No Exit

By: Lena Diaz

Chapter One

Jace Atwell’s Navy SEAL training hadn’t included a course on how to be a successful stalker, but he was learning fast.

He tapped his brakes, allowing another car length to open up between him and the sleek silver Jaguar he was tailing. Following a woman on a nearly deserted two-­lane road through the Colorado Rockies, without making her think he was purposely following her, was proving to be uniquely challenging.

Soon he would run out of road and out of daylight. They’d leave this snowy mountain and be back in civilization. Which meant other cars. And witnesses. He checked his watch. If Ramsey didn’t show up soon, Jace would have to call it a night and figure out another approach tomorrow.

As if on cue, the roar of an engine announced the arrival of a white panel van, coming up fast behind him. Finally. It whipped around, but instead of weaving like a drunken driver per the plan and intimidating Melissa Cardenas into pulling over, it cut in front of the Jag, then braked, hard.

Damn it, Ramsey!

The Jaguar skidded sideways as its driver fought to avoid a collision. Jace wrestled his car to the shoulder on his right. But unlike his road-­hugging classic Grand National, the sporty little Jaguar didn’t stop. It must have hit a patch of black ice because it kept sliding toward the steep drop-­off just past him.

Jace’s stomach sank. Let up on the gas. Steer into the skid!

The car’s two right wheels slipped over the edge of the road. Jace winced as the Jag slammed sideways into the ditch. Dirty snow and pine needles sprayed up in the air, and the windshield exploded in hundreds of tiny pieces.

Melissa punched at the air bag that had deployed, trying to move it out of her way, and Jace let out a relieved breath. He couldn’t tell for sure that she was unhurt from his vantage point above her, twenty feet back. But at least she was conscious and moving around. He looked toward the van, expecting it to take off. But instead, it had stopped in the middle of the road, parallel to the wrecked car.

What are you doing, Ramsey? Get out of here.

If the goal had been to run the Jag off the road, Jace could have done that without Ramsey’s help. But that wasn’t the goal. The plan had been for Ramsey to force Melissa to stop on the shoulder. Then he’d take off, leaving Jace to play rescuer.

It seemed a rather ridiculous way to meet someone, but Melissa was rarely ever alone. A workaholic, she was usually with her father at his company. So, after months of surveillance and trying to figure out a way to get into EXIT Inc.’s inner circle, Jace’s team had settled on this idea. If the mission was successful, he would use the “chance” meeting to garner Melissa’s trust. Then he could build on the fledgling relationship over the course of a few days or weeks until he finagled a way to gain entrée into the company’s top levels, preferably in a role that would give him access to the executive floor, where Cyprian’s offices were located. But if Ramsey didn’t back off, he’d ruin everything.

On days like today, Jace missed being a Navy SEAL, where he could count on his team to back each other up and stick to mission plans.

He popped open his driver’s door. But he hesitated when the van’s side door slammed back on its rails. Ramsey appeared in the opening, dressed in the disguise they’d agreed upon—­all black, including his bulky coat, and a ski mask to conceal his features just in case Melissa glimpsed him through the van’s windows. She’d met Ramsey before, when he’d worked for her father’s company as a tour guide—­or at least that’s what she’d thought he was doing there. But Ramsey’s hopping out of the van was definitely not part of the plan. And neither was his pointing a pistol down toward Melissa Cardenas.

WTF? Had Ramsey lost it? Had he decided that kidnapping Melissa would be the better way to get to their true target—­her father? After weeks of arguing with his teammates, Jace had grudgingly agreed to use Melissa to get into the company she ran with her father. But kidnapping her and aiming a gun at her when she wasn’t the one responsible for the deaths her father’s clandestine activities had caused wasn’t what he’d signed up for.

She franticly tugged at her seat belt, her wide eyes watching the gunman—­which only ratcheted up Jace’s guilt. A far-­too-­recent memory flashed through his mind.

A different place.

A different time.

A different woman.

Patricia Stanton’s broken, battered body lying at the bottom of a crystal-­clear pool, her sightless eyes staring up at him accusingly. Twenty feet away, the man who’d vowed to love her and cherish her until death did they part had also stared at Jace. But his eyes were gloating, the look on his face triumphant as the police handcuffed him and led him away. He’d won. Jace had lost. And his client had paid the ultimate price for his failure to keep her safe.

That wasn’t going to happen again. Not today. Not on his watch. And it sure as hell wasn’t going to happen because one of his men was taking his role as a bad guy far too seriously.

He jerked his gaze back to Ramsey, who was still standing in the road with his pistol, as if debating his next step. They might have started this morning as allies, working together to bring down a dangerous, corrupt antiterrorist organization pretending to be nothing more than a tour company. But the moment Ramsey had aimed a gun at a woman who might very well be innocent, he’d become Jace’s enemy.

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