Carlos "Steady" Soto's nerves of steel have served him well at the covert government defense firm Black Knights Inc. But nothing has prepared him for the emotional roller coaster of guarding the woman he once loved and lost.
Will All He's Got Be Enough?
Abby Thomson is content to leave politics and international intrigue to her father—the President of the United States—until she's taken hostage half a world away, and she fears her father's policy of not negotiating with terrorists will be her death sentence. There's one glimmer of hope: the man whose heart she broke, but she can ever tell him why...
As they race through the jungle in a bid for safety, the heat simmering between Steady and Abby could be a second chance for them—if they make it out alive.
When Carlos looked over at Abby standing in the middle of them, her skin dewed with sweat and her pale green eyes bright with enthusiasm, all his laughter died. Because in that instant everything, everything, suddenly became clear. Cut--glass clear. Mountain rain clear. As if he’d been clocked in the skull with a two--by--four of crystal-clear truth.
He loved her.
“Abby…” Her name was on his lips before he could call it back. He didn’t know why. All he knew was that he needed to say it.
“I know. We need to be on our way. I know.”
Sí. They probably did. For many reasons, not the least of which was that he was itching to find a pay phone or a landline or even an electrical outlet with which to juice up his iPhone. He needed to call back to HQ to see if they had a status update on Ozzie. His best friend’s situation had been a constant presence in the back of his mind. But…that wasn’t what he meant. He meant… “Abby…”
And there it was again. Her name. Slipping from between his lips of its own accord. And each time he said it, it rang inside him like a promise…like a prayer. Which made sense since the good Madre Maria knew he was tempted to fall at her feet as a penitent, pledging to worship her forever.
“Okay, Carl—-” Her words cut off the instant she looked into his face. No surprise, really. Considering some of what he was feeling had to be plastered there. I mean, he was thunderstruck. Awestruck. Dumbstruck. Every kind of struck you can imagine.
He waited breathlessly for her response to the love in his eyes, to the adoration scrawled across his face as if he’d written it there with a big black Sharpie. But then he realized his expression couldn’t be all that obvious when she said, “Oh, what the hedge cutter’s ass? Are you sick or something?”
Hedge cutter’s ass? Oh, Abby. Sweet, wonderful, hilarious Abby…
And just like that, the laughter was back. This time, he didn’t try to contain it. This time he let loose with it. Let it echo up into the roiling, cloud--filled sky. Let it fill his chest, and warm his heart.
He loved her!
If it wouldn’t have scared the ever--loving crap out of the villagers, he would have shouted it to the world. Roared it through the jungle like a lion. And forget the fact that he was a maldito bori and she was the president’s daughter. Forget the right side of the tracks versus the wrong side of the tracks. Forget everything that had ever kept them apart in the past or threatened to keep them apart in the future. Because he loved her. And, by Dios, if it took him moving heaven and earth to have her, that’s exactly what he’d do!
As if the universe knew and understood the weight of the pledge he’d made, the boiling clouds chose that second to rip open. Rain surged from the sky in a deafening roar, drenching him in an instant. He continued to laugh, lifting his arms wide as he let the downpour wash away the last remaining vestiges of the hurt he’d felt when Abby rejected him eight years ago. Let it wash away any lingering doubt that she would reject him again.
He was hers. And she was his. And she had to see that. She had to know that.
With one last bellow of unfettered delight, he lowered his arms and his chin. Rain sluiced off his face in sheets, running into his eyes. But he had no trouble seeing the shocked, wary expressions of the villagers. They probably thought he’d lost his mind. Flipped his lid. Gone clean crazy. And, in a way, he had. Because from one second to the next, he’d fallen crazy, head--over--heels in love.
A bolt of lightning crashed overhead, cleaving the angry clouds in two and casting the tiny village in harsh, white light. The tart smell of electricity burned through the air, and somewhere in the distance a monkey screeched out a frightened call. Then it was as if a spell had broken. The villagers jumped and scattered, climbing up ladders to run inside their high--built huts. The children screamed with glee as they raced in from the stream’s edge, scampering up the latticework built beneath their bamboo homes to disappear inside. And Abby…well, Abby stood there in the deluge, gaping at him.
And, yes, she, too, probably suspected some of his screws had come loose. And maybe he was proving her right by grabbing her wrist and jerking her forward. Maybe he had gone stark-raving mad. But the truth of the matter was he didn’t give a rat’s…uh…hedge cutter’s ass. Because he loved her. And, hue puta, he wasn’t going to go one more second without letting her know it.
But that’s all she managed before he threw his arms around her, lifting her feet from the waterlogged ground and dipping his head to hungrily claim her mouth. Since it was already gaping open in a little O of surprise, it made it that much easier to slide his tongue inside. He tasted her, savored her, drank in her surprise and bewilderment, and gave back promises of devotion and tenderness. She was so sweet, so pure. Her breath candied by the lingering juice of the rambutans. And despite the fact that he’d filled his belly, he was ravenous. Starving. So hungry for her that he probably would have laid her down right there in the mud and the muck, showed her with his hands and mouth and body all the things he felt for her, had not an incessant tapping on his shoulder forced him to lift his head.