Authors: Sherrilyn Kenyon
Just as Vestavia had thought.
Bardaric continued, his voice failing to hide the smug satisfaction he enjoyed. “I can have the units in place in twelve hours. That’s how simple and mobile this device is. I suggest we detonate before my prime minister meets with the U.S. president on Tuesday. Having two of the most powerful leaders together should facilitate the decision to act. I have chosen three locations I will relate to Vestavia once everything is in place.”
Vestavia couldn’t stop the vote, but before it was called he made sure of one point. “I want to be the only person to authorize the detonation when it’s time.”
“Wait a minute,” Bardaric shouted.
“No!” Ostrovsky cut him off. “That is Vestavia’s right as this is a major mission on his continent. It is time we vote.”
Once the vote was over, Vestavia walked over to the control panel to terminate all connections and activate a triple-cleaning measure on the computer. He poured another scotch and walked around a moment, thinking.
Bardaric was proving more resourceful than expected and could destroy the U.S. with this one move.
Not without a fight.
But he’d underestimated Bardaric. What else would the Brit do if Gwen didn’t die?
Vestavia settled into his chair and pressed a button on the marble table that raised a voice-activated communications panel he instructed to connect him via phone to Peter Wentworth’s secure line.
After a six-minute wait, Peter came on the line sounding haggard. “I don’t have long. I just arrived for surgery.”
“This won’t take long,” Vestavia said to reassure him. “You have to know Bardaric was behind Gwen’s shooting.”
“That’s a dangerous charge to level.”
Vestavia knew all too well. The council governed itself with a set of unbendable rules that would result in extreme measures when anyone made a false accusation of this nature. That was the only way they could function with a degree of cooperation. Vestavia rarely gambled unless the odds were in his favor, which he believed was the case.
“I believe you and Gwen are in danger. Work with me and I’ll help you disappear before Bardaric terminates both of you.”
“I can’t just leave,” Peter argued. “The Kore center holds all the genetic records to date for this continent and for the Council’s long-term projects.”
“Either you and Gwen disappear willingly or on his terms, Peter. We’ve been friends a long time. I know you don’t take sides, but Bardaric is determined to prevent
any more babies from our sperm. Figure a way to move the records and not leave a trail.”
Vestavia disconnected the call. He closed his eyes, thinking. He had to find Bardaric’s stockpile of UX. To possess that would be like holding the key to everyone’s future.
Hell, he might even let Bardaric take down one city if that was what Vestavia had to do to track the Brit’s people and find the trail to the source of the UX.
Hunter had said “if.”
Abbie hated vague answers. She shed her shirt and jeans in the bedroom, which might as well be a prison cell since she was sure Hunter had set all kinds of alarms on the cabin to ensure she didn’t take off again.
She walked into the three-sided glass shower to face hot water blasting from nine spigots.
Nine showerheads, actually. Water came out of spigots where
The luxurious bathroom attached to her suite came right out of a designer magazine. The gleaming gold-and-pewter faucet shaped in a swooping design that could be a miniature version of an Olympic luge deserved to be signed and numbered.
She should feel guilty taking snarky shots at the upscale appointments since she’d happily pilfered a brass basket filled with luxury bath products someone had left on the marble counter. Probably Borys.
Bless Borys for delivering a bowl of jambalaya and rice with fresh bread and more hot chocolate to her bedroom a minute after she’d dragged herself up the stairs. The smell of Cajun cooking was gone. She’d all but licked the bowl clean.
Then fell back on the bed and slept three hours.
That had been the only thing stopping her from indulging in the shower sooner.
Inside the shower stall, she squirted a washcloth full
of a peach-smelling soap from a glass wall dispenser. The scalding water pounded stress and anxiety from her muscles while she gingerly scrubbed grit from her scratches.
Every inch of her ached from the fall.
But her mother could be in more pain and had worse problems, so enough whining.
Think more. Complain less. Even if no one could hear her thoughts.
Her next move hung on Hunter’s
If he got the answer he wanted from headquarters—wherever that was—then he could possibly help her.
Not many options when she was imprisoned on a mountain with no cell phone, no Internet access, no money, no car…
She did think Hunter believed her when she’d said he needed her
to gain entry to the Kore center database.
One point in her favor.
she was dealing with law enforcement. Another stinking
Why hadn’t Hunter shown her a badge or ID of some sort? She could ask, but he would have produced one by now if he intended to do so. Maybe he was deep undercover or doing something where he couldn’t give his official ID. He could be with any agency from the cops to the FBI to the CIA to national security divisions she’d never heard of.
Had to be layers upon layers of new law enforcement operations in all areas of government these days that no one knew about.
But Hunter was obviously wealthy, or relying on someone who was, for him to have access to private jets
and secluded mountain homes.
He’d been at the Wentworth party. People recognized him. Did
know he was some kind of James Bond guy?
She stopped washing and let the water batter her head. Maybe that would shake loose a few cramped brain cells.
This was the second time she’d spent a night at Hunter’s place and still didn’t know the man’s last name.
She growled at yet more gray areas. For now, she’d have to go with believing Hunter
in law enforcement until she had reason to doubt him.
I hate the mountains. And Hunter.
She wouldn’t be hurt right now if he hadn’t brought her to a place with no roads and stuck in the middle of a booby-trapped field and failed to give her phone access and…
But he’d also flown her away from danger. He
held her when she’d been terrified last night and he
soothed her this morning. He’d only yelled at her out on the ridge because he thought she’d been hurt.
And he hadn’t liked that one bit.
Didn’t like to worry about someone.
Or the fact that he’d been turned on. That searing kiss and erection were undeniable evidence. Good thing she didn’t have body parts that could poke out when she was aroused. If she did he’d have figured out just how bad she had the screaming hots for him every time his internal pendulum swung toward being sweet and caught her by surprise.
One minute he snarled at her until she wanted to go for his throat, then he’d do something completely
unexpected, like hold her or kiss her.
Sort of ruined that I’m-cold-as-an-iceberg attitude he wanted to project.
Did others realize that underneath all that arrogance and do-it-my-way attitude Hunter had a heart? If she’d only known him as a guest at the Wentworth party and never met him six years ago or spent the last twenty-four hours around him, she’d have written Hunter off as another rich uncaring jerk.
But he’d listened to her when she begged him to not hand her over to WITSEC when dumping her in someone else’s lap would have been easier for him. He hadn’t demanded she tell him the last key to getting inside the Kore center records. Yet.
That actually surprised her and earned him another high mark when she knew he could have browbeaten her.
But Hunter had secrets. Lots of them. Like what he was doing at the Wentworth party.
He knew the Latin security guy at the Wentworth estate. A teammate? And if she was going to believe him, she had to accept that keeping her here at the cabin was putting Hunter at risk.
Would they really send assassins out to get him if he didn’t convince them he could get into Kore? Or if they found out she was with Hunter? Again, who were
Her heart thumped erratically. He was constantly putting himself in danger to keep her safe. If he needed her help to get whatever he wanted from the Kore Women’s Center, why wasn’t he jumping at her offer to go there and help him?
Because he believed the killer could find her. She
believed showing up with little advance notice combined with Kore’s security would prevent someone from just walking in… which begged the question of how Hunter intended to get in.
Neither of them could wait for a better opportunity. Wasn’t like she could escape again. That hadn’t done her any good… except for that kiss.
He’d kissed her like a man possessed.
Fire rushed across her skin at the memory of how he’d touched her. She’d never been kissed like that, as if he wanted her right then and right there.
He could have had her, too.
She couldn’t remember a time in the past six years that she’d wanted a man the way she’d wanted Hunter to finish what he’d started on the mountain.
Six years? She hadn’t ever wanted a man that much.
Hadn’t trusted a man enough to consider more than heavy petting since walking in on the pig and Casey.
Hunter might be just as untrustworthy.
She groused at the way she was thinking of him. He had her prisoner. She made a suck-bad prisoner of war wanting to sleep with the enemy.
He might have just been playing her since she proved to be putty in his sexy hands that could slide between…
She ran the washcloth between her legs and shivered.
Enough of that. She squeezed out the rag and hung it over the faucet. Half her body suffered from the beating she’d taken and the other was one big knot of frustration.
Turning off the water jets, she stepped out of the glass
shower and snagged a bath sheet to wrap around her body. The thing fell to her knees. Did Hunter have humongous guests?
Did he even have guests?
She found a smaller towel for her hair, then dug through the basket on the counter for lotion. Staring at eyes she’d never lied to, her conscience worked overtime ticking off points in his favor.
Look at this place.
Hunter could have taken her somewhere she’d be in lockdown.
As long as she was being honest with herself, she might as well face the fact that he’d surprised her when he told her about their meeting six years ago. If he’d made her feel small and cheap, she’d have folded her heart into a smaller shape and forced it farther down her throat.
But he’d let her know just how much he’d wanted her. Still wanted her, if that bulge in his pants had been evidence.
She knew without a doubt Hunter left an impression on every woman he encountered, because she remembered how he’d listened to her that night so many years ago. Considering his covert work that was understandable, but he’d really listened.
And made her smile.
And taken her home rather than leave her vulnerable to someone else jumping on her drunken offer.
He was such an unusual man. She could feel him when he was near. Feel the battle he fought to remain distant. And still he’d wrapped her in the safety of his arms more times than she could count. He was the kind of man a woman listened to with her heart. If she did that, her
freedom might not be the only thing in jeopardy by the end of this.
She put the lotion on the counter and headed to the bedroom.
Someone tapped at the door.
“You’ll have to wait. I’m in a towel,” she called out, searching the room for a robe.
The door opened.
She shrieked, “Get out. I’m not dressed!”
Hunter didn’t slow down. “Doesn’t matter. That towel’s coming off anyhow.”