His to Love (Fireside #1)By: Stacey Lynn
My shoulders stiffened and my hands rolled into fists. The senior agent to the Underground Crime Protection Unit was speaking to me, but I couldn’t pull my eyes off the photos he’d just carelessly tossed on the desk between us. His words rolled like thunder through my ears and my head began to pound.
Gabriella Bluejay Galecki.
Long shiny black hair hung past breasts that were larger than I remembered. She had curves that would make men crave running their hands down them, taking in every dip on her frame. Hips that would make a man want to dig his fingers and thumbs into them while he took her from behind. Light blue eyes that were as mesmerizing as I remembered, except they looked much emptier.
Time had been good to her.
She looked more stunning now than she did the last time I saw her, sitting on my bed in my teenage bedroom, telling me she’d love me forever. Telling me that the distance between the colleges we were going to be attending, me at Central U in Michigan, her at some private ritzy college in Detroit, wouldn’t matter. Her family wouldn’t matter. We’d be one of the lucky couples from high school that lasted. One of the few couples that stood the test of time and college frat parties.
Then the next day, she disappeared.
I hadn’t seen a photo of her since I quit carrying her senior picture in my wallet halfway through my sophomore year of college, when I finally realized she wasn’t coming back. For years, I had tried not to think of her as anything more than a passing memory. A blank space in the trenches of my mind, accessed only when I would wonder what happened to her whenever her father’s name and her family came up during conversations and investigations regarding racketeering and illegal gambling.
All it took was one glimpse of her on a three-by-five-inch photo and I remembered everything about her. Everything about the way I felt about her.
Right then, Agent Jackson was asking the impossible.
“Agent Blackwell. Are you listening to me?”
I nodded, spoke some sort of affirmative, all with my eyes glued to Blue’s bright red full lips.
Beautiful. Physically, she was perfect. It was her eyes and the sad, slightly downturned tilt to her lips that made my brows pull together.
“You’re making a quick stop in Denver and then headed home, Blackwell.”
I flexed my fingers, straightening them, and slid them into the pockets of my black suit pants. Looking up at my supervisor, a man I respected for the last four years, ever since I joined the FBI, I shook my head once. No way could I do this. “I’m not sure I’m the man for this job.”
It was as honest as I could be. Just by looking at Blue’s photos, I knew there was no way I could maintain a professional distance while doing my job. A job I loved.
And this mission was too close to my heart.
It meant using my ex-girlfriend, the only woman I’d told I loved and meant it. That Agent Jackson thought I could do this and not cross inappropriate boundaries showed he had more faith in me than I did.
“You’re the only who can do this job,” he stated, his expression firm.
I ran my tongue along the front of my teeth, sucking in my anger and frustration. When my professional mask was in place, I arched a brow.
“I’m too close.”
“No.” He shook his head and tossed me a file. I already knew what was in it. “You’re the only one of us who can get close enough.” The FBI knew of my connection with Gabriella Galecki. That knowledge was found during background checks they did on all candidates wishing to enroll in the academy. I just never thought that connection would be used against me in this way. My lips twisted as he continued speaking. “As you already know, the Detroit family has been able to remain successful and stable because they’re small and they keep their alliances within the family. Gabriella Galecki is coming home, and the only reason we can assume she’s making her presence known after a decade-long disappearance is because her family needs her. We need to know why, and you’re the person who can figure that out.”
“With all due respect, sir—”
“With all due respect, Agent Blackwell, I am your superior and the Bureau needs you for this. You’ll do as you’re told and get us the information we need so we can tighten our investigation and finally take down the Galecki family.”
“Why her?” I asked, my voice suddenly parched. “Why now?”
He tapped the file sitting on the desk. “That’s what we need you to figure out. Inside you’ll find all the information regarding the investigation we’ve been doing on the Galeckis, but something is still missing. We’ve been hearing chatter about their enemies in Boston and Chicago moving in on their territory. We need to know why they’re suddenly seen as weak. We need to know why Gabriella is being brought home in the midst of all this, and what role, if any, she plays in her family’s business. It could be nothing. It could be everything. That’s what you need to figure out.”
A weight pressed against my chest. Gabriella had never known anything of substance regarding her family. There’s no way she would now, not if she was the same. But people could change a lot in ten years. I sure as hell had. I opened my mouth to speak but Agent Jackson cut me off.