Bounty hunter Olivia "Scout" Jackson was no stranger to danger--but being pregnant changed everything. And wanting, trusting, kissing Pierce Maxwell was risking more than she dared. She couldn't exactly call him a stranger--not when he'd saved her life, not when they'd bared their souls to one another and made love with reckless abandon during what they thought were the last days of their lives. But could she trust the devastating Colby Agency operative to protect her and the precious life she carried when he was duty bound to her enemy? Or would his loyalties change when he found out he was about to become a father?
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Keeping Baby Safe
By Debra Webb
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIn one fluid movement, Victoria Colby scooted onto the long vanity counter's smooth marble top. "Make yourself comfortable, Max," she insisted, with a wave of her hand toward the small sitting area.
Pierce Maxwell surveyed the sleek decor of the ladies' room and knew without question that getting comfortable would be virtually impossible. "I'll stand, thank you," he said politely, his smile equally courteous, since he didn't want to tick off the boss.
He and Victoria were meeting in the ladies' room because the rest of the fourth floor that housed the Colby Agency was currently standing in about three inches of water. The sprinkler system had gone hay-wire and flooded the place. Plumbers and cleanup personnel were scrambling to undo the damage pronto. Since the tiled bathroom floors were equipped with drains, the men's and ladies' rooms were the only ones not requiring wading boots at the moment. Thus the expansive ladies' room now served as the boss's office and briefing room. Certainly no one would expect Victoria Colby to conduct business in the men's room.
"I have a case that I believe requires your particular expertise," Victoria began as she picked up a soggy manila folder and opened it to scan the meager contents. "As I recall, you spent a good deal of time in South America while involved with the DEA."
Max nodded. "Three long years." What most didn't know was that, while with the Drug Enforcement Agency, he had spent the vast majority of his time chasing leads from informants in those hot, steamy jungles. Max had been part of a special covert operations team that set up housekeeping in Colombia to facilitate the reduction in the flow of drugs onto American soil. When politics, American as well as Colombian, put an end to his team's operations, Max had grown disgusted with the bureaucracy and walked away. The Colby Agency had recruited him practically before the ink dried on his resignation papers.
"What's the situation?" he asked, his interest definitely piqued.
"An old acquaintance of mine, Harold Atkins, used to run a small private investigations firm down in Houston," Victoria explained. "He retired from the business a few years ago and took a more cushy job as head of security at Alexon."
Max was familiar with Alexon and its reputation. The corporation operated one of the foremost medical and biological research facilities in the country, right here in Chicago. They played the high stakes in a number of different arenas, from the latest in stem cell research to biological weaponry for defense purposes. Head of security for that kind of company would definitely be a "cushy" job, as Victoria put it.
Frowning thoughtfully, she closed the folder and continued, "According to Harold, Alexon set up a secret lab in the mountains near Bogotá a couple years back to work on a high-priority military project. Obviously, they needed complete secrecy. Two weeks ago the lab was destroyed and the scientist heading the project was almost captured."
Max lifted an eyebrow skeptically. "Almost?" he queried. He couldn't imagine a scientist having the know-how to elude a band of Colombian rebels. Hell, he was a highly trained agent and he'd barely escaped with his life a time or two. The alternative, a team commissioned by a rival research company, would certainly be just as ruthless and difficult to evade.
"Apparently Alexon put a lot of thought into the safety of their lead scientist and designed a sort of hidden panic room for just this kind of situation."
Now things were getting really interesting. "They need someone to go in, rescue him from his hiding place and bring him out, is that it?" Though Max wasn't fond of the place, he knew his way around the country well enough to feel completely comfortable with that kind of assignment.
Victoria sighed and seemed to consider her words for a time before going on. "Harold has already sent in a recovery agent to do the retrieval, but something went wrong."
Right, Max mused. Good old Harold just hadn't picked the right man for the job. A good deal more than mere skill was involved. An intimate knowledge of the country was required. "So now we have two guys to rescue."
"One man and one woman," Victoria corrected.
"Dr. Samuel Kirstenof is the scientist and Olivia Jackson is the woman Harold hired to retrieve him."
"Where are they now?" Things had just gone from interesting to troubling. Trying to get a helpless scientist out of the country undetected would be problematic enough. But having a woman tagging along - one who likely wouldn't appreciate having to be rescued in the first place - would only make bad matters worse.
Victoria passed the folder to Max. "You'll find all the pertinent information in here. Harold included the grid coordinates for the location from which he received the last transmission, two days ago."
Max sifted through the contents of the folder. Olivia Jackson was only twenty-two years old. He shook his head. No wonder she'd gotten herself trapped down there. She was barely old enough to drive, much less carry a weapon and elude militant rebels. What was Atkins thinking, sending a young woman like her to do an experienced man's job?
"Harold calls her Scout," Victoria said, drawing Max from his worrisome thoughts.
"Scout?" Max noted there was no photograph of Olivia Jackson, but there was a copy of Kirstenof's personnel badge. He looked to be about fifty, short and thin, with more hair on his chin than on his head.
"Olivia apparently prefers the nickname." Victoria eased off the counter and smoothed her neatly tailored suit with one hand. "Harold spoke highly of her, thinks of her as a daughter. He wanted me to relay how frightened he is for her welfare under current circumstances. And, of course, Alexon wants their scientist back unharmed."
Max's gaze met Victoria's. "Apparently," she added, her tone turning grave, "there has been a little war going on between Alexon and one of their competitors to come up with a certain new antidote the military needs. This could turn even nastier if that competitor is somehow involved."
Max shrugged mentally. Nasty competition he could deal with; it was Scout Jackson that concerned him. She wouldn't like him coming in to do what she hadn't been able to. That he was a man probably wouldn't help.
He closed the folder and gave Victoria a reassuring smile. "I'm on it. I'll take good care of the doc and the lady."
Victoria nodded once in acknowledgment. "Keep me informed of your progress. Doug will be providing backup for you."
Excerpted from Keeping Baby Safe by Debra Webb Copyright ©2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews