The Kelly Group International (KGI): A super elite, top secret, family-run business.
Qualifications: High intelligence, rock hard body, military background.
Mission: Hostage/kidnap victim recovery. Intelligence gathering. Handling jobs the US government can’t…
Sam Kelly was her first love.
The last person Sam Kelly expected to pull wounded from the lake was Sophie Lundgren. Once they shared a brief, intense affair while Sam was undercover and then she vanished. She’s spent the last months on the run, knowing that any mistake would cost her life and that of her unborn child—Sam’s child. Now she’s resurfaced with a warning for Sam: this time, he’s the one in danger.
Now he’s her last chance.
Sam has too many questions to let her slip away again—like why she disappeared in the first place. This time he vows not to be seduced. But one look in her eyes, and the passion burns again, and Sam knows he’ll do anything to keep her and his child safe. However, Sophie’s dark past is more dangerous than he imagines, and the only way for either to survive it is to outrun it.
The morning sun shone bright on the back deck of Sam Kelly’s Kentucky Lake home. The wood was warm underneath his bare feet, and the rays chased the chill of the morning away. It had the makings of a truly spectacular day.
The only way it would have been more perfect is if he was on the lake, fishing pole in one hand, a beer in the other. At least he had the beer covered.
He drained the remainder from his can, then crumpled it and tossed it across the deck into the garbage can.
“Nice shot,” Donovan drawled from his indelicate sprawl over one of the lounge chairs.
A brief cool breeze blew over Sam’s face, reminding him that spring hadn’t fully sprung yet.
He glanced over at his younger brother and motioned for him to toss him another beer.
Donovan tossed him a can and then looked in Garrett’s direction. Sam’s other younger brother—not that Garrett acted like anyone’s younger brother—held up his hand for one and Donovan aimed a beer in his direction also.
Garrett cracked it open and then turned his attention back to the barbeque, where he flipped the burgers.
Only the sizzle of the grill could be heard. That and the hiss of the can as Sam tabbed his open.
“Ethan and Rachel get out okay this morning?” Donovan asked, finally breaking the silence.
Sam looked in Garrett’s direction since he’d know better than anyone else.
Garrett nodded. “Yeah, they left for the airport at the ass crack of dawn. Rachel was understandably nervous but very excited to be off to Hawaii for two weeks. She and Ethan both need the break.”
Of all the brothers, and they all loved Rachel dearly—she was the only sister-in-law in the family—Garrett was closest to her, and the most protective. But then he had a protective streak a mile wide when it came to the people he loved.
Sam leaned back and stared over the lake. He tuned out Garrett’s and Van’s discussion about Rachel’s recovery. They got on the subject of Christmas, and Sam tensed, withdrawing even more. Christmas was a touchy subject. Not that it hadn’t been wonderful this year. Rachel’s first holiday back in the Kelly fold.
Watching her smile and her eyes light up like a child’s had been worth every minute.
But Christmas had been just after he’d come back from Mexico. Right after Sophie had disappeared. It was stupid to dwell on her, but inevitably his thoughts drifted to her. Her smile. Her eyes. How good they were in bed. How she responded to his touch. How she felt when he was buried to the balls in her sweet, receptive body.
Nothing about that mission had gone according to plan. They hadn’t taken Alex Mouton down. They didn’t even know where the bastard had disappeared to. The only thing they had done was take down a huge arms shipment. All in all, just a stumbling block for a man with Mouton’s resources.
And Sophie hadn’t been there when he’d gone back.
He wasn’t even supposed to have gone back. It had never been his plan. But he’d found himself making excuses about following up loose ends and had taken off, determined to find Sophie. And do what? That much he hadn’t ever figured out. He just knew he had to see her again. He’d been saved making the decision of what next because she’d disappeared. No one seemed to know a damn thing about her, or if they did, they weren’t talking.
It took Sam a minute to figure out that his brothers were speaking to him.
“Come on, Sam, wake up over there.”
Sam looked up to see both Van and Garrett staring hard at him.
“What’s with you?” Garrett asked. “You haven’t been yourself since we got back from Mexico.
Sam stiffened. He hadn’t realized he’d been wearing a sign advertising his issues with Mexico.
“You’re not still hung up on that chick are you?” Garrett asked in a disbelieving tone.
Sam shot him a withering stare. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Garrett shook his head in disgust. He turned to Van and jerked his thumb in Sam’s direction. “We’re in fucking Mexico trying to set up a buy with Alex Mouton, and lover boy takes time out to have some hot fling with a waitress in one of the local watering holes.”
Donovan shrugged. “So? He still has a dick. Bound to use it sometime.”
Sam choked back a laugh. God love Van. Not an uptight bone in his body.
Donovan turned his stare on Sam, and Sam began to fidget uncomfortably. He’d rather not talk about it.
As if sensing just that, Donovan turned back to Garrett. “Maybe you need to get laid, man. Maybe you wouldn’t be so goddamn uptight all the time.”
Garrett flipped his brother off, and Sam smiled.
It didn’t do him any good to think about Sophie. They’d been good together. Damn good.
No, he had no business getting involved with her when he was involved in a highly sensitive mission. But her sweetness had provided a much-needed balm to what was otherwise a hellish assignment. An assignment that he hadn’t gotten anywhere on until the very end, when an anonymous informant delivered the information Sam and his team had sought—on a silver platter.
“You hung up on this chick?” Donovan asked.
Sam glared at him. Apparently he hadn’t been able to resist after all.
Donovan held up his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay, I know when to back off.”
“Good,” Sam muttered.
“You realize you haven’t taken another mission since Mexico,” Donovan said mildly. “Steele and Rio are getting restless. I didn’t realize we were all on vacation.”
Sam frowned. He hadn’t considered that they were on vacation either, but Donovan’s statement brought home to him just how picky he’d been over the last few months.
“Not that I’m complaining,” Donovan continued. “I was thinking of a vacation. Somewhere south. Lots of cute college girls. Sand, sun, sex. Lots of sex.”
Sam tuned him out again as he and Garrett extolled the virtues of bikini-clad college coeds. Hell, they were all too old for college girls, but then who put an age limit on fantasies?
It annoyed him that he still thought of Sophie. Then he frowned. How old was she? She was young. Not college-age young, but still young. There was a lot he hadn’t found out about her. They’d always been too busy making love to do any talking.
He tuned back into the conversation when he heard Nathan and Joe mentioned.
“They’re doing what?” Sam asked.
“Man, you are out of it,” Donovan muttered. “Got an email from them this morning. Said they were bugging out soon and couldn’t give more details. They didn’t want Ma and Rachel to worry, so we’re supposed to tell them they’re on another training mission.”
Sam snorted. “As if Mom will believe that. She has a nose for our lies. She sniffs us out every time.”
“We’ll let Van tell her. She always believes him,” Garrett offered. “It’s the rest of us who can’t get away with shit.”
Donovan sent them both smug looks. “Favored son status does have its perks.”
“So when are you going to snap out of this funk, Sam?” Garrett asked bluntly. “If you need a break from KGI, tell me. I can take over operations. The teams are getting restless. They need the action. So do we.”
Even Donovan looked like he agreed with Garrett.
“I’m not in a goddamn funk. A lot of shit has gone down over the last year. We needed to be here with the family.”
He could feel himself growing defensive, which meant they had a goddamn point, as much as he hated to admit it.
Both his brothers just stared at him, as if waiting for him to come to the conclusion on his own that he was being a dumbass.
“Yeah, okay, I get it,” he mumbled. “I’ll put your asses to work.”
Sam sighed and rose from the patio chair to stretch his legs. He rested his palms on the railing of the deck, enjoying the sun-warmed wood against his skin.
Maybe it was time to get back on the job and work off his restlessness.
He glanced back at Garrett and studied the shadows under his eyes. Garrett didn’t like time off. It gave him too much time to think about the shit that went down with his special ops team just before he left the Marines. He hadn’t been sleeping lately, not that he’d admit it to either Sam or Donovan.
Van had confided to Sam that Garrett had been tracking down any and all information on Marcus Lattimer, the man responsible for Garrett’s mission going to shit and Garrett’s subsequent stay in the hospital recovering from a bullet to the thigh.
Sam had been meaning to bring it up with Garrett, but he hadn’t found the right time. Not that any time was ever good to try to pin Garrett down and make him talk.
“What the hell are you staring at?” Garrett asked rudely.
“You look like hell,” Sam said bluntly. “You haven’t been sleeping again.”
“Yeah, well that’s two of us. At least I’m not hung up on some chick. Quit trying to avoid the subject by making this about me.”
“Find anything yet?” Sam asked mildly.
Garrett frowned and looked for a moment like he’d pretend he didn’t know what Sam was talking about. He slapped a burger over on the grill, banging the spatula in the process. Then he glanced over at Donovan.
“Hey, don’t look at me,” Donovan said, holding up his hands. “You haven’t exactly been discreet about it.”
“I want to take the fucker down,” Garrett said.
Sam leaned back and braced his hands behind him on the railing. “Christ, Garrett. KGI can’t afford to go on some damn revenge mission.”
Garrett shrugged. “Who says it has to be about revenge? The world would be a better place without the piece of shit. He’s dirty. He’s a traitor.” He stared hard at Sam. “He cost me my team. While we sit here waiting for you to snap our of your funk, we could be doing something useful. Like nailing Lattimer’s sorry ass to the wall.”
There wasn’t a whole lot Sam could say to that. He understood Garrett’s rage. He’d be doing the same in Garrett’s shoes. But he sure as hell hoped his brothers would rein him in. Just like he was doing with Garrett.
“Garrett’s not the problem right now,” Donovan said pointedly. “You are. You need to pull your head out of your ass, and we need to go back to work, otherwise Garrett’s going to go rogue on us and start some goddamn war trying to find Lattimer.”
Sam blew out his breath and turned around to gaze out over the lake once more. His brothers were right. His head wasn’t in it, and that was a very bad thing for KGI. They’d built their business into an extensive list of military and government contacts. They did jobs for agencies that didn’t even exist.
The job to take out Mouton had come from their CIA contact, Resnick, and while KGI had thwarted one arms deal, Mouton himself had slipped through their fingers. Which meant he was still there, still viable, and he was busy rebuilding his network.
And at least for now, the U.S. government didn’t seem inclined to follow up.
Sam hated unfinished business. It went against his every principle to leave a predator out there who was capable of destroying so many lives. In theory it wasn’t personal. Mouton was just a job, but to Sam it had become personal the moment he failed to take the man down.
He was tempted to tell his CIA contact to fuck off and go back after Mouton, but it wasn’t worth getting on Uncle Sam’s bad side.
His lips twisted into a grimace. Maybe Donovan had the right idea. Maybe some sun, sex and vacation would get his mind back in the game. And off Sophie.
He had started to turn around to his brothers again when he caught sight of something that gave him pause. A large log was floating lazily down the lake. Water levels were way up in the spring as the TVA held water in so as not to burden the rain-swollen rivers and creeks that the lake fed. Recent storms and heavy rainfall had caused a debris field that had only just begun to diminish. But it was something on the end of the log that captured Sam’s attention.
“What the hell?” he muttered.
“What’s up, Sam?” Garrett asked.
But Sam didn’t answer him. He leaped over the edge of the deck and took off running down the dock toward the water. He heard his brothers’ surprised exclamations behind him, but he didn’t slow down.
When he reached the end of the dock, he dove cleanly into the water, wincing at the cold shock. He surfaced several yards away and swam hard toward the middle of the channel.
He grasped the middle of the log and maneuvered his way down. A woman’s limp body was draped across the end, her wet, bedraggled hair hiding her face completely.
He hesitated a moment, afraid to reach out and touch her, to feel the rigidity of death. Then he shook off the ridiculous fear and grasped her shoulder.
To his relief, her skin was soft and pliable, albeit cold, under his fingers.
“Jesus, what the fuck?”
Sam jerked around to see Garrett approaching with swift, sure strokes.
“Help me get her to shore,” Sam said as he pulled her from the log.
Her head lolled to the side, and he sheltered her face in his neck so she wouldn’t accidentally inhale any water. He put fingers to her neck to check for a pulse. Weak and thready, but it was there.
“Holy fuck, she’s been shot,” Garrett said as he closed in on her other side.
Sam glanced down to see her blood-smeared arm. “Let’s go,” he said grimly as he turned on his side and began doing a sidestroke back toward shore.
Garrett kept pace, holding as much of her body out of the water as he could. As they neared the shore, Donovan waded out and reached for the woman.
Sam waved him off and curled his arms underneath her, lifting her from the water as he stood in the shallow depths. It was ridiculous, but he was gripped by the necessity to see to her himself. He didn’t want anyone else touching her.
His nape prickled and the hairs stood up as he laid her on the ground. The first thing he noticed was the bruises around her slim neck. Someone had done their damndest to choke her.
The second thing he saw was the obvious bullet wound in her arm. Blood still seeped from the jagged crease.
The third thing? His gaze drifted down her body, and he froze as he met with the tiny swollen mound of her belly.
“Holy fuck,” he breathed. “She’s pregnant!”
“I’ll call an ambulance,” Garrett said.
The woman stirred at Garrett’s voice, and Sam reached up to wipe the hair from her eyes.
All the breath left his body as her eyelids fluttered open and their eyes met. He took stock—took full stock of her face—and the realization hit him like a sledgehammer.
God, he couldn’t wrap his mind around it. He was leaning over her, staring down at her; his mind registered who she was, but it didn’t make sense to him.
“Sophie,” he rasped out.
Her eyes widened in recognition just as fear slammed hard into those big blue eyes of hers.
The full series reading order is as follows: