Fearless Pursuit - Barbara Freethy

Chapter One

Special Agent Jax Kenin pulled up across the street from Falcon Motors, a luxury car dealership just off the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. He kept the engine running in the old black Chevy Impala because he desperately needed the air-conditioning. It was a hot July night, still in the nineties at eight in the evening, and he was sweating through the chinos and button-down shirt he'd put on for the upcoming meeting.

He straightened as two people left the dealership. From his surveillance and research over the past three weeks, he knew that the woman, Anna Schneider, was in sales support. The man, Jeffrey Vinton, was a mechanic. He wasn't interested in either of them.

Who he was interested in was Yuri Pashin, a thirty-year-old Russian male who was responsible for delivering high-end vehicles to wealthy individuals throughout Southern California. He'd made contact with Yuri ten days ago at an acting class where he was posing undercover as an actor. He'd bonded with Yuri through their Russian backgrounds, telling Yuri that his parents had died when he was young, and that he missed speaking Russian with them. That part was true.

He'd also told Yuri that he had a weakness for poker and that he needed to repay a large debt very quickly, or he could be in danger. That part was not true. But the lie had led to Yuri offering him a one-time job at the dealership. Yuri was supposed to deliver a car to Palm Springs, but it conflicted with an audition he had set up, so he needed a driver, and Jax was happy to step in.

Tonight, he was supposed to meet Yuri and his boss, a man by the name of Eddie Bozic. If Bozic agreed to hire him, he'd show up at six a.m. tomorrow morning and drive the car down to the desert. Of course, neither Bozic nor Yuri would know that he'd be making a long stop at a nearby garage where his FBI task force would go over every inch of the car. If the vehicle was being used to smuggle drugs, guns, or anything else, they'd find it. This could be the break they needed to get inside a Russian-led spy operation in LA. They'd been catching glimpses of the operation for weeks, but it wasn't until they'd gotten a lead to the car dealership that they'd had something solid to sink their teeth into.

He shifted in his seat, impatient to get on with the meeting. While he'd learned patience in the five years he'd spent working for the bureau, waiting was still his least favorite thing to do. But for now, he had to go at Yuri's pace. If he got too anxious, he could spook him.

There was a small part of him that wished the gregarious and friendly Yuri, who had told him about his passion for music and his dream of making it as an actor, was not involved in anything more than selling cars. But that wasn't the case. Regardless of whether or not he liked the guy, he had a mission, and his job wasn't to save Yuri; it was to take down a criminal operation.

As the clock ticked its way toward 8:25, he suddenly saw the side door fly open. Yuri came running outside, looking frantic and distraught, his suit jacket flying out behind him as a shot rang out. Yuri ducked and swerved, sprinting toward the sidewalk.

Swearing under his breath, Jax threw the car into drive and took a fast U-turn, pulling up alongside Yuri. Yuri gave him a quick look and then jumped into the passenger seat as another shot hit the car's bumper.

As Jax sped down the street, he saw a dark figure running toward an SUV parked in front of the dealership.

"What's going on?" he asked, pressing down on the gas.

"Bad shit," Yuri gasped. "Get out of here."

He spun around the next corner on two wheels. "Who's chasing us? Was that your boss? Was that Bozic?”

"No. Pullman," Yuri said shortly, his breath still coming hard. "He was talking to Bozic on the phone."

"Who's Pullman?"

Yuri didn't answer. He seemed to be far more winded than he should have been for such a short run.

"Are you hit?" he asked, his gaze sweeping across Yuri's body for any sign of blood.

Yuri's hand moved to his throat. "Can't…breathe."

"Just try to slow your breath down," he advised.

"The drink. Shouldn't have had the drink." There was panic in Yuri's eyes as he started clawing at his throat.

"What drink? What's