Relentless - By Cherry Adair


Lodestone Headquarters

Seattle, Washington

Ex-MI5 special intelligence operative Connor Thorne extended his hand without getting up from behind his desk. “Give me the leash. Fluffy will be in your arms before dinner.”

“Awesome.” His prospective client, Someone-or-other-Magee, pushed the bridge of black-framed glasses up her nose as she sat down across from him, bringing with her a fragrance of warm cinnamon that made his hormones sit up and take notice. Her gaze dipped, briefly, to his mouth and lingered there until Thorne felt his heartbeat in his lips. An unexpected, unwelcome response shuddered through him as a frisson of awareness arched between them.

Bloody hell. Long-lashed doe-brown eyes returned to his. “Who’s Fluffy?”

The watery light, shining into his office from the large window behind him, highlighted her wild, dark curls and clear complexion. Wholesome and hopeful. Neither of which appealed to Thorne in the slightest.

She wore a long-sleeved white T-shirt—not too loose, not too tight. The soft fabric skimmed enticingly over small, plump breasts and tucked into dark-washed jeans. Gold hoops at her earlobes shone through loose, curly, bitter-chocolate-brown shoulder-length hair. A delicate chain around her slender throat glinted in what passed as sunlight in Seattle in June.

Her purse, a small brown leather affair, looked like a camera bag and was clutched like the Holy Grail on her lap, as if it held state secrets. He probably should’ve glanced at the file handed to him by Maki at the front desk, but since this kind of “find” was child’s play, Thorne hadn’t bothered. She’d tell him her tale of woe, he’d hold whatever it was, and he’d tell her where to find it. Next.

With one slash of a boning knife, and a couple of bullets, he’d gone from one of MI5’s most trusted operatives to this. “Don’t you want me to find your cat?”

She gave him a sparkling look from those big brown eyes, clearly enjoying a private joke. “I’m allergic.”

Of course she is, he thought, unamused. “Dog, then.” Something small and yippy, named Baby.

Her pretty mouth pinched as if she were biting back tears, or suppressing a smile. “Deathly afraid of them.”

Pissed off and not really sure why, he found his patience, what little he had, abruptly ending. “Are you a librarian or a nursery school teacher?” He imagined her surrounded by sticky hands and adoring gummy smiles.

“I’m guessing from your tone that you don’t hold teachers or librarians in high esteem? How do you feel about photographers?”


“I’m a commercial photographer. Mostly print ads for agencies. Diapers, shoes, jewelry, that kind of thing. It pays the bills.” She cocked her head. Miss Magee wasn’t nearly as sweet and wholesome as she pretended to be. There was a definite bite in her tone when she said sweetly, “I hope you don’t find that as offensive to your sensibilities as teaching?”

“What you do for a living is immaterial. I’m attempting to ground the conversation.” Find that equal ground that allowed people like her to trust that someone like him could find her missing pet. Or ex-lover or piece of jewelry or whatever it was she wanted from Lodestone.

Light duty. He’d been instructed by a team of MI5 doctors to take it easy. No running, chasing, falling down, or getting shot at. One year, they’d ordered. No excuses or exceptions. He wouldn’t like the consequences if he didn’t comply, they’d warned.

He was complying, goddamn it.

Thorne left rainy London for rainier Seattle, and somehow managed to make it to day forty-three. He was bored out of his mind. He’d rather deal with the oddly intriguing Miss Magee than contemplate if he’d ever be fit for duty again. Permanently in the mood to shoot something, socially unacceptable in his present position, he schooled his features to appear as polite and affable as he could manage.

It took effort. No offense to the curly-haired woman in front of him, but he just didn’t relish jobs where bullets weren’t a factor. It was a shortcoming he had to live with. Temporarily. Desk duty, or being crippled for life.

“What do you want me to find?” Because, goddamn it, he’d find it. Whatever it took. At least he’d earn his paycheck from his friend Zak Stark, and not freeload during his recuperation.

Tucking her hair behind one ear, she pointed at the thin file folder on his desk. The one he hadn’t bothered to look at. He’d seen her in the waiting room, and labeled her Nursery School Teacher, Lost Cat. Proving that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, no matter how Librarian