Read Solid Steel (Unseen Enemy Book 6) Online

Authors: Marysol James

Tags: #Romantic Suspense, #Contemporary, #Fiction, #romance, #military, #sex

Solid Steel (Unseen Enemy Book 6)

BOOK: Solid Steel (Unseen Enemy Book 6)
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Solid Steel

(Unseen Enemy #6)

By Marysol James

© 2015 by Marysol James.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, including information storage and retrieval systems, without prior written permission from the author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover design:
www.doc2mobi.com
Cover photo: © Artem Furman/Fotolia

Dedication

For M.
Healthy and missing exactly nothing.

Chapter One

John ‘Griff’ Griffin glanced over at his partner, wondering for about the ninetieth time just what the hell was going on with her. She hadn’t been the same since she’d returned three weeks earlier from her sudden and still-not-explained six-week leave-of-absence from work. Griff had pushed and prodded a bit, naturally, but the woman that he cared about like a sister and loved about as much was a stranger to him lately.

Not that Selena Perez
looked
any different. Well, maybe a bit tired, but then again, she and Griff had been on night duty for the past week and they were both wiped out. It was eight a.m. now and they’d just finished a twelve-hour shift. Worse, the client was a real pain in the ass, an entitled diva who wouldn’t listen to a single thing her bodyguards said. Griff resolved to get his boss, Dallas Foreman, to speak to the client today. If
anyone
could handle the spoiled brat, it was no-bullshit, my-way-or-the-goddamn-highway Dallas.

Right now, though, Griff’s attention was one hundred percent on Selena. Surreptitiously, he shot her tiny glances in the car inside mirror, just quick looks without actually moving his head. What he saw bugged him and he tried to really name what it was that was causing him disquiet.

She was staring out the passenger-side window, but he’d lay his next month’s paycheck that those amazing dark eyes saw exactly nothing. He couldn’t see her face, but he suspected that she was biting her full lower lip – a new habit, one that Griff had only seen emerge over the past three weeks. It was like she was physically holding in her words; forcing herself to not speak.

He snuck another look at her, saw that her curvy, athletic body was slumped, almost boneless.
That
wasn’t like her, not at all. Selena was strong physically, even stronger emotionally and psychologically, and her body language had always reflected this. Now, though, she just looked… defeated.

By
what
, though? What in hell could have taken down this woman? The woman who had voluntarily enlisted in the military to get a college education, the same education that she’d abandoned without a second of thought to go to Iraq and Afghanistan and proudly serve her country? The woman who’d survived three tours, and roadside bombs, and firefights, and an ambush one night while on patrol? Selena Perez had shot her way out of more than one deadly situation and she’d not only survived, she’d saved others as she did so.

After she came back state-side, she’d gone straight to work as a bodyguard for the most prestigious and professional outfit in Denver, Dallas’ firm, Solid Security. Traditionally a male world, bursting at the seams with huge ex-military guys, Selena fit in just fine. Dallas had no issues at all hiring a woman if she could kick ass and shoot straight – and Selena Perez could do both. With her damn eyes closed.

So, Griff was looking at a woman who didn’t back down, didn’t even
flinch
, fucking not
ever
, and who sure as hell never admitted weakness or vulnerability or defeat. Her tired, beaten-down demeanor wasn’t
her
, not in her core and her heart, and Griff wondered if someone had hurt her. If they had, it would have had to be bad –
about as bad as it could get
– for Selena to
still
be reeling from it nine weeks later.

He cleared his throat. She jumped a bit and turned her head to look at him.

“Breakfast?” he asked gruffly.

“Oh.” She blinked, like she was waking up. “Oh, no. Thanks.”

“Aw, c’mon, Selena.” Griff gave her his slow grin, the one that she always responded to with a smile of her own, but not today. “We ain’t had one of our breakfasts since you got back.”

“Yeah, well.” She shrugged. “I’ve been busy.”

“With what?” he asked, trying to keep it all casual and non-threatening. “What you got going on?”

Right away, that gorgeous, golden face slammed shut. Griff actually
saw
her shut down, shut him out. Those lips tightened, those curved cheekbones got more angular, those eyes hardened.

“Nothing much,” she responded, her tone cold. “So just drop me at the office, OK?”

Griff thought fast, thought again about the sneaky plan that had come to him at about two o’clock that morning while watching Selena try to reason with the world’s most impossible client about why going clubbing
right that minute
was a horrible idea. Diana Keeler had been drunk out of her dyed-blonde head – yet again – and when she was drunk, she was even more irascible than usual… and that was really saying something.

Selena had finally managed to coax Diana back inside the house with the promise of making her nachos with melted cheese and some of Selena’s own, homemade guacamole. Diana starved herself during the day, naturally, and talked a lot about having to look good for her next movie role, but what Griff and Selena knew full well was that the woman binged at night. She drank, then she ate, then she passed out. It was the established pattern now, and it was worrying.

As Griff had watched Selena cut up the avocado and sprinkle in some salt and squeeze in some lemon juice, he’d remembered his good friend, the one who made the best Mexican food that Griff had ever tasted. Griff had promised to drop by and see him soon, but hadn’t done so yet.

Well, ‘now’ is ‘soon’, right?

“Yeah, OK,” he said. “But before I take you back to the office, can we make a quick stop?”

“Sure,” she said. “Where?”

“I need to see a guy I know,” Griff said. “He doesn’t work too far from here, so it’s on the way back to Solid Security.”

“Yeah, OK.” Selena turned back to the window. “No problem.”

Griff drove the rest of the way in silence, hoping that his little scheme would work. After all, if
anyone
could get Selena to sit down and eat, Griff would bet on Luke Rhodes. Hell, the man might even get her to open up a bit: he was a born charmer and despite his rough edges, he was fucking devastating with the ladies. Griff privately thought that Rhodes could sweet-talk the panties off a nun, if he set his mind to it. And if he and Selena were in to each other? Hell, Griff could see Luke asking her out, quite probably on the damn spot.

They pulled up to the bar and Selena roused herself enough to look around. She blinked again.

“Dangerous Curves?” she said. “What the hell are we doing
here
?”

Griff opened his door. “Luke works here.”

“As what?”

“He works behind the bar and he also cooks.”

“Oh.” She looked at the bar again as two large men in jean jackets and cowboy boots stumbled out and in to a waiting taxi. “OK, so, go on. I’ll wait here.”

“Hey,” Griff said, as though it had just occurred to him. “You know what? Luke makes the best damn chilaquiles that I’ve ever had.”

She gave him a hard, flat, knowing look. “Is that so?”

“It
is
so.” Griff climbed out, turned to her with a grin. “I’m buying.”

“Griff…”

“C’mon, Selena. Just half an hour, yeah? I need to see Luke anyway, and we need to eat after surviving the night with that woman. You gotta be hungry.”

“I’m not,” she said just before her stomach gave a massive growl.

Griff laughed. “You were saying?”

“OK, OK, fine.” She got out of the SUV, slammed her door, lifted her collar against the late-September chill. “Thirty minutes, Griff, and that’s it.”

“And you eat.”

Selena gave him a tiny, tight grimace and he rejoiced to see it. Yeah, it was a far cry from her usual beautiful, shining smile, but he’d take it. For now.

“If Luke’s Mexican breakfast is any good,” she said. “I’ll eat your food budget for the rest of the week.”

“Good damn thing Curves takes plastic, then,” Griff said. “‘Cause believe me, I’m gonna have to roll you out of here.”

“Yeah, yeah. We’ll see.”

**

Luke Rhodes glanced up as the door of Curves opened. It was less than an hour before he was heading home, and he really wanted to get in to the kitchen and clean up a bit. The night had been fucking brutal, even by Dangerous Curves standards, with three separate fights between three separate groups of assholes.

Luke’s boss Jax had just left, his hand wrapped in a towel full of ice, his knuckles bruised and bleeding, and Luke sported a split lip and a nice bruise of his own on his cheek. When he saw John Griffin’s hulking frame take up the whole doorway, though, he grinned.

“Hey, man,” Luke drawled. “About time you got here to see me.”

“Yeah, I know. Sorry.” He paused as he took in Luke’s face. “Rough night at Curves?”

“Uh-huh.” He did a double-take when he saw the gorgeous woman standing behind Griff. “I see you brought company.”

“Sure did.” Griff gestured at the woman. “This is Selena Perez.”

“Oh, right.” Luke tilted his head at her to get a better look at those long legs. “Griff’s partner in overnight bodyguard duty.”

She nodded tersely, didn’t make eye contact.

Luke paused, took in her ‘fuck off and die’ vibe, decided to totally ignore it. A woman this fucking stunning probably got lots of jerks hitting on her and no doubt she threw up the bitch act to put them off. But Luke wasn’t put off so easy. He also wasn’t a jerk.

“So, you guys here for breakfast?” Luke asked.

“Yep.” Griff came over and sat at the bar, Selena trailing behind him. “And to tell you that I got the Broncos tickets for this Saturday, if you ain’t working.”

Luke’s blue eyes lit up right away. “Naw, man. I’m off that night.”

“OK, good.” Griff reached in to his leather jacket, pulled out a ticket and handed it over. “Here’s yours.”

“Thanks,” Luke said, sticking the ticket in the back pocket of his jeans. “How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing.”

“That’s not fine by me. How about your breakfast is on me?” Luke smiled at Selena, who was sitting at the counter and looking at the door like she was thinking about escape. “Yours
and
Selena’s?”

She started when he said her name, swung her incredible dark eyes back to Luke. “No, that’s OK. There’s no need for that.”

“Sure there is.” He grinned at her and she stared back, stony-faced. “You’ve been out all night, yeah? So you can use a hot meal and a cup of coffee, I bet.”

Despite herself, Selena found herself softening a bit. For some reason, she
also
noticed the way that his black hair curled over the nape of his neck. “Yeah, actually. A coffee would be great. Thanks.”

“And some chilaquiles?” Griff said hopefully. “They’re on the menu today?”

“Always, man. If you’re in the mood for Mexican food, I can make you chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, chorizo with potatoes and egg, or a plain-old-fashioned breakfast burrito. You choose.”

“Ummm.” Griff thought about it. “Have I had the chorizo yet?”

“Nope.” Luke poured a cup of coffee and grabbed a second cup. “Not yet.”

“So I’m going for that.”

“OK.” Luke shifted his gaze to Selena’s face, took in her amazing lips. “And you?”

“Uh.” She hesitated. “Maybe the huevos rancheros?”

“Good choice.” Luke set Selena’s coffee in front of her, extended his arms on the counter, braced his right hand on the scratched-up wood. The stance made his chest and shoulders look absolutely huge, pulled his rippling upper arm muscles tight against his black t-shirt. “Here you go. Drink up.”

She nodded absently, dropped her eyes to Luke’s forearms. Hmmmm. They were nice, actually, strong and defined. Selena had a thing for that part of a man’s body, and her eyes moved down farther. She stared when she reached Luke’s left hand… or to be more accurate, where Luke’s left hand
should
have been.

“Your hand!” she blurted out before she could stop herself; right away, she wanted to ram both feet in her big, dumb mouth.
Fuck
, she was out of it.
No way
she’d ever call attention to something like that if she were in her right mind. “Oh, God, Luke. I’m sorry… I shouldn’t have…”

“Hey, it’s OK.” Luke shrugged, a careless, gorgeous gesture. “I know it’s not there.”

Selena flushed and, oddly, felt tears threatening. “Luke…”

“Nah, babe.” Luke’s voice was surprisingly gentle, a direct contrast to his steely eyes and body. “Don’t, alright?”

“But it was just so damn rude of me,” she whispered, too mortified to even object to this stranger calling her ‘babe’. “After more than five years overseas, I know better. I’m so, so
sorry
.”

“Apology accepted.” Luke slid Griff’s coffee over to him. “Now, you guys drink that and if you want more, help yourselves, yeah? I’m going to get your food going.”

Griff nodded. “Thanks, man.”

They watched Luke go in to the kitchen, heard pans clattering and Luke whistling. They looked at each other.

“You good?” Griff asked softly.

“Yeah.” Selena had herself together again, mostly, and she took a shaky sip of coffee. “I just – I just spoke without thinking.”

“And it ain’t the first thing you notice about him, is it?”

Selena looked puzzled at that, then considered. “Actually… you’re right. It took me a few minutes to see it.”

“Well, the man doesn’t let it slow him down.” Griff rolled his shoulders back, stretching out the muscles. “I think
he
forgets about it half the time.”

She nodded, took a deep breath. “Excuse me for a minute?”

“Yeah.”

She got to her feet and headed down the hall, looking for the bathroom. Once inside, she looked around in shock: it was surprisingly bright and clean for a dive-bar that catered to ex-cons, bikers and prostitutes. Quietly, she checked under the stalls for feet before walking over to the mirror above the sinks.

Selena stared at her face, took in the exhaustion and strain. Her dark eyes had shadows under them, her normally healthy rosy-golden glow was dimmed, her skin gray and distressed. Her medium-length, dark hair was pulled back in a severe ponytail, as it always was when she was on duty, and even
it
looked droopy and limp.

With a sound of frustration, she reached up and yanked her hair loose. It tumbled to her strong shoulders in her neat little blouse and tailored jacket. She held the clip between her teeth as she finger-combed her hair and started to pull it up again.

BOOK: Solid Steel (Unseen Enemy Book 6)
3.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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