SPECIAL AGENT: AUSTIN
D.I.R.E. Agency Novella, #6.5
He’s armed with the truth.
She’s plagued by deception.
Ready to make amends, Austin Rose is a changed man, hoping to land an elite position with the D.I.R.E. Agency. To prove himself and secure a position, he must force the assassin hired to destroy them to surrender her top secret intel.
Assassin Belle Mason’s life changed forever after a botched hit. Determined to take down D.I.R.E. while it’s vulnerable and exposed, Belle will stop at nothing to create a new life for her family. But, the forbidden and irresistible Austin Rose has a few tricks of his own, turning the tables and revealing the truth about her past.
Refusing to let anyone stand in his way of securing a position with the agency, Austin goes undercover—literally–to find the culprits threatening to destroy them. However, when Belle puts herself in the line of fire, Austin realizes there’s more than intel at stake.
Will he find a way to protect the woman who’s stolen his heart, or will his betrayal destroy them both?
He really hated bullies. Especially, assholes that bullied women.
Leaning on the bar, Austin Rose looked back over his shoulder, his grip tightening on the beer glass in his hand. The bully leaned down into the blonde beauty’s face, his hand slamming against the table with a resounding whack. She seemed unfazed by his aggression — her shoulders relaxed, her head at a patronizing tilt.
Her shaking leg gave her away.
She’d followed Austin into the San Diego airport lounge after he’d checked on Hope’s flight, learning he had an hour before his future sister-in-law arrived. The open bar was deserted except for the three of them and the bartender, who looked just as unfazed as the blonde wanted to appear. The early afternoon hour proved slow for the establishment, though with his plans, Austin found the early hour suited his spastic nerves well.
“I asked you a question.” The man spat his words, his arms braced on the square tabletop.
Straightening, Austin turned around on his barstool and tipped up the brim of his straw cowboy hat. Airline passengers walked to and from their gates beyond, the overhead announcements muffled from the buzz of hurried conversation. His brother, Jaydan, would’ve already been at her side. The D.I.R.E. super agent was a man’s man, someone that stood up for the underdog and faced any resistance with courage.
Austin wished he could say the same.
The woman stood to her full, leather-covered height, her heels and black pants making her legs appear a kilometer long. The man blocked her path, causing her to bend back over the table, her green-tipped curls falling to her waist.
“Get out of my face.” She pushed against the man’s chest, her black fingernails digging into his shirt.
Since he’d learned the truth about his family, Austin’s easy-going manner had eased into anger and recklessness, his patience spent. He was damned tired of bullies, of people manipulating the world around them for their own, selfish gain. This asshole was no exception.
Cursing mentally, he couldn’t sit by and do nothing. He’d done that twelve years ago and had lived with the regrets ever since.
Peeling himself away from the bar, he stretched out his shoulders and threw a few bills on the counter. Straightening his hat, he picked up his duffle bag and wound through a cluster of tables until he reached them.
He blinked in surprise. Beneath all of her dark makeup shined a vision of loveliness. Wide eyes the color of a clear, Texas sky, a small nose adorned with a tiny, diamond stud. Her pale blonde curls were pulled back from her face to reveal defined cheekbones and smooth skin.
She gazed at Austin beyond the stranger’s shoulder, her glare transforming to a dark, heavy-lidded stare. His heart thumped against his ribs and echoed in his ears. She stared at him like they were the only people in the room, instead of separated by an angry imbecile. He’d remedy that.
Reaching around him, Austin grabbed her wrist, the pulse erratic beneath his tight grip. He yanked her out from under the man’s hostile cocoon, the scent of apricots drifting over his face.
“I hate when you flirt with other men, Sweetpea.” Though he spoke to her, his gaze remained on the asshole who turned to glower at him.
“She isn’t with you.” The man straightened, his thumbs hooked in his front, jean pockets.
The blonde curved her hand at the crook of Austin’s elbow, while her other smoothed over his denim-covered ass. A blast of raw awareness washed through his body, stunning him. He whipped around to look at her.
Those sky blue eyes sparkled up at him with enough mischief to keep a kindergarten class busy for weeks. Her squeeze on his butt cheek and look-what-I-found smile made his manhood stir.
Damn, he’d been played.
“I know, Honey Dumpling,” she said, her soft voice barely penetrating its gravelly surface. “But, you really pissed me off. You can make it up to me when we get to the hotel.” She squeezed his cheek again.
“You have no idea who or what you’re messing with,” the man said in a threatening tone.
His low warning eclipsed the arousal simmering in Austin’s blood. Shoving the woman behind him, he dropped his bag. “I know a coward when I see one.”
The man planted his legs wide and bared his teeth. “Obviously, you need your eyes checked.”
His fist connected with Austin’s cheek, pain ricocheting through his skull. The blow ignited the anger that had simmered in his blood the last several months, before sending it into a full blown inferno. Grabbing the asshole by the shirt front, Austin sent him crashing through several tables and chairs, bar flyers and unlit candles hurtling to the tiled floor. He bent to pick him up and shoved him against the bar before hauling back to punch him in the face – once, twice – and tossing him to the ground.
Austin flexed his fingers. Damn, it felt good to hit the bastard.
Without hesitation, the man climbed to his feet and ran head first into Austin’s stomach, knocking him back into more tables. He hit the floor with a thud, his hat sailing into the heap of furniture beside him. Breathing hard, he flipped to his feet, the bartender’s pleas carrying over the blood rushing in his ears.
What the hell are you doing, Rose? If you want to make D.I.R.E., this is not the way to do it.
He had to get his temper under control. Getting into another fight when he hadn’t been in California two hours wasn’t the way to prove to Jaydan he could make the agency. He had to end this.
Austin held out his hands in supplication. “Okay, look – “
The man swung at him again. Austin deflected the blow with his arm before giving him a hard left hook. The asshole staggered back, clutching the bar for support. Two, airport security officers rushed inside, Tasers drawn, while a small crowd looked on from the concourse.
Shit. He’d royally screwed up.
The man glared at Austin as the officer cuffed his hands behind his back. “I’ve been tracking her for weeks and you fucked it up.”
The other officer pulled Austin’s hands behind him. “What’s going on here?”
Austin nodded at the man. “This asshole was harassing that woman.”
Turning around, Austin scanned the bar. She was gone.
His gaze shot to the man who gave him an I-told-you-so glare beneath an arched brow. “Now, who’s the asshole?”