THE LONE WOLF'S LADY Part 15
Rand and his brother flanked Tamara, all three of them scanning the area for the threat they were all sensing. Ian watched the area to the right while Tamara studied the building across the street. That left it up to Rand to keep a wary eye on the area to the left as well as the roofline directly over their heads. Nothing was moving, but his wolf knew the enemy was out there.
Ian's voice was heavily laced with gravel, a sign his own wolf was riding close to the surface. Tamara shook her head at the same time Rand responded. "No, and it's ticking me off big-time. I wish they'd just get on with whatever they've got planned."
Tamara leaned into him for a brief second. "Careful what you wish for. These guys apparently don't care how many of their own people die for the cause, whatever it might be. They're not likely to play nice with us."
Rand squeezed her hand, wishing like crazy that she was somewhere else. Anywhere else, actually, as long as it was someplace safe. On one level, he hated having her out there on the frontline facing off against their faceless enemy. That was the cautious man in him talking. His wolf, on the other hand, was proud that his mate was strong and fearless, ready to stand beside him no matter what life threw at them.
And suddenly, life was throwing tear gas and flashbangs. Even for the purely human, the sound would have been disorienting. But with his enhanced wolf senses, the hot pulse of light and accompanying sounds and smells were excruciating. For the first time, Rand was grateful for the harsh training that Ian put all of his people through to make sure they'd know how to react in this exact situation. After yanking Tamara down to the ground, he told her to cover her face with the hem of her shirt while he did the same.
It didn't help much, but at least it enabled him to think past the pain in his ears. It took a little longer for his vision to get back to normal, thanks to both the sting of the gas and the bright burst of light from the flashbang. Damn, he couldn't wait to get his hands—and his claws and teeth—on the bastards.
He tugged on Tamara's hand, pulling her toward the nearest corner, hoping to use the building as a shelter against whatever came flying their way next. Ian followed close on her heels, walking backward to watch for any sign of danger.
They'd only gone a few steps when they heard the sound of running feet approaching. Seconds later, a cell phone skidded across the pavement to land on the ground in front of them. Whoever had tossed it managed to stay out of sight long enough to fade back to a safe distance. Tamara crouched low to the ground as she crept forward to retrieve the phone. It rang s soon as she picked it up and returned to Rand's side. She accepted the call, putting it on speaker so that all three of them could hear what the enemy had to say.
Rand's suspicion that they were about to hear from her ex was confirmed from the way she tensed up as soon as the guy's face appeared on the small screen. He looked to be about Rand's age, handsome even if his eyes were a bit beady and a little too close together. Of course, that might be his jealousy talking. After all, Tamara had once cared enough about the other man to consider marrying him. That was reason enough to hate Riley. But for now, he'd see what the fool had to say for himself. A smart wolf always studied his prey.
Riley glanced in Rand's direction and sneered. "Tamara, ditch your guard dogs and walk toward the building across the street so we can talk in person. I guarantee your safety."
Rand would give anything for a real chance to get Tamara out of the line of fire, but his wolf sensed the lie in the words. Rand bet his brother's did as well. However, he knew better than to answer for his mate, so he waited to see how Tamara would respond.
Disgust dripped from every word when she spoke. "Riley, someone already tried to blow me up once. I have no reason to think you or one of your idiot friends won't try again. If I'm going to die, I'd rather do it here with two men I trust because they know what honor means."
Riley's smile disappeared. "If I were you, I wouldn't go talking about honor, Tamara."
She bristled in indignation. "Just what's that supposed to mean, Riley?"
Abandoning any attempt to use charm, the man let his true self show. "It means that you destroyed my career after we broke up. No one wanted to be my partner after you got done shredding my reputation. I admit I made a mistake with how I broke things off with you, but it cost me everything. You could've warned me that Ambrose would take it personally if someone made his protégé cry. I thought you were better than that."
Tamara flinched at the vitriol in his voice, but it didn't show in the calm façade she presented to man glaring at her through the phone. "I never said a word to him about you, Riley. The fact that you couldn't hang onto a partner was not my fault. I would also point out that trying to have me blown up doesn't exactly help the case you're trying to make here."
"You have no idea what we're trying to accomplish, Tamara. This is your last chance to make a smarter choice about whose side you're on."
"I'm on the side that doesn't blow up buildings and fire off rocket launchers on a city street, killing or injuring who knows how many innocent people. That's never going to change. You used to be on the same side."
"For the record, that wasn't my doing, and the fools who thought it was a good idea to plant a bomb in your car won't be making that kind of stupid mistake again."
The sharp edge in Riley's words made it pretty damn clear the culprits wouldn't be doing much of anything anymore. Rand was okay with that, but who knew thugs and anarchists would have a zero tolerance policy for screwing up?
Tamara stared down at the small screen, her expression still surprisingly serene. If he hadn't been standing close enough to feel the tension thrumming through her body, he might have even believed that nothing Riley had said bothered her in the least. She bit her lower lip as if weighing what she would say next.
Finally, she squeezed his hand as she brought the phone up closer to her face, perhaps trying to give the impression that this was now a private conversation between her and her former lover.
"Riley, I don't know what happened to you and don't care. But I'm telling you straight up, you need to turn yourself into Ambrose before it's too late. Let me take you in. At least you'll live long enough to explain yourself."
The rogue agent's bitter laughter in response to Tamara's offer came as no surprise. When Tamara didn't respond, the man smirked. "Aw, come on, babe. Aren't you going to beg me to listen for old time's sake?
"Would it work?"
"Sorry, Tam, but you weren't all that special. If you had been, we'd still be together." He paused to glanced to her right and then her left. "Instead, you have literally gone to the dogs."
Tamara wished she had Riley standing right in front of her if only for a few seconds. She'd show him how special she was. He'd rejected the chance of safe passage, but she hadn't really expected him to accept her offer. They both knew Ambrose wouldn't show mercy, not after everything the rogues had done. The head chancellor wouldn't call off the hunt until the last one in custody. Riley had made his own choices, and they both knew he was going to die, most likely slowly, painfully, and with as little mercy as he'd show the people caught in the explosions.
How could she ever have seen something worthwhile in him? Now wasn't the time to beat herself up for having had such a terrible lapse in judgment. Switching gears, she asked, "So how much did you pay that guy who tried to kill me three months back?"
"Obviously more than he was worth. He came highly recommended, but he clearly didn't live up to the hype. I assume the guy growling next to you took him out."
Rand reached over to tilt the phone in his direction. "Actually, it was a joint effort. If you weren't blinded by the size of your own ego, you would already know that Tamara can take care of herself."
Then he pressed a kiss to her cheek. "On second thought, I'm guessing you do know how dangerous she is. That's why you hired someone to take her out instead of doing it yourself. It's also why you're huddling in a bunker somewhere instead of having the guts to talk to her face-to-face. Cowards tend to be pretty predictable that way."
By that point, Riley was practically foaming at the mouth in pure fury. It probably didn't help that Ian was laughing at his brother's assessment of Riley. Although she'd been trying to act calm and professional, she gave into the urge to giggle. Anything to keep Riley stirred up and off balance.
But instead of taking the bait, Riley looked…smug. What was he up to now?
"While it hasn't been nice talking to you Tamara, it has been entertaining. I have somewhere I need to be, and you're about to be too busy for idle conversation."
The screen when blank at the same time that a shower of dust and gravel rained down on the three of them from above. At the same time, shots rang out from across the street, the bullets pinging off the chunks of concrete where they'd taken shelter.
Rand cursed loud and long as he began to return fire. "Ian, where is our ride?"
Ian looked up from the tablet he'd been monitoring. "Close by, but between the spike strips and the rubble from the bombs Riley and his buddies set off, they're having trouble finding a clear path."
Tamara had turned her back to the street to keep a wary eye on the roofline above them through the scope on her rifle. When one of their attackers was foolish enough to peek over the edge, she squeezed off a shot. Because of the steep angle, the bullet tore into the top edge of the wall. But at least from the yelp of pain that followed, the shards of brick found their target.
Meanwhile, Rand glared at his brother. "We're pretty much sitting ducks here. Tell the guys to get their asses in gear."
She half expected Ian to snarl right back, but he remained calm. "If we can move three blocks east, they'll meet us there. If being the operative word here. There's no telling how many of Riley's friends are between us and the pickup point. At least we've still got drones in the air. So far, they haven't seen any signs of anyone headed our way."
Both brothers fired off another spray of bullets to remind their attackers that the two wolves weren't ready to lie down and play dead. In between shots, they discussed the current situation as if it was something they did every day. Heck, as far as she knew, they did.
Rand was the one talking now. "That doesn't mean much when it's clear Riley and his buddies apparently have dug a warren of underground tunnels. There's no telling how far out they've managed to extend them from that building they were using as their headquarters."
She pointed out the obvious. "We also don't have an unlimited supply of ammunition. As long as they keep us pinned down here, they can afford to wait us out. I don't know about you, but I'm not inclined to let them do that." She paused to give Rand a kiss designed to knock his socks off. "I have plans for you, mister, ones that don't include dying today."
His answering grin was all she could have asked for. "So, you vote that we make a break for it?"
When she nodded, Rand looked past her at his brother. "Ian?"
After typing something, Ian hit the send button. "I'm in. I told our guys that we'll be coming in hot. They're sending a drone to do another scan in this area and will call me with any updates."
He tucked the tablet inside a small pack and slung it over his shoulder. "I'll put down some covering fire so the two of you can get a head start. I'll be right behind you."
Both brothers looked grim but determined. Rand gave her a quick hug. "Ready for this?"
Tamara drew a deep breath, checked her weapon on last time and then nodded. "You bet."
Ian whispered, "On a count of three…"
As soon as he pulled the trigger, Rand was off and running with her right on his heels. Seconds later, Ian caught up with them. They stuck close to the side of the building until they reached the corner and then turned left. The silence was ominous, but it didn't last long. They managed to reach the end of the first block, with two more left to go to the rendezvous point when motorcycles came pouring out of the alley ahead on the right. Worse yet, she was pretty sure that more were coming up behind them.
"Rand? Should we shelter in a building?"
He paused briefly to assess the situation. "We can try. If we can get to the roof, we might be able to move from one building to the next that way."
They put on a final burst of speed to reach the recessed entrance. He gave the door handle a hard yank, but then cursed. "It's locked."
Ian snarled, "Let me check in."
He listened to what his men had to say. "Get down. They said it's about to get really ugly, but they're going to try to clear a path to reach us."
Rand shoved her into the corner of the recessed doorway and covered her with his body. Ian added another layer of protection, facing outward in case any of the bikers got close enough to attack. She didn't like the idea of them putting themselves in harm's way, but she knew better than to argue.
The next few minutes were a cacophony of explosions, crashes, and screams. When Ian ran out of ammunition, he took her rifle and rejoined the fight. Finally, he yelled, "Get ready. Our ride is almost here."
At the sound of tires screeching to a halt had the three of them up and diving for cover in the back seat of a heavily armored vehicle. They weren't out of the woods yet, but anything was better than being trapped like rats out on the street. The driver grinned back over his shoulder at them. "Sorry it took so long, boss. But we should have a clear shot out of the area now. Ambrose wants us to return to headquarters."
"His or ours?"
Rand's voice was little better than a growl, but Ian's man didn't even flinch. "He didn't specify. Besides, I take my orders from Ian, not the chancellor."
"Damn straight you do." Ian leaned back, looking far more relaxed than she felt. "Let's go to our office. We'll decide what to do next after we catch our breath and get something to eat."
They'd only gone a few blocks when Riley's burner phone pinged. She'd almost forgotten about the darn thing and wasn't sure she wanted to know what he had to say this time. Still, ignoring him wouldn't be smart."
"What now, Riley?"
"I just thought you might be worried that I might have been hurt or killed in that last little melee. Good news, though, I'm alive and well. See you next time, babe."
And then the call went dead. Too bad the same couldn't be said for Riley.
Rather than dwell on the fight to come, she would settle for being grateful they'd survived this one.