Authors: T. Hammond
Team Red – Book 4
opyright © May 2014 by T. Hammond
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, taping, or other information storage or retrieval system (except for review purposes) without the express written consent of the author.
This book contains adult situations, themes, and language, including explicit sexual content. This book is not recommended for readers under 18 years of age.
I made it up. Truly. If you think one of the characters looks/acts like you—coincidence. (But hey, that would be totally awesome, you’ll have to email me a picture—we’ll let the fans decide.)
The city of Spokane is described with a lot of accuracy, as far as landmarks, local restaurants, and parks. The Spokane Police Department, miscellaneous and mysterious branches of the military, and Fairchild Air Force Base (FAFB) figure into my plot, but I will tell you up front, I have no knowledge of the policies, politics, pomp, and procedures which are actually in place for events described (which I made up because, you know, this is fiction).
I took unintentional liberties with the actual borders for the city of Spokane. Some of the crime areas represented in Team Red books (most notably, book 1), were actually in unincorporated Spokane that (if this wasn’t, you know,
?) would have been handled by the Sheriff’s department, not city police. (Note: when I moved a crime scene in book 1 from Gonzaga district to Whitworth’s district, I forgot the city limits were different, oops! It never occurred to me to switch from the Police to Sheriff’s department—my bad!). The Nine-Mile Dam area used in this book, is also outside the city police boundaries, but I am choosing to leave the Sheriff’s out of the story. For the sake of the story line, it is easier to leave Team Red affiliated with only one law enforcement agency rather than multiple jurisdictions. I will continue the series as written and ask for the readers’ indulgence.
The Team Red Series
At reader request, there are two concurrent Team Red series versions: “Blind” for adult readers preferring a spicier, adult-themed story, and the “Red” series more suitable for New Adult readers.
While both series contain the same character names and a lot of shared dialogue, the “Red” series is stripped of graphic sex and language, the characters are younger, and story line is modified to what I believe is the equivalency of a PG movie (subjective, of course, other opinions may vary).
The “Blind” version is written first. Afterward, protagonist ages are reduced to their twenties, and changes made to tone down adult themes and language, making the “Red” version a new story, with obvious mirrored elements of the original (such as the dialog). Some people enjoy following both storylines.
Books by T. Hammond
Team Red ‘Blind’ Adult version:
Blind Seduction, Book 1
Color Blind, Book 2
Blind Faith, Book 3
Blind Rage, Book 4
Blind-Sided, Book 5 (
In Love with Teresa March: A Team Red Novella 1.5
Team Red ‘Red’
New Adult version:
Red Rover, Book1
Red Zone, Book 2
Seeing Red, Book 3
My thanks for the patience and perseverance of my Team Red “Blind version” Beta Readers: Sue Benbow, Nita Roberts, Jocelyn Sanchez, Raynell Sterry, and Kimberly Talbot. You guys are awesome, and your suggestions, corrections, and excellent feedback is so valued.
I am very fortunate to have Tara Shaner, of Shaner Media Creations, as my Wordsmith Editor. Not only is she a wonderful friend, she’s a friend of my characters, and enhances their voice. She is truly gifted. Thank you, Tara!
A very special thanks to my friend Dr. Aaron Covington, PsyD, whose knowledge and input regarding PTSD and psychological disorders was invaluable, and the focus of many spirited dinner discussions. Any errors or liberties taken with my characters’ symptoms are my own responsibility.
I wish I could thank all the bloggers who provide such great support to Indie Authors. In each novel, I’ll recognize a handful of different ones (links to their blogs provided on my Thank You page).
My thanks to:
** Cu’s eBook Giveaways – Always willing to go above and beyond for Indies
I Heart Books – A great group of people with great attitudes
The Edible Bookshelf – DelSheree Gladden, engaging writer and blogger. Thank you.
On Christmas Eve, the world as I knew it came tumbling down around my ears. David, the man I was building a future with, was forced to reveal a secret. Not a little “Oops, Teresa, I forgot to mention” lie-of-omission-type secret, this was major. It was heart-shattering. World changing… my world anyway.
A wife. A child. A betrayal of my trust. A breaking of my heart. A shift of my reality. And worse, for a while, I doubted myself and my judgment.
It had been over two weeks since he left. Each day was easier, but I was feeling the stress directly related to David’s scheduled arrival, in three days, with his family. It was over between us, from a romantic perspective, but there was so much left to be said face-to-face, not over the cold, impersonal distance of a phone line. I was alternately impatient to close that chapter of my life so I could move on, yet strangely reluctant to let go of the last thread binding me to him. Once the tie was severed, it was done. Over. It felt so sad to close that door—as if I’d failed somehow. A silly reaction when you consider I couldn’t have known about his wife, so the failure rested completely on his shoulders. Still… no one ever claimed grief was a logical emotion.
Gratefully, I wasn’t alone in my sorrow and confusion. Bastian, David’s partner and best friend, had also been unaware of this other family. After they retired from the Navy the men chose to settle in Spokane, partnering in PreClan Video, an intentionally misleading name for the top secret military software system they developed for their former employer, Uncle Sam.
Mini-drones, topographical mapping, and complex programming wasn’t all they had on their minds. Bas and David tag-team dated me over a two-month “Siege of Teresa March” (yeah, we had a name for it; that’s just the way we roll). Their methods were playful, but competitive, as they vied for my heart. Any tactic was considered fair game if it advanced their cause. Bribery, sabotaged dates, and interrupted goodnight kisses had been the norm, as they waged an epic battle, in an oft amusing game of one-upmanship.
David found his way into my heart and, eventually, my life, moving into my home, converting the basement into a base of operations for his and Bas’ highly classified work. In the face of my choice, Bas put his own heartbreak aside, supporting David and me in our new-found relationship, waging an inner struggle to come to terms with his failure to win my love. Only after David’s betrayal did I learn the true depth and complexity of Bastian’s feelings for me. His wasn’t a superficial fixation, or a lingering remnant of our having grown up together. Bas’ love went much deeper, his foundation steady and resolute. Bas challenged me, but from the position of a respected partner.
David’s emergency flight to Boston on Christmas Eve prompted unexpected holiday “guests,” in the form of Russ Thomas, owner of Wild Horse Security, and a handful of his Mustangs. They arrived days later in response to David’s absence, to reinforce our home security. PreClan’s current satellite mapping project had entered a critical stage in development, making it a prime target for corporate and military espionage. Coincidentally, when an attempted breach of our property was thwarted with the help of Russ’ people, the unplanned test proved their value. We successfully negotiated a multi-layered partnership which would necessitate Wild Horse opening a new branch in Spokane—at the far end of our acreage.
As a bonus, Team Red was allocated its own security detail, after Russ better understood our unit’s biggest secret: vision sharing. PreClan’s technology wasn’t the only asset when it came to future military and police projects.
Consider the implications of a talking dog with deductive reasoning skills. He can scent what DNA alone can’t (yet) reveal. Red can enter a room and overhear conversations, because, really, who'd think to monitor what they say around a friendly German shepherd? But the tool is valuable only in the hands of someone who can use it properly. Uh, yeah. That would be me. The guys kindly tell me I’m just as important, because I’m the only one who can hear Red’s thoughts.
Oh-dark hundred, Thursday - Jan 10
I woke to the warm scent of cinnamon and cedar, and a gentle hand stroking me from nape to slightly shy of my pajama bottoms. My top must have risen up while I slept, as callused fingertips skimmed over the bare expanse of skin at my waist before lifting to my neck to pet downward again. Soothing, and rhythmic; like the steady beat of the heart under my ear.
My hands, thankfully, were curled high on Bastian’s chest. One of his arms was curved over my shoulder keeping me balanced so I wouldn’t roll off the edge of the couch. I usually woke to find myself wedged into the space between Bas’ hip and the sofa-back. It was unusual I’d slid to the other side. Typical Bastian, willing to suffer a cramped arm, rather than shift me to the other side and disturb my sleep.
“What am I? A cat?” I teased sleepily, snuggling my nose against the thick pec under my cheek, taking a long drawn breath, as if I could pull him deep into my lungs. All the closer to your heart, a little voice in my mind whispered. I could feel the crisp abrasion of hair against my belly, and assumed Bastian’s t-shirt had also ridden up in his sleep. The urge to drag my palm over the soft, downy trail leading into his sweat pants, was tempered by the knowledge wandering hands would start something I had no intention of finishing on the couch. Which led to the reason we were sleeping in the living room in the first place; it’s hard to get frisky when the threat of discovery was almost certain. I knotted my hands into fists, tucking them tighter under my chin—all the better to resist temptation. And a warm, sleepy Bastian Declan was a whole lot of attractively-packaged temptation.
A gravelly rumble of his chest foretold his amusement, before he replied, “Oh, Babe, you opened up a whole catalog of pussy jokes with that comment.”
I suppose I did. “I can’t be held accountable for any comments made prior to my first cup of coffee,” I retorted with flawless logic. Not so much because I was thinking clearly—this simply happened to be my usual retort for morning grumpiness. I considered the phrase a form of mental-muscle memory for hardcore java drinkers.
“Shift me to the other side,” I mumbled, aware he was probably uncomfortable, holding me suspended over the couch edge. I braced my forearms and palms against the width of his chest as he effortlessly shifted my lower body across his groin to settle me over his opposite hip. “How long have I been hovering over impending doom?” I asked, yawning against the fabric of his shirt, resettling into the heat of his body.
“’Bout ten minutes or so. I was going to give you a few more minutes before nudging you to the other side.” His free hand cupped my jaw, raising my face for a soft, lingering kiss. I had stopped protesting these stolen, pre-toothpaste, early morning smooches when Bas made it clear he didn’t care if I had dragon breath. Bas-hole, he actually said that. We compromised. He can steal all the morning kisses he could handle, but he kept his tongue to himself until I shared quality time with Colgate. Who knew virginal, closed-mouth kisses could be so erotic, or sensual?
I didn’t hear activity from the kitchen, and my nose did not detect coffee. “What time is it?” The arm holding me flexed, and I realized he probably couldn’t read his watch because I pinned his wrist.
“The clock chimed oh-three-hundred, maybe fifteen minutes ago.” He mockingly added, “That’s three a.m., Babe.”
In retaliation for his pointing out the obvious, I teasingly bit at the muscle within nipping range, inadvertently catching his nipple between sharp teeth. He gasped and his hips reflexively surged upward, as his whole body reacted. “Fuck me, Babe. You dig those sweet little teeth in any harder, and I’ll end up embarrassing us both,” he threatened-promised, rolling his body to trap mine against the couch back. Taking advantage of my leg thrown negligently over his thigh, he split my knees apart, pressing the hard evidence of his arousal firmly against the wetness swiftly gathering in my cotton panties. “God knows, it would be easy to slide right into you and ride you ‘til you can’t walk a straight line,” he growled. I was pretty sure the last comment fell decisively into the promise category.
The Cardinal Rule of Morning Kisses was broken when his mouth forced mine open, and his tongue swept through in hungry conquest, taking any protest, or thought of resistance, with it. He was determined, aggressive, and totally focused on consuming my last breath.
“Err, sorry to interrupt, sir,” a voice said from the direction of the sliding doors.
“Mother fuck!” Bas growled, pulling away from my mouth, angrily. “How the hell did I not know you were in the room, Frost?”
There was a pause as Christopher Frost, aka Iceman to his team mates, considered his defense. “Well, sir, been here ‘bout seventeen minutes or so, watching Red make his circuit of the property. Been raining. Planned to dry him off when he returned. Didn’t mean to interrupt your… err, sleep. Figured I’d better let you know I was here in case… ahh...” He tried again, “Figured best to let you know I was here, sir.”
I’m sure my face burned with embarrassment. Bas cupped my head protectively, rolling to his back, draping me over his hip again. Perfectly innocent, if I ignored the hard ridge of his erection, trapped against my thigh. “No need to address me as ‘sir,’ Frost. As an ex-warrant officer, you, and every other Mustang here, would have out-ranked me a year ago.”
“Sign of respect, sir,” the other man replied, his voice soft, yet insistent. “We’re all aware of your service record. Know you were qualified, over qualified if my opinion counts, for your advancement to officer status. Know the only reason you never took the officer exams, or submitted an application for warrant officer, was dedication to Preston’s team. Know the only reason you weren’t a SEAL was you took a hit for your swim partner—shoulda let him fail, sir. As soon as you were forced out with the broken collarbone, he rang out the next day, ‘cuz there was no one to enable his pansy ass through the final week of BUDs. Shame the Navy lost a great SEAL. Happy we gained one of the best NCOs in the service.”
I was pretty sure that was the longest string of sentences I’d heard from our normally quiet Frost.
“He was my swim buddy, it was my duty,” Bas responded, ignoring the compliment.
“That attitude’s ‘nother reason to call you sir, sir. Understand the work you’re doin’ for PreClan. Realize some of the extreme shit you overcame in the field to make sure the project advanced on schedule. ‘Fore I retired, saw the Navy field test video you made. Awesome stuff. When I grow up, want to be a badass like you, sir,” he deadpanned.
Bas’ head lifted off the arm of the couch to face toward the sliding doors, so I knew something Frost said had sparked his interest. “You saw the video? You were working with our Naval imagery analysis team? Then why are you a bodyguard on the Team Red detail? Why aren’t you with Russ’ training group? They could use your experience.”
“Considered it,” Frost admitted. “Decided I’d rather guard your woman so you can continue your work without worrying about her welfare. Russ has good men on the project. Don’t need me. Course, once I realized how important Team Red could be to covert ops, decided I’d made the better deal. Get to look at your pretty woman all day; no hardship there. ‘N you don’t treat her well, sir, I’m primed to take advantage of your dulled wits ‘n make my move. Unfortunate you’re old ‘n out of shape; won’t stand a chance of winning her back, sir.”
I smiled at his droll teasing, understanding for the first time why, besides the last name of Frost, he earned the nickname of Iceman. His delivery was a cool monotone. Matched with his odd speech pattern of dropping words, it would be hard to tell if he was serious or not. I knew he was joking only because of the outrageousness of his declaration. Without any visual clues, if the subject matter had been vague, I wouldn’t have been sure of his intent.
“Don’t encourage him,” Bas chided me. Oops, I must not have concealed the grin fast enough.
“I appreciate the warning, Frost. I’ll be sure to care for Teresa like the treasure she is.” He pressed a soft kiss to my forehead. “A word of warning though: if you make a move on my woman, I’ll show you how old and out of shape, trumps young and cocky.”
“Message received, sir.” I could hear the underlying amusement in the other man’s tone. I knew there was maybe a year’s age difference between the two men, and Bas out-bulked Frost by at least forty pounds. Bastian’s six-three height, coupled with his two-hundred thirty pounds of pure, rock solid muscle, made the out of shape old man under me, a daunting opponent.
The tapping of dog claws against glass signaled Red’s return from his rounds. The members of the security team had been good-natured about wandering up from the basement each night, or early morning, when they observed Red on the monitors. These simple courtesies, like drying him off after his rounds, endeared each member of the Team Red escort unit to me. Red wasn’t mind-speaking at the moment, he probably thought I was still sleeping, but I heard his ecstatic doggie moans from the back door as he was briskly toweled.
“Good work tonight, Top Dog,” the Mustang praised. I smiled at hearing Red’s nickname. When he discovered the Wild Horses had call names for each other, he decided he should have one too. I don’t know which of the men came up with Top Dog, but Red was proud to have, what he referred to as, a call sign. “Come down to the basement ‘n keep me company, Red. Snag a cookie for yourself on the way—you earned it.”
“The pheromones are awfully thick in here,”
my dog mentally shared as he followed Frost toward the kitchen.
With my head, once again, resting on Bastian’s chest, he resumed the long stroking motion down my spine. I could feel his body going lax, in that boneless way he did before dropping off to sleep. “I’d assumed you could have applied at any time to become a warrant officer, after you completed your first twelve years of enlisted service. This is the first time I’ve heard you could have been an officer,” I said, a hint of question in my tone.
David had explained a Mustang was an honorary nickname for warrant officers, recognizing their advancement through the enlisted ranks, unlike their thoroughbred counter-parts, commissioned officers, who gained rank with a college degree. The term mustang implied a wild animal, with stronger survival instincts; more capable for having worked his, or her, way up due to their skills. Warrant officers were selected on the basis of hands-on experience and merit. Senior enlisted men with at least twelve years in service, and a technical specialty, could apply for warrant officer to a selection board comprised of their peers. It wasn’t until I spoke with Russ about the Mustangs he hired for Wild Horse Security, that I discovered an enlisted soldier with at least five years’ experience, who later earns his or her commission as an officer, also qualified as a Mustang. The common denominator was that whole “rising through the ranks” thing, I suppose.
“David implied you didn’t apply to be a warrant officer because you were busy on the satellite mapping project, and preferred working in the field with the men. But, you need a college degree to be an officer, don’t you?”
“I managed to take the occasional night course, and got a bit of college credit for the work I was doing on the project,” Bas responded. “I graduated a few years back.”
First I’d heard. I don’t think Janey or his parents were aware either, or I’m sure someone would have said something. “What was your major?”
Long pause, long enough I wasn’t sure he was going to answer. “Dual M.S. degrees, actually,” he finally admitted, giving me the impression he was self-conscious. “Applied Physics and Cyber Security.”
I thought about it for a moment. “You know this means you’re every woman’s perfect man, right? Beauty, bravery, brawn, and brains? Add to all that, you are patient and respectful—and you’re pretty much irresistible.”
“You don’t seem to have a problem resisting my considerable charms,” he retorted, wryly.
“It gets harder every day, Bastian,” I admitted softly, lifting my fingertips to brush the edge of his jaw, placing the pads of my fingers against the light, over-night beard to stroke my thumb over the longer bristles of his goatee. “I really appreciate how tolerant you’ve been while I work out everything in my head. I’m glad you recognize I need to see David face-to-face to…”
“Babe,” he placed a fingertip across my lips, “I understand. Truly. Do what you need to do. Take all the time you need. I’m not going anywhere. I’m content falling asleep like this every evening, even if there
a dozen chaperones traipsing through the house. I enjoy our quiet talks, and holding you as we fall asleep. I’ll still be here when you’re ready.”