HAYDEN (Dragon Security Book 5)

BOOK: HAYDEN (Dragon Security Book 5)
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HAYDEN

Dragon Security Book 5

 

Copyright © 2016

 

All Rights Reserved
. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

Prologue

 

Sam

Ten years earlier…

I curled up on Megan’s bed, watching her try on different tops for her date with Luke.

“I wish my mom would let me wear things like that.”

Megan glanced at me in the mirror. “Wear them anyway. She’s not around all the time.”

“Yeah, but she’ll find out. Mrs. Collings goes to our church. So does Mr. Waters.”

“Half the kids at our school go to your church, too. But that doesn’t mean they’ll all go blab to her.”

“Sure they will. They’re all afraid of her.”

Megan turned around, her blouse hanging open as she regarded me. “I wish we could convince her that you weren’t going to hell if you wore pink. You’d look so good in pink.”

I blushed. “I doubt it.”

“Chris Philips would ask you out in a heartbeat if you wore this pink blouse,” she said, grabbing it off the hanger. “You’d look so good in it.”

I got up and took it from her, holding it up against my chest. It was a good color, a soft pink that made the color of my cheeks look a little more natural. It made my dark eyes and mousy hair look different, somehow. Maybe it was just me. Maybe it was what Megan had said. But I felt different as I stood there, the blouse up against my chest.

“You’re beautiful,” Megan said softly, coming up behind me and resting her hands on my shoulders.

We’d known each other a little more than a year, ever since we both matriculated into Sam Houston High School from our previous middle school. I don’t know how we found each other, but we did. And now…I couldn’t imagine my life without her.

“I don’t think I’ll ever find a guy who’ll look at me the way Luke looks at you.”

Megan smiled. “He does have a way of looking at me, doesn’t he?” She sighed. “But you will. The only reason Luke and I are so close is because we’ve known each other forever. But you’ll find your one. I know you will.”

“Not according to my mom. Love is for silly girls who don’t believe strongly enough in God. To hear her talk, you’d think I was an immaculate conception.”

“Maybe you were. You never did meet your dad.”

“Yeah. Maybe.”

I handed the blouse back to her and curled up in the center of her bed. “I just want a guy to look at me and make me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world.”

Megan came over and curled up beside me on the bed. “It’s not all sunshine and flowers,” she said, taking my hand. “Luke can be a real jackass sometimes. He told his friends every detail about our first date, making himself seem like a real player. I was so mad when I found out.”

“He was just showing off. You’re like the most popular girl in the sophomore class.”

“I doubt that.”

“No, it’s true. And he’s always been this sort of second class citizen because his mom is a housekeeper, so he feels like he has some catching up to do to be in your league.”

Megan glanced at me. “You really think so?”

“I do. I see it.”

She nodded. “See how good you are with people? You see things that other people don’t.”

I shrugged. “Because I’m always in the background—observing.”

“You’ll be the one in the spotlight someday, Sam.”

I smiled, but I didn’t believe it. I wasn’t that girl. But I would be perfectly happy if I could be Megan’s friend for the rest of my life. She pulled me into a world I never thought I’d be a part of. I loved her for that.

You can’t choose your family. If I’d had the option, I never would have chosen my mom. She was a good person trying to live a pious life. But she’d gone overboard and I wished, more often than not, that she would simply back off me. Let me be who I was and not this nun-like person she thought I should be. But I loved her. And I’d never disrespect her.

But you can choose your friends. And I was grateful I’d chosen Megan and, by default, Luke and Peter and Cole. They were my true family.

I hoped we would always be friends.

 

Chapter 1

 

Megan

He slid his hand over my hip and I made a soft sound as he pulled me forward, filling me with the familiar strokes of his thick, long cock. I wrapped my arms around his neck, my eyes closed as I leaned back, opening my throat to his exploring lips, the touch of his nibbling teeth, the heat of his moist tongue. In this moment, I could make myself believe that all was right with my world, that he was all that mattered. I could push away all the things that had been weighing so heavily on my shoulders—Peter’s accident, Cole’s new marriage, Luke’s disappearance, and Sam…but, somehow, it all came creeping back in no matter how hard I clung to him.

Just a little more than a week ago, I found my best friend passed out in the office of her condo, passed out and unresponsive. The hospital ran all these tests on her and we were just getting ready to come home, to return to something resembling normal, when the doctor came in and asked her to have a seat.

He talked about lupus’ effect on the body, the way it often attacked the internal organs. He talked about infections and irritation and things that simply made no sense as my mind struggled to grasp the message that was hidden in all that medical jargon.

I was stunned when he walked out the door. So was Sam. We just sat there for a long time, clinging to each other. And then the shock dissipated. And the pain hit.

And it was a hell of a lot of pain.

It was still there, ripping apart my soul even as I clung to Dante, even as I begged for his touch to make the pain go away.

It wasn’t working.

“Stop,” I said, pushing at his chest. “Please, just stop.”

“Megan,” he moaned, clearly too close to back away. He grabbed my ass and tugged me so close to him that I would have fallen off the kitchen counter if he wasn’t there to catch me. His mouth found mine and for a long second we kissed. My thoughts began to evaporate again, but the weight on my heart wasn’t about to be budged.

“I can’t.” I broke the kiss and pushed him back, managing to pull away, smoothing my skirt back down over my hips as I walked away from him, from the pleasure his dark, muscular body promised.

“Megan!”

I couldn’t.

I marched down the hall to the master bedroom and finished what he’d started when he barged into my house twenty minutes ago, dropping my blouse into the wash basket, along with my skirt and under things. I stood in the shower, the hot water rushing over me doing nothing to soothe the tension in my body.

“Talk to me,” Dante said, tugging at my arm, turning me to face him. “What’s going on?”

I shook my head. “I can’t.”

“Is it Peter? Have you learned something else about his accident?”

I shook my head. “There’s nothing more to learn, I’m afraid.”

“Then it’s Luke, right?”

I blushed, my eyes fixated on my hand as I pressed it to his damp, but bare, chest. I traced the outline of the tree tattooed to his chest, wondering what had possessed him to get such a tattoo. It didn’t seem that masculine, and it was so close to the cluster of tattoos that covered his chest, it seemed almost unnatural. Like it was there to conceal something else.

“I don’t want to talk to you about Luke. I thought I made that clear.”

“And I thought I told you that I want to be here for you, no matter what it is that’s bothering you.”

I looked up at him. He was a handsome man. He looked so much like the man who’d been my fiancé, my best friend, and my lover that it hurt to look at him. He had the same dark hair, though his was long, almost brushing the back of his collar. Luke never would have worn his hair that long. And he had the same caramel brown eyes. But his nose was different; it was narrower than Luke’s was. And his jaw was wider and his chin heavier. He wasn’t my Luke, but there were enough similarities that I could sometimes make myself believe he was, late at night when we were lying in my bed together, when he was inside of me and my eyes were closed.

But he wasn’t. And he never would be.

“Luke left me. That’s all you need to know about that.”

“Then tell me what it is that’s bothering you. Is it Cole’s wedding last week? The upcoming holidays?”

A knife ripped through me at his question. Christmas was two weeks away. Would it be…but I couldn’t let myself think like that.

I turned away from Dante and buried myself under the heavy spray of the water pouring from the showerhead. I wanted to push the world away. I’d gone through enough these last few years, hadn’t I? I was left at the altar by the only man I’d ever wanted, the only man I’d ever loved. Three months later, my older brother died in a car accident that I learned, months later, was not an accident. And the more I investigated what he’d been doing those last months of his life, the more I realized that none of it was accidental. It seemed that Luke was drawn away because of what Peter was investigating, an investigation that appeared to have led to his murder.

It was confusing and insane, this whole thing. I almost wished I hadn’t stumbled onto the truth. Or that I could find the
whole
truth so that I could end this thing before it got any more out of hand.

And now Sam. She was my best friend, and she had been my best friend since we met freshman year of high school. We did everything together, down to joining the military, and then joining together to begin Dragon Security once we left the Marines.

I didn’t know what I would do without her.

Dante slipped his hands around me, his thumbs brushing my hardened nipples.

“Let me make you feel better,” he whispered against my ear.

Dante was an employee of Dragon. Taking him into my bed was a mistake. But feeling him slide his hand down the length of my belly, his finger brushing my clit, made me forget exactly why it was a mistake.

I leaned against him, my hand reaching back to bury my fingers in his hair. He nibbled at my neck, my shoulder, his mouth hot against my skin. And then he twisted me around and pressed me against the ice-cold marble on the back wall of the shower. I cried out as much from the cold as from the quick thrust of him entering me again.

He held me tight, his fingers buried in the soft flesh of the underside of my thighs. It was almost painful, his touch mixed with the intense pleasure of his hard, quick thrusts. He pounded against me so forcefully that all I could do was cling to him and go for the ride. And what a ride it was.

When it was over, he carried me gently to the bed, a towel wrapped around my nakedness. He rubbed my skin dry and rubbed lotion into my skin as if I were a babe who couldn’t care for herself.

“Why are you so good to me?” I asked as exhaustion weakened me.

He leaned close and kissed me. “Sleep well.”

And then he was gone, like he’d never been there at all.

 

 

I was late to work, thanks to the fact that my cellphone was my alarm and I’d somehow managed to leave it in the kitchen. I couldn’t hear it all the way on the other side of the house. I hurried to dress, my body a bundle of knots and soreness. There were a dozen voicemail messages awaiting me on the phone, emails that were so numerous I couldn’t begin to count them all. I was driving over the speed limit, trying to deal with some of it on the way to the office, a perfect recipe for disaster.

Sam was at her desk when I walked into the office. The sight of her made me want to cry with relief.

“Coffee,” she said, holding out a cup marked with Starbuck’s logo.

“You’re a lifesaver.”

She just smiled, turning back to her computer monitor, busily tapping away at something I couldn’t even begin to understand. Sam had always been a math and computer genius, taking classes in school that I couldn’t even begin to wrap my mind around. When we joined the Marines, they took her off to teach her things about computers and electronics that most civilians would probably rather not know the military can do. She was always a techie, and now her skills were one of the things that kept Dragon at the top among its dozens of competitors in this state alone.

I stepped into my office and booted up my computer, barely biting back a groan when I saw the number of things that needed my attention this morning. The most important of them, of course, were the new client communications. I was on the phone most of the morning, discussing potential cases, finally at a place in Dragon’s existence that I could pick and choose the cases I wanted.

One stuck out to me today. A bank was concerned that one of their loan officers was altering people’s loan applications to make them appear to meet the bank’s criteria after taking bribes of some sort from the borrowers. They couldn’t prove it without causing themselves a paperwork nightmare, so they wanted us to run an undercover sting and see if we could get the loan officer to ask for a bribe.

I got up and called Dominic and Hayden into my office.

I always felt sort of dwarfed when more than one of my assets was in my office at one time. I only hire assets who have experience in the military or law enforcement. Both Hayden and Dominic were military. Dominic was a Green Beret in the Army and Hayden was a Navy SEAL, the same as Luke. And they were both tall and hulking men. Dominic was dark, broad shouldered, clean shaven. Hayden was blond and was sporting a bit of a scruff on his face these days. He reminded me a little bit of Charlie Hunnam—the actor—but bigger and broader.

“I have a case. It’s a sting.”

The two guys exchanged glances. “You get to be the girl this time,” Dominic said.

I tilted my head, trying to remember when I’d had them do anything that would require that sort of role playing, but then Hayden burst into laughter and I knew it was some sort of joke between them.

Hayden and Dominic were the first two assets I hired to work at Dragon. I trusted them more than I trusted my own brother.

“It’s for a bank. The bank president is concerned that one of his loan officers is doing things she shouldn’t be, so I’m going to have two of you go in as a couple looking for a mortgage. The president has already filled out the application and assigned it to this lady. When she calls”—I gestured to Hayden—“I want you to arrange to meet her outside of the bank. I was thinking the Galleria Hotel because it has that big bar/restaurant in the lobby.”

Hayden inclined his head.

“Dominic, you’ll set up surveillance outside.”

“And what excuse do I make for the fact that my wife isn’t around?” Hayden asked.

“You won’t have to.”

Just as I said the words, the door opened and Sam poked her head in.

“Vulture just called in. He wants to know if he should allow his target to disable the motion detectors on the house when he’s in it.”

“Can you join us for a second, Sam?”

Her eyebrows rose above the rim of her glasses. She studied my face, then glanced at Hayden and Dominic. “Did you need me for something?”

“Get in here, Grandma!” Hayden said, referring to her preference for cardigan sweaters and long, ankle-length skirts.

He grabbed her arm and pulled her almost roughly into the office. She slapped his arm, pulling her own free.

“You’ve seriously got to cut that out.”

“Why? As long as you dress that way…”

She smacked him again, hitting him hard enough on the chest that it hurt me from the sound that reverberated around the room.

“Ouch!” he cried, but then he grabbed her around the waist and tugged her further into the room, plopping her down into the chair beside him.

“Thanks,
Chickadee
,” she said, putting emphasis on his code name like it was an insult.

He just smiled. He was proud of the name, partly because of the vague reference back to his home state of Louisiana, but also because I once told him what a chickadee symbolizes in art and mythology.

Purity of soul.

He liked that.

“I’d like for you to pose as Hayden’s wife,” I said, just putting it out there before anyone could say a word.

Sam glanced at Hayden, a blush like you couldn’t even imagine burning her cheeks. She started to get up, but Hayden grabbed her arm and yanked her back down.

“You’re not afraid of me, are you, sweetheart?”

They glared at each other and I suddenly felt like I was witnessing something I wasn’t supposed to see.

“This case…the loan officer is using some trick to make customers look more desirable then they really are. I need you to use your computer hacking skills to figure out how she does it.”

“I could do that from here if you got one of these bozos to upload a virus onto her computer.”

“Hey, what did I do?” Dominic demanded.

“That’s the problem. We don’t want to tip this woman off to what we’re up to. So I need you there, I need you prepared to handle any problems that might come up.”

Sam didn’t normally go out into the field. She was more of an office person. She was my office manager, my assistant, my secretary. She handled everything with the business that I couldn’t or wouldn’t. Everything that had more to do with logic and practicality. I was more of a charmer, working with clients, getting them to trust me and my people. I corralled the assets, made sure the targets were protected in a way that reflected well on the business, on me, and on my family name. Sam did everything else and I don’t know how we could have become as successful as we were without her.

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