Authors: Megan Mitcham
he unauthorized reproduction
or distribution of this copyrighted work is a crime punishable by law. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded to or downloaded from file sharing sites, or distributed in any other way via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the publisher’s permission. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000 (http://www.fbi.gov/ipr/).
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real in any way. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
by MM Publishing LLC
Edited by Lacey Thacker
Cover Design by Deranged Doctor Designs
All Rights Are Reserved. Copyright 2014 by Megan Mitcham
First electronic publication: October 2014
First print publication: October 2014
Digital ISBN: 978-1-941899-02-1
Print ISBN: 978-1-941899-03-8
o my JM
for believing in me and loving me better than fiction.
fter two years
of servitude under Devereaux Kendrick, the most notorious arms dealer on the African continent, Law thought he might just go crazy from the liberation. Though the bonds were off, the tightness in his chest cinched, strangling like never before. The fact that he had no fucking clue
irritated him more than the itch that had settled over his skin a month ago. Law shoved his chest into the long bag, hugging it in the knot of his arms before pounding his knee into the belly of his imaginary opponent. He released it from his deadly embrace and plowed a forearm against its slick leather face, roaring as he did so.
The chain rattled above Law’s head. Its shrill protests screamed in rhythmic jerks timed to the impact of his raw fists. With each punch, the leather smacked under his knuckles. The cacophony of sounds accompanied by the
of his breaths filled the murky garage, echoing back the rage he could not escape. No matter how hard he hit. No matter how much he drank. No matter how he fancied himself free from his corrupting emotions.
He honed in on the logo which shown vibrantly under the puny workbench bulb in contrast to the black bag and his equally tenebrous mood. The white form mocked with its purity. Sweat puddled and splashed across the concrete floor as he beat the shit out of what looked to be a winged V or phoenix split in two. His muscles bunched then protracted in rapid succession, the tempo of his hits rising with his ire.
How much longer can you lie to yourself, fuckwad?
As long as it takes to beat back the beast.
Law knew shit was getting bad when he answered himself. In further denial, he looped one arm around the heavy bag. The leather slid in his sweat-soaked grasp, rasping his bare chest and athletic shorts. His fisted hand battered into the logo time and again. Under his punishing weight and ceaseless whaling his abused skin gave way. Stamps of red marred the offending trademark as blood seeped from the top of his fist.
A small measure of satisfaction curved his lips. It lasted all of a second before the overhead lights burst to life in an open
from the one thing he could admit chapped his arse in two distinct and vastly different ways. The space expanded from Law’s dimly lit man-cave, which housed his tools and home gym. Massive fluorescents arced one to another on the ceiling, illuminating each lane of the four-lane shop in a brilliant glow. Law rejected the interruption, shoving the bag away and hammering it with another hail of his hands.
“Fucking pummel me, why don’t you? Maybe then we can move on. You’ve been avoiding me like I’ve got the clap, and brooding like a lion with a hyena up his arse. Enough already.”
Law turned on his best friend. The bastard ate the space of the doorway leading to the kitchen as if it were a snack. Baine’s wide shoulders brushed one side of the frame and gave the other only an inch of breathing room. His chin dropped and royal blue eyes gleamed in open challenge. Only his defiance kept his muss of unruly dark hair from brushing the architecture.
“I damn well should knock you to size,” Law threw back. His fists clenched and the resentment bubbled to the forefront of his mired brain.
Never one to back down from anything since Law had known him, Baine strode down the steps. He passed his sleek onyx Audi and Law’s like-colored Hog, closing the gap between them in short order with his hulking frame and efficient movements. The man he’d pulled from the brink all those years ago, the man who’d returned the favor, though he’d never known it, crowded the air Law panted from his hours on the heavy bag.
Baine blocked some of the glaring light as he burst Law’s personal-space bubble, taking the edge of pain from Law’s beer-soaked eyeballs.
“Let’s have it,” Baine said. “All you’ve got.”
Law looked up to the bloke he loved like a brother. Literally, looked up an inch or two, watching his wide jaw flex under the stubble-covered skin. He wore faded jeans and a T-shirt from Sullivan’s, a local pub, giving off a laid back appearance. But no one would be fooled into believing Baine McCord was mellow.
Both men were highly trained operatives of the United Nations’ Special Operations Force, known to very few as the Base Branch. The agency had bases across the globe with the singular goal of maintaining or fostering peace, though only the highest tier of government and Branch officials knew the intricacies of the network. Indeed, Sloan Harris, a US Base Branch agent and the love of Baine’s life, had only recently learned of their kindred employer.
In order to keep peace sometimes death was the great equalizer. It balanced power like nothing else could. The two men maintained the teetering scale with expert potency. In a fair fight either could come away victorious or flat on his duff. But this fight would be anything but clean. At the moment Law had violence-spiked veins and a lifetime of training under his father’s expert guidance.
Love and respect be damned. Law would lay Baine flat on his backside for the way he’d blurred the line of good and evil in order to track down every last snake in Devereaux Kendrick’s worldwide operation. Not that he wasn’t for comeuppance, but the wildness he’d seen in his friend’s eyes had unsettled them both. Though Baine seemed to have moved past it since Sloan showed up two weeks ago, Law couldn’t downshift that fast. Sod it, he couldn’t shift at all. He lived by a strict code. Right. Wrong. Middle ground didn’t exist.
“You came too close to the edge, McCord, and I’m going to assure you stay topside, even if I have to kick the shit out of you to do it.”
This close, Law could see the worry lines that creased Baine’s face only a month ago had faded. But he couldn’t understand why. Baine still had something precious that could be taken away in the blink of an eye. Fuck, Law’s worry lines would still be there, and Baine’s should too.
“Are you two going to quit staring longingly into each other’s eyes and get on with it already? Easton and I have money riding on this. I’m ready to collect.” Lounging against the doorjamb Sloan prodded them, her leanly muscled caramel arms crossed over her ample chest.
Behind her, Easton Wells, Baine’s father figure and house man, scoffed. “Baine's got him on size, but I’ve never seen anyone take Law. My bet stands. Now, hop to. I need to see the two love birds off before I can go collect my darling Ruth and make it to the airport to retrieve Magdalena.”
Sloan, the trained killer, melted at his words. “Aww. I can’t wait to meet them both.”
The absurdness of their humor siphoned both men’s testosterone to a manageable level. Baine’s gaze trained dead center on the sultry smile Sloan presented him. The love in each of their gazes kicked Law square in the balls. He looked past them quickly, taking in the old man’s shock of white hair before the urge to fall to the ground in the fetal position and gasp for air grew too strong. Easton winked, knowing, seeing way too much for an old English fart. And again, Law swung his gaze away.
The floor suddenly became the only safe place to look. After a moment of scrutinizing a tiny rock on the pristine—aside from his sweat pools—slag floor, Baine clasped his shoulder in a firm grip. The gesture held no fight. Baine’s deep blue eyes told him as much. They’d gone mushy, draining of all animosity, replenished with pure adoration for the amber-eyed goddess on the steps. The fight fled Law. His shoulders sagged in defeat, heedless that a battle had neither been fought nor lost.
“Hate to disappoint a captive crowd.” Baine’s laugh laced his deep baritone. Then the bastard’s arm coiled around Law’s neck and he pulled him tight into his chest. Law anticipated the next move and didn’t fight back. He’d been a total dick over the last few weeks. Baine had looked like death twenty days out of the grave, moping around the estate his grandfather had left him. Law had only added to the bloke’s misery, avoiding him or picking a fight in near equal measure.
In all his years he’d never acted so immaturely, except when he was an actual adolescent. Then he’d acted like a total douche as did the entire male population pre- and a few years post puberty. Still, he didn’t usually avoid confrontation. He should’ve just talked to Baine.
His friend had been in the pits of hell. Sloan had been near fatally injured at the hands of Baine’s father. Add to that the request she’d saddled him with—complete their mission, take down everyone linked to his father, Devereaux Kendrick’s vast web of terrorism—and it was a damn wonder the guy hadn’t snapped all together.
Baine had stomped all over the line that governed Law’s existence. He’d tortured evil men to obtain the information he’d needed to complete the task. Uncomfortable though he’d been with the scenario, Law stood by his friend’s side because the good outweighed the bad. But when Baine had been unable to break one cartel leader through hours of inventive torment, he’d requested the man’s young daughter. Law couldn’t believe his friend would have hurt the girl, and there was no way in fuck he’d have let that happen anyway. But the simple truth that Baine was desperate, willing to push the boundaries even further to get what he’d wanted, even if it’d been a noble cause, was more than Law could bear.
Fat knuckles serrated his close shaven head. The childish act actually unleashed the steel band of aggravation from his chest. He almost laughed. Only they could go from bar-room brawl to noogie without someone ending up in the hospital. Baine released him and Law stuck a friendly jab in the man’s ribs. As apologies and cease-fires went it wasn’t much, but it was enough for now.
“Well damn,” Easton said, shaking his head. “Next time perhaps. Now, off you go. Shoo. Shoo.” He shoved Sloan through the door into the garage with one large suitcase he carried. With the other bag and hand he gestured toward the RS 7.
Sloan chuckled as she quick-footed it toward he and Baine. “Oooh, sounds like somebody’s getting lucky tonight.”
Baine’s nose wrinkled like he smelled something foul, and Law’s head shook away the images conjured by such a statement. Disgusting.
The old man’s laugh filled the hollow garage. “I’m lucky every minute of every day. I have a magnificent daughter and now I have Ruth. Who I’m off to see. You two be careful. Very careful.”
“I’ll take good care of him,” Sloan said.
Baine pulled her against his side. “I’ll take care of her. This time.” The added statement garnered him another punch to the gut, only this time from Sloan. “Ow,” he winced. “You hit harder than Law.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Law said. The first hint of a chuckle in far too long shook his shoulders. The simple emotion lightened him, cooled the heat that boiled in his gut.
Before Easton hurried through the door Baine called out. “Tell Mags hello for me. I hate I won’t get to see her before we leave. With me being gone and her too, it’s been forever.”
Easton bowed, a smile of parental pride curving his lips. Then he hurried from the door.
Baine’s lips brushed the top of Sloan’s head. “Wait for me in the car? I’ll be right there.”
“Sure,” Sloan replied. She squeezed Baine’s middle before releasing him and stepping toward Law. Her lips pursed. She grabbed his brutalized hand, studying the bloody and skinned tops. “Enough.” The command should have ruffled him, but care radiated from her gorgeously sculpted face and soulful eyes.
He nodded his concession. Sloan tugged his wrist and he bent willingly, suddenly realizing why Baine would do anything for her, give her anything, smudge the black and white to grey. She stretched on tiptoes, brushed her hand across his cheek then planted a chaste kiss on the dried spot.
An ache he thought long-banished tore at his heart.
He rubbed at the pain as Sloan turned away and walked to the car. “You two be damn careful, McCord.” Law turned toward Baine. “You sure you don’t need me to go?”
“I’m sure.” A hint of a smile curved Baine’s lips; the expression looked foreign on his friend, but good at the same time. “Sloan and I are going to finish this together. Cezar Vilaro. Tracy Walters. Then it’s over. Finally over. And I’m sorry I put you in that position, Law.”
He didn’t have to elaborate. They both knew he referred to the torture. To that small girl he’d used to get information from Miguel Castillos.
Law nodded again. He couldn’t forgive Baine, yet. But he no longer fancied parting on bad terms.
Baine’s smile fell, his expression growing serious. “Think about what I asked. When Sloan and I get back we’re getting married and I want you beside me. You’re my family. It would mean a lot.” The guy’s hands shoved into his pockets. “I know you’re in a way about Mexico, but I never would have hurt Rosanna Castillos.”
If the shit fermenting in Law’s head only concerned Mexico, he’d be golden. But there was more. “I’ll think about it.”
“That’s all I ask.”
Law took the big hand offered him in a firm shake before his friend turned to leave. Moments later he stood alone with his sweat and despair.