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Authors: Jackie Ashenden

Take Me Deeper

BOOK: Take Me Deeper
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Take Me Deeper
is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A Loveswept Ebook Original

Copyright © 2016 by Jackie Ashenden

Excerpt from
Make It Hurt
by Jackie Ashenden copyright © 2016 by Jackie Ashenden

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

L
OVESWEPT
is a registered trademark and the
L
OVESWEPT
colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.

This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming book
Make It Hurt
by Jackie Ashenden. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

Ebook ISBN 9780425286265

Cover design: Jae Song

Cover photograph: Viorel Sima/Shutterstock

randomhousebooks.com

v4.1

ep

Chapter 1

When Zane Redmond returned from the war, a woman wasn't the first thing he wanted, contrary to popular opinion. The first thing he wanted was to kill his two brothers very, very slowly. And preferably with something blunt so that it would take longer.

First it was his older brother Quinn annoying the hell out of him by calling the moment his plane touched down in Austin, demanding that he get his tail back to Lone Star Bounty HQ PDQ and explain why he'd missed their father's funeral. Then, before he could tell Quinn what to do with his goddamn explanation, it was his other brother Rush, texting him to ignore whatever Quinn said because the first thing they were
really
going to do was to go out and get drunk at his favorite strip club.

Zane had no intention of doing either of those things.

First, he wasn't returning to Lone Star Bounty to join the family bounty hunting business, no matter what the dying wishes of his father or the arrogant asshole-ishness of Quinn had been. Second, he hated getting drunk, always had. It was a loss of control he never allowed himself, still less at some strip club. All of which meant Rush could go fuck himself.

As the taxi rolled up in front of the old, historic hotel that now housed the offices of Lone Star Bounty, Zane paid the driver, then collected his kit bag from the trunk, unreasonably pissed at both his brothers' demands and not at all pleased to be home.

There was a reason he preferred his career as a sniper in Special Forces and it wasn't because the food was better.

Slinging the bag over his shoulder, Zane paused a moment to scowl at the crumbling brick facade of the building, the familiar Lone Star Bounty sign hanging askew where the screws fastening it to the wall were coming out.

He'd joined the military to get away from this place, and coming back didn't feature highly on his bucket list. Unfortunately though, the intense family loyalty old Joe Redmond had instilled in all three of his sons wasn't quite as dead in Zane as he'd thought, and he'd found himself making the journey back to Texas all the same.

His last mission had been difficult and complex and he'd unavoidably missed the funeral, something that Quinn should have understood given that his older brother was an ex-SEAL himself. But that last remaining flicker of loyalty had burned strongly enough inside him that the least he could do was to give Quinn a few weeks of his time before he signed up for another tour.

His older brother was a pain in the ass, but Zane owed him. And that goddamn loyalty wouldn't leave him alone. Those two things were the only reason he was standing here in the baking heat of a Texas summer, returning to a life he thought he'd left behind years ago.

Shoving his annoyance back under the layer of icy control he usually employed when dealing with shit he didn't want to deal with, Zane shoved open the heavy double wooden doors and stepped inside.

It was just the same as he remembered. A dump.

The foyer with its faded red wallpaper and cracked parquet flooring. The incongruous chandelier hanging from the high ceiling that his father never got rid of because he was amused by the thought of criminals sitting in handcuffs underneath it. The old oak reception desk that wasn't used for receiving anything but coffee cups, beer bottles, and sometimes weapons. The place smelled too, of old carpet and sweat and the faint, tantalizing whiff of cigar smoke.

Zane gazed around in distaste, trying not to notice the curious tightness in his chest that gripped him the moment he inhaled. His father's Cubans. The old man used to smoke them all the time. Called them a “man's smoke,” preferring them to cigarettes which were “for women and pussies.”

Christ, the old man had been a relic even back then.

The tightness in Zane's chest twisted, but he ignored it. The old prick couldn't touch him now. He was in the goddamned ground.

To the right was a double doorway that had once led to the hotel's bar. In fact, it still did, though these days the bar only stocked beer and bourbon, and was used by the Redmonds as a lounge, a dining room, and sometimes yet another place to put bail-skippers waiting to be picked up by the police.

The sound of voices came from it now, along with the clink of glasses. Familiar male voices, Quinn's deep bass and Rush's rough, lazy laugh.

Zane stilled for a second, listening. Jesus, how long had it been since he'd seen them? Certainly in Rush's case it had been nearly five years because that's the last time he'd visited the guy in prison. He'd had a few days between missions and so had made the trek to see how his brother was doing. Then he'd left the States and hadn't been back since Rush had been released.

As for Quinn…Actually, Zane couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his older brother. Longer than five years at least, which was yet another thing for Quinn to get pissed with him about. The guy was all about the importance of family and family loyalty, just like the old man.

Christ, Zane hated it. Especially when he knew exactly how far that loyalty went.

He glared at the doorway, annoyed with himself and the old emotions that seemed intent on rolling back the moment he'd set foot on Redmond property. It was stupid. He wasn't going to be here long anyway so why he felt this weird sense of almost…foreboding was anyone's guess.

It was only his brothers, not an insurgent ambush.

Then came a woman's voice, light and cool, yet with a smoky quality to it that was certainly intriguing. She said something and Quinn replied, sounding not a little pissed, then she laughed while Quinn said something else that sounded a lot like “fuck you.”

A few seconds later a tall, slim platinum blonde appeared in the doorway, sleek and perfectly put together in a light gray pencil skirt, white blouse, and horrendously high white pumps. Her light silver-blue eyes were completely impersonal as she gave him a cool once-over. Then she raised one blond brow. “Oh God, please don't tell me you're another one?”

“Another what?”

But she only rolled her eyes and swept past him, a wave of Chanel Number 5 canceling out the cigar smoke as she disappeared out the door.

Zane let out a breath. Then he gripped the strap of his bag and headed in to face the music.

The old hotel bar was a long, dark room with most of the fittings still intact. The bar itself was a long stretch of polished mahogany, a pool table down at the other end of it. Old leather club chairs were arranged in various groupings and along one wall was a stretch of booth seats. The shelves behind the bar, however, were full of empty bourbon bottles, trophies of Joe Redmond's famous drinking bouts, and most were covered with dust.

A tall, muscular man stood behind the bar, leaning with his elbows on the top of it, while another guy, just as tall and just as built, stood on the other side, his arms folded, a look of extreme irritation on his face.

As Zane entered, the man leaning on the bar straightened, a beam of sunlight coming through the windows at the other end of the room catching the blond strands in his golden-brown hair. His eyes, a strange combination of blue and green, widened as Zane stepped into the room.

“Fucking hell,” Rush said, his battered features relaxing into a grin. “Zane.”

The man on the other side of the bar, black haired and dangerous looking, narrowed familiar grass-green eyes. “About goddamn time you showed up.”

Zane dumped his bag on a nearby table, unfortunately unable to avoid Rush as his brother came around the side of the bar and enveloped him in a crushing hug that knocked most of the air out of his lungs.

“Little bro.” Rush slapped him hard on the back, then stepped back. “Good to see you, man. How long has it been? Jesus, fucking years, right?”

“About that,” Zane replied, smoothing down his shirt as he studied his brother's face.

On the surface Rush seemed the same as Zane remembered. Same lazy, easygoing smile. Same glinting amusement in his turquoise eyes. Yet there was something hard beneath the surface now, something dark and very, very guarded.

Of course. As if eight years in prison wouldn't have left a mark. But then it was better not to think about that. They'd all made a pact that day to never talk about it again and so they hadn't. The past was dead and gone and was going to stay that way.

“And, Christ, look at you.” Rush grinned as he took in Zane's immaculate white business shirt and carefully pressed suit pants. “You look like a fucking accountant.”

Zane eyed Rush's faded black T-shirt and ripped jeans. “And you look like you don't give a fuck.”

Far from being offended, Rush only laughed. “You're right, I don't. What I do care about though is having a drink with my brothers.” He turned, heading back around to his position behind the bar. “So what'll it be? Bourbon? Or bourbon? You can blame the lack of beer on Quinn. Fucker drank all of it last night.”

As Rush hauled out another bottle and some glasses, Zane met the disapproving green stare of his oldest brother.

Quinn hadn't moved, standing there with his arms folded, eyeing him. “What? No hug?”

Zane raised a brow. “Do you want one?”

“Shit, no.”

“Good.”

An uncomfortable silence fell.

Zane would be damned if he broke it, though. Already this was feeling all too familiar. Rush not giving a crap about anything, while Quinn acted like he was everyone on the planet's superior officer.

Zane had always found it stifling and he still did.

“So, where the hell were you?” Quinn asked at last. “We didn't see you at the funeral.”

“That's the first thing you ask me? After eight years? ‘Where the hell were you, we didn't see you at the funeral'?”

Quinn said nothing, only continued staring at him, the dick.

“I couldn't get back in time. You know how it is.” Zane undid the cuffs of his shirt, rolling the sleeves up as he wandered over to the bar. “Last mission took longer than anticipated.”

Quinn's dark brows arrowed down. “You couldn't have gotten leave for your own father's damn funeral? At all? I mean, did you even try?”

Zane deliberately let his heartbeat slow, detaching his focus from the prickle of irritation that continued to coil through him. It had been years, yet Quinn still managed to annoy the hell out of him. “Who's the blonde?” he asked, deliberately ignoring his brother's question.

Quinn didn't even blink. “Lily Hammond. She owns a rival bail bond firm and she's a grade A bitch. You didn't answer my question.”

Rush had put out the glasses and was splashing liberal amounts of amber liquid into them. “Fuck your question, Quinn. I wanna know more about her. You got a thing going on with her? 'Cause if not, I definitely could. She's fucking hot.”

Quinn scowled, shooting him a dangerous look. “She's the competition, asshole, and we don't screw the competition.”

Rush grinned at him, unrepentant. “Hey, you know me, I'll try anything once.”

“She'll probably freeze your dick off before you get within a hundred feet of her.”

“Ah, that kind of woman.” Rush picked up a glass and threw his head back, downing the liquor in one go. “I do like me an ice queen.”

Well, some things never changed. Rush still screwed anything that moved and Quinn was still an asshole.

“I did try,” he said calmly, addressing Quinn's question at last. “But they wouldn't allow me leave early. I can't tell you why.”

His brother's gaze was distinctly cool. “Yeah, and you look real cut up about it, too.”

“Ignore him,” Rush said, shoving a glass in Zane's direction. “He's just pissed because lovely Duchess didn't want to flirt with him.”

“Lovely Duchess?” Against his better judgment, Zane reached for the glass. A hit of bourbon was the only way he was going to be able to handle his brothers in his current mood.

Quinn rolled his eyes. “The blonde. That's what they call her. The Duchess from Duchess Bail Bonds. And I'd rather flirt with Rush than I would with her.”

Rush looked offended. “Hey, man. I don't draw the line at much, but I don't do my own brothers, okay? I've got some standards.”

“Shut the hell up,” Quinn growled, throwing him a quelling glance, but Rush only grinned back at him, completely unrepentant.

Ignoring their bickering, Zane lifted the glass of bourbon and knocked it back. The rough, raw hit of the liquor blazed a trail down his throat to sit like a burning ember in his gut. Immediately he wanted another, but resisted the urge. He kept his alcohol intake sparing for a number of reasons, not the least being a desire not to end up dying of liver disease like his father had.

“Bro, you gonna come with me or what?” Rush grabbed the glass and sloshed some more bourbon in it. “I know a great bar downtown, with a strip joint that's opened up next door. Very fine ladies, the works. You'd love it. You must be hanging out for a good—”

“No,” Quinn interrupted flatly. “I need him for a job.”

Zane stared at his oldest brother. Admittedly going out drinking with Rush while watching a bunch of unenthusiastic women take off their clothes was the last thing he felt like doing, yet he wanted to do a job for Quinn even less.

What he wanted was to get back in the taxi, go back to the airport, and get the hell out of Austin.

He leaned against the bar. “I didn't come back to work for you, Quinn.”

“So why did you come back then?” Quinn made no move toward the glass that was sitting on the bar, his eyes narrow slits of emerald. “Got nothing better to do?”

It was a good question. A very good question. And one that Zane found he couldn't actually give his brother an answer to, at least not one that would make any sense. Because how could he explain the pull that had drawn him back here? The reluctant sense of family loyalty that he'd done his best to kill and yet hadn't quite managed to.

BOOK: Take Me Deeper
10.52Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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