Nanny 911, p.1
“Smart as you are, Mr. Gallagher, you don’t know everything.”
“Are you always this much trouble, Officer Murdock?”
They weren’t touching, but they were both breathing hard as the furtive exchange of tempers and opinions mutated into a different kind of heat. Their breaths mingled and their chests nearly brushed against each other with every inhale. Her head filled with the spicy scent of shaving cream or soap on his skin. Her body warmed with the proximity of his body lined up with hers. She wasn’t even aware of the holster poking into her backside anymore. Quinn’s gaze fixated on her lips and Miranda couldn’t look away from those laser blue eyes.
But she did. She had to. It was time she remembered why she was here—and the little girl she’d been hired to protect.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Miller attributes her passion for writing romance to all those fairy tales she read growing up, and to shyness. Encouragement from her family to write down all those feelings she couldn’t express became a love for the written word. She gets continued support from her fellow members of the Prairieland Romance Writers, where she serves as the resident “grammar goddess.” This award-winning author and teacher has published several paranormal romances. Inspired by the likes of Agatha Christie and Encyclopedia Brown, Ms. Miller believes the only thing better than a good mystery is a good romance.
Born and raised in Missouri, she now lives in Nebraska with her husband, son and smiling guard dog, Maxie. Write to Julie at P.O. Box 5162, Grand Island, NE 68802-5162.
Books by Julie Miller
898—SEARCH AND SEIZURE*
947—BABY JANE DOE*
966—BEAST IN THE TOWER 1009—UP AGAINST THE WALL**
1073—ARMED AND DEVASTATING‡
1090—PRIVATE S.W.A.T. TAKEOVER‡
1099—KANSAS CITY CHRISTMAS‡
1138—PULLING THE TRIGGER
1176—BEAUTY AND THE BADGE‡
1245—MAN WITH THE MUSCLE
1266—PROTECTING PLAIN JANE‡‡
1296—PROTECTING THE PREGNANT WITNESS‡‡
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Quinn Gallagher—CEO and genius behind Gallagher Security Systems. A self-made billionaire whose inventions have revolutionized police and security work around the world. A man whose success got his wife killed, and is now endangering the one love left in his life, his daughter.
Miranda "Randy" Murdock—Sharpshooter with KCPD's premier SWAT Team 1. Tough and highly-trained. This tomboy has the skills and determination to prove herself in a man's world, but she's out of her depth when it comes to masquerading as a nanny for an adorable little girl…and falling for her charge's widowed father.
Fiona Gallagher—Three years old. Curious and feminine and crazy about her daddy.
Louis Nolan—Quinn's right-hand man at GSS. He keeps the investors happy.
David Damiani—He runs security at GSS headquarters.
Elise Brown—Quinn's executive assistant is loyal to the company. Or is it her boss she's so attached to?
Ozzie Chang—A lab geek at GSS. Quinn sees a lot of himself in the young man.
Nikolai Titov—GSS's largest foreign investor.
Vasily Gordeeva—Quinn's father-in-law has been in prison for a long time.
John Murdock—Randy's big brother is a Marine stationed overseas. But he's had a second career bailing his kid sister out of trouble.
“Start the countdown.”
The armed driver in the modified camo uniform floored the accelerator, forcing his five passengers to hold on for their lives as they bounced over the ruts and sand and scrub brush of the arid terrain. “I recommend waiting until we get to a safe distance.”
The one person not wearing mock military garb clung to the Hummer’s passenger seat. “And I recommend you follow my orders to the letter. That’s why I’m paying you, isn’t it?”
“Part of my job is to protect you. There could be fallout here.”
“I didn’t come all this way to miss the show. I want to be here at the beginning, just as I’m looking forward to being there at the end—when I see his face and can revel in his failure.” The anticipation of seeing that arrogant face downcast in broken sorrow, his eyes filled with tears, his clipped voice perhaps begging for mercy, was enough to make one light-headed. Or maybe it was this bone-jarring ride across the Kalahari that was affecting rational thought. The boss gripped the door handle and dashboard and turned to the driver. “Push the button.”
Surrendering to the inevitable winner in this battle of wills, the driver pulled the tiny remote-control switch box from his shirt pocket and activated the countdown. He set the device in his lap, but refused to stop the vehicle. Supposedly, that was the sign of a good leader—putting the safety and well-being of his team first. Too bad not every man in this world believed that.
“Another mile between us and the facility won’t make any difference on this terrain.” The driver slowed his speed a fraction and handed over a pair of military-grade binoculars, ironically designed by Quinn Gallagher, owner of the facility that was growing smaller and smaller beyond the swirl of dust in the vehicle’s side-view mirror. “Here. Take these. You’ll be able to watch the sweat beading on their foreheads when they realize they’ve got no place to run or hide.”
“You’re certain there are only the guards at the gate?”
“You know, for someone who has planned some seriously scary stuff out to the last detail, you’re pretty squeamish about collateral damage.”
“I’m not afraid to kill someone if I have to.” The raging injustice and bone-deep pain swirling through the passenger’s heart made it far easier than even the mercenary driver could imagine to inflict pain without feeling remorse. “But I don’t want a high casualty rate. Too many outsiders would get involved then and he’ll lock down tighter than one of his vaults. Because I’ve mapped my strategy down to the last detail, I need to maintain control of the situation. To do that, each task must be completed the way I’ve directed.”
It was a lesson that had been learned the hard way—that there were steps, deadlines, terrible costs for not getting everything just right. It was a lesson that could never be forgotten.
“You’re the boss.”
“Don’t you forget that.” The enemy had. That was why he had to pay. “If he thinks I’m going to stand by and let him ruin my life, he’s mistaken. I intend to hurt him as badly as he’s hurt me. And I intend to strike where it will hurt him the most.”
“It’s almost time.”
“Stop the car.”
With the advantage of higher ground on the mesa where they’d stopped, the view of the facility was unobstructed. The boss adjusted the binoculars to watch.
“Five, four, three, two—”
The boss held up a hand, demanding silence, wanting to savor this first triumph.
It started as a rumble, a sound so deep they felt the tremors through the ground, vibrating up through their feet and legs s
The team of mercenaries watching alongside had done their job well. The boss lowered the binoculars and watched it burn, feeling the heat even at this distance.
The satisfaction was intense.
Payback had begun.
7 Days until Midnight, New Year’s Eve
“Someone is trying to destroy me.”
Quinn Gallagher touched the temple of his dark-framed glasses, an ingrained habit left over from his youth, when he’d been a four-eyed brainiac from a rural Missouri trailer park who’d learned how to defend himself and his mother from the respective bullies who’d preyed on them. He was no longer poor, no longer had his beloved mother—and up until the murder of his wife, Valeska, nearly three years earlier, he’d believed that he no longer feared anything.
Now three employees that he’d never met, but for whom he certainly felt responsible, were dead in a foreign country. And the office building that he’d closed for the holidays, with paid vacations off for all but the skeleton crew of security guards receiving overtime pay, was being searched from basement to rooftop by a team of black-uniformed cops, armed like the special-ops security details his company outfitted for wealthy individuals and companies across the country. The captain of KCPD’s SWAT Team 1, Michael Cutler, often served as a consultant to GSS when they were developing new weapons, protective gear and security technology.
He was also one of the few men in this world Quinn Gallagher trusted without question. He strode into the penthouse office suite with a disturbing yet unsurprising announcement. “Thus far, we’ve found no sign of forced entry into the building or your office. I’ve got my team checking the top floor here now. Of course, this place is locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Whoever got in had to have the same kind of talents you possess.” It was a wry compliment. An enemy with Quinn’s technical skills would be a formidable opponent, indeed. The SWAT captain turned toward the small, unwrapped Christmas present Quinn had left on his desk. “Don’t let me or my men interrupt your meeting.”
“Come and go as you need, Michael. Thanks.” Quinn adjusted the knot of his silk tie and paced the length of his office. The men and woman in suits on the matching sofas waited expectantly for some sign that he was ready for their problem-solving input. But none of them dared offer any personal condolence or sympathetic look. He paid them exceedingly well to be the best at the jobs they’d been hired to do, not to be his friends. That was a bonus he rarely bestowed on the people around him. Caring had cost him dearly—when he’d lost his mother, and three years ago when he’d lost his wife.
He didn’t need the distraction of emotional ties to interfere with the efficiency of this Christmas Eve meeting. And his people knew that. Keeping an eye on Michael Cutler and the furtive movements of the rest of his five-man team through the chrome-and-glass partition separating his office from the rest of the floor, Quinn turned his attention back to the executives who’d been able to report on such short notice.
Louis Nolan, his vice president of operations and Quinn’s eyes on every aspect of Gallagher Security Systems, was speaking. “I’ve already been on the phone with Nikolai Titov, our primary investor there. He wants answers.”
“He’ll know them as soon as I have them,” Quinn promised.
“The Kalahari plant hadn’t even begun production yet,” Louis continued. “We were still in the hiring process with the locals. I know we were building there to save money, but now we’re posting a loss on GSS’s bottom line and facing speculation from the press. Titov’s already putting the pressure on to let him reopen and expand the St. Feodor plant in Lukinburg. The last thing we need right now are nervous stockholders. I think we should entertain his offer before this unfortunate incident turns into a catastrophe.”
As Quinn suspected, his security chief, David Damiani, wasted no time pushing to his feet and confronting the older businessman. “Unfortunate? I lost three good men in that explosion. Try making that phone call to their families when Christmas is tomorrow.”
“I’m not denigrating the loss of life.” Louis was a cagey old salt who had no problem defending himself. “I’m pointing out that this could be an environmental or political attack on GSS’s expansion into South Africa. I know our base of operation here in Kansas City is thousands of miles away, but this could snowball into a real tragedy if we don’t spin some control over the situation in the next few days, if not the next few hours.”
David raked his hands through his hair, the movement exposing the Beretta he wore holstered beneath his left arm. “It’s already snowballing, Lou. How do you explain someone breaking into GSS headquarters when we’ve got the best damn techno-security on the planet? I can’t. As far as I can see, we’re already under attack.”
“Gentlemen,” Elise Brown intervened. Quinn knew his executive assistant could be counted on to keep everyone focused and moving forward. “None of us are thrilled to be taken away from our families and vacations at this time of year, and certainly none of us are pleased to hear about sabotage and the murder of GSS employees, but you’re missing the point. Quinn said someone was trying to destroy him, not GSS.” She turned her soft brown eyes up to him. “Isn’t that right?”
“Yes.” That was the painful distinction he’d made. Going after his business empire was one thing. But the gift-wrapped package he’d received on his desk this morning…
His gaze drifted over to the shiny red paper and white tissue decorated with candy canes, of all things—his daughter’s favorite holiday treat. Quinn seethed inside, momentarily experiencing that same helpless fury that had plagued him growing up, before he’d learned to use his brain as a weapon to outsmart the kids who’d picked on him and the men who’d thought his mother didn’t have anyone to protect her.
He forced his gaze away from where Michael Cutler was processing the unwanted gift with his gloved fingers. He looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows, over the stone-gray parking lot, highways and wintry fields around the modern building he’d erected near the Kansas City International Airport north of the city center. The isolation he felt made the glass windows, marble tiles and Oriental rugs seem especially cold and sterile today. He’d mistakenly thought he’d left the users and abusers of the world far behind him in that small-town trailer park. Instead, after the destruction of his South African plant two days ago, Quinn realized that he’d simply graduated to a more ruthless, more covert class of users who wanted to hurt what was his.
He wasn’t so naive to think he hadn’t made a few enemies over the years. At forty, he’d already earned and lost one fortune. But now that he’d established himself and his company as a world leader in high-tech security support and management, he was sitting on an even bigger fortune and had enough influence across several different industries that only a fool—or one very sick, very cruel bastard—would dare to defy him.
Judging by the message he’d received this morning, he was opting for the latter.
“What? Now? I’ll be right there.” Elise had pulled her cell phone from the coat she’d tossed over the sofa beside her. The distress in her tone was enough to divert Quinn’s attention. Her eyes darted to him, then just as quickly looked away. More trouble? “Excuse me.”
“Ma’am.” An oversize SWAT cop, carrying one of the electronics-scanning devices Quinn himsel
One by one, the rest of Michael’s team filtered in. Quinn traded a nod of recognition with the SWAT team’s second in command, Rafe Delgado, whom he had met when he’d offered him the use of a secure safe house for his wife, the witness who’d finally identified the man who’d murdered Quinn’s wife. Rafe introduced himself to David Damiani and took the security chief aside to discuss possible incursion scenarios into the building.
A short, muscular cop with curly black hair came through the doorway next and reported in. “Murdock and I have got nothing, Captain. This place is locked down tighter than a tomb. This room and the roof are all that we have left to search. You want us to head on up?”
“Have Murdock check the cameras in here for any signs of tampering. You go on up, Taylor. Stay warm.”
Officer Taylor turned his Benelli shotgun and disappeared from the doorway, only to be replaced a moment later by an unexpected colleague. Quinn’s eyes narrowed as he found himself studying the last member of Michael Cutler’s elite team. He didn’t know if the long ponytail, as straight and shiny as a palomino’s tail, or the Remington sniper’s rifle strapped over her right shoulder surprised him more.
“Captain?” she spoke.
“Front and back, Murdock. If we can’t find an unauthorized access point to this room, then we damn well better find where the perp covered his tracks.” Michael Cutler pointed to the two cameras at either end of the room, and after her moss-colored eyes took note of every person here, including him, Officer Murdock’s long legs carried her to the security camera mounted over the bar/kitchenette at the back of the office.
Quinn watched her climb on top of the counter in her ungainly boots and shimmy around a counter to stand eye to eye with the camera. He couldn’t be sure if it was her monkeylike athleticism and disregard for the obstacles in her path or the hint of firm hips and buns in her snug black pants that fascinated him.