HuntedBy: Kaylea Cross
A big shout out to the men and women in the military and law enforcement, working hard to keep us safe. Thank you for your service!
Can’t believe this is the third book of the Hostage Rescue Team series already! And, Hunted is my 25th book! Time flies when you’re having fun, right?
Well I certainly did have fun pairing Bauer and Zoe together. The thing I love most about this couple is that they both have so much to teach each other, and even though Bauer is jaded and cynical, he’s still willing to learn from Zoe and allow himself to grow.
Sixteen months ago
Somewhere down the long, dimly-lit hallway, a door opened and closed. Measured footsteps echoed against the jail’s concrete floors and walls, coming toward him, slowing as they reached his cell.
Clay Bauer turned his head at the brusque male voice, not bothering to sit up from where he was laying on the hard cot installed into the cement wall. Fifty-three hours he’d been locked up, after a single, frantic phone call to his best friend, the only person who might be able to help him now. The judge had finally set the bond yesterday afternoon and given him a court date three months out.
The jailer stopped on the other side of the iron bars and cut him a hard look. “Get up. You made bail.” You sorry piece of shit.
The guy didn’t say it, but he didn’t have to because the disgust in his eyes said it all. And even though Clay was a full head taller and probably outweighed him by a good forty pounds, that look made him feel two inches tall.
Gathering himself, he pushed to a sitting position, ignoring the protest of his bruised, aching muscles and the throb of the scratches in his skin. It felt like he’d gone three rounds in the ring with another fighter. In a way, he guessed he had, but it hadn’t been a fair fight. He’d been forced to take all the blows without being able to strike back.
That wasn’t going to gain him any sympathy, however, with the judge or anyone else. Not that he wanted any. Having someone feel sorry for him on top of all this just might break him. And he was already closer to being broken than he’d ever been before in his life, even back during BUD/S when he’d been pushed past every limit he’d thought he had. He’d made it through and earned his Trident. He’d get through this as well.
Clay gripped the edge of the bunk so hard his knuckles turned white as an increasingly familiar flush of humiliation burned in his cheeks. The irony wasn’t lost on him. He’d been taken prisoner before during the grueling mental and physical stress of the most intense SERE training the military could throw at him and never once felt this beaten down.
Parts of the Navy SEAL Code ran through his head, mocking him.
I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men.
Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.
Funny how being arrested and locked behind bars could make a man wither in his own skin.
“Who paid it?” he managed to rasp out.
The jailer shrugged in a dismissive gesture. “Doesn’t matter. Let’s go.” He waved a hand impatiently for Clay to get up, his whole attitude making it clear that if it were up to him, he wouldn’t be letting Clay out anytime soon.
Clay pushed to his feet and crossed to the door as the guard unlocked the cell. The bars slid aside with a heavy clang and Clay stepped out into the gray hallway, followed the guy down it and through another locked steel door. In the office portion of the jail, a female officer doing paperwork glanced up at him, her face tightening with disdain before she looked away. His jaw clenched. How many of them knew why he was in here?
Clay kept his head high despite his embarrassment and refused to look at any of them. He read and signed the documents put in front of him, took his wallet, watch and phone, listened to the instructions about the conditions of his bond. Finally the guard led him through the office into a waiting area. When his gaze landed on the two men standing there, his throat tightened and he had to look away, unable to meet their eyes because he was fucking terrified of what he might find there.