Fatal Truth: Shadow Force International (7 page)

After educating herself with YouTube videos on where and how listening devices were oftentimes hidden, she’d already checked her smoke detectors and light fixtures and found nothing. It wouldn’t hurt, however, to let Coldplay do a more thorough check.

Opening the door, she looked left, then right.

The hallway was empty.

T
RACE STOOD STOCK
still behind the ficus tree and studied Savanna Jeffries. Her high ponytail swung, the tips of her long hair brushing her shoulders as she looked back and forth.

“Coldplay?”

She was dressed in fresh attire, but still looked ready for the gym in purple yoga pants that hugged her lean legs and a matching tank top that put her sizable rack on full display.

He stepped out from behind the plant, his hat low over his brow. “Yes?”

She startled and frowned at him. “What are you doing back there?”

“Searching for bugs.”

He saw her throat work as she swallowed. “Did you find any?”

He shook his head. “Hallway’s clear. Let’s check your apartment.”

She moved back, letting him in. As he passed by her in the doorway, he noticed she had a smattering of freckles across her petite nose and the softest brown eyes he’d ever seen.

A sweet, light scent rose from her body reminding him of his grandmother’s gardenias. In her bare feet, she was probably six inches shorter than he was—five-eight or nine, since he was six-three. Without her hair, makeup, and fancy clothes for her show, she looked like a ballet dancer or a long-distance swimmer.

“Where do you want to start?” Savanna asked, shutting the door and motioning to the apartment beyond the marble-tiled foyer.

The apartment was a mix of modern and traditional. Grays, whites, blacks with a pop of color on the walls and in the fabric pillows. Plants and bookshelves warmed things up a bit.

“In here,” he told her, eyeing the electronic equipment on the far wall.

“Just so you know, I’ve already checked the light fixtures and smoke detectors and they were clean.”

He raised a brow. “You checked for bugs and cameras?”

Her hands went to her hips, posture going defensive. “Is that a problem? Does that break one of the Rock Star policies?”

“No.” But it certainly made him look at her differently. He liked a woman who took security seriously and wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.

The living room, kitchen, and dining area were all open to each other. From the kitchen came the sounds and smells of frying meat, onions, and peppers. “Great,” she said, although her tone was tight. “I’m making fajitas. When you’re done, you’re welcome to join me for dinner.”

She didn’t wait for a response, marching off toward the kitchen, ponytail swinging once more.

He watched her go, hating himself for enjoying the way her butt moved under the knit yoga pants. Whatever exercise routine she was using, it certainly did a good job of keeping her toned.

Catching himself, he forced his gaze back to the electronics. It had been one long damn dry spell since he’d been around a woman, but he wasn’t insane. He hated Savanna Bunkett, or Jeffries, or whatever the hell her name was. His raging libido needed to crawl back into its hole so he could scan her house and get back out into the hallway for his overnight babysitting job.

Compartmentalization had been necessary in his life. Shutting off unwanted thoughts, focusing only at the task at hand, never getting distracted. Even as an assassin for C&C, he’d had to check his own moral compass and just do the job, no matter what it was. He was a soldier for his country. He followed orders.

Until he hadn’t.

And now, here he was.

Removing a small set of screwdrivers and a digital scanner from his pockets, he made efficient work of the living room. He found a few dust bunnies and an impressive flat screen with all the bells and whistles while he shut down thoughts of pretty women, homemade food, and the fact there was a high price on his head because of his insubordination.

Soft music played in the kitchen. Savanna hummed along as she banged pots and pans and set the dining room table for dinner. His stomach growled, even though he’d eaten enough for six men in the past couple of days at the training center. After eighteen months in prison on rations made for rats, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever get enough real food.

Leaving Savanna to eat alone, he headed to the bathroom. The humid air was still ripe with the scent of her shampoo and body wash, steam clouding the mirror. Why didn’t she use the fan?

The smell of her bath products filled his nose and did something to his brain cells, triggering him to breathe deeper and close his eyes. Memories of his grandmother’s big backyard with clothes on the clothesline blowing in the breeze and the gardenias in full bloom assaulted him. He hadn’t thought about her in a long time, the memories too sweet and too sad to think about in prison. It had been a long time ago, an innocent time, and it hadn’t lasted long enough.

A sharp pain hit his solar plexus and he opened his eyes. He missed her—her bright blue eyes, her kind smile, her amazing cooking, and her ability to calm the raging monster he’d had inside him after the deaths of his parents and little sister in a house fire. That one brief summer he’d had with her had been the best time of his life, but at some point, those memories had become too painful, too bittersweet. He couldn’t afford sentimentality. Couldn’t stomach wondering what she would think of him and the killer he’d become.

Savanna’s bathroom was as impressive as the main living area. Double sinks with a marble counter, a jetted spa tub, a shower big enough to fit four people in. A linen closet held towels, bottles of fancy lotions, a host of multi-colored nail polish and miscellaneous toiletries. He absently noted there was only one toothbrush in the vanity drawer where she kept her toothpaste and floss.

Grabbing the chair that sat at a dressing table, he checked the ceiling lights and fan, just as he’d double checked all the fixtures in the living room, regardless of what she’d said. Things changed; she could have checked the lights and smoke detectors two days ago for all he knew and the bastard stalking her had paid her a visit since.

Her bedroom was more like a small house in and of itself.

A king size bed, a fireplace, a chair and ottoman, and another flat screen. The bedside table was stacked with books. The floor next to the chair also piled high. On the bed was an open laptop, colored folders, and a helter-skelter of papers. Reading glasses lay off to the side. On the fireplace mantel was a picture of two girls—Savanna and her sister?

He didn’t want to invade her privacy, but he still did a thorough check of everything. He needn’t have worried. He didn’t find anything even remotely scandalous. No porn, no sex toys, not even a romance in her stacks of reading materials. For someone who made a living sensationalizing the sordid lives of others, she was quite boring in comparison.

And yet, even her simple bikini underwear gave him a hard on. He blamed it on the lack of sex in almost two years, but still found himself having a very specific image of stripping Savanna’s yoga pants off and seeing what color of silk her bikinis were today.

What was wrong with him that he was thinking of her that way? She’d helped Linc Norman ruin his life.

A closed door opened to a walk-in closet. A closet big enough to be a bedroom, but containing enough shirts, pants, sweaters, and dresses to clothe a small village. An entire wall was lined with shelves of shoes, from ceiling to floor. The shelves were lighted as if the shoes were works of art. A second wall held purses.

He laid his set of screwdrivers on the center dresser. So Savanna was a fashion whore. What did he care?

“Impressive, huh?” the woman in question said from the bedroom doorway.

Tearing his eyes away from the display of shoes, he went to work checking the wall sconces. She’d snuck up on him. How had that happened?

“The shoes aren’t all mine,” she said. “My sister and I share the collection. We wear the same size, and I keep them here since her apartment is the size of a gnat. Same with the handbags.”

He didn’t respond, replacing the fancy metal cover on the first sconce and moving on to the next one.

“Your fajita’s getting cold.”

Pushy
. But then he knew that from watching her show.

Push back.
“Not hungry.”

“You sure about that? Your stomach’s been growling since you walked in.”

Her tone held a trace of mocking humor. He glanced over his shoulder. She was leaning against the doorjamb, arms crossed under her breasts, one bare foot hiked up on the inside of her opposite calf, her bright pink toenails reflecting light they were so shiny.

“Look,” she said, turning serious. “I understand the policies and procedures. I’m not flirting with you or asking you to divulge your life story, but if you’re going to help me with my problem, we need to talk. I’ve had a long day and I could use some company over my dinner before I turn in. It’s just a fajita and a beer. It’s not marriage.”

He didn’t want to talk. Didn’t want to sit across from her and have her figure out who he really was.

Yet, for some bizarre reason, he couldn’t resist her openness, her genuine kindness. The smell of the fajitas was killing him too. “I’ll be there in a minute,” he found himself saying. “Let me finish here.”

She smiled and it did a strange thing to his pulse rate. “Cool.”

And then she disappeared.

He pocketed his screwdriver and digital scanner and blew out a nervous breath.
It’s dinner and conversation.

How hard could it be?

Chapter Five

_____________________

______________________________________________________

C
OLDPLAY’S DEMEANOR AT
her table made the invisible Gulf Stream in the Atlantic look like a gentle breeze.

He stood behind the chair where Savanna had set a plate for him, looking at it like it was a death sentence.

She sipped her glass of chardonnay. She liked chilled white wine with her fajitas, regardless of the fact that wine experts recommended pairing a dry red with beef. In fact, she liked chardonnay with pretty much everything. “The chair doesn’t bite.”

His dark blue eyes jumped to hers, then he grabbed the chair by the back, jerked it away from the table, and plopped into it. “Your apartment is clean. I do recommend upgrading your security system.”

A smidgen of relief fluttered in her chest. She’d been so paranoid about the possibility Linc Norman had had cameras installed, she’d taken to dressing in her closet with the lights out and letting the shower steam the bathroom in hopes it would cover the lens if there were cameras in there. Another reason to hurry through her showers and not shave her legs. “Good to know. Thank you for doing such an in-depth job.”

He nodded. “That’s why you hired Rock Star Security. We’re the best.”

Savanna liked the sound of his voice. She wanted to hear more of it. The niggling idea that she’d met him before seemed silly. No way she would have forgotten that gravelly, sexy voice or those steely blue eyes.

Her fingers tingled, her pulse seemed to be skipping to a different rhythm. She was no longer in this quest alone and her bodyguard was more than easy on the eyes.

The urge to jump right in to discussing Parker’s disappearance caught in her throat.
Give the man a moment.
Coldplay was sitting at her table and speaking in complete sentences.
Progress
.

Ignoring her tingling fingers and erratic pulse, she picked up her fajita instead. “Let’s eat. Then we’ll get down to business.”

Coldplay tensed. It wasn’t that she saw the muscles pushing against the seams of his suit jacket brace or his square jaw clench or the taut cords in his neck flex. She simply sensed that he was suddenly ready to bolt, once again uncomfortable in her presence.

Ignore it
. The men she met fell into two categories: those who felt intimidated by her fame and success and those who hated her for it. Her ex had been both, even though on the surface he’d seemed like just the opposite. Brady Garrison Jr. had been the perfect man. Educated, out-going, wise beyond his twenty-nine years. For two years and seven months, they’d made the perfect Washington power couple and Savanna had been sure marriage was in their future. Brady had been sure the White House was.

Until Savanna discovered that Brady was using campaign funds to redecorate his office and take trips to Monaco for weekend parties. Parties he was attending without her.

She couldn’t exactly out him on her show to his constituents, although she’d thought long and hard about doing exactly that, but she couldn’t turn a blind eye to his infidelities to her or his voters either.

Coldplay studied the silverware on the table, running a long, calloused finger along the edge of the knife. His hands were big and strong-looking. Savanna swallowed the food in her mouth and thought of all the things those hands could do to her.

A shiver ran down her spine. Where had
that
thought come from?

Shaving her legs, making dinner for two, thinking about sex…
Too many months without a man.

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