Jett Smith-Jones walked into the lobby of Stone Tower, a two-minute walk from that other famous “tower” on Wall Street and silently whistled his appreciation. Marble floors, bespoke chairs, a coffee bar in the corner of the lobby and expensive, art deco vases holding flowers on both ends of the sleek reception desk.
A minute in and he liked his new workplace. Although he’d been working for Pytheon for a few months—and had established an easygoing, cyber-based relationship with numerous people within the organization—this was the first time he was entering Pytheon headquarters and, yeah, it didn’t hurt that they had good-looking receptionists and excellent coffee.
The cool blonde behind the desk was dressed in a designer suit, wore three-hundred-dollar shoes and a Bluetooth headset. Her hair was coiled into a knot at her neck, held in place by a sharp pin. If this was any other lobby in any other building he’d assume she was just a sharply dressed receptionist. But this was the headquarters of Pytheon International where nothing was ever as it seemed. The pin in her hair was probably a knife and he’d bet that there was a Beretta, maybe a Glock, within easy reach.
Miss Frosty could handle herself. Jett jammed his hands into the battered pockets of his leather bomber jacket. If not, then she’d have backup from the big dudes manning the door and access into the elevators. They had the eyes and expressions of men who’d seen too much and done more. Neither of them looked like they’d hesitate to kick ass.
Miss Frosty stood, gave him a long up and down look, her eyes heating up a fraction as she decided she liked what she saw. “Can I help you?”
Jett returned her look and nodded. “Seth’s expecting me. Jett Smith-Jones.”
Jett did an internal eye roll when her smile melted the ice chips from her eyes and she placed a hand on her heart. While neither of the guards left their positions, they turned their heads to look at him, tiny smiles touching the corners of their stern mouths.
The taller of the two snapped a quick salute and Jett ducked his head, embarrassed. The fact they knew of him and what he was part of confirmed they were either ex-military or ex-alphabet agency.
So much for what happened in the military staying in the military.
Miss Not-So-Frosty-Anymore asked him to place his hand on a biometric reader and he waited for the device to scan his hand. Jett handed over his ID and waited to be cleared, feeling self-conscious at the attention directed his way. In his former life, he and his Delta team were said to be one of the most effective and dangerous units in world and they’d routinely accepted missions that others deemed to be too risky. Word of those, call them exploits, got around and were exaggerated. Mostly.
When Seth Halcott approached Jett and suggested he think of joining Pytheon when he wanted to move on from the Unit, he’d initially dismissed Seth’s offer. But the money was great—frickin’ fantastic—he’d been offered a lot more freedom and, best of all, he could pick and choose his assignments, which meant he could avoid the places of the world God had forgotten about.
He and Kelby, his closest friend, left the Unit at the same time, quickly followed by most of their team, but they were still being monitored by their former boss and could be pulled back into service if a situation arose where their particular skill set was needed.
So far, they hadn’t been needed and he could concentrate of his Pytheon assignment. He’d just returned from a few weeks spent in South Africa, chasing down leads on The Recruiter. With the kidnapping of Seth’s fiancée, Leah, The Recruiter had rocketed up the list of Pytheon’s most wanted.
The Recruiter and Pytheon had been enemies for a while now—The Recruiter’s main business was human trafficking, specializing in moving people, mainly teenagers, in and out of subversive organizations and cults—and everyone at Pytheon was determined to stop him.
Unfortunately, The Recruiter was super smart, cunning, and his beef with Pytheon was very personal. If the kidnapping of Leah wasn’t evidence enough, then the photo, red crosses slashed through the faces, which landed in Seth’s inbox this morning, and forwarded to Jett, would’ve given him a clue.
The photo was taken at dinner two weeks ago and was of Smith Stone and his sister Samantha, Seth and Leah, and Leah’s brother, Jed, and his wife, McKenna. Most shocking of all, the bastard had scribbled across four-year-old Daisy’s face. The words, when they were finally deciphered, sent shock waves through them all—The Fat German, Phuket, likes them biracial and the younger the better.
Jed, naturally, scooped up his family and got the hell out of NYC. He was both ex-SAS and ex-Pytheon and Jett had no doubt Jed could protect his family. That left Seth, Pytheon’s Chief of Operations, his fiancée Leah, and the CEO of Pytheon International, Stone and his sister Samantha to protect.
It was Jett’s job to track down The Recruiter and to neutralize him, in whatever form that took. But to do that he needed to make sure his people were safe. Jett wasn’t in the military anymore but he regarded Pytheon as his new unit, the people inside the walls of this building his teammates and he’d protect them to hell and back.
It was what he did, who he was.
Protect and serve.
“Here you go, Lieutenant.”
“Just Jett now.”
“Okay, then, Just Jett. I’m Alex,” Blondie said, her smile low, slow, and full of feel-free-to-call-me-later.
Jett took his ID and Alex gestured him toward the elevator bank. Jett felt the first hint of a breeze from the open exterior door and spun around, immediately tense. A tall, very slim redhead walked toward them, carrying a heavy box, her bright copper curls bouncing and her cheeks pink. Sunglasses covered her eyes but he could see the spray of freckles on her pert nose and cheeks.
“So, Just Jett, I’m going to be here until six or so. If you have time, I can give you a tour of the building, and the area. I know where all the good bars and restaurants are,” Alex murmured.
Jett noticed the redhead’s scowl at her statement and smiled. “Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind,” he said, keeping the words noncommittal. He’d rather have a kidney removed than date a co-worker…
“When you two are done drooling over each other, this box is heavy and I’m in a hurry.” The redhead—whom he recognized as being Samantha Stone—spoke in a rough growl that skated down his spine. Holy shit, her voice didn’t match her feminine frame or crazy colored hair. The voice was all grown up and belonged in the bedroom…
“Good morning, Ms. Stone,” Alex replied in a cool voice that managed to be both respectful and go-screw-yourself. “This is Jett Smith-Jones.”
Sam sent him the briefest of glances and, with a small heave, tossed the box she was carrying toward him. He caught the box and frowned at the weight. She was carrying this box? She was a hell of lot stronger than she looked.
Sam lifted her sunglasses off her face and pushed them into her loose curls, pulling her hair off her triangular face. Full mouth, more freckles, and a pair of cool, violet-blue and gray, oh-so-very-adult eyes. Eyes that gave him another, longer look and dismissed him just as easily.
“Are you heading up to see Seth?” she demanded.
Jett, still recovering from the fact that he’d been dissected and dismissed—not something that normally happened to him—lifted his eyebrows. “That’s the plan.”
“I’ll ride up with you.”
“Okay, then.” Jett nodded, taking a moment to look out of the windows, trying to see whether she had protection or not.
He didn’t spot anyone who looked like they were remotely interested in Dr. Samantha Stone and that pissed him off. There was an active threat against the family and she was wandering the streets alone? What the hell was that about?
Jett studied the street for another minute and was jerked out of his surveillance by the quick snap of feminine fingers. He looked toward the elevators to see the spitfire tapping her feet and looking impatient. “Can you stop day dreaming?” she demanded. “I have work to do. People to see.”
“Your wish is my command, princess.”
And from what he’d read, Samantha Stone was very much a Park Avenue princess. She was the product of private schools and Ivy League colleges and her trust fund, it was said, was enormous. She was the daughter of Jasper Stone, who’d been one of the most powerful men in Washington, a kingmaker, and she was the only sibling of Smith Stone, who was more than adequately filling his father’s enormous shoes.
The elevator doors opened and Jett followed Samantha into the small space. Her perfume wafted over to him and he lowered the box to conceal the bulge in his pants. She was terse, rude, had a rabid attitude, and he’d never been more turned on in his life.
He wanted to strip her naked and discover what lay under her long coat and leather, heeled boots.
The spitfire-princess crossed one foot over the other and sent him a look that was designed, Jett was sure, to shrivel his sack. “So, you’re the superman soldier everyone is talking about.”
Jett lowered the box to the floor and rubbed the back of his neck. Superman wasn’t a word he felt comfortable with. “Uh…”
“You were with Seth in Cape Town.”
Since he had no idea how much she knew about Pytheon and its operations, Jett decided to keep his mouth shut. Sometimes silence was the best response.
“I heard Seth and Stone discussing you, they sounded like they were discussing Kobe Bryan.”
“You call your brother by the surname you share?”
“Everyone does. That’s not relevant.”
“It was relevant enough for you to mention it. And his name is Bryant, Kobe Bryant,” Jett corrected and his lips twitched at her small frown. “Prolific scorer for the Lakers?” Her frown deepened. “Basketball?”
“Why are we discussing sports?” Samantha demanded.
“You brought it up,” Jett pointed out, amused.
Pushing a corkscrew curl out of her eyes, Samantha pushed the sharp nail of her index finger into his chest and stared at him. The blue in her eyes was ice cold and the gray the color of hardened steel. “Stone and Seth can sing your praises until the world ends, but if you do anything that puts my brother or my friends in jeopardy because you are being an attention-seeking ass, I will cut off your balls.”
Jett wrapped his hand around her wrist and when she tried to pull her hand from his grip he tightened his hold just enough to keep her in place, which was up close and personal. Despite her high heels, he still had a few inches on her.
“Seriously, I don’t need a lecture from a stuck-up princess,” he muttered, staring at her mouth, as ripe and red as a luscious berry. He was pissed but, damn, he wanted to taste her lips, play join the dots with his tongue on her skin.
Jett saw the flare of desire in her eyes, saw the pink flush that appeared on her cheeks and watched, fascinated, as the tip of her tongue touched her top lip. So the red-headed witch was as attracted to him as he was to her. Interesting.
Caution held him back; if he tried something, kissing her came to mind, would she take what she wanted and then, like the female praying mantis, rip off his head when she was done?
He rather liked his head. Both of them.
There was another reason not to kiss her; he’d also noticed the pinhole cameras in this lift and the minuscule microphones and he’d bet his last dollar that he and the boss’ sister were providing entertainment for the boys manning the security cameras.
Stepping back, Jett lifted his eyebrows before lifting his hand to capture a corkscrew curl between the tips of his fingers.
“Is this natural? The curl and the color? You remind me of… God, what was her name?”
Samantha folded her arms across her chest and her booted foot tapped against the floor.
“That singing orphan kid?” Jett pressed, and lightning flashed in her eyes along with, maybe, a hint of hurt.
Dammit, that was supposed to be a compliment; he’d adored that dancin’, singin’ ball of attitude. Jett lifted his hand in apology and she slapped it away as the car shuddered to a stop. The door slid open and her eyes attempted to transform him into a smoking pile of ash.
“Not that this has anything to do with you but I was born with red, curly hair and freckles, you ass. But it’s okay, I cope by eating the souls of the unborn and playing blackjack with Satan. By the way, he cheats.”
Jett grinned at her quick, smartass comment and bent down to pick up the box.
A small boot kicked his hands off the box. “Don’t bother, sweetie. I’m more than capable of carrying my own boxes, doing my own thing, resisting hot men like you.”
Resisting him? Judging by her blush, those were words she hadn’t meant to say. Well, now, wasn’t that interesting?
“You can resist me?” Jett asked.
Jett nodded. “Good to know. But the questions still remain…”
He started to walk away and, as he expected, her words followed him into a massive room filled with computers, people and chaos. “What questions remain?”
Jett turned, spread his hands and gave her a grin that, as one lover had previously told him, had the ability to make lava bubble. “Are you sure and why would you want to?”
End of Excerpt