Authors: Leslie North
“The nurses made us leave,” Kyle said. “I saw a couple of high level military guys arrived just as we exited, so I’m guessing they’ll be taking Natalie away soon.”
“Yeah.” Hayley tucked a lank of her auburn hair behind her ear. She didn’t like lying to the guys, but she’d made a promise to Natalie. “I’m sure everything will work out in the end.”
“So, you guys still together or what?” Spencer asked them.
“Why is that any of your business?” Gage piped in between kissing the back of Anna’s hand. “Some of us have private lives, you know.”
“Don’t rub it in.” Spencer scowled and sat back, his ginger good looks reminding Hayley of the hunky doctor from that steamy medical show on TV. Not McDreamy, the Scottish one.
She reached over and patted Spencer’s hand. “Don’t worry. The right woman will come along soon enough.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” he said.
She wanted to ask more, but Scotty slid his hand up her thigh beneath the table and pretty soon all words left her. Things would work out okay. They would. She’d go back to work, Scotty and his team would continue investigating Nick’s case, and together they’d discover who was trying to set them up for murder.
“You happy, Red?” Scotty whispered in her ear.
“Beyond happy,” she said, smiling. “And you?”
“Ecstatic.” He winked and she grinned.
“All right guys,” Kyle started, giving Scotty a significant, shut-the-fuck-up look. “Here’s what we know…” and with that, they all settled in together to plan out their next move.
Across town, a man stood at the window overlooking the Potomac, a vodka on the rocks in one hand, his cell phone in the other. Things were not going as planned. Not at all. He took a swig of his liquor then sighed heavily. “Did you get the widow?”
“Uh, no sir.” The voice on the other end of the speaker phone call sounded stilted, nervous.
Good. They should be fucking nervous.
“What about the letter?” His words were clipped, his gaze narrowed on the Washington Monument in the distance. Since 9/11 it seemed they were always fixing something or building something or trying to make something safer or more secure.
That was his plan too. Always had been.
“N-no sir. They took her away before we could question her.”
He knocked back the rest of his alcohol in one shot then set the glass aside, turning away from the picturesque view and back to face his penthouse office. Chances were good those goddamned SEALs were involved in this too. If he’d known taking out one of them would cause this much of a headache, he would’ve arranged to have them all terminated. He slumped into his black leather executive chair and rubbed a hand over his face. When he’d started all this shit, he’d figured it would be over quickly. Make the delivery, infect the terror cell,
Not so, however. This mess was getting more convoluted by the day. Exhausted beyond his years, he shook his head. “Any idea where they’ve taken her?”
“No, sir. U.S. Marshall’s picked her up from the hospital. She’s gone.”
“Fine.” He sat forward and balanced his elbows on the desk, his bones aching more from his strenuous workout at the club earlier than his age. “Forget her. We’ll work our other angle. Is the story ready to leak?”
“In final edits, sir.”
“Perfect. I want it fed to every major news service by the end of the week. Got it?”
He ended the call and took a deep breath. There was more than one way to deal with a pesky SEAL, as Spencer Nixon was going to find out soon enough.
Hacking the SEAL
Book Two of the Saving the SEALs Series.
Book three, Trusting the SEAL, released on 29
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He didn’t understand loyalty until she stripped it away…
Damian Stone was a distinguished member of the NYPD, on the fast-track to an FBI career until a crime syndicate ambush cost him his partner and his ambitions. Recruited by an elite security agency that leverages his hyper-protective instincts to shield notorious trial witnesses, Damian never met a charge he couldn’t safeguard.
Alexa Volkov lived a privileged life, far from the messy underbelly of her father’s Russian mafia. As a crime boss daughter, she is in a unique position to collapse the organization from the inside out. Her plan to testify against the mob patriarch puts a bounty on her head that would tempt even the most trustworthy cop—especially one hell-bent on punishing her for the sins of her father.
But the safe house part of Damian’s protection plan is anything but safe. In a place where alliances are not what they seem and the most dangerous heat bearing down on them is the forbidden burn of seduction, the only thing more at risk than life is a lethal hit to the heart.
Alexa Volkov sat in the living room’s bay window seat and pretended not to watch Damian move around the yard. Her protector was now dressed in oil-stained jeans and a distressed T-shirt, which wasn't distressing at all—not in the slightest. At least this ensemble had sleeves. She didn't think she could endure another covert glance at his morning jogging outfit without giving herself away completely.
She wanted him. Big time. She wanted Damian Stone, the man sworn to protect her—the sort of ex-cop she had avowed herself to hate—the same man who clearly harbored a deep abiding hatred for her family, and by extension, her.
But how else was she supposed to occupy herself? She was bored out of her skull. When she wasn't pacing anxiously or pretending to read one of three hundred and sixteen—yes, she had counted—true-crime novels crowding the shelves near the fireplace, she stared wistfully out at the lake and imagined what the fresh air felt like. She hadn't even been here a day and already she was going crazy. Distracting herself with thoughts of the only other person on the property seemed like a surefire way to keep the cabin fever at bay.
Or a surefire way to make it a hundred times worse.
Damian knelt near the edge of the yard, a hammer held loosely in one hand as he considered a broken fence post. Alexa raised her book once more, but memories of their earlier time together in the kitchen caused the words to swim right off the page in front of her.
She glanced up. Damian, who had been gazing back at the house, quickly preoccupied himself with his toolbox once more.
Hours passed. Alexa reorganized Damian’s beloved novel collection alphabetically by author’s last name and series, baked authentic kartoshka cake balls and sprinkled them with powdered sugar, and scoured the kitchen. By evening, Damian still hadn't come inside, not even for a bathroom break. She pawed through everything in her foreign-to-her wardrobe twice, trying it all on until she arrived at a blue summer dress she had glanced over her first time through. The fabric sported loud red flowers that resembled poppies. She normally didn't like patterns, but she tried it on anyway.
Her reflection in the mirror sent a slight tingle up her spine. What had seemed like a run-of-the-miss dress on the hanger looked completely different hugging her curves and draping breezily across her thighs. She turned to admire herself from behind, enjoying the way the open back plunged down further than she first thought. She imagined the expression on Damian Stone's indifferent face when he saw her.
The chess match just got a whole lot more colorful.
His Stubborn Lover Excerpt
When your job is protecting people, the first rule is…never mix business with pleasure.
Keira Mantz has been given the job of a lifetime, and she refuses to fail. Trained as part of an elite security team, her first mission is to protect the Sheikh of Jawhara and his wife. What she thought would be a solo operation, though, is suddenly a two-person job. Her partner is none other than Brock Wells, the Viking-like team member who trained her. The last thing Keira wants is Brock stealing her thunder, but she’ll do whatever it takes to succeed—even if it means pretending to be in love.
When Brock finds Keira in a bar fight and offers her a place on the team, he knows she is the right choice. With her mile-long legs, fierce determination, and unwavering focus, he has no doubt she can hold her own. But with the threat to the Sheikh closer than they realized, Brock has no choice but to intervene. To give them the cover they need, they’ll have to act like they’re a couple. Although Brock told himself he’d never get close to another woman, the job always comes first.
When their ruse becomes a little too real, can Keira and Brock risk letting their guards down, or will admitting their feelings put others’ lives in danger?
Brock Wells exited the bar, heading for his ’66 Mustang. The twang of a sad love song followed him out, and his head buzzed with the four beers he’d had. The team had just finished a training operation in South America and Slade had given everyone some much needed time off—meaning Brock had come home hoping to find some female company.
He’d hit a bar that was a ways off from his usual haunts, looking for a stranger with doe eyes and a body that could make him forget just about everything. Tonight, however, his batting average was about as good as the one of whoever wrote that love song.
Well, it was probably better this way. Slade had no rules against team members getting hooked up outside of the teams, but he also didn’t like sending anyone into the thick of things if they had attachments. That was where Brock liked to be—in the middle of the worst trouble. This meant that Brock liked his girls for one night only, and every girl in that bar had had the hungry look of a woman hunting a man.
It looked like it was going to be an early night with the UFC channel and a few more beers for him.
Glimpsing movement from the corner of his eye—three figures under the glare of the parking lot lights—Brock stopped, and everything else went into automatic assessment. Some habits never went away, and the ones from his days as a SEAL were deeply ingrained.
Two guys, one woman—and yeah, he wasn’t being paid by Slade for this one, but he also wasn’t wired to look away. He headed over, took up a spot that gave him the advantage, since it put him right behind the guy holding the knife, and boxed the trio against a battered pickup. He offered a friendly grin. “Looks like a party.”
The two guys—good ol' boys by the looks of the wife-beater shirts and sagging jeans, and none too smart to go by the eyes glazed by drink and drugs—glanced at each other. The guy without a knife nodded at the half-empty parking lot. “Get lost.”
Brock shrugged to loosen his shoulders. “Let the girl go and I won’t have to mess up this crappy spot with your even crappier blood. I’m only asking once.”
The girl had guts enough. She kept hold of one guy’s wrist—the guy with the knife—but she glanced at Mr. Mouthy and said, her voice low and firm, “Please, I changed my mind, Toad.”
“Toad?” Brock laughed. “Seriously, dude? That’s your handle? Okay, we’re done here.” He brought his hand down on the shoulder of the guy with the knife—hard enough for the guy to let out a grunt.
Brock spun him around, punched him once in his soft gut. Not smart, dude, to let yourself go like that. The guy doubled over, spilling out whiskey-soaked breath. Brock snapped the knife from the guy’s limp hand. It clattered to the asphalt. A jerk back and the guy lay flat on the ground, on his back. Brock kicked the knife away and glanced at Toad—Mr. Mouthy. “You want a go? Your choice.”
Before Toad could even bunch a fist, the girl hauled off, caught him in the throat with the flat of her hand, and drove a knee into his groin. The guy doubled over, and Brock gave a sympathetic wince. She kicked up at his jaw with a boot, and Toad crumpled like a wad of toilet paper.
Leaving the two guys on the ground, Brock grabbed the girl’s wrist. “Come on. Let’s go before these two even think about trying a round two, or call for their buddies to come kick our asses.”
He pulled her with him, sizing her up as he went. She had long, straight hair, hitting below her shoulders; looked brown, maybe dark brown in this light. He couldn’t judge the color of her eyes, but they were big, dominating a narrow face. Pretty, he’d guess. A little too skinny. A baggy shirt hung down over her hips, hiding anything she might have for breasts, too, but she had great legs—long and lean and encased in tight jeans. Plus boots made for kicking.
“You okay?” he asked.
She nodded and let go of his hand to go around and get into his convertible. He lifted an eyebrow at that—maybe this kind of gutsiness had gotten her in trouble to start with. She didn’t seem to mind jumping into a stranger’s car, but then he wouldn’t want to hang around either to see how Toad liked being kicked in the nuts.
He started up his car and headed for the highway. “Where do you live?” He asked, leaning over so she could hear him over the wind, which was a soft roar in his ears and a pressure on his cheeks.
She shook her head, captured her flying hair with a hand, and slanted him a look. “No one’s ever done that before. No one’s ever helped me out.”
Brock grinned. “It’s kind of what I do.” He pulled out a card and slipped it to her. It had his name on it and the words, Slade Security. She ran her fingers over the card, and Brock’s throat tightened. She had great hands—long fingers, tapering, slim, and strong wrists. He liked the way she moved them, too, slow and certain. They reminded him, somehow, of white butterflies.
She looked at him again. “What kind of security?”
He shrugged. “Whatever anyone needs. Systems. Bodyguards. Surveillance. You name it. Slade, he’s my boss, runs a full service operation.”
She nodded, shifted so she faced him. “You military?”
“Used to be. Navy. I’m out now.” She nodded again and grabbed her flying hair, yanking it back into a pony tail. He put his eyes on the road. He was not going to think about taking her back to his hotel room. Well, okay, he was going to think about it; but he was also going to remember her kicking a guy in the balls. “What about you?” he asked. “Figure out an address where you want me to take you?”
She shook her head. “My cousins set me up to work for Toad. They didn’t tell me he wanted to have me selling drugs—and myself.”
“Ah,” Brock said, and gave a nod. “That accounts for the parking lot disagreement. No folks?”
“Not that I want to see.” She faced the road, too. He could tell that from the way the car seat squeaked. “Don’t have anything else going for me, either.”
He glanced at her again. The light from the dash played over her face. She had brown eyes to match her hair; big eyes in a narrow, heart-shaped face. She’d also held up well in that parking lot, better than most would, and she’d known how to fight. That was a point in her favor. She also wasn’t shaking or crying now. He liked that. “Where’d you learn to punch like that?” he asked.
She grinned. “Streets. Where else?”
“The streets. Meaning you fight dirty. That’s cool. You want a job?” The words popped out, and Brock wanted to kick himself. That’s what happened after four beers—impulse took over and his mouth went on auto-pilot.
He hadn’t meant to get into this with her. He’d been taught to protect those around them. The weak. The misfortunate. The ones you loved. Those were the rare ones. He’d always had to watch out for the folks who needed someone. He’d always hated the idea of meeting his maker on foreign soil and having that tear someone up back home—and it had ended up costing him.
But Slade was looking to expand the teams with support staff. Slade had said he also wanted to get some females on board. There were some jobs that needed a woman to do things that a guy couldn’t, like follow a female suspect or a client into a bathroom. Slade wasn’t the kind of guy to put women in danger, but the truth was that females could be a great distraction. He glanced at the girl—yeah, he’d bet she’d clean up to be totally distracting.
She hadn’t said anything, and he wasn’t sure if that was because she hadn’t heard him or was thinking things over. He was about ready to write her off—and that was a relief—when she asked, “What’s the pay?”
He glanced at her. It was her call to dive into this, and Slade would make sure she stayed safe. She’d get training. She’d never go out without back up. That actually might be something this girl could use. If he left her on the streets, there’d be no telling what might become of her. He gave a nod. “Good. Really good.”
She stuck out her hand. “I’m Keira Mantz. I don’t use drugs and I don’t sell them. I’m not up for anything illegal and I have no intention of ever being anyone’s property!”
She had enough aggression in her tone that Brock shook his head. But he also grabbed her hand and shook it. She had a firm grip. “Well, don’t go all Amazon man-hater on me.”
He glanced at her. Her mouth had twisted into a grimace, and he figured something had put her off men in general. Maybe Toad—or maybe just guys like him. Pity about that, but it’d be better for the job if she wasn’t there to snag a guy. “Okay, go ahead with that. I can’t guarantee anything, but I can take you to meet Slade. He’s got to make the final call on you working for him. You want to stop and pick up anything before we head out to meet up with him?”
She shook her head. “I’m more than ready to leave my old life behind. All of it.”
Brock put his eyes on the road. He knew about that. Sometimes life just got shitty enough that all you could do was leave the wreckage behind. He pulled out his cell phone to call Slade and set up a meet. The corner of his mouth twitched. Slade was going to love this girl—he just knew it. Brock snuck one more glance at her.
If she was coming on board with Slade’s team, that put her off limits. Totally. Pity about that, because Brock wouldn’t have minded seeing what she looked like under that big shirt of hers. But work came first. Always. That was one rule Brock was never breaking.
His Stubborn Lover Excerpt