As the commander for A-Tac, a black-ops CIA unit masquerading as Ivy League faculty, Avery Solomon is the best of the best. He'll stop at nothing to ensure the safety of his team, but when a mystery from the past resurfaces, he puts himself directly in the line of fire.
After years of covert missions, Avery harbors regrets that continue to haunt him. He still blames himself for his wife's death fourteen years ago--until an A-Tac operative finds a photo that suggests Avery's wife may still be alive. Determined to discover the truth, Avery heads deep into the hostile territory of Southeast Asia, ready for danger and violence--only to find himself captured by desire . . .
Wilderness guide Sidney Price never backs down from a challenge. She has her own reasons for wanting revenge against the men being hunted by Avery. Though she tries to deny her attraction to the tough, handsome warrior, the spirited Sidney soon finds him impossible to resist. Now she and Avery must work together to uncover the truth--and stay alive. But as the enemy closes in and old secrets unravel, the line between partners and lovers vanishes like mist in the jungle . . .
“All right, chow is served,” Avery Solomon said, setting a platter of burgers on the game table in his living room. “First pitch is in five. So fill up your plate and grab a seat.”
“Angels are going to kill,” Drake Flynn said, sliding two burgers onto his plate along with a healthy serving of potato salad. “Just so you guys are prepared.” He settled on the sofa and reached for his beer.
“In your dreams, surfer boy,” Nash Brennon laughed, dropping into an armchair as strains of the Star-Spangled Banner resounded from the surround-sound system. “Yankees rule.”
“Most of the time. But this year your pitching sucks, and we’ve got Pojuls.”
“And not much else,” Avery said, settling into a chair. It was good to have some down time. Of late, it seemed like A-Tac had been spending a hell of a lot of time chasing after ghosts. Most of them sent by their nemesis, a secretive arms cartel known as the Consortium. And despite the fact that they’d managed to win most of the battles, the cost had been high.
Too high, if he had to call it.
But it was what it was, and there was nothing he could do to change the past. Best to focus on the future. And in the moment, the things that made it all worthwhile. Baseball, beer, burgers, and good friends.
“Where’s Harrison?” Nash asked, taking a sip from a bottle of Shiner Bock. The beer, a Texas import, was a favorite. And Harrison Blake, recently back from a job consulting with drug enforcement agents about an operation on the Mexican border, had brought Avery a case. “I thought he was supposed to be here.”
“He is.” Drake nodded. “But he also just got back from almost a month away. And if Hannah is anything like Madeline, let’s just say absence really does make the heart…” he trailed off, waggling his eyebrows for effect.
“Jesus, Drake.” Nash blew out a disgusted breath. “Do you ever think of anything besides sex?”
“Yeah. Baseball and beer.” Drake grinned, lifting his bottle. “The trifecta, of course being all three at once.”
“Good luck with that,” Nash snorted, shaking his head.
Avery watched his friends, suddenly feeling too damned old. This business had a way of sucking the life right out of you, particularly when they were dealing with the Consortium. He’d been with American Tactical Intelligence command for more than ten years now.
A black ops division of the CIA, his team was the best of the best. Using Sunderland College as their cover, everyone did double duty as both operatives and professors. And all of them were more than capable of carrying the load.
Nash, a noted historical scholar, was also his second in command. Drake, a renowned archeologist handled extractions and logistics. Harrison headed the IT department and managed to work magic with computer forensics for the team. Hannah Marshall taught political science and sorted through intel, pulling nuggets of crucial information seemingly from thin air. Tyler Hansen rounded out the team, mixing a love of literature with an uncanny ability to both create and dismantle ordnance. All in all, an extraordinary group of people he was proud to call family.
Avery took another sip of his beer, turning his attention to the TV. The first Angels batter was up with C.C. Sabathia on the mound for the Yankees.
Behind them, the doorbell rang.
“Harrison,” Nash said, shooting a sideways glance at Drake as he bit into a burger. “Told you he’d be here.”
“It’s open,” Avery called. C.C. threw a curve ball for strike three.
“Sorry I’m late,” Harrison said, something in his expression sending alarm bells jangling. “I sort of got sidetracked.” He held up a mangled looking black box, his eyes telegraphing regret.
“Dude, you’re not supposed to be working,” Drake protested. “The Angels are playing the Yankees. Where I’m from that’s almost sacrosanct.”
“Big word, Drake,” Nash said, turning to look at Harrison, his eyes narrowing at the sight of the black box in Harrison’s hand.
Apparently Avery wasn’t the only one to sense that something was up.
Never late for the party, Drake swiveled around, looked first at Harrison, then at Avery and then back at Harrison again, the game forgotten. “You’ve pulled something off the drive.”
The mangled hard drive had been recovered in an abandoned terrorist encampment in Afghanistan. A-Tac had received intel about the possibility of a Consortium-funded operation, but when they’d arrived, the camp had been abandoned, everything of consequence removed or destroyed.
Except for a notebook that had helped them stop an assassination attempt. And the remains of the hard drive. Avery hadn’t doubted for a minute that if there was recoverable information, Harrison would find it. But he’d also been fairly certain that there wouldn’t be anything left to find.
Clearly he’d been wrong.
“I’m sorry,” Harrison said. “I know the timing sucks.” As if to underscore the sentiment, the solid swack of bat-meeting-ball echoed through the room, but nobody turned to look. Not even Drake. “But you’re going to want to see this.”
Harrison’s gaze locked with Avery’s, and suddenly he wasn’t all that certain he wanted to know. But there was nothing to be gained in putting off the inevitable. Whatever the Consortium had in store for them next, he was ready.
“Okay then,” Avery said, switching the TV off with the remote, then pushing the burgers out of the way as they all gathered around the table, “what have you got?”
“It’s a little startling.” Harrison paused, clearly searching for the right words. “And kind of personal.” His gaze met Avery’s. “You might want to hear this on your own.”
Avery shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest. “We’re all family here. So tell us what you’ve found.”
Harrison hooked the box up to his laptop and hit a key. A woman’s face filled the screen. Her dark hair curled around her face, brown eyes glittering with some unshared emotion, her generous mouth giving nothing away.
Avery’s heart stopped. His breath stuck in his throat. And he felt as if someone had just kicked him in the gut.
She was dressed in fatigues, standing next to a bearded man leaning against a table, his hand resting intimately on her knee. “Sweet Jesus,” Avery said, the words strangled. “This was on the back-up drive we found in Afghanistan?”
“Yeah.” Harrison nodded, his face filled with worry. “I was just as surprised as you are.”
“Is that?” Drake said, turning to Nash who was staring open-mouthed at the photograph.
“Yeah.” Nash nodded. “Martin Shrum. Avery’s old partner. From before A-Tac days. And Evangeline, Avery’s wife. But I thought she was—”
“Dead,” Avery finished, emotion cutting through him as he caressed the ring he wore on his little finger. “She is. For almost fourteen years now.”
“Yeah, well, Avery, there’s more.” Harrison clicked the picture so that it zoomed in and then moved it so that they could better see the table behind the two people. “Look at the wall.” He enlarged the picture again.
“It’s a calendar,” Drake said, stating the obvious.
Avery’s blood ran cold, his eyes reading the date, his mind trying to process the seemingly impossible.
“Holy shit,” Drake continued, his incredulity only adding to the surrealistic horror of the moment. “It’s dated December of last year.”
Excerpt from DIRE DISTRACTION by Dee Davis, Copyright ©2013 by Dee Davis. All rights reserved. Reprint only with permission from author. Please contact .