About the Author
Intrigues where danger and honor collide with love. Using actual Texas settings and realistic characters, this award-winning 11th generation Texan creates stories with characters who put everything on the line. Angi lives in Texas with her husband and 'four-legged' kids. Find her at AngiMorgan.com
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Screams came from downstairs. Shots, upstairs and down, had started this mess. His opponent swung and missed. Garrison retaliated, sending a hard elbow to the guy's chin. It ripped the tuxedo across his shoulders. Always a good reason to rent. The company could reimburse the bridal shop. He popped to his feet. His opponent did the same.
Right cross. Uppercut. Double jabs to the ribs. He blocked them all and retreated. He was unarmed, having gone into the private event undercover as one of the waitstaff.
Where are the damn security guards or men from downstairs? Hadn't they heard the shots?
More screams. Pleading through the closed door off of the upstairs landing. He rolled across the plush carpet struggling to get free. He'd been heading to that bedroom with a tray of sangria when he'd heard the shots from the back of the house. He'd sent the text message to his captain from the staircase that shots had been fired. He didn't have backup, but where were Tenoreno's men?
The three glasses were crushed across the white carpet, leaving dark red stains. If he could get to the door
"Come on, man. Somebody's in trouble." Why was this guard trying to prevent him from getting to those women?
Right jab. Right jab. His opponent's face flew back along with his feet. A give-itall-he-had left to the belly doubled the guy in half. Muffled cries and threats from inside the room. He had to end this and get inside. He raised his knee into the guy's chin. Eyes rolling back in his head, his opponent sank to floor. One more kick to his jaw guaranteed he was out cold.
Two succinct pops behind the solid oak door. A bloodcurdling scream. He checked the downed guard for a weapon. Nothing. Last pocket had the key to the door. He got it in the lock, turned and burst inside.
Two women lay dead. Executed.
The intruder had a fistful of hair in one hand and a gun pointed at a third woman's head. He sported the same rent-a-monkey tux, but had added a face hood to conceal himself.
Slamming the door into the wall was enough to divert the direction of the barrel and make the bastard let the blond hair go. Garrison dropped and rolled, the monkey suit fired, missed. The woman picked up a metal case, swung, connected. The pistol flew under the bed. The case burst open spraying makeup supplies in every direction.
The monkey suit focused his attention on Garrison. Outweighed by forty pounds, Garrison locked his fists and swung them like a bat against a jaw as solid as rock. The bigger man barely staggered back a step.
But he did stagger, giving Garrison enough time to pounce. A double punch connected with ribs. His knee jabbed the man's thigh. Once. Then twice. And then the gunman threw a punch that hit Garrison square in the chest like a battering ram, slamming his head into the solid door.
The hooded monkey suit left through the balcony doors while Garrison was momentarily stunned. Tingling on his cheeks. A faraway plea for him to wake up. Both brought him fully to his senses.
"Get up. We've got to go," the woman whispered. Her makeup had smeared from the tears running down her face. "Come on."
Garrison took in the room. The lady of the house and her guest were lying holding hands on the floor. Both shot execution style in the back of the head. The other shots from downstairs must have been this guy's cue to take care of the extended family.
Top Texas organized crime boss wives. Dead instead of extracted. The captain was going to have his head on one of these silver platters.
"What are you waiting for? They're coming up the stairs, and I don't know what to do."
He got to his feet. "Close and lock the door."
There was nothing he could do for either woman. While the one left alive did as she was told, he reached under the bed with the hankie from his tux pocket and retrieved monkey suit's gun. The man had been in gloves, but maybe they'd get lucky.
Then again, they had a witness. He swiped the business card from the dresser. Kenderly Tyler, hair and makeup. Long multicolored golden or ash-blond hair past her shoulders, oval face and dark chocolate eyes. She was a little taller than his shoulder. He memorized the way she looked, every shapely curve covered in shiny sequins.
The doorknob shook. Shoulders slammed against the wood. His eyes fell to the gun in his hand. The Tenoreno men wouldn't ask questions. They'd shoot first.
"Kenderly?" He'd ask her why she'd waited for him once they were safe. Teary eyes questioned what he wanted. He jerked his head toward the balcony.
Following the gunman's path, they ducked into the cooling Texas sun. He kept her back against the brick, blocked her from anyone's view on the ground with his body. He could see down the open roads that his backup was nowhere in sight. The gunman was next to the pool house. Unless he wanted both crime families coming after him forever, he'd eventually need something to prove there was another person in the house. He dug into his front pocket, swiped the phone and took a series of pictures.
Heading the opposite direction next to the garage would take them to his bike. And right next to an older Volkswagen Beetle where two armed guards stood. They weren't waiting for them. At least not yet.
Which way? Follow the killer or protect his witness? Not a real question.
If the family got hold of her, he'd never find her again. They may even think she'd pulled the trigger or that he had. That settled which direction they'd run. He swung his legs over the side, dangling like a baited worm on a hook before he dropped and sprang up from the grass.
He looked up at the blonde who tossed him a small jeweled box, then a purse. She shook her hair away from her face as soon as she hiked a leg over the banister. He pointed to her shoes, which she flicked off, hitting the ground next to him. He scooped them up and shoved them in his pockets along with the box.
"Grab the bottom with your hands. Then lower, and I'll catch you." He tried to shout in a whisper. He kept looking over his shoulder expecting a gun in his kidney at any second.
Kenderly Tyler wasn't exactly ladylike coming down. At least she stifled her short scream the two feet she fell into his arms. There wasn't any type of special moment or slow-motion feel as she slid through his grasp to the grass. She pushed back, picked up her purse and ran.
The men breached the room right behind her escape. Moans, cries, questions shouted to God Garrison caught up with her before she darted across the driveway. He tucked her behind him, gave her a shush signal and evaluated their position.
They hugged the house, avoiding the guards. All pointing their guns around corners and opening car doors. Taking their time. Didn't they want to find the gunmen? It was one thing to sign up to fight in Tenoreno's army. It was much different when that army went to war. Shoot. His job would be easier if he could just shout at them to search for the killer by the pool.
The guards were armed to the teeth and outfitted better than the Secret Service. How the hell had they allowed the gunmen on to the property in the first place? Why had the gunman executed the women? Had the shots fired downstairs taken out the rival organized crime bosses, too?
Just as he thought they'd be in the clear, his witness darted around him and headed straight to the Volkswagen. Too many questions had distracted him. He needed to secure Kenderly Tyler and hightail it back to Company F.
One step at a time and she'd make it. Kenderly's hands shook, rattling the keys as she tried to push one into the car door. She just needed inside. She saw the man who had let her in the gate earlier. He held up his hand for her to stop.
No way. She couldn't stay with all the guns and death. She ignored him and sat behind the wheel. He put his finger in his ear, then looked at her again and began running. His rifle bounced across his chest until he held it against his ribs.
The keys rattled. Her body was shaking now. Isabella and Trinity were dead. She would have been next. They were going to kill her. If she hadn't been cleaning up in the bathroom, she would already be faceless and and
The man with a rifle yanked the door open and grabbed a fistful of her hair, tugging. She'd forgotten to lock the door, but somehow she'd already put on her seat belt so she was stuck. He reached across and popped the lock, then yanked again. All she could do was grab his wrist to keep her hair attached to her head.
The image of the dead women fixed on the back of her eyelids. Every time she blinked she saw the blood and gore. He pulled her hair to get her to move, but she was about to be terribly sick.
With blurred vision, she leaned forward and lost what little was in her stomach. The man hopped out of her way. Hearing more fighting above her head, she continued to retch. Someone pulled back her hair, put an arm around her waist and helped her stand. He led her off the white gravel drive. Past the man who had yanked her hair, now unconscious on the green grass. Its cool shaded lushness registered under her bare feet.
"Water?" she squeaked out.
"Can't help you with that," a deep Texas twang answered. "But if you get on the back of my bike, I can keep you alive."
As weary as she was, that popped her head up. Petrified, she connected with a pair ofjade-green eyes, sandy short brown hair and a casual self-confident smile that didn't belong in her surreal afternoon.
Gorgeous. Absolutely the type of man she wanted to be with any other time. He dangled her shoes in front of her, and she slipped them on.
The stranger held out his hand. "We really need to go now, sweetheart. You coming?"
Yes. But she didn't think she said it out loud. She straddled the back of the motorcycle in her short skirt and heels. Two large, strong hands grabbed her thighs, pulled her closer and placed her feet on two metal rods. Her sequined skirt was up as high as it could be without revealing anything, but now wasn't the time to care.
The motorcycle sprang to life, and her arms shot around him. There wasn't any give to his body when her fingers locked together across his hard abs. She closed her eyes and buried her face against his black jacket. She wanted to see nothing, especially the gruesome picture the shooting had left in her mind.
The motorcycle screeched to a halt, sliding sideways in the gravel. Her rescuer slowly took off across the field, avoiding the closed front gate.
"Hold on tight."
She didn't think she could hold tighter until her bottom was airborne over the first incline. Had she left the safety of the house for a dangerous daredevil? Had it been safe at the house? Absolutely not. And how did she know for certain this man wasn't a part of the the
Go ahead and say it. Murders! The man dressed in black had murdered two people right in front of her, then stared openmouthed as she'd screamed. This wasn't the killer. His dark green eyes proved that. The man she'd fought with was just as tall, but his eyes were black with hatred.
She'd never forget those eyes.
They flew over the next small hill, landing hard on both tires.
"Slow down before your kill us!" she shouted in his ear.
"Can't. They're following. May start shooting."
She turned behind them, her hair whipped across her face. Sure enough, a black SUV bounced over the rolling hills of the Texas lake country. The motorcycle skidded, and she held tighter. If the men shot at them, she'd be dead. Period.
Her rescuer turned sharply, heading toward a tree line. "Where are you going?"
"Where they can't."
The trees were so thick she didn't think they could get through, either. He slowed a little, but zigzagged, tilting them from side to side, making her want to put her feet out to drag along the ground. She kept them secured and kept her body smooshed against the stranger's back, moving like a second layer with him.
Bushes whacked at her legs as they zoomed past. The branches stung but suddenly stopped. The first thing she saw was the perfectly smooth carpet of green. She looked behind them, and no one followed. The SUV turned and followed on the other side of the trees for a few seconds before turning away.
Someone shouted, making her look forward. They were on a golf course, bouncing yet again over the green-way to a cart path. Once there, the ride was smoother, but her hero didn't slow. If anything, he went even faster. It was a Friday night at dusk, and the golfers were finishing their rounds. So they were few and far between on the earlier holes they'd zipped past.
Kenderly only relaxed a little. This time when her eyes closed, they were burning with tears for Isabella. No one deserved to die that way.
He was right. Her hero. They couldn't stop. Her unnamed rescuer popped over curbs, into a parking lot and on to the street. He ran stop signs, passed other cars as if they were standing still and just kept going.
Once on Highway 71 leading back to Austin, he wrapped his long fingers around her thigh and gently tugged her close again. His subtle message was that their wild ride wasn't over. She moved, resting her head once more on his back. They rocketed through the wind, which didn't allow for talking.
She couldn't have answered any of his questions or any of the thousands running through her mind. Isabella had given her a small jewelry case and told her not to open it for three days.
Oh no! The case! She'd dropped it somewhere. She'd been so out of it by losing her cookies all over the guard's feet that she'd forgotten. What had Isabella not wanted anyone to know? Why was she supposed to wait three days? Kenderly wasn't sure she'd ever know now.
Her hero stroked her frozen forearm, slowly warming it back to life against his chest. When she cried harder, he held on to her hands tighter.
It didn't matter who he was. He'd probably saved her life. Okay, he'd definitely saved her life. But that was only one reason she was thankful. The stranger's actions in the past few minutes were more intimacy and kindness than she'd felt in years.