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Jill Shalvis

Shadow Hawk

© 2007

Being a writer can be lonely. Thankfully, I have a support group. Thanks to Steph for the sanity lunches. Thanks to Laurie for the sweet enthusiasm. And thanks to Gena for…well, everything. Couldn’t have done this one without you.

Prologue

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Regional ATF offices

SHE WAS ALL LEG, and Conner Hawk was most definitely a leg man. Hell, he was also a T &A man, but Abigail Wells, fellow ATF agent and communications expert, not to mention all around hot chick, was so well put together she could have made him a certified elbow man.

Too bad she hated his guts.

She walked-strolled-across the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ office, her soft skirt clinging to her thighs with every graceful swing of her hips. Her blazer hid her torso from view, but he knew she had it going on beneath that as well. Her honey-colored hair was pulled up in some complicated do that screamed On Top Of Her World.

As if she’d read the direction his thoughts had traveled, Abigail glanced over at him, those bee-stung lips flipping her smile upside down, her eyes going from work-mode to pissy-female mode.

Oh yeah, there was the frown, the one she’d been giving him ever since the day she joined the team six months ago. She’d come from the Seattle office, where she’d worked in the field. He tried to imagine her wearing an ATF flak jacket, guarding his six, and was halfway lost in that fun fantasy when she spoke.

“You.” This in a tone that suggested he could, and should, go to hell.

“Me,” he agreed, surprised that she’d even given him that one word. She usually avoided talking directly to him, as if he carried some new infectious disease.

Odd, since to everyone else she’d been personable, even sweet and kind. It made that steely backbone of hers so surprising. When she decided to dig her heels into something, watch out. He’d seen it over and over, people so shocked by the unexpected toughness that this pleasant, melodious little thing exhibited that she got whatever she wanted. She must have been a hell of a force out in the field, probably underestimated by every single scum of the earth who’d come across her, but here in Cheyenne she’d stayed behind the scenes.

“You’re late,” she said in a school-principal-to-errant-student tone.

Oh yeah, now there was a fantasy… He pulled out his cell phone and looked at the digital readout. Two minutes. He was two minutes late, and that was because someone had taken his parking spot. And he might have explained that to her if she hadn’t been giving him the look that people gave their shoe when they stepped on dog shit.

Even as he thought it, her nose slightly wrinkled.

Yeah. In her eyes-which were an amazing drown-in-me blue-he was about equal to dog shit. Nice to know.

“We’re wanted in Tibbs’s office,” Abigail said.

We? Well, that was a new term. Hawk dutifully followed her into their supervisor’s office, his gaze slipping down that stiff spine to her spectacular ass. Attitude or not, she looked good enough to nibble on. A little sweet, a little hot…nice combo-

Whoa. She’d suddenly stopped, forcing him to put his hands on her hips rather than plow her over.

Clearly hating even that small contact, she jerked free and sent him a look that said go-directly-to-hell- without-passing-Go.

Right. Hands off. Maybe he should write that down somewhere.

“Any news on the rifles?” she asked.

Great. The absolute last thing he wanted to talk about. The rifles. Everyone had heard about the 350 confiscated rifles, which had gone missing from ATF storage before they could be melted down. Stolen, from beneath their noses.

His nose.

She was asking, of course, because he’d been the agent on the raid, the one who’d brought the weapons in. He had no idea how they’d gone missing, but he knew why. They had a mole and Hawk was getting too close.

“No. No news.”

“I see.” And with one last cool glance, she knocked on Tibbs’s door.

I see? What the hell did that mean? Before he could ask, Tibbs called out for them to enter.

Their supervisor stood behind his desk, which didn’t make that much of a difference since he was maybe five foot four and nearly as round as he was tall. The balding man shoved his glasses higher on his prominent nose. “We got a tip on the bombers,” he said in that Alabama drawl of his.

Hawk had been working on the Kiddie Bombers for the past two years. Some asshole, or group of assholes, was teaching teenagers how to put together bombs, then using the explosives to terrorize big corporations into paying millions of dollars. Twelve kids had died so far, eight of them under the age of eighteen, and the ATF wanted the bomb-makers and their knowledge off the streets.

Hawk wanted that, too, and also the man running the Kiddie Bombers. Eighteen months ago he’d nearly caught him in a raid on a downtown warehouse. In the pitch-black, on the hard concrete floor, they’d fought. Hawk had wrestled a gun from his hand, managing to shoot him before being tackled by another Kiddie Bomber.

Hawk had escaped with his life intact, thanks to his partner, Logan, and given that the gang had gone quiet after that night, it had been assumed that the Kiddie Bombers’ leader had died from his gunshot wound.

But a year ago, the Kiddie Bombers had popped back onto the radar, pulling off two huge jobs with weapons that had been previously confiscated by the ATF.

Hawk had his suspicions, mostly because there was only one person who could be linked to all the raids-Elliot Gaines. But that was so crazy wild, so out there, he’d kept it to himself, except for Logan. What he hadn’t kept to himself was his vow to get the Kiddie Bombers’ leader.

In the past month alone, Hawk and Logan had confiscated two huge warehouses full of ammo and other supplies. But not a single suspect. “Tip?” he asked Tibbs.

“Suspicious activity, rumored arsenal. Orders came down from Gaines on this.”

Elliot Gaines was the regional head. Or, as some put it, God. Word had spread that the Almighty was tired of the delays, tired of the false leads and really tired of the ATF looking like idiots.

“You’re both heading out.” Tibbs tossed a full file on his desk for them to read. “Bullet City.”

Northern Wyoming, approximately four-and-a-half hours from Nowhere, U.S.A. Yeah, made sense to Hawk.

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