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His to Love (Fireside #1)

By:Stacey Lynn

Prologue


Tyson


My shoulders stiffened and my hands rolled into fists. The senior agent to the Underground Crime Protection Unit was speaking to me, but I couldn’t pull my eyes off the photos he’d just carelessly tossed on the desk between us. His words rolled like thunder through my ears and my head began to pound.

Gabriella Bluejay Galecki.

Long shiny black hair hung past breasts that were larger than I remembered. She had curves that would make men crave running their hands down them, taking in every dip on her frame. Hips that would make a man want to dig his fingers and thumbs into them while he took her from behind. Light blue eyes that were as mesmerizing as I remembered, except they looked much emptier.

Time had been good to her.

She looked more stunning now than she did the last time I saw her, sitting on my bed in my teenage bedroom, telling me she’d love me forever. Telling me that the distance between the colleges we were going to be attending, me at Central U in Michigan, her at some private ritzy college in Detroit, wouldn’t matter. Her family wouldn’t matter. We’d be one of the lucky couples from high school that lasted. One of the few couples that stood the test of time and college frat parties.

Then the next day, she disappeared.

I hadn’t seen a photo of her since I quit carrying her senior picture in my wallet halfway through my sophomore year of college, when I finally realized she wasn’t coming back. For years, I had tried not to think of her as anything more than a passing memory. A blank space in the trenches of my mind, accessed only when I would wonder what happened to her whenever her father’s name and her family came up during conversations and investigations regarding racketeering and illegal gambling.

All it took was one glimpse of her on a three-by-five-inch photo and I remembered everything about her. Everything about the way I felt about her.

Right then, Agent Jackson was asking the impossible.

“Agent Blackwell. Are you listening to me?”

I nodded, spoke some sort of affirmative, all with my eyes glued to Blue’s bright red full lips.

Beautiful. Physically, she was perfect. It was her eyes and the sad, slightly downturned tilt to her lips that made my brows pull together.

“You’re making a quick stop in Denver and then headed home, Blackwell.”

I flexed my fingers, straightening them, and slid them into the pockets of my black suit pants. Looking up at my supervisor, a man I respected for the last four years, ever since I joined the FBI, I shook my head once. No way could I do this. “I’m not sure I’m the man for this job.”

It was as honest as I could be. Just by looking at Blue’s photos, I knew there was no way I could maintain a professional distance while doing my job. A job I loved.

And this mission was too close to my heart.

It meant using my ex-girlfriend, the only woman I’d told I loved and meant it. That Agent Jackson thought I could do this and not cross inappropriate boundaries showed he had more faith in me than I did.

“You’re the only who can do this job,” he stated, his expression firm.

I ran my tongue along the front of my teeth, sucking in my anger and frustration. When my professional mask was in place, I arched a brow.

“I’m too close.”

“No.” He shook his head and tossed me a file. I already knew what was in it. “You’re the only one of us who can get close enough.” The FBI knew of my connection with Gabriella Galecki. That knowledge was found during background checks they did on all candidates wishing to enroll in the academy. I just never thought that connection would be used against me in this way. My lips twisted as he continued speaking. “As you already know, the Detroit family has been able to remain successful and stable because they’re small and they keep their alliances within the family. Gabriella Galecki is coming home, and the only reason we can assume she’s making her presence known after a decade-long disappearance is because her family needs her. We need to know why, and you’re the person who can figure that out.”

“With all due respect, sir—”

“With all due respect, Agent Blackwell, I am your superior and the Bureau needs you for this. You’ll do as you’re told and get us the information we need so we can tighten our investigation and finally take down the Galecki family.”

“Why her?” I asked, my voice suddenly parched. “Why now?”

He tapped the file sitting on the desk. “That’s what we need you to figure out. Inside you’ll find all the information regarding the investigation we’ve been doing on the Galeckis, but something is still missing. We’ve been hearing chatter about their enemies in Boston and Chicago moving in on their territory. We need to know why they’re suddenly seen as weak. We need to know why Gabriella is being brought home in the midst of all this, and what role, if any, she plays in her family’s business. It could be nothing. It could be everything. That’s what you need to figure out.”

A weight pressed against my chest. Gabriella had never known anything of substance regarding her family. There’s no way she would now, not if she was the same. But people could change a lot in ten years. I sure as hell had. I opened my mouth to speak but Agent Jackson cut me off.

“You’ll do this, Blackwell. We have no other option to get close to the family right now.”

Fuck. I had lost and I knew it.

I didn’t have a choice. Being an FBI Agent, one frequently pulled into undercover investigations, had been a goal of mine since I joined the Bureau. When a knee injury in the final football game of my senior year effectively ended any dreams of making the NFL, dreams I’d had since I could walk, I chose the one profession where I could do the most good. I could join an organization that worked at taking down crime families like the one responsible for the death of my dad.

The familiar anger started simmering in my veins. My dad had been a good man, a man committed to his job and his family, until a member of the Galecki organization took him out.

I would never forget the officers who showed up at our doorstep after midnight on a Tuesday. My mom screamed and wailed—sounds I remembered vividly, because they sounded nothing like those a human should ever make. She crumpled to the floor in despair, and stayed there long after my father’s co-workers and brothers in the Detroit Police Department left our house after hours of trying to console us.

“What’s my cover?” I finally asked, sliding the files off Agent Jackson’s desk and into my hands.

I would look at them later in my apartment when I had a glass of scotch close to me. Or the bottle. I had a feeling I was going to need it. I hadn’t been home to Detroit since college graduation. There was only one person who could have dragged me back there. Agent Jackson wanted me to do the impossible—put myself face-to-face with her, insinuate myself into her life…

And then betray her in the worst way possible.





Chapter 1


Gabriella


“Last call for flight 2105. Your flight is boarding now.”

“Crap,” I muttered, hurrying through the airport terminal.

“Sorry!” I called as I passed a woman. I was pretty sure I’d run over her foot. Or her small child, judging by the size of the bump my suitcase hit. I didn’t have time to stop and find out which.

When I reached the correct gate, I rushed up to the attendant and handed her my boarding pass with shaky fingers. Breathing heavily, feeling sweat trickle down the back of my neck, I brushed a strand of my black hair out of my face.

The attendant checked my boarding pass and frowned at me, handing it back. “You just made it.”

I nodded and hustled through the tunnel to the plane. My carry-on suitcase banged against my ankle as I dragged it along the cramped aisle. Whoever designed planes should have at least allowed enough space for a simple suitcase to squeeze through. I ignored the looks from the impatient first-class travelers as I glanced at my boarding pass again and groaned. 18E. The middle seat? The day couldn’t have gotten worse for me.

Scanning the rows of weary and bored travelers, I searched for my row, when I was suddenly bounced backward onto the floor, landing with a loud thud on top of my carry-on. How had I missed someone standing directly in front of me?

“Oh shit, are you okay?”

I looked up at the tower in front of me, in the direction of the voice that spoke to me. Thor? Zeus? Adonis? He looked like some sort of dark-haired Greek god. I blinked, trying to clear my head. I had to have to been hallucinating. The Adonis tower looked slightly familiar, even if he was blurry through my startled vision. But as everything began to clear, I recognized him. Slightly tanned skin, strong jaw that held just a hint of stubble. Sparkling blue eyes framed by thick black eyelashes that…I swear I had stared into before.

His eyes widened, his jaw dropped as our eyes met, and I said the one name I promised myself I would never say again.

“Tyson?”

He blinked rapidly and crouched down. Why was I still on the floor?

Extending his hand, he said, “Blue? Holy shit.”

Blue. That name. That voice. I hadn’t heard either of those in ten years. Ten long, incredibly boring years since I had left Detroit, and in the blink of an eye, my childhood crush was kneeling before me…hovering.

“Yeah,” I said lamely. Gathering whatever wits I had that hadn’t been scattered all over the plane, I placed my hand in Tyson’s. He stood, pulling me to my feet along with him. I couldn’t take my eyes off his hand. He was so warm. And strong. Larger than I remembered.

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