Hunted:A Stepbrother Romance Novel(5)

By: Olivia Long

I still remembered this day. How could it be happening ... again?

How could I have been so stupid? What had I wanted out of this exchange? Did I think that disobeying my commanders was noble, was glorious, was valiant? Shouldn’t I have known that they wanted us to keep our hands out of the gore for a reason?

My troop crept closer in the tall grass, and I reluctantly followed, because I knew what would happen next and I wasn’t eager to replay the events ... but I couldn’t leave them behind, either.

And it was already happening, just like before.

I overheard the familiar male voices leaking from one balcony.

Keenan supposedly dealt antiques, and yet, somehow, huge amounts of cocaine were moving along a route where his home seemed like a popular rest stop. He was also credited by many other shell companies as a “consultant.” How exactly could one consult on a fraudulent venture? We’d already questioned him in the dissolution of a structure supposedly invested in the acquisition and sale of artwork—with a gallery that was constantly empty.

I held my gun close against my shoulder, though we hadn’t been authorized to use them unless it was absolutely necessary for self-defense. Considering we hadn’t even been authorized to pursue suspicious shipments across the parameters of our area, our most prominent weapons were supposed to be our radios, which we would use to contact Guatemalan officers and alert them of movements. But it was hard to do nothing when we were in the perfect position to do something, even if it was technically forbidden to do so.

The first man to emerge through a filmy curtain of white fabric on one balcony overlooking the garden was Marco Ramirez, another high-profile suspect in a variety of affairs. Suave, well-moneyed and flamboyant, Marco was beloved in the metropolitan area, and it was easy for him to slip his bonds whenever police thought that they had him. Too many people were willing to throw themselves onto the blade in Marco’s name, because, even though he was an oily, conniving, drug-running billionaire, he was also charming. He did favors for people when they were in need, retaining a retinue of essential indentured servants. I had seen people go to jail for this man, though he himself had never seen the inside of a prison. He was both a man’s man and a lady’s man, masculine and impeccably cultured, and at the age of twenty-eight, he was already one of the wealthiest “contractors” in South America.

The other man to join Marco on the balcony was none other than Keenan O’Connor himself. Keenan was slightly older—thirty-two—and the less attractive partner between the pair. He was rugged and scarred, and to look at him was to know that he was a liar when he claimed to be a “consultant” or a damn “antiques dealer.” There was no way. There was no consultant with such ruthless, heavy-lidded eyes. There was no antiques dealer with a pale rope of scar tissue trailing across one cheek. He was often wearing Kevlar and heavy treaded boots in conjunction with his “street” clothes, and there simply existed no man like that, armored down to the bones, with their own private guard.

The men were laughing and drinking from low glasses of amber-colored liquor. As always, Keenan was chain-smoking the harsh, bitter tobacco which had given him his distinct and chilling, grovel-grinding voice. He wore a stained and torn black t-shirt which bulged around the obvious girth of a bullet-proof vest, fatigues, and boots. Marco, on the other hand, wore loose, luxuriant linens and designer sandals made of supple leather. Now he looked like he could have been an antiques dealer, manicured from his eyebrows to the tips of his toes. They were an almost laughably mismatched odd couple, if laughing in this situation wasn’t guaranteed to get you shot.

“When did you set this up?” Keenan asked, gazing out across the opulent empire he had amassed: fountains, gazebos, stone paths, and on top of it all, a damn majestic white stallion just relaxing in the yard. The place looked like it hosted weddings.

“Late last night,” Marco replied.

“No, you idiot,” Keenan snarled. “I mean WHEN.”

But Marco laughed good-naturedly, and Keenan cracked a smile as he shook his head ruefully. “Right, right,” Marco amended, “this afternoon. I’m so sorry I didn’t mention, but you were ... indisposed.”

“La Casa de Miel will do that to you,” Keenan muttered, taking a deep drag and expelling it into the hot air.

I was personally familiar with La Casa de Miel, or The House of Honey. It was an anything-goes, top-of-the-line bordello themed around fantasy fulfillment. They could do anything you wanted ... but, when I’d asked if they had any skinny, uppity white girls, the mistress’ full mouth had turned down. “Lo ciento,” she had said to me. “We don’t have white. Now, skinny and, what was that, uppity—we can do.” She’d grinned, exposing a single gold tooth in the front of her mouth, and then dissolved with dream-like surrealism.