The hero we’ve all been waiting for…
Ethan “Ozzie” Sykes
Former Navy SEAL
Underground operator for Black Knights Inc., the covert government defense firm disguised as a custom motorcycle shop
In a black-on-black international mission that went seriously sideways, Ozzie was badly injured—now he’s stuck at BKI headquarters in Chicago, champing at the bit to get out into the field again. To his disgust, he’s tasked with distracting Chicago Tribune ace reporter Samantha Tate, who’s been trying to dig up the dirt on BKI for years. Turns out Samantha’s beauty, intelligence and sense of humor are a seriously big distraction, and Ozzie’s losing his desire to keep her at bay.
Ozzie’s tired of hiding, and Samantha may be the best—and worst—person to share his secrets with…
Ozzie’s pounding heart jumped into his throat when the Basilisks’ sergeant at arms slid from his chair at the high-top and bolted after her, reaching into the back of his waistband for the weapon he’d stored there. Reaction time for men in Ozzie and Christian’s business was faster than the speed of thought, so a split second later, they were off their stools, weapons out, and barreling across the room.
Ozzie wasn’t sure if he screamed her name aloud, or if that was just his soul crying out in terror.
“Stop!” he yelled, blasting through the back door and sighting down the barrel of his Beretta 92 FS at the Basilisk’s beefy back. The biker had an eight-inch hunting knife fisted in his hand, and he was closing the distance to Samantha.
“I said stop!” Ozzie shouted again, plowing down the dark alley and darting around a big, blue dumpster that, from the overpowering smell of it, was in dire need of a visit from the trash man.
The pounding of his feet on the dirty asphalt sent daggers of pain slicing through his injured thigh. The agony traveled up his spine to stab into the base of his skull.
Neither the biker nor Samantha bothered to glance back, prompting him to make his intentions crystal-fucking-clear. “Drop that pigsticker, asshole! Or I’ll put a bullet in the back of your skull and then piss on your corpse!”
That did it. The biker skidded to a stop, slowly lifting his hands in the air. Ozzie blew out a relieved breath when Samantha made it to the mouth of the alley and escaped around the corner.
What the hell have you gotten yourself involved in this time, Samantha?
“Was the pissing-on-his-corpse bit really necessary?” Christian asked as they slowed their momentum to stalk toward the Basilisk.
“I don’t believe in pulling my punches.” Ozzie skirted around the biker so he could get a good look at the man’s face. And conversely, let the man get a good look at the business end of his Beretta to discourage the dickwad from attempting any funny business.
The light from the street lamps in the parking lot filtered into the mouth of the alley and lit the Basilisk’s hairy face. Ozzie could see the words forming in the guy’s beady black eyes before he hissed them aloud. “Who the f* are you?” His vocal cords sounded like they’d been marinated in years of bad bourbon.
“Friends of the lady,” Ozzie said. The sound of the biker’s heavy breathing filled the alley. His robust middle said he wasn’t a stranger to milk shakes and cheese fries, and it’d likely been years since he’d managed more than a brisk walk.
When the biker smiled, it revealed his front teeth, all of which were gold and speckled with flecks of chewing tobacco. To call the dude ugly would be an offense to the word. He was f*ing ugly. “Aw, I wasn’t gonna hurt her,” Fugly said, adding a wink that set Ozzie’s blood boiling.
His finger twitched against his trigger. The day they’d pinned his SEAL Budweiser to his chest was the day killing had become a part of his life. But taking out jihadists in the backwoods of Afghanistan was a far cry from punching a fat biker’s ticket in a Chicago alleyway. Through gritted teeth, Ozzie managed, “Drop the knife.”
“Now why would I do that?”
“Because if you don’t, you won’t be able to see or pee straight by the time we’re finished with you.”
Ozzie wiggled his Beretta from side to side. “Backed up by a big gun. Now drop the blade.”
“You won’t shoot me,” Fugly declared, his smile stretching to reveal back teeth yellowed not by gold but by poor dental hygiene. Just looking at them made Ozzie feel filthier than the floor of a taxicab.
“Look, rotten mouth.” His patience was stretched tight. “I’m trying real hard to be polite, but I have to tell you, it’s not something I excel at.”
“Oh, now see?” Ozzie shook his head. “That just got you removed from my Christmas list. You’ve got two seconds to comply before I add you to my other list. It’s titled: Dickheads I’ve Shot in the Gut.”
The biker eyed him for a good two seconds. Then he uncurled his fingers from the hilt of the knife. The blade caught the light and glinted as it somersaulted through the air, hitting the asphalt at his feet hilt-first.
“There,” Fugly said. “Happy now?”
Getting there. “You hiding any other weapons?”
“Just my dick.” The dude spit a huge glob of tobacco juice on the ground next to Ozzie’s boot. It was a visual f* you.
“Comedian, huh?” Ozzie asked.
Now that Samantha was safe and the adrenaline was letting down, he realized he was sweating. June in Chicago usually went one of two ways. Either spring held on with a fierce grip, keeping temps mild. Or summer came on like a she-devil, setting the city on fire. This year was the former, but since there wasn’t a breath of wind in the alley, the coolness of the night barely penetrated the insulation of his biker jacket. What little air there was felt thick…expectant, like an electrical storm rolled in the distance.
A trickle of perspiration slid from his temple to his chin. He was using his free hand to wipe it away when a noise from the parking lot had his blood running cold and goose bumps crawling over the back of his neck. It was a squeal of alarm. And it came from Samantha.
“Watch him!” Ozzie shouted, turning and running for the mouth of the alley without a backward glance.
About the Author
Julie Ann Walker is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She’ll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.