Authors: Lora Leigh
For Immediate Consideration.
Corbin County, Colorado.
One Million in US Funds.
All expenses reimbursed.
Three Marks, plus Collateral at one hundred thousand per hit.
Deposit one third. One third at first hit.
Remainder upon Completion.
Immediate Reply Requested.
Ryan Calvert stared at the message for a long time, lips tight, jaw clenched in fury.
Son of a bitch.
He had to admit he had expected this sooner. Hell, years sooner.
His cover as an assassin worked perfectly.
He’d put out feelers twelve years before that he wanted any jobs going through Corbin County. He hadn’t expected them to take this long though.
What had tipped the scales?
Was it the Callahans’ return, or was it, as he suspected, one of the Callahans’ imminent marriage?
Nuptials would open a whole can of worms that he was sure someone in Corbin County didn’t want opened. After all, if one of the three Callahan cousins married, then that could mean possible heirs, and he was certain the barons wouldn’t allow that to happen.
it was the barons behind this.
He’d been investigating the situation since he’d first learned of his birth parents’ deaths and the situation behind his adoption.
He had arrived in Corbin County twelve years before, to find three young men—all orphans—who had been newly accepted into the Marines … and recently framed for the murders of twelve young women with whom they had been associated. They had barely gotten off.
“Is this what you’ve been waiting for, boss?” His second-in-command leaned back in his chair and stared at the message on the screen thoughtfully.
Ryan nodded, murmuring, “That’s it.”
The plans were already in place. Each year he’d had to refine them, tweak them a bit, but everything was good to go.
“Head back to the office,” he told the other man. “I’ll contact Stokesberry and send him the intel file we’ve put together.”
“You know Skye O’Brien is there, right?”
Ryan leveled his gaze on the other man. “Douglas O’Brien’s girl? The one Ferguson took in after her parents’ death?”
“Yep. She rented a place about four months ago. The one right beside Logan Callahan.”
Ryan breathed out heavily. He knew why she was there. She was investigating the person or persons who had targeted the Callahan cousins. Her foster sister had done the same and had ended up dead and the same fate might be in store for Skye O’Brien.
It has to end here,
The Callahans had stayed away as long as they could, they had done their best to sever their ties to Corbin County, probably telling themselves that their inheritances meant nothing to them.
In the end, it had mattered though. Their roots, and the inheritances their parents had lost their lives preserving.
“So much blood shed,” Ryan said. “If the barons were behind this, we would have found evidence linking it to them by now.”
“They’re puppets,” John said, shaking his head. “The ears we have in their homes are certain of it. Whoever’s behind it is in Corbin County, and they’re controlling those three.”
Ryan sat up straighter in his chair, tapped his fingers on the surface of the dark walnut desk, and pursed his lips thoughtfully.
“Make a list,” he ordered. “Give me suspects. I’ll contact the Bureau and tell them we’re a go. And make damned sure if O’Brien’s boss finds out she’s there, that she’s not moved. It’s time to shut this down and we’re going to need her.”
“Got it.” John nodded quickly, moving to the bank of computers and pulling up the required information. “The team is in place and ready. You’ve planned well, boss. We’ll find whoever is behind this now.”
All they had needed was the right time, and the right offer and here it was. He’d make sure that everyone involved burned because he had a debt to repay.
It was time to rain hell down on Corbin County, and he was just the man to do it.
With a little help when the time came.
He was just as handsome now as he had been in his picture twelve years before. Just as hard, just as tough, and giving just the same impression of a man a woman could depend upon.
A man a woman could find pleasure with.
For Skye O’Brien, the past six months had been an adventure in getting to know the man her foster sister Amy Jefferson had thought so highly of.
The man who had been the cause of Amy’s death.
Logan Callahan hadn’t wielded the knife that had slashed her throat. He had simply danced with a friend, maybe flirted a little.
The Sweetrock Slasher had taken care of the rest when he had raped, tortured, and murdered the laughing, caring young woman Skye had called “sister.”
But she could clearly understand now why Amy had risked so much for him and why, as a newly inducted FBI agent, she had begun investigating the deaths that had occurred around him twelve years ago. She had died before she could ever report what she had learned.
Logan wasn’t handsome in a pretty sense. He had that rough, tough, cowboy way about him that drove women crazy and no doubt had his ego stroked on a daily basis.
Broad shoulders, long, powerful legs. Big feet. Which made her wonder if what they said about big feet was true. And there wasn’t an ounce of spare flesh on that hard, corded body either.
, her mother had always laughed,
were like fine, fine wine. They only got better with age.
In Logan Callahan’s case, it was true enough. At thirty-three, the small crow’s feet at the corners of his sexy, velvet green eyes added to his appeal. The few fine lines at his forehead and at the corners of his lips spoke of a man who hadn’t had an easy life, though she knew he’d made the most of the life he’d been given.
The gleam in those unusual eyes as he watched the women who stopped to chat, to smile, to entice, assured each and every one of them if he was of a mind to take them to his bed, then it would be an experience they would never forget.
They might not survive long afterwards, but while they were breathing, they would never forget it.
No doubt that knowledge was the reason he rebuffed each overture and flirtatious suggestion he dance with them.
After all, what man wanted to suffer the knowledge that his lovers would die simply because they were
Instead, Logan went out of town for his amusements and he made a point to never choose a lover, resident or not, from the beauties that attended the weekend Socials hosted by Corbin County every year, much to their disappointment.
“Now, Mr. Callahan, you just know I can teach you how to move in perfect rhythm,” Skye said as she moved behind him, mocking the last hussy’s advances as she matched his sway. “Darlin’, you just have to let me.”
His lips almost quirked into a grin as he stared down at her ruefully. “I’ve seen you dancing in your living room,” he drawled. “Sweetheart, you’re so tune deaf you can’t even stay in rhythm with that damn eighties music you like so well. I rather doubt you can teach me anything.”
He could teach her though. In some very interesting ways.
“Oh my, be still my heart.” She poured all her non-existent Southern charm into the mocking response as her fingers fluttered against the flesh above her breasts left bare by the tank top she wore. “I think I may expire of pure excitement. Dare you even deign to speak to me?” She batted her eyelashes at him as she gazed up at him from the corner of her eyes.
It wasn’t far from the truth. There weren’t many people Logan Callahan bothered to give more than monosyllabic response to.
He snorted at her mockery. “Sweetheart, I love a good comedy, and watching you dance has become the highlight of my evenings.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “Peeping Tom.”
“Exhibitionist,” he countered. “You knew I was watching.”
“Of course I did.” The lie came easily. “I thought you needed a little amusement. Don’t expect a repeat performance.”
She had had
idea he watched her. She could barely keep her cheeks from flushing in embarrassment.
“Now, you’re breaking my heart,” he said, pretending to bemoan the loss. “Tell me you wouldn’t be so cruel.”
Setting her beer to the table beside her and tucking her hands in the back pockets of her jeans, Skye had to laugh at the retort. Her gaze swept out over the courtyard of the small town square called City Park.
The central courtyard was a lush summer haven of rich blooms, flowering trees, and small grottos. The gazebo held the band; around it, concrete stamped in the form of bricks served as a dance floor.
She loved it.
“I still can’t believe they have a crowd like this every weekend,” she commented as she watched dancers sway to the sensual beat.
“Next year will make sixty years of the Weekend Socials,” Logan agreed. “I’ve been coming to them most of my life, along with my cousins.”
His youngest cousin, Rafer Callahan, was dancing with his fiancée, Cami Flannigan. Holding her close, her head against his chest, they swayed to the music with a sensuality that was enviable.
Damn, they needed to find a bed, not a dance floor.
“So why aren’t you out there dancing?” he asked her.
“Not drunk enough yet,” Skye grumbled, knowing he was laughing at her.
Logan grinned. “I’ve been watching you come here since the first Social of the season, Miss O’Brien. You never dance and you never get drunk.”
“I know better than to humiliate myself in public.” He made her want to laugh.
How long had it been since she had
Was it her imagination or did he drift just a little bit closer? Could she really feel his body heat just a little bit more?
“Don’t know how to follow a lead either?” he asked.
“Whose lead?” she quipped, holding back a smile as she glanced over at him again. “Come on, Callahan, I think the only one out there that hasn’t yet stepped on his partner’s toes is your cousin. I like my toes unsquished if you don’t mind too much. Besides,” she drawled. “I hear the only nice Callahan is the one that’s taken.”
She gave him a wink and blew him a quick kiss before picking up the beer she had set beside her and moving off.
Logan watched silently from the corner of his eye as his friendly little neighbor stopped here and there, flirted a little, rejected every offer to dance, then slowly headed to the square’s more public entrance.
He frowned. She was leaving and this was not the time for a woman to walk home alone.
The party didn’t start breaking up before midnight. There were still the drawings for the homemade pies and gift baskets contributed by local bakers and businesses.
She would be on her own, and he knew, perhaps better than anyone, that there were monsters in the dark.
Setting his beer to the table beside him, Logan walked over to his cousin, Crowe, and clasped him on the shoulder. “I’m heading home.”
“Go, man,” Crowe murmured quietly. “I think I’m going to hang around and watch a while longer. See if I won that pie I bought chances on.”