Trial By Fire
(Black Irish Series #4)
Sloan’s only chance of freedom is Abbey…but is she becoming him?
Being lured home to Belfast, Northern Ireland, by the lie that he is a free man, Sloan O’Riley is arrested for the bombing in London he never committed. His only chance to stop his condemnation and execution is his wee wife, Abbey.Abbey throws herself into her husband’s past with the Irish Republican Army to construct the one thing that can free him – a bomb. With the help of her mother and Sloan’s sister, Maggie, she targets empty, crumbling buildings throughout Belfast to cast doubt on Sloan’s guilt.
As things heat up in the courtroom and on the streets of Belfast, Abbey fights for Sloan’s freedom. Will her actions free Sloan from prison and from those who would like to see him dead? And will their love withstand Abbey becoming just like Sloan?
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Sloan stared out the window at the asphalt as the wheels of the jet skidded across the black surface. He was back.His gaze took in the Belfast International Airport, flicking around, looking for military vehicles or platoons of troops ready to take him prisoner. All he found were flight crews darting about on baggage carts to prepare the next flight, and the occasional traveler peeking out the window of the terminal.
He let go a large sigh, his sensual, trademark smirk gracing his lips. I knew there was nothing to worry about. He glanced over to Gordon and Liam, meeting their scowls. They almost seem disappointed that Fitzgerald told me the truth.
His thoughts quickly returned to Abbey. He couldn’t shake her from his mind, his heart, since their lips had parted in Minneapolis. As soon as he checked into his hotel, he would call her and tell her he was safe. Then, he would send the jet back to get her, Maggie, Mary, and the children. In a day or two, she would be back in his arms, his face buried in the sweet curve of her neck, his hands roaming her body.
Once the celebratory lovemaking was over, he would take her to rediscover all the precious places of his childhood. He wanted nothing more than to share his past with the woman he loved, at least the parts of it that had been pleasant.
Once the jet had crept to a halt, the men rose and made their way to the door. They slowly descended the rolling staircase to the tarmac. Sloan’s grin widened. All was still good.
His smile faded when he heard the cock of a gun. He glanced to the side as over three dozen soldiers marched from around the aircraft, guns drawn and pointed at him.
“Well, well, well. Look who’s back,” a voice boomed over the crowd.
Sloan clenched his eyes shut. “Brown,” he growled.
The tall, balding man, dressed in his impeccable uniform, strode between the troops and stopped in front of Sloan. “I was hoping to get to say this again. Sloan O’Riley, you’re under arrest.”
“Go to hell.”
Sloan’s vision blurred as the butt of a rifle was slammed against his temple then into his rib cage. His knees buckled from the force. He fought to stay on his feet, to face his enemy standing tall and proud. He lost the battle as he crumpled to the ground. He grunted as his arms were wrenched behind him and cuffs were clamped on his wrists.
“Let him go!” Sloan could hear Gordon struggle against the men restraining him.
“Fionainn, I suggest you let the men do their job.”
Sloan’s head snapped up. Through the still-lingering haze from the blow, he could see Fitzgerald standing over him, his gaunt face beaming. “Welcome home, boy.”
“You set me up.” Sloan’s voice was violent through clenched teeth. His eye became hot as it began to swell. “I completed every task you gave me, completed every order. And you turn me over to the enemy?”
“Every task? Not everyone, Sloan.” Fitzgerald leaned into him, his hot breath inflaming Sloan’s ear. “I wanted blood, boy. Innocent, guilty…it didn’t matter. I wanted Northern Ireland in my grip. But you wouldn’t hit the targets I gave you. No. You set your sights on the military. Not the good, obedient soldier you thought you were.
“And then, you tried to leave. You met with those recruiters from the All Blacks that those imbeciles I let raise you invited to watch you play rugby. So, I fixed it so that you could never leave. I took one of your precious toys to London and left it there loaded with enough C4 to blow up say…a marketplace?”
For a moment, Sloan’s veins turned to ice as the revelation hit him like a shard of lightning. It had been Fitzgerald who had set him up, destroyed his life, and forced him to flee from his Ma and Maggie to save himself. It had been Fitzgerald who had murdered all those innocent people and pinned it on him.
Rage quickly replaced the chill within him. He rose in a lunge at Fitzgerald. Sloan was quickly brought back to his knees as the butt of another rifle cracked him across the skull.
Fitzgerald’s laugh echoed across the airfield as he strutted past Brown. “He’s all yours, Commander Brown. See to it that he is hanged, will you?”
“It’ll be my pleasure, Jack,” Commander Brown crooned.
Two soldiers roughly tore Sloan from the ground, dragging him to his feet. Sloan shook his head violently to clear the fog that had invaded his senses. His head throbbed. Fitzgerald’s confession echoed in his brain. Although Sloan knew the truth, it wouldn’t change a thing. His words meant nothing in a court of law. Here, he was a terrorist. A murderer. No amount of protesting would change anyone’s mind.
He looked up slowly, his eyes catching Liam and Gordon’s. Both men were restrained by at least three law enforcement officials apiece. Sloan ripped his gaze away from them. He couldn’t take the looks of horror on their faces. He knew what they meant.
He closed his eyes, clinging to the image of Abbey, Ame, and Ethan that he held in his heart. He had been a fool to leave them. Now, he would never see them again.
There’s no way out of this one. I’m as good as dead.
Abbey listened to his footsteps fade away before she opened the door and retrieved the bag. She excitedly rummaged through the contents. She giggled as she pulled out pajama bottoms and tugged them on. She nearly yanked the top on also before her eyes spied the white plastic container. Right. The salve.
Unscrewing the top, Abbey dipped her finger into the cool gel. She reached behind her back and rubbed it on the first gash she found. A sharp sting bit through her. She searched higher for another cut, contorting herself to find it.
“Let me help you.”
Abbey turned to find Sloan in the bathroom doorway watching her. His thick, black hair was damp and tousled. His blue jeans hung off his hips. His hard curves glistened from his shower. Abbey’s hands instinctively crossed over her naked breasts to hide them.
He chuckled. “It’s not like I haven’t seen them before.”
Crossing the room to her, he placed a hand on her shoulder to turn her toward the dresser. Scooping some salve onto his fingers, he gently rubbed it into her wounds. Abbey shuddered at his touch. His hands had a way of doing that—turning her into a puddle of goo.
He looked up at her with a concerned expression. “Are you all right?”
“Fine,” she breathed as she watched him in the mirror. She thought for a moment then, “You tried to kill me.”
“If I had wanted you dead, Abbey, you would be. I trust your da with my life. I don’t trust him with yours. You’re mine. I’ll protect you.”
“It was kill or be killed.”
He winked at her through the reflection. “Your da doesn’t need to know. Besides, you nearly killed me, too.”
Abbey felt her face flush warm. Her voice was quiet, “You left me in Belfast.”
Sloan’s fingers stopped. He wiped them on his jeans then caressed her hips with his hands. Nestling his head against hers, he let go a deep breath. “I thought I had ruined you. That I had turned you evil. Destroyed your soul.”
“You were disappointed in what I did.”
“Not in you. In myself. I could never be disappointed in you. It took your da to make me see. You and I are more alike than I realized. When put to the test, you adapted and survived. I thought I had found a perfect angel. In reality, I found the perfect complement to myself. The yang to my yin.”
Abbey turned to look at him. Her gaze wandered to his mouth. Lord, how long had it been since she had kissed him? The answer popped into her head. The night before he left for Belfast. Far too long.
Sloan must have shared the same thought because he parted her lips with his, his tongue tasting her, his breath stealing hers. She willingly surrendered as his fingers slid from her hips and up her rib cage until they reached her hands. He pried them from her breasts then replaced them with his. She gasped at the sensation.
Sloan broke free of the kiss then took her hand, leading her to the bed. An evil smirk spread across his face as he sat and pulled her to him. “What a pity, Abbey. You went to all the trouble of putting those pajama pants on just so I can take them off you.” He hooked his thumbs around the waistband and slid them down, leaving her naked before him.
Abbey didn’t need his encouragement. She climbed onto his lap, wrapping her legs around his as she kissed him, her fingers weaving in his thick hair. Slowly, her hands slid down his chest and abdomen until she reached the button of his jeans. Her mouth didn’t leave his as she popped it and slid the zipper down. Sloan lifted his hips enough to move the jeans and briefs past his butt.
Abbey didn’t give him time to take charge. She lowered herself onto him, gasping as he filled her.
She held him close as she made love to him, listening to his breaths come in ragged gasps. He clenched onto her tight, not allowing them to part even a little bit. She whimpered as she was pushed over the edge, her whole body shaking from the pleasure. His groans followed her as she felt him throb inside her. Looking down from her perch, she smiled at the sleepy look in his eyes.
“Luv, we have quite a bit of lost time to make up, don’t we?” he purred.
“That we do.” Abbey tugged down on Sloan’s bottom lip then covered his mouth with hers. He moaned as he flipped her beneath him, returning her fierce kiss with one of his own.
Tricia Andersen lives in Iowa with her husband, Brian and her three children – her sons, Jake and Jon, and her daughter, Alex. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts in English and from Kirkwood Community College with an Associate of Arts degree in Communications Media/Public Relations. Along with writing (which she loves to do), Tricia practices mixed martial arts, coaches and participates in track and field, reads, sews and is involved in many of her children's activities.
Tricia is the host of the Blog Talk Radio show Freshly Booked, a part of Writers Online Network.
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