From Chapter 3 of Unlawful Contact
“Let’s go, Hunter.” Cormack stepped back from the open cell door, his voice
gruff to disguise any hint of favoritism. “Move your ass!”
Marc held out his wrists, relieved to see Cormack was putting him in
standard-issue police cuffs instead of a four-piece. Marc had pleaded male
pride, telling Cormack that the idea of being seen by a pretty woman while
wearing full restraints was humiliating.
“I haven’t been near a chick in six years, man,” he’d said. “I don’t want to
shuffle in there like some fucking loser.”
“I’ll see what I can do, but you’re classified red, you know. They can’t do
nothing to you they ain’t already done, but me they can fire.” Cormack
had pointed a thumb at his own chest. “You hurt that lady, and it’s my
ass that’ll be on the line. I got kids to feed.”
It was too bad about the kids, but Marc had people depending on him, too.
He’d allowed himself to look insulted. “I’d never hurt a woman. Besides, why
would I do anything to her? I need her help finding Megan.”
Obviously, Cormack had believed him.
Cold steel touched Marc’s skin, the handcuffs closing with a series of
metallic clicks. Then, sandwiched between Cormack and another guard, he walked
down the long hallway and through the first checkpoint, ignoring the shouted
warnings, obscenities, and threats that followed him.
“You think you the big bitch, don’t you, Hunter?”
“Better watch your back, Hunter! I’m gonna kill you before I kill my number!”
“Check it out! Hunter’s going to lay some pipe. Is she pretty?”
Marc felt his pulse pick up as they left the maximum-security wing. He tried
to tell himself it was just the thought of what he was about to attempt that had
his adrenaline going, but he knew there was more to it than that. It was also
the thought of seeing Sophie again.
What would she think when she saw him? What would she think of the man he was
now? Truth be told, he didn’t want to know.
It had been twelve years since that night at the Monument, twelve years since
they’d sipped sodas and shared their dreams, twelve years since she’d made what
had probably been the biggest mistake of her young life and given him her
virginity. He’d always wondered how she felt about it afterward, whether she’d
had regrets. He certainly hadn’t. Memories of that night had helped him get
through boot camp, sustained him through the freezing cold of Afghanistan, and
brought him back to Colorado when his term of enlistment was over.
No, he hadn’t forgotten her.
I’m the kid who always gets in trouble, remember?
Not with me you’re not.
That night had changed his life—for a while. He’d gone into the Army with a
different sense of himself, had pushed his way up through the ranks, becoming a
Special Forces sniper and earning the rank of Sergeant First Class before giving
up the green. He’d parlayed that experience into a post with the DEA, hoping to
put away the kind of scum who’d sold drugs to his mother and sister. Some part
of him believed he’d overcome his past, that he’d become a man worthy of a woman
like Sophie. But in the end, it hadn’t mattered. He’d ended up exactly where
everyone had known he would.
Why not shoot for the stars?
Marc had shot—and missed.
Tension drew to a knot in his gut as Cormack led him through the last
checkpoint and into the visitor’s area. He was lower than a snake’s ass for even
thinking of putting Sophie through this. But she was his only ticket out of this
place, and Megan and Emily needed him. Hopefully, the fact that Sophie knew him
would give her some measure of trust and keep her from becoming too afraid—or
putting up a fight. Then again, if she reacted too strongly to seeing him or was
friendly, the guards would get suspicious.
And then he’d be fucked.
“You taking it from here, Kramer?” Cormack motioned Marc through the next
gate and stepped aside.
“Yep.” Kramer adjusted his leather belt with its Glock 21 .45 caliber and
looked at Marc with obvious disgust. “Why anyone wants to talk to this piece of
shit is beyond me.”
Some of the tension inside Marc settled. He liked Cormack and hadn’t been
looking forward to roughing him up. But he had no qualms about kicking Kramer to
hell and back. In fact, he’d probably enjoy it. Kramer was a cold bastard who
got off on breaking inmates’ balls.
“Over here, Hunter.” Kramer led him toward one of the visitation rooms. “You
got thirty minutes. And just in case you got ideas about putting your hands on
that sexy bit of gash, just remember I’ll be standing right behind you.”
Bit of gash?
Yes, Marc was going to enjoy this. He met Kramer’s gaze, smiled, the edges of
the little shim he held in his mouth sharp against the inside of his cheek.
I’m counting on it, asshole.
Then through the Plexiglas window, he saw her.
He quit breathing. His step faltered. His mind went blank. He didn’t notice
Kramer opening the door or ordering him inside or shoving him into a chair, one
beefy hand on his shoulder. He was oblivious to the heavy click of the locking
door, Kramer’s hulking presence behind him, the weight of the handcuffs on his
He was aware only of Sophie.
She was even prettier than he remembered—not a teenage girl, but a woman. Her
strawberry-blond hair was still long, and she wore it up in a style that was
both feminine and sophisticated. Her gentle curves seemed fuller, softening the
professional cut of her navy blue blazer and skirt. Her face seemed even more
delicate, her cheekbones higher, her lips more lush, her eyes impossibly blue.
He bit back the words and drew in a deep breath to clear his mind.
Her scent slammed into him, subtle and fresh and so very female, igniting
every drop of excess testosterone in his blood. How long had it been since he’d
smelled anything but the sweaty bodies of other men? If his hardening cock was
any indication, too goddamn long.
Jesus H. Christ!
He fought to clear his mind, to think, to relax. He needed to focus, to rein
in his hormones, to control his emotions. Anything else would get him killed.
She seemed to study him, her expression detached, her hands folded in her lap.
She wore on rings—no engagement ring, no wedding band. She reached to shake his
hand. “I’m Sophie Alton from the Denver Independent. Thanks for agreeing
to meet with me.”
That’s when it hit him.
She didn’t recognize him.
She has no idea who you are, Hunter.
The realization came like a fist to the gut, cutting short his breath, the
force of it taking him completely by surprise. It had never occurred to him that
she might not remember him. It didn’t seem possible, but he could see in her
eyes that it was true.
He willed himself to speak, took her small hand in his, tried not to look
like a man whose world had just imploded. “My pleasure.”
Helluva blow to the ego, isn’t it, dumbass?
But it was more than that.
It meant that she would be terrified.
He looked at her sweet face, saw the girl he’d made love to—and wondered how
he was going to bring himself to do this to her. Then he thought of Megan, alone
and running for her life, Emily in her arms, and he knew he had no choice. He’d
already lost his sister once. He wouldn’t risk losing her again.
Sophie pulled her hand back, feeling strangely uncomfortable. There was
something about the tone of the inmate’s voice, something in the way he looked
She set her digital recorder in the middle of the table, cleared her throat.
“Since I can’t have my notebook or pens here, I need to record our conversation.
I hope that’s all right with you, Mr. Hunter.”
He nodded, his gaze focused entirely on her. “Whatever you want.”
Marc Hunter wasn’t what she’d expected. She’d known he’d be tall because his
sister was tall. But Megan was also fragile and out of shape, the result of
heroin addiction, a sedentary life and years of prison food. There was nothing
fragile or out of shape about Marc Hunter.
At least six-foot-three, he was athletic and well built, his orange prison
smock stretched across a broad chest, the sleeves of his white undershirt rolled
up to reveal powerful, tattooed biceps, the U.S. Army’s eagle and shield on his
right arm and an Celtic band on his left. His brown hair hung to his shoulders,
thick and wavy. A dark beard covered the lower half of his face, concealing most
of his features, emphasizing the hollows in his cheeks and his high cheekbones,
and giving him a threatening look that was lessened somewhat by a full mouth.
His eyes were a piercing green that seemed to see beneath her skin.
Even if she hadn’t read his criminal record, Sophie would have known he was
dangerous. He had an air about him—intimidating, menacing, aggressive.
She pushed the record button and struggled to compose her thoughts. “Um… As
I’m sure you know, I’ve been following Megan’s situation since—”
“I’ve read the articles,” he said, adding, “obviously.”
She hadn’t revealed to DOC officials that her interest in this interview had
originated with an anonymous caller sent by the inmate, sure they’d refuse to
grant her request under those circumstances. She wasn’t going to acknowledge
that fact now, either, not with Lieutenant Kramer listening. Mr. Hunter might
not care whether he aroused their suspicions, but she did.
“What you might not know is that I care very much for Megan and Emily and
haven’t been able to think of anything else since they disappeared. I was hoping
you might have some idea why she vanished or where she’s gone.”
His lips curved in a slow smile. “And here I thought you might be able to
Confused, Sophie stared at him. He had contacted her, hadn’t he? The man
who’d called had told her that Marc Hunter would be able help her with Megan.
And yet Hunter was sitting here saying that he hoped she had information.
It made no sense.
His smile faded, and his expression grew serious. “Megan is a very troubled
young woman, Ms. Alton.”
And you’re a model citizen!
Sophie kept her expression neutral and waited for him to say more.
“She’s been fighting drug addiction since she was a teenager, and every time
I think she’s made it, she relapses.”
No news flash there. Sophie had already reported this in her articles. “Are
you saying you think that’s what has happened this time?”
“That’s what your article led me to believe.” He stretched out, his muscular
leg brushing against hers beneath the table.
She sat up straighter, tucked her feet beneath her chair, wondering if the
contact had been accidental. The guy had been in prison for six years, after
all. He wouldn’t be the first inmate she’d interviewed who’d tried to make
physical contact. “I know Megan was in touch with you. Did she say anything to
make you think she’d started using heroin again?”
“I haven’t had contact with Megan for years. We’re not allowed to communicate
with one another, as I’m sure you know. What did she say to you?”
Growing annoyed by this purposeless, circular conversation, Sophie found
herself glaring at him. What kind of game was Marc Hunter playing? She glanced
up at Lieutenant Kramer, who looked like his mind was a thousand miles away,
then back at Hunter. “Is there anything about Megan you’d like to tell me, Mr.
He started to speak, his words cut off by a coughing fit. He raised his
cuffed hands to cover his mouth, croaked out, “Can I get… some water?”
Lieutenant Kramer nodded, and Sophie realized he expected her to get it.
“All right.” Biting back a retort about middle-aged men and sexism, she
stood, crossed the room to the water cooler, and filled a little paper cone.
Why had Hunter wanted her to come down here? If he had something to tell her
about Megan, why didn’t he just tell her? He’d known a C.O. would be present
during the interview, that he wouldn’t be able to speak with her privately.
She carried the water back and held it out for him.
It happened all at once. The splash of cold water against her wrist as he
exploded out of his chair, hands somehow free, feet flying. Her own scream as
Lieutenant Kramer fell, unconscious or dead, his weapon out and in Hunter’s
hands. Hunter’s iron grip as he grabbed her wrist and yanked her roughly against
the hard wall of his chest.
Their gazes collided, his green eyes as hard as jade and unreadable.
Light-headed, her body shaking, her pulse frantic, she gaped up at him, tried
to jerk away. Then her splintered thoughts drew together, formed one word.
“Don’t fight me, Sophie!” He wasn’t even out of breath. “I don’t you to get
From outside in the hall came shouts and the shrill peal of an alarm.
They knew. The guards knew. They would stop him.
They would protect her.
Stay calm, Alton. Stay calm.
Even as the words entered her mind, she found herself spun hard about, her
back crushed against his ribs, his arm locked around her shoulders. She heard
him rack the slide on the gun, felt the cold press of steel against her throat,
and then she did understand.
You’re his hostage, Alton. He might kill you. He might kill everyone.
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