Authors: Kathy Lane
Tags: #Contemporary, #Suspense, #Scarred Hero/Heroine, #Action-Suspense, #Military
Love in the Crosshairs Series
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT © 2014 by Kathy Lane
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The Wild Rose Press, Inc. except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press, Inc.
PO Box 708
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0708
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First Crimson Rose Edition, 2014
Print ISBN 978-1-62830-472-5
Digital ISBN 978-1-62830-473-2
Love in the Crosshairs Series
Published in the United States of America
Praise for Kathy Lane
is a “sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat plot with unexpected twists and turns. There’s enough action and sex to keep you turning the pages straight to the end.”
~Lorelei Confer, Romantic Suspense Author
BLOODSWORN: BOUND BY MAGIC
“I like nothing better than to get my teeth into a nice juicy romance and this had all of my favorite elements, fantasy, adventure, action, and real depth to the plot. I was truly transported. I can’t wait for my next chance to return to the planet Avalyr.”
~Cyd, Night Owl Reviews (Top Pick)
“One book I wouldn’t mind reading again. This is a great story about what happens when magic meets science...solid romance with a lot of action.”
~Romfan Reviews (5 Stars)
BLOODSWORN 2: LINKED BY BLOOD
“This book has everything. I can’t wait to read more from Kathy Lane. I’m definitely calling both Bloodsworn books the kind you keep and reread.”
~Kathy F., The Romance Studio (5 Hearts)
“Ms. Lane’s solidly brilliant storytelling skills had me captivated and entertained.”
~Cyd, Night Owl Reviews (Top Pick)
A mother can’t ask for more in life than that her children love and respect her. So saying, this book is dedicated to my sons, Joe and Jon. Joe, the oldest, is the more practical of the two and I look to him for all kinds of advice. He’s my rock, and sometimes, I have to admit, my brakes. (Don’t ask.) Jon, on the other hand, is a dreamer, something we both have in common. He wants more out of life than a nine-to-five job and is always reaching for the stars. The neat thing is that he encourages me to reach right along with him.
Both of these guys together make a great support team, something a mother—and a writer—is lucky to have. I clearly hit the jackpot with my children. They’re both strong and independent young men, with big hearts like their father. I’ll always be there for them, just like I know they’re always there for me.
Writing a novel isn’t always easy. Sometimes the words flow like water and sometimes they drip out onto the page with agonizing slowness. Either way, getting a book from concept to the hands of readers is hard work, folks—don’t let anyone tell you different. You need a rock-solid support group to lend you encouragement when needed. Which is why I want to thank my beta reader, Mike, for pestering me like clockwork for the next chapter of
. It always helps to know I’m writing for someone who really enjoys the story.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a super-fantastic editor on your side. Many, many, many thanks to my wonderful editor, Frances. Thanks for listening to me, encouraging me, and knocking me in the head when I needed it. Thanks for your patience and understanding when things got rocky, and for hanging in there with me. Most of all, thanks for believing in me and my writing. I couldn’t get through all the editing phases without you.
“Find a perch, Flight One!”
Kyle Fagan froze at the urgent command coming over the tiny com tucked into his ear. Sweat rolled down his back as he scanned the narrow Cairo alley ahead and behind him, looking for anything remotely resembling a threat. Nothing moved. At least, nothing hostile. The quick “OK” sign he got from his partner crouched at the other end of the alley didn’t count.
“Raptor, Ghost, you got incoming.”
Of course they did. Kyle breathed out a string of swear words as he took cover, knowing his partner, Rashid Fehr, otherwise known as Raptor, was doing the same. He ducked behind a short pile of broken stone and wood that looked to have been part of a nearby building at some point. As soon as he crouched down, he almost changed his mind and stood up again, incoming be damned. The stench of decaying flesh wafting from the pile surrounded him like a noxious perfume. Something—or someone—lay dead beneath the impromptu burial mound. He swallowed hard, trying not to gag, and put his nose against his rifle just to breathe in the clean smell of metal and gun oil.
Seconds ticked by with nerve-fraying slowness. He finally caught the faint scuff of hard-soled boots against stone, the quiet murmur of male voices speaking Arabic. The sounds grew louder. Kyle tensed as the two-man patrol moved into view. Around him, the stench of death didn’t so much fade as take a backseat to more pressing matters. A fresh kill was imminent, and he had no intention of ending up the next rotting corpse. He caressed the trigger of his rifle once before moving his hand to the smooth hilt of a throwing knife. Gunfire, especially this close to their target, would not only blow their whole operation, but also get him in deep shit with his boss. The Harrier had little use for trigger-happy fools.
The pair of soldiers paused at the mouth of the alley. Kyle tightened his grip on the knife as one man lit a cigarette. The flare of the lighter reached greedily into the darkness. Then the light snuffed out. The man drew deep on his coffin nail while his partner told a rude joke involving an American, a donkey, and a bunch of bananas. Despite his tension, Kyle’s lips twitched. The joke wasn’t half-bad, all things considered. Insulting, if you took the part about the American personally, but still damn funny.
The men started walking again, passing within six feet of his hiding place before disappearing out of sight. Kyle let out the breath he’d been holding, but kept his hand on his knife. Another minute crawled by before Capella, the NightHawks’ communications specialist, graced the airwaves with his voice.
“All clear, Flight One.” A brief pause. “Harrier advises a schedule change. All birds double time to rendezvous one. Avoid flying side trips. Repeat, no side trips. Eagle and Laptop will take to the air with eyes open.”
Kyle couldn’t hold back a grin as he tapped the acknowledge sequence into the com device in his ear. Capella liked to live dangerously. The com specialist knew Dell Hudson hated the nickname Laptop, but he used it every chance he got in place of Dell’s more sophisticated Peregrine. There’d be a round of payback when this job was over and they were all safe at home.
Signaling to Rashid, Kyle moved out, fast and quiet, grateful to leave the noisome alley behind. One by one, his teammates, the other members of the Special Ops unit codenamed Nighthawks, signaled acceptance of the new order. Worry niggled at Kyle as he and Rashid worked their way through the maze of crowded buildings on the outskirts of Cairo’s east side. Their fearless leader only changed an operation’s timetable if unexpected trouble popped up. Usually he’d give the team a head’s up as to what that trouble was, but tonight the airwaves stayed quiet. Interesting. Maybe Kyle wasn’t the only one who wanted out of this damn city. Ever since they’d set foot in the conglomeration of ancient and modern buildings that was Egypt’s capital city, something had the fine hairs on the back of his neck standing at attention. And it damn sure wasn’t the weather. No surprise the Harrier felt it, too.
Another voice broke the com’s silence, the throaty bass rumbling as deep and dark as the speaker’s skin. “Damn, no side trips? And here I was hoping to sneak in a couple of midnight mosque tours on the way.”
Kyle grinned again at the half-serious complaint. No one was sure which had come first, Brick’s love of architecture, or the joy he got from blowing it up. Either way, the explosives expert had a fascination with beautiful buildings of all types. And bridges. Hell, show the big man a bridge and he positively drooled.
“Look at it this way,” said a third voice Kyle easily recognized as Gage, the unit’s lead medic. “We get done early, and we’ll have a longer layover at Winter Tree going home. Lots of bridges in that neck of the woods. Didn’t you say you’d only profiled about half of them so far?”
“Mmm,” Brick hummed. “There is that. There is that.”
“Lots of sweet little birdies in those woods, too,” Kyle murmured, thinking of a pair of eager ladies he hadn’t had time to get to know last time the NightHawks had been through Brussels, or Winter Tree as the Hawks called it. He still had both their numbers tucked away in his wallet somewhere.
“Oh, yeah,” Gage agreed. “Bet they’d appreciate a couple cock-o-the-walks visiting their nests.”
A chorus of snickers and groans was closely followed by a no-nonsense, “Close beaks you bunch of limp-feathered ladybirds. Unless you’re dying, I want radio silence from here on out.”
“Roger that,” Kyle snapped quickly. When Joshua Colby, a.k.a. the Harrier, used that tone of voice, playtime was over.
A quiet fifteen minutes passed while he and Rashid made their way to the rendezvous point, dodging pedestrians and what little traffic the narrow roads offered this late at night. He caught glimpses of his teammates the closer they got, but only because he knew where to look.
“I have the mouse’s house in sight,” announced Ty, their “Eagle” sniper. “Two on the roof, three on the ground. Southeast, Northwest, West, West, South. Have target in line of sight, second floor, southwest corner. He’s awake.”
Kyle eased up to the final corner and squatted, back to the wall, before looking for his partner. Rash waved from his hiding place half a block away, signing that he was breaking off to carry out his part of the plan. Kyle waved back. He checked his watch. Twelve minutes after local midnight. That put them eighteen minutes ahead of schedule. Even with the slight adjustment, their target should have been fast asleep. Maybe it was better this way. At least now they had a positive ID before all the shooting started.
“Looks like the intel was good after all,” Joshua murmured over the com.
Kyle wiped the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve. He and Josh had discussed the sketchy nature of the information they’d been given right up to go time. Wouldn’t be the first time an operation was scrubbed due to poor intel. But neither he nor Joshua were prepared to leave a twenty-year-old kid in the hands of terrorists any longer than necessary. It helped that Joshua didn’t sound the least worried, but then, he rarely did. Took a lot to rattle the Harrier, always had.
That’s why he’s in the driver’s seat and I’m just one of the wheels,
Kyle thought, perfectly happy with the way things were. From the time they were boys back home in North Carolina, Joshua had always led their adventures. Kyle’s tendency to worry about details he couldn’t control would have made him a basket case if the roles were reversed.
He checked his watch again and took a quick peek at the street beyond. Despite his nerves screaming at him that something was definitely off, he saw no surprises. The large building took up most of one block in the old sector. Many of the windows he could see on the south-facing ground floor were boarded up, as were all but one door. A single man patrolled this side, just like Ty said. The guard stood about thirty yards away, a dark shadow outlined against the building harboring their target.
Kyle touched the com, tapping in the signal that he was in position. Ten seconds later, a noise at the other end of the street drew the guard from his position by the building. Kyle ran, body low, sticking to shadows until he was almost in the exact spot where the guard had stood a moment earlier. He carefully shouldered his rifle and drew the seven-inch SOG SEAL knife from its sheath on his belt. Standing in the middle of the street, the guard called out a string of Arabic, asking one of his cronies on the roof if he saw anything. The roof guard answered, explaining that the noise was nothing more than a cat chasing a rat.