By the time he returned to the house, he was sucking serious wind. The sky had lightened to shades of lavender and a diamond-sized star hung stubbornly over the lake, blanketed in the soft hues of dawn. He stood on the dock staring over the water—smooth, not a single ripple disturbing the surface—and breathed the clean, unspoiled air.
He let the peace of home and the lake he loved envelop him until all the noises of the past dulled and receded.
SWEAT beaded Garrett’s brow as he completed his last pull-up. He held himself, chin hovering above the bar, until his muscles rolled and contorted and his shoulder burned. His lips thinned and nostrils flared. When his arms began shaking, he dropped to the floor and palmed the scar on his shoulder.
Impatient with the twinge of discomfort that still plagued him, he dropped down and began a series of push-ups. He forced everything from his mind but the goal of complete recovery—a process that had already taken too long for his liking.
After yesterday morning’s run and a full day of PT, he’d slept marginally better last night than he had the night before. But he still couldn’t rid himself of the lingering images of his dreams. Dreams that hadn’t haunted him in some time but now seemed determined to shove themselves back to the forefront of his consciousness.
Garrett extended his arms to hold his position and turned to see his brother Donovan standing in the doorway to the basement.
“Why the hell are you interrupting my workout?”
“Resnick’s paying us a visit. Should be here in the next few.”
Garrett sighed and hopped to his feet. He rose and picked up the towel he’d tossed on the couch and wiped the sweat from his face. “What the hell does he want?”
“He didn’t say. But you know he wouldn’t come out here unless he wanted something.”
“Doesn’t anyone use the goddamn phone anymore?”
Donovan chuckled. “I’ll be over in the war room. A word of warning. Sophie’s on a tear in the kitchen.”
Garrett groaned. His very pregnant sister-in-law had been nesting furiously in the last week. She’d already cleaned the house top to bottom, and her next project was cooking enough food to outlast Armageddon.
Since marrying Sam, she’d bullied everyone into family time. They were her family now—as she liked to constantly remind them—and they would eat as a family, which meant everyone at the table, all accounted for, on time. The only excuse for missing a meal was hospitalization.
Garrett and his brothers indulged her because family was the one thing she’d always lacked. At first she’d been overwhelmed and cautious with the very large Kelly family, but then she embraced them all and took to her new life like a duck to water.
As he climbed the stairs from the basement, he rolled his shoulder, testing the wound. It had been months since he left the hospital, and it still wasn’t healed to his satisfaction. He had residual soreness when he worked out, but if he went more than a day without pushing the exercises, it got stiff.
He was still rotating his arm when he got into the living room. Sophie looked up from the stove and frowned. “Is your shoulder still bothering you?”
Not waiting for his answer, she hurried around the corner—as fast as a woman in her condition could—and stood in front of him. Her belly protruded, nearly bumping into his hip. She looked about thirteen months’ pregnant—not that he’d tell her that.
“I’m fine, Soph,” he said good-naturedly.
“You’ve been working out again. Should you be pushing yourself so hard?”
He rolled his eyes and dropped a kiss on her cheek. “I’m fine. It’s never going to get to one hundred percent unless I strengthen it.”
Her blue eyes clouded and she briefly looked away. He sighed. She was the reason he’d taken the bullet, and she was also the only one determined not to forget that fact. He tugged at her hair just to annoy her, and when she looked back at him, he scowled.
Her sadness lasted all of two seconds. Her shoulders started shaking and her lips split into a wide smile. “Okay, okay,” she said, putting her hands up as she backed away. “I’ll stop the guilt and the mother hen act.”
“Yeah, save it for the kiddo.”
She walked back into the kitchen and he followed, sniffing the air.
“What are you cooking? It smells good.”
“I think the question is, what am I not cooking.” She gestured at the table, which had food scattered over the entire surface. It looked like a mad chef had butchered a cow and an entire garden. “I’m making lasagna to freeze, chicken and dumplings, a few casseroles and a gumbo. You hungry?”
He rubbed his stomach. “I could eat.”
She checked her watch. “Lunch will be on the table in an hour.”
“You’re going to make me wait an hour?” he asked in horror.
She raised an eyebrow. “If I let you eat then Donovan and Sam would want to eat and then there’d be no one to have lunch with when it’s time.”
“You’re a cruel, cruel woman,” Garrett complained. “I don’t know why Sam puts up with you.”
Her look said she wasn’t impressed with his whining.
“Speaking of Sam, where is he?”
Sophie peered over the pot and sniffed. “He went over to the office with Donovan. They had some calls to make. Sam said the contractors were supposed to break ground on the helipad at the compound today.”
Garrett shook his head at her insistence on calling it the “office.” “I’m headed over to the war room now. What are we having for lunch? Do I get to pick since I’m injured?”
“Oh now you want to be all pitiful,” she muttered. “I suppose. What would you like?”
He grinned. “I’ll take chicken and dumplings. Good comfort food for someone in my condition.”
He turned to go but swiped a bite of the chicken she’d deboned and left in a flurry of threats to kick his ass.
Chuckling, he crossed the driveway to the building on the lot adjacent to the house. It had a stark look, completely in contrast to the homey log cabin that he and his brothers lived in, nestled on the banks of Kentucky Lake. It was square and imposing looking with grey cement-steel reinforced walls, no windows and a security system—thanks to Donovan’s technical expertise—the CIA couldn’t get into. Which was funny, considering the CIA would be arriving any moment now.
He punched in the access code and entered when the door slid open. Donovan was sitting in front of Hoss, the computer—the love of his life—and Sam was standing behind Donovan, reading off the screen.
He’d actually miss this place when construction was complete on the KGI compound he and his brothers had designed. They all liked to give Sam shit about his paranoia, but the truth was Garrett thought it was a damn good idea. He wanted his family protected. Especially after all that had
If moving KGI to a secure, state-of-the-art facility would ensure that all the Kellys would be better protected, then Garrett was ready to make the move yesterday. The problem was, such a massive undertaking was going to take time. It would be months before everything would be complete.
“So what’s up Resnick’s ass?” he asked as he ambled over to his brothers.
Sam turned. “Dunno. He called, said he was about twenty minutes out. He sounded agitated.”
“When doesn’t he sound agitated? He’s an uptight son of a bitch.”
Donovan turned in his chair, looked at Sam and then both burst into laughter.
“What?” Garrett demanded.
Sam shook his head. “Hello, pot. Calling kettle uptight?”
Garrett flipped up his middle finger as he turned away and plopped onto the couch. Whatever Resnick wanted, it couldn’t be good. The last time they’d seen him in person was when all the shit went down with Sophie. He’d been quiet since. Just the way Garrett liked him. Trouble always followed in Resnick’s wake.
Sam followed and slouched on the other end of the couch. “Mom is having a party for Rusty, and she’s made it clear the entire family is to attend.”
Garrett sighed. “What’s the party for? Her staying out of trouble for a month?”
Donovan snorted and resumed typing on his keyboard.
“It’s to celebrate the start of her senior year in school. And you have to hand it to the twerp, she’s done well since Mom took her in hand and made her sit her ass in class.”
Garrett grunted. Okay, yeah, the girl their mom had taken in—another of the strays Marlene Kelly was so famous for—had shaped up despite having a piss-poor attitude and a mouth to match. But Garrett wasn’t into being all congratulatory for doing what she should be doing anyway, which was take responsibility and act like an adult.
“Jesus, they’ll probably be buying her a car next,” he muttered.
“Already did,” Donovan called out.
At that Sam’s eyebrows shot up. “They did? When did this happen?”
“I talked to Mom earlier and she said Dad was out car shopping. It’s supposed to be a surprise for this party they’re throwing,” Donovan said.
Sam closed his eyes and Garrett shook his head. “Christ. That’s just what we need. A crazy-ass teenager with her own car. I hope to hell they insure her out the yin yang. She’ll get into a wreck and Mom and Dad will be sued and living on the streets in a month’s time.”
“We can always count on you to find the bright side in everything,” Sam said dryly.
Silence fell and Garrett leaned his head back, closing his eyes. Between the haphazard sleep and two days of extended workouts, he was wiped.
“You sleeping okay?” Sam asked.
Garrett opened his eyes and turned his head to see his brother watching him with a thoughtful expression. “Yeah, I’m good.”
“Sophie said you’ve been up a lot.”
Garrett scowled. Definite drawback to living in a damn commune. “If she wasn’t up going to the bathroom fourteen times a night, she wouldn’t know I wasn’t sleeping.”
Sam chuckled but then he sobered. “Stuff bothering you, man?”
Garrett shoved impatiently at his hair, which needed a good clipping. Right now it stuck out on his head like some beach bum-surfer wannabe. “I’m good, okay?”
The last thing he wanted was to rehash the past. It was bad enough his brothers had to pick up the pieces and nurse his ass back to health when his mission had gone to shit six years ago. He didn’t want to be babysat again just because he was having a few bad dreams.
“Sophie said the contractors were breaking ground on the helipad today.”
Sam nodded. “I plan to go over after we meet with Resnick. Take a look around and see how the rest is coming along. I have Sophie studying house plans. She can’t decide how many bedrooms we need because, as much as she wants more children, she swears this one may be an only child.”
Garrett chuckled. “Ethan said Rachel’s already decided on their house.”
“Yeah, and what about you?”
Garrett frowned. A house? Hell, he hadn’t given it much thought. He’d lived with his brothers for so long that the idea of having his own place hadn’t really sunk it. But it would be nice. Yeah, he needed to start giving it some thought.
The beep of the intercom prevented his response.
Donovan rose from his chair at the computer. “Looks like Resnick is here.”
“Don’t get up,” Sam said when Garrett remained on the couch. “I’ll show him in.”
Garrett grinned. “Thanks. I was comfortable.”
Sam shot him a look and went to let their visitor in.
A few moments later, Sam returned with Resnick in tow. Typically, Resnick had one hand in his hair and the other piddling with the cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. He took quick, short steps and his gaze constantly moved from side to side. Yep, he was a nervous, high-strung son of a bitch.
Garrett raised an eyebrow in Resnick’s direction. “Nice to see you, Adam. To what do we owe this unexpected pleasure?”
Resnick fixed Garrett with his stare and pulled the cigarette from his mouth, holding it between his thumb and forefinger. “Lattimer’s finally f**ked up.”
For a moment Garrett stared at the other man, his mind completely blank. Gunfire echoed through his ears, and the acrid smell of blood filled his nostrils. He was taken back six years. To a place and time when his team had been set-up by the very man they’d been sent to save.
Rage seared through his veins despite his attempt to keep cool and not let the others know just how affected he was by the mere mention of Marcus Lattimer’s name.
“Get to the point,” Sam cut in. “Why are you here and what’s Lattimer f**king up got to do with us?”
Resnick’s gaze never left Garrett. He knew. It pissed Garrett off that Resnick knew just what buttons to push and how to exploit his weakness.
“We’ve got the best opportunity we’re ever likely to get to take Lattimer down. I need you for the job,” he said to Garrett.
Donovan rose from his seat and came to stand to the side of the couch where Garrett sat. “Garrett’s out of commission right now. Find someone else.”
Garrett held up his hand. Donovan meant well, and for that, Garrett couldn’t get pissed. Sam was already frowning, fully prepared to get the corncob wedged farther up his ass.
“Talk,” Garrett said shortly. “The abbreviated version, if you don’t mind.”
“There is no abbreviated version of Marcus Lattimer,” Resnick said. “I don’t need to tell you all the shit he’s involved in. Or what he’s done in the past.”