Gallen led her down the hall by the hand, Taya almost jogging to keep up. Abruptly, he stopped and hugged her from behind, his lips nipping at her ear lobe.
"Giggle and call me a bad boy," he whispered.
"What?" She still felt light headed and well out of her comfort zone.
His fingers tickled her ribs. Taya shrieked. "Stop that...” she quickly remembered her line, “you... bad boy."
Gallen reached forward and opened the door they were standing in front of. He swiped her on the backside to get her moving inside. She giggled again as he kicked the door closed. He flipped the lock over and came straight back to her, cradling her face in his hands.
Her tummy flipped as he gently ran his thumb over her cheek. She was still reeling from that kiss and now she was about to melt into a puddle at his feet.
"What happened?" he whispered.
"Huh?" she was staring at his lips, remembering how they tasted.
"Your face? Who did this to you?"
She raised her eyes to his and reality slammed back into her. He wasn't staring at her with lust, only concern. You idiot, you're undercover. This is a job!
She stepped away from his touch, raising her hand to her face. A bruise must be blooming across her injured cheek. "Jesse. You were right, he's a loose cannon."
Gallen sighed. "He's an animal. What happened?"
They took a seat on the bed, side by side and Taya filled him in on what she'd learnt, as well as Jesse's overreaction to her presence.
"Do you think the other clubs are telling the truth about not knowing where Riley is?"
Gallen shook his head. "Who knows? The code of honour between the clubs is pretty fragile at the best of times."
"Could Riley have joined another club?"
"No. There's no way."
She picked at the balled cotton on the blanket beside her. "We would know if he’d become an informant. Wouldn't we?"
"For the New South Wales police, definitely. What about the feds?”
A familiar anxiety started to twist and turn inside her. “I have no knowledge of any other operation.”
The bed groaned as Gallen stood and began to pace the tiny space. He scrubbed his hand over his scalp. His silence only increased the tension in her gut. She'd been here before. She couldn’t let history repeat itself.
She sprang to her feet. "I think we should make contact with the boss." Her words came out too fast and too loud.
"Shh," Gallen stepped closer to her. "Keep your voice down."
"I'm sorry, I just-"
"I know about the shooting."
"You missed the signal and a cop died."
All the oxygen in the room seemed to dissolve. Taya struggled to draw breath. The walls closed in around her and she found herself back in Melbourne, standing over the body of her partner after he was shot by another officer. He was dead because someone had screwed up the communication.
"McGovern!" Gallen shook her by the shoulders, bringing her back into the present. "Pull yourself together or you will get us both killed."
Indignation flared and she pushed him with all her strength. “Go to hell."
He dropped his hands from her shoulders. "That's not what I meant. I know the shooting wasn't your fault."
"Yeah? Well, tell that to the Federal Police."
"You were cleared. The other cop messed up."
"Too bad they told everyone it was me." The bitter taste of betrayal lingered, even twelve months later.
"I get it, the feds hung you out to dry. But that's not what’s happening here. Silver will pull us out if he thinks we’re in over our heads."
Taya held his stare. Could she trust him? Could she trust herself? This assignment had been thrown together so quickly. One wrong move and she would be dead, and Gallen too.
"I'm going to need to get back out there soon and we have to come up with a game plan."
She swallowed the bile that had risen along with her past. "What do you want me to do?"
"Zep will send us out again but he will stay here. You stick close to him. Act like you're afraid of Jesse and some of the others. That way you'll hear as soon as he does if they find Riley."
"Then what? I have no phone, no way of communicating."
"Your job is to gather information. When I get back, tell me you missed me if you have new information and I'll find a way to give you my phone so you can call it in."
She turned the plan over in her head. It wasn't much but it was all they had.
Gallen slipped off his cut and pulled his t-shirt over his head.
"What are you doing?"
Damn if her groin wasn't clenching again at the sight of his rock-hard abs and tattooed chest and arms.
"Having a shower." He motioned to the ensuite. "We just had sex, remember?"
"Um, right." Desire burned.
"Jump in after me, I'll only be a minute." He closed the door and she heard the water start to run.
She toed her shoes off and shrugged out of her over-shirt. Her adrenalin was running high and she knew when this was over, she'd probably sleep for a week. She'd only been on this assignment for a couple of hours but already, the emotional and physical rollercoaster was taking a toll. Who knew how long she'd have to be here? She hoped like hell Alex Riley turned up soon.
Taya jumped at Gallen's voice. She hadn't heard the door open because the water was still running.
"Why would we shower separately after having sex?" He answered her unasked question.
Water dripped down his torso and she resisted the almost insatiable need to catch the droplets with her tongue. He'd pulled his jeans on but left the top button loose, revealing even more of his delectable abs.
That shower better be cold.
Author of author of gut-churning Viking romance and romantic suspense that always includes good sex and a happily ever after - eventually.