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Final Exit (EXIT Inc. #3)

By:Lena Diaz

st few months ducked into her car and pulled out a backpack, which she then slung over her shoulder. A few seconds later she was inside the house, seemingly oblivious to the danger surrounding her as the lights flickered on in the front room. Kade let out a breath of relief. She must not have spotted his agents.

Kade had decided the safest approach was for his team to ambush her after she fell asleep. They'd already disabled her security alarm, making it seem like it was working when it really wasn't. Cameras and listening devices had been set up inside and constantly relayed information back to the watchlike device on Cord's wrist. When Cord was confident that Bailey was asleep, he'd press a button on that insanely expensive piece of equipment that would send vibrations to the similar devices strapped to the other agents' wrists. Then all five of them-three from the front, two from the back, would quietly enter the home.

Their sixth team member, Nichols, was Plan B. If Bailey managed to make it to the highway, the hope was that Nichols would hold her off until the rest of the team arrived.

Kade really hoped it didn't come to Plan B.

They were counting on stealth and the element of surprise to give them the advantage. Now, all they had to do was wait. But since Kade's throbbing bum leg was acting up tonight, he'd have to do his waiting in his rental car.

He headed away from the cliff, stiffly maneuvering down the rocky slope. The thick, dark clouds weren't blocking the moon anymore, so he could easily see the luxury Cadillac Coupe parked beneath some twisted oak trees.

Earlier, he'd made sure the car wasn't visible from below. He'd also fashioned a small hole in the bushes near the front passenger window so he could see the cottage from inside the car. He'd tried to consider every possible variable. And so far things were going according to plan.

When he reached the car and opened the door, he debated breaking the seal on the bottle of Jim Beam that he'd impulsively bought on the way here. Sometimes the ache in his leg required something stronger than over-the-counter painkillers. And his previous abuse of prescription meds that had nearly destroyed his career left him with precious few ways to treat his pain. Group therapy sure as hell wasn't helping. He wasn't good at the whole mind over matter mentality.

After only a few seconds of deliberation, he reluctantly decided against the whiskey. He'd stood on that cliff too long. The pain in his leg and hip had gotten too bad for the relief that just a few shots of whiskey would bring. If he started drinking right now, he might not stop until the bottle was empty-which of course wasn't an option during a mission. Jim would have to wait until Kade was back at home base and there was no one around to witness his sorry state.

He settled into the luxurious driver's seat, the soft leather and change of position blessedly reducing the pain to a bearable level. Score one for a car he'd never expected to drive until he was old enough for a retirement home. But hauling himself up into a four-by-four pickup, his preferred mode of transportation prior to the accident, was impossible now without white-knuckling pain.

Using his binoculars again, he watched the operation play out below. Dominic, Alice, and Cord were crouched on the front porch. Even though Kade couldn't see the back of the house, he knew that Reese and Jack were waiting there.

Bailey didn't make them wait long. The lights downstairs flicked off. An upstairs light turned on. Twenty minutes later, Cord gave the signal. Making quick work of the locks, the team surged inside, weapons drawn. The only way that Bailey could escape now was if she had wings and could fly out one of the second-story windows.

Kade tossed the binoculars onto the passenger seat and leaned back, massaging the muscles of his left thigh, hoping to stave off the debilitating cramps that often came when the pain got this bad.

In spite of the heat, he didn't turn on the engine to run the air conditioner. Sound could travel for miles in these foothills. But even with the door propped open, the air inside the car was stifling.

Summer in Colorado wasn't for sissies.

At least it wasn't a steam bath like the summers in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. There the humidity made breathing feel like drawing air through a hot, wet sponge.

He closed his eyes, listening to the high-pitched song of crickets and the low rustling of other night creatures. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face. He absently wiped it away. Time seemed to crawl. But a quick check of his watch revealed it had only been five minutes since the team went into the house. He settled back again, waiting for Cord's announcement over the radio that Bailey was in custody.

Another minute ticked by. Then another.

His eyes flew open. The crickets had stopped chirping. The woods had gone silent. He scanned his surroundings and curled his right hand around the butt of the Walther PPK holstered at his waist. All he heard was the light rustling of pine needles scraping against each other in the warm breeze.

Something was wrong.

He grabbed the binoculars and studied the cottage. The lights were on upstairs. That should be the signal that they'd apprehended Bailey. So why hadn't Cord transmitted an update?

A low rhythmic thump sounded from somewhere outside the car. Someone running? He dropped the binoculars and pointed his pistol through the door opening just as a flash of white streaked past and disappeared into the woods.

Bailey. Still wearing her shorts and white T-shirt. Kade swore.

How had she escaped this time?

He holstered his pistol and grabbed the door to pull himself to standing, cursing again when his bum leg threatened to crumple beneath him. When he was sure that he wasn't going to fall flat on his face, he clicked the transmit