Authors: S. M. Butler
Only she ignites the passion within him…
Navy SEAL Brody Battles’ last mission ended with him shot twice. He’s made enemies he’d like to forget ever existed all over the world. He’s more than ready to go home to the family he left behind, but when he returns, he faces sleepless nights, a possible security breach and the fear that his family has moved on without him.
Only he fills the void left in her heart…
Marrying her childhood sweetheart sounds like a fairy tale dream come true, but not for Devyn. Thanks to his job, her husband has been off on a secret mission for so long, he’s never even seen his daughters in person. But now he’s back, and the fairy tale life is in sight, but Devyn’s not sure the man that returned is the same man who left.
…and only death will quench their enemy’s thirst for revenge.
Stitching their broken family back together proves difficult when nightmares and secrets build a wall between them. And while they’re adjusting to being a family again, an enemy waits in the shadows, salivating for the sweet taste of revenge.
Gunfire hailed around us, tearing up the drywall of the expensive mansion. The three of us were pinned in the hallway. The ambush had happened too fast for us to react, especially since Dylan Urban and I were the only ones armed.
Our charge, the NSA agent we came to rescue, was sandwiched between us. Cadence Long had been captured. Lucky Thirteen, as we unofficially called our team, had been called to save her ass. Of course, I hadn’t expected us to also need our asses saving.
Across the hall, my teammates Murphy and Hardy were getting antsy. They’d saved our ass when we were pinned down, but with the added gunfire, it looked like they were stuck with us now. The heavy fire we drew made it difficult to return fire without exposing ourselves.
"Great. What do we do now?" Cadence asked. For a captured agent, she’d proven rather mouthy. But our orders were clear. She was the priority. She had to be retrieved. She must have had some dicey secrets in that red head of hers. We just weren’t expecting the welcome wagon to meet us at the front door.
"We hang tight for another minute," Urban snapped at her. “Maybe next time the NSA can retrieve their own folks.”
“Bet my guys wouldn’t end up in the middle of an ambush.” She shot back, and pulled the pistol from Urban’s holster on his vest. He glared at her, but she gave him the same look back. “Look, you need more firepower. And the gun’s just sitting there.”
“She’s got a point, man,” I said. Urban’s glare turned to me.
“Just make sure I get my gun back,” he replied.
"Did you guys come alone, too? Just the four of you? Because that's stupid. I didn’t take SEALs for stupid." Was bitching all this woman could do?
I rolled my eyes as I slid a full magazine into place on my rifle. "We're never alone, lady." More gunfire and screams from down the hall echoes through the space, followed by loud explosions beyond our range. I glanced down at my watch. Two minutes in. I turned to Urban. "They're thirty seconds early."
Urban chuckled. “Probably thought we’d kill them all before they got here.”
I glanced across the hall at the other two men. Both Murphy and Hardy nodded, acknowledging exactly what I'd thought. Time to go. We’d have to make a push for it, which if Simon Giroux’s men were taking fire from the other side, it’d give us an advantage to do it with. Murphy and Hardy would have to take point to draw fire so we could get Cadence out.
They fanned out, taking advantage of the lull of gunfire directed at us. Urban nodded toward me. “Battles goes first, then you, and I’ll bring up the rear.” He grinned as his eyes drifted down Cadence’s body. “And such a nice rear it is.”
“Eyes up, soldier.” Cadence’s eyes narrowed. “Focus.”
“I’m not a soldier, I’m a SEAL. There’s a lot to focus on here.” Urban replied. Of all of us, Urban was probably the biggest whore ever. Apparently, this meant he had to flirt with the mission target. We’d probably hear about it from Lieutenant Nelson later when the NSA complained.
“Okay, okay. Let’s get out of here before she kills you.”
She released the safety on the gun. "I am not incapable of defending myself, even against big, bad SEALs."
A chuckle bubbled up inside me but I caught it before it could escape. Urban looked wrecked, like he didn’t know what to make of her. "We have one more room to get through to the chopper. Let's go, or our window of escape is gone."
Her eyebrows pinched together in disapproval, but she pushed off the wall. I took point, counting on Urban to keep her within reaching distance as we entered the next room.
The room was decimated, several of Giroux's men lying on the floor, many of them in a puddle of blood. The stink of bile lifted from the room, wafting through my nostrils. Cadence covered her nose and mouth with one hand, her other tightly wrapped around the butt of the pistol.
I took stock of the room. Murphy and Hardy had been busy. Urban was the first to speak. “You guys get all the fun!”
Murphy’s head turned, and I could almost feel the glare from the other side of his darkened visor. He stepped toward the outside door. “Chopper in one minute.”
Hardy put his hand on the small of Cadence’s back. “Let’s get you better protected.”
She didn’t argue with him, which was interesting. Apparently, she understood she had no gear, where we were better protected by Kevlar vests and helmets and such. He nudged her toward the exit.
Our small reprieve from fighting vanished as the entire wall opposite us blew. Hardy slammed his body hard into Cadence, shielding her as three more men came into the room through the rubble. Gunfire boomed around us. Hardy opened fire, as Murphy did too. That’s when I saw the fourth man coming in with a knife. He headed directly for Cadence. I fired my gun as I dove for cover, sending two shots directly into the man’s chest. He dropped right in front of her, hard. She looked stunned for a second, before Urban pushed her into a small inset of the wall and shoved her down.
An inhuman scream erupted from another one of the men. I realized it came from one of the enemy, one that wasn’t the man I thought she was. She wore a mask, covering her head and all but her eyes. The woman lunged after me. A shot rang out, the flash of light from her pistol, and sharp pain ricocheted in my side. I stumbled back, stunned. Someone yanked on my headgear. The chin strap gave under the pressure and the helmet fell away.
Shit. I was exposed. I swept my foot back before I lost my balance and tripped the guy who’d grabbed me. He came after me, his fist raised. I grabbed his wrist and pulled him forward and knocked him off balance. I slammed my first into his jaw, his head snapping to the side before he crumpled to the floor.
The woman raised her gun toward me. The world slowed to a crawl. A shot rang out, and she dropped to her knees. Blood soaked her designer clothes. Her eyes, that piercing blue, tinged red with rage and fury, froze me in my place. She fired her gun. The force of the bullet slamming into me almost knocked me off balance, sharp pain slicing into my shoulder. I glanced up from her just as Cadence fired her gun into the woman’s chest. Hatred from her eyes wrapped around me and squeezed, and then she collapsed.
The next thing I knew, Murphy was beside me, helping me to my feet. My shoulder screamed in agony, as did my side. I forced myself to stand, which in retrospect wasn’t the best idea. I fucking hurt. I looked at my shoulder first, the blood bubbling around the hole the bullet had caused. I touched the wound on my side, my fingers coming away with blood.
“I’ve been shot,” I said, to no one in particular. I wasn’t completely registering it yet. I was still working on registering the pain. “I’m in shock, I think.” Were you supposed to know when you were in shock?
"We have to go." Murphy's no nonsense voice broke through my confusion. I glanced at him, still holding up my bloodied hand. “Can you walk?”
I blinked at him. Then it registered. "Right. Walk. Yes."
"You good to go?"
I tried to move my shoulder, winced when a sharp pain sliced through my arm. "I'll be okay. Let's go." My vision swam as soon as I took a step and fell. Someone caught me before i faceplanted, but I wasn’t sure who had.
“Shit, he’s bad.” That was Dylan’s voice. I knew that one. He was close, so he was probably who’d caught me.
“Chopper’s here. We have to go.” Hardy. I mentally checked off the names in my head.
"Give me your gun," Murphy commanded. I looked up at the darkened visor above me, realizing he was talking to me.
“No. I'm fine." I tried to stand up but he stopped me.
"Just give it to me."
Reluctantly, I handed it over. He took it and checked the magazine. He looked at Cadence. "You shot M4s before?"
She nodded. “Qualified expert last test.”
"Good. Be better than expert," he said and handed the gun to Sara. Her slender fingers wrapped around it, familiar hands going through the gun inspection, even though Murphy had just done it. My face burned. Actually all of me was starting to burn. Maybe Murphy was right. Maybe I wasn’t okay. He turned back to me. "Your arm's tore up, Battles. And I'm not sure what your ribs look like yet. You’re not okay. You’re not fine. Chopper's landing now. She's healthy. Let her cover you. We’ll get you home."
I scowled, but nodded. Murphy was the team leader. I wasn’t going to argue with him, especially since the throbbing in my arm was getting worse. It wasn't exactly protocol to let the mission objective cover her rescuer. Murphy was a strait-laced kinda guy. If he broke protocol, then there was a reason for it.
I didn't remember much about getting out of there. I remembered the wind from the whipping blades of the chopper. I remembered Hardy grabbing me and pulling me into the chopper. He set me down and grabbed my face so I had to look at him. “Hey, asshole, I told Devyn I’d get you home in one piece, so pull yourself together, okay? No dying on me today.”
I think I nodded, I’m not sure. My world started to shrink and grow distant. There were people talking, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying unless they were right in front of me. I leaned back against bulkhead of the chopper as it lifted off the ground. A soft hand touched my face. I opened my eyes, seeing the brilliant auburn hair, framing a freckled face with green eyes. I knew that face. I smiled. "Devyn."
"You're going to be okay." She said, as a cool wet cloth touched my forehead. I nodded, and then as a sharp pain invaded my side, I groaned and tried to pull away. The beat of the chopper blades took over my consciousness, matching the race of my heartbeat. "Easy, it's all right. We're just cleaning up to see what it looks like there. Everything is okay."
"Devyn..." I moaned. "Love you."
"I..." A pause. “He keeps saying Devyn. Who’s Devyn?”
There was another pause, and then Hardy's voice broke through the haze. "His wife. Just rest, Brody. We gotcha."
I didn’t close my eyes, but it was getting foggy again. I focused on the ceiling of the chopper. There wasn't anything particularly interesting about it, but it gave me something to concentrate on. I counted rivets, forcing myself to stay conscious. If I squinted just hard enough, I could see Devyn's face smiling down at me.
The funny thing was it never occurred to me that it was a strange thing that Devyn was on the chopper until much later.