“Sister, I have found the man for you…”
Sydney Westbrook laughed at Tee’s joyful words as she swiveled her chair away from her desk to see her boss standing behind her at the entrance of her cubicle. They weren’t really sisters as was evidenced by the fact that Tee was Vietnamese-American while Syd was Portuguese, Italian and English-“an odd genetic combination that gave her a strangely “exotic” look. One that hadn’t been bad until Angelina Jolie had stepped onto the Hollywood scene.
Try being an undercover agent when you had a very famous look-alike. There were times when she absolutely hated a woman she’d never even met.
But if she had to be the “twin” of what she often referred to as “that” woman, she wished that she’d been given the body to match. Unfortunately, nature hadn’t been quite that kind to her and she was cursed with not only being short, but with big hips to match. Not to mention, she hadn’t been the dress size of her famous counterpart since elementary school.
“You’ve got a man for me, huh?”
Tee nodded. “Yes, ma’am and he’s just what the doctor ordered.” Tee handed her a folder. “Joshua Daniel Steele the Second. Likes to scuba dive, restore vintage motorcycles and play with firearms. He’s six two, dark-haired, dark-eyed. Ex-Army. He’s absolutely perfect for you.”
As she scanned the folder’s contents, she saw exactly why he was ex-Army and it wasn’t comforting in the least. “He’s doing time?”
Tee shrugged. “A slight bump in the road, but we can go around it if you’re interested.”
Hmm… She paused to consider that. Convicts tended to come with a lot of emotional baggage and the last thing she needed was a cry-baby or a loon. Syd had never liked playing wet nurse to anyone. What she needed was a man with no issues who could do what she wanted without complaint or question-” something that seemed to be impossible to find.
What was it with all these men who wanted to do things their way? Ugh!
But as Syd skimmed his dossier she had to admit this man had some serious potential. “He’s impressive.”
And as she flipped to the pictures of him that were attached to the back of the folder, she amended that thought to very impressive.
The guy was definitely built for sin. His body was lean and hard from hours of Army training. He had dark, seductive eyes and a smile that should grace the cover of GQ. It was all she could do not whistle at the package he presented.
No man should be that ripped and tanned.
At least not unless he was in her bed a night or two…
Squelching that line of thought, she closed the folder, then handed it back to Tee. “I have to be honest, I wasn’t really looking for a pretty boy.”
Before Tee could respond, a male voice rang out. “Oh sheez, what’s Syd Vicious doing back in town?”
Syd expelled an exasperated breath as the handsome, if albeit, stupid, Hunter Thornton-Payne paused outside her cube, just behind Tee. It was a pity the man was such a pompous jerk. He had the kind of smooth, sexy looks that were almost impossible to resist-“until he opened his mouth. Then he was more repellent than a wildebeest in heat.
She arched a brow at him. “How’d the testicle retrieval go, Payne? You still limping?”
He narrowed his eyes at her before he continued on his way to his desk.
“Thought so,” Syd said in a loud voice. “I got the thank you card from Planned Parenthood last week. Seems they want to honor me for saving the gene pool.”
She heard a chorus of laughter from the other federal agents in the office.
“You are so vicious,” Tee said with a light laugh.
“Hence the nickname.”
Tee shook her head. “You know it’s bad when you make me look like Glinda the Good Witch, right?”
“Just call me Elphaba. But don’t drop a house on me, -Ëœkay?”
As usual, Tee played right along with her humor. “All right, El. Is this one a go?”
Syd hesitated as she considered it. “I don’t know.”
Tee pulled out the picture of him bare-chested and sweaty while in the middle of doing sit ups that showed off every bit of his eight pack of abs. She waved it in front of her, like a piece of delectable chocolate.
“C’mon, Syd. Trust me. You want to talk to this one. You need to talk to this one.” Then she deepened her voice. “C’mon, baby, I’m too sexy for my shirt…”
Laughing, she shook her head. Tee was incorrigible. “Only if you promise me he won’t be chasing after a quick lay. I don’t need or want anymore playboys in my life.” Syd had had her fill of men like that. She’d made a blood oath that the next time such a man entered her life, she’d shoot him herself.
Or give him a taste of what she’d given Hunter.
Tee returned the picture to her folder. “All right then. We’ll head out to meet him within the hour. Can you be ready?”
Syd glanced at her computer. She had a lot of work to do, but she needed to make sure this one would work out. She couldn’t afford to have another man let her down.
It wasn’t easy to find a cold-blooded killer who could go in and complete this assignment without any remorse, questions or hiccups.
From his file, Steele looked to be just what the doctor ordered and Army men were good at following orders.
But then convicts weren’t…
Syd sighed as she ran through the good and bad of dealing with this man. If he didn’t pan out for whatever reason, there wouldn’t be time to find a replacement sniper. They’d already been through countless files of Marines, SWAT, Army… the works. None of them had been right.
Convict, scuba-diving loon that Steele was, he was all or nothing…
God help them.
“Yeah. I’ll tag along for a looksee.”
“Good. Oh and I almost forgot the best part… you know our friends at Asset Protection?”
Syd ground her teeth at the mention of the “security” company that was a known front for organized crime, mercenaries and hired assassins. “What about them?”
“They’ve been in contact with our boy Steele. I have it on good authority that they even made an employment offer not too long back.”
A slow smile spread across her face. Oh yeah, he was perfect.
Tee winked at her. “Do whatever you need to to get ready while I go arm-wrestle Joe into this.”
Syd watched as Tee made her way back to the private office that she shared with their director, Joe Public. When Syd had signed on with the agency, her agenda had been solely to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves.
It was an oath she took most seriously. If she failed in this mission, there was no telling what repercussions could effect not just her life, but millions of others.
Who would have ever thought that the best way to save lives was to take one? But then that was what Joe had preached to her from the first day on her job.
He even had a name for it. Political pruning. In order to make the tree grow, the dead, diseased and contaminated limbs had to be removed. If they didn’t fall off on their own, then you had to get the chainsaw out and cut them loose. At first she’d been naive enough to think that she could never be so jaded. But time and missions had finally succeeded in bringing her around to Joe’s way of thinking.
It was a dog-eat-dog world and she had the biggest bite of all.
“The man took a potshot at his commanding officer.”
Ignoring his comment, Tee leaned against Joe’s desk to read over his shoulder. He was looking at the folder she’d handed him that contained the dossier for her latest possible recruit: Joshua Steele, former Army Sniper, now semi-permanent resident of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
She couldn’t understand Joe’s reticence about that one little fact that had sent Steele to jail. Normally he saw good potential whenever she handed it to him.
“Yeah so? He’s surly, ill-tempered. Marches to his own tune and makes quick decisions. Okay, granted shooting at the C.O., not bright, but we all do stupid things from time to time. Other than that one tiny critical error in judgment, he sounds like a perfect recruit for the Bureau of American Defense.”
Joe gave her a droll stare as he closed the file. “He took a potshot at his commanding officer.”
For her life, Tee couldn’t understand why he was hung up on that. “So? He’s even passed Syd’s scrutiny and I know I don’t have to tell you what a death-defying feat that is.”
“I would be his commanding officer, Tiger. Don’t you think you’ve already gotten me shot enough times in my career?”
She rolled her eyes at him and snatched the folder from his hands. “You’re never going to get over Prague, are you?”
He gave her an indignant glare as he slapped at his leg. “You shot it me in the thigh.”
She snorted. “It was only the fleshy part.”
“Fleshy part my ass, another millimeter or two more and the boys would have been history.”
She waved a hand dismissively as she returned to her metal desk which was set just across from his. Unlike his, which was always kept scrupulously clean, hers was littered with catalogues, files, papers and several small Amy Brown statues that she collected. “Yeah, yeah be glad I was tired and my aim was off.” She put the folder in her large, black briefcase. “Now stop being a baby and make the call.”
He continued to glare at her. “Why is it when I’m the one shot, I’m a baby, but when it’s you, it’s a matter of life and death and national security?”
“Because I’m cuter in a short skirt. Now make the call, Joe.”
“Make the call, Joe,” he mocked as he reached for his antiquated Rolodex. Personally, she much preferred her small PDA, but Joe was virtually a technophobe-“he hated anything that was electronic. Except for the TV remote and that was one penchant she didn’t want to even think about.
He opened the cover and started spinning through the cards. “You do realize that I am the head of this agency, right?”
Tee made a rude noise at him as she opened up her filing drawer and rooted around in it for the rest of Steele’s paperwork she’d already gathered. “Figurehead, you mean. You couldn’t find the key to the door in the morning unless I handed it to you first.”
He continued to flip through the cards without looking at her. “Only because I’m not a morning person.”
She gave him an arch stare. “And you’re not a night person either. Face it, babe. You’ve only got two good minutes a day. The minute before noon and the minute right after.”
He cast a feral glare at her that might have actually scared her if she wasn’t packing an even higher caliber weapon than he was. “You know, I could fire you. I could even arrange to get you killed. Or kill you myself.”
Tee organized some of the more errant papers on her desk while he blustered at her. “Ooo, big scary threat. That might hold water if it wasn’t for the fact that I know how much you hate paperwork.”
“I do know how to operate a computer.”
She had to force herself not to laugh at that one. The first thing she’d learned years ago when they had been partners in the CIA was that Joe Public would rather be hit in the head with a tack hammer than sit at a desk, working on a computer.
“Yeah, right. What was it you said just ten minutes ago? Get this damned thing off my desk before I shoot it? Now make the call, Mr. Hunt-and-Peck.”
Joe tossed a piece of rolled up paper at her before he dialed the phone.
Tee caught it, kissed it, then hurled it back at him.
It rebounded off his head.
He growled at her as he bent over, like any good Obsessive-Compulsive, picked it up from the floor and tossed it into the garbage can. “I really should fire you.”
Tee would have commented that she wasn’t that lucky, but just as she opened her mouth, he started talking to their Army contact. She forced herself not to smile at the fact that she was getting her way…again. But then she almost always did with Joe. He was like a big surly bear in a cave. You poked him, he growled threateningly, then moved aside as he rubbed his tush and glared menacingly at you.
Then again, Joe only did that for her.
Deep down, she knew the truth. Joe Public was never a pushover. He was hard-nosed, callous and stern. One of the best agents the CIA had ever trained, Joe didn’t know the meaning of the word -Ëœplay.’
Which was a shame given just how good the man looked. He had long dark brown hair that he usually wore pulled back in a pony-tail. Eyes that were so blue, they should be illegal and a butt so fine that Hollywood agents would jump to sign it.
She’d seen him shirtless a time or two on assignments and had never fully recovered from the sight. Lean and taut, his body could rival any male gymnast. And every time she saw glimpses of it, she was possessed with a raw need to lick every inch of him…
Tee clamped down those thoughts-“as she always did. Work and play didn’t mix.
Joe was her ex-partner and at the end of the day, her boss. There could never be anything more than that between them and she knew it.
But deep down in places she shouldn’t acknowledge, she wanted a lot more than just a working relationship with him.
She listened to that take-no-shit tone of his as he talked to their contact. A New York city boy, Joe was able to disguise his accent ninety-nine percent of the time. But when he was trying to intimidate or take control, that accent came out full force.
And something about it was sexy as hell. But then his voice always was. Deep and resonate, it had a way of sending chills up and down her spine.
Joe hung up the phone.
“Well?” she asked, hiding the fact that she was embarrassed to admit she’d been so focused on him that she hadn’t been listening to his conversation.
“Book us a flight to Kansas, Dorothy. Let’s see if Toto can bark.”
It was just another day in hell as far as Steele was concerned. Why he had ever thought this would be preferable to doing time in a green uniform as opposed to an orange one, he wasn’t sure.
But two years ago when he’d decided to shoot the helmet off his C.O. in a fit of anger, he’d figured anything, even court martial and jail, was better than what the Army had in store for him.
Boy, was he ever wrong.
Now he’d spend the next twenty-three years inside these walls, listening to the other inmates spiel bullshit while he had to fight daily to maintain the fact he was Cock of the Walk and if anyone wanted a piece of him, they were going to die for it. Yee-haw, his life was great.
He looked up from the carrots he was skinning with a spoon to see one of the guards eyeing him.
“You have visitors.”
It took a full twenty seconds for those unexpected words to register.
What were the odds of that? His family had abandoned him the day he’d been arrested.
So had all of his friends. Not that he’d ever had that many to begin with. He’d always been a loaner for the most part, some of which came from being an Army brat whose family was transferred from post to post every three to four years. The only real friends he’d ever had had been crazy old Jack and Brian. Jack was holed up in a bunker away from the world where he most likely had no idea what had happened to him, and Brian…
He winced as pain cut through him like glycerin on glass. How could his family have cut him loose so easily? He’d have never done this to anyone, but for all intents and purposes, he’d been completely orphaned and abandoned by everyone he’d mistakenly thought he was close to. None of them wanted the taint of his incarceration to stick to them. Like they were the ones who had to live the horror of his life.
In the last eighteen months the only people who’d come to see him where his lawyer and one stupid asshole who’d wanted to hire him to kill people.
Yeah, right. He was through with killing for a paycheck. If Uncle Sam couldn’t get him to do it, no one else could either.
His days of pulling a trigger were over.
Steele turned off the food processor, then wiped his hands on his apron. He pulled the apron off over his head and hung it up on the wall hook.
“He can’t leave,” the head cook shouted at the guard who was a good three inches taller than Steele. With a stocky build, Hank wasn’t the most benevolent of prison guards. He was more like the kind who generally gave them all a bad name. But for fate, no doubt the man would have been in Steele’s shoes behind the bars Hank liked to clank with his nightstick as he walked down the hallways at night. Steele really detested the bastard.
“We’ve got to get this meal finished.”
“Then you better find yourself someone else to run the food processor,” Hank said. “These people aren’t the kind to wait.”
Steele snorted. “What? We got the fucking president out there or something?”
Hank curled his lip. “Stow it, Steele. These aren’t the kind of folks you piss off.”
Yeah, right. Everyone was the kind of person you pissed off at some point. No one, not even the president was that big. “Maybe you don’t, Hank, but we’ll see about me.”
Hank looked less than impressed by his attitude. “Your funeral.”
The guard led him out to the hallway where they were waiting to cuff him. Steele stiffened as part of him wanted to fight rather than submit, but he’d learned the first few weeks of his unfortunate incarceration that fighting the guards really didn’t pay.
Here at Club Leavenworth, daily humiliation was just par for the course. And if he was really lucky they might even wake him up in the middle of the night and let him scrub toilets with his toothbrush again.
Grinding his teeth, he forced himself not to react as Hank grabbed his arm and hauled him toward the visitation rooms that were reserved for conferring with attorneys. It was one he hadn’t seen anymore of since his attorney had told him that the last appeal they could make had been turned down flat. Now the attorney who had cost him every dime he’d had wouldn’t even return his calls. Yeah… his life was just a bowl full of laughs.
Needless to say, he wasn’t particularly thrilled by being here again as those repressed emotions went through him and mixed with his anger.
Once they reached the correct room-” which, as fate would have it, happened to be the one where he’d lost his last hope-” the guard opened the door, then shoved him into it.
Steele stumbled a step before he caught his balance and went ramrod stiff. His nostrils flared as he kept his anger leashed and his gaze carefully on the floor. He wanted desperately to glare at Hank, but knew better than to even try it. Instead, he felt the muscle working his jaw as he righted himself to look at the people who were there to speak with him.
Like the rest of the prison, the room was drab, but even if the walls had been painted hot pink with naked hookers on it, the intense people waiting on him would have stood out.
They were government trained. He could smell it. It bled from every pore of their bodies even though they were dressed as civilians and the man had hair longer than the woman sitting beside him. Steele’s gaze went to the man’s right arm where a tattoo was peeking out from underneath his long dark blue sleeve. He had on black pleated pants and a red-striped tie, but not even that could cover the fact that the man wasn’t as refined as he wanted to appear.
There was something about him that was raw and deadly. The kind of guy you’d have to fight in a bar because his woman dared to look at you.
And God help you if you were dumb enough to speak to her.
The woman beside him was a strange dichotomy. She was a tiny, petite Asian woman-” Vietnamese-American if he didn’t miss his guess. Dressed in a white blouse and short black skirt, she appeared sedate and calm. Yet his instincts told him it was only a facade. Her movements were too precise. Too studied. He sensed that she was as acutely aware of him as he was of her. Her short black hair was a perfect frame for her attractive face as she watched him from behind a pair of soulless black eyes.
But it was the woman standing in the corner with her arms crossed over her chest who held his attention most. Her expression totally blank, she was dressed in a pair of jeans with a loose red top and a dark brown leather blazer. She wasn’t very tall, only about five four or so. She wasn’t petite or heavy, but rather built solidly.
An image of an Amazon warrior popped into his mind. Yeah, he could see her like that. Sword in one hand, whip in the other as she stood toe to toe with an enemy.
Or better yet, naked over the guy she’d tied to her bed.
That thought almost made him smile. Only the pain of his sudden erection kept him from it. It’d been way too long since he’d last spoken to a woman. Never mind being close enough to one that she could actually tie him up to something.
What he wouldn’t give to have five minutes alone with her…
Steele forced himself not to betray those thoughts, but it was hard.
Her long black hair was pulled back into a braid that fell to the middle of her back. No doubt it would be soft to touch. Like silk against his face as he nuzzled her neck…
It was enough to make him want to whimper.
She wore a pair of round tortoise shell framed glasses that didn’t even come close to hiding her green eyes that had a feline slant to them. Something hot and wicked went through him as he watched her.
Every part of him seemed strangely attuned to her. Yeah, he’d been in prison way too long. She wasn’t his type by a long shot. She looked more likely to kick a man’s ass than to ride it.
And still he had to force himself not to stare at her and he wasn’t even sure why. Her lips and eyes were a bit too large. Her stance a little too masculine.
Even so there was something about her that was absolutely compelling.
The guard led him toward a chair across the table from them.
“Uncuff his hands,” the unknown man said in a bored tone.
“That’s against protocol.”
“Un-cuff-his-hands,” he repeated, stressing each syllable of each word without looking at the guard.
Hank glared at the man an instant before he roughly complied. Steele forced himself not to grimace as Hank wrenched his hand so hard, he half expected it to break.
“Fine, if he attacks you-”
“He’ll be dead before he hits the floor,” the seated woman said in a distracted tone as she rummaged through her large black leather briefcase. “And I’m sure he knows it.”
Steele rubbed his wrists as he hooked a heel against the chair leg to pull it out. He sat down and eyed the seated pair sullenly.
The guard took a stance inside the door.
“Wait outside,” the man said.
“Wait out-side,” he stressed again.
Oh yeah, there would be hell for him to pay later after these two were gone and Hank could prove himself superior. Steele couldn’t wait.
The guard cast a feral sneer at them before he complied.
“Thanks,” Steele said sarcastically as his anger swelled. “Can’t wait for the walk back. You guys specialize in something other than acid enemas?”
The Vietnamese woman’s eyes gleamed at that as she set her briefcase on the floor. “Ooo, he’s snotty. I like him already.”
The man, like the woman who still continued to stand off to the side, was completely stone-faced. Steele had to admire that. It took a lot of practice to show absolutely no emotion. He knew that well enough since he practiced it religiously.
When the man spoke, his tone was as cold as his body language. “We’re here with a special offer for you, Mr. Steele. A once in a lifetime type of opportunity.”
Steele snorted at the dire tone. “Oh wait, I’ve seen this movie. I do a job for you and you let me go. So who am I? I can’t be Eddie Murphy, wrong ethnicity. I’m not bald so I can’t be Vin Diesel. So where does that leave me?”
The woman gave him an evil smile. “Think Snake Plissken. You know… Escape from New York? You do this job and if you don’t fuck it up, we let you live.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen that movie. At the end they try to kill him anyway.”
The man still didn’t crack any sort of emotion. “Good then you’re already acquainted with our methods. Saves me a lot of training time and you a lot of surprises.”
Steele shook his head. They were full of more shit than a cow pasture. “Look, don’t jerk me off. I don’t have time for this-“”
“Don’t you?” the woman asked. “Seems to me time is the only thing you have a lot of.”
He glared at her. “Ha. Ha. Why don’t you go find some other slob for this suicide adventure. I know the Army isn’t going to just let me go.”
“And neither are we,” the man said. “We never let our people just go.”
Why didn’t that surprise him? Probably because they all wore the demeanor of… well for lack of a better term, Satan. “What are you? Wolfram and Hart?”
The Vietnamese-American woman laughed as she caught his reference to the Angel television show. “Oh no, sweetie, they just take your soul for service. We intend to take even more than that.”
Oh now that was comforting.
The man rubbed his right eye. “Here’s the deal we’re offering. You work our project to our complete satisfaction and instead of spending the next twenty-five years peeling potatoes and doing embroidery for the Army, you work for us. In effect, we own you, night and day.”
Now that just sounded dandy… not. He wasn’t about to trade one crap-ass situation for another one.
“Slavery is against the Constitution.”
“Tell it to the warden,” the Vietnamese-American woman said.
Steele watched as she opened a manila folder and flipped through its contents.
He didn’t believe them for a minute about any of this, but his curiosity got the better of him. He tilted his head back to try and see what she was looking at, but he couldn’t tell.
Instinctively though, he already knew this scenario.
“So, who do you want me to kill?”
The man was the one who answered. “No one said-”
“Cut the bullshit,” Steele snapped, interrupting him. He wanted the truth and he wanted it in plain English. “I’m not stupid. I only have one skill in life. I’m a sniper. For you to be here, it means you have someone you want dead, pretty damn badly and you can’t find anyone else dumb enough to do it.”
“Not true,” the standing woman spoke finally in a voice that reminded him much of Lauren Bacall. It was deep and lightly laced with a New England accent of some sort. “There are plenty of men dumb enough for it. Just none that are as talented as you are, Mr. Steele.”
He laughed bitterly at that. “I hate it whenever someone calls me Mr. Steele. It reminds me of my third grade teacher who’d gone to parochial schools as a kid. She’d use that right before she whacked my knuckles with a ruler or embarrassed me in front of the other students.”
She narrowed those green eyes on him as if she was torn between being ticked and amused. “Be that as it may, we do need you in particular to complete this assignment.”
He snorted at that. Assignment. What a great euphemism for what they wanted. “What is it with you government assholes that you just can’t say anything in plain English? You always have to beat around the bush and use euphemisms or fucked-up acronyms for everything.”
“Fine.” The green-eyed woman moved forward to glare at him. She stood just a few inches from the table. Close enough that he could tell she was wearing expensive perfume that seemed at odds with her tough stance. “We need you to kill an assassin before he executes his target. Either you eat the bear or the bear eats you, Mr. Steele. Or, to humor you, in plain English… You find and kill the assassin or we kill you. End of story.”
Steele scoffed at her. “If you’re so gung-ho to kill someone, why don’t you kill the assassin yourself?”
She shrugged nonchalantly. “I would if I knew who he was. But unfortunately, I don’t. Nor do I have the skills you possess.”
The other woman shut the folder and placed it on the table. “We know all about your training in the Shadow Corp, Mr. Steele. We even have one of your old comrades on our payroll, but he unfortunately cracked himself into a tree while extreme skiing and put a severe crimp in our plans. Since he’s out of commission for awhile, he recommended you as a replacement. It appears he was unaware of your current housing status.”
The man slid the folder toward him. “If you agree to work for us, we are in position to fully expunge your record. You will be given an honorable discharge from the Army and this little jail stint will be erased from all but your nightmares.”
Now that was something he’d kill for…
Steele opened the folder that held the discharge papers already signed as well as an order from the Pentagon releasing him from custody.
He was impressed. And when he looked at the paper underneath that outlined his new pay and benefits, he was even more impressed.
But there were still a lot of unanswered questions. “Who are you people?”
The man sat back. “You don’t need to know that right now. After you accept our offer, then we’ll talk more about the details.”
It sounded good. Too good in fact and he wasn’t doe-eyed enough to think for one minute that they were being benevolent toward him. Nothing in life came without a price that was usually too steep to comprehend until it was too late. “There’s one detail I want answered now.”
“And that is?”
“After I do this job, what happens to me?”
The man’s blue eyes pierced him. “You will continue working for us. We in effect are your parole officers.”
“Only we carry guns,” the green-eyed woman said. “Big guns. And we have no inhibitions against using them. You screw us, you betray us and we kill you. Clear cut. Bye, bye, Mr. Steele. Is that plain enough for you?”
He shook his head at her coldness. “I’ll bet you sleep well at night.”
“You have no idea.”
Steele flipped through the pages in the folder as he thought about what they were offering him. How could he say no?
How could he say yes?
Most importantly, what the hell was he getting himself into? He suddenly felt like Joe Hardy standing in front of Mr. Applegate. Vaguely he wondered if the sassy woman who was still standing was named Lola.
But then the devil was always portrayed as an old man and the one in front of him…
Well, then again there was something almost evil about him.
“So how long do I have to make my decision?”
The Vietnamese-American woman shrugged. “The judge said twenty-five years without the possibility of parole. That’ll make you what, fifty-four years old when you get out? Really sucks, doesn’t it? No hot women in short skirts to chase after because you’re an old geezer with no prospects. Best years of your life gone while you fight off men who think you have a cute little ass they’d love to jump on-“”
Steele screwed his face up in disgust. “Is she like this at home?”
Still the man showed no emotions. “Trust me, she’s being nice to you. She’s usually much worse.” He looked at the woman by his side, “You feeling okay, Tiger?”
Steele drew a deep breath, but at the end of it, he knew what they did. He didn’t really have a choice. The last thing he wanted was to waste his life behind bars.
Like the green-eyed woman had said, it sucked being here.
He sat back as he eyed the three of them. “Don’t you guys want to know if I’m innocent of trying to kill him?”
“It doesn’t matter to us,” the man said quietly. “Besides even if you’d meant to kill him, you’d lie and say you didn’t.”
Steele rose slowly to his feet and slid the folder across the table toward the man. He looked at the women, then stared unflinchingly at the guy. His anger poured through him and he was sure it was gleaming at them from his eyes. “If I’d meant to kill that sonovabitch, he’d have been dead where he stood. I don’t make those kinds of mistakes. One shot. One kill. I live and die by my sniper’s code.”
“And that’s why we want you, Mr. Steele,” the seated woman said calmly.
The man stared at him without blinking. “So what’s your answer?”
“Get me the fuck out of here.”