Former navy SEAL Micah Stone could spot danger a mile away. And the alluring bride who'd stowed away on the plane he'd been sent to repossess set off every red flag in the book. Caylee Warren claimed she had nothing to do with her "fiancé's" murder. When it began to look as if Caylee was the intended victim, Micah had no choice but to take her into hiding. But for a man who never let anyone get close, protecting Caylee was more than he could handle. Could he let her break down the walls he'd erected around his heart
even if it meant distracting him from the mission at hand?
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In and out, he told himself. That was his job. Get in, get what he was after, then get out before there were any problems.
Micah Stone stood on the deck of the small ferry that would carry him to the tiny island of Fortuna just off the coast of Louisiana. The island, touted as a playground for the rich, was lit like a gaudy Christmas tree rising up from the sea.
This was the last ferry of the night, carrying wealthy tourists from the Louisiana coast to the island that had been transformed by a smart businessman into a semi-private escape for the wealthy and bored. The ferry would begin running again at eight in the morning, but by then Micah would be long gone.
Despite the warm July night air, a faint mist cooled his face and forearms as he leaned on the deck railing and mentally prepared for the job ahead.
As an ex-Navy SEAL he knew all about mentally preparing for an assignment. He drew a deep breath, centered himself and envisioned success. If all went well, within an hour he'd be in a small Cessna 192 plane on his way back to Kansas City.
His partners Troy and Luke would be happy. The bank would be happy. The only unhappy person in the mix would be Jason Worthington, who had managed to get the plane on credit with the power of his family name, and then neglected to make a single payment. The young man refused to take phone calls from the bank about the payments and ignored the letters sent to him.
Loser, Micah thought. It hadn't taken much research to learn that Jason Worthington was a trust-fund brat with few morals and no direction. The bank that had financed the plane had been patient, not wanting to stir the ire of Jason's father, Grant Worthington, a mover and shaker in the Kansas City area. But after almost a year of no payments and no excuses from the young man, the bank had hired Recovery Inc., the business run by Micah and two of his best friends and ex-Navy SEAL buddies.
That morning the men of Recovery Inc. had gotten word that three days ago Jason and his personal pilot had flown from Jason's home in Kansas City to the island of Fortuna for a weeklong visit. The plane now sat on a private runway outside the private residence owned by Jason's grandfather, but if Micah had anything to do with it, the plane wouldn't be there for long.
"Looks like Las Vegas," a female voice said from just behind him. "All the sparkle and glitter out there."
He turned to see a tall, attractive redhead eyeing him with a predator's gaze. He fought a sigh of irritation. He'd come up here on deck to be alone, hoping that nobody would notice him, nobody would be able to identify him if things went bad.
"Yeah," he replied and turned back to face the glittering island, hoping to discourage her from any further conversation.
She sidled up next to him at the railing, engulfing him in the scent of expensive perfume, and placed her hand far too close to his on the railing. A cocktail ring the size of an orange rode one of her fingers. "Staying at one of the hotels?" she asked with a distinctly seductive tone in her voice.
"No," he replied, not giving her any more information.
"I'm staying at The Fountains," she replied, obviously not put off by his disinterest. "My name's Miranda Killory. Just give me a ring if you feel like a party." She smiled and slid her gaze from the top of his head to his feet. "I'm always ready for a party."
Thankfully she drifted away when Micah remained silent. It wasn't the first time an attractive woman had come on to him, but it was definitely one of the most inconvenient.
He breathed a sigh of relief as the ferry approached the dock. He had all that he'd need for the recovery of the plane on his person his gun and a flashlight. The rest of what he needed was in his head.
He'd memorized the terrain of the island and had plenty of experience in covert operations. He anticipated no trouble as he knew how to get in and out of a situation like a shadow in the night.
Once the ferry had docked, Micah slipped off and disappeared into the thick brush that hugged the bank. According to the maps of the area he'd studied, the Worthington estate was less than three miles away, an easy jaunt for a man in his physical prime.
He took off at a fast pace, the air filled with the noise of the nearby resort and the tangy scent of the sea. Music poured from open doors and the sounds of people rode the faint light breeze.
Micah stayed near the shoreline and moved with the stealth of an animal, creeping forward to where his sources told him the private runway existed at the back of the Worthington estate.
It never failed to amaze him how many wealthy people didn't pay their bills. Recovery Inc. didn't go after the little fellows who got strapped for cash and didn't make a couple of car payments. They were in the big league, repossessing boats and planes and occasionally people who found themselves in trouble.
He shoved all thought of the business aside as he approached the Worthington estate. Despite the fact that it was after midnight, lights shone from the windows of the two-story mansion.
Micah skirted the house and headed for the back where he hoped his sources were right and the Cessna would be sitting on the runway. He didn't expect a guard, but if there was one, Micah knew a dozen ways to incapacitate a man without killing him.
As the runway came into view, a sliver of moonlight danced on the wings of the small plane. Bingo, Micah thought with a sigh of satisfaction.
He crouched down in a stand of brush to one side of the runway and waited. He remained there for just a few minutes to make sure there were no guards, no patrols of any kind for him to encounter.
He never went into an assignment without planning for every contingency. If things went badly he knew not to expect help from any law enforcement agency. At best, the relationship between the men of Recovery Inc. and the local police force was one of strained tolerance. He had a feeling the authorities on Fortuna wouldn't look kindly on him either.
After a few minutes had passed, he was certain that the plane was unguarded, ripe for the picking. Piece of cake, Micah thought as he moved forward.
He'd worn black clothes that would allow him to blend in with the night and he moved across the tarmac at warp speed.
Jason Worthington was so arrogant, so certain he was above the rules that guided ordinary human beings, he not only hadn't posted guards but he also hadn't bothered to secure the plane.
Micah opened the door and climbed into the pilot's seat, pleased that it looked as if he were home free. Within three or so hours of flying, he'd have this little baby back in Kansas City in a hangar owned by Recovery Inc., ready to go back to the bank it now belonged to.
The most dangerous moment would be when he started the engine and prepared for takeoff. If there were guards in the area then the noise of the engine would alert them that something was amiss.
Hopefully he could get in the air before anyone got hurt or an alarm sounded. That was the way these operations were supposed to happen.
It took him only minutes to check that the plane was ready for flight. There was enough gas in the tank to get him back home and he was ready to get out of Dodge.
Troy and Luke would be pleased that the mission went without a hitch and Micah would be home in plenty of time to rest up for his date the next night with a statuesque blonde named Heidi. She was the only woman he knew who wanted a committed relationship less than he did.
He revved up the engines and took off, the euphoric pleasure of flight pulling a smile to his lips. But the smile froze as something poked him in the back, and he felt the warm breath of another person on the nape of his neck.
"I don't know who you are or why you're flying this plane, but if you don't take me back to Kansas City I'll shoot you."
Micah shot a quick glance over his shoulder and fought his surprise. He'd planned for every contingency except the one in which a beautiful, dark-haired woman in a bridal gown held a gun to his back.
"That's exactly where I'm heading," he replied evenly. "Why don't you put that gun away before it accidentally goes off and somebody gets hurt?"
The pressure in the center of his back didn't move. "Who are you?" she demanded. "What are you doing here? Do you work for Jason?"
"My name isn't important and no, I don't work for Jason."
"Then, what are you doing in his plane?" She had a nice voice, low and melodic. And despite the fact that she held a gun to his back, Micah felt no fear. If her intention had been to shoot him, she would have already pulled the trigger. She wouldn't have waited until they were up in the air. Unless she was a skilled pilot, she wouldn't shoot the man behind the controls.
"I work for an agency that recovers items when they haven't been paid for," he replied.
There was a long pause and the "barrel" of the gun bent slightly, letting him know it wasn't a gun at all. "Oh my God, I've been rescued by a repo man," she exclaimed just before he banked the plane sharply to the left.
Caylee Warren cried out as the plane tilted and she was thrown across the small cabin into the wall on the opposite side.
She fell to the floor and then fought her long, frilly lace dress as she tried to sit up. "What did you do that for?" she complained as she finally righted herself.
"Because I don't like backseat drivers who poke a finger in my back," he replied.
She frowned in dismay. So, he knew it wasn't a gun but rather her finger that she'd used on him. But when he snuck into the plane and prepared to take off and she realized it wasn't Jason's regular pilot, she'd been terrified. It was a state of mind she'd experienced for the past three days.
Once she was on her feet, she scooted into the copilot's seat and looked at the man who, at the moment, controlled her life. "Okay, I don't have a gun," she confessed. "Are you really flying to Kansas City?"
She stared at him. His curly black hair did little to soften his lean, dangerous features and she hoped and prayed she hadn't jumped from a frying pan into a roaring fire.
All she wanted to do was get back to her little apartment in Kansas City. She'd never go off on a trip with a man again unless they were married. In fact, she might never date again, she had so badly misjudged Jason Worthington.
"I'm really flying back to Kansas City," he replied. He turned his head and looked at her for the first time.
His eyes were a startling pale blue and narrowed in cool unfriendliness. "Now you want to tell me who you are and why you were hiding out in the plane? And I'm not even going to ask why you're wearing a wedding gown."
A flush rose to her cheeks. "My name is Caylee Warren. Three days ago I flew down here with Jason to be his guest for a weeklong vacation."
"So how did you get into the back of the plane?"
"I really don't think that's any of your business," she replied. The last thing she wanted was to tell anyone how foolish she'd been. And God, she'd been foolish going off with a man she barely knew.
"Did you marry him or were you playing some kind of fantasy game? You know, doctor and nurse, cheerleader and quarterback, bride and groom."
"Don't be ridiculous," she scoffed, once again a flare of heat warming her cheeks.
"Hey, I'm not the one dressed like a wedding cake topper and hiding in the back of a plane," he replied.
"No, you would be the one stealing a plane," she retorted.
"Not stealing, recovering," he replied. "And if you're going to sit there, buckle in." It was a command rather than a request.
She did as he said, buckling the seatbelt around her. "I told you my name, now why don't you tell me yours."
Micah Stone. She rolled the name around in her head. It suited him. Hard and solid.
It had taken them a little over three hours to fly from Kansas City to the small island of Fortuna, so she was stuck with Mr. Micah Stone for at least the next couple of hours.
She stared out the plane window where the darkness was profound. It was impossible to see landmarks or anything of interest. She couldn't believe she'd gotten herself into such a mess. She'd acted uncharacteristically impulsive with crushing results.
Micah was obviously a man who didn't care much for conversation. The silence stretched between them, thick and uncomfortable, until finally she couldn't stand it any longer.
"This is what you do for a living? Take back things from unsuspecting saps who haven't paid their bills?"
"Jason Worthington isn't exactly an unsuspecting sap," he replied. "He's worth a fortune, but he's not above the law that governs normal people. If you don't pay your bills you lose your toys."
"Jason Worthington is a psychotic creep," she blurted out and then bit her lower lip to stop herself from saying anything more.
Micah cast her a glance that told her he thought it was possible she was one of the toys Jason had bought and paid for. She stiffened her back, deciding she didn't much like Micah Stone.
What she wanted to do was explain the events
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