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Undercover Attraction (The O'Malleys #5)
Author: Katee Robert

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


It doesn’t matter if it’s my first book or my twenty-eighth—the process is never the same, and some are more difficult than others. Thank you to God for making every story new and fresh and an adventure.

Endless thanks to Leah Hultenschmidt for helping to make this book shine. Aiden was a challenge to get out of his shell, and your input was invaluable. Thank you to the rest of the team at Forever for your endless support. The O’Malleys series wouldn’t be half so successful without all you do behind the scenes.

Thank you to Danielle Barclay of Barclay Publicity for your support for all things promotional. I’d be lost without you.

A massive hug and thank-you to my readers. This series wouldn’t be on the map if it wasn’t for you, and getting to share Aiden’s story has been so much fun. I hope he was worth the wait!

Last, but never least, thank you and endless love to Tim and the rest of the family. They say it takes a village to raise a kid, and it takes at least that many people to make sure life doesn’t fall apart while I’m drafting a book with a rowdy toddler.

 

 

CHAPTER ONE


Something’s coming.

Charlie Moreaux, formerly Charlotte Finch, tucked a strand of long white-blond hair behind her ear, narrowing her eyes. This time of night, the party should have been in full swing, everyone a little too drunk, a little too loud. Instead, people kept to their tables and talked in low voices. It created a dull roar within the faded wood-paneled walls of the bar, but nothing close to what it would have been on any other weekend night. She picked her way around the full tables, ignoring the handful of regulars who tried to catch her eye.

Jacques nodded at her. The old man had taken a liking to her from the first time she’d wandered in here, scraping rock bottom and halfway down the road to drinking herself to death. He was the one who’d pulled her back into the land of the living, who’d inadvertently put her on the path to retribution.

Charlie leaned against the bar. “Weird mood tonight.”

“It’s a full moon.”

No one tracked full moons like ER nurses and bartenders.

Jacques poured two healthy shots of whiskey and set one on the faded wood of the bar in front of her. “You’re as edgy as they are.”

“Yeah, I know. No specific reason.” She downed the whiskey, but the warmth curling through her stomach did nothing to battle her nerves. Intuition or superstition, she couldn’t shake the feeling of fate hurtling down the tracks, pointed directly at her.

Her first clue that something had gone wrong was a hush falling in a wave through the room. Charlie didn’t spin around, despite the feeling of eyes on her. Her attention fell to Jacques, as still as a rabbit facing down a wolf. He spoke low, but the words reached her easily in the new quiet of the bar. “You know I love you, girl, but you’re gonna have to take this one outside.”

I was right. Trouble’s come, and it’s here for me.

She turned slowly, still fighting against the instinct to spin, and propped her elbows on the bar as if she hadn’t noticed the change in the room. Trouble stood in the doorway, his broad shoulders filling the frame. The neon lights of the bar signs didn’t quite reach his face, though they highlighted his square jaw. She didn’t have to see his eyes to know he was looking at her.

She could feel it. And the danger was just as intense as it had been a year ago when he’d first come to find her.

Aiden O’Malley.

“I’ll take care of it.” Charlie put enough authority into her voice that Jacques wouldn’t question her. This was her problem, and she wasn’t about to bring the old bartender into it. She shrugged a little, testing the weight of her holster beneath her leather jacket.

She pushed away from the bar, stalking toward Aiden. In her six-inch heels, she was almost his height, but even the fancy suit didn’t hide the fact that he was cut. It wasn’t just the size of his shoulders. It was in the way his thigh muscles pressed against his slacks when he shifted. Utterly cold and contained, he watched her watch him.

Standing across from him made her feel . . . vulnerable. She didn’t like that. She didn’t like that shit one bit. “Outside,” she snapped.

He took a step back and then another, allowing her to lead him outside and down the street.

Aiden kept his hands at his sides and away from any weapon he had on him. It was designed to make her feel at ease, but it only ramped up her tension. The man had come here for her. Pretending that he wasn’t dangerous just meant he wanted her to underestimate him.

Fat chance of that happening.

Charlie wrapped her arms around herself, sliding her fingers along the butt of her 9mm. The feeling of metal warmed by her body comforted her. She’d defended herself before against worse than Aiden and his bodyguard. She could do it again if she had to. “Why are you here?” Why now? Why wait an entire year to come back around?

“I said I’d be back for you. And now it’s time. We’re going to take down Romanov—together.”

The old anger that she’d never quite escaped rose, threatening to drown her. She made herself let go of her gun and drop her arms to make sure she didn’t do something regrettable, like shoot this damn idiot who’d decided to walk into her life to throw her past in her face. “Maybe I’ve gotten over it and moved on with my life.”

She hadn’t. She didn’t think she’d ever be able to move past what Dmitri Romanov had done. She’d spent the last twelve months poking at the few people on the force who’d actually still talk to her, but no one could—or would—answer her questions on why it was taking so long to build a case against the Russian crime lord who ruled the city.

He’d never see trial. Not for what he’d done to others, and sure as hell not for what he’d done to her.

Four years. An eternity and no time at all. Cops had long memories, and there wasn’t a single one in the NYPD who thought she was innocent. How could they when the evidence was so damning?

So, no, she hadn’t gotten over it.

Aiden’s green eyes flicked over her face, taking in every response, though she’d long ago trained herself not to give anything away. “I don’t believe it.”

“I could care less what you believe.” There were several reasons the head of one of Boston’s Irish organized-crime families would be in a shitty little bar in New York seeking her out, and none of them were good for her. Charlie turned to him, taking in the slight tension in his shoulders that hadn’t been there when he’d first shown up. Don’t like being told no, do you?

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