Authors: Elle Kennedy
Tags: #Romance, #Suspense, #Contemporary, #Adult
“With sexy heroes and strong heroines, Killer Instincts is a not-to-be-missed experience.”*
PRAISE FOR ELLE KENNEDY’S KILLER INSTINCTS SERIES
“Kudos to Kennedy for creating such passionate adversaries who are literally unforgettable!”
RT Book Review
s (top pick, 4½ stars)
“Filled with wonderfully flawed characters you can’t help but love and heart-stopping, riveting suspense. . . . I highly recommend
for those who enjoy their romantic suspense on the dark and steamy side.”
New York Times
bestselling author Christy Reece
“Dangerous suspense to quicken your pulse. Romance hot enough to make you sweat. Elle Kennedy puts them together and leaves you breathless.”
New York Times
bestselling author Vivian Arend
“A gripping, pulse-pounding tale. . . . First-class adventure, passionate desire, and fierce characters make this a very satisfying page-turner.”
“An adrenaline-filled, exhilarating ride. The story is a thrilling, action-packed adventure, as well as a tender story.”
“Kennedy’s delicious third Killer Instinct romantic thriller . . . takes readers on a terrific emotional roller-coaster ride full of relentless action, heated sexual tension, and nail-biting plot twists . . . seamlessly [weaves] the romance into the mission story line. . . . Fantastic recurring characters, a deftly drawn plot, and breathless passion will leave the reader begging for more.”
“An excellent addition to a very good romantic suspense series. The story has a fascinating plotline, lots of action, and an intriguing twist.”
“So far each book has been suspenseful, heartbreaking, and full of sexy times, with
being the best yet.”
“As sexy as it is exciting. Elle Kennedy hits all the right notes in this fast-paced, adrenaline-filled third installment to her outstanding Killer Instincts series . . . action aplenty . . . spellbinding romantic suspense.”
“Balances the gritty side of humanity with sizzling passion.”
“[Kennedy] shows a real flair for penning thrillers that are passionate, gritty, and extremely suspenseful.”
RT Book Reviews
“Seduction, sex, and suspense—Elle Kennedy is a master at blending all three. . . . [The] Killer Instincts series is dark, sensual, and extremely compelling.”
“If you’re looking for a chilling, hard-core romantic suspense loaded with sensuality, military camaraderie, and dry humor, why not arrange for a
“Romantic suspense just gained a major new player!”
RT Book Reviews
“This was a very good romantic suspense. It had all the right elements that I look for in a book like this. The hot alpha men. The strong women they pair up with.”
Also Available in the Killer Instincts Series
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC, 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014
USA | Canada | UK | Ireland | Australia | New Zealand | India | South Africa | China
A Penguin Random House Company
First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC
First Printing, June 2015
Copyright © Leeanne Kenedy, 2015
Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.
SIGNET ECLIPSE and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This one is for the most entertaining group of people I’ve ever met: the Irish!
As always, a lot of research and preparation went into this book, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of some very amazing people:
Josephine McDonnell, my Irish fairy godmother, who beta-read this book, offered valuable feedback, and made sure my Irish slang was up to par.
Brett Leary, paramedic extraordinaire, who put up with all my insane questions about shrapnel wounds.
Travis White, the best research assistant on the planet. Mostly because he sends me files with headings like
IRA For Dummies
International Drug Trafficking and You
When in Yacht
Vivian Arend, my bestest friend ever, who read the book and went typo-hunting for me while waiting in the airport for a flight.
Laura Fazio, my brilliant editor, who loves this series as much as I do.
My awesome little sister, Danielle, for coming to Ireland with me and driving me around because I was too terrified to drive on the other side of the road!
And of course everyone I met and spoke to in Ireland, especially Derek, the most knowledgeable cabdriver in the whole world.
Somerset County, England
“Being a hermit isn’t healthy, you know.” Bailey paused to shoot a pointed stare at her friend before continuing to wander through the cozy living room of Paige’s isolated country house.
Wall-to-wall bookshelves took up nearly half of the room, crammed with hundreds of titles that all looked well read. The lingering scent of smoke wafting out of the massive stone fireplace hinted that Paige had lit a fire recently. It was obvious that the woman spent a lot of time in this room, which corroborated Bailey’s belief that her friend was a total recluse.
“Says who?” From her perch on the overstuffed sofa, Paige sipped her Merlot, unperturbed by the accusation.
Watching the other woman daintily hold the stem of her wineglass was almost jarring. With her slight frame, light-red hair, and fair, freckled face, Paige Grant was cute and delicate—and the last person you’d imagine to be a ruthless assassin. But Bailey supposed all of her colleagues were the same in that way. Sweet and harmless on the surface, tough and deadly beneath it.
Bailey herself was no stranger to death and violence. Seven years in the CIA followed by five working for a dangerous assassin had definitely hardened her. She didn’t see the world as sunshine and rainbows—she saw it for what it was: cold, toxic, and treacherous, with rare moments of warmth and compassion slicing through the darkness like shards of moonlight.
you were lucky. She hadn’t experienced many warm and fuzzy moments in her life, not as an adult, and certainly not as a child.
But right now was one of those moments. Spending the weekend in a beautiful, albeit run-down, English farmhouse, sipping deliciously smooth wine, catching up with one of her best friends. Sunshine and rainbows, all right.
“Says me,” Bailey announced, returning to the couch and flopping down on the other end. “You’re too young and beautiful to be hidden away here. You should be out and about, kicking ass and breaking hearts.”
Paige snorted, then set her glass on the weathered oak coffee table and spoke in her crisp British accent. “First, I kick plenty of ass, thank you very much. Second, I’m not interested in breaking any hearts, but if you’re hinting that I need a good shagging, then don’t worry. I’m doing just fine. And third, you say all this as if
a social butterfly, when we both know for a fact that you, my dear, are as big of a loner as I am.”
Bailey couldn’t argue with that. Loner was her middle name. But still, her friend’s shut-in ways bothered her. Paige’s bubbly personality was completely incongruous with a life of isolation.
“At least I attended our boss’s wedding,” she said mockingly.
“You did not! They eloped.”
Bailey grinned. “Yeah, but I flew to Costa Rica after I heard the news to drop off a wedding present.”
Paige rolled her eyes. “Yes, well, I couriered a gift. And mine was most certainly better than yours.”
Curiosity flickered through her. “What’d you get them?”
“A ten-book set aptly titled
How to Keep the Sexual Fire Burning After Marriage
.” Paige laughed in delight. “Noelle sent me a text message in reply. Two words.
Bailey burst out laughing. She would’ve paid money to see their boss’s face when she opened Paige’s gift. Poor Noelle had already been annoyed enough that her former love turned enemy turned love again had twisted her arm until she married him. But Jim Morgan was a stubborn alpha male, and the deadly mercenary had insisted they get married . . . or else he’d drag her down the aisle kicking and screaming. And the icing on the cake—he’d talked Noelle into taking his last name, which officially made her Noelle Morgan now.
Maybe she was a jerk, but Bailey found the whole situation hilarious. She’d met Morgan two months ago in Paris after he’d reconnected with her boss, and she really liked the man. She was glad he and Noelle had finally worked through their decade-long issues.
Though their union did have one drawback.
Noelle and Morgan had joined professional forces. Which meant that Bailey and the rest of Noelle’s assassins—chameleons, as they’d been dubbed—now worked for Morgan too.
“I’m still not sure how I feel about it,” she confessed.
Paige furrowed her brow. “My wedding gift? Why? I thought it was awesome.”
“No, not the gift—it
awesome. I was just thinking about our new working arrangements,” Bailey clarified. “We’re not mercenaries. We work alone.”
“Don’t worry. Noelle knows that. She said we’ll still be
working solo, but if Morgan’s team ever needs undercover help, they’ll call us in.”
Bailey quickly swallowed the lump of unhappiness that rose in her throat, but clearly she hadn’t managed to mask her expression, because Paige’s blue eyes narrowed.
“What’s the problem? You’ve helped Morgan out before. And God knows I get a call from him or Noelle at least once a week hitting me up for tech assistance.”
“Which you can do from home,” Bailey said, pointing to the insane collection of laptops on the long table across the room.
Cables and power strips snaked along the floor, some of them climbing toward the exposed-beam ceiling, all plugged in to Paige’s command central, as she called it. The woman was a wizard when it came to computers, which was why she was on everyone’s speed dial. If you wanted information, Paige Grant was your first and only call.
Unless it was the kind of information a computer couldn’t find . . . in that case, that honor went to the Reilly brothers.
Aka the reason Bailey was unbelievably reluctant to call herself a member of Jim Morgan’s team.
“I still don’t see the issue,” Paige said in confusion. “Morgan’s a good guy—you said so yourself. Besides, you were the one just talking about breaking hearts. Think of all the hot single men you’ll be working with. Liam Macgregor is a bloody movie star, that Sullivan guy is smokin’ hot, and then there’s the scary sexy badass . . . What’s his name? D? Plus there’s Sean—actually, wait, he’s off the team—and the cute rookie—”
“Wait, back up.” Bailey had frozen at Paige’s last
remark. “What do you mean Sean’s off the team? Since when?”
“Since about a week ago, apparently. I spoke to Abby the other day and she said he suddenly quit.”
“Did he say why?”
“He told Morgan he works better alone and that he was wrong to think he’d be able to function on a team.” Paige shrugged. “Or something along those lines.”
Bailey’s brow furrowed. She supposed that made sense. Sean Reilly didn’t take orders well. He was also impulsive to the core, exactly the kind of man who’d join a mercenary team and then abruptly change his mind less than two months later.
A sudden rush of bitterness flooded her chest. Yup, she was well acquainted with Sean’s impulsive nature. She’d experienced it firsthand nearly a year ago, after the cocky Irishman had seduced her under the pretense that he was someone else.
And you let him.
It was hard to ignore the internal accusation—especially since it was one hundred percent accurate. Truth was, she couldn’t lay all the blame for that night on Sean. The second he’d slid into her darkened hotel room she’d known he wasn’t Oliver, Sean’s equally gorgeous twin and the sweeter, more mature of the brothers. She’d
, yet she’d still allowed him to touch her. Kiss her.
Aggravation clamped around her throat as old memories crept into her head, wicked images and seductive words whispered in a deep Irish brogue. Damn him for lying to her. Damn
for playing along with the lie.
“I guess he headed back to Dublin to join forces with Ollie again,” Paige was saying, oblivious to Bailey’s inner turmoil. “Which is probably where he belongs. The Reilly brothers, information dealers extraordinaire, bona fide
Irish heartbreakers.” The redhead slanted her head. “Didn’t you go out with Ollie a while back?”
Bailey nodded, keeping her expression veiled. “Yeah, we went out a couple of times. We decided we were better off as friends, though.”
“Pity. He’s quite cute. Sean, too, though that’s a given considering they’re identical.”
The conversation was veering into dangerous territory Bailey wanted to avoid. She hadn’t told any of her colleagues about her night with Sean. The only person who knew about it was Liam Macgregor, who, in the past couple of months, had somehow become one of her closest friends. Figure that one out. Maybe she wasn’t as much of a loner as she’d thought.
“Okay, enough man talk. This is our annual girls’ getaway, remember?” She grinned at her friend. “What cheesy rom-coms did you get for us?”
Paige looked delighted. “Oooh, I ordered a bunch of them from the movie channel on the telly. You’re in for a treat.”
Bailey laughed as the other woman swiped the remote control from the end table and turned on the television. Back when she’d worked for the CIA, evenings like this hadn’t existed in her life. She’d been a solo operative, spending months undercover and executing covert missions on foreign soil. She still did all that for Noelle, except nowadays she actually managed to squeeze in some downtime. Which was kind of comical—two assassins curled up on a couch with popcorn and wine, about to watch sappy romantic comedies. Life was strange sometimes.
“I ordered that movie about the chick who loses her memory and her hubby has to make her fall in love with him again,” Paige revealed as she clicked the remote. The television was turned to a news channel, the broadcast
nothing but a square box at the bottom of the screen as Paige scrolled through the channel list. “Hence the box of tissues on the table. Be prepared to sob like a baby.”
Another laugh slipped out, but was cut short when Bailey noticed the line of text running beneath the news report. “Hey. Stay on this channel for a sec,” she said, her good humor fading.
Paige stopped scrolling, clicking another button to bring the segment into full-screen view. “Ah, shit,” the redhead murmured. “Obviously the world’s gone to hell again.”
Not the world—just Dublin, according to the screen. Bailey listened in dismay as the reporter quickly recapped the unfolding events to viewers who were just tuning in. There was a holdup in process at a downtown branch of Dublin National Bank. A half dozen masked, armed men had taken the bank employees and patrons hostage, and the law enforcement officers surrounding the bank were attempting to negotiate with the robbers. Apparently the situation was beginning to escalate, with reports of shots fired and hostages screaming.
“Turn it up,” Bailey told Paige, leaning forward when a shaky camera image suddenly filled the screen.
Paige raised the volume, and the urgent voice of the female newscaster blared out of the speakers.
“—courageous woman uploaded a video to her social network page. We don’t know how she was able to record this, but it’s been confirmed that the account belongs to Margaret Allen, a twenty-one-year-old student at Trinity College. Be warned—some of these images are not suitable for young viewers.”
The screen flickered for a beat before the video began to play. Immediately, loud footsteps and angry shouts filled Paige’s living room. The two women watched in silence as jerky images flashed on the screen,
accompanied by gruff orders from the robbers and muffled whimpers from the hostages. It was difficult to zero in on any one image—everything was moving too fast, and the men in charge wore all black, from the ski masks on their faces right down to the boots on their feet.
An uneasy feeling washed over Bailey as she focused on one of the men. Tall and broad, eye color indiscernible and voice low and deep as he issued a soft command to someone out of the camera’s line of sight.
“Look at these idiots,” Paige remarked with a sigh. “Do they honestly expect to get away with this?”
Bailey didn’t answer. Something niggled at the back of her mind, an intangible flicker of familiarity, a sense of bone-deep dread. But she wasn’t sure what was bugging her. People robbed banks all the time. People took hostages. People killed other people and did seriously stupid, dangerous shit every second of every day.
So why was this particular armed robbery making the hairs on the back of her neck tingle?
Another anguished sob echoed in the bank, followed by a male response.
“’S’okay, luv, it’ll all be over soon.”
The husky timbre of that voice, combined with the faint brogue, turned the blood in Bailey’s veins to ice. A gasp flew out, her heart rate kicking up a notch as she stared at the screen in shock.
“Oh shit,” she whispered.
Paige glanced over, big blue eyes swimming with concern when she saw Bailey’s expression. “What is it?”
“That’s Sean.” Her finger trembled as she jabbed it in the direction of the television.
“What?” The other woman sounded bewildered. “That’s nuts.”
Maybe, but Bailey would recognize that voice anywhere. It haunted her dreams every goddamn night.
“It’s him, Paige. One of the robbers—it’s Sean fucking Reilly.” Horror, shock, and confusion clawed up her throat like icy fingers. “It’s
* * *
Well. This was his life now. Robbing a bloody bank in bloody Dublin. His ma was probably rolling over in her grave.
Sean Reilly hadn’t given much thought to how he would die, but considering the dangerous path he walked on a daily basis, the assumption was he’d eventually meet a violent end. Tonight, that fate looked pretty fucking promising. Maybe the Emergency Response Unit hunkered down outside the bank’s doors would swarm in with shoot-to-kill orders. Or maybe one of the snipers positioned on the perimeter would put a strategically placed bullet in his brain.
Relax, mate. They won’t risk the hostages.
Bullshit. Sean had worked enough military ops to know there was always at least one crazy asshole on an assault team. One hotshot who thought he could take down the bad guys
save the innocents.
Truth be told, usually
was that man. His brother lectured him daily about his act-first-and-think-much-much-later approach, but Sean had inherited the reckless gene from their father, while Oliver had gotten their mother’s more practical approach to problem solving. In his defense, Sean was more than capable of getting the job done, even when acting on impulse. The child’s-play exercises the Garda officers underwent were nothing compared to his extensive training.