Page 15

Her pale eyes widened, but she wasn’t truly surprised. He could see it clearly. She’d been expecting his answer. He wasn’t sure what to make of that. She expected him to be a killer. For once, he was unable to hold her stare. He shifted his entire body away from her.

He was surprised when he felt her hand settle on his forearm. His muscles clenched under her touch but he didn’t pull away. He knew he should. Letting her touch him was another thing he could add to his list of stupid ideas, but he savored the small contact.

“I don’t judge you for what you did, if that’s what you’re worried about.” Her voice washed over him like a soothing balm.

“You should. I’ve killed a lot more men than just him,” he muttered, willing her to hate him.

In response she squeezed harder. Her silent support made him feel even shittier. Why wasn’t she judging him?

He stood, breaking the contact, and suddenly he could breathe again. “Do you want to take a walk along the beach? Bring Jonathan with us?” he asked. On the beach it would be pretty damn hard for a sniper to hide in the sand. There were no tall buildings and everything was fairly open.

If they had Jonathan with them, she’d be a little distracted and he could put some distance between the two of them. When she was so understanding about all this crap it made him want to shake her and tell her exactly what kind of man he was. Spell out for her all the things he’d done. All the men he’d killed. The weapons he’d sold. Then she wouldn’t look at him with understanding. It would be horror, and that would make it a hell of a lot easier to walk away from her later. If she loathed him, he’d be able to leave knowing he’d given her that closure she deserved.

“Sure.” Her lips pursed into a thin line before she turned and left the room.

The sounds of laughter coming from the direction of the stairs jerked him out of his thoughts. Around Jonathan he had to act like nothing was wrong. He’d already displayed a gun in the kid’s presence. He didn’t want to have to make a choice like that again. Even if he couldn’t be in his son’s life after this, he wanted to leave him with some decent memories. Not memories of a gun-wielding father.

Alexis slipped on the leather gloves she’d tucked in the back pocket of her jeans. A brisk wind blew up over the Atlantic and she instinctively moved closer to Hunter.

Jonathan was only a few yards in front of them, picking up shells and dumping them in his pail as they strolled along the beach. The cold wasn’t biting, but she planned to get him back inside soon.

“Remember the walks we used to take by the beach?” Hunter shot her a guarded look and butterflies took flight in her stomach.

Of course she remembered those walks. That was when they’d first been getting to know each other and hadn’t been able to keep their hands off one another. They’d made love under the moonlight too many times to count. With him standing so close, his familiar spicy scent twined around her. Much the same way his strong arms had years ago when she’d admitted to him what life had been like growing up with a codependent mother and an abusive stepfather. He’d held her while she cried and kissed away her long pent-up tears. He’d been strong, comforting, loving, everything she’d ever wanted and needed. Opening up to him had been better than therapy. She’d finally let someone—a man—into her life. Then he’d left.

Sighing, she kicked a shell in front of her. She couldn’t do anything about the past now, and thinking about it only made her feel worse.

Jonathan suddenly whipped around and ran toward them like a mini-tornado, kicking up sand and holding out his small pail. “Look how many shells I’ve got, Hunter.”

Hunter knelt down and peered inside. He shot her a nervous look before focusing on Jonathan. “That’s great, buddy.”

“This one’s for you.” He held out a shiny pink shell in his tiny hand.

“Ah, thank you.” Hunter’s voice was gravelly and thick as he tucked the shell into his pocket.

Jonathan beamed at him, then took off running in front of them.

Alexis cleared her throat, forcing Hunter to look at her. “So, what are we going to do? Are you going to meet with your old boss, Carl Connor?”

He nodded. “Yes, but it’ll be on my terms.”

“Do you think it’s safe?”

“I don’t know what to think anymore, but Alan’s right. If he’d wanted me dead, he could have killed me a year ago.”

“Why do you think he didn’t?”

His shoulders lifted slightly. “Could be for any number of reasons. Maybe they wanted to see where I was going before they killed me. Connor might be worried I had dirt on him too. He might even be working with Davis, though I doubt it. He knew where I was and sent Alan to talk to me. There’s something I’m still missing.”

“Then why didn’t Alan ‘take you down’ when he had a chance.” The question was rhetorical.

He sighed. “I know. I don’t want to jump into something without covering all our bases.”

Instead of responding, she called out to her son. “Come on, Jonathan, we’re heading back.”

He didn’t argue as she’d expected.

Alexis tried to focus on the present. “What do you think of that man, Alan?”

Hunter shrugged. “I don’t trust anyone, but he was a decent man back when I was with the agency. I trust him as much as anyone, I suppose.”

She chewed on her bottom lip. “So are you going to let him set up the meeting?”

He nodded.

“Where do you plan to meet your old boss? Are you going to let him pick the place?” She hoped they wouldn’t have to pack up again in a few hours. If they did, she understood. She just hated dragging Jonathan around like luggage.

“It’s got to be somewhere public. I was thinking the Wright Brothers National Park.”

“You mean the memorial?”

He nodded. “It’s only fifteen minutes from here.”

The Wright Brothers memorial tower in Kill Devil Hills wasn’t far from Michael’s beach house in Kitty Hawk. It was a public place, though at this point she wasn’t sure it mattered. His old boss obviously knew where they were.

“Do you think we’re safe?” she asked.

She didn’t miss his jaw clench. “Every instinct tells me if they’d wanted me—or us—dead, we would be. If I can catch Carl off guard, see what his intentions are…” He let out a frustrated growl.

“You shouldn’t meet him alone.”

“What choice do I have? You’re certainly not coming with me.”

She bristled at his words. She wasn’t an idiot. Leaving her son alone wasn’t an option.

The wind picked up, blowing sand around their legs. She picked up her pace and he followed. With everything going on, she didn’t want Jonathan getting sick too. It was time to head back.

Suddenly Jonathan stopped and turned, creating a half moon in the sand with his shoes.

“Is everything okay?” she asked the closer they got.

He nodded and looked up at Hunter. “Will you carry me?”

Alexis’s throat tightened and she couldn’t help the pang of envy that shot through her. She should probably be grateful he was warming up to Hunter, but Jonathan usually asked her.

Hunter glanced at her, maybe for her permission, she wasn’t sure. He looked so lost as he stared at her, his dark eyes mirroring their son’s when he was nervous. She nodded because she didn’t trust her voice.

“You want to get on my back?” Hunter asked.

“Yeah!” Jonathan shoved his pail at her, then like a little spider crab, climbed up Hunter. He shouldn’t be encouraging the kid, but Hunter didn’t know what else to do. Alexis hadn’t stopped him like he’d expected. Why was she letting the kid crawl all over him? She should be yanking him away and keeping him at a safe distance from Hunter. He poisoned everything he touched. Still, something deep inside him—something he couldn’t exactly define—twisted hard.

He had a son. No matter how many times he said the words in his head it still seemed too surreal. And the kid was amazing. Alexis had obviously done a great job raising him. Their son was respectful of her and definitely had a lot of his mother’s giving spirit in him. Hunter had no doubt he’d scared him by giving Alexis that gun earlier, yet here he was asking to be carried and he’d even given him a shell. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal, but Hunter loved the tiny gift. Absently, he reached in his pocket and rubbed it.

As Jonathan shimmied up his back, Hunter froze. Out of the corner of his eye he watched the lone fisherman walking along the shoreline in front of them. He held a fishing pole and a bucket. The man wore a hooded sweatshirt and gloves, which made sense because it was cold, but something was off about his posture. It was too alert, too militaristic. And he was hiding his face intentionally.

Reaching up, Hunter grabbed Jonathan off his shoulders and tucked him under his arm like a football.

Jonathan shouted in surprise but Hunter grabbed Alexis’s arm and yanked her toward one of the sand dunes.


As they rolled over the small hill of sand, a ricochet of thuds sounded near his head. Hunter kept his body covering Jonathan’s.

Alexis’s eyes widened as they hunkered down, using the small hill as cover. “Was that…” She didn’t finish but he read the question in her eyes.

He nodded and pointed behind them. They had a little cover thanks to the sea grass and sand, but they needed to find a better hiding place. Hunter couldn’t be sure but it sounded as if someone was shooting at them. And they were using a silencer.

Jonathan squirmed in his arms. “What are you doing?”

Alexis reached out and grabbed his small hand. “Listen to everything Hunter says, okay?”

He couldn’t see Jonathan’s face but the boy nodded, making swishing sounds against the sand.

“We’re going to play a little game, Jonathan,” he whispered. “Stay flat on your belly and crawl toward that bunch of sea grass with your mom.” There was another beach house behind them similar to the one they were staying at. But thankfully it looked unoccupied. Hopefully no one else would get caught in the crossfire.