Hell for Leather (Black Knights Inc.)

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9781402294488: Hell for Leather (Black Knights Inc.)

A New York Times and USA Today Bestseller!

Black Knights Inc.-Behind the facade of their tricked out motorcycle shop is an elite special ops team assigned the jobs too hot for anyone else to handle.

One of Booklist's 101 Best Romance of the Last 10 Years

Only the most urgent crisis could persuade Delilah Fairchild to abandon her beloved biker bar. But her uncle has vanished into thin air and she must turn to the sexy, surly Black Knights Inc. operator for help.

Delilah is certain that Bryan "Mac" McMillian has the connections to help her find her uncle. What the big, blue-eyed, former FBI agent has against her is a mystery, but when bullets start to fly, Mac becomes her only hope of survival, and her only chance at finding her uncle alive.

Mac knows a thing or two about beautiful women-mainly that they can't be trusted. Throw in a ticking clock, a deadly homegrown terrorist, and some missing nuclear weapons, and a man just might find himself on the wrong end of a gun. But facing down danger with Delilah is one passion-filled thrill ride.

The perfect combination of humor, suspense, and romance, Hell for Leather is non-stop explosive action. Readers of Suzanne Brockman, Maya Banks and Tara Janzen will be rooting for Delilah and Mac, two favorites from the bestselling Black Knights Inc. series.

Black Knights Inc. Series
Hell on Wheels (Book 1)
In Rides Trouble (Book 2)
Rev It Up (Book 3)
Thrill Ride (Book 4)
Born Wild (Book 5)
Hell for Leather (Book 6)
Full Throttle (Book 7)
Too Hard to Handle (Book 8)
Wild Ride (Book 9 ― coming April 2017!)

What readers are saying about Hell for Leather:

"smoking hot"

"the perfect blend of action, romance, [and] humor..."

"an unforgettable, unputdownable read."

"This book is a must read in this series..."

"The story flowed seamlessly and there was no way I could put it down."

"If you want a book that's hard to put down, that will leave you thinking about it for weeks after, and one that you will absolutely L O V E, then get this N O W."

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About the Author:

Julie Ann Walker is the USA Today and New York Times Bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She'll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission. For more information, please visit www.julieannwalker.com or follow her on Facebook www.facebook.com/jawalkerauthor and/or Twitter @JAWalkerAuthor.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

Red Delilah's Biker Bar

Chicago, Illinois

Mac was drunk.

If the sight of the nearly empty bottle of Lagavulin sitting on the bar in front of him wasn't proof positive, then the feel of his eyelids scraping across his eyeballs like thirty-grit sandpaper was.

Shit.

Getting soused hadn't been his intention when he casually tailed Dagan Zoelner into their local watering hole. He'd simply been curious why Zoelner had run like a scalded dog out of the raucous barbeque that had been in full swing back at the shop. And he figured a couple of cold ones might loosen the guy's tongue.

But it wasn't a bottle of Budweiser Zoelner ordered after plunking himself down on a stool at the long mahogany bar, hooking the heels of his biker boots over the brass foot rail. It was scotch. An entire bottle.

And Mac hadn't been able to sit by nursing a beer while Zoelner proceeded to get piss drunk. For one thing, sitting by and watching a friend and trusted teammate get piss drunk, well, it was just...sad. And for another thing, he knew when men like them set about getting piss drunk, it was usually because something had triggered past demons to come out and play. Past demons in the form of dark memories of good men now dead, of missions or assignments or cases gone horribly wrong, or of bad calls that drove a guy crazy asking himself the sonofabitching question of what if.

What if I'd done things differently?

What if I'd moved just a little faster?

What if I'd taken a second look at that last bit of Intel?

It was a useless endeavor...asking what if. But that didn't mean all the operators at the privately run covert government defense firm known as Black Knights Inc. didn't indulge in it occasionally. Hell, more than occasionally. Asking what if seemed to come part and parcel with the job. And tonight it appeared Zoelner was doing just that...asking what if with gusto and single-minded determination all washed down with a healthy portion of twenty-year-old scotch-hiccup. And Mac, sympathetic fool that he was, had voluntarily joined in for the ride.

The good Lord knew he'd pay for it tomorrow with a headache big enough to drop a mule, followed by eight to ten hours of straight mainlining coffee in an attempt to combat the effects. But for right now, he felt pretty good. Except for the gritty eyes, his body was numb and tingly. His tongue particularly so. Which was why when he finally turned to Zoelner, breaking the we're-men-so-we-drink-in-silence thing they had going, and asked, "So, you gonna tell me why we're sitting here gettin' drunker than a betsy bug on a Tuesday night?" the second to the last word came out sounding more like Tushday.

Zoelner, usually known for his smooth movements and strange bouts of statue-like stillness, turned unsteadily toward him. His slate gray irises were nearly obscured by the heavy lids hanging over them. The left lid appeared to have suffered the influence of the scotch more than the right because it drooped just a fraction lower.

"First of all," Zoelner said, "has anyone ever told you the big-hat-and-no-cattle Texan comes out in you when you're tipsy?" He grinned lopsidedly. "And secondly," his expression turned serious, "don't go getting mushy on me."

"I'll have you know I grew up with a hat and cattle." Mac frowned. "And I'm not gettin' mushy on you. I just thought, you know, you might want to talk about," he made a rolling motion with his hand, "whatever."

Zoelner glanced around the bar, squinting at the red vinyl booths, the burly clientele, and the roaring jukebox like he'd never seen the place before. "Where am I?" He blinked owlishly. "I could've sworn I sat down in a badass biker bar, but at some point I must've been transported into the middle of a chick flick."

When he turned back, Mac made sure his expression was bland.

"Okay." Zoelner rolled his eyes. "So, let's talk. Let's delve into the depths of my emotions, of how I'm feeling. Then, after we're done doing that," he batted his lashes like he was trying out for a Revlon commercial or something, "we can ask the bartender to exchange our scotch for herbal tea and go find some Indigo Girls on the jukebox."

Mac snorted. His nose filled with the smells of stale beer, crushed peanut shells, and cowhide from the overabundance of leather being sported around the place. Except for the peanut shells, the scents reminded him of home, of The Lazy M ranch where he'd been born and raised.

All hat and no cattle, my ass.

"All right, shitheel," he grumbled. "So maybe you're not too keen on hashing out what's jerked a knot in your tail tonight." Zoelner's wide grin returned, and Mac realized with that last turn of phrase he'd proved the guy's point about the Texan coming out in him after he'd had a few. But he couldn't help it. Nor, come to think of it, would he want to. Because like most Texans, he was good-and-goddamned proud to say he hailed from the Lone Star State. Yeehaw! And pray the creek don't rise! "But I just gotta know...this doesn't have anything to do with Agent Winterfield, does it?"

Luke Winterfield was a rogue CIA agent who leaked information about the number and location of the U.S. government's black sites to the press. Some called Winterfield a whistleblower. Mac called him a traitor. And just this morning, splashed across the headlines, was news that the bastard had found a country to grant him asylum. It had to be a major blow for every CIA agent out there-even an ex–CIA agent like Zoelner.

"Pssshht." Zoelner made a face. "I stopped caring about The Company and its shenanigans years ago. As for Winterfield, I never met the ashhole." Zoelner frowned and rolled in his lips before trying again. "Asshole."

"Then what on God's green earth is tonight all about?" Mac demanded. "Because I gotta be honest. This whole sittin'-here-in-silence-while-we-drink-ourselves-good-lookin' thing has just about run its course with me."

Zoelner tipped his glass of scotch toward the opposite end of the bar. "I don't want to talk about it," he said. "Actually, I don't want to talk about anything other than that brunette over there, and the fact that she's been eyeing the two of us like we're tall drinks of water and she's been lost in the desert for days."

Mac glanced down the polished length of mahogany and...sure enough. There was a bird in a tight top and buttery-soft biker jacket sitting near the end. She looked like she might've stepped off the cover of a motorcycle magazine-having that whole sexy-without-being-overly-pretty thing going. And when she caught him staring, she licked her ruby-red lips and seductively lowered her thick, sooty lashes.

Can you say invitation, ladies and gents? Even in his scotch-addled state, Mac recognized the blatant come-and-get-me-big-boy look in her eyes.

Sorry, darlin'. But you're barkin' up the wrong tree.

"No, thanks," he told Zoelner, sitting back and lifting his glass of scotch to his lips. "She's not my type."

Zoelner hooted with laughter, slamming down his empty tumbler. "Type? Dear God, it's not like you're looking for a blood donor or anything. Type hasn't got a damned thing to do with it. She's hot. She's obviously horny. And one of us should do something about that."

"Be my guest."

Zoelner cocked his head. "You remind me of a giant black hole, sucking all the light and fun out of the evening."

"Me?" Mac turned on the man incredulously. "I'm not the one who decided to spend the night sitting at this...this sausage-factory of a bar, quietly getting stone-cold shit-faced."

"Hmm." Zoelner narrowed his eyes. "Sausage-factory of a bar, eh? Meaning there are too many swinging dicks and not enough soft and sexies around tonight? Do I detect a hint of melancholy?"

"That's a big word for a drunk man." Mac chuckled.

"I'm not that drunk," Zoelner insisted, and Mac grabbed his stomach, laughing out loud. "Okay, so maybe I am that drunk," Zoelner admitted, "but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. My point is, I think you're not interested in the brown-haired Betty over there because you're pining away... Is that how you Texans would put it? Pining? For a certain redhead who's suspiciously absent from the bar tonight."

And that strangled Mac's laughter into a cough. He lifted his glass to suck down a drop of scotch. Carefully placing the tumbler back on the bar, he ran his tongue over his teeth and said, "I don't know what you're talkin' about."

"The hell you don't." Zoelner snorted. "Anyone with eyes in their head knows you're hot-to-trot for our usual bartendress. And if all her come-ons are anything to go by, she's hot-to-trot for you, too. Which begs the question...what are you waiting on? Why haven't you hit that, like, a thousand times by now?"

"Hit that?" Mac pulled a face. "What are we? Fifteen?"

"Dodging the question?" Zoelner countered, and Mac didn't know whether to applaud the man's astuteness or strangle him right where he sat.

Deciding neither scenario would be all that satisfying, he shrugged his shoulders in what he hoped was a gesture of supreme unconcern. "That Woman,"-Mac always thought of Delilah Fairchild, proprietress and namesake of the bar they were currently sitting in, that way, in capital letters-"isn't my type either. And you know why."

"Bullshit."

Just the one word. Spoken with complete conviction.

Mac gifted Zoelner with a dirty look and reached for the bottle of Lagavulin. Upending it, he poured the last few drops into his glass, then slowly lifted the tumbler, taking a leisurely sip.

"You know what I think of that whole thing, right?" Zoelner asked. Mac ignored him, wishing like hell he'd never opened his big mouth after that goddamned mission in Somalia. But sitting in a bar in South Africa, basking in the glow of a successful operation-and after having downed a half dozen beers-the whole sorry story had come tumbling out. "Oh, and what? Now you're a mute?" Zoelner inquired after it became apparent Mac wasn't going to rise to his bait.

But what could Mac say? The truth was, he did know what Zoelner thought. The guy had flat-out told him he was an idiot to compare one woman to another. Horseshit was the word Zoelner used if Mac remembered right. But the guy just didn't understand. He didn't know what-

"Fine," Zoelner spat, shaking his head. "So, we'll pretend Delilah Fairchild isn't your type either."

And, yeah. It would be pretending. Because, in all honesty, they both knew That Woman was every man's type. Not only was she a perfect ten on the curve-o-meter, but her heart-shaped face, with her clear green eyes and pouty Kewpie-bow lips, belonged on primetime television. And, as if all that wasn't enough, her pale, creamy skin had to go and be all flawless and shit. Seriously, no matter how closely Mac looked, he couldn't find a single pore to mar her porcelain complexion. To put it quite simply, from the top of her head to the ends of her red-tipped toes, Delilah Fairchild was one hundred percent pure woman. And one hundred percent, no-holds-barred beautiful. Beautiful and vivacious and used to commanding the attention of every man in the room. And that last bit made her all too familiar.

Too familiar and too...dangerous. And honestly? His life-the one where he masqueraded as a motorcycle mechanic when in fact he was part of a clandestine government defense group that operated as the very tip of Uncle Sam's sword-was dangerous enough already, thank you very much.

And speaking of familiar...

Without warning, the unwelcome image of Jolene flashed behind his gritty eyes. Hair as black as a raven's wing. Eyes the color of Texas bluebonnets. Skin like buttermilk. And a heart as fickle and capricious as a Texas spring...

He shook his head and blinked away the disturbing vision in time to see Zoelner raise a hand and call out to the bald, goateed man behind the bar. "Hey, Brendan! Where's the lovely lady of the house this evening? Not that my rather large, rather slow-talking friend here," Zoelner hooked a thumb in Mac's direction, "is wearing the sulky look of a eunuch in a whorehouse because he's missing her gorgeous face or anything. Because she's absolutely not his type."

Right then, Mac made the supremely wise and incredibly mature decision to kick the former CIA agent's booted ankle. Zoelner turned to lift a dubious brow before he hauled off and kicked Mac right back. Which, of course, left Mac with no recourse but to respond with an even harder kick and soon they were scuffling like a couple of rowdy college frat boys instead of two highly trained operators. Then again, they were highly tipsy as well. So maybe that explained it.

"Delilah's down south," Brendan said, coming to stand in front of them while continuing to wipe wet pint glasses with a dish towel. Short and squatty, Brendan had the physique of a wrestler and the face of a boxer-the bridge of his nose and his cheekbones looked like they'd been flattened more than a time or two by heavy fists. What he lacked in height, he obviously made up for in sheer scrappiness.

"Where?" Zoelner asked, adjusting his leather jacket and shooting Mac a narrowed-eyed glare before turning his attention back to Brendan.

"Southern Illinois," the bartender said, and Mac thought, Southern Illinois? What the hell is she doin' down there?

"What the hell is she doing down there?"

He blinked, startled. Had he asked the question aloud? Just how much scotch had he had?

But no. It was Zoelner Brendan turned to to answer. Of course, Mac was forced to wonder again just how much scotch he'd had when, before any words had a chance to form on Brendan's tongue, the thought don't let her be down there visiting a lover whispered through the back of his brain.

Whoa. What? Where the hell had that come from? He didn't give two shits what or...or...who she was doing down in southern Illinois.

Did he?

He couldn't help but notice his question was answered with resounding, cricket-chirping silence.

Well, hell. That's just the booze talkin'. Because anything else was too disconcerting to contemplate.

"Between you and me," Brendan said, leaning in conspiratorially, "I think she's trying to avoid the bar."

What? Why?

"What? Why?" Zoelner asked.

Mac glared at the mind-reading man. "Who are you?" he demanded. "Carnac the Magnificent or somethin'?"

"Huh?" Zoelner frowned at him in narrow-eyed affront. "Why are you scowling at me like that? Stop it, or that brown-haired Betty over there is going to think you just broke up with me."

As a group, Mac, Zoelner, and Brendan all turned to smile at the woman in question. Zoelner raised his glass and wiggled his eyebrows, which elicited a seductive lowering of the Betty's lashes and a subtle quirk of one corner of her lacquered lips.

"So why is Delilah avoiding the bar?" he asked, finding his way back on track more quickly than Mac. Of course, the instant That Woman's name was mentioned, every single thought in Mac's head focused on her like a blue-tick healer pointing out a covey of quail.

Shit, shit, shit.

"After Buzzard's murder," B...

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