Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Cowboy Boots Excerpts from Natalie Acres
Sydney Kane stood fifty yards or so away from her father and bent her ear. Several men, dressed in their thousand-dollar suits, gathered around him. They were from one of the federal agencies, or so she believed, and arrived with one purpose in mind—to describe a new danger looming. Sam Kane’s involvement in a past operation resulted in these men showing up at Sydney’s front door…again.
Something, or someone, threatened their lives once more. She wondered when, if ever, her father would tire of his business. He once told her in his line of work, men didn’t walk away. She’d read between the lines. Some people never enjoyed a simple life and Sydney accepted her fate. She didn’t have to like it.
At six foot five, Sam Kane towered over most men, even those standing in front of him appeared small in comparison and they looked intimidating enough. One in particular held her attention.
He was almost her father’s equal in body type, with a solid build and long, thick arms. He was handsome, probably in his late twenties, as if age mattered when a man looked all rogue and prepared for anything. He stood out more than the others with his two-day old beard, set jaw and visible determination. After she spotted him, Sydney hardly noticed in any of the other men. Without a doubt, the operative in front of her was there to protect her.
He allowed his sunglasses to drift off the bridge of his nose while another agent gave specific orders and described upcoming plans. The simple act, while hardly extraordinary, gave the younger guy instant bad-boy appeal.
Sydney wasn’t fooled.
Sexy came easy for men like him, but his job came first. While he didn’t necessarily look dangerous now, she understood more about him than most women might notice without a first introduction. The man standing next to her father delivered death when ordered. He had a heart-shaped mouth and kissable moist lips, not that she cared. Her father’s pawns rarely offered her companionship. Still, after a first look, Sydney was hooked.
Dusty leaned over Benson’s blood soaked body. He was almost unaware of the warzone they’d entered, uninterested in the shots firing around them. In the distance, he heard Veronica yelling, screaming bloody murder, wanting them to retreat.
“Fucking hell!” Dusty screamed out, cradling his brother’s neck. “Dear God, no! Don’t take him! Please, God, no!”
Logan fell to the ground on the other side of Benson’s body. “How bad?” He gasped when he saw for himself.
It was bad. Sure as all hell, it was bad.
This was how death looked when it came unexpectedly, claiming the young, a man far too young to die; their brother. They might as well have pulled the trigger themselves. They left him without backup. Now, he lay dying in their arms.
Benson strained to raise his neck, spitting blood as he tried to mutter something.
“Shh,” Logan said, trying to soothe him. “Don’t talk, Benson. We gotcha, kid. We gotcha.”
Dusty watched his brother struggle for air, fighting to live, afraid—as he might have been—of the death waiting to claim him.
“Benson,” Logan shook him. “Benson, don’t you die on us, damn it!”
“Tell Kelsie…I’ll be…seeing …her.” His brother gurgled blood, the last words he’d speak barely audible but, nonetheless, formed.
Logan bowed his head, and Dusty grabbed Benson by the collar. “No! No! You don’t get to die! Not like this!”
Benson’s eyes set, and Logan released him, reluctant to move but at least able to keep his wits. He barked an order, and Dusty shook when he heard the authoritative tone. “He’s gone, Dusty,” Logan said, looking over his shoulder. “On your feet, soldier! We’re surrounded here. We’ve got to fucking move!”
“No!” Dusty screamed, shouting out in an ear piercing, toe-curling scream. “No! Fuck no! God, no! You can’t go!” He continued screaming, his cries so ridden with agony, every man, woman, and child within a hundred miles would’ve known what had transpired there if they’d stopped and listened.
Clutching his brother to his chest, Dusty rocked him back and forth, recalling too many memories in a short period of time. A flash of smiles, battles fought side by side, and happier days formed so many passing images, too many to sort. And he continued to rock back and forth. “Benson, please.” He gasped. “God help us, you can’t go. I won’t let you go!”
“Dusty, move!” Logan screamed, trying to yank him from the ground but unable to withstand Benson’s dead body weight and Dusty’s limp form.
“You’re going to die out here! Damn it, get the fuck up! Dusty! We need you to snap back right now! Kelsie and Veronica are counting on you!”
Veronica’s loud cries in the distance echoed around him. “You have to get out of there!” The anguish in her voice came across clearly when she added, “Move! Now! There’s no time!”
Dusty felt like he watched the whole ordeal in slow motion. He saw bodies fall from the trees a few seconds later. Grenades were tossed so rapidly they crossed one another in mid-air. Logan stepped in front of him, taking a wide stance as he used a machine gun and shot off several rounds and then fired a dozen more, like a spray of ammunition would keep their enemies back long enough for Dusty to retreat, and haul Benson out of harm’s way.
Only, Benson didn’t need protection. But by God, their enemies would seek plenty.
The battle had begun. The war lay straight ahead.
Dusty rose from the blood spilled, clutching his weapons, securing one in each hand. Releasing a final cry for the brother he’d lost, he stood in front of Benson’s body, ready to fight, willing to die. At his feet, his brother marked the spot of the first fallen soldier. He’d be damned if he’d let his enemies have another.
“She’s here,” Fowler said, rubbernecking like he thought she might be under the table.
“What the hell are you doing?” Porter asked, lifting the tablecloth to check out whatever it was that just bumped against his ankle.
“I lost my shoe,” Fowler replied, behaving like a geek. Sometimes Porter wondered how Fowler made it through training much less became one of the most respected agents in the Underground Unit.
Ace tapped his ear. “I lost transmission. Maybe she went back outside.”
“I’m here, Ace.” Abby’s voice filled Porter’s ear. Everyone at the table jerked to attention as her sultry voice came through the equipment loud and clear. “If you and Porter hadn’t been checking out that waitress, then you would’ve known this. Give me a minute and I’ll join you.”
“Where are you?” Porter asked, immediately on guard when he couldn’t find her. “How the hell are we supposed to provide backup if she won’t stay where we can see her?”
“Don’t worry, honey. I’ll be home soon,” she teased.
The others laughed, and Porter shook his head. “I swear, by the time this mission is over, we’ll all stand in line to spank her.”
“Yeah, buddy,” Fowler mumbled, shifting in his seat, an apparent last-ditch effort to slide his foot back into his shoe. “I’ll be sure to tell her to hold still.”
Porter felt a grin tug at his lips. Fowler was right. The day Abby submitted to any of them would be one for the record books. And if any of them tried to paddle her ass, they’d probably start a war, complete with guns, bombs, and grenades.
Ace pulled out his wallet and slapped a credit card on the table about the same time their drinks were delivered. “Start a tab for us.”
“No problem,” the waitress said, batting her eyelashes as she picked up the plastic.
“That’s gonna get real old. Real fast,” Ace said after the cute one walked away. A beat later, a long whistle fell from his lips. “Holy fucking shit!”
Fowler went from bright eyed and bushy tailed to just plain pale. Porter turned around and immediately stood, rushing the source behind Ace’s gasp. And apparently Abby put the other two in cardiac arrest. They lost their ability to speak.
“What the hell are you doing?” Porter asked, grabbing Abby’s arm and squeezing the daylights out her warm skin. Good Lord, she smelled so sensational, but the scent of warm vanilla lotion and berry shampoo wasn’t his undoing. The fact that she was dressed for sex and looked hotter than a sizzling iron skillet was enough to make him forget his place.
His cock immediately stretched forward. He was hard, so painfully erect, he thought for sure his tip would rip through his khaki pants. Unfortunately, they were snug enough for his dick to leave a mighty visible impression.
“Watch it, Porter,” Casey said, wagging his finger toward his breeches. “You look like you’re ready to reach out and touch someone.”
Fuck someone was more like it, and not just anyone, which was the problem. In recent months, Porter tried to hide his growing interest in Abby, but putting aside emotions had become more difficult. He was hopelessly in lust with Abby Rose and she knew it, along with everyone else on the team. Hell, anyone within a hundred feet could see the way he responded to her.
“Porter, you’re hurting me,” she whined, trying to wiggle free.
“Like hell I am,” he said, pressing his thumb to the underside of her arm. “What are you doing wearing this?”
“Let her go,” Ace said, taking a gulp of beer. When his gaze met Abby’s, Porter could’ve sworn Ace was about to grab her by the arm and pull her out of that club.
Tossing her golden hair over her shoulders, Abby deliberately bowed her head and lowered her eyes, acting as if she were already practiced in the school of submission. Every man seated at the table stared at her breasts.
He could only imagine what they were thinking.
“Keep that up and I may toss you over my shoulder and haul you off to a private room, darlin’,” Ace told her.
Leave it to Ace. Porter didn’t have to wonder what was on his mind for longer than a minute.
Abby raised her eyes. “Careful, Ace, don’t play the high card until you’re ready to win.”
He chuckled, threw his arms over the back of the booth and looked around the room, acting uninterested in further friendly banter.
Porter couldn’t imagine why. “Didn’t you have anything decent to wear?”
“If you don’t let go of me right this minute, I’ll knee you where the sun never shines and make you whip that thing out right here so I can kiss it and make it better.”
Ace turned his glass up and drank to that. Ducking his face under that ridiculous blond cape he typically wore in a ponytail, he grumbled, “If you kiss, you’d better be prepared to suck, love.”
“I will,” she snapped, glancing at Ace before addressing Porter once more. “I mean it, Porter. Let me go or you’ll have more than you can handle.”
“Promise?” Porter asked, wishing. “I’d love to see a pretty vixen on her knees just for me.”
Abby’s gaze darted to the table. “Would someone put a leash on this tiger? The other patrons are starting to stare.”
“No wonder,” Ace said, refilling his beer glass. “They’re looking at the hottest piece of ass to ever walk in this place.”
“Ah, Ace,” Abby crooned. “You’re making me blush.”
Porter studied Abby’s chosen attire. Sweet sunshine, she made his dick hard.
Wearing a liquid tank with matching spanky shorts, Abby sported a garter belt attached to studded black stockings and boots. A black leather choker clung to her neck for show while the matching cuff bracelet closed around her right wrist. Topping off the sexy siren, a biker-style cap was pulled low over her eyebrows.
After a head-to-toe appraisal, Casey whistled. “Let me guess. Brantley took you shopping.”
Abby shook free of Porter’s tight clasp. “For your information, I had this in my closet.”
Ace started to tilt his cup again but paused short of a sip. “You what?”
“My sentiments exactly,” Porter said, reclaiming his seat.
“You heard me, Ace,” she purred, licking those too-red lips.
Porter couldn’t remember a time when he’d seen a better-looking woman. Oh sure, he’d had an itch for Abby since they’d first met. But now he knew how a woman could make a man burn. The yearning was intense, too, he thought, as he slipped his hand under the table and adjusted his cock. He didn’t care if Abby noticed.
She pretended she didn’t. Something he viewed as a true act of defiance.
“Well, I can’t say we don’t learn something new about you every day,” Fowler said, pouring a beer.
“Boys, you really should get a grip on those weapons in your pants if you’re tagging along on this ride.”
Ace sneered. “I’m not the one playing with my poker.”
Porter grunted, leaned back in the booth, and let his eyes take a vacation. “Goodness gracious, sakes alive, I’ve never in my life seen…” He stopped midsentence and bowed his head. “Our man is here. He’s at your four o’clock, princess.”
Abby leaned over the table, pressed her arms against her breasts, and flaunted the best rack Porter had observed all year. “Make this good.”
They were settled within an hour of Brock and Riley’s departure. After locking down the house, Crue met Colt in the hallway outside the master bedroom.
“What is it?” Colt asked. “I know that look.”
“Something isn’t right,” Crue said. “It’s a gut feeling I have.”
“We’re safe here,” Colt assured him. “We’ll all feel better in less than an hour.”
“Maybe,” Crue said. “I’ll have another look around.”
“Take your time, little brother,” Colt said, slapping him on the back. “I won’t miss you.”
As they turned in opposite directions, Colt heading to one end of the house and Crue walking to the other, a spotlight shone inside, lighting up the corridors. The perpetrator was close in proximity, leaving them blinded by the light.
“Go get Kelly,” Crue said, grabbing a pistol from behind a wall clock, a special design built to house several weapons. Cautiously, he approached the terrace doors. “Who’s there?”
“Mr. Candy?” Several knocks turned into pounding fists. “It’s Father Paul.”
Colt stopped outside the bedroom door. “Father Paul?”
“Just a minute, Father,” Crue called out, returning the pistol to the clock.
“Who’s at the door?” Kelly asked, tying the sash around her robe as she left the bedroom.
“It’s Father Paul,” Colt said, cupping her waist and steering her back to the bedroom.
Glancing over Colt’s shoulder, her eyes widened. “Crue! Get down!”
Glass shattered as bullets ricocheted off the furniture. Machine guns were the weapons of choice as their new home became ground zero for an outright battle.
“Fuck!” Crue slammed his fist against the floor as he crawled to the wall where he’d just concealed his weapon.
At the same time, he saw Kelly. “Wait! Damn it! No!”
Taking off at a running jump, she darted down the hallway. Footsteps resounded as Colt and Brand tried to stop her. Bolting through the air, she took a sudden leap and grabbed the door to the clock cabinet, swinging it wide and tossing guns to the fellows as if she’d been working combat in war zones for most of her life.
“Stay down, Kelly,” Crue grated out, squatting beside her once he followed her to the kitchen.
“Crue, I’ve got this,” she said, standing up and firing multiple shots at an intruder.
Pursing his lips, he stood next, taking three shots and then pivoting to his left, where he took four more.
“How many?” Colt screamed out, somewhere in the darkness.
“Now how the fuck would I know?” Crue asked, reloading.
Shadows moved down the halls and Crue held his breath. He slid a protective arm around Kelly’s waist, holding her back. “It’s Colt. Be certain of your target!” The little vixen was trigger-happy. She was ready to blow his dear brother to kingdom come and not in a way he might enjoy.
“I wasn’t going to shoot,” she grated out.
“Wait here,” Crue demanded, peering around the chopping block.
A man dressed in a priest’s robe stalked him. “Father, what’s this all about?”
His gun was drawn. “Crue, let us have Kelly. It’s an eye for an eye in this business. You know how it works. She can’t live here. She can’t continue her life as if nothing happened. Her father cheated a lot of men out of their family fortunes. Someone has to pay.”
Crue felt a stabbing sensation in his chest. He had feared this kind of retaliation, dreaded the day when his worst nightmares might be realized. “What do you say we just settle this another day and in another way, Father? Colt and I can cut you a check. No one else has to die.”
“Can’t do it, boy. That’s not how things work in the desert. Sure as hell isn’t how things work over the hill in Death Valley.”
“I’ve never met a cursing priest,” Crue said, watching his peripheral. He had values and morals. The last thing he wanted to do was shoot a man of God, if in fact Father Paul had the big man’s blessings.
Father Paul sneered. “I doubt you’ve ever stepped a sorry foot in a church, boy. Now, hand over the girl.”
“‘Hand over the girl,’” Crue drawled. “Where have I heard similar demands? Hmm…mob movies, live abductions at Daniel’s place…” He deliberately let his voice trail. “You want the girl, Father Paul?” Raising his weapon and spreading his legs in a wide stance, he dared him. “Come and get her.”
“I’ll enjoy killing that motherfucker,” Drew said, gripping his sniper rifle as Manny raced toward Henderson. Located about twenty-five minutes from the Vegas Strip, Esparza’s compound was heavily guarded and surrounded by barbed wire fencing. They would meet opposition as soon as they arrived there, if not before.
“He won’t just hand her over.”
“Did I ask you, Zelmore?” Drew snapped, adjusting the sights on his weapon.
“Remind me to beat the hell out of him when I’m feeling up to it again,” Scott said, glancing at Manny. Returning his focus to Drew, he added, “Show some appreciation. I disposed of a much-needed IV just to spend some quality time with you.”
Drew snorted at that. He had a feeling if anything went wrong, the authority wouldn’t see it that way. Brock and Riley, like the rest of the Underground Unit, realized what they had in Scott. He wasn’t just an operative in one of their divisions. He was a weapon in and of himself.
The man was practically immortal. Then again, so was Manny. He’d been involved in numerous situations where he had barely escaped with his life.
“Step on it,” Drew bit out.
Manny took a hard left then and they raced over a dusty back road. “How do you want to do this?”
“I don’t want to knock lightly, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Manny laid his foot to the pedal. “Me either.”
Drew’s phone buzzed in his pocket. Snatching the device away from his dark slacks, he acknowledged the caller ID. “It’s Crue Candy.”
Manny and Scott swapped a knowing glance before Manny said, “You’d better get that.”
The buzz-buzz resounded.
“Damn it, man. Answer it.” Scott placed his big hands on the bucket seat headrests and jolted forward as Manny kept a wide-open speed, traveling over rough terrain. “If he’s calling with a warning, I’d like to hear about it before we barrel through those gates up ahead.”
Biting back curse words, Drew answered. “Talk to me.”
“I need you to stand down,” Crue said. Given Crue’s timing, the US-West division was already in position at Esparza’s compound.
“Not a chance in hell.”
“We’ve got this,” Crue assured him.
“Then you’ll have my back,” Drew said. “You’re much appreciated.”
“Then show some.”
“Sorry, Candy. I might appreciate you, but I’m not willing to give up what’s important to me so you can meet Donovan’s end goals. You get me?”
“Damn it, listen to me! They have enough ammunition behind those gates to cause the next world war.”
Manny rolled his eyes.
“Then I’ll assume they know how to use what they have. Thanks for the warning.” He disconnected the call.
“You heard the man.” Drew looked out the window. “They’re prepared.”
“Wouldn’t have ’em any other way,” Manny said, whipping the van onto an off-road trail, a shortcut they’d discovered when they’d been casing the property.
“So are we,” Scott reminded him.
The phone rang right back. Drew flipped his wrist and snapped, “Daddy Donovan is calling now.”
Scott leaned forward. “You’d definitely better grab that.”
“Why?” Manny asked, glancing over his shoulder. “I’d rather rebel than please the parents. Wouldn’t you?”
They all enjoyed a good laugh as they sped toward the compound. Donovan would be mad as hell, but this was one operation he wasn’t controlling.
Drew’s woman was behind Esparza’s gates. And Drew understood what Esparza was capable of and what extreme measures he’d take to make an impression upon a Remington.
The war was on.
An award-winning, international bestselling erotic romance author, Destiny Blaine writes under several pen names. She lives in East Tennessee and spends a lot of time in Connecticut and Virginia, where her granddoll resides.