To prove her father’s innocence, she’ll have to turn a killer’s sights on herself
When journalist Jessie Kegan’s father is accused of espionage and treason, Jessie has no doubt the man she looked up to her entire life is innocent. Worse yet, before Colonel Kegan can stand trial, he’s found dead of a heart attack…but Jessie knows it was murder. Forcing down her grief, she’s determined to use her investigative skills and resources to clear her father’s name. But going after the truth means Jessie soon finds herself in the crosshairs of a killer who wants that truth to stay buried with her father.
Protecting Jessie Kegan is a job bodyguard Brandon Garrett can’t refuse. Jessie isn’t just a client at Maximum Security—she’s the sister of his best friend, Danny, killed in Afghanistan. With dangerous forces gunning for Jessie from every angle, keeping her safe will mean keeping her close and Bran finds their mutual attraction growing, though being Danny’s sister puts Jessie out of bounds.
With their backs against the wall, Jessie and Bran will have to risk everything to expose her father’s killer—before his legacy dies with his daughter.
The Ultimate Betrayal
Thin rays of sunlight washed over the flat Texas landscape the following morning. Bran sat at the controls of the sleek white twin-engine Beechcraft Baron G58 parked in front of its hanger at the Dallas Executive Airport, south and a little west of downtown.
He had learned to fly after he’d left the military. Barely recovered from the bullet wounds that had forced him to leave the Army, one in his thigh, one in his abdomen, and another that had taken out part of his spleen, he’d been bored and unhappy to have lost the job he was trained for.
He’d been trying to figure out what to do with his life when Chase suggested he take flying lessons. Once he’d started, he’d liked it so much he’d considered getting a plane of his own, maybe something like the single engine Cessna that Hawk Maddox flew.
Chase had come up with the idea that Bran and Reese should share the one he owned, since it didn’t get used that often. It was a beautiful plane so Bran had eagerly agreed. Once he discovered private security work was the answer to his dilemma, the plane had come in handy. As it did today.
“You belted in?” he asked Jessie.
She nodded. “All set.” She settled back in the fawn-colored leather co-pilot’s seat and glanced around the interior. “This is really nice.” Besides the two people in the cockpit, the plane carried four passengers in comfortable club seating.
“It hasn’t gotten a lot of use lately. We’ve all been pretty busy.” He started the pre-flight, checking the electrical system, looking for any warning lights, checking the GPS navigation, checking the oil and fuel levels.
He’d already done the walk-around, inspecting the body for damage, looking for fluid leaks: oil, fuel, hydraulics.
“We’re all set.” He put on his headphones and waited for Jessie to put on hers. Settling back, he got on the radio and spoke to the tower, then began taxiing into position on the runway.
Once cleared for takeoff, the plane began to roll down the tarmac, the propellers humming as the engine picked up speed. Jessie studied the landscape outside the window as the plane lifted into the air and climbed to flying altitude. She didn’t say much until the city of Dallas disappeared in the distance behind them.
“As a rule, I’m not crazy about flying,” she said. “But I have to admit this is great.”
He smiled. “Glad you’re enjoying it. For me flying’s mostly a convenient way to get around. Helluva lot better that going through all the hassle at the airport.”
“That’s for sure.”
It was an easy flight, just a few thunderheads beginning to develop, which he was able to skirt by slight course alterations. The patchwork quilt of farmland held Jessie’s attention, giving him a chance to study her.
She was really pretty, he thought, and she was smart. There were plenty of beautiful women in Texas, but when you added brains and a dynamite figure, it was a combination Bran found hard to resist.
Unfortunately, anything other than a completely platonic relationship was out of the question. He owed a debt to Danny Kegan that he could never repay. A one-night hookup with his sister or anything remotely similar was out of the question. His sigh went unnoticed beneath the hum of the engines.
Near the half-way point, he landed at a small executive airport in Amarillo and had the planed topped off while they went into the terminal restaurant for a pit stop and something to eat. Sandwiches and soft drinks and a couple of bags of chips and they were airborne again. A short flight north and a little west and he landed at Cutter Aviation, a private airport a few miles west of Colorado Springs.
The executive terminal, where he’d made arrangements for a hanger to store the plane, was a log building furnished with brown leather sofas, photos of the surrounding snow-capped mountains, and bronze sculptures of wildlife, a place perfectly suited to its location in the Rockies.
Bran had a rental car waiting, a big dark gray metallic Ford Expedition. He grabbed the handle of his carryon, tossed the black canvas duffle that held his gear over one shoulder, and urged Jessie, towing her own carryon, toward the parking lot.
“I booked two rooms for us at the Holiday Inn,” she said as he loaded their luggage into the back of the vehicle. “I hope that works for you.”
He paused to take the Glock out of his canvas duffle, clipped the holster to his belt and pulled his Henley out to cover it, then loaded the bag into the back.
“Call and cancel,” he said. “I’ve got a suite for us at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort. It’s up in the hills not far from Fort Carson.” Apparently she hadn’t figured out that separate hotel rooms weren’t an option. People had been shooting at her. He wasn’t letting her get that far away.
“It’s an hour drive from there to the Depot,” he said, opening the passenger door. “But we’ll also be spending time at the base, which is fairly close, so we might as well stay somewhere nice.”
“You’re spending a lot of money. I didn’t expect that. I’ll find a way to repay you.”
He stopped walking and turned back. “I told you before--I owe your brother my life. You don’t owe me anything and especially not money. I’ve got plenty of it, far more than we’ll need.” He stared down at her. “All right?”
She shrugged. “I guess so.” She was a foot shorter than he was, petite, with a trim figure, but she wasn’t frail. He usually went for tall, buxom women. They just seemed less fragile, a better fit for a guy his size. But there was something about Jessie that drew him.
“No more talk about money,” he said to make the point. “Okay?”
Her chin went up. “Fine.”
He bit back a smile. She was really cute. Too bad she didn’t look more like her silver-haired father and less like her brother, whose good-looks appealed to women around the world.
They belted themselves into their seats and he started the engine.
“You don’t want to talk about the money you’re spending,” she said. “So what do you want to talk about? The case, I hope.”
He grinned. “Why don’t we talk about why you don’t have a serious boyfriend. That should be interesting.”
Instead of the snarky remark he expected, Jessie’s face went pale. She glanced out the window. “It’s not a good story.”
Bran silently cursed. Dammit, he hadn’t intended to make her uncomfortable and it was really none of his business. “Hey, I’m sorry. I was just kidding around. You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”