Undercover with the SEALBy: Leslie North
Norse Security Book Two
If someone would’ve told Hunter Odenson a year ago he’d be playing babysitter to some spoiled ditzy Hollywood bombshell instead of dodging sniper bullets and landmines in Mosul, he would’ve laughed in their face.
Yet here he was, striding onto a Tinseltown backlot searching for the bombshell in question. He ignored the stares of people he passed and searched the numbers on the huge warehouse-sized buildings, squinting in the ever-present southern California sunshine.
Sound stage eleven loomed ahead and he walked down a shaded alley to a side door with a red light beside it. A sign below warned not to enter if the light was flashing. Hunter gave the thing some serious side eye then snorted. Not a flicker in sight.
He’d wanted to set up this initial meeting at a nice restaurant, maybe get to know his client over a casual lunch, set the ground rules for their new, temporary partnership right away—when they were in public, he was in charge. Behind closed doors, Alexandra Valentine could do what she wanted with whoever she wanted, as long as it wasn’t illegal and it wasn’t with him. End of story. Besides, this was all a front anyway. His real reason for being here was a missing persons’ case the firm had been hired to investigate on behalf of Ms. Valentine. The whole bodyguard thing was just a front to keep nosy people away from the truth.
Inside the cavernous building, it was pitch black. Hunter stood in the gloom, blinking hard to clear his vision and figure out where to go next. Obviously, this was the wrong place, even if the numbers matched the information Loki had given him earlier. He added misdirection to the growing list of things he intended to discuss with his boss when he talked to him again.
Once his eyes had adjusted, Hunter walked farther inside the empty sound stage, hoping maybe the crew had left some clue behind as to where they’d gone. He didn’t have to wait long. As a man who’d done three tours of duty as a Navy SEAL and led countless special ops, he recognized the sounds of gunfire.
The minute the click-click-boom of bullets rattled through the building, Hunter went into stealth mode, cursing the fact he didn’t have his usual weapons with him. All he’d brought was a standard issue Glock, thinking even that would be overkill for guarding America’s reigning comedy queen. But as he peered through the open door on the other side of the sound stage and into the alleyway beyond, it became clear he’d just gotten a whole lot more than he’d bargained for.
“Fuck.” He pulled his gun and clicked off the safety, peering through a crack in the door to see two thugs standing over a woman tied to a chair. How the hell this could happen in the middle of a huge movie production company, Hunter had no idea. Then again, terrorists always used the element of surprise to wreak their havoc on the world.
He rolled his neck, hating the way the starched white collar of his button-down shirt cut into his skin and the way the tie he’d worn felt more like a noose. Fighting in this damned monkey-suit was going to be hell. One more beef to chew over with Loki.
Go to Hollywood, his boss had said. If you do well with this assignment, maybe I’ll promote you to Group Leader.
And yeah, maybe Hunter’s ultimate goal was to prove he was more than an imposing tower of brawn, that his brains were as impressive as his muscles, that he was smart enough to do more, be more. He wished this particular scenario had played more to his mental skills than his physical ones, but he did what he needed to do to get the job done.
“Where should we start?” one of the thugs asked the other, drawing Hunter’s attention back to the task at hand. The woman tied to the chair was facing away from him and there was a burlap bag over her head, preventing him from seeing her identity. Her hands were zip-tied behind her back and her ankles were tied to the front legs of the chair. She looked small, much tinier than the assholes leering at her. If it was one thing Hunter hated it was a bully, so now these pricks would not only feel his wrath in general, he’d have to whoop their asses into next year too.
“I don’t know,” thug number two said. He had a knife in his hand and traced the shiny blade down the woman’s arm, not hard enough to cut her pale skin, just enough to let her know what was coming. The thug leaned in to speak close to her ear. “Maybe we just slowly peel her skin off, inch by inch until she tells us what we want to know.”