The Talented Mr. Rivers
Book 2 in the Tough Love Series
As the son of an international crime lord, Will Rivers only inherited one thing after his father died: trouble. The Pentasus organization deals in kidnapping and murder, and Will wants no part of the power grab that’s tearing leadership apart. But the only way he’ll be able to escape is with some help from his former bodyguard, Hunter Cain, whose sculpted body and brooding looks keep Will awake at night. Somehow, Hunter has resisted the tension between them . . . until, suddenly, he gives in.
As a German intelligence officer working deep undercover, Hunter has a very good reason to keep Will in the dark about his identity and his intentions. Although the sex is hot, Hunter’s true feelings are a growing liability. Now the only way to save Will from his old life is to push him deeper into danger. But when two strong men are each determined to protect the other, the heat isn’t just combustible. It’s a firestorm.
The Talented Mr. Rivers
Book 2 in the Tough Love Series
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Hunter Cain walked the back hall of the same Paris club for the third night in a row. The Duplex, a members-order space in the basement of a popular steak frites joint. A labyrinth of tunnels and rooms. No one famous, or not obviously so, just the thump of music and a moody atmosphere that conjured up thoughts of dark corners and shady bargains. A group of people who wanted to talk, drink, dance and disappear.
He hated this kind of shit.
Intel said his target would be here, probably in a private room. Two previous tries and no success. Hunter needed this to be the one. He could only break into the same place so many times before someone fixed the security code on the back door. Of course, he’d still get in after that but the inconvenience would annoy him.
He slipped through a crowd of twenty-somethings arguing about sexual politics and sipping on drinks. He suddenly felt every minute of his age. Amazing how big a ten-year difference could seem.
His target wouldn’t be in one of these groups. No, he’d be sitting down, watching the room while people desperate to be close to him and feed off his family’s wealth scurried around. Hunter had seen the action many times. Stood back as the parasites made their moves. While they climbed over each other trying to please.
Yes, Hunter knew all about his target. Knew his habits and weaknesses. Studied him. Followed him. For two months, he acted as the man’s bodyguard. Now, he hunted him.
He slipped through the few people dancing and by the impressive bar, complete with crowds and the obligatory hot tattooed bartender in charge. Not that he had time to notice. He’d spent two months not being able to notice anyone else, which made him more edgy than usual.
He could go long spells without sex. His work demanded it, but the itch was scratching hard. If he didn’t find his target soon and end this, the need and being pissed off would get all bound up together then he’d really be in trouble. He liked angry sex as much as the next guy, but not if it screwed with his work.
He went down a few steps and through a heavy door before moving into the quieter section of the club. The one that came with security guards and locked doors. From previous surveillance of the area, he knew there were twelve rooms. That left a lot of area to cover.
He turned a corner and stopped right before running into a six-foot-damn-he-was-big bruiser in a navy blazer. The guy had an earpiece and didn’t bother to hide his gun. Not the friendliest welcome Hunter ever experienced but certainly not the worst.
The guard stood in the middle of the hallway leading back to the first set of rooms. “I think you’re in the wrong place.”
“I don’t need directions, but thanks.” Hunter tried to push past the guard but he wasn’t having it.
The guard shoved Hunter back then held up his hand. “This is not for you.”
“How do you know what I like?” Hunter thought about breaking fingers. That might be faster than an actual fight or choking off the guy’s air supply. Certainly quieter than shooting him.
The guy nodded to the area behind Hunter. “Go upstairs and back to the dance floor.”
“I guess we’ll do this the hard way.” Before the guy could stop frowning, Hunter nailed him in the chin with the heel of his hand.
The guy’s head snapped back. Actually made an odd sound. Then he faced Hunter again.
This one wasn’t going down easy.
He rammed his shoulder into Hunter’s stomach. The shot vibrated to his feet but he didn’t make a sound as his back crashed into the wall. He’d been trained to fight quick and quiet. Attack, destroy, disappear. His body moved on instinct. He brought his elbow down and nailed the guard at the base of his neck. The guy dropped to his knees.
Ignoring the guns and other weapons on him, Hunter went with his arm. He locked it around the guard’s neck. Pressed while the guard started to flail and reach around for Hunter’s legs. Hunter didn’t let up. Tightened at the bend of his arm and in eight seconds the guy went limp. Hunter let him fall to the floor.
He heard the footsteps before he could reach for his gun. Not wanting his back to anyone, he turned around. Two more men stood there. No blazers and they lacked the guard-at-the-club look the other one possessed. No, he’d bet these two were former military. The short haircuts, the way they held themselves. Something in the confident demeanor.
Hunter recognized the type. Hell, he was the type. He’d moved from the Army to the BND, the Bundesnachrichtendienst. German Intelligence, a job that blew his family apart and made his own father try to kill him.
The man on the left stepped forward while the other ordered some of the more curious in the nearby private rooms who ventured into the hall to go back inside again. They were an interesting pair. One scowled and talked in grunts. The other headed right for Hunter.
“They said you’d prefer a fight,” the man said with a hint of a French accent.
Hunter cared less about the geography than the wording. The ‘they” could mean anyone who knew him, really. But that was just the thing. No one was supposed to know him here. He hadn’t exactly announced his visit to France. He’d been undercover and living in other countries, adopting different accents, for so long he wasn’t sure he’d recognize what was supposed to have been his temporary London flat if he walked by the building.
“How many guards do you have back there?” Hunter glanced past the men to the end of the dark hallway. “I just want so I have an idea how much beating I’ll need to do.”
“We don’t work for the club.” The same man spoke while the other stood next to him, unmoving.
Interesting. “Then I don’t have a problem with you.”
“Oh, you definitely have a problem.”
Just what he needed, a guy who talked in bad action movie soundbites. “I’m looking for someone.”
And since he’d run into a guard and now these two, Hunter assumed he was headed in the right direction. Looked like the third time was the charm.
The guy nodded. “I know.”
Hunter didn’t spook easily. He’d never experienced an attack of nerves. The coolness served him well over the years. He couldn’t always read people – that was not his specialty – but he could maintain control. Wait out his prey and take down any attacker. He’d been trained by the best counter-intelligence and infiltration experts in Germany and abroad. These two men did not rattle him.
“You’re not my type,” he said.
“You don’t do anything for me either.” The talker looked Hunter over. Dropped his gaze down Hunter’s body then back up again. “I like ‘em a bit more battle scarred and tough.”
Hunter almost laughed. He’d found someone who sucked at reading people more than he did. “Make sure to put that on your dating profile.”
The guy shook his head. “You’re not going anywhere, blondie.”
This was almost too much. Hunter looked at the quiet one. Stiff shoulders with his hands folded in front of him, seemingly unimpressed or worried about the scene unfolding in front of him. Yeah, that’s the guy Hunter needed to worry about. Not the blowhard trying hard to scare with stupid words.
But now he knew he definitely located the right club. His target was here and sending out men to do his dirty work. Typical bullshit. Hunter would get to him, but first he had to dispose of the big talker. “You’ve got the wrong guy.”
Hunter didn’t even flinch. Didn’t let one sign of recognition show. “Nope, still the wrong guy.”
We as in plural. That made Hunter wonder if he had to fight these two or an army. Either way worked for him. “Gentlemen. The club isn’t the place for this. For the record, you should feel free to leave. I’m fine in here.”
“Funny man. I wonder if you’ll be laughing when we kick your ass.”
Hunter rolled his eyes. “Damn, you talk a lot.”
He didn’t waste a lot of time or energy on this one. Not when he sensed the other guy was the bigger threat. Hunter thought about using his gun but went with his fist. One slamming punch to the side of the talker’s head. The hit had the guy spinning. Hunter launched again. A second shot to the temple and the guy went down. Slipped boneless to the floor.
Not really looking to leave a pile of bodies behind him in Paris, Hunter crouched, feeling for a pulse. The thump was steady, which proved him acing the takedown part of training all those years ago hadn’t been a fluke. He’s been using the skills every since, but it was easy to go too far. This time he hadn’t.
One to go.
Hunter stood up and looked at the other guy. The one who never moved or said anything. He still waited there. Hadn’t shifted an inch. Hadn’t tried to help his friend either, which Hunter found really interesting.
Hunter looked the guy up and down, doing a weapons count. Early twenties, black and attractive. Chiseled features and smooth skin. In a different type of bar on another night, months ago, Hunter might have sized him up and made a move. Right now his priorities were different and his interest, no matter how much he tried to stop it, centered on one guy. Not this one.
“What about you?” he asked, ready to go for round three.
The guy shrugged. “I prefer using a gun.”
“Smart.” Hunter slipped one out of the holster at his side. “Me too.”
The guy didn’t get all twitchy. Didn’t even look concerned. “We could do this the nice way.”
“What’s the ‘this’ in that sentence?”
“I’m not known for being nice, but I believe he’s talking about me.” Will Rivers opened the nearest closed door, the one to room number five.
For a second Hunter just stared. He found it hard not to. It had been that way since the first time he saw Will at his family’s massive London countryside compound, just home from getting his fancy degree. All shiny and happy from six years of college and whatever other education he wasted his time on. He bore none of the battle scars the rest of his family did, but he reeked of wealth.
Then, like now, dressed in black pants and a long-sleeve shirt with a simple but very expensive watch. Dark-rimmed glasses and a perfect face, one that could be in magazines. He possessed a runner’s body and maintained the discipline to endure long distances every day. Broad-shouldered, trim waist, in shape and a constant temptation.
Hunter never wavered off course in an assignment and he hadn’t this time, but his common sense had taken a beating. More than once he mentally ran through a pro/con list of having sex with the one person in the Rivers family that might not be a nasty piece of shit.
“About time you appeared.” Hunter tried to ignore the relief flowing through him at having tracked Will down before other intelligence agencies, other countries, could.
“You were busy doing…this.” Will gestured to the two men on the ground. “You’re putting on quite a show out here.”
Hunter shrugged. “I aim to please.”
“I’ve been looking for you.”
That was news to Hunter. “You could have called.”
Will smiled. “But this way was so much more fun.”
The words, that look…Hunter hated playful, flirty Will. That Will tested Hunter’s resolve. That one had him believing only the older Rivers siblings were involved in the family business of international kidnapping and murder for hire.
Sometimes they were paid to perform specific jobs. Other times, they conducted surveillance on their powerful targets, grabbed them and then auctioned their lives on the dark net. They were Pentasus, a group whispered about for years in government circles and, until recently, believed to be fake, nothing more than an exercise put together by intelligence agencies to test their officers and field agents.
Hunter knew better. Thanks to his work, now everyone else did, too. He’d infiltrated the Rivers’ family business. Worked on the legitimate side as a bodyguard until he passed a test, a sick one he still didn’t let himself think about. Not that or the things he’d done to win the Rivers family’s trust.
Turned out killing for sport was a lucrative business. On the outside the Rivers family looked perfect and not at all the type to be invested in and own Pentasus. Attractive with the right look and dress. They attended few parties and even then never made a scene, stayed out of the press, never caused public trouble and had powerful connections.
They owned an impressive townhouse in London and a sprawling compound outside of it, or they had until Hunter and agents with the Special activities Division, the special ops branch of the CIA, blew it up. But Will was very much alive and unscathed and standing right in front of Hunter.
The quiet guard with the gun finally moved. He took a step toward Hunter as he talked to Will. “I’ll take his weapon.”
Will held up a hand. “Don’t bother. He’ll have more than that one.”
“I can search him.”
“Not necessary.” Will opened the door behind him to the small private room. “If anyone’s going to touch Hunter, it’s going to be me.”
Hunter could see plush couches stacked with pillows and a table with one lone glass on it. What he didn’t see was a secondary way out. And he didn’t lose sight of the innuendo. “You’ll have to buy me a drink first.”
Will gestured for Hunter to go inside. “You may need one by the time we’re done.”
“I’ve missed you, too.” He said it with a load of sarcasm but it was the truth. Hunter hated that part.
Will’s smile only grew wider. “Let’s see if you’re saying that twenty minutes from now.”