EXCERPT: LAST CHANCE
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Lucas Kane knew he’d been in more critical situations, but coolheaded logic had always saved his ass. This time he was too furious to be either cool or logical. After living a once dangerous life and surviving with only a couple of insignificant scars to show for his efforts, how ironic to be held captive and beaten profusely just for having some extra money in the bank. If he weren’t so infuriated with himself, he’d be laughing his ass off.
Bastards had taken him from his bed. Thankfully, he’d been alone at the time. Though if he was going to die, the memory of mind-blowing sex would’ve been a nice send-off. Unfortunately, if he died today, it would be with the unpleasant memory of yakking his guts up. He’d thought it was food poisoning, and while the poisoning part of it was likely correct, it hadn’t been the food’s fault. Someone had arranged the situation. Food poisoning and an abduction on the same night? Not bloody likely.
That knowledge made him even more determined to live. Damned if the bastards would get away with it.
Shifting to try to find a comfortable spot, Lucas cursed. Hell, there was no comfortable spot. The mattress beneath him could have been used as a torture device in the Spanish Inquisition. Felt old enough.
The ropes around his wrists gnawed into his skin every time he moved; the burlap bag over his head scratched his face. And his throbbing nose felt like it was the size of Buckingham Palace. The crunching sound he’d heard when one of the bastards hit him assured him it was swollen for a damn good reason. It was broken.
He’d been lying here for at least half a day now without anyone even checking on him. Not that he had much of an ego about his fame, but if these idiots had thought he was worth kidnapping, the least they could do was check and make sure he hadn’t escaped. Did he look like he couldn’t or something? He had finally recovered from his bout of sickness and was ready to kick some ass. Now someone just needed to present him with the opportunity.
A noise hit his ear. Good. Somebody was coming. Hopefully someone other than that Victor asshole, who was apparently in charge. The guy got on his nerves, throwing around all sorts of dire threats like some sort of gangster from a bad movie. Lucas had kept up with him for the first few hours and then got bored. Would’ve been best if he hadn’t told Victor. Bastard had damned near kicked him to death.
The door opened and closed. Footsteps came closer. Since he couldn’t see, he relied on his other senses. The footsteps were light…so Victor had a woman working with him. She smelled nice, too—soap and water were powerful aphrodisiacs to a man who hadn’t had a bath in days.
A soft hand touched his arm and Lucas froze. What the…? Goose bumps ran down his spine and arousal surged. All from one small touch? Something was definitely off with him. Maybe lying in the same position for hours caused some sort of odd erotic reaction he’d never heard of.
What the hell. If he was going to get turned on by the woman, the least he could do was get her name. “What’s your name, love?”
A soft, breathless gasp was her reply and he hardened more. Damn, if he kept this up, he’d be proposing before he even saw her.
When she didn’t answer, he tried a more conversational tone. “Would it be too much trouble to take the sack off my head? My nose is itching.”
“Shh. Be quiet,” she whispered.
A nice voice too. Soft, husky…American…mid-western, most likely. Twentyish. Judging from the distance she spoke from, he was guessing she was about five foot four. Hard to tell weight, but the hand had felt small, delicate. Fissions of sensation raced up his skin; arousal surged harder. No doubt about it, if she weren’t working for a psychotic kidnapper, they might’ve had something.
More footsteps, heavier. The loud clomp sounded all too familiar. Great, psycho man is back.
“You ready to have some fun?” Victor asked in heavily accented English.
The woman giggled. Damn, there went his arousal; he’d never cared for gigglers.
“Are you going to let me get in the first slice?” she asked.
That didn’t sound good. First slice of what?
“You tell me why I should,” Victor said.
A giggle again—high-pitched and a bit nervous sounding. Or perhaps maniacal?
“Didn’t you say you wanted to film it? You know I can’t work the camera like you can. Cutting’s the easy part.”
“Yeah…you’d only screw it up.”
The heavy footsteps sounded as though Victor was walking away.
“Where are you going?” the woman asked.
“Oscar said he wanted to watch.”
“Oh yeah. He likes stuff like this, too.” Another strained sounding laugh, then she said, “Umm, do you think it’s safe? I mean, since somebody stole that woman from us…do you think he should stay with Jeffrey and be on the lookout and stuff?”
A heavy, disgusted sigh. “Yeah, I guess he can watch it before I mail it. That’ll have to do.”
The footsteps headed back toward Lucas. “Take off the bag and let’s get started,” Victor said.
The bag ripped away from his head. Lucas squinted as he looked up into soft, guileless gray-blue eyes. Now how the hell could someone who looked as innocent as an angel be wanting to slice something off?
McKenna Sloan swallowed a horrified moan at her first live glimpse of Lucas Kane. If the hideous bruises on his handsome face were any indication, Victor had lost his temper more than once with his hostage. Though she was no longer shallow enough to be attracted to a man because of his looks, Lucas Kane had blurred those beliefs. But Victor’s wrath had taken its toll and while he would heal, McKenna had a hard time not turning around and giving the bastard a little of his own medicine. The creep would pay for this.
“Okay, camera’s ready,” Victor said.
McKenna pulled the knife from the sheath at her waist. Ignoring Kane’s swollen eyes and his obviously broken nose, she took a breath. This would take some careful timing.
“Open your mouth, Kane,” she demanded.
He didn’t react the way he should have…or at least the way she needed him to react. He laughed, showing off an incredibly beautiful smile, which was completely incongruent with the rest of his battered, bloody face.
“I have to admit to being a bit of idiot in some respects, but opening my mouth on your say-so goes even beyond what I’m willing to do for a beautiful woman.”
He thinks I’m beautiful.
Oh hell, stuff like that meant nothing to her. She glared down at him with her meanest expression. “Do it, or I’ll chop off your fingers.”
“Actually, if you’re going to chop anything off, I’d prefer that…and if it’s not too much trouble, the right hand, please.”
More than a little stunned, McKenna turned her startled gaze to Victor, who was holding the camera and smirking.
“Told you he had a smart mouth,” Victor said.
Quickly regrouping, McKenna whirled back around to Kane and snarled, “Fine. But I’m taking all five fingers.”
“Good, that’ll make it easier to make a fist. Thanks.”
Resisting the urge to stomp her foot and demand he act at least a little scared, she pulled at his shoulders to turn him slightly toward her. It would be easier to get to him this way, anyway. He just had her so off-kilter, she was having trouble staying in character.
“Are you really going to cut his fingers off?” Victor asked.
McKenna shot him a glance out of the corner of her eye. She couldn’t tell if the freak was excited about it or disapproved.
“Because five fingers will be harder to get through the postal service than a tongue.”
She dared a look at Kane’s face. Though both his eyes were swollen, she could have sworn she saw amusement glinting in them. It was all she could do not to laugh herself. Just what kind of freaky life did she lead that mailing cut-off fingers and tongues was even a topic for discussion?
She shrugged. “I’ll just cut off a couple.”
“Fine, but I still want his tongue.”
“Ah, Victor,” Kane drawled. “I didn’t know you wanted tongue when we kissed before.”
It happened fast; she barely had time to prepare. With a roar, Victor dropped his camera, pulled his gun, and lunged toward Kane.
Knife in hand, McKenna stepped in front of Kane. Knowing she’d only get once chance, she swung upward, stabbing the blade deep into Victor’s belly.
Eyes wide with shock and pain, Victor grunted and dropped his gun. Grabbing his stomach with one hand, he swung at McKenna with the other, smacking her full across the face. Pain exploded; she wobbled but managed to stay on her feet. If he came at her again, she had to be ready.
Victor stumbled backward and then dropped to his knees. His hands held his stomach as tears poured down his face. “You bitch, I’ll kill you for that!”
McKenna stiffened her spine. What was done was done. Victor Lymes had abducted and tortured his last victim. However, seeing him or anyone else suffer wasn’t in her plan. Sliding a smaller knife from a sheath under her pant leg, McKenna stalked over to Victor and grabbed hold of his hair. She pulled his head up and, ignoring the horror in his eyes, neatly sliced his throat. He was dead before he hit the floor.
“I must say, that was quite impressive.”
Whirling around, she glared at the man she’d come to rescue. He hadn’t exactly made it easy for her. “I have a couple more I need to take care of. I’ll be back in a minute to get you.”
“Okay, but would you mind cutting my ropes before you go finish your bad-girl stuff?”
McKenna glanced down at her bloodied knife and swayed. Hell, this was not good. Passing out before she finished a rescue would pretty much ensure a failed mission. Straightening her shoulders, she stalked over to Kane and sliced the bonds on his wrists and his ankles. The instant he was free, he grabbed her and pulled her down beside him.
She jerked away. “Let me go. I’ve got to—”
“You’re going to pass out if you don’t give yourself a moment. Close your eyes, take deep, even breaths, and…think about daisies.”
She had closed her eyes and was breathing in when she heard the last part. She opened one eye. “Daisies?”
“What’s wrong with daisies? Don’t you like them?”
This was the most bizarre rescue she’d ever experienced. She closed her eyes again, took another breath. A noise in the other room had her eyes shooting open. They were coming.
She got to her feet. “Lay back on the bed. Don’t say a word,” she whispered. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Somehow his hand was at her neck; McKenna shivered as she felt his fingers caressing her skin with soft, tender strokes. In the gentlest of voices, he said, “Shh, love. Just relax.”
How odd. She didn’t like it when men touched her. So why did his touch make her want…. Darkness blanked her mind.
With utmost care, Lucas placed his little rescuer on the bed. What an intriguing young woman. Unable to resist, he fingered silky strands of her white-blond hair. Bleached, no doubt. Beneath her heavily made-up face, he saw soft, young skin. She couldn’t be older than her early twenties. Who was she and why had she saved his life? That was a puzzle he had every intention of solving. She’d succumbed with the lightest of touches and wouldn’t be out more than a few minutes. He had some necessary business to take care of and then he had some questions for her.
Stretching, he loosened stiff joints and muscles that’d been cramped too long as he looked around for what he could use. The room was bare with the exception of the bed he’d been tied to and a wooden chair. Voices outside the room told him he had little time to prepare.
Lucas took the knife the woman had dropped on the floor and the gun that lay next to Victor’s bloodied corpse. His footsteps cat-silent, he went to the door and listened. Two men, one middle-aged, the other one late twenties…both Brazilian.
He stood to the left side of the door; waited for it to open. The older man appeared first. Lucas jumped on his back, took him to the floor. His hands cupping the man’s head, Lucas gave a hard, quick twist, heard the snap of his neck…guy barely made a sound.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the younger man come toward him. With a quick roll, Lucas moved off the dead man’s body and sprang to his feet. The man lunged toward him; Lucas twisted, dodging him. The guy stumbled past him and fell on top of his dead partner.
Since making too much noise might attract the wrong kind of attention, Lucas chose the knife over the gun to take out the man. Gripping the knife, Lucas took a step. The man jumped to his feet and fired his gun.
Pain bloomed in his right shoulder. “Shit. Should’ve seen that coming.” Lucas threw the knife, feeling a brief triumph when he heard a yelp. Unfortunately, it hit the man’s upper arm and only managed to piss him off. Planting his feet on the floor, Lucas raised his gun; his vision wavered.
A slender blond blur appeared before Lucas could fire. His pretty rescuer had regained consciousness and was back on her feet. With a high kick he would’ve found erotic if he hadn’t been in so much pain, she knocked the gun from the man’s hand and followed with a solid kick to his chin. With a loud grunt, the man took the slug, then slammed his fist toward her, catching her a glancing blow across her jaw. She fell backward.
Lunging, Lucas took the man to the floor. Using his left hand, he applied massive pressure to the man’s larynx. The body beneath him stiffened and then relaxed into death.
“Are you okay?” his rescuer asked.
Lucas rolled off the body beneath him. Landing with a thud on the floor, he looked up at the lovely creature. “What’s your name?”
A slight smile curving her lips, she said softly, “You can call me Ghost.”
He lost consciousness with her smile in his mind.
back to main books page