From the moment they met, sparks had flown and not the good kind. Agent Jane Fallon would rather chew nails than work with arrogantand much too good-lookingHolden Archangelo. But, convinced his brother was no traitor, Holden had Jane's investigation reopened. And now Jane is forced to partner with him.
As new leads come to light, Jane's certainty about the case is shaken. But the assassin's bullet whizzing past her head convinces her they are onto something. Jane's determined to keep things professional, but as the danger around them intensifies, so does the fierce attraction they try so hard to deny .
About the Author
Kimberly and her three children make their home in the Central Valley of California.
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"They can't do this." Holden Archangelo, CIA special skills officer, held his temper by the thinnest margin as his superior, Reed Harris, chief of staff, military affairs, looked up at Holden's sudden appearance in his office. Holden gripped the door frame with Jane Fallon hot on his heels. "There's been a mistake," he said, ignoring Jane's rigid, unwelcome presence.
"Your personal feelings are clouding your judgment," Jane cut in, her lithe and muscular frame nearly as stiff as her inability to see Holden's side. "If the accused were anyone other than your twin brother, would you have the same objections?"
He ignored her point. "Miko's innocent."
"He was proved guilty," Jane countered. "And he will be treated as any person found guilty of treason." She looked to Reed for affirmation.
"We all can sympathize with your position, Holden," Reed said, leaning back in his chair with a heavy sigh.
Holden swallowed. Yes, the entire department knew Miko was Holden's twin brother, which was why the case had been given to Jane and not Holden.
He kept his gaze trained on their superior, effectively trying to ignore Jane's presence, which was near impossible. Pissed as hell would've been too mild of a phrase for the impotent rage choking him. He could admit Jane was a solid investigator, but he believed her final determination had been personal. Very personal. "Permission to remove Agent Fallon from the case for someone less biased."
Jane sputtered, and he could feel the force of her glare even though he kept his stare focused on Chief Harris. "Sir, I take offense to his accusation," she said. "My service record is impeccable, and I've given this office no reason to question my skills or my ability to separate my personal feelings from a case."
Chief Harris grunted in agreement, giving Holden a sour look that warned him to tread carefully. "Don't let your mouth overload your ass, son. Agent Fallon is more than qualified to handle this case. Permission denied. What's this about anyway?" He pushed the paperwork on his desk and tapped it with his stubbed finger. "Nothing is in this file that we all didn't already know was coming."
Jane had concluded that Miko had been guilty of killing several peopleincluding his own boss at the U.S. Department of Informational Development, or I.D. for shortand then committing suicide when the situation got too hot.
From the minute Holden had been told that Miko had killed himself at his own bar, something hadn't passed the sniff test. No way would Miko have committed suicide. Not in a million years. Honor was something the Archangelo boys held sacred, and there was nothing honorable about taking a coward's way out. "He didn't do it," he said between gritted teeth.
Jane shook her head, irritated. "Why are we having this conversation? I have eyewitness testimony that your brother ate a bullet. Harsh, yes, but sometimes the truth doesn't pull punches."
Holden had talked to Nathan Isaacs briefly about Miko's death and, though Nathan had been there when Miko died, this was not an open-and-shut case. As difficult as it was for Holden to accept that Miko had pulled the trigger, he could not believe the story ended there. "Something was missed. No one knew my brother like I did, and I'm telling you, something isn't right," he finished hotly.
"I'm sure the family members of most suicide victims share similar conviction, but I assure you, nothing was missed," Jane retorted, almost bored. "The truth is it doesn't matter how you feel about the matter, your brother did, indeed, kill himself and you're going to have to find a way to deal with that knowledge. It's time to face facts and move on. Miko Archangelo was found guilty of his crimes and, as per the regulations, will be stripped of all military honors effective immediately. Frankly, I find your outrage a little confusing. The report was finished a month ago."
"Yeah, and someone made sure that I'm just now seeing it," he shot back, leaving no doubt he believed it was Jane's doing. "Funny how that happened. If I'd known about your findings, I would've found a way to put a stop to your little celebration ceremony."
Jane colored but held her ground and looked to their superior to end the controversy once and for all. "Sir?"
Reed considered a moment and then said, "Son, I know you're hurting. You and your brother shared a close bond. But there comes a time when you have to accept the facts as they are given. Miko made a grave error in judgment and got in over his head. It's that simple. It hurts, I know, but we're not in the business of sugarcoating the truth."
Holden spied the tiniest lift of Jane's mouth and burned at the thought she might get the upper hand in this. Not because of their shared historybut because Miko's honor depended on Holden succeeding.
"I have new evidence," he blurted, taking a risk when he didn't have all his ducks lined up just yet. Jane frowned and opened her mouth to speak, but Holden wouldn't give her the chance to shoot him down. "Sir, I know I've got a dog in this fight, but that's all the more reason to let me at least see this through, whatever that end might be. Let me chase down this one lead, and if nothing comes of it, I'll let it go."
"This is ridiculous," Jane protested, shooting Holden a dark look. "The case is closed. What's next? Reopening every closed case when a family member squawks at the outcome? This sets the potential for a very dangerous precedent."
"If your investigation is solid, Jane, you have nothing to worry about," Holden returned. He couldn't give a rat's ass if Jane Fallon came out looking like a junior officer with her first real case. All he cared about was clearing Miko's name.
"And what's this new piece of evidence and why didn't you present it when Jane was conducting her investigation?" Reed asked. The older man watched him intently. "Did you purposefully withhold information in an attempt to protect your brother?"
"No sir. This information came to me only recently."
"What information is that?" Jane crossed her arms. "It's my lead," he said coldly. "I'll chase it down. I wouldn't want your bias to color your judgment."
"My bias? What about yours?"
"If my brother is truly guilty, I'll close the book and let it be. I know he's not, though. If you had known my brother, you'd know he couldn't have done the things you say he did."
"And would you say your brother wasn't capable of gunning down innocent people? Because he absolutely did that," she countered. "That's irrefutable."
Holden swallowed. True, and that piece of the puzzle didn't make sense. All kinds of bad stuff had been happening under the auspices of I.D., which had subsequently been shut down, but Holden had a feeling the rot went even deeper than they'd uncovered. And somehow Miko had been at the heart of it.
"So spit it out," she pressed, her green eyes narrowing as she awaited his answer. "What's this new compelling evidence that miraculously appeared at the eleventh hour?"
He glanced at Reed. "I'd prefer to share that information in private."
His boss shook his head. "Jane is the investigating officer. Technically, any information you have should be shared with her, too." Reed's stare bounced from one officer to the other. "I really have no reservations with Jane as an investigator, nor do I feel she was biased. She followed the evidence and arrived at the conclusion that we all did." He drew himself up and effectively put an end to the conversation, saying, "I'm sorry, son, but this case is closed. You're going to have to make peace with it."
"My brother was a highly decorated marine." Holden's throat was tight. "To strip him of his medals They were all he had left."
"He should've thought of that before he committed treason," Jane said, nodding to Reed with smug approval. "Sorry to have bothered you, sir."
Finished, she turned and left Holden standing in Reed's office, his anger smoldering so hot he didn't trust himself not to blow his entire career with one expletive. He reined in his anger enough to ask, "Sir, is that your final decision on the subject?"
Holden accepted his superior's answer with a stiff nod and exited the office, but instead of going straight to his desk, he grabbed his coat and headed out. He needed air. Or else he was going to do something as foolish as throttle Jane Fallon.
From her desk, Jane watched Holden stomp out of the building. She released a pent-up breath. What possible evidence could Holden have that she hadn't uncovered in her investigation? She was known for her sharp eye and attention to detail. It wasn't possible she'd missed something. Right?
She returned to Reed's office, and her boss offered a brief, knowing smile. "He planted a seed, didn't he?"
"I didn't miss anything," she protested, but Reed was right; Holden had definitely planted a seed of doubt, and it was already germinating like a weed in her mind. "What do you think he was he talking about?"
"Does it matter?" Reed countered, and she supposed he was right. It didn't matter. The case was closed. "You have to understand that Holden is grieving the loss of his brother on several different levels. He'll survive this, and it will all become an unpleasant memory best left in the past."
She didn't think so. She'd known Holden for a year. They'd both transferred at the same time to the CIA, military affairs department, and ever since their brief, ill-fated and definitely secret affair, they'd been at odds with one another. However, if pressed, Jane would have to admit Holden was as thorough an officer as shewhich meant if Holden thought he had new evidence, he likely did. "Maybe I ought to look into the case, make sure there aren't any loose ends."
Reed arched his brow. "You want to reopen it?" he asked.
"No," she said quickly. The last thing she wanted to do was reopen the case that had finally given her a measure of approval from her father, but if there was even the slightest chance she'd missed something, she couldn't let it go. "But I don't want Holden questioning my skills. I have no doubt that my investigation will hold up."
"Then why do you care what he thinks?"
"I don't." I care what others will think if Holden starts spreading his theory around. If word reached her father that she'd potentially buggered up the high-profile case . She shuddered to think of how heavy his disappointment would be. "I just like to be thorough," she finished.
Reed sighed, as if knowing the exercise was pointless and a waste of manpower, but he shrugged and said, "Fine. I'll reopen the case for one week. But here's the catch," he added. "Holden is going to work with you."
"With all due respect, I don't think that's wise," she said, her heart skipping a beat. "He doesn't have a clear head. He's too emotional about this. Holden is a wild card that will only impede my progress."
"Potentially true, but Holden is a good officeras good as youand I have a feeling if he doesn't get the opportunity to chase this down, he's going to do something rash. I don't want to lose a good officer over this."
Work with Holden? She'd rather chew nails. "Sir, I can appreciate your concern but"
"Decision is made. You and Holden have a week to get this cleared up. Try not to kill each other in the process."
And what if they did worse than kill each other? Jane's mouth dropped open in dismay, hating the idea of working side by side with Holden. From the minute they'd met, sparks had flownthe kind that made for incredible, earth-shattering sex but only made things messy everywhere else except the bedroom. She found him arrogant, harsh, cocky and too good-looking to be trusted. Anyone with eyes like his ought to be quarantined as a matter of national security. He was bad news. He reacted emotionally instead of rationally, and he didn't care how his actions affected other people. Such as when he wanted to come clean about their relationship and she wanted to keep it quiet. She had known her father would never approve, and she had told Holden this, which somehow had prompted him to have a conversation with her father, The Major. And that had gone down exactly as she'd imaginednot well. She'd ended her relationship with Holden and he had been adversarial with her ever since. Now whenever they were together, her armpits immediately started to sweat, which was why she'd switched to clinical-strength deodorant. He set her teeth on edge.
He also hogged the office exercise equipment. Of course, he would be the only other person who arose at a ridiculously early hour to get in a good workout before the day started. It was hard enough to forget his near-perfect body without having to exercise beside him each morning, but she was not about to purchase a gym membership when she had a free gym readily available to her.
And now she was supposed to work with him like they were buddies in a Sandra Bullock film? No way. Again, she'd rather eat nails. Rusty ones, at that.
She returned to her desk and glowered at her screensaverflying blue stars streaking in wild patterns across her monitor. The pattern bothered her and she jiggled her mouse to make it stop.
"Why don't you just change your screensaver?"
Jane swiveled to stare at her officemate, Special Skills Officer Ursula Benza. "Because sometimes you have to assert your dominance over your OCD tendencies," she quipped before exhaling a short breath of annoyance at her situation. She frowned. "What do you know about Holden finding new evidence regarding his brother?" Ursula's blank look answered Jane's question. "Okay, so he didn't share," she surmised, not surprised. Holden was a locked box when he chose to be. "No idea what it could be?"