USA Today Bestselling Author

Karen Kelley

Lorelei has been trapped in a marriage of abuse and control, but when a man they call Wizard walks into her life offering her a chance to escape, she’s not sure if he’s real or an illusion.

Abandoned as a child and dumped in an orphanage, Wizard doesn’t trust many people. He’s brooding and arrogant, a loner and a drifter who finally finds a home among a team of misfits trained to be elite fighters. But he still can’t break the vow he made years ago not to let anyone get too close.

Until he meets Lorelei. She’s the most beautiful, fragile woman he’s ever seen, and her husband is crushing the life out of her.

He vows to help her escape, but their escape only leads them deeper into danger as bits and pieces of a past someone frantically told him long ago to forget, rears its head and they’re plunged into a world of enemies and betrayal, taking them to a country filled with intrigue and danger around every corner that could get them killed.

Chapter One

Wizard glanced around at the elegance of the Chateau Clarice, taking in the details of the ornate decor: the plush velvet chairs, shimmering crystal chandeliers, and polished silverware laid out on the table. Man, he felt out of place here.

He grimaced and shifted in his chair. The high-end restaurant was different from the kind of establishments he usually frequented. He'd take the back corner of a dimly lit, gritty bar any day. When he’d ordered a beer, they brought it to him in a glass. A damn glass! He almost sent it back and ordered one in a bottle but changed his mind at the last minute.

Why the hell had Carter even sent him to the upscale restaurant to meet with a client? Fancy places always made him uncomfortable. No, it was more than that. They made him uneasy, but he'd never figured out why.

Yeah, he could probably guess the real reason Carter had wanted him to meet with the client. Carter’s excuse for sending him was that it was part of the job. He didn’t buy it. Anyone else on the team would’ve been better than him. Wizard thought it was so he’d shave his scraggly beard—which he’d compromised and trimmed close to his face. Not that it mattered how much better he might look. He still didn’t want to be here.

He turned in his seat suddenly and caught a flash of a woman in a sparkling evening dress. A man in a dark tux smiled down at her. A chandelier dripping with crystals hung above them as the vaguely familiar man took the woman in his arms, and they began to dance.

Wizard blinked, and the image vanished.

He grabbed the edge of the table, suddenly feeling off balance as he was left staring at an older couple sitting at one of the other tables. Sometimes, he thought he might be losing his mind. After all these years, you’d think he would get used to the brief flashes of… Of what? Memories? He didn’t know what the hell they were.

He rubbed his temples to ease the pounding in his head. The headache usually went away after a moment or two. Maybe he should talk to Carter about them. Would he think he was crazy? Probably.

He raised his glass and took a drink. Most of the team thought he might be a little crazy anyway. Hell, they all were. Misfits Carter had brought together to do odd jobs, some riskier than others: breaking up human trafficking rings, busting drug cartels, providing security for companies, or even acting as a bodyguard.

He grinned, something he rarely did. It had been kind of funny when Savage had to babysit a wealthy heiress. She'd caused him all sorts of headaches. His grin faded. Someone had tried to kill her, though. The team would help anyone that had been exploited or even just bullied.

Then why the hell was he wearing a suit, sitting in a posh restaurant, waiting for a client—he glanced at his watch—who was now twenty minutes late? The suit had cost Carter a fortune. That was damned funny. Not that Carter even blinked an eye at what he’d spent. The man had more money than Midas.

Wizard was already reaching for his phone to let Carter know the client was a no-show when the man in question walked in, Mr. Nash Bumford. He’d already researched him. Now, he studied him. He was tall and slender with light brown hair. Their gazes locked across the room as they took each other’s measure. An immediate feeling of dislike washed over him. There was something about Nash that felt off.

Wizard’s gaze shifted to the woman with him. She kept her eyes downcast and leaned away from Nash. At first glance, he thought she was merely pretty, but his opinion drastically changed when she lifted her face, and those big luminous green eyes stared back at him.

The lady wasn’t just pretty. She was captivatingly beautiful with delicate features. Her hair was swept on top of her head, with a few coal-black tendrils curling softly around her face. Her lemon-yellow dress complimented her pale skin, hugging her tiny waist before billowing into a cloud around her.

Wizard straightened in his chair, then came to his feet as they approached his table in a back corner of the restaurant, sizing up the other man with Nash. He guessed him to be around six feet, two inches, and he was all muscle and broad shoulders. A deep scar ran down one side of his face, and from the bulge under his jacket, Wizard guessed him to be a bodyguard. Even he wouldn’t want to come up on this guy in a dark alleyway. And they said he scared people? Yeah, well, they hadn't met this man.

He stuck out his hand. “Mr. Nash.”

Nash ignored his outstretched hand. The bodyguard pulled out a chair, and Nash took it. The woman sat when the bodyguard pulled hers out, and then he moved to stand in the corner. Wizard made himself comfortable in his chair again. He was okay with not shaking Nash's hand.

A waiter hurried over and gave them a menu. When he started to give one to the woman, Nash waved him away from her and began to order.

“I’ll have a glass of Pinot Noir. The lady will have sparkling water.” He looked across the table when the waiter left. “I was expecting to meet with Carter," Nash said in a nasal voice. "I don't normally do business with the hired help.”

He shrugged. “We can end the meeting right now. It doesn’t matter to me one way or the other, but this will also end the transaction. Carter wouldn’t have sent me if he didn’t think I could do the job.” He knew he wouldn’t like Nash.

Nash’s lip curled, but then he continued. “I want a complete overhaul of my security system. Do you think your company can handle the job?”

Wizard leaned back in his chair. “I was under the impression you owned Nash Enterprises.”

Not that Nash ran the company. No, he had someone else doing that. He only supervised when he wanted to throw his weight around.

His chest bowed out a little as his ego inflated. “Yes, it’s my company, and I want the security completely updated, along with my home.”

“Is that the family estate you inherited from your parents?”

The man hadn’t worked a day in his life. He’d been a spoiled only child, and now he was a rich snob who still didn’t work.
Nash’s lips pursed just a little. “Yes.”

Nash didn't like that someone might know he'd inherited all his wealth rather than earning it.

“No problem. We handle smaller projects all the time. We could have everything up and running in a weekend.” It was a dig, and he knew it. He didn't think Carter would care.

Nash scowled. “I assure you, this will not be a small project. I’ve gotten some threats lately and want to ensure I'm protected."

“And your wife as well, I’m sure.”

He frowned. “Of course.”

What could possibly have possessed her to want this poor excuse for a man as her husband? He had to be in his forties. He guessed her to be somewhere around her mid-twenties.

When she looked up, he smiled at her, then reached into the air, twisted his hand, and, in the next instant, presented her with a red rose.

“It’s nice to meet you,” he said.

She took the rose and returned his smile with a shy one of her own. That’s when he noticed the bruise on her face that cosmetics hadn’t quite covered.

“Remember your place,” Nash barked at her.

She quickly downed her head and laid the rose on the table.

“I’m not impressed with amateur magicians,” Nash said. “Can you handle the job or not?”

“May I go to the ladies' room?" she timidly asked.

Nash frowned. He waved a hand as if her request irritated him. “Yes, go, but don’t dawdle.”

Wizard noticed the bodyguard stayed with Nash. He apparently wasn’t concerned about his wife's safety as much as he was about his own.

“Do you always treat her like that?” he couldn’t help asking.

Nash gave Wizard his full attention. “I don’t believe I asked you to express your opinion on my relationship with Lorelei. She’s quite happy.”

“It didn’t look that way to me.”

“There’s nothing you can do about it, even if she wasn’t,” he smirked.

“You don’t have to worry about me. I never interfere in domestic problems. If you’ll excuse me, I need to use the men’s room,” he excused himself. Men like Nash disgusted him.

He drew in a frustrated breath. Maybe that’s all it was, an argument between them, and he was reading too much into this. She might’ve fallen and gotten the bruise on her face.

Then why did his gut tell him Lorelei was being abused?

He turned into the hall where the restrooms were located and waited for Lorelei to come out. He had to be sure. As she stepped out of the ladies’ room, she looked up, then quickly downed her head when she saw him.

“Why are you with him?” he asked bluntly.

She raised her head, eyes wide, seemingly startled by his question.

“Is he what you want?” he continued.

She slowly shook her head. “I don’t have a choice,” she whispered, then quickly looked around as if Nash or the bodyguard might appear.

“You always have a choice,” he continued.

“I don’t.”

“Would you leave if you had the opportunity?” For a moment, he saw a flicker of hope, but it quickly died.

Her smile was fearful. “No, don’t try to help. He’s a powerful man. He’ll kill you.” She closed her eyes and drew in a breath. “Yes, I want to be with him.”

Her words were robotic as if someone had drilled them into her. Before he could question her further, she walked away, shoulders slumped. He slammed his hand against the men’s restroom door, almost running into a man exiting. Some of the color drained from the other man’s face when he met Wizard’s cold eyes. He quickly backed up and apologized.

It was strange how he had that effect on people. They would take one look at him and back away. Blade said he was scary as fuck when he looked at someone, especially if he was pissed off.

He’d studied his reflection in the mirror once. He didn't think he was scary at all. Nash's wife didn't act like she had a problem with how he looked. Maybe it was because he’d trimmed his beard. Yeah, that could be it.

There was one thing he did know. Lorelei was scared of Nash. He should walk away. Their problems were none of his business. Yeah, he should, but he probably wouldn't. He finished and washed his hands before leaving the men's room, joining the others at the table, and taking his seat again.

"When can you start?" Nash asked as he picked up his glass of wine and took a drink.

"I think we'll pass on this job. You're not the kind of man we normally do business with." He downed the rest of his beer, then set his glass on the table.

Nash gripped the stem of his wineglass so tightly the tips of his fingers turned white. "And what kind of man am I?"

"A bully. Real men don't treat a woman like you're treating Lorelei. Normally, men like you have the same business ethics as they do morals. She also doesn't want to be with you. We're going to walk out of here together, and you'll never bother her again. Do I make myself clear?"

Nash grabbed her arm in a painful grip. “Have you asked this man for help?”

She flinched. "No, I didn't say anything."

Wizard came to his feet. "Let go of her. Now," he growled but weaved when the room spun, and he had to grab the back of the chair to steady himself. What the hell?

"We’re leaving now," Nash said, dragging Lorelei to her feet as he stood.

The bodyguard stepped closer to Nash. "Not here, you fool. We never make a scene."

"You better let her go right now, or you’re going to have a damned big one. It'll be all over the Internet. People are already watching us. Do you want them to know what kind of bastard you are?"

Nash’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. “I think you’ve had too much to drink. Maybe you should sit before you fall over. I was correct when I pegged you as the hero type. While you were gone, I added a little something to your drink. Don’t worry, it won’t kill you, but I wouldn’t try to save the damsel in distress. That will get you killed.” They turned and left.

Wizard did the only thing he could before he fell over. He sat down in the chair. He fumbled inside his pocket when his phone rang and brought it out. Carter’s face blurred on the screen. He blinked a few times, then slid his finger across the bar.

"The son of a bitch slipped something in my drink." He motioned to the waiter, who hurried over. "Get me a tall glass of water." The waiter looked confused but quickly left. Wizard began digging in his pockets for the pills that would counteract whatever drug he'd been given and only hoped they would work.

“Are you okay?” Carter sounded concerned.

“I will be. I don’t think they were that strong. I’m just woozy. He didn’t want to cause a scene.”

"Why the hell would he drug you?"