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Shadow Hawk

Jill Shalvis


  Shadow Hawk

  Being a writer can be lonely. Thankfully, I have a support group. Thanks to Steph for the sanity lunches. Thanks to Laurie for the sweet enthusiasm. And thanks to Gena for…well, everything. Couldn’t have done this one without you.



  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21



  Cheyenne, Wyoming

  Regional ATF offices

  SHE WAS ALL LEG, and Conner Hawk was most definitely a leg man. Hell, he was also a T&A man, but Abigail Wells, fellow ATF agent and communications expert, not to mention all around hot chick, was so well put together she could have made him a certified elbow man.

  Too bad she hated his guts.

  She walked—strolled—across the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ office, her soft skirt clinging to her thighs with every graceful swing of her hips. Her blazer hid her torso from view, but he knew she had it going on beneath that as well. Her honey-colored hair was pulled up in some complicated do that screamed On Top Of Her World.

  As if she’d read the direction his thoughts had traveled, Abigail glanced over at him, those bee-stung lips flipping her smile upside down, her eyes going from work-mode to pissy-female mode.

  Oh yeah, there was the frown, the one she’d been giving him ever since the day she joined the team six months ago. She’d come from the Seattle office, where she’d worked in the field. He tried to imagine her wearing an ATF flak jacket, guarding his six, and was halfway lost in that fun fantasy when she spoke.

  “You.” This in a tone that suggested he could, and should, go to hell.

  “Me,” he agreed, surprised that she’d even given him that one word. She usually avoided talking directly to him, as if he carried some new infectious disease.

  Odd, since to everyone else she’d been personable, even sweet and kind. It made that steely backbone of hers so surprising. When she decided to dig her heels into something, watch out. He’d seen it over and over, people so shocked by the unexpected toughness that this pleasant, melodious little thing exhibited that she got whatever she wanted. She must have been a hell of a force out in the field, probably underestimated by every single scum of the earth who’d come across her, but here in Cheyenne she’d stayed behind the scenes.

  “You’re late,” she said in a school-principal-to-errant-student tone.

  Oh yeah, now there was a fantasy…. He pulled out his cell phone and looked at the digital readout. Two minutes. He was two minutes late, and that was because someone had taken his parking spot. And he might have explained that to her if she hadn’t been giving him the look that people gave their shoe when they stepped on dog shit.

  Even as he thought it, her nose slightly wrinkled.

  Yeah. In her eyes—which were an amazing drown-in-me blue—he was about equal to dog shit. Nice to know.

  “We’re wanted in Tibbs’s office,” Abigail said.

  We? Well, that was a new term. Hawk dutifully followed her into their supervisor’s office, his gaze slipping down that stiff spine to her spectacular ass. Attitude or not, she looked good enough to nibble on. A little sweet, a little hot…nice combo—

  Whoa. She’d suddenly stopped, forcing him to put his hands on her hips rather than plow her over.

  Clearly hating even that small contact, she jerked free and sent him a look that said go-directly-to-hell-without-passing-Go.

  Right. Hands off. Maybe he should write that down somewhere.

  “Any news on the rifles?” she asked.

  Great. The absolute last thing he wanted to talk about. The rifles. Everyone had heard about the 350 confiscated rifles, which had gone missing from ATF storage before they could be melted down. Stolen, from beneath their noses.

  His nose.

  She was asking, of course, because he’d been the agent on the raid, the one who’d brought the weapons in. He had no idea how they’d gone missing, but he knew why. They had a mole and Hawk was getting too close.

  “No. No news.”

  “I see.” And with one last cool glance, she knocked on Tibbs’s door.

  I see? What the hell did that mean? Before he could ask, Tibbs called out for them to enter.

  Their supervisor stood behind his desk, which didn’t make that much of a difference since he was maybe five foot four and nearly as round as he was tall. The balding man shoved his glasses higher on his prominent nose. “We got a tip on the bombers,” he said in that Alabama drawl of his.

  Hawk had been working on the Kiddie Bombers for the past two years. Some asshole, or group of assholes, was teaching teenagers how to put together bombs, then using the explosives to terrorize big corporations into paying millions of dollars. Twelve kids had died so far, eight of them under the age of eighteen, and the ATF wanted the bomb-makers and their knowledge off the streets.

  Hawk wanted that, too, and also the man running the Kiddie Bombers. Eighteen months ago he’d nearly caught him in a raid on a downtown warehouse. In the pitch-black, on the hard concrete floor, they’d fought. Hawk had wrestled a gun from his hand, managing to shoot him before being tackled by another Kiddie Bomber.

  Hawk had escaped with his life intact, thanks to his partner, Logan, and given that the gang had gone quiet after that night, it had been assumed that the Kiddie Bombers’ leader had died from his gunshot wound.

  But a year ago, the Kiddie Bombers had popped back onto the radar, pulling off two huge jobs with weapons that had been previously confiscated by the ATF.

  Hawk had his suspicions, mostly because there was only one person who could be linked to all the raids—Elliot Gaines. But that was so crazy wild, so out there, he’d kept it to himself, except for Logan. What he hadn’t kept to himself was his vow to get the Kiddie Bombers’ leader.

  In the past month alone, Hawk and Logan had confiscated two huge warehouses full of ammo and other supplies. But not a single suspect. “Tip?” he asked Tibbs.

  “Suspicious activity, rumored arsenal. Orders came down from Gaines on this.”

  Elliot Gaines was the regional head. Or, as some put it, God. Word had spread that the Almighty was tired of the delays, tired of the false leads and really tired of the ATF looking like idiots.

  “You’re both heading out.” Tibbs tossed a full file on his desk for them to read. “Bullet City.”

  Northern Wyoming, approximately four-and-a-half hours from Nowhere, U.S.A. Yeah, made sense to Hawk. Isolated. Cold, which was good for the materials the bombers used. And, oh yeah, isolated. Great.

  “Word is tonight’s the night they’re testing some new product,” Tibbs drawled. “We’ll need to catch them in the middle of their private fireworks show.”

  That worked for Hawk. He picked up the file and flipped through it, reading about the barn that’d been found loaded to the gills with incriminating equipment, complete with an elusive owner they hadn’t been able to pin down.

  Abby shifted closer to read over Hawk’s shoulder, making him extremely aware of her tension as it crackled through the air like static electricity.

  “You’ve got two hours,” Tibbs told them. “You fly out together.”

  “Together?” Abby repeated, her voice actually crack

  Surprised at the unexpected chink in her armor, Hawk looked at her.

  “You’ll run the show from the van, Abby,” Tibbs said. “And Hawk from the field. There’ll be a team in place.”

  Abby blinked. “But…”

  Both men eyed her as two high splotches of color marked her cheeks. Interesting, Hawk thought. She was usually cool as ice. So what had her riled up? Him? Because she sure as hell got to him. He couldn’t help it, beneath her veneer there was just something about her, something…special. Sure, he wanted to do wicked things to her body and vice versa, but that alone wouldn’t have kept him on edge around her for six months. “Don’t worry,” he told her. “I’ve done this once or twice before.”

  “Ha.” But her brow puckered, her kiss-me-mouth tightened.

  Normally this would make him wonder how long he’d have to kiss her before she softened for him, but not now. “What is it? You don’t trust me out there?”

  “Hawk,” Tibbs said quietly.

  He heard the warning in his boss’s voice, but he didn’t care. “No, I think it’s time, past time, that we get this out in the open. I want to know, Abby. What exactly is your problem with me?”

  “Nothing.” She hit him with those baby blues, which were suddenly void of any emotion whatsoever. “There’s no problem at all.”

  Bullshit. But hell if he was going to keep bashing his head against a brick wall. “Okay, then. Fine.”

  “Fine.” She gestured to the file in his hands as she gathered her control around her like a cloak. “Flight’s at two.” She said this evenly, back to being as cool as a cucumber. In a freezer. In Antarctica. “Be late and I leave without you.”


  Later that night

  Twenty-five miles outside of

  Bullet City, Wyoming

  ABBY ENTERED THE COMMUNICATIONS van, and the men stopped talking. Typical. Men complained that women were the difficult gender, but it seemed to her the penis-carrying half were far more thorny.

  Not to mention downright problematic.

  Not that she cared, because when it came to personal relationships, she’d given them up. A fact that made her life much simpler.

  Sliding the door shut behind her, she shivered. Late fall in the high altitude Bighorn Mountains meant that razor-sharp air cut right through her, layers and all. As she rubbed her frozen hands together, her gaze inadvertently locked on Hawk, who had his long-sleeved black shirt open and the matching T-shirt beneath it shoved up so that he could get wired.

  He stood there, six feet two inches of solid badass complete with a wicked, mischievous grin, topped with warm, chocolate eyes that could melt or freeze on a dime. From beneath the sleeve of his T-shirt peeked the very edge of the tattoo on his bicep, which she knew was a hawk.

  The women in the office practically swooned at it, every time.

  But not Abby. Nope, she was made of firmer stuff.

  There was a four-inch scar, old and nearly faded, along his left side between two ribs, and another puckered scar above his left pec. The first was a knife wound, the second a bullet hole. She could also see his smooth, sleek flesh pressed taut to hard, rippled sinew. One long, lean muscle, not an ounce of extra on him.

  Whew. Had she been cold only a moment before? Because suddenly, she was starting to sweat. She cursed her 20/20 vision.

  Maybe she wasn’t made of firmer stuff after all…. But regardless, she was over men. So over men. And seeing that she’d become so enlightened…she blew out a breath and moved to her communications station.

  Where for the first time, she hesitated. That in itself pissed her off. So a year ago she’d nearly died out in the field. She hadn’t. And she wasn’t going to this time, either. Shrugging off her nerves, Abby looked around and caught the long, assessing look Hawk shot her as he pulled on a flak vest. He was sharp, she’d give him that. Clearly, he sensed her hesitation, but hell if she’d let him see her sweat. She lifted her chin and sat down.

  But if she was a good actress, then he was a great actor, because she had no idea what he was thinking behind that perpetually cynical gaze.

  And she didn’t care. She was here for the job. She would remain in the van, in charge of communications, while the team made their way to the farmhouse, and then to the barn a half mile beyond that, where they’d execute the raid.

  “There,” Watkins said to Hawk as he finished wiring him.

  Hawk shrugged back into his shirt. “You fix the problem from the other day?” he asked.

  Abby’s eyes had wandered again to Hawk’s body—bad eyes—but her ears pricked. “Problem?”

  “Bad wire.” Watkins lifted a shoulder. “Happens.”

  “It shouldn’t,” she said. “Make sure it doesn’t.”

  Watkins nodded.

  Hawk let his T-shirt fall over his abs, hiding the wires as his gaze again met hers. One eyebrow arched in the silent question: Were you staring at me?

  No. No, she wasn’t. To prove it, she turned to her own equipment, trying not to remember the last time she’d been wired before a raid. Elliot Gaines, the head honcho, had done her up himself.

  Of course he’d had a personal interest. They’d had a burgeoning friendship, at least on her part. For his part, he clearly wished for more, far more. In any case, he couldn’t have known how bad it would all go….

  And it had gone extremely bad. One minute she’d been listening to Gaines’s quiet, authoritative voice in her ear, telling her she was doing great, just to hold her position while his team to the west “handled it,” and then the next, there’d been a 12-gauge shotgun to her temple and she’d been taken hostage.

  Now, a year later, in another time and place, someone murmured something in a low voice that she couldn’t quite catch, and several of the men behind her laughed softly.

  Releasing tension, she knew, most likely with an off-color joke that she didn’t want to hear. Living as a woman in a man’s world was nothing new, but she had to admit, tonight, it was grating on her nerves.

  Granted, her nerves were already scraped raw just by being here, but that was no one’s fault but her own. Gaines had transferred her at her request after a leave of absence. She’d wanted to prove to herself that she could still do her job, that she hadn’t let the “incident” take anything from her.

  But with damp palms and butterflies bouncing in her gut, she wondered if maybe she had more to overcome than she’d thought.


  With a start, Abby turned toward Hawk. He was geared up and ready to face the night, looking big, bad, tough and prepared for anything. She bet he didn’t have any butterflies.

  The others were engaged in conversation, but Hawk stood close, looking at her as if he could see her anxiety. “Ready?”

  That he could see her nervousness meant she didn’t have it nearly as together as she’d like. “Of course I’m ready.”

  “Of course,” he repeated, but didn’t move. “Listen, I know you’re going to bite my head off for this, but I’m getting a weird vibe from you here, and—”

  “I said I was fine.” She swiveled back to her computer to prove it.

  “All right, then.” She could feel him watching her very closely. “You’re fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine.”

  She heard him turn to follow the others out the door, and glanced back to watch the long-limbed ease that didn’t do a thing to hide the latent power just beneath the surface. Or the irritation.

  Abby let out a rough breath. Damn it. He might be a hell of a charmer, but he was also a hell of an agent, and truth be told, she admired his work ethic even more than she secretly admired his body. And she wanted him to be able to admire her work ethic. “Hawk.”

  He looked back, his broad shoulders blocking the night from view, but not the chill that danced in on an icy wind. “Yeah?”

  “Watch yourself.”

  A hint of a self-deprecating smile crossed his lips. “Thought you were doing that for me.”

he felt the heat rise to her face, but he’d caught her fair and square. His smile came slow and sure, and far too sexy for her comfort.

  As he left, she let out a slow breath and fanned her face.

  “DAMN, IT’S BUTT-ASS COLD out here.”

  At Logan’s statement of the obvious, Hawk blew out a breath, which changed into a puff of fog before being whipped away by the cutting wind. The two of them lay on their bellies on the battered roof of the barn that had been pinpointed as a bomb-processing plant.

  And yeah, it was butt-ass cold up here, but he was more focused on the fact that he was thirty feet above the ground without a safety rope, with the wind threatening to take him to the land of Oz.

  Christ, he really hated heights.

  Logan lowered his binoculars to blow on his hands. “Maybe we could do this thing before we freeze to the roof like a pair of Popsicles.”

  Like Hawk, Logan was built with the capacity to do whatever, whenever. Tough as nails. Physically honed. Trained to be a weapon all on his own, with or without the aid of bullets. But he enjoyed complaining. Always had, and Hawk should know—they’d been together since they’d been eighteen and in boot camp. They’d gone from bunkmates to brothers and knew each other like no one else.

  To get here, they’d drugged a pack of rottweilers, disabled the alarm on the farmhouse and stealthily made their way through the woods to the barn. The place was a nice setup for criminal activity. Surrounded by the sharp, jagged peaks of the Bighorn Mountains, there were also rolling hills and a maze of lakes and streams, all of which were nothing but an inky black silhouette in the dark night. No neighboring ranches, no neighboring anything except maybe bears and bison and coyotes.

  And the many cars and trucks parked behind the farmhouse.