Lover's Bite Chapter 17

"Ready?" one agent said to the other two.

Jack no longer cared who was speaking. It didn't matter. His muscles were practically itching to move, to spring, to attack. His body was finally being taken from the suffocating heat of the car's trunk and carried into blissful coolness. He smelled the air-conditioning and began to feel its relief within a moment or two, as the leather bag cooled and his body followed suit. Short of being ablaze, Jack didn't think any vampire had ever been this hot and survived.

He was suspended between two of the men as they carried him, and he knew he was inside, but nothing beyond that. He was within a structure, and it was cool. He sensed only the three agents, Magnarelli and his two sidekicks. He couldn't detect the presence of any others. No drones or armed soldiers were waiting to back them up. Good.

The way he felt right now, they wouldn't stand a chance against him without help.

Finally he was slung onto a hard surface. And almost before he could anticipate what would come next, the zipper was being yanked open. Every cell in him tensed as he prepared to spring. And the moment the leather was pulled open, he did, coming out of the body bag in a fury, springing first onto his haunches and then launching himself over the heads of the three men, flipping in the air and landing behind them.

They spun, their faces expressing shock and disbelief, and Jack lunged at the first one, landing a kick to the man's chest that sent him smashing head-first into the wall so hard that he crumpled. Spinning to the left, he delivered a roundhouse to the second man's jaw. That agent careened and teetered, then went down. But at almost that same instant, Jack felt the sting of a dart in his shoulder. He turned toward Magnarelli, who'd fired a tranq gun, and lunged at the bastard, but a second dart plunged into his chest, and then a third, in the neck, all in quick succession.

Jack's muscles slowed, his senses slowly went numb, and yet he tried to reach for Magnarelli, even as he sank to his knees. His last thought was of the words he'd heard Rhiannon say earlier. "We have no idea what effect mixing this drug with the tranquilizer would have on a vampire. It's never been tried. So don't let them tranquilize you."

Don't let them tranquilize you.


He soon found out what the results would be-at least the initial ones-as Frank Magnarelli, a lone mortal no stronger than most, lifted him up off the floor, slammed him into a chair and handcuffed him to it. Jack's efforts at resistance didn't even slow the guy down. Eric Marquand's version of No-doz kept the tranq from knocking him out, but the tranq kept him too weak to do much in the way of fighting for his life.

"There are things I want to know, Jack," Magnarelli said, standing in front of him. "And you know I'm not going to go easy on you. I'm pretty angry with you right now."

"I imagine you are," Jack said.

Magnarelli punched him in the face, a dead-on blow that knocked him over onto his back, chair and all. It felt as if it had crushed his nose and split his lip, and landing on his cuffed hands hurt almost as much as the punch had.

Bending, Magnarelli gripped Jack's shirtfront and lifted him upright again. "So how is it you're awake during the day, Jack?"

Jack shrugged, licked his lip, tasted blood, and hoped it wasn't too much. He didn't think it was. It hurt like hell, but he didn't feel as if it were pouring out of him. Yet. "I don't know. It's some kind of fluke. Maybe something to do with how hot it got inside that body bag while you drove me all over hell and gone in your damned trunk."

The agent didn't believe him. "I suppose we can get that information later. It's not like you're ever going to taste freedom again."


"You don't fuck with the CIA, pal. So let's not make this tougher than it has to be. Where is Rivera?"


"Raphael Rivera."

"Come again?"

Magnarelli hit him again, in the gut this time. The chair skidded backward but stayed upright, as Jack doubled over as much as the cuffs would allow, mouth agape.

"Reaper," the agent said. "And you can stop playing stupid with me, Jack. You know his name."

When he could form words again, Jack said, "I know his name. But I don't know where he is. I only agreed to your plan to get Topaz and Mirabella back. I never knew where Reaper was. You're wasting your time."

"We'll see about that."

The other two, who'd been lying flat out from Jack's attack, began stirring now. One of them got up, and Magnarelli said, "Grab your partner and go get the women. He'll talk faster if they're the ones suffering for his silence." He took note of Jack's stunned expression. "That's right. We still have them. You're not the only one who can pull off a con, Jack."

Jack had figured he could handle any torture this jerk could dish out. But if he were hurting Topaz, Jack knew he would talk in short order. He also knew Reaper would want him to.

"While they're gone," Magnarelli said, "we're going to see just how much pain you can take, Jack." He walked to a corner and picked up a bag.

"We can't cut you, or you'll bleed out, so maybe we can come up with some creative alternatives." From the bag, he took out a hammer, and a pair of pliers.

Jack closed his eyes. Surely the pain would knock him out sooner or later.

Or maybe it wouldn't.

Topaz woke with a scream ringing in her head, in her mind. Jack's scream. She sat up fast, her eyes opening wide as she swung her head, searching for him, ready to do serious harm to whoever might be hurting him. The reaction was instinctive and gut level. But in an instant she realized his scream had been mental. Jack wasn't here. And in that same instant she understood just where here was. There were sheet-draped bodies on gurneys all around her. Their feet were exposed, and tags hung from their toes.

Solemn-faced, she slid her gaze to her own exposed feet and saw a tag attached to her own big toe, as well. With a growl of impatience, she leaned forward and yanked it off.

The morgue was unmanned, as far as she could tell, as she slid off the cold metal and onto the bare floor to begin peering under the other sheets in search of her mother. She was still wearing her clothes, though they were torn, stained with dirt and blood, and even some street tar. Whatever injuries she'd sustained from the fall had been healed by the miraculous power of the day sleep. And that was little more than sheer luck-she could just have easily expired before the day sleep arrived to heal her. She could have bled out. She could have lain there a bit too long and been exposed to the rising sun. Anything could have happened.

She hoped her mother had been as lucky.

Finally she tugged back a sheet and saw her mother's face. It was unmarked. Her dress was tattered as hell, though. She must have been badly injured, Topaz thought. Maybe too badly.

She touched her mother's face. "Are you alive?"

Her mother didn't respond. A little knot of fear formed in Topaz's stomach, but she quickly reminded herself how slow her mother was to wake. The way she took her time about it, waking only by degrees, as if surfacing from some deep ocean crevasse.

And then she heard Jack screaming again, and everything in her body jerked to attention. It tied her heart in knots. Yes, he'd lied to her, used her, broken her heart to mere bits, but none of that had made her stop loving him. Oh, it had made her want to stop, but it hadn't killed the feeling. She didn't think anything ever would. And she would be damned before she would allow some sorry son of a pig to hurt him.

"Mother!" She gripped her mother's shoulders, shaking her gently. "Mother, come on. Wake up, we have to hurry."

Mirabella moaned softly and began her routine, stretching her arms above her, arching her back in her catlike way.

Topaz removed the toe tag and begged, "Mom, wake up. We don't have time for stretching and yawning and basking. We have to move."

With a soft "mmmm," Bella stopped stretching and opened her eyes.

"Someone has Jack," Topaz told her. "He's being tortured. Right now, as we speak." To herself, she added, "I'll freaking kill them."

Those loving eyes went icy cold, and Mirabella swung her legs to the side, sitting up and then standing all in one fluid motion. "Where?"

Topaz took her mother's hand, and the two of them moved through the dismal underworld, inhabited only by the dead, in search of an exit. When they found one, it led into a hallway, and after briefly searching that, Topaz found a sign marked Salida with an arrow that pointed up a flight of stairs.

They took the stairs at a run, not caring whether they might be seen. No one would stop them-they might try, but they wouldn't succeed. At the top there was a wide door with a push bar on the inside. Topaz hit it, and it swung open wide, revealing a parking lot, some shrubs.

She lunged through the doorway and let it close behind her, then stood for a moment, listening, sensing.

It didn't take long before the scream came again, but this time a coherent stream of thought came with it. If they hurt Topaz, I'll kill them. I'll kill them or die trying. I swear to God, I will.

She blinked and sent a look at her mother.

Mirabella nodded. "Yes, I heard it, too. I told you he loves you."

"Just because he doesn't want me hurt, that doesn't mean he loves me."

"He went after you. He's in those bastards' hands because of it. He risked himself to save you."

"You don't know that."

"Who else would be torturing him?"

Topaz shrugged and turned to face east. "He's this way."

"Then let's go."

They began to run, racing at top speed, until Topaz heard her mother's plea, delivered mentally. Stop, darling.

There was pain in that plea, a sensation of weakness flowing into Topaz as clearly as the words. It was so heartrending that she came to a halt immediately, and her mother did, too. As soon as she stopped moving, Bella sank to her knees, and fell forward, palms to the earth.

"Mother, what is it?" Topaz shouted, dropping to her knees beside her. But even as she asked the question, she knew. Her mother had been electrocuted, then taken a fall that would have killed a mortal ten times over. She was older than Topaz, and therefore more powerful, but also much more susceptible to the debilitating weakness brought on by pain and blood loss. Furthermore, she'd given Topaz her own blood, then imbibed nothing to complete her own healing. The day sleep could heal, yes, and it had. But to restore Bella's strength, she needed blood. Topaz helped her into the concealing shelter of a grove of trees.

"I can't go on," Mirabella said softly. "I'll just rest here awhile. You have to continue on without me, Tanya."

Topaz stared down at her mother. "Those agents are still after us, I'm sure of it. I can't leave you alone."

"Send someone back for me. No doubt the others are on their way to help Jack, as well. Send one of them. Until then, I'll be fine."

"But, Mother-"

Her mother pressed a palm to Topaz's cheek. "Go, darling. I know you won't believe me, but this...this is worth anything. Anything. This kind of love, the love you feel for's once in a lifetime, Topaz. Believe me. I know. Go find him. Do it now."

Topaz nodded, knowing her mother was right. What she felt for Jack was once in a lifetime. She only wished what he felt for her was a fraction of that. Or that he felt anything real for her at all.

But she couldn't control his feelings any more than she could control her own. She loved him, good or bad. No matter how much and how deeply he hurt her, she loved him. And as lousy as he'd treated her, Topaz thought, there wasn't a person on this planet who was going to get away with hurting the man she loved.

"No way in hell," she said aloud, and she pressed a kiss to her mother's cheek, then straightened away from her. As she strode forward, launching into a run once more, she held Jack's image in her mind, and her heart seemed to swell to bursting. She realized it didn't matter what he'd done to her. She loved him, flaws and all. She loved him, as cold and uncaring as he had been toward her. She loved him unconditionally. And it was all right if he didn't feel the same. She could live with that, because she was a strong, incredible woman. If they couldn't be together, so be it. She would manage to go on. But she would go on loving him. Always.

What she wouldn't be able to live with, she knew, would be her own guilt if she allowed anything bad to happen to him.

"Well?" Magnarelli said, when his sidekicks returned. "Where are they?"

"I don't know, sir."

Underling number one, Jack thought. Interested, despite the intensity of his pain, he managed to lift his head. He tried to see the men, but his eyes were so swollen that only the merest slits remained open, and what he could make out through them was blurry and unfocused.

Three blobs, vaguely man-shaped. Movement now and then.

"What the hell do you mean, you don't know?"

"The bedroom door was smashed to bits. The electric barriers had shorted themselves out. The living room window was open."

"And the guards posted outside saw nothing? Heard nothing?"

"They only heard the TV, they said."

Magnarelli swore, and Jack thought it looked as if he turned a small circle and pushed a hand through his hair. At least, his arm went up. He might also have been waving a fly away or knocking down a cobweb.

"That window's too high. Even a vampire couldn't survive a jump like that."

"They didn't." The second underling was speaking now. The first seemed to have used up all his courage in bringing bad news to his boss.

Magnarelli spun around fast.

"The doorman says two women jumped to their deaths just before dawn. They were pronounced dead at the scene."

"And taken where?" Magnarelli asked in a monotone.

"I don't know. A morgue somewhere, I imagine."

Magnarelli gripped the underling by the front of his shirt and jerked him forward. "Find out, dammit. Get back there and find out where they were taken, and exactly what time, and whether they're still there now. Do you understand?"


"Do it. Now."

He released the younger agent, who stumbled a few steps backward.

Jack let his head relax again, feigning unconsciousness, though he didn't have to fake it much. He would have been unconscious right now if not for that damnable drug of Rhiannon's. Hell, he was like a walking corpse.

He started to laugh, because that was what he was anyway, right? Undead. A walking corpse.

"What the hell are you laughing at?" Magnarelli asked. One of his rookies remained there with him. The other one had already scurried away to do his master's bidding.

"My girl," Jack said, though his mouth was swollen, lips puffy and split, and his voice sounded as if he were talking around a mouthful of marbles. "She outsmarted you."

"Not if she's dead on a slab in the morgue, she didn't," Magnarelli said. "And if that's the case, I'll be the one laughing. Believe me. I wouldn't be one bit sorry to see that pain-in-the-ass bitch dead and buried."

Jack lunged forward, picking the chair up with him. Bent over, he charged the bastard, head plowing into his stomach before he knew what was coming. Magnarelli doubled over, then fell to the floor, and Jack spun around fast, so the legs of the chair would smash into his head.

But the agent ducked, then gripped one of the chair legs and swung it, so that Jack hit the wall face-first, chair and all. His cheek was razed by rough-surfaced bricks. His already broken nose mashed against them. He sank to the floor, the rush of pain incapacitating him. But rather than passing out, as he should have done, he just lay there, trembling in unbearable agony.

Reaper managed to wait until sundown, but just barely. He and Rhiannon were cranky and angry and impatient. He had the floor opened up before the others were even awake, and Briar, Crisa and Vixen were out of the compartment almost before Seth had stirred.

He opened the rear doors of the van, eager to get out, stretch his legs, move a bit and get a look at the hacienda where Jack was being tortured.

The others climbed out and surrounded him, Roxy and Ilyana coming around to the back, as well.

"What's the situation?" Seth asked.

Reaper pointed toward the sprawling white mansion. "Jack's being held in there by three agents. They've been torturing him for about two hours now."

Vixen turned her head quickly, her hand flying to her mouth. Crisa clutched Briar's arm tighter, while Briar swore under her breath.

"How the hell did three mortals manage to get the best of him?" Briar asked. "Didn't the drug work? Was he asleep when they opened the bag?"

"They tranquilized him," Rhiannon said softly, her eyes cast downward.

"I thought you said no one knew what kind of reaction the two drugs would cause when they were combined?" Vixen asked.

"No one does," Rhiannon said. "Or rather, no one did. I imagine by now your Jack has a fairly decent idea."

"Well? What the hell are we waiting for?" Briar demanded. "Let's go after him."

"Topaz is on her way. She's asked that we send someone back for her mother, who's apparently in a weakened state and needed to stay behind." Reaper looked at the group. "Roxy, I'd like you to take Crisa and Ilyana, and go back for her. Topaz says she needs sustenance. Badly."

Roxy nodded. "We'd need the van for that."

"I know. Unload the medical kit, a few pints of blood and most of the weapons before you leave. We'll need them. When you get back here with Mirabella, park somewhere safe, and we'll meet you there once this is over."

"There's a dirt road off this one, a mile back. I'll head up there a few miles and pull off into a secluded spot."

"We'll find you," Reaper promised. "Mean-while-"

Something rushed past him in a blur. He caught the essence of fury, of rage-and of Topaz.

"Hell, she's not waiting. Let's go. Now!" Reaper ordered.

Briar, Seth and Vixen joined him in racing full bore toward the house.

Topaz leapt the gate, then raced up the drive and hit the hacienda's huge double doors so hard that one of them split as they crashed open. She crouched just inside the door, looked left and right, sensed for Jack's essence and was speeding closer to him again, all in the space of a single heartbeat. Every door that blocked her way was demolished. Every piece of furniture that stood in her path was obliterated. She was a fury, and nothing was going to stop her.

When she reached the basement room and saw him, bound to a chair that lay cockeyed on the floor with two of its legs broken off, his face so swollen she wouldn't have recognized him if she couldn't feel him, she went still for no more than an instant.

But that instant was enough. She was jolted with enough electricity to put her on her knees. A stun gun.

One agent cuffed her hands behind her back, even as the second returned to his spot behind the door with that stun gun, awaiting the others, whose thundering feet were within Topaz's earshot even then. But not within earshot of the mortals. She thought wildly toward them, Stop! Wait! It's a trap!

She sensed their retreat instantly and sighed in relief, then lifted her head as the agent grabbed her by her arms and plunked her down in a chair, applying shackles before she regained enough strength to fight him off.

"I should have known it was a trap. You didn't seal off the house the way you did the hotel room. You wanted me to hear Jack's pain. You knew I would come for him."

"We wanted Reaper to come for him. We thought we'd left you safe and sound in our suite. What happened? You decide to check out early?"

"You're the one who's going to check out. Permanently." She nodded at the stun gun. "What happened? You run out of tranquilizer darts?"

"Not at all. We just wanted you conscious for a while. Torture isn't very effective when the subject is unconscious."

She shot a look at Jack. He was in anguish. "Doesn't look like it's very effective on conscious subjects, either, or you would already know everything you could possibly want to."

"Oh, hell, he doesn't give a shit about his own suffering. But yours-I think that'll be a whole different matter."

"Bring it on, bastard," she said.


Jack's voice was strained, weak. Her heart broke on hearing it. She could barely stand to look at him, to see him so badly beaten. And yet, even when she wasn't looking at him, she could feel his pain.

"Don't...hurt her. I'll tell you everything."

"Like you were supposed to be doing all along, right, pal? Instead of feeding us useless crumbs? Now you see what you get when you try to double-cross the CIA."

Reaper. Topaz sent the message urgently. We're in a basement room. One way in and out. Two men here. One is waiting just inside the door with a stun gun.

"Go throw the switch, activate the silent-zone around this room," the lead agent ordered the other. "And turn on the electricity."

The other walked to the far side of the room, toward a large metallic box, with several switches and levers attached.

They're about to activate that force field, Reaper, Topaz thought rapidly. We'll be unable to communicate soon. And they're electrifying the doors. If you touch them-

Got it. You should know that I knew what Jack was doing the whole time, Topaz. He was playing them, not us, to get information on your mother for you.

Topaz couldn't believe it. She gasped and then stared at Jack, and her heart broke for the pain he was in. The agent threw one switch, then another.

Why the hell didn't he tell me? Topaz thought toward Reaper.

Nothing. Dead silence. Like speaking into an empty room. The subordinate agent returned to his position, and Topaz asked Jack, Why didn't you tell me?

He met her eyes, though she doubted he could see her through the puffy purple grapes that were his own. Didn't think you'd believe me. Didn't want to lose you.

He bent forward as far as he could, and started to cough and choke, not stopping until he threw up blood.

Topaz loved him with her entire being. She would have died just then, to give him the tiniest bit of relief. Lifting her head, she said, "Let Jack go. I'll tell you what you want if you'll just let him go."

"Don't...bother," Jack managed. He did his best to wipe his chin on his shirtfront. "I won't leave her."

The head agent rolled his eyes. The underling had to avert his. "I'm not letting anyone go, and I don't have any sympathy for your star-crossed love story. Either Reaper turns himself in within the hour, or you both die. It's that simple." He picked up a tranq gun from a table and handed it to his partner. "If they move, tranq them." Then he eyed the two vampires once again. "Be aware, my friends, that the dosages in that gun are enough to kill you this time." He focused on Jack. "And yes, it's been tested."

"There will be no need for that," Reaper said softly. His voice came from just beyond the closed, locked and electrified door to the room where they were being held. Mental voices wouldn't penetrate, but normal spoken words did.

"You've got me, Magnarelli. Let them go."

The lead agent, the one Reaper had identified as Magnarelli, went warily to the door. "You'd better come in alone, Rivera. We've got our tranq guns loaded with enough of that shit to kill the strongest vampire known. And we will use it-on these two if you pull anything, and on anyone else who tries to enter with you."

"Understood," Reaper replied.

Magnarelli nodded to his cohort. Topaz noticed it was the one she'd thought had some semblance of a conscience, the one with the deep blue eyes. "Cut the power," Magnarelli told him. "Be ready to turn it right back on the second I tell you."

Blue Eyes returned to the breaker box and lowered a lever. Magnarelli watched him, and as soon as it was done, he unlocked and opened the door, glancing past Reaper nervously before ushering him quickly inside and slamming the door closed behind him. "Reactivate the power," he ordered.

The other one threw the switch again.

"Now get over here and cuff him!" Magnarelli shouted. As the younger one rushed to obey, Reaper turned, obedient and nonthreatening. He put his hands behind him and allowed himself to be handcuffed.

"These cuffs are not vampire tested," Magnarelli said. "They won't hold you."

"You think?" Reaper asked.

"I know. But if you try to break free, we'll kill your friends. And we have a contingent of agents, heavily armed, highly trained, on their way here to transport you back to the States. There won't be any more of your nonsense, Reaper."

"I wasn't planning any," he said, and he took a seat, as if he planned to sit there calmly for however long it took to await his transportation home. "Why don't you just tranquilize me now so you can quit worrying about what I might do?"

"I will if I have to," Magnarelli promised. "But I was asked to keep you conscious until you could be questioned."

"By whom?" Reaper asked.

"You'll find out when he gets here."

"Has to be Dwyer. My former boss. Well, it'll be great to catch up," Reaper said.

Topaz noticed something moving inside his shirt, though, and frowned, wondering, What the hell?

Get their attention off me for a second, Reaper thought.

Topaz stared at him but didn't bother questioning him. The big guy was up to something, and she didn't much care what it was, as long as it would get them out of this mess and get Jack some relief, and soon. She wasn't sure how much longer he could last in this much anguish.

She rose, picking up her chair with her and, shrieking like the proverbial banshee, she charged the wall, smashing the chair against it, then backing up and preparing to do it again, her attention focused on Reaper the entire time.

The two agents rushed her, as she'd hoped they would do instead of shooting a lethal dose of tranquilizer into her, seeing as she was only hurting herself, not going after them. And even as they tackled her to the floor, she saw the small red fox squeeze up out of Reaper's shirt, leap lightly to the floor and race across the basement room to where the breaker box was. Neither of the agents had seen it. The fox curled up on itself and lay still, tail curling over its tiny brown nose.

Vixen. And she was going to shift back at any moment. They would spot her fast, but it wouldn't take long. Even now, the others must be gathering beyond this door. Waiting.

Topaz drew her eyes from the little fox, who was beginning to squirm and writhe now, to the men who'd taken her to the floor. They were threatening violence if she didn't calm down. She decided to go for hysteria. She cried, she screamed, she shouted the walls down. "You have to let us go! You said you would. I can't be in here any longer! I can't. Let me out, let me out, let me ouuuuut!"

One backhand to the jaw silenced her, but even as her head snapped back, she saw Vixen shifting. She couldn't give up her act, not yet.

"There's no need to strike her!" Reaper shouted.

"Don't," Jack muttered. He was oblivious to what was up with Vixen, his attention only on her. "Please, baby, don't give them...a reason..."

But she kept on screaming and crying, thrashing and twisting in their arms, until one of them pointed the tranq gun at her.

"It's enough to kill. You want to die?"

She looked at Jack. "If you don't get him some help, he will die, you idiots! And if he does, yeah, that's exactly what I want. But not until I can take the two of you with me."

Vixen rose from the floor, stark naked and utterly beautiful, and threw the switch.

"Now!" Reaper shouted at the top of his voice.

Instantly the door burst open, and vampires swarmed inside, an imposing and unfamiliar vampiress leading the way. The agent with the tranq gun turned to fire at her, and Topaz sprang, hitting his arm with her head as hard as she could. The dart went wide, and then the woman was on him, and Briar was on the other one. The two vampiresses met each other's eyes, and almost as one, snapped the necks of the men they held. Seth was running toward Vixen, while Mirabella rushed to Topaz, bending over and trying to release her from the cuffs, but she was too weak from everything she'd been through to snap them on her own.

"The older one has the keys," Topaz said. "Hurry."

Briar dug in a pocket, found the keys and handed them to Crisa before letting the man's limp body sink to the floor. Crisa ran the keys back over to Bella, who freed Topaz. "Are you all right, darling?"

"Yeah. Fine." Topaz turned, ran to Jack and fell to her knees close to him. Carefully she moved him just enough so that she could unfasten the cuffs that held him. Then she bent close to him, sliced her own arm and pressed it to his lips.

He drank only a little before pulling away. "Don't. You need it."

"Not as badly as you do."

He shook his head, then looked into her eyes.

"I meant it this time, Topaz. I meant it. I'd have died for you."

"You nearly did, Jack. You very nearly did."

"I love you, Topaz. I think I have all along, only I just didn't know it. Didn't believe in it, so I didn't see it as even the most remote possibility. But I couldn't keep your money. I regretted taking it. I've missed you and ached for you every minute that we were apart. And I swear, I'll never lie to you again. I love you."

"You're damn right you'll never lie to me again," she said, but she said it through rivers of tears that were streaming down her face.

"That's not what I'm waiting to hear," he told her weakly.

She smiled through her tears. "I love you, too, Jack. I always have. Always will."

She kissed him very gently.

"We need to move," Reaper said. He'd been going through the dead agents' pockets and had extracted several items. "They have a goon squad on the way to pick me up. Besides, we need to get our con man here to someplace where Roxy can patch him up and see to it he survives until dawn."

"Nothing could do me in, Reaper," Jack said. "Not now." And his eyes were on Topaz.

Those eyes. Those eyes of his that had told her all she needed to know right from the start. She could see the same thing in them now that she'd seen before. She'd thought it was part of the con, but now she knew better. His eyes had been saying "I love you" from the day they'd first kissed.

And she had a feeling they would keep on saying it for a long, long time.

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