Deep Breath by Alison Kent

DEEP BREATH
digital reissue edition
SG-5 Series #7
July 2016

Stopping at a roadside diner usually means bad chili, not a hostage situation. But Smithson Group operative Harry van Zandt finds himself in the middle of just that when armed men burst through the door. They're after the woman in the nearby booth, and they give her seventy-two hours to come up with a valuable document or her brother dies. Harry, too, if he doesn't see that she delivers.

Harry's on his own mission involving the same document, so he doesn't mind helping treasure hunter Georgia McLain. She's smart and sexy. And she's desperate. The document could clear her father's name, so she's not about to turn it over. With Harry's help, she can double-cross the thugs. On the road with a price on their heads, the two find themselves caught in a web of secrets, lies, and desire with no time to catch their breath.

 

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DEEP BREATH
Kensington Brava
SG-5 #7
ISBN 0758211139
April 2006

DEEP BREATH
Brava Mass-Market Reissue
SG-5 #7
ISBN 0758211171
November 2009

 

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BOOKLIST

The Comfort of Favorite Things - Bliss and the Art of Forever - The Sweetness of Honey - Beneath the Patchwork Moon - Boots Under Her Bed - A Blue Christmas/Jingle Bell Rock(Digital Edition) - Unforgettable - The Second Chance Café - Unbreakable - Undeniable - Holiday Kisses/This Time Next Year - Twenty-One Hours/SEAL of My Dreams - At His Mercy - Playing Love's Odds (Digital Edition) - Love Me Tender (Digital Edition) - Love In Bloom - (Digital Edition) - The Icing On The Cake - With Extreme Pleasure - One Good Man - No Limits - A Long, Hard Ride - Maximum Exposure - Kiss & Tell - Deep Trouble - In Danger - At Risk - Tex Appeal - The Perfect Stranger - Beyond A Shadow - Infatuation - The Complete Idiot's Guide To Writing Erotic Romance - Deep Breath - Goes Down Easy - Red Letter Nights - Totally Charmed - Kiss & Makeup - Undressed - Larger Than Life - Sara Smiles/Beach Blanket Bad Boys - The McKenzie Artifact - The Beach Alibi - The Samms Agenda - The Shaughnessey Accord - The Bane Affair - Mother, Please! - Indiscreet - Wicked Games - A Blue Christmas/Jingle Bell Rock - Striptease - The Sweetest Taboo - Bound To Happen - No Strings Attached - Roped Into Romance - All Tied Up - Love In Bloom - Four Men & A Lady - Love Me Tender - The Badge And The Baby - The Grinch Makes Good - The Heartbreak Kid - Call Me - Playing Love's Odds

8:15 PM

While Georgia was in the ladies’ room messing with her hair and after he had ordered margaritas, Harry put in a call to the private line at the SG-5 ops center belonging to Kelly John Beach.

If K.J. was in the field, the call would be routed to the main Smithson line. If he was simply out of the office, it would forward to his cell.

K.J. picked up on the second ring. “Beach.”

“It’s Rabbit. You busy?”

“You mean do I have time to talk to you before taking my wife to bed?” he asked, obviously at home on his cell.

Harry couldn’t help but grin. Kelly John had married Emma Webster, Hank Smithson’s executive assistant, in an intimate Christmas ceremony at Hank’s Saratoga farm.

K.J. was the first SG-5 operative to tie the knot. The members of the Smithson Group and their significant others—for those who had them—had been the only attendees.

It was tough making friends—and keeping friends—when one spied for a living.

His grin fading at the dismal thought, Harry asked, “How about you bring yourself and Mrs. Beach down to Dallas in the morning?”

“A Sunday in April in Dallas. Nope.” Harry could almost see K.J. shaking his head. “Can’t think of a compelling reason.”

Harry played his trump card. “Does Ezra Moore compel?”

“Fuck, yeah. You got the bastard nailed down?”

“Not yet. But I’m getting there.”

“What’s up?”

Harry explained the parts he and Georgia had played earlier and their need to get their hands on the lockbox without further exposure. “If you can’t make it, I’ll try Christian and Natasha.”

“No can do. The boy just left for Alaska. And before you ask, Eli is in Turkey and Julian in Japan.”

That would leave Tripp manning the ops center since Mick Savin had pretty much taken himself off the active roster while he worked in West Texas with his woman.

And with Simon already on surveillance at the diner, Tripp would have no back-up at the ops center but for K.J. and Gideon Martel.

Harry frowned. “Wonder if Hank would want to make the trip?”

“Give me the specs,” K.J. said. “Someone will be there.”

Harry did, and had just rung off when Georgia walked up to the table, her shaggy brown waves framing again her amazingly beautiful face.

She dropped her bag onto the seat of the chair between them and pulled it close before she sat. “That’s so much better. I was starting to get a headache, and feel like a repressed au pair or something.”

“Something like the executive assistant you were supposed to be?” She might feel repressed, but uninhibited better described the way she looked, not to mention her actions. As harmless as it had been, he was still working to get that kiss out of his mind.

“If I’d had more shopping time and more shopping choices, not to mention more shopping money of my own, your executive assistant would have definitely been wearing something else,” she said, holding the unbuttoned edges of her sweater much the same way she’d held his lapels.

He watched her eyes light up as she reached for the drink he’d ordered for her. One forearm braced on the table, he sipped at his own. “Yeah? What?”

She frowned, shaking her head as she swallowed. “Something that didn’t scream church lady.”

The way she fit that sweater did not make him think of church at all. “The pearls were too much?”

“Actually, I like the pearls,” she said, fingering them as she spoke. He liked them, too. He wanted to see her wearing them and nothing else in his bed. “And the sweater’s nice. It’s just not me. I’m more into—”

“Camo?”

“I was going to say pin strips. But really, anything would work as long as it’s not bubblegum or fluffy. I’m not exactly the fluffy type.”

He thought of the hellcat who’d tried to strangle Charlie Castro. She didn’t fit into pin stripes or oxfords any more than she did into bubblegum or fluff. “I would never have thought that you were.”

“I’m not exactly into pin stripes,” she admitted, echoing his thoughts. She dipped a tortilla chip into the bowl of warm salsa. “It’s more a lesser of two evils since I don’t know of any exec who would go for T-shirts and jeans.”

“You know a lot of execs?” he asked, opening his menu.

“I used to be married to one.”

That was interesting. “How did you fit in at the company Christmas parties?”

“The truth?” She pulled up a memory and smiled. “I was a hit. What woman doesn’t want to find out the best antiques for investment?”

He laughed. “For some reason, I see you sharing that investment information with the husbands instead of the wives.”

She ate a couple of chips, sipped at her drink, licked the salt from her lips. When their server arrived, she ordered a la carte, tamales and borracho beans.

And then she gave him her attention. “Answer me this, Mr. Engineering Firm, how you would like it if your co-workers got too friendly with your wife? Would you dump the job? Or dump the spouse?”

Harry couldn’t imagine a single one of his co-workers hitting on a woman belonging to a member of the team. But he also knew that outside of the SG-5 ranks, it happened way too often.

He hated that it had happened to her. “I guess that would depend on which came with the better benefits.”

She stared at him blankly for several seconds. The she threw a chip at his chest. “You are a horrible man.”

“I am,” he agreed, then sobered. “And I’m also very sorry you went through that.”

She shrugged. “We all have stuff in our past. I’ll bet you could even think of something if you tried.”

“I’d rather not. I kinda like my present.” He wondered what she would think if she knew how many men he’d killed in his life.

“I don’t know. Your present is pretty much a tangled mess right now. Are you going to have problems if you don’t show up at work on Monday? I mean, that car you have, Morganna? I’m guessing you drove down for the auction?”

What was another lie piled on top of the rest? “I had a couple of weeks coming. Seemed like a relaxing way to spend the time.”

She finished off her drink. “A man and his car and the open road. It doesn’t fit any better than the engineering thing does.”

“Why not?”

“You’re much too . . . help me out here.” She waved a hand. “I can see you parasailing or base jumping. Not driving cross-country in a fifty year old car.”

He wanted to laugh; was that really how she saw him? And here he had thought he was doing such a good job projecting a respectable image. “Base jumping? Why? Just because I took a dive across the counter in the diner? I’m not a daredevil as a rule, you know.”

She was silent while their server set their food on the table, only speaking once he’d left. “Do you think Charlie is letting Finn and the others eat?”

“I don’t see why he wouldn’t.” He cut into his chile relleno, realized her hands were still in her lap, gestured with his knife. “You. Eat. We have a busy day tomorrow, and you passing out from hunger or dehydration would put a big kink in our plans.”

He shoveled his food into his mouth and watched her struggle with unimaginable emotions. More than anything, he wished he could tell her how well in hand things were.

But he couldn’t give her the reassuring details. All he could give her was a nice evening out with the promise that he would not abandon her tomorrow.

So he did, and they spent the rest of the meal talking about the treasures she hunted, the treasures she’d found, the treasure hunters who hunted her.

Her knowledge impressed him, her enthusiasm, too. He wasn’t sure he knew anyone outside of SG-5 who loved their work the way she did.

It made it easy to understand why she lived as she did, a vagabond with no ties, free to pick up and go, no obligations but those she chose to take on, and what she owed to herself.

The hours moved quickly, as did her margaritas. He was driving. He’d stopped at one.

But seeing Georgia relaxed for the first time since yesterday lifted some of the tension he was feeling. He hadn’t yet come up with a plan of action should the lockbox not contain the dossier. And that was weighing heavy on his mind.

He hated having to wait and pick either Hank’s or K.J.’s brain, but if he didn’t have some sort of Thomas Edison genius moment soon, he’d have no other choice.

And it wasn’t so much the Ezra connection, the possible loss of the very thing he’d been assigned to discover that was giving Harry hell.

It was that he needed to get Finn McLain out of harm’s way because of how much he was coming to care for Georgia.

His feelings were so strong, in fact, that he’d come close a couple of times to giving up caring for the outcome of his mission.

And if he didn’t shape up, there was a damn good chance he’d be looking at a missionless future. Hank Smithson did not take kindly to being screwed.

“I swear, another bite and I’m going to pop like a big fat pimple.”

Harry looked up from his near empty plate and his musings. He couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. “You may dress like a church lady and look like a church lady, but no one will ever accuse you of talking like one.”

She groaned. “It’s the pearls. I swear. I’m taking them off.”

“Don’t you dare,” he said, his words stilling her hands at her nape.

She lowered them slowly, held onto the edge of the table, her gaze locked with his. “Harry van Zandt. That sounded like a threat.”

“It was,” he admitted, in for a penny, in for a pound. “You can take off anything and everything else, but the pearls stay.”

She continued to hold his gaze as a sweep of color rose in her face. “You know. I’m just buzzed enough to do it. You damn well better be careful what you say.”

He raised a finger and said the only thing that mattered. “Check, please.”

And at that, Georgia laughed.