Midnight Action (Killer Instincts)

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9781494515638: Midnight Action (Killer Instincts)
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Ex-army ranger Jim Morgan leads a team of elite mercenaries, but eighteen years ago in Paris, he was part of a black ops unit whose mission was to hunt down a rogue operative. In order to trap the criminal, Jim seduced Noelle, the man's daughter-a ruthless act that cost him the love of his life and turned her into a mortal enemy. Now he can't trust her, but he still desires her. He also needs her help . . .

Older, wiser, and unwilling to play the fool again, Noelle runs a group of highly skilled assassins. And she's just been offered the hit of the century: eliminate Jim Morgan. History gives them no reason to trust each other, but with their lives in jeopardy at the hands of a common enemy, the lines between love and hate are soon blurred. Now Noelle and Jim must face the past if they want to have a future-let alone a future together.
Contains mature themes.

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About the Author:

Elle Kennedy is the author of many romantic fiction titles, including the Out of Uniform series, the Welcome to Paradise series, and the Hunted books. Her work has also appeared in several anthologies. A RITA Award nominee, Elle grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a BA in English from York University.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

Nineteen years ago

The overcast sky and turbulent gray clouds rolling in from the east made for a miserable afternoon. Rain was imminent, and the chill in the air had already sent all of the café’s patrons inside. Only Noelle remained on the cobblestone patio, her gloved hands wrapped around a cup of hot English breakfast tea. She wished she’d brought a scarf, but she’d forgotten it back at the elegant town house in the heart of Saint Germain-des-Pres, the prestigious neighborhood she’d been calling home for the past ten years. Except the nineteenth-century property where she lived, with its soaring ceilings and sweeping gardens, was not a real home.

It was a prison.

She’d come to the Marais district today to escape, but deep down she knew there was no such thing. The numbing pain in her left hand confirmed it—she was trapped. Forced to endure René’s torment, at least for another two months. But once she turned eighteen? She’d be out of that house like a bat out of hell. For good. Forever.

She wasn’t foolish enough to think she could convince her mother to join her. No, Colette had made her choice. She would never leave René, but Noelle was past caring. Past begging her mother to see the light.

Pushing away her bitterness, she took a long sip of her tea. The hot liquid instantly warmed her insides, but it didn’t ease the relentless throb in her fingers. At least two were broken—the index and middle—but her thumb ached too, so perhaps it hadn’t been spared in René’s vicious attack either.

I’m going to kill you.

She silently transmitted the message to her stepfather, willing his subconscious to hear it. And it was no longer wishful thinking—she would kill him. She didn’t know when, couldn’t even begin to figure out how, but René Laurent was going to die at her hands. She would make sure of it.

“Is this seat taken?”

The deep, gravelly voice jolted Noelle from her bloodthirsty thoughts. When she laid eyes on the man it belonged to, her breath caught in her throat.

She blinked, wondering if maybe she’d dreamed him, but then he flashed her a captivating grin and she realized that he must be real—her mind wasn’t capable of conjuring up a smile this heart-stoppingly gorgeous.

A pair of vivid blue eyes watched her expectantly as she searched for her voice.

“There are lots of other seats available,” she finally replied, gesturing to the deserted tables all around them.

He shrugged. “I don’t want to sit anywhere but here.”

She moistened her suddenly dry lips. “Why?”

“Because none of those other seats are across from you,” he said simply.

Her heart skipped a beat, and her gaze...Well, her gaze couldn’t seem to leave his face. He was the most handsome man she’d ever seen in her life. His features were perfectly chiseled, his jaw strong and clean-shaven, his mouth far too sensual. And those eyes...midnight blue and utterly endless. A girl could lose herself in his eyes.

And this girl nearly did, until the beautiful stranger chuckled softly, alerting her to the embarrassing fact that she’d fallen into a trance.

Noelle cleared her throat, feeling her cheeks heat up. “I guess you can join me.” She put on an indifferent voice, but she could tell he saw right through it.

He was studying her intently as he lowered his tall, lean body into the chair opposite hers. As he set his coffee cup in front of him, her gaze landed on his hands. Big and strong, with long fingers and short, blunt fingernails.

“You’re shivering,” he said gruffly.

“It’s cold out.”

“Yes, it is.”

Noelle took a hasty sip of tea, shifting awkwardly in her chair. She watched as he ran one large hand through his dark brown hair. So short it was nearly shaved off. She wondered if he was a soldier. His bulky hunter green sweater and faded blue jeans weren’t exactly military-issue, but something about the way he carried himself, something in his shrewd blue eyes, told her he was much more than a tourist or local college student.

He was also a foreigner—she definitely hadn’t missed the distinct American accent lining his flawless French words.

“You’re from the States,” she remarked in perfect English.

He nodded in confirmation. “Virginia, born and raised. And from the sound of it, you’re American yourself.”

“My father is.”

“Did you ever live in the States?”

“Yes. We were in D.C. for eight years.”

“But now you live in Paris?”

She offered a quick nod. “My mother is French. She and I moved here after my parents got divorced.”

“I see.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes.

The hiss of a lighter cut through the air as he lit up, bringing a frown to Noelle’s lips.

“Smoking is very bad for you,” she said frankly.

“What can I say? I like to live on the edge.”

He grinned again, and her heart began to pound.

As she tried to control the butterflies in her stomach, his mesmerizing eyes swept over her once more and a thoughtful expression flitted across his face. “You’re beautiful. Has anyone ever told you that?”

Her cheeks scorched again. There was nothing lewd or creepy about the compliment, but the intensity with which he said it made her pulse race. Something about this man affected her in a strange, confusing way she’d never experienced before. She found herself wanting to reach across the table and touch him. Hold his hand, stroke his jaw, place her palm on his broad, muscular chest. The urge only confused her further, and so she avoided his gaze by peering down at her teacup.

“What’s your name?”

Swallowing, she lifted her head to meet his eyes.

And was stunned by the odd combination of heat and desperation she saw in them.

“Noelle,” she murmured.

“Noelle.” His voice came out hoarse. “I’m James Morgan, but everyone calls me Jim, or Morgan.”

Jim. What an ordinary name for a man who was anything but.

“What brings you to Paris?” She was incredibly proud of herself for managing to speak in a steady voice when her entire body was consumed with erratic jolts of heat.

“I’m here on vacation. I have three weeks’ leave so I thought I’d travel until I had to report back to the base.”

“The base...Are you in the army?”

“Yeah. Doing my second tour now.”

“That’s nice. Do you enjoy it?”

His blue eyes flickered with...a glimmer she couldn’t quite decipher. “I do. I enjoy it a lot, actually.”

“Good. It’s important to love what you do.”

“It is,” he agreed, before slanting his head pensively. “What about you? What keeps you busy?”

“School.” Noelle shrugged. “I graduate from high school in the spring.”

She’d purposely emphasized the words so he would be aware of her age, but he didn’t seem distressed by it. She knew he was older—she would pin him down at twenty-one, maybe twenty-two—but the age difference didn’t bother her either.

Waves of tension moved between them. Or maybe it was awareness. She couldn’t be sure, couldn’t quite understand it, but she knew she wasn’t the only one feeling it. Jim’s pulse visibly throbbed in his throat, as if his heartbeat was as irregular as hers. And his eyes...they never left hers, not even once.

“And afterward?” he prompted. “What will you do then?”

Run.

Run and never come back.

“I don’t know,” she said.

Before she could blink, his hand breached the space between them and found hers. The burst of excitement that went off inside her was immediately replaced by the ripples of pain that seized her injured fingers.

Jim must have noticed her agitation, because his eyes narrowed. “You’re hurt,” he said flatly.

Surprise filtered through her. “I—”

He was peeling off her brown leather glove before she could protest, and when her hand was exposed, a deep frown puckered his mouth.

She saw exactly what he did—two black-and-blue fingers swollen to twice their size, and unpolished fingernails that had broken and bled beneath René’s heavy boot.

“Who did this to you?”

His low growl startled her, as did his astute assumption that her injury was no accident. When he gently ran one callused fingertip over her thumb, tears pricked her eyes, but she desperately fought them off. She refused to cry. Crying was a show of weakness, and Noelle was not weak. She would never be weak.

“You need to see a doctor,” Jim said hoarsely.

“No! No doctors,” she blurted out. “I’m fine, honestly. It was a clean break. I’ll just tape them up when I get home.”

His eyes flickered with surprise, and she could have sworn she glimpsed a gleam of admiration.

But he didn’t capitulate, just spoke again, sternly this time. “Your hand needs to be X-rayed at the hospital. There might be damage you’re not aware of.”

“No doctors,” she repeated.

“Noelle—”

She set her jaw. “No.”

The lump of panic jamming her throat doubled in size. He couldn’t force her to see a doctor, could he? Hospitals and doctors left paper trails, and she couldn’t risk leaving a trail that her father might find. Douglas Phillips had raised her to be strong. He’d passed his warrior genes on to her, made sure she could take care of herself.

What would he think if he knew she’d allowed René to have power over her? How ashamed would he be?

Jim released a heavy breath. “Fine. If you won’t go to the hospital, at least let me take you to see a friend of mine.”

She eyed him suspiciously. “What friend?”

“An old army buddy. He runs a small medical practice in Seine-Saint-Denis,” Jim explained, naming one of the more run-down neighborhoods of the city. “He’ll keep the visit off the books if I ask him to.”

Uneasiness swam in her gut, making her hesitate.

“Nobody will ever know you saw him. I promise.”

The total assurance in his tone was impossible to ignore. God, she believed him. She believed that when this man made a promise, he kept it.

“All right,” she whispered. “I’ll go.”

“Thank you.”

Their gazes collided and locked, and that unsettling and thrilling sizzle of connection traveled between them again.

Noelle couldn’t tear her eyes away from his. Her surroundings faded. The wind died into utter silence. She’d never felt this way before. Ever. And she couldn’t even begin to put into words why she was so drawn to this man.

All she knew, right here, right now, on this cold and cloudy autumn afternoon, was that her entire life was about to change.

Chapter 1

Present day

Noelle raised her cigarette to her lips and took a deep drag, sucking the smoke and chemicals into her lungs before exhaling a plume of gray into the night air. The apartment across the street was dark, save for the one light shining in the study where Gilles Girard was currently sipping on a cup of espresso. She’d been watching the Parisian barrister for three days, and she knew that after he indulged his caffeine fix, he’d move on to the bottle of Rémy Martin on the mahogany bar. The guy had expensive taste in cognac. That was for sure.

The lawyer’s west end private residence was located in the 16th District, one of the most prestigious areas in the city. That told her he had the required cash to procure the services of someone like her, or, at the very least, represented clients who could afford her. But she didn’t trust the man. Granted, she didn’t trust anyone, but Girard’s out-of-the-blue request was definitely fishier than most.

He’d contacted her via several middlemen, though that alone wasn’t unusual, considering her number wasn’t exactly listed in any phone books. No, what made her uneasy was the urgency she’d detected in his voice. The job must be done as soon as possible. There’s no room for delay. The harried plea had rung with desperation, and in Noelle’s experience, desperate men spelled nothing but trouble.

Which was why she now lay on the dark roof opposite Girard’s, flat on her stomach with a rifle at her side and binoculars zoomed in on her prey. Watching, waiting.

Girard lived alone. No wife or kids, no household staff. He was in his late fifties, and his choice of attire told her he was an old-school, aristocratic kind of guy. Anyone who wore perfectly pressed slacks, a cashmere Burberry sweater, and a Gucci scarf around his neck, in the privacy of his own home, was someone who valued luxurious items.

Noelle adjusted the zoom on the binoculars and studied Girard’s handsome features and groomed salt-and-pepper hair. There was something very...jaunty about him. And honorable—he seemed like a man with a moral code.

So why was he trying to hire a contract killer?

Frowning, she snuffed out her cigarette on the pavement and extracted her cell phone from the pocket of her tight-fitting leather coat. A moment later, her field glasses revealed Girard reaching for his own phone.

“Bonjour?” came his baritone voice in her ear.

“It’s me,” she answered in French. “It’s time to continue our little discussion.”

She clearly saw the man’s face stiffen through her zoom lens. “You ended our last call very abruptly,” he said in annoyance. “It was quite rude.”

“I told you, I had to check out a few details.”

“You had to dig into my background, you mean.”

“Yes.”

“And are you satisfied with what you found?”

“For the most part.” She lazily ran her free hand over the barrel of her rifle. “Who is your client?”

“I already told you, I can’t reveal that. But I can assure you, my client has no shortage of funds. He is more than capable of paying your fee.”

“Good to know,” she said lightly. “But I don’t like working for shadows, Mr. Girard.”

“Then I’m afraid we’ve got nothing more to discuss. The identity of my client will not be disclosed, mademoiselle. This is nonnegotiable.”

Irritation flared inside her. Christ, sometimes she wished she’d gone into a different line of work. Secretive men were so goddamn infuriating. And yet she didn’t disconnect the call—her curiosity had been piqued the moment Gilles Girard had contacted her, and she wasn’t the kind of woman who walked away from a puzzle. Or a challenge.

“All right,” she conceded. “I can live with that.”

“Good. Shall we discuss the details, then?”

“Not over the phone.”

“Fine. We will meet tomorrow?”

“Tonight,” she said briskly. “We’ll meet tonight.”

“I’m afraid I’ve already retired for the night.”

“No, you haven’t.” Chuckling, she zoomed in closer and saw the flicker of alarm in his dark eyes.

“What makes you say that?” he asked carefully.

“Well, I’m looking at you as we speak, Gilles, and your fancy-pants clothes don’t look like pajamas to me.”

Noelle got great satisfaction from seeing his gaze dart around wildly, as if he expected her to pop out of a closet and ambush him.

She laughed again. “Don’t worry, monsieur. I’m not inside your house. Yet.”

She tossed the binoculars into the sleek black duffel by her side. As she gracefully rose to her feet, the warm August breeze lifted her blond ponytail and heated the back of her neck.

“I’ll see you shortly, Gilles,” she told the panicked man. She paused in afte...

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9780451465702: Midnight Action (A Killer Instincts Novel)

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ISBN 10:  0451465709 ISBN 13:  9780451465702
Publisher: Berkley, 2014
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Book Description Tantor Media, Inc, United States, 2016. CD-Audio. Condition: New. Unabridged edition. Language: English . Brand New. Ex-army ranger Jim Morgan leads a team of elite mercenaries, but eighteen years ago in Paris, he was part of a black ops unit whose mission was to hunt down a rogue operative. In order to trap the criminal, Jim seduced Noelle, the man s daughter-a ruthless act that cost him the love of his life and turned her into a mortal enemy. Now he can t trust her, but he still desires her. He also needs her help . . . Older, wiser, and unwilling to play the fool again, Noelle runs a group of highly skilled assassins. And she s just been offered the hit of the century: eliminate Jim Morgan. History gives them no reason to trust each other, but with their lives in jeopardy at the hands of a common enemy, the lines between love and hate are soon blurred. Now Noelle and Jim must face the past if they want to have a future-let alone a future together. Contains mature themes. Seller Inventory # AAC9781494515638

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Book Description Tantor Media, Inc, United States, 2016. CD-Audio. Condition: New. Unabridged edition. Language: English . Brand New. Ex-army ranger Jim Morgan leads a team of elite mercenaries, but eighteen years ago in Paris, he was part of a black ops unit whose mission was to hunt down a rogue operative. In order to trap the criminal, Jim seduced Noelle, the man s daughter-a ruthless act that cost him the love of his life and turned her into a mortal enemy. Now he can t trust her, but he still desires her. He also needs her help . . . Older, wiser, and unwilling to play the fool again, Noelle runs a group of highly skilled assassins. And she s just been offered the hit of the century: eliminate Jim Morgan. History gives them no reason to trust each other, but with their lives in jeopardy at the hands of a common enemy, the lines between love and hate are soon blurred. Now Noelle and Jim must face the past if they want to have a future-let alone a future together. Contains mature themes. Seller Inventory # AAC9781494515638

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