JANUARY 1, 2019



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In the shadows of a rusted I-beam, in the corner pocket of an abandoned furniture warehouse three miles outside of Atlanta’s city limits, Emmet Streeter blended into the fabric of the night.

Something he did exceptionally well.

Positioned at the far end of the building, he had an adequate view of the expanse. Not much to see except a rotted sofa, moldy mattresses, destroyed dressers, and other household goods from past decades littering the place.

Head on a swivel, gun in his hand, Emmet studied the dark corners and blind spots, even the birds nesting in the rafters. A lot of birds by the amount of droppings. They came and went via a busted sunroof on the northern side of the building. Permanent ventilation, it had rusted open. Off to his right water dripped on something metallic, the soft pling a metronome he could set his watch by.

Slow and quiet, Emmet stayed in the shadows and took a circular route around the periphery. His tread silent. He peered out of a cracked, dirty window, careful to keep his body hidden. Nothing moved in the parking lot overgrown with enough vegetation to hide a bus or an army.

His attention shifted to the rafters as a bird cooed overhead, combined with wings fluttering. Pigeon? A flash of white in his peripheral caught his eye. Hank and that damned cashmere coat. Wouldn’t be an issue if they weren’t tracking one of their own. One who would see that white coat as a target and not the white flag of surrender.

Splitting up was stupid, but Hank ordered, and Emmet obeyed. Some things changed, and some things remained the same. Hopefully, none of those things would get Hank killed.

Sometimes, Emmet believed that’s exactly what Hank wanted, a quick brutal end to a long brutal life. Not while Emmet still breathed.

Quietly, he backtracked using a line of credenzas as cover. Precise placement prevented glass from crunching under his feet. He made it to the end of the line and faced a glass field taking notice of the abnormal quiet. Everything had stilled. His heartbeat drumming in his ear was the only thing he could hear until he refocused on the outside instead of the inside.

Not a single sound in the entire building. Even the pigeons had ceased to move as if they knew death was near.

He had to go back, find Hank and approach another way—wait… What happened to the dripping water? He dropped low and swung thirty degrees to his left, his gun leading the way and squeezed the trigger twice.

The sound of a body hitting the wall, fabric ripping, and feet doing an awkward shuffle in a vain attempt to escape made him smile. A flash of white came up on his right, Hank rushing in. Not this time.

Emmet darted in front of his mentor, prepared to take a bullet, and if it came to it, die for the man who’d save his life.

“Move, Emmet.” Hank elbowed him in the gut.

At fifty-eight, Hank was no out of shape lightweight, but neither was Emmet. He used his two-inches and thirty pounds of muscle advantage to shove Hank out of the way and kept plowing forward. If the target was down, he needed to stay down.

Emmet leaped over a stack of pallets and landed on Bryan Hardwick’s—AKA Hardware—chest. Member of an agency that had no name. Correction: former member. Bryan twisted, throwing Emmet off and into a stack of barstools. Bryan was halfway to his feet, hand pressed to his side when Hank shot him in the knee. Screaming, Bryan toppled onto his one good knee and his free hand. In his other, he brought his gun up with a clear shot of Hank.

A barstool to the back of his head took care of the threat. Hank landed on Bryan like vengeance incarnate. Emmet let Hank have his way for another couple of seconds, then cleared his throat. A little reminder that they needed Bryan alive…for a bit longer.

The interruption worked. Hank eased up on the beating and grabbed two fistfuls of Bryan’s coat and tossed him into a rotted wingback. With a roll of duct tape he happened to have in an inside pocket of his white cashmere coat, Hank bound the unconscious man to the chair.

Emmet snatched up a rusted umbrella stand full of filthy water and emptied it over Bryan’s head. The man came to cursing and fighting against his restraints, which held fast. He wasn’t going anywhere.

“Motherfucker, you are mine,” Hank yelled in Bryan’s ear. From another inner pocket, Hank retrieved a switchblade and flicked it open with grand flare as Bryan panted.

Not that Emmet was concerned. Bryan’s time on earth was down to a collection of seconds and that’s only if Emmet could leach Hank long enough to get the information they need.

Hank dropped to his haunches and freed a tactical knife from another hidden pocket in his coat and got down to business. He sliced through coat and shirt to expose Bryan’s chest and started with shallow cuts across the pecs and abs to get the party started on the right foot. Not shallow enough by the cast-off splatter on Hank’s white cashmere coat.

White. May as well be wearing a bullseye with a coat that color in the dead of night. Couldn’t tell Hank that. Original member of their little group, he spewed orders with no reciprocation.

“We need him alive,” Emmet decided to remind Hank over the screams.

“A piece here and there won’t kill him.” He sliced into the man like a side of beef.

Grim work. Emmet stayed focused. Unlike their usual signature tap to the forehead routine, this kill was a personal statement to those who had betrayed them. A statement to Rogers, the bastard.

A bit of wet work was needed to get the point across. He fucked with the wrong men. Emmet had to admit, this exercise was probably cathartic for Hank. Emmet wanted to get to the killing. All those traitorous bastards bit the hand that fed them. They would all die. Painfully.

Hardware was just the latest.

The screams escalated after Bryan’s right hand landed with a solid thump to the filthy floor. Took a while for them to die down.

The ring of blood circling Bryan’s chair expanded. “You haven’t asked him anything yet.” All the cutting was a preamble but at Hank’s cutting rate, he’d soon be dead.

“I’m working on it.”

Bryan coughed and sprayed a good amount of blood all over Hank and his pretty white coat.

Hank cocked his head at Emmet. Jesus, his face would’ve made for a great Halloween mask with the blood clinging to his crow’s feet and frowns line, speckled in salt and pepper hair, running down his clean-shaven cheeks to drip off his chin. “I think he did that shit on purpose,” Hank muttered.

He snatched up a heavy-duty pipe wrench off the floor and hefted the rusted tool onto his shoulder. Bryan whimpered. Emmet wasn’t sure how Bryan could see out of two swollen eyes. Yet, was impressed with the feat.

The pipe wrench connected with Bryan’s ribs. The satisfying crunch echoed in the abandoned warehouse. Hank stood and leaned on the wrench, his breath hard gasps of frosted air. Hunched over like that, he seemed older than his fifty-eight years, seemed ancient. Fifty-eight multiplied by ten. A façade. There was nothing old about Hank.

“Now that I’ve softened you up… Tell me where Rogers is hiding.”

Emmet arched an eyebrow. Hank had done more than softened him up. Granted he wouldn’t have survived this garden party anyway. Emmet didn’t like wasted energy and he preferred tidy over messy. A kill was supposed to be clean, untraceable, professional. After six months of hunting the traitors, a bit of a mess was the least of their problems. Besides, a nice gasoline fire would clean up the evidence.

“Tell me where he is, and I’ll make it quick.” Hank bargained.

That was a lie even a novice could see through. Bryan was a pro. This was gonna take a while.

Bryan coughed up another wet glob of blood. “He’s close.”

That got both of their attention. Hank chuckled. “Close, huh? Is that chill I feel on the back of my neck the wind or his breath?”

A red spot appeared on Bryan’s forehead. Emmet dove for the ground while Hank, the fucking idiot, stayed put even as Bryan’s gray matter tasted air.

“He’s in the rafters.” Hank emptied his nine-millimeters into the rafters, but a second red dot appeared on his left shoulder. From the angle it originated, the shooter wasn’t in the building but perched somewhere outside. Probably in the overgrown parking lot.

Emmet launched himself at his mentor/father and took the shorter, slightly smaller man to the ground with his body shielding him. He wasn’t fast enough. Blood bloomed above Hank’s left collarbone.

“You’re hit.”

“I’ll live.” Hank snapped and shoved Emmet off.

“Surprising for how big of a target you provided. You see a red laser sight, you don’t stand there and gape at it.” Emmet dragged him behind an overturned credenza that barely shielded one person, never mind two.

“Don’t you think I know that?”

“No. I don’t.” Not since the internal war began. Friend against friend. Partner against partner. Men he’d known for a decade, some more than that, were now in his crosshairs. No one was neutral. Everyone had taken sides.

Two weeks, four men dead, and Emmet still didn’t understand why. What caused the unexpected rift? Why did steadfast partners in an exclusive membership suddenly turn on each other? Friends to enemies. Regardless, his loyalty belonged to Hank, the man who saved and raised him. Whatever caused the rift, only Hank knew for sure and he would share when he was good and ready.

“Instead of ducking, you stood there. Whoever’s out there could’ve blown your brains out.” Emmet yanked off his scarf, balled it up and pressed it to his wound. Hank grunted but didn’t stop Emmet as he felt around for an exit wound on his back. The sound of a motorcycle revving and speeding away gave him a second of relief.

Emmet’s hand came away bloody. “Clean, through and through. We have to get you to a doctor.” He wrapped the scarf around Hank’s shoulder and knotted it as tight as he could.

“Get off.” Hank pushed Emmet again. “I’m not going to any doctor.” On his feet again, he marched over to Hardware and glared down at the dead man.

“Want to check for a pulse?”

Hank turned his hard glare on Emmet, who ceased being intimidated by the age of fourteen. “I’ve been robbed.”

“Get over it.”

Hank stepped over Bryan’s body. “I’m disappointed.”

“I’m sure Rogers feels horrible about your disappointment.”

Hank’s snort was his reply. “You think he was a decoy?”

“That would be a yes. What a shitty way to use a friend.”

Hank shook his head. “They weren’t friends. None of us are friends.”

A sentiment he’d drilled into Emmet’s head time and again. No, none of them were friends. But two of them were closer than any friends could be.

A low hum alerted Emmet to Hank’s phone ringing. Hank fished it out of his pocket. A few swipes and a video began to play. Emmet angled his head for a better view. It didn’t take long for him to realize it was a video of the house he grew up in. A house thirty miles away.

“Someone’s in the house?” The video continued up the central staircase and veered toward the master suite, Hank’s bedroom.

“I’m going to kill Rogers, have a doctor save him, and kill him again,” Hank growled.

Emmet studied the video while Hank railed. The videographer was in the bedroom now and at Hank’s Matisse, which hid his personal safe. The image shook, and it took a second for Emmet to realize why. Hank’s hand trembled, something Emmet would’ve sworn he’d never seen or would ever see. He clutched his gun tighter.

“What’s in the safe?” What’s has Hank so rattled?

The safe swung open soundlessly. The video pulled back to show a gloved hand reaching inside for a manila folder, then the video ended.

Hank gripped the phone in his hand tight enough to crack the screen. Emmet waited. Hank would share when he was ready. It didn’t take long. “I need a favor.”

Emmet had an idea where this was headed. “Not if it takes me away from guarding your back.”

“I need you to head to Jamaica.”

This wasn’t the first time Hank had tried to brush him off and take on Rogers by himself. It wasn’t the second time either. The argument was past old, and Emmet was tired of it. “Not happening, old man.”

Hank went into his email account. Emmet bent down to rifle through Bryan’s pockets for any clues. His phone vibrated, and he looked up at Hank. “Did you just send me an email?”

“Yes.” He spun, bloody coat flapping from the breeze he created. He headed for the rear of the abandoned building and the cars they’d parked in the bush.

Emmet caught up to him at the Range Rover. “What’s in the email?”

“Everything you need to know about my daughter.”


Hank turned slowly as if to give Emmet time to absorb his last word.

And Emmet needed a few seconds to absorb that word. Daughter.

Hank retrieved two gas cans from the trunk of the car and handed one to Emmet.

“Since when do you have a daughter?” And how old was the kid? Had to be recent. God, he wants me to babysit an infant, or worse, a toddler.

Hank pulled out his wallet and retrieved a picture from inside. He held it up for Emmet to see.

Holy. Fuck. “You have a grown daughter that I know nothing about? A grown daughter.” With black hair and blue eyes. She was in a park on a skateboard, wearing board shorts and a wife beater with a ballcap on backward. The picture was taken with a telephoto lens unbeknownst to the girl—woman. “Why the secret?”

Hank pressed into the center of Emmet’s chest. “Everything you need to know about her is in the email I sent you, including how to find her. Go to our storage unit on Lexington. There you’ll find everything you need in the black duffle bag on the back shelve.” He turned away, but Emmet grabbed his arm, hard.

Angrier than he’d ever been with his mentor, he got in Hank’s face. “I need more than a fucking email.” You owe me more than a fucking email.

Hank pried Emmet’s hand from his arm and growled, “Rogers has all of the hard copies on her. Everything I’ve compiled. She’s out there, exposed. I can’t protect her and round up my allies. That’s why I’m sending you.” He headed back into the warehouse.

But—but. Emmet heard everything Hank said, yet his brain struggled to wrap around this twenty plus year old secret. He followed Hank into the warehouse. Together, they doused the interior with gasoline and lit a match when they exited the building.

Hank climbed into the Range Rover and started the engine. Emmet knocked on the window. It whirled down, and he stared at his mentor/father/friend. “Don’t get yourself killed.”

A fraction of a grin lifted one corner of Hank’s mouth. “Same goes for you.”

Emmet had a list of questions that wouldn’t be answered today. But soon. If he couldn’t get it from the father, he’d get it from the daughter.

Hank has a daughter. What the fuck?!

Emmet threw himself into the Lexus GX that had been parked next to the Range Rover. He started the car and followed Hank out of the overgrown parking lot. Hank went right. Emmet went left. He drove the speed limit, his gaze darting to the rearview mirror for any tails, and carefully merged onto the highway.

And that’s when it hit him. He didn’t even know her name.

A love story with a body count.

Trained by the best in the business, Emmet Streeter is nobody’s babysitter, until his mentor’s secret daughter needs a bodyguard. She’s everything he doesn’t want: mouthy, obstinate, temperamental, and untouchable. So why can’t he keep his hands off her?

The unwanted daughter of a hitman, Bailey Monroe has kept a low profile until Emmet barges into her life. He’s a killer sent to protect her from a killer. She’s intrigued instead of terrified by his cold eyes, hard face, and his deadly aim.

A carbon copy of the father she hates, she has every reason to fear Emmet, but desire grows in the strangest places under the strangest circumstances.

She shouldn’t trust him, shouldn’t sleep with him and definitely shouldn’t follow him into the jaws of hell to save a father who never loved her.

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