This is Matt Iverson’s story.
Working for a security company with his brothers-in-arms has given former SEAL Matt “MacGyver” Iverson a reason to get up every morning. But keeping a runaway bride from harm isn’t in his job description . . .
Former Marine Kellie Greyson is in over her head. A cold-hearted ultimatum leaves her no choice but to wed mob boss Tony Palazzi. But when she overhears his deadly plans for her after she says ‘I do,’ Kellie flees his casino, only to wind up in a seedy Vegas bar. The next thing she knows, she’s waking up beside a protective powerhouse of a man . . .
Though Kellie’s body kickstarts his into high gear, MacGyver is all business trying to convince her that they need each other. Both are looking for missing people—and all roads lead to Palazzi. MacGyver will have to lay all his cards on the table to get Kellie to trust him in a game they might not survive . . .
Praise for Dixie Lee Brown
“Dixie Lee Brown delivers all the goods in high style: romance, adventure and suspense-with a generous helping of sexy that will leave readers clamoring for more. The talented Ms. Brown writes the kind of story romance readers crave: sexy, fun and filled with adventure and suspense.”
—Linda Castillo, New York Times bestselling author of The Dead Will Tell
“Brown will thrill readers who enjoy some spice.” —Library Journal
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Kellie Greyson peered from beneath lowered lashes at the three solemn men making no secret of the fact they were watching her every move. Tony Palazzi, that slimy piece of horse manure, and two of his thugs leaned their backs against the bar to her left, holding drinks they'd yet to sample. Second day in a row.
Good. Maybe the low-cut tops and miniskirts I bought aren't a waste of money after all. The sky-high heels were killing her feet, though. Combat boots had been far more comfortable.
She placed a hundred dollars' worth of chips in the betting circle of the Blackjack table, and the dealer dispensed cards to each of four players, turning up a five for himself. The first two gamblers went bust. The third stayed at eighteen. To make Tony think she appreciated his perusal, Kellie smiled before tapping her finger on the table beside the seven of spades and two of hearts she'd been dealt. The dealer hit her with an ace, and a murmur of approval rippled through the players to her right.
Kellie watched in amusement as the dealer appeared to swat absently, as though at a pesky fly buzzing around his ear — the obvious signal about as subtle as a freight train. His hole card was a nine, and when he dealt himself another nine, he did a lousy job of hiding his frustration.
She reached for the chips he pushed toward her, leaving a small bet on the table for the next deal. When he shoved those chips toward her too, she glanced at him. The dealer nodded to someone behind her, and, immediately, a heavy hand dropped on her shoulder.
One of the muscled suits, who'd been standing with Tony a moment ago, leaned to speak in her ear. "Miss, please come with us." His tone left no room for discussion.
Kellie glanced over his shoulder to see who "us" was and met the stern glare of Tony's other gorilla. Well, it's about friggin' time. Three days she'd been here, choking on the foul air, counting cards and beating the house — waiting for this exact moment. She grabbed her chips, which the helpful dealer had placed in a box, and stood to accompany her escorts to the cashier's window. After she cashed out, she'd demand to speak with the owner of the Dominion Hotel and Casino, whose orders were, apparently, getting her tossed out. At long last, she'd have her chance to find out what Tony knew about her sister.
Except ... they weren't taking her to the cashier's window. Sandwiching her between them, the two beefy men veered toward the elevators.
"Where are you taking me?" There was really only one place they could be going, and Kellie's restrained excitement warred with nervousness.
One of the men pushed the top button beside the closed elevator, and an arrow flashed on, pointing up. "Mr. Palazzi wants to talk to you." The doors opened, and the man gripped her elbow, guiding her ahead of him into the car. His hand moved over the panel of buttons and the number forty lit up — the top floor. The second man fingered a card on a lanyard around his neck and slid it into a slot above the numbers. The elevator started upward.
Kellie's heart rate lurched into overdrive. Her palms started to sweat, in spite of her plan having finally become reality. All she had to do was continue her charade a while longer. She fished a tube of lipstick from her purse and swiped on a fresh coat of Parisian Red. Tony's vice was women — and his weakness would be her means to the information she needed. Saliva pooled at the back of her throat as revulsion threatened her determination.
Stick to the plan.
She'd been over this a hundred times. Tony had been the last person to see Anna before she disappeared. Her sister's missing person's case was now officially cold. But Tony, Las Vegas businessman and crime boss, knew something. She felt it in every fiber of her being. All she had to do was get close enough to make him trust her — long enough to find a thread of evidence — something or someone who knew what happened and was willing to tell the story.
To find her sister, Kellie would use the assets the good Lord gave her without conscience. As much as she despised playing the slut card, that description epitomized the type of woman Tony was attracted to. She'd seen the pictures, read the stories in the rag magazines and seen the women hanging on his arm. Dumb, beautiful and the sleazier the better. That was what it would take to catch the eye of the rich and powerful Tony Palazzi.
Kellie wasn't gorgeous, by any stretch of the imagination, and she certainly wasn't dumb, but she cleaned up good enough, and her strong, toned legs, thanks to four years in the Marine Corps, had garnered her fair share of admiration. She could play the vamp if incentivized — and finding Anna, possibly alive, was incentive enough. There was nothing she wouldn't do to bring her home. Nothing.
The elevator doors slid open directly into Tony's office. Tall and slim, with glistening black hair and pretty-boy features that belied his evil heart, he leaned against the edge of his desk and stared.
The man on her right gave her a shove and stepped into the room behind her. The doors slid shut and the elevator whirred to life again, taking the other man back the way they'd come.
Tony pushed away from the desk and advanced toward her, his face a mask of annoyance. "Who are you, and why are you here?"
Despite having prepared herself, mentally and emotionally, to meet the casino's owner on his turf, his nearness and obvious anger almost made her back up a step. She stopped herself just in time. I can do this. Just play the role. Locking away any emotions that might trip her up was second nature, also courtesy of the Marine Corps. She allowed a faint smile to curve her lips. "My name is Kellie Greyson. As to why I'm here ... I'm afraid you'll have to enlighten me."
Tony stopped in front of her, snatched the box of chips from her hand and set it on a nearby table. He slid the strap of her small handbag off her shoulder and rummaged through it until he found her driver's license. Sidestepping her, he handed the ID to his thug and whispered something. The man disappeared through a doorway to the right of the desk.
Kellie seethed at Tony's arrogance and the high-handed examination of her personal property, but the object of this exercise was to convince him he could trust her, so she'd let it go.
She raised an eyebrow. "You don't believe me?"
Tony turned his back, setting her purse on the edge of his desk. "You were counting cards in my casino."
Kellie shrugged. "That's not against the law."
He faced her again, a cold smile stopping far short of his eyes. "It's frowned upon. Surely you're aware of that. I'm curious why you were so obvious. Winning eighty percent of the hands you're dealt is sure to get you caught and kicked out."
Kellie glided forward until she reached a chair positioned in front of his desk, sat and crossed her legs. "If that's the case, why did it take you so long to catch me?" His lecherous appraisal flicked over her legs and back to her face. "Because I enjoyed watching you."
She caught herself before disgust mushroomed and seeped through her facade. With effort, her smile widened. "I could say the same to you. Perhaps that's why I kept coming back."
The door swung open and Tony's man returned, striding across the room until he reached his boss. Their whispered exchange continued for far too long, unnerving her, and suddenly the wisdom of her scheme came into question.
The hired man didn't look at her as he scooted by to resume his silent vigil in front of the elevator doors.
"Well? Am I who I said I was?" Kellie stayed in character, clinging to her bravado, but it was definitely slipping.
Something was wrong. Either Tony's penetrating gaze saw right through her, or he simply wasn't interested. Either way, her sixth sense said it was time to go, regroup and try again another day.
A smirk twisted Tony's features, and his silence battered her flagging confidence. She pushed to her feet with a deep sigh. "It's settled then. You have your money back, and I promise never to set foot in your casino again." She stepped toward the desk and reached for her handbag. "I'll let myself out."
Tony moved quicker, catching the strap of her handbag, and ripped it from her fingers. "I'm afraid I can't let you leave, Kellie. You see ... counting cards is a felony, if you use a computer." He reached inside her bag and brought out a pocket-sized device she'd never seen before.
Kellie's uneasiness grew. "That's not mine."
"You know that, and I know that, but the Nevada Gaming Commission will believe what I tell them. And I'm going to tell them I found it in your handbag, where you hid it after I caught you cheating." Tony stepped closer, draped his arm around her shoulders and led her back to her chair.
Kellie was tempted to break his oh-so-perfect nose with a well-placed fist, but elevator-man wouldn't let her leave anyway, and splattering blood all over Tony's white shirt would likely make him less amenable. Diplomacy was undeniably the best course of action.
She cocked her head and studied him for a moment. "You want something from me. What is it?" Unless she missed her guess, Kellie already had the answer. He was trying to blackmail her into sleeping with him. She wasn't proud of her attempt to manipulate him into a similar scenario, but she had a reason that justified her actions. He was simply perverted. "You sonofabitch."
He laughed as he strode around the desk and took his seat. "Let's get down to details, shall we? I have a proposition for you."
Kellie hadn't been able to persuade Anna that Tony was bad news. To be fair, not even she had realized the depths of his depravity until now. Could she sleep with him to stay out of jail? She'd been willing to compromise her values in order to find Anna, but that was different — important.
"No." Kellie stared unflinching, instantly pleased by the surprise and irritation that flashed over his countenance.
"I'm not sleeping with you, so do your worst. Put me in jail. I don't care."
Tony scowled. "You think I want a romp in the sheets? I have plenty of women ... willing women for that. What I need is a wife."
Kellie inhaled audibly. Her lips moved, but shock had apparently curtailed her ability to form words.
"Ah, I see I have your complete attention, so here's the deal. Marry me ... and I'll overlook your criminal activity. If not, I'll turn you over to the authorities and let them prosecute you according to the letter of the law. The State of Nevada takes its gaming industry quite seriously, so I can almost guarantee jail time."
The threat fell from Tony's lips so easily, Kellie didn't doubt, for an instant, he was serious. The idea was ridiculous. Absurd. Bizarre.
She tamped down a string of four-letter words and nearly choked with the effort. "Are you crazy? Absolutely not. I can't think of anything more revolting."
Tony leaned back, and his piercing regard swept from her eyes to her lips and slid lower to her legs beneath the hem of her short skirt. Before she could stop herself, she reached to pull the swatch of fabric farther down her legs ... as though that were possible. His gaze bounced back to hers, and the lust in his nearly black eyes chilled her.
"Who is Charlie Webster?"
Kellie jerked as though he'd slapped her. Charlie is off limits. Forcing herself to remain seated, she crossed her arms and glared. "Leave my stepfather out of this."
"You live with your stepfather? The two of you must be very close."
"I needed a place to stay for a while after I ... moved back to town." Pop was the only family she had left. She'd protect him with her life if necessary. "Why do you care?" "Your address is on your driver's license. My associate Googled you. I wanted to know if my future bride had a boyfriend or husband I'd need to deal with. You can find anything on the Internet, if you know where to look."
Oh God! What else did he find? Does he know Anna is my sister? Kellie had changed her name after returning from Iraq, dyed her hair blonde and purposely stayed away from places where she might be recognized. She'd taken measures to disassociate herself from Anna, but, obviously, she'd not done enough to safeguard Pop.
Calm down. If Tony knew about Anna, he'd have led with that — not tried to nail Kellie on a bogus felony charge. Now she needed to downplay her family ties to Charlie. "If I go to jail, I'm sure the old man will be glad to have his house to himself again." She studied her fingernails and gave him her best I-don't-give-a-damn attitude.
Tony was silent for a moment. When he spoke, he took his time and enunciated each word. "Well done, Kellie. You've managed to convince me you're prepared to pay for your crimes. The question is — will you let Charlie pay too?"
Kellie was tempted to reach out a hand to steady herself on the edge of his desk. "Meaning what?"
"I've got friends in this town. It would be a small thing to make your fingerprints, and Charlie's, appear on the computer you used to cheat in my casino. I can enlist at least a half dozen eyewitnesses who'll swear you and Charlie worked together to steal from me."
"Why? Pop has nothing to do with this." She couldn't believe what she was hearing, and yet, the absolute certainty that he could do what he said coiled around her, leaving her trembling and shaken. Anger stirred as her hopes of ever finding Anna crumbled into dust.
"Come now. Must I spell out all the wretched details for you? Very well. If you don't agree to marry me five days from now, you and your stepfather will be tried, convicted and sent to prison for as long as the law will allow. Is that clear enough for you?"
He couldn't be serious. A scornful snort escaped her. He was insane if he thought she'd agree to his unreasonable demand. Yet, the echo of his last words left little doubt he'd meant what he said. Tony held all the cards, and he'd drawn an unbeatable hand ... or he was extremely skilled at bluffing. Either way, she needed time to figure out how to keep Pop safe, and if pretending to surrender bought her that time, she'd wave the white flag gladly.
* * *
Kellie stomped back and forth in the spacious Dominion Hotel suite, her teeth clenched so tightly her jaw hurt. The skirt of her ankle-length wedding gown twisted around her legs and made it challenging to walk in her four-inch Jimmy Choo heels. She kicked them off, made one more pass in front of the door and stopped abruptly.
The one bedroom suite Tony had assigned her was lavishly furnished but smelled of stale cigarette smoke and sweat. The combination was nauseating. Squeezing the bridge of her nose, she groaned as she counted slowly to ten. If she didn't get some fresh air soon, the nasty headache lurking just around the corner would roar in like an F-22 fighter jet and top off her day — as if it wasn't already as bad as it could get.
I'll go through with this sham of a wedding if I have to, but if Tony thinks this will be a marriage made in heaven, he couldn't be more wrong. He'll need to wise up fast if he wants to hang on to his man parts.
Two more barefoot loops on the plush almond-colored carpet and she stopped again, staring at the door. It'd been five days since she'd agreed to his least objectionable option — though it was still hard to imagine a scenario where marrying him could possibly be anything but disgusting. Five days without sleep and she was no closer to figuring a way out than when he'd voiced his vile proposition.
The answer, of course, was to find that one shred of proof linking Tony to her sister's disappearance, get her stepdad out of town and go to the cops. Making sure Pop was safe always tripped her up, complicated by the fact she hadn't told him about any of this. Not her plan to find Anna. Nor her impending wedding. He would have been furious with her for taking such a risk in the first place, and he would never have stood aside and let Tony blackmail her into a phony wedding. No ... Pop would have defended her, and she couldn't let him do that — not against a man like Tony.
Once Pop was safe, Kellie would have to lay low until Tony was arrested, convicted and locked away for the rest of his life. It was a small price to pay, but time was running out. She had forty-five minutes to locate evidence that might lead her to Anna and halt the travesty that loomed ahead of her like a black cloud. She had nothing to lose.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Honor Among SEALs"
Copyright © 2018 Dixie Lee Brown.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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