Standing on the Cook County Federal Courthouse steps, special agent Russ Voight decided Penny Hennings deserved a star on the Perfect Posteriors of America wall of fame.
Maybe that was sexist, but since his meeting with Penny had been put on ice while she and Gerald Hennings-her legendary defense attorney father-held an impromptu press conference, Russ needed a way to distract himself. And Penny's rear provided a great distraction.
Months ago, his coworkers at the Chicago FBI field office had dubbed her Killer Cupcake for her aggressive cross-examination skills, but to Russ's way of thinking, she might be Killer Cupcake for other reasons. Those reasons having nothing to do with a courtroom and everything to do with her, his bedroom and lots of free time.
Ah, distractions. How he loved them.
Bang. A gunshot cracked the air.
Gerald ducked. Penny didn't. Blood roared to the front of Russ's brain. He snatched his sidearm from his holster, pushed off the iron railing he'd been leaning on and spotted Penny-not ten feet away-frozen on the steps as the reporter in front of her crumpled. Hit.
Loud, ear-blasting screams erupted. Pedestrians dove to the ground-dead last thing they should do-or ran like hell, exactly what they should do. Russ sprinted toward Penny, still glued to her spot, and did a quick recon. Where's the shooter?
Across the street. High up.
"Run!" Russ shouted.
But Penny didn't move. She just stood there in the streaming sunshine while her red power suit made one hell of an amazing target. One step below, her father had dropped. Whether he'd been hit or not, Russ couldn't tell. Get there. Three more steps. He latched on to Penny's arm, dragging her behind him. Gerald Hennings lifted his head. Alive. "Move!"
Penny turned back to her father. "Dad."
"You've got to move," Russ yelled.
But Penny dug in, yanking free to go to her father. "I can't leave him."
Another shot pierced the step next to Gerald and a hunk of cement flew.
Penny's perfect porcelain skin went white. Game over. If he didn't do something, she'd be dead on the next shot.
His brain in full overload, he plowed into her, wrapping his hand around the back of her head to break the landing. They hit the cement and a rush of air exploded from his lungs.
"Oofff," Penny said.
Right side. Find the shooter. With Penny trapped under him, he lifted his head an inch and glanced across the street. Parking garage.
The shooter had to be on one of the top floors of the parking garage.
Onlookers continued to scatter, their shouts clanging together. From the courthouse doors, armed guards charged out, weapons drawn. Pedestrians on the sidewalk had either fled or taken cover. Some huddled behind trees or garbage cans or any other solid object.
Gerald was still sprawled beside them. He faced Russ and Penny, and his blue eyes were loaded with fear that Russ had seen too many times. We've got to move.
Suddenly, the air went still and Russ lifted his head another inch. A slight wind rustled leaves and the bright blue of a May sky taunted him, because some psycho decided today would be the day to go stone-cold crazy on a bunch of civilians.
Under him, Penny moved. Now she wanted to move?
Keeping low, she reached for her father's hand. "Daddy?"
"I'm okay," he said.
She shifted again and Russ pressed his body weight into her. On the middle of the expansive and now-empty courthouse steps, right beside a wounded reporter, they were a beautifully open target.
He swung his head, searching for anything that would provide cover. Nothing. Not one damn thing. Run. They'd have to risk it and hope one of them didn't get popped. Below them, the woman who'd been hit whimpered. He needed to get her out, too.
"Hang in there," he yelled. "We'll get you to a hospital."
Having no idea how badly she was injured, he didn't know if she could even understand him.
Sirens blared as Chicago P.D. cruisers stormed the area. "Parking garage!" he hollered at what looked like a detective jumping out of an unmarked car. "High floor. Right side." He went back to Penny still under him. "Are you hit?"
She lifted her head. "I don't think so. But something is poking my butt."
A punch of relief ripped into him. Damn she'd scared him by freezing up like that. He eased her head back to the ground, hoping she'd forget about the thing poking her.
An armored BearCat screamed to the curb and SWAT guys funneled out, loaded with combat gear, ready for battle. "Shooter in the garage!" Russ yelled.
Someone save us. Someone save us. Someone save us.
Penny's pounding head would not let up. Over and over the screams and the crack of shots and the sirens replayed in her mind, the sounds pummeling her, making fear a ripe sting against her body. She closed her eyes. One second. To focus.
Now that she knew her father was alive, they'd figure out a way to safety. With an FBI agent on top of her, they'd manage a plan.
The pounding eased a fraction and she opened her eyes. Just below her, Dad stared at her, his face stacked with terror she didn't know her warrior father could feel.
"Russell, we need to move."
"No kidding, Penny. Give me a sec."
She rolled her eyes. Alphas. Always needing to be in charge.
"What's…what's poking me? Could I have gotten hit?"
"The parking garage," he hollered at the SWAT team.
He waved his right arm and the bit of movement increased the pressure on her butt. What the heck? "Russell, I think I'm hit."
"I don't think you're hit."
"Then what's that damned poking?"
"Uh, sorry," he said. "That's uh…ah, cripes…it's…me. It happens sometimes. Adrenaline."
What? She focused on Russ's body, the weight of it, the location of their various body parts and- Oh, stop it.
"You have an erection?" she muttered, hoping her father wouldn't hear. "Now?"
"Hey, it's involuntary."
Some nut was shooting at them and the FBI agent, the one who had just saved her life, had an erection. Unbelievable. "Well, get. It. Off."
"Penny," her father said, "quiet."
She'd never understand men. Never. She didn't understand a lot of things right now. All she and her father were doing was talking to reporters, trying to get a sound bite for their client, and suddenly everything exploded. Instead of herding her father to safety, she'd stood there, lost in the paralyzing fear of her thoughts, a wimpy girl, not knowing what to do. Pathetic. Truly pathetic.
And Russell Voight, a man who normally sparked all kinds of fantasies in her mind, on top of her with a giant-really giant-erection, wasn't helping her current state of confusion.
"It's okay," Russ said to her father. "She's scared. People babble."
"I don't babble."
"Yeah, you do. On three, we're all bolting to the building. Stay low. And get rid of those heels. You need to haul."
She nodded, kicked off her spiked heels and touched her father's shoulder. "Are you ready?"
"We're good, then," Russ said. "One, two, three."
He jumped up and the sight of all that quick movement stunned her. He squeezed her hand with enough force that a knuckle popped, and then he dragged her to her feet and sprinted toward the building. Wait. Dad. Penny glanced behind her, spotted her father a foot behind and reached back for him.
"Go, Penny. I'm fine."
The safety of the lobby was just ahead and Penny stared at the back of Russ's head, focused on all that thick dark hair because the man had amazing hair and it was so much better than thinking about gunfire.
He swung open the lobby door and shoved her through. "Find an interior room and stay there. I'll find you."
"Go. I'll find you. I have to help out here."