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by Karen Wiesner

Genre: General Romantic Suspense, Romantic Suspense

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When Angelo had asked Vic to protect his daughter twenty-two years ago, Vic had given himself over to doing just that. Lucy was his first and only priority. Everything else was beside the point. But he couldn’t protect her anymore. 

Lucy’s silence now reminded him of the time before she was busted and cast into abeyance. She wasn’t thinking about anything but escape. He knew it for a fact when she turned to him and said, “What if it isn’t the Network, testing our loyalty?”

“What does it matter?”

“Two years ago, R.E.D. and New Horizon’s alliance supposedly splintered. They wanted us to believe that they were gunning for each other—and willing to give each other up to us if it meant destroying the other. But then we found out that the groups were still working together, trying to trick us, bring us down from the inside out.”

“We destroyed both groups.”

“Not completely. We know those left have banded together in small cells. They’re laying low. Waiting for opportunities.”

“Like operatives on downtime? You can’t really be thinking about this, Lucy.”

“Why not?”

“You would betray the Network?”

“For our freedom? Yes. Hell yes! They didn’t give me a choice about surrendering my life to their cause. Vic, our superiors haven’t left us with many options. They have to expect that, when they take away lives and force servitude on people, some will rebel. Some will take any chance to taste freedom.”

“They didn’t take away my life. Or yours. I’m honored to be working on the side of the good guys, honey. Don’t do this.”

“Do what?”

“Don’t go where I can’t follow you, honey. Please. I can’t go through that. If I lost you again...”

“You could never lose me.”

He wanted to believe that. More than anything, he wanted to be convinced that they were still safe, still together. But he sensed otherwise.

“We could adopt a child,” she murmured. “If we were free, we could adopt our own baby.”

Stunned, Vic eased back to look at her. “How? We’d be on the run. With false identities any adoption agency would question—to say the least. You’re not thinking straight, babe. But then you never do when you get something like this in your head.”

The tears filled her eyes again. He sighed. “Listen to me, honey. Do you understand that there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make sure you’re safe, out of the line of fire on a daily basis? If I had a choice, I would free you from the Network. But this isn’t the way. No one’s ever escaped the Network. It can’t be done, even if I agreed to this.”

She turned her head to look at him again in the dark. “What if I want to?”

If she does something stupid...I’ll have no choice but to follow her. Even if it means betraying everything else, losing our one real chance for her to be free. I wouldn’t have any other options.

Sighing, he dragged her body against his once more. “I wish it could keep you safe from any harm. From taking risks that can only get you in trouble.”

“Some risks are worth anything.”

Nothing is worth putting you in danger. Of us not being together.” He kissed her, closing his eyes against the sting behind them.

“We can have this. We can have freedom, baby,” she whispered.

© Karen Wiesner