For Love or Honor - Melissa Schroeder

For Love or Honor

Book 1 in the Bounty Hunters Series

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Trusting a man with your life is always easier than trusting him with your heart.

Del Littleton is having a bad month. Three jobs have gone south and the last one went sour with a dead body. It doesn’t help that Dylan O’Farrell, the federal agent who has been making her life hell for months is the one who finds her. The worst part is that even though she feels like smacking the cocky agent upside the head, she also wants to get him in bed.

Dylan knows Del is being set up. She isn’t the best bounty hunter out there, but she isn’t stupid. Before he can figure it out, they find themselves on the run, trying to protect Del from an unknown enemy. Spending time together nonstop causes the passion they’ve kept under wraps to explode.

Dealing with the emotions that bubble to the surface is harder than dealing with than that threat to Del’s life. And when they find themselves both in the crosshairs, trusting each other isn’t just about love…it’s about survival.

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For Love or Honor

For Love or Honor

Book 1 in the Bounty Hunters Series

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For Love or Honor

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Del Littleton didn’t like when jobs went sour. She’d had three go south in just the last month and Peter had threatened to fire her if screwed up this one. Finding her latest collar lying in a pool of his own blood, two days gone, would not help matters. Frank Totter wouldn’t be able to testify in court.

She particularly didn’t like when Dylan O’Farrell was the reason it went bad. There he stood, a smug smile tilting his lips and all she could think of was smacking the bastard. That, and jumping his bones. Both would probably have the desired effect—he’d be pissed.

“What the holy hades are you doing here, O’Farrell? This is my collar and the Sumarian Sector is out of your jurisdiction.” She pulled her Barracuda 911 out of her side holster for good measure.

His smile widened, his green eyes twinkled, and a zing of heat flashed through her. Dammit. When would this insane attraction to him dissipate?

“I had a tip that I might find you here.”

“Really?” She didn’t try to hide the sarcasm. It would mask the fear that was curdling in her stomach. Just who the hell had told O’Farrell about this? Chase

Really. You seem to be having a run of bad luck, Littleton.” He walked into the dingy hotel room. His long, easy strides reminded her of a lion pacing a cage. O’Farrell was a big hungry predator looking for someone to eat. “First there was that shoot out in the Edidetion Sector.”

“I was cleared. You know that because you did the investigation.”

He nodded as he prowled the room, not touching anything but looking for clues. It pissed her off. It didn’t matter that she normally did the same thing. She felt invaded.

He glanced back over his shoulder and offered her a smile with those trademark dimples. “Then there was that woman you brought in who turned out to be the wrong collar.”

Exasperation had her barely containing her growl. “Twin. A twin. How was I to know?”

He nodded and went back to his inspection. “Then there was that incident with the agent.”

The anger that had been rolling beneath the surfaced threatened to explode. She took a few deep breaths then said, from behind clenched teeth, “Holy hades. Vicentes is a pain in the ass. And that was my collar, not his.”

He slanted her a look out of the corner of his eye, then continued to look at the contents of Totter’s suitcase. She hadn’t touched anything when she entered. She hadn’t had the time. Just long enough to find Totter and wonder who in hades had a hard-on for her. Nerves turned into outright panic. Someone had to be setting her up, but she couldn’t figure out why.

“Vicentes is a pal of mine.” The Irish lilt in O’Farrell’s voice brought her out of her thoughts. “And he said that you fucked that one up yourself.”

She had, but she refused to admit it. Confessing she’d been wrong would make her look weak. And that was one thing she didn’t want to do to in front of O’Farrell. She studied her nemesis as he continued his search. Tall, probably about six foot, O’Farrell was known for his way with women. His reputation for bagging just about every available gorgeous agent was legendary. With those mischievous green eyes and that dark red hair, he was hard to resist. Add in his athletic build and toe tingling smile, and he was delicious with a capital “D”. It was said he could charm a nun into bed. And, knowing him, he had done that once or twice. She apparently was the only woman he hadn’t tried to seduce. Each time they’d met over the last few years, they’d been at each other’s throats.

“So, you just happen to be in the area, and decided to pop in and see how I was doing on my job?”

He didn’t turn around. “No. I told you. Someone tipped me off.”

She shook her head as she sorted through what she knew about Totter and who was after him. “Someone called and said you would find Totter dead?”

“No.” He sighed, a sound filled with resignation and irritation, and turned to face her. “They called and said that you would be found with the body and the weapon.”

“What?” she said, but she could barely hear the word over the roaring in her ears. What the in holy hades was happening?

“Littleton?” He waited until she looked up at him. Concern and empathy filled his gaze and fear lanced through her. If O’Farrell was worried and showing any kind of empathy, it was really, really bad.

“Spit it out,” she said.

He sighed again. “They said you killed him for a price.”

Dylan almost rushed forward when all the color drained out of Littleton’s face. She’d probably smack him upside the head or hit him in the bollocks for trying to help. The woman was prickly, that was for sure, but he should have never blurted it out that way.

“What do you mean?” Her voice was hoarse.

Damn. He didn’t like this. As much as he would like to get Littleton out of the retrieval business, Dylan didn’t want her going to jail. She was a hothead, a pain the ass, packed into a tight, athletic little body. She didn’t belong in the business any more that he belonged at a tea party.

“I had a call. Told me I would find you here. Dead collar, you killed him.”

She eyed him, then looked down at Totter. “He’s been gone for two days at least.”

Dylan was thinking the same thing. She might have a temper that got her into trouble from time to time, but Del wasn’t stupid. And hanging out with a dead body for two days wasn’t just gross, it was stupid.

So, someone was setting her up. Someone who wanted her gone for a long time and knew of their cantankerous relationship had called him to set her up. Damn, he hated complications.

“What did you say?” she asked.

He shook his head. “I didn’t say anything.”

She eyed him skeptically but kept quiet.

“Someone’s setting you up.”

She snorted. “Tell me something I don’t know, O’Farrell.”

Sarcasm dripped from her voice but she started to pace the room, carefully avoiding touching any evidence. Her nervous energy, something he was used to, had an edge of panic to it. Panicked agents tended to do stupid things.

“I’ve got to wonder just what in hades you did to get yourself in this mess, girlie.”

Her eyes narrowed, and she sneered as she settled her hands on her hips. They were rather shapely hips for a woman who was all lean muscle. Of course, her hands rested just above a Mag Six Spectrometer Weapon hanging from her belt.

“Girlie? Listen, O’Farrell, I know you’re used to women who cream themselves over that Irish accent of yours, but I’m not like them.”

“You can say that again.” His gaze took in the short mess of hair, the smudge of dirt on her face, and the wrinkled camouflage outfit. Heat zinged through him, forcing his pulse to accelerate and sweat to gather beneath his psuedoleather gloves. Dylan ignored it and the way his cock twitched.

“I like my woman to dress like … a woman.”

Her face flushed, with embarrassment or anger, he’d guess the latter. “Well, thank God for that.” She looked down at the body again. “What the fuck am I going to do?”

“First thing, I’m calling this in now. I don’t like being used.” And, dammit, the person who called knew that he would rush here and confront her. He hadn’t believed it, not for a minute, but he’d hauled ass out of a departmental meeting to get here. If he were a smart man, he would worry about his reaction, but he didn’t have time for that now. “They know we have a history.”

Her head whipped around. “A history?” The edge in her voice had turned lethal, and damn if it didn’t sink under his skin. He was getting horny over a mean woman who was definitely not his type. That was not a good thing.

“You know what I mean, Del. We’ve gone head to head a few times, quite a few times in the last several months. Think. Someone thought for sure I would jump to the conclusion that you killed him.”

She crossed her arms beneath her breasts. She’d left a few buttons loose at the top of her shirt and the motion caused a bit more flesh to appear. Dylan knew he should ignore it, but each time she moved, a little more cleavage showed. For being a hard-assed bounty hunter, Del Littleton had skin that begged to be caressed. Ivory, with just a hint of honey, unmarred by even a freckle. He’d often wondered what it would be like to slip his hand inside her shirt, glide his fingers over her soft breasts, finger her nipples…

He shifted his weight from foot to foot, trying to ease the pressure in his groin.

“I don’t like it.”

“Join the bloody crowd.” He pulled out his telecommuter and flipped it on. “I’ll just get a hold of Vicentes.”

“Vicentes.” She spat out the name as if she were naming the devil. “What in hades do you want with him?”

“He’s going to cover our asses, that’s what. I told you he’s a friend of mine.”

She shook her head. “Like that’s going to make him look good to me.”

He rolled his eyes while he keyed in Vicentes’ number. He refused to let her get a rise out of him. He picked up on the first ring.

“Vicentes, and this better be good, Dylan.”

Dylan chuckled, remembering that Vicentes had said he was busy tonight. “Sorry to interrupt your evening, but I’ve got a situation.”

“Please, oh, please don’t tell me it has to do with Littleton. Last time I talked to you, you were following that tip. I want nothing to do with that she-cat.”

“Sorry to burst your bubble. She’s here, with a dead body.”

Vicentes grunted. “Gracias. Now, arrest the bitch and leave me alone.”

“She was set up.”

There was a pause, and then the sound of sheets rustling and a throaty, feminine voice in the background. “Work, amor.” More sheets shuffling, the woman’s voice, and then Vicentes came back on the line. “Tell me.”

He brought Vicentes up to date, and then waited for his reaction. “You sure this isn’t because you’re hot for the woman?”

“What?” His voice came out in a surprised shout. Del glanced at him, one eyebrow raised in question. He shook his head and turned his back. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“Hey, I call it like I see it, compadre, and that woman’s been under your skin for months.”

“Her collar has been dead for two days. If she was stupid, and she isn’t, she might stick around, but I just don’t see someone who’s paid to kill hanging out and waiting for the authorities to arrest them.”

“Okay, I agree with you there. What do you want from me?”

“I want to get Del back on Earth, away from this mess. The sooner I can do that, the sooner she can help us start sorting out why someone would set her up. Send up Francis to take care of the investigation, but don’t tell him about my involvement or Del’s.”

After a few more minutes of discussion he keyed off his telecommuter and turned to face Del. “So, let’s get going.”

As he walked to the door, he noticed that he didn’t hear her following. He looked over his shoulder. From the stubborn look on her face, he knew he was in for a fight he didn’t have time for. They could be discovered at any moment and the woman was going to fight him.

“Just where in hades are we going?”

Damned woman was going to get them both killed. “I have to get you out of here before anyone discovers us.”

“And, this wouldn’t be your way of getting me to get on your ship, into your custody, without a fight?”

Irritation crawled along his skin. He wasn’t used to people questioning his motives or his authority. Especially some irritating pain in the ass like her. “Listen, Del, if I really thought you did it, you’d have your face on that floor, your wrists in cuffs, and that damn smirk off your face. As it is, I may do it, just to make myself happy. Now, either you listen to me, take my advice, or I deliver you hogtied to the Interplanetary Authority. Take your pick. I’m not in the mood to fuck with you tonight.”

For a moment, she said nothing. She watched him with those calculating eyes, and he knew that she wasn’t going to make it any easier. She drew in a deep breath and opened her mouth to argue with him. They didn’t have time so he did the one thing he could think of to shut her the hell up.

He drew his stun gun and shot her.

End of Excerpt

For Love or Honor

by Melissa Schroeder

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