Teaser One—Gracie Parish, an operative for the Spy Maker’s Guild, is trying to break into a sex-slaver’s compound to free her sister’s kidnapped boyfriend. She’s been secreted inside the compound under the seat of a car, but finds that she’s stuck.
I’m trying desperately to work my way out of the hidden compartment under the seat of this car when an alarm sounds in the compound.
Okay, Gracie, don’t panic.
It’s hard not to when the alarm at the sex-trafficker’s home that me and my family of spies are sneaking into is going off and I’m stuck inside this Trojan horse of a car.
My heart speeds up—way up. It’s outpacing a Ducati right now.
Growling under my breath, I work my sweaty numb fingers against the metal escape lever. They’re about as responsive as a fish on the deck of a ship.
Breathing heavily, I push the padding. The seat finally cracks open a little, then stops dead. Fudge buckets.
The car door creaks open. I freeze. “Let me help you there, Gracie.”
I flinch back, bang my head. Ouch. Someone with a southern accent knows my name? The car shifts as that someone gets inside. He’s big judging by the way the car rocks.
There’s a sudden creak, then the seat is yanked open. I pull my shoulders loose, then sit up, blinking at fresh air and man.
Sunset-brown hair topped by a USA ball cap, a big, easy grin defined by the persistent crease of overused dimples, labor- tanned skin, and the manliest nose I’ve ever seen. A roughly carved block, his nose adds challenge and strength to a too-handsome, sun-rugged portrait.
My heartbeat skitters between dread, alarm, and horrifying and unexpected arousal. My face goes lava-red. USA Ballcap grins at me.
Of course he does. What man wouldn’t when faced with a woman who’s obviously taken with his rugged good looks? The ginger curse. My body paints every emotion upon my skin in red hues. From pleased pink to rust-colored anger to chili-red lust.
As if my reaction has given him a right, his eyes bounce along my body, taking in the red-velvet bra, the matching thong, the ruby piercing snuggled in my bellybutton, and the tattoo along my right side.
Top most embarrassing moment, please take a step down. Guess, it’s not the best time to try and explain my live sex-show cover.
Without taking his amber gaze from me, he gropes and finds his two-way. He lifts it to his mouth, but before he presses the button, says, “Darlin’, don’t be upset by this. I’m on your side. Trust me.”
With that, he clicks the radio on and gives instructions for his men to go out and hunt Justice. He clicks off.
Don’t be upset? Does this idiot realize that’s my sister?
Teeth clenched, I extract my gun from the hidden compartment and point it at him.
A muscle along his thumb twitches, but he keeps his Glock 19 down. He smiles.
Really? Oh, buddy, let’s see how quickly I can wipe that smile off your face.
“No, no,” he says, clearly reading my intent from my furious face. “Don’t shoot. I’m working with Tony. I had to send those men so Walid wouldn’t suspect what’s going down.”
Tony? “My brother never mentioned you, and you just sacrificed my sister so Walid, a sex-trafficking supervillain, won’t suspect you?”
He shakes his head, smile gone. Smart. “Your sister is good and those guys can’t shoot. No fooling. One of them shot himself in the foot trying to take his gun out two months ago.”
“Gracie?” Justice’s strained voice comes through my headset.
I click my mic with a flick of my jaw. “Go. I’ll catch up. I’m dealing with something.”
He does smile at that. “I’m Agent Leif McAllister. FBI.”
FBI? Nuts and bolts. The email. The email I sent via a secure site to the FBI. The one I’d sent when my son was sick and I’d been helpless to go to him and it’d all seemed Momma’s fault. The stupid email that proves I’m a traitor to the family and the Spy Makers Guild.
I swallow a wave of panic. “FBI? In Mexico?”
“Yeah, well, I’m sort of off-duty right now, since I’m working for your brother. No need for the agent part, actually. Just thought that would make you more comfortable. My friends call me Dusty.”
“Been told I could talk a stone to dust.” He reaches out with his free hand. “I’m going to help you out of here. Okay?”
“You touch me and I will shoot.”
His hand drops. Good. Nothing like setting the boundaries from the get-go.
Teaser Two—Agent Leif “Dusty” McCallister has orchestrated a situation where he can get close to his mark, Gracie Parish. His intent is to use her to find out information in her family’s illegal spying operation.
I watch as behind the bar, little Ms. Gracie Parish is overrun, making multiple drinks simultaneously, while she nods to acknowledge people and instruct servers.
Never say I’m not one to help out a friend. Even if I did orchestrate her bartenders quitting, so that I can get closer to her and get the goods on her family’s illegal activities.
Despite Gracie’s competence, it’s obvious she can’t keep up with this crowd.
I ease my way through the crowd around the bar, careful to tap shoulders and nod politely. I’m well aware of how my size can be misconstrued. Learned that lesson the hard way after one too many fights with people who, to me at the time, seemed irrationally upset.
When I make it to the bar, Gracie’s head jerks up in surprise, then she smiles at me.
Hadn’t expected that. Kind of warms my heart.
I lean over the bar, close enough for her to hear. “Stopped by to check on you and have that drink.” I nod toward the packed bar. “Looks like you’re slammed. Okay if I help? Worked as a bartender in college.”
Gracie’s face walks the line between yes please and stay the hell away then tips over to acceptance. “Thanks. I could use the help.”
I make my way behind the bar as she opens a couple beers and hands them to a guy before turning back to me. Her gaze runs up and down my body.
That kind of warms me, too. Warm enough to start a fire.
Face flushing pink, she wings a slice of lemon around a drink she made, then hands it to a woman who hands Gracie a credit card. Gracie quickly runs me through the particulars.
Basically, I have to push three buttons and put in the amount. Old school. Think I actually had the same setup when I tended bar in college. Isn’t she supposed to be good with computers?
That I don’t say, though. “Got it, boss lady.”
She smiles, walks away, then tosses back, “Thanks. Really.”
Lady has a great ass. “Happy to help.”
Quick to learn where everything is, I hit my stride. For the next few hours, Gracie and I learn to work with each other. Have to admit, it’s kind of fun. Not just the work, but the way we buzz by each other, brushing hotly here and there as we reach for things or move to take a payment.
Honestly, after a while, the charge I get from slipping past her or winking at her as we work, watching her blush, has got my engine revving.
Still, much to my disappointment, we can’t stand in one place long enough to talk or explore that heat. The crowd keeps us hopping. A few people get handsy with me and with her, trying to get attention. Nothing we can’t handle, but I know trouble when I see it.
A big guy maneuvers up to the bar, using his size to push through the crowd as if it were an insult. Impatient as hell, he puts two fingers in his mouth and whistles loud to get Gracie’s attention since she’s closer.
The only thing keeping my hands from clenching is the drink I’m making. I’m hoping she ignores him so I can have a shot at the guy. He’s big. I’m bigger.
I watch Gracie as I put ice in a glass and begin to pour gin. Aw, hell, I can tell by her eyes, by the way she’s evaluating the guy and the situation, that she’s not going to ignore him.
A smile on her face, she goes right over and exchanges some words with him that I can’t hear over the music and crowd. Tapping the bar, as if asking for his patience, she begins to turn.
I hand the woman across from me her last drink as the big guy at the bar latches onto Gracie’s wrist. Keeping Gracie in my sights, I’m barely aware when the woman shoves some money in my hand and tells me to keep the change.
Gracie looks down at where the guy’s holding her. She says something, then smiles like it’s the only warning she’ll give him, and I have no doubt that it is a warning.
The guy’s face turns from impatient to mean. His knuckles whiten on her wrist.
It’s not just me now. A few people at the bar are paying attention. Someone takes out a cell.
Gracie Parish on camera. Which means she isn’t likely to pull any self-defense. She surely doesn’t want that all over the internet. Being an illegal spy means keeping things on the down low.
As tempted as I am to move in and help, I know the lady doesn’t A.) need my help and B.) won’t appreciate me butting in. Plus, I kind of want to see what she’s going to do.
Still smiling at the guy, she reaches under the bar, pulls out a nozzle for the seltzer, then blasts the guy directly up his nose.
Can’t help the laugh that bursts from me.
Shock and the sting of the seltzer sends the guy reeling back as he releases her wrist. A few people lining the bar also spring away.
Gracie backs up, too, but keeps hold of the nozzle, aiming it like a weapon.
The smile on my face might be permanent.
I start to inch closer but stop when I see a bouncer move in for the kill.
He grabs the guy by the neck, forcing his head down before the guy knows what’s up, then marches the soaked idiot out.
By the time the bouncer reaches the front door, Gracie is already handing bar towels to customers, apologizing for the mess and lining up free beers.
Now that that’s over, a server and some others start to press in on me again, wanting my help, but I’m stuck watching Gracie.
Maybe feeling my gaze, she looks over.
I wait, expecting condemnation, like why didn’t you hot-foot it over here and give me a hand, but, instead, she smiles widely at me then mouths, That was fun.
Lady is going to break my heart.