Working for Last Chance Rescue, Cole Mathison has been to hell and back. But being responsible for the death of an innocent man is a hell like no other. Longing for redemption, Cole finds himself embroiled in the mysterious disappearance of Keeley Fairchild’s young children. Rescuing the children is his mission—but falling in love with the widow of the man he inadvertently killed was never in the plans. When Keeley’s life is threatened, Cole’s demons must take a backseat to the most important mission of his life. He might never know the heaven of Keeley’s arms, but he’ll never survive the hell of failing to save her.
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A female shriek, loaded with drunken laughter, ripped through the air. Oh yeah. The Saturday night crowd at Bug-n-Booze was alive and kicking. The aroma of roasted peanut shells covering the floor blended with the lusty smells of women who only wanted two things—to get drunk and to get laid.
Wesley Tuttle’s mouth slid up in an easy smile … his favorite kind of woman.
“Are you listening to me?”
With deliberate slowness, Wes turned back to his companion. She’d asked to meet him hundreds of miles from Fairview; least she could do was let him enjoy himself for a little while. This was his first time here and Wes already knew it wouldn’t be his last.
He eyed the woman sitting at the table with him. With her upper-crust, snooty attitude and expensive clothes, she looked as out of place here as a possum would at a pie-throwing contest. It was all for show; everything about her was fake. He knew more than most anybody about this particular rich bitch. Those clothes might make her look high class, but when she had a little liquor inside her or needed a favor, she could make a Saturday night slut look like a nun.
He gave her the smile he reserved especially for her, knowing it’d piss her off. “I want the woman, too.”
Shock reflected on her face for barely a second, then a skinny, manicured hand waved dismissively. “Don’t be ridiculous. If you make this more complicated, it will never work. You’ll get more than enough for the kids.”
He stared hard. This point was non-negotiable. If she wanted him to do the job, she’d come around.
Her eyes skittered away from his face. Good. She might be his employer for this particular gig, but she was scared of him. Just the way he liked it.
She chewed at her lower lip, smearing red lipstick over her teeth. “What do you want her for? Ransom?”
“A grin tugged on his mouth. “You know money ain’t the reason I want her.”
Jealousy dripping from every word, she said, “What is it with you men? Her ass is the size of a double-wide and those boobs are freakishly large.”
It was all he could do not to laugh in her face. “If double-wide trailers were shaped like her ass, I wouldn’t mind living in one the rest of my life.”
The woman continued her rant. Wes ignored her, as he did most of the time. When she said something he wanted to hear, he’d tune in again.
She was pissed he wasn’t still trying to get into her panties. He’d been there and done that more times than he liked to count. Every time he made the return trip, he always swore he’d never go back again, but when he was horny, sometimes he needed the itch scratched without preliminaries. Given the proper incentive, this bitch was always willing.
“Are you listening to me?”
“I will when you say something worth hearing.”
Eyes flashed with a haughty fury; she reared back as only her kind could.
Wes snorted, not one bit impressed with her highbrow attitude. “Listen, we may be in business together, but I ain’t taking no shit off you. You tell me where I can nab the brats and the woman. I’ll take care of the rest. That sure as hell don’t mean we gotta be bosom buddies.” Wes swallowed another snort. Like she had any kind of bosom he could buddy up to. Hell, she barely had anything up top at all. Another reason she was so jealous of the woman. The difference between them was like an ocean to a mud puddle.
The anger in her eyes seemed to dim for the moment. Talking business was one way to keep that jealousy under control. “They’ll be hard to get to; she barely lets them out of her sight. And it’ll have to be done somewhere out of the house. It’d take a tank to get inside that estate.”
Wes shrugged. “So? Find a way to get them out in the open. I can get rid of anybody who sees me.”
“No, I don’t want anyone killed. That would attract too much attention.”
He cackled. Hell, she was dumber than he thought. “You don’t think kidnapping two little girls with that last name in this state ain’t going to cause an uproar? Especially after what happened to their daddy? FBI’s gonna be on it like flies on chicken shit.”
A small bit of fear flashed in her face and then she shrugged. “You do what I tell you to do and no one will ever find them … it doesn’t matter who’s looking for them.”
Man, she sure hated the woman. Wes wasn’t one to question other people’s motives. Most times he didn’t care. If he got money for it, there wasn’t a lot he wouldn’t do. He’d always prided himself on having no limits. Took balls of steel and major smarts to do what he’d done most of his life and not get caught. He eyed the woman again. Hell, might as well make the offer. It’d be some extra dough and no skin off his nose. “If you hate her that much, I can off her once I’m finished with her.”
Her eyes widened with what looked like genuine shock. “I don’t want her dead, you idiot. I don’t want anyone killed.” She leaned forward. “Understood?”
Fine with him. He sure as hell wasn’t going to do extra stuff he wouldn’t get paid for. “Fine. I’ll wear a mask or something. Don’t know why you’re so against killing all of a sudden. You sure didn’t seem to have a problem with it when you got rid of her husband.”
Her face went still for an instant and then her mouth tilted in a smirk. “Now, what makes you think I had anything to do with that?”
“’Cause I saw you right after they got married. Never seen you so pissed before. Besides, it sounds like something you’d do.”
She pressed a hand against her heart in fake outrage. “I can’t believe you think I’d be so vindictive.” The slight humor he’d seen in her eyes disappeared and the ice-bitch look returned. “Despite all the evidence that pointed to her, she was barely even considered a suspect.”
“Well, least you got the money for it.”
She waved a negligent hand. “Money is inconsequential.”
Spoken like a woman who had it to spare. To Wes, money would never be inconsequential. “What’d you have him kidnapped for then?”
A skinny, haughty brow lifted. “I never said I did.”
Wes swallowed a guffaw. Wasn’t no use denying it. He knew what the bitch was capable of. “Bet the outcome really honked you off, too. She got the money, the mansion, and got rid of a cheating husband to boot. I’d say you got screwed.”
“The only reason they believed her is because of her looks. Idiot men take one look at her and start thinking with their dicks. It’s disgusting.”
Unable to resist needling her, Wesley quipped, “Thought you said she wasn’t good-looking.”
Her mouth tightened at the reminder, but she stayed focused on business. “One hundred thousand to snatch both of them, plus the money you get from each buyer.” She slid a piece of paper toward him. “Here are the names, phone numbers, and addresses.” A blood-red nail tapped on the paper. “The dark-haired one goes to these people in Florida; the blonde to this couple in Pennsylvania. As soon as you make the delivery, they’ll give you the money. It’s all yours.”
Like he needed her telling him how to conduct business. Whatever she said didn’t mean squat. He’d do it his way. He already had a buyer set up for the blond one and would be getting a whole hell of a lot more than the fifteen thousand the people in Pennsylvania were willing to cough up. The dark-haired one might have to go to the Florida people, though. The blond one would be easier to pass off as his till he could drop her off; the dark-haired one looked too different to belong to him.
She continued with her instructions. “You’ll need to get out of town immediately after you take them.”
He knew how to take care of his business. Just ’cause she’d started the process didn’t mean she was going to run the show.
Once he got rid of the kids, he’d keep the woman for as long as he wanted, then drop her somewhere when he was through. Using her brats as leverage would ensure she’d do everything he told her to do. Wes squirmed in his chair as he thought about all the things that plump pink mouth would do to him.
Putting those needs on the back burner, he leaned forward, eager to get things into motion. The sooner he got the plans in place, the sooner he’d be getting what he’d been wanting for years. “Here’s what you’re going to do.”
Her face lit up and became more animated than he’d ever seen it.
Man, if she really hated Keeley Fairchild that much, why the hell didn’t she want her dead?