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Authors: Julia Sykes

Hero

BOOK: Hero
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Hero
Hero
Julia Sykes

C
opyright
© 2016 by Julia Sykes

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

F
or everyone
who has been with me since Sean and Claudia. Thank you for taking this Impossible journey with me

xxx

Author’s Note

Hero
is part of the
Impossible Series,
but it can be read as a standalone romance novel.

Prologue

Chloe

A
n ugly mix
of resentment and fear swirled in my gut when the front door creaked open. I quickly switched off the bedside lamp, set my book aside, and drew the duvet over my head. I hated myself for hiding under the covers like a frightened child, but I couldn’t face Neil.

His footsteps were uneven, scuffing across the floorboards as he made his way to our bedroom. I did my best to draw deep, even breaths, feigning sleep.

I should have gone to Beth’s,
I lamented, but it was too late. I’d decided against seeking refuge at my sister’s house hours ago.

I was too ashamed. For years, she’d told me I was too good for Neil, that my husband was holding me back from realizing my full potential. But I’d been stubborn; I’d committed to Neil when I said my vows at the age of twenty. As I child of divorce, I believed in sticking by my spouse, for better or worse. My marriage couldn’t fail. If it did, my entire self-identity would fall apart with it.

I was Neil’s devoted wife. It was my most important role. More important than my career aspirations.

Or so he said.

For the last four years, I’d been working as a journalist for the local paper. Just small stories and fluff pieces. But lately, I wanted more. I wanted to freelance, to tackle more meaningful material. I could establish a career that allowed me to work from home, so I could have a baby and an income, when the time was right.

Neil wanted the baby, but he didn’t want me to have a job. He said he’d make enough money for both of us, once he finished vet school. He’d made his disapproval of my plans for a career abundantly clear a few hours ago.

My cheek still throbbed where he’d struck me. After repeating the same argument we’d been having for months, he’d lost his temper along with his patience.

It was just one time,
I reassured myself.
He’ll apologize in the morning, and everything will be okay.

Still, I couldn’t stop myself from tensing up when he entered the bedroom. I heard the rustle of fabric as he pulled off his shirt and jeans.

Suddenly, the covers were jerked off my body, and cool air hit my skin.

“Neil?” I gasped. “What are you doing?”

His silhouette moved toward me, a darker shape among the shifting shadows.

“You want a baby,” he slurred. “You’re going to stay at home and take care of our child.”

Fear thrummed through my veins before my mind fully processed his implications. “I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I said shakily. “Not tonight. You’re drunk.”

He stumbled forward, falling onto me. The air whooshed out of my lungs as his weight bore down on me. I squirmed beneath him, trying to push him off. The scent of whiskey hit me hard, confirming my suspicions that he was intoxicated.

“You’re my wife,” he declared, his breath hot on my face. I turned my head away and pushed harder at his chest. He didn’t budge. “You promised to honor and obey me. You will obey me, Chloe.”

“Neil, you’re scaring me,” I forced out on a shallow breath. “We shouldn’t talk about this any more tonight. We can discuss it tomorrow, when you’re sober.”

“I’m done talking,” he hissed.

The feel of his growing erection pressing into my thigh was horribly familiar. What would usually arouse me now sent terror spiking through my system. My fingers curled, my nails digging into his muscled chest.

“Get off me,” I barely managed to force a whisper past the lump in my throat. “I don’t want to have sex right now.”

His big hands closed around my wrists, wrenching my arms above my head and pinning them against the mattress.

“You’re going to have my baby and be a good wife.”

Shifting his grip on my wrists into one hand, his other reached between us, groping until he found the hem of my nightgown. He grasped the silky material and roughly shoved it up my thighs. His dick lined up with my opening. I was far from aroused. If he drove into me, it would hurt.

But the pain was more than physical. He thrust forward, and I screamed as my heart tore along with my flesh.

“Neil,” I sobbed out his name. “Stop. Please, stop.”

“You’re my wife, Chloe,” he snarled, increasing his agonizing pace. “You’re mine.”

A terrible eternity seemed to pass before his hot seed finally lashed into me. My insides burned, raw with pain and shame.

He rolled off me, and I curled up on my side. Despite my tears, he quickly fell into drunken sleep, his snores clashing with my wracking sobs. I wept my agony until it seeped out of me along with all my tears, leaving me hollow and mercifully numb.

I managed to get up and get dressed before dawn began to drift through the curtains, unable to face the sight of my husband in the light of day.

No.
The man in our bed wasn’t my husband; he was a monster.

Limping out of the place that had been my home, I made my way to my car and drove away, leaving Mrs. Chloe Hollins behind forever.

1

Chloe

Three Years Later


Y
ou want
to go out in the field to investigate the Latin Kings,” Kennedy Carver drawled, his dry tone even more dangerous than my request. “I don’t think so.” The FBI director’s hazel eyes bore down on me. Even though he sat behind his desk and I stood before him, he seemed to loom over me. My mouth went dry, and I shifted on my feet.

Swallowing hard, I lifted my chin in defiance of his powerful aura. “Yes,” I said clearly. “That’s what I want. What I’m asking for,” I amended quickly when his jaw firmed. “I just want to shadow someone on your team, ask a few questions. I’ll be perfectly safe.”

He folded his hands on his desk. “That’s for me to decide, and I say you won’t be
perfectly safe.
We might have rounded up most of the Latin Kings in New York, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still dangerous out there. Ask your questions if you want, but you’re not shadowing anyone.”

“Kennedy, you’re being completely unreasonable,” Carina insisted hotly.

I shot a grateful glance at my friend, relieved she was taking some of the pressure off me. How she managed to spend so much time with the hard-ass man—much less be engaged to him—was beyond me.

“Am I?” He drew out the words as his attention riveted to her. “Have you forgotten what happened to you when you tried to go out into the field for research?”

Carina’s pale green eyes clashed with his, meeting his challenge. “That’s not fair, and you know it. I went out by myself to infiltrate the Pagans motorcycle club. Chloe is asking to ride along with one of your agents, under their protection. And you just said the Latin Kings are all but eradicated in the city. She won’t be walking into a gang war or anything like that.”

“That’s why I want to research in New York instead of Chicago,” I supplied quickly, pressing my advantage. The Kings were still widespread and violent in my home city, but I would be safe investigating in New York. If Kennedy would give his blessing. “Carina says your team is the best in the country,” I added, trying to mollify him. “I know they can keep me safe.”

He leaned back in his chair, his head canting to the side as he considered me. The man had an ego, and stroking it worked to my advantage. I held my breath, waiting for his response.

He didn’t answer me directly. Instead, he reached for his phone.

“Silverman,” he barked into the receiver. “My office. Now.” He hung up before the person on the other end of the line had a chance to respond.

God, the man was an ass. I really didn’t understand how Carina could be in love with such a domineering dick. She was one of the toughest investigative reporters I’d ever met: smart as a whip and fiercely independent. She was something of a personal hero to me. The fact that she’d reached out to
me
two years ago was still baffling. She’d read my piece on
Fifty Shades of Grey
and female sexual empowerment and had declared us kindred spirits.

Now, I was working on an edgier project: the violent world of the Latin Kings. Carina had hooked me up with this meeting, assuring me that her fiancé would give me access to FBI resources for my story. I was about to get the big break I’d longed for since walking away from my life with Neil three years ago.

But now that I was standing in Kennedy’s presence, I wasn’t at all certain that he would acquiesce to my request. His eyes still cut into me, pinning me in place as silence stretched between us. I shot an uneasy glance at Carina. She appeared completely unruffled, simply waiting for Kennedy’s next move with serene composure.

I jolted when the door clicked open behind me. I turned to find a short, dark-skinned woman with a mass of curly black hair standing in the threshold.

“You needed something, sir?” She addressed Kennedy with careful deference.

He nodded. “Come in, Silverman. I want you to meet Chloe Martin. She’ll be shadowing you for a few days.”

I did my best to conceal my relief as I reached for the hand Silverman offered. She flashed a perfect white smile at me, her chocolate brown eyes wide and welcoming. “I’m Sharon,” she introduced herself.

“Chloe,” I returned her smile. “I’m—”

Before I could tell her about my reasons for wanting to work with her, Kennedy cut over me. “Miss Martin is a friend of Carina’s. She’s in New York researching a story on the Latin Kings. She will accompany you starting tomorrow. You will answer any questions she has about the Kings, so long as it doesn’t put any current investigations at risk. I trust your judgment.”

Sharon’s brows rose. “Why me? Why not Javier? He’s the one who was undercover with the Kings for years. He’s the one who helped us bust them.”

“Who’s Javier?” I jumped on the information. This sounded juicy. I turned my attention back to Kennedy. “I want to talk to him.”

He blinked at me slowly, allowing fresh silence to stretch between us. I averted my gaze from his intense, disapproving stare. He evidently didn’t appreciate my demanding outburst.

“Javier Santiago is an analyst,” he finally spoke when he was satisfied that I was thoroughly uncomfortable. “You can talk to him, but if you want to be in the field, you’ll go with Sharon. I’m not putting Santiago on this. He put his time in, and I promised his wife I wouldn’t order him to go back in the field.” His hard gaze flicked back to Sharon. “And you should know better than to question me, Silverman.”

“Sorry, sir,” she apologized, but there was nothing meek about her tone. If anything, she sounded irritated at being chastised. Still, she didn’t dare challenge her boss.

After spending ten minutes with the man, I understood why. It was becoming clear to me that he’d earned his position as director of the New York FBI field office; he was intimidating as hell.

“You can interview Santiago if he agrees to talk to you,” Kennedy told me. “It’s his story to tell, not mine.”

“Thank you,” I said tightly, torn between genuine gratitude and annoyance. He set my teeth on edge, but I really did want to interview Santiago.

He tipped his chin in a curt nod, acknowledging my thanks.

“Be here at eight AM tomorrow to meet with Silverman,” he ordered. “And Sharon, you are personally responsible for Miss Martin’s safety. Don’t let me down.”

“I won’t, sir,” she said gravely, all signs of irritation gone. She looked to me with a reassuring smile. “You’ll be safe with me,” she promised. “Honestly, it’ll probably be pretty boring. We haven’t seen much action with the Kings since Javi took them down.”

“That’s okay,” I tried to conceal my disappointment. I didn’t really want to put myself in danger, but I did want some good material for my story. “I’d like to see what a normal day is like for you. Would you mind telling me about your experiences with the Kings while I’m with you?”

“Of course,” she offered easily. “You can ask me anything.”

I beamed at her. “Thanks.”

“That’s all, then,” Kennedy interrupted our conversation. “You’re dismissed.”

“It was nice meeting you, Chloe,” Sharon said. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She left the office, and I turned back to Kennedy. He stared at me pointedly. I blinked at him, waiting for him to speak again.

Carina huffed out a sigh and looped her arm through mine. “He means we’re
dismissed,
too,” she told me. “I promise he can be charming when he tries. He’s just insufferable at the office.”

“I’ll speak with you later, Carina,” his words held a warning edge I didn’t fully understand.

She rolled her eyes at him. His mouth twitched in the first hint of a smile I’d seen. He quickly pressed his lips to a firm line, wiping the pleased expression away. But his eyes were softer on her than they had been before.

“I love you too, Kennedy,” she said sweetly. “Come on, Chloe. Let’s grab coffee and catch up. I want to hear all about your new book.”

I blushed as she began to tug me out of her fiancé’s office. I wasn’t embarrassed by my second career as a romance novelist, but I didn’t want the FBI director to hear us chatting about it. Despite the fact that I took pride in my work, I still wasn’t sure how I felt about Kennedy being privy to my fantasies. He might not take me seriously.

“Oh, don’t worry about Kennedy.” Carina read my blush as we walked out of his office, making our way toward the elevator. “He’s very open-minded.”

“I find that hard to believe,” I commented drily. The man we’d left behind was uptight, to say the least.

Carina laughed, tossing her dark copper hair back over her shoulder. “I know what you’re thinking, but he’s a total softie underneath all those hard edges.”

I eyed her with disbelief.

“Okay,” she allowed as we stepped into the elevator. “Maybe
softie
doesn’t exactly apply where Kennedy is concerned. But he’s very sweet and loving, in his own way.”

I shrugged, dubious. “I’m sure you know him better than anyone. He didn’t exactly strike me as the warm and fuzzy type.”

She laughed again and pressed the button that would take us down to ground level. “No. Definitely not warm and fuzzy. He might be a hard-ass Dom, but he’s
my
hard-ass Dom.” She said the last dreamily, her eyes shining with obvious affection.

This information didn’t surprise me; Carina had been very open with me about her kinky tendencies. When we’d first met, she was an avid advocate for the BDSM lifestyle, and once she found Kennedy a few months ago, she’d fully committed to her own D/s relationship. She’d been candid in sharing her experiences to help me write my romance novels. So far, I’d dipped my toes into the world of kink, but strictly for research purposes. I wasn’t interested in the emotional intimacy that would come with a real power exchange. Not since my divorce.

My stomach soured at the thought of Neil.

“So, do you want to come?” Carina prompted me out of my moment of brooding, and I realized I’d missed part of the conversation.

“Sorry, what did you say?”

“Do you want to come to BDSM club Decadence tonight?” she repeated. “The guys are having a party. I think it’d give you some good material for your next novel.”

I took a moment to consider her offer as we crossed the street to the Starbucks.

“I don’t know,” I finally said. Then something clicked. “Wait. What do you mean,
the guys
? You have other friends who will be there?”

She grinned. “Almost all of Kennedy’s agents are in the lifestyle. He kind of curated his team.”

“What?” I stumbled over the bizarre information. “You’re telling me that the entire New York FBI field office is into BDSM?”

“Yep. Kennedy told me he trusts them all to be completely honest and loyal because they share the values of the lifestyle.”

“I guess that makes sense,” I allowed, feigning nonchalance. In reality, I struggled to absorb the concept. I didn’t know how I felt about my two worlds colliding. I kept my careers carefully separate, writing my romance novels under a pen name. The prospect of working with the FBI for my Latin Kings research but also mingling with them at a BDSM club didn’t entirely sit well with me.

“I’m not sure about going to Decadence,” I admitted. I’d wanted to visit the hottest kink club in New York, but this scenario changed things.

“Why not?” Carina asked.

“Don’t you think it’ll be weird?” I lowered my voice as we stepped into Starbucks and got in the long line that stretched nearly all the way to the door. “The agents won’t take me seriously if they know I write romance.”

“Nonsense,” she declared. “They’ll respect that you’re doing your best to portray the lifestyle realistically. And none of them think less of each other for being kinky. They’re a very tight-knit group, almost like family. They take BDSM every bit as seriously as they take their jobs with the FBI. It’s part of who they are.”

I mulled that over, digesting it in silence until it was our turn to put in our order. A few minutes later, we had our lattes in hand and found a table in a back corner where we could speak more privately.

“If I do come to Decadence,” I speculated slowly, “I don’t have to do anything, right? They won’t pressure me into participating? I’m not interested in sleeping with anyone.” I didn’t plan on breaking my three years of celibacy anytime soon, even if I did occasionally experiment with impact play. Floggers and crops were strictly for research purposes, not sexual enjoyment. And so long as any skin-to-skin contact happened on my terms, I could handle it.

“Of course not,” Carina reassured me. “Everyone will respect your boundaries. You can just tour the club and get a feel for the layout and what happens there.” Her smile turned sly. “I know just the guy to show you around.”

“Nope,” I said definitively. “Don’t you dare try to fix me up with someone, Carina.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she waved off my comment. “Besides, Dex isn’t interested in being fixed up, either. He’ll be a perfect gentleman.”

“Oh. Okay. I guess that’s all right, then.” Her words put me at ease. If her friend Dex was on the same page I was, I could trust him to show me around without trying to make a move on me.

“So you’ll come?” she pressed, practically glowing with excitement.

“Yeah, I will.” I made my decision. I’d carefully considered all the risks and determined that an evening at Decadence would be beneficial. I really could use more real-world experience to enrich my writing.

“Excellent,” Carina beamed. “Do you have something to wear?”

“Honestly, I’d planned to explore some of the New York clubs, so I brought a few outfits. I just hadn’t known I’d be attending a kinky FBI party. But based on what you’ve told me, I feel okay with it.”

She nodded encouragingly. “Kennedy and I will be there, so you can come to us if you feel at all uncomfortable.”

I thought of the intimidating FBI director. I wasn’t at all reassured by the promise of his presence.
Comforting
wasn’t a word I would use to describe Kennedy Carver.

BOOK: Hero
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