Agent M4: Riordan by Joni Hahn
Series: D.I.R.E. Agency, # 4
Publication Date: June 4, 2014
Genre: Sci-fi Romance, Superhero Romance
• Former D.I.R.E. Enemy Agent
• Mongolian Prison Survivor
Sent to a Mongolian prison against his will, former enemy agent Riordan St. James is suddenly back in civilization. With his hands crushed, and littered with scars, he trusts no one. When he accepts D.I.R.E.’s prosthetic hands to operate a future, super power enhancement, Riordan knows their offer comes with a price – he just isn’t sure he wants to pay.
After an affair with a client turns deadly, psychologist and senator’s daughter Natalie Meeks, doesn’t trust her own judgment. When she’s hired to help Riordan adjust to civilization again, she finds herself in familiar, forbidden territory – battling a fiery attraction to her client.
One heated encounter with the elegant Dr. Meeks convinces Riordan to abide by D.I.R.E.’s bargain. However, when new evidence about his disappearance uncovers shocking secrets, he questions not only his decision, but the people around him – including his sexy-as-hell doctor.
While their lives become more entangled, yet pulled apart, a madman turns up the heat on his plans for Natalie. And the only person she can trust is the one man that doesn’t trust her…
If men were like ice cream, Riordan St. James would be rocky road.
Tilting her head, Natalie Meeks studied the new D.I.R.E. agent through the one-way glass. He was one major hottie and, like ice cream, the last thing she needed on her hips.But, a girl could dream.Golden, sun-streaked hair lay in sweat-soaked tufts against the wide horizon of his shoulders. His pale blue eyes were barricaded and hard, a narrow beard lining his tight jaw. Glistening, tanned skin, mapped with scars, covered a torso of concrete-like muscle, his back a crossroads of whip marks.
Hanging on a pull-up bar several yards from the other agents, Riordan appeared to be a loner, on the opposite side of a bridge from human contact and relationships. His perpetual scowl screamed back off, his tense shoulders poised for attack. All he needed was a do not enter sign stamped on his forehead to make it official.
It must be her lucky day. She had to figure out how to get past the human obstacle course and get inside.
“So, are you ready to meet him, Doctor?”
No, she wasn’t ready to meet Riordan St. James. As a matter of fact, she really wanted to leave. Once upon a time, she’d considered herself qualified to diagnose and treat people with emotional conditions. Now, she didn’t trust her own judgment on what deodorant to use.
“As I told you on the phone, Mitchell, I really don’t feel skilled–“
“Save it.” Mitchell sliced a hand through the air, his brows furrowed. “What happened with Paul Warner was one hundred percent his fault, Natalie. He knew what he was doing.”
That made it even worse. As his psychologist, she should’ve seen it coming. She could’ve prevented it.
Mitchell Jacobs wouldn’t understand that. Paul would’ve been just another casualty in his book. In hers, a possible love turned tragic regret.
Crossing her arms over her middle, she sighed. “He won’t be pleased to meet me.”
Mitchell chuckled with a shake of his head. “No, he won’t. I’ll bet a bottle of Glenfiddich 1937 Scotch he’ll be royally pissed.”
Riordan climbed onto a treadmill farther across the room. He pressed a couple of buttons and started to jog.
“So, what do you want from me, Mitchell? A clinical diagnosis?”
“I want you to get him ready for the field. I think he lacks confidence. Right now, he thinks he’s ready – I say, he’s not.”
Natalie frowned as she played with her pearl earring. That meant working with him beyond today. What did she have to do to make Mitchell realize her qualifications disqualified her for the job?
Riordan St. James was different from any patient she’d ever counseled. He had a raw, barbaric edge about him, reminding her of a street fighter. He played by his own rules, wore attitude like a badge and defense like a shield.
She worked with the upper echelon of society. People that enjoyed telling her their troubles, people that looked for easy prescription drugs and found her unyielding. Many of her clients worked with her father in the Senate, or lived in upscale San Diego.
Her patients liked her. Listening rather than talking had been a trait from birth, her desire to help others deep and ingrained.
Riordan St. James didn’t strike her as a talker or someone that wanted help.
He pushed himself harder and faster than any of the other agents in the room. Sweat ran from his brow, the waistband of his shorts soaked through.
“When do you need him?”
“Yesterday.” Mitchell sighed as he turned to face her. “I took a gamble with St. James, Natalie. When he came in, he was in bad shape. Among his injuries, his hands had been broken and crushed. Deformed, for lack of a better word.”
Her gaze shot to the man on the treadmill. Though several feet away, he appeared exceptionally… fit, his hands normal. However, the scars littering his body backed up Mitchell’s story.
“Using a device similar to a 3D printer, we mapped out the previous bone structure of his hands and created replicas made with neodymium, iron and boron.”
Stilling, she held out a hand to halt his speech. “Wait. Are you telling me he has magnetic bones in his hands?”
Nodding, Mitchell said, “Yes, but the attraction is minor at this point.”
Slack-jawed, she could do nothing but stare. Had she just stepped into Frankenstein’s laboratory? “Why? Why not give him normal prosthetics?”
Leaning a shoulder against the wall, Mitchell shoved his hands in his pockets. “Have you heard of Robert Naylor?”
The infamous crime boss. Natalie doubted there were many people that hadn’t heard of him. “Yes.”
“St. James was one of Naylor’s best agents. The man has talents I can use. My plan is to give Riordan the ability to attract and repel objects with his magnetic hands. He has the groundwork now. Once I know I can depend on him, I’ll install the rest of his system.”
Shaking her head, Natalie couldn’t believe what she’d heard. “You’re going to make him some kind of… superhero?”
Mitchell gave a lopsided grin. “You could call him that.”
Logic warred with astonishment in her head. “That kind of thing is impossible… isn’t it?”
His arrogant smirk almost seemed patronizing. “I assure you, it’s quite possible. I already have a team of agents with super powers. My son, Tristan, among them.”
What had she gotten herself into? D.I.R.E. made scientific enhancements to human beings. Her father had used D.I.R.E. in the past. Did he know about this?
She pointed at Riordan through the glass. “He agreed to this… enhancement?”
Mitchell nodded before glancing at Riordan. “Make no mistake, Natalie. He trusts no one. And, he has good reason for feeling that way, too. St. James knew if he didn’t take my offer of new hands, he’d live handicapped the rest of his life. The magnetic bones were a quick, permanent fix – for him and our team.” His voice lowered. “He needs to trust again. He can trust D.I.R.E.”
The sun-god dropped to the floor and did push-ups. This was just so wrong. Wasn’t it? Messing with the human body? Playing God?
Then again, the idea of following someone going through the process, and tracking his subsequent work, fascinated her. It would take her work to a level she’d never imagined.
You can’t even diagnose normal humans. You want to diagnose superheroes?
“He’s been working his ass off, trying to get back in shape,” Mitchell said. “He’s made remarkable progress. If anything, he’s determined to defeat not only bad guys but his own demons.”
Riordan switched to one-handed push-ups without skipping a beat. He had demons, no question. They stood on the opposite side of that bridge he’d erected. She just wasn’t sure if the bridge was intended to keep them at bay or to rush them head on when he felt ready.
Then again, she had her own demons to slay. Helping Mitchell and Riordan St. James would keep them front and center. What if she failed them both?
Mitchell said, “I need good agents, stat. And, when I get St. James up and running, my gut tells me he’s going to be one bad ass superhero.”
By day, Joni Hahn keeps her secret decoder ring hidden while she works as a mild-mannered HR manager and accounting generalist. She believes the world can never have too many superheroes, and anxiously waits for the call when one will need help saving the world… or getting into his costume. Joni was born with a hopelessly tender heart and believes there is nothing more exhilarating than falling in love (other than the rear shot of Chris Evans hitting the punching bag in The Avengers – that was pretty darn exhilarating). A native Texan, she thinks cowboys are the epitome of masculinity, and country music is the other soul music.