Toni Anderson’s stories have won many awards, and you can certainly see why in this excerpt from her story The Killing Game. The Killing Game is featured in the box set Romancing The Military Man: Ten Hot Military Heroes. Grab a cup of coffee and read this delicious excerpt!
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THE KILLING GAME
2014 RITA® Finalist, and National Readers’ Choice Award Finalist in Romantic Suspense
Wildlife biologist Axelle Dehn isn’t about to let anyone harm her endangered snow leopards—not the poacher intent on killing them, nor the soldier who wants to use them as bait. But Axelle is unknowingly entangled in a conflict that stretches back three decades, a conflict that could spark a war between two of the world’s great nations.
British SAS soldier, Ty Dempsey, is on a mission to hunt down an infamous Russian terrorist in a remote region of Afghanistan. Dempsey hasn’t failed a mission yet, but when Axelle is kidnapped by the Russian, he is forced to choose between duty and his heart. He risks everything to save the determined, prickly woman he’s fallen for, but in doing so sparks a deadly series of events that threaten to expose the most successful spy in history. A spy who will destroy anyone who gets in his way.
He held up his hands and turned, relieved to see the woman and not some Taliban nutter or aging Russian terrorist squaring off with him.
Unfortunately the woman was holding a Glock-17 as though she knew how to use it.
“Afternoon,” he observed calmly.
“Give me one good reason I shouldn’t put a bullet in you right now.” Her accent told him she was American.
A joke about the second commandment probably wouldn’t work considering his Diemaco and SIG Sauer were locked and loaded with one in the chamber.
“Is there anyone who’d actually give a damn about a man like you?” Her throat convulsed, and hatred sculpted the lines of her mouth.
The question jolted him. He had mates in the Regiment, but no one else really cared if he lived or died. But she didn’t know that.
He looked at her white knuckles and the pulse beating frantically at the base of her throat. There was something going on here that he didn’t understand.
She stood close. Not close enough.
“You need to put the gun down,” he told her calmly.
“You sonofabitch, you don’t even care, do you?” Her eyes narrowed into glinting slits of rage. Not good. “You think it’s all right for you to murder and kill, but as soon as someone turns the tables—”
“Not true.” He edged closer. “I care very much.”
Her accent was definitely Yankee but held a hint of European. French, maybe. He moved another inch, saw her chest rapidly pump oxygen. He worked on calming her down, talking quietly so she had to lean forward to hear. “I don’t know who you are or what you’re talking about, but I’d hate for somebody to get hurt because of a case of mistaken identity.” Did she have some anti-western affiliation? Anti-war agenda?
“There’s no mistake.” Her lips quivered. “How much money were you offered? I’d have paid you double to leave them alone.”
He frowned. He didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, but she was within reach now. She blinked against the sun so he lunged, grabbing the gun, aiming it away from their bodies and snatching it out of her hands before tossing it out of reach. She struggled and kicked and punched at him, landing one solid blow to his nose, driving white-hot agony through his brain.
Suck it up, Buttercup.
She fought like a rabid wolf, and he could barely keep hold of the seething, whirling mass of fury without hurting her. He finally captured both her hands in one of his, forcing her onto her knees and down onto the ground, face first in the dirt. He used his weight to pin her while he searched for the flexicuffs he kept in his pockets. They took a moment to locate as he was distracted by all that wriggling.
She froze, perhaps realizing that hard thing in his pocket wasn’t another gun. She twisted around to stare at him with hate-filled eyes. He pressed his lips together and tugged the cuffs around a pair of wrists so slim he could circle both with one hand. Then he ran his hands over her body, searching for hidden weapons, making it quick, impersonal but thorough. She flinched when he reached between her legs.
“I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Sure you’re not.” The sarcasm dripped from her words and set his teeth on edge. He wasn’t the bad guy. He wasn’t the one who’d pulled a gun on someone. He finished the search and sat back on his heels. Jesus. This slip of a female had done something no one had in years. Gotten the drop on him. He was thankful none of the lads were here to witness his humiliation.
Underestimating the enemy. Stupid.
He frowned at her as she lay muttering and fighting her bonds. She tried to roll away but he grabbed her and hauled her back. He had questions. Lots of questions, but the high color burning across her cheeks warned him he needed to cool things down a bit. Change direction.
Right now he was an adversary. The chance of winning hearts and minds had never been more unlikely.
He slipped off his pack, went and retrieved her pistol, stuffed it in his pocket, grabbed both their water canteens. The horse stood with one foot cocked. Dozing in the afternoon sun, despite all the excitement.
Dempsey towered over her. She glared up at him and he had to suppress a grin because she wasn’t in the least cowed by the difference in size or weaponry. She had courage but—despite the Glock—little training in the art of close-quarter combat. Crouching, he offered her a drink. To his surprise she rolled onto her side and parted her lips. He cupped her head as he poured a little water inside her mouth. Her hair felt soft against his calloused palms.
She swallowed before jerking free of his touch.
He sat on the cold hard earth and drank his own water, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“What?” She glared.
He said nothing. Just looked off toward where the sun was starting its slow descent in the sky.
“Are you just going to leave me tied up?” She started fighting her bonds again.
He grunted. I wish. “You’re going to hurt yourself if you don’t stop that.” He didn’t shift his gaze from the horizon. Why should he care?
A slight flicker of movement in the distance caught his eye. A subtle shift of shadows high above him on the slope. He brought his scope to his eye to check it out. It took forever to make out the cunning camouflage of a snow leopard against the tawny browns and moss green of the hillside. A smile tugged his lips. They were rare, and he’d never seen one in the wild before. It wore a collar, which was what he figured was going on with these people in their little camp on the edge of nowhere. Although he hadn’t figured on being held at gunpoint by someone he assumed was a wildlife biologist.
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