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Authors: Cindy Dees

Tags: #Contemporary, #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Man-Woman Relationships, #Love Stories, #Suspense, #Erotica, #Special Forces (Military Science)

Line of Fire (2 page)

BOOK: Line of Fire
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The group of journalists behind her chuckled. Double drat. The last thing she needed was this cocky Special Forces type charming the press into doing favorable pieces on the new sniper rifle. Of course, the real purpose of today’s demonstration at Quantico’s firing range wasn’t the gun at all. It was to paint soldiers like Tex Monroe as the cold, calculating killers they were.

It had taken some fancy maneuvering to set up this outing. She was a known antimilitary lobbyist, and the Air Force hadn’t been enthusiastic about giving her this demonstration. They suspected, rightly, that she’d turn the whole thing against them somehow in a splashy media blitz. Of course, she hadn’t anticipated that the Air Force would sabotage her campaign with a P.R. savvy poster boy like Tex Monroe.

She tossed back her tawny locks and flashed her million-dollar smile at the press corps. “As you can see, gentlemen, with one of these new generation rifles, a single soldier like this one can become a nearly unstoppable killing machine.”

The killing machine in question scowled up at her. Good. The meaner he looked, the more impact her remarks would have.

An audio circuit on one of the video cameras screeched abruptly, and the soldier jumped, his hands flying up into a defensive position.

“See? That’s what I’m talking about,” she said smoothly. “Observe the reflexes of the trained killer.”

“Miss Stanton,” Tex drawled with a lazy smile, “jumping at a squealing speaker is hardly a demonstration of my propensity to kill people.”

The reporters chuckled again. She had to get these guys away from him and his slick Southern charm before he ruined this day’s work entirely.

Thankfully the sound of a thwocking helicopter became audible in the distance. She announced pleasantly, “That will be our ride, gentlemen. Shall we go? I made reservations at the Watergate Club for us. We can finish our discussion over lunch.”

She’d learned at her father’s knee that there was nothing quite like prime rib and a few beers for getting reporters to see things exactly her way. Nobody worked the press better than Senator William Stanton, except maybe his only daughter.

A sleek, black helicopter settled in the middle of the firing range. She mentally flinched at its sharklike profile. How appropriate to her calculated manipulation of the press. Sharklike, indeed. Like father, like daughter.

Tex Monroe popped up to his feet, rising to his full six-foot-two height. He shouldered the heavy sniper rifle with a quick bunching of impressive muscles. She gulped. None of the men she knew had the time or inclination to work out in a gym. Those who exercised at all talked on the cell phone while they put in a couple of miles on a treadmill.

Tex’s long legs lengthened into an easy, ground-eating jog that bespoke many miles of carrying heavy rifles like the one slung over his shoulder. She pulled out the fuzzy collar of her pink angora sweater and blew surreptitiously down her front, cooling her abruptly overheated system.

His shoulders were so broad they blocked the entire helicopter door as he approached it. She couldn’t help but notice his panther-like grace as he pivoted smoothly to a stop to wait for her.

She scowled at the picture he made, poised and alert beside the sleek chopper. The last thing she needed in the newspapers were photos of a killer who came across like a knight in shining armor. She made a mental note to discourage the reporters from printing any pictures with this particular story.

A couple of military police held everyone back while the helicopter finished its landing procedures, but she adroitly slipped past the outstretched arm of the nearest cop.

She strode after the annoying commando, leaving the surprised reporters to hurry after her once the police let them pass. Rule number three on her father’s list of how to manage the press. Always keep them off balance and one step behind you. That way they were much more likely to go in the direction you wanted them to. Rules one and two dealt with never showing fear and never answering the entire question.

She ducked beneath the spinning rotor blade and moved toward Tex where he waited beside the helicopter door. Her knees threatened to buckle when he flashed her another one of those drop-dead smiles of his.

“Y’all come back and see us sometime,” he shouted over the helicopter noise.

She scowled into his laughing blue gaze. He knew exactly what she’d been up to today. He also knew he’d thrown her a serious curve ball. The rat.

“Maybe I will at that, Mr. Monroe,” she shouted back.

He grinned at the threat implied in her words, his eyes glinting in all-male challenge.

In another place, another time, she might have considered taking up the sexually charged gauntlet he’d just tossed at her feet. But not with a half-dozen nosy, camera-toting reporters straggling across the field to join them. Rule number four: never, ever, make a spectacle of oneself in public, especially if there are cameras nearby.

She stepped forward in a subtle power play, waiting expectantly for him to get the door for her. But he anticipated her ploy and had already leaned forward, reaching for the black door. The movement brought him close enough for her to see him look down at her mouth in sensual speculation.

To her utter shock, she found herself leaning toward him in return. His head angled down slightly and she felt her chin tilt up in response.

Oh, God. Rule number four!

Reporters. With cameras. Closing in on them. No public spectacles!

She jerked back, breathing hard.

She looked up at him, expecting derision in his azure gaze. But what she saw was sex. Pure and simple.

“Anytime, darlin’,” he murmured. “Call me and I’ll be there.”

No words would form in her throat. She stared, momentarily dazed. And then the cheek of what he’d just said hit her. “I’ll see you in front of Congress,” she hissed.

His eyebrows went up innocently. “It takes an act of Congress to date you?”

Her gaze narrowed. “Charlie Squad and the other Special Forces teams like yours are done, soldier. I’m the final nail in your coffin.”

She watched with satisfaction as his smirk faded into uncertainty. “What are you talking about?” he asked, his voice soft and dangerous.

“I’ve proposed a reform bill to do away with government funding for all trained hit squads. The American taxpayers are done supporting killers like you,” she snapped.

He stared narrowly at her, absorbing her declaration. Hard knowledge filled his gaze. Finally he drawled, “Darlin’, I hope you never find out why the taxpayers
need
killers like me.”

His eyes glittered like diamonds, determined and intelligent. He reached out with one hand for the helicopter door and with the other for her elbow to help her inside.

Without warning, the door flew open. Four black-clad figures burst out.

Kimberly jumped, violently startled by the unexpected explosion of motion. Out of the corner of her eye, she registered ski masks and weapons slung from men’s shoulders. A quick frown flashed across Tex’s face. Her mind vaguely processed that this was bad.

But then someone shoved her between the shoulder blades, throwing her forward into the helicopter in a stumbling half-fall.

What in the world…

Someone pushed her down roughly. Her forehead hit the metal floor and stars burst forth behind her eyelids. She distantly heard her own voice cry out in pain. The dreamlike unreality of whatever farce was abruptly playing out around her refused to compute in her brain.

Something, someone, thudded to the floor beside her, landing with a grunt. A warm, hard body sprawled half across hers. A shock of recognition shot through her as her gaze met Tex Monroe’s Caribbean blue one.

“You okay?” he bit out.

She was now. His presence eased her terror. Instinctively she knew he would take control of whatever bizarre situation was unfolding here. “Yes,” she gasped.

Then his gaze darted away in all directions, quickly assessing the situation. “I’ll take care of you,” he murmured. “Stay down.”

Unexpected warmth flowed through her at his muttered reassurance. Somehow she believed him. She watched in awe as he rolled away from her and exploded into action. He threw his fists and feet with lethal precision. Grunts and cursing erupted from behind the black-masked men who surrounded them as Tex fought back with grim determination.

Hands grabbed her shoulders and a slender, silver aerosol canister descended toward her. Cool white spray misted into her face. The last thing she remembered before she spun away into oblivion was Tex’s voice expressing his disgust in a single succinct curse.

Then everything went dark.

* * *

A sleek female body rubbed up against Tex, bringing feeling roaring back into every portion of his body. She stretched against him languorously, her silken hair teasing his ear and making his body throb with life, after what seemed like a long, cloudy slumber.

The round softness of her breast caressed his arm, its weight tempting him to cup it. Its resilience begged him to test it, the hard bud of her nipple demanded that he taste and tease it. He turned toward her, reaching for her.

His hands wouldn’t cooperate.

What the hell was going on?

His shoulders hurt, too. And his feet were acting the same uncooperative way as his hands.

Tex kept his eyes closed as full awareness gradually seeped back into his fuzzy brain. The dream of the gorgeous blonde seducing him faded in part. But the soft curves pressed against him remained. Something important had happened, something he needed to remember…

He’d been standing on the firing range at Quantico beside a late-model Sikorsky helicopter. An image of a stunning young woman with green cat eyes and legs a mile long floated, disembodied, in his mind. He’d wanted to kiss her so badly he could barely stand up.

There was something else…

Bits and pieces of memory returned and he attached a name to the woman. Kimberly Stanton. Senator Stanton’s militantly liberal daughter. She’d been with a bevy of reporters watching him fire a new sniper rifle equipped with the Roving Instant Target Acquisition system, also known as RITA.

And then something happened…

He struggled for memory.

It all rushed back at once. Armed men had jumped out of the helicopter and caught him as flat-footed as his grandmother. There hadn’t been a damned thing to do but roll with the blow to his head and fall inside the bird.

He’d counted six men. Heavily armed, wearing headsets and body armor, moving swiftly and in well-coordinated fashion. They’d kidnapped the influential senator’s daughter. For ransom? Blackmail on a political decision? Publicity, maybe? Kimberly Stanton was nearly as famous as her father. And her father was a national hero.

Tex frowned. How long he and Kimberly had been unconscious was anybody’s guess. You could keep a guy out cold for days on a good knockout spray. Awareness of his immediate surroundings began to register. He wasn’t in a helicopter anymore—the rumbling noise under his ear was a diesel engine. The hard floor he laid on bounced like a truck hitting a rut.

His right side was warm. The kind of warm that comes from having a naked woman plastered to you after sweaty sex. How real
was
that dream? He cracked open his eyes for a look.

She wasn’t naked, but Kimberly Stanton was definitely plastered against him. In fact, her leg was lying on top of his thigh and her knee was rubbing against his…

Damn! He finally had a gorgeous blonde tied up and draped all over him, and she had to be unconscious. Yeah, well, this wasn’t the time to be thinking about that. He noticed curved metal ribs covered in canvas overhead. Yup, a truck.

He waited until the next good bump in the road and turned his head to the left under cover of the jostling. He slitted his eyes open again. The sight that greeted him caused his eyes to pop fully open in surprise. One man in military fatigues with an AK-47 rifle propped across his lap leaned against the far wall of the truck, fast asleep.

Either the guy was a complete moron, or else their captors expected Tex to be unconscious for a good while longer. They probably hadn’t accounted for the fact that he could hold his breath for nearly three minutes. Most of the knockout gas they’d sprayed at him in the helicopter had dissipated before he’d been forced to inhale it.

He noticed something else lying tossed in the corner behind the soldier. The bulky sniper rifle he’d been carrying when he approached the helicopter. He smiled briefly at that bit of good luck. It was a hell of a weapon and would come in handy if he and the senator’s daughter managed to escape.

He tested the bonds holding his hands behind his back. Big mistake by his captors. The rope had some give in it. He worked on it for no more than a minute before his right hand slid free of the restraint.

Urgency rode him hard. He didn’t have the foggiest idea what he’d gotten tangled up in, but it couldn’t be good. The initial attack bore all the signs of a professional job—the yahoo snoring across the truck bed aside, of course. Tex disentangled himself from the girl and sat up cautiously. Still the guard didn’t move. Quickly, Tex reached down and untied his feet.

This was almost too easy. He eased himself high enough to peer over the tailgate and out the back of the truck. No other vehicles were following them.

Sonofagun. The kidnappers, who’d been so organized up till now, had actually left open a window of opportunity for him and the girl to escape. Hell, a big, gaping door of opportunity. He briefly weighed the risk to her life of attempting to escape versus staying. The odds of her living on the run were slim, but her chances with the kidnappers were zero.

He went to work.

As silent and deadly as a snake, he struck, leaping across the width of the truck. He brought down the edge of his hand in a quick, rigid chop to the guard’s left temple. The guy crumpled over to the floor. Tex paused for a moment to blink away the dizziness that hit him after moving fast. They’d gotten some of that gas into him and he was still suffering the effects.

Pushing himself to concentrate, Tex stole the guy’s watch, then tied the guard’s hands tightly using the same ropes that had bound him. He tore off a piece of the guy’s shirt and stuffed it into the fool’s mouth. The guy’s belt secured the gag tightly in place.

BOOK: Line of Fire
8.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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