Three months later
“Do you take this man to be your husband?”
A pregnant silence filled the ancient church, as if it, along with the one hundred plus guests, waited breathlessly for the bride’s response. No one doubted what the answer would be, but still, there was excited anticipation as McKenna Sloan said, “I do” and became Lucas Kane’s wife at last.
At those words, Jamie let out a long, silent sigh of delight. Standing to the right of her sister, holding a spray of roses along with the bride’s bouquet of orchids, she could barely contain the joy that swelled within her. Seeing McKenna marry the man she adored was a dream come true. No one deserved happiness more. And Lucas was equally in love. His handsome face held an expression of tender reverence as he repeated the same vows McKenna had just recited.
While the minister continued his instructions, Jamie’s gaze shifted to the guests. It was a small group by most standards, especially for a man of Lucas’s wealth and stature, but McKenna and Lucas had wanted in attendance only those who meant something to them.
For Lucas, that included a handful of friends, and for McKenna that meant as many operatives of Last Chance Rescue as could get there.
Noah McCall had the honor of walking McKenna down the aisle. Jamie knew only a few of the other operatives. She recognized the stunning face of Skylar James, a woman who’d been on the covers of numerous fashion magazines and was the wife of LCR operative Gabe Maddox.
Shifting her gaze slightly, she saw a beautiful auburn-haired woman and a man with long golden-blond hair and a scar on the left side of his face. McKenna had introduced them to her last night as Shea and Ethan Bishop. To their right sat Cole and Keeley Mathison and their adorable twin daughters, Hannah and Hailey.
In front of that group were LCR operatives Eden and Jordan Montgomery, whom she’d met this morning at breakfast. Sitting beside Eden was a little boy of about five, their newly adopted son, Paulo. On the other side of Jordan were Noah; his wife, Samara; and their son, Micah.
Sitting one row back, she recognized the blond head of Aidan Thorne. Though things had been blurry the night of her rescue, she vaguely remembered seeing him there. In a pew behind Aidan was a dark-haired, exotic-looking woman named Angela, LCR’s receptionist. According to Noah, she was the one person Last Chance Rescue could not live without.
Her attention moved back to the people standing at the front of the church with the bride and groom. Jared Livingston, Lucas’s best man, looked almost frightfully grim. Jamie had seen him several times at Lucas’s home, and each time, he’d seemed to grow more forbidding. McKenna had mentioned that his marriage had ended; she hadn’t needed to say more. The end of a marriage was like a death in many ways.
The man standing beside Jared was Conrad, Lucas’s butler. No one had questioned why the wealthy Lucas Kane had asked his butler to stand up with him on the most important day of his life. Anyone who knew Lucas knew that Conrad was much more to him than an employee. Having stayed with Lucas and McKenna since her rescue, Jamie could attest to that. The man was both amazingly efficient and wonderfully kind.
Drawing a breath, but having no other choice, she let her eyes travel at last to the one man she’d been studiously avoiding not only talking to but even acknowledging: the new bane of her life, Dylan Savage.
How could one man be so gorgeously handsome, so wonderfully heroic, so seemingly kind, but so incredibly obnoxious, rude, and, well, just generally an asshole?
When he’d shown up at the airport to travel with her to the States, she’d started to reconsider her opinion. Had thought maybe she had imagined his animosity. And though they’d shared some conversation at the beginning, it had ended quickly, with Dylan dozing for the rest of the flight. About an hour before they’d landed, he’d woken, but he had been noticeably cooler. Every question she’d asked had been met with a grunt or a one-word answer. Jamie had finally given up and sat beside him alternating between hurt and anger.
When they’d arrived in Atlanta, he had silently walked with her to her connecting gate. Thankfully, she’d had only a few minutes to spare before her flight had begun loading. Standing beside him while he kept his gaze on everyone else but her had been just another frustration. When she’d suggested, somewhat sarcastically, that she could manage to get on the plane by herself, if he wanted to be on his way, he’d turned and given her a heated look that’d almost melted her insides. Then he had looked away again and continued to ignore her until her flight was called. The second she was able to board, she’d almost run from him with a barely audible “Have a good visit with your family.”
Before she could take more than a couple of steps, he had caught her arm to pull her around to face him. Jamie had lost her breath. The intensity of those emerald-green eyes seared her. She’d waited, breathlessly, for him to say something—sure that whatever it was would be monumental and meaningful. But what had he said? Nothing magical, nothing monumental. Beautiful mouth straight-lined and unsmiling, his hold on her arm tight, he’d growled, “Stay out of trouble,” and then turned and disappeared into the crowd.
She had spent the entire flight from Atlanta to Baton Rouge coming up with one-line zingers she should have hurled back at him.
Last night, at the rehearsal dinner, was the first time she’d seen him since she’d returned to Europe. Not that he’d said anything to her. She’d gotten a hard, searching look and a nod of acknowledgment. Nothing more.
As if he knew that her eyes were on him, Dylan moved his dark head slightly and looked directly at her. Eyes, glittering like shiny jewels in his starkly handsome face, stared coolly at her. Then, as she continued to look at him, he arched one brow arrogantly. Refusing to back down at the unspoken challenge, Jamie decided to arch her own brow. Unfortunately, she had never mastered the art of a one-brow arch; she figured she looked more surprised than defiant. And, as usual, she could feel her blush deepen, which she was sure made her face glow fire red. Still, she was proud of herself for keeping her eyes glued to his.
“May I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Lucas Kane.”
Jamie jerked her attention back to the wedding proceedings, mortified that she’d been daydreaming and had missed the rest of her sister’s wedding. Appalled at her selfishness, she exploded into applause, startling everyone. Thankfully, the entire room followed suit, everyone joining in exuberantly.
McKenna gave Jamie a loving smile and a wink. Relieved that she hadn’t ruined anything, Jamie pulled herself together and followed the newly wedded couple down the aisle. Today was Lucas and McKenna’s day. Her preoccupation with a man who frustrated and irritated her beyond reason didn’t belong here.
Nor did she want to think about the phone call she’d received an hour before the wedding. Unsurprising news, but nevertheless devastating. Soon she’d go back to considering what lay ahead of her. For now, she wanted to celebrate and be thankful for what she had. The hard stuff would be here soon enough.
She was doing that thing with her mouth again. Dylan had watched Jamie during the entire ceremony. Did she know that every emotion she experienced revealed itself on her face? Did she know that when she was nervous, she nibbled on her lower lip? Did she know that it was as distracting as hell?
He stood in a corner of the small reception hall, his back to the wall. He’d congratulate the bride and groom later. For now, he wanted to watch her—the maid of honor—the loveliest creature he’d ever seen in his life.
The hell of it was, she didn’t know it. He’d never seen anyone so incredibly artless and unaware of her own appeal. She thought she had offended him somehow, and while he regretted her hurt feelings, he couldn’t change his attitude toward her. He’d much rather see disdain in her eyes than fear.
Jamie had been through hell, and though she had adjusted better than any victim of abuse he’d ever seen,
she was still vulnerable. If she knew his thoughts, she’d be wary, maybe even terrified. And what good would it be for her to find out the truth anyway?
So he’d be the jerk, something he had a lot of practice with, and she’d never know that his heart thundered like a herd of stampeding rhinos when she was near or that another body part hardened at just the thought of her. These were secrets he’d take to his grave.
“We need to talk.”
Dylan turned to see Noah McCall standing beside him, the grim expression on his face not a sign of anything good. “What’s up?”
“Let’s go outside.”
With an ominous chill zipping up his spine, Dylan followed his boss out the door to an enclosed courtyard. Both men remained silent until they stopped at the other end of the small area.
“All charges against Reddington have been officially dropped.”
Dylan didn’t even have a curse vile enough to spew. “I thought at least a few of them were going to stick. What happened?”
“I don’t have the details yet. I’ve got a call in to the prosecutor’s office.”
“Jamie know yet?”
“Yeah, apparently she got a call earlier today.”
And she’d stood at the wedding, looking beautiful and happy, as if all was right with her world. Dylan hadn’t thought his admiration could get stronger.
“What are we going to do about it?”
“I’m going to get the details; then we’ll go from there. With what she’s told us she overheard while she was in his house, there’s got to be a way we can get inside his organization and stop the bastard.”
Dylan gazed around the peaceful serenity of the private garden. Peace was only a façade—he’d learned that painful lesson long ago. But, dammit, if anyone deserved to have that illusion, it was Jamie.
He turned back to McCall. “Whatever it takes to get to him, I want the job.”
“I figured you might. Jamie’s asked to see me tomorrow . . . I’m assuming about this.”
Excerpted from Sweet Revenge by Christy Reece. Copyright © 2011 by Christy Reece. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.