She'll do whatever it takes to find her son - Lie. Cheat. Steal. Seduce...
As the former wife of an infamous crime boss, Sofia Capri is untouchable. She exists outside of the law...and outside of the criminal world. When her son is kidnapped, Sofia's desperate to find him. She'll do anything. Lie. Cheat. Steal. Anything but trust. But it's a strikingly handsome FBI agent who's her only chance to get her baby back...
Something about Sofia's fiery beauty must be hitting all of his weak spots, because suddenly Mr. Law And Order Logan Stone finds himself bending the rules. When they're implicated in the kidnapping, Logan and Sofia discover a horrifying reality - they have less than 72 hours to find the boy and clear their names.
Now the heat is turning up...and time is running out...for everyone.
The Untouchable series is best enjoyed in order:
Book #1 Untouchable
Book #2 An Untouchable Christmas, novella
Book #3 Unforgettable
Book #4 Unstoppable
About the Author
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An Untouchables Novel
By Cindy Skaggs, Alycia Tornetta, Lucy Clark
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Cindy Skaggs
All rights reserved.
Thursday, 6:27 a.m.
The deal with the devil hadn't been signed in blood, but Sofia was certain that breaking it would bring bloodshed. As long as it wasn't her blood, she didn't have a problem with it, because today, one way or another, she was breaking the agreement she'd never wanted to make.
She couldn't think about the risks. Win or lose, everything would change and she needed change almost as desperately as she needed freedom. She glanced in the rearview mirror at her half-sleeping son. Her heart squeezed at the thought of all she would do today, but Eli was worth it. She tossed another glance in the mirror to see a car slip in behind her. Her hands flexed on the steering wheel.
Let the games begin, she thought sourly as she made a sudden right that took her off the main street and into a maze of a suburban neighborhood. The white sedan followed; hugging her bumper so tight she didn't have room to breathe. She braked hard so the sedan had no choice but to back off. She eased her foot back on the accelerator and considered her options. Eli was safe enough. They were headed to a public place. Later in the day a tail would be deadly, but right now, it wasn't her primary concern. She made a swift turn into a cul de sac and followed it with a rapid U-turn before circling back. The white sedan continued in the opposite direction. Sofia wiped damp hands on her workout pants.
Maybe she was just paranoid. Knowing that didn't keep her from checking the mirror every few seconds for the rest of the trip, but the white sedan didn't reappear. When she made it to the gym, she grabbed a parking spot close to the door and released a pent-up breath. She could do this.
Today was about taking back her freedom.
She grabbed Eli from his car seat and gave him a swift hug. With a chubby little hand, he shoved a cheese cracker shaped like a goldfish into her mouth as they walked toward the daycare area of the gym. The salt had been licked clean, but she smiled at her son. "Mmm," she said, raising her eyebrow to cover the grimace.
She checked him into the daycare and made small talk with the workers before sparing a glance at the camera behind the counter. The gym's video surveillance amplified the feeling that she was under near-constant watch. She stepped out of the daycare and onto the weight room floor. She knew without looking that the bodyguard was in place to her left. Tall, blond, built, and unseasonably tan, he was the epitome of everything she had left behind.
She walked past, heart pounding, before taking her backpack to the locker room and heading upstairs to the cardio floor. The treadmills were her torture of choice, so she found an empty one with a view of the yoga studio. The familiar whir of the belt calmed her nerves. She'd lost count of the times she had run on one of them like a hamster in a wheeled cage.
The cage was nice, for a cage. A two-story health club, it boasted 70,000 square feet dedicated to the pursuit of health and wellness. Happiness was optional. Sofia tuned into the pulse of the sterile space, her nerves hyperalert to the labored breathing of the runner next to her, the pervasive smell of sweat, and the hum of energy that flowed through the machines and the people who went nowhere on them.
Anticipation mixed with adrenaline to send her pulse into the red range on the treadmill's heart rate monitor.
The target would arrive any moment. Sofia searched for the man in the pre-work crowd. He blended into the backdrop of the morning drudge. She liked that about him. A person accomplished more in the background. She knew that firsthand. Two years she'd spent playing nice; all while hatching a plan that hinged on an anonymous tryst with an unsuspecting target. This morning was phase one.
The erratic beat of her heart told her she wasn't as blasé about this experiment as she wanted to believe. Admitting it cost her a few confidence points. She tapped the buttons on the control panel, forcing herself into a faster sprint designed to increase the adrenaline and decrease the doubts.
Doubt accomplished nothing. The plan was solid. The bodyguard wouldn't follow her to yoga. No need. The weight room was downstairs near the daycare, so he had a solid view of the lower level. If she left the building, he'd know it. If she went to the locker room, he'd see it. He couldn't see if she went to the mind and body studio so it was the perfect place to start.
The clock on the far wall showed five minutes to the hour and a new class was about to begin. The bodyguard was still on the bench press. Sofia slid off the end of the treadmill and reviewed the plan.
The target — she still didn't think of him as a man, and that could pose a problem — was at the gym nearly as often as her. He'd joined last spring, so not long enough to be one of her watchers. He didn't limit his time to bulking up with weights. He ran, like her, but not as fast or as long, and that was important.
She didn't trust a man who could chase her down, if it came to that.
The rush from her final sprint filled her with toe-bouncing energy. Sofia Capri did not bounce. She did nothing to stand out in the crowd, but inside, energy mixed with nervous excitement as she waited several feet from the man who could help her more than he would ever know. As the previous class left the studio, she eased through the doorway, waiting to see where the target landed. She stretched her calves while watching in the mirror.
He wore navy sweats and a matching T-shirt, sleeved. No jewelry. No flash. He was of medium height and build, tended to blend into the crowd, and his face was not unattractive. He was honest looking. She could spend time with a man like that, in theory. He swiped a sanitizing cloth across a green mat at the back of the room. She strolled forward to stand next to him and smiled when he looked up. His eyes widened a second before he smiled back.
Yes, she thought, he was just about her speed. He would keep her proposition to himself. If not to himself, he wouldn't blab about it to every man in the locker room before lunch.
As the class assembled, warmed up, and moved from one asana to the next, Sofia hoped her luck would hold. There was defeat in her past and fear in her present, but the future? It had potential.
The music hummed through the floor like an embryonic heartbeat as they moved into quiet meditation at the end of class. Her body stilled, absorbing the thrum of the music.
Now or never. Now or never, her brain chanted.
Not the best mantra to calm her nerves, but it was the truth. Time was not her friend. Already the next group lined up outside the door. She caught the target's gaze in the mirror and smiled. The look of confusion on his face matched the trepidation in her heart. She turned to grab her shoes from along the back wall. Clumsy, her fingers fumbled with the laces as she tied her shoes.
The new class moved into the studio, making the room more crowded as Sofia took the plunge. Now or never. "Would you like to get some coffee?" she asked.
When he didn't answer right away, she smiled and rose to her feet.
Mr. Average was gone. In his place stood six feet two inches of the wrong man.
* * *
Logan Stone had had his eyes on Sofia Capri for two years and counting. The woman commanded the attention of anything male within her sphere of influence, including him, but she'd never so much as acknowledged Logan's existence. She wasn't supposed to. He was supposed to be invisible.
The direct approach robbed him of all powers of conscious thought. Or maybe it was the smile that managed to convey mystery and uncertainty. And trouble. Trouble he couldn't afford and didn't want. He reminded himself that he was a professional. It took more than a disarming smile to counter years of training.
"Coffee?" He smiled, or tried to, and nodded in agreement. So much for training. His answer should have been a polite "no thank you," or a firm "hell no," but instead, he left Body Combat class before it began.
The cardio room was a maze of silver and black treadmills she navigated with a familiar speed before descending the stairs. The hum of ESPN on a nearby television did little to distract him from the woman in front of him. Runner lean, she packed an extra dose of curve. Despite an hour of yoga, her body was strung tight, with her back as stiff as that of any soldier, but she couldn't keep the sway from her hips. Two years of watching had done little to dull his body's instant reaction. Logan figured he might as well enjoy the view, because the cost of this little diversion was high.
An untrained observer wouldn't notice the slight pause at the bottom of the stairs as she turned her gaze to the right. The glance-and-pause lasted mere seconds before she walked briskly past the membership desk and into the café. She went straight to the coffee counter. "A tall, non-fat mocha, no-whip, with half the pumps."
Coffee drinkers had their own code and hers was high maintenance. The woman didn't disappoint. A smile thawed Logan from the shock of her invitation. He ordered a coffee, black, and when she reached to pay, he swiped his card first. "I got it," he said.
"Thank you." The coffee machine sputtered as the barista worked on Sofia's latte. She stared at the backside of the industrial coffee machine with a neutral expression. As often as he watched her — and he did watch — she maintained this disturbingly placid look. She never looked hurried or flustered or happy.
The woman was aloof; as starched and tailored as the clothes she habitually wore. The fact that she was elusive made her damn near irresistible. As evidenced by the fact that he hadn't resisted the urge to go with her. He hadn't even tried.
He couldn't think of a single thing to break the ice. They called her the Ice Queen. In two years, she hadn't dated, flirted with, or talked to a man. At all. She was socializing now, with him, and that made it news. Any witnesses, and the gym was filled with them, would note that it was unusual. It would stick out in their minds.
Logan glanced around to count the potential problems. A plump man fighting with a toddler near the restrooms outright stared as Sofia tapped her red fingertips against the coffee counter. Others were less obvious, like the two kitchen workers who came out from the backroom, one at a time, to talk to the guy making coffee. The sideways glance they gave to Sofia was anything but disinterested.
They might as well post the news on the member bulletin board. Logan had captured the attention of the Ice Queen. Yee-haw. Now all he had to do was figure out how he'd said yes when his brain had definitely said no. His boss had given him a direct no-contact order — observe and report — and he was breaking that because his brain had gone AWOL.
The bitter smell of espresso woke him from his Sofia-induced haze. He couldn't afford to get lost in her spell. He needed to focus on damage control. How could he keep five days administrative leave from becoming permanent? Why had she singled him out? Did she know who he worked for or was he just the unluckiest schmuck in town?
By the restroom, the altercation between the dad and the little boy escalated so that the kid's wails were heard across the cavernous space, drawing more unwanted attention. A few weightlifters glanced across the room toward the kid, but stopped when they saw Sofia. The Ice Queen accepted her coffee with a small, polite smile and headed for a table away from the crying child. The spot put her behind a pillar that blocked her from view.
"I'm Sofia." She extended a narrow hand toward him.
A wave of cold rippled from her hand to his and then instantly heated. She broke contact with a barely audible gasp.
"Logan," he said, and made eye contact with the most complicated woman he'd ever met. The brown eyes that didn't quite meet his gaze were set deep and clouded with an emotion he couldn't read. Dark shadows that spoke of sleepless nights rimmed dark-lashed eyes, giving her another layer of mystery, yet something in those eyes told him more about her than any two-inch thick file ever could.
She was beautiful, but not in a conventional sense. The beauty was in the pale skin and dark hair that gave her an exotic appearance. Up close for the first time, he noticed a slight overlap in her front teeth that made her seem less perfect and more approachable, and full lips, soft pink, that spoke of an innocence at odds with her history. Her hair was a warm chestnut that she pulled into a silky tail. Tiny bits of hair tore free in what he considered a practiced look.
She glanced at the wall of glass on the east side of the room and rubbed her arms, despite the glow of the June sun. "I'm glad you joined me. I've seen you at the gym before. How long have you been a member?"
Small talk from anyone else, but he knew she was fishing for answers. He went with the truth. She'd probably done the research. "Two years."
"So this will be your second summer enjoying our great pool."
"Third," he said. "I joined in May."
A muscle in her jaw twitched. It didn't take a genius to know she was running the dates and not liking how it fit her timetable. And she was absolutely right. He wasn't here by accident.
"Is something wrong?" he asked. The woman was a pawn, a weak link in a game where she had no power. Her jitters had him wanting to take it easy on her. It had nothing to do with training and everything to do with his upbringing.
"No." She shook her head, her eyes focused in the distance. "I'm sure this is all very cryptic. Or not. Unless you're used to women asking you for coffee? And then —"
He reached for her hand across the table, a move meant to soothe her obvious nerves. "It's just coffee."
She pulled her hand away and slid it onto her lap. "My ..." She took a sip of coffee. "My work keeps me busy forty-six weeks a year and I don't get much time for coffee with ... Well, for just coffee. My six-week ..."
Fingers shaking, she took another sip from the plastic-lidded cup. "My mandatory six-week vacation is coming up, and I thought maybe, that is, I was hoping ..."
Sofia set the coffee firmly on the table and met his gaze for the first time. Her wide, espresso-colored eyes mesmerized him. The sincere expression startled him. A soul-deep sadness reflected in their depths.
"Honestly, I was hoping this year I wouldn't have to vacation alone."
* * *
The conversation continued along the script she had rehearsed, while inside she fought back panic. The script would have played better to the plain-Jane man upstairs who had left her in the lurch. There was such a small window of opportunity that she rushed blindly forward, playing out the scene she had practiced more times than she could count. In her exhaustive planning, Sofia had compiled a list of best and worst candidates for the job. Logan was number two on the worst list. Number one was at the free weights with the bodyguard.
The reasons were too numerous to ignore. Logan had joined the gym when she joined and she had every reason to believe that was not a coincidence. Yes, she knew how paranoid that sounded, but that didn't make it wrong. It was possible he joined the gym to keep an eye on her. He wouldn't be the first. That was a problem, as was the fact that she often caught him studying her when he thought she wasn't paying attention. She always paid attention. Sofia didn't like being watched.
But more than the worry of who he might be or whom he might work for was an underlying threat. The man was built like a bodybuilder. He was taller than her, stronger than her, he ran farther and faster, and had the unfortunate distinction of being standout handsome. This was not a man that blended into the crowd. Worse, something about him sent feel-good shocks coursing through her like waves in a tranquility pool.
What in the name of all that was holy had she been thinking?
"Let me get this straight." He rubbed a thumb along the rim of his coffee cup. "You want me to take a vacation with you?"
The judgment in his tone made her want to slink out of the room in disgrace. She forced herself to tune back into the conversation that had gotten so far out of her control.
At the counter, the barista joked with a mom and toddler while another worker disappeared into the back freezer. Sofia shivered, the cold caressing her skin. "I'm not talking anything inappropriate, Mr.–"
"Stone. Don't you think you should know the name of the man you want to take on vacation?"
No, she thought. She hadn't wanted to get that close, for the person to be that real, and while Sofia acknowledged her mistake, she moved forward with the plan. Forward. It was the only direction she knew. "I don't like traveling alone. My job keeps me busy forty-six weeks a year, and I have —"
"Six weeks mandatory vacation," he finished.
Sofia clenched a fist under the table. "I must have said that already."
"And you want to leave tomorrow. To Europe? What makes you think I have a passport?"
Good question, Sofia thought. The people in her life — the people surrounding her the past several years — had passports. Two or three apiece. She'd assumed and that had been a mistake.
Excerpted from Untouchable by Cindy Skaggs, Alycia Tornetta, Lucy Clark. Copyright © 2015 Cindy Skaggs. 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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