the second-hand Russian weaponry he'd been hawking all through Indonesia and the South Pacific, and in the next few minutes he probably would. West could die, and he was suddenly enjoying himself, so alive he could hardly bear it, the rush better than sex. If the SAS psych team ever got their hands on him they'd lock him up and throw away the key.
Excerpted from Gabriel West: Still The One by Fiona Brand Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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.