Bullets and Bluebonnets Excerpt

Prologue

Jared Westin

 

Sitting in my office at Titan Headquarters, I held my sleeping infant daughter in one arm while contemplating my options. The paper in front of me would either be the exact contact I needed at this moment, or it would get me a gun to the head … again.

Staring at the paper, my mind went back to years ago …

The hotel room wasn’t a shithole, but it wasn’t a luxury suite, either. Oh well, shit, shower, and sleep.

I passed out to get some shut eye, completely wiped the fuck out from my long day of surveillance, when I felt cold metal hit my cheek.

“Don’t move. Don’t speak,” a man’s voice whispered in the dark of night. “I know who you are, Jared Westin.”

“Is that so? Why don’t you let me know what name to put on your death certificate when we finish here?”

“Only one name you need to know, and remember to stay away from.” He paused to make sure my eyes met his. “Billie Jean Beasely is off limits to you and to Titan.”

Damn women. I always seemed to find myself in trouble when it came to a woman, and Billie Jean and all her talents landed me in some without even having met her.

“How do you know about Ms. Beasely?” I asked to keep him talking as I moved my side piece from under the pillow, my hand in place and ready to pull the trigger.

“I’m her godfather.”

I wanted to laugh. Actually, I did laugh. I laughed, and I laughed hard and loud as I moved the gun to where his femoral artery ran through his thigh.

“Seems we’ve found ourselves at a stand-off, Godfather.”

“I didn’t come here to kill you, but to give you the one warning you’ll ever get, Westin. You go near Billie Jean in any capacity, I’ll string you up by the nuts and let all the blood drain from your body one drop at a time from a thousand cuts that I personally inflict, along with her SEAL father and four brothers. As you can see, I can get to you when necessary.”

As far as threats went, his was sort of theatrical. The look on his face, though, told me he would absolutely follow through on it. The man wouldn’t back down.

My eyes adjusted to the darkness enough to make out some of his features. Blond buzzed hair. Tall, lean frame. Dark eyes. Or perhaps they just seemed dark because he was halfway concealed in shadows.

Well, if this wasn’t a situation. Two elite badasses both with their guns aimed at each other with a mentality to shoot to kill.

In my whole career, this was the only time I could say I wasn’t sure if either of us would come out on top.

I had definitely met a man to respect that night in the form of a visit from Commander Jaxon Wall. It had been an interesting Mexican standoff for almost twenty minutes that had led to a reluctant truce where we had sat across from each other and had a little chat.

A chat I would come to regret.

I should have shot the asshole and let him bleed out because the little information he had given me kept me from recruiting Beasely.

Hell, could I even call our little chat informative? It was more of a full verbal assault, warning me away from the talented, extraordinary sniper who was his goddaughter.

Before that night, there weren’t many men I could say were walk on ready to join Titan if I invited them to. After having some info dug up on him, I now knew Beasely’s guardian was one of the few who could.

Jaxon Wall was a former Navy SEAL who had, for all intents and purposes, gone off the grid. Make no mistake, the man wasn’t dead. I knew that for a fact after he had not so nicely warned me away from recruiting his goddaughter. That meant there was only one reason for Wall to be as untraceable as Titan if you didn’t have a computer guru hacker named Parker Black. The man was working some sort of black ops gig, probably much like Titan.

That was the thing Black couldn’t dig up—who exactly Wall worked for.

Even with all our government connections, after Wall’s time in the military, the man was good as ghost. Anyone that squeaky clean had to be working for Uncle Sam in some capacity, meaning I didn’t have a shot in hell at recruiting Wall or his goddaughter.

Hell, if he was as good as what I thought he might be, whatever five star general or stuck up alphabet suit that managed him would more than likely never let him go. And I was pretty fucking sure he had some serious skills if he could sneak up on me.

The biggest thing that had made an impression on me from that night had been the man’s tenacity to protect his goddaughter. He had made it very clear that he didn’t doubt Beasely’s abilities, but if she was going to work for any sort of operation like Titan’s, it would be his.

It was hard not to respect a man who would go out of his way to protect his family. That was the sort of man you wanted at your back in bad places, not with a gun to your head in a hotel room.

If I hadn’t learned later that he was one of the good guys, I would have really fucking hated Wall.

The papers on my desk were going to be the reason Jaxon Wall would wish he had killed me when he had the chance. I just knew it. However, I couldn’t ignore my situation and what Billie Jean could do for all of us.

The request had come from the highest-ranking officer of the New York Police Department. Over the years of running Titan, we had never come across a request from a police department. And this wasn’t just any police department; this was the fucking NYPD, the largest municipal force in the United States. With close to fifty thousand employees, their own criminal intelligence and counter terrorism departments, they were a force to be reckoned with.

Which was probably why there was a sniper that had taken out all the NYPD sharp shooters, ten SWAT officers, and at least three high-ranking officers, including the police chief. The entire organization was scrambling to protect their high-value targets.

With all their experienced sharp shooters out of commission, they were in desperate need of snipers who knew what the fuck they were doing. The NYPD was dealing with a highly intelligent, expertly skilled assassin. Just the sort of thing myself and the members of Titan lived for.

There was a problem, though.

All my guys qualified for this mission were tied up on other cases. Fuck, I hated not being able to put my boys’ boots on the ground in the Big Apple to take care of this. As far as I was concerned, law enforcement was just an extended branch of brotherhood to the military. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that every single one of Titan or Delta’s men would disagree with that assessment. So, to know that some renegade sniper was taking out mission-critical NYPD personnel and I couldn’t put my own experts on the case burned my ass.

It was a good thing I knew just the person for the job.

Billie Jean Beasely.

She was an expert sniper who worked for the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team. She was also under-appreciated and often disregarded because she carried her giant brass balls on her chest instead of dangling between her legs. It was utter bullshit.

I had come across her after monitoring a countrywide manhunt for a man who had kidnapped a sixteen-year-old girl after murdering her entire family in 2013. Although no one had called Titan, we had all kept our eyes glued to the information coming in through our intelligence about the situation in case our help had been needed. HRT and other law enforcement agencies had rescued the girl without our help because Billie Jean Beasely had put a bullet through the man’s forehead from outside the house he had been hiding in.

That teenager was alive today because Beasely had climbed a tree while the rest of her team had tried to maneuver around the house for a clear shot. She had only been balanced on her barely adequate branch for about fifteen minutes when she had caught sight of the target holding a hunting knife poised high in the air above him through a one-foot by two-foot window in a back bathroom. Before he could bring that knife down, she had taken the shot.

The media had been hailed it a team effort by the entire FBI HRT. And I halfway believed it until I heard mumblings through our contacts about a female sniper who hailed from Texas, held numerous awards for marksmanship, but had a seriously bad attitude. Needless to say, it had piqued my interest.

She was the one person who could easily dissect the mentality of a sharp shooter of the caliber we were looking at in NY. She also would have the skillset the level of any member of Titan to handle this request for us.

It was a win-win for all parties.

Except for Jaxon Wall.

I could only guess Wall didn’t want his goddaughter anywhere near Titan for two reasons. One, he wanted to keep her out of black ops altogether; hence, why he was okay with her working for the FBI. Or two, he wanted Beasely on his team if she ever left the FBI. Either way, he sure as shit wasn’t letting her within reach of me.

Which was why the paper in front of me with his contact information had me hesitating. I had given my word that I would let his goddaughter be. I had kept her off Titan’s radar in exchange for a marker from Wall for a later date.

Only, that date was now, and the favor went against what the man originally asked of me.

Respect was earned. The man had paid his dues, served his country. This was bigger than me, him, or any one individual, though. I could only hope he would see reason and give me the pass I was requesting.

Looking down at my sweet, little Vivi, making sure she was still sound asleep, I watched as my daughter snoozed on as I pulled a burner phone out of my desk drawer and dialed Jaxon’s contact number.

It rang twice, and then I was treated to the curt greeting from the former SEAL. “Wall.”

Not wasting time for pleasantries, I jumped right in. “Wall, it’s Westin. We need to talk.”

Silence ensued from the other end. I couldn’t help holding my breath as I waited for an answer.

“What do you need, Westin?” The question was short, sweet, and to the point. Just how I liked them.

“There’s a top priority mission that my organization can’t take on due to being short-manned. The only person I can think of that’s just as good as my guys is your girl.”

“I told you to keep Billie Jean out of your bullshit, Westin.”

“It’s not my bullshit, Wall. There’s a sniper taking out high-value targets in the NYPD at a genocidal rate. Unless you have someone who’s just as good or better than her, then you need to pull your head out of your ass and help me talk to the FBI powers that be to send her in.”

“How do I know you’re not exaggerating the situation just to find a way to get your hands on my girl?”

Rolling my eyes, I grumbled, “There’s no way in hell you don’t know about what’s been going down in New York. Hell, every major news channel in the US covered the homicide of NYPD’s Police Chief Stanton yesterday. If that’s not good enough for you, contact whatever crap system you call an intelligence service and ask them about the double-digit number of NYPD officers who have been KIA in the past couple of weeks.”

There was another short pause of silence before Wall asked, “Why do you think my intelligence is crap?”

“Because you don’t have my intelligence guy. Therefore, they’re crap.”

Wall snorted a laugh through the line but sobered quickly. “I need time before I give you an answer.”

Time was a no go.

“You have two hours before I contact her myself. I’d really hate to step on your toes like this, Wall, but I’m not willing to put any more officers’ lives on the line. I back the blue one hundred fucking percent. Ten good men down is ten too many, so get your knickers out of their twist and call her before I do.”

“Listen, Westin, I support any man or woman who wears a uniform—military, police, firefighter, paramedic. Hell, I’d even step up for my fucking mail man. But when it comes to Billie Jean, she’ll always be my first priority. You’re going to give me more than two hours. I need to sort through the info on this shit and do what I need to do. You’re not going to contact my goddaughter, because I’m still more than willing to string you up by your balls. From here on out, I’ve got this situation covered.” With that, Wall hung up on me.

Calling him had been a gamble. It was a damn good thing I was confident enough to know he would do the right thing. It wasn’t money I was gambling with here; it was lives.

There was no higher price that could be paid.