A-Tac Series, Book 6
December 2012, Grand Central Publishing
In paperback and e-book
As the newest member of A-Tac, a black-ops CIA unit masquerading as Ivy League faculty, ex-SEAL Simon Kincaid races against the clock to save lives—and outrun his wrenching past. But preventing a major terrorist attack will plunge him and the one woman he’s never forgotten into a desperate fight for survival.
Ignoring his instincts once cost Simon a vital op—and the life of his best friend, Ryan. Now as escalating, violent attacks hit A-Tac, another person he loves is in danger. Homeland Security agent Jillian Montgomery’s investigation has brought her back into Simon’s life, and unless they can learn to trust each other, their dangerous mission will fail.
After her husband Ryan’s death, Jillian dedicates herself to saving others. She can’t afford to be tempted by Simon, even though his every touch reignites the desires they once shared. But in the last desperate minutes before disaster strikes, their second chance at love might be the most lethal trap of all …
“Lots of action and suspense keep this story moving at a spanking pace. The return of former characters and the evil Consortium makes being familiar with Davis' previous stories add enjoyment to this one.”
~ Romantic Times, 4 stars
New York City, Hospital for Special Surgery
“So on a scale of one to ten, how would you rank the pain?” Dr. Weinman asked as he probed the deep scars running across Simon’s thigh.
“Three,” Simon said, fighting against a grimace, pain radiating up into his hip.
“So a six.” The doctor released the leg and scribbled something on his chart.
Simon opened his mouth to argue, but Weinman smiled. “Look, I’ve been patching up people like you for most of my career. Which means I’m more than aware, that in your world, a three would definitely be a six for the rest of us. God’s honest truth, probably more like an eight or nine.”
“Apples to oranges,” Simon said, his smile bitter. “The rest of you wouldn’t have a leg full of shrapnel. So am I cleared for duty?” The long hike through the Afghan mountains plus the stress of the firefight had aggravated his injury, his pronounced limp causing Avery to send him to the orthopedist for a look-see.
“Yeah.” Weinman shrugged. “You’re good to go. There’s no new damage. But I’m afraid as long as you insist on engaging in the kind of work you do, there’s always going to be risk. And sooner or later, there’s going to be additional injury. So it’s not a matter of if, but when.”
“Nothing I didn’t already know,” Simon said, jumping off the table to get dressed.
“I assume you’re still working with the PT?” the doctor asked, glancing up over the top of his glasses.
“Actually, I’m not. With the new job, there just isn’t time to come all the way into the city. But Sunderland has a great gym. And I’ve memorized the moves by now. So it’s easy enough for me to work out on my own.”
“Well, I suppose that’ll have to do,” the doctor said, still scribbling in the chart. “Just be careful not to push too hard. Do you need something for the pain?”
“No, I’m good.” Simon shook his head, as he shrugged into his shirt. The pain meds only dulled his brain, slowing his reflexes. And in his line of work, that wasn’t an option. Besides, he prided himself on being tough.
“There’s nothing dishonorable about managing pain,” Weinman said, correctly reading Simon’s train of thought.
“Look, I said I’m fine.” Simon blew out a breath, forcing a smile. The doc was only trying to help.
And if Simon were truly being honest, he’d have to admit that sometimes, in the middle of the night when the pain threatened to overwhelm him, the pills were his only ticket to oblivion. But he’d seen what had happened to men he’d fought with when the meds had taken control. And he wasn’t about to let himself go there. No matter how fucking much it hurt.
“It’s up to you.” Weinman shrugged, closing the chart and rising to his feet. “But if you change your mind, I’m only a telephone call away.”
“Good to know. But I’ll be okay.”
“All right then. We’re done.” Weinman paused, his gaze assessing. “Until next time.” Leaving the words hanging, he turned and left the room, and Simon blew out a long breath.
The bottom line was that he knew he was on borrowed time. His injuries had been severe enough to force him out of the SEALs. And sooner or later, they were probably going to mean an end to his career with A-Tac, at least in the field.
But for now, he was determined to carry-on. He was a soldier. Pure and simple. And just because he could no longer be a SEAL, he didn’t have to settle for some piddly-ass desk job. A-Tac was as good as it got when it came to working counter-terrorism. And he was lucky to have found a home there.
And he sure as hell wasn’t going to fuck it up by letting his injury get in the way. Anyway, all that mattered now was that he was good to go. Which meant he could get back to Sunderland—and the hunt for the Consortium.
He walked out of the exam room, striding down the hall, ignoring the twinge of pain shooting up his leg. Compared to a couple of years ago, this was a cake-walk. And the way he figured, another year and it would hardly be noticeable. Everyone in his line of work lived with injury. It was part of the package. It just wasn’t something most people could understand. Their idea of the fast lane was eating fried food on a Saturday night—his was perpetrating a raid on an Afghan terrorist encampment.
He waved at the receptionist as he walked through the waiting room and pushed through the doors of the clinic. Dr. Weinman’s offices were on an upper floor of the hospital, the corridor leading to the elevator lined with windows looking out over the FDR and the East River. Outside, beyond the congestion of traffic, the river was flowing out toward the harbor. A tugboat, barge in tow, was making its laborious way up stream. Above the swiftly flowing water, the skyline of Long Island City stood illuminated against the bold blue sky.
It was the kind of day that made a kid want to skip school. And suddenly Simon was struck with the thought that everything was right with his world, the past firmly behind him and the future beckoning bright. It had been a long time since he’d felt hopeful about anything. Hell, with his past who could blame him. But maybe it was time to move on. There wasn’t much point in letting the past or the future, for that matter, hold too much sway. Better to live in the now.
He laughed at the philosophical turn of his thoughts. Had to be the hospital. All that life and death crap. He stopped for a moment at the door to a large waiting room. Inside a small army of what looked like nurses were triaging patients, most of them non-ambulatory with bleeding wounds and broken limbs.
Of course, the blood was fake, and the moaning and groaning more about theatrics than pain. A disaster drill. He’d seen a notice in the elevator on the way up. Judging from the chaos ensuing inside the room, he’d have to assume it wasn’t going all that well. But if it been the real thing, the hysteria would have been much worse. But this was just play-acting, and thankfully, he didn’t have a role to play. With a rueful smile, he turned to go, then stopped, his brain conjuring the picture of a blue-eyed, blonde in blue scrubs.
Frowning, he turned around again, certain that image must be wrong, that his mind had merely super-imposed a memory onto a stranger. He rubbed his leg absently as his gaze settled again on the woman. She had her back to him, her sun-streaked pony-tail bobbing as she talked to another woman wearing scrubs. She was waving her hands, her slim fingers giving additional meaning to her words.
Even from behind, he knew that his instinct had been dead on. It was in the way she stood, the way she moved. He’d have known her anywhere. And then she turned, as if somehow she’d felt his presence, her eyes widening in surprise and then shuttering as she recognized him.
His mind screamed retreat, but his feet moved forward, taking him across the room until they were standing inches apart. Behind her, out the window, he could still see the river, the blue of the sky almost the same color as her eyes.
“J.J.?” he queried, the words coming out a gruff whisper, his mind and body still on overdrive as he tried to make sense of her being here in New York.
“I go by Jillian now,” she said, her voice just as he’d remembered. Low and throaty. Sexy. “It’s easier.” There was touch of bitterness in her words and a tightness around her mouth that he’d never seen before.
He paused, not exactly sure what to say. It had been a long time. And he hadn’t thought he’d see her again. Memories flooded through him. The smell of her hair. The feel of her skin beneath his fingers. An image of her standing with Ryan in her wedding dress, eyes full of questions, Simon’s heart shriveling as he chose loyalty over everything else.
J.J. was Ryan’s girl. She’d always been his. Since they were practically kids. And one drunken night couldn’t change that fact. Ryan was his best friend.
And he’d failed him twice. Once an eon ago at a college party, and the second time, years later, in a compound in Somalia. He’d managed to avert disaster the first time, common sense and loyalty overriding his burgeoning libido. But in Somalia, he hadn’t been so lucky, and because of his decisions, Ryan was dead. J.J. had lost her husband. And there was nothing Simon could do to make it right.
“I can’t believe you’re standing here,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s been a while since I saw you last.”
“Four years,” she replied, the words a recrimination.
“You look the same,” he said wishing to hell he’d never seen her. He didn’t need this. Again she laughed, but this time with humor. “You always were a flatterer.”
“Yeah, well, I guess some things never change,” he said, studying her face. There were faint lines at the corners of her eyes and mouth. And her hair was longer and slightly darker than before. But over all, she looked like the girl he remembered. Except for the smile.
J.J. had always been smiling. Or at least that’s the way he’d chosen to remember her. But the last time he’d seen her, she’d been anything but happy. He remembered the pain on her face as she’d accepted the flag that had been draped across Ryan’s casket. Simon had promised to come by later that day. But instead he’d left town. And never looked back.
“You look good, too,” she said, her eyes moving across his face. “So what brings you to the hospital?”
“Check-up,” he sighed, absently rubbing his injured leg. “But it’s all good. I’m healthy as a horse.” And babbling like a fucking idiot. She’d always been able to reduce him to baser levels.
“I’m glad,” she said. “I heard you left the team.”
“Didn’t have much of a choice.” He shrugged. “But I landed on my feet, and I’m doing okay. What about you? You a nurse now?”
“Something like that,” she nodded. “Speaking of which, I suppose I ought to be getting back to it.”
“Right,” he said, the silence that followed stretching awkwardly between them.
And then with an apologetic shrug, she turned back to her ‘patients,’ and Simon forced himself to walk away. Hell, the past was better left buried. Hadn’t he just been having that exact thought?
He stepped back into the corridor, and then despite himself, turned for a last look. She was bending over a man with a rudimentary splint on his arm, her fingers gentle as she probed the imaginary wound.
Almost involuntarily, his gaze rose to the window, his senses sending out an alert. A high-pitched whine filled the room, the glass on the windows shaking. The sky disappeared as the window turned black. For a moment everything seemed to move in slow motion. And then, all hell broke loose as the windows shattered and something rammed through the side of the building, the walls shredding like corrugated cardboard.
People screamed, and Simon called her name. “J.J.—Jillian.”
One minute she was standing there, eyes wide with confusion and fear, and the next—she was gone.Excerpt from DOUBLE DANGER by Dee Davis, Copyright ©2012 by Dee Davis. All rights reserved. Reprint only with permission from author. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.