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Your weekend read…with Kali and Rad from Revenge Is Sweet

Today, Kali Sweet interrogates…er, interviews…her half-demon lover, Radison Beaumont.

Kali: Thanks for agreeing to do the interview, Rad.

Rad: (eyeing Kali’s whip):  Like you gave me a choice.

Kali (smiling): So, you’re a Chaos demon. If you could have any power other than the powers you currently possess, what would it be?

Rad: The ability to read your mind like Damon does. I don’t like that he has that power over you.

Kali (ignoring the hard look in Rad’s eyes): How difficult is it to be half human/half Chaos demon? Which one wins out most of the time?

Rad: My two sides are always at war, but I’ve learned to control them. The chaos side comes out if someone I love is in trouble or I’m threatened. The more vulnerable human side comes out when I am with that certain person I love. Sometimes they both come out when we, uh, you know… (winks)

Kali (narrows eyes at him): Moving on. What do you want to dress up as for Halloween?

Rad: Well, Radison Beaumont, rock star, of course.

Kali: Che cavalo, you are so full of yourself.

Rad (grinning): You love me anyway.

Kali:  What is your favorite thing to do on Halloween? 

Rad:  Perform in front of my fans. Halloween rock concerts are the best. Fans dress up, real-life supernaturals come out to play, and the band and I bring down the house with our own version of Thriller.

Kali: Favorite Halloween treat?

Rad: You.

Kali (flicking whip): Be serious.

Rad: I am.

Kali: Besides me.

Rad: Hmm…it’s a tossup between Snickers and M&Ms.

Kali: What would people be surprised to know about you?

Rad:  I love to cook.

Kali: Your shrimp fra diavolo is the best I’ve ever had. Why are you so good in the kitchen?

Rad (wiggles fingers): It’s all in the touch. Like playing a guitar or seducing a woman.

Kali:  Riiight…so what do you like to do when you’re not playing music or chasing down crazy supernaturals with me?

Rad:  Watch sports. Drive fast cars. You know, the usual. I am half human and a guy, after all.

Kali: If you had to pick a fight with another supernatural what kind would he be?  Vampire? Werewolf? Ghost?

Rad: There’s a certain vampire king and an archdemon I’m dying to go a couple rounds with.

Kali (mimicking Rad and wiggling her fingers): Better not hurt your money makers.

Rad: It’d be worth it to get you away from both of them.

Kali: Not gonna happen, and if it does, it’ll be because I kicked their asses, not you.

Rad: We’ll see about that…

Kali: Isn’t it inconvenient to be in love with a demon (points to herself) when you’re a demon hunter?

Rad: Inconvenient? More like a living hell, especially since you’re the number one demon on my hit list. But what’s life without some gritty conflict? (He shrugs.) I make it work.

Kali: Yes, you do. Quite well, in fact, but we really need to do something about that. I can’t keep consorting with a demon hunter.

Rad’s phone rings. He looks at the readout and stands, kisses Kali’s forehead: I’ll take care of the problem in book three. Promise. Right now, I gotta run.

Kali (fingering whip): Satan’s balls, tell me that’s not Parker.

Rad: Parker’s not in my life anymore and you know it.

Kali: Uh-huh. Just watch yourself, Chaos demon.

Rad (grinning): You’re sexy when you’re jealous.

Kali (snaps whip at him): Go. I’ll catch up with you later.

Rad: You better or I’ll hunt you down.

Kali (waving him off and secretly smiling as she watches him saunter away): Promises, promises…

READ Kali and Rad’s story this weekend! (Buy direct and save $5 on the bundle!)

★★★★★ “…hot, hot, hot!” ~ Reader review

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Cooper must risk his career – and his heart – to keep Celina alive

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “LOVED it! Breathtaking novel of suspense with an irresistible romance.” ~ Goodreads reviewer

Her sting operation put a ruthless criminal in prison…

One year ago, rookie FBI agent Celina Davenport pulled off the ultimate undercover operation…she seduced Emilio Londano – the dangerous leader of the San Diego Mafia – and destroyed his illegal empire.

Now he’s escaped and looking for revenge…

When Londano escapes a maximum security prison and begins picking off Celina’s friends and coworkers, everyone she knows becomes a target. Including DEA agent Cooper Harris, the man who once broke her heart and is now assigned to be her bodyguard.

How far will they go to stop him?

Cooper must risk his career – and his heart – to keep Celina alive. But will their past, with its forbidden passions and impulsive choices, put them directly in the killer’s crosshairs?

***Enjoy this excerpt!

“Take your gun, Davenport.” Chief Forester’s voice was low and ominous, rising out of the back seat of the car where he was hiding. Not an easy thing to do, Celina figured, with so much body mass.

Bending down, she motioned at her partner Ronni in the passenger seat and shucked off her mittens. “Give me your bag.”

Celina rarely carried handbags to work. She hung her badge on her belt like her male counterparts and carried her ID in her back pocket. Her gun was always in a shoulder holster. Now her gun, ID and badge were lying on the Fairmont’s floor. “Avon ladies don’t carry guns,” she murmured to her boss. “At least not in Iowa.”

Ronni handed Celina her brown leather purse and the Avon catalog. “Right behind you,” she said, giving her a wink.

“Take. Your. Gun,” the chief ground out again. His voice carried as much threat in its low volume setting as it did at its ear-piercing level. “You want to end up a goddamned hostage?”

That was her plan. Celina knew when she approached the door, Annie would immediately sense something was up. Something in Annie’s world always involved police. Celina could see no other outcome but a dangerous hostage situation. She doubted Annie would even open the door, but if she did, Celina was going to offer herself as a trade for Annie’s kids. Any mother, even an outlaw one, would look for a way to save her children. Celina was prepared to give it to her.

Slinging the strap of Ronni’s bag over her shoulder, she shut the car door, defying the chief’s direct orders. Not the best idea, but he’d stuck her in a no-win situation and therefore, Celina decided, she was calling the shots. For a split-second she wondered if he and Quarters would transfer her like Cooper had after the Londano case. Where would she end up this time? South Dakota?

Probably.

Not the end of the world. If I can get the kids out safely, she thought, that will be enough.

Shifting her shoulders, Celina forced her feet to walk up the cracked sidewalk toward the steps of the duplex. She loved her job, wanted to serve her country, but if there was anything she’d learned in the past year, it was that she didn’t always get what she wanted.

Ronni’s car door slammed and Celina glanced at her partner. Her hair was a bright apricot color, her skin darker than Celina’s but no less smooth. As they walked down the sidewalk, the sun popped out, glaring off the new fallen snow. Celina started up the stairs, shielding her eyes against the glare and trying to keep her breathing even. There were fifteen of her counterparts hidden around the block, watching the apprehension and scrutinizing every move she made.

Annie was one honest to God bad girl. Having been on the run for more years than Celina had been legal, Annie was an experienced fugitive. The woman had once shot her partner in his nether region in the middle of a bank robbery because he wouldn’t let her carry the bag of money.

Clearing her mind, Celina tried to think positive. Ronni was by her side and definitely carrying. Chief Forester was right behind her in the car for immediate backup with his Remington, and the other guys were scattered up and down the block. All had extensive training in marksmanship and deadly-force decisions.

Voices from a television filtered through the door. Muffled laughter drifted down from upstairs. Little girl laughter. She had to do this right, not to prove that she was as good as any of the men in the unit, but to keep those little girls safe.

Glancing at Ronni, Celina mouthed Ready? Ronni gave her a nod. Do it.

Celina knocked sharply on the door. “Avon calling,” she said, trying to mimic the singsong voice Ronni had used earlier when they’d decided to approach the house under this outdated guise.

At first nothing noticeable changed inside the house. Then the TV went silent and Celina heard a man’s voice, low but commanding. A man? No one had reported a man being inside the duplex.

Before she could consider who or what she was now up against, Celina saw a drapery move in the window to her right. Instinctively, she shifted her weight and her hand went for her gun.

And came up empty.

Before she could curse her poor judgment, the door handle turned and her eyes dropped to it. Watch their hands, the words of her Quantico instructor echoed in her head. Not their eyes. No one could shoot you with their eyes.

“Don’t want no Avon,” a man’s voice said as the door opened a notch.

A fragment of sun bounced off metal. Instinct had Celina moving before she could think. “Gun!” she yelled, pushing Ronni to the side.

The sawed-off shotgun boomed in her ears and the iron railing gave out as Ronni and Celina toppled off the porch and into the dead evergreens by the house. They landed with a thud on hard ground next to the concrete foundation. A thousand prickly evergreen needles showered down on them as they rolled in unison away from the porch.

Before the spent shells hit the concrete, Celina was hauling Ronni up by her jacket. “Run!” she yelled, hearing the distinctive click of the shotgun snapping back into place.

BOOM!

The sound sent her to her knees, but adrenaline had her back up in the blink of an eye, her legs moving like a runner taking off out of the blocks. More gunshots cracked through the air. Celina heard the Fairmont’s windshield explode.

Crouching with her arms thrown over her head, she ran for the edge of the house where Ronni had disappeared. She rounded the corner at full speed.

And ran smack dab into a wall.

Bouncing back as her feet scrambled for purchase on the late season ice and snow, she grunted when her butt hit the ground. Glancing up, black Magnum boots were in her line of vision. Big boots, laced military tight.

She hadn’t run into a wall. She’d run into a man.

A hulk of a man with very broad shoulders. Celina followed the line of his body up to his face. The sun was reflecting off the house and snow and blinding her. She could make out a few things: a black baseball cap with the letters DEA across the front pulled down low on his forehead, a mean-looking semi-automatic gun in his left hand. His scowl made her already-racing heart shift into warp speed.

When did the Terminator arrive in Iowa?

He shifted his gaze down to her and the look of disgust in it made her, if only briefly, entertain the idea of taking her chances with the sawed-off shotgun.

“Get up,” he ordered, and the sound of his voice and the impatient tone clicked in her brain, but her ears were ringing from the shotgun blasts and she wasn’t sure she’d heard him correctly. He reached down and grabbed her by the knot in her knitted scarf. Hauling her to her feet, he pulled her with him as he backed up against the side of the house. Her legs wobbled and her feet skimmed on the ice. She lost her balance and fell face first into his chest.

His bullet-proof vest was hard, but under it, she sensed a wall of pure, solid muscle. Just like his arms and his legs and everything else hidden under his DEA-approved wardrobe. Celina knew once her adrenaline slowed down, she was going to ache all over, not from falling off the porch but from hitting the Terminator at full speed.

The machine-like DEA agent pulled her closer. “You all right?”

“Cooper?”

There was a spurt of gunfire from the street and then the sound of more glass breaking. Cooper drew her in tighter. She flinched at the sound of the shotgun booming again. It sounded like a small explosion.

But then Cooper pushed her away, pushed her against the house. She mimicked his position, wishing she could have stayed in the protective embrace of his arms and knowing why she couldn’t. Ronni was a few feet away, sitting on the ground, back against the house with her gun out. Leaning her head back against the siding, Celina let out a breath. They were both a little shook up, but otherwise unscathed.

The gunfire stopped and total silence descended on the street. No birdsong. No traffic noise. Cooper had his eyes on her, sizing her up from top to bottom. “What the hell did you think you were doing?”

On one hand, she was excited to see him. On the other, the tone of his voice and his general man-handling pissed her off. Celina knew the silence around them meant her FBI counterparts were regrouping, while they tried to figure out their next move.

“I was doing my job,” she said to him. She let her eyes run over him in the same sizing-up he’d given her. He looked good. Solid and handsome, and serious as ever. “What are you doing here?”

“Where’s your gun? Or do female Feds in Des Moines carry Avon books as weapons these days?”

Celina shut her eyes for a moment. She had fantasized relentlessly about her reunion with Cooper. Never had her fantasy involved the current scene. Ronni cleared her throat and Celina glanced at her. Her partner was watching the exchange and had a questioning look on her face. Celina mouthed Cooper, and Ronni raised her brows and nodded her nice, very nice look of approval.

“Dickie Jagger is mine, Celina.”

“Dickie Jagger? Annie’s ex-boyfriend?” Celina scanned her memory. Richardson and Jagger had been tight in the late 90’s, pulling off more than their fair share of petty crimes together before Jagger had joined a gang in L.A.. It was probably Jagger who’d fathered at least one of Annie’s kids. “That’s who answered the door?”

“You were expecting the Great and Powerful Oz?”

“I was expecting Annie Richardson or her mother.”

Cooper grunted. “You can have Richardson, but Jagger’s mine.”

Turf war coming up. The FBI and the DEA often overlapped each other’s jurisdictions with criminals, which is why taskforces like Cooper’s SCVC were created. But even though they were supposed to be working together, they were more interested in trying to one-up each other.

Think Big Picture, Dominic Quarters always preached. His Big Picture was now clearer to Celina. Her boss and her boss’s boss wanted jurisdiction over everything and they’d do whatever it took to keep all other agencies in the dark.

She wondered what Forester was doing in the Fairmont, and if he was okay. If he was, she was going to give him and Quarters a piece of her mind when this operation was over. They had sacrificed children and two agents in a hurry to beat the DEA to the house.

“I’m sure Chief Forester would like to talk to you about that,” she said, when what she really wanted to say was, “Where have you been? Why didn’t you call me?”

For months after her transfer, Celina had analyzed Cooper’s behavior out loud while on stakeouts with her partner. Ronni had put it in six easy to understand words: he’s just not that into you.

Cooper did a quick scan of the area again. “Where is he, your chief?”

“In the car.”

His eyes snapped back to hers and the brim of his cap rose with his eyebrows. “The car in the driveway?” He shook his head. “What kind of half-assed FBI unit is this?”

“You should know,” Celina retorted, mad all over again. “You sent me here.”

“I didn’t send you here,” Cooper corrected her. “That was Quantico’s orders after your face was splashed all over Time magazine as the New Face of the FBI.”

“But you kicked me off—”

“This is not the time, Celina.”

Before Celina could reply, Cooper cocked his head, picking up noise inside the house. His hand came up to silence her. For several seconds he stilled; a freeze frame of anticipation. Not even a breath escaped his body, only a prevenient energy radiating from every inch of him. A cat preparing to pounce on a mouse.

Another noise inside the house—this time Celina heard it too—voices and the sharp snap of a shotgun locking into position. Cooper pulled a mouthpiece out of his cap and spoke into it. “Assume take down positions,” he announced quietly to whoever was listening. “We’re going in.”

“There are three innocent people in that house. Kids.” Celina’s voice sounded too loud in her ears. “You can’t just bust in there. Someone could get hurt.”

Cooper pointed one of his fingers at a spot next to Ronni. “Have a seat, Agent Davenport. This take-down no longer concerns you. You shouldn’t be here and if you and your buddies hadn’t screwed this up to begin with, we wouldn’t have this problem.”

“Now, wait a minute,” she started, but Cooper grabbed her shoulder, twirled her around and pushed her down hard on her butt. She gasped from the impact and his incivility.

“Everybody move on my count,” he said into his radio.

Walking to the corner of the house, he locked his gun into firing position under his arm. “One, two, three.” His voice rose. “Go! Go! Go!”

And then he was gone.

Celina looked at Ronni, whose eyes were still on the spot where Cooper had disappeared. “So that’s The Beast, huh?” A silly grin split her face. “That gun powder and Wheaties diet is working for him.”

“Yeah,” Celina huffed, sarcasm blowing out with her breath, “and he definitely wants me. Did you notice how he was practically falling all over himself to see if I was okay?” She pushed herself off the ground to follow him. “Asshole.”

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Payback is a bitch and her name is Kali Sweet…

★★★★★ “Kali is a Buffy the vampire slayer new genre!” ~ Reader review

★★★★★ “Great urban fantasy!” ~Goodreads review

I’m Kali Sweet, the best damn vengeance demon on earth. I work for the supernatural world’s Justice Department and protect innocent humans from otherworldly creatures like me. While I can’t take revenge for myself, I make sure justice is done for others.

But when my latest run-in with Chicago’s vampire king backfires, the fallout leaves me with three big problems: a powerful Undead enemy who wants my head, my boss looking over my shoulder, and three personal blood slaves jeopardizing my reputation.

***Enjoy this excerpt!

Raj Nudra, Vampire King of the Central United States, was waiting for me.
Seated behind a mammoth black desk, Nudra appraised me with flat reddish-brown eyes. Two of his minions flanked his sides, arms crossed, weapons in plain sight. Low level demons, good for muscle but who couldn’t think their way out of a coffin.
Nudra leaned back in his chair, long black hair falling across his shoulders as his feminine lips curved up into a smug smile. “Kalina Dolce, what brings you here? Hoping to score front row seats to the concert?” He pointed to a couple of tickets on his desk and then to a bright orange lanyard with a plastic ID protector. “Or perhaps a backstage pass? Word has it, you were once sweet—no pun intended—on Rad Beaumont. If you’re looking to hook up again…” He let the suggestion hang in the air.
No one had called me Kalina Dolce since I’d left Rome in 1910. Kali Sweet was more modern, more American, and it didn’t remind me every day of what had happened to my family and friends. Didn’t make me catch my breath in fear when someone called me by it, or make my gut cramp with guilt when I saw it written on a random envelope in the mail pile.
I shut down the bloody memory the name called up. Now wasn’t the time to revisit the past. In fact, it was never a good time to visit the past. Under the circumstances, however, I recognized Nudra’s one-two punch. He’d caught me off guard with his use of my old name and knowledge about my relationship with Rad. He obviously had anticipated my visit and planned accordingly.
Blood-sucking bastard.
Rule one when dealing with vampires, always have a ready escape. Leaving the door open, I removed my Bridge badge from the inside pocket of my cape, regaining my composure as I did so. The weight of the shield reassured me. The way the overhead light bounced off the gold reminded me of the responsibility I held. Nudra was king of a bunch of undead vamps. Big deal. I was a member of the Bridge Council and the best damn vengeance demon on the face of planet Earth.
I shoved my badge in his face. Sniffed the air as if he stunk as I flicked the hood off my head. Italian flair, check.
Offense taken, he straightened ever so subtly as I glared down at him. “You’ve crossed the line with humans again, using them as blood slaves. Trafficking them across state lines and selling them to the highest bidders. That’s two strikes this year. One more, and…”
“You’ll send me to my coffin for a time out?”
East Indian charm, check.
“One more, and the next time you see me, I’ll have pliers in my hand.”
His flat eyes sized me up, and then he tsked. “Such an inhumane way to remove my fangs.”
I fished the written warning out of my back skirt pocket and tossed it on the top of his desk. “They’re not for your fangs, buddy boy.” American snarkiness, check. “They’re for your balls.”
I grabbed my crotch to emphasize my point before backing toward the door. Rule number two, never, ever turn your back on a vamp, especially when threatening his vamphood. “I take your balls, you lose your sex drive, and with it your bloodlust will decrease by ninety-nine percent. You’ll stop preying on human girls and boys, and a king with no sac is nothing but a figurehead, so you can wave bye-bye to all this power you’ve amassed. The Council will divide up your kingdom among the other American vampire rulers and your fortune will be doled out to the blood slaves as restitution.”
While his DNA gave his skin a warm tone, the vampire disease paled it. The result was a taupey gray, making it impossible to discern whether or not my words were sinking in.
Nudra leaned forward in his chair. “How surprising the Council sends you, its heart and soul, to do its dirty work.” Instantly, I felt his power rising around both of us. Sexual power, blood lust, desire all mixed together. “I could use someone like you in my organization, Kalina. Someone with your strength, your influence. That zest for humans you have fits perfectly with mine. The compensation, of course, would be exemplary. You would have everything you ever wanted.”
There was only one thing I wanted, and no one, not even God Himself, could give that to me. Once a demon, always a demon.
I stopped in the doorway. “My name is Kali Sweet.” Holding up two fingers, I made snipping motions. “Don’t forget it or I’ll tattoo it into your skin when I cut off your balls.”
My nerves jangled as loud as the music in the walls as I moved quickly into the hallway and continued to back toward the stairs. Threatening a vampire king was stupid, but running a human blood slave business was unforgivable, and if it had been me making the call, I would have staked him on the spot. The Council, however, existed for this very reason. Vigilante justice created more problems than it solved.
No surprise, Nudra’s minions darted out of the office after me a few seconds later, weapons drawn. Vampire king bluster, check. Guns won’t kill me, but bullets will slow me down. And they hurt like hell.
Adrenaline pumping, I hit the bar of the stairway’s door hard with my backside to push it open. I didn’t want to engage the minions, but I reached for my trusty whip, curled around my left arm like a bracelet anyway.
I’d just turned to run down the stairs when I smacked into a solid wall.
Where did that come from, my brain screamed as the impact sent me backwards on my butt, back hitting the cold concrete wall and knocking the wind out of me. A guitar landed at my feet, making a funny twanging noise as if someone had run unskilled fingers over the strings.
A vaguely familiar, surprised sounding voice said, “Kali?” and I looked up to see my daily nightmare standing there in the flesh.
Radison Beaumont, in too-worn jeans and a too-tight black T-shirt, gave me a slow once-over with his beautiful gold-colored eyes before his lips quirked to one side in a smile that sent my already hammering heart into overdrive. Beating like a battering ram inside my chest, it rang in my ears and drowned out the bass drum echoing in the stairwell.
My skirt had flipped up to reveal an expanse of skin between the top of my boots and my underwear and Rad’s gaze lingered between my legs a second too long before lifting to meet mine. Dozens of warnings went off in my head, but damn if I could find my voice or my extensive repertoire of Italian curse words. I couldn’t even find my breath. He looked a little older than the last time I’d seen him, but still perfect to me in every way. Thick black hair, a little too long and mussed, those gorgeous eyes, flawless skin and teeth. Not to mention faultless proportions. Like they’d done every other time I was in the near vicinity of him, my body, mind and heart staged a coup. Traitors.
While it seemed like an eternity before he spoke, it was in reality only another beat of my heart. He held out one long, perfect hand and in his eyes I saw it was more than just an offer to help me to my feet. It was an olive branch. A peace treaty. “I can’t believe you’re here. Did you come to see m—” He caught himself, thought better of it. “Did you come for the concert?”
It would have been easy, so easy, to slip my hand into his. To forget the past under the spell of those mesmerizing eyes and allow him to help me up. Instead, I pushed myself off the ground, keeping my back against the wall and shoved my skirt back into place.
Before I could answer, Nudra’s minions barreled through the door and nearly knocked Rad and me both down the stairs. As the first one reached for me, Rad snapped his fingers and the guitar on the ground jerked upward, tripping the demon and sending him flying face first onto the top stair. Being half-chaos demon, causing trouble was as easy as breathing to Rad.
He turned on the second bodyguard and the demon held up his hands and stepped back. Smart. He must have known Rad could bring the entire building down on him if he wanted to. The demon disappeared through the door, a soft clicking sound resonating in the now silent stairwell as the latch snapped into place. My breathing sounded too loud in my ears. The demon at my feet moaned, but didn’t move.
As if nothing had happened, Rad turned to me, a smile tugging the skin over the fine bones of his cheeks. Two dimples sprang to life. “Your hair. It’s…different.”
“Seriously?” I righted my cape, which had twisted to the left when I fell. I kicked the demon on the stairs out of the way. “That’s the best you’ve got after standing me up at the altar three-hundred years ago? My hair is different?”
“It was two-hundred eighty-five years and three days ago.” His golden eyes darkened and he grabbed me around the waist, jerking me up against his rock-hard body. His gaze dropped to my lips and I was suddenly seventeen again. “And this is the best way I can think of to say I’m sorry.”
Before I understood what he was about to do, il pistolino lowered his half-demon, half-human lips to mine and kissed me.

 

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Books in the series:

Revenge Is Sweet, Kali Sweet Urban Fantasy Series, Book 1

Sweet Chaos, Kali Sweet Urban Fantasy Series, Book 2

Sweet Soldier, Kali Sweet Urban Fantasy Series, Book 3

Sweet Curse, Kali Sweet Urban Fantasy Series, Book 4

 

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He’ll sacrifice everything to be her savior, but will she be his downfall?

“Michael Stone has earned his spot in my top three romance heroes!” ~ Reader review

**Winner of the Heart of Excellence Ancient Romance City Writers award for Best Romantic Suspense!

Arlington, VA

Halloween

The grandfather clock in the corner chimed, its deep baritone vibrating under a sheet of protective plastic. The antique clock, unlike the west wall of Michael Stone’s home office, had escaped damage when the bullets flew. If only his chest had been as lucky.

Michael stopped sanding the section of Sheetrock in front of him to rub the scar under his shirt. For the sixth time in as many months, he was patching and sanding holes, trying to cover up the past. But just like the drywall dust that had infiltrated every corner of his office, reminders of the hostage incident infiltrated every corner of his mind.

The edge of one of the filled bullet holes was ridged. Another had sunk. He should just knock them out and start over. He should do the same with the memories.

Julia. Conrad. Raissi. The names swirled in his brain, making his gut clench and his forehead sweat. No matter how many times he cut out and patched the holes, betrayal, obligation, and failure rose from the dust to mock him.

Starting on the ridged patch, he gritted his teeth as the sandpaper chewed up the dried mud and dust fell to the ground. Time, he told himself, as the grandfather clock chimed again. I just need more time.

Using his shirt sleeve to wipe the sweat from his forehead, he pushed the past behind the carefully constructed wall he’d built in his mind. He should have been at Ella’s school, watching her parade around, all smiles and six-year-old self-confidence in her Wonder Woman costume instead of trying to fix something that couldn’t be fixed.

Halloween had become so dangerous Ella’s school had decided to put on a trunk-or-treat, complete with parade, to keep the students protected. The fact that kids had lost the freedom to enjoy trick or treating saddened Michael. It saddened him even more that he was loathe to go watch his niece enjoy the substitute version because he couldn’t go anywhere in public without a battalion of security. As Deputy Director of the CIA and brother-in-law to the next president—if the pre-election day polls were accurate—his autonomy no longer existed.

These days, it didn’t matter if you were an adult or a kid. Freedom was a precious commodity choked off by criminals and terrorists.

Goddamn terrorists.

Throwing the sandpaper down on the tarp at his feet, he headed for his desk. A week’s worth of newspapers covered one corner. His stuffed briefcase lay next to them. The European Directorate was waiting for his signature on a dozen different projects.

Michael wheeled his office chair out and sat down hard. He booted up his laptop, drumming a staccato on the top of his desk with his fingers as he waited for the opening screen to ask for his password. Before it could flash the message, his attention was drawn back to the wall. Raissi’s smirking face danced over the holes.

Adrenaline buzzed in his veins as he shut the laptop with a firm snap. No way was he getting any work done tonight. He should call Kinnick, his bodyguard and sparring partner, and hit the gym. Fighting was the only way he’d found to jack the energy and the memories from his psyche.

He’d taken up mixed martial arts which combined kickboxing with the two other phases of combat—takedowns and submission holds. Fights required all three types of skills, and knowing which phase would give you an advantage over your opponent gave you control of the fight.

Even outside the ring, control was power.

Thad Pennington, Republican candidate for U.S. President, was mere days and percentage points away from taking control of the White House. He’d already offered Michael directorship of the CIA after the election, but Michael had turned him down. Unlike a majority of D.C.’s political pundits, he didn’t want his legacy handed to him on anything other than merit.

Thad was also Ella’s father. A father on the campaign trail and missing the Halloween festivities. Yet another reason Michael should have been at Ella’s school. She needed a substitute father more and more while her biological one pursued the dream of power.

Across the room, Raissi’s face faded into poorly patched bullet holes once again, standing out in bas-relief from the smooth surface surrounding them. A heavy, burning sensation tugged at Michael’s chest. Letting out his breath, he rocked his chair back and forth, his fingers absently probing his scar.

Holes. His life was full of them. Work, social life, family. His goddamn chest. And every time he patched one, it seemed to have the opposite effect. The holes kept getting bigger, spreading like a disease.

The phone on his desk rang, jolting him out of his thoughts. A vacation from them was such a relief, he snagged the receiver without looking at the ID.

“Stone.”

“Michael?”

It was only two syllables, but his sister’s high-pitched voice, cracking with strain, brought him up straight. “What is it, Ruthie?”

She sobbed and the hair on the back of his neck rose. “It’s Ella. She’s…gone.” Another sob. “Kidnapped. We don’t know who’s got her. Oh, Michael, what are they doing to my baby?”

The world screeched to a halt. As the next beat of his heart echoed inside his head, he rose from the chair, his body kicking into phase one of combat.

***

Washington D.C. suburbs

Brigit Kent unlocked the door to her loft, dropped her overnight bag on the floor inside, and flipped on the lights. After traveling nonstop in Europe for the past week, she wanted a hot shower, a pint of Cherry Garcia, and a couple hours of BBC America.

On the kitchen counter she found a basket stuffed with various fruits and chocolates, an official Department of Homeland Security ID badge with her photo and name on it, and a note from her assistant Truman Gunn.

Welcome back to your home away from home. JOE secured your assignment with Homeland. I’ll catch you up on all the spiffy details first thing tomorrow. White House, eight o’clock. Wear the suit.

T.

P.S. TiVo’d Dr. Who for you.

Brigit shed her Burberry trench coat, unwrapped a Godiva and popped it in her mouth. JOE stood for Jolly Old England, Truman’s nickname for her employer, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service. The Department of Homeland Security thought they were getting a freelance consultant on domestic terrorism, and they were, but while she was working for Homeland, SIS had an undercover job for her.

What neither SIS nor Homeland realized was Brigit had her own agenda while she was in Washington.

She pulled the Cherry Garcia from the freezer and kicked off her boots in the living room. She flipped on the TV, anxious to catch up on her favorite show. Before she could find the TiVo remote, though, a breaking story on Headline News caught her eye. Eleanor Pennington, the daughter of Republican nominee Thad Pennington, had been kidnapped.

Frowning, Brigit turned up the volume and sat on the edge of the couch. A reporter on the scene at Eleanor’s school reported scant details before summoning several people nearby to give eyewitness accounts.

Gooseflesh rose on Brigit’s arms as she listened. No one had actually seen the girl being kidnapped, but she had disappeared from a school function out from under the watchful eyes of adults and Secret Service agents. No contact from the kidnapper had been made except a single phone call—Eleanor’s voice crying for her mother.

Proof of life.

A tremor went down Brigit’s spine and the little girl in her head cried out, the old nightmare of a locked door and the fire surfacing. Her gaze darted to the photo next to the TV. She and her younger sister, Tory, were grinning at the camera, arms thrown around each other’s neck in childhood abandon. A different proof of life.

As if her body had a will of its own, Brigit rose from the edge of the couch and returned the ice cream to the freezer. She slipped on her trench and slid her sore feet back into her boots before retrieving her handgun from her overnight bag and heading for the door. At the last minute, she went back to the kitchen counter and grabbed the Homeland badge. That and the kidnapping had just made her assignment for SIS a slam dunk.

Leaving the lights on in the loft, she closed and locked the door behind her, slipping her handgun into the pocket of her trench coat.

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He makes the rules. She breaks them.

**An Amazon bestseller in Romance and Romantic Suspense in 2010! An espionage and Military Romance bestseller!

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “Lawson Vaughn is now my fantasy boyfriend.” ~ Reader review

The betrayal began at four-o-three a.m. in an abandoned two-story farmhouse ten kilometers southwest of Paris.

Betrayal was an old friend of Zara Morgan’s. Her mother betrayed her talent and prima-ballerina status to marry a millionaire. Her father, in turn, betrayed her mother by having an affair with the stock market as well as another woman. At fourteen years of age, Zara’s own body betrayed her youth, training, and determination, leaving her with a ruptured Achilles tendon and the shattered dream of restoring her mother’s honor in the world of dance.

So when the guileless tone of Alexandrov Dmitri’s voice raised the hair on the back of her neck, the foreign intelligence officer recognized the sound of betrayal, the feel of it in her bones, even before her brain processed his words coming through the small speaker of her laptop. Tim Owens, her friend and fellow CIA operative, had been betrayed by the most-wanted criminal in Europe.

Zara knew you couldn’t defeat betrayal by wishing on a star, praying to God or pretending it didn’t exist, and as the next few minutes ticked by, her pulse throbbed in a synchronized dance with fear. She could sit in the specially equipped gray van hidden alongside a row of trees and let the coming hours play out like a mise en scène inside the farmhouse, or she could place a call for help.

At four-o-five, she called Langley.

An hour later as she waited in the airless van for the cavalry to arrive, she speculated at the reason for her racing pulse. It wasn’t just Dmitri. When Commander Lawson Vaughn arrived with his rescue team, betrayal would again be her friend. She could feel that in her bones too.

Vaughn was all the things she wasn’t. Older, experienced, solid as granite and tempered like fine steel. Disciplined. Intense. Deadly.

The first time she’d seen him at the Agency’s training camp in Virginia, she was two days from graduating from the Farm. He was between rescue missions. He’d seen her watching him as he practiced hand-to-hand combat with another man on his team. The piercing assessment in his return gaze left a cellular imprint in Zara’s body she couldn’t shake. Didn’t want to. His intense eyes haunted her even now, months later, a thousand miles away from that moment.

From the speaker Dmitri’s bored voice turned sharper, more demanding. He tired of the game he himself had initiated. “Tell me where my merchandise is, Agent Owens, or I will break the bones in each and every finger you have.”

Zara gripped the console bolted to the floor and leaned toward the small speaker. A ball of fear pinged around her stomach.

“Your porn library?” Tim’s voice held measured sarcasm. Sarcasm Zara appreciated. It told her Tim was still mentally strong enough to fight. “Or your collection of feather boas?”

The sucking sound of a fist hitting soft flesh rang in the van and she flinched. Tim’s groan filled her ears and she resisted the urge to throw her hands over them like she had done as a child when her parents’ raised voices had sent her running to her room. How could this happen? How could this simple, straightforward field assignment go so horribly wrong?

Power, greed, lust…the basic motivators of betrayal were the same for fathers, mothers, and criminals alike.

Dmitri chuckled. “Your agents stole my missiles.” He paused, and in Zara’s mind, she saw him taking a draw off the ever-present Dutch cigarette between his lips. She could hear him exhale. “I want them back and you know where they are.”

No, he doesn’t. Zara knew a rich Saudi prince expected Dmitri to deliver the cache of smart missiles and the technology to build more in less than six hours. Dmitri was under the gun, and now so was Tim, but Tim didn’t know the whereabouts of the missiles.

He and Zara had been hunting down a turncoat spy in the Paris Embassy. An asset had led them to the farmhouse with the promise of evidence. Instead of finding the informant waiting for him, however, Tim had found Dmitri, a black market arms dealer the U.S. had been trying to arrest for months.

Trying and failing.

In the van, sweat soaked the back of Zara’s white shirt. Her boss didn’t want the French involved in Tim’s rescue for reasons beyond her clearance level, so he’d called in Pegasus, the CIA’s paramilitary team. Although the five-man squad had been on assignment in Germany, Vaughn had assured her Pegasus would arrive before sunrise.

Zara checked her watch. Sunrise was less than fifteen minutes away.

Fifteen minutes.

The speaker popped as Dmitri snapped his fingers. “Break his fingers.” Another draw on his cigarette. “Slowly.”

Zara dug her fingernails into the console’s cheap laminate as the sounds of a scuffle and the clear ring of popping bone echoed through the receiver. Tim’s cry of pain froze her blood and the ball of fear in Zara’s stomach grew. As a young girl, her mother’s sobs on the other side of her bedroom wall had triggered the same feeling. Helplessness.

She stared at the speaker, her heart in her throat. Where was Team Pegasus? Where was Lawson?

Sitting in the cramped van beside Zara, Annette Newton reached across the mess of wires and gadgets and squeezed Zara’s arm. “There’s nothing we can do, Zara.”

An FBI analyst who worked with the CIA’s counterterrorism team on European operations, Annette had come along to record the informant’s information for French Intelligence as well as the CIA. Now she was recording Tim’s torture.

Zara rubbed her stomach and motioned at Annette’s matching laptop. “Call Pegasus again. Hurry.”

As Annette placed the secure call, Zara looked at the picture of Dmitri taped to the side of her computer screen. The ice-blue eyes stared back at her, mocking her inexperience. Even before Tim had walked into the trap, Dmitri had garnered the Number One wanted position on Zara’s personal list of international bad guys. His criminal network inside Paris and throughout Europe was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people and yet he was as elusive as the smoke from his cigarette. While Tim had kept Zara in the background learning to cultivate assets, she’d become obsessed with the terrorist no one could catch.

Now Dmitri had fallen into her lap, but she would gladly let him walk away if she could save Tim.

You won’t get away with this, she challenged his image. I won’t let you.

Annette caught Zara’s eye. “No answer. They must be out of range.”

Another cracking noise issued from the speaker. Another scream of pain.

“Out of range?” Zara’s heart beat like a bird trapped inside her chest. “They should be in the field by now. How they can be out of range?”

Annette remained calm in the face of Zara’s frustration. “The satellite might be down due to the storms throughout Europe or the signal is being blocked by the French.”

French Intelligence wanted Dmitri as bad as the U.S. did. Or so they claimed. “FI okayed our presence. Why would they block our communications?”

“Maybe it’s not FI. Could be the National Police or gendarmerie. French agencies are a lot like ours. They don’t always play well together and they certainly don’t play with us. It happens.”

Zara rubbed her stomach again as she heard another of Tim’s fingers pop. She wanted to scream along with him. “I shouldn’t be letting this happen. I should do something to stop Dmitri. Flynn would.”

Conrad Flynn, the new Director of Operations, was a god in the international spy world. A god always on her case, drilling her to be assertive but not too aggressive. It was a tightrope every spook danced on. A rope strung hair-trigger-tight for spooks like Zara in Flynn’s secret army.

Annette fingered the keys on her laptop. “Director Flynn has years of fieldwork and experience with guys like Dmitri. You don’t.”

Flynn had plucked Zara from the other Farm graduates and put her through several weeks of his own special training program. She was one of Flynn’s new army of spies. An army few people, including Annette, knew anything about due to the delicacy of the job. “Flynn trained me. I should know how to get Tim out of this situation…”

Dmitri’s voice hissed from the speaker and both women fell quiet. “If you do not tell me what I need to know, I will shoot you and leave you for the rats to eat. They start with your eyeballs and your testicles…” His voice trailed off and amused laughter of the men in the room filtered through. “Think about it, Agent Owens. You have five minutes before you become rat meat.”

Five minutes? Zara glanced at her watch. Ten agonizing minutes to sunrise. Dmitri now planned to kill Tim, not just torture him.

In five minutes.

Closing her eyes, she offered up a prayer to her god of a boss back at Langley. She needed to channel Flynn and she needed to do it now. Move, his voice commanded in her head. Take control.

But how? What would he do in this situation? The three point triangle he always preached appeared in Zara’s mind—delude, deceive, distract. Her eyes flew open.

The only way to defeat betrayal was to meet it head on. She would have to distract Dmitri until Vaughn arrived. Glancing at her watch, she set the timer. Then she reached behind her for the gun in the waistband of her pants.

Annette raised an eyebrow and Zara pointed at the satellite phone. “Keep trying Vaughn.”

As she checked the clip in the compact SIG Sauer 9 millimeter, she scrambled to the end of the van, grabbing a bug bot—one of the tiny microphones the CIA’s geek squad handed out like candy—from a cache of electronic equipment by the door.

Annette swiveled her chair to follow Zara’s path. “Where are you going?”

“Vaughn said he’d be in position by sunrise, but Tim doesn’t have that long. I’m going to distract Dmitri until Pegasus gets here.”

Annette’s forehead creased in a frown. “And get yourself and Agent Owens killed in the process?”

“You got a better idea?”

“Yeah, wait for Vaughn.”

Zara shook her head. “Tim’s as good as dead right now if I wait. We don’t even know for sure Vaughn and his group are in the field. I won’t risk Tim’s life because of a nonfunctioning satellite dish or a pissing match between Sûreté Nationale and French Intelligence.” She pushed open the van door. “I have to do something and I have to do it now.”

“Zara—”

Closing the door on Annette’s high-strung voice, she slipped out into the shadowed countryside.

The manic bird continued to beat against her rib cage. She leaned her back against the van for a moment, trying to draw in a deep breath. Was she about to make matters worse?

How could they get any worse?

Ignoring her jack-hammering heart, she secured the bug bot in the lining of her bra and buttoned the top two buttons of her shirt. A storm moving in from the west buffeted her with wind. Strands of hair whipped around her face as the air cooled her back where the sweat-soaked shirt clung to her skin. Shoving the stray hair behind her ear, she scanned the horizon and wondered if this was her first and last mission for the CIA. Wondered if she could save Tim or if they’d both end up rat meat.

Zara secured her gun back in her waistband before swinging her leg over her motorcycle sitting next to the van. She kick-started the engine and shot out of the woods headed for the farmhouse. It was time for a personal face off with betrayal.

***

At five fifty-six a.m. Lieutenant Commander Lawson Vaughn pulled himself forward another inch on the ground and listened to a dove welcome the approaching sunrise with a low call. The night was not yet in full retreat, and in five minutes—technically four minutes and ten seconds—Lawson and his four-man squad were going to use the fading darkness and the approaching storm to take the terrorists in the rambling white farmhouse by surprise.

Rescuing a hostage was delicate work done with a sledgehammer. Time-consuming preparation for split-second decision making. Careful, deliberate negotiations laying a trail for guns and brute force.

In his career, Lawson had saved fourteen men, six women, three children and half a dozen bystanders. He kept track of those he lost too. Some people couldn’t be rescued, couldn’t be saved, no matter how hard he tried. The towers fell before his plane touched down. The cancer spread during the third course of treatment. The person had a death wish.

Every rescue op contained variables. Some were controllable and he could plan for those. Relentless training covered the rest. What delicacy couldn’t handle, the sledgehammer would.

Team Pegasus had already completed the delicate part of this mission, moving through the field south of the house with deliberate care. Each man had become a shadow in the night as they covered a half mile of dense trees, checking every inch for tripwires and infrared alarms. Now within a few yards of the house, they had found nothing except a one-man security patrol walking the grounds.

Careless of you, Dmitri. A spot between Lawson’s shoulder blades twitched. Alexandrov Dmitri was nothing if not paranoid. The terrorist did not make mistakes when it came to security. So why had he seemingly failed to do so this time? Why pick an abandoned farmhouse in the middle of rolling hills to take a spy hostage instead of driving thirty miles farther south to his compound?

The cricket chorus was dwindling, and the first streak of sunrise broke the horizon even as the storm moved in. Dark clouds hung just above the horizon and the wind had kicked up hard enough to bend the trees over Lawson’s head. At this point, it was a waste of time to analyze Alexandrov Dmitri’s poor decision-making skills. The plan was straightforward. The suits in the States and here on the ground in France had concurred on all the important facts. Pegasus was activated.

In four minutes, Lawson had to get his men into the farmhouse, cover the CIA asset and arrest Dmitri. Agent Morgan’s intel report stated there were four terrorists inside with Owens. Now one was out doing guard duty, leaving Dmitri, his lieutenant and another man inside. Even if Dmitri had something up his sleeve, Team Pegasus was skilled and experienced. Neutralizing four terrorists would be a simple takedown.

In his peripheral vision, Lawson saw his point man, Johnny Quick, retreat several feet and tuck his body into the shadows of the barn as Dmitri’s security patrol sat on the porch step and lit a cigarette. The barn’s floodlight illuminated the drive and a portion of the house. After a moment, Johnny gave him the clear sign. Lawson’s other men, Teddy, Rooster and C.J., waited impatiently for his command. Like him, they were raring to go, even though the last mission was only hours behind them. Every dove call, every blip of his digital watch, fine-tuned Lawson’s attention.

Above the rustling tree leaves, he heard the drum of a motorcycle engine. The guard on the porch heard it too, rising to his feet as the cigarette dangled from his mouth and his rifle came up. Ten seconds later, a finely tuned Ducati shot up the road with a woman driving it. Strands of long blonde hair blew out behind her as she ignored the driveway, hopped the ditch and jerked the bike into an abrupt skid ten feet from the cigarette-smoking terrorist’s feet.

The cigarette fell and the rifle locked into place.

“Dmitri!” Her voice echoed off the house and into the woods as she killed the bike. She dropped the kickstand and raised her hands in the air.

Zara. The sledgehammer landed right between Lawson’s shoulder blades.

Zara had no time to think or plan what was coming. The guard’s gun was trained on her. She ignored him and his command to fall to her knees as she kept her focus on the living room picture window and yelled again. “Dmitri! I know where your missiles are. I’ll take you to them.”

The guard grabbed her by the back of her shirt and pulled her away from the bike. She let him push her to her knees, the end of his AK-47 digging painfully into her back. He yanked her gun from her waistband and ejected the clip. It bounced on the ground to her left.

A second later, the door to the farmhouse opened and Dmitri stood in its frame, his face in shadows.

Cold fear ran over Zara’s skin like gooseflesh. He said nothing, nor did his lieutenant behind him. For several heartbeats, she knelt rigid, willing him to take her bait.

A modicum of guarded relief flooded through her when he ambled down the porch steps in his expensive Italian loafers. But the relief changed course as he crossed the yard to stand in front of her, the paleness of his eyes evident even in the half-gray light of the approaching sunrise. His gaze cut to the road behind her, to her Ducati and back to her face.

Through the years, Zara had perfected a myriad of personas to deal with her family, the press, the public at large. Like the different ringtones on her cell phone, she had one for her father, one for the coworker who made a pass at her in the halls of Langley, one for the psychiatrist who administered lie detector tests. It was a crucial skill in her line of work.

Dialing up her impersonal, model-spy face, she willed her voice to stay calm, sound cool. “I know where your weapons are. I’ll take you to the cache myself.” She paused before offering him the key to success. “If we leave now, you can make your deadline to your buyer.”

Dmitri said nothing, only cocked his head a millimeter to the side, studying her as if she were a curious oddity. Strands of his dark hair rose and fell on the wind. His gaze flickered over her, lingering for the briefest of seconds on the gold chain around her neck before lazily climbing back to her face. Another slight nod and the guard hauled her to her feet.

“Are you a complete fool?” he said in French.

It wasn’t the question she was expecting, but she didn’t miss a beat. Seconds were passing. “Non,” she answered him face-to-face. She switched to English. They would do this negotiation on her terms. “And neither are you. Accept my offer and let’s get out of here. Prince Abkhahar will not wait one minute past the deadline.”

Dmitri’s gaze bore into hers. He switched to English as well. “Do you know how much I hate Americans? American women. American spies.” He spit on the ground at her feet.

Thunder boomed in the distance and Zara jumped. A flicker of amusement danced in the madman’s eyes. She used the gall it ignited in her stomach to stay focused. “Business is business. Abkhahar needs those missiles to funnel to Hezbollah. You fail to deliver them and he’ll kill you. If you’re ever going to be the ruling tycoon in the international world of black arms dealers, you need this deal to go down smoothly and on time.” She met his gaze without flinching. “I can make it happen.”

“Tell me where the cache is, and you can go free with your comrade.”

She didn’t actually know where the cache was. Even if she had, Dmitri would never let her and Tim go once he had the location. “I take you to it or there’s no deal.”

He stepped forward, his face far too close for comfort. He was handsome in that French bad-boy way. Many women found the combination of devilish looks and cruelty appealing. Zara found it repulsive. “Do you know who I am, spook?”

Terrorist. Assassin. Certifiable nutcase. A ruthless businessman who enjoyed the sport of killing whether it was to further his political agenda, his philosophical views or just for the act itself. He loved cat-and-mouse games, toying with his prey until it was exhausted mentally and physically before he lost interest and finally had it killed. Rarely did he pull the trigger himself unless it was to purge one of his own men. He didn’t trust many people and occasionally, even those in his inner circle were eliminated without hesitation.

Yes, Zara thought, I know exactly who you are.

But she also knew who she was.

She raised her chin a notch. “You’re wasting time. Deal or no deal?”

The corner of his mouth lifted in a comma at the challenge. Seconds ticked by in unison with the beat of her heart, but this time when the thunder boomed again, closer, she didn’t move a muscle.

Dmitri snapped his fingers at his gun-toting guard. “Bring the car around.”

“Let’s take my bike. It’s faster.” She motioned at the others. “Your men can follow in the car.”

Dmitri glanced at her bike and did an abrupt nod of his head, but her success was again short-lived. “Bring me Owens,” he said to his lieutenant. The man left the doorway.

The hair on the back of her neck stood up again. Her bones vibrated. “Why?”

This time Dmitri smiled fully. He reached out a finger and touched the chain at her neck. “A little game I like to play.”

Tim staggered down the porch stairs in front of Dmitri’s lieutenant and another guard. His hands were tied behind his back. His face was bruised, haggard. When his eyes met hers, she saw a spark of admiration mixed with surprise but he shook his head at her in disbelief.

He doesn’t believe I can pull this off.

Glancing at Dmitri, Zara could see he was thinking the same thing. He pulled a heavy black gun out of his shoulder holster and held it out to her, butt-end. “Kill him,” he ordered.

The model-agent persona faltered. Dmitri was demanding she exterminate his witness. He was ordering her to kill her senior case officer. As a wave of panic threatened to undo her, her Farm training kicked in. If I can just grab his gun…

Dmitri’s guard cleared his throat, reminding Zara his rifle was locked on her chest. Her gaze flew to Tim’s and true panic squeezed itself like a python around her heart.

Her mouth dry, she forced her attention back to Dmitri. Flynn’s advice rang in her head. Don’t let him make this personal. Stay detached. “I don’t play games.”

With swift movements, Dmitri grabbed her hand and smacked the gun into it. Then he twisted her around, wrapping his left arm around her rib cage and slamming her back against his chest. He turned their bodies in unison, pulling the gun up to aim at Tim.

The contact was brutal and she jerked hard, but Dmitri’s arm was a vise. He rested his head next to hers as lightning cracked above them. The smell of cigarettes, expensive cologne, and male sweat mixed in her nose. His hand closed around hers, forcing the gun to point at Tim’s head.

“Let me help you,” he murmured in her ear, seductive as a lover. “Ready?” He trapped her finger on the trigger. “One, two—”

Beep. Beep. Beep. The timer on Zara’s watch went off.

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Julia must risk everything for the spy who still holds her heart.

***#1 Romantic Suspense, #2 Romance, #3 Bestseller in Kindle Store in 2010!

***1st Place Winner of the New England Readers Choice Award for Best Romantic Suspense!

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “Julia is a phenomenal character!” ~ Heather, Goodreads reviewer

Enjoy this excerpt from Operation: Sheba, Super Agent Series, Book 1

Berlin

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Con.” Julia frowned at the boom box parts lying around her crossed legs on the bed.

She had dissected the electronic box, cleaning out its internal organs, and was now carefully repackaging the frame with C-4 plastique explosive. The boom box would offer her partner an easy way to carry the bomb into the heart of the enemy in the approaching early morning hours.

“What do you mean?” Conrad said.

Julia looked up, the frown still creasing her forehead. “I don’t know. Something’s not quite right with this mission. Something’s off.” We’re off.

“Getting cold feet, are you?”

She expected her partner’s cocky grin or a wink with the comment. What she got was his back as he filled the inside pockets of his black leather coat with extra clips of ammunition. Something was definitely off. Ever since she’d arrived in Berlin the night before, things were strained between them. Conrad was distant and at the same time seemed to watch her every move.

Julia had witnessed Conrad’s metamorphosis from good guy to bad guy several times during their five-year undercover stint in Europe. As a highly trained CIA operator, he was capable of changing his physical appearance and personality in seconds with a minimum of tools.

All you need, he would say, is a one-degree shift. Extreme changes in your normal looks, posture, or personality were difficult to pull off for any length of time, trapping you in your own deception. To lie well, the lies had to be built on truth; your cover had to be controlled and disciplined.

Sometimes the lies become the truth, Julia thought, watching her partner now cleaning his Heckler and Koch P7. Conrad Flynn had been undercover for months, attempting to flush out yet another gray arms dealer in Germany. As usual, Julia knew little of the details. She was his backup when he needed it but spent most of her time in Paris at the U.S. Embassy under her own cover, working on her own operations. That suited her just fine. She hated Germany and hated what it was doing to Conrad. She had already walked through this nightmare once before with him, providing the explosives he needed to blow up a warehouse six miles outside the city limits. Tonight she was here to do it again, but what she really wanted to do was pull him into bed with her and hold him close.

Eyeing his naked back from her seat on the bed, she could see he had lost weight. The muscles in his upper back and arms had moved past the point of well-defined. He was now ripped. His hair was longer than she’d ever seen it, skimming his shoulders as he moved. Who were the criminals he was after this time and what had they done? More importantly, what had he done in order to gain acceptance among them?

When he turned to throw his jacket on a nearby chair, she continued to watch him. Curls of black hair hung over his forehead and his chiseled jaw sported a week’s growth of beard. He stopped for a second, staring at the table in front of him but seeming to see nothing. His stillness signaled deep concentration. He’s running the plan again in his head.

If only they could be somewhere else right now. She wanted to trace the deep lines between his biceps and triceps, wanted to kiss the scars on his back. Run her hands down his rock-hard thighs. Make him smile and laugh and forget the things he’d witnessed, the things he’d done. But the concentration on his face kept her still. What was his secret this time? Was it really the operation or was it something else? Another woman? Anxiety stabbed her heart like a sharp knife.

“How much longer?” he asked, critically surveying her work on the bed.

She looked down, flustered at her previous thought. “Almost done.” Placing a layer of plastique in one of the speaker boxes, she stuck in a detonator and a pager. “Each speaker is detachable and each is loaded with explosive. When you page the main box the others will blow too. Give yourself plenty of room before you send the page.”

He nodded and she began to screw the cover back onto the box. “God, I hate bombs.”

There was always this intensity around Conrad right before an operation went down. It was intoxicating and at the same time it made her want to shiver. “I’ll deliver it for you,” she offered.

His dark eyes flickered up and locked with hers. After a moment’s hesitation, he shook his head. “I know you would, Jules, but I can’t let you. It’s too dangerous. This is my gig and if I do it right, everything will be okay.”

She nodded and finished putting the boom box back together. Moving it off the bed, she brushed dust off her worn Levi’s. “Do I have time to take a shower?”

He studied her for a minute and then shook his head. “No,” he said, and there it was, finally, the cocky grin. “But we do have time for something else.”

She quirked an eyebrow at him. “I thought it was bad luck to have sex before a mission. You always make me wait ’til the dust has cleared.”

He moved toward her. “Tonight’s different.”

She stepped into his arms, wrapping hers around his neck. “Oh yeah? How’s it different?”

“Full moon,” he whispered in her ear, his lips finding the exact spot on her neck that made her shiver. She let him lead her to the bed, let him undress her first with his gaze and then with his hands. Giving herself up to him, she fought the nagging voice in her head.

Something’s off.

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Can Colton keep Shelby alive, or will he put them both in the crossfire and lose her forever?

In this fifth book in the SEALs of Shadow Force series, Colton and Shelby face family issues, a serial killer bent on revenge, second chances, and are joined by Connor and Sabrina from Fatal Love!

“The love scenes were smokin’ hot!”

Excerpt:

Colton swung back into the kitchen, two shirts in hand. He eyed the buttons on her blouse. “You need a hand getting that off?”

For a second, Shelby wasn’t sure if he was serious or just teasing. The look in his eyes—the same heat from before—told her he was serious all right.

Dead serious.

He wanted to unbutton her blouse and help her out of it.

Not because he was being nice or thought she couldn’t work the buttons on her shirt.

Evil man. “Just because my leg is screwed up doesn’t mean I can’t dress myself.”

He tossed the fresh shirt on the table, then reached out to finger the collar of her blouse. “Was thinking more about the undressing part. Can you do it on your own?”

Her nipples hardened and she licked her lips. “Is that part of my therapy? Showing you I can unbutton my shirt?”

A wicked grin lit his face. “I need to do a full evaluation of what you can and can’t handle.”

The desire pulsing at the base of her spine moved lower. At the same time, she undid the top button.

This was such a bad idea, but this is what they did—teased, played, and had fun. Until the fun was over and reality came calling.

When it was just the two of them, they were perfect together. As soon as her family, friends, or job entered the picture, there was nothing but anger, hurt, and arguing.

As if he could see the mental war going on in her head, he upped the ante—he shucked off his own shirt.

And oh, my. What a beautiful man he was, even with the scars crisscrossing his chest and belly. His broad shoulders bunched as he wadded up the coffee-stained shirt and tossed it on the table, his steely gaze once again challenging her in a totally different way.

Her hand went to the second button on her blouse, toying with it, watching the effect the promise of something more had on him. He knew as well as she did that nothing good could come from them lowering their defenses and seeking comfort in each other’s arms, but hell if that had ever stopped either of them from giving in to their passion.

Sex with Colton had always been good—not just good, great. Eighteen months was a long time to go without that kind of pleasure, without him, yet she hadn’t even considered hooking up with anyone else. Couldn’t consider starting over with someone new.

Jaya had tried setting her up more than once. Shelby appreciated her friend’s compassion and determination, but most times, she never even made it to the first date. Same with her mom, pushing her toward Daniel. A good man, but no one else was Colton.

Even now, he knew she needed to control the flow and pace of this dance with the devil. She was no amateur—she knew the price of crossing the point of no return with him. He wasn’t about to push her into anything. This was her choice. All he was doing was putting it out there. Offering to make her a very happy woman for a few hours.

Was she willing to let him?

Her body screamed yes, yes, yes. Goading, demanding. It remembered all too well how amazing he could make her feel.

Her heart, though…that was an altogether different thing. Wait, wait, wait, it cried. It didn’t want to be hurt again.

Because surrendering her body to Colton was one thing, but she couldn’t separate her heart from it. If she plunged into heedless abandon with him, her heart would pay the price.

Logic attempted to marry the two, reminding her that a drop-dead gorgeous man, one who wanted to protect her and maybe still loved her, was standing there in front of her, half-naked and willing to do anything she wanted.

Shelby was no fool. She reached for him.

He caught her hand, intertwining his fingers with hers, and once again went to his knees in front of her.

A rush of pure, unadulterated power ran through her veins. Having this man—a former SEAL and the most incredible lover a gal could ask for—kneel in front of her was as thrilling as any moment she’d ever had on the beauty pageant circuit, as intoxicating as any case she’d ever worked for the FBI. He was hers. All hers. He might have teased her relentlessly about being a beauty queen, but he loved giving her anything she wanted.

Right now, she wanted him.

And he knew it.

Slowly, she drew him toward her, leaning down to offer a kiss to seal her pact with the devil.

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Time travel, sexy soul mates and one disturbing bad guy

He’s after a killer…and she’s the prime suspect.

 

Their souls are bound for all eternity…

For a thousand years, cursed, immortal priestess Keva Moon Water has protected the descendants of her lost tribe. When the last remaining family members are killed in a ritualistic mass murder that Keva survives, she becomes the prime suspect in the FBI’s investigation.

Special Agent Rife St. Claire is a decorated profiler and expert in ritualistic killings. Haunted by the murder of his mother when he was only thirteen, he’s now driven to protect the innocent.

When he finds himself falling hard for the beautiful survivor, his job—as well as his heart—is in danger. Incriminating evidence points to Keva as the killer and she’s willing to go to great lengths to prove her innocence and awaken Rife’s memories of their love affair that started a war and bound their souls together for all eternity.

___

Genre | Paranormal Romance | Ghost Mystery | Mystery Thriller & Suspense

 

Enjoy this excerpt!

Present Day

Wolf River, Oregon

Hundreds of Virgin Marys stared at Rife St. Cloud from every surface inside the old church, their serene eyes in direct contrast to the bloody bodies of the six dead women at his feet.

Staring at a grisly multiple homicide and running on less than four hours of sleep, Rife slid his car keys into the worn pocket of his jeans and wondered what he was doing back in Wolf River. What he was doing on the West Coast in general. This is what I get for taking a vacation.

Vacation or not, his mind automatically registered the stats of the six women as crime scene techs buzzed around them. All Native American with matching tribal tattoos depicting a quarter moon over waves above their left breast. All early to late twenties. Stab wounds and an assortment of symbols carved into the skins of five of the bodies who were staged to circle a sixth.

A ritualistic killer. Rife eyed the various wounds and estimated the depth and number of marks on each woman. Or just a disorganized one trying to cover his tracks?

A heaviness knocked him in the chest. During the past five years as a profiler for the FBI, he’d seen a lot of brutality, but he never got used to the sight of murder victims, especially women and children.

The killer’s weapon, a wicked-looking knife, lay on the stomach of the female in the center. Beautiful, even in death, the woman’s skin, sharp cheekbones and dark hair spoke of pure ancestry. Chinook? Makah? Tribes existed throughout Oregon, but few pure bloods lived in Wolf River. Unlike the others, she had only one small carving on her breast, in the shape of flames. Thin, bloody lines intertwined and partially encircled her tattoo as if a fire were about to consume it. While she appeared to be the same age as the others, her tat was faded and showed an old wound—a single, shallow white scar cut through the center of the quarter moon.

The knife rested with its bloody tip pointing at her pubic hair. The killer’s signature?

James Chee, Wolf River’s police chief and only detective, snapped on latex gloves as he bent down to study the body. He’d had far more sleep than Rife, even though it was just before three on a Sunday morning. Pressing his fingers against her throat, Chee double checked for a pulse. “EMTs called it,” he mumbled, more to himself than Rife. “But I have to be sure.”

After a full fifteen seconds, he shook his head and lifted the knife off her stomach with two fingers, examining the ornate hilt. “Definitely not a spree killing. The wheel-spoke pattern with this one in the middle suggests a ritual of some sort.” His heavy sigh conveyed grief and pity. “Could be a hate crime. Possibly premeditated.”

Rife sunk his left hand into his other pocket. “Ritualistic killings are always premeditated.”

Chee bagged the knife and continued to examine it through the clear plastic. “No signs of forced entry or even much of a struggle. Suggests they knew the killer.”

Keeping his hands in his pockets, Rife examined the central figure in closer detail. Thick eyelashes balanced her long nose. Her throat showed several old bruises. Had someone tried to choke her previous to tonight’s killing? “Cause of death?”

Chee shook his head, the gray braid hanging down his back moving as he studied the woman along with Rife. His finger pointed to the flames. “Keva only has one obvious wound and not a mortal one. Coroner will have to call it.”

“Keva? You knew her?”

“Keva Moon Water. Owned the church and the grounds. Set it up as a sanctuary for some of her women kin from what I understand.”

Rife shifted his attention to the room, ignoring the crime scene techs marking blood splatter and snapping photos. He shouldn’t be here. At the crime scene or in his home town at all. But when a mass murder happened under Chee’s nose, and his grandson was sleeping—or not sleeping, as the case were—in the spare room in his cabin, Rife was going to be pressed into action. At least unofficial action. Truth was, he didn’t really mind. Anything was better than twiddling his thumbs. Killers didn’t do vacations and neither did Rife.

The usual trappings of the Catholic religion were missing, save the Madonnas, stained glass windows and the Saints carved in stone behind what had once been the pulpit. Instead, the immense room displayed the ingredients of a normal home: sofa, chairs, flat-screen. Plants with yellowing leaves lined an antique buffet. A women’s magazine lay open on a coffee table as if its owner had simply got up to answer the phone or get a soda. A stack of paperbacks stood next to a chair, patiently waiting to be read. One corner of the room was set up as an office, complete with computer, fax and several printers.

“They kept to themselves up here,” Chee continued unprompted. “The closest neighbors live half a mile away and gossiped about vandalism. Kids, probably. They thought she was a witch, gave her grief, but she never turned them in.”

A witch who collected Madonnas. Rife’s eyes went back and forth between the beautiful dark-haired woman and the solemn dark-eyed Virgins. From the primitive hand-carved wooden statues to the detailed oil painting in the nave, the Madonnas crossed the spectrum of antiquity and worth. In the mix, native artifacts stood out in bas relief. “Who called it in?”

Chee’s already narrowed eyes tightened. He pointed to a cell phone bagged as evidence and lying on a nearby table. “One of our gals here. Dialed 911, but only got part of the address out before the line was disconnected. Dispatch is county-run, but the woman working the phones put two and two together with the location of our one and only cell phone tower and the partial address. The bodies were still warm when I got here, but we were too late. They were all dead.”

The mew of a cat caught Rife’s attention. A fat gray tabby circled a pole as tall as Rife and carved from a cedar log. Rubbing against the totem, the feline made another circle before sitting on its haunches and staring at him. Rife’s gaze ran up the totem which depicted three females: a child raising her mother up above her head, and the mother in turn raising a grandmother above her. A fat raven head with enormous eyes and open beak topped the totem. A thunderbird. Traditional Northwest Coast art.

The mix of Native art with traditional Catholicism didn’t surprise him. Whether Indian or Virgin Mary, the thread was the same—the wisdom and power of women.

“A ritual killing in a church,” Rife murmured, jingling his keys. “Guess our guy’s not afraid of damnation.” The bastard also wasn’t interested in the numerous artifacts or computer equipment. Rife locked eyes with the cat. If only she could talk. “Sexual assault?”

“Not obvious.” Chee rose and paced around the other women, pointing at the symbols with his free hand. “From the amount of blood, our killer carved them premortem, but lack of struggle indicates they didn’t fight. Sure would like to know why.”

“Drugged, my guess.”

“Lot of that these days, even in this backwoods part of the world, but all of them?”

“Just be sure your techs bag all the cups, pop cans and glasses as evidence.”

The old man grunted with what Rife understood to be an acknowledgment before scrutinizing the naked bodies again. “What about the symbols? What do they mean?”

Glancing down, unease stirred Rife’s gut. The symbols in question were ancient. Too ancient for him, even with his extensive knowledge of native languages and religions. What bothered him more was the fact that disorganized criminals didn’t perform organized ritualistic killings.

Chee replaced the knife, examining the direction of the tip. “The killer sending us a message?”

Rife shrugged. “Who understands the mind of a killer?”

“You do, Mr. Profiler. That’s why I called you even before my CSU team unpacked their equipment.”

“It’s Special Agent to you,” he shot back with no enthusiasm. “And as you might recall, I’m supposed to be on vacation.”

“Yeah? How much wood you need to chop in August?”

Rife ignored the goad and the fact that Chee, like everyone else in Wolf River, knew every move he made. This wasn’t Virginia; this was his grandfather’s town. James Chee’s town. Rife had to get used to that.

Chee stepped outside the circle of death and handed the knife to a young officer to be added to the growing pile of evidence. He called out to a CSU tech hustling by, “You get a close up of Keva’s tattoo?”

“Six angles,” the female photographer replied. The click of her camera echoed in the high-ceilinged room as she shot pictures of an old communion table that now held an assortment of primitive Virgins. “You ever see a collection like this, Chief? Some of this is museum-grade stuff.”

Sadness warred with Rife’s unease as he stared down at Keva. Maybe it was the Madonnas. Maybe it was the fact that the women here were native like him. No matter that his training insisted he stay detached, this crime felt personal. The woman in the center of the circle was dead at the hands of a sick murderer. The Madonna Killer. He could see the headline in the Wolf River Sentinel now.

Who are you, Keva Moon Water? As usual, he found himself more interested in the victim than the criminal. A vague sense of recognition rippled through him. His grandfather knew her, but had never mentioned her, and Rife knew he’d never met her on any of his trips home to Wolf River. She certainly hadn’t grown up in town or gone to the dilapidated school house he had attended all those years ago. He had an excellent memory and would recognize her if she’d been part of the town’s landscape during his childhood. So why did he feel that ripple? Who was she? What sacrifices had she made to provide this sanctuary for her relatives and why did they need one? What had she, or her family, done to attract a violent, sadistic person?

Even as he turned the questions over in his mind, the real question nagging at him surfaced like a dead body floating to the top of a lake. When will I finally stop the killers that prey on the innocent?

To hell with vacation. He pulled his hands out of his pockets. “I’ll help however I can, Grandpops.”

The cat cried again in the corner of the room as if giving her approval. Rife ignored her and the light that brightened Chee’s dark eyes. He focused on Keva’s tattoo. Moon Water, he thought, again trying to place why that name rang a bell.

A muscle under her tat spasmed. Blinking, Rife told himself it was only the body’s natural response as death set in. Either that or he needed sleep. Nothing new about that.

But when he saw it spasm again, his gaze shot to her face. Her eyelids twitched and the ripple turned into a wave of pure adrenaline. “Holy shit,” he whispered.

Dropping down beside her, his fingers found a pulse at the base of her throat. As faint as the beat of butterfly wings, it stirred under his touch. He glanced up at Chee. “You said she was dead.”

“She is.” Chee’s eyes were wide as he stared at Keva. “You saw me double check her.”

Keva’s full lips parted, and Rife’s heart jumped with hope as she drew in a weak, shaky breath. Her eyes fluttered open.

“Get your EMTs back in here.” He smiled into the soft, Virgin-like eyes of Keva Moon Water. “She’s alive. Very, very alive.”

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Enjoy this excerpt of Fatal Courage

In twenty-one missions, CIA golden girl Ruby McKellen has failed only once, thanks to Navy SEAL Jaxon Sloan, the man who stole her heart and forced her to choose between him and her partner. To prove her partner’s innocence and save her damaged career, Ruby is running an unsanctioned mission—and the only way to get the proof she needs is to go to Jax for help.

Fatal Courage, SEALs of Shadow Force, Book 3 © Copyright 2016-2020 Misty Evans

“…hot, hunky and down right lethal. Keep it coming!” ~ Cheri, Goodreads reviewer

Excerpt:

She’d almost blown it.

Ruby’s pulse hammered in her ears. Her legs, in the four-inch heels, wobbled as she half-ran for cover.

That’s what Jaxon Sloan did her.

Every damn time.

Get away.

She scooted past a dancing couple, dodged a groping hand, and slid off the dance floor behind a woman slightly bigger than her. Her undercover training kicked in, her brain commanding her breathing to slow and her body to move less erratically.

Less like prey.

Seeing Jax out on the dance floor shocked her system from head to toe. The months—they felt like years—had slogged by and suddenly he was here. An apparition. A ghost of her failure come back to haunt her.

Heading for the rear of the club, she didn’t dare look behind her. She’d nearly keeled over from a heart attack right there in the middle of everyone on the dance floor.

What was he doing here? How did he know she was in Chicago?

He could have blown her mission. Again.

Worse, her little slip and she’d almost let him. After all of her training and twenty-one missions with only that one, single failure, she knew how to handle surprises. Nothing tripped her up.

Except Jax.

Tall, dark, and forever full of himself, his sudden appearance had thrown her but good. For a second, she’d thought her subconscious had wished him into being. She’d been thinking of him—couldn’t get the man out of her mind even after all this time. With every move of her hips, she’d thought of him and their time in Marrakech as she danced. The way he’d touched her, the way he’d made her moan his name and beg for more.

She hit the back hallway, signs for the restrooms pointing to the left. Ruby went right.

Her pulse returned to normal and she dodged into a office doorway to avoid being seen by one of the owner’s goons. The back entrance was only a few steps away. Her car waited in the parking lot.

The goon disappeared and Ruby started forward, stopped. Now that she was thinking more clearly, she had to consider the consequences of bailing. A part of her didn’t want to go. Instead, it wanted to confront Jax. Yell at him. Tell him to get the hell out.

Or maybe, take him back to her place.

Ah, hell.

Yep, she’d nearly flaked out on the dance floor when she saw him in the flesh, his smoldering dark eyes eating her up. Her heart had frozen in her chest, her limbs suddenly quivering with anticipation.

That’s what happened when you’d been fantasizing about a guy for months and then he showed up looking even better than he did in your dreams.

Fantasy. That’s all he was and that’s how he had to remain.

Mission first and always. She didn’t have time for distractions. Elliot was counting on her. The Agency was breathing down her neck.

And the last person on the face of the earth she wanted to talk to—regardless of the fact he was the only man who’d ever chiseled his way past her solid walls—was Jaxon Sloan.

She took a step out from her hiding place. Jax’s deep voice stopped her in her tracks. “Are you running from me, Ruby?”

Running. That’s exactly what she was doing.

Not that she would ever let him know that.

A shiver slid down her spine from his simple nearness. In the background, the music continued to beat, snapping at her nerves. “I don’t run from anyone.” Liar.

“Sure looks like that’s what you’re doing.”

She whirled around to face him; her breath caught.

He’d trapped her under a broken overhead light and the shadows around him made him look even bigger and badass than she knew him to be.

Swallowing the tightness in her throat, she stomped on the lust bubbling up inside her. Never had a man affected her the way he did. Never had anyone gotten under her skin like he had. His presence, his voice, ignited the dry kindling inside her.

“What do you want?” She forced her voice not to betray the wild emotions riding her. She was an operative for God’s sake, deceiving the enemy came with ease.

And Jaxon Sloan was definitely her enemy.

He was also the one man who saw past her duplicity every time.

His eyes swept over her, lingering on her hips for a second before coming back up to her face. “You know why.”

“No, I really don’t, and I can’t be seen with you. You’ll blow my mission.” She brushed a strand of hair from her face. “You’re good at that as I recall.”

He didn’t flinch. Didn’t even so much as blink. The barely there light from farther down the hall caught on the scar on his temple. “You’re not working a legitimate mission, so knock it off. Whatever this is, it isn’t important.”

“Isn’t important?” Clearing Elliot’s name was her only mission. Sure, she was in Chicago to help the FBI with a counterterrorism case, but that was only to make her boss happy. Little Gus had connections she needed for Elliot. “Of course, that’s what you’d say.”

She turned her back on him, the past anger surfacing as she headed for the back entrance. But that was good. Anger kept her clearheaded. Anger suffocated her tangled emotions.

Anger would keep Jax at a safe distance.

She’d have to come back another night to see if she could get to Little Gus.

Two strong hands grabbed her by the arms and spun her around Jax pinned her wrists to her sides and pushed her against the wall.. “Where is he?”

She jerked her wrists away. Only because he allowed it. He could probably crush every bone in them with ease. “Who?”

“You know who.”

He smelled like cedar and warm rain. Her mind went back to that night in Marrakech, the soft rain starting after midnight, falling outside as he did wicked things to her body.

Concentrate. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

His liquid brown eyes, black in the shadows, narrowed and his head tilted slightly. For some stupid reason, she wanted his hands on her again. “Are we really playing this game?”

“I’m not playing a game. I don’t know who you’re talking about.” Shut him down. Get away, before you become a blubbering, lusty bitch. Oh, right, too late. “Get out of my way and don’t come back here to harass me again.”

She tried to leave him. He moved to stop her, his arm shooting out, his hand resting on the wall near her head.

He leaned in, studied her face. His full lips beckoned. “You’re lying.”

“I know you think that’s all I do is lie, but that’s not true.”

She’d told him the truth that night and then she’d betrayed him by taking Elliot’s side when everything went south. He’d returned the favor by “proving” her partner was a traitor.

Elliot wasn’t a traitor anymore than she was. Jax had it all wrong. If only she could make him see that.

Proof. She was going to get proof of her partner’s innocence. That’s why she’d been here tonight, trying to get in good with the biggest gangster the Southside of Chicago had ever seen. He had the connections she needed.

Jax’s face was inches from hers. His gaze dropped to her mouth, slid back up to her eyes. “You honestly don’t know, do you?”

“Know what?”

A tense silence ensued. He still wasn’t sure.

His proximity—so close she would raised her lips an inch and kiss him—was doing strange things to her. Like making her think about kissing him.

Down girl! “Jax, honest to God, either tell me what this is about or get out of my way.”

“Elliot escaped.”

The words buzzed inside her head, blurry, indistinct. “What?”

“He was in the medical ward after a fight and somehow ended up exchanging clothes with a guard and walking right out of the place. The guard is in serious condition, by the way, from a blow to the head.”

My God. If she hadn’t been backed up against the wall, she might have staggered. “Elliot would never do that.”

His eyes challenged her. “See that’s where you and I disagree. You think Elliot is this great guy. I know he’s a miserable, lying traitor who will do anything to cover his ass.”

Her jaw tightened. “There has to be a reason he would bail like that. He knew I was working on clearing his name. Why would he run?” On the heels of that unpleasant thought, came another. “Why didn’t my boss notify me about this?”

“Probably because the CIA knows you’re sympathetic to the douchecanoe.”

Her exasperation morphed into outright annoyance. Mostly because he was probably correct. “Why do you care? Why did you come here to tell me this? To rub it in that you’re right about my partner?”

Ex-partner. He’s not worthy of the ground you walk on, and no, I didn’t come here to remind you he’s a worthless goatwaffle. I came here because I know you’re the first person he’ll run to for help.”

“That’s sweet, but he’s not stupid, and again, I don’t understand why you care if he does come running to me for help. You made sure he went to prison after Marrakech, but he’s no longer your problem, is he? He really was never your problem. You made him into a traitor, so while I’m sure it upsets you that he’s escaped, the Agency will find him. Go back to your life and forget about him. Forget about me.”

The words tumbled out of her mouth, even as her heart clenched. She didn’t mean it. If anything, she wanted the opposite. To the man who’d probably slept his way around the world, she wanted to be the one woman he would never forget.

The clean-shaven SEAL of six months ago was gone. He’d grown a short beard since she’d last seen him and her fingers itched to touch it. To feel the scratch of it against her skin. His focus—so intense it made gooseflesh rise on her arms—dropped to her lips. “I will never forget you.”

Bam. He’d read her mind.

Her heart stuttered. “Jax…”

He laid a finger against her lips. “Here me out. I didn’t come here to fight with you, Ruby. I know you’re running an unsanctioned mission to find proof Elliot was innocent of the charges I brought against him, but you need to switch your focus and help me find him. He will come to you. You’re the only person that ever believed he was innocent to begin with, and while I respect that kind of loyalty, you could be in danger. You think I ruined your career? Honey, let me tell you, if you in anyway assist a federal fugitive—this federal fugitive—I’ll make damn sure your ass lands in a prison cell next to his.”

Threats. Nice.

Her stuttering heart hardened. Thankfully or not, she was speechless. If she tried to stay anything, she’d probably lose it. So she shoved at his chest, pushing all her emotions into it.

A brick wall met her shove. Once she’d loved his solidness, his strength. Currently, she found it annoying as hell.

Like everything else about him.

Training, dammit. Ruby could hear her boss yelling in her ear.  Don’t let him see he got to you. Turn the tables on him.

Taking a deep, cleansing breath, she set her face to neutral, dropped her hands from his chest. “I’m not helping you hunt down my partner, which is not your job anyway. You’re obsessed with Elliot because you’re jealous of him. Why won’t you own up to that?”

He traced her jaw with the same finger that had silenced her. “You think I’m jealous of Elliot Hayden?”

Her body shivered at the intimacy and she smacked his hand away. “You and I had a one-night stand, Jax, but that’s all it was. One night. You wanted more and I refused. You thought you’d snap your fingers and I’d fall at your combat boots, and when the shit went down with Elliot and Abdel, you expected me to side with you. I didn’t and you still can’t believe it. You don’t respect the fact I’m loyal to my partner. You’re jealous of him.”

His chuckle was low and soft, raising goose bumps along her skin. “You want to know why I’m here watching your backside and asking for your help with Hayden?”

This should be good. The man was in total denial over his true motivations. “Why?”

“Because, honey.” He rubbed the pad of his thumb over her chin, raising more gooseflesh. “The CIA hired me to hunt him down.”

READ THE REST NOW!

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Release of Operation: Lost Princess!

A lost princess and a spy team up to save the world, but will they lose their hearts in the process? James Bond meets Cinderella!

 (*Note, this book was previously published as The Blood Code.)

Beautiful Anya Radzoya fled Russia with her grandmother when she was only a child, but she can’t escape the royal genes that make her one of the country’s last living princesses.

When blackmailed into returning to Moscow in exchange for her grandmother’s life, Anya discovers a horrible secret that could end the world. She must find a way to stop it, and the only person who can help her is a sexy, cunning spy who suspects she’s a double agent.

Ryan Smith can’t deny the alluring magnetism he feels toward the lost princess, and the long, cold nights undercover provide him with time to explore every inch of her. But trapped inside the Kremlin with a ruthless opponent, the two must hide their romantic entanglement, and risk their lives to save Anya’s grandmother, as well as millions of innocent people.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “This book was by far one of the best romantic suspense novels I have read.” ~ Brenda, Goodreads reviewer

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “Wonderful!!! Awesome!!! Loved it!!!” ~ Pamela, Goodreads reviewer

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “Love, love, love this series.” ~ So Many Reads

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “…a wonderful adventure I didn’t want to end” ~ Goodreads reviewer

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “…James Bond meets Cinderella!” ~ Mei, Goodreads reviewer

★ #AmazonUS: https://amazon.com/dp/B084BW5M5Y

★ #Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/operation-lost-princess-super-agent-romantic-suspense-series-book-4

★ #Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/operation-misty-evans/1136295969

★ #AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/operation-lost-princess-super-agent-romantic-suspense/id1497197330

★ ★ ★ Direct Buy (save $1!): https://mistyevansbooks.com/product/operation-lost-princess-super-agent-romantic-suspense-series-book-4

★ #AmazonCA: https://www.amazon.ca/Operation-Princess-Super-Romantic-Suspense-ebook/dp/B084BW5M5Y/

★ #AmazonAU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Operation-Princess-Super-Romantic-Suspense-ebook/dp/B084BW5M5Y/

★ #AmazonUK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Operation-Princess-Super-Romantic-Suspense-ebook/dp/B084BW5M5Y/

★ ★ ★ ★ ★  “Wow, another one to add to my “lose sleep over” list!” ~ Susan, Goodreads reviewer

★ ★ ★ ★ ★  “…loads of action and adventure in and out of the bedroom!”  ~ Elisa, Goodreads reviewer

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ “The very best in romantic suspense.” ~ Susan, Goodreads reviewer

★ ★ ★ ★  “I love it! Secret CIA spies and Russian princesses!?! Feisty and capable Russian Princess!” ~ Lisa, Goodreads reviewer

★ ★ ★ ★ “… fun, fast action and highly-entertaining…” ~ Alexa, Goodreads reviewer

 

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Books in the Super Agent Series:

Operation Sheba – Con and Julia

Operation Paris – Lawson and Zara

Operation Proof of Life – Michael and Brigit

Operation Lost Princess – Ryan and Anya

Operation Ambush – John and Lucie

Operation Sleeping With The Enemy – Josh and Naomi