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Authors: Susan Sleeman

High-Caliber Holiday (2 page)

BOOK: High-Caliber Holiday
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umb cops,” Craig muttered as he gestured at the door with his gun. He obviously thought Archer was no longer listening, but Brady knew his teammate was not only listening, he was intently watching.

“I could help you with them,” Morgan Thorsby said. “As an attorney, I can act as a go-between to negotiate your demands.”

“Demands? I don't have demands. I just want to get off the stupid train with you in tow.” He massaged his forehead with his free hand.

“They'll let you off if you surrender your gun,” Morgan continued.

Brady was surprised she had the presence of mind to talk so calmly to a man holding her life in his hands. Even more surprising, Archer didn't shut her down. Maybe she was saying the right things and Archer thought she could help.

“And then what?” Craig asked. “I step off the train and some hotshot kills me? No, thanks.”

“You have it backwards. If you don't surrender the gun, that hotshot you mentioned is going to go to work and you won't get off the train alive.”

“Fine. But if that happens, I'm taking you with me.” He grabbed Morgan and jerked her head back, planting the gun against her temple again.

“Wait. Let me talk to the negotiator when he comes back on. I'll tell him you haven't harmed anyone and that you're going to surrender. You can give me the gun, and we can walk out together. Then I'll represent you or find a good criminal lawyer for you.”

Brady heard the underlying tremble in Morgan's tone but it was still soothing, almost hypnotic. If Brady were the shooter, he would gladly do what she asked.

Craig took a step back. “You'd represent me, even after this?”

“Yes,” she said. “You've been drinking to mask your loss. If you had a clear head, you—”

“I'd do the same thing.”

The guy's biting tone said he was planning to pull that trigger. It made Brady want to end this now, but he wouldn't do so without Jake's authority.

Craig stood unmoving and staring at her. Suddenly, something caught his attention in the distance and he spun.

“No!” he shouted. “It's a trick. I can see them—all of them—cops...coming for me. Well, they won't find me. I'll make my own way out.”

He jerked his finger. The gun erupted. Bullets blasted into the window, the safety glass cracking and splintering, but holding.

“Falcon, you are clear to take a shot,” Jake announced.

“Roger that, Papa Bear.” Brady's gut cramped as he dropped his finger to the trigger. Took a deep breath. Released a long hiss of air. Prepared to squeeze. Craig—
no, the target
, Brady reminded himself—shifted, his eyes coming into view. Filled with rage, with pain.

Brady hesitated.

Craig started for Morgan, bending toward her. Brady had to act now or the window of opportunity would be gone. He quickly adjusted and squeezed the trigger. The bullet sliced through the air. Craig suddenly lurched forward, Morgan falling in the other direction. She hit the ground, disappearing from the scope.

Brady's mouth dropped open. He didn't think his shot hit Craig. Looked more like he'd fallen. But what about Morgan? His bullet couldn't have hit her, could it? Even if it hadn't, his moment of hesitation had given Craig a chance to move closer to Morgan and changed Brady's angle. Maybe it had put Morgan in the path of shattering glass. He wouldn't know until he had a chance to get inside the train car and look around.

“Move, move, move,” came Jake's voice as he dispatched the team to secure the gunman and train.

Brady kept his scope honed on the train when all he wanted to do was race across the street and see if Morgan was alive. He couldn't, though. He had to hold his position until Jake gave the all clear.

He waited. Watched.

The team charged the train. The doors slid open. Brady caught a look at Craig and Morgan on the floor. Blood colored Morgan's arm.
. If Brady had hit her, it wasn't a body shot. She should make it.

She held up Craig's gun. Looked like it hadn't been her injury taking her down. Instead, she'd dropped to the floor to retrieve the gun. Archer put a knee in Craig's back and cuffed him. Jake retrieved Craig's gun while Cash went to Morgan and comforted her.

“Stand down, Falcon,” Jake said.

Brady wasted no time strapping his rifle over his shoulder and taking off toward the train, moving as fast as he could. His gaze went straight to Morgan. On the floor, sitting up and alert, she'd clamped a hand over her injured arm. Blood had oozed through her fingers. Fresh. Red. But no longer increasing.

Brady sighed out his relief. Guilt flooded in. His hesitation had likely caused her injury. Still, it could have been far worse. He could have severely injured her.

Thank You, God, for protecting her
, he thought and joined Cash who was standing over her and calling on his radio for Darcie.

“Hang tight,” Cash said to Morgan. “Our medic is on the way.”

“Seems like the bleeding has stopped,” Morgan said, not sounding as fearful as Brady expected.

Sure, lingering fear darkened her eyes, but he liked the strength he saw in her. She was something else. Most women would be fainting or falling apart in this situation, but Morgan remained strong.

Brady's kind of woman. Not clingy. Not needy. Her own person, standing strong. Until he shot her. Or his bullet sent glass flying into her arm.

Right. She's hurt because of me.
He should apologize for the injury, but to do so, he'd have to admit he'd frozen, and his hesitation could very well have caused her injury.

He'd have to find a way to deal with that. Because one thing he knew for certain, a sniper who froze wasn't good for anyone, least of all the First Response Squad. The only way to combat that was to get over what was causing it or leave the team.

* * *

Icy-cold air laden with flurrying snow rushed into the train car as Morgan reached for a pole to get to her feet. It hit her then. She'd been shot. Shot! It was only a superficial wound, but even so, a bullet had grazed her arm.

A bullet. An honest-to-goodness bullet.

The night came flashing back like a fast-forwarded video. The pictures were bright, but blurred. The sounds frantic. Craig coming for her, wanting to kill her, his bullets piercing the glass, sending spidery cracks racing through it. Her decision to put the active shooter training into practice. To fight. When Craig no longer had his gun planted against her head, she'd shot out her foot and tripped him. It was risky, but she'd had no choice. He was going to kill her. Right there in the train if she did nothing.

He'd crashed to the floor. The gun skittered away. She'd started to go after it when another gun blast sounded from a distance. The zip of a bullet was followed by the slice in her arm, pain radiating up. But she'd kept her cool and located the gun before Craig could get to his feet.

She shuddered and forced her thoughts to the present. The deputy who'd called for a medic was hauling Craig off in handcuffs. His face was peppered with cuts from the glass. His shoulder was bloody, but he didn't seem to notice.

He came to a stop next to Morgan and glared at her. “Don't think this is the last of this. I'll make you pay.”

“Pretty hard to do from prison,” the deputy said.

Craig sneered at her. “I'll find a way.”

“Come on, Shaw.” The deputy jerked Craig's cuffs and prodded him off the train.

With Craig gone, she was suddenly aware of another deputy who'd arrived later than the others staring down at her. He stood tall and commanding as if protecting her from an unseen foe.

Unseen foe. Ha!
A thought she'd never expected to have.

It was all so surreal, and she couldn't handle much more. She needed to give her statement and get out of there before she fell apart. First, she had to get off the floor, out of the glass and away from the blood.

She pulled up on the pole. Her knees buckled and the blood drained from her head. She wobbled.

“Are you okay, ma'am?” the deputy asked. The car seemed to be spinning, and it was all she could do to find a seat before hitting the floor.

“Head between your knees or you're going to keel over.” He stepped forward and a strong hand pushed her head down, then held it in place.

A whooshing noise rushed through Morgan's ears, and she blinked hard to try to clear the dizziness. She was aware of movement around her and the man's foot as he tapped on the metal floor, as if anxious to leave. Her vision was starting to clear, and she tried to sit up.

“Not yet,” he said, obviously used to getting his way.

She waited a few more moments. “I'm good to sit up.”

“You're sure you won't faint on me?” His tone had lightened. “'Cause superhero code says a damsel in distress can only be rescued once a day.” He grinned.

“No worries. I don't need rescuing, by you or anyone else,” she replied more vehemently than called for. He was simply trying to alleviate her stress with a joke, but she was tired of people thinking she needed taking care of.

“Have it your way.” His hand retracted.

She shot up. Her head spun. She closed her eyes and waited it out.

“Maybe you should've taken your time sitting up there,” he said, a Midwestern flavor to his tone.

She opened her eyes and glared up at him. Her gaze had to travel quite a distance to reach his eyes. Past a broad chest. Past some very nice shoulders, to a handsome face. With his blond hair worn in a messy style, he looked more like a laid-back surfer than a cop.

How in the world had she missed him when he'd come barreling into the car? Sure, all the deputies were fine-looking men, but something about this one made her want to linger on his flinty-black eyes that watched her intently as she studied him.

“Deputy Brady Owens at your service,” he said as his lips turned up in a dazzling smile that she assumed made women swoon, but she could see it was forced. His eyes were troubled. He wore the same uniform as the others, black tactical pants and a polo shirt with a Kevlar vest on top, but an expensive-looking rifle with a high-powered scope hung over his shoulder. He didn't at all seem the type to carry a rifle.

Rifle? Wait.

“You're the sniper,” she said, her mind processing the fact that this man standing here ended lives with a simple pull of the trigger.

He gave a clipped nod but said nothing else, leaving her feeling uneasy.

“How does someone get a job like that? I mean, do you wake up one morning and say I think I'll learn how to shoot people?” She knew she was rambling and sounding rude, but she'd never met anyone with this job and didn't know what to say to him.

“Marines needed me, ma'am, and I did my duty.” He stood taller and gone was the easygoing expression. It was now stony and unyielding. “Our armed forces are the reason you have the freedom to offer representation to a man who takes a woman hostage at gunpoint. And the reason that police officers can save lives in hostage situations like this one.”

“Wait,” she said quickly. “No... I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by my comment. I was just wondering about it, that's all. I meant no disrespect. I appreciate the men and women of the military and the police.”

He looked doubtful before his gaze lifted above her. She swiveled to see what he was looking at.

A woman wearing the same black uniform and a stethoscope hanging around her neck marched forward. The thirty-something woman looked familiar, but Morgan wasn't sure from where. When she got closer, their eyes connected.

The woman smiled. “Hi, Morgan. It's me, Darcie. Remember? From OSU.”

Morgan rose slowly, searching her memory for a Darcie and testing her strength before stepping toward the door. As she got closer, the picture of a young girl in her philosophy class as naive as Morgan had been swirled in Morgan's mind. “Darcie Wiggins?”

She nodded. “Not Wiggins anymore, but Stevens, and yeah, it's me.”

“Of course,” Morgan said. “I'm surprised you remember me.”

“I'd never forget the girl who set off to save the world one person at a time.”

girl. She's long gone.” Morgan laughed and grabbed her old Oregon State University friend in a hug, but pulled back when the pain in her arm made her wince. “Crazy to run into you here. I thought you were working as an ER nurse. What happened? Did the ER get too tame for you and you had to move on to the front lines?”

“Changed jobs a few years back,” Darcie said, her impenetrable tone stopping Morgan from asking additional questions.

“Ms. Thorsby just about passed out,” Brady inserted. “She put her head between her knees for a bit and seems better. She either took a bullet or got in the way of flying glass, but the bleeding's stopped.” He frowned as if the situation bothered him personally. This man, the one whose bullet cut like butter through the glass and whizzed by her, was concerned for her?

An uncontrollable tremble started at her head and rushed down her body. “It was a bullet. At least it felt like one.”

His frown deepened.

“Go ahead and sit down, Morgan, and I'll take a look at it.” Darcie dropped onto the chair next to Morgan and started poking at the wound. “Superficial. Not from glass. Odd,” she said, and paused to look up at Brady. “The wound is thicker than I'd expect from the rounds Shaw was firing.”

“Meaning what?” Morgan asked as she swung her gaze between the two of them.

Darcie smiled at Morgan, but it was forced. “It should heal quickly, but it's gonna hurt like crazy for some time.”

She didn't have to tell Morgan that. As the adrenaline ebbed, the pain became more acute. Or maybe the flashes of her near death were making her more aware of everything around her.

Darcie moved on to Morgan's vitals and strapped a blood pressure cuff on her arm. Brady continued to stand beside them, his arms raised, his hands clinging to an overhead bar. Tapping a finger on the metal, he stared down on Morgan, making her aware of his every movement. Aware of his muscles flexing as he moved, which he did. A lot.

BOOK: High-Caliber Holiday
2.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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