So, she botched up an assignment. It hadn’t hurt anyone. Not really. To err is human, right?
Not according to the FBI.
Agent Whitney Lawson tightened her fingers around the steering wheel as she drove slowly through John F. Kennedy International airport’s parking lot. She wasn’t here to catch a perp or even a suspect. Oh, no! That kind of assignment was way above her now. Two weeks ago she would have been undercover, or on a stakeout, or making arrests. Those were the important assignments.
But now... she was a babysitter. Seriously!
Although Zack Greyson was one of the country’s wealthiest men – according to a popular magazine – he wasn’t exactly a baby. Unless you were a love-crazy stalker and sighed baby-oh-baby, where have you been all my life when looking at his picture.
Because Whitney messed up on an assignment two weeks ago, her boss forced her to play guard-dog to a billionaire. Zack was the key witness to the trial-of-the-year in New York City and was supposed to be in hiding. Senator Sterling had been arrested for conspiracy to commit murder, for fraud, and for running a human trafficking ring.
Zack Greyson’s association with the senator had been ongoing for six years until Zack accidentally observed the senator commit two out of three of these charges. Zack was now in danger. The FBI had wanted the billionaire to enter their Witness Protection Program, but Zack had declined, stating he could hide just fine without having the FBI run his life.
Whitney rolled her eyes. Just because the man had loads of money didn’t make him the Almighty and untouchable. The FBI suspected that the senator had put a hitman on his payroll, and her unit worried that Zack might wind up dead.
She’d fought like crazy not to get this assignment, but obviously, had lost. It was now up to her to watch over Zack Greyson and make sure he was hiding well enough. But he wasn’t. If she could find him each time he moved locations, she was sure the hitman could find him.
A movement from a parked truck caught her attention. She slowed her black SUV, watching carefully as the man exited his new Chevy truck. He reached into the uncovered bed of the vehicle and grasped a forest green wheelie suitcase.
The popular celebrities’ magazines always used three words to describe him whenever they talked about Zack Greyson: tall, brawny, and gorgeous. She had her own way to describe him: arrogant, built-like-an-ox, and too conspicuous.
For someone who was trying to stay hidden from the senator’s hitman, the billionaire failed miserably. He could have at least colored his hair or worn secondhand clothes instead of designer brands. But Zack’s dark brown hair was still shoulder-length, he wore his usual classy, button-up long-sleeved shirts that somehow showed off his muscles – and drove top-of-the-line, brand-spanking-new vehicles. He grabbed a black leather jacket off the seat of his truck and shrugged it on before heading toward the terminal.
Grumbling, she circled back around the lot, hoping to find a parking stall. She had to stop him from getting on the airplane. Hopefully, between now and just before he checked in, she’d think of something clever. There was no way she could keep an eye on him if he left New York City.
Whitney found a parking place and scrambled out of the SUV as not to lose Zack. She probably looked suspicious by not having luggage, but she couldn’t worry about that right now. Her mind scrambled for a way to convince him that leaving the city was a bad thing right now, and that he really needed the FBI’s help.
Throngs of people crowded the terminal. She groaned. Finding him would be harder now.
Skimming her gaze around the different sections of the terminal, she noticed many loved ones saying good-bye to their families. Couples embraced and kissed before one of them left to enter the security section.
Because Zack had a lot of money, he’d probably checked in online, which meant he’d be in line to check in his baggage. Yes! This was what he’d be doing right now, she just knew it.
She pushed past people on her way to the baggage check-in desk. Thankfully, a long line of people stood waiting. And, standing taller than anyone was Zack Greyson.
Whitney breathed easier as relief washed over her. But what should she do now? Would walking up to him and flashing her badge be the key to convincing him not to leave?
“Oh, Tommy,” a woman nearby wailed as she threw her arms around the man in his twenties who stood in line for the security check station. “I can’t believe you’re really leaving.”
“Cami, please don’t cry.” He kissed her briefly on the mouth. “I’ll be back to get you. I just need to secure a job and find us a place to live, first.”
The curly-haired blonde woman nodded. Her make-up smeared down her cheeks from her tears. “Okay. I’ll miss you.”
He gave her one last hug before moving into the line.
Whitney rolled her eyes. She’d bet twenty-bucks that Tommy never returned for his girlfriend. Men! She would never understand them.
Suddenly, an idea struck her, and she sucked in a quick breath. Dare she do something so obnoxiously... stupid? But, she was desperate. She couldn’t botch another FBI assignment.
She hurried toward Zack, trying to psyche herself up for the ridiculous play-acting she was about to perform. Three feet away from Zack, she let out a cry and screamed his name.
Several people standing in line jumped and swung their gazes toward her. Zack looked over his shoulder, and when he saw her, his eyes widened. She wasn’t sure if he’d remember her from when her unit had talked with him two months ago, but she kept on with her performance, regardless.
“Oh, Zack,” she sobbed and launched herself against him, wrapping her arms around his neck. She was taller than most of the women in her office, but she still had to raise up on tippy-toes in order to get in a good hug this way.
“How could you leave me like this?” she said quickly, not wanting anyone to know that she wasn’t who she proclaimed to be. “I’m sorry about our fight, Zack. I’ll do anything you want, just don’t go. Stay and we’ll work this out.”
His gaze narrowed on her, and his mouth twisted in a humorous grin. “You’ll do anything?”
She didn’t dare voice her hardened thoughts right now because of his reaction. “Anything.” She pressed her check against his – at least she tried to – and whispered, “we need to talk away from the crowd.”
Slowly, his arms wrapped around her waist as he brushed his lips over her ear. She wasn’t sure she liked how close their bodies were now... or the fact that he’d made goosebumps rise on her neck.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked in a low voice.
Whitney withdrew slightly. “Please, Zack. Tell me you’ll stay. I can’t live without you.” When she hugged him again, she said softly, “I don’t want to draw too much attention, so please do as I say. We need to talk.”
Once again, he lifted his head and peered down at her. This time, his gaze wandered over her face slowly as if he was trying to recognize her. There was a spark of interest in his teasing gaze, and she knew he’d figure out who she was eventually.
“Darling, you know I have to leave,” he said grinning widely.
She liked that he was following along, however, things were going the exact opposite of how she’d envisioned. This was not fun and games, so why was he playing like it was?
“Please, Zack...” The tone of her voice became edgier.
Tenderly, he cupped the side of her face. “Tell me you love me. Tell me I’m the only man for you.”
Whitney clenched her teeth. He’s got to be kidding! She wasn’t about to say that!
Murmurs from the people behind her encouraged her to say those three magical words. What had she gotten herself into this time? As much as she detested what was happening, she reminded herself that she did this for the badge. She was a great FBI agent, and she would not mess up another assignment.
Forcing herself to grin, she tried to get into character again. It was more difficult now that it had been a few moments ago. “I... love you, Zack. You are the only man for me.”
His expression relaxed, which made his brown eyes twinkle. “I love you too, darling.”
Before she knew what he was doing – or could stop him – he lowered his mouth to hers. The second their lips touched, the small crowd around them cheered. Good grief! Was this really happening?
Zack’s mouth moved slowly over her so gently, it took her breath away. Her heartbeat quickened and her legs suddenly grew weak. His strong arms tightened around her waist, holding her intimately against his body, and all she could do was let him kiss her. But she just couldn’t allow herself to get into the moment.
He broke the kiss, and she sighed with relief. But when his mouth moved to her ear, his warm breath on her neck made her shiver with delight.
“You started this, lady, so you’d better play along before our fans figure out the truth.”
Inwardly, she groaned. He couldn’t be serious... Yet, his mouth returned to hers and their kiss continued. Gads, he was really going to make her do this, wasn’t he?
This is for the job! She tightened her arms around his neck and kissed him. In her mind she tried to imagine the most desirable man she’d ever met, but all she could picture was Zack’s face and his dreamy, twinkling brown eyes.
His large hands slid over her back, caressing softly and bringing heat into her body until she relaxed. Against her better judgement, she participated in the bold kiss.
What had started out to be a simple kiss, turned urgent. The velvety heat from his tongue caressing hers in the most inappropriate way made her mind whirl. In fact, she felt as if she floated in his arms. The sounds of cheering slowly diminished, and all she could hear was the erratic rhythm of her heartbeat.
Just as she started to enjoy the kiss, Zack slowed down the urgency until only soft pecks were on her lips. He withdrew and stared deeply into her eyes. Dang, he was gorgeous. The phrase baby-oh-baby, where have you been all my life popped into her head.
Snap out of it, Lawson!
Blinking herself to awareness, she glanced around, preparing to meet the curious gazes of the crowd. But... they were not in line any longer. They were against a side wall in the corner. How did they get here?
“Hey,” he said sweetly. “Have you returned from that cloud you were just floating on, yet?”
Anger grew inside of her, hot and unyielding. How she’d like to slap his arrogant face for making that comment.
She huffed and shoved him away. The warmth she’d experienced being so close to him had disappeared, making her feel empty. She calmed her breathing, silently counting to ten.
Zack continued to look at her wearing a slanted grin on his handsome face. He calmly folded his arms over his wide chest and tilted his head slightly.
“So, lady... Are you going to tell me what that was all about?”
“Um, yes.” She straightened her shoulders. “I’m Agent Whitney Lawson with the FBI, and I’ve been following you for a little while.”
Zack’s pretty-boy features darkened with his scowl. “You’ve been following me? I specifically told you guys that I didn’t need your help.”
She stepped closer, giving him her FBI demeaning glare. “And you, Mr. Greyson, are the key witness in the trial of the century. You promised us that you were going to stay hidden, but look where I’ve found you.” She motioned her hand toward the long lines. “Tell me, what does hiding mean to you? Does it mean you’re out in public where everyone can recognize you? Because you obviously haven’t done anything to hide your identity.”
He grumbled and pulled out a rolled up magazine that had been in his jacket pocket. It was one of those popular tabloids. On the front cover in bold letters was written Missing Billionaire, and had his picture plastered across the cover.
“Apparently,” he said, “the world thought I was missing or they wouldn’t have published this. But now after your display a few minutes ago with everyone taking pictures and videos on their cell phones, I’m quite sure my cover will be blown. No thanks to an FBI agent, of course.”
She rolled her eyes and tried not to feel embarrassed. Was he right? Would this be all over the media, now? Inwardly, she groaned. Captain Bott would have her badge for sure on this mistake.
“Unfortunately, the mistake has been made, so now we just need to fix it.” She grasped the handle of his wheelie suitcase. “Come on, let’s go out to my SUV so we can talk in private.”
His hand gripped the handle, too. His piercing glare challenged her.
“Sorry, lady, this is your mistake, not mine. I’m getting on that plane and flying to Hawaii for some R and R.”
Her temper turned hotter. “Hmm... sorry, but you’re not. You’re coming with me.”
“And if I don’t?”
Captain Bott is going to kill me! “If you don’t, then I’ll arrest you.”
He chuckled. “For what?”
“Resisting an FBI agent, that’s what for.”
His expression softened slightly and his grin reappeared. “But I didn’t resist you, Agent Lawson. You were the recipient of my kiss, so I’d think you’d know there was no resisting at all.”
Heat flooded her face, and she was sure it was redder then a ripe tomato. She needed to calm down and talk sensibly to him. That was the only way. Either that or tell him an enormous lie.
“Zack, the truth is... We have reason to believe a hitman knows where you are.”
He gave her a nonchalant shrug. “Again? If you remember correctly Agent Lawson, I was shot two months ago, which was why the FBI thought they had to step in and help me.”
“Of course, I remember. But this time is different. He knows... eh, he knows you’re going to Hawaii. In fact,” she glanced over his shoulder toward the line at the baggage claim section, “he might be one of those people checking in their luggage.”
“If the hitman is here, why hasn’t he shot me, yet?”
“Seriously? Out here in the open where everyone could identify him? Yeah, that’s not going to happen. He’s going to wait until you’re in a quiet spot with very few witnesses. So the way I see it, you have two choices. You come with me willingly, or—” she reached behind her and unhooked the handcuffs around her belt and brought them into view, “I’ll cuff you and take you back un-willingly.”
Zack sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Fine, I’ll go with you, but,” he stepped closer, bringing his face a half-inch away from hers, “you, or the FBI, owes me a first-class ticket to Hawaii.”
She couldn’t stop the snort coming from her laugh. “Yeah, okay. Like you’re going to miss a couple hundred dollars from all your billions.”
Pushing past him, she led the way out of the terminal. Neither of them spoke as they neared her SUV, which happened to be closer than his truck.
“My truck is just over there,” he said.
She nodded. “And we’ll pick it up later.”
“No,” his voice turned sharp, “we’ll pick it up now.”
Just as she opened her mouth to argue, gunshots popped through the air from out of nowhere. Her first instinct was to protect Zack. She grasped his arm, and pulled him down, ducking behind a parked car. She fished in the back of her slacks to pull out the gun from her holster.
“Keep down,” she instructed, and she was relieved Zack did as he was told this time.
With the gun in her hand, she peeked over the edge of the car. Whoever was shooting at them was hiding really well.
She glanced toward her SUV. Only two vehicles away. They could get there. She’d make sure they arrived safely.
She reached into her pocket and pulled out the keys, and then clicked the remote to unlock the doors. “On the count of three,” she said in a quiet voice, “we’re going to run to that black SUV. Got it?”
She counted it out, and together they darted toward the SUV. More gunfire came from one direction, but thankfully, they made it to the vehicle and hopped inside.
As quickly as she could, she started the car and took off. Seconds later, a white truck came into view, barreling toward them, picking up speed.
Her heart sank. Out here in the airport parking, where were they going to hide?