By: Laurann Dohner

The click of a lock preceded the door being thrown open. A dark-haired man entered. He was seriously tan with piercing dark eyes, which looked black. He stared at her, his features shadowed. She put him at about six-and-a-half feet tall. Darkness. That’s got to be him. Holy shit, he’s huge and intimidating.

She took note of his densely muscled arms and very broad shoulders. The tank top stretched tightly over his upper body and tapered down to where he’d tucked it in the waistband of black drawstring pants. They weren’t tied, the white laces just hung free. He had shapely, muscular thighs, evident even through the thick material, and at least size-sixteen bare feet. His very casual attire wasn’t what she’d expected.

“Who are you?”

It confirmed his identity. She’d never forget that deep voice. “Kathryn Decker but everyone just calls me Kat for short.”

The door slammed, sealing them inside together. She glanced at it, waiting for it to open a second time.

“No one else is coming in here. There will be no rescue.”

She focused on his face. He stood still, a few feet inside the door. “Isn’t a woman supposed to be present?”

A soft, frightening sound came from him. It wasn’t exactly a growl but it wasn’t friendly either. “Do you realize you’re not inside the United States anymore? You were in NSO territory once you passed those gates. Tell me the truth because believe me, you don’t want me to make you talk. Your laws of interrogation don’t apply here.”

Fear edged up Kat’s spine but she pushed it back. “You can’t kill me.”

He stepped closer and lifted his head enough for her to get a better look at his face. Her breath caught in her lungs. He had one of the most masculine faces she’d ever seen. His cheekbones were pronounced, possibly American Indian. A square jaw sat under a pair of full lips with a harsh angle, due to his frown. It was the shape of his eyes, though, that really startled her. Justice North had the catlike shape but his weren’t nearly as fierce. She still couldn’t tell the exact color of those eyes but she’d guess dark brown. Unusually long, thick eyelashes framed them.

Breathe, damn it. She sucked in air, forcing her lungs to work again. The way he dressed had to be a tactic to throw her off her game. She needed to keep her shit together. It was difficult to do with that grim expression and the predatory stare aimed her way.

“I actually could. Are you ready to tell me the truth now? Who are you really? What are you doing here?”

He’s bluffing. She hoped. “My name is Kat Decker,” she lied. “Check my driver’s license. Call my boss. I was asked to come to Homeland for two weeks to teach forensic science classes and brush up your security on some of the newest trends in criminal behavior.”

He took another step closer. “Are you Army? Marines? Special forces?”

She shook her head. “Crime lab.”

He snarled.

Kat tried not to react but failed. Her body tensed at the frightening, dangerous sound. The layout of the room didn’t make her feel any safer. There were no cameras. She’d looked for signs of how they could monitor her but hadn’t found any. They really were alone in the room.

“Where did you learn how to take out that armored van?”

“I watch too many action movies and I learned all that through them.”

His mouth pressed into a tighter angry line, assuring her he wasn’t buying that bullshit. She tried again.

“I love watching movies. Blow-them-up-shoot-it-out-save-the-world kind of stuff. Would you believe I wanted to grow up to be an action-film star when I was a little girl?” She couldn’t resist. “Bruce Willis is my idol.”

His hands fisted at his sides, his only reaction. She might have gone too far with that answer but hoped he’d have a sense of humor. He didn’t.

“I’m not in a mood to play games. Take my words as a warning. My patience is nearly gone.”

Kat took a deep breath then blew it out slowly. She knew she was on thin ice and she’d have to give him something valid. “The bullets were bouncing off the van. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out it was armored. I yelled at them to shoot the tires but I don’t think anyone heard me over all that racket. Maybe they didn’t see it from their angle but I was kind of up close and personal since it was trying to break free of the gate. I realized they’d shove my car out of the way to attack your second gate.”

“How did you know their plans?”

“I didn’t. I made an educated guess. It was just common sense. I only wanted to stop them. Your bullets weren’t working so I grabbed Rusty’s gun to look for a weak spot. They didn’t plate the lock on the driver’s door.” She hesitated. “I saw that the driver and passenger were wearing full assault gear. Something had to be done fast. I reacted before I really thought it out. I remember the last time vehicles got past your gates. How many died? Sixteen people?”

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