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DescriptionCade MacKenzie is prepared to give his life to destroy the cartel that killed his lover, but the only way to draw them out is to present them with the perfect bait.
Bayleigh Scott has no idea who her new neighbor is, only that her body is drawn to him in ways she can’t explain, and the danger that surrounds him isn’t the deterrent she knows it should be.
More than fireworks explode between Cade and Bayleigh when she discovers the real reason he relentlessly pursued her, but by then it’s too late, because she’s already been drawn into a deadly game of desire, deception and revenge.
THE MACKENZIE SERIES:
A MacKenzie Christmas (All I Want for Christmas Anthology)
Reader Rating: (30 Ratings)
Miami, Two Years Ago
Cade MacKenzie knew fear.
It pressed against his chest and squeezed at his heart every time his lover screamed in pain. She stared at him out of wild eyes that had melted like dark chocolate when she’d climaxed in his arms only a few hours before. She’d been soft and pliant against him, his name a chant on her lips, as he buried himself inside her.
But now those eyes were full of terror, the bruise on the side of her face already discolored and her lips swollen and bleeding where Miguel del Fuego had taken his fist to her—a man who never showed remorse or guilt over terrorizing women or children. Carmen had been caught giving the location for del Fuego’s next drug shipment to the DEA, and there were no second chances with the cartel leader. Not even for his own daughter.
Cade and Carmen had been dragged from bed in the middle of the night, both of them naked, the evidence of their passion still evident on their damp skin. They’d been blindfolded and beaten, and Cade knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was no one’s fault but his own. He’d been so wrapped up in the woman, so desperate to be inside her, that he hadn’t swept his room for bugs. He hadn’t found one in over two years. Miguel had begun to trust him, to groom him to take over the cartel. But Cade had let his guard down and taken that trust for granted, and now they would both pay the price.
Cade knew the warehouse they’d been taken to well—the large wooden crates stacked against the walls, the oil-stained concrete, the black panel vans parked in the center of the space. He’d spent the afternoon there himself, making sure everything was in place for the shipment of Miguel’s new date rape drug to come into the US from Colombia. Its street name was Rabbit, and it was particularly dangerous because it could be administered through the skin. One touch of the powder against a hand or the back of the neck, and the person it had been given to wouldn’t care where, who or how many they were fucking. Man or woman. Even as their minds screamed no, their bodies would betray them and beg yes. If it was injected into the bloodstream, the subject would literally fuck themselves to death.
There had been too many deaths over the last several years because of the drug, and Cade had been selected to infiltrate del Fuego’s cartel and take them down once and for all.
The warehouse was bugged and his team was aware of the shipment coming in. It would be unloaded at the docks and brought to the warehouse for safekeeping until it could be distributed to del Fuego’s suppliers. But the shipment wasn’t supposed to happen for another four hours, and Cade knew there was a chance he and Carmen could be shit out of luck as far as having anyone in place for a rescue.
Cade’s own wounds were severe and made it difficult to stay conscious. The gunshot wound to his shoulder bled freely—too freely—and he had at least three cracked ribs. But with every blow he received, he kept his eyes steady on Carmen’s, hoping his courage would be her strength. He was proud of her. She didn’t beg for mercy as she was beaten. She stared at her father with all the hatred and loathing she’d always felt for him. She’d spent twenty-two years being his prisoner, and she’d known it was only a matter of time before she became his guinea pig for the drug he was so proud of.
When Cade had gone undercover in del Fuego’s cartel two years before, he’d had every intention of seducing Carmen into giving him the information the DEA needed to shut down the cartel. He’d had no problems lying to her, or spinning a future together he had no plans of delivering. But Carmen had surprised him. Her sweet, shy smiles, and her need for love had broken through every plan he’d made. The last thing he’d expected was to fall in love with her.
“I’m disappointed in you, Carmen,” Miguel said, caressing the side of her swollen face with his pistol. “You’ve been telling my secrets to this gringo. To the American authorities. Your loyalty should always be to your family. Isn’t that right, Carmen?”
Cade jerked against his captor’s arms as Miguel struck Carmen again, and he fought to stay conscious as fingers dug into the wound at his shoulder.
“Stop it, Papa,” Carmen cried, crawling toward Cade. “They’re hurting him. Please don’t hurt him.”
“Would you have me spare this man, Carmen? A man I trusted. One I hoped would take over my business one day and give me strong grandchildren to see my legacy continue?”
“Yes. Please, Papa,” she begged.
“Would you die for him, Carmen?”
“No!” Cade shouted. “This is between you and me Miguel. Carmen’s loyalties are divided. Let her go.”
Cade fought again to break free of the hold they had on him, knowing what was coming, desperate to stop it. Two men weren’t enough to hold him down, and two more came from somewhere, getting in punches to his cracked ribs to slow him down. He strained against their hold, sweat and blood running into his eyes, but he couldn’t get to her.
“Answer me, Carmen. Is this traitor’s life worth your own? Do you love him that much?”
“Yes,” she whimpered, her hand reaching out to Cade as she crawled closer, her arm wrapped around her middle.
God, where was his team? They should know something was wrong. Know he needed them. Cade used the last of his strength to work his arm free and hold his hand out to Carmen, praying for a miracle. He needed to touch her, to hold her. She placed her smaller hand in his, her slim fingers bloody and broken, and Cade looked up at Miguel, ready to do whatever it took to save her. To bargain his soul if the monster in front of him would take it.
But when he met Miguel’s eyes, they were mocking and full of hatred. A hatred that had no possibility of being extinguished.
“Ah, young love,” Miguel said, his smile becoming crueler. “This is on your head, Cade MacKenzie.”
Cade threw his body toward Carmen, but he was too late. The shot from Miguel’s gun echoed in his ears along with his screams, and Carmen’s hand went limp in his, her blood splattered across his face and chest. Blood he knew he’d never be clean of.
Chaos reigned around them as the warehouse went black and the shouts of soldiers and agents swarming through the building started to penetrate the haze of shock and anger. He kept waiting for Miguel to finish what he’d started and put a bullet through his brain, but it never happened. Those that held him captive ran for cover, so only he and Carmen lay in the middle of the warehouse floor, flashes of gunfire and smoke building around them.
He pulled himself closer to her body and gathered her in his arms, his mind numb with grief, and he snarled as hands tried to jerk him away from what was his.
“Dammit, Cade, look at me.”
The voice in his ear was familiar, and he didn’t fight as night vision goggles were placed over his eyes. His brother, Shane, came into focus.
“I can’t—,” he tried to say, holding Carmen closer.
“We’ll get her out, Cade. We’ll do right by her,” his other brother, Declan, said, taking her from his arms into his own. “But we need to get you out right now. The del Fuego cartel will be gunning for you.”
Cade nodded and let his brothers lead him out of hell, but he heard the voice that called to him over the chaos.
“You’ll never be safe, Cade MacKenzie,” Miguel screamed. “You’ll never know peace as long as I’m still breathing. I’ll take everything and more that you’ve taken from me.”
Cade couldn’t imagine what more the man could hope to take from him. His future had been the dead woman in his brother’s arms.
Neighbors were a pain in the ass.
Especially neighbors that made as much noise as possible at the crack of dawn. Did no one have consideration for their fellow man anymore? She wasn’t asking for much, dammit. Just a little common courtesy.
Bayleigh Scott rolled toward her nightstand to look at the old fashioned alarm clock with the giant hands and noticed it was just shy of 6am. She groaned and pulled the pillow over her head, trying desperately to block out the grinding noise from what sounded like a fleet of semis outside her window. She’d closed her shop at ten the night before but hadn’t gotten home until after one because she’d been doing inventory. Not even five full hours of sleep. And she had to be back to open at ten since her assistant was out sick.
When the pillow failed to have effect she was looking for, she tossed it across the room and felt the slow flush of anger work through her body.
“Who the hell do these people think they are?” she muttered, throwing back the covers and stomping to the bay window in her bedroom. She could only see the back deck of the house next door from her window, and she scowled as she noted the ferns already hanging from baskets on the porch, the dim porch lights giving her a good view.
“Making yourself right at home, aren’t you?”
She let the curtain drop and stomped through the house, tripping over the edge of the rug and bumping her shin against the table she had at the end of the couch. The coffeepot beckoned, so she punched the button to start her morning caffeine as she made her way to the kitchen window. She had the perfect view of the neighbor’s front yard.
Bayleigh winced as the screech of the truck lift going up and down assaulted her ears. It wasn’t like the noise would bother anyone else on the block. Most of them turned their hearing aids off after eight o’clock and didn’t turning them back on until the sun rose. There was no way her new neighbors were another little retired couple like everyone else on the block. They were probably party animals or reprobates. Maybe both. And the sun definitely hadn’t risen, but that didn’t seem to be stopping them.
They had powerful lights set up so they could unload the truck that was backed into the driveway, but all she could see was the shadows of men as they unloaded the furniture. They didn’t even need that stupid lift. They were just being lazy. There was no reason for the truck to be on at all.
Muttered curses propelled her out the front door before common sense could take hold. She never did well on little sleep and no caffeine. It wasn’t her fault. She liked to think of it as a medical condition. She’d just explain politely about the noise, and surely they would take care of it.
The cool October air slapped against her skin, reminding her she was only wearing the cotton boxers and tank top she’d slept in. Chills raced across her skin and she tripped over the hose that ran across her sidewalk. She’d forgotten to roll it back up after watering her flower beds the night before.
She paused for a moment, wondering if she’d made a mistake when she felt three sets of eyes look in her direction. The sudden stillness of the night was unnerving. She couldn’t see the two men in the shadows clearly, but she got a heck of a glimpse at the man standing closest to her. The Devil in disguise. The sudden urge to cross herself had her squeezing her fingers into tight fists. She wasn’t even Catholic for Pete’s sake.
His scowl was black and menacing and he narrowed his eyes at her in warning, automatically putting her back up. She wasn’t going to be intimidated by the likes of him. At least not much.
Bayleigh straightened her shoulders and marched across the tiny patch of grass that separated the two houses. She climbed into the cab of the big white truck, the cracked seats scratchy against the backs of her legs, and turned off the ignition before taking the key. She jumped out of the truck and watched warily as the three men gathered close, their arms crossed over their bare chests and various looks of surprise pasted on their faces. Maybe Satan was having a convention, because surely all three of these men were fallen angels of the worst kind and hardened criminals at best.
They were muscled and bare chested, and their jeans hung low on narrowed hips. It was obvious they were related, and her gaze passed over them all quickly. But she couldn’t seem to take her eyes off the one in the middle—the one who’d made her lose her common sense with just one scowl. There was something in his eyes that had her taking a step back before she remembered she was standing in the middle of a safe neighborhood. She wouldn’t be intimidated on her own property. She took a quick step back so she was actually on her own property, and crossed her arms over her chest.
The Devil’s black hair was longer than she liked on a man, almost to his shoulders, and his eyes were as black as coal. Probably because he’d been hauling it in hell before he’d decided to move to Fort Worth, Texas. A short beard covered his face and a wicked looking tattoo swirled over his shoulder and part of the way down his arm. His chest was scarred, and she couldn’t even imagine what had happened to him to cause such marks. Her gaze lowered, following the black smattering of hair that disappeared beneath his jeans, and all rational thought left her head as she noticed the sizable bulge behind his zipper.
“You’ve got some mighty friendly neighbors, Cade,” the man next to the Devil said, his smirk evident in the slow drawl of his voice. “She can’t take her eyes off you.”
Bayleigh felt heat flush her cheeks, and she threw the keys at the walking hard-on a little harder than was probably necessary, watching as he snapped them out of the air and glared in her direction. The urge to run back to the safety of her house was prevalent, but she turned around calmly and put one foot in front of the other.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
She knew it was him that spoke without having to turn around. His voice slid across her skin like rough velvet, and she shivered at the demand in it. Not that she expected the Devil to be an easy man or be without a modicum of power, but she liked to think she had enough self-control to keep ignore the dangerous seduction of his command and keep walking.
She eyed the distance to her front door and looked back in his direction. He’d taken a couple of steps forward, and there was no way to get away from him if he came after her. He narrowed his eyes as if he could read her mind, and shook his head slowly, warning her not to try it, so she swallowed her fear and turned around to face him.
She was an idiot. Running would have been the smart thing to do if the look on his face was anything to go by. She could have made it. Maybe.
“Most of us sleep here in the middle of the night,” she finally said with more bravado than she felt. Never let them see you’re afraid. Her father had repeated the mantra constantly during her childhood. “I figured since it was your first day in the neighborhood, you might want to start out on the right foot.”
“You thought wrong,” he said. “And this is far from the middle of the night. The sun’s already coming up. Maybe you’re just lazy.”
Bayleigh’s eyes narrowed at the insult. She’d never been accused of being lazy a day in her life. But while her father’s advice rattled around in her brain, something her mother had always told her as she’d moved from school to school as a child and had to deal with the inevitable “new kid” bullying.
Kill them with kindness.
So she smiled as sweetly as possible and said the only thing she could think of to strike terror into his heart.
“You know, there are a lot of elderly people that live on this street.”
“So?” he growled. “And then there’s you. Let me guess. You’re single?”
“I’ve been engaged.”
“He couldn’t manage to bring himself to the altar?”
“Something like that,” she said softly, the old feelings of not quite being good enough surfacing once again.
“Look, I’m sorry. I was out of line. I promise I’ll leave everyone alone if they leave me alone.”
Bayleigh felt the beginnings of a headache forming in the back of her skull. Between the lack of sleep and the one-two punch her new neighbor had just delivered, reminding her of her former fiancé and her inadequacies, she decided she wasn’t in the mood to be nice after all.
“Oh, no. No need to apologize. If anything it’s my fault for getting in one this morning after working a fourteen hour day,” she said sarcastically. “It was inconsiderate of me to expect you to keep quiet. Tell you what I’ll do to make it up to you.”
She smiled—a smile that her brothers would recognize as trouble. Her new neighbor must have recognized it too, because his eyes narrowed to black slits and his muscles seemed to tremble under the restraint he was obviously showing.
“You don’t really mean that about having everyone leave you alone,” she said sweetly. “You seem like such a friendly and outgoing guy. I’ll make sure to mention how great you are to everyone over the next couple of days. Before you know it, the whole street will be knocking on your door and introducing themselves. It won’t be a month before you’re hosting the neighborhood barbecue. You’ll also be picking up prescriptions, mowing lawns, and eating macaroni salad with every meal so you won’t hurt their feelings.” She batted her eyelashes at him as he seemed to pale before her eyes. “Welcome to the neighborhood.”
Laughter followed her into the house and she slammed and locked the door behind her. She knew it hadn’t been him laughing. Dollars to donuts a smile had never cracked that face. The Devil didn’t smile. It would pay to remember that. And so what if she’d been slightly attracted to him. Bad boys were supposed to be attractive to the opposite sex. But then he’d had to open his mouth.
Tears threatened to fall as she recalled his words. He’d been exactly right. Her fiancé, Greg, hadn’t been able to make it to the altar. He’d left her a note the night before the wedding letting her know he couldn’t spend the rest of his life with a woman who didn’t respond to his touch in bed.
It’s not that she couldn’t have orgasms. She had great orgasms with her vibrator. It was just that sometimes it took her longer to get there than Greg thought was reasonable. She’d just be warming up, and all of a sudden, Greg would twitch and groan and it would be over. Greg hadn’t been the first guy she’d dated to tell her she wasn’t hot enough, and he probably wouldn’t be the last. She’d gotten to the point where stopped dating guys before they could even reach an intimate level just to avoid the disappointment.
Bayleigh wiped away the tears and padded back into the bedroom. It didn’t matter what her new neighbor thought. No one ever said the Devil was nice.
Now if she could avoid him for the rest of her life, he’d make the perfect neighbor.
“Oh, baby,” Shane said, still laughing at Cade’s expense. “I think I’m in love. Are you sure you don’t need a roommate?”
“Shut up and let’s get the rest of this stuff inside.”
Cade hefted his flat screen TV off the truck and headed inside, ignoring his brother’s laughter. He should have known they wouldn’t be able to drop it. They were like pitbulls the moment they sensed weakness.
The urge to go next door and apologize for his behavior was a heavy weight on his chest. He’d hurt her, and there’d been no need for it. When he’d mentioned being left at the altar, her face had paled and her blue eyes had lost the sparkle they’d had when she’d been arguing with him. It was as if the life had all but been sucked out of her. Hell, he’d actually enjoyed watching her in action. It wasn’t often he ran across a man who had the courage to argue with him, much less a woman.
Cade scowled as he overheard his brothers’ conversation from the other room.
“She’d never go for you, Shane” Declan said. “You’re the runt of the litter. A woman with a body like that could only appreciate a real man.”
And boy did she have a body, Cade thought, irritated his brothers had noticed. She was his neighbor, dammit, didn’t that mean he had some kind of claim. He shook his head in disbelief. His brothers were turning him into an idiot. He wasn’t about to claim any woman.
He headed back to the truck for another load, but his brothers followed him with their incessant chatter, as if they were women instead of warriors. It didn’t matter that she had the kind of body that had always been his weakness. He liked curves. No, he loved curves. And she had assets that would fill his hands nicely.
He scowled at the thought of filling his hands with anything on her body. She fought dirty, and it would pay to remember it. She wouldn’t be an easy woman to get involved with. She’d have expectations, and she wouldn’t hesitate to give her opinion if he did something stupid. The best thing he could do was stay far away, despite the erection that hadn’t disappeared since she’d twitched those curves across the scrawny patch of grass between their houses.
“You know, when I was checking the security around the house last night I noticed you could see right into her bedroom from the back deck,” Shane said, shaking his head at Declan. “It’ll be totally wasted on Iceman here. But I can certainly appreciate a pair of assets like that. And did you see all of that hair? It’s enough to make a man want to beg.”
“Fifty bucks says she’s not a real blonde,” Declan said.
“Oh, you’re on, brother. I’m sure if I stand on the deck long enough I’ll be able to tell you one way or the other.”
“What the hell is wrong with you two?” Cade bit out. “You’re reducing yourselves to becoming peeping Toms? Just go to the nearest bar and pick up the first blonde you see. You’ll be asking for a headache messing with the one next door. I can already tell she’s going to be a pain in the ass.”
“Not if you become a pain in hers first,” Shane said, wiggling his eyebrows. Cade’s brothers more than knew the kind of sexual appetite he had. He was the kind of man who demanded everything from his lovers. His thought had always been that there should never be anything sexual between a couple that was considered dirty or too taboo.
“And she does have a fine ass,” Declan added.
“I’m going to kill you.”
“I swear there’s something about her that’s familiar though,” Shane said. “I’ve either met her or seen her picture somewhere. It’ll come to me.”
“Maybe she’s on one of those Girls Gone Wild videos,” Declan threw in.
Cade tuned his brothers out and thought about the neighbor. He’d run a background check on her,as well as everyone on the street. Old habits were hard to break. And it wouldn’t be long before Shane realized who she was.
Her name was Bayleigh Scott and she owned a lingerie boutique in the square by the university. She was twenty-eight and came from a military family—a large family—just as he had, and one of her brothers was on the same SEAL team as Shane.
Cade knew Brady Scott in passing, but he knew to the souls of his feet that her brother wouldn’t be happy if Cade pursued Bayleigh. Hell, he’d feel the same way if one of his buddies showed interest in his sister, Darcy.
The agents and SEALS he called friends were too hard for women like Bayleigh and Darcy. Men whose lives consisted of constant danger didn’t have qualms about adventuring into the darker sides of sex, especially after coming off a mission.
The background check he’d done on Bayleigh didn’t do justice to what he’d just seen with his own eyes. The file didn’t say she had a body that had made him instantly hard. His cock had almost burst from his jeans the moment she’d pranced across his driveway in those tiny shorts and thin tank top. She hadn’t been wearing a bra, and even now his hands wanted to touch and his mouth wanted to taste. She’d looked him over as thoroughly as he’d looked at her, and she’d been almost entranced by the sight of his erection. Her tongue had dashed out to lick her lower lip and he swore he almost felt the motion along his cock.
It had been too damned long since he’d been laid. When the itch took over or the dreams of Carmen became too frequent, he found the nearest woman who would have him and fucked himself into oblivion, until the past was buried again and the itch was gone. It was the best he could do with the hand in life he’d been dealt. He never expected anything more, and wasn’t prepared to give anything more in return. Life was sometimes a bitch that way.
Reader Reviews (14)
Submitted By: brownbrown on Feb 28, 2014Free novel....good book. I guess I will be starting a new series!
Submitted By: jack6i on Jan 31, 2014Screaming? Killed the story.
Submitted By: dovi on Jan 28, 2014i LOVED IT! LOVED IT!!!. The dialogue between the hero and heroine was funny and so witty. There was chemistry and attraction. I cannot wait to read about the other siblings.
Submitted By: roula on Jan 20, 2014nice, sexy, long and free. good read.
Submitted By: papinprincee on Jan 13, 2014All I can say is MUY CALIENTE ...HOT, HOT, HOT. I love books where the female lead is strong as the male lead and this book is definitely one of those
Submitted By: Mink08 on Jan 11, 2014Each story in this series just gets better and I cant wait to read the next one.
Submitted By: carolynd on Jan 10, 2014Wow. Really enjoyed this novel. Cade was a well developed character. The author did a thorough job in developing the characters in a short time, and then you were sucked into the story. I did not want to put it down. Now I am going to check out other in the series.
Submitted By: mmartin on Jan 4, 2014Wow...thats what I gotta say. Really hot. Smokin hot. Really good story about 2 stubborn people. 1 fighting his feeling for her and 1 fighting about giving into what she wants. Very pleased with this series. I actually read this out of order before realizing it. Can't wait to read the rest of the series!
Submitted By: Calia on Jan 29, 2013This series is well worth the read. The story is well written with lots of tension and appealing men.
Submitted By: ru4real on Jan 20, 2013I enjoyed this book. I liked the suspense although is was predictable. The love scenes were HOT!!!
Submitted By: reagan001 on Jan 8, 2013Very enjoyable read. Can't wait for the next one.
Submitted By: tmh0616 on Jan 7, 2013Great follow up story to the prequel bundle. Full length story with a good plot and a sexy hero. Just enough BDSM to keep you interested and excited but not the focus of the book. Definitely looking forward to the other books in the series. Getting to know the men in the Mackenzie clan. The previous ones were interesting and exciting as well.
Submitted By: ladytee20019 on Mar 30, 2012This was an EXCELLENT story. I really like it that both of them worked on their relationship despite the self-objections.
Submitted By: preciousferret on Mar 26, 2012Cade is a fantastic romantic suspense novel. The chemistry between Cade and Bayleigh is electrifying and there are plenty of plot twists and turns making this a definite must read!!!!!!!!!!!!
Cade: A MacKenzie NovelBy: Liliana Hart