Kell Roberts has walked the thin line between life and death for so long that it now feels like home. He is a soldier, a survivor, and a loner. Still, Kell cannot turn his back on the beautiful woman caught in his firefight against the drug lords of Mexico. She says her name is Teddie, but Kell senses there’s much more to her story—and it’s about to pull him into a mission he didn’t sign on for: keeping her alive.
Teddie knows this lean, mean rescuer just saved her life, but the steel glint behind those soft gray eyes seem to be hiding something deep. The men after Teddie are deadly, but the man who holds her life in his hands and tempts her with his wicked touch is even more dangerous. He could make her dream about living and loving again. And if they can survive, maybe, just maybe, they can stop fighting the world and each other—and simply surrender.
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Kell Roberts had been at the foster home in Dillingham, Alaska, for three months, four days and sixteen hours and had managed to lie his way through every damned minute when the blond kid arrived with a deep Southern drawl, a bag Kell would later discover contained barely anything and an attitude as big as the hills, all to share Kell’s room. He barely acknowledged Kell’s existence, got into bed and didn’t get up for twenty- four hours straight.
Kell didn’t think enough of it to ask anyone his name. Roommates came and went here and he’d always found it better to not get involved.
On the second day, Kell’s wallet went missing, along with various and sundry other items, and although Kell had no proof other than his gut that it was the work of the blond kid, it left him alternately pissed and impressed.
On the third day, the blond kid registered for school and never made it to his first class because the counselor who met with him recommended homeschooling, deeming the kid unfit for a school environment due to the undue negative influence he had over other students in previous environments.
On the fourth night, Kell woke up to fi nd his new roommate climbing out of the third- fl oor window. He followed the Louisiana- born boy with the deep drawl to their foster mom’s four- wheel- drive truck and wondered how he thought he could take it for a ride during an icy storm. And then he decided he needed to see how much of a death wish Blond Kid had.
He’d always had a pretty big one himself.
Blond Kid, who he’d soon find out was named Reid, had the truck hot- wired by the time Kell pushed into the passenger’s side. “You’re going to kill yourself.”
Reid glanced at him coolly. “And you’re coming along for the ride?”
Kell answered by shutting the door and securing his seatbelt. Reid didn’t bother to follow suit.
“I want my fucking wallet back,” Kell said fi nally, and Reid laughed as the car skidded down the long driveway, leaving Kell feeling as out of control as he’d ever been and strangely liberated at the same time. “Where are we going?”
“There’s got to be a bar around here somewhere.”
“They all card.” Both boys were tall for their age but no way were they passing for twenty- one. What the hell was this kid thinking?
“I borrowed some ID,” Reid said with a calm drawl, like he didn’t have a care in the world. Kell knew that was complete bullshit and was quick to learn that in Reid’s vocabulary, borrow meant steal.
Kell had grown up with that type of vocabulary as well.
Reid drove for about ten minutes with surprising skill, and then the car skidded and Kell saw his life flashing before his eyes, just like everyone said it did. The sad part was, beyond remembering all the cons he’d learned to pull over the years, there wasn’t really much else. He heard Reid cursing throughout the slide and then he came to and they were in the ditch.
Reid was unconscious and the police would no doubt be called by passing motorists, so Kell got out of the car and he started walking back to the house, covering his footprints behind him because he wasn’t taking the blame for anyone else.
Everyone in this world is out for themselves— that’s the way you have to live, son— look out for yourself and screw everyone else.
He remembered, in that brief moment, that his parents had included him in that sentiment. It was the reason he’d turned them in and ended up in a foster home in Alaska instead of with them.
He returned to the car and hauled Reid out, knowing nothing about spinal injuries and not moving unconscious people. All he knew was that he wouldn’t leave Reid behind to shoulder the blame alone, even though the damned kid had stolen his wallet. He still hadn’t known the blond kid’s name until he’d opened his eyes and mumbled it, because Kell had finally asked.
“This state sucks,” Reid mumbled then and closed his eyes to stop the tears. Kell pretended not to notice and then, a few minutes later, Reid was up, leaning on him as they walked the frigid mile back to the foster home.
Kell’s parents would be so damned disappointed in him yet again— he’d saved Reid’s ass so he’d definitely been born with the conscience they lacked.
Well, shit, you did learn something new every day.
They caught hell, of course. The foster mom was not stupid, although she did protect them from the police. It took Reid and him the better part of six months to work off the damage to the car, piecing it back together with the local mechanic and honing their skills in the process.
It was Reid’s fourth foster home in the space of a year, and Kell’s fi rst and only. They lasted out another full year before emancipating and heading out to work along the docks of the Bering Sea, punishing, cruel work.
It was nowhere near as bad as the work that would follow, but being young and strong with a death wish would always work in their favor.
What People are Saying About This
"Tyler's fourth Shadow Force installment becomes a perfect balance of kiss-kiss, fight-fight." -Publishers Weekly