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H.O.T. Strike Team 2, Book 5
Sometimes you have to fight for what you want. Or risk losing everything you love…
For elite Strike Team 2 soldier Noah Cross, everything is easy. Hell, that’s his call sign. Easy.
But when he inherits a two-year-old baby girl, nothing is easy anymore. He can’t care for a toddler while going on dangerous missions to protect his country — and quitting isn’t an option for a man who lives and breathes the military.
What Easy needs is a nanny. And he knows just who to ask.
Jenna Lane’s luck is running out. She witnessed something she shouldn’t, and she’s been running since. She keeps moving, keeps working odd jobs and trying to survive.
After she’s fired from her current job, her situation is desperate. Until the man she’s secretly drawn to offers her a lifeline. She can’t say no, even if saying yes puts him and his little girl at risk.
But as the feelings between them grow, Jenna knows she needs the courage to tell Noah the truth. Before a killer strikes again….
**Start reading the Hostile Operations Team Series – Strike Team 2 today and enjoy an action-packed, seriously romantic and steamy-good-fun military romantic suspense. Each book can be read as a standalone. No cliffhangers or cheating and a guaranteed happily-ever-after ending!
Read an Excerpt
Jenna pushed through the doors to the dining area and pasted on a smile before heading to Noah’s table. “Hey, welcome back,” she said brightly. “What can I get for you two?”
Alice sat in a high chair, coloring on the placemat. Her hair was in those two little pigtails again, and she wore a pair of pink overalls with a cute butterfly shirt. She didn’t look up from her coloring. Jenna didn’t quite know what to think about that, but it had been a week since she’d held the little girl and given her a cookie.
“I said I’d bring her for ice cream, so how about a small scoop of vanilla?”
“Anything for you?”
His eyes sparked but he shook his head. “Just had dinner with friends, so I’m good… How you doing, Jenna?”
She shrugged. “Okay. Just working and sleeping, mostly.”
Her heart thumped at the hint of teasing in his voice. “No, not really. How about you?”
He glanced at Alice. “Not lately, no.”
Sympathy flooded her. “How’s she been doing? You two getting settled?”
“It’s been an experience,” he said. “But I’ve got good friends and I’m figuring it out. You were right about Google.”
She grinned. “Told ya.”
“Still haven’t found a nanny, though. They appear to be a hot commodity these days.” He arched an eyebrow. “I don’t suppose you’d reconsider? I’m kinda desperate here.”
Jenna’s heart stuttered to a halt before racing forward again. She told herself it didn’t matter if Allison fired her tonight, she still shouldn’t take a job with Noah Cross. She couldn’t risk bringing her brand of chaos into his life. Or into little Alice’s life. She should pull up stakes and go. She’d been in town for two months now, and it was risky to stay much longer.
She didn’t know if the Flanagans were trying to track her down, but she also didn’t know they weren’t. That was the scary part and the reason she had to keep moving. She was a loose end, and they were the kind of people who didn’t like loose ends.
“What are you offering?”
He didn’t hesitate. “A room in my house with your own bathroom, groceries, and some cash. We’d have to negotiate that, but I’d want you to feel like it was fair.”
“Free rent, food, and spending money. Any personal time?”
“We could talk about that, too.” He toyed with the end of the fork lying on the table. “I travel for work sometimes, and I can be gone anywhere from a week to a month or more. Obviously, that would mean round the clock care then. But I have friends who could help out if you needed some free time while I’m gone.”
It sounded like heaven, and yet… Could she stay that long?
“It’s tempting, but I have to think about it. It’s a big responsibility.”
He nodded. “I can appreciate that.”
“Jenna,” Allison said smoothly, sliding in next to her like an oily glop of sludge coming to a stop on the beach. “Can you check on table two? They’ve been seated for five minutes without being greeted.”
“I was just going,” Jenna said. “One scoop of ice cream coming up, sir.”
Noah frowned at Allison. “Better give me a scoop too. And add some hot fudge to mine, please. I don’t know how you talked me into it, but it sounds great.”
Jenna smiled gratefully. “You got it, sir.”
Then she turned and headed for table two, taking drink orders and rattling off the daily specials. She delivered the drinks, took their order and clipped it into the ticket holder for the kitchen, then scooped ice cream for Noah and Alice.
She was thinking the entire time about Noah’s offer. Living in his house would get her out of the trailer. She’d probably never get her money back from Tami, but moving out now would save her from having to cough up even more rent that she’d never get back.
Another plus was that she’d be less traceable if she wasn’t working in a public-facing business. She could hide better in Noah’s house than she could working in a motel or another restaurant.
The negatives were that she’d still be in town, and if the Flanagans did trace her somehow, she’d be dragging Noah and Alice into her problems. That wouldn’t be good for them.
But it’d been over five months since she’d left Vegas, and she’d never had any indication anyone was looking for her. Maybe it was because she didn’t stay in one place too long, or maybe it was simply that she was too inconsequential to attract their notice. She hadn’t been involved in Sam’s scheme with the Flanagans. She hadn’t known anything about it until their hired killer turned up that night and shot Sam point blank through the heart.
She’d never told anyone what she’d seen and heard. The police thought she’d found Sam after the fact, not that she’d been there the whole time. She’d said she’d gone to pick up dinner, which was true, but she’d told them she arrived after the shooting, not before.
It was the only thing that had kept her alive long enough to disappear. She’d lived almost a month looking over her shoulder before she’d had everything in place so she could leave. In all that time, no one came for her, which made her second guess herself a lot now.
But in those days after Sam’s death, she’d gotten the oddest sensation sometimes that she was being watched. That someone was following her. She could never pinpoint anything specific, but at least twice she’d seen the same black sedan at her apartment building and then again across town when she’d been running an errand.
It’d spooked her enough to take that final leap and run while she still could. She’d bought Lola and stowed her a couple of streets away in a parking garage. Every so often, she’d go for a short drive in her SUV and when she was sure no one was behind her, she’d stop and stuff Lola with a few more of her belongings.
The night she’d left, she’d mailed the keys to the SUV back to the dealer and snuck through side streets and a few yards until she reached Lola. She’d half expected to be gunned down before she ever made it out of the city limits, but it hadn’t happened and she was still alive.
Jenna carried the ice cream to Noah’s table. Alice waved her arms up and down, clearly excited. Jenna didn’t ask about the wisdom of giving her sugar before bedtime.
“Thanks,” Noah said as he dipped his spoon into the fudge topping.
“No, thank you for ordering something else and saying nice things. I’m not sure my boss appreciates it, but I do.”
He eyed her. “I’ve been coming here for a while. I remember the old man, her father, who had this place before she did. He was a lot nicer.”
“That’s what they tell me.”
“Maybe you need a change.” He winked.
“Maybe so,” she laughed.
He pushed a piece of paper at her and she realized he’d torn off a section of the placemat and written down his number. “Call me if you decide you’d rather take care of Alice than put up with that woman’s shit.”
Jenna took the paper and stuffed it into the pocket of her apron. “Thanks.” She could feel heat flaring in her cheeks. She wasn’t sure why since he wasn’t actually hitting on her. “I, um, better make my rounds. I’ll be back to check on you both in a little bit.”
“We’ll be here,” he said, his deep voice hitting places she’d nearly forgotten existed as she hurried away.
H.O.T. Publishing, LLC
June 21, 2022
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