Quinn Sutherland, second in command of the Tribe, a group of powerful telepaths, has always been certain of who and what he is-one of the good guys. All he wants is to keep his friends safe-no easy feat when everyone in the world is after them. While on a rescue mission, he meets a mysterious FBI agent, who appears to know a lot about them, and seems to want the same thing he does. But her assignment could literally mean the death of him...
When Melody Lyons is inducted into the Federation's elite Bureau of Time Management, it's the pinnacle of her ambitions. Only when she's sent back to the twenty-first century to eliminate a group of rogue time travelers, she never guesses she'll fall for a man who died two thousand years ago... Quinn awakens emotions she hadn't known existed, and for the first time, her loyalties are tested.
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"Nobody gets hurt," Quinn said as he climbed out of the back of the black van and stepped onto the tarmac at the rear of the Massachusetts Correctional Institution.
Rose jumped down beside him. "I'll do my best, boss, honest."
Did he detect a hint of sarcasm? Probably. "And absolutely nobody dies."
"Geez, you're fussy. I've been practicing, all right? Hopefully, the worst anyone will get is a bad headache."
He supposed that would have to do. "Just remember, we're supposed to be the good guys here."
She snorted. He was quite aware Rose considered him naive. He wasn't. That didn't mean he was ready to sign up to join the dark side just yet.
"Have you ever considered," she said, pulling on a leather jacket over her black T-shirt, "that good and bad, right and wrong, are just a matter of where and when you're born?"
"No." He believed some people were inherently good, and he'd always strived to be one of them. But he'd done some terrible things in his time working for the government. Things he'd justified by telling himself that there was a plan, a greater good behind them.
Well, that had turned out to be a load of fucking bollocks.
They'd had the "greater good" lie thrust in their faces for too long. So, a year ago, the Tribe had parted company with their government controllers. But Quinn had always believed it was temporary, that they'd find a way to protect themselves and a way back in.
Rose rested a hand on his arm. "Hey, we're doing the right thing. We have to get Martin out."
"I know." Martin was a good man, and the closest thing Quinn had had to a father figure, growing up. He'd disappeared four years ago and had presumably been held without trial all that time. That wasn't right.
"Calm down." Rose squeezed his arm. "Things will work out."
He hoped so. Quinn had spent more than a year searching for Martin. Now that he'd found him, he was getting him out — failure was not an option. He'd just prefer it to happen without any collateral damage.
The plan was simple. Well, actually there wasn't one — they were going to play it by ear. He would have preferred something a little more structured, but Rose had turned up last night, with her arms dealer boyfriend, Dave Madsen, in tow, and the bad news that the Tribe wasn't the only group after Martin. So, they'd had to move fast.
They'd parked as far away from the entrance to the prison as they could get to avoid the surveillance cameras. According to their tech expert, Stefan, who had accessed the systems remotely from London, there were none in this area.
It was early summer, but the sun was warm, and sweat trickled down his spine. He rolled his shoulders and tried to get comfortable in the unaccustomed formal clothes. He was wearing a dark gray suit and white shirt as befitted the lawyer he was pretending to be. He tightened the tie, then smoothed down the jacket.
"You should have let me give you a haircut," Rose said, studying him.
"I had one six months ago." It reached almost his shoulders again, but he'd pulled it back into a neat ponytail. "Okay, let's do this."
He moved around to the side of the vehicle as the window at the driver's side slid open, and Dave poked his head out. "You two ready to go?"
"Yeah," he said. "We'll give you a call when we're five minutes out. Once you get the okay, bring the van to the front."
"And if we're not there in thirty minutes, get the hell out of here. Contact Jake and ..."
Actually, he didn't know what Jake would do. Jake was their leader, in command of the Tribe. He was also Martin's foster son. Quinn had known him almost all his life; he was his friend, and the nearest thing Quinn had to a brother. But they hadn't seen each other in nearly a year, and Jake's priorities had changed drastically in that time. He had a wife and new allegiances.
Jake and the rest of the group had been the one solid thing in Quinn's life. He hadn't realized how truly huge that closeness was until he'd been out on his own. He missed them. But at the same time, he hadn't been able to bring himself to go back. He suspected he was sulking — Jake had new friends now. His lips twitched at the thought. He'd share it with Jake as soon as he got the hell out of here. Which, if all went well, would be tomorrow.
"Jake will come and get us," Rose finished for him. "Because that's what he does. Things haven't changed that much. You'd know that if you'd popped home now and again."
"Home is wherever your family is. That's us, in case you'd forgotten. And right now, most of us are in Uganda — so that's home. Shall we go?"
He nodded to Dave and followed her across the parking lot. Like all the Tribe, Rose was tall with blue eyes and black hair, strikingly beautiful and hard to forget.
They entered the prison, straight into a security check. Quinn walked through the scanner and a guard patted him down, then nodded him through into the reception area. A second guard sat behind the counter that ran along the back wall, a slightly overweight woman, her dark blond hair tied up with a clip and a bored expression on her face. There was a third guard behind the glass door leading into the main prison. Exactly as they were expecting.
"So far, so good," Rose said inside his head, and he gave a slow nod.
He approached the counter, pulling his fake ID from his jacket pocket. "I'm here to see Martin Rayleigh. I'm his lawyer."
As the guard tapped the keyboard, Quinn dipped into her mind — he was in no way the strongest of the group, but he had no problem pulling out top-level information. He got the number of Martin's cell. Then something else.
"What is it?" Rose asked.
"Martin's not in his cell. He's being interviewed by the fucking FBI."
"Might be better for us. We'll be away from the other prisoners. Fewer witnesses."
"I'm afraid you're going to have to wait," the guard said. "There's someone with your client right now."
He didn't want to wait. He hated prisons, and this place, in particular, was giving him the creeps. He considered his options. Rose wasn't the only one who'd been practicing. He slipped into the guard's mind again.
"We need to see Martin Rayleigh right now," he said, accompanying the words with subtle tendrils of coercion.
A small frown drew the guard's brows together, and then she gave a slow shake of her head. "I'll get someone to take you right away."
As the woman spoke into her phone, Quinn glanced over to the other guard at the door, but the man hadn't noticed anything amiss.
"Very impressive," Rose said.
"I'm not just a pretty face."
The glass door opened, and the guard stood up. "This way, please."
They were led along a corridor with gray walls and strip lighting. In the distance, he could hear the muted sounds of too many people crammed in together. A faint hint of despair permeated the air. He pushed into the guard's mind, suggested they hurry, and their pace picked up. "When we get to the cell," he told Rose, "take out the guard, and the FBI agent. Then we walk out of here."
"Ballsy. I like it."
"If we meet anyone on the way, just knock them out."
"I'll try, boss."
They hadn't seen anyone since they'd come in, and with luck they wouldn't see anyone on the way back. But it was better to be ready. This was going to go smoothly and cleanly, and they'd be on their way home in no time.
* * *
Special Agent Melody Lyons stripped off her jacket and tossed it on the back of the plastic upright chair. She rolled up the sleeves on her gray knit pullover shirt and scrubbed a hand through her hair. This was the first breakthrough she'd gotten, and she couldn't afford to screw up.
When the Bureau's systems had picked up a code red alert, it was obvious, from the timing and location of the anomaly, that this job was ultra sensitive, with the potential for cataclysmic consequences if they made a wrong move.
So, she had to get it right. That meant finding the source of the anomaly and resolving the issue with as little attention as possible.
She glanced across at the prisoner. While she still wasn't sure exactly how he fit in, she knew there was a link somewhere. All she had to do was dig it out. She had approximately twelve hours until her next debrief, and if she wanted to be the one sent back to complete the assignment, she needed to find something to report.
Martin Rayleigh looked like a man who hadn't seen sunlight in a long time. His skin was pale, with shadows like bruises under his hazel eyes, and his dark hair was streaked with gray. He was fifty-eight and looked every one of his years, and more. She didn't know how long he'd been incarcerated — his records were sketchy — but she was guessing a good few years from the look of him. He'd only just surfaced under his own name with his last transfer to this facility. Before that, he'd been kept under a number of aliases.
He returned her gaze and raised an eyebrow. "Are you going to tell me what this is about, Agent ...?"
"Lyons." She pulled out the chair and sat down opposite him, studying him, trying to see inside his head. Unfortunately, she couldn't. Where to start? She'd wanted to meet the man before she decided on her strategy. While she might not be able to read minds, she'd always had a certain empathy, an ability to read people. And this man was ... good. That was the only word that came to mind, only it was of no help whatsoever. But despite what he had clearly been through, his gaze was serene, his body relaxed. He wore an orange prison suit, the sleeves rolled up, his hands cuffed to a metal bar on the table in front of him. Beneath the silver cuffs, she could see the signs of old restraints. The scars circling his wrists were healed now, but they would probably be with him for life.
Her original breakthrough, the reason she was in this prison in the first place, had been finding the files on an oversight committee, headed by a Senator Gilpin, set up to look into a mysterious government agency referred to as the Tribe. They were telepaths, in a place and time when telepaths shouldn't have existed. But she still had no idea what had caused the code red. So her next jump, she'd come back a year later — hoping to find out more. Instead, she'd discovered that the oversight committee was dead, all nine of them, and all from natural causes over a very short period of time. Hardly likely. And she'd found no further references to the Tribe. It was as though the records had been wiped clean. The only thing she did find was an earlier record of someone, a Martin Rayleigh, requesting a review into the Tribe five years earlier — a request that was denied at that time, but which meant he had to be connected somehow. And right now, that made him her only lead.
"Would you like a cup of coffee?" She hadn't intended to say that, but he looked so ... defeated, as though he'd been through this many times, and expected the worst.
His eyes widened at the words and a slow smile curved his lips, changing his face totally. He peered behind her as if expecting to see someone else. "You're on your own, so you can hardly be going for the good cop, bad cop routine." His voice held a hint of an accent. A soft lilt.
If he thought the offer of a cup of coffee made her a good guy, there wasn't a lot of competition. She went to the door, opened it a crack, and spoke to the guard. "Could you get us two cups of coffee, please."
She closed the door and returned to the table, sat down and studied him for a moment longer. How to begin? She cleared her throat. "My name is Melody Lyons. Special Agent Lyons. I'm with the Federal Bureau of Investigation." She twisted in the seat and pulled her nice shiny badge out of her jacket pocket and waved it at him. He didn't take his eyes from hers. Clearly, the badge didn't impress him.
"Of course you are."
He didn't believe her.
She could feel a frown drawing her brows together. Did he somehow know? Had she given herself away? Of course not. There was nothing to give away. The badge was real.
He shrugged. "Maybe you are, and maybe you aren't. I've come to realize it really doesn't matter. Ultimately, you're all working for the same people, whether you know it or not. Now, why are you here?"
A knock sounded on the door and a guard entered carrying a tray. He placed it on the table between them. "Ma'am." Giving a nod, he left the room.
Rayleigh leaned across the table, his hands clumsy in the cuffs, and wrapped his palms around the mug. If he leaned forward, he had just enough chain to bring the mug to his mouth. He drank, and she let him while she considered what he'd said.
She hadn't been able to find out why he'd been arrested in the first place. There was no record of his crime. She took a sip of her own coffee. Ugh. It was disgusting. She pushed the mug away from her. "I'm investigating the murder of a Senator Gilpin."
He glanced up, put his empty coffee mug down, and sat back in his chair. "I didn't know the senator."
"He was killed nine months ago in a gas explosion at his home. It was made to appear an accident, but we have reason to believe it was murder."
"Who was he?"
"How long have you been incarcerated, Mr. Rayleigh?"
"You don't know?" He sounded skeptical.
She pushed her own coffee mug toward him, and he nodded. "Thank you."
"The records of your original arrest have been hidden or destroyed. I presume you've been kept under various aliases. We only located you when you were transferred to this facility under your own name."
He'd popped up on her files just at the point she'd been about to give up and admit defeat.
"And why were you trying to locate me?"
"I suspect there is some connection between you and an oversight committee set up to look into funding of a covert government operations group based in the United Kingdom. Senator Gilpin was the head of that committee."
"And he's dead?"
"Along with the other eight members of the committee. All accidents, and all around the same time."
"I've been imprisoned for over four years. How can I possibly help you with something that happened nine months ago?"
Four years? That explained his appearance. But how did that fit in with her investigation? As he'd pointed out, he could hardly have been involved with the oversight committee. But there was a definite connection — she just had to figure out what it was. Time to try a different tack. "Have you ever heard of a group referred to as the Tribe?"
Something flickered in his eyes. He glanced at the camera in the corner of the room. She'd have to get the tapes before she left; she wanted no record of this conversation. She was here to clean things up, not raise more questions. "No," he said.
"I believe you're lying, Mr. Rayleigh."
He slammed the mug down so hard, dirty gray coffee splashed over the steel table top. "And I don't give a fuck."
Hearing the bad language from someone who had seemed so polite brought her up short. She was onto something here, but at the same time, she had no clue how to get the information from him. Her eyes strayed to the marks on his wrists.
"What now?" he asked. "You torture me? Because I have to warn you — it's been tried before."
"No, we don't torture people, Mr. Rayleigh."
He shook his head. "Are you for real?"
She pursed her lips. "Nine people are dead, Mr. Rayleigh, and it's my job to find out why."
"I told you. I have no clue. I haven't had contact with the outside world in over four years. So, if you want to prove your good intent, let me call my lawyer."
"I'll look into that. In the meantime —"
"In the meantime, I'm not saying anything."
"Mr. Rayleigh, I —"
Something crashed outside the door. She jumped to her feet, reaching for her gun, then realized it wasn't there — she'd handed it in at the security check.
She stood between the door and Rayleigh. Was this an assassination attempt? How the hell could she protect him?
"Get down," she shouted over her shoulder.
Rayleigh glanced from her to the door but stayed where he was. Of course, he was chained to the table. His expression was fatalistic, as though he'd expected his imminent death. Maybe even welcomed it.
The door was pushed open slowly from the outside. Mel stepped to the side, so she couldn't be seen. A man entered, and she whirled around and kicked out, taking him by surprise. He was much taller than her and twice as wide at the shoulder, but the blow flung him back out of the room and onto his back.
She tried to slam the door, but his legs were in the way. She could run, but she didn't want to leave Rayleigh.
In a flash, it occurred to her that maybe she was going to die here.
She wanted answers first.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Uncontrollable"
Copyright © 2018 Nina Croft.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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