Lazlo's Last Stand. Kathleen Creighton
The battle ended with Lucia pinned to the mat by Corbett’s lithe body.
She fought to block the bombardment of her senses. “Someday I’m going to beat you. When I do, will you give me a field assignment?”
Corbett’s sensual lips, enticingly out of reach, twitched into a smile. “I have better uses for your talents.” He glanced at the clock. “I imagine you’ll need extra time to dress for our…date this evening?”
Lucia looked into his eyes and anger mixed with helpless longing. She masked them both with a teasing smile. “A date? Hmm, you’re hoping the assassin will strike again this evening, and you can hardly put one of your usual debutantes in the middle of a takedown operation, can you?”
She enjoyed a small sense of satisfaction when he looked taken aback.
Call it a date, if you like. I prefer to call it my first field assignment.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kathleen Creighton has roots deep in the California soil but has relocated to South Carolina. As a child, she enjoyed listening to old timers’ tales, and her fascination with the past only deepened as she grew older. Today, she says she is interested in everything – art, music, gardening, zoology, anthropology and history, but people are at the top of her list. She also has a lifelong passion for writing and now combines her two loves in romance novels.
Once upon a time, there were five talented writers of romantic suspense, diverse in age, nature and style. One day these five writers got the notion to write about a private security agency called the Lazlo Group. (Although nobody seemed to know much about this agency, and less about the mysterious Corbett Lazlo.)
Given that many writers consider writing for a continuity series to be about as much fun as, say, having a root canal, mammogram and bikini wax all on the same day, you might guess this response to the invitation to join them: “Are you insane?”
Naturally, I said, “Count me in!”
Well, I’ve had the pleasure of working with these five authors before. Then there was the fact that they let me have Corbett Lazlo’s story. The Lazlo Group and its enigmatic founder had fascinated me since they were introduced in the CAPTURING THE CROWN series. Who, I wondered, is this man with no past? Does he even have a heart? What sort of woman could hope to capture the love of so private a person?
The answers, dear reader, lie in these pages. I hope you find them satisfying, and that you may conclude this book with the time-honoured phrase, “And they lived happily ever after!”
Lazlo's Last Stand
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This is for Marie,
and also for Nina, Caridad, Lyn and Karen,
some of the most fertile – yes, Marie,
and cluttered, too, but in the BEST
possible way – minds I’ve ever encountered.
Thanks for letting me share the ride.
The attack came in low, but he was prepared for it. He easily evaded what might have been a lethal blow with a feint to the right, and then, in a move as precise and disciplined as a classical dancer’s, spun left and caught his opponent in midfollow-through, squarely behind the knees. The attacker, expecting a death-dealing blow to the throat or sternum, went down like a sack of rocks.
Down, but far from out.
Corbett Lazlo had little time to enjoy his moment of triumph. Before he could deal a follow-up blow, his assailant arched his body like a bow and was on his feet again, circling in a half crouch, his eyes hard as bullets, a slight smile playing over his lips. Corbett stood at ease, balanced on the balls of his feet, smiling back. It wasn’t a nice smile.
The next strike came like lightning, and, even though he’d been prepared for it, delivered a glancing blow to Corbett’s ribs. There would be a bruise tomorrow. He went down, exaggerating the effects of the injury, and when the follow-through came, he rolled and twisted his body like a fighting cat and came up on top, his opponent pinned with Corbett’s knee against his throat. He was now at his mercy; only a slight increase in pressure and the larynx would be crushed. The match was his.
After the briefest of pauses, Corbett removed his knee from the other man’s throat, rose and offered him a hand. When both men were on their feet, he bowed respectfully over his own clasped hands and uttered the traditional words of respect by the student for the master.
The other man returned the obeisance, then beamed upon Corbett a wide, delighted smile.
“Bested by my own move! Excellent. It is the moment every teacher cherishes, when the student surpasses the master.”
Corbett grinned back, an expression that transformed his austere features in a way that sent a jolt of desire through the woman watching from the screened-off doorway of the dojo.
To Lucia Cordez the jolt was a familiar sensation, as was the ache of longing that came with it. Corbett Lazlo had been the most important person in her life for nearly ten years, but in so many ways he was still a mystery to her—like smoke, she sometimes thought. Visible and real, but emotionally elusive, impossible to grasp.
Careful to keep her feelings well-hidden, she stepped around the carved wood screen and made her own obeisance to the master as he passed her on his way out.
“Ah—there you are.” Corbett’s features had settled once more into lines resembling those commonly found on ancient Roman coins. It was his customary expression when looking at her—imperious, impersonal…aloof. “You have news for me, I assume? Might I hope it’s good news for a change? Tell me you’ve traced the source of the e-mails that have been threatening me with so many ingeniously hideous deaths.” His tone was light, even a bit sardonic.
Lucia shuddered and said faintly, “Corbett, please.”
He paused in the act of mopping his face with a towel to look at her, eyebrows raised. “Oh, don’t worry. I’m not the least bit amused by what’s been happening. To my organization, to my agents. These breaches of security must be stopped. Will be stopped. So? What do you have for me? From the look on your face, I assume it is not good news.”
She shook her head, biting her lower lip. “I’m sorry, Corbett. Our safe house in Hong Kong was hit last night.”
Though she wouldn’t have thought it possible, his features hardened even more. His ice-blue eyes looked as if they could etch glass. “Anyone killed?”
She let out a breath. “No. Both our agents managed to escape. But—”
He moved suddenly, tossing the towel away with controlled