Tied Up In Steele

by Annabella Stone

Tied up in Steele - Annabella Stone - Team Panther
Part of the Delta Force - Team Panther series:
Editions:Kindle: $ 3.99
ISBN: B07C6SFQHB
Pages: 435

Steele Givens doesn’t do relationships and he knows better than to fall for a man he rescued during a CIA Operation; but then he’s never been a ‘follow the rules’ kinda man. He always swore he’d never drag someone he cared about into a world of danger. But what do you do, when danger stalks him anyway?

Kalon Roberts wanted to move on. He’s done with danger and Black Ops Operators. But when someone is determined to use him to gain his father's cooperation, the man who comes to save him, is the one who broke his heart.

They should have never met. They should never have been in each other's orbits. But now that they are, Steele will take out everything and everyone in his way to make sure that Kalon makes it out alive.

Tied Up In Steele is part of the Delta Force - Team Panther Series. While it can be read as a standalone... to ensure maximum enjoyment, it is best read after Jonah's Compass.

Excerpt:

November 2014 Chicago IL.

FUBAR, Steele thought, fucked-up beyond all recognition… this operation was going to shit faster than worn treads on a bald fucking tire. More of his CIA covert teammates were positioned ahead of him in a small sheltered bus stop in front of the Prudential Plaza building. They felt it too; he heard it in the voices coming through his earpiece, adrenaline surged through his body demanding he go into fight-or-flight mode… he tramped it down enough to wait.

All over the city SWAT teams were scrambling to get in place. Samuel Roberts was holed up inside The Prudential Plaza. The Central Intelligence Agency, along with every other alphabet agency in the United States wanted him.

Roberts was linked to organized crime and reported to not only be an accountant for the local mob, but he was also connected to an International Crime Syndicate with ties to Al-Qaeda.

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Steele checked in with his team again. The senior agent in charge of the CIA Taskforce… Aaron Ortiz had said he didn’t want any of the locals using their own radios because there was too much chance of compromising the operation. Ortiz could kiss his ass. Steele had his Information Expert monitoring chatter coming across various radios and online. As soon as there was a confirmed sighting his team was moving. This asshole could not be allowed to escape. The lives of countless American military forces depended on Steele getting the information Roberts had stored in his traitorous mind.

“What the hell is happening?” Ortiz demanded over the radio. “Someone give me a status report.”

What kind of fucking asshole is this idiot? Steele thought, he gave the fucking order for radio silence and he is the one breaking it just because his fucking ego can’t stand not being in the fucking know. 

Steele ignored the yelling of the Taskforce boss in his earpiece and instead focused his scope on the windows across the street. A window covering twitched. Steele focused in on the tiny movement. “Bingo! There you are asshole.” He muttered to himself. Before clicking his earpiece to talk to his team on a completely different channel.

“Possible sighting… Prudential Plaza two; fifty-first floor. Corner window," Steele said, “Murphy can you confirm?”

“Confirmed Boss.”

“I want two in the underground network of pedestrian walkways. Roberts is not to be allowed to access those walkways or we will lose him if he makes it to either the subway or to Metra Randolph Street Station.” Steele instructed.

“On it,” Murphy responded in his ear.

That’s when he saw him.

A wave of dizziness hit him like a bottle of whiskey upside the head. He blinked. Did a double take. “What the fuck?” he muttered clear of the mike. He squinted hard into the sun. Wondered if he was dreaming. “No fucking way.”

His gaze swung from the man who had just exited the Prudential Plaza building doors to the big brawny equally muscular man, who moved with the stealth of a cat as he shoved open the BMW’s driver’s side door and stepped out into the simmering heat.

Matt fucking Garrett had just cleared the building… and double fuck that was Major James Blackwell he was meeting. Fucking Matt better not be involved in this shit-show or Steele was going to kick his fucking ass from here to wherever the hell he called home these days.

Steele pushed down the surge of guilt that hit him in the chest. Matt was once one of his best friends…his Delta Force – Team Panther brother… and when Matt needed him most he let him down. Steele refused to think of that day on a rescue Helo when Jonah had just outed himself and Matt as a couple. The team had just rescued Matt from insurgents in a cave in the Hindu Kush. Jonah had lost it when they found Matt and had slipped up and called him ‘Baby’ in front of two Majors and two Delta Force Units.

Steele still cursed himself for saying nothing . . . Fucking nothing… Nope, not going there right now. He needed his concentration on this mission. Later he could pick at the scab of the unhealed wound that was not only guilt for saying nothing, but for not also putting up his hand and saying, “hey assholes! I swing both ways are you going to kick me out too?”

“Everyone hold in place; we may have a problem,” Steele instructed into his mic. He kept his eyes trained on the two men across the street. He drew in a sharp inhale of breath when Matt raised his head and stared across the street, directly at Steele. Catching slight movement at Matt’s side. Steele watched as Matt sent a message in the hand signals they had used when they both served together.

“I left you a present upstairs.” Steele translated the words Matt signed to him. That fucker… he didn’t? Did he? With one last look across to where Steele was hidden both Matt and Blackwell got into the car and drove off down North Michigan Ave.

“We’re a go people,” Steele instructed his team. “minimal force required the suspect is possibly contained.”

“What the fuck boss?”

“Let’s just say someone owed me a favor. Now move your ass.” Steele retorted back to the chorus of queries in his ear.

 

Later that evening Steele stood in an observation room in an unnamed federal building in Chicago. A pane of thick two-way glass separated him from the man sitting handcuffed to the desk. He watched as an agent opened the door. It took everything in him not to storm out of the observation room and confront the asshole right then, but he held himself in check. There were procedures to follow and Steele’s boss would rip him a new one if he interrupted him in the middle of questioning his suspect. From the information Roberts was coughing up, Steele knew it wouldn’t be long before his team was called up to go bring in his accomplices. Pulling out his phone he sent a text alert to his team members. He saw an unread text and clicked it open.

Matt Garrett: You’re welcome… debt cleared. M.

Steele Givens: Thanks Matt, it was good to see you bro. Will be in touch.

It was good to see Matt back in action even if it wasn’t up close and personal. Steele shoved the thoughts that he missed his best friend to the back of his mind. He had a mission to plan and no time for maudlin memories or guilt that he hadn’t reached out to most of his teammates since he left the Army and joined the CIA. He should have fucking told Matt that he had been hiding a similar secret. Fuck

 

The two-hour drive north of Chicago’s suburbs gave Steele and his team time to go over their plan. He glanced around the cluttered back of their SUV at the other members of the team. “Everyone knows their position?”

“Yes Boss.” They chorused in response. Nodding to himself he drew in a self-satisfied breath. “Keep your eyes peeled everyone,” Steele said, glancing at the team one last time as he parked the SUV in an out of the way space about a mile from their target location. It had just turned midnight. “It’s go time people,” Steele confirmed as he got out of the vehicle.

They estimated about ten-to-fifteen men at this location not including the bigwigs. This was not their first raid by far… Steele and his team operated like a well-oiled machine, but somehow this operation felt different. Steele felt it in his blood. Something was coming— something big.

The team was getting into their positions as instructed. They were assuming ready positions after that asshole Roberts whom they had arrested yesterday had confirmed the big meeting that was planned for tonight at this location. Steele really hoped that meant most of the guards’ attention would be on what was happening inside rather than on the noises his team might make as they breached the doorway.

A burst of gunfire erupted in the darkness. “Report,” Steele ordered into his mic.

“We’ve got a runner headed your way boss.” Johan’s voice muttered.

“That’s not a runner dumbass that’s an escapee. There are two assholes chasing him boss.” Murphy’s muttered whisper came through in Steele’s earpiece.

“I see him.” Steele watched as the slight form came towards him at a stumbling run. The men following behind him were jogging and not making any real effort to catch him yet. Steele pressed himself back against the tree knowing that the rest of the team would carry out the plan as directed… allowing him to take care of this problem. That escapee could be a witness with a lot of information that they would need later.

The escapee crashed through the trees and past Steele’s position. Steele got the impression of an average sized man maybe five feet nine or ten with light colored hair. He was holding his hand to his side as he ran and only wearing one shoe which was throwing off his gait. “Determined little fucker,” Steele muttered as he took aim at the first of the man’s pursuers. His silenced 9mm handgun made a little puff noise as a hole appeared dead center in the man’s forehead, and he dropped to the ground.

The body dropping in front of him caused the second man to stumble, giving Steele the time to pounce on him digging his gun into the back of the man’s neck as he snapped flexicuffs on his wrists and ankles.

Steele was up on his feet in a millisecond and sprinting after the escaping man. He made no sound as he stepped over soft earth and vegetation… unlike the man in front of him. He could still hear the escapee crashing through the trees ahead even as he took off after him. Better if he could stash him somewhere safe so he could help his team with the raid. He moved in a zigzag pattern… the distance between him and the escapee shortening with each well-placed stride.

The man looked over his shoulder. Steele could see the fear in his eyes as they widened at the sight of Steele right on his heels. Launching himself forward Steele landed on the other man and brought him to the ground.

 

***

Kalon was a bundle of blown nerves and clenched teeth as he sat waiting in a barren room with just a desk and a chair. He supposed he should be grateful they didn’t handcuff him to the desk. He was exhausted. He had no idea how long he had been sitting here but it felt like forever.

Maybe that massive cop who had brought him in had forgotten about him. Jumping out of the chair, Kalon wandered around the room until he stood in front of the glass wall. Was there someone in there watching him? That’s what happened on TV? Right?

When the door to the room was suddenly opened, Kalon turned toward it. The tall man who had arrested him strode in. Kalon wasn’t sure if he had been arrested but it looked like he was about to find out.

His eyes widened when he took in how tall the man was. He had to be at least six feet four or five. Shit he had muscles on top of his muscles. The cuffs of his shirt were rolled up enough to catch a glimpse of the edge of a tattoo on his right arm. He took in the dark brown hair that looked like he had been running his fingers through it. Just long enough to catch a hold off when you… “Stop thinking that shit,” he told himself. You could be in deep shit and now is not the time to drool over the hot cop… no matter how sexy his navy-blue eyes are.

“My name is Agent Steele Givens. I need you to tell me everything you can about your father and everything you know about his work.”

His words brought Kalon out of his stupor.

“Wha — What?”

“Your father,” the Agent said gruffly, “tell me everything about him… who he works with, who he socializes with… everything.”

Kalon wasn’t quite sure what the agent would do if he laughed hysterically at the question. Did he not know that it was because of his father he had been at that farmhouse where they had found him? Did he not know that his father had sold him to those men to repay a debt? If he did was the agent really so far removed from his compassion for another human being that he didn’t care? Well fuck him and the horse he rode in on.

“Why should I tell you anything?”

“Because if you do I can help you. If you don’t tell me anything, then you are on your own.”

“Am I being arrested?”

“Should you be?” the agent asked as he leaned against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest.

Could he look more intimidating? Kalon thought. What a fucking dick… did he not see the bruises he had? Or remember the fact that he had put bruises on top of those bruises, when he slammed him into the forest floor as he ran him down during his attempt at escape from the assholes who had held him captive? For how long he didn’t remember, as the days all ran together in a blur of fear and pain.  Kalon thought. He chewed on his bottom lip as he turned it over in his mind. Can I really trust this dude? I don’t know him from the homeless man on the street… shit… what should I do?

“Hey Mr. Roberts.” The agent said snapping his fingers in front of Kalon’s face.

Damn it, he had to have zoned out. “Yes Agent?”

“Tell me about your father,” the agent pressed again, “who did he work for?”

“He is an accountant, he has lots of clients. I rarely if ever went to his office, and they never came to the house. I couldn’t tell you many of them… the only one I know for sure is the man whose place you found me at… Hugh Bracaloni.”

“Why were you there?”

Kalon dragged a shaky breath into his lungs and stared past the agent’s shoulder at the mirrored wall behind him. He could see his forehead was furrowed and watched himself as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Squeezing his eyes closed he took another deep breath before he said the words he still didn’t want to believe, never mind give voice to.

“He…” pausing to drag in another breath and letting it out slowly as he refused to let this man see him cry. “He sold me to Bracaloni.” He whispered so low that at first, he wasn’t sure if the other man had heard him.

“What?”

Kalon knew then that the other man had heard him… he saw the flinch before the other man could stop himself and the disgust in his eyes.

“What did you say Kalon?”

Could you die of embarrassment? Kalon wondered internally. He completely zoned out of the conversation again and lost himself in the horror of the past couple of weeks. He’d also missed that the agent had called him by his first name rather than by Mr. Roberts as he had all along. The sound of a door opening dragged him back to the present.

“Here drink this.” The agent said handing him a can of cola. “The sugar will help… I’d offer you coffee, but you really don’t want to drink the stuff that passes for coffee in this place.”

Kalon was stunned at what the change in tone had done to his voice. The harsh undertone was gone and replacing it was the sexiest growling purr that Kalon had ever heard. Even after all the shit he had been through, the other man’s voice still made his dick stand up and take notice. And now he was blushing… he hoped that the agent didn’t notice or that he would assume that it was because he was embarrassed that he had broken down in tears.

“Can you tell me what happened?” The agent asked in a gentler tone as he sat down across from Kalon.

Kalon steadied himself and even though he didn’t want to tell anyone, never mind this huge stunning man, of the things that he knew would cause him nightmares for years to come.  If he wanted his asshole sperm donor to pay for what he did, then he had to put his own fears aside and lay everything out.

“A couple of weeks ago my dad called me and asked me to come into the office. He had some I.T. stuff he wanted me to work on. I had set up all the original firewalls and stuff for his firm.” Kalon raised his eyes from the table and looked the agent straight in the eye. “That’s when I found out what he was doing and it’s when I found he was laundering money for the fucking mob.”

“What happened then? Did you set up more firewalls?”

“Yes, but I also wrote a worm and put it on the system… it followed the money trail and sent copies of all emails and banking details to the FBI information hotline email.”

“You did what?” The Agent looked at Kalon with his eyebrows raised, and his mouth pinched closed. “Do you not know how dangerous that was?”

Kalon shrugged his shoulders and dropped his gaze back to the laminate tabletop. “I do now… I got caught… that’s why my dad… I mean… my father… He called me to come over. I must have made a mistake somewhere. Missed something.” Kalon raised his eyes again to the agent’s face, he really hoped he believed him.

“Go on.” The man encouraged.

“When I got there Hugh Bracaloni and two of his henchmen were in the office with him. As soon as I walked in there one of them stayed between me and the door. Bracaloni walked around me and said, ‘he’ll do.’ The next thing I knew I woke up in the trunk of a car. When they let me out we were at that building… you know the one you found me running from.”

“How long were you there?”

“What day is it?”

“Friday.”

Kalon sucked in a breath before he answered, “thirteen days.”

The agent was silent for a long minute. Kalon refused to squirm under his assessing stare and resisted the temptation to ease the awkward silence by speaking. If he wanted to know more, he could ask.

“Do you know what their plan was for you?”

Kalon snorted, “Bracaloni told me I was to be sold to the highest bidder, so I escaped when they took me to the showers.”

“How?”

“How did I escape?” The agent nodded in response, so he continued, “I head-butted the asshole who tried to push me up against the wall, so he could rip my pants off. I rammed my knee into his balls, stomped on his foot, and ran like hell.” Kalon’s voice got stronger as he spoke those words. They reminded him not to feel sorry for himself… he got away. Might not have been as fast as he’d have liked but he did it… and if the mammoth sitting across from him hadn’t tackled him to the ground, he’d probably still be running. If he hadn’t been caught by the assholes first.

“Good for you!” The agent said and to Kalon’s untrained ear he sounded almost proud. “Just a few more questions, then you can go.”

Kalon just stared straight ahead, his eyes unfocused, not really seeing anything. It hit him right then. Where would he go? He couldn’t go home. He couldn’t go to his family as the scumbag who was his only family was in prison.

“Where will I go?” Kalon wiped a shaky hand down his face before looking across at the agent.

“Do you have any other family? Friends? You probably shouldn’t go back to your father’s house…” The agent's voice trailed off as Kalon shook his head.

“I don’t have any place else to go. I don’t have money for much more than a night or two at a hotel.” Shit he didn’t want to seem like he was begging but he was so screwed if he didn’t come up with a plan.

“We will finish up with these last few questions then I’ll help you figure out where you can go.” The agent responded.

“Why would you help me?” Kalon was confused… he assumed he wasn’t under arrest but why would this agent help him. Nobody did anything for free so what did he want?

 

Hours after the questions had finished, the agent finally came back into the room. “I’ve got a place where you can go.” He told Kalon, “come with me.” He led Kalon through the building and put him into the passenger seat of an agency vehicle.

Kalon watched as the city view from interstate fifty-seven changed from big city skyscrapers to the suburbs. Because of how much paperwork they had to go through, to get him released from the clutches of whatever agency had held him, they hadn’t got on the road until after six. It would take them almost one hundred and thirty miles to get to the twin towns of Urbana-Champaign. He checked the cell phone that Agent Givens had given him. Then reminded himself that the only number he had in it was for the agent.

“Matt Garrett will meet you at the hotel and you are going back to Houston with him.” The agent’s deep voice burst through the quiet like a massive truck. “I’m sorry it took so long to get out of the office but once the Intel showed you too are a target, we had to find somewhere for you to go. Our options were witness protection where based on the Intel your computer sent to the FBI offices, you would still be a target, or we had to find somewhere private for you.”

Kalon startled a bit, “how do you know I will be safe with this guy?”

Agent Givens chuckled slightly and shook his head, “Matt is one of the few people in the world I would trust with my life… he was a member of my team in the army.”

“Oh.”

The Agent didn’t respond to the slight disbelief in Kalon’s voice, unless you counted the grunt. But Kalon let it go as it didn’t really matter where they sent him if he was away from his father and from the reaches of Bracaloni and the mob.

Since he hadn’t slept much over the last two weeks and he felt relatively safe. He leaned back and closed his eyes saying he was just going to rest them for a bit. He must have been more tired than he thought because the next thing he heard was the truck door slamming shut.

He jolted awake and looked out the window, he saw they were in the parking lot of a pretty crap looking motel. Shit are we here? Steele came back a few minutes later, hopped back in the truck and drove around to the rooms at the back of the hotel.

When Steele used a key to open the room door, Kalon trailed in behind him. He wrinkled his nose as he entered the room, yep, the dank musty smell was pretty awful. Still, he wouldn’t be here long. Matt was on route to get him. Which meant Steele had to get his ass in gear and leave. It kinda stung that Matt had asked him not to be there when he did the pickup. Steele had fucking hoped after Matt had given him the present of Kalon’s father, all tied up in some pretty little flexicuffs as a gift, that maybe their friendship was starting to get back on track. But he would do as he was asked and watch from afar, so as Matt didn’t have to see him. But he wasn’t leaving until Matt had Kalon in his truck and they were turning off of interstate fifty-seven for fifty-five… direction Houston.

“Did you hear from your friend yet?” Kalon asked as he looked around the dim interior of the room. There wasn’t much to see two beds, a desk, and a chair, hell there wasn’t even a TV. But he wouldn’t be here long enough to watch one, so it didn’t matter.

“Yeah, he’ll be here soon.” Steele looked at his watch before adding… “I’m headed out… remember don’t answer the door to anyone but Matt. You’ve seen his picture, so you know what he looks like.”

Kalon nodded. He wished the big agent would stay with him. But he couldn’t quite put a name to the reason he got the feeling of safety from him, but he wasn’t going to question it. “Will I see you again?” he asked before he could stop himself and winced when the other man paused in turning towards the door and blew out a breath.

When he didn’t answer immediately, Kalon waved his hand, “go… go… I’ll be fine.”  Damn he felt like a needy kid.

The agent didn’t just walk straight out the door as Kalon expected… he turned and looked straight at Kalon once again before saying.  “Yeah you’ll see me again.” He gave a salute and left.

***

Steele drove his truck across the lot and sat watching until a jacked-up Ford truck pulled in a couple of spaces down from the room. He sucked in a breath when Matt climbed out and scanned the parking lot, his eyes resting briefly on Steele’s truck before moving on. That pang in his chest was regret and guilt… Steele knew it… regret from the loss of his teammates. Guilt for not having had their backs. Fuck after this long it shouldn’t hurt as much anymore. But it did.

He watched as Matt climbed the steps to the door and knocked sharply. He grinned to himself when Matt held something up to the peephole. “Good at least Kalon asked for ID.” He said to himself. NO! He reminded himself…call him the kid or something… you cannot be attracted to him… He is part of a CIA investigation… a witness. Not only that… you have just sent him to Matt for protection. Matt who has the right to be pissed when he finds out you kept your mouth shut when you should have had his back.

He watched as Matt entered the room. Drank in the sight of his friend when he emerged again a few minutes later with Kalon in tow. Damn he missed being with his Panther brothers.

He sat in his vehicle until he heard the growl of Matt’s truck starting. He rubbed his chest to ease the slight ache there as he watched it pull out of the lot. He hoped Kalon would have a good life in Texas, and if he could persuade Matt that it was time to renew old friendships… then maybe… just maybe… he would see him again too.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Natosha Wilson on Gay Book Reviews wrote:

So far this series has just blown me away. I loved book one in the Delta Force: Team Panther series but I have to say that I might have loved book two just a little bit more. And sticking with the theme of the series as a whole, I cannot wait for book three because if it is half as good as these past two books, then it is going to be another incredible read.

This book is primarily based around Kalon and Steele. This is the story of how they met and where they have ended up for now anyway. This book starts off going back to a time before they met and leads up to Steele’s capture in book 1. Then it goes on into more dangerous situations that Kalon and Steele will have to face.

I really do not want to go into any details about this story because if I do I feel like I will give something away that is important to this story. But I will say this.... in this book you do not know who is friend or foe. You do not know who will turn on you for the right price. Some are even the closest ones to the characters. There is a lot of danger in this boon and at times you have to wonder if they will make it out alive.

This book has a lot of action in it and there is not a dull moment in it. I stayed up late last night just finishing this book because I could not put it down. It was an incredible read and I truly cannot wait for the next book in this series to come out.

Was given this galley copy for free for an open and honest review


About the Author

 Annabella Stone

First and foremost I am a reader who had stories in my head that were driving me crazy. When I mention it to an author friend of mine, she told me to "write them down," and what do you know, Jonah's Compass was born, during NaNo 2017, and published in April 2018.

I live in Ireland with a crazy pack of 6 dogs and a daughter who is turning out to be so like me, I don't know if I should be scared or proud.

Along with my love of dogs and books, I'm a graphics nerd who also enjoys hiking and dog-shows.


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