Authors: Monette Michaels
“Sweetheart, is this the
you were telling me about?”
“Yes,” she mumbled into his neck. She turned her face to the side so her next words carried clearly into the restaurant. “He’s the one who’s been stalking me.” Cruz’s furious gaze swept over Callie; his lips thinned in anger. Then he redirected his ire at Risto, which was exactly where Risto wanted it. He didn’t want the bastard to look at Callie, let alone breathe the same air.
her husband. She has no husband. This I checked.”
Yeah, you bastard. You checked and saw she had no family but for two teenage
brothers. No one who could make you pay if she went missing.
Well, buddy, you fucked
up. She has me.
Risto stroked Callie’s tense shoulder with a gentle finger, while inside his rage roiled and rumbled, threatening to explode into overt violence against Cruz and his men. Only the danger of Callie getting hurt stopped him. The object of his concern placed a kiss at the base of his throat, the small gesture calming him. “The marriage certificate says I am.” His tone was even but scalpel-sharp.
“I do not believe this. You are hired muscle, yes? You have the look of a soldier.” Cruz leaned over the table, invading Callie’s personal space. “Look at me, Calista.” The dumb fuck reached to grip her face. Risto growled.
Cruz withdrew his hand and eyed him cautiously, then turned to glower at Callie.
“You hired this man? After I warned you what would happen?” Callie dismissed him with her I’m-a-queen-and-you’re-nothing look. Then she turned her face back into Risto’s neck. Under the cover of the table, her hand gripped his thigh until he could feel the prick of her nails through the denim. She trembled, but he got the impression it wasn’t fear this time, but rage which shook her. Good, he’d rather her be mad. The bastard still needed killing for causing her one single second of fear.
A predatory smile twisted his lips at the thought of hunting down Cruz and taking him out permanently. Not that he would do so while Callie was near. His smiled turned to one of satisfaction when Cruz backed away as he recognized the hint of predator in Risto’s face.
“Like I said, I’m her husband. And not that it’s any of your business, but I am a former marine. An angry marine who can take care of his own. Callie is mine.” Risto stroked her hair, running his fingers through the tangled curls. “You want to see the marriage certificate,
? Look it up online. Cook County, Illinois, Recorder’s Office.”
He loved the look of shock on Cruz’s face. Good thing Tweeter and Keely temporarily added a marriage certificate and its concomitant license to the records in Cook County for this op. Callie let out a small sigh and relaxed into his chest, hiding her face from Cruz. Risto smoothed a hand over her hair.
“Stay away from my woman. Stay away from her family.” Risto snarled the words.
“The twins are in a safe place. You try for them, you’re dead. You touch Callie, you’re dead.”
“Who are you really?” Cruz took another step back at Risto’s outright threat. His thugs moved in to surround their boss, the jackets now open, revealing their weapons.
Inhaling sharply, Callie lifted her head and glared at Cruz. “He just told you. He’s my husband, you moron. Now, get the hell away from us. I never want to see you again.”
“Naughty little hell cat, I told you I’d handle this.” Risto lifted her face and kissed the tip of her nose.
She leaned into his touch, her arms twining about his neck. The little minx was purposely placing her body between his and the weapons. His finger tightened on the Glock he held under the table. He kept Cruz and his thugs in sight as he attempted to nudge her out of the line of fire. He’d told her he’d handle this—and now she’d placed herself in danger of getting shot. They’d be discussing her disregard of his orders later.
He turned to address Cruz who’d signaled his men to stand down when Callie’s body got in the way. The jackets were now closed over their weapons. “Leave. Next time I see you anywhere near my wife, I won’t be giving any warnings—I’ll act.” Cruz’s face darkened as Risto kissed Callie’s cheek then nuzzled her neck. The Colombian’s hands fisted but he backed down. The man realized he would not come out looking good in this confrontation. No, the sneaking coward would attack at night. Too bad for Cruz they wouldn’t be found easily later that night.
Risto smiled and kissed Callie’s cheek again.
Yeah, fucker, we’ll be burning up the
sheets tonight while you chase your fucking tail trying to find us.
Casting one last smoldering glare at Callie, Cruz swore, turned, then walked out of the restaurant. His men backed out, their hands ready to go for their weapons as they covered their boss’s ass.
Callie turned and brushed a kiss against his jaw. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t stand it. He didn’t believe you.” Her breath stuttered and tears streaked down her cheeks. “He was going to order them to shoot you!”
Her tears wiped away what was left of his iron control. “I fucking didn’t care if he fucking believed me or not.” Risto squeezed her until she squeaked. “Don’t you ever fucking put yourself between me and a fucking bullet again. You will follow my orders to the fucking letter.” It would take a long time and a lot of thrusting into her sweet pussy before the icy fear in his gut melted away. She could have been shot protecting him.
Sniffing loudly, she shoved away from him. “Very impressive use of the f-word.
And being a typical fucking, macho-ass marine, you missed the fucking point.” She glared defiantly. “If Cruz’s men had fucking shot you, you’d be fucking dead and I’d be at Cruz’s fucking mercy.” She jabbed her finger into his chest. “So, I’ll do what I think is necessary to protect your tight fucking ass.”
With the knowledge that Tom hovered in the background, covering their asses, Risto did what he’d wanted to do ever since the last kiss during their joint shower. He covered her mouth with his. Anger, lust and fear driving him, he mounted an all-out assault. The little cat refused him entrance. He snorted then bit her lower lip. When she gasped, his tongue thrust inside and claimed what was his. He poured every strong emotion he’d held back during the confrontation with Cruz into the kiss, making sure she knew she was his and that he was the alpha in this partnership.
When she whimpered, he released her mouth. She gasped for breath; her eyes glazed.
His labored breathing rasped over her swollen lips. “Promise me you’ll never scare the shit out of me that way again.”
Blinking, her gray eyes glittered, losing the dazed expression of a second ago. Her kiss-swollen lips tightened into a thin, mutinous line. She shook her head. “No.” He swore under his breath every foul word he knew in three languages. All through his litany of curses, Callie petted him, massaging his neck in a soothing manner. The obstinate look on her face remained. When he growled “stubborn brat” and swore some more, she had the audacity to snicker.
He stopped cursing and shot her an angry glare. “What’s so damn amusing?”
“Um, some of your swearing struck me funny.” She wrinkled her nose. “Hey, I can’t help it. I appreciate creative swearing. Marines seem to corner that market of all of the Armed Forces.”
He shook his head, his anger disappearing as swiftly as it had arisen. He tugged one of her curls then rested his hand on her shoulder as he settled her back against the booth and as close to his side as he could without her being on his lap. He cast her a sideways glance. “Just a heads up, I plan on being in bed with you all night, Callie. Maybe I can fuck that sassiness out of you. You might want to finish your meal so you’ll have the energy for the evening’s activities.”
Before she could come back at him—and he found he was anticipating what she would say or do to put him in his place next—they were interrupted. “Making new enemies, Risto? Trey and Ren know about this? Cruz is one vicious bastard.”
“Tom.” Risto turned to greet the man. “Ren sent me to rescue Callie from the A-hole, so they knew I’d have a hard time avoiding his treacherous ass.” Tom slipped into the booth next to Risto. He reached around Risto’s body and offered his hand to Callie. “The world-famous Calista in my little dive bar. I’ll need to get a picture for my bar wall.” He waved a hand to a row of pictures of local celebrities and a few international ones.
“Callie is a special friend of the Walshes.” Risto told the bar owner. “Her dad was Lieutenant Commander Meyers.”
“I knew your dad.” Tom took Callie’s hand, pulled it across Risto’s body, and brought it to his lips. He pressed a lingering kiss to the back until Risto growled and took Callie’s hand into his own. Tom laughed then his face turned solemn. “Your dad saved my ass once, Callie. Anything I can do to help, I will.” He turned to Risto. “Word is on the street that Cruz has himself a new woman. Your little Callie?”
“Shit. He made it public?” The para-leader would lose all face if Callie didn’t end up on his plantation as his woman. Cruz would pour everything he had against them in order to take her. Colombian terrorists were all about the
. Good thing Risto had planned to move up Callie’s extraction by twenty-four hours.
“Yes.” Tom’s mouth twisted as if he tasted something foul. “Cruz leaves me alone since Paco, his cartel boss, is related to my Rosa and likes my fish tacos. Cruz has a bad rep with women, goes through them like water and they don’t wear his attentions well.
Good thing you’re here to make sure he doesn’t slurp this little lady up.”
“Yeah, good thing.” Risto massaged Callie’s hand with his thumb. “My intel says he’s a city boy. Cruz tends to stay away from the jungle and swamps. True?”
“True. FARC and ELN own the jungles, but Cruz has some jungle boys. So, if you’re heading southwest for a Darien coastal extraction, watch your ass. There are all kinds of predators between here and there.”
“I know.” Risto smiled grimly. “But even predators are prey sometimes.” Tom snorted. “Yeah, Trey told me he was impressed with how you handled yourself on SSI’s last little mission in the Darien. Said you must have leopard blood running in your veins.” He turned to Callie. “Just listen to what this man says, Callie. He’ll get you home safely. I’d trust him with Rosa out there—and that’s saying a lot.” He began to slide out of the booth. “Whenever you’re ready to leave, let my wife know. I’ll give you the special tour and take you out my escape tunnel.”
“Escape tunnel?” Callie asked in a low, non-carrying tone.
Tom grinned. “Yeah, ya never know when Paco might decide he doesn’t like my cooking. It probably would never happen since Rosa’s one of his favorite cousins and Paco loves to protect women. Plus, I also stay out of
covert ops. But my trainers always told me ‘shit happens,’ so I cover my ass.” He turned to Risto. “My little tunnel will take you to a vacant building I own three doors down. Cruz’s men won’t see you leave. I suggest you two don’t go back to your hotel.”
“We aren’t. Now that Cruz has seen me, he’ll make his move to grab Callie as soon as he can. But we won’t be there.” He stroked the back of Callie’s head, loving the feel of her silky hair against his calloused and scarred palm. “Call Evan now, Callie. Tell him I’ll meet him and Chad at the cantina across from the hotel in two hours. I’ll give them their departure instructions then. Anything you might have forgotten from the suite, let me know. I’ll be paying it a final visit to tweak Cruz’s nose by unhooking those cameras and microphones.”
“No!” She gasped then grabbed her throat as if she were choking.
“Callie? What’s wrong?” Risto rubbed the back of her neck.
“Y-you’re … uh, not … going … back … th-there.” She coughed and gasped for a breath.
A panic attack. Shit. She was stressing out, worrying about him. He didn’t know if he was pissed because she thought so little of his ability to slip in and out of the room without Cruz’s men knowing or if he was happy about her caring so much. The same kind of caring that had had her putting her body between him and danger.
Probably a little bit of both.
“Sip some Sangria, baby. The alcohol will help relax your muscles.” He held the glass to her lips. “Slowly.” She took a sip, then another. “That’s a girl.” He helped her swallow past the constriction in her throat by gently massaging it with the back of his finger. “Good girl. Now, take slow, deep breaths.”
She nodded and did as he’d asked.
Tom hovered in front of the table, blocking them from curious eyes.
Tears filled her beautiful gray eyes. Damn, he hated to see her tears. Holding a hand to her throat, she took over the massage, then finally managed to whisper, “There’s nothing there I…” She grabbed the glass and sipped some more of the wine.
“Shh, I understand. I was going back anyway. By shutting off the cameras, it’ll drive him fucking crazy. He’ll double his efforts to find us, keeping his attention off the others.”
She frowned, but he knew her natural instincts to protect Evan and Chad were roused. He saw it in her eyes.
“Plus … the bastard has videos of you.”
Tom snarled an ugly phrase aimed at Cruz.
Risto concurred with the sentiment one hundred percent. “I’m shutting the cameras off. Then I’ll retrieve any back-ups.”
He wouldn’t mention to Callie that anyone unlucky enough to be on porn duty tonight would die. That additional message would promise death to anyone spreading ugly rumors or any other surviving video about Callie. If something happened to Risto, SSI would back that promise up for Keely’s sake alone.