Hyde’s right shoulder throbbed like a bitch. The bullet had caught him, but was luckily just a graze.
The girl lunged again. Hyde struggled, then held her tight, ignoring the pain. “Easy, Katherine. It’s over.” He bared his teeth at Romeo. “Get him the hell out of here.”
Her body shook against his as Romeo was hauled away. Hyde’s gaze darted to the left. A door had swung open. Hell, it looked like a damn piece of the wall had swung open. A closet waited inside. No, the space was not even big enough for a closet. Barely two feet.
He’d been keeping the girl in there?
“Let’s go outside, Katherine.” Because the team needed to come in and sweep that stinking pit from top to bottom.
Her fingers tightened on the knife.
“Uh, I’m gonna need you to drop the weapon.” He didn’t want to hurt her. She’d been hurt more than enough.
One minute. Two.
Very slowly, her fingers uncurled, and the knife hit the floor with a clatter.
She flinched at that.
Her dark hair was a tangle around her face. A long black shirt covered her chest, and loose sweat pants seemed to swallow her legs.
Alive. Talk about a f**king miracle. Jonas would never let him hear the end of this one.
Hyde led her to the stairs, waiting silently when she faltered as she stared up at the door.
“Locked.” The whisper was hoarse.
He blinked, and a fist squeezed his heart. “Not this time, baby.”
She gave a nod and then crept up the stairs. One mincing step at a time.
For just a second, she hesitated near the door. Then she lifted her hands and touched the cold metal with fingers that shook.
He shoved open the door and pushed her gently over the threshold. “I’m gonna get you home, Katherine. Your parents are gonna be so glad—”
She froze beside him. The light shone bright and steady in this part of the cabin. She tilted back her head, and the bluest eyes he’d ever seen stared up at him.
Romeo had particular tastes. Girls between fifteen and eighteen. Brunettes, all with blue eyes.
The girl stared at him a moment, then she shook her head.
“It’s okay, you’re safe,” he told her.
“I—I’m not Katherine.” Same hoarse whisper. Those blue eyes, eerie in their intensity, held his.
Dirt covered her face. Dirt and grime and God knew what else. But as Hyde gazed at her, recognition kicked into place.
And he knew he was staring straight at—
A f**king miracle. An angel who’d survived hell.
Sixteen years later
Stop! FBI!” But, of course, the words didn’t make the perp slow down. No, they just made the punk in the black ski mask run faster—and Agent Luke Dante ground his back teeth as he pumped his legs and shoved through the crowd.
A woman screamed. Another one hit him with her purse.
Christ. So much for being the good guy.
He couldn’t aim a weapon in this crowd. Too many people on the street. Too many kids—
Luke jumped over a boy on a bike and swore when he caught his ankle on the handlebars.
Fuck. This was so not his day.
All he’d wanted was a cup of coffee before hitting the office. Just—A—Cup—Of—Coffee.
He’d gotten an armed robbery instead.
The perp ran into traffic—they always did that. Horns blared as brakes squealed. Luke shook his head. Traffic was stopped now so he lunged after the guy.
Close, so close—he could hear the perp’s ragged breaths—
Luke launched forward, grabbed the idiot, and they slammed onto the street.
Asphalt ripped away the flesh on his arm. He felt the wet flow of blood slide across his skin. The robber bucked beneath him, twisting, kicking, swearing, then turning with a gun—
Luke snapped the perp’s wrist and heard the guy howl. The gun hit the pavement.
“FBI,” he gritted. Drops of blood flew from Luke’s wound and stained his shirt. “Man, you chose the wrong damn convenience store.”
The scream of sirens reached his ears. Finally. In this age of cell phones, he really would have expected one of the shouting folks he’d passed on the street to have punched 911 sooner.
“Fucking bastard ass**le, you let me go, you let—”
Luke shifted and pinned the perp beneath him. Glittering green eyes stared up at him from the slits in the ski mask. “Was the fifty bucks worth it, genius?” He ripped away the mask.
A kid stared back at him.
The perps just got younger every day.
Acne spotted the kid’s face—his perfectly smooth face. Not even a hint of facial hair yet. The punk’s blond hair was a dirty mop brushing against his round face.
Jesus, the kid still had baby fat. “What are you? Fifteen?”
“I’ll f**king kill you!” Veins bulged in the kid’s forehead.
Luke sighed. He knew that look. The glassy-eyed stare. The trembling body. The kid was flying high—and wanted to keep flying—which explained the robbery.
The swirling police lights hit Luke’s eyes. Doors slammed. Luke glanced up to see the cops charge at him.
“Stand up and step away!” An order given over a drawn gun.
“Easy.” No sense in anyone getting trigger happy. “I’m with the FBI.”
And this really was one bad morning.
Because Luke knew that before the questions were finished, he’d be late for his new assignment. Late the first day.
Hell of a way to make an impression on his new boss.
When Luke entered the J. Edgar Hoover Building two hours later, scratches covered his arms and blood stained his shirt. But he walked in with his head up and his shoulders back. This wasn’t his first time in the building. Though he’d been stationed in Atlanta, he’d been to the D.C. office a handful of times for different cases. But this time, he wasn’t just a visiting agent.
His palms were dry when he punched the button in the elevator. His gaze locked on the floor indicator lights. Three. Four. Five…
A soft ding, then the doors opened. A long hallway waited. Two branches at the end. One led toward the crime lab. One toward the SSD—Serial Services Division.
The division was still pretty new at the Bureau, and it was one that he knew a few dozen other agents would have killed to get in.
And they’d picked me. He’d busted his ass to get this spot, and now that it was his—try to pry it from my cold, dead hands.
The weight of his gun and holster pressed against his side as he marched down the hallway, then branched to the left. SSD. Luke shoved open the perfectly clear glass door. Phones rang. Voices hummed. Luke took a breath and glanced around, wondering if he’d be able to sneak—