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By Melissa Schroeder, Heidi Shoham
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Melissa Schroeder
All rights reserved.
A retired spy is an oxymoron, sort of like military intelligence.
— Vic Walker
The moment he heard the creak of the front porch, Vic Walker knew someone was there to kill him. He had expected it, planned for it. In the fifteen years he'd worked in the business, he'd acquired quite a few enemies — old adversaries who wanted payback, and more than one former friend who might just want to kill him. What irritated Vic was that his attacker was so damned sloppy. Sloppy, and yet the bastard had gotten past his security measures. Knowing it had probably been a mistake and that there was something wrong with his first line of defense just pissed him off.
He waited, lying still on the couch and feigning sleep. Soft steps, only one set of footsteps. Didn't mean the intruder didn't have a partner, but at least only one had breached his security — for the moment. The footsteps sounded light, so Vic was pretty sure his intruder was smaller than average.
He held his breath as he waited. The front door opened. The bastard had slipped the dead bolt. A pro for sure, because without the squeak on the porch, Vic would still be asleep.
Soft, steady footsteps drew nearer as his assailant approached the couch. So close now, Vic could feel the heat and smell the night air on his attacker. The figure paused, and Vic sensed he was being studied. Adrenaline rushed through his blood as anticipation danced over his flesh. Patience had never been one of his best virtues in his personal life, but it was another matter on the job. In that one moment, Vic grabbed the attacker's wrist, yanking hard so he landed on top of Vic. With one fluid move, he rolled off the couch and pinned his adversary to the floor. The moment he rolled over the intruder, he knew it wasn't a man. The body was too slight and just a little bit too curvy.
"Bloody hell, Vic."
He knew that smoky voice. It haunted his dreams and drove him to distraction during the day. English tainted the edges just enough to remind him of the time they had spent working in her birth country.
Former British spy, CIA informant, and his ex-partner — not to mention lover.
Ex-lover. He needed to remember the ex part.
Vic leaned up on his elbows and looked down at her. It was still dark in the room, but he had good night vision. Her hair was brown again and fanned out against the worn rug beneath her. Anger and amusement glittered in her green eyes. His heart ached just looking at her.
"What the hell are you doing here?"
"Nice to see you again, lover," she said.
She looked just the way he remembered. That perfect porcelain skin begged for his touch, while the exotic slant of her soft green eyes always fooled a man into thinking she was sweet. Before any adversary discovered the truth, he was left bruised and bloody. Vic knew better and had the physical and emotional scars to prove it.
He'd known when he walked out on their partnership that he wouldn't see her again unless he went looking. Not this time. He had stood his ground and fought the urge to apologize. Six months had passed, and he had refused to give in. Granted, there was still a small part of him that had wanted her to come looking for him.
Now, here she was, the woman he had thought would be the one for him. She lay beneath him, and with each breath, he drew in a bit of her unique scent. Of course, he reacted as he always did when they found themselves in this situation. It took all of his control not to press his growing erection against her and surrender to the need. Hell, he didn't have to. There was no doubt in his mind she felt it, too, as he watched one sculpted eyebrow rise.
"You're frowning at me, but I can tell there are other parts of you that are happy to see me."
Her voice had grown huskier ... deeper. Arousal threaded every syllable. Dammit, she was tempting. He had power in every part of his life, except with Mac. She knew which buttons to push, and they always ended up in bed. Angry sex was always her go-to for resolving their differences. Because he wanted to strip them both naked and bury himself inside of her, he made a sound of disgust and released his hold.
He rolled to his feet, ready to defend himself. She might be flirty, but that meant nothing. With Mac, you could never be too sure she wouldn't turn on you. She would kiss you one minute and shoot you the next. It was one of the sexiest things about her.
She raised herself to her elbows and looked at him. The smile she gave him could only be termed as sinister, and dammit, his cock twitched in admiration. He had always had a fast trigger where she was concerned. Even after a six-month separation, he hadn't gotten any better at controlling himself.
"You do know how to live, Vic. Midnight on a Saturday night, and you're in your pj's, sleeping on the couch." She glanced over at the side table where his half-empty whiskey bottle sat next to his glass. "It's not a good sign that you're drinking alone."
He hated that he missed this, the banter, the sparring. They were excellent at it, in fact. Hell, he regretted every second he'd pined for her over the last six months. It had been fun at first. A little fight. A little making up. And always, always, a lot of sex.
Somewhere down the line, it had ended up just being fights and no sex. Making up became impossible. Worse, it had seemed as if she hadn't wanted to make up. When he'd started wondering if she even cared if he were around, he decided it was time to leave.
"Do you want to explain the midnight visit, Mac?"
Her smile dimmed, and she rolled to her feet as efficiently as he had and shoved a hand through her hair. He followed the motion, knowing just how it felt to have those silky strands slip through his fingers. He loved that she kept it long. It was almost down to her waist, and both of them knew it was a stupid decision. Having her hair that length gave her enemy a weapon, but it was the one thing she'd said she would never give up.
"We've got a problem."
It was his turn to raise an eyebrow. He crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't think we have a problem. Remember, I signed most everything over to you. You, and whoever is working for you, have a problem."
"You're still an owner on paper, and we have a shit storm of a mess raining down on us in D.C."
Concern immediately blossomed. Mac wasn't a woman who exaggerated about work. Most of the time, she pretended as if all hell hadn't broken loose. If she said it was bad, it was probably beyond fixable.
Dammit, he would not be drawn back in. But even as he thought that, he heard himself say, "Explain."
"Not going to offer me a spot of tea?"
He could fight her. It was something they were good at doing. He would order her to tell him, and she would tell him to bugger off. It usually ended up with them in bed.
Instead, he decided to make her tea.
He held his hand out, and she looked offended. He might be in love with the woman, but he didn't trust her. He knew she was still pissed he'd walked away from their business, WD & Associates. With a huff, she handed him her favorite knife. There was a good chance she had more waiting for him, but this was probably the most lethal weapon. Mac knew just how to cut a man to hurt him, not to mention kill him.
He turned on the light on his way to the kitchen. It was small and utilitarian, unlike the efficient gourmet kitchen he had in his Alexandria townhouse. He hadn't come here to cook, but to contemplate his life and his relationship with Mac. The thinking he had planned on doing had stretched out over several months.
As he put the kettle on the burner, she settled at the breakfast bar. She looked like she always did: ready and willing for a fight or a laugh. She dug into her pocket and retrieved a hair band. With economical movements, she pulled her hair up into a sassy tail. The black knit shirt and black jeans were standard issue for Mac, especially when she was breaking and entering.
Those were the things everyone else would see, but Vic could see beneath the surface. She kept glancing around, her gaze darting from one dark corner to the next. Most people would think she was studying the room, but he knew it was a tell for her. She was nervous — and that was a first for them. She had always seemed to have the upper hand. By the time she made eye contact again, there was a sneer on her face.
"Nice place, Vic. Real early American. Do you have indoor plumbing?"
Even when she joked, it was easy to hear the edge in her voice and see the telltale tremor in her fingers. Most people wouldn't notice it, but he knew Mac better than he knew himself. She was definitely in trouble.
She hesitated. The woman had come to him for help, and she still didn't want to tell him what was going on. Nothing much ever changed. She was always running from a bad situation and lying to him.
"I took on a job a few weeks ago. Surveillance. And it wasn't much of anything, until everything went wrong."
Of course. "What happened?"
"We were watching this Englishman, a diplomat's son. The NSA thinks he might be selling secrets to support his whore habit."
He bit back a growl. The main reason they had dissolved the partnership was due to Mac's insistence on working with government agencies. Vic had thought it was a good idea at first, until every job they had with the NSA had gone to hell. The government could be notoriously late with their payments, too.
"Not an uncommon tale. Why didn't they have the FBI look into it?"
She rolled her eyes. "They wanted to turn him. If they sent the FBI in, they could have lost the chance at gaining an asset. Someone like him, he could have fed all kinds of info back to them. Seems Michael doesn't give a damn about anyone but himself, and the NSA was pretty sure they could entice him over to their side with a little blackmail and some money. Truth is, Michael doesn't care where the money comes from, just that he has enough of it. Add in the red tape in getting one agency to work for another agency — because who wants to deal with Congress? The NSA wanted someone who would disappear when the job was done."
"Nothing new," he said, as the teakettle started to whistle. He poured water into the two mugs and handed her one. She took hold of the string and gave it a look of disgust.
"Really, after all these years, you still can't make a decent mug of tea. Don't you keep any good tea leaves on hand?"
He ignored her and waited. One thing about Mac was that she needed to bitch about small things while she led up to the clusterfuck she wanted to drop in his lap.
"So, the kid —"
She nodded. "Michael Wyndham. He's got something going on. We pick up talk of a package, but we've no idea what it is. Worse, he shows up one night with a woman, but this one is kind of young — and not the usual kind of woman for him."
Vic turned cold. "How young?"
She sighed. "Legal, that's for sure, but Rock knew from the look of her that she was in way over her head."
Rock would. Bryan Rocovich was Vic's best friend and could be counted on in any situation.
"Rock was pretty sure there was more to it than just a tumble in bed. Worse, she was acting weird, as if she had been drugged."
"How do we get from an innocent being drugged to you creeping onto my property?"
"Well, you know Rock. Since he lost Annabelle, he can't stand watching a woman being hurt, so he blew the operation and stole the girl."
He stopped drinking and stared at her. "What do you mean 'he blew the operation?'"
"I mean he walked into the bastard's flat and knocked him out cold. He took the girl and headed out the door. But not before he ran into the Russians who had ordered her. She was the package. By the time he made it back to headquarters, the girl was awake and asking questions, and there were three dead Russians, a bleeding son of a diplomat, and a Russian crime boss after us. Worse, they have connections. The FBI showed up at the office door, but we were already out the back."
Fubar did not even begin to cover it. In all the years they had worked together, he could not remember anything exploding like this, but he had warned of it. Government agencies could not be trusted, especially the NSA. He trusted them less than the CIA, and that was saying a lot. "Where's the girl?"
Mac hesitated. Irritation and worry dug deep into his gut. A bad sign. She was up front about work, but when she avoided telling him things, it always turned out to be worse than he imagined.
"Spit it out, Mac."
"She's with Jay."
For a second, he just stared at her, wondering when Mac had slipped over the edge. She had always played on that edge, balancing on it like a fucking prima ballerina, but this was beyond anything he had thought she would do.
"You thought leaving a scared young woman with my brother was a good idea?" he yelled.
She winced, and he immediately regretted it.
He didn't apologize, though. She would see it as a weakness. "Did you make sure you weren't followed here?"
"What do you take me for?"
Indeed. If there was one woman who knew how to take care of herself, it was MacKenzie Donovan. She had told him that much when she'd told him to go to hell when he left.
"And, you're here, why?"
"I came to warn you. I tried to get Jay to let me take her, but he seems to think it's best she stays with him. As of right now, he's not on the payroll. It appears that way, at least, so he is probably right."
"I don't know why you just didn't ..." he trailed off, realizing what she had just said. "Don't tell me you hired my brother."
There was another long pause, and she looked everywhere but at him. "Okay, I didn't."
He let the ramifications settle between them. "What the hell, Mac? Just what the bloody hell? You leave a woman with him, a woman you say is innocent in all this, but how do we know? She could be dangerous, and Jay won't know what hit him."
"Seriously, she's innocent. She was drugged, and when she was coming out of it, she freaked the hell out. And I had to hire your brother. There aren't a lot of men I can have on the team that I can trust. Since you abandoned me, I needed to come up with other means to run the operation."
He decided to let that comment go. "So you decided to hire my brother and leave an innocent with him? Are you out of your bleeding mind? He sleeps with anything pretty."
"She's not his type."
"Does he have a type? I'm pretty sure that my brother has slept with women of every skin color, nationality, and religious background."
"Your brother has two types of women he will not sleep with. One, me — but the feeling is mutual. Then, there are virgins." She sighed. "She's either a virgin or damned near close."
He blew out a breath, some of his worry dissolving. "Okay, not my brother's type."
"So she's with him, Rock is on his way to the safe house, and I came here. It's a good thing I am good at losing any kind of tail, because you have some pretty shoddy security."
"It isn't shoddy."
The smile she leveled in his direction was filled with snark. Damn if that didn't go straight to his gut — not to mention his cock.
"I got through."
"That doesn't mean anything. You could probably break into the Pentagon."
Her expression softened. There was no other woman he knew who would go soft when accused of being good at breaking and entering. Just knowing that and seeing her reaction softened his heart. How did she get to him so easily?
"Thank you, but it is shoddy. Seriously, you need some earlier alarms."
The moment she said it, his skin prickled. It was the sign something was about to go very, very wrong. He stilled, waiting. He could feel the energy zap in the air.
"What?" she asked.
He shook his head, killing the light as he made his way to the window. He wished he had his night-vision goggles, but even without them, Vic knew. No animals. No noise.
He was already heading to his bedroom when the first alarm sounded. After stripping out of his flannel pj bottoms, he tugged on a pair of jeans and grabbed a shirt.
"Dammit to hell," Mac said. She reached behind her and pulled a gun from her waistband, following him into his room. "I know I didn't have a tail."
"Well, one way or another, they found us. We need to get the hell out of here."
He opened his closet and then the hidden panel where he kept his weapons. He pulled two M16s out and threw one to Mac. She caught it with a smile and stuck her Glock in her waistband again.
"Nice." Even with the situation they were in, he caught the arousal in her voice. The woman had a hard-on for anything that could maim or kill.
Another alarm sounded.
"How much time?" she asked.
He turned in the direction of the garage. "Five minutes at most."
Excerpted from The Boss by Melissa Schroeder, Heidi Shoham. Copyright © 2017 Melissa Schroeder. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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