Home > Alpha One (Shadow Agents #1)(17)

Alpha One (Shadow Agents #1)(17)
Author: Cynthia Eden

And he knew there would be no running away. It was Juliana’s choice, and he’d never take her choice away. He’d stand by her. Keep her safe. No other option.

He stared at her and realized...he’d hoped that she would want to run, but deep down, he’d actually expected her to do exactly what she was doing. Because he knew Juliana—the woman had a fierce core of steel.

She turned away from him, and he knew...things were only going to get more dangerous for them.

So he’d damn well stay by her side.

But she’d only taken a few steps when she stopped and pulled in a sharp breath, as if she were bracing herself. Then Juliana turned back to face him, her pretty face set with lines of determination. “There’s something I have to tell you.”

He raised a brow. Waited.

Her tongue swiped over her lower lip. “It was my fault.”

Logan had no idea what she was talking about. “Juliana?”

“All of those men who died at your cabin, everything that happened there...it was all because of me.”

He stepped toward her. “No, baby, it’s not you. It’s Guerrero. He’s crazy. He’ll torture, kill—do anything that he has to do in order to get what he wants.”

Logan tried to take her into his arms, but she moved back.

“There was... I didn’t tell you everything.” She wrapped her arms around her stomach and rocked back on her heels. Pain glinted in her dark stare. “When I was in Mexico, when I was with John—”

Not John. Guerrero.

“We talked for so long. About everything. Nothing. Things that I didn’t think mattered to anyone but...me.”

A knot formed in his gut. “What did you tell him?” They’d gone over this before, on the plane ride back from Mexico, but they’d just focused on any revelations she might have made about her father. And now that he thought about it, Juliana had never quite met his gaze during that interrogation. She’d kept glancing away, shifting nervously. All the telltale signs of deception had been there, but he’d just thought—

Not her.

Juliana wouldn’t lie. He was the one who lied. She’d just been nervous, in shock from everything that happened.

“I never realized what I said would matter.” She was meeting his stare now. With guilt and stoic determination battling the pain in her gaze. “I should have told you sooner.”

“Told me what?”

“Guerrero knows about you. About us.” She looked down. “I told you...he wasn’t asking about my father’s work. He was just asking about me, my life.”

And she’d mentioned him? “Why?”

After a moment, her gaze came back to him. “I thought that I was going to die. I didn’t expect a rescue.”

As if he’d ever leave her to that hell. He’d been ready to bring that whole place down, brick by brick, in order to get her out.

“John...asked me if I’d ever been in love.” Her laugh was brittle. “That’s one of the things you think about before death, right? Did you love? Are you dying without that regret?”

That knot was getting bigger every moment. “You told him that you loved me.”

“I even gave him your name,” Juliana admitted in a sad rush. “With his connections, it would have been so easy for him to do a check on you and to—”

“Find the cabin under my name.” Hell. The pieces fit. And that sure explained how Guerrero’s men had tracked her so quickly.

“When you got me out, I didn’t think what I’d said mattered.” Sadness trembled in her tone. “I mean, I’d told him how you felt so I never expected—”

Logan caught her hands, pulling them away from her body. The tumble of her words froze and she stared up at him with parted lips. “How did I feel?” It scraped him raw on the inside to think that she’d been talking with Guerrero, laying her beautiful soul bare.

Juliana swallowed. “I told him that you didn’t love me back.”

His focus centered only on her. On the rasp of her breathing. The scent of vanilla. The ghost of pain in her eyes.

“So I thought he’d know there was nothing between us. I never thought he’d go into your life or that he’d—”

Logan put his mouth on hers. His tongue slipped past her lips. The kiss was probably too hard, too rough, but so was he right then.

I told him that you didn’t love me back.

Her hands rose to his shoulders. Her mouth moved against his, gentling him.

After a few moments, Logan forced his head to lift. He stared down at her. “You didn’t...you didn’t do anything wrong.” His voice came out as a growl.

She gave him a faint smile. “Yes, I did. But I won’t make any more mistakes again. I promise.” Then she turned, pulling away. With slow steps, Juliana headed back to the bedroom.

But she had it wrong. The fault wasn’t hers. He was the one who’d screwed up. The one who’d never told her the truth.

“Logan...come back to bed with me.”

His head jerked up. He’d been staring at the floor. At nothing.

Now he saw that she’d looked back over her shoulder at him. Her hand was up, reaching for him.

He should tell her the truth. She wasn’t a kid any longer. Neither was he. He would tell her. Because of Susan, he’d have no choice.

If he didn’t tell Juliana about that dark night, Susan would.

Guerrero will. The guy would be digging into his past, learning every secret that he could. And he’d try to use those secrets against her.

Maybe Juliana thought that Logan didn’t care, but Guerrero...

“Logan?”

Guerrero would figure out the truth.

He rushed to her. Took her hand. Kissed her.

I loved you back.

Juliana might have gotten over him. She might just be looking for pleasure in a world gone to hell, but she mattered to him.

Always had.

He lifted her into his arms.

She always would.

* * *

SUSAN WALKER WATCHED as the poor little rich girl stepped toward the microphone. Looking dutifully mournful but determined. Cry me a river.

“The allegations that you’ve all heard about my father are true.” Juliana’s voice was clear and pitched perfectly to carry to all the microphones that surrounded her. “Senator Aaron James was using his position to perpetrate criminal acts. He was working with an arms dealer, a man that the government has identified as Diego Guerrero, and selling weapons off to the highest bidder.”

There was an eruption of questions as the reporters attacked like sharks.

Juliana held up her hand. “My father took his life because he couldn’t face what he’d done, but he left evidence behind.” She glanced toward the men in black suits beside her. Men who screamed FBI or CIA. “That evidence has been recovered and is being turned over to the authorities.”

Susan fought to keep her expression cool as Juliana continued talking. The reporters were eating up her every word. The woman looked like a perfect victim, sad-little-me, having to be so brave and struggle on after daddy’s treachery.

The mob around Juliana would probably make her into a celebrity. Hell, there was no probably about it.

And there stood Logan. Just a few feet away from Juliana. The reporters hadn’t noticed him. They’d followed Juliana’s gaze to the other agents, not ever seeing the real threat right under their noses. Blind fools.

“The authorities have told me that Diego Guerrero is in the country, possibly operating under one of his aliases...” Now Juliana was staring straight into the cameras. “John Gonzales is a name he’s used before.”

One of the suits rushed forward. He held up a picture.

“This is a sketch of Diego as his Gonzales persona,” Juliana continued. “We’ll make sure you all get a...”

Susan spun away, took two furious steps forward and slammed into the man she now knew was called Gunner.

Gunner just stared down at her with a raised brow. “Going somewhere?”

She forced a smile. “I just... It’s too much, you know?” She waved her hand back to the crowd. “I don’t know why you insisted on escorting me here today. I told you

already—you and the other agents—I had no idea what—”

“Ben McLintock said he had no idea, too.” Gunner’s dark stare seemed to measure her, looking for secrets.

You won’t find them.

“But we still found his body this morning. Dumped on the senator’s grave.”

Susan staggered back. She hadn’t expected...

“I guess Guerrero thought he was holding back.” Gunner lifted one shoulder in a faint shrug. “By the looks of things, I’m thinking McLintock talked to Guerrero, told him everything he knew. Guerrero made him talk.”

Her heart beat faster. Her palms started to sweat. Damn Mississippi heat. Even in the spring, she was melting.

“So maybe you should be rethinking that offer of protection,” Gunner murmured with an assessing glance.

Rethinking it? Why? So they could get close and find out exactly what she’d done and lock her away? No dice. She’d gone that prison route before.

She’d lost two years of her life to a juvie jail. She wouldn’t ever be going behind bars again.

It had taken Susan too long to build her life again. Or rather, to steal the life that she had. Before she got in trouble, she’d been Becky Sue Morris. After juvie...

Hello, new me.

“I don’t know anything,” Susan said. Juliana was still talking, feeding her lines to the reporters. Why? “Guerrero wouldn’t learn anything from me.”

“No, but he’d still kill you. Slice you open just like he did your friend McLintock.”

Ben hadn’t been her friend. He’d just been an annoying lackey who stood in her way. He’d been working for Aaron before she’d arrived on the scene, and while she might have gotten access to Aaron’s bed, Ben had been the one to know his secrets. Yes, she bet that Ben had known all about the deals with Guerrero. The twit had probably been in on everything.

How much money had they made? And she hadn’t seen so much as a dime.

Now Juliana was walking away from the microphones. The big show was over. No, Juliana’s show was over.

Susan’s show was just beginning.

Her gaze moved back to Juliana. Logan was being her shadow. Her guard dog. What else was new? Juliana must not have found the file she’d left for her.

Logan glanced up then and his gaze cut right to her.

He found it.

Susan kept her breathing easy and smooth. That gaze of his seemed to burn her flesh.

“Is there a problem?” Gunner asked quietly.

She put her hand on his arm, stumbled a bit. “It’s...so much. Ben. Aaron. I need a few minutes.” She glanced up, offering him a tired smile. “Give me a little time, okay?” Her voice was weak. Lost. She thought it sounded pretty perfect.

Gunner nodded. Right. What else was a gentleman supposed to do?

After taking a deep breath, she made her way to the nearest ladies’ room. Susan checked, making sure that no one else was around. Then her glance darted around the small room...and landed on the window to the right.

Time to vanish.

* * *

“WHERE’S SUSAN?” Logan demanded as he headed toward Gunner.

The agent jerked his thumb toward the restroom.

Eyes narrowed, Logan immediately headed toward the ladies’ room door.

“What are you doing?” Juliana grabbed his arm. “You can’t go in there!”

Watch me. He knew that Susan was trying to drive a wedge between him and Juliana, and he also knew...

I don’t trust her.

So he knocked on the door, a hard, fast rap. “Susan! Come out! We need to talk.” Just not in front of Juliana. He glanced over his shoulder at Gunner. “Take Juliana to the car. I’ll be right behind you.”

Juliana was looking at him as if he was crazy.

And he heard no sound from inside the bathroom.

Hell. “Susan?” Another hard knock at the door.

No response. Not so much as a whisper of sound.

His instincts were screaming now. Logan shoved open the door. Scanned under the stalls.

Gone. And only an open window waited to the right.

He spun back around to face Gunner. “What did she say to you?”

Gunner was shaking his head. “Out the window. Who would have—”

“What did she say?” Logan demanded again. Juliana stood behind Gunner in the doorway. Her gaze was watchful. Wary.

“We talked about McLintock. I told her what happened—”

“She got scared,” Juliana broke in. “She must have run because she was afraid she’d be targeted, too.”

Maybe.

But he doubted it. There were plenty of reasons for people to run.

He yanked out his phone and had Syd on the line in an instant. “Susan Walker is gone,” he said. “We need to start searching the area for her, now.” The bright sunlight hit him when he stepped outside and began to sweep the lot.

“Her car’s gone,” Gunner said from beside him. The man’s voice was tight with anger.

The vehicle sure as hell was gone. Gunner had driven Susan’s vehicle to the press conference, but it looked like the lady had reclaimed her ride. “Get the cops to put out an APB on her,” Logan said. He wanted to talk to Susan, yesterday.

He glanced to the left and saw Juliana staring at him with her brows up. “It’s for her protection,” he said, the words half-true.

Half lie.

Susan was a dangerous woman—she knew the truth about him, and he was willing to bet she knew plenty of secrets about the senator.

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