At 9:00 am the next morning, ten hours after Wyatt Savage had left the farm and the concerned look on his momma’s face, Wyatt stepped off a direct flight from Atlanta Hartsfield to Comalapa International Airport south of San Salvador, El Salvador. It probably should have been, but it turned out that ten hours wasn’t nearly enough time to prepare himself to face a past he’d been trying to outrun for twelve years.
Twelve years and one phone call had managed to reach out, grab him by the throat and knock him on his ass.
He hadn’t seen either her or Hugh for twelve years and one look at Sophie - who was waiting at the arrival gate fifteen yards away – damn near sent him to his knees. Sophie Baylor Weber was the reason he’d let more than one good women like Carrie Granger walk away.
Jesus. He was thirty-seven fucking years old and his heart was slamming so hard it felt like a bass drum pounding against his ribs.
Kaboom. Kaboom. Kaboom.
He’d experienced this gut knotting, heart-clenching, visceral reaction the first time he’d met her. What he felt when he saw her now was just as pure, just as primal and just as it had been then, one hundred percent involuntary. If it was only about desire, he could handle it. But it was more. It was hunger. It was craving. It was an overwhelming need to protect and possess her. To be possessed by her.
And damn it, it was still love.
He was so fucked.
She hadn’t spotted him yet and as he advanced by inches in the slow moving line of disembarking passengers, he took advantage and looked his fill. Fact was, struck by the notion that this sudden, close proximity had reduced twelve years to a heartbeat, he couldn’t look away.
She still had that same endearing little head tilt, the same pinch between her arched brows when she concentrated, the same gentle curve of her slender neck that had always made him long to press his lips there … right there, where he knew a tiny strawberry birthmark stained her nape just below her hairline.
Yeah. Okay. He needed to rein himself in because damn, he was way out of line. But she looked so amazing. Like she always had. Hell, she could wear a sweat suit and look sexy. In the plain cream-colored tank top, slim brown Capri pants and leather sandals she wore today, she still managed to look like she’d just stepped out of a fashion magazine. Style. Sophie had always had it in spades. Nothing had changed on that front over the years.
Years that had matured her yes, but not aged her. Years that had been damn kind. Benevolent even. She was stunning.
She still wore her dark brown hair long and straight and chic. Even though her expressive brown eyes were wide with worry and her slim curvy body stood tall and rigid with tension, her proud and regal bearing told him what he needed to know about her state of mind. Her fear had cracked but not broken her spirit. She looked a little lost yet brave and strong and even more beautiful than Wyatt remembered.
Desire hit him like a comet. Hot and fast. God, he still wanted her.
But if desire was the comet, guilt was its tail. He had to pull it together. She was married. Not just married but married to a man who had once been his partner and his best friend. If that wasn’t enough to feel guilty about, the gravity of her problem was. He’d come to her because she had trouble, big trouble, and that had to be his priority.
A commotion to his right drew his attention away from her. Half a dozen uniformed guards carrying AK-47’s – not your garden variety airport security rent-a-cops – marched toward their line then formed a makeshift barrier to hold them all in place.
What the hell?
He glanced around then saw the reason for the security detail. A private jet with the seal of The United Kingdom riding on the fuselage had landed just behind his commercial jet. A UK embassy big wig, most likely. When he saw four watchful men flank a very aristocratic looking gentleman disembark then walk across the tarmac toward the terminal, that pretty much soaked it. The men were clearly personal security. They all had the look of Secret Intelligence Service. The SIS was the British equivalent of U.S. Secret Service which meant that nothing and no one was leaving this section of the terminal until their guy was clear of any possible threat and tucked safely inside an armored car.
Must have been a snafu, he decided or there would have been a car waiting on the tarmac. That kind of screw up made him uneasy; it reeked of either incompetence or a set- up. Since SIS didn’t screw up, that left door number two. And that could mean problems.
He swept the terminal, looking for signs of trouble. Saw nothing – which he knew from experience meant exactly jack shit. He glanced past the guards to Sophie, felt another jolt of awareness slam inside his chest when he realized she was staring at him. The look in her eyes told him that she’d been watching him for several moments. The catch in his breath told him he had to get his act together.
She lifted a hand, offered a tentative smile. He forced a return smile then reading the frustration and desperation on her face at the delay, mouthed, “hold on.”
She nodded, understanding he was stuck for a little while longer.
Finally the exterior door to the tarmac opened and the Brit, smelling of expensive cologne, and his SIS guards, smelling of gun oil and the sharp edge of vigilance, filed into the terminal and walked swiftly past them. The guards with the AK’s relaxed the perimeter. Not the SIS. They stuck to the diplomat like armor on a tank – as they damn well should until they could get him safely out of the terminal and into an armored transport of some type.
Wyatt didn’t like this. Couldn’t wait to get the hell out of here because just being in the same building with the Brit held way too much promise of things going FUBAR. El Salvador was like the wild west on steroids with no Marshall Dillon in sight. Violence, drugs, abductions were standard fare – which, sadly, was why Wyatt was here. Didn’t matter that he was weary of the violence and pushing his capacity to bear witness to yet one more horrific instance of man’s inhumanity to man. It was what he did. He fought the bad guys. And because it was what he did, his sixth sense told him he needed to get Sophie out of here ASAP.
Finally, their line started moving. On a deep breath, he broke out of the pack and headed for her. She reached out a hand as he approached and then folded her arms around his neck. Digging deep for restraint, he wrapped a single arm around her, determined to maintain a professional distance. But when she turned her face into his throat and whispered, “Thank you,” he thought, fuck it.
He dropped his go bag on the floor and embraced her. She needed a shoulder; hell, he’d been one for her before.
Old habits. Old feelings. Old needs. Seemed every damn one of them was stronger than his resolve.
“I wasn’t sure you’d come.”
He breathed deep of the fragrance of her hair – fresh, female, and after all these years, still familiar.
Not come? Sure, he’d considered saying no. For about five seconds, sanity had ruled and he’d told himself to stay the hell put. It was kind of like hoping for a bomb not to go boom.
He reluctantly released her. They had to make tracks. Too much time had passed already. The first forty-eight hours in an abduction situation were the most critical; they’d already burned eighteen hours since the child was abducted yesterday afternoon.
“Let’s get out of here.”
“This way.” She took his hand, following the British entourage as they headed for the main exit.
The terminal was small, less than twenty gates total which meant they should be outside and heading for short term parking in no time. And they would have been if a barrage of AK-47 fire hadn’t cracked through the terminal and sent him diving for the floor, jerking Sophie down with him.