New York Times Bestselling Author

Defending Morgan 

Protection leads to passion in New York Times bestselling author Susan Stoker’s dangerously hot Mountain Mercenaries adventure.

Dispatched to the Dominican Republic to rescue a kidnapped child, former Navy SEAL Archer “Arrow” Kane makes a startling discovery: another hostage—Morgan Byrd, a very beautiful and very well-known missing person who disappeared off the streets of Atlanta a year ago. She’s brave, resilient, and unbroken. All Arrow wants to know is why she ended up in a shack in Santo Domingo. All he feels is the desire to protect.

Morgan is done being the victim and is determined to find out who hates her so much that they want her gone—but not dead. Until then, she has Arrow, an alpha stranger who’s offering a warm and safe place to hide. But as the passion between them flares, so does the fear that whoever took Morgan will do anything to get her back. For Arrow, protecting this woman with a mysterious enemy is the most dangerous mission of his life. And it’s worth every beat of his heart.

Chapter 1


Archer “Arrow” Kane couldn’t believe the luck of the woman at his side. The Mountain Mercenaries had been sent to the Dominican Republic to rescue a kidnapped little girl, and had left the dilapidated home they’d found her in with an additional hostage. A woman. A very famous missing woman at that.

Arrow kept his hand on Morgan Byrd to keep her near him. At times he merely rested it on the small of her back; at others, he gripped her arm to help her over debris. She didn’t look at him, didn’t thank him, didn’t acknowledge his touch in any way, but it seemed that she welcomed it. Whenever they stopped so Black could scope out the area to make sure they weren’t being followed, she leaned toward Arrow. She was subtle about it, but since Arrow was hyperaware of her, he noticed.

Ball was carrying the little girl they’d come to the Dominican Republic to rescue. She was five years old, and her noncustodial father hadn’t returned her after his court-approved visitation weekend. He’d fled to his home country with the child. That had been three months ago, and her mother had done everything possible to get her little girl back. When Rex had gotten wind of the situation, he’d immediately asked for volunteers to head to the small Caribbean island to bring Nina home.

Black, Ball, and Arrow had agreed to come. Ro was on his honeymoon, Meat was down and out with the flu, and Gray’s girlfriend was dancing in a special performance in Denver, so he’d passed this time. It was supposed to be an easy job, especially since Rex had information on the general area where Nina’s father was keeping her. But finding Morgan at the same location complicated things.

Arrow was still in shock. Morgan Byrd had been missing for a year or so. She’d disappeared from Atlanta one night, and despite several credible clues and surveillance video showing her dancing and having fun at a nightclub, there hadn’t been any movement in the case. Until now.

How in the world she’d come to be in the run-down house in Santo Domingo, Arrow had no idea, and right this second wasn’t the time to question her. But she’d obviously been through hell. She was covered in dirt, and her blonde hair was matted and filthy. She smelled like she hadn’t showered in weeks—which was probably the case.

Regardless, there was something about her that drew Arrow. It wasn’t her looks—because God knew she was looking rough right about now. It was her . . . resilience. Whatever she’d been through should’ve broken her.

Arrow had rescued his share of women and children from horrible situations, and many had been broken almost beyond repair. But when he’d entered the pitch-dark room, Morgan hadn’t been cowering in a corner. She’d been protecting the little girl she’d taken under her wing with a crude knife. The weapon wouldn’t have done much damage, but that didn’t matter. She’d put herself between the child and whoever had entered the room.

She hadn’t cried and begged to be taken away from her prison. Even now, she wasn’t clinging to him. Wasn’t hiding behind him. She was standing stoically next to him with one hand on Nina’s back, trying to reassure and comfort her.

He was extremely impressed with Morgan. She was different from all the other women he’d saved over the years. It was as if he could sense her determination. He was proud of her. Proud of how she’d stuck up for Nina. Proud that she hadn’t been broken. He also felt more protective toward this woman than anyone else he’d rescued. He couldn’t identify all the reasons why, but the feeling was definitely there.

Arrow could’ve probably resisted the emotions he could feel bubbling under the surface if she weren’t unconsciously leaning into him every chance she got. She might be tough and composed on the surface, but that slight telltale movement offered a very different story.

Underneath her bravado, she was scared to death. Arrow wanted to take her in his arms and reassure her. Tell her that he’d get her home to her father, to safety. But he knew from experience that showing even the slightest amount of sympathy right now could undo her. So he restricted himself to small touches, making sure he stayed by her side, giving her what comfort he could while still being on alert for the smallest signs of danger.

After what she’d been through, whatever that was, he wasn’t going to let anyone or anything hurt her again before he got her home.

“All clear,” Black said in a toneless whisper as he reappeared next to them without another sound. The man had been a Navy SEAL and could move silently through any kind of terrain. Arrow had long since gotten used to it, but next to him, he felt Morgan start violently as Black’s presence surprised her.

But she didn’t make a sound. She’d trained herself well to keep quiet. He’d noticed that in the room where she and Nina had been held captive. When he’d hit her arms to knock the knife out of her hand, she hadn’t cried out. When the little girl had thrown herself at her, Morgan hadn’t let out even the smallest umph as she’d landed on her ass. It had surprised him at the same time it impressed the hell out of him. He and his teammates had learned to move absolutely silently, but it had taken him years of training in the Marines and more dangerous missions than he could count. The mystery of how and why Morgan had learned to be silent, no matter what, bothered him.

“We need to move quickly,” Black went on. “The safe house is roughly half a mile away, but we’re about thirty minutes later than we’d planned. The city is waking up, and the last thing we want is for someone to see us and get curious.”

Arrow pressed his lips together. Three Caucasian men wandering around the city wearing all black, with a woman and child in tow, would definitely attract attention. The kind they didn’t need. He opened his mouth to speak, but Morgan beat him to it.

“We should split up,” she said quietly. “We’re slowing you guys down. If we split up, you can move faster with Nina,” she told Ball, nodding at the child now sleeping in his arms.

Arrow could see how much the suggestion cost her. She was gripping Nina’s shirt in her fist so hard her knuckles were white.

Black looked toward Arrow with one brow raised. From the second they’d stepped outside the hovel where they’d rescued the pair, his teammates had realized he had a connection with Morgan. It worked like that sometimes on their missions. They were trained to watch the reactions of the women and children, and if they showed the slightest inclination to trust one of the men over another, the team did what they could to encourage that. Trust was a huge issue when rescuing kidnapping victims. And having a victim trust even one of them made the mission that much easier.

They’d read Morgan’s body language as easily as he had. Not to mention the way he’d been hovering over her. Black was asking, without words, for Arrow’s opinion on splitting up. There was no doubt that he’d be the one going with Morgan.

Arrow turned to the woman at his side. He towered over her slight five feet three inches. At an inch over six feet, he was used to being taller than the people they rescued, but her diminutive height was one of the things that made his protective instincts rush to the surface more than usual.

He slowly moved his hand and lightly brushed his fingertips against her upper arm. It was covered with a ratty gray T-shirt, but he could feel the heat of her skin through it. “Are you sure?” he asked. “It would make things easier, but if you don’t want to be separated from Nina, we can make it work.”

She tilted her chin up to look him in the eyes, which Arrow loved. She was scared and nervous, but hadn’t been beaten down to a point where she refused to meet his gaze.

“I want to do whatever will get Nina safe the fastest.”

Arrow had known that was what she’d say. He turned to Ball. The former Coastie was standing patiently next to them. He was a foot taller than Morgan, and he held the child in his arms easily. “We’ll meet you there.”

The hair at the back of his neck stood on end, but Arrow ignored it for the time being. He didn’t like being separated from his teammates, but splitting up was the right thing to do at the moment. Once they were ensconced in the safe house, they could figure out their next steps. They needed to get in contact with Rex and let him know that Nina was safe, but also that they had a surprise addition.

They had the proper paperwork to get Nina out of the country, including her passport, among other legal items, but they had nothing for Morgan. They had chartered a jet to get home, but even so, they couldn’t just plunk a mysterious, unidentified woman on the plane and expect authorities to be okay with it.

“Be careful,” Ball said, his gaze intense.

Arrow knew what he meant. They had no idea about Morgan’s story. Who took her. Why she was being held. What had happened to her. She was a total unknown in this scenario. Nina’s father, they knew well enough. Rex had researched him and shared everything he’d learned before they’d left. But Morgan was a mystery.

He nodded at his friend.

“Got your radio?” Black asked.

Arrow nodded again. Each of them had a radio that they used to communicate with each other. They had a range of a couple of miles, but for anything beyond that, they had to use specialized satellite phones.

Morgan took a step toward Nina and Ball, but hesitated when Arrow’s hand fell from her arm. Knowing she needed the reassurance, Arrow followed her and put his fingertips on the middle of her back. He could feel how tight her muscles were, but she merely approached Ball and stood up on tiptoe. She still couldn’t reach the sleeping child’s face, so Ball leaned down.

Morgan brushed her lips against Nina’s cheek and stepped back. “Take care of her,” she whispered. “She’s been through a lot.”

“Does she need a doctor?” Ball asked, putting one of his large hands on the back of Nina’s head, holding her securely to him as he straightened.

Morgan shrugged. “Probably. She hasn’t been eating too well, and she’s been complaining that her tummy hurts. I figured it was probably just upset because of stress and not eating all that much, but I don’t know.”

Ball nodded. “Black’s got medical training. He’ll take a look at her, and I know her mom will have a doctor waiting for her when we get back to the States.”

“What about you?” Black asked.

“Me?” Morgan asked.

“Do you need a doctor?”

Arrow saw the instant change in her demeanor—and blinked in surprise. All emotion disappeared from her face as she shook her head.

“Not right this second, no.”

He wanted to argue. Wanted to reassure her that whatever had happened wasn’t her fault. That he’d make sure she got all the medical attention she needed. But her closed-off expression and the blankness in her eyes, not to mention the fact that it was getting lighter and lighter the longer they stood around talking, kept him silent.

Black didn’t look any happier with her answer than Arrow was, but his teammate didn’t comment. He merely nodded and gestured to Ball with his head. Within seconds they were gone, blending into the shadows of the extremely run-down neighborhood.

“Come on,” Arrow said, reaching down and taking her hand in his. Once more, he was struck by the difference in their sizes. Her fingers were slender and dainty, while his were large and calloused. He’d removed the gloves he had on earlier, and he could feel how clammy her palm was. Another nonverbal sign of her nervousness, unease, and fright.

Without a word in protest, Morgan nodded and followed him as he headed in the opposite direction from where Black and Ball had gone. They’d circle around the neighborhood and get to the safe house from the north rather than the south, the direction his teammates were headed. It was the longer route, but he could move faster since he didn’t have to worry about jostling a child.

Morgan stumbled a bit behind him. She couldn’t see as well as he could since he’d pulled down his night-vision goggles, but once again, she didn’t make a sound. She merely held on to his hand tighter and trusted him as he led her through dark alleyways and trash-filled streets.

He had no idea what had happened to her in the last year, but he made a mental vow right then and there to do everything in his power to make her feel safe once more . . . no matter what it took.

Chapter Two

Morgan held on to the soldier’s hand as tightly as she could. The last thing she wanted to do was get lost in this godforsaken country. She had no idea who the men were who had shown up in the middle of the night like angels from heaven, but she didn’t care. They could be drug dealers and terrorists, and it wouldn’t matter—as long as they got Nina out of there and back to the States.

The fact that they knew who she was and agreed to take her too was a miracle as far as Morgan was concerned. They could’ve been Mafia henchmen, and she still would’ve gone with them. Anything was better than being where she was.

Morgan spared a second to wonder what had happened to the men who had been keeping her and Nina captive, but dismissed them a moment later. They were scum. Lowlifes of the highest order. She hoped they’d died horrible deaths.

She had no idea what the names of her saviors were, but it wasn’t like they’d had time to stop and exchange niceties. She didn’t care that they weren’t there for her. When Nina had begged them to allow Morgan to come too, she’d wanted that with every fiber of her being. She probably should’ve been a bit more hesitant since she didn’t know them. But with the way they were dressed, not to mention the expensive night-vision goggles they wore, there was no way they were in cahoots with the assholes who’d been holding her hostage.

Stumbling over a piece of trash in the alley, she mentally berated herself. She needed to pay attention. To not be so clumsy. She didn’t want to irritate the man who was helping her. She had to do her best to not inconvenience him in any way. She couldn’t afford for him to get annoyed and decide he couldn’t take her with him, after all. If she were this close to rescue but then recaptured, it would crush her.

Her rescuer had hurt her when he’d made her drop the crude knife she’d threatened him with in the house, but compared to the last year, the bruises on her arms were nothing. And after that small, sharp pain, he’d gone out of his way not to hurt her. She’d felt his hands on her ever since they’d made their escape from the house, steadying her, letting her know that he was right there next to her. That he wasn’t going to let anything happen to her.

She still remembered his words right before they’d left.

I’ve got you, Morgan. I’m going to get you home no matter what it takes.

He had her.

She wasn’t sure she wanted to go home. Atlanta didn’t exactly hold good memories for her. It had been a long time since she’d felt safe. But somehow, hearing this man’s words and having him near made her feel as if she truly would get back to the United States.

“How’re you holding up?” he asked quietly.

“I’m good,” she said automatically.

He stopped abruptly, and Morgan immediately cut off the grunt she’d involuntarily made when she ran into his back. He turned and put his free hand on her shoulder. “No, really. How are you doing?”

“I’m fine,” she repeated. “I just want to get out of here.”

He stared down at her for the longest moment. Morgan had no idea what he was searching for or what he saw when he looked at her, but she did her best to look like she was strong and capable when inside she felt anything but.

“My name is Archer Kane. My friends call me Arrow,” he said. “Archer . . . Arrow . . . not very original, but it’s better than some nicknames I’ve heard.”

Morgan blinked in surprise. She’d been sure he was about to call her on her lie. “Um . . . hi.”

He grinned. “Hi.”

She had no idea what he was grinning at, but she did her best to return his smile. It had been so long since she’d had something to smile about, she wasn’t sure her lips even remembered how. But her attempt must’ve been adequate because he squeezed her hand and said, “It’s not too much farther. We’re going to circle around and come at the safe house from the north. Once we get settled, I’ll get you something to eat, and we can see about getting you some medical care.”

“I’m fine. I don’t need a doctor,” Morgan said urgently. The last thing she wanted was this man, or his friends, looking at her.

His eyes narrowed. “We’ll discuss it when we’re at the safe house.”

She pressed her lips together. Be agreeable. Be agreeable. “Okay.”

As if he knew she was only saying what he wanted to hear, Arrow’s lips quirked upward, and he shook his head. “Come on.”

She trudged on behind him, worrying more about what he was going to ask when they got to the safe house than their surroundings. Which was a mistake.

One second they were walking through a filthy alley, and the next they were surrounded by rough-looking men.

Once again, she bounced off Arrow’s back, but this time his arm came up and wrapped around her waist. He spun them until her back was to the building on their right and he was standing in front of her. He’d dropped her hand and had both arms out, as if that could keep the men from getting to her.

The biggest man, the one with long, greasy hair, said something in Spanish. She’d been in the country for almost a year, but she still didn’t understand much of the native language. The men who’d kept her captive hadn’t exactly been willing to teach her, and besides, when they did interact with her, they didn’t ask anything; they simply moved her where and how they wanted.

To her surprise, Arrow responded in very authentic-sounding Spanish. More words were said back and forth, but Arrow’s protective stance in front of her never wavered. Morgan could feel herself trembling, but was determined to keep out of Arrow’s way and let him do what he needed to do.

She felt horrible about the fact that she wasn’t considering giving herself up to save Arrow. She wasn’t going back to her previous existence. No way.

Another man ran down the alley toward them—and Morgan’s stomach dropped. She knew this guy. He didn’t have an ounce of compassion in him.

The second he arrived, he said something to his friends—and all four of them attacked Arrow at once.

Morgan didn’t waste a breath on screaming. No one would come to their aid. She’d learned that the hard way. So she did the only thing she could—she fought. Arrow was good, but there was no way he’d be able to hold off all four of the men.

She picked up a metal pipe from the ground and, without an ounce of remorse, slammed it into the knee of the man nearest her.

He roared in pain and went down.

“Run!” Arrow yelled at her even as he punched one of the men in the face.

Morgan hesitated. She wanted to. Oh God, how she wanted to. But she had no idea where the safe house was or where to go. The last thing she wanted was to be on her own in the back alleys of Santo Domingo. She’d be recaptured in a heartbeat. She was safest with Arrow . . . and she could help him.

She swung the piece of metal and once again hit one of the men. This time she caught him in the arm. Before she had a chance to wind up again, he turned to her and swung his fist. She ducked, but he still managed to catch her on the side of her head. She went down to her knees, dropping the piece of metal in the process.

Immediately, she groped on the ground for her weapon, but it was too late. The fifth man, the one she knew, grabbed her by the hair and hauled her off the ground, holding her in front of him like a shield.

He said something to the others, and everyone stopped fighting immediately.

“Let me go,” she spat, squirming in the man’s grasp.

Cállate, puta!” he said, and wrapped an arm around her neck.

Morgan knew cállate meant shut up, and she assumed puta was some sort of derogatory name, as she’d been called that many times over the last year. But she didn’t know what the rest of the words that came spewing out of his mouth meant.

Arrow didn’t hesitate, responding with words that sounded just as harsh. She didn’t panic until the man holding her began backing down the alley.

He was taking her away from Arrow. Away from safety.

“No!” she yelled, suddenly sick of being hauled around against her will. She was shorter than the men and not as strong, but she was done being the victim. She wasn’t going back to that house, or any others like it. She’d gotten lucky with Arrow and his friends. If she was taken away again, she wouldn’t be so lucky the next time. She knew it as well as she knew her name.

She fought with all her strength, frantically, the events of the last year replaying over and over in her brain. She vaguely heard grunts and the sound of fighting, but nothing truly registered. The man dragged her farther down the alley toward a beat-up black car.

Knowing if she was put inside that car, her life would be even more of a living hell than it had been, Morgan felt determination rise up within her.

“Fuck you,” she huffed out as the man struggled to rein her in and open the door at the same time. He managed to lift the handle, but Morgan kicked out with her foot and slammed it shut.

Her captor mumbled some words Morgan couldn’t understand under his breath, but she didn’t stop her struggles. Eventually, however, even though she was fighting with all her strength, the man got the upper hand. He clamped his hand over her nose and mouth and pressed down hard.

Morgan clawed at his hand, trying to remove it so she could get air into her lungs, but he was holding on too strongly. With his free hand, he reached over and opened the car door.

Just when she thought her luck had run out, she heard someone bark, “Down!”

Without thought, Morgan attempted to do as Arrow had ordered. Even though the guy was holding her up, she let every muscle in her body go limp.

At the sudden change of weight in his arms, the man swore and let go of her face long enough for Morgan to suck in some much-needed breath.

Her knees hit the pavement, and she winced at the pain that went through her body. Comparatively, however, it was nothing. Instinctively, Morgan fell the rest of the way to the ground, hunched over her bent knees, and covered her head.

The sound of a weapon discharging seemed obscenely loud in the quickly lightening alley. The weight of the man’s body dropped down on her, and Morgan could feel wetness seep through the raggedy T-shirt she wore.

Almost as soon as the man’s weight had crushed her beneath him, it was gone.

“Come on,” Arrow said urgently.

Her lungs still burning, Morgan didn’t hesitate. She stood with his help, and then they were running out of the alley, down the street, and between two buildings nearby. Arrow had grabbed her hand, and Morgan gripped it with all her strength. It felt as if he were her only lifeline in this terrifying world she’d been in for a full year. She knew she’d been two seconds away from disappearing once more. She had no idea how Arrow had gotten away from the other four men, but thank God he had.

She didn’t even care that he’d shot—and hopefully killed—the merciless man who would’ve tortured her before passing her off to his friends and enemies alike. It didn’t matter that she was a living, breathing human being with feelings and hopes and dreams. All that mattered to them was the fact that she was female.

Choking back the sob that threatened to escape, Morgan stared at the back of Arrow’s head as they ran as fast as possible through the dangerous back alleys of Santo Domingo. She had no idea where they were, but Arrow had killed for her—and he was the only thing standing between certain death and freedom.

“Wait here,” he said, pushing her back against a brick wall halfway down what seemed like the hundredth alley they’d fled through.

Shaking her head, Morgan hissed, “No! I’m staying with you.”

As if he knew she was hanging on by a thread, Arrow paused. He put his hands on her shoulders and leaned down so their foreheads almost touched.

Morgan was panting heavily, finding it hard to pull oxygen into her lungs. Her hands came up to dig into his forearms. She wasn’t letting go of him. No way.

“I need to check out this building and see if we can lie low without disturbing anyone.”

“I’ll come with you.”

“I’m not going to let anything happen to you,” he said.

“Right. Because I’m going to be right by your side.” She knew she should be more compliant. Should be doing anything and everything he said without a word so he wouldn’t come up with a reason to pawn her off on someone else or leave her. But she couldn’t. Not with something this important.

Arrow huffed out a sigh and turned his head to look back the way they’d come. Then, just as quickly, he looked back down at her. “Fine. But don’t make a sound. Step where I step. And if I tell you to do something, you do it immediately and without question. Got it?”

Morgan nodded quickly, feeling almost lightheaded with relief.

“Come on,” Arrow said. He grabbed one of her hands and tucked it into the waistband of his pants. “I need both hands free,” he said by way of explanation.

Morgan would’ve preferred to hold his hand, but this was almost as good. His shirt was tucked in, so she couldn’t feel his skin, but she could feel the heat from his body against her fingers. The morning was warm and humid, just like most mornings in the tropical country. It would only get hotter as the sun rose above the horizon.

Following behind Arrow, Morgan did her best not to make a sound as she clung to him. They entered the dilapidated two-story building without a sound. It was obviously abandoned. There was junk everywhere. Discarded pieces of wood and metal, trash, and even rotting food. It smelled horrendous, but Morgan barely noticed the smells of the city anymore.

Gingerly stepping over the trash and debris, trying to put her feet exactly where Arrow did, she once again ran into his back when she didn’t notice he’d stopped walking.

He turned and put his hands on her shoulders. “We need to hide here for a while,” he told her.

Eyes wide, Morgan stared up at him. “But I thought we were going to the safe house with your friends and Nina.”

“We were. But after what happened in that alley, we need to hole up instead. I don’t think the guys I fought will stick around to talk to the cops, but that gunshot will definitely bring the authorities running. And the last thing I want is to have to deal with the local police. Not with you having no identification.”

Morgan wanted to ask him for more details about how she was going to get out of the country, but she only cared about one thing at the moment. She hated herself for being so fixated on not being left behind, but she couldn’t help it. “Will your friends leave us here?”

“No,” Arrow answered immediately. “But even if they did, it wouldn’t matter. I’ve got ways of communicating with them and the others back in the States. They might need to get Nina out of here, but they’ll come back for us.”

The thought of Nina getting home to her mom made the panic Morgan felt at the idea of staying behind manageable. “Okay,” she whispered.

“We need to hide, though,” Arrow said, looking around. “There’s no way to get to the second floor, not with those stairs half-missing. Not that we’d want to be up there in the heat with no roof, anyway. We’re going to have to make us a hidey-hole down here. Something that looks natural if someone happens to peer inside, but not so stifling that we’ll suffocate.”

Morgan took a deep breath and looked around. There was a ton of debris on the floor. Nothing that looked like it could hide two full-size adults . . . well, one medium-size and one big one.

“Are you okay?” Arrow asked gently.

Morgan looked up at him and automatically nodded.

He shook his head in exasperation. “I think you’d say that even if you had a knife sticking out of your side, wouldn’t you?” Without waiting for her to respond, he took her hand in his and led her over to a corner of the room. “Stay here.”

Morgan clutched at him. “Where are you going?”

He immediately paused and turned to reassure her. “Nowhere. I’ll be right here in the room with you. You’ll be able to see me the whole time. I’m just going to see what I can do about making us a shelter.”

Ashamed of herself for her neediness, Morgan forced herself to let go of his hand and nodded. “Okay. You’ll let me know if I can do anything to help?”

“Of course.” He reached up to her face and used his thumb to wipe something off her cheek. Morgan had no idea what it was . . . dirt, blood, or something else she didn’t want to think about. Ultimately, it didn’t matter. It was one of the few kind touches she’d had in a year.

Then he turned and quietly began stacking wood and metal in what looked like a haphazard way, but was actually very precise. Morgan stood against the wall and watched, not taking her eyes off him. She was starving, but the feeling wasn’t anything new. Most of the time her captors forgot to feed her, and it wasn’t until they wanted to be entertained that they’d give her something like a bowl of beans, without any utensils. She’d long since gotten over any pickiness she might’ve had when it came to food. She ate anything and everything, even things she never would’ve touched in her old life.

Water had never been an issue, as the room she’d been kept in had a sink in the corner. She didn’t know how clean the water was, but it had kept her alive—that was all that mattered.

She would’ve killed to have that sink at the moment. After everything that had happened, she was extremely thirsty. But she was free. Well, sort of free, and she’d made a promise to herself not to be a bother or annoyance to Arrow.

“I think that’ll do it,” he said, more to himself than her, after about half an hour.

Morgan looked at the pile he’d made and couldn’t help but be impressed. It looked totally inconspicuous, and he’d done a good job of keeping the dirtiest boards on top. She could see a fairly big space underneath where they could stay hidden.

Arrow smiled at her then, and Morgan felt her heart leap in her chest, but she squashed it. He was here doing a job. That was all. It wouldn’t do for her to get attached to her rescuer. She didn’t think she’d ever be able to be in a normal relationship again. Not after everything she’d been through.

“Looks good.”

The words had no sooner left her mouth than they heard loud voices from the alleyway. Arrow was by her side before she could think. He swung her up into his arms and stepped quickly and silently over the boards to the hidey-hole. He put her feet on the ground and gestured for her to get inside.

Without hesitation, Morgan sat and scooted as far under the debris as she could, lying down on her side in the process. Arrow was hot on her heels. He lay down and scooted backward, forcing her to do the same, pressing her back against the wall of their makeshift shelter. He turned so he was facing the entrance to their hidey-hole, and she was completely hidden from view behind him. She rested her forehead against his broad back, but not before she saw the pistol Arrow held in his hand.

Her heart beating almost as hard as it had when they’d been running from the thugs in the alley, Morgan did her best to slow her breathing and not make a sound. The room was hot, and it was uncomfortable being this close to Arrow and sharing his body heat, but she didn’t move a muscle.

Within seconds, the door they’d come through merely half an hour before was kicked open with a loud bang.