Authors: Julie Miller
“Smart as you are, Mr. Gallagher, you don’t know everything.”
“Are you always this much trouble, Officer Murdock?”
They weren’t touching, but they were both breathing hard as the furtive exchange of tempers and opinions mutated into a different kind of heat. Their breaths mingled and their chests nearly brushed against each other with every inhale. Her head filled with the spicy scent of shaving cream or soap on his skin. Her body warmed with the proximity of his body lined up with hers. She wasn’t even aware of the holster poking into her backside anymore. Quinn’s gaze fixated on her lips and Miranda couldn’t look away from those laser blue eyes.
But she did. She had to. It was time she remembered why she was here—and the little girl she’d been hired to protect.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Miller attributes her passion for writing romance to all those fairy tales she read growing up, and to shyness. Encouragement from her family to write down all those feelings she couldn’t express became a love for the written word. She gets continued support from her fellow members of the Prairieland Romance Writers, where she serves as the resident “grammar goddess.” This award-winning author and teacher has published several paranormal romances. Inspired by the likes of Agatha Christie and Encyclopedia Brown, Ms. Miller believes the only thing better than a good mystery is a good romance.
Born and raised in Missouri, she now lives in Nebraska with her husband, son and smiling guard dog, Maxie. Write to Julie at P.O. Box 5162, Grand Island, NE 68802-5162.
Books by Julie Miller
898—SEARCH AND SEIZURE
947—BABY JANE DOE
966—BEAST IN THE TOWER 1009—UP AGAINST THE WALL
1073—ARMED AND DEVASTATING
1090—PRIVATE S.W.A.T. TAKEOVER
1099—KANSAS CITY CHRISTMAS
1138—PULLING THE TRIGGER
1176—BEAUTY AND THE BADGE
1245—MAN WITH THE MUSCLE
1266—PROTECTING PLAIN JANE
1296—PROTECTING THE PREGNANT WITNESS
CAST OF CHARACTERS
—CEO and genius behind Gallagher Security Systems. A self-made billionaire whose inventions have revolutionized police and security work around the world. A man whose success got his wife killed, and is now endangering the one love left in his life, his daughter.
Miranda "Randy" Murdock
—Sharpshooter with KCPD's premier SWAT Team 1. Tough and highly-trained. This tomboy has the skills and determination to prove herself in a man's world, but she's out of her depth when it comes to masquerading as a nanny for an adorable little girl…and falling for her charge's widowed father.
—Three years old. Curious and feminine and crazy about her daddy.
—Quinn's right-hand man at GSS. He keeps the investors happy.
—He runs security at GSS headquarters.
—Quinn's executive assistant is loyal to the company. Or is it her boss she's so attached to?
—A lab geek at GSS. Quinn sees a lot of himself in the young man.
—GSS's largest foreign investor.
—Quinn's father-in-law has been in prison for a long time.
—Randy's big brother is a Marine stationed overseas. But he's had a second career bailing his kid sister out of trouble.
“Start the countdown.”
The armed driver in the modified camo uniform floored the accelerator, forcing his five passengers to hold on for their lives as they bounced over the ruts and sand and scrub brush of the arid terrain. “I recommend waiting until we get to a safe distance.”
The one person not wearing mock military garb clung to the Hummer’s passenger seat. “And I recommend you follow my orders to the letter. That’s why I’m paying you, isn’t it?”
“Part of my job is to protect you. There could be fallout here.”
“I didn’t come all this way to miss the show. I want to be here at the beginning, just as I’m looking forward to being there at the end—when I see his face and can revel in his failure.” The anticipation of seeing that arrogant face downcast in broken sorrow, his eyes filled with tears, his clipped voice perhaps begging for mercy, was enough to make one light-headed. Or maybe it was this bone-jarring ride across the Kalahari that was affecting rational thought. The boss gripped the door handle and dashboard and turned to the driver. “Push the button.”
Surrendering to the inevitable winner in this battle of wills, the driver pulled the tiny remote-control switch box from his shirt pocket and activated the countdown. He set the device in his lap, but refused to stop the vehicle. Supposedly, that was the sign of a good leader—putting the safety and well-being of his team first. Too bad not every man in this world believed that.
“Another mile between us and the facility won’t make any difference on this terrain.” The driver slowed his speed a fraction and handed over a pair of military-grade binoculars, ironically designed by Quinn Gallagher, owner of the facility that was growing smaller and smaller beyond the swirl of dust in the vehicle’s side-view mirror. “Here. Take these. You’ll be able to watch the sweat beading on their foreheads when they realize they’ve got no place to run or hide.”
“You’re certain there are only the guards at the gate?”
“You know, for someone who has planned some seriously scary stuff out to the last detail, you’re pretty squeamish about collateral damage.”
“I’m not afraid to kill someone if I have to.” The raging injustice and bone-deep pain swirling through the passenger’s heart made it far easier than even the mercenary driver could imagine to inflict pain without feeling remorse. “But I don’t want a high casualty rate. Too many outsiders would get involved then and he’ll lock down tighter than one of his vaults. Because I’ve mapped my strategy down to the last detail, I need to maintain control of the situation. To do that, each task must be completed the way I’ve directed.”
It was a lesson that had been learned the hard way—that there were steps, deadlines, terrible costs for not getting everything just right. It was a lesson that could never be forgotten.
“You’re the boss.”
“Don’t you forget that.” The enemy had. That was why he had to pay. “If he thinks I’m going to stand by and let him ruin my life, he’s mistaken. I intend to hurt him as badly as he’s hurt me. And I intend to strike where it will hurt him the most.”
“It’s almost time.”
“Stop the car.”
With the advantage of higher ground on the mesa where they’d stopped, the view of the facility was unobstructed. The boss adjusted the binoculars to watch.
“Five, four, three, two—”
The boss held up a hand, demanding silence, wanting to savor this first triumph.
It started as a rumble, a sound so deep they felt the tremors through the ground, vibrating up through their feet and legs seconds before hearing the first pop. Then there was a flash of light, followed by that distinctive whoosh as the initial ignition in the plant’s disposal chamber sucked all the oxygen from the surrounding rooms. There was a split second of silence, the anticipation leaving them all holding their breaths. And then…
boom. Boom. Boom!
One by one the explosions fired off, each one larger than the last, tearing through the shiny new facility, spewing flames and steel and glass into the air. Thick black smoke coiled upward, forming dense black clouds against the desert’s crystal blue sky. In a matter of seconds, there was nothing left of Gallagher Security Systems’s newest production facility except mangled webs of steel and burning rubble.
The team of mercenaries watching alongside had done their job well. The boss lowered the binoculars and watched it burn, feeling the heat even at this distance.
The satisfaction was intense.
Payback had begun.
7 Days until Midnight, New Year’s Eve
“Someone is trying to destroy me.”
Quinn Gallagher touched the temple of his dark-framed glasses, an ingrained habit left over from his youth, when he’d been a four-eyed brainiac from a rural Missouri trailer park who’d learned how to defend himself and his mother from the respective bullies who’d preyed on them. He was no longer poor, no longer had his beloved mother—and up until the murder of his wife, Valeska, nearly three years earlier, he’d believed that he no longer feared anything.
Now three employees that he’d never met, but for whom he certainly felt responsible, were dead in a foreign country. And the office building that he’d closed for the holidays, with paid vacations off for all but the skeleton crew of security guards receiving overtime pay, was being searched from basement to rooftop by a team of black-uniformed cops, armed like the special-ops security details his company outfitted for wealthy individuals and companies across the country. The captain of KCPD’s SWAT Team 1, Michael Cutler, often served as a consultant to GSS when they were developing new weapons, protective gear and security technology.
He was also one of the few men in this world Quinn Gallagher trusted without question. He strode into the penthouse office suite with a disturbing yet unsurprising announcement. “Thus far, we’ve found no sign of forced entry into the building or your office. I’ve got my team checking the top floor here now. Of course, this place is locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Whoever got in had to have the same kind of talents you possess.” It was a wry compliment. An enemy with Quinn’s technical skills would be a formidable opponent, indeed. The SWAT captain turned toward the small, unwrapped Christmas present Quinn had left on his desk. “Don’t let me or my men interrupt your meeting.”