Authors: Elle Kennedy
Tags: #Romance, #Suspense, #Contemporary, #Adult
On the upside, the Irish weren’t as aggressive as other folks—ahem, the bloody Americans—which meant there
a chance he could avoid a bullet in the head today.
The ERU rarely acted with lethal force unless the threat to innocent life was imminent, and at the moment, all the hostages were safe and sound.
Sean figured he had another hour. Two, tops. After that, the negotiator would realize the gunmen were stalling and the response unit would make their move.
If the ERU had even the slightest inkling about the dead body currently taking up space in the bank, they would’ve acted an hour ago.
Sean swallowed his anger as he shifted his gaze toward the long teller counter spanning the back wall. A cop. A bloody cop—literally, because the garda’s head was surrounded by a sticky crimson puddle. Paddy Lynch had blown the man’s forehead clean off with a sawed-off shotgun, the crazy maniac. If by some miracle they managed to claw out of this clusterfuck alive, first thing Sean planned on doing was knocking Paddy’s crooked teeth out.
But at least Lynch had possessed the good sense not to shoot the undercover officer in the lobby. The garda had made his move closer to the doorway at the edge of the counter. The bullet had sent him tumbling backward, and Lynch had hastily dragged the lifeless body under one of the desks, where it remained hidden from view.
In the commotion, however, one of the tellers had dashed behind the counter and triggered the panic alarm—which was why Sean and his cohorts now had the equivalent of an American SWAT team bearing down on them.
He was definitely gonna die today.
A loud sob broke through his pessimistic thoughts, drawing his attention to a slim, ginger-haired girl crouched on the floor five feet from his scuffed boots. Another thorn in his side—the little bird had nearly been killed too, thanks to the stunt she’d pulled with her phone. Her
life had been spared only because Sean had stepped in and talked Gallagher out of shooting her.
Stifling a sigh, he headed for the girl and squatted beside her. “I promise you, it’ll be all right, luv.”
Her head lifted slightly, big blue eyes peering up at him. She was young, no older than twenty or twenty-one. Tears stained her pale cheeks and she’d bitten her bottom lip so hard it had started to bleed.
“He’s going to kill me,” she whispered.
Her gaze darted toward Gallagher, who stood in the doorway separating the lobby from the rear offices. The tall man frowned when he caught sight of his accomplice chatting with a hostage, but Sean gave a brief nod to signal that everything was fine.
“He won’t kill you,” Sean murmured. “I won’t let that happen.”
A panicked breath blew out of her mouth. “He
. He knows I uploaded the video. He said he’s going to kill me.”
“You shouldn’t have done what you did,” Sean agreed.
Alarm filled her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please don’t hurt me.”
She truly believed he would hurt her.
How had it come to this? He was no saint, but he sure as hell wasn’t a bad guy. A man who instilled fear in a young woman’s eyes.
Anger bubbled in his gut as he wrenched his gaze off the redhead’s tearstained face. The hot, suffocating emotion wasn’t directed at the girl, but at his former employer. Why the
had Rabbit put him in this position? He’d given that bastard nothing but loyalty for more than half his life. He might have left Rabbit’s employ, but they’d parted on good terms—the old man had helped Sean and his twin get their network off the ground, for Christ’s sake.
Well, fuck him. Sean was officially done with that fanatic motherfucker. Rabbit had all but stomped his foot on their former relationship and ground it into dust, making it painfully clear what the Reilly brothers meant to him.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Sean said through clenched teeth. “I’m just pointing out that if you’d simply handed over your phone when we asked, you wouldn’t have drawn any unwanted attention to yourself.”
“I’m sorry,” the girl whispered again.
“What’s your name, luv?”
She hiccuped softly. “Maggie.”
“Listen to me, Maggie. Nobody else is going to get hurt, not as long as you do what we say. It’ll all be over soon.”
He hoped that was true. The in-and-out heist he’d signed up for had turned into a deadly hostage situation, and it would turn into something much worse if the ERU decided to launch a full-scale assault.
They’d been trapped inside the bank for an hour, and the hairs on the back of Sean’s neck hadn’t stopped tingling since the response unit had arrived. He knew bloody well there was a rifle trained on his head. Probably an outdated Steyr SSG 69, the ERU’s weapon of choice.
Come to think of it, Bailey occasionally used a Steyr too. Or at least she had that time he’d tracked her to Germany. He doubted she ever used the same weapon twice, though. That would mean giving law enforcement a routine, a calling card, and the woman was too damn smart to leave a trail.
But now was
the time to be thinking about Bailey, goddamn it.
The sharp address came from Gallagher, whose expression had gone dark, deadly.
Sean stared at the man’s masked face and cocked his head in question.
“Leave the bitch alone and do your job,” was the brusque response.
He rose to his full height, offering Maggie a reassuring pat on the shoulder before turning to monitor the status of the other hostages. There were fifteen of them, sitting on the floor against the counter like a group of preschoolers. More females than males, ranging from early twenties to late sixties. The bank’s security guard sat at the end of the line, clad in his crisp blue uniform. Unfortunately for him, that uniform hadn’t come with a weapon, which was something the man was no doubt cursing at the moment.
Satisfied that his charges were behaving, Sean marched across the tiled floor toward his “leader”—Rhys Gallagher, former Irish army special ops, current Irish Dagger lieutenant, and one of Rabbit’s most trusted enforcers. Sean and his brother had grown up not only with Gallagher, but also with the other four men situated throughout the bank, but while the twins had left Ireland for bigger and better things, the others had stuck around to serve Rabbit, who’d been a mentor to all the boys.
Some bloody mentor he was to them now, keeping Ollie hostage and forcing Sean to do his dirty work.
Sean approached Gallagher and addressed him in a low voice. “We need to talk.”
The man nodded at Joe Murray to take his place, then stalked into the corridor with Sean on his tail. They paused when they were out of sight and earshot of the others.
Sean promptly peeled off his black wool balaclava and rubbed his face with both hands. The mask had been
itching the shit out of him. “Look. We got what we came for,” he announced. “It’s time to get the hell outta here.”
“No shit,” the other man snapped. “But in case you haven’t noticed, we’re in a real fucking jam at the moment.”
They sure were, and all so Eamon O’Hare could get his hands on the flash drive burning a hole in Gallagher’s back pocket. Rabbit had instructed Sean to be present when the men breached the vault where the safe-deposit boxes were stored. The Irish Dagger leader was paranoid that a mole had infiltrated his organization, but from what Sean could tell, the five Dagger members involved in the heist were on the up-and-up.
“Then we find a way out of the jam,” Sean said coldly.
“What the feck do you think I’ve been doing? Buggering myself? I’m
, you fecking fool!” The man’s Irish intonation grew deeper and less comprehensible the angrier he got. “But that fecking fasser shot a
“Nobody said Lynch was smart,” Sean muttered. “We just need to improvise.”
“Ya?” Gallagher said scornfully. “Got any bright ideas?”
Sean shrugged. “We give ourselves up.”
Gallagher gazed at him in disbelief. “Are you daft? You’re suggesting we walk out the bloody front door? We’ll get thrown in the Joy,” he snapped, referring to Mountjoy Prison, the medium-security facility where most of Rabbit’s men had been “guests” over the years.
“Five of us will,” Sean agreed.
Gallagher hissed out a breath. “What the hell does that mean?”
“It means we got what we came for. Rabbit has his prize. And I’m no mathematician, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t need six men to deliver it. One will do the trick.”
“So five of us surrender?” Gallagher sounded
skeptical. “And how exactly do you see the sixth man walking away from this?”
“By pretending to be a hostage. The Garda doesn’t have an exact head count of how many people we’re holding here. For all they know, we could’ve stashed a hostage in the back for shits and giggles.” Sean shrugged again. “One of us takes the flash drive and joins the hostages, the other five surrender.”
Gallagher went quiet as he considered it, just as Sean had known he would. The members of the Irish Dagger were good little soldiers, prepared to martyr themselves for their leader. Rabbit spoon-fed them his bullshit, and they ate it up like it was candy. They didn’t care that the world had labeled them a terrorist group. They believed in what they were doing and why they were doing it, and Rabbit made sure to remind them of it every second of the day.
“It’s a sacrifice for the cause,” Sean said meaningfully, knowing the reminder would override Gallagher’s survival instincts.
After a long beat, the other man nodded, resignation flickering in his eyes. “A sacrifice for the cause,” he echoed.
Idealistic idiot. Sean would never sacrifice himself for a losing battle. The IRA and its dozens of splinter groups were living in the past. Their sacrifices meant nothing.
People, on the other hand—Sean would give up his life for the people he cared about. Oliver. Bailey. Any of the men on Jim Morgan’s mercenary team. If Macgregor or Port or, hell, even that bastard D, were in trouble, he’d risk everything to save them.
But Gallagher and his men didn’t matter to him. He had no intention of dying for them, even if it meant risking an arrest. If anything, he was banking on getting pinched. Once the Garda took him into custody, he
wouldn’t stay there long. He had contacts in this city, allies with enough clout to ensure that he’d be back on the street in less than twenty-four hours.
Except Gallagher surprised him with his next remark. “You’ll play the hostage.”
Sean’s eyebrows rose. Well, fuck him sideways. He hadn’t thought he’d make the short list for hostage, let alone be tasked with the role.
His reappearance in his former group had been met with hostility and suspicion, particularly from Gallagher and Kelly, Rabbit’s second-in-command. The crew didn’t trust him, he was well aware of that, and they didn’t like him anymore either, not since he and Oliver had abandoned Rabbit to deal in intelligence.
“Why me?” he asked slowly.
“Because you’re the least recognizable.” Gallagher lifted the bottom of his mask and rubbed the dark stubble on his chin. “We’ve all gotten pinched before. I don’t know if the Garda is using some sort of face-recognition bullshit, but if they see me or Lynch or one of the others walk out with the hostages, someone might recognize us. You’ve been off the grid long enough that none of those Garda rookies would know who you are.”
He’d just been handed a winning lotto ticket.
Sean kept his face expressionless, careful not to reveal his eagerness. “Whatever you think is best,” he said with a nod.
“But . . .” Gallagher frowned. “They’ll be expecting six men. With you in the hostage pool, there’ll only be five left to surrender.”
“Because the sixth is dead.” Sean arched a brow.
Gallagher instantly understood, a wry smile playing on his lips. “The cop.”
“Our leader,” Sean corrected. “You’ve been dealing
with the negotiator, but when he calls back, get someone else to talk to him. Murphy, I’d say—lad’s a pathological liar. Murphy tells the negotiator that our merry band had a disagreement and our leader was taken out of the equation, and the other men are ready to give themselves up now that the head of the snake has been cut off.”
Gallagher narrowed his eyes. “You’re a clever little bugger, aren’t you, Reilly? Always have been.”
He didn’t answer.
“All right. We do this, then.” After a moment of hesitation, Gallagher reached into his pocket and pulled out the flash drive. “Go to the staff room and find something else to wear. I’ll grab you after Murphy talks to the Garda. Then I’ll bring you to the lobby at gunpoint and throw you in with the other hostages.”
Every nerve ending in Sean’s body crackled with triumph as Gallagher handed him the flash drive.
Well, goddamn. Maybe he
going to die today.
Bailey spent the majority of the flight making phone calls and cashing in favors. She had no idea what to expect when she got to Dublin, but she would damn well be prepared for anything. She would’ve felt better if Paige had come with her, but the woman had adamantly refused. Paige shied away from any mission that might place her in the public eye, and since the bank was crawling with police and reporters, Bailey wasn’t surprised that her request for assistance had been categorically denied.
Of all the women who worked for Noelle, Bailey was closest to Paige—yet she didn’t have a shred of insight about the woman’s past. She suspected Paige harbored secrets that rivaled her own, but she had never pushed her friend for answers. Paige would tell her eventually. Or she wouldn’t. Either way, Bailey still adored the woman.
And it wasn’t like she didn’t have any backup—she’d already contacted a former colleague and he was hard at work on his end, gathering as much intel as he could about the bank robbery.
Bailey checked her phone again, but Rafe hadn’t
checked in, so she dialed Paige’s number instead. The helicopter’s cabin was noisy as hell, but despite the whir of the rotors and the wind hissing past her window, she clearly heard the frustration in her friend’s voice.
“I can’t find a bloody thing,” Paige grumbled. “The bank’s system doesn’t have any floor plans or schematics. I’m trying to hack into the city records to get my hands on some blueprints, but their security is surprisingly intense. Every time I knock down a firewall another one pops up.”
“Shit,” Bailey said. She needed those blueprints
. If the holdup was still in progress when she landed, she had every intention of finding a way into that bank.
“It might take a while. I’m working as fast as I can, though.” There was a pause. “Is there really no way to talk you out of this?”
“Nope.” Her tone was light, but the tension weighing on her chest was heavier than a block of cement.
A part of her still questioned her decision to hightail it out of England to rescue Sean Reilly, but no matter how many times the rational part of her brain tried to point out that she didn’t even
the man, she hadn’t been able to talk herself out of it.
She and Sean might not be bosom buddies, but he’d helped her out in the past. Helped her colleagues, too. And yes, he was annoying and arrogant and so reckless she wasn’t sure how he was still alive, but he wasn’t a criminal. He didn’t rob banks, for fuck’s sake, which meant that his presence at Dublin National was part of something . . . bigger. Something that could very well get him killed.
“You know what?” she told Paige. “Forget about the blueprints. I have another source I can hit up for those. I want you to focus on accessing all the security cameras in the area. I want to know where every member of law
enforcement is positioned. Try to access the cameras inside the bank, too.”
Bailey hung up and ran a hand through her hair, once again going over the details of the robbery. It was Sean’s voice she’d heard on the TV. She was certain of that. But why the hell was he inside the bank? What had that idiot gotten himself into?
“Ten minutes until descent,” the pilot called from the cockpit, twisting around in his seat to give her a thumbs-up.
She nodded in return. She hadn’t flown with Greg before, but Paige had, and the woman said he could be trusted. Bailey found it ironic—she had an easier time trusting a man she’d known for less than an hour than she had trusting Sean Reilly, a man she’d known for years.
Her gaze drifted out the window as she considered everything she knew about Sean. He’d been born and raised in Dublin, but he’d lived all over the world, including New York for a few years. He’d had a variety of unsavory professions—mercenary, information dealer, errand boy for an Irish gangster. His dad had been IRA and trained his sons to be soldiers for the cause, but Sean and his brother had strayed from the group, choosing their own path.
Could he be working for O’Hare again? Bailey knew that Eamon “Rabbit” O’Hare had been heavily involved in Sean’s life when he was a kid. Sean’s dad had been the Irish Dagger leader’s right-hand man. But in the five years she’d kept tabs on Sean and Oliver, there hadn’t been any indication that they were still in contact with the Irish gangster.
A frustrated groan crawled up her throat, but she choked it back. Why was she running to help him, damn
it? They’d slept together. Once. And the bastard had
to her. Didn’t matter that he’d owned up to it immediately after. He’d still come to her hotel room that night pretending to be someone else. Just because she’d known who he was certainly didn’t excuse his deception. She should be celebrating that he was in trouble, not rushing to get him out of it.
The phone buzzed in her hand, providing a much-needed distraction from her turbulent thoughts. “Hey,” she said when Rafe’s voice echoed in her ear. “What are we looking at over there?”
“We’ve got a dozen gardai front and back. Blockade on the street, but a looser formation at the rear. Two snipers street side, positioned on the rooftops. But there’s got to be another one in the back. Haven’t made him yet.”
“I’m working on getting us more intel,” she told him. “Stay in position. I’m landing in five. Rendezvous in thirty.”
Rafe disconnected abruptly, but just knowing he was backing her up filled Bailey with relief. She’d worked with him a handful of times over the years, having met him when she was still with the CIA and Rafe was working in Spanish intelligence. He’d left his agency after a falling-out with a supervisor and had gone private, now operating out of the UK. She was damn lucky he’d been in Dublin when she’d SOS’d him. With Paige refusing to help, and the rest of her colleagues halfway across the globe, Bailey desperately needed Rafe’s assistance.
But she needed someone else too. Someone she had no desire to get tangled up with again.
Anger and annoyance rippled through her as she scrolled through her contact list and pulled up the number. Goddamn Sean for putting her in this position. She
was sticking her neck out for him, and knowing him, he probably wouldn’t express an ounce of gratitude for what she was about to do.
She hesitated for a beat, then dialed. Because hell, she was already in this deep.
The call didn’t connect right away. Instead, a series of clicks met her ears, which told her the call was being rerouted several times before reaching her contact. She knew the drill, though. It was the same on her end, calls bouncing from tower to tower to make it impossible for anyone to trace her. She’d always received great satisfaction from the knowledge that nobody could pinpoint her location, not even her former employer, a man with endless resources. But now, thanks to Sean, she was practically waving a flag around and begging her past to find her.
A moment later, a female voice came on the line. Absolutely delighted and more than a little smug. “Hey, stranger.”
Bailey clenched her teeth. “Gwen. I need a favor.”
The other woman’s peal of laughter only grated harder. “Really, Bailey? Two years without a word, without so much as a
, and this is what I get? No ‘How are ya?’ No ‘How’s the old gang doing?’”
“There is no old gang,” she muttered. Gwen knew damn well that Bailey had been a loner during her time at the company. She worked solo. Period. Her only contact with the other operatives had come from occasionally bumping into them on the rare occasions she stopped by headquarters to be debriefed.
“I don’t have much time,” she added tersely. “I’m cashing in on that favor you owe me. You know, the carte blanche you promised me when I rescued your ass from that hellhole in Uganda?”
“I was hoping you’d forgotten about that.”
Despite herself, Bailey smiled. “Do I ever forget anything?”
“No. You don’t.” Gwen paused. “What can I do for you, honeybunch?”
“Before I tell you, you have to promise that you’ll do it in a way that doesn’t put me on Daniels’s radar.”
“Still playing cat and mouse with our boss, huh?” Gwen’s tone grew mocking, and Bailey could practically see the smirk on her face.
boss, Gwen. Not mine. And I mean it—this has to be on the DL. I don’t want Daniels to know I’m back on the grid.”
“All right. Tell me what you need.”
“A detailed layout of Dublin National Bank, Fleet Street branch. Interior and exterior, entry and exit points, ventilation system, anything you can get your hands on. I need to know every inch of the place.” She paused. “Also, any intel you might have on the hostage situation that’s going down there right now.”
There was a pause, followed by another thoroughly amused laugh. “Since when do you get involved in local crime bullshit?”
Bailey ignored the taunt. “You’ll have to go through black channels, Gwen. I mean it. There can’t be a paper trail.”
“Sweetie, we both know I never leave a trail. I’m insulted you’d even suggest it.” Gwen chuckled again. “But I am flattered that you think my sources are superior to yours. You can easily find this information on your own.”
“Not as fast as you can,” she said irritably. “Can you do it?”
“I’ll see what I can do. Call you back in a jiffy.”
Gwen hung up, and Bailey released a sigh. She hated that she’d been forced to reach out to that crazy bitch.
Truth be told, Gwen scared the shit out of her. The
woman was charming, highly skilled, and insanely dangerous. Her daredevil attitude reminded Bailey a lot of her colleague Juliet, but while Juliet was all about self-preservation, Gwen had never seemed to care whether she lived or died. The woman operated without a parachute. She lived and breathed danger, got off on the adrenaline of it, and that made her a massive liability.
If Gwen told Daniels about Bailey’s call . . .
No, she had to trust that her old colleague would hold up her end of the deal and refrain from tipping off Daniels. Because if he got wind that she’d surfaced again . . . the bastard would be on the next flight out, coercing her into coming back to work for him. Or worse—trying to lure her into his bed again.
Not that he’d succeed. Bailey was done with the man, professionally
romantically. Daniels had recruited her when she was eighteen years old. He’d been her mentor. Her friend. Her lover.
Sleeping with him had been a mistake, though, only serving to illustrate that she hadn’t put her past behind her like she’d thought. She’d left one controlling bastard and replaced him with another, but she’d be damned if she let Isaac Daniels have any power over her again.
Fuckin’ Sean Reilly.
He owed her a frickin’ fruit basket for all the trouble she was going to for him.
* * *
Gwen called back five minutes after the chopper landed in the private airfield outside the city. The car Bailey had arranged for was waiting by the hangar, and she lifted the phone to her ear as she slid into the backseat of the sedan. She’d hired a driver so she’d be able to study any schematics Gwen and Paige sent over.
“I’m e-mailing you the blueprints,” Gwen said briskly.
Bailey hissed out an excited breath. “Are they up to date?”
“They’re the most current plans my source could find. Best I could do on such short notice.”
Bailey responded with reluctant gratitude. “Thank you. Anything I need to know about this robbery?”
“I didn’t find much more than what the news is reporting.” Gwen paused. “But there are a few whispers that this is the work of the Irish Dagger.”
Shit. That was exactly what Bailey had been afraid of.
was Sean involved in?
“Okay. Thanks again, Gwen.”
“We’re square now,” the woman said before Bailey could disconnect. “Next time you call me, it had better be to catch up. Oooh, we should go for drinks and—”
Bailey hung up the phone, then accessed her e-mail and downloaded the file Gwen had sent. She spent half the drive into the city going over every detail of the bank.
She found herself praying that the hostage situation would still be under way when she arrived. If the cops made a move before then, Sean might very well be dead.
The peculiar clenching of her gut gave her pause. She wasn’t sure why the thought of Sean dying bothered her so much. They barely knew each other. Well, outside the biblical sense.
But . . . no. She didn’t want him dead. No matter how angry she was at him, she didn’t want to see that cocky bastard eliminated from the face of the earth.
That’s why she was hoping the Garda hadn’t launched an assault. Though on the other hand, there was always the possibility that an ambush would result in arrests rather than deaths. Which was almost preferable—she’d
have a far easier time rescuing Sean from police custody than getting him out of a heavily watched bank.
Her phone beeped when they were ten minutes from her rendezvous point with Rafe. Incoming e-mail from Paige, summarizing the positions of every law enforcement member in the vicinity. Paige had managed to get her hands on live security footage of the area, God bless her pretty red head. Nothing about the position of the snipers, though, but Paige’s e-mail said she was working on it.
Bailey scanned the information, then rubbed her temples, trying to ward off an oncoming headache. It was enough to make her wonder if maybe she ought to bring Morgan’s team into the loop. They wouldn’t be able to do much, considering they were nowhere near Dublin, but they would want to know about Sean’s predicament, wouldn’t they? Liam and Sullivan would for sure. She knew the two of them were pretty chummy with Sean.
After a second of hesitation, she shot a quick text to Liam, promised to keep him posted, and then went back to studying the bank layout. By the time the sedan neared the Temple Bar neighborhood where the bank was located, she had a good grasp of the interior and a feasible plan, depending on what Rafe had to say.
The sun had disappeared below the horizon line not long after she’d landed, but lampposts lit the streets and cast shadows on the faces of pedestrians wandering the sidewalks. Her driver took a detour because the Garda had barricaded two city blocks, thanks to the showdown at the bank, so she was five minutes late meeting Rafe. She got out of the sedan on the street parallel to Fleet, heading for the cobblestone alley sandwiched between two darkened storefronts.