Authors: Heather Huffman
Tags: #Romance, #free ebook, #Marriage, #Espionage, #International, #Spy, #wedding, #Human trafficking, #heather huffman
“What did work say about you being gone
again?” he asked as they settled into the taxi.
“I’m working remotely this week. What about
“They think I have a stomach virus.”
“You’re playing hooky? What a bad
“I hate that job.”
“Really? Why don’t you work somewhere else
then? You’re smart enough to work anywhere you want.”
He merely cast a look her way before turning
his attention out the window. “I like this port. The travel books
trash on it, but I think it’s fascinating.”
She took that as her cue to drop the subject.
They ate lunch at a café overlooking the water. Conversation stayed
light, but the longer they were there, the more restless Veronica
became. She was eager to be alone with Rick, ready to have no more
secrets between them.
This new creature in front of her was
intriguing, but she missed her best friend. Was it too much to want
him to be both?
“You ready to go?”
“Yes,” she agreed a little too eagerly. A
grin tugged at the corner of his mouth. She tried to conceal her
jittery nerves as they rode to the hotel. His hand rested lightly
on the back of her neck, drawing lazy circles that made her want to
forget they were going someplace private to talk and they did, in
fact, need to have the conversation first no matter what her
teenage-esque hormones were telling her.
That’s what she told herself all the way
through the check-in process. Still, by the time they stood alone
in their room the electric currents running between them were
He took a step towards her, and she scurried
to put some distance and furniture between them. He chuckled,
feinting to the right and then to the left just to watch her move
in the opposite direction.
“Stop that. I don’t want you coming any
closer until we’ve talked.”
“Then let’s talk,” he motioned for her to sit
in one of the room’s oversized chairs. She cautiously accepted the
seat, watching him as he stretched out in the other chair.
“Were you really part of that gang?”
“It’s more of a major criminal syndicate than
a gang, but no. I was an undercover agent. I worked with a
gentleman named Vance Davis.”
“Batman,” Veronica interjected without
“He hates that nickname. But yes, that’s
“That’s who sent you the footage of me.”
Rick gave a barely perceptible nod before
continuing. “I was undercover with them for almost a year when the
bust went down. Marko was put in a high-security prison. A lot of
his guys were rounded up; the rest went underground. It looks like
they were merely regrouping. I guess the expectation was for me to
rejoin them once they resurfaced.”
“Adrianna seemed pretty hell-bent on
believing you weren’t the one that betrayed them. There was a man
there that didn’t seem convinced, though.”
“That would be Marko’s half-brother, Petrov
Kulenović. He hates me.”
“Adrianna has him wrapped around her little
finger,” Rick answered with a bit of discomfort. He seemed less
than inclined to remind Veronica of his own ties to Adrianna.
“Nobody likes a man-whore.”
“I wouldn’t say nobody does.”
“Moving on,” she rolled her eyes.
“Right. There’s not much else to tell. The
arrest happened in early spring. I planned to go in for debriefing
then take a vacation before reporting to my next assignment.
Instead I met a pretty Hawthorne fan and asked to be reassigned to
“Which you hate.”
“I shouldn’t have said that.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me this from the
beginning?” she felt herself soften under his loving gaze.
“Aren’t you the least bit mad at me for
putting you in danger? If I had walked on by you that day, you’d
still be living a perfect and quiet life.”
“Quiet, yes. But far from perfect,” she
thought about how very empty her life had been just two years ago.
“What’s your real name?”
“Richard Reid Sinclair. Sampson was the
“That makes me feel a little better.”
“Where do we go from here?” he seemed afraid
to hope that her calm was anything more than a façade.
“Are you willing to work together to reclaim
He took a deep breath, as if every fiber of
his being wanted to say no. “Yes. If we don’t, I’ll spend all of my
time following behind you and cleaning things up.”
He gave her a look that said it was also
“I just lack training. And you know I can
“It might come in handy having a woman on the
“Your buddy Batman is helping out.”
“I look forward to meeting him.”
“I mean for real.”
“He should be here in about three hours,”
Rick glanced at his watch.
“So I guess you want to wait to make a move
until he gets here.”
“That’s the general idea.”
“Three hours, huh?” her eyes met his.
Something sparked in them. Veronica found herself pulled to her
feet and kissing her husband passionately. His touch was like a
waterfall after a month in the desert.
Two days without shaving had given his jaw a
sandpaper feel that heightened the sensation as he worked his way
around her neck. His movements were both fierce and reverent. Hers
Piece by piece, their clothing disappeared
until he finally laid her back on the bed with nothing but
delicious fire between them. His perfectly honed muscles were her
playground. He delighted in every curve of her body.
They moved in concert, creating a symphony of
emotion. Ronnie was back in his arms and she was fully alive.
That’s all that mattered.
Veronica felt like a cat that’d been satiated
with a bowl of milk as she stepped out of the steaming shower. Rick
looked up from shaving to smile at her.
“So what did you have in mind when you
climbed on that plane?”
Ronnie wrapped herself in a towel and padded
into the bedroom. She set the suitcase on the bed, opening it to
feel along the bottom for the release on the hidden compartment.
Rick stood watching curiously, a towel around his waist and his
face half covered in shaving cream. In a few deft moves, she
assembled the gun and set it on the bed next to the case.
“Are you just going to walk in and shoot him?
Gee, why didn’t I think of that?”
“I don’t know, honestly,” she shrugged
“Minx. You know it’s not that easy,
“Maybe,” she replied flippantly, moving to
get dressed. She had no sooner shimmied into the pretty cerulean
dress that emphasized her girlish curves and honey-colored legs
when Rick was there, trying to coax her back out of it.
“Stop it. You’re getting shaving cream on
His reply was a kiss that very nearly
convinced her that the mess didn’t matter. A knock at the door
brought her back to reality. Rick grimaced at the interruption and
slipped back into the bathroom to finish shaving. Veronica
straightened her clothes and answered the door. She recognized
“Hey. Good to finally meet you. Thanks for
saving the day with the shoe,” she stood aside for him to
“Happy to help,” his grin held a touch of
amusement. “I think you missed a spot shaving.”
Ronnie furrowed her brow and rushed to the
mirror. Sure enough, her husband had left a swatch of shaving cream
on her neck and cheek.
“Damn it, Rick,” she muttered, grabbing
Kleenex to wipe the white foam off of her face.
“What?” he appeared in the doorway of the
bathroom, still in a towel but now clean-shaven.
“Would you please put some clothes on?”
“Is it too distracting?” he teased, grabbing
a pair of jeans from the bed and heading back to the bathroom.
“I’m so sorry. He’s apparently not used to
having company,” she ignored him and turned her attention to Vance.
“Can I get you something to drink?”
“A bottle of water would be great,” he sat in
one of the room’s chairs, waiting for Rick to reappear.
“You work as an independent contractor?”
“So, you just go around catching bad guys all
“Busting up human trafficking rings is sort
of a specialty of mine.”
“Ah. I’m good at grammar. I can spot a
misplaced comma from a mile away.”
Another grin tugged the corner of Vance’s
mouth. Something told Veronica full-out smiles were a rare
occurrence for this man. He was actually fairly attractive, with
sandy brown hair and hazel eyes. But his build and countenance were
so imposing she wondered if many women looked beyond those.
“You remind me a little of an old
“Long-standing. Not old in age,” he assured
“Really? What does she do?”
“Well, actually, she was a prostitute.”
“Do I want to know?” Rick joined them in the
“Vance was just saying I remind him of an old
“That’s a good thing,” Vance once again
assured her, his lip twitching in what appeared to be the third
hint of a grin. Veronica considered that a real boon.
“So, what’s the word, my friend?” Rick turned
“From what I can gather, Marko is looking to
expand business. He’s joined with a group of Nigerians bringing
girls to Lampedusa. He’s already using Italy as a transit state for
his girls from Bulgaria and to legitimize the antique business. Now
the Nigerians will be piggybacking across the pond with the
Veronica involuntarily winced at the thought.
It was hard to wrap her brain around the idea of trading human like
cattle in this day and age.
“I spoke with Interpol on my way over,” Vance
continued. “Their intel puts him at a warehouse on the marina
today. That seems as good a place as any to strike.”
“Let me get this straight… the plan is to
just walk in and shoot him?” Veronica practically purred the
“More or less—it seemed the most direct way
to get him off your back. Is there a problem with that?” Vance
“Nope,” Veronica grinned. “I think it’s a
She made a face at Rick and he made one back
at her. “You might want to change clothes, princess.”
“I will, now that I know the plan.”
“How long have you two been married
Veronica ignored the question and pulled a
nondescript black t-shirt and some jeans out of her bag. She
changed quickly in the bathroom, mentally promising the pretty blue
dress its chance another day. With her hair swept into a ponytail
and a pair of black boots donned, she was ready to go.
“Forgetting something?” Rick held the handgun
out to her.
“Whoops. Thanks,” she accepted it and stuck
the gun in her boot.
“Better hope that doesn’t go off,” Rick
“How is sticking it in my boot any worse than
you shoving a gun in your waistband?”
“My safety is on.”
“So’s mine,” she waited for him to turn his
back before double checking that the safety was, in fact, on.
Many things seem good in theory until put
into practice. This reality settled over Veronica as she stood
pressed against a wall in the dark, waiting for the signal to move
in on the warehouse.
It seemed utterly absurd that she would be
participating in an assassination. It hadn’t been that long ago her
idea of pressure was picking out a china pattern.
Vance might have worked with Interpol on some
level to obtain his intelligence, but they were conspicuously
absent now. Ronnie had the feeling they were looking the other way,
allowing this little crew to take care of an inconvenient problem
in a less-than-legal way.
Vance disappeared around a corner. Rick
stayed attached to her side. Maybe he was babysitting her, but his
presence was reassuring nonetheless.
“You sure you want to go through with this?”
his breath brushed her ear.
“You were expecting me to chicken out,
“Not so much expecting as hoping.”
Veronica wished he could see her glower in
the dark—or at least sense it.
“Remember, you stay out of sight. Guard those
doors. If anyone besides me or Vance comes out, shoot them in the
leg. If they’re carrying a gun, you can shoot higher. Got it?”
“Got it,” she doubted the instructions would
be the same for a seasoned professional; he was worried she’d kill
the janitor. Her irritation dissipated after he vanished into the
shadows. She suddenly felt very alone and exposed.
And then a world of chaos exploded around
her. Gunfire and shouting resounded through the night air. An
explosion rocked the building; men spilled out of the doors in
front of Veronica. Rick and Vance were nowhere in sight, so she did
as she’d been told. The first shot caught them by surprise. By the
second, they were returning fire.
Veronica exchanged volleys with them,
managing to successfully dodge being shot herself. A scream ripped
through the air and she poked her head around to see a tall man
standing in the middle of the group with a female hostage as a
From her vantage point, she could tell the
girl was terrified, and Veronica’s heart broke for her. Her blood
also boiled. The man had unwittingly just made himself Ronnie’s
prime target. She ignored the shots zinging past her head and
leveled very careful aim. She didn’t need a kill shot, just one
that would loosen his grip.
The first bullet ripped through his side and
the gap between he and his victim widened for the briefest of
seconds, which was enough for the second bullet to catch him a
little further in and drive them a little further apart. The girl
screamed again and tore from his grasp.