Jason Moore double-checked the harness strapped around him, making sure it was securely fastened. He lightly buckled the second one around his waist to keep his hands free and glanced at the two men opposite. Like him, they were dressed in black from head to toe, including paper-thin black latex gloves and soft leather boots. Their faces were smeared with camouflage face paint, just as his was, so as not to stand out in the dark night. And, of course, to disguise their identities. Right Makes Might didn’t want any witnesses able to describe them, even when they weren’t breaking the law.
He tapped his earpiece. “Yat, yee, saam,” he said, speaking Cantonese, and getting affirmation he could be clearly heard through their earpieces by the thumbs-up signal from his men on the roof. Then he switched to English. “Testing, one, two, three.”
“Roger that,” said a voice in his ear from one of the men on the ground.
Jason flashed a smile at the men standing guard over the equipment the three of them had just set up. Slid into place his prohibitively expensive night-vision goggles that had started life as equipment for a US Navy SEAL team. Nodded once. Then stepped backward off the roof of this high-rise apartment building in a seedy neighborhood.
The passive arrestor system on the zip line kicked in immediately. So instead of plummeting to his death, Jason slid slowly down the side of the building. He mentally suppressed the totally-to-be-expected unreasoning fear of falling that sent a dart of adrenaline coursing through his bloodstream. Then he used his feet to lever himself away from the building so he didn’t scrape against the concrete, counting floors as he went. Right before he reached his destination, he depressed a button on the radio signal control mechanism strapped to his wrist, and he came to a complete halt.
Three feet to the left,” Jason said quietly. Within seconds, the zip line moved until he could grasp the metal railing around the tiny balcony that was his destination, and lightly vault over it. His feet made no sound as they landed, because his soft-soled boots had been designed for that purpose. And besides, he’d trained for this until he could practically do it in his sleep.
Jason smiled grimly as he grasped the handle on the poorly fitted sliding glass door, and with a sharp jerk popped it right out of its tracks. He and his men had already discussed how lucky they were their victim was imprisoned in this older apartment building, which had been constructed back in the sixties. Newer high-rises had been built to stricter construction codes, but not older buildings like this one. They were a lot easier to break in to.
He silently lifted the door to one side. “Slack,” he uttered in a monotone, and after a few seconds the tension sagged on the wire to which he was connected. He could have unbuckled the harness before entering the room, but then he would waste precious seconds getting back into it. Seconds he might not have on the back end.
The room was shrouded in darkness, but with his night-vision goggles he could clearly see the slight form huddled on a cot in the corner, a few feet away. He headed straight for it.
Alana hadn’t thought she could possibly sleep, but she must have. Because she woke to a gloved hand over her gagged mouth and a deep male voice with an upper-class British accent whispering in her ear. “Sshh. Not a sound, Miss Richardson. I’ll get you out of here, but you must do exactly what I say without question. Nod your head if you can do that.”
Alana nodded. She didn’t know who this was, but she immediately knew he was here to rescue her. His deep voice held even more reassurance than the words themselves, so whatever he told her to do, she would do. Without question.
He moved slightly, and there was an odd sound she couldn’t place—like metal rubbing against leather. Then the gag melted away. The blindfold followed, and now she could see the flash of a knife in the darkness before the binding around her wrists was carefully cut loose. She bit her lip to hold back the moan that wanted to escape when her arms were finally free and she tried to move them. Tears sprang to her eyes as agonizing pain shot through her muscles, but she was proud she managed not to make a sound.
The knife flashed again as he sheathed it. Almost immediately strong hands were massaging her arms, fingers digging into her muscles until she squeezed her eyes shut against the pain. Tears seeped onto her cheeks, but the sob that might have escaped her lips under normal circumstances…didn’t. Then her rescuer was lifting her effortlessly and carrying her to what she now saw was the doorless opening onto a balcony.
He stood her on her feet and quickly unbuckled something from his waist, which he then proceeded to fit around her—a harness of some kind, she realized. A harness that was attached to a slack wire. A slack wire that grew suddenly taut when he said, “Ready.”
Alana could see her rescuer in the faint moonlight. A lithe figure dressed all in black, with some kind of camouflage paint on his face, as well. And high-tech goggles that somehow made him look superhuman. He towered over her, which wasn’t a surprise—she wasn’t much taller than her famous cousin Juliana, who stood only as high as her husband’s heart. Alana didn’t know what made her think of that out of the blue, but then the thought was wiped from her mind when he lifted her up onto the balcony railing and balanced her there. “Hang on.”
She didn’t have time to be afraid before he was on the outside of the railing, maneuvering himself and her as if they weren’t perched precariously high above the street below. “Legs around my hips,” he ordered, and when she did so, he pressed something on his wrist before wrapping his arms around her in a bear hug. “Hold on tight.” Then he pushed away from the balcony.
They swung in the air for a dizzying moment, and Alana could only pray she wouldn’t be sick. But she wasn’t afraid. She didn’t know why, but the strength in the arms that held her so securely made her trust her rescuer implicitly. She felt as safe with him dangling from a wire as she would have been with both feet on the ground.
The cable pulled taut and they descended with a hissing sound of metal on metal. “You okay?” he asked, his lips pressed against her ear, and all Alana could do was nod. Endless seconds later they touched down on solid earth. He didn’t let her go for a moment, and she stared at his face, memorizing what she could see of it. Wishing with all her heart she could see his eyes behind the concealing goggles. Wishing she dared ask him any of the half-dozen questions that suddenly teemed in her brain.
Until she realized her legs were still clasped around his hips. Until she realized just how intimate that was…which his body made known to her in no uncertain terms.
Alana hoped the faint moonlight meant he couldn’t see the blush she could feel creeping into her cheeks as she unwrapped her legs and he lowered her to the ground. “Sorry,” she said. “I wasn’t…” Thinking, she’d intended to say, but her words trailed off.
Then she was free. And a tiny part of her acknowledged she hadn’t wanted to be. She’d wanted to stay in his embrace. Wanted to explore the unmistakable evidence that he was attracted to her as much as she was attracted to him. Which was crazy. Because she’d never…
Two men converged on them, but the staccato patter of Cantonese that flew between her rescuer and one of the men made their conversation unintelligible to Alana. Male hands quickly and impersonally assisted her in unclipping the harness from the cable and unbuckling it. Then they were bundling her into a dark van, tugging a seat belt into place and strapping her in. Doors slammed before she could protest, and the van’s engine roared to life. She had one last vision of her rescuer stripping off his own harness then heading back toward the building they’d just escaped from, as the van sped away.
“Wait,” she choked out to the driver and the man in the left front passenger seat. “What about—”
“The operation’s not finished, Miss Richardson,” the man who wasn’t driving said in clipped British tones. “There’s still the little matter of the men who kidnapped you to take care of. But our job is to get you to safety.”
RESCUED BY THE BILLIONAIRE CEO, Copyright © 2017 by Amelia Autin Lam
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