Under Pressure [IAD Agency] (Siren Publishing Classic), page 1
Jason MacBain is the perfect agent. Tall, dark, and deadly, he is a man who lives by simple rules—kill the bad guys and protect the world. Closed off from his emotions, Jason has never believed in love and doesn’t need anyone. But all that changes the night he meets Bella Moretti…
Isabella Moretti is a famous chef struggling to reclaim her life after she survives a vicious attack. Moving back to Chicago to recover and be closer to her family, Bella meets Jason and is frightened by the passion he stirs inside her. But now that Jason has found Bella, he is determined to claim her as his. And when her stalker reappears, Jason is under pressure to gain her trust, find a way to keep her safe, and do whatever it takes to end the threat to her for good.
Bella is forced to trust Jason with her safety, but does she dare trust him with her heart?
Genre: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Length: 66,319 words
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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A SIREN PUBLISHING BOOK
IMPRINT: Erotic Romance
Copyright © 2012 by Laurie Roma
E-book ISBN: 978-1-62241-578-6
First E-book Publication: November 2012
Cover design by Christine Kirchoff
All cover art and logo copyright © 2012 by Siren Publishing, Inc.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
Siren Publishing, Inc.
Letter to Readers
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Amanda Hilton, Publisher
To my ladies Mika, Iliyana, Kera, and Wendy… You have cheered my successes, offered a helping hand when I faltered, and provided invaluable inspiration. Thank you for all of your support and dedication.
And to my mother, a special thank you for always believing in me and encouraging me to follow my dreams…
Copyright © 2012
There is always that moment that you wish you can take back after an accident occurs, but unfortunately…you can’t…
With a sigh of resignation, Bella looked at the large body she had just spilled her drink on and found herself staring at the solid wall of a broad, muscular chest encased in an elegant black tux.
Wow, she thought as her gaze continued to slide further up, way up, until meeting the most striking pair of gunmetal gray eyes that she had ever seen. Those eyes were set in one of the most spectacular faces she had ever seen.
Not handsome in the classical sense, his features were strong, harsh with angular planes that screamed man! Midnight-black hair was pulled back from his aristocratic face and seemed to be tied at the nape of his neck. This man oozed sexuality, a perfect specimen of extreme masculinity that made Bella’s heart rate kick up a beat. Never had she been so attracted to someone so instantly.
Whoa, perhaps my night has just gotten better.
Minutes ago Bella had been silently cursing her friend Liz for dragging her to this benefit event. It was not that this charity auction wasn’t a good cause, but rather that they usually turned out to be so…boring.
Until a year ago Bella had been one of New York’s youngest executive chefs working for a chic, prestigious hotel. Isabella Moretti had made a name for herself and was used to her share of posh affairs, mixing and mingling with elite society. Over the past few years, Bella had begun to hate these types of events more and more, tired of the same people and the same slick sheen of pretension that seemed to emanate from the city’s upper crust and social elite.
Bella would have been able to decline if Liz hadn’t been one of the chairs of this event, but she was, and as one of her best friends, Bella was stuck.
She had just moved back home to Chicago a few months ago to be closer to her friends and family. She needed the support that they could provide after her life had drastically changed that night a year ago. Chicago had always been the home in her heart, a place to return to in order to heal. Bella’s parents had owned a bar in the city that her middle brother had taken over when they had wanted to retire. They still lived here, and family was what she needed now.
Liz’s grandmother had lived next door from where Bella had grown up, and from the moment they met, Bella and Liz had been instant friends, more like sisters. There was very little if anything they would not do for each other, and God knew that Bella had needed Liz more this year than ever before.
Dammit, she could deal with one night of boredom for her best friend.
Lost in thought, Bella had been staring past the crowd with a glazed look of boredom, nodding occasionally at someone, smiling politely when called for.
She had stuck around long enough to placate Liz and now could slip out on the balcony and sneak a cigarette. It was an occasional habit, only necessary when she was under extreme stress. Liz didn’t approve of her habit, which Bella usually just laughed at and rolled her eyes, but Liz was bound to accuse Bella of trying to escape her duties of the evening. Liz had pleaded with her to help socialize and mingle amongst the crowd to encourage people bidding on the silent auction items st
She had done her duty, and the night was almost over, thank God!
I need to get laid.
Bella laughed quietly, reveling in the freedom of that statement.
This was her first real social outing since she had moved back to Chicago. Some of these people knew her through her connection to Liz or through her family, but most knew her through her own personal achievements. Bella’s own minicelebrity status aside, she was extremely happy that she wasn’t in New York anymore, and even more so that the majority of these people didn’t know what had happened to her.
She sighed again before taking a long gulp to finish her glass of her champagne. Placing it on the tray of a passing waiter, with a smile she grabbed a fresh one.
The waiter bobbled for a moment at the impact of her smile, but Bella didn’t notice. Trying to make a quick escape, she spun around in the direction of the balcony and ran smack into an immovable object, spilling her glass of champagne on the arm that automatically reached out to steady her.
“You should be more careful, little girl,” his cultured voice clipped out in an icy British accent as his hands gripped her firmly in his grasp.
Bella looked up. And up and up, until her gaze was captured by those amazing gray eyes. His stoic face gave away nothing, but it took a moment for her to recognize that those eyes were now hard, flashing silver in annoyance.
“I’m so sorry,” Bella exclaimed on a whisper, patting at the spilled liquid that was soaking into the arm of his suit jacket while trying not to laugh nervously. She flashed a small, friendly smile. Damn hot and an accent. It took her a moment to focus. Wait…what did he say?
Her smile wobbled. “Little girl?”
One of his eyebrows rose in a mocking silence, and her smile completely disappeared.
She took a step back, releasing herself from his hold. Her voice lost any hint of friendliness. “Look, I said I was sorry. It’s not like I did it on purpose. Besides, what do you expect when you’re lurking behind someone like that?” She tried to hold back a smirk, sincerely glad now that she had spilled her drink on this jerk.
His jaw clenched and released.
Telling herself to relax and not cause a scene, she tried a different approach. “How ’bout I buy you a drink, and then we can call it even?” Bella suggested, trying to shake off her annoyance.
“The drinks are free,” he replied in that same icy tone, looking at her with that stupid, blank expression again. “Besides, are you even of age to be drinking?”
Bella’s eyes slightly widened as she gasped softly. At twenty-nine sure, people were always assuming she was younger than she looked based on her petite stature but what the hell?
Bella had always dealt with people assuming her height or lack thereof was some sort of indication about her age since Bella was only five three, but she was curvy in all the right places and she knew that in her killer, sexy bronze dress that hugged her curves, no one could mistake her for anything less than a full-grown woman.
She knew was not an average beauty, her exotic features more intriguing with small slanted catlike eyes of amber, small nose, and lips that she thought were too full. Her prized curly mahogany tresses hung loose down to the middle of her back. She pushed her hair behind her ear with her right hand and was at a loss for what to say. No matter her lack of height, she was a small pack of dynamite when pissed. Bella’s Italian temper boiled to the surface, and she saw red at that condescending tone he had taken with her.
She would never, never let anyone talk to her like that again.
Bella yanked her arms out of his grasp, turned to a passing waiter, and deposited her now half-empty glass in exchange for a full one.
“I was trying to be nice, you arrogant ass.”
With that, she spun on her heel and walked away.
Jason MacBain despised money as only the rich could.
Growing up in Edinburgh, Scotland, Jason had come from a very wealthy family. His father had the Midas touch when it came to financial matters, and he made a fortune doing what he did best as one of the founding partners of a large financial investment firm based in London. Jason had loved his father and mother dearly. His older brother had been his best friend, and he had looked up to him with worshipful adoration.
His world had been perfect.
All of that had changed when his father’s partner had killed his family…for the money. The partner had paid someone to tamper with the brakes of their car and Jason had only survived because he wasn’t with them that day. The investigation into the accident led straight to the business partner and Jason had watched, dry eyed, as the man was taken away in handcuffs.
It was that moment that Jason’s need for justice was born.
At fifteen Jason was not yet a man, but he wasn’t a child either. With no other family left, the family attorney had sent Jason off to boarding school until he came of age. Jason excelled in school but found no joy at the private institutions he had attended. While attending University, he had been approached by MI6 and asked to join the intelligence agency. Needing the freedom they provided, Jason joined, putting his brilliant mind and muscular physique to work in service of his country.
Jason was the perfect agent. A warrior. Mainly because during missions he acted as though he didn’t care whether he lived or died.
Because he didn’t.
No matter what, he completed his mission.
No one was cooler under pressure because Jason no longer felt anything.
After years of service, he had known he needed a change. His life in London had no longer held any appeal to him. He had established a security firm with his knowledge of electronics and surveillance, amongst other skills, and had used his family money to found his company. By reputation alone, Mac Securities was now the one of the most sought after security firms in the world.
Mac Securities installed security systems in many museums and other high-risk facilities around the globe using the latest technology and military precision. Jason had wanted to devote his energy full time to his firm and leave the agency. He had made plans to branch out overseas in the States, had picked out the perfect location, and bought the building.
That was when the offer came.
The International Alliance of Defense was a new branch in the intelligence community, more like a transnational agency. The ultimate warriors of global warfare. The members of NATO had given permission to form IAD to function in every member country, every nation where terrorists existed and to wipe them out. They had a frightening policy of not wanting to know what was going on with the agency, leaving the dirty work to those who knew the game and how to handle the repercussions.
Only the highest, most qualified candidates were chosen for this organization, given a kind of worldwide immunity for their actions.
Sort of the ultimate “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Only the best were chosen to serve, and their internal justice system was not something any of the agents wanted to mess around with.
The rules were simple…no one crossed IAD.
IAD got the job done, no matter how messy. They did it quick, efficiently, with whatever means necessary, and the world was a more peaceful place because of them. For the highly skilled select members of IAD, it was a dream come true since most of the agents had been disillusioned with the rules, regulations, and red tape of the regular intelligence branches.
For the past five years, Jason MacBain had been the head of the Chicago IAD branch with partner Brett Michaels, an American-born ex-military man who was one of the few people in the world that Jason trusted with his life. The IAD branch was fronted by the Chicago location of Mac Securities. While Jason was the public face of the security company, Brett was able to devote one hundred percent of his time to running IAD. Together, both sides of the business ran smoothly.
Now, Jason found himself standing at the entrance of the hotel ball
He had forced himself to attend tonight since he donated a sculpture that had belonged to his family. The sculpture held no meaning to him, never had. It had to his parents though, and that was why he was there to represent them at the benefit auction.
Christ, I need a fucking drink. Someone needs to buy that chunk of metal so I can get the hell out of here and go home.
Striding in confidently, he surveyed the room made up of women and pompous pricks ready to flaunt their cash for some overpriced useless pieces of shit.
What a bleeding waste of time and money.
People at these types of functions were always the same. Men wanted to meet and greet, talking to him because of the power he so adeptly wielded in the business world, and women fawned over his looks and vast amounts of money. He didn’t even bother asking someone to join him this evening since it would be more hassle then pleasure escorting her around. Well, it would have been nice to sink into a woman’s willing body at the end of the evening, but it wasn’t worth the effort of playing nice during the party.
It had been awhile since any particular woman had actually stirred his interest anyway, and for that matter, they never held it for very long. Most women found him cold and calculating.
He didn’t deny it, nor could he help it. He enjoyed women, when he wanted them. He enjoyed them in bed, but he never stuck around after.
Emotional entanglements did not appeal to him.
Women, he thought, could forgive pretty much anything for a trinket or two before he moved on to the next attractive lovely to catch his eye.
LAURIE ROMA SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Under Pressure (The IAD Series Book 1)ALLEGIANCE Under Pressure [IAD Agency] (Siren Publishing Classic)Into the Dream [The Arcadians] (Siren Publishing Ménage Amour)Aftershock3013_ALLEGIANCE3013: SALVATION (3013: The Series Book 5)3013: ALLEGIANCE (3013: The Series Book 15)
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