SNOWBOUND (Protectors Series Book Two)
FBI Agent Mallory Burke, injured and on the run for her life, is stranded in a snowstorm with a reclusive and secretive cop she’s not sure she can trust but is falling in love with.
“So, how does it feel knowing you’re taking your last ride?”
Mallory Burke didn’t respond to the latest comment made by Hugo from behind the wheel of the sedan, refusing to let him bait her. He’d been doing his best to get a reaction out of her since they’d embarked on this journey into the Adirondack mountains of New York State a few hours ago when Hugo had discovered that Mallory wasn’t just the new bartender his boss Billy Wilder had hired for his strip club, but an undercover federal agent.
Hugo had called Wilder with that newsflash and Billy had ordered that Mallory be brought to his mountain cabin—pronto.
Though Mallory wasn’t responding to Hugo’s running commentary, she was reacting all right. The gravity of her situation had her heart pounding so hard she wondered if Hugo and his associate, Miles Pratt, the other man in the car, could hear it.
Pratt, seated beside her in the back seat, turned to her and smirked. His unibrow looked like a caterpillar crawling across his forehead. His large bulk took up more than his share of the leather bench seat, wedging Mallory in tight between him and the rear passenger door. The door was locked, though with her hands tied behind her back she wouldn’t be able to open it in any case. She was currently working on loosening the knot, but Hugo tied a knot with the skill of a sailor. Lucky for her, she was good at untying knots. This one was just about undone.
The knot wasn’t going to be her biggest obstacle to getting away from these bozos. When she did untie her hands, she was going to have to escape into the snow storm outside. As she thought that, the big sedan skidded and the rear fishtailed.
“Fuckin’ snow,” Hugo muttered.
On this, Mallory agreed with him.
Snow or not, there was no way she was going to the cabin. She’d overheard Hugo and Miles say with no small measure of respect—and fear—that the “Don” would be there. Though she wanted to encounter the “Don”—Paul Considine—with a fierceness that had her pulse pounding, she wanted it to be on her terms. Not like this. Not at Considine’s mercy.
Mallory swallowed hard. Hugo and Miles had been taunting her with all of the things they would do to her when they had her at the cabin. Despite her professional training and years of experience with the Bureau, she couldn’t hold back a shudder at the methods of torture they’d described that were specific to her gender. There was no way she could allow these two to touch her and, she had accomplished her assignment, found out what she’d gone undercover to learn and now needed to take that information back to the Bureau. The lives of twelve young women depended on her. Mallory closed her eyes briefly. She could not fail.
Wind rattled her window. Mallory jerked back, nudging Miles. For once, he didn’t comment. He removed his safety belt and leaned forward in his seat. Eyes narrowed, he studied the near whiteout conditions. The wipers swished across the windshield at full speed, clearing snow for an instant before the glass was pelted again and covered.
“Slow down, man,” Miles said.
“No way.” Hugo swiped a hand across his mouth. “It’ll be my head if we don’t get her up there fast.”
Fast seemed optimistic and foolhardy. They hadn’t come across another car since Hugo had turned down this road. Apparently, others had the good sense to stay away today. Trees that lined this stretch of road swayed, buffeted by the force of the wind. Hugo’s hands, inside brown leather gloves, were clamped around the steering wheel. He was trying to keep the car steady, keep it on the road, Mallory thought as the wind struck the sedan and the car veered off to the right. Just where the road was at this point was a guess. The thick snow clinging to the ground obliterated the road and it was only the line of trees that provided orientation. With the road conditions as treacherous as they were, Mallory might not have to worry about what awaited her at the cabin. She had a more immediate worry that she might not make it out of the sedan alive.
“We need to turn back,” Mallory said. “We can’t go on in this.”
“Hear that, Miles? Little Miss Fed’s got somethin’ to say.” Hugo met her gaze in the rearview mirror and bared his yellow teeth in a smile that made the fine hairs on the back of Mallory’s neck rise. “Save your breath, sweetheart, for when we get to the cabin. You’re gonna need it when you start screaming.”
Mallory wanted to come back with a smart retort, but Hugo’s words struck home and her mouth went dry. Work the knot. Work the knot. She increased the pace on the ropes to a frenzy, twisting and pulling. Perspiration trickled down her brow while she shivered with cold. Panic was setting in and she was losing it. Losing it was the surest way to get herself killed.
She forced herself to stop jerking frantically on the rope. Forced herself to fight back the panic clawing at her. Directing her focus to the task at hand, she went back to working the knot.
Miles had disarmed her, but she could see her gun tucked into the waistband of his black pants. Once she freed her hands . . . done!
She was panting like a racehorse. Adrenaline pumped through her. She would have one chance to grab her gun. One chance. She blocked out the thought of what these two would do to her if she failed.
She glanced at Miles. His attention was all on the road. His shoulders hunched as he leaned forward so he was now perched on the end of the seat, clasping the head rest of the unoccupied front passenger seat.
“Slow down, will ya! I can’t see nothin’ but snow!” Miles’s shout was barely audible above the wind.
Mallory reached out to grab her gun. The sedan went into a spin. The world swirled crazily as the car whirled like a top. Her screams echoed with those of Miles and Hugo.
The sedan struck something—hard. Mallory was flung forward. The seat belt cut across her chest, cutting off her breath but holding her in place. In a blur of movement, Miles was thrown to the front of the car and through the windshield.
Windows shattered, peppering Mallory with slivers of glass. She screamed. She was dressed in jeans and a jacket which protected her body but her head and face were bare. She swung her arms up and hunched her shoulders to protect herself from the spray of glass.
The sedan crumpled. The crunch of metal blended with Hugo’s pain-filled shrieks and then there was silence.
— End of Excerpt