Are you ready for a thrilling debut?! We're so excited about Juno Rushdan's Every Last Breath, which will be out in the world in April 2019. BUT you can read an excerpt now! Let us just say that we could not put this one down.
The café door swung open. Two men in suits dragged out an unconscious guy wearing a tee and jeans. His chiseled, ink-wrapped arms were slung over their shoulders. The man had a bloodied silver Buddha necklace wrapped around his hand, and his head hung with long black hair obscuring his face.
“Four men down inside,” Reece said.
“Asset is outside,” she said low. “Gideon, take out the tires.”
Gideon nodded through a tinted window from the far side of the white SUV.
She approached the closest guy. Six two. A solid two-forty. Built like a bull with a wide neck and powerful torso, no doubt he knew how to handle himself.
If he was right-handed, she’d have the advantage. Encumbered with Matthews’s limp weight on his right side, he’d be slower to draw a gun and maneuver to fend off an attack.
His gaze swept over her. A cursory side glance, and he dismissed her. As expected. All he saw was a woman—attractive face, wide eyes, a spot of cleavage. A nonthreat.
She closed the gap to four feet as the men hit the curb. Any second, it’d happen. Another glance, this time cautious and scrutinizing, followed by a defensive posture.
Then she’d have to be quick. Precise. He’d anticipate a blow targeting his soft tissue areas. Nose, throat, groin. She couldn’t go for those first.
Their eyes met. Her focus tunneled to action.
His expression hardened. “Get him into the car,” he said to the other man in Russian.
Less than two steps between them, he disentangled himself from under the weight of Matthews and reached into his jacket.
It was now or never. Maddox moved fast. She drove her heel down into the side of his kneecap and slammed a hammer fist on his arm, stopping him from pulling a gun. He staggered, trying to recover his balance. She raised her right arm across her chest and spun, sending the hard, flat part of her forearm into his windpipe with all her strength.
He clutched his throat, strained for air. Stunned.
Gritting her teeth against the bite of pain in her bruised side, she hooked the back of her ankle behind his calf and shoved him over backward. He went down hard to the ground, wheezing. She flicked off the cap of the lipstick in her pocket, whipped out the spray, and hit him in the eyes and open mouth with one burst. He was toast.
The second man had dumped Matthews onto the vehicle’s back seat but hadn’t noticed the slashed tires.
Reaper was still lurking somewhere out of sight.
Maddox leapt between the parked motorcycle and another car, closing in on the white double-parked SUV. The Russian pulled his gun from a shoulder holster and spun, leveling it at her center of mass.
A bolt of cold arrowed down her rigid spine. No matter how many times a gun had been aimed at her, that visceral reaction was always the same.
She raised her palms, still holding the spray in her fingers, maintaining eye contact.
The good news was that this guy wasn’t an untrained civilian with a twitchy trigger finger.
“He is a Russian citizen,” he said in English, gesturing to Matthews. “Now on premises belonging to Russia.” He implied the car, referencing the articles of the Vienna Convention. “Premises and transport of diplomatic mission have immunity from search and requisition.”
The muggy air seemed to thicken with tension. She needed to get closer. Six more inches.
“Yes, you’re correct,” she said in unaccented Russian, daring to step those six inches. She set fear aside, focused only on the next move to retrieve Matthews. Without getting shot.
“Decoy. Three seconds,” Gideon said in her ear as if reading her mind. “On your left.”
“Immunity should be respected,” she said. Two feet between them, arm’s reach. An electric buzz hummed in her blood, firing her muscles. “But it doesn’t mean it can’t be violated.”
Gideon whistled on her left, drawing the Russian’s aim.
The guy pivoted, redirecting the SIG Sauer. Maddox snatched the muzzle. She torqued it counterclockwise with her left hand while driving the heel of her right palm into the inside of his wrist, popping the gun free of his grip. His phalanx bones snapped, with his finger caught on the trigger. At almost the same time, she kicked his groin, smashing her shin up into his crotch.
He crumpled to the blacktop beside the rear wheel, holding his privates. Poor guy wouldn’t even need tear gas to stay put.
Reece belted around the corner in the GMC Yukon, tires squealing on the hot asphalt, and slammed into park behind the white SUV. Gideon threw open the rear door on the driver’s side of the Russian car, grabbed Matthews’s upper body, and hauled him out.
The asset’s head hung forward, chin to chest, a sheet of black hair curtaining his face.
Maddox tossed the SIG into the front seat of the white SUV, stepped over the Russian writhing on the ground, and hustled to their vehicle.
The scent of melting rubber peppered the air.
Maddox climbed into the back seat, opened the other door for Gideon, and helped him load Matthews inside, tugging the unconscious man by the shoulders. Once Gideon hopped in, sandwiching Matthews between them, Reece cut into the snarl of traffic. Horns blared and another car screeched to a halt. He made a sharp right out of the congested artery and gunned down a clear road.
She was shaking from the high of the retrieval, the rush flooding her system, but the hardest part was yet to come—getting inside the target’s head and figuring out the right buttons to push.
Cole Matthews was slumped over, head on her shoulder. She tilted his chin up and pushed his hair aside. A sudden knot in her chest forced all the air from her body as her hand fell from his face.
For a staggering moment, the shock couldn’t have been more brutal if she’d been blindsided by a speeding bus.
The world warped in a shattering upheaval. Sent her careening into the impossible.
It couldn’t be. Yet it was.
Longer hair, but the same pristine black of a starless sky. Tattoos befitting a killer on his arms—those were new. His body a marvel of lean muscle honed by dedication. The jagged scar added a savage touch to his brutally handsome face, but without a doubt, it was her Nikolai.
“Maddox,” Gideon said, jumpstarting her brain. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s him.” Her voice was a ghost of a whisper.