Home > HOT Shadows

HOT Shadows
Author: Lynn Raye Harris

“It’s an ambush! Abort, abort, abort!”
“Fuck,” Jax “Gem” Stone swore as the explosion reverberated down the line. Ryder “Muffin” Hanson was behind the wheel of the armored car carrying members of Congresswoman Ellen Fairhope’s staff. He rolled the wheel hard right and spun the vehicle, same as everyone else in the line did.
Gem grabbed onto the overhead handle until the spin stabilized then drew his weapon and prepared for a fight. He threw a look behind the car, but all he could see was a cloud of dust flaring into the air, obscuring his view.
He wasn’t a fan of desert details. Not in the fucking least. He’d done his share, but they hadn’t grown on him over the past few years. Even when shit was normal, it was fucking hot and the sand blew in his eyes and made them even grittier than the typical lack of sleep did. An ambush was some next-level bullshit, though.
As he twisted forward again, he glimpsed the wide eyes of the woman who’d introduced herself back in DC as Everly. A lawyer or something on the congresswoman’s staff. He wasn’t clear on that. She was pretty, with dark gold hair and intelligent brown eyes behind her glasses. She wasn’t his usual type, but he had to admit he’d felt a tingle of interest when he’d first seen her. That was before they’d boarded the plane to Qu’rim.
He’d lost that interest when she’d looked down her pretty nose at him. Or up, since he was taller. She’d still made it look like she was looking down on him, though. He didn’t care for that. He might not be a doctor or a lawyer, but he was damned good at what he did.
And what he did was going to save her ass right about now.
“Gem, you still there? Report.”
Gem touched the mic control on his helmet. “Copy that, Saint. We’re here. Taking the civvies back to the rendezvous point.”
“Roger. We’re moving that way too. See you there.”
“Fucking hell,” Muffin muttered as he glanced at the dashboard. He’d jammed the pedal to the floor, but the car wasn’t going any faster.
“Red line. This baby isn’t going to make it much farther.”
The car slowed as Muffin worked to keep the inevitable from happening. Damn desert heat. Gem gripped his pistol and swore to himself. “Take us as far as you can. We’ll go on foot if we have to.”
“No way. Keep driving.”
Gem turned to look at the women in the back seat. His eyes met Everly’s. Two other staffers were crammed in beside her, but he knew it’d been her by the way she glared at him. Damned if that flare of interest didn’t happen again. He crushed it like an ant at a picnic.
“Excuse me?”
“I said no. Wendy has fibromyalgia. She can’t walk through sand.”
The woman in question gave him a weak smile. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“Nothing to be sorry for. We’ll carry you, ma’am.”
Everly’s brown eyes flashed at him, but he wasn’t sure if it was anger or gratitude. Hard to tell with her prissy attitude. He turned away and touched the mic again.
“Got a situation in car three, Saint. Muffin says we’re redlining. This vehicle isn’t going to make it, and we’ve got someone with a medical condition onboard.”
They were already falling behind if the cloud of dust in front of them was any indication.
“Copy that. How much longer?”
Gem arched an eyebrow at Muffin and nodded at the dash. “Any minute,” Muffin replied.
Gem repeated the info to Saint as well as their location.
“We’ll have to make a transfer then. No choice,” Saint said. “We’ll stop at the mile marker and wait for you—”
A woman’s voice spoke in the background. Gem wasn’t sure what was said, but a moment later Saint was back, sounding pissed. “The congresswoman doesn’t want to stop. Cars two and four will wait for you there. Should be enough room for everyone.”
Gem could hear the anger in Saint’s voice, but disobeying a congresswoman who was also the chairwoman of the House Armed Services Committee wasn’t really an option. Ellen Fairhope could make life hard for HOT if she wanted. None of them would willingly do that to General Mendez or Colonel Bishop. Or to their teammates.
Piling into the other two cars would make things tight, but they could do it.
“Roger,” Gem said. “It’s enough. We’ll make it. Get her back to base and we’ll join you soon.”
Muffin glanced at him. He didn’t look happy. “Seriously? Fucking civilians.”
Gem didn’t know if the women in the rear of the car heard or not. He didn’t care. They were in this mess because the congresswoman wanted to take a tour of Qu’rim and meet with a warlord who was supposed to be on the side the Americans were backing. Gem didn’t know if the guy was or wasn’t, but it was a little suspect that someone had planned an attack on her convoy when she was an hour into the journey.
The car slowed some more, and Gem looked behind them. They were the only ones throwing up dust now since they were in the rear, which meant it cleared faster than before.
“Shit,” Gem growled when he could see. “We’ve got company. Two trucks and men on horseback closing in.”
Muffin pressed the accelerator. The car surged forward before sputtering and slowing. “It’s no good. This bitch is about to die a quick death.”
Gem reached onto the floor for his rifle. There wasn’t enough time to call for air support. No way was he letting these women fall into the hands of the enemy. If they were captured, it wouldn’t be pretty for any of them.
Gem powered the window down and thrust himself through, leaning on the door frame for support and lifting the rifle to his shoulder. He fired at one of the trucks, aiming for the engine bay.
A second later, his bullet found its target and the truck lurched to a stop. He aimed at the next truck. He heard the clang of full metal jacket impacting, but the truck didn’t stop. The bullet must have glanced off a steel support instead of tearing through the radiator or shredding the fan.
Gem sighted through the scope again, pulled in a breath to steady himself as the car lurched forward, then squeezed the trigger on the exhale.