Authors: Cerise Deland
Tags: #Romance, #Military
Text copyright ©2016 by the Author.
This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Desiree Holt. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original The Omega Team remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Desiree Holt, or their affiliates or licensors.
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Table of Contents
After SEAL Mike Lyons recovers from injuries on his last mission, he returns to work and this time, he’s locking down bad dudes, State-side, for the
. His PTSD is his biggest enemy but he’s doing an A1 job….
Until Grey Holden of
assigns him to protect the only woman who’s ever sparked thoughts of happy-ever-after. Now Mike questions if he’s capable of normality—and getting Rebecca Tierney to let him into her life.
Becka nixed hope for any long-term relationship with Mike long ago. Too bad she’s never been able to nix her love for him. When he shows up at work and carries her away, she’s determined to chill.
But old habits die hard.
Even though mixing business with pleasure would be the worst thing they could do.
With more than three decades in the publishing industry, I look back and remember fondly dozens of people who have aided me immeasurably to grow as an author. From copyeditors to proofreaders and most especially editors, I have learned the finer arts of better prose, more meaningful metaphors and the ever-fascinating benefits of dramatic dialogue.
Among them all, I count as uniquely wonderful and supportive my very good friend and colleague, Desiree Holt. She is unsparing in her love for good writing and her boundless generosity of spirit. Thank you for including me here, Des. It’s a joy and honor to be your friend and my privilege to work with you at any time on any project.
Three things he loved about the nation’s capital. The smart vibe. The Metro. His Nana.
Two things he hated? August and traffic.
And oh yeah, one thing he’d rather forget? His brief visit here last summer. The one that had been primarily for professional purposes but had become personal. Intimate. The one he’d give a year of his combat pay to forget. And the slinky brunette who walked naked through his memory.
Mikael Lyons pushed his sunglasses up his nose and squinted into the steamy summer sunlight on Wisconsin Avenue. The tourists were out in full press. The Georgetown college kids who’d arrived early for fall semester sauntered down the sidewalks, mingling with the spiffy bankers and stuffy society types who did lunch in this hallowed quarter of D.C. along the Potomac. He told himself not to look to the right, down the street to the antique dealers shop.
But since he’d been wounded in that fuckup in Kandahar last October, he’d lost fifty percent of his resolve.
And like an impulsive teenager, he took a gander at the shop.
The sun hit the fancy sign that hung perpendicular to the classy gilt and mahogany exterior. Baylor Art Dealers. Specialists and Appraisers. Est. 1866.
Angry at his lack of control, he ran a hand through his hair and punched the button to jack up the A/C. Better cool off before the memory of the brunette’s silken skin beneath his fingers singed his brain.
Time once again, Lyons, to forget her.
He glanced at the digital screen on his dash. Two-twenty-six. Bottled up four blocks from his destination. If he was going to see his grandmother before he had to check in for his flight to Tampa at Dulles this traffic jam better part like the Red Sea. ASAP.
Behind him, he detected the screech of sirens.
No hope for getting out of this logjam any time soon.
He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, glimpsing the whirligig lights through his rearview mirror. Setting his teeth, he pulled as far to the right as he could for emergency vehicles to pass.
Better call Nana’s residence now.
He hit the dashboard screen and scrolled to her Contact entry.
The phone rang through to her number.
A police cruiser wove slowly past him.
“Good afternoon, Octagon Residences. Sylvia, speaking. How may I help you?”
“Hi, Sylvia. Mike Lyons here.” He put a hand up to his bad ear to block out the wails of an ambulance as it tried to inch through the congestion. “How are you?”
“Mr. Lyons! Hello! Your grandmother tells us you’re visiting today.”
“Yeah, well,” he began but he couldn’t hear himself think let alone hear the receptionist at his grandmother’s senior community.
“She’s so excited you’re coming. I heard what happened to you. I mean…I mean she told us all. Sorry I didn’t see you last month when you visited. Hope you don’t mind she told me.”
Mind? Hell, yeah.
He did. A lot. Not only was this young woman hot for the man he used to be, but he was just getting used to the fact that he was no longer a SEAL but a private security ops man. With only eight fingers, no spleen, bad hearing, burns on his left arm, he counted what blessings he could. He was upright. Still walking.
As if the change in his professional status and physical prowess was all he had to cope with. He’d become sappy, too. Pining like a teenager for a woman he should have claimed when he was whole.
“Nah. It is what it is, Sylvia. Look, I’m about four blocks from you at the moment. There’s some emergency ahead of me and traffic is stalled. If it moves at all, maybe I can get down to the next block and cut over there in a heartbeat. If not, I’m afraid I’ll have to skip my visit.”
“Hate to cancel, Sylvia. You know I do, but something’s very wrong down at M Street. No idea what. We’ve got emergency vehicles all over the place.” He watched as two police cruisers flew toward him on a side street, braked long enough not to run over a lady and her poodle, and finally swung into Wisconsin, right alongside him.
The sirens set off a buzzing in his brain.
Don’t let it escalate.
Breathe. Deeply. Nice and evenly. Breathe. Deeply.
“Mr. Lyons, what do you think?”
“What?” He bent forward, the sound of choppers overhead, ca-thunk ca-thunk ca-thunk sending him back to the sand box and his last mission. The one where he didn’t come out too well. Neither did two of his teammates. Hell, Rock and Serge didn’t come home at all.
Sweat trickled down Mike’s spine. “What did you say?”
“I asked if you thought I should tell your grandmother now that you’re having trouble—?”
“Trouble with the damn comm line!” his buddy Rock was yelling at him. “It’s no good! Why the hell do they send us shitty stuff? Thought we got the best.”
“Throw it away, Rock.”
“What? Mr. Lyons?”
“Sorry, Sylvia.” He scrubbed a hand over his brow. Memories, that’s all. Memories, blending yesterday with today, had been fewer and fewer in the past six months. He’d learned how to deal. Or so he thought.
“Mr. Lyons? Hello?”
“What? Yeah, Sylvia. Listen. Bad comm line here. You’re breaking up.” He took a deep breath. Centered himself and reached for today, this minute, the task at hand.
His grandmother. Getting to her senior residence building and hugging her.
“Tell her I’m in traffic. I’ll try to get in to see her. But I’m not certain I can. My plane is at six-forty out of Dulles and I’ve no idea how long I’ll be stuck here.”
“Okay. I hear you. Wow, sounds like a lot of sirens there. I hear some here, too.”
“Yep. Must be a big accident, Sylvia. I’m gonna go. But I’ll keep you posted, okay?”
“I might just run in, give Nana a big kiss and run back out.”
“I’ll tell her. But you know she’ll bug me until she sees you’re safe and sound. She worries about you.”
Another telephone number popped up on his screen.
Grey Holden. In Omega headquarters.
“Got it, Sylvia. Tell her. I need to go.”
He clicked off and hit the button to accept Grey’s call. “Hey, Grey. What’s up?”
Mike looked around him. The one woman with her poodle stood on the corner, looking at her cell phone with a dazed expression on her face. “Wish I could agree, pal, but it’s been awhile.”
“Listen, Lion,” his boss said, using Mike’s old nickname that was now Omega’s code for him. “Got news. You…now…not far. If you—“
He put his hand up to his ear again to drown out the wails, concentrating. Struck by the sight of a woman who swayed against a store window, he noted others who looked wobbly…or nuts.
A man in a three-piece navy suit ran out of a restaurant, tugging a lady behind him. She stumbled, stopping to flip off her high heels and run off with him in her bare feet. Mike panned to the lady and poodle. Tears rolled down her cheeks. The dog barked at her like a fiend.
His spine prickled.
These were visions of fear. Panic. He’d seen it in Kandahar, in Bagdad and Cairo. Why here?
He sat taller in his comfy plush leather seat and leaned over to talk into the speaker. “Repeat, Holden. Repeat. Static.”
“If our GPS is linked correctly, you’re at Wisconsin and Prospect, right?” Holden had toys that Langley and MI5 would give their eyeteeth to possess. He knew where his operatives were at any time, day, night, even in the sack.
“Check.” Two pale-faced coeds dropped their phones on the sidewalk and hugged each other. “Serious shit here, Holden.”
“Copy that, Lion.”
“What is it?” he asked while two elderly ladies bustled up the sidewalk, arm-in arm, both of their mouths trembling with terror.
“Shooter. One. Opened fire at M and Wisconsin. Semi-automatic. Two down at scene. Running north on Wisconsin. Police on foot. In chase.”
He focused on Baylor’s shop sign, waving in the breeze.
“Can you park on M?” Holden asked.
“Not easily. Not with transport.”
Mike would have laughed. Didn’t. “This is a serious piece of real estate, man.”
“Do. Not. Care. Copy?”
“Right.” The thought of his Nana not blocks away from here held at gunpoint by some asshole put steel in his resolve. And cleared his mind fast. “Why?”
“I’m assigning you an urgent case. But just as I hit your number, this attack bulletin came across the wire.”
More sirens echoed in the distance.
Mike focused, breathing hard and rhythmically. “And? Is it related?”
“No evidence. But in the area, so you need to assess and observe possibility.”
“Right. Details, please.”
“Assignment: guarding live resource. Maybe documents, too.”
“Client is who?”
“Private. Not government. Demanded to remain anonymous to you. Need you to get to resource and secure her.”
“Consider it done. Specs are?”
“Stats. Five feet, eight inches, one hundred forty pounds. Green eyes. What the hell is
Mike clenched his fist, recalling the way the silk of Becka’s waist-long waves drifted through his fingers. “I know what it is.”
“Client said you would.”
Who that client was would be an intriguing fact.
“Where is she now?”
Mike shot a glance down the street to the Baylor Art Dealers sign.
“One-two-two-four Wisconsin. You’re less than a block away.”
Fear gripped his guts but his mind went hot. The fighting machine he was trained to be emerged from his conscious like Hulk from a comic book. “I can see it.”
“Good. Get in there. Get her out. No disturbance to the others in the shop. Do it now. Check in later.”
“Executing.” Mike hit the
Climbing out, he slammed his door, hit the key lock and jogged down the crowded sidewalk. The crowd was a crush, running, crying, screaming as they wended their way north away from the M Street and Wisconsin intersection.
* * * * *
Becka tapped her shoes on the wooden floor. Why did copying a disk take so damn long?
Come on. Finish! Damn it.
She glanced through the glass partition from her office to Vincent Mayhew talking with the senior senator from Oregon. Covering her interest in them, she fiddled with the pins holding up her French twist. Their negotiations would be finished soon. She could tell by the way Vince leaned into the politician and smiled like a viper. A two million dollar deal didn’t come along every day. And his dealer’s profit on the sale of this particular Louis the Fourteenth credenza would be in the four-hundred-thousand dollar range.
Vince could retire.
God knows, if I can get out of here with this flash drive, I will. Gladly.
Fifty percent more to go.
She glanced up and caught Vince’s gaze, smiling at him with fake encouragement.
Beyond him, out on the street, a man paused, lifted his nose in the air as if he were smelling something really awful. A woman grabbed her friend’s arm and the two of them gaped at each other.
The shop door snapped open. The bells above the frame rang in an awful clatter.
And in walked Mikael Lyons.
Am I dreaming?
But she wasn’t.
Mike stood, surveying the shop like a man with a mission. Focused, pointed, his gaze swept the large display floor jammed with furniture and paintings, sculpture and china, ancient, modern, all of it suitable only for the upper one-percent’s purchase.
She shot from her chair.
What was he doing here?
She hadn’t seen him since they’d argued and parted last summer after that summary meeting in the State Department. Days after the end of their Paris job.
The end of our two-month affair.
She sucked in a breath, wrestling with her memories of how scrumptious The Lion had been as her lover. Instead, she zeroed in on what had happened to him after he’d left her on the sidewalk last summer holding pieces of her heart in her hands. His grandmother had notified her the day she’d gotten word of his injuries in Afghanistan. The elderly lady had faithfully kept her up-to-date about his wounds, his hospitalizations, his PTSD. Oh, but he looked so good now. The shock of sun-kissed hair, streaked with bronze and gold. The enormous shoulders tucked into a steel gray suit that fit his broad chest and powerful arms like a well-tailored glove. The height, six-four or more. Comforting to stand next to. Maddening beautiful. A little thinner than when they’d rolled around in bed together last July before they returned Stateside and he’d left for the mission that changed his life.