Excerpt 2017-05-12T01:55:24+00:00

Out of Control

“This your first trip to Jakarta?” Ken said in Savannah’s ear as he steered her through the crowd at the airport.

She nodded, obviously overwhelmed by the people, the noise, the energy, the complete non-Western-ness of it all. He had her by the elbow, and he just kept pulling her along.

“Keep the attache case between us,” he ordered. “I’ll carry it if you want.”

She was clutching it with both arms. “Just…stay close. Please.”

“I’m right here,” he said. “I’m not going to let go of you.”

“Thank you.”

It was their lengthiest conversation since leaving California, and Ken knew from the sudden sheen of tears in Savannah’s eyes that he wasn’t doing her any big favors by being kind.

“How’re your feet holding up in those stupid-ass shoes?” he asked. “They weren’t exactly designed for running through airports.”

“I’m fine.” She was a terrible liar. Her feet had to hurt like hell.

Ken was tired and hungry and jetlagged and grubby from spending over 24 hours in the same clothes — she had to be feeling ten times worse because she wasn’t used to it. But damn, she refused to complain.

“Do you think…” she asked haltingly, gazing at him with those eyes. “Would it be okay if we, like, started over? I mean, here we are, halfway around the world, and you wouldn’t really have come all this way if at least a part of you didn’t want–”

“Miss Savannah von Hopf?”

The man who was blocking their path was large with a capital ARG. His suit was tailor-made and obviously expensive. Even Ken — who didn’t give a damn about clothes — could tell it had costs big bucks.

The rest of the crowd managed to flow around the big man, but he and Savannah were temporarily trapped. The giant held up a sign that said VON HOFP. “I am here to take you to your uncle,” he said in heavily accented English. He wasn’t Indonesian. Ken guessed Russian.

“You spelled her name wrong,” he pointed out.

“How did you even know which flight I’d be on?” Savannah — who wanted to start over — wondered.

Good fricking question. One he should’ve thought of himself, if he hadn’t been thinking with his dick, the part of him that was enthusiastic about the possibilities of “starting over” with Savannah.

“Thanks, pal,” Ken told the best dressed driver in the entire world — yeah, right, this guy was a chauffeur. And yeah, like hell they were going to go even two feet with him. “But we’ll get our own ride to the hotel. Why don’t you go pick up Mister von Hopf and tell him we want to meet him there? I’m sure he’ll understand our need to be cautious.”

Large looked at him. “Who are you?”

“A friend of the family,” Ken said. “Who the hell are you?”

“I want to go with him,” Savannah said.

What the…? Ken turned to look at her. It was the weirdest freaking thing–she’d gone completely pale. “Oh no you don’t.”

“Yes,” she said. “I do.”

This was just perfect. What happened to Can we start over? “What did I tell you in San Diego?”

“I want to get this over with.” Savannah wouldn’t look him in the eye.

“You do it my way,” Ken reminded her, “or I’m outta here. I was serious about that.”

“Okay,” she said with the weirdest freaking smile he’d ever seen. “That’s okay. It’s…it’s great, actually. Great. And…and…if you hurry, you can probably even catch the next flight back to Hong Kong.”

She sounded as if she desperately wanted to get rid of him. She sounded…

Ken realized far too late that Large Guy wasn’t alone. There was another man standing directly behind Savannah.

He was carrying a coat over his arm–a coat, in tropical Jakarta. It was a time honored but none-too-original way to conceal a weapon–in this case, some kind of big barreled Dirty Harry-sized handgun he was jabbing hard into Savannah’s side.

“So good-bye,” Savannah told Ken. “I definitely don’t want to do this your way, so yes, you should just go home.”

Holy shit, she was trying to protect him from the bad men with the guns. She was trying to send him away so he wouldn’t be hurt, while she went off to meet her unhappy fate.

If Coat Man had been holding one of the usual cheap shit popguns native to most third-world countries, Ken would have put himself between Savannah and the barrel while he disarmed the two sons of bitches.

But that elephant gun wouldn’t just blow a hole in him if the guy’s trigger finger accidentally slipped. The bullet would go right through Ken and it would make a big hole in Savannah, too. And neither of them would get back up, not ever again.

“Okay,” Ken said easily. “Let’s do it your way, babe. Let’s go with this gentleman.”

Surely there’d be an opportunity between here and the parking lot to get that weapon into his hand and to regain control of the situation. Two guys, one weapon? Even if Large was carrying, these punks were amateurs. It’d still be a breeze.

Savannah, however, was determined to make it as difficult as possible. “There’s a man behind me, Kenny,” she said from between clenched teeth, “and he’s got a gun on me.”

No shit, Sherlock. “Yes, I knew that, thanks. And now, unfortunately, he knows that I know it, too.”

“Go away,” she said.

“And don’t call me Kenny,” he added.

“Please come with me,” Large said. “Both of you.”

Savannah turned to face the Russian, suddenly fierce. “This has nothing to do with him.”

Him being Kenny. Jesus. This was why she wanted him to come along, wasn’t it? To protect her? Did she really think, then, that he’d run at the first little sign of trouble?

Ken took her elbow and moved her forward. “I can take these guys,” he breathed into her ear. “Just…don’t say anything else. Please.”

“But–”

He squeezed her elbow and she fell silent, thank God. All she needed to do was let slip the fact that he was a U.S. Navy SEAL, and she’d be on her own. The SEALs had a reputation for kicking terrorist ass in this corner of the ocean. There would be no “evil warlord” scenario, no tying him up, no taking him prisoner if the truth came out. No, guys like these were so scared of SEALs, he’d have a bullet in his head so fast, he wouldn’t know what hit him.

Large led the way, and as they moved, Ken realized there were three additional guys, also carrying coats, moving through the crowd with them.

Shit. Five to one wasn’t going to be quite so easy.

And the goatfuck factor went to an eleven on a scale of one to ten as Large led them not to the parking area, but rather to a fricking heliport, where a twin engine Puma was ready to fly.

Okay. Okay. Maybe this wasn’t as bad as it looked. So what if they were flown to some desert isle and held for ransom. He did, after all, have one of his tracking devices in the pocket of his shirt.

As soon as he turned up missing, Johnny or Sam or Cosmo or someone who knew him would eventually go to his house and check his laptop and see that he was broadcasting a steady signal from Middle-of-Freaking-Nowhere, Indonesia — provided there was cell phone satellite access in the area. And if there wasn’t, well, his pals could bring in some temporary sat towers and, presto, he’d be found. At which point, if he hadn’t already managed to escape from whatever bush-league bamboo and vine hut he and Savannah were being held in, the SEALs would come and liberate them.

Of course, he was assuming these guys really were terrorists of some kind. It was possible that this helo would land on the lawn of some fancy estate, and Savannah’s Uncle Alex would stroll out to meet them, Pina Coladas in both hands.

“This is the money, no? I will take it now,” Large announced, reaching for Savannah’s briefcase.

“I don’t think so.” Ken stepped between them, and all the coats came off. A pair of Uzis and one HK MP5 that he itched to get his hands on all came into view, leveled at him. But it was the Magnum .44 still aimed at Savannah that stopped him cold.

Large motioned for Savannah to hand over the case, and she surrendered it quickly.

“Okay,” Ken said. “Here’s how a kidnapping works. You get the money, you let the hostages go. Simple. Basic. Easy even for stupid shits like you to understand. You have the money now, so now you need to–”

Wham.

Large hit him. In the back of the head with the metal briefcase. Jesus, that rang his chimes. He didn’t see it coming, didn’t brace, and the force from the blow sent him down to the pavement, onto his hands and knees.

He realized, as he was down there staring at his four hands, that the fact that he wasn’t braced was probably what kept it from being a knockout blow. As it was, it just hurt like fricking hell and–big pain in the ass–made him dizzy, too.

Savannah scrambled down to the pavement next to him, no doubt tearing the knees out of her fancy pantyhose.

“Oh, my God,” she said. “Kenny…”

“I’m okay,” he managed to say. “Skull’s pretty thick.” He just needed another minute down here to get his eyes back into focus.

“Please,” she said, touching his face. Her hands were cool despite the sun’s heat. “Don’t do anything else to make them angry.”

“Can’t help it,” he said. “It’s that asshole thing again. It’s in my genes.”

She actually laughed. But it turned into a shriek as Large hauled her back to her feet.

That got Ken very vertical very quickly, too. He shook off the last of the dizziness. “Keep your fucking hands off her!”

And that got him the butt of the HK submachine gun right smack in the kidneys. That searing pain came with the bonus of knowing he was going to pee traces of blood for the next day or so. But the pain was nothing he couldn’t handle.

He’d had the shit beaten out of him enough times in his life–thanks, Dad–to know that he could win a fight with just about anyone simply by staying on his feet longer. By ignoring the pain and pushing himself off the ground when another man would’ve stayed down.

But he wasn’t fighting one man here. There were five of them. And if he got himself killed now, in the first few minutes of this funfest, Savannah would be left all alone.

She was looking as if she were ready to jump into the fray, to fight alongside of him. That wasn’t good.

Besides, after tossing her into the helo, Large was keeping his fucking hands to himself. So Ken shut his mouth and climbed into the open sliding door after her.

“You okay?” he asked, pulling her down next to him on the corrugated metal floor. There weren’t any seats. This was a cargo helo. In fact, it was filled with small crates. Large had wedged the briefcase in between one of the stacks and the farthest bulkhead from the open door.

She nodded, all big blue eyes. “Are you?”

“I’ll live.”

“Kenny, I’m so sorry I got you involved in–”

“Shh,” he said. “Savannah, don’t talk. Just zip it completely, okay?”

“But–”

He looked at her, and she cut herself off. But only for a second.

“If you get a chance to escape, please go,” she said as quickly as possible. “Get yourself to safety. You can always come back for me.”

“Zip,” he said. “It.”

“Promise me.”

“Fuck, no!” He couldn’t believe her.

“But you’ll be able to get away.” The woman would not shut up. “You’re a S–”

SEAL. He kissed her. She had been about to announce to a helo filled with terrorists that he was a SEAL. So he shut her up the only way he knew was guaranteed to work — by covering her mouth with his own.

He just kissed the shit out of her as the helo blades started turning, creating a wash of sound that you had to shout to be heard over. And then, as they lifted into the sky, he brought his mouth right up to her ear, so no one could read his lips. “If they find out I’m…what I am, they’ll kill me. Don’t even let it slip that I’m in the Navy, do you understand? Or I’m dead.”

Savannah nodded. She was trembling. He would’ve liked to have thought it was the kiss that had put her into such a state, but he suspected it was the result of the potential threat to his life.

He was the one who was shaken by that kiss.

Out Of Control
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