Authors: Julie Ann Walker
“I was born with it,” he said drolly. Yeah. He was definitely Jekyll and Hyde. “And I was once again asking myself why I decided to let you come along, because no way are those scrawny arms of yours”—he dipped his chin toward the set of lithely muscled biceps under discussion—“strong enough to get you up that curtain wall. Not unless you get bitten by an irradiated spider between here and there and suddenly turn into Spider-Woman.”
“How awesome would
be?” Maddy feigned wonder. “And just so you know,” she continued, “you agreed to let me come along because I know another way into the fort.” She batted her lashes so fervently he was surprised he didn’t feel a breeze.
He and Mason exchanged a look. Mason was the one to say, “Do tell, Miss Powers.”
“The reason they call this place the
”—she made quote marks with her fingers—“Tortugas is because there’s no natural fresh water available anywhere on the islands. So when they were buildin’ this fort, they had to construct large cisterns to catch rainwater and store it.”
“Same thing we do on Wayfarer Island,” Bran told her. “So what?”
“So this fort was built with over sixteen
bricks. Just think about that for a second. Sixteen million bricks on top of shiftin’ sands.”
“Is this history lesson headed somewhere?”
She gave him a look that promised pain to some of his softer body parts. He wisely snapped his mouth shut.
“The main reason this fort was never finished,” she continued, “is because the mammoth weight of the structure kept crushin’ the cisterns, allowin’ seawater to seep in and contaminate the freshwater.”
The wind chose that moment to kick up. And the lighthouse made its revolution, briefly flashing over the beach and illuminating Maddy’s hair until it sparkled like corn silk.
Bran regretted not asking Ranger Rick if he had a ball cap she could borrow. He
regretted not considering that
they made their way along the beach to this bush.
“Over the years,” Maddy continued, “the crack in the foundation of the fort and the cistern grew. It’s big enough to swim through. It’s against park rules, of course. But there have been a few folks who’ve done it and posted pictures on the Internet.”
“And you know where this fissure in the foundation that leads to the cistern is?” he asked.
“Southwest wall. Between the two corner gun rooms.”
Bran tried to convince himself there was a better way. One that didn’t involve dragging Maddy through an underwater tunnel.
“You have that thinkin’ line between your eyebrows.” She pursed her lips. “Which usually doesn’t bode well for me.”
He searched her face, looking for…he wasn’t sure what. But all he saw in her eyes was stony resolve. And maybe a little desperation. She was willing to risk it all, her life even, on a chance to save those girls. “Okay, then,” he said before turning to Mason. “Thoughts?”
Mason nodded. “Worth a try.”
Bran blew out a breath at the same time he ran a hand through his hair. It was stiff with salt and still damp in places. “Well, you know what the SEALs say, right?”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Maddy offered.
It struck him just how much Maddy knew about him. How much she knew
. He’d let her in. He’d let her get close. Too close. And in doing so, he’d let himself fall. Just a little. Or maybe a lot? He wasn’t sure. What he
sure of was that he had to stop the downward trajectory now, before it was too late.
motto,” he told her. “The SEAL motto is something different.”
“So then what do the SEALs say?”
“The only easy day was yesterday,” he told her.
“Hooyah,” Mason said, shouldering his weapon and quartering the area in front of them, preparing to make a move.
When Bran looked back at Maddy, she jerked her chin in a quick, businesslike fashion. She was ready to jump into the fray without a second thought.
God help me. She’s too brave by half.
“Hold up, Mason,” he said, setting his M4 aside and grabbing the hem of his tank top. Since the last time he’d seen Maddy, he’d entertained about two thousand fantasies surrounding the events that might lead to him taking his clothes off for her. But nothing he imagined had been anything like this.
Available July 2016 from
Order Julie Ann Walker’s second book
in the Deep Six series
Devil and the Deep
On sale July 2016
bestselling author of the Black Knights Inc. and Deep Six romantic suspense series. She has won the Book Buyers Best Award and has been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award and the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award. Julie is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She’ll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lakeshore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission. For more information, please visit
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