A few decades later
This is trouble, Jack. Walk away, just walk away.
Even as he thought it, Jack knew he’d never be able to walk away from helping someone if he could. But, he had a feeling the warning was spot on.
A dropdown gorgeous woman, dressed in black, facing off against a pack of guys all of whom were three times her size.
Less than twenty minutes out of the state pen and he was about to make a bad decision.
I have a plan, and it doesn’t include damsels in distress.
The reminder didn’t work. Sometimes a man just had to take a gamble in life and dive in head first. But is this one of those times?
She didn’t look like a damsel in distress. In fact, the petite redhead buffed her nails on her shirt, blew on them as if bored, then gave the guys an amused smile.
Two of the men moved in closer. She held her ground. A head shorter than both, she tossed her head and he thought she laughed. One snarled and motioned for her to come with them.
She shook her head and said something, but he was too far away to hear the conversation. Not that he needed to. Whatever she said made the men angrier. Obviously she wasn’t going with them easily, if at all. That meant she was outnumbered.
That makes the plan past tense. I had a plan and it was lame.
Get out. Get drunk. Get laid. Check in to find out why the hell he’d been pulled off years of undercover investigating right when he’d managed to take down the biggest Russian mob bosses. But yeah, compared with the woman in black, that all took a back seat.
Get her out of here. Find out what the hell she was thinking. Then maybe take her out to dinner.
Yeah, the new list sounded better. He dropped his duffel bag and shifted his shoulders under the leather jacket. His muscles were tired from a long day, but he relaxed his posture in preparation for the fight.
The guys circled like a pack of wolves and his little beauty appeared not to notice. Or maybe she just didn’t care. He walked in, taking his time to make sure they heard him.
No one glanced in his direction. So, whatever they were doing, it doesn’t matter if they’re caught. Or they aren’t doing anything and I can go. All a misunderstanding, thank you, and see ya soon.
“Really, boys, this is just so not cool. All you against one little woman? Am I such a badass?” the beauty called.
The men she spoke to lowered their heads like bulls and he swore they all cracked their knuckles.
She had to be some kind of millionaire or model, dressed in her designer black jeans and a sexy tank top. Her hair glowed a bright, deep, burgundy with shots of lighter fire throughout. If she was armed, he wasn’t sure exactly where she’d hidden her weapon, since her jeans were so low he could see her amazing hipbones and the shirt was really just a black silky shift, not a real shirt at all. There wasn’t room anywhere on her to hide even a knife, let alone the firepower she’d need to back up her tough talk.
Still, she surprised him by repositioning herself so her side was to him, but she could still keep an eye on the men facing her. It’s something he would do if he were faced with an unknown.
Good girl. Keep all your enemies in view. Not that he was an enemy. Not with a woman like this. She tossed her hair and revealed the delicate line of her slender back, completely bare, except where thin lines of black silk crisscrossed and tied the shirt on, he assumed. Damn, sexy didn’t even come close to describing her.
She didn’t look at him, but it didn’t matter, he knew her face was going to be as beautiful as the rest of her.
“Who the hell are you?” one of the men demanded.
“Just calm down, I’m nobody, but guys shouldn’t corner a woman. What’s the deal?” Jack said, trying to calm the situation.
“What’s the deal?” she repeated with an award-winning amount of sarcasm. “The deal is, this isn’t your concern.”
“I guess I just made it my concern,” he argued.
She faced him at that and man, oh man, he’d known she was going to be a knockout, but her eyes were the darkest shade of green in the world And—bless her little heart—she wore porn star makeup—the bright blue kind with dark black eyeliner and thick lashes around her big, now narrowed eyes.
Sweet Jesus, her face was even prettier than he’d imagined.
Not that she seemed as impressed with him. She waved her hand off to the end of the alley and frowned at him dismissively. “Go, because I can’t protect you.”
Well, hell, that wasn’t expected. He laughed and drew himself up to his full height. “Hey, now, I thought I’d possibly be protecting you—”
“Enough!” the first guy snapped, drawing his attention off her and back where it needed to be. “Hand it over, witch, we’ve had about enough of this.” He cracked his knuckles to prove he’d watched way too many mobster movies. “He can’t protect you, and you know it.”
He indicated the messenger bag she wore with a nod of his chin. “We paid for The Eye, it’s ours.”
“You paid for something, to someone who ripped you off. I made that clear when your boss called me on my cell phone, a no-go by the way. I don’t like my number out there, you know?” She tossed her head again as if to say whatever. “Lookit, I’ll educate you for a brief ten seconds. If it was yours, I never would have been able to touch it. Now, back off before you piss me off even more than you already have,” she said, lowering her voice to one hell of a sexy growl.
He was impressed. The men facing her weren’t.
Their spokesman’s scowl deepened. “This is your last chance. Hand it over, or I willnae be responsible for any pain you suffer.” He certainly knew how to lay down a threat. He included Jack in on it with a smirk. “You’re limited now, witch. You know the rules.”
“Oh, please,” Miss Sexy said, giving them a cute little tinkling laugh so out of sorts with the dark alley, big guys surrounding her, and the tension in the air, that Jack wanted to groan.
It was bad enough he’d just been reduced to being a deficit in the fight, but to have her give attitude? This was going to suck.
“Rules?” she mimicked the guy’s Scottish accent perfectly. “You think I care what he sees or doesn’t see? Don’t count on it,” she said, confusing the hell out of him.
The men seemed to understand because they glanced at each other with worried frowns.
“Well, if that’s the way it will be, just remember, I will not,” she enunciated her t sharply, something the man hadn’t done well, “be responsible for your pain either, pretty boy.”
That was all it took for things to go south. She didn’t prep for a fight, she was a fight. He’d had some of the best training in the world and had been undercover in the pen for months and survived on top of that. He knew how to fight. This woman kicked ass.
The alley filled with quick, hard strikes, and yeah, some crazy moves from her tiny shitkickers. She hit the boys hard, not giving them any mercy, especially in places that made him cringe.
He tackled the guy next to him up against the alley wall, but man the bastard was strong. They fell back into the dumpster, ricocheted off that and ended up right back in the middle of the alley. He stumbled but managed to dodge a straight hit to the face by taking it in the shoulder. The guy hit like a tanker truck.
Jack dove in low and tumbled him backward by sheer force—and by knocking the bigger man’s legs out from under him. A second later, the sound of metal hitting metal registered past the struggling he had going on trying to keep the man down.
He broke away long enough to gain his feet, but so did his opponent.
“This is none of your concern,” the guy growled, wiping blood from a split upper lip where Jack had landed a few good punches.
Jack didn’t bother to respond. This time he was rammed up against the dumpster. His back protested at the metal corner digging into it, but he swung out, taking the bruises to the spine to get a hit on the other man. He managed to deliver two sharp punches to the face, then drive him back a step. In the second he got, he checked in on the little woman.
The tap, tap, tap of metal proved to be swords. If the Highlander stopped by, he was clocking out.
Little Miss Sunshine was wielding a slim blade with some scary efficiency. She ducked, twisted, muttered something in a language that didn’t quite register, and hit the biggest bastard right in the balls with her foot. When he doubled over, she brought her knee up in his face, possibly breaking his nose. Immediately, she nailed him in the head with her sword hilt. He went down. Hard too, landing on his side so his head took another crack on the pavement.
The one wrestling with him broke away and jumped the distance in a leap a cat would’ve envied.
Jack caught his breath, and ran back into position next to her.
“You’re just trying to piss me off, aren’t you? Get back!” she muttered, twisting away from him to put distance between them. She also drew the pack like hounds on a fox.
Not that she seemed to notice. She attacked hard with her sword. Two backpedaled, trying not to get their asses handed to them, and ended up crashing into a row of old-fashioned metal trashcans. She hit them both again when they were down, knocking them both out, then spun back around, barely breathing hard.
“I can do this all night. Are you sure you want to play?” she asked the remaining men.
It happened so fast, the guys had just stood there, until she said that. One growled a curse and launched himself at her.
Jack tackled him from behind before he could reach her. Unfortunately the grip he had on the man’s waist didn’t stop him from turning around. He lifted a lip in a snarl to reveal long, pretty wicked canines.
With a shock, Jack realized his eyes also…glowed. Or seemed to under the streetlight blinking on and off above them.
There wasn’t time to figure it out. His guy broke free, pretty damn easily too, and struck out with a fist. Jack ducked and still got clipped in the temple. That shit just didn’t happen to him.
Jack swung in return and connected with a jaw. It was like hitting a concrete wall.
Instead of doing that again, he charged in low, circling his arms around the bastard’s stomach to try and subdue him. They went down. Jack landed on his side, gained some space and rammed a knee in his stomach. Quickly as he could, Jack took the slim advantage he’d won and scissor kicked his legs around the guy’s neck, squeezing tightly to cut off the air supply.
From the sounds coming from the alley, his girl was fighting with some crazy sword strokes. It drove his heart rate nuts even thinking that. He felt an urgency he’d never experienced in a fight. It beat at him, harder than the man pounding him with punches along his ribs and stomach. Almost in a panic, he nailed him in the head until, he went limp. Not dead, but clearly out.