FBI agent Max Carpenter is assigned to protect irresistible DEA agent Rio Marshall. Babysitting duty. But for this mission, they’ll be whisked away to Hawaii–for security purposes, of course–for sun, sand and plenty of hot, sweet sex…
What Max doesn’t know is that Rio has been assigned a task of her own. A task that will require using every asset in her considerable arsenal.
However, when a real threat occurs, seduction is put on the back burner. But nothing–not even fear for their lives–can keep this scorching duo apart for long….
The woman was the first thing Special Agent Max Carpenter noticed when he powered into the FBI conference room breathing fire.
The sight of her reversed his own burning anger on himself like a backdraft.
She stood by the window that overlooked downtown Los Angeles illuminated by the light that caught the highlights in her mahogany hair, intensifying every fiery strand.
Cut in layers around her face, it fell in long waves across her shoulders and down to the middle of her back. Her almond eyes, a striking amber color that swirled with remembered pain, peered at him. Her face had a wild, out-there beauty and the cuts and bruises on her face and arms did nothing to detract from her loveliness. As soon as he saw the injuries she’d suffered, he went all tight inside, his fists clenching.
Had the Ghost done this to her?
He could see the abuse she’d suffered in the smudges beneath her eyes and the pinch in her full, soft-looking lips.
One of her graceful hands was wrapped around her rib cage as if to support her torso. The other was braced against the frame of the window.
Large enough to hold twenty people, the room served as a gathering place for staff meetings and high-level conferences. The elegance of the room always surprised him. Comfortable black chairs lined up like soldiers around the long, polished maple table. A credenza with a water pitcher and glasses stood at one end of the room and a state-of-the-art wide-screen monitor and projector at the other.
The only other man in the room was someone Max recognized as the director of the DEA, Russell Sanford. What could the DEA director want with him and what did it have to do with this woman?
In the world fight against terror, it was now common for the DEA and FBI to work closely together on matters that affected national security, so interagency collaboration wasn’t a new concept to Max. The timing was bad because he was so close to a breakthrough on the Ghost, a notorious arms dealer and number one on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. But for Max, apprehending the Ghost was personal. The Ghost had recently put his sister, Allie Carpenter, in mortal danger and now her twin, Callie, intended to go undercover to bring him to justice. Callie worked for a top secret branch of Homeland Security called Watchdog.
Max wasn’t willing to take the chance his completely competent sister wouldn’t become another victim of the Ghost.
Max’s supervisor, Michael Drake, had escorted him to the conference room and now stood near the door like a sentinel. Whatever the director wanted, Max was sure Michael was here to guarantee Max agreed. In fact, Michael had ordered him to the meeting when Max was hell-bent on following up on the last lead he’d had for the Ghost.
“Agent Carpenter, I’m Russell Sanford, Director of the DEA.”
“A pleasure to meet you, sir,” Max replied. He kept the woman in his sight, not only because his awareness of her was like a buzz in his brain, trailing down his spine like the whine of a chain saw set on high, but also because she looked like a stiff wind could blow her away at any minute.
“I want you to protect one of my best agents, Rio Marshall.”
Max turned toward her again. This delicate, stunning woman was a DEA agent? She was about one hundred and ten pounds soaking wet. He couldn’t imagine her elegant hand wrapped around a Glock, let alone taking down a man with her bare hands. But he could imagine her hand wrapped around him. Those soft hands could cause a lot of friction moving over his flesh. Bad thoughts. Bad, bad thoughts.
She focused on him, but almost as an afterthought. She didn’t want to be here any more than he did.
“With all due respect, sir, why the FBI?”
“We believe there’s a mole in the DEA and we don’t want to take the risk that whoever is leaking information will give away Agent Marshall’s position. She’s still recovering from her injuries and is at risk.”
The woman snorted but said nothing.
“Why me?” Max asked, breaking the suddenly tense silence.
“You come recommended.”
Max just didn’t buy it. There were agents at the bureau who had more experience and others who would be better suited as a bodyguard. And why was the DEA director here instead of her division boss? The chain of command had been breached, but Max didn’t know why. He kept his questions to himself, well aware he could jeopardize his job if he decided to rock the boat just a little bit more.
“What happened?” Max addressed the question to Rio, but she turned toward the window.
Sanford answered for her. “She was on a mission in Colombia and it went down bad. We rescued her last week. Unfortunately, her memory is sketchy regarding the incident, but she remembers seeing the Ghost. At this time, she can’t recall any details of his face, but in time we’re hoping she regains her memory.”
At first Max had been totally against babysitting, but now he realized who she was and what the Ghost had done to her, he couldn’t say no to protecting her from harm. The information she had locked in her head would be valuable in tracking down and eliminating the Ghost once and for all. The Ghost would cease to be a threat to Callie and Max would get justice for what he’d put Allie through.
“What is the plan?”
“We booked you into a private hotel for the next two weeks,” Sanford said.
“In L.A.?” Max asked.
“No, Hawaii. We’d like you off the radar and out of California altogether.”
“So you think the Ghost will try to kill her?”
“Yes, we do. No one’s ever seen his face. He’s taken great pains to keep his identity a secret. We know he’s courting Eduardo Fuentes and Agent Marshall was just recently a prisoner of Fuentes’s,” Sanford said, pouring himself a glass of water and taking a sip.
Max stared at Sanford and let that bit of 411, with all its implications, sink in to his suspicious mind.
“Two weeks?” Max said. A private hotel, for cripes sake. An island retreat with Rio Marshall? What would be the hard part?
Oh, yeah, keeping her alive and keeping his hands off her.