He’ll jeopardize his career to keep her safe…
After surviving the bombing that took partial use of his leg, search and rescue operative Lucas Rivera has saved dozens of victims from the worst day of their lives. But partnering with Hannah Williams, Blackhawk’s far too enticing head of security, to recover her abducted nephew is one investigation guaranteed to push him beyond his physical limitations. As a cold-blooded killer resurfaces from Hannah’s past, Lucas will be forced to discover how far he’s willing to go to pursue this case.
She wasn’t supposed to be here.
Hannah Williams tried to ignore the weight of the Glock 22 she’d stolen from the armory and headed for the nearest exit. It was after hours. The only on-site security would be the midnight shift, but while she’d memorized their schedules well enough to avoid coming face-to-face with any of her coworkers, avoiding security wasn’t her only concern. The problem would be the security cameras if anyone had a reason to review tonight’s footage, and she wasn’t about to give them one. In and out. Nobody would notice one weapon missing so long as she replaced it by her next shift.
Her boots squeaked on the freshly polished floor as she passed the wall emblazoned with an oversized Blackhawk Security logo. The weight of what she’d done punctured through her breathing as a very real reminder of the power Sullivan Bishop and the rest of his team had at their disposal. Personal security, kidnap recovery, private investigating, search and rescue, military connections and contracts. Blackhawk did it all, and they did it well. She closed her eyes, locking down the temptation to turn around and put the gun back. Blackhawk protected their own, but there was a chance once they discovered what she’d taken, they’d use that power to crush her. She loved her job as head of security. She couldn’t lose it.
But that didn’t compare to what she’d already lost, what she had to get back. She forced herself to keep moving. Nervous energy screamed for her to move faster when she caught sight of the stairwell door leading down into the parking garage. Ten feet and two flights of stairs and she’d be free. She’d have the chance to get her nephew back.
“I didn’t think you were working tonight, Williams,” someone said from behind.
That oh, so familiar voice rocketed her heart into her throat. Shit. Hannah jolted to a halt.
She’d planned this entire night around his schedule, to ensure she wouldn’t run into him.
The slightest hint of nails on marble ticked in her ears from the constant companion he kept at his side. She forced herself to face him despite her desire to flee. Her insides twisted, traitorous and gut-wrenching, and she shoved her hands into her coat pockets to keep herself anchored to the moment. Her fingers brushed over the gun she’d stolen. Of all the people she could’ve run into tonight, why on earth did it have to be him?
She cleared her throat. “Lucas, I thought you’d already gone home.”
“Leaving now. At least, I was until I saw you making a break for the stairwell.” Lucas Rivera, Blackhawk’s human intelligence specialist, closed in on her one off-balanced step at a time. The thick lines of his tattoo climbing up the left side of his neck shifted under the T-shirt he wore. Muscle flexed and released along his arm as he tightened his hand around Artemis’s leash. Goddess of the hunt. Perfect name for the retired cadaver dog who searched crime scenes and disaster zones for the missing. The dark-haired Dutch Shepard let her tongue roll to one side of her mouth and cocked her head to study Hannah a few feet away, but it was the intensity of her handler’s study that tensed Hannah’s legs in preparation to run. The ball cap he’d pulled low over his head threw his face into shadow, but she didn’t need to see him to know he was analyzing her every move, every shift of her expression. That was what Lucas had been trained for: to read people, to draw out their secrets. He was damn good at his job when it came to finding people who didn’t want to be found for the Search and Rescue division. “Your name wasn’t on the schedule for tonight when I checked a few hours ago.”
“I forgot my phone.” Her face and neck heated, and she hated herself for letting the lie slip from her mouth, but she couldn’t let him get involved. She couldn’t put him in danger. But the Search and Rescue division wasn’t tied to her security team. He and his team were called to a higher power, assigned to save people from the worst days of their lives. They were heroes, each and every one of them, whereas she was tasked to protect Blackhawk from was getting physically robbed… Which she’d just done. So job failure on her part.
He was the strongest and most insightful rescue operative she’d ever met. And the most attractive, standing there like the mere glimpse of him didn’t affect every woman he came into contact with. His sidekick helped, and right then Artemis was shifting between her front paws with excitement at the sight of Hannah.
Damn it. She had to get out of here, away from his too familiar, gravity-inducing chocolate brown gaze. Hannah rolled her tongue to counteract the dryness in her mouth. Lucas didn’t have any reason to look over her shift schedule. She notched her chin higher. As far as she was concerned, she had reason to be in this building after hours as much as he did. “You’re checking up on me now?”
“You’ve never missed a shift the entire six years you’ve been working for Blackhawk, but I had to eat my snack by myself last night. Then wouldn’t you know it, your credentials turn up in the logs into the armory.” The jingle of Artemis’s tags echoed loud in her ears as the space she’d kept between them vanished. Keeping his attention on her, Lucas reached out and slid his hand along her side, down farther until it rested above her wrist where her hand disappeared into her coat pocket. Her breath caught at his proximity, at the feel of his skin against hers. In all the time they’d been friends, worked together, he’d never blatantly touched her. Not on purpose. The small muscles in his angled jawline flexed. A calming combination of cedarwood and man filled her lungs, but she wouldn’t back down. To prove he didn’t affect her. To prove the small talk they’d shared over the years when he’d visited the vending machine next to her post hadn’t meant more to her than it had to him. “So do you want to tell me what the gun is for, or do I need to drag you into one of the interrogation rooms?”
Desperation coursed through her veins. “I don’t know what you’re talking—”
The glass of the main doors shattered.
A bullet ripped past her ear, but before Hannah had the chance to spin in case the next found its mark, a wall of muscle collided with her and pinned her to the marble floor. Ear-shattering gunshots and Artemis’s barks drowned out her own breathing as Lucas returned fire. She pressed her palms against her ears, but the shooting was over as quickly as it’d started.
The rush of cold Anchorage air coming through the front doors burned her throat and lungs. She stared up at the man who’d saved her. “That…is what the gun is for.”
Lucas Rivera fisted her coat in his hands and hauled her off the floor. Alarms screeched overhead as he slammed Hannah against the nearest wall. Artemis’s low growl broke through the soft gasp escaping past Hannah’s perfect lips, and his gut instantly tightened at the sound. Hell, he had half a mind to let Hannah fend for herself against the Dutch Shepard who hadn’t left his side since his medical discharge, but the retired cadaver canine would probably just snuggle right up to the woman he’d dreamed about for the past six years. In less than thirty seconds, every operative Blackhawk employed would be on top of them. They were running out of time, but he’d get his answers before that. “Someone just unloaded almost an entire magazine from an automatic rifle into one of the most secure buildings in the country at the same time you’re stealing a weapon from the armory. Talk. Now.”
Fear bled into her iridescent green eyes so stark against her milk chocolate skin. The urge to follow the gunman shot straight into the dead nerves in his leg that had gone numb years ago, but he couldn’t leave her to face Blackhawk’s interrogation team alone. Long black hair accentuated sharp cheekbones, full lips, and a wide nose, and damn if even after she’d put his life—Artemis’s life—in danger, he hadn’t imagined this moment a million times over.
Her lungs worked overtime as she set her palms against his chest and pushed back. “They took my nephew. I stole the gun to get him back, but I didn’t think they’d come for me here.”
“Jaylen was kidnapped?” Son of a bitch. That boy meant a lot to her. He’d watched how hard she’d fought to get custody of him when her sister had passed. Lucas lightened his hold on her as the first footsteps of the responding team echoed off the marble flooring and walls. Blackhawk’s threat response would lock down the entire building in a matter of minutes. They’d be stuck here answering questions while the bastard who’d opened fire on them got away. Not happening.
He holstered his weapon. As firm’s head of security, Hannah had direct knowledge of the team’s protocols and exit strategies. He scooped Artemis’s leash off the floor and faced Hannah. His fingers tingled at the memory of her curves under his hand when he’d searched her for the gun she’d taken, but he couldn’t focus on that right now. Battle-ready tension hardened the muscles down his spine. “I can get you to a safe house, but we have to leave now. Then you and I are going to finish this conversation. Understand?”
“I don’t need your help.” She pushed him off balance and withdrew the weapon she’d stashed in her coat pocket, barrel down.
Artemis’s ears shot straight up. The Shepherd wouldn’t move an inch until he gave her the word, but Hannah was already pushing every button he owned by stealing a weapon from Blackhawk’s armory in addition to being her damn confrontational self. She wasn’t invincible, and he sure as hell wasn’t letting her go to war alone with whoever’d just tried to kill her. Not when a thirteen-year-old boy’s life was at risk.
“Think about your next move carefully, Williams.” He holstered his weapon and raised his hands, palms facing her to concede control. “You can’t do whatever it is you’re planning alone. Without me, you’re not getting out of here, and you’ll never see Jaylen again. I can help get him back, but if we don’t leave now, we’ll be stuck in interrogation and whoever tried to kill you will have an opening to try again. You worked too hard and suffered too damn much to keep that boy safe. Don’t throw it all away now out of pride.”
“It’s not pride,” she said. “The more people involved, the higher chance someone gets hurt. You don’t know these people, Lucas, and I’m not going to drag you into my mess.”
“You already have,” he said. “So you might as well accept I’m not going anywhere.”
One second. Two. Her hesitation intensified the slight hint of gold surrounding the unnaturally bright green of her eyes, and she loosened her grip on the weapon in her hand. “Our best way out is the stairwell to the garage and out the gate before they lock it down. We’ve got maybe two minutes. Try to keep up.”
“Hier,” he said to Artemis in Dutch. Come. She followed close on his heels as he tracked Hannah through the stairwell she’d targeted before he’d stopped her. The ear-splitting alarm cut off as the heavy metal door slammed behind them. Pain flared up his left thigh as he descended deep to the lower level into the garage, but he pushed through it just as he’d done every day since the bombing. Artemis whined beside him as if she could sense the agony threatening to slow him down, and Lucas brushed her off. He couldn’t stop. Not as long as Hannah needed his help.
Cold air pushed against him as they stepped into the parking garage. There was a chance the gunman would come back to finish the job, but they had to take the risk if they wanted to get Jaylen back.
“One minute.” She called over her shoulder ahead of him.
The steel door Blackhawk’s founder had installed after an explosive device had gone off on the top floor of the building last year slid toward the ground. Eight feet. Seven.
“Move it!” Long, textured black hair trailed out from behind her as Hannah ran across the asphalt.
“Vooruit!” he yelled to Artemis—go!—and pumped his legs as hard as he could. The weakness tearing through his thigh as though he’d been caught in the blast all over again threatened to rip the pavement right out from under him. Artemis ran under the door at the same time that Hannah ducked underneath. Five feet. He couldn’t push himself any faster. Not with the permanent muscle damage in his thigh. He wasn’t going to make it. Four feet. He’d get caught on this side of the steel door, leaving her without backup and in danger. Three feet.
Hannah maneuvered under the two-ton steel plate and threw her hand out to him. She’d come back for him. “Come on!”
He secured his hand around her wrist and pulled her into his chest before forcing them to the ground. The parking garage, the door, Artemis, all of it distorted in his vision as Lucas used his momentum to roll them under the steel. Cold cement and strong, lean muscle crushed the air from his lungs a split second before the door locked into place.