Authors: Annie Winters,Tony West
Tags: #bondage, #near future, #007, #Fifty Shades of Grey, #serial, #JJ Knight, #spies, #high tech, #romantic suspense, #James Bond, #thriller, #cliffhanger, #romantic thriller
The Vigilante’s Lover
By Annie Winters and Tony West
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A small-town girl replies to the passionate letters of a prisoner, pretending to be his ex-lover, only to be kidnapped and thrust into an underground world of mercenaries, spies, and vigilante justice.
Copyright © 2015 by Annie Winters and Tony West. All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, taping, and recording without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.
Casey Shay Press
PO Box 160116
Austin, TX 78716
Also available in paperback: ISBN: 9781938150340
Library of Congress Control Number:
eBook version 1
Ten minutes until the prison break.
I tilt my head, listening for a sign that my plan has been discovered. A change in the guard’s pace. An alarm elsewhere in the compound. Unexpected voices or that particular sound of a hammer cocking in a gun.
But the normal routine is undisturbed.
If my team does the job well, it will remain that way, right up until I am gone.
I pass the time reading the last correspondence I sent to my extraction team regarding the escape. My own words reassure me that I have left nothing to chance.
The rope sizzles as it slides along your skin, like a flame zipping up a fuse. The stopper knot snaps into place, and you inhale sharply, ensnared by the bowline encircling your naked thigh.
Of course, there is no pretty girl on the receiving end. It isn’t intended to be a love letter. It’s the secret code I use with my network.
For those who understand it, I was clear in my instructions. Fire hazard. Prepare for a gas assault. Identify a secondary escape route.
I let no detail go unplanned.
The knots were my idea, an addition to our family code after my parents dropped out of the Vigilante world. Ropes are elegant. Knots are useful. Everything about this language appeals to my sensibilities.
Beauty. Power. Bondage.
I enjoy all three.
A buzzer sounds at the end of the long hall. The new guard shift is coming on duty. There will be a five-minute changeover, then it’s time to initiate the plan.
I’ll be ready.
This big house is so quiet, and I have nothing to do. I can’t help myself. I want to read the newest letter one more time.
I imagine sliding the corded rope through your silken folds. The first stopper knot catches against your swollen nub. You moan, and your voice is like a drug to my senses, intoxicating, addictive. I want to hear it again. I tug on the bowline, pushing the knot harder against your body.
My heart races dangerously fast. I press my hand against my chest as if that will slow it down.
I force my eyes from the page. If I don’t stop reading now, I’ll have another long lonely night on my cold pillow.
Actually, I will whether I keep reading it or not.
Your breathing speeds up and your hand reaches down. Naughty girl, I whisper, and loop a slipknot over your wrist. In a flash, your arm rises along the bedpost. I whip the rope around the wooden pole. You are secure now. At my mercy. Mine.
The paper crinkles in my trembling fingers. I flatten it back out on the wood surface of the old-fashioned desk that my aunt once prized more than any other item in her home. The house is so silent now that she is gone. Two weeks gone. Only the ticking of the grandfather clock in the front room breaks the eerie quiet.
I lean against the curved rails of the chair. Key parts of my body are warm and tense. I really should never have gotten involved in this crazy relationship, but it was just so…what had he called it?
A long sigh escapes my chest. I pull the envelope from beneath the handwritten page and study the postmark for the hundredth time.
This is his latest reply. It arrived this morning, the only break in my long, strange days puttering around this empty house, unsure of what to do now that my last surviving family member has left me.
My finger traces the edges of the stamp. The postmark is a week ago. It took a while to arrive. Probably someone in the prison had to read it and approve the contents. I wonder what they thought of it.
My eyes graze another line.
The stopper knot thrusts against you, eliciting another impassioned cry.
I stand up, fanning my face with the envelope. When the first letter turned up a few months ago, I assumed it was sent to the wrong address. Aunt Bea didn’t seem the type to correspond with someone in prison.
But she was unable to speak by the time I arrived to help. The last stroke had been too much, stealing her speech and most of her motor functions. The neighbors who had been watching out for her could no longer manage, and she was about to be forced to live out her days in an eldercare facility twenty miles away. Our small Tennessee town has no nursing homes. Families are expected to take care of their own.
So I did. I dropped out of community college and moved back into the rambling old Victorian on the outskirts of town.
Of course, my arrival created a little rally in her health. Her happy eyes followed me whenever I came into her room to spoon her a little broth or adjust her pillows.
She had no way to communicate other than through hand squeezes and slight nods of her head. The letters weren’t a priority in our limited conversations, which centered around hunger and comfort and big decisions about her house and accounts.
But now that she is gone, the letters are one of my few links to the outside world.
Of course the writer
have to be a prisoner. I glance at his name. I wonder if he is as sexy as he sounds.
Jax De Luca.
Five minutes to prison break.
I resist the urge to pace my cell. I’m at the mercy of two friends and comrades, Sam and Colette. I have only a meager handful of contacts I still trust.
We have a painfully short window to get me out of Ridley Prison before the other Vigilantes are alerted to my escape. I gave Sam and Colette every detail of the security and routine, picked up during the past year in this hellhole.
We’re breaking out months ahead of schedule and without all the planning in place, but I feel I must. Something has happened to my closest comrade, Klaus. The letters coming from his safe house are garbled and out of code. This can only mean he has been compromised, captured, or worse.
Normally, breaking out of an ordinary prison is child’s play. I’ve done it without assistance on more than one occasion. The difference this time is my fall from grace within the Vigilante network itself.
Work with them and anything is possible. Laws don’t apply to you. Presidents and prime ministers answer your calls. You have no need to take theirs.
But cross the Vigilantes and you might as well be dead. Their reach is unsurpassed. They are part of every government, every agency, every group of mercenaries, every band of killers.
I know this well. I once was in line to become the head of it all.
Now they want me out of their way.
I pace in my cell and wait for the bell that signals the doors will open. I run through the plan again, over and over, until I can imagine every footfall. My mind’s eye travels the halls and corridors, past suspicious guards with narrowed eyes and hands on weapons. It sees my fellow inmates, the nods of recognition and respect, the glowers of hate. Lots of enemies in here. I don’t care. At least with adversaries, you know where you stand.
Unlike lovers. A lover is what got me here.
I shake my head. I can’t get distracted now. Revenge will come when I’m out.
The alarm signaling the start of our workday echoes through the cell block. A second later my door rumbles open. I begin a mental countdown, honed to precision through years of training. Despite my preparation, I still have to force my breathing into a steady rhythm.
It will do no good for the prison’s mood measurement system to pick up any deviation from the norm. Even if the guards aren’t monitoring it, the Vigilantes are. I recognize their tech over the pathetic measures the civilians put in place.
I step forward and glance up at the conduct screen on the wall outside my cell. Still green.
A disembodied voice barks a command from the speakers. “Inmates out and proceed to morning assignments.”
My fellow prisoners shuffle out in a jumbled wave. Most stare straight ahead, their morning stimulants not yet kicking through their blood. These I ignore. They are of no consequence to my plan, aside from obstacles to sidestep, like one might avoid a pothole in the road.
A few cast glances at the others, though. Schemers, plotters, and the paranoid. They are the unknown element, something that could destroy all my hard work with an unexpected move.
I fall in with the flow of disenchanted humanity. Head forward, but aware of everyone around me. At the end of the cell block, the stream splits in two, then again at each intersection. Now we are only a few, but inmates from other cell blocks reinforce our numbers as we walk through the central hub.
I feel the unfriendly gaze of a guard fix on me. Johnson.
“De Luca! Step over here.”
Johnson’s voice holds a touch of malice. I move to stand in front of him, my expression neutral. He sneers as he looks me over, then waves a mood wand over my body. It hums a bluish green.
He frowns, seeming to expect something more interesting. He glances at my prison badge, which lists my morning assignment on a digital display.
“Book duty again? Figures an egg like yourself would land there as much as you can.”
I say nothing. He loves to play these games, and I can little afford the time.
“No voice today, egg?” His mean eyes lock on mine. His face is unshaven in a way he probably assumes attracts women, but merely looks unkempt on his fat-cheeked jowls.
I cycle through words of calm in my head. “I have no say in my assignment,” I answer with as little emotion as possible. His mood wand flickers.
Johnson laughs, a rough and unpleasant sound. In another place and a different time, I’d have floored him. I might yet. But for now I just wait.
“Like hell you don’t,” he says. “You’re a schemer. And schemers work the system.”
A vein throbs in his neck. His pulse is quickening, and I need to diffuse this now. He is acting out of the norm. The mood detection sensor will pick up on it, and my plan will unravel if we go into lockdown. The system doesn’t care who is upset — inmate or guard. It just reacts.
“As you say, sir,” I respond, my tone flat.
“Oh, I do,” he says. “And I also say you ain’t going to the library today. I got better plans for you.”
My eyes drop to the wand in his hand. It flickers briefly into yellow. This isn’t part of Johnson’s game, though, so he flips it off and shoves it in his belt. The overhead monitors are much less sensitive.
“All right,” I say, as if it doesn’t matter to me either way. “But I believe McGruder provided the work assignments for today. He may feel differently.”
Fat McGruder is the captain for my cell block. Evoking his name has the intended effect. Johnson exhales in anger through his nose. For a moment I think he’s going to grow a spine for once and go against his commander, but then he looks away.
“Get out of here, egg. Before I find an excuse to give you some physical reprimand.”
“As you say, sir.” The confrontation over, I don’t make much effort to hide my amusement, but Johnson doesn’t seem to notice. Yes, I’ll definitely come back to exact a bit of vengeance on this one.
I’m sixty seconds behind schedule. I quicken my pace to make up half that by the time I walk into the library, the least-patrolled room of the prison. I had to pull a lot of internal strings to get this duty. Traded a small fortune in cigarettes and low-tech weaponry. I took care to never arm anyone with something I couldn’t defend against in my sleep. Didn’t matter. They were grateful.