Hard Days Knight: Under-Cover Knights, Book 1

Hard Days Knight
Under-Cover Knights, Book 1
Livia Quinn
Campbell Hill Publishing

Hard Day’s Knight

Under
Cover
Knights,
book 1

I
s he a real hero
, or just a pretender?

The tall, dark and deadly looking mercenary Delilah Burke confronts at the robbery scene is sexy as sin, and apparently “saved the day”, but is anything about him real?

Ex-Navy officer Luc Larue knows how it looks when the sexy cop and her partner respond to a silent alarm at the grocery where he stopped for a six-pack after work. Luc’s job with KPI requires certain…
attire
, and
equipment
.

Once she finds out what he does for a living, and that he’s not a real hero, she probably won’t agree to see him again, much less hear his proposition.

Each day reveals more to Del of the enigma that is Luc Larue. The guy is golden, perhaps too good to be true. Then, trouble arrives from out of his past and Del is faced with a choice – does she believe the evidence against Luc, or trust her heart?

“Luc is the man every woman dreams of - heroic, caring, easy-going and did I say he’s a hunk? Del is strong and confident without being too tough. The love scenes were spicy and there was a great suspenseful story line.” “Loved the way the hero worked with disadvantaged kids.”

“I loved Luc from the first page… Livia Quinn’s contemporaries remind me of Jill Shalvis and Robyn Carr, community driven, with heart and heat.” Hard Days Knight

Hard Days Knight by Livia Quinn

© 2014 by Campbell Hill Publishing

ISBN: 978-0-9904032-4-1

Cover Art by Tell-Tale Book Cover Designs

N
o part
of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either a figment of the author’s crazy imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. To obtain permission to excerpt portions of the text, please contact the author via email:
[email protected]

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.

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Chapter 1

S
hattering
glass and a commotion from the front of the tiny grocery store caused a reaction in Luc like he’d had in Afghanistan over a year ago. Senses on alert, he froze with one hand on the open door of the cooler, the other holding the six-pack. He didn’t have a good feeling about this.

Sometimes he hated being right. A whimper from the clerk at the front counter followed, and then, “You in the back. Soldier boy! Come out where I can see you.” Luc sighed and looked down at his attire, the camouflage uniform and requisite equipment. Okay, he’d go with it.

Placing the six-pack on the floor by the cooler he eased toward the front of the store. “Stay cool, man. I’m by the cooler and coming straight to you with my hands up.” Walking slowly toward the front, he inched around the end cap so he could see the front counter. For his plan to work, he’d have to be convincing. He pulled his gun from the holster, and holding it with too hands, inched forward.

The thug stood behind the cashier holding a sliver of glass at her neck, a mirrored spike capable of doing much more than the drop of blood trickling down the frightened woman’s neck indicated. She was crying, and shivering so hard he worried that any she would faint and simply impale herself on the deadly weapon.

Eye contact with the man—kid rather—revealed he was high, his movements twitchy, pupils dilated. His bloodshot eyes darted from the window to the door and back to Luc. Luc could have handled the situation if it had just been him and Meth Head. He was probably hoping to get out of there before the police arrived. As long as Luc had been coming into the tiny grocery, Mrs. Phan had been the cashier. She wouldn’t have missed the chance to press the silent alarm.

“I’m coming around the corner. Easy now, my gun is pointed at the ceiling.” As promised he held the gun up, pointed at the ceiling, his grip loose. In a low non-threatening voice he said, “Put that glass down, son, and let the lady go, before this turns into something you’re not prepared to handle.”

Speaking to the cashier he said, “Do you have money in the register, ma’am?”

“Don’t talk to her!” the man screamed, blood spurting off his hand as he gripped the glass tighter.

Luc held his hands out palm up, “Calm down now. I’m just trying to get you what you want without anybody getting hurt. You need money, right? And what, liquor? Cigs? You seem like a smart guy,”
not
. “If we can get you fixed up, you can leave and everybody wins. What do you think about that?”

Meth Head snarled, “What I think is you should bring me that gun. Put it on the counter.” To make his point, he pressed the point of the makeshift weapon to the cashier’s cheek and drew blood. “Make it quick.”

The cashier whimpered again, and Luc knew his time was running out. He’d hoped the cops would be here by now and a solution would present itself in the form of a sniper round through the front window. His options were limited so he stuck with his plan.

“Okay, be calm. I’m going to lay it down on the counter like you said. See?” He spun the gun in his hand and palmed it. Holding the barrel he placed it on the corner of the counter.

“Back away from it. I mean it.”

It was obvious he did. Luc raised his hands in a gesture of peace and took a step back. One step only.

The man dropped the glass as he picked up the gun and placed it under the woman’s chin. His voice held new confidence as he nodded at the cash register and ordered, “Now, empty this drawer and put it in that bag.” He gestured with the point of the gun to his worn duffle bag.

“Man, watch where you point that thing okay?” Luc said, putting a crazy concern in his voice.

“Fill it. And put some Dorals and two bottles of Jack in there too.” Luc did as the man said, setting the small duffle on the edge of the counter.

The junkie shoved the woman down on the floor in front of him and ordered her to “stay put” then he pointed the gun at Luc. “Move out of my way,” he ordered as he shouldered the duffle, now in a hurry to leave.

Luc stepped back letting him think he’d relaxed his guard, but as he came around the counter, Luc moved. His opponent pointed the gun at him, “Get back.” Luc stepped into his body, and grabbed the gun, twisting it out of his grip with his left hand and clocking him on the side of the head with his right. Luc saw the whites of the thug’s eyes as he fell backwards into a display of beer and rolled over onto his face. Before relief could take hold, another little niggle of apprehension hit him.

“Put the gun down,” said an authoritative female voice. With his back to the voice, Luc raised his hands, again loosening his grip on the handle of the gun.

The clipped voice came again, “Be smart. Don’t think you’re going to try any Special Forces tricks on me. Lay the gun on the floor gently, kick it over here, and lie face down, hands clasped behind your head.”

Luc leaned forward placing the gun near his foot, then did as she ordered.

“Now, on the ground.”

“I’m not the criminal here. The robber—”

“On the ground now,” she barked. “Hands behind your head.”

Luc complied, knowing the cops would sort out the details after talking with the cashier. The sounds of sobbing came from behind the counter, and Luc listened as the officer in charge directed someone to check on the woman. Meth Head’s foot pushed against Luc’s side as he prepared to sprint away. Luc reacted automatically, grabbing the thug’s ankle in an iron grip.

“What do you think you’re doing?” The female officer squatted next to him and bent over so he could see her face. It was an arresting face. No puns here. Hair like corn silk draped over her shoulder in a thick braid, and eyes like mad Texas bluebonnets glared at him. Eyes like that should never glare, he thought. They should be softened from a long night of…
back to earth, Luc.

He tapped his forehead on the floor and wagged his head back and forth but only replaced one hand on his head, the other was still firmly clasped around the wriggling form of her perp. “Making sure my efforts didn’t go for naught,” he said.

The clerk’s nervous voice came from behind the counter, “Soldier help Mia.”

More whispered words.

“The clerk says the guy in camo is her hero,” said the policeman from behind the register.

“Is that right?” asked the blue eyed woman standing over him. “Jed, cuff the perp so I can get a statement from our
hero
here.”

Luc heard the sound of her gun being holstered, then the light pressure of her foot on the small of his back transmitted her directive clearly—wait. He relaxed, released his grip on the thug’s ankle as two men cuffed his hands and dragged him up, vehemently proclaiming his innocence. “I tried to stop him; at least I saved the money. He cut that lady—”

“Jed, get that scum out of here. And let the paramedics come in and take a look at the cashier.”

Luc heard shuffling coming from the cashier and the exit of the other officers but the weight of the foot on his back never wavered.

“Easy,” she said. He felt the cool metal on his wrist a second before she cuffed his hands behind him.

He jerked in surprise.
What the—
How did this happen? All he’d wanted was a six pack of refreshment and then to do what he could to avert a disaster.

D
el Burke looked
at the big man stretched out on the floor at her feet. If the size of his hands and shoulders were any indication she couldn’t take a chance on letting him up until she knew more about the situation and his specific part in it. Some of these Special Forces guys could take down an entire room of opponents with just their bare hands. Del looked down at the prostrate soldier. The camo vest exposed the muscles and veins in his biceps and forearms, his upper body so thick her shoe on his back was over a foot off the floor.
Probably trained more than he did anything else
.

His thick glossy black hair lay against the collar of his vest. Not your standard military cut. Soldier or robber? Like a lot of perps after the fact, he may have been trying to make his partner look guilty to get free. Who knows? They may have even had some oddball plan that went awry, and this guy had second thoughts.

The Paramedic finished with the Asian woman. She looked a little worse for wear but with the exception of the blood spotted bandage she appeared unharmed. “May I have your name ma’am?” Del asked.

The woman shivered. “Mia Phan,” she said with a slight bow of her head.

“Mia, would you like to go to the hospital?”

Mia shook her head vehemently. “No, must work.”

“I understand. What happened here, Mia?” Del pointed to the figure on the floor. “Did these men try to rob you?”

Again, Mia shook her head. Then, she nodded.

Well, which was it? “Who robbed you, Ms. Phan?”

The woman looked down at the camo-clad figure on the floor and her expression changed. She looked back to Delilah and said, “Soldier help Mia.” She pointed at the door, “Punk cut.” She touched her neck.

“Okay, let me get this straight. You say that man we just took outside tried to rob you and cut your neck? Is that correct? Can you give me a yes or no?”

The fragile little woman nodded, “Yes. Soldier help. Hit punk.”

Okay, that was pretty clear. It was enough until they could get a translator and get her down to the station for a complete interview.

Jed returned, moving to Del’s side surveying the area, the employee. “What’s the story?”

Del looked over her shoulder at her partner. He was six feet tall with brown hair and eyes. Not unique, nothing to draw attention. No one would accuse him of being handsome, which often worked in their favor. Jed had a Masters in criminology and beneath his uniform, the honed body of a street fighter. There’d been many occasions when they’d used his ordinary looks and expertise in stings, part of their success attributable to the criminals underestimating him, not noticing, not
accounting
for him in any given situation.

“Help the man up, Jed. It appears he was responsible for taking the robber down.”

Jed’s eyebrow arched as he knelt by the prone figure and asked, “Is that what happened, Soldier Dude? Did you take out our robber?” He was rewarded with squinted eyes displaying a world of annoyance. Jed’s eyes travelled the long length of the camouflaged figure stopping when they landed on a wicked looking knife and scabbard strapped to the man’s hip. “What have we here?”

Del bent over to look. She took a plastic Zip-loc from her belt and held it out for Jed, but her partner frowned as he held the weapon up for closer inspection. He placed his index finger on the tip of the evil looking blade, and Del was on the verge of warning him, but her reaction turned to shock when the knife tip bent under the pressure of Jed’s finger.

Rubber.

Their camouflaged mercenary was phony. Was he some kind of soldier wannabe? “Curiouser and curiouser,” she muttered. “Get him up, Jed.”

Jed placed the knife in the bag and stooped to help the soldier up. He was big. With his hands cuffed behind him getting him on his feet should have been awkward, but he was agile. Once again, her instincts kicked in. “Wait!” If he’d been carrying a fake knife…

Jed looked at her just as the man straightened and focused his emerald green eyes on her. Seriously, his eyes were the color of cheap emeralds. Contacts?

“Jed, take a closer look at the gun.” To the former “suspect” standing in front of her, she asked, “What’s your name?”

“Luc Larue.”

Jed’s eyes popped open. “That’s your real name?” Del rolled her eyes at the grin on Jed’s face. He was obviously starting to bond with their phony soldier. She glared at Jed but he just grinned back at her.

Turning to Larue, and wondering how he was related to the town founders, she asked, “I.D.?”

“In my back pocket,” he said with an expression that conveyed,
I’d get it myself but my hands…

While Jed reached into the man’s back pocket Del asked, “What were you doing here, Mr. Larue?”

“I just got off work. Came by for a six-pack.”

Del categorized Luc Larue’s features. She’d felt the hard steel of his biceps when she’d cuffed him. If she guessed correctly he’d had martial arts training. Those stunning eyes held a guarded expression. Well, who could blame him? He was still cuffed and apparently not guilty of anything but being a Good Samaritan. The man was gorgeous, self-assured and her professional opinion was that she, that is—a person—couldn’t pinch an inch on his frame, which she estimated at six-four, around two-ten. “Where’s work?”

“Knights Production.”

Jed cleared his throat and Del looked his way. He held the gun between gloved fingers and mouthed, “Fake.”

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