Choosing a side has never been so dangerous…
The world didn't end in fire and explosions, instead it collapsed slowly, like falling dominoes, an intensifying panic of disease, food shortages, wild weather and collapsing economies, until what remains of humanity battles for survival in a harsh new reality.
An assassin by trade, a loner by nature, Mercy is sent to infiltrate the Cartels and unmask the identity of their new silent partner. Instead, she discovers a darker plan threatening to crumble the entire Southwest and ends up with a hefty bounty on her head. Still, she's determined to stop the impending attack at any cost, even if it means partnering up with a member of the notorious Fate's Vultures.
After enduring a brutal, blood–soaked lesson on the savagery of civilisation's scavengers, Havoc is well acquainted with the consequences of battling predators. But as a member of the nomadic band of arbitrators known as Fate's Vultures, he's determined to cement the necessary alliances to oust the biggest threat looming on the horizon. When an enigmatic woman crosses his path, her secrets and troubling loyalty light the fuse on an unexpected craving and his insatiable curiosity.
In order to trap a common foe and derail an impending threat, Havoc and Mercy must turn the tables to hunt a predator. Can an assassin and a mercenary find their balance on the thin line of loyalty, or will it snap under the weight of their wary hearts?
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About the Author
Jami Gray is the coffee addicted, music junkie, Queen Nerd of her personal Geek Squad, Alpha Mom of the Fur Minxes, and award
winning author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams, and her
latest Romantic Suspense series, Fate's Vultures. She writes to soothe the voices in her head.
To find out more about Jami and her stories, visit her website and Amazon page.
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Read an Excerpt
A breeze trickled through the heated air trapped inside the shop's dim interior and the barest shadow inched along the wall marring the sunlight stretched across the pitted floor. It wasn't much of a disturbance, but it was enough to make Havoc pause, the dark bottle of home-brew suspended halfway to his drier-than-the-desert-outside mouth. The bottle's edge hovered over his lip as he watched the shadow slip along the rusted interior wall of the local ammunition dealer's shop. Recently lax muscles coiled in anticipation.
Faint shouts drifted down the rutted street and through the shop's opening, but he didn't move, never taking his eyes off the shadow slinking along the wall. Another breeze caught the ragged edges of the head scarf causing a traitorous ripple. The deeper in the shadow crept, the more it began to resemble a slender human despite the baggy cargo pants and the oversized layered shirts. A slight shift in stance pulled the loose material tight. If he hadn't been staring he would have missed the surprising curves revealed for the briefest of seconds. It left him adjusting his perception to a slender female. A slow blink kept the sandy grit floating on the air from making a permanent home on his eyeballs. Yet a strange, unwelcomed curiosity kept him from any other revealing movement.
The shouts came closer, the heavily accented voices rousing an old rage, but he locked it down and kept watching, wondering. The female tried to sink into the shrinking shadows. He should probably tell her that it wouldn't do shit all. For a second his brain screamed at him to turn away. Nothing good would come from getting involved. Whatever sent her scurrying in here, wasn't his damn business. He wasn't here to get involved in other people's troubles, he was here for one thing — to reload his brass, a necessity when ammunition was difficult to acquire. A project, the shop owner, Boomer, was currently in the midst of doing in the backroom.
As if Havoc's thoughts were a primer, Boomer's rough voice shot through the shop. 'You need to be more particular about your salvaging, my man. Some of this brass is for shit.'
It was almost comical how fast the female's head snapped around. Despite the crappy lighting, dark, heavily lashed eyes hit and held with his, sharing a flash of grim determination edged with defiant fury before it was quickly banked into a predatory stillness. The impact landed a sucker punch to his gut. Silently, Havoc cursed because with a single look, his resolve about getting involved was blown to shit. Without looking away from the wary woman he managed a quick sip of his beer before setting his bottle down on the table's top and answering, 'Most brass nowadays is shit.'
That elicited a bark of laughter from the back room. 'True.'
A heated exchange erupted outside, Spanish curses flying like horseflies on shit, and the woman's head whipped back to the street. Bad move, darlin'. Taking advantage of her momentary lapse of attention, Havoc made his move, slipping around the table and closing the distance between them, even as the devil on his shoulder snarled a curse. Using his heavier frame he trapped her smaller one against the wall. He wrapped one hand around her wrist and tucked it between the wall and her hip, locking it in place. Then he caught her other blade-filled hand before she could land her intended strike. With a sharp twist, he had her well and truly caught.
This close he couldn't miss the feel of the sinuous lines of muscle under the loose clothing or the unyielding fury raging in the brown, green-shot depths of her eyes, the only things visible thanks to the grimy head scarf. The voices outside came closer. Knowing he would regret this, he dropped his head so his lips were at her ear, the not-unpleasant, faint scent of dust and sweat drifting to his nose. 'Crate to the left, over by the table, see it?'
Time stretched as she searched his face. It wasn't hard to miss the wary confusion in her brown eyes as it nudged fury to the side, making room for self-preservation to shove to the fore. Cautiously, as if she was waiting for him to bite, she turned her head and found the shipping crate sitting back against the wall. Her gaze came back to him and she gave a slow nod.
'You get in and stay quiet.'
He waited for her nod, then released her less lethal hand and dragged her over. With his free hand he flipped the lid up. Thankfully, Boomer had just inventoried his delivery and the box was empty. He pulled on her wrist. 'Get in.'
With one last cautious look between him and the doorway, she did as instructed, tucking into a small ball, and then flinching as another sharp burst of Spanish came from the street.
With both hands on the lid, he stared down at her, the devil on his shoulder still ranting curses. 'Don't make me regret this, hear?'
She dipped her head once and he closed the lid. He shifted the crate so it hunkered between the wall and the table, then sat on top of it. The sturdy wood creaked under his weight, but he settled in to wait. Now he just needed to confirm who the hell was chasing her. He leaned his back against the wall, and sprawled his legs under the table before reclaiming his beer. He lifted the bottle and took a drink as his answer stepped into the doorway, blocking the sunlight. Didn't it just figure that when he decided to step in it, he seriously stepped in it. Fucking great, Cartel assholes.
The scourge of depravation known as the Cartels ruled the southern territory which stretched from the drowned remains of Los Angeles through the dust-scoured bones of Phoenix, down into the ravaged remains of El Paso and San Antonio. As the trio stepped further inside, there was no mistaking them for anyone else. From the dust coated boots to faded jeans, to the knife laden, leather bandolier strapped over sweat-stained t-shirts, all topped off with the telltale Stetsons. Yep, Cartel scum. Unusual, but not completely strange, for them to be this far north.
The lead dumbass of the three-man pack puffed out his barrel chest, as if that would make Havoc quake in his boots. 'You see a woman, boracho?'
Havoc squelched the sneer threatening to curl his lips. Instead of giving voice to his contempt, he set his bottle on the table, leaned back, and dropped one hand below the table's edge and closer to his blades, just in case. 'I've seen a lot of women. You looking for something particular?'
The blowhard snapped his fingers. At his signal, the two sidekicks jumped, then they spread out, rifling through the haphazard boxes and shelves cluttering the shop, taking no care with their search.
Bad move, cabrons. Not wanting to ruin the impending entertainment, Havoc kept mute and took another swig, hiding his mirthless grin behind his bottle.
The first carton crashed to the floor, the echo of metal scattering across metal ringing through the interior. Before the sound faded, the distinctive ratchet of a shotgun took its place. 'What the fuck are you doin' in my shop, asswipes?'
The brainless twins stopped, their gaze skittering from a grim-faced Boomer, standing behind the long counter cradling a classic Benelli, to their red-faced leader, obviously unsure of what to do next. With a studied casualness the head honcho stepped forward, a smarmy smile breaking under the trimmed moustache. 'We're not looking for trouble, just a woman.'
Unable to keep from poking the snake, Havoc drawled, 'Seems they're one and the same.'
It earned him a narrow-eyed glare before the Cartel's man turned back to the undeniable threat. 'Have you seen her?'
'I'm a munitions shop, not a whorehouse.' Boomer motioned the Benelli towards the door. 'Want a woman? Head down a couple streets, turn left and ask for Margo's. She'll be more than happy to take your order.' The shotgun levelled, then steadied. 'Get out.'
The leader raised his hands in surrender, cocking his head in acknowledgement. 'Perhaps a woman would do you good, old man. You seem a little tense.'
One of the idiots snickered. Boomer's hard gaze flicked to him, and the snicker choked out. Then he turned back to Moustache man, and Boomer's lips stretched, revealing stained teeth, a few missing. It wasn't pretty. 'I prefer to release my tensions with target practice, hombre.'
'Cálmate, my man. We're leaving.' His dark eyes slid away and drifted over Havoc. Another mocking smile and nod, then he turned on his heel. Uttering a sharp command, he strode out, his dogs on his heels.
Hidden under the table, Havoc's hand flexed near the hilt of the throwing blade tucked at his thigh. It was all he could do not to send the beautiful knife deep between the man's shoulder blades. Just on principle. Instead, he lifted the bottle and drained it in one long swallow.
For a long minute, Boomer and Havoc remained still and silent, listening to the Cartel trio move down the street. Finally, Boomer sighed and pressed the Benelli's firing pin release lever before laying the shotgun on the counter. 'What the fuck was that about, Havoc?'
From his position in the corner, Havoc didn't answer. Not that he didn't trust Boomer, because he did. Well, as much as you could trust anyone anymore. His gut was all about keeping this situation as low key as possible. No sense in tempting that capricious bitch, Fate.
Boomer's eyes narrowed and he shook his head slowly. 'I know that look.'
Trying to adopt an innocent expression, Havoc raised his brows. 'What look?' Boomer snorted. 'Don't bullshit a bullshitter, boy.' He picked up the weapon and set it on his shoulder. 'Fine, I don't wanna know.' He turned to head back to his reloading area. 'Your brass will be ready in about twenty.' Then he disappeared through the ratty curtain.
Once back behind the thin wall of boards, he could hear Boomer's stool scrape against the floor as he resumed his task. Minutes ticked by as Havoc debated his next move. Not like his choices were many. Once he tucked the woman in the box, they became pretty damn limited. He sighed. Yeah, his partner, Vex, was going to have his balls for getting in this mess. First things first, he and his shadow needed to slip away.
Nabbing his empty bottle, he stood and made his way behind the counter. He tossed the empty into the recycle box of other fallen glass soldiers, the chiming crash echoing through the shop. He opened the small, ancient cooler tucked in the corner, grabbed the water jug, and then a relatively clean glass from the counter. 'Boomer?' Taking his cue from the responding grunt, Havoc continued as he poured, 'Mind if I make use of your escape hatch?'
'Feel free,' the other man growled. 'Just don't bring any trouble back to my doorstep.'
'Not planning on it,' Havoc muttered as he put the water jug back in the cooler. Picking up the glass of water he paused just outside the opening. 'Thanks.'
He got another grunt for his gratitude. Shaking his head, he went back to his surprise package. Thankfully it wasn't the height of summer, but it was still warm enough that being crammed into a box would be far from comfortable. Crouching down, he lifted the lid. Sure enough, what little skin not covered by the scarf carried a rosy hue and a sheen of sweat. He held out the water. 'Here.'
Dirt-grimed hands gripped the box's edge as she pulled herself up, those eyes locked on him with a prey's wariness. Smart girl. He didn't miss the ragged, torn nails or the fact that some of the rust-coloured grime was blood. With a bit of manoeuvring she managed to sit tailor style in the box before reaching up to pull the tail end of the scarf free, revealing an intriguing face. Heavily lashed, wide eyes under dark brows reflected a strength that belied the delicate jaw line. A few small nicks mixed with the freckles marring the warm, honey-touched ivory tones of her skin. Hers wasn't a breath-stealing beauty, but one that snuck in and wrapped temptation's hand on his dick.
Slowly, without looking away, she reached out for the cup, her fingers brushing his as she took it.
The water in the glass rocked as she lifted it to her nose first. Her delicate inhale left him stifling his grin. 'No poison.'
Her eyes flashed just before her lashes dropped, then she brought the cup to her chapped lips and drained it. Once it was empty she handed it back even as she caught her lower lip with her teeth, her gaze following the empty glass before jerking back to him.
That one move told him more than he was willing to bet she wanted him to know. Like the fact that she was hitting the end of her reserves. Which meant one glass of water would do jack shit to quench her thirst. Time to see if she was mute or obstinate. He took the cup from her and waited. The monotonous tick of a clock on the back wall counted the seconds as their staring contest became a silent battle of wills.
He was beginning to wonder if they would be here for the rest of the afternoon, when she finally sighed. 'What?'
Fierce satisfaction that she broke first flared, making him an asshole. But he was an asshole who won the first skirmish, so who the fuck cared. 'Want another?'
Her head tilted just a bit, but her husky voice remained flat. 'Is it going cost me?'
'Nah, the water's free.' He straightened and walked away, leaving her to make her way out of the box. Giving her his back might not be smart but he wanted to see if she'd run or stay. He wasn't sure which he'd prefer. With his back to her, he poured another glass. Turning around he found her standing on the other side of the counter. He pushed the glass over, waiting until she picked it up and brought it to her lips before adding, 'But if you want a way to get around the dick weasel on your ass, gotta know why you're running.'
Instead of answering, she took another healthy swallow, leaving it about half full. Setting the glass back on the counter, she refastened the scarf, covering her face. 'Thanks for the water.'
She turned to leave, but didn't get far. Despite her rather impressive snarl, Havoc kept his grip on her arm, holding her in place. Before she could rip into him, he warned, 'You step outside that door, you'll be dead before sunset.'
Quick as a snake, she grabbed his finger and yanked it back. It stung, not as much as she probably intended, but he granted her freedom. Her eyes narrowed as she leaned in, determined to make her point. 'You don't know me well enough to make that prediction.'
Her stubbornness triggered an unfamiliar anger and left his smile nasty and evil. 'You, no, but the Cartels? Yeah, babe, I guaren-fucking-tee, they'll have your throat slit and your pretty tongue playing necktie before the moon rises.' He shook off her hold and stepped back. 'But you're right, I don't know you from jack, so good luck.'
Mercy wanted to snatch up the half-filled glass and brain the man staring at her with such contempt. But that was the exhaustion and dehydration talking. Contrary to the obvious opinion of the bruiser staring at her, she wasn't an idiot. That she had managed to stay one step ahead of those hunting her, never mind surviving this long, was a minor miracle. If she wanted her luck to continue, she needed a game changer. One like the giant in front of her. And considering his obvious disgust for the Cartels, he made for a better option than the alternative trolling the street outside. Plus ditching his ass shouldn't be hard. Use 'em and leave 'em, a personal motto that worked wonders as far as she was concerned.
She folded her arms over her chest, and rolled the damn dice, praying for anything but snake eyes. 'Does it matter why they're on my ass?' The big man studied her before shrugging his thick shoulders. 'Probably not, but colour me curious.'
Yeah, he didn't strike her as the curious type, or the forgiving type. Given his dark hair currently held back from the harsh angles of his face, equally dark eyes, and the coiled danger, all wrapped in a six-foot brawler frame, he was probably the strike first, ask questions later type. So she heeded her instincts, because time had proven their reliability, and shared. Besides, she wouldn't be any less dead if he bailed on her. 'They think I killed someone.'
Instead of the expected shock, he continued to watch her as if waiting for something more. He rubbed a hand over the shadowed scruff lining his jaw, while his coffee-coloured eyes drifted from her head to her toes and back, his expression inscrutable.
His silent perusal threw her off balance, igniting an unexpected heat and leaving her frowning in shock. A long forgotten hunger coiled low, spreading with wildfire quickness. What the hell? She stuffed her bat-shit crazy reaction into a dark corner to be bitch slapped later. If there was a later.
Excerpted from "Beg For Mercy"
Copyright © 2018 Jami Gray.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises (Australia) Pty Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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