He’s a former Marine with an undercover mission. He’s an alpha with a dangerous vendetta. They call him fearless and frightening. Fatale calls him dangerous and desirable. We call him Kade Butler.
When M16 agent Merrigan “Fatale” Shaw rescues the presumed dead Kade Butler from captivity, all he wants is to avenge the enemies who threaten his family.
Teaming up, Merrigan and Kade search for hidden documents that will expose everything. As peril intensifies and the Russians close in, their desire ignites. Torn between passion and duty, Kade and Merrigan are determined to protect their hearts. Will Merrigan realize there is only one man she’ll risk her entire career for: Kade Butler?
Her mission was clear: go undercover to infiltrate a Russian organization. But when the MI6 agent discovers that two former CIA operatives are being held captive, rescuing them becomes paramount for her.
He’d been waiting over twenty years to be close enough to kill the man who had ripped the life of a woman Kade had loved, to shreds. Finally, he was able to avenge the horrors she’d faced the day Rory Calder raped and left her for dead. He’d almost killed him then, but Leech Hess, the woman’s father, had stopped him. He wondered now if Leech also regretted that Kade didn’t get the shot off.
As he walked out from the shadows, he came face to face with a different woman. The last time he’d talked to her in person, she’d been a little girl. Between then and now, he’d only watched her from afar, although there hadn’t been a single day he didn’t think about her, worry about her, or pray he did right by her.
“Let’s get one thing straight, Eighty-eight,” Kade said to the man with whom he’d entrusted her safety, Mercer Bryant. “She never was his daughter. She’s always been mine.”
Kade walked over and cupped her cheek with the palm of his hand. “Hello, Quinn,” he said.
Mercer let her go, and Kade held her in his arms for the first time in fourteen years.
“Hi,” she murmured, burying her face in his shoulder. “I remember you,” she whispered.
“I’m so happy you do.”
“Are you really my father?”
He understood why she asked. When he’d crept in the back door of the building where she was being held with a gun to her head, Kade had overheard Mercer tell Calder, the man threatening to kill her, that he wouldn’t do it, because Quinn was his flesh and blood. Moments later, Kade had contradicted that by saying she was his daughter.
“Welcome home, son,” said his father, who Mercer had untied and helped to his feet.
Kade let go of Quinn and walked over to embrace his da, whose eyes filled with tears.
He took a step back and looked him over. “What did Calder do to you?” Kade asked.
“Knocked me out with something. I don’t remember much,” his father answered.
Laird Butler, retired CIA agent, code name Burns, had always been his oldest son’s hero—today more than ever. At seventy years old, he was still as fit and strong as men half his age.
Showing emotion was something trained out of people in their line of work, but Kade couldn’t deny the feelings seeing his father invoked anymore than Laird was able to.
“We should get Burns and Quinn checked out,” suggested Mercer.
“Good idea, Eighty-eight.” Kade looked over to the other side of the building, where a man lay face down in a pool of blood. “Who’s that?”
“Max Lista,” Mercer answered. “Our hire, but evidently working with Calder in some capacity.”
Later, Kade would discuss the breach with him and their two other partners in K19 Security Solutions, Paps and Razor. He looked at Quinn, who stood with Mercer’s arm around her shoulders. She was studying him, curiosity etching lines in her face.
“You’re safe now,” he said, walking closer to her. Kade knew she was waiting for an answer to her question about whether he was her father or not, and soon he’d give it to her. But not here, not surrounded by death and evil. “Let’s get you out of here,” he said instead. “I’ll have Mercer take you to see my ma,” he added. “Da, you go with them.”
While Kade was a trained physician’s assistant, he had fallout to deal with here and wouldn’t feel comfortable examining either Quinn or his father in this setting.
The operatives the K19 team had lined up as backup were making their way into the building and removing all traces of evidence of what had gone down in the last hour. They’d need a sweep and clean crew in here as soon as possible too.
“Should we take that one, Doc?” the man who had introduced himself as Monk asked, pointing at Max Lista’s body.
“I’ll gather the family,” said Laird.
“Not today, Da.” Kade motioned in Quinn’s direction. “I need some time.”
“Sorcha will meet us at the Harmony house,” Mercer told them.
As far as his siblings were concerned, tomorrow would be soon enough for Kade to see his brothers. The following day, he’d see his two sisters, Skye and Ainsley.
He rubbed his chest, knowing the hurt he’d rained down on them would be difficult to overcome. While his siblings had been kept in the dark, believing, for the past two years, that he was dead, his parents had been uncertain. They knew to wait until they received final confirmation from the K19 team before giving up hope.
The four partners, including himself, were former agents who’d worked for the CIA’s Special Activities Division of the agency’s National Clandestine Service, or NCS. Three years ago, they’d all left government employment and founded the private security and intelligence firm they called K19 Security Solutions. Ironically, almost one hundred percent of their assignments came from the NCS. However, they made a lot more money carrying them out than they did before.
“Welcome back, Doc,” Mercer said, embracing him before he walked Quinn out to the vehicle that had just arrived to transport them.
“Good to be back.”
“We flew him to Ramstein. He’ll be ready for transport home in a few days.”
“Anything I can do?”
“Paps and Razor are still over there. Get ’em out as soon as possible.”
Mercer nodded and held up his phone. “They’re already out, sir. Someone named Fatale is arranging transport now.”
Kade nodded. He would’ve gotten them out himself if Merrigan, code name Fatale, hadn’t briefed him on Calder’s return to the United States.
Once Mercer was gone, Kade surveyed the building one last time.
“Moving out, sir,” Monk reported.
“I’ll ride along.” Kade intended to transport the two dead bodies to Camp Roberts personally.
He and Leech had taken out the rest of the Maskhadov faction when they’d mounted their escape after two years of captivity. Calder had been the only surviving member of the organization responsible for killing countless US agents and operatives in the mid-nineties, and that was only because he’d returned to the States shortly after the Maskhadovs captured Leech.
In order to leave the country and exact his revenge, Kade had been forced to make a deal with the most unlikely of allies—United Russia, the only organization who wanted the Maskhadovs dead more than the CIA did. As part of the deal, Kade had agreed to turn Calder over to UR, dead or alive.
He had no intention of leaving Calder’s body until he was absolutely certain it was in UR’s possession. Only then would he know that the nightmare that began over twenty years ago was finally over.
The hand off of Calder’s body had happened quickly and covertly, and for that, he was thankful, particularly since that meant he got to the Harmony house quickly.
“Quinn’s asleep,” Mercer told Kade when he walked in the back door.
“Where’s Ma?” he asked right as she came around the corner, almost knocking him over.
She held him tight as her body shook with cries of happiness, and she murmured what Kade could only assume was a prayer of thankfulness. At the same time, his father rested his hand on Kade’s shoulder.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Quinn come around the same corner his mother had. Her bewildered gaze traveled back and forth between him and Mercer.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
“Okay,” she murmured in response.
“Would you like to talk?”
“Now?” she asked, once again looking at Mercer.
“It doesn’t have to be,” Kade answered. “But we can if you want to. I’m sure you have questions.”
It was only when Mercer reached his hand out to her that Quinn came all the way into the room.
“There isn’t any rush, precious,” Kade heard him say to her.
“My head hurts,” she said, turning to Sorcha, who rushed to the sink to get Quinn a glass of water.
“Drink this, precious,” she said, which elicited a smile from both Quinn and Mercer. “And take these,” she added, handing her what looked like aspirin.
“How about you, Da?” Kade asked, wondering if they should consider taking him and Quinn to the hospital.
Before his father could answer, his mother pointed to a bag sitting on the table. “Have someone run this to the hospital and ask Susan in the lab to analyze it.”
Of course his father had made sure to collect the cloth used to knock him out, or maybe it had been the one used on Quinn. Regardless, having tests run to determine whether simple ether or something more powerful had been used should be done immediately. Kade wished they’d let him know earlier; he would’ve taken it to Camp Roberts with him. He looked over at Mercer, who was studying something on his phone.
“What’s up?” Kade asked.
“It was chloroform. Someone beat you to it,” he reported.
“Monk. Evidently, he picked up a second cloth at the scene.”
“Who uses chloroform these days?” his mother said, more than asked.
That was a valid question, although, with the Russians, it depended more on what they could get their hands on. What Kade wanted to know was why Monk hadn’t informed him of what he was doing.
“Who is Monk? Who brought him in?” Kade snapped at no one in particular.
“I did,” said his father.
“Sorry, Da.” Kade rolled his shoulders. He needed to decompress—something he’d always made arrangements to do in the past—but this time, his return was nothing like any other. He’d been gone over two years. First, deep undercover, and then the majority of it held in captivity. Not to mention, reported dead.
“I need a minute.” Kade walked out the back door.
“Want one?” Mercer came out later and offered him a beer.
“Ten would be better.”
Kade twisted off the cap and downed half the bottle. “Been a damn long time.”
“Do what you need to do, Doc.”
“Yeah. Everyone is going to understand, and if they don’t, screw ’em.”
“Even if what I need to do is escape to a deserted island somewhere?”
Mercer laughed and nodded.
As tempting as it was, this time, for the first time, Kade had to put his family before himself, something he’d never been able to do before. Quinn needed him now, if only to explain the last twenty-one years of her life.
He leaned forward and rested his forearms on his knees. “I don’t know where to start,” he said. “How is she?”
“Quinn? She’s okay. She has questions, but she knows more than you think she does.”
Mercer told him about the time they’d spent at Casa Carrizo, the house in Montecito where she grew up, and how Laird had also given her access to Kade’s apartment above the winery.
“She remembers me.”
“She does. Bits and pieces at least. She remembers you teaching her how to ride a bike.”
Kade smiled. He remembered that day well for its normalcy. He, Lena, and Quinn had spent the morning in town. When they came back to the house, he’d asked if she was ready for him to take the training wheels off her bike. She’d told him she was scared, and he’d promised her that he wouldn’t let go until he was sure she was ready. Quinn hadn’t pedaled twenty feet before she wanted to try on her own. She’d ridden around and around the circular drive, making him dizzy. He could still hear the sound of her giggling.
Two days later, before the crack of dawn, he’d left on another mission. Lena had begged him not to go, even though she knew damn well he had no choice. The joy he’d felt with Quinn was replaced by guilt and remorse. His guilt, though, wasn’t because he was sorry he had to leave. Instead, it was because he couldn’t wait to get out of there.
“I’m a selfish bastard,” he muttered. “Always have been.” He looked up at Mercer. “Right now, all I want to do is leave. That’s about as honest as I’ve ever been, Eighty-eight.”
Mercer took a swig of his beer. “Talk to Quinn first, and then leave. However much time you need, take it. I know, without you saying a word, that you’ve been to hell and back. You look like it too.”
Kade laughed. He knew he did. His body was soft, and he probably weighed fifty pounds less than he had when he left.
“I can’t, not until I’ve seen everyone. By the way, how’s Lena?”
Kade laughed. “She can come back now.”
Mercer shook his head and looked away.
“If it weren’t for Quinn, I’d say we should let her stay gone.”
Kade knew exactly what Mercer meant. “She wasn’t always this bad.”
“Paps told me.”
Mercer laughed. “I’ve never seen two people hate each other more than Paps and Lena.”
“You know what they say about love and hate.”
“Not this time.” Mercer shook his head. “So, who’s Fatale?”
“How’d he get involved in your mission in Moscow.”
“Fatale is a woman, and to answer your question, she infiltrated the Maskhadovs about six months ago.”
“What was she after?”
“Same thing they were.” Same thing Calder was. Same thing he was. MI6, CIA, UR—everybody was after what Calder had hidden over twenty years ago.
“Must be important, considering Calder was willing to kill me to get it.”
He hadn’t heard Quinn come out the back door. Kade stood. “Have a seat.”
“No, thanks. I just came out to see if you were hungry. Sorcha made cock-a-leekie soup.”
“She did? Huh.” Kade scratched his chin.
“It’s my favorite.”
“You used to…well, that was a long time ago.”
“No, tell me. Please.” Quinn sat in one of the other empty chairs and motioned for Kade to sit back down.
He told her about her mother insisting she wouldn’t like it, but she had, even when she was little enough to still be in a high chair.
“You used to call it—”
“Kukie-lukie.” Quinn laughed. “I remember now.”
“Excuse me.” Mercer stood and went inside.
“I, uh, guess I better get used to this. There’s a lot I need to tell you, not just stories about soup, but stories about your life, Quinn.”
“Not today,” she murmured, her eyes filling with tears.
“You asked me a question—”
Quinn stood. “Don’t answer. Not yet.”