In response to Cyprian’s 911 call to report his daughter’s encounter with a gunman, the Boulder Police Department had sent no less than four patrol cars and an ambulance. Jace couldn’t believe the hoopla going on twenty feet away as BCP’s men in blue fell all over themselves chatting it up with Cyprian and Melissa through the limo’s open rear window.
Either the Cardenases had a lot of friends in the department, or their wealth and social position were buying them special treatment. Jace was just jaded enough to assume the latter. The whine of a winch had him looking at the flatbed tow truck pulling the wrecked Jag out of the ditch. At this rate, Melissa’s car would get off the mountain before he did. He leaned back against his Buick, waiting for BCP’s permission to leave. The police had already interviewed him. They’d made sure every t was crossed and i was dotted in his concealed-handgun permit before allowing him to keep his SIG Sauer. And they weren’t happy that he’d broken one of Cyprian’s bodyguard’s kneecaps, sending him to the emergency room. But with it being self-defense, and Melissa vouching for him, they couldn’t do much about it.
Standing here, waiting, was apparently Jace’s punishment for causing them so much trouble. At least he had his jacket back, so he wasn’t freezing. And the fact that it smelled faintly of Melissa’s tantalizing perfume, reminding him of her curvy figure and smooth silky skin, was a bonus. His attraction to her wasn’t new. But it was certainly inconvenient, and an unwelcome by-product of the time he’d spent monitoring her. If what he felt for her was just desire, he could manage it, control it, tamp it down and . . . endure being around her for as long as it took to accomplish the mission. But it wasn’t merely physical. He liked her for who she was even more than he desired her as a woman. And as hot as his blood ran whenever he saw her, that was saying something.
He admired her business acumen, her keen intelligence, how she treated her employees like equals, regardless of how far down they were on the corporate ladder. And he had an enormous amount of empathy for the tenuous position that she was in because of her father. Everything about her life was a lie. And she didn’t even know it. Or at least, he didn’t think she did. There was still that niggling doubt, that annoying voice in his head reminding him that, as smart as she was, if she wanted to hide her role in EXIT’s clandestine side, she probably could.
Jace’s current boss, of sorts—Mason Hunt—didn’t trust Melissa at all, a fact that he’d grilled repeatedly into Jace, warning him to keep up his guard until they could be sure how much she knew. No matter how innocent she might seem, for now they had to assume she was dangerous and as much an enemy as her father.
One of the BCP officers straightened from his position by the limo’s open window and motioned to Jace, then pointed down the road. Not wanting to give him a chance to change his mind, Jace slid behind the steering wheel and took off. The sight of the bullet hole in the hood scoop sent a pang of loss jolting through him. This was his baby—his jet-black 1984 Buick Grand National—a car he’d painstakingly restored over the past six years with the help of his two older brothers and his now-deceased father.
Working on the Buick had been his reward every time he’d survived another deployment. And it was the one thing that he could share with his family, with no need for any secrets between them. They’d spent countless weekends toiling on this car, sharing beers, tall tales, and deep belly laughs. And when his father’s lung cancer had him on an oxygen tank, struggling for every breath, Jace had settled him in a comfortable chair in the garage where he could rder his sons around and still feel like he was contributing to their project. This was more than a car. It was a symbol, a reminder of the people he loved and why it was so important to make this world a better, safer place. And now that cherished symbol had bullet holes in it. Jace’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. He fully intended to take the time and effort of fixing those holes out of Ramsey’s hide. And while he was at it, he’d teach him about sticking to mission plans and not pointing guns at women.