Three Months Later
Last Chance Rescue Headquarters
“You’re sure it’s her?”
“Yeah. She doesn’t even bother to disguise her appearance.”
Noah McCall shot from his chair and faced the window behind his desk. “I can’t believe she’d betray LCR. Nothing in her profile indicated this thread of evil inside her.”
Gabriel Maddox stayed seated as he watched the head of LCR flounder for an answer. Seeing Noah show emotion no longer surprised him, but the changes in his boss were still fascinating. Before McCall met and married his wife, Samara, Gabe would have sworn nothing other than God himself could have forced an honest emotion from the man. But in the months since he’d been married, Noah had done a complete about-face. Oh, he could still be a coldhearted bastard and no one dared cross him, but Gabe had heard him laugh on more than one occasion, and last month, when he announced that Samara was pregnant, damned if the man hadn’t blushed.
“How many abductions has she been involved in?”
“We’re sure of two,” Gabe said.
“I could have sworn she was about the straightest arrow LCR ever hired.”
Not a patient man by nature, Gabe knew better than to rush his boss in making a decision. Especially as hard as this one would likely be. Didn’t take a genius to know that the former LCR operative known as Shea Monroe would have to be dealt with, possibly taken out.
This decision wouldn’t be easy for McCall. He’d hired and trained every LCR operative since its beginning. Some of the younger ones called him Pop behind his back, though it was always said with an enormous amount of respect and even affection. Noah McCall had saved every one of their worthless hides and turned them into something. They might sometimes resent the tough restrictions he placed on them, but not one of them would speak against him.
Still, when an LCR operative went rogue, it affected everyone. Taking Shea down wouldn’t be enjoyable but might well be necessary.
McCall dropped back into his chair. “Anyone talked to Ethan lately?”
It sounded like a casual question. Gabe knew different. Noah McCall didn’t ask casual questions. Ethan Bishop had left LCR under a dark cloud. Few people knew the full reason for his dismissal, but speculation that he’d become a loose cannon was the number one theory. Gabe knew this speculation was correct.
“I talked to him a few months back,” Gabe said.
“So he doesn’t know about Shea?”
Gabe felt a slight nudge of guilt. “Didn’t see the need to tell him. When she went missing, we assumed she disappeared on purpose. Since Cole’s death, Shea’s not been at her best. Telling Ethan wouldn’t have accomplished anything other than making him feel more like shit than he already does.”
Noah turned his dark eyes on him and Gabe suddenly felt like an insect about to be skewered.
“And now that we know she’s working for the organization that killed her husband, you don’t think that’s something he’d be interested in learning?”
The answer Gabe gave was so lame, he inwardly winced as he said it. “Ethan doesn’t work for LCR any longer.”
McCall continued that black-eyed stare. “You want me to tell him?” His voice had softened, which meant only one thing—he was about to lose his temper.
Drawing a deep breath, Gabe gave the answer he didn’t want to give. “No, I’ll tell him.” He shot his boss a narrow-eyed glare. “You know he’ll go after her, don’t you?”
“Because despite the evidence, I think Shea’s worth saving. There’s no one in the world better able to see Shea for what she is. If she’s turned, Ethan’ll know what he has to do. If she’s in trouble, he’ll bring her home.”
“And if she’s turned, she might just end up killing him.”
An odd light flickered in McCall’s eyes. “Or she might end up saving them both.”
Gabe stood, knowing his boss wouldn’t change his mind, no matter what objections he gave. Noah McCall was of the opinion that almost everyone had something good in them. Since he’d turned around a lot of lives, Gabe wasn’t going to argue with him. But he’d seen what Shea had done to his friend. Loving a woman that much was damned dangerous. Shea had taken advantage of that love, and Ethan would never be the same man again.
Gabe stalked out the door. Bypassing the elevator, he stomped down ten floors. Ethan didn’t even own a phone. The only way to reach him was to fly there. His gut plummeted. Few people knew about his problem with enclosed places . . . the fewer, the better. By the time he made it to the podunk town in the Tennessee hills where Ethan had buried himself, Gabe would be in a lousy mood. Ethan wouldn’t be happy to see him and would most likely try to throw him off his property.
On the other hand, a good fight never hurt anyone. His mood lightened. Damned if he wasn’t suddenly looking forward to the trip after all.
The sun blasted a welcome searing heat. Sweat poured off Ethan, splattering and dimpling the dirt like slow, fat raindrops. Wiping his hand across his brow, eyes squinted against the brightness, he gazed around at the progress he’d made. After months of doing nothing but chopping down dead trees and clearing brush, he was beginning to see a small amount of progress. Yes, it would have been simpler to hire people to do this but not nearly as satisfying. This was his land. No one would care about this property as much as he did. It was his blood and sweat that would create something out of nothing. Besides, what the hell else did he have to do?
After throwing another tree limb onto the already full truck bed, Ethan jumped into the cab and started it up. One last load—then he’d shower and head to town for supplies. Once a month, he forced himself into town. He’d already put it off three days longer than he should have. Out of coffee for the last day and a half, he felt like a rabid dog, on top of having a hell of a headache. The fast-food place a few miles from town would be his first stop. A giant cup of their strong brew would ease the pain. Hopefully, by the time he made it to the store he wouldn’t want to kill anyone.
Under the rumble of timber slamming to the ground, he heard the quiet purr of an expensive car headed up his hill. Mercedes, maybe? Not a Jag. Whoever it was, they were lost. He was the only one who lived on this road.
He clenched his jaw, hating that he’d have to see another person on his property, even for the short amount of time it would take to get them off. His fingers combed through a week’s worth of growth on his face, pushed through his shoulder-length hair, soaked with sweat. Nice thing about looking like a serial killer—most people who saw him turned around and ran the other way. Whoever was headed this way would soon do the same.
A sleek silver Mercedes rounded a corner and hit the top of the hill. The sun’s glare against the windshield couldn’t disguise the identity of the dark-haired man behind the wheel.
“Shit.” The dull pounding in Ethan’s head blasted toward jackhammer status. Gabe Maddox. Last time he’d talked to Gabe, he’d told him to go to hell. Looked as though he hadn’t taken the advice. Figured . . . bastard was stubborn like that.
Ethan glowered at the other man, letting him know up front that he still didn’t want him around. “Don’t believe you were invited.”
Unfolding his long body from the leather seat, Gabe flashed an arrogant grin that was so popular with the ladies and pissed most men off because of it. “If I waited for an invitation, I’d never see you again.”
“That’s the idea.”
“Sorry . . . I’m on orders.”
“Noah sent you?” Now, that was a surprise. Last time he saw Noah McCall, the man had damned near choked him to death. Not that he hadn’t deserved it, but he figured McCall would just as soon pretend that Ethan had never existed.
“Yeah.” Gabe jerked his head toward the house. “Mind if we talk inside?”
His eyes searching the hills warily, Gabe shrugged and headed toward the log house without Ethan’s consent. “Don’t like being out in the open like this.”
“Damned stupid, coming from a claustrophobic.”
Gabe turned to glare at him but kept walking.
Ethan threw his gloves down and stalked past Gabe, into the house. His home was only a few months old, but his furniture was almost as ancient as the surrounding hills. His things served their purpose, and that was all he cared about.
He tugged open the refrigerator and pulled out two beers. Tossing a bottle to Gabe, Ethan leaned against the counter, unscrewed the cap, and took a long swallow.
Easing down into a rickety chair at the scarred, aged table, Gabe swallowed a mouthful of beer and gazed around. “Nice place you got here, man.”
“Thanks. I’ll tell the decorator you said so. Now, what the hell do you want?”
Gabe took another swig of beer, set the bottle on the table, and blew out a long sigh.
A strange tension zipped up Ethan’s spine. “Must be something major for you to take so long in answering.”
The words were quietly spoken, but the impact to his heart and mind were like bombs exploding. He turned toward the kitchen window, unwilling to allow his former friend to see the naked pain. “She dead?”
“No. If only it were that simple.”
Ethan turned sharply and growled, “What the hell does that mean?”
“She’s gone sour.”
Ethan snorted his disbelief. “Shea wouldn’t turn south. I’d believe you turned before her.”
“Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence.” Gabe waited a beat, allowing Ethan to absorb his statement. “We’ve got positive intel.”
Excerpted from Run to Me by Christy Reece. Copyright © 2009 by Christy Reece. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.