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Authors: Paula Graves

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Secret Assignment

BOOK: Secret Assignment
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His business is protection
Shannon Cooper came to Nightshade Island to carry out a mission. But she can’t do it without the mysterious Gideon Stone. The enigmatic, battle-hardened former soldier is much more than just the island’s caretaker. And the powerful feelings he’s awakening go deeper than fleeting desire.
Former special ops, Gideon has seen danger up close and personal. Now, protecting Shannon from deadly mercenaries is his first priority. But who will shield him from the onslaught of emotion the beautiful computer tech is arousing? As a storm hurtles up the Alabama Gulf Coast, mirroring the passion raging through his defenses, Gideon will do whatever it takes to survive...and explore a relationship as impossible as it is irresistible....
“Guess we made it through the night more or less unscathed, huh?”
Shannon followed Gideon’s gaze and released a soft sigh. The cool morning breeze off the gulf lifted her dark hair, sending a few strands dancing against his cheeks. She smelled like a fresh morning rain, despite having traipsed through the sea grass, climbed up and down a thirty-foot lighthouse and taken down a special forces marine twice her size with her bare hands.
She was formidable, he thought, rolling the word around in his head, savoring it.
Fearing it.
He’d known, the second he saw her waiting on the pier at Terrebonne Marina, that she was going to be trouble for him.
He just hadn’t realized how much.
Paula Graves
Secret Assignment
Alabama native Paula Graves wrote her first book, a mystery starring herself and her neighborhood friends, at the age of six. A voracious reader, Paula loves books that pair tantalizing mystery with compelling romance. When she’s not reading or writing, she works as a creative director for a Birmingham advertising agency and spends time with her family and friends. She is a member of Southern Magic Romance Writers, Heart of Dixie Romance Writers and Romance Writers of America.
Paula invites readers to visit her website,
Books by Paula Graves
*Cooper Justice
**Cooper Justice: Cold Case Investigation
‡Cooper Security
Shannon Cooper—
Though Cooper Security’s computer tech has long wanted to run a field operation, helping a widow archive her late husband’s belongings isn’t what she had in mind—until black-masked intruders show up, pursuing a deadly agenda.
Gideon Stone—
Owing a blood debt to the family of the fellow marine who died saving his life, Gideon will do anything to keep Lydia Ross safe, even put up with a pretty young computer geek who wastes no time getting under his tough skin.
Lydia Ross—
The army widow is still grieving the loss of her husband and her son. But when intruders strike the private Gulf of Mexico island where she’s lived for most of her life, she shows the steel in her spine that made her the ideal army wife.
General Edward Ross—
The late army general kept a coded journal during his last few years of service. Now a whole lot of dangerous people want to get their hands on the journal. What secrets does it contain?
Security Services Unit (SSU)—
MacLear Security’s secret unit disbanded when the company fell to scandal. But some of the operatives are still selling their services to whomever’s willing to pay.
Damon North—
The undercover agent has finally made his way back into the SSU, dedicated to bringing the dangerous mercenary unit down. But how far is he willing to go to convince the unit that he’s trustworthy?
Raymond Stephens—
The dishonorably discharged ex-marine who found his home in the corrupt SSU still nurses a grudge against Gideon Stone. Will the new SSU mission to steal the general’s journal give him a chance to even the score?
For my mom,
who’s always believed in me, even when I didn’t.


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen


Chapter One

Murky green water lapped against the pilings of the Terrebonne Marina docks, rocking the boats hitched to the moorings. The breeze blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico was steamy-hot, fueled by temperatures in the mid-nineties and eighty-percent humidity.

August in Alabama,
Shannon Cooper thought bleakly as she wilted in the sweltering heat on a bench by an empty boat slip. The dog days were bad enough back home, where mountains and woods offered some small protection against the Southern summer’s excesses. But down here in Terrebonne, a mosquito-infested dot on the Alabama Gulf Coast map, August was a ruthless son of a—

She heard the boat before she saw it, the engine rattle drawing her gaze toward the middle of Terrebonne Bay. Cutting through the wakes left by other boats, a drab white fishing yacht that had seen better days headed straight toward the boat slip where she sat waiting for her ride to Nightshade Island.

The boat eased into the slip, avoiding all but the lightest of bounces against the protective bumpers lining the dock. The engine growled to a stop, and Shannon pushed to her feet.

A colossus of a man stepped onto the deck, all broad shoulders, long legs and unwelcoming scowl. Shannon was used to large men—between her brothers and cousins, she’d been surrounded by strapping, athletic men all her life. But the man who walked to the boat’s deck railing exuded a commanding presence made all the more intimidating by the impatient hostility hardened like stone in his masculine features.

He didn’t speak until he’d finished lashing the boat to the moorings with sturdy ropes. That task done, he rose to his impressive height and addressed her in a deep, growling Southern drawl. “Shannon Cooper?”

She quelled the dismay squirming in the pit of her stomach and raised her chin. “Yes. And you?”

His lips pressed to a line. “Gideon Stone.”

The name matched the one her brother had given her. She wished Jesse had thought to include a photo of the man. “Do you have any identification?”

His eyes narrowing, he pulled a slim wallet from the back pocket of his jeans and showed her his driver’s license. Gideon Stone. Age thirty-four. Six-five, 220 pounds. In the photo, he looked pissed-off.

She glanced at him and saw the photo was a good likeness.

“Thank you,” she said politely.

His expression didn’t soften at all as his gaze shifted downward. “Is that all you have?”

She looked at the duffel bag sitting on the dock beside her. She’d packed light, figuring she could wash clothes at least once while she was on the island. “Doesn’t Mrs. Ross have a washer and dryer?”

His eyebrows quirked slightly. “Yes.”

“Then yes. That’s all I have.” She eyed the large fishing vessel, a Hatteras Convertible Sportfisherman. Even though it had seen better days, it seemed in no danger of sinking, she noted with relief.

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

She blinked, taken aback. “Do this?”

“Come out to Nightshade Island.” He nodded toward the clouds rolling in from the southeast. “There’s a storm headed our way.”

A tropical storm roiling in the Caribbean was lining up to move into the Gulf of Mexico before the end of the week, but surely they would have plenty of time to evacuate if the situation became dangerous. “All the more reason to archive the general’s papers and collections quickly,” she said reasonably. “Mrs. Ross will want to take them with her if she’s forced to evacuate, and we’ll have them secured and ready to go. Were you able to procure the items we requested for storage?”

“Yes.” He walked toward the dockside fuel pump a few yards away.

She watched through narrowed eyes as he pumped fuel into the yacht’s tanks, wondering if his surly attitude was situational or inherent. “Is there a problem with my coming here?”

He looked up at her, his eyes hooded. “Should there be?”

Well, that was a strange response. “I don’t think so. You do know Mrs. Ross hired us to help her itemize her husband’s things and pack them up securely for the move, right?”

“Right.” But he sounded suspicious anyway.

She sighed and picked up the duffel bag, shoving it over the rail onto the boat deck. If she had been dressed in shorts and a T-shirt—her preferred attire on scorching days—she’d have hauled herself over the deck railing as well. But she’d dressed to give a good first impression, although perspiration had already begun soaking through the cotton of her sleeveless shell and no doubt had left dark stains on the back of her light gray summer suit jacket.

BOOK: Secret Assignment
4.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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