Authors: Lynn Raye Harris
ABOUT THIS BOOK
A THRILLING NEW STORY IN A BESTSELLING MILITARY ROMANTIC SUSPENSE SERIES!
The world’s most wanted man is back from the dead. And only one woman can stop him…
Former Army linguist Lucky San Ramos escaped with her life, but the scars an evil terrorist leader left on her skin are a constant reminder of her captivity. Now her tormentor is back—and so is the sexy Special Operations soldier she once loved.
HOT operator Kevin “Big Mac” MacDonald rescued Lucky the last time. And then he walked away when he couldn’t be what she needed. When Lucky married his teammate, Kev knew it was for the best. But now Marco is dead and Lucky is no longer safe.
When Kev and Lucky team up to capture a terrorist, they’ll have to pretend to be man and wife on an explosive military mission to a war-torn nation. With time running out and the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Kev and Lucky play a perilous game of cat and mouse with a madman during the day.
But at night, they battle the secrets of the past and the sizzling attraction that threatens to endanger the mission. Lucky shouldn’t want the man who abandoned her once before. But the passion between them is sinfully, sensuously,
… and proving impossible to resist.
Hostile Operations Team Headquarters
Near Washington, DC
“Fuck me,” Kevin “Big Mac” MacDonald said on an exhaled breath.
He was the only one who’d spoken, but the expression on the other guys’ faces echoed the sentiment. Colonel John Mendez stood before the team, hands on hips, face grave. Mendez was a throwback Army officer, the kind who ate nails for breakfast and took no prisoners. Not one man in this room had ever dared to disobey an order from him.
Well, maybe one. Matt “Richie Rich” Girard had done it, but he’d nearly lost his career in the process.
“That’s right, son,” Mendez said, giving Kev a hard look. “Al Ahmad ain’t dead.”
Matt swore. Kev could only clench his fists in his lap and pray he didn’t break something. HOT went after terrorists. It’s what they did, what they lived for. Al Ahmad was a terrorist. A low-life fucking evil bastard who liked to hurt people.
He was supposed to be dead. It hadn’t been more than a few months ago now that they’d gone after his second in command, Jassar ibn-Rashad. That mission had gotten fucked up six ways to Sunday, and they’d lost two good men in the process.
Kev swallowed. God, he still missed Marco. Marco San Ramos had been his best friend, the guy he’d gone through boot camp with. Kev wouldn’t have made it this far if not for Marco.
Thoughts of Marco inevitably led to Marco’s wife. Lucky. Kev squeezed his fists tighter, trying to keep himself from going down that mental road.
It was no good. He always thought of Lucky. Always felt the guilt and regret roiling away in his gut. Goddamn he was an asshole, thinking of his best friend’s wife.
Yeah. Wife, widow, what the fuck. He wasn’t allowed to think of Lucky, not like that, but he hadn’t ever been able to turn it off. Not since the first moment he’d seen her, before she ever belonged to Marco.
“If I don’t get out of here, take care of Lucky. Promise.”
“You’re getting out. We’re both fucking getting out.”
“Yeah, fine. I promise.”
Some promise. Lucky hadn’t spoken to him since they’d shipped Marco back in a casket. She’d left the military, taken Marco’s military life insurance, and gone to Hawaii.
“We’re going after him,” Mendez was saying. “This time, we’re getting that bastard.”
“Yes, sir,” Matt said for them all. “What’s the plan, sir?”
Mendez eyed them very deliberately. He was a wily bastard, but Kev knew there wasn’t a better soldier in the whole damn Army. “We need someone who can ID him, someone who can get close enough to do so.”
Kev’s blood ran cold. He told himself there was no reason for it, no way Mendez would want to bring in an outsider. But Al Ahmad was a tricky bastard. Unlike other terrorists, he didn’t like to make videos and broadcast them to the world. Because of that, few knew what he looked like. There were sketches, always sketches, based on intel they’d collected here and there.
And then there was Lucky’s debrief. The only person who’d gotten close enough to see his face and survived.
Mendez’s eyes were cool and penetrating as he swung his gaze toward Kev. “We need someone who got close once before. We need Lucky San Ramos.”
Kev felt like he’d been sucker punched. Matt looked at him, and he knew the horror was written on his face. Goddamn.
The two new guys—Sam “Knight Rider” McKnight and Garrett “Iceman” Spencer—looked confused. The others glanced at each other, faces grim. Kev’s gut twisted into knots. He’d been the one who’d gotten Lucky out the last time. The one who knew what that evil bastard had done to her.
He’d lost Lucky, thanks to Al Ahmad. Given her to Marco and walked away. Because he knew he couldn’t be what she needed then, and Marco could. Because Marco loved her, and Kev owed Marco too much to let one woman stand between them.
Kev sat immoveable, like a block of granite. How was it cowardly to let a woman go because you couldn’t be what she deserved? Because all you wanted was to have sex with her until it burned you up and you could move on to someone else?
Because a man like him didn’t do forever and happy ever after and all that bullshit. It didn’t exist. Not in his world. He might have been tempted to think so once, when he was much younger and far more naïve, but he’d learned in the hell of his childhood that love—or what passed for love in his family—was often a brutal thing.
“She’s out now,” Kev said, focusing on the problem at hand instead of the nightmare of his past. “And it’s been two years since she’s seen Al Ahmad. How do we know he hasn’t changed his face? Hell, how do we even know it
Al Ahmad? What if someone in his organization is trying to make us think he’s alive? Ibn-Rashad might be yanking our chain.”
Mendez’s expression didn’t change. Which, come to think of it, wasn’t necessarily a good sign. “Good questions, Sergeant. But trust me, if we didn’t have confirmation at the highest levels, we wouldn’t be here now. Do you think HOT goes out in the field for nothing, son? You’ve been here long enough to know better.”
He leaned forward then, two broad hands on the desk in front of him. “We need Lucky, and we’re getting her back. One way or the other. We can do it nice, or we can do it hard. But since my mama always said you get more flies with honey, I’m sending you after her, son. Go to Hawaii and convince her to come back. Or I’ll make her come back.”
Acid roiled in Kev’s stomach. He wanted to stand up and wrap his fists in the man’s perfectly starched collar. But he wouldn’t do it. Not if he wanted to keep his ass
his job. Not if he wanted to remain a part of HOT—which he did because he damn sure couldn’t imagine a different life than this one.
No, there was only one thing to say. Only one thing he
say, even though it about killed him to do it. He stood and snapped a salute.
* * *
North Shore, Oahu
Lucky flipped the surfboard upright after she paddled to shore and stepped out onto the sand. It was a typically beautiful Hawaiian day—or it would have been if she hadn’t just spotted the man standing cross-armed at the top of the shore break. For a second, she thought her eyes were playing tricks on her. There was no way that Kevin MacDonald was standing up there waiting for her.
But the mirage didn’t fade, and her heart reacted with a crazy rhythm that made her head swim. Part of her wanted to turn around and race back out to sea. Part of her wanted to march up to him and plant a fist in his handsome face.
And part of her wanted to wrap her arms around him and hold him tight.
Lucky hardened her heart and lifted her head. She wasn’t running, damn him. She thought he’d given up. The phone calls had ceased months ago, and even though it had made her ache deep down, she figured he’d finally gotten the message.
Looks like she’d been wrong.
She clutched the board tighter to her side and climbed the sharply sloping beach at Waimea Bay.
Kev stood impassive, arms crossed, chewing gum like he had no cares in the world, aviator sunglasses reflecting her wet form. Like he belonged here. Like he showed up every day and watched her paddle out to sea before turning and shooting the pipeline back to the beach.
Except he didn’t look like he belonged at all. A white T-shirt stretched across his broad chest, tapering down to disappear into the waistband of a pair of faded, loose-fitting Levi’s. His only real nod to beach culture was a pair of flip-flops, or
as the Hawaiians called them, and she knew it must have given him pause to don them. Kev was usually a cowboy- or combat-boot kind of guy.
Fresh anger flared to life inside her. But before she could speak, he said the one thing guaranteed to make her listen. Guaranteed to make her wish she were dead.
“Al Ahmad’s back.”
A cold finger of dread slid deep into her belly, tickled her spine, threatened to turn her knees to liquid.
He was supposed to be dead. She’d slept at night because he was dead. Because he could never come for her. Never force her to listen to that lovely, evil voice ever again.
“And what’s that mean to me?” she asked. She didn’t bother to ask how the bastard was still alive. If Kev was here, then he just was. It wasn’t debatable.
But she wasn’t about to let Kev know just how horrified that information made her or how much she wanted to sink into the ocean and never come out again.
“We need you, Lucky.”
Her breath seized in her lungs. “No way in hell,” she said hoarsely when she could talk again. “I’m not on active duty anymore.”
As if that had anything to do with it. When she’d been active, she’d wanted to be a part of the Hostile Operations Team. She’d gotten her wish when she’d been assigned to them for interpreter duties. It wasn’t the excitement of full-blown ops, but it was important.
She’d been so idealistic. Though women weren’t allowed to go on missions, she’d wanted to be the first. She’d hoped she’d get the chance to train hard and save the world, but she’d learned just how unsuited she was for that task, thanks to Al Ahmad.
“We could reactivate you.”
Lucky clutched the surfboard harder, the urge to gut him with it burning into her. He stood there so casually, threatening to upend her world as if it were nothing. Threatening to drag her back into that life when it had nearly destroyed her. “Mendez wouldn’t dare.”
“You know he would.”
Lucky slicked back her wet hair with one hand, hoping it didn’t shake, and bent to remove the ankle strap anchoring the surfboard to her leg. She didn’t have to look at Kev to know he was following the movement of her leg as she thrust it to the side to reach the strap.
She could feel the burn of his gaze on her skin, just like she always had. And it made her sick to her stomach. Angry. How dare he make her feel
She hardened her heart. She wouldn’t do it. She couldn’t do it. She owed them nothing. She’d done her time, and she’d gotten the hell out. She straightened and lifted her chin. “Get someone else. You’ve got any number of people who can interpret for you.”
Those firm lips turned down in a frown. “It’s more than translation. We need you on the inside.”