Wicked and Dangerous

Wicked Lovers 7.5


Shayla Black, Rhyannon Byrd

To Rhyannon Byrd

for years of friendship and laughter—

and for giving me such a fun heroine to work with.

I had a blast!




AS DECKER MCCONNELL STRODE INTO THE LOUD BAR AT HALF past nine on a Saturday night, the woman’s picture burned a hole in the pocket of his black shirt. In the past six hours, he’d stared at it a hundred times. Rachel Linden, age twenty-nine. Divorced. Graduate of UCLA, summa cum laude, with a degree in education. Recent transplant from sleepy Moss Beach on the Florida coast to Louisiana. Currently employed by the Lafayette Parish school system as an elementary English teacher. Those facts might define the brunette whose dark eyes sparkled from a seemingly average oval face, but that didn’t explain why just looking at her photo made him hard as hell.

“You sure this Rachel woman is going to be here?” his boss, Xander Santiago, asked, propped up against the quiet corner of the bar on his left.

“Unless she bails on her own birthday party, yep. I’ve got to find her before this situation goes south.”

Decker sighed and surveyed the crowd through the club’s flashing lights. People were getting their drink on and looking around for a nightly hookup. From what he could gather, Rachel was only here because the new neighbors and coworkers who had become her friends insisted that she celebrate her big day. Though the club was packed more tightly than meat behind cellophane, he hoped he’d spot her soon. Every minute that slid by was another minute that bad shit could happen.

And he wasn’t about to let it. He was a protector by nature. If the cops weren’t going to help, then he guessed it had become his job. For whatever reason—boredom, maybe?—he felt the urge to make sure she stayed safe.

Rachel’s picture suggested that she possessed a shy, good-girl quality. Not usually the kind of female he gravitated to. That meant he’d probably find her in a corner somewhere, trying to blend into the wall. He’d have to fish around for some way to set her at ease before he glued himself to her side long enough to untangle this clusterfuck he’d unwittingly stepped in. As far as he was concerned, naked was the best way to keep her from harm’s way because he wasn’t remotely interested in being her big brother. Everything he’d been able to dig up indicated that since becoming single again, she’d lived like a nun. That was really fucking unfair to the male species. The idea of her peeling off a button-down shirt and “work-appropriate” skirt to reveal her soft curves, scantily clad in lingerie, made his cock stand up and salute.

Get your mind out of the gutter and back on business.

Decker hated that voice in his head. The gutter was way more fun.

“Are you sure about this?” Xander’s brother, Javier, asked beside him.

He turned to the guy with a shrug. “No, but I don’t know what my more appealing options are. Believe me, if I hadn’t run into a colossal pile of shit this afternoon looking for a cold beer and an easy lay, I wouldn’t be here now, searching for a woman I’ve never met.”

“And you tried the police?” Xander asked.

“Useless.” Decker rolled his eyes. “How much evidence should I need to prove another man’s intent to commit a crime? The fuckers could at least look into it.”

But the lazy bastards of the Lafayette Police Department hadn’t listened to a word he’d said while LSU played football. On the other hand, he probably shouldn’t send a starched uniform fresh out of the backwoods police academy to do a job the CIA had trained him once upon a time to do far better.

“So you think this plan will work?” Javier asked.

“You got a better one?” He shoved Rachel’s picture under the other man’s nose. “Look at her. She’s a school teacher. She looks sweet, for fuck’s sake. I can’t stand here with my thumb up my ass and let this nut job put a hole in her head.”

Studying the picture, Javier sipped his tonic water. After a couple of years of supposedly being cozier with vodka than sanity, sobriety now suited him. “Of course not. I’m just saying that if she’s recently divorced, she might not appreciate you romancing her for ulterior motives.”

“What my brother means is that in a few short months of marriage to London, we’ve learned how quickly our lovely bride can hand us our balls when we’ve screwed up.” Xander smiled. “He’s thinking that you’d probably like to keep yours attached to your body.”

“Exactly.” Javier grinned.

“I can’t tell her the truth,” Decker argued. “Why would she believe a total stranger trying to convince her that someone’s put a price on her head? Besides the twenty-five grand and the phone number this guy gave me, all I’ve got is her picture and some basic information I could have pulled off the Internet. None of that proves anything. If she actually does believe me, I’d probably scare the hell out of her.” He tossed his hands up. “This asshole gave me a few days to finish the job. I’ll just make the problem go away by then. Even if Rachel isn’t thrilled with my method, she’ll be alive.”

He peered deeper into the club, ignoring the come-ons of a few girls who didn’t look old enough to even be here, wearing skirts so short he could almost tell if the carpet matched the drapes. Finally, the crowd parted, and he spotted his target near the wall, just as he’d predicted. Rachel. White wine in hand. Long hair like a chocolate waterfall. Pretty profile. Thick lashes. Button nose. Full lips that would look perfect wrapped around his cock.

Damn it, he wanted to get her naked. What a shame that wasn’t his first priority with her, but he hoped he could find a way to make it a close second.

She smiled as a tall, African-American woman beside her whispered in her ear. Then suddenly, Rachel whipped her gaze around and met his stare. Her little, rosy mouth opened with a gasp. Even through the smoke and over the racket of the bad country singer on the stage across the room, he could all but hear the sound. Yeah, he felt the electric zing, too. Up his spine and clear down to his toes, it engorged his cock so completely, he wanted to rip off that god-awful sensible blouse she wore, tear away her panties, and fuck her breathless in the next thirty seconds. Normally, he would, but this situation meant he had to use the head up north—at least a little. And didn’t that just piss him off.

How fucking ironic that he couldn’t pick her up just for the fun of it. No, he had to get close to keep her alive. Honestly, Decker didn’t like lying to her either. The hell of it was he couldn’t think of another way to protect the woman he’d been hired to kill.

•   •   •

RACHEL LINDEN FIXED her gaze across the room at the man staring her way, standing between the two suits. Her jaw dropped before she forcibly snapped it shut. Holy cow! Between the alcohol and the press of bodies, she was overheated. But he made her shiver.

Military-short black hair capped off his angled face, covered by a healthy two days’ growth of beard. His eyes remained hidden behind a pair of aviators that rested on top of chiseled cheekbones. His black shirt nearly

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