Cian Hunter is tasked with the impossible: find Verity Wellington and bring her home safely. His survival is not guaranteed.
Everyone in their business knows Verity is perfectly capable of getting herself home, since she’s the gut-them-first-and-ask-questions-later type of operative. She also has the advantage of knowing where she is, which would be helpful.
He accepts the assignment, aware two operatives are better than one when dealing with the nebulous factions who lurk in the shadows. Plus, the chance to get close to Verity to see if his attraction to her is more than a fleeting interest is too good to pass up. Provided she doesn’t gut him first.
Cian is confident in his secret operative abilities, despite wishing to leave them behind. However, his relationship goals leave something to be desired. If he can figure those out… he might stand a chance of getting them both home alive.
The Nerd Who Spied Me
If his skills hadn’t kicked in, he’d probably be dead right now.
The brush of hair on fabric gave his attacker away. Cian Hunter twisted at the same time as he grappled with the hand wielding the gleaming knife aimed at his throat. He spun, then clapped the assailant against him, so his lips nearly brushed her delicate ear.
Her clean, feminine scent enveloped them, clouding his senses.
“Did you miss me?”
“I thought you were dead.” Verity Wellington’s voice didn’t carry any further than his in her hotel room.
“Patrick Mallory is dead, not me.” Patrick Mallory being his alias from what felt like another life.
She sniffed. “Ah, but the great Cian Hunter lives another day.”
Despite his years of service and experience, it took her two-point-four seconds to break his hold. She rotated in a cat-like gesture to face him.READ MORE
Seeing her in person kicked him in the stomach. Just like old times. Although those instances had been far too few and too long in between. And had equated to little more than mere acquaintances meeting at random times.
“Still as beautiful and enticing as ever,” he drawled.
Her sneer did not detract from her loveliness in any way. “What do you want?”
When her frown grew hot enough to scorch the paint, he relented. Since he didn’t relish the idea of being gutted. Now, or later, in his sleep.
“Your brother sent me.”
“He’s sending dead men on missions now?” One perfect eyebrow arched and his stomach might have somersaulted. He didn’t dig into the nuances.
“My Patrick Mallory alias is dead, but I don’t mind being sent out as myself.”
Her perfect chin rose as her eyes clouded. “I report to Vlad, isn’t this a conflict of interest?” Her voice was smooth chocolate interlaced with rich caramel, yet also held husky notes for texture. It blended perfectly with her platinum blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and that innate feline quality within. A femme fatale in the flesh.
He had heard this very quality and her breathtaking good looks were the banes of her existence. While he hadn’t understood it then, he thought maybe he did now.
Her eyes narrowed, assessing his story and him.
What she felt did not show on her face. She didn’t hug him like he’d hoped. Actually, he had hoped not to be disemboweled, if truth be told.
Still, she could have thrown him a bone and said hello.
“Maybe. But your brother and prince wouldn’t be too happy with you if you gut me.” He didn’t bother to hide his smirk, because this was fun. If dangerous. Still, it was better to forestall her natural instinct to take him out. It might keep him alive another day. Or two.
Her snarl contained everything he had hoped for.
“My brother personally sent you?” Suspicion laced her question.
“General Vladimir Wolfgang Wellington, Commander of the Rurikstan Military himself.” He didn’t rock back on his heels because that kind of ridiculousness got a person killed. Still, he now understood the appeal.
“I know my brother’s name and title.” Verity’s pouty upper lip curled. If people had fangs, one of hers would have showed. “What does he want?”
“Your general tasked me with escorting you back to Rurikstan.”
“What? Since when does he send an American who works for their government after a Rurikstani citizen?” Her voice didn’t raise, but he did check that the paint on the hotel room wall remained intact.
How to say this delicately? “There have been some danger signs.”
“There are always danger signs.”
“True.” He had to acknowledge her scoff. “However, there has been some extra suspicious activity.”
As he hoped, this tidbit snagged her attention. She padded to a chair, the one placed so her back faced the wall, and where she could see all the entrances and exits of the room.
He hauled another chair beside hers for the same reason. Then dropped into it, his eyes busy, because otherwise, death came impolitely knocking. Or pounding. Or sometimes shooting in a fountain of bullets.
“What activity?” She gnawed the inside of her cheek. “If it’s got Vlad worried . . .”
“He’s concerned enough he sent me to make certain you return to Rurikstan in one piece.”
“What about you returning in one piece?” A smug little air swirled around her.
This woman is so after my heart. “I’m supposed to do my best.” He lifted an eyebrow.
“Right. He can’t guarantee your safety.” Her smirk should have been cute, but in the same vein as the rest of her, it veered into downright sexy instead.
“Safety guarantees are nonexistent. Everyone knows this.” He could state this with absolute confidence to Verity Wellington. And her older brother Vlad. As well as a few other associates. They understood.
“Correct. So why does Vlad believe you’re the man for escort detail?”
He hoped an innuendo hovered in there, but based on his knowledge of Verity, he expected to be disappointed. She didn’t wink at him, lick her lips, or send him a sly look from the corner of her eye.
This woman stared at you straight on and wouldn’t blink at slashing through your guts while discussing the weather.
Again—a woman after his own heart.
“I’m available. And I’m not afraid of you.” He winked at her. “Much.”
“Ah, availability.” She swept him up and down. “I could have sworn I heard you met a bomb who won.”
“Patrick Mallory met that bomb. Cian Hunter dragged his sorry carcass to safety and his team found him.”
Her forehead pleated. “What kind of bomb nearly killed you?”
“One that blew up before it was supposed to.”
“Ah. Michael Lamont kicked it the same way.” Michael Lamont had been Greg Gilmore’s favorite alias as a secret operative.
“You’re better with bombs than he was.”
“Yeah. Not sure what happened.” He winced. Memories from that night remained fuzzy at best.
She studied him as though she found him a very interesting specimen under a microscope. Not that Verity resembled a scientist in any way.
Especially not with her restless eyes and deadly skill set.
If he had to choose someone to watch his back, and he had several colleagues he trusted, this woman ranked near the pinnacle. That is if she ever decided to trust him.
I need to work on this.
“So these rumors and warning signs?”
“Yeah, about those. You remember Clay Morrison?”
“The Army Ranger?”
“He’s a retired Army Ranger.” Cian appreciated her wince. “Yeah, he’s not happy about it, but he escorted his girlfriend to Rurikstan because there were some bad guys after her. Actually not her, but her namesake, who happens to be a bioweapons engineer.”
“Exactly. This ditzy genius didn’t have any idea about all the bad guys who are interested in what she knows.”
Gaping should not be so gorgeous on anyone. Yet she even did that in a breathtaking manner. He should know, since he had to breathe through his mouth to obtain enough oxygen to live another minute.
“She didn’t realize bad guys like people who know the ins and outs of bioweaponry?”
“Not a clue.”
The noise she made was funny. At least to him. “At any rate, these guys were interested in Clay’s girlfriend because she has the same name. The girlfriend had a couple of stalkers. The one is dead, I think. But the other party keeps leading us to dead ends.”
Verity sat up straighter as her eyes narrowed. “So terrorists.”
“That’s what the bigwigs are concluding.”
“Hence, you got sent to babysit me.” She didn’t pout or protest, but did look resigned.
“I don’t know any woman less likely to need babysitting.” He sent her a censorious look.
“Would my brother send me to escort you to your home country if something nasty lurked in the shadows?”
“No.” He didn’t even think about his answer.
Her spine stiffened. “Exactly.”
“Because I’m a man,” he agreed. Although it pained him to do so. But the problem wasn’t with her skill set, which rivaled his own, and her brother’s. Her uterus-bearing status caused this furor.
Not because she couldn’t get herself safely home. Especially if she called her prince and demanded his private jet, which she had done in the past. Prince Aleksi usually sent a plane for her, no questions asked. And not only because they were cousins.
“As a female, you’re in much higher demand to terrorists. Especially based on your personal assets.”
“Meaning if any of these slimeballs can force me to be his wife . . .”
“He’s got more bargaining power than any other faction in the world.”
Her gusty sigh revealed definite notes of annoyance.
“Hey, look at it this way, they’d just kill me.”
“Right. The idea of being forced to marry someone you loathe is so much better than outright death.”
“Oh please.” He rolled his eyes. “If you didn’t manage to kill your new husband before the marriage was ever consummated, your brother would personally gut him and force him to eat his own entrails.”
“I’d enjoy making the pervert do that.” She nibbled her bottom lip in such a way his thoughts scattered. It took long moments before he steered them back onto the conversational track.
“Right. I forgot how blood thirsty you Wellingtons are.” He appreciated being among his own kind again.
“You and Greg always did fit in well.” She sent him a little smile and the gesture lit him up far more than it should have.
He dialed down his reaction and reset his breathing. And yanked on years of experience and sheer willpower to force the issue.
“Anyway, we know there is someone, probably terrorists, out there, who have some of our people in their sights.”
“Right. I’ve heard rumors, but nothing else.” She kept watch on a shadow in the corner.
“Ah, so you were expecting me.”
She didn’t shrug, but he caught the impression of one. “I knew my brother would send a minion. That’s why I didn’t put much effort into slicing your head off.”
He grinned. “You should be thankful he sent me. What if he sent Decker?”
“See, I’d rather Decker than most.”
“Did you date Decker?”
“Not that I’m aware.” She pursed her lips. “We were assigned a mission together and posed as a couple then. But he’s enthralled with his wife.”
“Decker got married?” He blinked.
“About four months ago. He’s so happy he bursts into song randomly.”
“He’s retired then?”
“Yeah. Had to take a desk job. Blew out his knee.”
“Was that on the mission with you?” Why had he not heard any of this?
“No, the one directly after.”
Ah, that’s probably why he hadn’t heard.
Not that he was stalking Verity. He just kept an eye on her. On a regular basis.
Yeah, time to change the subject in his head.
“Glad life is working out for them.”
“He seems happy and so does his wife.”
He grunted. “Does she work in the business?”
“Do you remember Salma Rodriguez?”
The image of a dark haired, dark eyed woman, with plenty of curves to even out the underlying muscle, all wrapped up in a sweet smile popped into his head. “Sure. Hard to miss her.”
She didn’t say anything.
“You introduced them?”
Her cheeks took on a pinkish glow.
“Verity Wellington, a matchmaker.”
Her snarl made him grin, and make a note to add extra protection around himself before he slept tonight.
“Every time I interacted with them, I kept thinking they would be good together.” She sniffed, but it didn’t ring true. “So I made a point to introduce them. That’s all I did.”
“I can totally see them working.” He had to give her credit.
“They started dating soon after and got engaged six months later.”
“How long ago was that?”
“They’ve been together a little over a year. Married a few months now.”
“A fast wedding then.”
He wondered what that little note in her voice meant? Did the unshakable Verity Wellington actually have human needs and desires?
His heart skipped a beat.COLLAPSE