About the Book
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Darkly gifted and dangerously skilled, they were once the nation's most powerful asset--until betrayal by unknown enemies sent the Phoenix operatives deep underground. They devoted their lives to the program, sacrificed their futures. Now it's kill or be killed in a desperate race to thwart a hellish event. And with assassins closing in from all sides, desire can be a deadly mistake...
CUT by Lara Adrian
Community college professor Ethan Jones is living a lie. A precognitive agent known as Zephyr, Ethan is accustomed to subterfuge and deception, but when the Phoenix program is betrayed, he’s forced to cut all ties to the life he's made and everyone in it—including smart, beautiful Tori Connors, the one woman who tempted the cold agent to let down his impenetrable facade.
A chance encounter years later and thousands of miles away thrusts the lovers together again, and this time Tori refuses to let Ethan deceive her. Although he is a dangerous enigma, Tori still desires him, and soon their inconvenient reunion becomes a temptation too strong to resist. With assassins closing in, Ethan and Tori embark on a desperate race for their lives—one that will put their tentative trust to the ultimate test.
RUN by Tina Folsom
Motorcycle mechanic Scott Thompson isn't the laid-back loner he makes everyone believe. Three years ago, he was known as Ace, one of an elite group of agents in a top secret CIA program. However, the preternatural ability that made him invaluable to the government could now be his downfall, when his skill alerts him to a disaster bound to kill dozens of innocents unless he intervenes.
Journalist Phoebe Chadwick needs to persuade her editor to spare her from department cuts that threaten her job. When a mysterious stranger prevents an accident that would have killed her and many others, Phoebe goes after the story. But bad boy Scott is a reluctant hero unwilling to answer her questions, despite the sizzling chemistry that ignites between them. As his enemies hunt him down, Scott must decide if he can trust Phoebe—and how far he’s willing to go to keep her safe at his side.
"This brand new series...is written by Lara Adrian and Tina Folsom in two novellas that are rife with action, suspense and emotion. Fast paced with a killer amount of emotion, Adrian definitely shows that she is able to conquer any genre she writes in. Tina Folsom's story is just as riveting and suspenseful...(CUT AND RUN is) well-written, perfectly paced and provided a couple hours of entertainment when I needed it most. I'll definitely be looking forward to the rest of the series."
"Lara Adrian...writes such steamy paranormals and I love all of her hot heroes. Ethan Jones is no exception. He's such a stoic agent, one that has a furnace full of feelings and heat underneath. I adored this first Phoenix Code book."
—USA Today Happy Ever After Blog (5 Stars)
"(Lara Adrian and Tina Folsom) have teamed up to give us a great new series...I really loved these stories. I am so excited and very nervous to see what is up next in this series."
—Books N Kisses Blog (5 Hearts)
Excerpted from Cut and Run
by Lara Adrian
Published by In Media Res Publishing, LLC (November 2014)
Copyright © 2014-2017 by Lara Adrian LLC. All rights reserved.
(Note: Excerpt may contain explicit language and sexual situations).
Three years ago
When he got out of bed that late-February morning, Ethan Jones had no idea his life was about to end.
Standing barefoot in just a pair of jeans at the kitchen window of his girlfriend's small bungalow, he palmed a mug of fresh-brewed black coffee as he watched the sun rise. He'd been up for about an hour, leaving Tori to sleep in a while before she had to get ready for her nursing shift downtown at the medical center ER.
It was snowing again. Fine white crystals ticked against the windowpane as a gust blew through the tree-lined, working class neighborhood.
When he'd first moved to the Northeast from New Mexico, he'd hated the winters. Hard to imagine two years into his teaching stint at the local community college, he was actually growing accustomed to the snow and cold.
He was growing accustomed to a lot of things lately.
Getting too comfortable.
He recognized that fact for the risk it was, but it didn't keep him from registering genuine warmth as Tori Connors shuffled sleepily into the kitchen.
She was wearing his white button-down from last night and nothing else, her pale blond hair a messy tangle around her shoulders. The hem of the shirt fell halfway down her slender thighs, a single button fastened between her pert breasts.
"Mmm, it smells good in here," she murmured, drawing closer. "Fresh coffee and a hot man. Two of my favorite things."
As he took down a mug for her and filled it, she walked over and wrapped her arms around him from behind. Her cheek rested warmly against the center of his bare back. "Why didn't you wake me when you got up?"
"Because if you'd been awake, we'd still be in bed, doing everything but sleeping."
Her little moan vibrated through him. "That sounds like a great idea to me. Let's call in sick," she murmured, dropping kisses along the groove of his spine. Desire ignited through him with each soft press of her mouth on his skin. "Or we can say we're snowed in, trapped by a freak blizzard that only hit the East End. We can play hooky and spend the whole day in bed together."
He groaned, closing his eyes as his pulse hammered into a heavy throb. Spending the day in bed with Tori was never a bad idea. God knew, he'd been doing enough of it lately. And despite the fact that his cock responded with enthusiastic agreement, Ethan broke out of her loose hold and pivoted to put the mug of coffee in her hands.
"It's a test day for my eight o'clock class. Before that I've got an advisory meeting with a student who wants to drop Comparative Lit." He bent his head to give her a brief kiss, tasting the faint mint of toothpaste on her tongue. "I can't blow off the day, no matter how tempting you make it."
She gave him an arch look. "Apparently not tempting enough to make you jeopardize your perfect attendance, Professor Jones." She smiled, but her smart, denim-blue eyes were studying him over the rim of the steaming mug. "You're a strange one, you know that? I swear, sometimes I just can't figure you out."
"What's to figure out? I don't think I'm that complicated." His tone was calm, even amused, despite the prickling of his instincts.
As for complicated? She had no idea.
And he meant to keep it that way.
He might have gotten too comfortable with Tori in the months they'd been together, but he was never careless.
He was too well trained to let any part of his cover slip, even with her.
Ethan casually strode to the refrigerator and took out a carton of eggs and a bowl of fruit he'd chopped up earlier. "You want french toast or pancakes for breakfast?"
"Surprise me. You know I love whatever you put on the menu. Besides, after last night, I'm ravenous."
Pivoting to lean her back against the counter, she grabbed a strawberry from the bowl and bit into it, watching him gather a few more things from the fridge and cabinets. "Why do I get the feeling you want to change the subject? The way you always seem to do whenever that subject is you."
He shrugged. "I guess I don't find myself all that interesting."
She blew out a soft laugh. "Trust me, Ethan, you're interesting. You're also charming, athletic, and ridiculously gorgeous. On top of all that, your mind is like some kind of encyclopedia. I don't think there's a book in existence you haven't read, and you can talk about any subject as if you've studied it all your life. Not to mention, you cook like a dream and…do a lot of other things like a dream too. You're actually freakishly perfect."
He set a quart of milk on the granite countertop and met her gaze. "Careful or you're gonna give me a big head."
"And then you'll definitely be late for your class," she said teasingly, her pretty mouth curved in a grin. A mouth that he wanted to taste all over again this morning.
He couldn't resist pulling her into his arms. She went willingly, her soft curves pressing against him as he reached under the cotton shirt to caress her naked breast.
"Do you ever think you should be doing something else with your life, Ethan?"
He smirked. "I hadn't before, but now that you point it out, gigolo chef doesn't sound half bad."
Tori laughed as he kissed her, but when he drew back and met her eyes there was a seriousness in their blue depths. "You never think that maybe you made a mistake coming here to Portland, instead of somewhere else? You don't think you'll get bored here eventually?"
"What makes you say that?"
She gave a vague shake of her head. "I don't know. It's just…something I wonder about sometimes. I know you're devoted to what you do. But you're too smart to settle for Associate Professor. Maybe you should aim for something higher than that."
She thought he lacked ambition or drive? The thought made his brows rise. He wasn't defensive; more privately amused. "I like my job." He grinned. "I'm not trying to save the world or anything."
She rolled her eyes. "I know that. But you're too exacting and meticulous to be teaching liberal studies for the undeclared, don't you think? I mean, I know you're dedicated to your students. If you ask me, you're the best thing that ever happened to that school. But I've known you for almost a year now. I've watched you, Ethan. You're Ivy League brilliant and then some. Yet here you are, hiding out at a small-town community college."
Her choice of words nearly made him choke.
Was it even remotely possible that she suspected something?
He wanted to reassure himself it was only coincidence, merely conversation, but his conditioning was too ingrained for him to tread with anything less than caution.
Tori Connors was a small town girl. She'd been born and raised in rural Maine. She didn't have the same mileage on her that he did, nor the years of training in concealment and subterfuge, but she was a sharp, observant woman with a keen intelligence. It was part of what attracted him to her, aside from her girl-next-door beauty and earthy authenticity.
So far, Tori knew only what he'd allowed her to know about him-most of it sticking close to his carefully constructed cover.
She knew nothing about who he truly was, or his work as a precognitive agent in one of the CIA's most covert programs. If he cared about her-and he did, more than he ever should have dared-then he had to make sure Tori never got close to that other part of his life.
Ethan drew her further into his embrace and kissed her with an affection, and a desire, that belonged entirely to her, not to his training or his need to ascertain a potential breach in his cover.
He felt more for Tori in a handful of months than he had for anyone else in all of his thirty-one years of life.
That fact alone should probably have told him it was time to break things off and move on, but damned if he'd been able to find the will to do it.
"Hey," he said gently, smoothing a sleep-tousled blond strand from her face. "Tell me what this is about. What's on your mind, babe?"
"I've just been thinking about things." She pressed her lips together as she looked up at him, hesitation in her dark blue eyes. "It's going to be March soon. Which means Saint Patrick's Day is coming up…"
At Ethan's stare, she gave an awkward shrug. "So, in a few weeks, it'll be a year for us."
Shit. A year already? His track record with previous women he'd known had been measured in days and weeks. Yet he'd been with Tori for almost twelve easy, pretty fucking fabulous months.
Tori searched his gaze. "You didn't remember?"
"I remember everything about that night," Ethan said. And he did.
He hadn't been looking for a date that Saint Patty's night in Portland. Alone, he'd been enjoying a pint of Guinness at a decent Irish pub off the main drag that wasn't stuffed to the rafters with tourists.
Just about the time he was thinking of heading home to his rented studio apartment, his eye had been drawn to a pretty, petite blond who'd come in with a gaggle of girlfriends.
He'd debated with himself for half an hour about going over to talk to her. And then things started getting rowdy in the pub. Ethan's senses had prickled with the realization that Tori was in the direct path of an oncoming brawl.
Minutes before the full weight of a three-hundred-pound drunk could plow into the stool she occupied at the bar, Ethan strode over and asked her to dance.
When the fight eventually broke out exactly as he'd seen it happen in his mind, he was watching Tori swivel and sway in front of him while he sported a raging hard-on and U2 sang about "Mysterious Ways."
Before the song was over, Ethan had asked for Tori's number. Instead, she'd taken him home to her bungalow for a night of unforgettable sex.
He hadn't looked at another woman since.
He gazed at her now, and dropped a kiss on her parted lips. "That was a very good night."
"It's been a very good year, don't you think?"
"The best," he said, bending lower to nuzzle her soft neck.
"I'm glad you think so too." She drew back from him with a smile, but there was a deeper question in her eyes. "I guess I've been thinking that since you spend almost every night here anyway, maybe we should make things a bit more official. I've been thinking that maybe you should let your apartment go and move in with me."
His lungs seized up. He had a hundred excuses for why that was a terrible idea-an impossible one-but nothing came out of his mouth.
Tori rolled her eyes and smacked her palm against his bare chest. "Don't look so shell-shocked. I'm not asking you to marry me, I just thought we could live in sin for a while." She tilted her head and gave a sweet little shrug. "Or maybe for longer than a while."
God, he was a jackass. She looked so earnest, so open and vulnerable. So trusting.
He should never have let things go this far, this long. "Tori, I don't think-"
"You don't have to give me an answer now," she blurted. "I know you like your space, and I know you don't make impulsive decisions. So, just take some time and consider it, okay?"
She leaned into him as she spoke, and before he realized what she was doing, she'd slipped her hand down from his chest to inside the loose waistband of his jeans. She homed in on his cock and held him in her warm grasp, stroking him just the way he liked it.
A hissed curse leaked out of him as his flesh turned to granite under her touch.
She kissed him full and deep on the mouth, then drew back with a sultry smile. "We can talk some more over breakfast. In the meantime, I'll be in the shower, in case you'd like to discuss my offer in greater detail right now."
She unfastened the single button that held his shirt together over her naked body. Then she shrugged out of it and let it drop to the kitchen floor as she pivoted and began an unrushed walk away from him.
Damn, but the sight of her made him hot. He groaned as he watched her rounded bare ass retreat toward the bungalow's bathroom.
"Ah, fuck the french toast," he muttered, primed to leap after her in hungered pursuit.
But as he moved, his arm caught the egg carton on the countertop and sent it crashing to the floor. Yellow yolks leaked out onto the tiles.
Ethan swore and grabbed for the roll of paper towels, tearing off a few to clean up the mess.
Then he froze.
Because at that same instant, a voice speared into his mind. The psychic call delivered a single, unmistakable message…
Ethan stood there, his blood running cold, his brain snapped into immediate and total focus.
He'd known this moment could arrive at any time. He knew it, dreaded it.
Believed in some naive corner of his existence that it might never come.
But the signal was irrefutable.
It meant one thing. The program he belonged to was compromised. Its director and possibly any number of Ethan's fellow Phoenix agents were dead, or soon to be.
And so was he, if he didn't act now.
Henry Sheppard's instructions had been plain enough, should he ever have to issue the distress call to the untold number of men who belonged to the secret government ESP program.
Assume the worst.
Cut all ties.
Trust no one.
Leave everything behind and run.
Ethan's life-the cover he'd been living for the past two years-was over. That man was dead now.
As for his time with Tori, it was over too. Right here and now. No explanations. No goodbyes.
He could afford neither, and she would be safer knowing nothing.
She would be safer hating him for what he was about to do.
Ethan stared down at the broken eggs at his feet. From the far end of the hallway, the shower hissed softly behind the sweet, off-key tune of Tori's singing as she waited for him to join her.
Regret put a raw ache in his chest, but the agent Ethan had been trained to be pushed the emotion aside. There was no time for it. There was a good chance he and the others like him were already being hunted.
He dropped the paper towels on the counter, then reached down to retrieve his shirt from where Tori had let it fall. He put it on, inhaling the scent of her on the white cotton as he buttoned it up.
It was the last breath he'd take of her. The last moment he would know as her lover.
Grabbing his boots and coat from the kitchen's back door, he quickly slipped them on.
Then he walked out of the house and into the light flurry of morning snowfall without a single backward glance, leaving Ethan Jones and everything that man cared about behind him.