Excerpt: Counter Balance by Patricia Bates (Contemporary Romance/ Romantic Suspense)
Slade clicked his communicator, his steps confident as the team eased through the opening in the gate to blend into the shadows of the interior of the estate. Hunkered down behind a massive four-wheeler, Slade spread out on his belly, his gaze sweeping the courtyard.
Men huddled around barrels, fire lapping at the cold air. Several men shifted, their attention on a nondescript shed half-hidden beyond a stack of straw bales. Dogs lunged at the ends of their chains, their fury evident in the howls and roars of captivity.
Slade slapped the shoulder of the nearest man and pointed. Out of four buildings only one was guarded. Six heavily armed men stood at the door. "Our target's there."
"Can you think of any reason to have six men guarding a tool shed?" Slade shook his head. "I can. Something or someone is there…and my guess is it's the target."
"We're right behind you."
Slade ran from the cover of the four-wheeler toward the shed. Bent over, he darted between barrels and vehicles, keeping his rifle pressed against his side. Sliding on ice, Slade hugged the shed. From his position, he could easily see his men. A quick nod and he pulled the sidearm from its holster.
"Hell, this is nuts," Slade muttered and leaned to the side. His gaze swept the front of the building.
Two men stood together, their attention on the cigarettes in their hands, weapons looped casually over their shoulders. The other four scanned their surroundings, eyes peeled for danger. This is going to be hairy.
A flash of red on the neck of one of them drew his attention. Whipping his head around, Slade scanned the yard. A glint of light from atop a truck revealed Smoke's position. Across the courtyard, several men fell, sending those surrounding them racing for weapons.
Slade gave a slow nod. "Time to dance."
Ten seconds later one of the guards dropped to the ground, red spurting from a severed jugular. Seeing their comrades go down, the compound lit up.
"Damn!" Slade grunted as he watched two more men race from the building, weapons drawn. The door slammed shut behind them, the last turning to click something into place.
"Keep your head down, Danny-boy," Pyke's voice filled Slade's ear before his radio fell silent.
Darting past the remaining guards, Slade headed for the door, the firefight heating up around him. Aiming from the hip, he shot two before he reached the door. "Mother…" With a well placed bullet, the lock shattered. Jerking the door open, Slade ducked on his way in, the pistol a welcomed weight in his palm.
One foot in front of the other he inched into the dark, his gaze darting through the faint beams of light. He stumbled, his gaze locked on movement in the shadows. He assessed the curled figure—long, toned legs flowed into the trim body of a woman. A delicate white lace bra and matching panties provided her only protection from the elements. She shifted, gathering her feet beneath her. His eyes narrowed and rage flared as he caught the ugly, red lines along the soles of her feet. A whimper escaped her, and he glanced at her face.
Slade felt his heart drop. Golden eyes, surrounded by thick, pale lashes, glared at him. An ugly bruise trailed along one side of her face. Blood oozed from a wound on her right shoulder, staining her bra and flesh with deep crimson streaks.
If this was their target, he was in deep shit.
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