Authors: Jackie Ivie
Leon came through the portal, pushing the door wide. He had a gun held to his head. It was attached to an arm that turned out to belong to a fellow in black. Approximately Kane’s height, but a lot thinner. He pushed Leon into the room. His other hand held another 9mm. He immediately aimed it at toward LeeAnn. Kane shoved her behind him, and held her there with an arm.
“Hi, cupcake,” the guy said. “Surprised to see me?”
“What’s going on, Leon?” Kane asked.
“Address me, asshole. He’s a patsy.”
The man shoved Leon away from him. Leon stumbled and caught the door, holding it open as he lurched to a stop. His move kept the door from automatically closing. Kane met Leon’s gaze for a moment. Leon smiled. Kane didn’t return it.
“You got a name, buddy?” Kane asked conversationally.
“Yeah. Victor. As in...winner. Champion.”
“I knew that already, Victor, but thanks for the lesson. So. What can we do for you?”
“You are a hard man to track, pretty boy. Not impossible, but hard. Took every nano-tracker I had.”
“You used a nano-tracker?” Kane nodded as if impressed.
“Cute little units. Send a strong signal. Easy to hide anywhere. Real easy to hide in SCUBA gear. You thought you lost me with that little underwater stunt back in the Keys, didn’t you?”
“Well. It was a hope.”
“Lame. And here I thought you’d be a challenge.”
“Likewise,” Kane replied.
“So. You know what I want. I suggest you just hand her over.”
“That’s a negative.”
“I’m really not interested in you, bub. Or the little patsy. And I’d really hate to put bullet holes in this ship of yours. But don’t tempt me.”
“How did you get here, Victor?”
“You had a couple of speedboats at your place. Forget those, did you?”
“Smart. So. You planted a tracking device on Leon’s gear, and then you used one of our boats to follow him. And you didn’t even get wet. The boat must be close.”
“Starboard side. Bottom of the ladder. Enough shit talk. You gonna move, or do you want a bullet?”
“I think you already know the answer, Victor.”
LeeAnn’s hitman was less than a yard away. He lifted the barrel to Kane’s chest. Kane narrowed his eyes. Tightened his chest for the impact. Instantly canceled his heartbeat, respiratory functions...determined to live long enough to fulfill his promise to LeeAnn.
LeeAnn’s screech was loud and surprising. Kane embarrassed himself by flinching. Victor’s gun didn’t even waver.
“Can’t we negotiate or something?” she asked from behind him. “I mean, how much is Chad paying you anyway?”
“Chad? I don’t know any Chad, lady. And I’m really getting tired of pointless chit-chat.”
LeeAnn answered, talking exceptionally fast. “He’s my business partner! I’d discovered some high dollar money transfers he needed to explain! I was supposed to meet him over it!”
“Oh. That guy. Shit, lady. He was my first target this morning. Just before I went after you.”
“Chad...didn’t pay you?”
“He couldn’t afford me. Few people can. I work for a family organization. They don’t like it when people call them with problems...like a meeting with a suspicious partner. Sounds like Chad didn’t have a head for high finance. Well. He won’t have to worry about that anymore. And if pretty boy here doesn’t move, he’s going to have basically the same problem.”
Kane caught the vaguest hint of sound out in the passageway. The slightest rumbling noise came through the door. Leon heard it, too. He straightened, making the door waver. Victor didn’t seem to notice.
“So. Where do you want it, pretty boy?”
LeeAnn stuck her head around his shoulder. Kane swiveled. Victor got off two rounds. One bullet grazed Kane’s arm, leaving a gash across his bicep. The wound burned. Immediately started bleeding. LeeAnn screamed. Kane smashed her against his back, preventing her from watching the mass of arms and hands that reached through the open door, grabbed anywhere they could on Victor, and yanked him back out the portal.
Leon surged after him. Kane didn’t wait.
He swung LeeAnn to his front, flung her over his shoulder, and leapt the mass of bodies swarming the passageway. He didn’t need to see. He knew what they were doing. Victor’s screams were bloodcurdling. Loud. And then diminished into strangled-sounding as he got overwhelmed. His life force drained.
And then consumed.
LeeAnn hyperventilated. At least she wasn’t screaming. Kane took the ladder with churning steps that echoed. The next one with even more haste. He didn’t check for pursuit. He didn’t waste the time. The upper deck had never felt so far away. And then they were there.
Kane shoved the handle down and smacked through the hatch, hearing it slam behind him. It didn’t immediately reopen. That might mean he’d had a good enough head start. It could also mean they were coming a different way. His luck still held. It was twilight. Millions of stars littered the sky. Nothing bright enough to hamper him. But Victor had been a little off. He hadn’t left the boat on the starboard side. Kane couldn’t find a mooring ladder anywhere.
“What’s the matter?”
“I can’t find the boat.”
“What...are we going to do?”
Kane stopped. Approached the side. They were five decks above water. It was going to be a hard landing. But, at least he could see. He pulled LeeAnn into his arms. Hugged her close.
“I’ll get you to safety, love. I promise.”
“We’re not that far from shore. I’ll swim it.”
“You can’t swim that far. Not...with me!”
“I’m going to have to throw you overboard.”
“You’re coming too, though. Yes?”
“LeeAnn. I didn’t know what love meant until now. Right now. I will do whatever it takes to save you. It doesn’t matter what happens to me anymore! I give up my hope of heaven! That’s how much you mean to me. Don’t you get it? I love you!”
Kane caught a glimpse of movement to one side. A second later he was atop the railing. Crouched. Ready to jump.
“Kane! If you’re not coming. I don’t want to go. You hear me!”
“Quick breath, love.”
That was all the warning he had time for. Kane gripped her to his belly and sprang as far away from the ship’s side as he could. A long keening cry split the night behind them. From a hunter. Who’d barely missed its prey.
And then they smacked into the water.
The sun was already peeking above the horizon when LeeAnn awoke, signaling another gloriously hot, sunny, Florida day ahead. She nuzzled her nose against Kane’s neck. Snuggled closer. They’d run out of gas some time ago. The boat was swaying back and forth as it drifted. Good thing she wasn’t the seasick type.
She lifted her head to look up at him. “Kane?”
He grunted a reply. It echoed through where they touched.
“Did you ever find sunglasses?”
“What are we going to do?”
“It’s not a problem, LeeAnn. I know where we are. It’s a short swim to the coast.”
LeeAnn lifted her head higher and looked over the boat’s edge opposite the sunrise. Saw nothing but water. “What coast?”
“Key West. Yonder.”
If she squinted, she could just make out a shadow at the edge of the horizon. “I thought you said it was a short swim.”
“I’m an ex-SEAL, babe. Give me an hour.”
“Better wrap another sock around your arm first. You don’t want to tempt any sharks.”
He lifted his arm with the bloody sock wrapped about his bicep. Frowned at it.
“What is it?”
“I usually heal quicker than this.”
“Why didn’t you go while it was still dark?”
“You slept in my arms, LeeAnn. All night long. I...won’t get that particular joy again. I wanted to memorize it.”
“Don’t say that. Please?”
“All right. Then I’ll blame it on your attire. Or, lack thereof.”
“That’s not my fault. The robe weighed me down too much.”
“I know. It’s not your fault that Victor apparently had the same grasp of nautical terms as you, either. Jerk didn’t know starboard from portside. But I did most of the swimming. Admit it.”
“My shirt fits you like a micro-mini-dress, sweetheart. Who could leave? I mean, I may be dead, but I’m not that dead. I think we proved that yesterday. In the showers.”
“I love you,” she said.
He didn’t answer. A glance revealed he was looking out at the waves and blinking rapidly. Each of his breaths shuddered.
“Kane?” she whispered.
“Right with you, love. Just...give me a minute. Fair?”
“Ahoy there! You need help?”
The words carried across the waves. Kane sat up, taking LeeAnn with him. There was a large yacht bearing down on them, the rising sun right behind it. Nicely trimmed. Fancy. Three men and a woman were standing at the foredeck, all waving. The name of the boat was emblazoned on the bow.
LeeAnn waved back.
“Well. I guess that settles that.”
Kane remarked it when she settled back onto his lap.
“Why so glum? It’ll save you a swim.”
“We are about to be rescued. That means...my time is up. The assignment over. Consequences await. You are an amazing woman, LeeAnn. Capable of handling anything that life throws your way. It was an honor...knowing you.”
He flashed a glance at her, and then looked away. LeeAnn grabbed his chin and yanked him back to face her. Her eyes were wide at what she’d glimpsed. He had his eyes narrowed to mere slits.
“Open your eyes, Kane.”
He shook his head.
“We did this maneuver already, LeeAnn. I don’t think...I can handle a repeat. Not at the moment.” His voice broke.
She ran a thumb along his eyelashes. They came away damp.
“Kane! If you don’t open your eyes, I’m going to—! Please? I’m begging here. Please?”
He cracked an eye open. Her heart kicked up a notch. She’d been right. Where there had been nothing but black, it was now a warm, golden brown. And his pupils were tiny.
“Your eyes are brown.”
His lips thinned. He lifted his brows next. But then he opened his eyes. The longer she looked, the wider his eyes went. His mouth dropped open next. Until he was staring with a wide-eyed shocked expression.
“Oh, dearest God. I can see! Do ya’ know what this means?” His voice got more excited. And he had a definite drawl starting to come out.
“You don’t have to wear sunglasses all the time anymore?”
“I’ve earned another chance!”
“You mean...you aren’t going to leave me?”
“Oh, babe. Oh, joyous morn! You just try to lose me!”
He started laughing. The next moment, he was on his feet, with her in his arms, rocking the boat worse as he twirled. And then he sobered. The boat was still swaying wildly beneath them. He didn’t have any trouble compensating for it. He looked at her with beautiful warm brown eyes. She wouldn’t have moved her gaze for anything.
“I got a question for you, Miss LeeAnn Schultz.”
“Will you marry me?”
LeeAnn was stunned.
“I love you. You say you love me. Sounds like we got that part covered. I’m following the list you gave me. Wedding is next. Right?”
“I think we should try out some more of the great sex part first.”
She ran a tongue along her upper lip. Raised her eyebrow a couple of times suggestively. Really loved how he stumbled and clumsily dropped onto his backside. The boat rocked wildly several times.
“Lee. Ann. You need to cool your jets. We are about to be rescued.”
In answer, she ran a finger along the collar of his shirt, pulling the t-shirt material away from her skin slightly. He growled.
“All right. You asked for it.”
And then he rolled backwards and dove into the water with her.
~ ~ ~
THE HUNTED is the debut in my new series
Chronicles of the Hunter
featuring dark angels with a mission! Because I just love a good story where light and dark collide, and humans get in the way…
Jackie Ivie lives in the enormous state of Alaska with her husband and three very spoiled pets. She started her writing career writing hot highland historical romances for Kensington Publishing. There are now ten “Clans series” books, available in seven languages. Keeping her head in the clouds most of the time, Jackie now spends her time researching, developing, and writing her paranormal series – the
Vampire Assassin League
, the NEW
Chronicles of the Hunters
, as well as her other historical line – the
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