Survival is crucial.
Trust is optional.
Love is unstoppable.
Jude Dagan’s life as he knew it ended a year ago. On a mission gone wrong, he was forced to watch as Ella Banning, the only woman he’s ever loved, was killed. Or so he thought.
Jude wasn’t the only one who lost something on the day Ella was presumed dead. She sacrificed Endgame Ops, the love of her life, and parts of herself she can never get back. Now she’s determined to take down the world’s most dangerous terrorist—even if it means working for him.
When Jude and Ella are reunited, they’ll battle the lies Ella has been forced to tell…and struggle to save a love that knows no bounds.
Buy it today!
The food smelled amazing, and her stomach reminded her she needed to build up her strength. The drugs she’d been pumped full of over the last few days were still making her sluggish, and she’d barely eaten. She picked up her—she laughed out loud—her spoon, and she dug in. She saw the smile that lit his features a second before the taste of the meal hit her taste buds.
Ella groaned. “That’s delicious.”
“I know,” he said with not a hint of humility. “Tia Rosa left me stocked the last time she was here.”
Ella took another bite, watching her food instead of Jude. “You didn’t cook it?”
“No time,” he said around a bite.
She didn’t ask him why he had no time. She knew. He’d been hunting her hard the last six months. Brody had warned her and done everything he could to keep proof Ella was alive from Endgame, but in the end, the world of spec ops was only so big. Word got around. Once she’d save King in Spain, she’d known her gig was up. She hadn’t anticipated the scenario playing out quite like this though.
“This place yours?” she asked. She needed information on him. Had to have it. Like the Jude junkie she was.
“Well now, Ella, I don’t think that’s any of your business,” he answered in a hard voice.
“Unless you’re willing to trade information?” Jude asked with a milder tone.
She couldn’t not look at him anymore. She raised her gaze and found him staring at her, his face blank, his eyes hot. “Don’t ask that of me, Jude.”
She couldn’t call him Dagan anymore. He was Jude. She could give herself that much at least.
He barked out a laugh that was anything but humorous. “I’m going to ask that and more, Ella.”
She kept her gaze on him, and he returned it, refusing to look away. “If you’d just give me some time—”
He cut her off. “There’s no more time. We’re out of it. Dresden is making moves that will decimate world order. We need to know everything you’ve got, and we need it yesterday.”
“That’s not my mission, Jude,” she protested.
He took a bite of his beef and then a drink of tea Ella knew she’d find unbearably sweet. He wiped his mouth, never looking away from her. “Fuck your mission, Ella.”
She snorted. “You have fucked me. Royally.” She wondered where her anger was. He’d taken her off grid somewhere, was making it plain as day he was going to do everything in his power to get information from her, and she was as far from angry as she’d ever been.
“Not yet, lady,” he said with a wink before picking his fork back up. “But that’s coming too.”
Her breath caught, and an errant piece of meat lodged in her throat. She coughed, choking even as she laughed at his overwhelming gall. He started to get up, but she held up a hand, managing to dislodge the meat before she took a drink of his tea.
“Damn that’s sweet,” she complained.
“Only way to drink tea,” he responded.
He was lulling her, and damn him, it was working. She was falling back into her pattern with him, and the comfort of it was a draw she could barely resist.
She couldn’t allow this. She was going to hurt him when she left again. Because she would leave again. She had to take Dresden down, and the only way to do that was from inside his organization. He was probably wondering where the hell she was and mobilizing to either find her or destroy Jude. And beyond all that, Ella’s skin continued to crawl with worry for Anna Beth Caine. Fear prickled her skin.
“Where are we?” she asked suddenly, her fear communicating in the waver of her voice.
He held up six fingers.
Her eyes watered. Damn tears!
He peered at her, intense and a bit put out, if the look on his face was anything to go by. Yes, she thought, how dare I question the ultimate warrior, Jude Dagan.
“I need to hear the words, Jude,” she admitted.
“We’re safe, Ella. I won’t let anything hurt you ever again.”
“Not a promise you can make,” she countered.
“You don’t think I can keep you safe?” Oh, the affront in his voice!
“I don’t think you have to. I’ve done enough to stay alive the last year, Jude. All you’re doing by keeping me here is making things exponentially more impossible for me.”
He grunted. “They were impossible before you left with Dresden in Beirut. I’m trying to keep you alive.”
“And mine my secrets in the process? Come on, Jude, let’s be honest. The only reason you’ve got me here is because I’ve become your mission. King wants answers. Endgame wants Dresden’s head. What none of you seem to realize is that there is more in play here!”
Ella slammed her hand down on the table and stood up, leaning over the table to get in his face. “I can keep myself alive. It’s you I’m worried about!”
He stared up at her, his gaze moving over her face, his expression giving her nothing. She had never yelled at Jude. Ever. But she wasn’t the same Ella anymore.
“Sit down and finish eating,” he said softly. He picked up his fork and did the same, ignoring her outburst as if it’d never happened.
She plopped back into her chair, picked up her spoon, and ate. Silence reigned through the rest of the meal. When Ella finished, she picked up her bowl and carried it to the sink, washing it and her spoon before putting them in the drying rack. She attacked the rest of the dishes and finished them off.
As she was drying her hands, Jude came up behind her. His hands settled on the granite countertop at her sides, his front pressing against her back. His heat wrapped around her as his scent toyed with her emotions.
“Let’s establish the rules right now,” he said at her ear, his voice gruff and hitting her right between the legs. “I don’t need you to keep me safe. I don’t need your protection. I need your cooperation. I need your secrets. Because, Ella? You’re mine. You have been since the moment I saw you, and you always will be. It is my right, my goddamn privilege, to take care of you. And if I have to fight you to do that, then by God, I will. I’ve been waging wars for a long time, lady, and when I fight, I win. You’re too important for me to walk away from.”
Her head fell back against his shoulder, and he took advantage, breathing his fire across her neck. She swore she felt the tip of his tongue on her skin. She went molten.
“Don’t do this to me, Jude. I begged you in Russia, and I’m begging you here.”
“It’s too late to beg. The game is in play, has been since you began working Dresden. The difference is that I know I’m a major player now.”
“You don’t know what you’re asking me for,” she whispered desperately.
“I’m asking you…for you, Ella. Your lies, your truths, and everything in between.”
Her heart climbed out of her chest and sank to his feet. “The rules?”
“Nothing but truth from now on. If you don’t want to answer me, tell me, but always give me the truth,” he answered, biting the tendon that ran from her neck to the shoulder.
Ella hissed in a breath as lust speared her midsection. “What else?” she questioned him breathlessly.
“Truth in everything, Ella. That’s the only rule,” he said against her skin.
“Is sex on the game board?” She had to know what was in his mind and, for the life of her, was too afraid to ask him.
“Fucking is always on the board between us, beautiful lady.”
Well, then. Fucking was the same as making love to Jude. He’d gone to great lengths one night to prove that to him, when he was with Ella, there was zero difference.
God, the pleasure she’d had in his arms. It had sustained her these long months without him. “If I give you the truth, you have to do the same.”
He smiled, and she felt the curve against her ear. “I’m not the one who’s lied here, Ella.”
She pushed a hand to her chest. His truths were already painful. “I’m fooling myself…allowing myself to be placated with my desires.” Who was she talking to?
“I appreciate that truth, Ella. To know that you desire me is a relief, considering how far you’ve gone to show me otherwise. But I don’t want the waters muddied too much. As you stated, there’s too much at stake here. Fucking you has always been my greatest joy. Loving you my greatest reward. I’ll do what I can to keep my hands off you, but I can’t promise. My body needs yours, but my soul needs your secrets just as much.”
Then he stepped away from her and walked out of the kitchen.
Ella blew out a rough breath, gathered her wits, and finished cleaning up the kitchen. Fatigue pulled at her. With her belly full and the warmth of the cabin tugging at her, she made her way back upstairs to the room she’d woken in.