Blackhawk Security Elite Protection Services—
Their business is your safety.
But not hers. Former SEAL Sullivan Bishop refuses to work for Jane Reise. The JAG Corps prosecutor is hard core—and he never stopped blaming her for his brother’s death. But Blackhawk is Jane’s only hope in fending off a frightening stalker, and she’ll blackmail Sullivan to get it. Forced into her service, he soon realizes he was wrong about Jane. As bullets fly, Sullivan knows he’ll risk his life—and heart—to save her.
“You have exactly five seconds to talk, or I start shooting.” Sullivan Bishop slipped his finger alongside the gun’s trigger.
“I’m not armed.” The woman in his sights raised her hands shoulder level, but didn’t make another move. She might’ve been pretty, but in his experience, pretty faces were the best at hiding lies. And the lean, dark-haired woman standing in the middle of his office had one of the prettiest faces he’d ever seen. Knowing her, she’d come armed. “I want to talk. Figured this would be the best place to do it.”
He balanced his weight between both feet. His heart pumped hard as he tightened his grip around the Glock. How long had it been since Jane Reise—the legendary JAG Corps prosecutor herself—had crossed his mind? Nine months? Ten? Didn’t matter. Nobody uninvited strolled into Blackhawk Security and stepped back through those doors without answering for something.
Jane had a lot to answer for.
“And you thought breaking into my private security company after-hours was your best plan? How the hell did you get in here?” Sullivan closed in on her one inch at a time while he listened for movement on the rest of the floor. How had she gotten past his security system? Blackhawk Security provided top-of-the-line security measures, including cameras, body-heat sensors, motion detectors and more. Whatever the client needed, they delivered. Sometimes those services included personal protection, investigating, logistical support to the US government and personal recovery. They did it all. But right now, his gut instincts were telling him Jane wasn’t standing in his office for some added security around her town house.
“Would you believe me if I said I came to hire you?” She swiped her tongue over her full bottom lip. Dropping her hands to her side, she scanned the rest of the office and widened her stance. Moonlight coming through the wall of windows looking over downtown Anchorage splayed across one half of her face. It washed out the brilliant color of her hazel eyes he’d studied from her file all those months ago. She was far more beautiful in person—no argument there—but the cord of tension stiffening her neck darkened her features.
“You’re kidding, right?” This was a joke. Had to be. Sullivan stopped no more than five feet from her, a quick burst of laughter rumbling through his chest. The gun grew heavy in his hand. He lowered it to his side, but wouldn’t holster the Glock until he was certain she’d come unarmed. “I’m the last person on this planet who’d help you.”
Jane scanned the office a second time, looking everywhere but at him. Even in the dark, Sullivan swore the color drained from her face.
“I never meant…” She cleared her throat, determination wiping away the momentary fall of her features. “You have every reason to laugh in my face and shove me out the door, but I don’t have anywhere else to go. The police don’t have any leads, and I can’t get the Army involved. Not yet.”
“Involved in what?” Flipping on the overhead lights, Sullivan saw what she’d tried to hide by sticking to the shadows of his office. She squinted against the onslaught of brightness. Dark circles had taken up residence under her eyes, a sort of hollowness thinning her cheeks. Her normally athletic and lean frame seemed smaller than he remembered from her photos, as though she’d lost not only weight but any muscle she’d gained from her current stint in the Army. The white T-shirt and black cargo jacket washed color from her skin, but didn’t detract from her overall beauty. Still, something was wrong. This wasn’t the same woman who’d stood in front of a judge a year ago and ripped apart his family.
“I’m being watched.” The corner of her mouth twitched as though she were biting the inside of her cheek. Her shoulders rose on a deep inhale. “Stalked.”
The fear in her voice twisted his insides—would twist any man’s insides—but Sullivan didn’t respond. It was a counterintelligence tactic. Keep your mouth shut, and the target was more likely to fill the silence. If she was lying, he’d know by the way her eyes darted to the left or how she held her arms around her middle.
“They’ve been in my house and my car. I don’t know where else.” Jane brushed a piece of short dark hair behind her ear and the strong, confident woman he’d studied from the surveillance photos and video taken during the trial disappeared. “If the Army knew about this, they’d limit my security clearance, and I could lose my job. I called in an anonymous tip to the police, but—”
“The case isn’t high on their list.” He understood the way the Anchorage Police Department worked. Until there was an actual threat on Jane’s life, they had more important cases to work. That’d been the one of the reasons Sullivan had founded Blackhawk Security in the first place. Aside from providing investigative services for government officials and witnesses to crimes, his team protected victims law enforcement couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. But taking on Jane’s case…
She wasn’t lying, at least not from what he could tell, but helping her wasn’t exactly high on his priority list either. “Do you have proof?”
With a quick nod of her perfectly angled chin, she drew her cell phone from her jacket pocket, swiping her finger across the screen. A few more clicks and she offered him the phone. “I found this picture of me sleeping in my bed yesterday morning. It’s dated two nights ago, around midnight.”
He took the phone from her and his index finger brushed against the side of her hand. The lack of warmth in her skin caught his attention, and he pulled back. Studying the photo taken with her own phone, Sullivan fought the urge to tighten his grip on the device. The idea of a man—any man—taking photos of a woman without her permission built pressure behind his sternum. A woman shouldn’t be afraid, shouldn’t have to look over her shoulder. Not ever. “Any ideas of who could’ve broken in?”
“No.” Her defeated answer wisped out from between her lips, drawing his attention up. Eyes wide, she shook her head slightly. “I live alone.”
Then, barring a random break-in, she most definitely had a stalker. Handing the phone back to her, Sullivan ensured his fingers didn’t touch hers again. His insides had already caught fire from an intruder breaking into his highly secure office. He didn’t need anything else clouding his head. “Does anyone else have a key to your apartment? Maybe an old boyfriend who hasn’t gotten the idea you two are over?”
With another shake of her head, her hair swung slightly below her earlobes. “No. I don’t…” Jane cocked her head to the side as she shrugged. “I don’t have any old boyfriends. Not since I went into the Army.”
Which was five years ago, according to her military record. Sullivan’s fingers twitched at his side. “And what about your case files? Anyone not—” he ground his back teeth “happy with the way you handled their case?”
Aside from him, that was.
Her lips thinned as she rolled them between her teeth. “Not that I know of, but I have all the files for the cases I was assigned back at my house if you want to go through them.”
Not going to happen. He shoved the Glock into his shoulder holster, the adrenaline rush draining from his veins. Despite getting past his security system, Jane wasn’t a threat. Yet. “That won’t be necessary.”
“Okay, what then?” She rolled her shoulders back but didn’t move otherwise. Did she realize how much he blamed her for what happened and didn’t want to take the chance of getting close? He liked to think so. She’d prosecuted dozens of devoted soldiers—men and women who’d sworn to protect this country, men like him—and she wanted his help? The woman was insane.
Captain Jane Reise was responsible for his brother’s suicide. She didn’t deserve an ounce of pity from him.
Spinning toward his desk, he grabbed a pad of paper and a pen. “This is the name of another security consultant to handle your case. I suggest you give him a call and get out of my office.”
“I came here because I need your help.” Hints of that legendary prosecutor he’d studied bled into her voice. Her sweet scent of vanilla climbed down into his lungs and he forced himself to hold his breath. “Isn’t that what Blackhawk Security does? Help people?”
“Yes.” Sullivan ripped the note from the pad and handed it to her. He spun away from those far-too-intelligent eyes and headed for the door. Turning the knob, he swung it open and motioned her out. “But not you.”
Crossing her arms, Jane leveled her chin to the floor and sat back against the desk. Every cell in his body stood at attention as fire bled into her gaze. “I’m not leaving until you agree to help me.”
“Move. Or I’ll throw you over my shoulder and dump you in the hallway.” He liked the visual. Far too much. He shouldn’t, but damn it he did. All that soft skin, her lean frame wrapped around his, her hair tickling him across his back. Sullivan shut down that line of thought. Didn’t matter how fiery or intelligent she was or how much she begged for his help. Wasn’t going to happen. Ever. He crossed his arms over his chest, parroting her movement. Even from this distance, he noted her throat constricting on a slow swallow. “Get out.”
“I can pay you.” She pushed off from the desk. “Anything you want.”
“This isn’t about money.” Sullivan dropped his hold on the door. Marching across the room, he shortened the space between them until she had to look up at him.
Her chin notched higher as she held her ground.
The woman had stood up to all kinds of criminals and soldiers over the years. She wasn’t intimidated. Damn if that wasn’t the sexiest thing he’d ever seen. But he knew better than to trust the Full Metal Bitch.
Chest almost pressed against her, he quirked one corner of his mouth. There were other ways to get her out of his office. He leveraged his palms on either side of her on the desk, leaning down. “Unless you’re talking about something other than money…”
Her lips parted, a sharp exhale of air beating against him. Jane studied his face from top to bottom, but didn’t move to escape the box he’d created around her. She locked that striking gaze on his, eyes determined and wide. “Dollars and cents, Lieutenant Bishop. Nothing more.”
“Then you’ll want to leave before I put in a call to your commanding officer and have you disbarred for harassing the family of one of your victims.” He shoved himself away from the desk, away from that intoxicating scent of hers, and headed toward the door.
“I can make you help me,” she said.
Another rush of heat overwhelmed his control, and he stopped dead in his tracks. What part of his answer didn’t she understand? He spun back toward her. If it was a fight she was looking for, fine. He had no problem taking down the woman who’d destroyed his family. He might even enjoy it. “I’d like to see you try.”
“All right.” Jane straightened her spine as though she was preparing for battle. That same fire he’d caught a glimpse of during his brother’s court-martial encroached on the darkness embedded in her features. “I know who you really are. And I know what you’ve been hiding.”
“You don’t know anything about me.” Sullivan Bishop seemed so much…bigger than he had a moment ago. Caged by his body against the desk, she felt his heat tunnel through her clothing. Hatred had burned in those sea-colored eyes as he’d pressed his chest against hers.
Jane swallowed as he stretched his shoulders wider. What had she been thinking to try to blackmail a man like him? Blackhawk Security’s CEO wasn’t an administrator over a team of highly trained ex-military operatives. He was ex-military. He’d been a SEAL, capable of the worst kind of violence. And she’d just threatened everything he’d ever worked for.
He closed in on her a second time. His clean, fresh scent whispered across the underside of her jaw as he spoke.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. Every word out of his mouth promised she was going to wish she hadn’t gone down this path, but Jane didn’t have any other choice. Gliding her tongue across her bottom lip—a movement his eyes locked on—she stood her ground. There was no turning back. He was the best, and she needed his help. One way or another.
“I know Sullivan Bishop isn’t your real name.” Every muscle in his body tightened in warning, and Jane forced herself to breathe evenly. She pressed her lower back into the desk. “And the people holding your company’s military contracts might be interested to know why you changed it. A few of your classified clients, too, I imagine.”
“You’re blackmailing me?” A low growl reverberated up his throat and hiked her blood pressure higher. The shadows angling across the dark, thick stubble darkening his jaw shifted, but those sea-blue eyes never left hers. The veins in his arms popped as he leaned into her, the butt of the Glock in his shoulder holster pressing into her arm. “Are you sure you want to go down this road, Captain Reise? It won’t end well.”
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to survive.” A shiver chased up her spine, but Jane held her ground. She couldn’t live like this anymore. The late-night phone calls, the feeling of being watched, the sick photo in her cell phone of her sleeping. And there was more. Going back several weeks. “Have you ever been hunted like an animal, Lieutenant Bishop?”
The suffocating bubble of tension he’d built around her disappeared. The edge to his features softened. She breathed a little easier. Putting some distance between them, Sullivan relaxed his hands to his side, but the strong muscles flexing the length of his arms promised he was fully capable of violence. “Yes.”
“Then you know what it’s like to constantly be looking over your shoulder, to feel so helpless you don’t seem to have any control of your own life.” She crossed her arms over her chest, fully aware of the loss of body heat he’d forced through her with his proximity. Her hands shook as the terror she’d tried keeping to herself crept through her. “To feel like every second you’re alive could actually be your last.”
The lines running from the edge of his nose to those perfectly crafted lips deepened. She couldn’t read his expression, but the tension in his neck and shoulders released.
“How did you get through it?” she asked.
Sullivan’s chest expanded on a deep inhale. At least he wasn’t crowding her anymore. She could actually breathe again, but the cold fist tightened in the pit of her stomach. “I have people I trust to back me up no matter what the situation calls for.”
She nodded. That was what she was counting on. Why she was here in the first place. Sullivan had the reputation for committing himself to every job he took on, and, while it was a risk to rely on the man she was blackmailing, she hoped his reputation proved true. “Well, I don’t have a team. I have you. And if it’s going to take blackmail to get you to help me, then so be it.”
Silence pressed in on her as Sullivan studied her from head to toe. A scorching trail of awareness skittered across her skin. What did he see? A woman who couldn’t protect herself? Or the woman responsible for his brother’s death?
“I’ll give you twenty-four hours of my time,” he said. “After that, you can go back to your cold, empty existence and leave me the hell alone.”
He was just like the rest of them: her peers, the men and women she prosecuted to protect citizens of the United States, even her commanding officer. She’d earned her reputation as the Full Metal Bitch, she supposed. Her job required an almost ruthless approach to the cases she’d been assigned, but this was the first time her rib cage tightened at someone’s assessment of her. Which didn’t make sense. She didn’t care what Sullivan Bishop thought of her. She didn’t care what any of them thought of her. Her insides twisted. She didn’t care. Jane shoved off from the massive desk he’d trapped her against moments before. Uncrossing her arms, she stepped toward him. “So you’ll help me?”
“I don’t have a choice, do I? Isn’t that how blackmail is supposed to work?” Sullivan rounded his desk. The thick muscles across his back flexed through his shirt. She forced her attention to the sway of his gun rather than the way he moved, to prove she could take her eyes off him. Lean waist, strong legs, hints of his trident tattoo peeking out from under his T-shirt. Such a dangerous man shouldn’t be that attractive. “We’ll take my car.”
Jane straightened. Okay. They were doing this. “Where are we going?”
“To your town house. I’ll brief my team on the way.” He unholstered the Glock from his side and dropped the magazine into his hand. After a glance at the rounds, he replaced it with efficient, sure movements and chambered a round. He raised that piercing gaze to hers. “I have a man on my team who used to work forensics for the NYPD. If your stalker has been in your house like you claim, he’ll find the evidence and we can all move on with our lives.”
She ran her cold palms over the front of her jeans and took another step toward him. He was actually going to help her find the man trying to destroy her life? A knot of hope pulsed from deep in her chest. “And if he does find evidence? What then?”
Sullivan came around the desk, his wide shoulders blocking out the magnificent view of the Chugach Mountain range behind him. Nearly pressing against her, he stared down at her. At six foot four, it wasn’t hard, but the intimidation had drained from his body. He stalked toward the office door. “Then you’ll have the proof you need to take to the police.”
“What?” Jane wrapped her hand halfway around his massive biceps and spun him around to look at her. He’d let her. She didn’t have the strength to move a mountain like him. She was at the end of her rope, and she hadn’t come here to admit defeat. Her leave ended in a week, and she’d come no closer to discovering her stalker’s identity than she was three months ago. Desperation held her tight.
She glared up into those sea-blue eyes of his, her throat constricting. “I thought I made myself perfectly clear. Either you help me find the person stalking me or I go to the government and your clients with what I know about you. And your family.”
Facing her, oh-so-slowly, Sullivan towered over her, and she fought the urge to take a step back. He leaned in close, mere centimeters from her mouth, as though he intended to kiss her. “Then let me make myself perfectly clear. The only way you get my help is if we do this my way, and I plan to get you out of my life as soon as I can.”
Jane flinched, but he didn’t wait for her to answer, heading for the door.
“Let’s go,” he said.
This was a mistake. She should’ve known how deep Sullivan’s hatred for her flowed, but she’d run out of options. Jane followed on his heels toward the elevator, allowing a good amount of distance between them as they crowded into the small space on the way down to the parking garage. Neither said a word. His clean scent wrapped around her, and she gripped the handrail to clear her head. In less than a minute, he led her out of the elevator and across the empty parking garage toward a black SUV.
Tingling spread across her back—an all-too-familiar feeling—and Jane turned back toward the elevator, heart in her throat. Darkness surrounded them. Everyone in the building had already gone home for the day. She’d made sure. Everyone except Sullivan and a few security guards, but someone else was here. He was here, watching her. She felt it.
“Jane.” Sullivan’s deep timbre flooded her nerves with relief, but she couldn’t shake the feeling they were being watched. “Jane,” he said again.
She stared at him. It was her imagination. Had to be. There was no way anyone could’ve followed her here. She’d been too careful, but still, the sensation between her shoulder blades prickled her instincts. “I’m coming.”
Sullivan ripped open the driver’s side door of the large black SUV, his eyes sweeping across the parking garage as she moved to the other side. Once she was safely inside the car, the sensation disappeared and Jane breathed a bit easier. Nobody had been watching her. The constant paranoia had just become a habit.
Sullivan slammed the door behind him and started the engine. Black leather and dark interiors gave her a false sense of security, but having him in the driver’s seat eased some of the tension on either side of her spine. At the exit, he lowered the window and scanned his key card. Nobody in or out of the garage without a card. He swung the SUV north through an area of warehouses and railroads, as though he knew exactly where they were headed.
The SUV plowed through the wet streets of downtown Anchorage, spitting up water and snow along the way. The heater chased away the ice that’d built inside her over the past few weeks. She was reminded of Sullivan’s heat back in his office. The same heat rolled off him in waves now. She watched him from her peripheral vision. He wore only a T-shirt and jeans in these temperatures, a human furnace. It’d been too long since she’d felt anything but fear.
“I know what you’ve heard about me, what they called me in Afghanistan. I’m not as cold as you think.” Sitting straighter in her seat, Jane stared down into her lap to counteract the need to explain herself to Blackhawk Security’s CEO. “I didn’t want to dig into your history. I needed—”
“We’re not doing this right now,” he said, one hand on the wheel. He still wouldn’t look at her. Typical alpha male, determined not to talk. Sullivan pressed his foot on the accelerator as they rolled onto the bridge across Knit Arm, the shallow water almost motionless with a few inches of ice across the top.
“All right.” She wiped her clammy hands down her thighs. “Tough crowd.”
A light falling of snow peppered the windshield. Nothing like the storms Anchorage usually saw this time of year, but just as beautiful as she remembered growing up in Seattle.
The high screech of peeling tires broke their self-imposed silence, and Jane swept her gaze out the window. Blinded by fast-approaching headlights, she shoved away from the door as a truck slammed into her side of the SUV.