“Edward?” Mike’s annoying, nasal voice called out.

“What took you so long?” he asked as he stepped out. When he saw Mike’s face, he cringed. Half his face was red and swollen. Soon the markings would turn to a garish bruise. If he lived long enough.

“That bitch did this to me.”

“So you didn’t manage to kidnap her?” He tried to keep the disgust out of his voice. That’s what he got for hiring these morons. Unfortunately he needed brainless thugs for the APL’s ultimate plan. They were going to be sacrificed for the greater good, even if they didn’t know it yet. He couldn’t recruit anyone too savvy just yet. Not until the first phase of his plan was complete.

“There were…complications,” Mike said under his breath.

Edward reached into his pocket and idly fingered the handle of his crescent-moon-shaped knife. It was small but deadly. And he’d made it himself. The handle had been carved from a deer horn and the blade was one of a kind. Impossible to trace to any store. “That much is obvious. What happened?”

“I took her to that Italian place, just like you said. I excused myself for a few minutes and when I came back, that fucking animal Liam Armstrong was there. He left but he really shook that bitch up.” Mike pressed a hand to the side of his face and winced. “I think she might have knocked a tooth loose.”

“What happened?” He didn’t care about this asshole’s tooth.

“I tried to inject her with the ketamine you gave me, but she kicked the shit out of my face.”

“How?” Unless she had martial arts training, he couldn’t see the curvy redhead kickboxing Mike.

“How do you think? With her fucking steel-toed boots. She kicked at my face and the wheel and—”

“You tried to inject her while you were driving?” Edward tried to rein in his disgust. God, he’d really scraped the bottom of the barrel with this guy.

“Well, yeah. I didn’t think she’d freak out like that. Man, she moved fast! And I didn’t want to take the chance that once we stopped in town, someone would see me kidnapping her. I thought it’d take one jab and she’d be knocked out, but I didn’t even get that far.” Mike spread his hands in front of himself in a helpless gesture.

The ketamine wouldn’t have knocked her out. That’s not what Edward wanted anyway. He’d added medetomidine as an extra sedative. The combination acted as an anesthetic. It would have put her in a semisedated state until they could lock her up. He didn’t like his prisoners to be aware of their surroundings. Now they had nothing. And this moron had screwed up. Adler ground his teeth together.

Mike had promised to come through for him and Edward had given him the chance because the guy had begged. He’d wanted him to succeed because Edward wanted that redhead. That giant shifter, Liam Armstrong, was very interested in her, and Adler knew they could use that against the entire Armstrong pack. The APL needed to get shifters on video harming humans and if Adler had the animal’s woman, he knew he could send the shifter into a blind rage. In another world Adler could have waltzed into her store and asked her out and taken care of this business himself, but because of his scarred face no woman like her would look twice at him. Women didn’t even want to look once at him. No, he’d had to send someone unthreatening. Attractive. A pretty boy. And a giant moron.

Edward took a calming breath. He needed answers before he killed Mike. “So what happened to the car?”

“I had to leave it. She escaped and bolted for the road. I thought I saw that shifter in the parking lot when we left, and I didn’t know if he’d been following us. I couldn’t get the car out of the snow, so I ran through the woods until I couldn’t run anymore.”

“Did you wipe down the car?”

His face flushed slightly. “Ah. I wiped down the wheel and handle. Besides it’s not like she knows my last name or anything.”

Edward’s head cocked to the side. “Did you tell her your first name?” Christ, killing this guy would be doing the world a favor.

“Well, yeah. It’s a common name and I didn’t want to worry about having to remember something else.”

“You’re right. So how’d you get here?” Edward often used the abandoned barn to conduct business. It was on his land but miles south of his home and not many people outside of his circle knew about it. Not even his own boss with the APL.

“I stole a car and parked it at your place. When you weren’t home, I figured you’d still be here. I’m really sorry I’m late, man. If you just give me another chance, I’ll get her. I’ll take her from work or something.”

After what had happened, December McIntyre was going to be under lockdown by her brother and probably that filthy animal, Liam Armstrong. They wouldn’t be able to get her for a while. This date was supposed to have been their golden opportunity to take her.

He had someone else in mind, though. And his boss would be very pleased if he brought the other bitch in. They’d already tried once with her, but the two men he’d hired had decided to deviate from his orders and gotten themselves killed. But if he could bring her in, it would be an even better score than the McIntyre woman. “We’ll figure it out. Cut yourself some slack. It was your first real assignment.”

Mike looked surprised by how well Edward was reacting. His shocked expression was priceless. Edward nodded toward the other side of the barn. “Come on. I rode here on a snowmobile. It’s parked outside. You can ride back with me.”

Edward reached into his pocket and quietly withdrew his knife. The curvature of the blade was perfect for what he planned. As Mike headed toward the other side of the barn, Edward made his move.

“Thanks. I really thought you’d be pissed about—”

From behind, he grabbed the front of Mike’s face and head in a tight grasp. He cut deep, hard, and fast. The sound of his knife slicing across Mike’s throat was a bare whisper. In a quick, practiced move he cut one carotid artery and the jugular vein. Mike’s hand flew to his throat, but it was useless. He gurgled a cry as crimson liquid spurted everywhere. Through his fingers, down his shirt, onto the dirty ground. Edward stepped back to avoid the mess.

He might not like to get dirty, but he loved to watch the life drain from someone. There was something priceless about seeing the fear and knowledge in a dead man’s eyes that his life was over.

Once Mike finished twitching, Edward wiped his blade on the back of Mike’s coat and went to get his shovel. He’d have preferred not to kill him here, but he couldn’t stand listening to him any longer.

A fresh wave of resolve swept through him as he carved the grave into the icy ground. The sheriff’s sister might be off-limits for the time being, but he wasn’t through with targeting the Armstrong pack. Not by a long shot.

Chapter 3

Through her slat blinds, December could see light starting to peek in. Without looking at her digital clock, she knew it was just barely sunrise. Normally she liked to sleep in on Saturdays, because she opened her shop up an hour later than usual. That so wasn’t happening today.

Not with Liam sleeping in her guest room. She should probably be more concerned or scared that some maniac had tried to inject her with God knew what last night, but Liam’s dark, dominating presence in her house was much more frightening. Okay, maybe not frightening. But it made her much more aware of…everything. Namely, herself and all the sexual feelings he stirred inside her.

She wasn’t scared of him. Just scared of her feelings for him. Instead of staring at the ceiling for another hour, she threw off her comforter and headed to the bathroom. After brushing her teeth and washing her face, she stared at herself in the mirror. Her curls stuck out wildly thanks to a rough night of tossing and turning. For a moment she contemplated putting on makeup or taming her hair, then scoffed at herself. Let Liam see her this way. Maybe it would help him get over her.

She opened the bedroom door and jerked to a halt.

Stretched out on the rug covering the hardwood hallway, Liam lay on his back—shirtless—directly outside her bedroom.

His dark eyes popped open when she gasped. Something told her he’d already been awake, though. In one quick swoop, he assessed her from head to foot and smiled. Despite her pajamas she felt practically naked under his not-so-subtle evaluation.

As he stared at her, she couldn’t help the way her own gaze strayed to his bare chest. His shoulders were impossibly broad and his chest was pure male perfection. All that strength. He wasn’t bulky or overmuscled, like those awful-looking bodybuilders. Just firm, but too broad to be called lean. Her gaze helplessly dipped lower and his stomach muscles tightened in response.

The slight action jerked her gaze back to his face.

“Like what you see?” The question was low and sensual and his dark eyes were knowing.

Her mouth dried up and it took a moment before she could speak. She ignored his question and asked one of her own. “What are you doing on the floor?”

“I wanted to be close in case anything happened.” Liam moved to his feet with the agility and speed of a jungle animal. Instinctively she stepped back. He didn’t advance on her or make a move, but his mere presence invaded all her personal space.

Why did he have to make it so hard for her to keep her distance from him? He might be aggravating with his dominant attitude, but he still wanted to protect her. That made it difficult to get mad at him. Even though she wanted him gone—if only to get back some of her sanity—she also wanted to thank him for staying the night.

“Are you hungry?”

His dark eyes flashed and she knew what he was thinking before he said a word, so she preemptively cut him off.

“For food,” she continued.

Grinning, he shrugged. “If that’s all you’re offering, I’ll take it.”

When he didn’t move, she had to turn sideways to shimmy past him. She ignored his soft chuckle. The frustrating man enjoyed making her uncomfortable. As she headed down the stairs, she could feel his eyes burning into her. Mentally stripping her. “Stop doing that,” she muttered.


***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com