Ryan Trexler has devoted his entire life to his family’s security business. And now that he’s slated to take over the reins for the company, RT knows that his life is only going to get more complicated. Add in the fact that he’s lusting over one of the men who works for him and RT knows that there are some serious tough times ahead.
Zachariah Tavoularis—nicknamed Z—has been employed by Sniper 1 Security for a decade. Despite being known as the most loyal enforcer outside of family, Z also has a reputation of being quite the playboy, though that was based more on rumor than fact. When an assignment comes up that forces the two of them to work together, Z knows it’s time to show RT he’s not the man he thinks he is.
Can they complete the mission, despite the fact that it puts them in a tenuous situation, bringing them closer than either of them ever expected? And will Z allow RT to convince him that they can never be together, no matter how much they both want it?
[Nicole Edwards] gave me a compelling storyline with two of the hottest, most sensitive but kick-ass alpha heroes I’ve ever encountered and as such has me a little addicted to M/M books.
Never Say Never (Sniper 1 Security, 2) - Chapter One
“Today. Got it.” Kira tapped out something on her iPad before looking up at Ryan once more. “Who do you want me to call in?” she asked, her easygoing drawl polite and to the point.
Ryan Trexler stared back at his cousin, trying to hide the underlying urge to offer her a bit of advice. The dress she wore seemed to be more skin than fabric. Today’s outfit was some off-the-shoulder, puffy black-and-white number combined with dangly earrings, cowboy boots, and a hell of a lot of flesh. Rather than advise her to broaden her shopping to departments that utilized more fabric, Ryan shook his head. Getting Kira to change her style now was like trying to convince Jayden that bright colors were banned in the office.
If only Ryan could keep guys like Decker Bromwell from noticing his cousin, then Ryan wouldn’t give a shit what Kira wore. Since that would likely never happen, he had to remember to keep his opinions to himself. Her fashion sense had nothing to do with her ability to get the job done, and he wasn’t the type of employer to enforce a dress code. They had more important issues to worry about.
Despite her taste in clothing, Ryan was grateful for Kira’s no-nonsense manner. It made getting down to business that much easier for him. And on a day like this one, when an impromptu meeting was the most critical thing on his to-do list, Ryan appreciated it all the more.
Answering her original question, Ryan said, “Clay, Conner, and Z.”
After keying something else into her iPad, Kira gifted him with a beaming smile as she eased toward the door. “Got it, boss. I’ll shoot them a message telling them to be here by three.” Kira disappeared, closing his office door behind her.
“Thanks,” Ryan muttered to the space Kira had just vacated, casting a sideways glance at his watch. Two twenty. That’d give him just enough time to put the details together for the briefing before the others arrived, and then it’d give the four of them enough time to get in place by sundown.
A few quick keystrokes on his computer and Ryan printed four copies of the details that the parents of the missing girl had provided him with yesterday when they’d called seeking Sniper 1’s assistance. He could still hear the father’s fear for his daughter; Mr. Dumont’s anxiety had seeped through the phone, leaving Ryan desperate to help the man find his missing child.
Ryan added the extra notes from the recon he’d done last night, and ten minutes later, after tossing each set into its own file folder, he was ready.
Tucking his laptop along with the additional files beneath his arm, he made his way down the narrow hall that led to his father’s office. Rapping his knuckles on the closed door while staring at the silver and gold nameplate that read BRYCE TREXLER, Ryan waited until his father’s booming voice announced for him to come in.
Opening the door, Ryan stuck his head in but didn’t bother to join his father inside. “I’m meeting with Clay, Z, and Conner at three. We’ll be in the conference room.”
Bryce Trexler, one of the two owners of Sniper 1 Security, nodded. “You need me there?”
“Only if you wanna be,” Ryan said.
Out of a deep respect for the two men who’d built Sniper 1 Security from the ground up, he continued to keep Bryce and Casper involved in the goings-on when he could. For the most part, Ryan had taken control of the business dealings while the original owners contemplated what to do with the downtime they could see in their future. Neither man had yet to take the fully retired plunge, so Bryce and Casper simply did what they were used to doing…they came into the office every day. And Ryan continued to include them.
“Casper and I’ll meet you in there.”
“Thanks.” With that, Ryan left his father to his own devices and then ventured into the empty conference room across the hall. He flipped on the bright fluorescent lights and set his load on the far side of the long table, farthest from the door.
Less than a minute later, the heavy clomp of booted feet announced the first arrival, which turned out to be Ryan’s younger brother. The guy could be quiet as a mouse when he wanted to be, but all other times, Clay Trexler seemed to make as much noise as possible. Ryan had never understood why that was, but he didn’t care enough to question it, either.
“What’s up, boss man?” Clay bellowed, his thunderous voice echoing in the glass-enclosed space.
Ryan turned in time to see a slightly disheveled Clay—complete with shaggy blond hair, white tank top, and tattered blue jeans—flop into one of the fifteen high-back leather chairs circling the table. Without an ounce of propriety, Clay propped his feet up on the conference table while he tapped something on his phone.
“Kira said you wanted to meet.”
“In half an hour,” Ryan informed him, tethering his laptop to the power cable poking up through the grommet in the center of the table. He’d been going nonstop since that morning, nearly draining the battery.
“Make a note then, ’cause I’m early. I know how you are about punctuality,” Clay mumbled. “I’ll prob’ly need to borrow some of these extra minutes at a later date.”
Of course he would. Clay wasn’t the most adept at being on time.
It was true, Ryan’s biggest pet peeve was timeliness, followed closely by proficiency, and his agents were well aware. If someone couldn’t arrive on time or do the job to the best of their ability, he expected to know so that he could prepare accordingly.
In his line of work, these things were critical.
Especially on days like today.
Ryan spared his brother another cursory glance before he pulled up the information he needed and briefly scanned the contents once more to ensure he had everything.
“When’d you get back?” Ryan asked Clay as he searched the online folder for the picture of their client that he would use for the meeting.
“Half an hour ago. I was in the elevator when I got Kira’s text.”
“You up for this?” Ryan knew that Clay had recently completed a two-week-long assignment and likely needed to get some sleep.
“Yep,” Clay announced, not looking up from his phone.
A rumble of laughter outside the room had Ryan’s head swiveling in the direction of the door. Not that he needed to look to know whom the flirtatious bellow belonged to. The distinct intonation of Zachariah Tavoularis’s voice was something Ryan would likely never be able to ignore. Though he was doing his damnedest to on a daily basis.
A few seconds later, Z waltzed into the room, filling the doorway with his massive frame, a huge grin plastered on his too handsome face. Telling himself not to, but doing it anyway, Ryan took a moment to take Z in. From his disheveled dark hair, the black T-shirt plastered to an extremely sculpted chest, down past his narrow waist, thick thighs, and then, finally, stopping on the enormous black shitkickers Z wore.
Why he continued to torture himself, Ryan would never know, but his body hummed to life from that quick perusal. It was enough to remind him that looking at Z wasn’t conducive to business. Especially when he needed to keep his head in the game.
With a fist bump, Z acknowledged Clay. “What’s up, bro?”
“A little of this, a lot of that.” Z smirked. “You know how it is.”
Clay grunted, dropping his feet to the floor when Z slid into the seat next to him.
Ryan could feel the curiosity in Z’s silent inspection from across the table, but he turned his attention to his computer screen.
“Afternoon,” Z finally greeted, sounding slightly more formal, although his amusement wasn’t masked, when he spoke to Ryan than when he spoke to Clay.
It wasn’t because Ryan was his boss that Z did that, though, and Ryan was well aware of that fact. They’d been working together for far too long for Z to treat Ryan any differently than he had Clay, boss or not.
No, Z wasn’t overly polite because of Ryan’s status within the company; Z merely liked to give Ryan a hard time whenever possible. That was just one of his many ways.
Instead of responding, Ryan nodded in acknowledgment.
“We waitin’ on someone else?” The deep tenor of Z’s voice rattled along every one of Ryan’s nerve endings. Again, like every time Z spoke, Ryan ignored his body’s traitorous response.
“Conner,” Ryan said simply, pushing to his feet. “We’ve got fifteen. I’ll be back in a minute.”
Unable to sit in the same room with Z for that long and pretend to be busy when he wasn’t, Ryan opted to head down to the coffee shop. It’d give him some time to gather his thoughts, and a chance to put some much-needed distance between him and the man who’d been plaguing his every thought for the last few months.
Great, now his subconscious was arguing with him.
Fine, he’d been plagued with thoughts of Z for the last few years.
By the time Ryan returned, Conner Kogan had graced them with his presence, along with Conner’s father, Casper, the other owner of Sniper 1 Security. That meant the only one who hadn’t arrived on time was Bryce, but Ryan wasn’t going to wait on his father. He’d catch the man up on the details later.
“Thanks for gettin’ here so quickly,” Ryan told them, tapping one of the keys on his laptop to wake it up and then taking his position at the front of the room. The information reflected on his computer screen flickered to life on the wide screen behind him, and Ryan ducked out of the way.
“Desiree Dumont,” Ryan began without preamble. “Fifteen years old, five foot three inches tall, one hundred thirty pounds, blonde hair, blue eyes, just completed her freshman year of high school. Her parents last saw her Wednesday morning before she left to go to a friend’s house. They expected her back for dinner, but she didn’t show. They received a text from her Wednesday afternoon letting them know she was fine. Nothing since. After dealing with the police, her parents contacted us yesterday asking for our assistance.”
“Kidnapping?” Clay inquired, his full attention on the screen, dark blue eyes narrowed.
“Yes and no,” Ryan replied, briefly tracking Bryce’s casual movements as his father joined them and proceeded to take one of the seats beside Casper. “It appears Desiree was with her nineteen-year-old boyfriend, Bill Hendricks, a two-bit drug dealer—specializing in Ecstasy—who she’s been dating for over a year. I got the information on the boyfriend from the dad, including the license number of the kid’s car. I checked with Detective Jacobs; he said they found the car in a ditch on Wednesday night.” Ryan sighed at the same time Conner growled. “The boy was in it. Fatal gunshot wound to the head.”
“Does the girl know?” Conner asked.
“Don’t know for sure. Not sure how she could’ve missed it, though,” Ryan told him truthfully. They didn’t even know whether the girl was still alive, but on a positive note, according to his source, the last time she’d been seen, she’d been a little worse for wear but still breathing. “I did some recon yesterday, talked to a couple of my sources in the area where Desiree and Bill’d last been seen. Looks like an internal issue with a local gang. The boyfriend was killed for sampling the merchandise rather than selling it. Owed a couple grand. The guys who took him out grabbed the girl with the plans to ask for a ransom as a way to recoup their costs.”
“Did they?” Z queried, his steady gaze scanning the picture of the young girl on the screen behind Ryan before sliding back to Ryan’s face.
“Not yet, according to the parents. My source—she’s reliable only because these guys jilted her on her last visit to them—told me they’re holding the girl for now.”
“Your source? Hooker?” Conner inquired.
Ryan nodded. “I’ve got the address of the house Desiree’s bein’ kept at. Based on the information, there’ll be three males there tonight. All armed, though more than likely high after dark. I want us to go in and get her out.”
Clay spoke up. “Tonight?”
“As soon as the sun goes down.”
Clay, Conner, and Z nodded, all eyes focused on Ryan.
“Clay, you’re the driver, so you get the van. Conner and Z, meet us here at eight thirty. We’ll get in, get her out, and then we’ll call it in. The cops can clean up the mess.”
“Why not let the police handle the extraction?” Casper asked.
Ryan had expected the question. It wasn’t that Casper thought getting the cops involved was necessarily a good idea, but the older man preferred asking questions to ensure Ryan had thought the situation all the way through.
“I don’t want these assholes alerted that anyone’s coming. We’ve got a better shot of getting her out without the cops.”
Casper nodded. No one else said anything, but the sound of papers shuffling could be heard as they skimmed the information in the file.
“Y’all with me?” Ryan glanced between the five men at the table. “Questions?”
“I want a sit rep as soon as you’re outta there,” Bryce informed them, getting to his feet. “And be careful.”
A round of grunts echoed in the small space, and a minute later, Ryan was the only one in the room. He released a heavy breath and steeled himself for what was to come.
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