Maverick, p.1
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       Maverick, p.1

         Part #2 of Elite Ops series by Lora Leigh
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Maverick


  Praise for bestselling author Lora Leigh’s

  WILD CARD

  “Highly emotional and addicting…an intoxicating first installment of a brand new series.”

  —Romance Junkies on Wild Card

  “Ferocious passion!”

  —Romantic Times BOOKreviews

  …and the novels in her sexy SEALs series

  KILLER SECRETS

  “Leigh’s SEAL saga reverberates with deadly danger.”

  —Romantic Times BOOKreviews

  “Passion hot enough to melt plastic.”

  —Romance Junkies

  “Passion, more passion, understanding, loyalty, and the culmination of a dangerous mission. It’s hot stuff.”

  —Fresh Fiction

  HIDDEN AGENDAS

  “Treachery and intrigue combine with blistering hot sensuality in this chapter of Leigh’s SEAL saga. The title of this book is particularly apt, since many of the characters are not what they seem, and betrayal can have deadly consequences. Leigh’s books can scorch the ink off the page.”

  —Romantic Times BOOKreviews

  “An evocative and captivating read.”

  —Romance Junkies

  DANGEROUS GAMES

  “A marvelous novel of suspense and raw passion.”

  —Romance Junkies

  “Lora Leigh ignites the fire…with steamy heat added to a story that makes you cheer and even tear up.”

  —Fallen Angel Reviews

  “Leigh writes…tempting, enchanting romance[s] that readers are certain to devour.”

  —Romance Reviews Today

  St. Martin’s Paperbacks Titles By

  LORA LEIGH

  Wild Card

  Killer Secrets

  Hidden Agendas

  Dangerous Games

  This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

  MAVERICK

  Copyright © 2009 by Lora Leigh.

  All rights reserved.

  For information address St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

  ISBN: 978-1-4299-9187-2

  St. Martin’s Paperbacks are published by St. Martin’s Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010.

  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

  AUTHOR’S NOTE

  IT’S NOT ALWAYS easy to write a hero such as Micah Sloane. He implants himself in your head, and he refuses to change. From the beginning, Micah was Jewish. He was Mossad. He was a man who saw death in far different ways than I did. A man who knew how to kill without guilt when killing was necessary. He made no excuses for who he was, for what he was. And he didn’t need to make excuses.

  I knew next to nothing about the Jewish faith or culture, so I had some studying to do. Many of the things I learned gave me a new respect for both the culture and the religion. But it also gave me new insights into my hero. I hope you see in him all the things I saw. A man as enduring, as strong, and as powerful as the land he came from. A man who knew love, honored love, and a man who understood love. Any mistakes I made in his character are mine alone.

  But I want to give special thanks to a very brave friend who helped me with the character, the Hebrew, and a general understanding of the Jewish culture. Thanks, Kat. I couldn’t have done it without your insights.

  And thanks to the very dear character Micah. He helped me learn and to grow strong and that is truly the greatest gift of all.

  CONTENTS

  PROLOGUE

  CHAPTER 1

  CHAPTER 2

  CHAPTER 3

  CHAPTER 4

  CHAPTER 5

  CHAPTER 6

  CHAPTER 7

  CHAPTER 8

  CHAPTER 9

  CHAPTER 10

  CHAPTER 11

  CHAPTER 12

  CHAPTER 13

  CHAPTER 14

  CHAPTER 15

  CHAPTER 16

  CHAPTER 17

  CHAPTER 18

  CHAPTER 19

  CHAPTER 20

  CHAPTER 21

  CHAPTER 22

  CHAPTER 23

  CHAPTER 24

  CHAPTER 25

  CHAPTER 26

  CHAPTER 27

  PROLOGUE

  SHE WAS A MOTHER. She was a daughter. She was a sister and a wife. Delicate and so very beautiful. Dusky flesh stretched over aristocratic features that drew attention to the slope of her brow, the full delectable pout of her lips.

  She was slender, well toned. She was a work of art for her age. A woman of forty-five shouldn’t be in such peak physical condition.

  Unless she was a killer.

  Yes, she was a killer, the worst sort of killer actually. A woman of beauty, sparkling wit, and gentle hands. Those hands could fire a gun, wield a knife, or toss a grenade with the same merciless conviction as any male he had ever known. And yet, her soul was gentle. Gentle and strong.

  “Pretty,” he whispered as he touched the silken flesh of that hand, ran his finger over it, and finally found the subtle calluses of her trade.

  She was a warrior. A warrior such as she should never have the light in her dark, pretty eyes extinguished.

  “It’s business, you understand.” He kept his tone balanced, perfectly modulated.

  He didn’t want to frighten her. The blood pumped harder and faster through the body with fear. It would flow from her veins too quickly; there would be no chance to enjoy the beauty and rich satisfaction that came the moment one so strong gave up her last breath of life.

  Did one such as she feel fear? he wondered.

  He tilted his head to the side, an edge of curiosity pricking at him as she stared back at him with icy resolve. There was no fear in her eyes; there was no concern for her own life. She stared back at him with cold, flat eyes. Yet he knew those eyes. He had smiled into them many times. He had been charmed by her laughter and wit. But he had never known if she ever felt fear.

  How very odd, he thought. He normally knew such simple things when he took an assignment. He made it his job to know all things about his victims.

  “Do you fear?” He had to ask the question. He asked it in her own tongue; the beauty of her language had always fascinated him.

  Many might not consider the Hebrew language one of grace and purity, but he did. He felt it each time he heard the words falling gracefully from an Israeli’s lips. There was a certain cadence, a mystical, ancient fluidity, that fascinated him.

  “Of you?” Her words slurred just the faintest bit from the sedative he had given her before carrying her to his lair. “I know no fear of you.”

  “Do you fear death?” He feared death. He faced it with each job he took, and sometimes he feared that when his own end came, it would come with pain and humiliation.

  “I fear nothing on this earth.” And he believed it.

  “But you should,” she continued. “You should fear, for a wrath such as none you have ever known will descend upon you.”

  “Your God?” he sneered.

  “God will judge you, but Garren and David will destroy you.”

  Her husband. Her son. A CIA agent and a Mossad soldier. They were formidable adversaries.

  “They will never know it was I who took you from this earth, Ariela,” he promised her with a tinge of regret. “Angels may watch over them, but they won’t speak my name.”

  She didn’t give him the benefit of emotion. Instead, she turned her gaze from him, refusing to look at him.

  His fingers trailed between her breasts once again, and he was glad he had cut her clothes from her. The chill air of the lair he had chosen peaked her nipples as though she were aroused. As though she waited for her lover, naked and spread out upon the met
al table.

  Her arms were manacled by the wrists, her hands hanging over the table, the chains attached to hooks in the floor. Her legs were lifted, spread, and held by the heavy chains he had attached to the ceiling.

  His thumb brushed over a nipple, and still she didn’t react.

  “Does ice water or blood run through your veins?” he asked as he continued to touch her.

  The feel of her flesh was exquisite. It was a shame that her husband would no longer feel the warmth of her beside him in his bed each night. Her arms would no longer embrace him. He would no longer know the slide of her silken flesh against his body.

  “Does it matter which runs through it?” She didn’t blink; she didn’t cry; she didn’t plead.

  What satisfaction would he gain from this death? he wondered. Well, besides the nice fat payment that would be deposited in his account once her beautiful body was found. And the fact that his employer would continue to refrain from revealing his identity. That was becoming something of a problem for him. He would have never taken this job without that threat backing his required fee.

  “Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter,” he sighed. “Are you not curious why you’re here? Who ordered your death?”

  “Would it matter?”

  He smiled back at her. “You could take the name of the one who ordered your death into the afterlife with you. Does that matter?”

  Her lips quirked. “Whether I know his name or not will make no difference in my afterlife. The One who matters knows his name; He knows the name of the one who hired you. He knows your soul. He knows who to punish.”

  He nearly flinched at the belief that resounded in her voice. She believed when he didn’t, yet her belief had the power to send a jolt of concern through him.

  Bah. He wouldn’t allow this.

  He grinned back at her mockingly. “Your God will punish me then?”

  She said nothing more. Her gaze looked up, as though to the ceiling. Her lips moved, though he didn’t know the words she whispered. She whispered them to herself. Perhaps to her God.

  He fingered the one article he had left on her body. A symbol of her faith. The Star of David. He had always admired it. Her husband, Garren, had had it crafted for her. Each point of the six-sided silver star held a drop of gold inset in the point. It was simple, held to her neck by leather rather than gold or silver.

  “Your son will find your body,” he decided aloud, wondering if she would react to that decision.

  There was no reaction. She stared ahead, her gaze fixed on something he couldn’t see, wouldn’t see. Ah well. Whatever got her through death, he decided as he moved from her and chose his blade.

  “Perhaps I will give you my real name before the last breath eases from your body,” he decided. “You might want to tell your God who I am. Just in case He gives a damn that you’re dead.”

  No reaction, but had he really expected one?

  This part was usually his favorite. He moved back from the table and didn’t feel the familiar jolt of excitement, though.

  He had always enjoyed playing with them. He enjoyed tracking them, kidnapping them. He liked the moment when their eyes opened and they realized they were standing on death’s doorstep.

  But this time, he felt only regret and a sense of anger. There was no reason for her death, not really. She wasn’t close enough to identify his employer, but his employer was a bit psychotic at times.

  He chose his weapon, a razor blade. Such a simple weapon, easy to purchase, so simple to use.

  “You know, once, when I was a very young child,” he mused, “I happened upon my mother.”

  He ran the edge of the blade against her arm, just enough for her to feel the cold metal and to know her fate.

  “She lay in her bathtub, naked, blood dripped from her wrists onto the floor, and her eyes stared at me with such perfect peace.”

  He stared at her, and his mother’s face flashed before his eyes. Blond hair, blue eyes, fragile features. His mother had been perfect.

  “She wasn’t dead,” he continued. “I knelt by the tub. I knew she had chosen that path, and I asked her why. And she smiled.” He smiled. “Because, she said, she loved the feel of the blade as it sliced into her vein. It was like a grape popping.” He shook his head at the thought. “Unfortunately, Mother was more into cutting herself than truly dying. She didn’t die that time, nor the next.” He patted her arm. “She didn’t die until I strapped her down to her own kitchen table and helped her along a bit.”

  He had told this story many times before. Always he had seen shock or horror on the face of his victim. On this one, he saw only that faraway look in her eyes and the soft ripple of her lips as she whispered to herself whatever words she formed with her tongue.

  Her arm was turned up, her wrist vulnerable, the vein pulsing just below the flesh.

  With his free hand he reached down and allowed his thumb to feather over the vein, his eyes to stare at it with sadness as he laid the blade to it.

  There it was. He groaned at the feel of the vein popping beneath the blade. He let it slice deep, severing the vein before he moved to her other arm.

  Anger was rocking through him now. Damn the egomaniacal bastard who held his identity as hostage. Were it not for him, this woman would be smiling. She would not be dying. She would be blessing the earth with her presence rather than bleeding into the dirt.

  “Say something. You’re dying,” he snapped.

  He wanted her to fight, to scream, to rage. And she did none of those things. Did she regret nothing? Were there no sins that she had yet to atone for?

  She said nothing. She stared above him, whispered soundlessly, and only the smallest flinch betrayed her awareness of what he was doing when he let the blade slice into her other wrist.

  The vein popped open, severed, and spilled its scarlet bounty over his fingers. His eyes closed as the silken hot, rich sensation feathered over his fingers, into his hand.

  His breathing was harsh now, uneven as he reached down and touched himself and began to pump the aching flesh as pleasure tore through him.

  He watched her face. He had to time this perfectly. Just right. It was bad enough he had to wear a condom when he played; he wanted to at least achieve this ecstasy at the same moment as his lovely victim achieved hers. He might regret her death, but her beauty had always inspired him. Amazed him.

  Her blood flowed sweet and dark from her veins; it fell to the floor and ran in scarlet ribbons along the cement as he watched her face, watched her eyes. Yes, she was close, so close. He pumped harder, and heard his own strangled groan as it left his throat.

  “Die,” he moaned. “Die, sweet beauty. Die.”

  The light slowly left her eyes, her last gasp of life fell from her lips, and the scent of her body giving up its final pulse of life threw him over the edge until a shudder of completion finally tore through his muscles.

  Breathing hard, he gripped himself and stared at the bounty laid out before him. Beautiful, so very beautiful in death.

  But when had she closed her eyes?

  He watched her closely, his head tilting as he blinked back at her in curiosity. Her eyes were closed. There was no horror on her face, no blank fear or agony.

  He stepped back from the body, careful not to step in the blood, and watched her in fascination.

  Amazing, he thought. Such strength of will. Such beauty.

  Mossad taught their agents well, he thought with a sigh. In all the years he had been taking lives, never before had he taken one who died with such grace.

  “A perfect death,” he whispered as he breathed in deeply and smiled back at her in admiration. “Absolutely perfect.”

  He moved to the head of the table, touched her cheek, then gently worked the knot of the leather that held her pendant free. He never kept mementos, but he couldn’t resist this one small part of her that he could keep always.

  There was nothing left to do now but to shower, clean all traces of his presen
ce from the small underground cellar he had used, and take his leave. Her husband and son would receive a call later with the location of her body. Once it was found, the money would hit his account. There was a particularly lovely villa he had his eye on in France.

  After wiping the last traces of himself from the area, he dressed carefully, picked up his briefcase, and slid open the narrow door.

  Outside, the nightlife was in full steam. Israelis did so enjoy their entertainment. The nightclubs were, as usual, packed.

  Smiling at one particularly lovely girl who passed by, he drew his cell phone from the pocket of his jacket and made a call to his handler. At least he could trust the mousey little man who dealt with arranging his assignments around his other job. It was often difficult to be both a CIA agent as well as the world’s most secretive assassin. His handler managed it all very smoothly and, in all the years he’d had the job, had never breathed so much as a whisper of betrayal.

  “I’m heading to the airport.” He never spoke directly. “My flight to New York leaves in less than two hours; please make the necessary calls.”

 
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