Series: The Bang Shift #3
Author: Mandy Harbin
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Cover Design: Najla Qamber
Release Date: May 19, 2020
Cover Design: Najla Qamber
Release Date: May 19, 2020
When love stabs you in the heart…
Braxton “Blade” Young learned the importance of carrying a knife growing up in the swamps of Louisiana. As a member of the Bang Shift, he carries something a little louder now, but he’s never without his shiv. An added protection. A constant reminder. Fixing cars and carrying out contracts don’t help quiet the ghosts of his past anymore, and random women are out. There’s only one he wants, and she haunts him in a completely different way, taunting him with what he cannot have. She’s an FBI agent. He’s a mercenary. Sure, everyone has demons. His are just covered in blood.
Ahhh regrets. FBI agent Anna Sue Fisher has her fair share, and sleeping with Blade while on assignment ranks right up there. He’s a notorious playboy who lives on the shady side of the law. A heartbreak waiting to happen. But her determination to keep her distance is crushed when her boss sends her back to the Bang Shift on another case. Only this time, she won’t just be working with the devastatingly handsome man, she’ll be investigating him, too.
Dark family secrets. The sharpest betrayals. Alligators aren’t the only dangerous things lurking within the blades of grass of the bayou.
He knew it was a dream.
Blade’s sister had been dead fifteen years, but she stood there before him, the scent of lavender as much of a ghost as she was. He never understood why a seventeen-year-old girl wanted to smell like flowers, but Brenna surely did. Maybe it had been her fascination with the color purple that led to her floral obsession. She had always gravitated toward anything sporting shades of dark pink through magenta. He hadn’t had a problem with that. He never did care for the smell, though.
And now it—those scents of lavender and blood—haunted his dreams, his sister’s lifeless body standing there as she stared off into nothing, rather than resting on the gurney as he remembered seeing her when he came to identify her remains. This recurring dream used to freak him out, but now he knew when he’d wake up, he’d instantly miss the morbid sight. Not because he wanted to relive that day, rather he knew these fleeting moments were all he’d ever have of her again.
He knew his sister was going to ask that, because she always did.
His answer never deviated. “In Hell.”
“Was it you?” she asked as tears welled in her lifeless eyes. Blade was glad she didn’t look at him. It would tear his heart out every time he dreamed about her.
“Yes,” he said without emotion. That sonofabitch had killed his baby sister. Of course he’d hurt him. He’d made him bleed out of many holes.
Her scream was bloodcurdling, and Blade bolted upright in his bed before he awakened fully. He blinked into the darkness and groaned at the sudden throbbing headache as the dream’s intensity subsided.
“Damn tequila,” he muttered as he tossed the sheets off him. Oh, he couldn’t blame the dream on the alcohol, but the pickaxe pounding into his skull he could. He rubbed his face as he stood, knowing it wouldn’t help his state any, but doing it regardless. Drowning his sorrows in liquor wasn’t the answer, but it sure dulled the pain.
Not that he was still hurting over the loss of his sister. He loved her, sure, and missed her terribly but that was fifteen years ago. Even when he dreamed about her, he no longer felt that all-consuming, crushing pain. Time had scabbed over those wounds. No, the new ache he’d been self-medicating with a bottle of Jose Cuervo was all because of one little FBI agent.
Anna Sue Fisher.
Jesus, the woman gutted him, and the worst part was he didn’t even know why. He hadn’t known her very long. Only worked with her briefly once before they’d been assigned to the Oberman case. Something changed in him when he’d been working with her, and spending a couple of months in close quarters had been too much for his growing attraction. One night, he’d given into his desire, and she’d been so hot and passionate for him that something within him had snapped. Never in his life had he ever wanted to just be with a woman before.
As in have her and not let her go.
He’d been happy hopping from one bed to another, playing the field. He treated women with the utmost respect, but he’d never been one to settle down. That night, though, with her in his arms, he’d felt this overwhelming need to possess her in every sense.
Anna, on the other hand, had other plans. The morning after their night of passion, she’d thrown up walls and wouldn’t speak of what had happened between them. Before he knew it, he was back in Arkansas, and she’d flown off to wherever the feds stationed her. It wasn’t as if the bureau needed her in this town after his best friend and fellow Bang Shift crew member, Brody “Brutus” Jackson, killed Xan’s sinister mafia boss ex-husband. Working with the FBI, it had been their assignment to protect that woman, but even back then he’d felt there was something a little special about Anna. They’d lost touch after that assignment, but working together again had ignited whatever he’d felt for her before into raw, carnal desire.
Then Anna had left, and Blade hadn’t heard from her since.
Not one word.
Normally, he wouldn’t have cared. It was easier when the woman of the day—or afternoon—walked away first. Anna was different, though. He knew it, just didn’t know why.
And she was gone.
His heart seized as he grabbed his pants, foregoing a shower. No, she wasn’t gone like his sister. Just out of his life, and that was the bitch of it. There was a time he would have denied himself a woman like her because he hadn’t been worthy.
Hell, maybe he would never be.
Images of Brenna flitted through his mind as he dressed. He grabbed the cheap body spray to douse some of the tequila seeping through his pores. He’d just get dirty again and shower tonight when he got home from the shop like he did last night and every evening after working his shift. A quick squirt of hair gel, and an overly long tooth brushing, and he was as ready as he was going to be.
Before grabbing his shop and motorcycle keys, he reached into his nightstand and pulled out his combat knife, so old the engraving had long worn off. He studied the cold steel he carried every day along with a second pocket knife and remembered again the last time he’d used it.
The day he’d killed Jeremiah Ward.
He turned to leave, but stopped midway when he caught his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He stared at his hair, unblinking, knife still in his grip. The guys of the Bang Shift crew gave him hell over his spiked ‘do, thinking his handle had come naturally from his choice of hairstyles.
He glanced down at the blade in his hand, even though he hadn’t needed a reminder that the name had nothing do to with any spikes on his head. He’d just never corrected their assumption.
It was easier that way. Much, much easier. He liked when his skeletons stayed buried. Except for when he slept, he had no problem shoving them away and pretending things were normal. It was under the cloak of darkness when they pushed their way to the surface that he had no way of ignoring them. But in all honesty, there was no getting away from his past.
Didn’t stop him from trying to be Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky, cracking jokes and flirting with just about every woman who crossed his path. He’d been fortunate enough that embracing life that way helped him ignore the painful reminder of his youth. But he’d had a hell of a time keeping a smile on his face ever since Anna Sue blew into his life and left on the same breeze. He had a new ache now, one that wrenched those old feelings shortly after Brenna died front and center.
He might not feel that crushing pain regularly anymore over that horrible loss, but he coped the same way. Looking for answers to all his life’s questions at the bottom of tequila bottles. Damn answers he needed were never there.
But these feelings now made one thing crystal clear…he’d never be worthy of any woman. Because no matter what he did or how often he put on a happy face going about his regular routine, deep down he knew there was no escaping who he really was.
Blade Young was a killer.
A stone-cold, ruthless murderer.
Not worthy of Anna Sue Fisher?
Fuck, but there really was no doubt about it.
Anna Sue scrolled through their case list on her tablet as she awaited her supervisor to show. There wasn’t enough coffee on the planet for these early Monday meetings, and not because they were usually first thing in the morning. Rick McMillan, their shrewd team leader, usually spent a good portion going over policies and government red tape with the agents on the team. Time Anna would rather spend chasing leads and arresting the bad guys. Sitting still for a couple of hours in the morning when her defenses weren’t up yet gave her too much of an opportunity to get lost in her thoughts, and that was something she couldn’t handle. Ever since the Oberman case six months ago, she’d kept her nose in a file and her soles pounding the pavement as if the devil himself was on her heels. Focusing on other people breaking the law distracted her from her own bad decisions.
Well, one bad decision.
One tall, lean, muscled, spiky-blond-hair bad decision.
Braxton “Blade” Young.
Damn, but if that man wasn’t sex personified, and he sure as hell knew it. He was a walking god, the type of man who’d make the surliest of women giggle in delight when he aimed that thousand-watt smile of his at them. He had his pick of any number of women, and Anna was sure none he’d set his sights on had been able to resist him. Blade flirting was a charmer, but Blade on a mission to have a woman moaning beneath him was a powerhouse of lethal lust. Anna was certain the man never failed to get what he wanted.
And she should know. He’d conquered her.
Oh, she’d giggled at his harmless flirting when they’d worked on that case together in Dallas. He’d quickly become the star of her masturbatory fantasies—a fact she’d felt slightly guilty about. She’d never thought of any colleague that way, and she’d never ever dated anybody she worked with. No way was she going to shit where she ate. But, technically, Blade wasn’t an FBI agent, so she’d allowed herself those few images of him in the darkest of nights. A little something to take the edge off of working so close with him, she’d told herself. But as the time passed, his easygoing nudges and winks and smiles turned into something heated and forbidden. He’d made her a million promises in those half-mast gazes, making her forget all the reasons why sleeping with him would be a bad idea.
It had been a terrible idea.
He’d delivered on every one of those sinful promises.
Thinking back to that night, she still couldn’t remember when they’d gone past the point of no return. From suggestion to full-on seduction. Before she knew it, she’d been on her knees before him, worshiping his cock and getting drunk on his very essence.
And that right there threw her. She’d spent the days and weeks following berating herself for giving in to the temptation that was Blade. Yes, the guy was hot, but when it came down to it, Anna had never had a problem wrangling her libido. She was pretty good at not only dishing out the rejections, but downright ignoring any man who came onto her.
Not that she drew the attention of the opposite sex often. Oh, no. She was pretty homely compared to most women. And when it came to her female colleagues in this room, Shelby Landry and Viola Lane, there was zero comparison. Those girls could double as models. Hell, they were both currently working undercover at a massage clinic, rubbing backs and arresting asses.
Anna had accepted a long time ago she was average in the looks department. She’d grown up in the Midwest where beans and cornbread were staples and perfecting fried chicken was a rite-of-passage. She was fit, of course, because she had to be able to chase down suspects. Although, she’d taken a hiatus from jogging after breaking her ankle six months ago. It had been slow going getting back into her regular routine. No matter how much she exercised, her thighs never sported a gap, and no matter how much she’d prayed growing up, her boobs never advanced to a C cup. She didn’t wear makeup expertly like Viola and didn’t have that natural beauty thing going on like Shelby. She was just plain ol’ Anna Sue Fisher from a corn farm in Kansas.
She didn’t know if Blade had seen her as just another conquest or if he’d been truly attracted to her. Even if his plans were of the hit-it-and-quit-it variety, he was a complete gentleman. Outside of the bedroom, he wasn’t a kiss-and-tell man, and for that she was so, so grateful.
How could she face her boss and teammates if they knew what happened back in Dallas? She was too smart to claim his attentiveness threw her off her game, yet she didn’t understand logically how he’d been able to seduce her. Was it still called seduction if the woman practically begged for it? Not only had she been unable to muster the strength to push him away, she distinctly remembered grabbing his shirt and pulling him even closer to her the night he’d rocked her world. Jesus, it was as if she couldn’t drop to her knees fast enough.
He’d been sooo—
“Are you doing some online shopping?” Shelby asked, yanking Anna from her thoughts of Blade and that naughty night.
She blinked a few times before looking over to the youngest agent in their group. Darrell, one of the men on the team, had taken Shelby under his wing and shown her the ropes. She’d caught on quickly and would be ready to work a case solo in no time. “No. Researching leads on our pending cases.” Technically not accurate, but that was what she’d had open on her tablet. No need to tell her teammate how distracting one night with one man was six months ago.
“Jeez, you’re such a workhorse,” Viola said from across the table.
“You could learn a thing or two from her,” Carson said.
Darrell Tobin and Carson Childers were the two men on the small special team Rick put together a couple of years ago. They usually focused on financial crimes. They each had their specialties. Anna was a forensic accountant, and since “crime pays” was the outlaws’ motto, she had her hand in just about every case that came their way. She was good at chasing the money.
“Screw you,” Viola said with a toss of her blonde hair.
“Your husband wouldn’t be too happy if you did that.” Carson winked at her.
Viola opened her mouth, but snapped it shut when the door opened.
“Morning,” Darrell said as he walked in and took his seat. He looked as if he just rolled out of bed.
“You okay?” Shelby asked.
He chuckled. “Yeah. Long night going over some international docs. I’m going to need your linguistic expertise, I think.”
“No problem. We can meet up afterward.”
Rick walked in then and sat at the head of the table. “Good morning, everyone. We’ve got a lot to discuss, so let’s skip over the morning pleasantries and start with last week’s updates.”
Anna listened dutifully as her boss discussed events of meetings that occurred above her pay grade. Nothing really new. Budget-cuts-this, need-to-work-with-other-agencies-that. Crisis averted over here. Problems with intel other there. Blah, blah, blah. She didn’t understand why he felt the need to share every detail about politics when nothing was really different, and most everything had come across in various emails anyway. After what felt like an eternity, he took a deep breath.
“Any questions before we move on?” he finally asked.
She glanced around the room and noticed the same bored expressions on her teammates’ faces. At least she wasn’t the only one who didn’t care about that part of the meeting.
“Next up, assignments. Viola, Shelby, how’s the massage therapy case coming?”
“ICE has a lead on a trafficker,” Shelby said. Anna couldn’t stop the small smile that formed at the newbie’s drive. “Should make an arrest in a day or two.”
“And my hands have never been this soft,” Viola said.
Rick gave a quick shake of his head and said, “Always looking at the bright side.”
“ICE still has point on the case. We’ll continue assisting if their suspect fizzles out, but I’m putting you two on other assignments as of today. Lane, you’re working with Childers on the Princesses Robbers case.”
“Two bored, privileged socialites suspected of a series of bank heists. Got it,” Carson said, then added, “Don’t know why they didn’t just start a YouTube channel.”
“YouTube is dead. It’s all Insta now,” Shelby said.
“We don’t know for sure it’s the Wellingtons,” Viola said glancing between them.
“Agreed,” Rick added, effectively stopping any more discussion on that. “Landry, I’m putting you on assignment with Fisher,” he said, first looking at Shelby before focusing on Anna Sue. “I need you on location for this.”
She tossed up a silent thank you, eager for the in-depth distraction. She couldn’t even sit in a meeting room for five minutes before her brain drifted against her mental Blade boundaries. Getting away, throwing herself into work, was just what she needed. Distance and the right kind of distraction.
“You two are flying into Little Rock this afternoon.”
What the—Oh no. No, no, no.
The look on her face must have been telling because Rick’s gaze narrowed. “You have a problem with Arkansas?”
Yes. Well, not the state, just one particular inhabitant. The further she could stay away from Blade, the better. And now her boss wanted her to work a case near him? That was too much for her body to handle. She liked being a state away from Blade and his hold on her. But it wasn’t as if she could tell Rick any of this or even be vague about not liking Arkansas. This was her job. She swallowed, pushing down her panic along with the sudden lump in her throat. This would be fine. Blade didn’t live in the city. Hell, he didn’t even live in the same county. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Who said she would even have to cross the river? It could be her new geographical boundary. “No, sir,” she answered automatically, hoping the moment between his question and her answer hadn’t dragged by as it had felt to her.
“Good.” He looked down and opened a file. “I need you to meet up with the Bang Shift crew.”
Fuuuuuuuck. Her eyes closed, her silent thanks from before morphing into a string of colorful curse words. This could not be happening! She wasn’t just going to be in the same state, or even the same town. Anna was going to have to work with Blade.
Shit. Triple fucking shit, shitty shit!
“Fisher,” Rick said tersely.
Looking up quickly, she said, “Sorry, sir.”
“What’s your problem?”
I boinked Blade while on assignment, and ran from him like an awkward chicken. Please, don’t make me face him. She didn’t think that response would fly, so she improvised. “Arkansas is miserable in the summer,” she said, hoping to make light of it. No matter what, she would try to maintain her professionalism while in front of her superior. She’d embrace her bad-assery FBI agent persona right now. Later, she could be all girly about this and drown her sorrows the best way she knew how. With her trusty friends Ben and Jerry.
He flashed a half smile. “It does get humid there.” Then his face grew serious. “You could be there a while, so pack accordingly.”
“I thought we sent them assignments, not agents,” Darrell said, and she was relieved to have the group’s attention focused on him now. “Well, except for Gauge.”
Anna had turned to Darrell, but at the mention of Gauge, she couldn’t help notice Viola stiffen. Word around the office was she and Gauge had a thing when they were at Quantico, but nothing had been confirmed by either. Anna figured it was why the lady across from her had never been the one to go to Arkansas when dealing with the Bang Shift…even if Viola was now happily married to another man.
“Gauge is one of them. His allegiance is with those men.”
“He’s still an agent,” Viola quickly said before adding, “And those men are still government contractors.”
“They’re hired guns. Never forget they’d kill for the highest bidder,” Rick said.
“I don’t think that’s a fair assessment, sir,” Anna said, taken aback by her boss’s words. “I’ve been down there several times and never got that vibe from them. Gruff? Sure. And tough as nails, but not gun-toting extremists.”
“They’re mercenaries,” Darrell said with exasperation. “Colonel brought those guys together, and he was an evil bastard. They sure as hell ain’t a bunch of Boy Scouts.”
“Just because Gauge’s life is the only one not a mystery to us, doesn’t mean he can’t be influenced by his family.”
“His brother’s in the military,” Shelby said, frowning. “So is mine. We’ve both talked about their tours. Most people consider that a noble profession.”
“There’s a lot you don’t know,” Rick said. “And not all family is blood.”
Anna frowned, not liking how this conversation was going. Yes, Colonel had been the leader of the crew in Mayflower, Arkansas, until they’d learned he was in cahoots with the mob, a life-threatening reality for everyone, especially Brody and Xan. But the feds trusted them enough to work with them. They went to those guys for assignments. Maybe Rick’s attitude now was politically charged, like the budget cuts he’d discussed earlier. It wasn’t as if the work the Bang Shift crew did for the government was out of the goodness of their hearts. Maybe she should’ve paid more attention to that part of the meeting.
Whatever the reason for his personal feelings on the working relationship, it didn’t change the fact that there was some new threat that necessitated her going back to the state she never wanted to set foot in again. Several possible scenarios flitted through her mind. Most obvious being that there could be a new threat of Brody’s old mafia connections showing up, guns blazing. But if it involved Brody—or Xan through Marco’s family—Jack Parsons’s RICO team would handle the case. Anna Sue had been on assignment in Arkansas when Jack needed extra eyes on Brody and his buddies because she’d already been familiar with the inner workings of the crime family’s financial and illegal activity. But Jack’s team spearheaded that. Unless the Bang Shift needed one of them to assist, as was the case with Hunter’s sister, or other cases involving national security took precedence, her team focused on the financial aspects of various crimes.
“And that’s why the SEC wants us to have a closer look.”
“The SEC?” Carson asked, leaning back.
“Closer look at what?” Anna asked at the same time, gaze narrowing at Rick. She couldn’t explain why the hairs on the back of her neck suddenly stood. If the SEC was involved then it made sense why her team was being pulled in. But that just raised a bunch more questions as to how the Bang Shift came into play in all of this.
“Not sure I like your attitude, Fisher.”
She took a silent breath. “Those guys aren’t white-collar. I’m trying to understand what the SEC wants with them.”
He focused on the other members of the team and answered, “They’re investigating an investment firm and want us to look into a new executive. Mason Showalter. I’m pulling intel on him, but as of right now, this isn’t one of our typical forensic accounting cases.” His gaze slid back to Anna. “Mr. Showalter has a connection to one of the Bang Shift crew members.”
Who? Though the cold dread flowing through her answered that silent question.
“Braxton Young, a.k.a. Blade, receives a call from him on the twenty-fifth of every month. I want to know why. We don’t know enough about that group of guys in Mayflower. I’m meeting with Jack Parsons…again…to talk about them. Frankly, I feel we need to determine if continued working relations with the Bang Shift and any FBI team is the way to go.”
“But the federal government has been relying on them for years to handle contracts,” Viola said.
“Even though we’ve learned Colonel made no bones about sealing records and obliterating their pasts and most family connections, we still continue to work with them. Put the lives of citizens in their hands. Two of those men had mafia connections to two different crime families. Now this? We should be able to identify the connection of Mason Showalter and Braxton Young with a few clicks on a keyboard. We can’t. Colonel had been methodical, so we really have no idea who these men are. Who the hell knows what else we’ll find. This is exactly why anytime someone tried hiring an external group to handle government business, I have always been against it.”
Anna’s heart thudded in her chest, her emotions pinging all over as a memory came drifting back. One particularly long, boring night of surveillance, Blade had told her something about himself, and it had totally caught her off guard.
“Blade was arrested once,” she heard herself say.
Rick’s eyes narrowed. “When?”
“I, um, I don’t know. He told me when we were watching Heather Anderson. Didn’t volunteer any details, though.” She’d later tried to look up specifics of his crime, but found nothing. She’d figured it was something minor. Maybe public intox with short probation and a guaranteed clean record at the end if he stayed out of trouble. Something small that wouldn’t leave a record. She’d dismissed the small confession almost as quickly as he’d made it. But maybe it was something bigger than the average misdemeanor. Colonel had definitely been meticulous enough to want everything on his men locked tight or completely erased from the system. Not that it would’ve been necessary if they were just mercenaries. That particular job didn’t require a clean record to take hits. But to work with the federal government? Now, that was a different story.
“Well, now. The fact he felt free enough to confide in you makes you the perfect choice to go. Love it when my instincts are right.”
Oh, the bad feeling she had grew stronger.
“So what’s the cover?” Darrell asked. “Because we can’t tell the men she’s there to pry into Blade’s life.”
Pry? Anna was gonna be sick. Her emotions were all over. On the one hand, they trusted those men and now she was being tasked with going behind their backs…one back in particular. On the other hand, she really had no idea what Blade had done in his past. Or what was he doing now. When it all came down to it, she didn’t really know him at all. Not that that changed how she felt about him. Or the fact that those guys had worked with the government for years, taking many of the shit jobs they either didn’t want to do or couldn’t because of red tape. They’d skirted the law for the sake of justice, and now they could be punished for the very thing the government paid them to do.
This had disaster written all over it.
“There’s a hunting lodge in Louisiana he goes to every year. Two years ago, he bought some shares in the business. A developer’s buying surrounding land. We’re going in under the guise of investigating the developer.”
“Those guys know we primarily focus on the money, but if we tell them we’re working with the SEC, they’d have questions as to why that branch is involved,” Viola said.
“Agreed,” Rick said. “Instead of telling them we’ve partnered with the SEC, we’ll say we’re working with the IRS. That agency gets everyone’s attention. Since Blade is linked to the business, it should make him want to help and be an easy in with him.” Rick looked at Anna. “Though it seems you already have one.”
She kept her mouth shut and hoped her face didn’t give anything away.
“And we just expect the Bang Shift to help investigate this bogus developer in hopes of finding the connection of Mason Showalter to Blade Young without offering a contract for their services?” Carson laughed without humor. “Guns for hire don’t work for free.”
“Unless it’s personal,” Anna added, remembering the call about Flint Willis and the massive drug bust.
“It wouldn’t have been personal if Mr. Knight had reported Mr. Willis as soon as he was propositioned.” Even though Anna knew Bear’s last night, it was weird hearing him called anything other than his nickname. “They screwed the pooch on that, too. We still haven’t been able to locate Flint Willis.”
“We’ve seen some card activity out west,” Carson said. “We’ll find him.”
“Good. Anyway, we’ll give the Bang Shift the you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-yours spiel.” Rick shrugged. “There are budget cuts, and they need us if they want to keep getting money.”
“Assuming we don’t find reason to and stop contracting with them anyway,” Viola said. Anna could hear the discomfort in her voice and was glad she wasn’t the only one who seemed to have a problem with this assignment. And she wasn’t even thinking of the big, fat personal reason.
“Nothing is ever guaranteed,” Rick said.
“So Anna gets close to Blade for the SEC’s inquiry into Showalter. And Shelby’s role?” Darrell asked.
Rick looked to Shelby. “I want you at the shop, watching, seeing if you can learn anything else about the other men. To them, you’re a peace offering sent to help with legal contracts and work at the shop since they’ll be a man short. You remember basic auto repair?”
Shelby smiled. “Yes, sir. Grew up running around my daddy’s garage in Nebraska. When other little girls were playing with Barbie, I was learning how to rebuild a carburetor.”
Carson chuckled. “Can’t see you as a grease monkey.”
Shelby winked. “I’m really good at lubing a chassis.”
Darrell growled. “Not funny.”
Rick’s lip twitched, but that was the only sign of humor he showed. “Good. Fit in with the guys, and see what you can learn.” He’s gaze cut to Anna. “We need to learn everything we can about these men. Starting with Young. No matter what, you stick to him like glue. Find out about this Showalter man and report back. But, Fisher, solving that is just scratching the surface. By the end of this mission, I want you to know more about Braxton Young than he knows himself. Understood?”
With confidence she didn’t feel, Anna gave him a quick nod. “Understood.”
How could she get close to him without letting her defenses down? It would be a miracle if she could do her job without getting too emotionally close to Blade. She avoided him after their night together for a reason, but that didn’t mean she stopped thinking about him, hoping at her weaker moments that maybe he could be different, that there could be more with him.
None of that mattered now. None of it.
This assignment would forever shatter even the tiniest of dreams where she and Blade had a future. Because even if they considered picking up where they’d left off after that night of passion, she’d never be able to tell him why she was really coming back six months later.
And if he ever learned the truth, Blade would never forgive her.
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Mandy Harbin is a USA Today Bestselling author who loves creating stories that explore the complexities of everyday relationships…with some kissing thrown in. She is a Superstar Award recipient, Reader’s Crown and Passionate Plume finalist, and has achieved Night Owl Reviews Top Pick distinction many times. She also writes young adult romance as M.W. Muse because teens like kissing, too.
After graduating college and working many years in technology, she threw caution to the wind and began studying writing at the UALR. Years of trashed manuscripts and rejections eventually led to contracts and representation. With over thirty books published, she now serves on the board of her local writing chapter.
Mandy lives in a small, Arkansas town with her husband and their bossy dog, enjoying her own happily ever after…with some kissing thrown in.