“I could go discuss business with my partner.” He leaned in and spoke at her ear, pushing aside his frustration with the topic in favor of overwhelming desire. “Or we could go back to the hotel room and start working our way down my list...”
When she didn’t move or speak, he straightened a touch to look down at her face, and the look of pure need in her eyes was his undoing. His fingers discreetly stroked her thigh, and the energy flowing between them could have lit the LED light display that covered the massive expanse of ceiling.
“Still susceptible to a pretty face, I see,” a man said from behind.
The familiar voice from his FBI days plunged Hunter’s heart headlong into blackness, snuffing out the light in his good mood, and his fingers gripped Carly’s hip. In a blinding flash intense resentment flared. The sharp taste of bitterness. The bite of betrayal filling his heart.
Carly’s wide-eyed look helped him regain his composure. Through sheer force of will Hunter transferred the pressure in his grasp on Carly’s hip to the muscles in his jaw.
“Hello, Terry,” Hunter said as he turned to face his old colleague.
* * *
Stunned, Carly took in the cold look that frosted Hunter’s eyes—worse than any she’d seen to date—and a chill crept up her spine at the dark emotion exuding from his every cell. He dropped his hand from her hip and she instantly missed the heat.
Since they’d been in Las Vegas he’d been relaxed. Not coiled, tense, ready for trouble at a moment’s notice. But now the reserve was back, and it was shocking how fast the old wall could so thoroughly, and so quickly, be thrown back up. She sensed the tension, the seething energy around the two men.
The redhead’s buzz cut barely concealed his scalp, but it was the gleam of smug satisfaction in his eyes as he looked at Hunter that left her wary. Despite the chatter in the convention hall, the ominous silence between the two threatened to engulf them—until the newcomer decided to put an end to it.
The freckle-faced gentleman stuck out a hand at Carly. “Terry Smith,” he said.
She mumbled her name and returned the shake out of courtesy, dropping his hand as soon as polite.
“Old FBI buddy of Hunter’s, from his days with the Cyber Division,” the man finished, though Carly doubted the word “buddy” was an accurate description. “Do you hack, or are you into security?”
“Neither,” she said. “I’m a journalist.”
The slight widening of Terry Smith’s eyes registered just how much of a shock her profession was to him, vaulting her reporter’s curiosity to lunar levels. But as he slid a sideways glance at Hunter, Terry’s smirk grew bigger. Carly’s heart flinched in preparation for what she sensed was about to become a worse situation.
“What is with your fascination for members of the press?” Terry’s gaze touched back on Carly’s. “Though who can blame you? She’s hot too...”
Carly’s heart tripped and fell, landing painfully on his use of the word “too.” Hunter’s face went glacier, rivaling the polar icecaps for frigid first place, and the menacing look that crossed his face robbed her of the ability to function. Hunter took a half-step forward and Terry’s eyes briefly flickered with alarm. But whatever Hunter had intended was stopped by the sudden appearance of Pete at his side. His friend placed a restraining hand on his shoulder.
More mocking than holding real humor, Pete’s boyish grin was aimed at Terry. “How ya handling that alcoholic habit of yours, Terry?”
The agent’s face registered relief before he narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Pete. “Funny how it works every year at Defcon. My hotel room gets charged with another guest’s consumption of alcohol.” He paused and crossed his arms, the generic dark suit pulling tight across his narrow shoulders, his words thick with meaning. “Almost as if someone hacks the hotel computer and sends the bar bill from their room to mine.”
Hunter’s clenched jaw loosened a fraction, as if he was amused by the indirect accusation. “There are a lot of hackers at this conference with nothing better to do than stir up trouble.”
Pete tipped his head in false sympathy. “Yeah, and you Fed boys will always be a target.”
“It’s a big bill too,” Terry said, clearly finding little humor in the prank. “Hundreds of dollars.”
“Pretty prohibitive with your salary,” Hunter said.
“I guess whoever it is must be throwing a party,” Pete added.
“Probably all in your honor,” Hunter said. The FBI agent’s lips tightened, and his grim look only got worse when Hunter went on, “Rumor has it every year the bill gets paid anonymously.”