Rise of Hope Excerpt

Copyright © KAILY HART, 2012

This was the life.

Or it would be if this kind of crap was anything he cared about.

Seth eased back in the seat, folded his hands over his stomach and drew in a deep breath. Even extended as far as they could go, his feet still didn’t touch anything. Not the seat in front of him, not any of the luggage that had been carefully stowed, nothing. He wondered how long it’d been since Noah had flown commercial, if he ever had. The thought obliterated the last, lingering shred of guilt Seth may have had about making the guy pay through the nose for his services this time.

He might be heading out in Noah’s luxury jet, but he’d be returning under completely different circumstances. Yeah. He should probably make the most of it.

He still had the weird feeling in his gut—a dull, relentless ache he hadn’t been able to shake in the six weeks since he’d signed up for this assignment. It wasn’t adrenaline. He was used to that, welcomed the rush, used it to his advantage to keep him on edge, focused. And it wasn’t fear, even though he wasn’t dumb enough or arrogant enough to believe he could do this kind of work forever and remain unscathed. So far he’d been lucky. He hadn’t eaten a bullet or anything else, at least none that had really counted. Like any of the jobs he took on, he might not come out on the other side in one piece. If at all. It just went with the territory.

He glanced back down at the grainy picture he’d been studying. It was taken from a great distance, the subject standing at a window in half shadow. The shot was the best one they’d been able to get, yet the quality was so poor to be almost useless. It didn’t much matter. He had her description memorized, or as much of one as they had.

He sighed. Maybe he was getting too old for this shit, because the closer they got to their destination, the worse the sensation got. And the more it pissed him off. He hoped like hell it’d be gone when this was all over.

Seth glanced around the cabin. They’d been quiet since the jet had taken off—all of them—and that was fine with him; in fact, he preferred it that way.

Micah was engrossed in what looked like some kind of science textbook. Christ, who the fuck read something like that for fun? And the guy never seemed to be still. A nervous energy radiated from him and even now, he was drumming his fingers against his thigh. It made Seth uneasy, plain and simple.

Christian hadn’t said a word to anyone. Seth didn’t think he’d ever gotten a good look at him. He always seemed to hug the shadows and even now was hunkered down in the corner of the cabin, his personal lighting switched off. He’d been sitting in the same position since takeoff and looked as if he might have been napping, but Seth knew better. He was as alert as Seth was himself.

Both the other men were highly trained, lethal if they needed to be, experts who came to the table with their own “special skills.” He’d worked with them before doing Noah’s “master plan” bullshit, whatever that was. But who really cared anyway? Noah had enough money to fund whatever the hell he wanted, to chase down whatever demons he might have, to satisfy whatever bug he had up his ass.

Except this job was different.

Seth glanced back at the photograph, frowned when he realized he’d crushed it in his hand. They’d never done anything like this before. He’d never done anything like this before. Maybe that was the rub. He was an expert strategist, skilled marksman, and not many could best him in hand-to-hand. His time on the streets and the military had seen to that. But this? Yeah, this time the job wouldn’t only be intelligence gathering, they wouldn’t just be acquiring some thing. And it wasn’t exactly covert.

Micah looked up as if he sensed Seth’s thoughts, his pale eyes eerie in the dim light. Even after everything Seth had experienced, done, all that he’d seen, those eyes still put him on edge.

“You ready for this?” Seth asked, his voice harsher than he’d intended.

Micah’s mouth kicked up at one side. “I was born ready.”

Seth clenched his jaw. God, the whole thing depended on this fucking goofball. They all had an integral part, but Seth was putting his life in this guy’s hands. Literally. It didn’t sit well with him. At all.

“What about you?” Seth threw at Christian, the glitter between the other man’s lowered lids barely visible.

“Yeah,” he grated. “I know what we need to do.”

Seth swallowed what he’d been about to say as the flight attendant leaned down to place a glass of water on his console, brushing against his arm. He stilled, gritted his teeth and fought not to recoil at the contact.


It wasn’t something he was used to, wasn’t anything he sought out and wasn’t something he often permitted. Except during sex. And only what was necessary.

He let out the breath that had stalled in his chest and shifted in the seat when she straightened. The lust had been riding him hard lately and it was only getting worse, so much worse. He tried to hold out for as long as he could until the demands of his body overrode his overpowering need for solitude, for privacy. His common sense.

He didn’t do dumb, yet last night more than qualified. He’d hooked up with some woman in a bar and it had all gone down in the front seat of her car. In a fucking parking lot. Christ. He’d left himself wide openvulnerable—but he hadn’t had the patience to drive somewhere else. Or to exchange the pleasantries that went along with it.

He’d held himself back with her, like he always did during sex, always conscious of his size, his incredible strength, but it’d been a near thing. He’d left it too damn long that time.

Ego demanded he always gave more than he took but guilt probably factored in there somewhere too. And what do you know? He’d felt like an asshole afterward. It wasn’t the first time. It wouldn’t be the last either. The real problem? It was pretty familiar territory.

“Would you gentlemen care for anything else before we prepare for landing?”

Seth gritted his teeth, shook his head, registered the others responding to the quiet, soft voice.

Yeah. Right.

God, if only she knew…he wasn’t gentle, never would be. Any gentle had been ripped out of him a long time ago. And he wasn’t a man either. Not exactly.

None of them were.