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Elude (Eagle Elite #6)
Author: Rachel Van Dyken

PROLOGUE

Sergio

THE FLUORESCENT LIGHTS BURNED my eyes. I blinked them rapidly — thinking it would make the stinging go away, but it only made everything worse. The pain was indescribable, like someone had broken my body in half, repaired it, and then repeated the process.

“He’s not going to make it.” I recognized the voice. It was Nixon’s. Why the hell was Nixon there? Wasn’t he dead? No wait, that was me. I’d taken that bullet.

Memories of the past few days flashed across my line of vision, causing a searing headache to build at my temples.

The fight.

The gunshots.

The agreement.

My wife.

Tears burned the back of my eyes.

Wife…

”I’ll do it. I’m a match.” I gripped her hand firmly in mine.

”You’ll die,” Tex whispered. “Your body… it’s too weak from everything else.”

”We’re running out of time!” I screamed, my voice hoarse, eyes frantic. “Do it now!”

”No.” She wrapped her frail arms around my neck. “No.”

”Yes.” I pushed her away. “If I don’t — you could die. The doctor says it needs to be now, so operate.”

Her eyes were sad.

Both Tex and Phoenix looked down at the blue and white tile floor, faces pale. I knew what they were thinking. I’d already lost too much blood, my kidneys were barely working, and I wanted to give her part of my life.

I’d known going in I would most likely die.

But I’d do everything within my power to save her.

It’s odd, when you face death every day, when you elude it, when you finally come to terms with the fact that you won’t be on earth for forever — that’s when you think you’re at peace.

I thought I was okay with dying.

Until I met her.

And then I was faced with someone else’s death every damn day — it’s harder. People don’t tell you that. It’s one thing to come to terms with your own mortality; it’s quite another to stare down death of the one you love, knowing there is nothing in this world that will stop it.

My vision blurred again.

“He’s flatlining,” a voice said in the distance.

I tried to keep my eyes open. I saw white-blond hair, big brown eyes, and that tender smile. I reached for it and held onto it, held onto the memory of her. The girl who’d changed my world from darkness to light.

The girl I never wanted.

But desperately needed.

“Tell her I’ll love her…” I didn’t recognize my own gravelly voice. “…forever.”

With a gasp, I felt my heart stutter to a stop.

And welcomed the shade of night that overtook me.

CHAPTER ONE

Six weeks earlier

Sergio

LONELINESS TASTED LIKE HELL. It also, lucky for me, tasted like a fifth of whiskey and what would most likely be a throbbing headache come tomorrow morning.

I brought the bottle to my lips and tilted it back, my eyes trained on the fire in front of me, the flames licking higher and higher, reminding me that I wasn’t exactly in any position to ask God for any favors…it may as well have been hell waving back at me and confirming my suspicions.

I’d killed too much.

I’d lied even more.

And I was officially out of favor within my family — within my world.

I hissed as a drip of whiskey landed on my blood-caked knuckles. Beating the shit out of the wall hadn’t even stopped the anger.

Ah anger, that was something I could talk about, something I could tangibly feel as it pulsed through my body. It had been my mistress for so long that I knew if I actually let it go — I’d be even more lonely than I already was.

I tried to take a deep breath, to calm myself down, but air wouldn’t go into my lungs, I felt paralyzed and on an adrenaline high all at once.

Maybe that was another part of my punishment. I had exactly twenty-four hours before I had to marry a Russian.

And not just any Russian.

An enemy, a double agent who had worked for both the FBI and, apparently, the Nicolasi family. She had sold out her own crime family, the Petrovs, and now… she was under the protection of the Italians.

How messed up was that?

I took another swig of whiskey and eyed the clock. Make that twenty-three hours and fifty-eight minutes.

I wasn’t drunk enough.

I wasn’t even close.

Marrying someone for protection I could do. Marrying someone and even killing them afterwards? Piece of cake. After all, that was my MO. I was a killer, a ghost, whatever the family wanted me to be.

But marrying someone, keeping them safe, only to watch them die within six months?

No. Hell no.

She had leukemia.

So why keep her alive this long?

I snorted and took another sip of whiskey. “I’d be doing her a favor by killing her.”

“Ouch,” a light airy voice said from somewhere in the room, causing all my hair to stand on end. “So as far as pep talks go, yours officially needs work.”

I carefully set down the whiskey, not trusting myself not to throw it in her direction in an anger-filled rage. “I was talking to myself.”

“Another sign you need to get laid.” She laughed.

I didn’t.

“Go away, Arabella.”

“My name’s Andi.”

“Your legal name is Arabella Anderson Petrov. Care to know your social security number and credit score as well?”

   
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