Psyched – Chapter 1 Excerpt
How had she gotten herself in yet another rough situation? Maybe she was a jinx? Or an all-things-evil magnet?
I try to be a good person, help out my fellow man, keep my nose clean, and all that. And what do I get for it? A bucket full of trouble everywhere I go.
Quinn’s mind spun on a continuous loop as she sat in the high-traffic coffee shop across the street from where she worked, waiting to meet her rescuers. Outside the large windows, New York City bustled by, all intent on getting where they were going for the workday. Many were sweating in the summer heat. Inside, she tuned out all the conversations, both spoken and mental, with practiced ease.
What had her on edge wasn’t the noise in her head, but the conversation she’d overheard at work yesterday. People—ones like her—needed help. Fast. And then she needed to disappear, or risk ending up like them. She checked the door again and glanced at her watch. Where were the people she was meeting? They should’ve been here by now.
She tried not to shift as she sat in the green pleather seat, although her back was killing her. After spending the night in the cheapest, most out-of-the-way hotel she could find, with a granite boulder masquerading as a mattress, she’d concluded sleeping in an alleyway would probably have been more comfortable and about as safe. She’d try that out tonight. Maybe an alley by a clothes store, because she was already sick of the black pencil skirt and red blouse she’d been wearing for two days now.
She glanced up at the deeply masculine voice and sucked in a sharp breath. She’d been sent his picture, of course, so she would be able to identify him today. While her phone had shown her a man not remotely her type—dark hair longer than she preferred, beard hiding what she suspected was a highly masculine face with hard planes and jaw, and a deadly serious demeanor—the image hadn’t quite captured how tall he was, or the breadth of his shoulders and leanness of his body. Or, for that matter, the air of utter confidence and danger radiating from him, or the piercing blue eyes which seemed to see into her soul.
Even his name instilled a strange combination of trepidation and confidence.
Quinn crossed her legs as a kick of unexpected attraction ricocheted through her. Damned inconvenient timing.
She blinked up at the frowning man. Had she spoken that last bit out loud? She cleared her throat. “Yes. I’m Quinn Ridley.”
“May we join you?” He indicated the other seats at her table.
Oh! He had brought friends. How had she missed them? Shock bounced around inside her, joining the slow burn of attraction. Usually she was more observant.
When she’d got the call, her boss—not the one she worked for as an interpreter, but her real boss, the one who’d got her that job—had mentioned Cain would arrive with a team. His friends were equally large, muscled, and intimidating. And equally hot, except her body wasn’t interested in them. All three men were dressed in pants and button-down shirts rather than the tactical gear they’d sported in the picture provided. Her job always resulted in the most interesting contacts.
Cain raised his eyebrows. She was sitting like an idiot, just staring at them. She gave a jerky wave to the seats. “Of course.”
“She’s nervous,” one of the two men said to Cain as they took their seats. How the tiny wooden chairs with their green padded seats held the three large men was a total mystery.
Deliberately, Quinn glanced between them with wide eyes, then took a sip of her coffee, barely noticing the rich flavor on her tongue as she pretended not to understand the language he’d used. Russian. Perfect accent. Interesting. Hadn’t her boss explained to them about Quinn’s job, let alone her abilities?
“That’s to be expected,” Cain replied in equally perfect Russian.
She wasn’t nervous of them. She was pissed at what she’d overheard yesterday, at what people could do to each other, and was determined to find a solution. But if these men wanted to make stupid assumptions about what she might understand or not, she wasn’t about to correct them. Instead, she’d listen politely, then ask her boss for a different team. She needed serious people to solve this problem.
Her glance strayed to Daniel Cain, who studied her closely. Did he suspect she’d understood? Maybe not so stupid after all. His air of utter confidence settled her in a weird way. What was with her anyway? She never responded to anyone like this.
Cain sat directly across from her, his blue eyes pulling her gaze like gravity. “I’m Daniel Cain.”
Duh. She nodded an acknowledgment, though she didn’t offer to shake his hand. Touch was complicated for someone like her.
“And this is Sawyer and Shaw.”
Two dark blonde heads nodded in turn.
“Brothers?” she asked.
One—Shaw, she thought—grinned. “Twins.”
That explained why the two men had the same general appearance—similar eyes, nose, builds, and so forth.
“I see.” She turned back to Cain. “And your other associate?” The picture had showed four men.
He didn’t even blink at her knowledge of a fourth man on the team. “Max is outside in the car.”
Her shoulders dropped a fraction. Everything matched her boss’s descriptions. “What do we do now?”
He eyed her speculatively with…what? Respect? Why? Because she was jumping straight to the point, perhaps? Did he expect her to be a frightened little rabbit?
“First, you’re going to tell us everything. After that depends on you,” he said.
He searched her expression, for what she had no idea. She stared back, giving nothing away. “Depending on what you have to say, we’ll give you options.”
Options sounded promising. Getting the hell out of here sounded better, as long as she knew the bad guys would be stopped first. Quinn stood up, her chair scraping across the stained concrete flooring in protest. All three men tensed. Not visibly, more a tightening around their eyes as they regarded her with careful interest.
“Going somewhere?” Cain asked.
“What I have to say shouldn’t be discussed in a public coffee shop.”
He narrowed his eyes. “You’d leave with four strange men? On their word?”
“Easy,” Sawyer murmured. Russian again.
Quinn put her hands on the table and leaned in, refusing to be intimidated. “I was provided pictures, descriptions, and names. You match up.” She stood back up. “Do you want to waste more time on lectures? Or do you want to get started?”
Shaw choked back a laugh. “Feisty one, isn’t she.” Again with the Russian.
Her boss’s idea of funny could tend to the warped on occasion. Not telling these guys about Quinn’s ability to understand all languages had to be her idea of a joke. In this case, even Quinn’s funny bone was tickled. Always interesting to know what people were thinking when they assumed you didn’t understand.
Cain rose to his feet. Trying to intimidate her with his greater size now? “People can disguise themselves.”
“Not from me. There’s truth in words.” Besides, she wasn’t the helpless little girl she’d once been.
Cain’s gaze sharpened as he absorbed her retort, as if he could delve into her mind. “You’re a Psy.” His words were a statement, not a question.
“No shit!” Shaw exclaimed, sitting up straight in his seat.
Sawyer elbowed him. “Shut up.”
Quinn flicked a quick glance toward them. They’d used words she hadn’t heard before. Did the twins have their own made-up language?
“Yes,” Quinn confirmed, returning her gaze to Cain. Each of these men was also a Psy, though her boss hadn’t shared their specific psychic abilities.
Giving a grunt Quinn interpreted as satisfaction with her answers, Cain turned to the door. “Let’s go.”
Quinn grabbed her purse off the back of her chair and her laptop bag off the floor and followed him out of the shop, with Shaw and Sawyer bringing up the rear. Outside, a generic black sedan pulled up and Cain held the door for her. She ended up in the back seat with the Thor-look-a-likes on either side. Cain sat in the front, and Max was in the driver’s seat.
He turned and gave her a once-over. “I’m Max.”
He faced forward and put the car in gear. “Where to, boss?”