Read Line of Fire Online

Authors: Cindy Dees

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

Line of Fire (7 page)

BOOK: Line of Fire
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He sighed. “Just promise you’ll pull the trigger. It’s the only way I’ll know you’re in trouble.”

She eyed the rifle with deep suspicion.

“Is it loaded with real bullets or fake ones for the rifle range?”

Tex laughed shortly. “It’s loaded with hydra-shock explosive rounds. They’ll blow a hole the size of a basketball in anything they hit.”

“What if I accidentally shoot you?”

He shrugged. “Then take the beret. You’ll need it to strain your water.” And with that he turned and melted into the trees.

She glared at the spot where she’d last seen him. Then the immensity of the jungle crowded in as it hit her she was alone. She got down on her hands and knees and crawled into the shelter. Where was a four-star hotel when a girl needed one? Heck, she’d be delighted with a rat-infested flea trap right about now.

She shimmied out of her ruined sweater, so relieved to be free of the blasted thing she hardly cared if Tex came back and found her in her bra. The pink angora garment looked as pitiful as a cat who’d been caught out in the pouring rain.

The shelter’s roof was too low to sit upright beneath, so she stretched out on the cool ground and wadded the sweater under her head. Relief washed over her as she finally let go of the day’s tension. She’d close her eyes for just a minute.

She had no idea how long she slept. One second she was peacefully unconscious and the next she had the distinct feeling she was not alone. She opened her eyes and looked up.

A man loomed over her. His skin was dark and a red beret slouched over one eye. His eyes gleamed with hatred and lust.

She drew breath to scream, but a filthy hand slammed down on her mouth. She froze as cold steel bit into the side of her neck.

Chapter 4

C
old-blooded, killing-on-his-mind rage surged through Tex at the sight of the soldier holding a knife to Kimberly’s neck. He lunged through the thicket at the rebel, snarling low in his throat. The soldier spun away from Kimberly and sprang into a fighting stance. A knife glinted faintly in the guy’s right hand.

Blood roared in his ears and Tex didn’t mess around with any finesse moves. He charged forward, grabbed the slashing wrist and slammed his fist into the guy’s face as hard as he could.

The rebel dropped like a rock.

Jeez. That had been close. Way, way too close.

“Kimberly, honey, are you all right?” he panted.

She crouched in the opening of the shelter, her eyes huge and frightened as she peered up at him. He held open his arms and she all but leapt into them. She hung on like her life depended on him. Of course, it probably did.

Her shudders gradually subsided and she looked up at him. “Did you kill him?” she choked out.

He glanced down at the unmoving rebel. They guy’s nose was mush. He’d probably cracked a few of the dude’s facial bones and the guy’d probably lose a couple teeth out of it. Not that it was going to matter when he was done with the bastard.

His first inclination was to cause the rebel a whole lot of pain before he waxed him. But, given the need for quiet, he’d have to settle for slitting the guy’s throat. He realized Kimberly was staring at him, waiting for an answer to her question.

“No, I didn’t. But I’m going to.”

“You’re going to…” Her gaze flickered to the unconscious man at their feet, then back up at him. “You wouldn’t!” she accused.

He leaned down and plucked the bowie knife out of the guy’s limp fingers. “I’ll drag him away from here before I slit his throat because the smell of blood’s going to attract some nasty visitors. I don’t want packs of predators parking on the front steps of our shelter.”

Her eyes went wide and black, and fine trembling enveloped her entire body. Good. Maybe the seriousness of their situation was finally starting to sink in. He pressed the point. “I’m not going to bother burying him because it would take too much time. And besides, when the animals are done with him, nobody will be able to tell if he was human or not.”

Even in the near total darkness, he saw her face go white as a sheet. He hoped she didn’t faint on him. He already had his hands full with the rebel.

Kimberly grabbed him by the arm. “Tex. You can’t kill this man!”

“Sure I can. Besides the fact that he deserves to die for attacking you, I can’t let him run back to his buddies and tell them where we are. I’ve got to silence him.”

Words tumbled out of Kimberly’s mouth, stumbling over one another as she spoke urgently. “I believe you. This is all real. You don’t have to kill that guy to prove it to me.”

“I’m not killing him to prove anything,” Tex answered reasonably. “I’m killing him because he found us and he represents a threat to your safety.”

She wrung her hands, keeping pace beside him as he commenced dragging the soldier’s limp body out into the jungle. “Tex. You can’t kill a man on my account. It’s wrong to slaughter another human being like this! I couldn’t live with this guy’s life on my conscience. Please. For me. Don’t do it!” she begged.

Tex let the guy’s feet drop to the ground with a thud. He stared hard at her. She looked desperate. “Are you for real?”

She nodded frantically. “Yes. Absolutely. For God’s sake, don’t kill this man!”

He closed his eyes for a moment in sheer frustration. “You’re asking me to make a huge tactical mistake. My job is to keep you safe. At all costs. Including this guy’s life.”

“I understand. But spare him anyway. Please?”

Her eyes were so soulful, so pitiful. He felt his resolve slipping. And then she put her soft, supplicating hand on his arm. He cursed viciously under his breath. “Mark my words, I’m going to live to regret this,” he rumbled. He tucked the knife in his belt and pulled out a length of rope. “Help me tie him up, will you?” he asked in resignation.

She took breath to speak and he interrupted her before she could say a word. “There’s no way you’re talking me out of this, Kimberly. I
am
binding and gagging him so he can’t get loose for a day or two. By then we’ll have a big enough head start so he can’t give away our location. I hope.”

Kimberly flung herself around his neck. “Oh, thank you, Tex.” She planted a big, enthusiastic kiss on his mouth.

Hell, for a thanks like that, he ought to spare bad guys’ lives more often. He tied and gagged the soldier quickly, securing the guy’s hands around a rough barked tree. If the fellow rubbed the ropes on the tree for long enough, the cord would fray and he’d get loose. If not…Tex shrugged.

“Come on,” he growled. “Let’s get back under cover.”

Fortunately, Kimberly didn’t give him any more flack. He trussed up the unconscious soldier in resigned silence and then led her back to their shelter. He paused outside the entrance. “Tell me the God’s honest truth, Kimberly. Are you saying you believe me about being kidnapped because you wanted to save that guy’s neck or because you do accept that, in fact, you were kidnapped?”

She stared up at him for a long time. She whispered, “You were really going to kill that soldier, weren’t you?”

He nodded without hesitation. “Absolutely. I can’t believe I let you talk me out of it.”

“If I had any doubts about it being real before, I don’t anymore.” She collapsed onto the nearest log and buried her face in her hands.

He sat down beside her, at a loss as to how to comfort her. He rarely hung around women. Especially crying ones. “Nothing’s changed. I’m still going to get you out of this safely. It’ll all turn out fine and you’ll have a story to tell your grandkids.”

She glanced up at him, her eyes suspiciously watery. “If only you could wave a magic wand and make it all stop!”

“I will make it stop, darlin’. You just have to bear with me for a few days. We’ll be okay. I swear.”

“Cross your heart and hope to die?” she asked in a small voice.

“There’ll be no dying here,” he replied firmly. “How about if I swear on a stack of bibles instead?”

She took a deep breath and nodded, a hesitant grant of trust.

Relief made his knees go weak for a moment. Now maybe they actually had a snowball’s chance of surviving. Worry for her safety slammed into him like a runaway train. A visceral need to protect her flowed through his veins. Damn. His reaction was a whole lot stronger than mere professional concern.

He stared down at her in the dark. Violent desire to make love with her shuddered through him. So much fire blazed in her. She’d burn the night down around them if she ever turned it loose.

I’m going to make you admit that kissing me completely blew you away.
Her challenge swirled around him, more of a threat than she knew.

Except he’d met her type before. They’d wrap a guy around their little finger, wring the very guts out of him, then toss him away like an old rag. He’d been down that road before and learned his lesson. He had no interest whatsoever in being the next conquest in Kimberly Stanton’s string of toy-boys.

Yeah, he’d liked that kiss. Hell, it tied him in knots just to think about it. But that didn’t mean he was going back for more. He could do without the strings attached, thank you very much.

His gaze dropped to the expanse of creamy skin she’d revealed by stripping off her sweater. Her flesh glowed in the filtered darkness that enveloped them. His hands ached to stroke that satiny smoothness. Beneath his scrutiny, abrupt awareness of his attention visibly thrummed through her and goose bumps raised on her skin.

The night air suddenly felt overwarm. He spoke as much to distract himself as her from the heavy tension hanging between them. “I said I’d get you out of this alive and well, and I will.”

The tension gradually drained from her and she sagged against him for a moment. She lifted her head and spit grass out of her mouth. “What in the world have you done to yourself? You’re covered in mud and grass!”

He grinned. “Like my camouflage?”

“No! It’s hideous.”

He laughed. “But it’s the latest in haute jungle couture.”

“High Neanderthal fashion, maybe.” She laughed. “On television, you guys use nice, civilized grease paint and a few twigs in your helmet. What’s with this pig-in-swill look?”

“On television, we don’t give away our secrets,” he retorted. “The last thing we need is to broadcast how we really operate on the evening news for our enemies to see.”

“Are you sure it’s terrorists and not the rest of America you don’t want seeing how you really operate?”

He paused, kneeling before the shelter entrance. He looked up at her. “The American people don’t want to know how we really operate, darlin’.”

She crouched beside him, bringing her into disturbingly close proximity. Close enough for him to lean forward just a little and kiss her. The memory of the warm, sultry taste of her swirled through his head with aphrodisiac intensity.

“The American people have a right to know what you do with their tax dollars,” she murmured.

He frowned at her. What was going on here? She actually wanted to sit in the middle of a jungle full of kidnappers and discuss politics? An undercurrent flowed through her words. Something more personal than a mere point of view. What was it she had against soldiers like him?

“Look,” he said on a sigh. “You’re welcome to your opinion, and I’ll stick to mine. The reason I do what I do is so you can have your opinion and express it freely.”

She frowned, but he continued. “When you get back home safe and sound, you can do your worst to convince Congress to disband my unit. But in the meantime, I’ve got a job to do, whether you approve of it or not.” He shoved the beret, which he took from inside his shirt, into her hands. “Eat these.”

She picked up one of the green berries he’d collected and examined it suspiciously. “What is it?”

“It comes from a native vine. I don’t know the name. The berries taste terrible, but they won’t kill you. The locals distill its juice into a truly evil rotgut.”

She popped one in her mouth and immediately puckered up, shuddering. “God, that’s worse than a lemon!”

He made a sympathetic face. “Just swallow them down as fast as you can. You need to eat. We could be out here for several weeks.”

She popped another berry into her mouth. She chewed it minimally and gulped it down.

He talked to distract her while she dutifully consumed the fruit. “I found some signs of other humans besides our visitor.”

She stopped eating abruptly. “How close?”

“A couple hundred yards. Fortunately not real fresh. Probably some poachers. But tomorrow we’ll need to take precautions and move more carefully.”

“What sort of precautions?”

“For starters, we’ll need to camouflage you, too.”

She asked in dismay, “Do I have to do the whole mud-and-grass-in-the-hair thing? Couldn’t I just smear on a little grease paint and call it good?”

“Sorry. I don’t have any grease paint with me on this trip.”

“Why not?”

He snorted. “I wasn’t exactly expecting to get kidnapped and end up in a South American jungle when I went to work yesterday. As it is, we’re lucky I’ve got any survival gear on me at all.”

She frowned. “Exactly how much gear do you have?”

“Enough for us to live on, if that’s what you’re asking. I’ve got the knife I just picked off that soldier, and we have rope and a cigarette lighter from the guard in the truck. I happened to have a space blanket in the pocket of my pants, and that’s a real piece of luck. Not to mention a couple ounces of DEET in my shooting gear. Plus, we have the two rifles. Although we’ll only use those as a last resort.”

“What’s a space blanket?”

“It’s a thin piece of plastic coated with a Mylar heat reflecting surface. Folds up into a little bundle about the size of my fist. It’ll keep us dry and warm in a pinch.”

“We’re supposed to survive out here for weeks with a knife, some rope, a lighter and a piece of plastic?” she asked incredulously.

What did she sound so upset about? It could’ve been worse. Not a lot worse, but worse. “I’ve survived with less,” he commented casually.

She looked at him in patent disbelief.

He grinned. “Welcome to some of that training you’re so hot and bothered to tell the taxpayers and terrorists all about.”

BOOK: Line of Fire
5.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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