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This kid was a GradeA, TopChoice whack job whose only job at Lazarus was going to be to find his way back out the way he came in.
Jason Savage sat back in his office chair and closed the recruit candidate file in front of him. Finding new talent for Lazarus Security usually ranked as one of his favorite parts of his day. He enjoyed meeting kids fresh out of the military ready to use their training for civilian purposes.
But not today.
He rubbed his hands over his face and pushed the file tagged "Daryl Bennett" to the side of the desk.
He looked at the cell phone where he had it open and on speaker.
"Can you do it?" Partner and longtime friend Lincoln Williams asked.
While he'd been reviewing Daryl Bennett's resume and test results, Lincoln had called him about a separate matter. Namely, Linc wanted him to take a security assignment off his hands so he could stay in Maine with the woman he'd followed there.
"I can do it. The question is, will I?"
He imagined Linc's stony stare on the other end of the connection and chuckled.
"What's in it for me?" Jason continued.
"A ticket out of townjust what you're looking for."
"The job is in Denver. Denver is a suburb."
It was a joke they liked to share because so many viewed Colorado Springs as an adjunct to Denver, the larger city to the north.
"I'll help get things moving on your bid to open the Baltimore office earlier," Linc added.
Jason sat up in his chair. "Now we're talking." He'd been angling to push ahead with Lazarus Security's plans to open satellite offices on either coast, Baltimore being the first because of its close proximity to D.C. And although those plans weren't scheduled for execution until next year at the earliest well, he had his reasons for wanting to get out of town, stat. And they were very good ones. "Give me the job details."
He jotted down the information Linc gave him. His subject was witness for the prosecution in a highprofile federal case. The job was difficult (two teams of Marshals had been pulled because of undisclosed problems). And the trial was two weeks away.
"Walk in the park," Jason said.
"Maybe. If said park is in an active area of Waziristan," Linc chuckled, referring to the mountainous region between Afghanistan and Pakistan where they'd seen the worst action during their tours of duty and where they and their Lazarus partners had gone through hell and come out the other side lifetime friends. "The accused is motivatedhe has a high price on her head and word has it every contract wannabe within a fivehundred radius has his sites set on her."
Jason realized he hadn't gotten the witness's name and took it now: Jordan Cosby.
His chair springs groaned as he sat back again. "Shit. Is this the case of that gun runner whose exgirlfriend turned state's witness on him?"
"Rick Packard. The one and only."
"And Jordan is the exgirlfriend "
"That would be her."
He rubbed his face again thinking he needed a shave and more importantly, a good eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, something he hadn't seen in over a month. Which was the reason he wanted out of Colorado Springs. He had the sinking feeling nothing would ever go back to the way it was before. Not after what he'd done.
While he didn't particularly like the idea of watching over somebody's bimbo for two weeks, any excuse that got him out of townand away from Lazaruswas a good one.
"When do I report?" he asked.
"Then what are you still doing on the phone with me?"
He stood up. "Funny, I was just asking myself the same question." He pressed Disconnect, closed the phone and then put it in his pocket, knowing that in some backwater town in Maine, Linc was grinning at least as wide as he was.
He checked his desk, picked up the files on the corner of it and then walked down the long corridor taking him to the front offices.
He explained the situation to Lisa Russo and Giulia Pawley, the two girlspardon him, "women," as he was often reminded by female coworkersthat were the public face of the company along with receptionist Margie Hall. They were also the glue holding them together.
The front door opened and in walked the reason he needed to get out of there.
Like Linc, he was friends with the other two partners, Megan McGowan and Darius Folsom: tight friends. Hell, he'd grown up with Dari. But he'd made a very bad error in judgmentpoor choice of words: he'd fucked up majorly by sleeping with Meg while Dari was deployed overseas two months ago.
It had seemed rational at the time: noties sex that both of them needed while on a remote assignment. Then Dari had returned early and the shit had hit the fan.
That had been nearly nine weeks ago and they still hadn't recovered from it. Not completely. Oh, on the surface it appeared everything was all right. But lightly scratch it, and fresh pus leached from the wound.
"Hey, Savage," Dari said as he accepted his messages from Margie.
Meg stepped up beside him. He immediately stiffened. in more ways than one.
And cursed himself for the involuntary reaction.
He grimaced as he handed the files he'd brought with him to Lisa.
"Mr. Bennett is waiting in the other room."
Jason raised a brow. He'd finished his interview with the neverwouldbe agent, if Jason had anything to say about it, an hour ago.
"He said he wanted to wait to have another word with you. I thought I'd make him wait a little longer before buzzing to let you know."
"Fine. I'll see to him on my way out. You know how to contact me."
Megan's voice stopped him in his tracks. "I spoke to Jax again yesterday. Any chance you'll reconsider your position?"
"Not in hell," he said.
He continued walking toward the waiting room off to the left.
His younger brother Jackson, or Jax as he was known, wanted to work for Lazarus so badly he could taste it. And for that reason alone Jason never intended to let him put it in his mouth.
That and he wished the kid would go back to school like he wanted. Learn something useful. Become a doctor or a lawyer. Anything that was completely different from what he was doing.
Jason hadn't been able to stop Jax from following him into the military. But he could stop him from working for Lazarus.
He opened the waitingroom door and crossed to where Daryl Bennett barely had time to get to his feet before he stopped in front of him and shook his hand. "Thank you for coming, Daryl, but this isn't going to work out."
The kid blinked at him, his thin, pale face going from open hopefulness to flushing to disappointment within a blink. "I don't understand, Mr. Savage. I did really well on all the tests."
Yes, he had aced all the physical tests. He was in amazing shape considering he topped six feet and likely didn't weight a pound over a buckfifty.
The psychological tests on the other hand "You neglected to mention what happened during your very brief stint in the military."
"Like I said, thank you. And good luck with your job search."
"Mr. Savage!" The kid tried following him.
Jason closed the door behind him that locked automatically for security reasons, the room having a separate public exit so he wouldn't have to confront the guy again.
For God's sake, the kid had shot his commanding officer in the knee when he'd been ordered to drop and give a hundred. And for a screwup, Daryl had admitted responsibility for.
Whack job. Pure and simple. There was no place for him at Lazarus.
Just like there was no place for his brother Jax, albeit for different reasons.
Jason retraced his steps through the corridor to where his SUV was parked in the back, thinking about his younger brother. About how they always seemed to butt heads at every turn. How their grandmother doted on Jax and then turned around and gave Jason an earful every time he drove out to the farm for dinner.
He thought about the ways he might yet convince his brother to use the money their parents had left them to continue his education. It was enough to occupy his time and then some during the sixtyplusmile drive north to Denver, where he then navigated the city to the address Linc had given him.
He still hadn't come up with a persuasive argument he hadn't already voiced a thousand times by the time he passed through the heightened building security and rode the elevator up to the apartment he was looking for.
"Hey." He flashed his ID to the two government stiffs flanking the front door of Jordan Cosby's apartment. "I'm your relief."
"It's about time," said the guy on the right while the agent on the left communicated with command via his earpiece and hidden transmitter. Then the two men gladly left their posts and headed toward the elevator. "Good luck. You're going to need it."
Jason knew they weren't going far. They would likely keep post on a slightly more removed perimeter. But from here on in, he would be in charge of personal security.
He knocked on the door. A moment later it was opened and he found himself staring at one of the most strikingly beautiful women he'd ever seen. And she was wearing next to nothing.
Jordan Cosby was wet, rushed and fully prepared to give the morons outside her door whatfor when she opened the door and found it saw not the two suits but a really hot guy in jeans and a black Tshirt. She stuck her head through the doorway finding neither of the U.S. Marshals there.
She finished buttoning the oversize white men's shirt she'd pulled on when she climbed from the shower to answer the door and then crossed her arms under her breasts.
"Either you're really goodin which case take your best shotor you're the new guy Lincoln promised to send over."
He walked inside without waiting for an invitation.
Jordan gave an eye roll and closed the door. Since her shirt didn't bear any bloodstains, she figured this was the associate Lincoln Williams had told her was on his way.
Raised as the only girl, not to mention the youngest, in a family full of guys, she'd always prided herself on being capable of holding her own and then some. But even she realized lately she was edging dangerously close to 'bitch' territory.
She stared at where she absently scratched her arm and stopped. The fact that she'd spent more time in her apartment in the past two weeks than she had in the past two years was
half to blame. Responsibility for the rest went to the knowledge that she still had two weeks of what she was coming to describe as 'hell on earth' to endure. Then would come the trial she'd never wanted to be a part of in the first place to give damaging testimony against a man who had tattooed a very high price tag on her forehead.
And not only was she basically being held a prisoner in her own apartmenta place she was seldom inbut she was finding it impossible to talk anyone into coming over. The only visitors she seemed to get were like the man even now moving through her place as if he owned it. Her friends and associates were afraid of any contact that didn't include a cell phone for obvious reasons.
It didn't help that the reason she was in protective custody was because someone had shot through her car window while she was pulling out of the building's basement garage.
Memory of the incident even now caused her heart to beat harder and her palms to dampen. In that one moment she'd become all too aware that what she was facing was very real.and she'd finally agreed to the protective custody the Justice Department offered when they'd first asked her to testify.
As the owner of three successful clubs in Denver, New York and San Francisco, it might be her job to create excitement; but strictly the kind that left people with a hangover the next morning.not in the morgue being measured for a pine box.
Of course, being a people person meshed well with her club ownership. Unfortunately, the only people she saw lately were humorless, antisocial U.S. Marshals. She watched as the latest in the neverending line of silent, alpha males made a tour through the twobedroom town house apartment; she was waiting when he came back down the open, spiral staircase.
"Is it clear?" she asked.
She was impressed he hadn't drawn his gun as he made the rounds. The Marshals did it every time.
She sighed when he didn't respond. "Great. Another ape without a sense of humor."
"Might help if you didn't call them apes."
She cracked a smile, relief flooding her veins. Sure, she might act a little bitchy, but the truth was she horribly missed human interaction. "He speaks. Thank the Lord. Every other person they've sent over had zero personality, much less a sense of humor."
"Who said I had either?"
"By comparison? I think you've just won the Mr. America contest."
She watched as his gaze swept over her barely clad body.
She was surprised by the flush of awareness that spread over her skin. While she was used to men appreciating her physical appearance, it had been two weeks since she'd enjoyed such open attention by an attractive male and her instant, nipplehardening reaction was doubly intense than it otherwise might have been. That's what happened when you were locked away in your apartment by a bunch of cyborgs assigned to keep you safe.
That's what happened when you hadn't had sex in four months because the last guy you dated was a gunrunning criminal.
And when the same guy had no problem with the idea of not only seeing you dead, but being the power behind the trigger.
She shivered as the agent finished his perusal following a lingering look at her breasts and then met her gaze. "Aw, and we didn't even get to the swimsuit competition."
She gestured with her hand. "Be my guest."
His chuckle made the small hairs on her lower belly stand up in a delicious wave. He crossed to her and held out his hand. "Jason Savage."
She took her time shaking the warm limb, marveling at his long, thick fingers. "Jordan Cosby."
He withdrew his hand. "Did I, um, interrupt something?"
"A little late for that question, isn't it?"
He had a grin as naughty as sin and twice as delectable. "I'm guessing shower."
"I'm guessing you're right."
"Feel free to return."
She wondered if it was too soon to ask a man she'd just met if he'd like to join her.
"You mind?" He walked toward the kitchen.
Jordan squinted, and then followed in his wake. "Do I mind what?"
He stepped to the counter where she'd made coffee a little while earlier, trying to maintain her regular hours which included not getting up before noon and massive amounts of caffeine in whatever form she could lay her hands on, beginning withbut certainly not limited tocoffee.