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Shannon Mckenna's McCloud Brothers Bundle
Fade to Midnight, Behind Closed Doors, Standing in the Shadows, Out of Control, Edge of Midnight, Extreme Danger & Ultimate Weapon
By Shannon McKenna
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2008 Shannon McKenna
All rights reserved.
Nine forty-six p.m. Almost time.
The monitor glowed an eerie blue in the darkened room, but the mosaic of windows on the screen remained stubbornly dark. Seth Mackey glanced at his watch and drummed his fingers against the desktop. Her schedule never varied. She should be home any minute.
There were more important things for him to do. He had hundreds of hours of audio and video to filter, and even with Kearn's jazzed-up digital signal processor filters, it still took time to run the analyses. He should at least be watching the beacon displays, or checking the other surveillance sites. Anything but this.
Still he stared at the screen, trying to rationalize away the buzz of hot excitement in his body. The hundreds of hours of digital video footage that he had on file for her wouldn't do the trick. He needed her live, in real time.
Like a junkie needed his fix.
He spat out a curse at the passing thought, negating it. He didn't need anything, not anymore. Since Jesse's death, he'd reinvented himself. He was as cool and detached as a cyborg. His heart rate did not vary, his palms did not sweat. His goal was sharp and clear. It shone in the darkness of his interior landscape, as brilliant as a guiding star. The plan to destroy Victor Lazar and Kurt Novak was the first thing that had aroused Seth's interest in the ten months since they had murdered his brother Jesse. It had rendered him a miracle of single-minded concentration — until three weeks ago.
The woman who was about to walk into the rooms monitored by the screen in front of him was the second thing.
The light and motion activated camera monitoring her garage flicked to life. He tried to ignore the way his heart rate spiked, and glanced at his watch. 9:51. She'd been at the office since 7 A.M. He had watched her on the cameras he had planted at the Lazar Import & Export corporate office, too, of course, but it wasn't the same. He liked having her all to himself.
The car pulled in, the headlights went out. She sat slumped in the car for so long that the camera switched itself off and the window went dark. He cursed through his teeth and made a mental note to himself to reprogram the default from three minutes to ten as he typed in the command that activated the infrared mode. Her image reappeared, a glowing, unearthly green. She sat there for two more minutes staring blankly into the dark garage before she finally got out.
The second two cameras snapped on dutifully as she unlocked the door and headed for the kitchen. She ran herself a glass of water, took off the horn-rimmed glasses and rubbed her eyes, clutching the sink for balance. She tilted back her head to drink, exposing her slender, soft looking white throat.
She must be trying to toughen up her look with the glasses. She'd failed, in a big way. The camera he had hidden in the stove clock framed her pale face, her stubborn jaw, the shadows under her eyes.
He zoomed in on her eyes. The straight, winging brows and curling lashes were dramatically dark against her pale skin. He would have taken her for a bleached blonde if he didn't have damn good reason to know that her blond curls were absolutely for real. She closed her eyes. The sweep of her lashes was shadowy against the delicate curve of her cheekbones. Her mascara was smudged. She looked exhausted.
Being Lazar's new sex toy must be more strenuous than she had bargained for. He wondered how she'd gotten embroiled with him. Whether she was in too deep to ever get out. Most people who got involved with Lazar soon found they were in over their heads. By then, of course, it was too late.
There was no objective reason for him to continue to monitor her. Hacking into her personnel file had revealed that Lazar Import & Export had hired her a month ago as an executive assistant. Had it not been for the fact that she was living in Lazar's ex-mistress's house she might never have come to his attention at all. Lazar's visits to that house had warranted surveillance, and they had been watching it for months.
But Lazar didn't visit the blonde, or at least he hadn't yet. She came straight home from the office every night, stopping only to get groceries or pick up her dry cleaning. The transponder he had planted in her car confirmed that she never varied her route. Weekly phone calls to her mother revealed only that the woman had no clue about her daughter's latest career move, which was perfectly understandable. A young woman kept for pleasure by a filthy rich criminal might well choose to hide the knowledge from her family. She knew no one in Seattle, went nowhere, had no social life that he could discern.
Kind of like himself.
Her big, haunted eyes were silver gray, the irises ringed with indigo. He studied the magnified image, disquieted. She looked ... God, sweet was the word that came to mind, even though it made him wince. He had never before felt any moral qualms about spying on people. When he was a kid reading comic books, he'd picked out his superhero mutation of choice right away. X-ray eyes won, hands down. It was the perfect mutation for a paranoid guy like him. Knowledge was power, and power was good. He'd built a lucrative career on that philosophy. Jesse used to tease him about it.
He shoved that thought away fast, before it could bite him.
He had to stay cool and detached. Cyborg man. It was a name for a comic book superhero. He'd always liked those mutant guys in the classic comic books. They were all tormented, depressed and alienated. He could relate to that.
He'd watched Montserrat, Lazar's former mistress, with ice-cold detachment. Watching her writhe in bed with Lazar had left him unmoved, even a little repulsed. Never once had he felt guilty.
But then again, Montserrat was a professional. He could read it in her sinuous, calculated body language. She wore a mask all the time, when she was fucking Lazar, even when she was alone.
The blonde had no mask at all. She was wide open and defenseless and soft, like whipped cream, like butter, like silk.
It made him feel sleazy for watching her, an emotion so unfamiliar that it had taken him days to put a name to it. The hell of it was, the sleazier he felt, the more impossible it was to stop. He wished he could shake off the nagging sense that she needed to be rescued. He wasn't the white knight type to begin with, and besides, he had Jesse to avenge. That was enough responsibility.
And he wished she weren't so fucking beautiful. It was disturbing.
A shrink could probably explain his fixation: he was projecting deprived childhood fantasies onto her because she looked like a fairy-tale princess. He'd read too many comic books as a kid. He was stressed, depressed, obsessed, had an altered perception of reality, blah, blah, blah. Then that woman's stunning body had altered reality beyond recognition. It had shocked his numbed libido violently to life.
She drifted wearily into the range of the color-cam nestled inside the carved ebony filigree of a hanging lamp in the bedroom. The lamp had been left behind by Montserrat, who had departed so abruptly that she hadn't even taken the time to pack the personal items that she had contributed to the house's décor. The blonde had brought nothing of her own to the house, and had shown no interest in moving the pieces already in place, which was good. The lamp color-cam commanded an excellent view of the mirror on the armoire, a detail for which he had reason to be grateful. He enlarged the image until it filled the whole screen, ignoring a slight pang of guilt. This was his favorite part, and he wasn't missing it for anything.
She removed her jacket, clipped the skirt to the hanger. With the awe-inspiring resolution of the latest generation of Colbit color-cams, he could differentiate every gradation of the color of her perfect skin, from cream to pink to rose to crimson. More than worth the extra bandwidth the signal occupied. She hung up the suit, and the tail of her blouse hiked up to reveal prim cotton briefs stretched tightly across the swell of her rounded ass. He knew her routine like it was the opening credits of an old television show, and still he hung on every detail. Her unself-consciousness fascinated him. Most of the good-looking women he knew played constantly to an imaginary camera. They checked every reflective surface they passed to make sure they were still beautiful. This dreamy-eyed girl didn't seem to particularly notice, or care.
She peeled off her hose, flung them into the corner, and started her clumsy, innocent nightly striptease. She fumbled with her cuffs until he wanted to scream at her to get the fuck on with it. Then she fussed and picked at the buttons at the throat of the high-collared blouse, gazing into the mirror as if she saw another world entirely.
His breath hissed in between his teeth when she finally shrugged off the blouse. Her plump breasts were sternly restrained by a white underwire bra. It was not a sexy, rich-man's-plaything scrap of lingerie. It had plain, wide straps, was practical and unadorned — and the faint hint of cleavage it revealed was the sexiest thing he'd ever seen.
She sniffed delicately at the armpits of the blouse, which brought a grim smile to his face. It was hard to imagine that graceful, marble-white body actually sweating, though he bet he could drive her to it. She would break a sweat once she were spread out naked beneath his pounding body, her hips jerking eagerly up to meet his thrusts. Or astride him, those big, soft tits bouncing, filling his hands as he drove into her from below. He would make that ivory skin flush wild-rose pink, until tangled curls clung to her cheek, her throat. He would make her soaking wet. Every hot, sweet, slippery inch of her.
He rearranged his throbbing private parts inside his jeans and dragged his hand over his hot face with a groan. He had no business getting anything more than a purely casual, incidental hard-on for one of Lazar's toys. It was deadly stupid, and it had to stop.
Except that now it was time for the hair. God, he loved that part.
She tossed pin after pin into the china tray on the dresser, and uncoiled the thick blond braid from the bun at the nape of her neck. She unraveled the strands, shaking them loose until they rippled past the small of her back, tapering down to gleaming wisps that brushed tenderly against the round curve of her ass. His breath sighed out in a low, audible groan as she reached behind herself and unhooked the bra. His hands tingled as he stared at her plump, luscious breasts, crowned with pale pink nipples. He imagined them taut, flushed and hard against his fingers, the palms of his hands, his feverish face, his hungry, suckling mouth.
His heart began to pound as she peeled off the panties, rolling her shoulders, her neck, arching her back, enjoying the sensual freedom of being naked and alone. Unmasked. Whipped cream and butter and silk.
The downy puff of springy blond curls at her crotch didn't quite hide the shadowy cleft between her shapely thighs. He wanted to press his face against those ringlets, inhale her warm, woman scent, and then taste her, parting the tender pink folds of her cunt, licking and suckling until she collapsed in pleasure. Video and audio were not enough. He needed more data. Textures, smells, tastes. He was starving for it.
And then, the gesture that always undid him. She bent from the waist and flung her hair over her head, arching her back and running her fingers through the wavy mass. The placement of the camera and the mirror guaranteed him a spectacular view of her soft, rounded thighs, the creamy globes of her ass, the enticing divide between them.
The sight was enough to wake the dead.
Jesse. The stab of pain blindsided him.
He turned away from the monitor and forced himself to breathe over the burning ache. Don't cave in, he reminded himself. He couldn't let grief dull his edge. On the contrary, he would use it to sharpen his resolve. To turn him into a single-minded, utterly dedicated instrument of ruin. He averted his eyes, punishing himself by missing the rest of the stretch show. He'd gotten very skilled at shoving away painful thoughts and memories before they could dig in their fangs, but the blonde blew his focus all to hell. He forced himself to run over his reason for existence: to watch that treacherous bastard Lazar until he made contact with Novak. And then, open season. Payback time.
By the time he permitted himself to look back at the screen, the blonde had clothed herself in a baggy fleece sweat suit, and was logging onto her computer. He scooted over to another bank of computers and monitors, activating the hidden antenna he had planted to pick up her computer's EM frequency noise. He ran it through the DPS hardware that deciphered and reconstructed what was on her screen, and monitored her message. It was to a Juan Carlos in Barcelona. She sent messages in half a dozen different languages, but this one was in Spanish, which he understood from growing up in the ghettos of L.A. It was innocuous enough: how are you, I'm working really hard, how's Marcela and Franco's baby, did the job interview in Madrid go well, et cetera. She sounded lonely. He wondered who Juan Carlos was to her. Maybe an ex-lover. She seemed to write to him a lot.
He was toying with the idea of doing a background check on the guy when a cool draft whispered across his neck. He snatched the SIG Sauer P228 that lay on the desk and spun around.
It was Connor McCloud, co-conspirator and all-around pain in the ass, who had been Jesse's best buddy and partner in the undercover FBI task force that Jesse had dubbed "the Cave." No wonder the alarm hadn't tripped. He'd bypassed it, the sneaky son-of-a-bitch. The guy moved like a ghost, despite his limp and his cane.
Seth lay the gun down, breath escaping slowly from his lungs. "Don't sneak up on me, McCloud. It could get you killed."
Connor's sharp green eyes swept the room, taking in every detail. "Hey, man. Stay casual. I brought you some coffee, but I'm thinking now that maybe you shouldn't drink it."
Seth saw the dingy room through Connor's eyes for a moment, the clutter of beer bottles and take-out containers scattered across dusty snarls of cables and electronic equipment. The apartment was getting more squalid by the day, and it wasn't smelling too good, either.
But what the fuck did he care? It was just a parking spot. He grabbed the coffee, popped the lid and took a gulp.
"You're welcome," Connor murmured wryly. "Next time I'll bring chamomile tea. And a Xanax."
"Are you sure nobody followed you here?" Seth demanded.
Connor sat down and peered into the monitor, not deigning to reply to that. "Well, if it isn't Barbie's dream house," he commented. "How much you want to bet she's a natural blonde?"
"Mind your own goddamn business," Seth snapped.
Connor's lean face settled in grim lines. "Nobody at the Cave knows about you, Mackey. Nobody will. And your business is my business."
Seth could think of no response to that statement that was not offensive. He kept his mouth shut and waited, hoping that the other man would get uncomfortable or bored enough to leave.
No such luck. Seconds ticked by. They turned into minutes. Connor McCloud gazed at him and waited patiently.
Seth sighed and gave in. "Was there something that you wanted?" he asked grudgingly.
Connor lifted an eyebrow. "Been a while since you contacted me. Just wondering what you're up to. Besides jerking off while you watch Lazar's new concubine, that is."
"Keep the smart-ass remarks to yourself, McCloud." Seth stabbed the print button and waited for the printer to spit out the Juan Carlos e-mail. He reached for the file, but Connor snatched it off the desk.
"Let me have a look. Lorraine Cameron, American citizen, degree from Cornell, summa cum laude, woo woo, smart cookie. Fluent in six languages, yada yada, appears to have lied about her professional experience on her job application. Hmm. Maybe Lazar didn't care once she showed him her tits. How are her tits, by the way?"
"Fuck off," Seth snarled.
"Lighten up," Connor replied. "You know, when this babe first showed up, I thought maybe it was good for you to have something to think about besides Jesse. But it's out of hand. You're obsessed."
"Spare me the pop psych bullshit, please."
"You're a bomb set to blow. Not that I care, but I don't want you to take me and my brothers with you." Connor shoved back his shaggy dark blond hair and rubbed his forehead, looking weary. "You're wound too tight, Mackey. I've seen it happen. A guy gets that look you've got on your face, then he fucks up, then he dies badly."
Seth schooled his face back to an indifferent mask. "Don't worry," he said, through set teeth. "I swear I'll keep it together until we flush Novak out of his hole. After that, whatever. Lock me in a padded cell if you want. I will no longer give a shit."
Connor looked pained. "That's a very, very bad attitude, Mackey."
"I've had a bad attitude since the day I was born." Seth wrenched the blonde's file out of Connor's hand and shoved the Juan Carlos e-mail into it. "Don't take it personally. And don't step on my toes."
Excerpted from Shannon Mckenna's McCloud Brothers Bundle by Shannon McKenna. Copyright © 2008 Shannon McKenna. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsBehind Closed Doors,
Standing in the Shadows,
Out of Control,
Edge of Midnight,
Fade to Midnight,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Really like her books. Got to have the series!
I loved the stories her plots were great a little too much sex. That is my only complaint. Loved the boojs,
This is one of the best series I've ever read. Hot guys, smart women, lots of mystery and danger. It's very complex and one story leads into the next, but each could be read separately with no trouble. One thing I was irritated with is that every guy cried. Over 2,800 pages. Six of the stories are around 400 pages. The last one is over 500. There's a lot to sink your teeth into.
Wow this is a great set of books. To bad they ran out of brothers. Kept me on the edge of my seat.
The McCloud Seires is a must read. They are full of Hot sexy romance. Makes you wish that all men where like that. This seires got me going in all ways, hot as hell, and on my seat. I could not put the book down. I read all of it in a bout a week. If you want hot sex and danger this is the seires to read. Really made me wish my husband was like this, or could keep up.
Awesome serie,full of drama/action and romance. A must read!!
I love shannon mckenna but i really would like to know the price of this bundle. Please.