Someone put out a hit on Parker Payne.
The statement echoed inside Parker's head, but it wasn't the only echo. His ears rang yet from the blast of the explosion that had sent him to the hospital and two Payne Protection Agency employees to the morgue.
Guilt and pain clutched his heart. He was supposed to have been inside that SUV, not Douglas and Terry. But, totally unaware of the bomb that had been wired to the ignition, they had jumped inside his vehicle for a lunch run. He'd been rushing out to catch them to change an order, but he had been too late. Doug turned the key, and the SUV exploded into bits of glass and scraps of metal. Two good men died, leaving behind wives and children.
It should have been Parker. Not only did he have no wife or child to leave behind, but he was actually the one whom somebody wanted dead.
He fought against the pain and confusion of the concussion that had his head pounding and his vision blurred. So he closed his eyes and tried to focus on the conversation swirling around his hospital bed.
His mother fussed. "We should take this conversation into the hall so that Parker can get some rest." Her fingers skimmed across his forehead, like they had when he'd been a little boy with a fever or a scraped knee or when his father died. She had always been there for her kids even though she hadn't had anyone to be there for her.
He caught her hand and gently squeezed her fingers in reassurance. She had to be scared at how close she had come to losing a child. In the past two weeks, there had been several attempts on his brother Cooper's life and on his twin Logan's life. But most of those attempts had really been meant to end his
Logan bossed. "We need to find out who the hell put out the hit." Then his tone turned suspicious, so he must have been addressing one of his new in-laws, when he added, "Unless you already know. Your contacts
must have told you who when they told you about the hit."
The guy cursed Logan, so he must have been the hotheaded Garek instead of the milder-mannered Milek Kozminski. "If I knew who the hell it is, I would have told youthe monster put my sister in danger."
Parker forced open his eyes, but he had to squint against the glare of the overhead lights and the sunlight streaming through the blinds. His head pounded harder, but it was more with guilt than pain. Stacy Kozminski-Payne had been through a lot recently, most of it because of him. He focused on his new sister-in-law. The tawny-haired woman stood between her husband and her brother, as if ready to stop a brawl. It was probably a position in which she would find herself for most of her marriage.
But then his twin did something Logan rarely did; he apologized. "Sorry, man. I know you would do anything to protect your sister."
Garek nodded in acceptance of the apology and continued, "The only thing I know for certain is that it's somebody who has a lot of money and influence."
"You and Milek need to reach out to all your contacts and see what you can find out." Logan resumed his bossing. As CEO of Payne Protection Agency and the oldest Payne sibling by ten minutes, he'd gotten good at giving out orders.
But the Kozminskis weren't known for taking orders well, so Parker waited for them to bristle. Instead Milek asked, "Are you really hiring us?"
Payne Protection Agency was a security firm that Logan had founded when he'd left the police department a few years ago. He'd coerced Parker into leaving the force, too, and joining him. Logan had always been very selective about who he hiredthat was why Terry and Douglas had been such good men and their deaths such a tragic loss.
Through narrowed blue eyes, Logan studied his new brothers-in-law. Very new since he and Stacy had married only hours ago in Parker's hospital room so that he could be Logan's best man. "I need your help," he said. And Parker knew his twin so well that he knew that wasn't an easy admission for him to make.
Stacy knew her husband well, too, because she hugged him in appreciation and sympathy. And love. It was obvious how much she loved him. And Logan loved her just as much.
So much that Parker felt a pang of envy. God, he must have hit his head harder than he'd realized.
His arms winding around his wife, Logan continued, "We need to keep Stacy and Parker safe."
And finally Parker managed to fight back the pain and gather his strength. He struggled to swing his legs over the bed and sit up. "This isn't your fight, Logan," he said. "It's mine. So you're not giving out the orders this time."
He had never minded before that Logan was his boss as well as his brother, but he minded nowbecause he didn't want his boss or his brother getting killed. "I'm not hiring Payne Protection. I can take care of this myself." Now that he knew he was the intended target
Logan turned to him as if surprised to find him still in the room. "Parker"
"This is all about me," he said. "And you need to be all about your new bride. You and Stacy need to leave for your honeymoon."
Logan's arms tightened protectively around his bride, but he shook his head. "I'm not leaving while you're in danger."
"That's exactly why you have to leave," Parker pointed out. "Because when I'm in danger, so are you." With the same black hair and blue eyes and chiseled features, they were so identical that most people couldn't tell them apart unless they knew them. Logan was always serious, and Parker was usually a smart aleck.
Logan shook his head. "That's exactly why we need to all work together to find out who put out the hit on you."
"Probably a jealous husband," a male voice remarked as another man stepped into the hospital room.
"Cooper!" their mother exclaimed over her youngest son.
Even though he was two years younger than Parker and Logan, he could have been their triplet. He looked that much like them. "Damn it," Parker grumbled. "You should still be on your honeymoon."
And that was when it struck him that both his brothers were husbands now. Only he and his baby sister were single yet. And his mom. But she was widowed, so that was different.
He didn't want his new sisters-in-law to become widows, too. "You need to take Tanya and get on a plane and get the hell out of here. And take Logan and Stacy with you."
"Logan and Stacy?" Cooper stared at the woman wrapped up in his oldest brother's arms, and his dark brows arched in shock. Logan and Stacy had spent the past several years hating each other before finally but quickly realizing that they actually loved each other. And they hadn't come to that realization until Cooper and Tanya had left for their honeymoon.
"Parker is getting upset," his mother said. "And he needs his rest. Maybe having Logan and Stacy's wedding in his room was too much for him"
"Wedding!" Cooper interjected.
Their mother shushed him. "You all need to take the explanations and orders into the hall." Her tone had grown sharper and her usually warm brown eyes were dark with concern and determination.
Her children and even the Kozminskis hurried to obey her, nearly bumping into each other in their haste to step out into the hall. She gently pushed Parker back against the pillows. "The doctor is keeping you overnight for observation," she reminded him, which was probably good since the concussion had affected his short-term...