Home > Alpha One (Shadow Agents #1)(2)

Alpha One (Shadow Agents #1)(2)
Author: Cynthia Eden

He motioned for Jasper to take the leap out. He had Juliana; there was no need for the other agent to stay any longer. Jasper yanked out a cable from his pack and quickly set up an escape line. In seconds, he began to lower his body to the ground.

“Negative,” Gunner responded instantly. “Now move before your butt gets fried.”

Gunner wouldn’t make a mistake. He and Sydney Sloan had the best intel there was. No way would they send the team in without knowledge of another innocent in the perimeter.

Juliana blinked up at him. “Y-your voice...”

Aw, damn. He’d lost most of his Southern accent over the years, but every now and then, those Mississippi purrs would slip into his voice. Now wasn’t a good time for that slip.

“You’re goin’ out the window...” Another explosion shook the building. Her captors were packing some serious firepower. Definitely don’t want her getting away alive. “Your choice—you goin’ through awake or asleep?”

“There’s a man trapped back there! He’s tied up—he’ll burn to death.”

She wasn’t listening to him. Fine. He grabbed her, tossed her over his shoulder, held tight and dropped down on the line that Jasper had secured for him.

By the time she’d gotten any breath to scream, they were on the ground.

“Take her,” Logan ordered, shoving Juliana into Jasper’s arms. “Get her out of here.” She was the mission. Her safety was their number one priority.

But...

He’ll burn to death.

Logan wasn’t leaving a man behind.

He grabbed the cable and started hauling his butt back up into the fire.

* * *

“WHAT THE HELL is he thinking?”

Juliana stared around her with wide eyes. She was surrounded by two men, both big, strong, towering well over her five foot eight inches. They had guns held in their hands, and they both wore black ski masks. Just like the other guy. The guy that, for a moment, had sounded exactly like—

“Alpha One,” the hulking shadow to her right said into his wrist. “Get back here before I have to drag you out of that inferno.” Wait, no, he wasn’t muttering into his wrist. He was talking into some kind of microphone.

Alpha One? That had to be the guy who’d jumped out of the window—with her in his arms. Her heart had stopped when he’d leaped out and she’d felt the rush of air on her body. Then she’d realized...he’d been holding on to some kind of rope. They hadn’t crashed into the cement. He’d lowered her, gotten her to safety, then gone back into the fire.

“There’s someone else inside... John...” Juliana whispered. The fire was raging now. Blowing out the bottom windows of that big, thick building. Her hell.

They were at least two hundred feet away from the fire now. Encased in shadows. Hidden so well. But...

But she couldn’t stop shaking. These men had saved her, and she’d just sent one of them right back to face the flames.

She couldn’t even see the men’s eyes as they glanced at her. The sky was so dark, starless. The only illumination came from the flames.

Then she heard a growl. A faint purr...and the man to her right yanked her back as a vehicle slid from the shadows. Juliana hadn’t even seen the van approaching. No headlights had cut through the night.

The van’s back doors flew open. “Let’s go!” a woman’s sharp voice ordered.

The men pretty much threw Juliana into the van.

“Where’s Alpha One?” the woman demanded. Juliana’s gaze flew to her. The woman had short hair, a delicate build, but Juliana couldn’t really discern anything else about her.

The man climbing in behind Juliana pointed to the blaze.

“Damn it.” The woman’s fist slammed into the dashboard.

But as Juliana glanced back at the fire, she saw a figure running toward them. His head was down, his body moving fluidly as he leaped across that field.

The van started to accelerate. Juliana grabbed on to the side of the vehicle. Were they just going to leave him? “Wait!”

“We can’t,” the woman gritted out as she glanced back from the driver’s seat. “That fire will attract every eye in the area. We need to be out of here yesterday.”

But—

But the guy was nearly at the van. One of the guys with her reached out a hand, and her “hero” caught it as he leaped toward them. When he landed on the floor of the van, the whole vehicle shuddered.

Juliana’s heart nearly pounded right out of her chest. Her hero was alone. “John?”

He shook his head.

“Logan, what the hell?” the woman up front snapped. “You were supposed to be point on extraction, not going back to—”

Logan?

A dull roar began to fill Juliana’s ears. There were thousands of Logans in the world. Probably dozens in the military.

Just because her Logan had left her ten years ago that didn’t mean...

“There was no sign of another hostage,” the guy—Logan—said, and his voice was deep and rumbling.

A shiver worked over her.

Juliana sat on the floor of the van, arms wrapped around her knees. She wanted to see his eyes, needed to, but it was far too dark inside the vehicle.

One of the other men leaned out and yanked the van doors closed. The sound of those metal doors shutting sounded like a scream.

“’Course there wasn’t another hostage!” This came from the woman. “She was the only civilian there. I told you that. Don’t go doubting my intel.”

He grunted as he levered himself up. Then he reached for Juliana.

She jerked away from him. “Take off that mask.” She could see now. Barely.

He pulled it up and tossed it aside. Not much better. She had a fast impression of close-cropped hair and a strong jaw. Without more light, there was nothing else to see.

She needed to see more.

“You’re safe now,” he told her, and his words were little more than a growl. “They can’t hurt you anymore.”

His hand lifted, and his fingertips traced over her cheek. Her eyes closed at his touch and Juliana’s breath caught because... His touch is familiar.

His fingers slid down her cheek. Gentle. Light. It was a caress she’d felt before.

There were some things a woman never forgot—one was the touch of a man who’d left her with a broken heart.

This was her Logan. No, not hers. He never had been. “Thank you,” she whispered because he’d gotten her out of that nightmare, but she pulled away from his touch. Touching Logan Quinn had always been its own hell for her.

The van rushed along in the night. She didn’t know where they were heading. A heavy numbness seemed to have settled over her. John hadn’t made it out.

I’m not...perfect.

“We’re the good guys,” one of the other men said, his voice drawling slightly with the flow of Texas in his words. “Your father sent us after you. Before you know it, you’ll be home safe and sound. You’ll be—”

Rat-a-tat.

Juliana opened her mouth to scream as gunfire ripped into the vehicle, but in the next instant, she found herself thrown totally onto the floor of the van. Logan’s heavy body covered hers, and he trapped her beneath him.

“Get us out of here, Syd!” Texas yelled.

Juliana could barely breathe. Logan’s chest shoved down against hers, and the light stubble on his cheek brushed against her face.

“Hold on,” he told her, breathing the words into her ear. “Just a few more minutes...”

Air rushed into the van. Someone had opened the back door! Were they crazy? Why not just invite the shooters to aim at them and—

Three fast blasts of thunder—gunfire. Only, those shots came from the van. The men weren’t just waiting to be targets. They were taking out the shooters after them.

Three bullets. Then...silence.

“Got ’em,” Texas said just seconds before she heard the crash. A screech of metal and the shattering of glass.

The van lurched to the left, seeming to race away even faster.

Juliana looked up. Her eyes had adjusted more to the darkness now. She could almost see Logan’s features above her. Almost.

“Uh, Logan, you can probably get off her now,” that same drawling voice mocked.

But Logan didn’t move.

And Juliana was still barely breathing.

“Missed you.”

The words were so faint, she wasn’t even sure that she’d heard them. Actually, no, she couldn’t have heard them. Imagined them, yes. That had to be it. Because there was no way Logan had actually spoken. Logan Quinn was the big, strong badass who’d left her without a backward glance. He wouldn’t say something as sappy as that line.

Backbone, girl. Backbone. She’d survived her hell; no way would she break for a man now. “Are we safe?”

She felt, more than saw, his nod. “For now.”

Right. Well, she’d thought they were safe before, until the gunfire had blasted into the back of the van. But Texas had taken out the bad guys who’d managed to follow them. So that had to buy them at least a few minutes. And the way the woman was driving...

Eat our dust, jerks.

“Then, if we’re safe...” Juliana brought her hands up and shoved against his chest. Like rock. Some things never changed. “Get off me, Logan, now.”

He rose slowly, pulling her with him and then positioning her near the front of the van. Juliana was trembling—her body shaking with fear, fury and an adrenaline burst that she knew would fade soon. When it faded, she’d crash.

“Once we get out of Mexico, they’ll stop hunting you,” Logan said.

Juliana swallowed. Her throat still felt too parched, as if she’d swallowed broken glass, but now didn’t seem the time to ask for water. Maybe once they stopped fleeing through the night. Yes, that would be the better moment. “And...when...exactly...do we get out of Mexico?”

No one spoke. Not a good sign.

“In a little over twenty-four hours,” Logan answered.

What? No way. They could drive out of Mexico faster than that. Twenty-four hours didn’t even make—

“Guerrero controls the Federales near the border,” Logan told her, his voice flat. “No way do we get to just waltz out of this country with you.”

“Then...how?”

“We’re gonna fly, baby.”

Baby. She stiffened. She was not his baby, and if the guy hadn’t just saved her, she’d be tearing into him. But a woman had to be grateful...for now.

Without Logan and his team—and who, exactly, were they?—she’d be sampling the torture techniques of those men in that hellhole.

“We’ll be going out on a plane that sneaks right past any guards who are waiting. Guerrero’s paid cops won’t even know when we vanish.”

Sounded good, except for the whole waiting-for-twenty-four-hours part. “And until then? What do we do?”

She felt a movement in the dark, as if Logan were going to reach out and touch her, but he stopped. After a tense moment, a moment in which every muscle in her body tightened, he said, “We keep you alive.”

Chapter Two

Her scream woke him. Logan jerked awake at the sound, his heart racing. He’d fallen asleep moments before. Gunner and Jasper were on patrol duty around their temporary safe house. He jumped to his feet and raced toward the small “bedroom” area they’d designated for Juliana.

He threw open the door. “Julie!”

She was twisting on the floor, tangled in the one blanket they’d given to her. At his call, her eyes flew open. For a few seconds, she just stared blindly at him. Logan hurried to her. She wasn’t seeing him. Trapped in a nightmare, probably remembering the men who’d held her—

He reached out to her.

Juliana shuddered and her eyes squeezed shut. “Sorry.”

His hands clenched. The better not to grab her and hold her as tight as he could. But this was a mission. Things weren’t supposed to get personal between them.

Even though his body burned just looking at her.

Faint rays of sunlight trickled through the boarded-up window. Sydney had done reconnaissance for them and picked this safe house when they’d been planning the rescue. Secluded, the abandoned property was the perfect temporary base for them. They could hear company approaching from miles away. Since the property was situated on high land, they had the tactical advantage. They also had the firepower ready to knock out any attackers who might come their way.

And with that faint light, finally, he could see Juliana. She’d changed a lot over the past ten years. Her long mane was gone. Now the blond hair framed her heart-shaped face. Still as beautiful, to him, with her wide, dark eyes and full lips. She was still curved in all the right places. He’d always loved her lush h*ps and br**sts. The woman could—

“Stop staring at me,” she whispered as she sat up.

Hell. He had been staring. Like a hungry wolf who wanted a bite so badly he could taste it. Taste her.

She pulled up her knees and wrapped her arms around them. “Is John dead?”

Logan didn’t let any expression cross his face. Here, he had to be careful. The team wasn’t ready to reveal all the intel they were still gathering. Another reason we aren’t slipping out of Mexico yet. They could have gotten her out faster, but his team didn’t like to leave loose ends behind. So a twenty-four-hour delay was standard protocol for them.

“I searched down that hallway,” he told her, and he’d found the room they’d been holding her in. Seen the ropes on the floor near not one, but two chairs. John had been there. Only, no one had been in the room by the time Logan got there. “I didn’t find another hostage.”

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