Street Game – Christine Feehan

Black night. No moon, no stars. Just the way he liked it. Master Gunnery Sergeant Mack McKinley crouched in the alley, close to the tall, dirty building, allowing his senses to become tuned to the familiar sounds. A cat raked through a garbage can, a drunk moaned and shivered in the cold. Waves pounded the beach and sloshed against the pier just behind the building. Three stories up, lights went out, leaving the long row of windows like giant, gaping black mouths. McKinley smiled at the image, smiled up at the windows. His smile was not pleasant. This was the all-important tip. Tracking the explosives through Lebanon, Beirut, the South American freighter. And then to San Francisco. Always one step behind. He had moved fast to check out the information, praying it was correct. They had less than twenty-four hours to find the guns and the fiveman unit of Doomsday.

He sneered at the name of the terrorist unit, but he had to give them kudos for scaring the crap out of every country they had visited. They left behind wreckage and carnage and death. More—they left behind fear. Urban warfare was an art any way one looked at it. His team had knowledge of the streets, were the best there was, but it was dangerous work, and required a cool head. Too many civilians, too many potential hostages, too damn many things to go wrong. But his men were good at it, more than good— he counted them among the best, and Sergeant Major Theodore Griffen wanted Doomsday taken out. And when the sergeant major gave an order, it was carried out immediately and to the letter. The warehouse was wired. He knew it, could feel it.

But something . His men were in position, waiting for him. As always, First Sergeant Kane Cannon was at his back. They’d started on the streets together, two kids trying to stay alive, eventually pulling in six other boys and two girls, all with different abilities to make up their ragtag family. From the streets Kane and Mack and one of the girls—Mack didn’t want to think about her—had gone on to college. The others had gone into the Marine Corps. All had a gift for languages as well as many other things, such as what he was doing now. They were recruited right out of school and trained as operatives until the psychic testing. That had been a huge mistake, and all of his family had followed him—as they always did. Force Recon—Special Forces.

Psychic testing where they’d all come back together, just like on the street. More specialized training. SEAL training. Urban war games. Even more specialized training until they were pretty much killing machines. They had stuck together and knew one another’s every move. They trusted one another and no one else, not in the business they were in. Well . with the exception 15 of the new kid, but that was a whole other story. It was no good thinking about that right now, not when he was surrounded with the ones he loved, leading them into a situation that was explosive at the very least.

Mack signaled for the others to pull down their night goggles, making it easy to see in the blackness of the night. He and Kane didn’t need them. They could both see in the dark as easily as during the day. A result of the experiments they’d lent themselves to. Stupid, but they’d done it for the good of the country and their need for a home. Yeah, he knew the psychological bullshit everyone spouted. It was probably all true too, but he didn’t much care. It was also one hell of an adrenaline rush. Still, he waited, hesitating before signaling his team forward. His men were coiled and ready.

He had a bad feeling, deep in his gut, and he never discounted his instincts. Something wasn’t quite right, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. What is it, Top? Kane questioned, using the telepathic communication they had perfected as children, and which the military had enhanced when they volunteered for the psychic GhostWalker program. Something’s wrong? Not wrong, maybe. Just not right. How the hell could he explain that strange kick in his belly? I feel it too, but I’m not sure what’s out of sync here. There was another long moment of silence. Abort? Kane asked. Mack took a breath. Let it out.

No, but let’s all be very cautious. Of the group of them, only the new kid the sergeant major had insisted they add to their team couldn’t communicate telepathically. Telepathy had been the common denominator that had drawn them together on the streets. They were all different and they’d all recognized the psychic gift in one another. Mack had been the acknowledged leader and Kane had always, always had his back. He glanced at the man and saw that Kane was doing what he did best, searching the huge warehouse with his strange eyes. He could, if he wanted, see right through the wood and metal to the heat inside, a gift from Whitney and his experiments. Unfortunately, if he used that special gift, he paid for it with blindness for several minutes after, rendering it an extremely dangerous talent to use in the field. There were several new abilities in all of them. Animal DNA.

A new genetic code. They hadn’t signed on for that kind of experiment, but when they’d woken up, they had been changed for all time. Kane kept from trying to look through the walls and used his enhanced sight to detect movement only. Mack signaled his men forward. It took minutes to bypass the alarm on the side entrance door, far longer than it should have. The alarm was too complicated for a wharf warehouse. Who put together a sophisticated triple-alarm system so complex it took Javier, his best tech, precious time to unravel it? We’ve got ourselves a pro system, here, boss, Javier said. One I’ve never seen before. Whoever put this mother together knew what they were doing. There was frank admiration in his tone.

16 No activity in the lower warehouse that I can spot, Mack, Kane said. I can’t detect heat on the second floor either, but someone’s on the third floor. Just one person? That made no sense. Just one. Mack moved first, his brain more reluctant than his body. He rolled inside the door of the first floor, under a trip wire, and crawled military fashion beneath the maze of track beams. The entire room was empty, deserted, with the exception of scattered building materials here and there. The sophisticated alarm system seemed ridiculous. Something was nagging at the back of his mind, refusing to leave him alone. Where are the sentries, Kane? I don’t know, bro, but this is all wrong.

The roof was clean, protected only by an alarm. His man, Gideon, was up there now, with a rifle and a radio. Gideon could see in the dark, hear like an owl, and shoot the wings off a fly in the middle of the night if necessary. Mack should have been feeling good, but that punch in his gut was getting stronger. And where the hell was the sentry on the ground level? Was this an elaborate trap? Had Doomsday been tipped off that they were coming? The little band of terrorists had no cause, no politics, no religious war to fight. They were mercenaries, a brand-new type spawned by the times. They showed off their talents, sparing no country, no man, woman, or child, with one idea: working for the highest bidder. They sold their services to whoever paid, which made them difficult to track, as no one could ever figure out who they worked for and where they would be next. This was the GhostWalkers’ one opportunity to get them, by following the weapons, yet Mack just couldn’t shake it that something was wrong. Even as his mind struggled desperately with the problem, he was aware of every detail around him, aware that the newbie, young Paul, was an inch too high, close beneath one of the beams.

Mack hissed and all movement ceased. The warehouse was utterly still. His cold gaze pinned Paul. Mack signaled with a flat hand. The rookie’s body hugged the cold cement. Despite the cover of darkness, Mack knew Paul flushed crimson. The kid blushed a lot. What the hell he was doing with their team, Mack couldn’t figure out. Basically, they were babysitting, and that could get them all killed. No one on the team wanted the kid with them, but Sergeant Major Griffen had been more than insistent.

It wasn’t that the kid wasn’t highly intelligent—he was. He also was psychic, although none of them had gone through Dr. Whitney’s program with him. All the GhostWalkers tended to know or at least recognize one another. Paul was an exception. Mack didn’t like question marks, and the kid posed too many. Mack rolled free of the interlocking track beams. The loudness of the freight lift was out of the question. It had to be the stairs, each one more perilous than the next. There would be two flights to get to that third floor.

17 Where the hell are the sentries? The question nagged at him, would not let him go. Everyone was on high alert now, the question as disturbing to them as it was to him. He waited a heartbeat, but couldn’t find a reason not to continue. He moved cautiously. Four stairs . seven. He felt it on eight. The wire puzzled him. It was an alarm, not a mine. His mind seized on that, worried at it.

Mack had done this so many times that he knew exactly how each one of his men was feeling. Adrenaline pumping, heart racing, fear choking, guns rock steady. Something was off-kilter. Wrong. The word fluttered in his head, beat at him like tiny wings. Definitely of . Kane’s anxiety heightened his own. Mack gained the second floor. Where the first floor had been mostly empty space and building materials, this one was packed with electronic equipment. A bank of computers was built into the far wall, the only thing completed.

Everything else was in boxes, all electronics equipment, high-end. “Bingo,” Paul’s whisper came over the radio, trembling with excitement. “Moving day.” Check it, Kane. Maybe we’re looking at how they transported the guns. Inside electronic equipment? This is satellite tracking, cameras, stuf like that. Not guns. We’ve stumbled onto something, but I’m not certain it’s what we’re after. Mack wasn’t certain either. He shook his head, his mind screaming at him now.

This was all wrong. No sentries. This type of equipment was far too advanced for the kind of terrorists that made up the Doomsday organization. He moved up the staircase. Third stair this time. No explosives. Seventh stair. He rolled beneath the beam on the landing, came up on one knee, breathing deeply. Here! Here! His men were spreading out, back-to-back, in a standard search pattern. What is it? What’s wrong? Find the answer! Find the answer! Mack moved carefully through the furniture.

The furniture, Mack. All wrong, Kane hissed in his mind. A long plush couch, a hand-carved wooden coffee table, a priceless Persian rug. Beautiful, expensive. A small object on an end table. A dragon. Like in a living room. A home. Knowledge came a heartbeat too late. Something stirred just feet from him, a weapon glinted.

“Break off! Break off!” He yelled it even as he launched himself toward the small figure crouched behind the recliner. His body, solid, heavily muscled, hit the smaller, softer one squarely, knocking the woman flat, pinning her to the floor. She shocked him by fighting hard, going for pressure points, obviously having a working knowledge of hand-to-hand combat tactics. It took some strength and finesse 18 to subdue her. He successfully blanketed her body with his, tensed for the bullets he was certain would tear into him. His team was well trained, superb even. Not a shot was fired. Even so, as a precaution, Kane caught Paul’s weapon, pushing it away so it wasn’t pointed at McKinley’s body. There was a long, deadly silence. Mack could hear her breathing, her heart racing.

There was no struggle once he’d pinned her; she lay perfectly still beneath him. For a moment he was afraid he had knocked her unconscious, but her breathing was too ragged. “Is anyone else up here?” He whispered the words in her ear. She shook her head. Kane and the others began a standard search pattern. McKinley hoped she was telling the truth. She smelled fresh and faintly exotic, her skin satin smooth, petal soft. The scent, the feel of her, was oddly familiar. Too familiar. His body recognized her before his brain did, reacting with enough testosterone for his entire unit, mixed with more adrenaline than any of them could possibly handle.

McKinley slowly, carefully, eased his weight until he was certain he wasn’t hurting her, yet still kept her pinned. As each member of the team barked, “Clear,” he shifted enough to get a good look at her face. One leg remained firmly over her thighs, a warning not to move. Behind them, a lamp was switched on. “All clear, sir.” That was young Paul. His men were all staring, yet trying not to stare. The woman was in a long nightgown. See-through. One of those diaphanous, filmy things that clung to every curve and sent a jackhammer through the middle of a man’s skull.

Her gown had pulled up her thigh, revealing a more than generous expanse of gleaming skin. She had tousled hair, a riot of curls, and large, haunting, sapphire-colored eyes. He would know her anywhere, anyplace. Jaimie. He said her name, at least he thought he said it, but no sound emerged. Maybe he’d just breathed her name. He touched her thick mane of silky, midnight black hair, his fingers sliding into one of the curls and tugging, letting the strands slide through the pads of his fingers, trying to regain the breath she’d stolen. “Get off me, McKinley.” The fear was in her voice, but she was striving for control. “What are you doing here? Hi, boys.

I missed—most of you,” she greeted from the floor. “Hey, Jaimie,” Kane said. “Man, Jaimie,” Javier added. “Sweet damn security system. I should have recognized your work.” “Great to see you, Jaimie,” Brian Hutton added with a little grin. “Although we’re seeing more of you than brothers are comfortable with.” “What the fuck are you wearing?” Mack demanded. Lust punched hard and mean, his entire body tightening, his cock hard as a rock. He was furious with her, scared for 19 her.

Shocked at seeing her. What was going on? She had fucking left him. Left him. Disappeared without a trace. His hand gripped her throat and he trapped her there on the floor, letting her feel the strength of his anger—of his need. He leaned close. “Did you find yourself, Jaimie? Did you find everything you were looking for?” Did you miss me the way I missed you? Did you bring my heart back, because I have a damn big hole where it should be. He stared down into her eyes—eyes he’d always fall into, eyes he’d always drown in. Damn you, Jaimie. Damn you to hell for this.

The attraction was worse than it had ever been, flooding him until his body was no longer his and discipline and control had gone out the window. “Don’t you dare look at me that way.” She swallowed hard. He felt the movement against the palm of his hand. “What way?” “Like you’re afraid of me. Like I’m going to hurt you.” There was panic in her eyes, fear almost amounting to terror, and it sickened him. “Mack.” Kane’s voice was very soft. “You’ve got your hand around her throat and you’re sitting on her.

That could be interpreted by some as an aggressive action.” Mack hissed, his head snapping around. “Anyone else have anything brilliant they want to contribute?” No one else was that stupid—or brave. He loosened his hold on her throat but retained possession, feeling the satisfyingly frantic beat of her pulse in the center of his palm. “What the hell are you wearing?” he demanded again. “You might as well be wearing nothing at all.” “It’s called a nightgown,” Jaimie replied, her voice sarcastic. “Mack, let me up. In case no one’s ever told you, you’re heavy.” He was solid muscle.

And right now every single inch of him was as hard as a rock. Moving was going to be painful, one way or another. Sighing, because everyone was going to know exactly what she did to him, he shifted very carefully. “Get some clothes on.” Abruptly, Mack was on his feet, pulling her up with him. A quick flick of his eyes and his men found the ceiling interesting. They were grinning like idiots. All of them. Even Kane. Mack resisted swearing at them.

“Have the decency to turn around,”

.

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