Billy & Olivia
H.O.T. Strike Team 1, Book 4
When Olivia Reese uncovers evidence of a lethal conspiracy against the military, her life changes in an instant. On the run, hunted, there’s only one place she can go. Only one man who can save her.
Elite soldier Billy Blake is spending Christmas alone—until the woman he once loved crashes onto his doorstep and begs for his help. As the snow piles up outside, Billy works hard to uncover the truth—and to resist his desire for Olivia.
But a dangerous enemy watches, waiting for his chance to strike. When he does, this might be the last Christmas Billy and Olivia ever share…
**Start reading the Hostile Operations Team Series – Strike Team 1 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
Two days before Christmas…
Olivia Reese was in trouble. Big trouble. And it had nothing to do with the fact it was nearly Christmas and she was spending it all alone. Unlike last year, when she’d been wrapped up in Billy “The Kid” Blake’s arms. That was the first Christmas in a long time where she’d been happy and filled with thoughts of the future.
She pushed away memories of slick skin, hard muscles, and utter bliss, and pulled in a deep breath. Then she scrolled through the documents on her computer one more time. She’d been working for Titan Technology for the last few months, in their PR department, and she’d bought the company spiel — hook, line, and sinker. She’d seen the test results for their revolutionary weapons guidance system, and she’d put together the package to convince Congress why Titan should supply the next generation of targeting systems to the Army.
Her eyes blurred as she reread the results she was seeing onscreen — the real results. Everything she’d been told was a lie. Everything she’d believed and everything she’d worked to sell. She’d thought she was helping to protect men like Billy, warfighters who put their lives on the line for this country every day.
A chill went through her then, because if this sale went through, she’d be helping to dig their graves instead.
Olivia put her hand to her mouth and sat there with her heart in her throat, imagining Billy fighting in some war-torn country, depending on this equipment to save his life. And when it failed…
A noise in the outer office forced Olivia’s head up. It was late and dark in the company’s offices in Arlington, Virginia, but she’d stayed behind to catch up on some work after the Christmas party earlier that day. Tom Howard, the company president, had informed everyone they were to take the next week off in celebration of their certain victory when Congress reconvened in January.
They had the votes, according to him, and the deal was sewn up. The project was a success and everyone had been jubilant. There’d been champagne and much laughter. Olivia had joined in the fun, though she’d thought it was inviting bad luck even though Titan had outpaced all their competitors. Unless someone else invented a whole new system over the holidays, theirs was the best.
Except that it wasn’t.
Olivia began to shake as voices filtered through the empty office. On instinct, she ejected the CD and stuffed it in her purse. It had come from Alan Cooper, Titan’s head of development, and she still couldn’t figure out why he’d sent her such a thing. Unless he hadn’t meant to.
But it had been in a holey joe envelope in her inbox, clearly marked for her.
Olivia’s belly churned as she ducked down behind her desk. She told herself it was silly to hide when she had every right to be there, but some little voice in the back of her head insisted. Two shadows moved past her office. She could see them flaring on her wall through the windows. She’d shut her office door, so unless they’d seen the light from her screen before she’d put the computer to sleep, they would have no idea she was here.
The time she’d spent with Billy hadn’t been long in the scheme of things, but she’d learned a thing or two from him. And one of those seemed to be a healthy paranoia about people’s motives and capabilities. She hunkered under her desk and waited for what seemed like hours. The office remained quiet and she finally came out, grabbed her purse and coat, and tiptoed to her door.
Olivia opened it quietly and listened, though it was hard as hell to hear anything over the pounding of her heart. She hurried through the office, keyed herself out of the security locks, and stepped into the outer lobby of the building that housed Titan Technology’s offices. A security guard looked up from the desk and nodded at her.
“Ma’am,” he said as she walked by. He called out again when she didn’t stop.
Olivia spun around, her mind racing. “Yes?”
He pushed the book on the counter toward her. “You forgot to sign out, ma’am.”
“Oh. Yes. Of course.” Olivia marched over to the counter and signed her name on the appropriate line with trembling fingers. The guard checked the entry against her badge and then nodded.
Olivia hurried through the frosty parking lot. She got into her car, locked the doors, and glanced up at the windows to Titan’s offices. Someone stood in the window, and she shuddered uncontrollably. It might be nothing. Probably was nothing. But if anyone wanted to know who had just left the building, all they had to do was check the logs.
It was starting to snow. Billy Blake listened to the excited chatter of the waitresses as he sat at the bar and nursed a beer. Two days until Christmas and it looked as if DC might get a white one after all. It didn’t happen often, unlike back home. Billy thought of Sky Mountain, of his aunt and uncle’s log cabin decorated for the holiday with twinkling white lights and a giant tree in the front window. His cousins would gather there on Christmas Eve and the whole family would drink hot chocolate, eat Aunt June’s famous crispy goose, and sing carols around the piano until midnight when they would each open one present.
Then they would go to bed and arise much too early when one of Billy’s nephews or nieces couldn’t wait another minute to see what Santa had brought. Aunt June would fix French toast and coffee and the fun would begin again.
Billy wished like hell he could be there. But the Hostile Operations Team had an important mission coming up and there was no time to go home for the holiday. There hadn’t been time for the past four years. Aunt June tried to hide her disappointment whenever she called to ask each year, but Billy knew. Aunt June was his mother’s sister and she’d always treated him like her own. From five years of age, he had been. She and Uncle Jerry raised him when his mother dropped him off one day and never came back. He loved them both and missed them most of all at this time of year.
Billy shoved the beer away and tossed some bills on the bar. He’d thought he might like sitting in a noisy bar rather than in the quiet of his home where he could think about his family — or, worse, about the way he’d spent last Christmas lost in the delectable body of Olivia Reese — but he’d been wrong. He stood and shrugged into his jacket and walked outside. The snow was fat and soft and it was accumulating fast on the grass and the rounded lumps of vehicles. It was melting on the pavement for the moment, but that wouldn’t last when the temperature dropped after midnight. If the Department of Transportation wasn’t out with the salt trucks, this would be a helluva mess in the morning.
Billy wasn’t afraid of a little snow driving. Growing up in Vermont, you learned real quick. But no one could drive on ice. It was best to stay home and wait for the thaw, or risk getting plowed over by some idiot who thought a four-wheel drive meant he could go where he wanted no matter the weather.
Billy dusted snow off the windshield of his Tahoe and climbed behind the wheel. It wasn’t a long drive to the little house he’d rented but he was glad for the beast of a truck that would get him down the tiny lane. It still amazed him that you could be right here in the midst of a sprawling suburbia that stretched between DC and Baltimore, and yet still manage to turn down a road and find yourself in the country.
He liked that. He swung the Tahoe onto his road and flipped on the fog lights so he could see through the swirling snow. He’d gone about a mile when his headlights flashed on the shiny form of a car sitting sideways in the ditch. They’d taken the curve too fast, no doubt, and slid into the ditch before they could correct course.
Billy sighed and brought the Tahoe to a stop, grabbing a flashlight from the glove compartment before getting out and walking over to the car — a BMW 328i that still looked pretty new. There was no one in it so he went back to the truck and started down the road again. His headlights illuminated the dark form of someone walking up ahead. Hands shoved in pockets, hood up, head down, the person could have been a man or a woman if not for the skirt that ended a couple of inches above the back of the knee.
The woman wasn’t doing a good job of walking, no doubt because she was wearing a pair of high heels. When she realized he was behind her, she tried to move faster. And then she stumbled off the road and down into a wide field that led nowhere. Billy shoved the truck into park and got out. The woman was trying to slide into the treeline at one side of the field.
“Hey,” he called out. “You need some help?”
It was a stupid question, but he figured she was scared and didn’t need him chasing after her. She stopped and turned and he spoke again as snow dissolved against his face and chilled his skin.
“Can I give you a ride somewhere, ma’am? Or you can use my phone to call for help if you prefer.”
She began to move toward him then and he breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn’t really wanted to chase some strange woman into the trees, but he couldn’t in all conscience have left her out here to freeze.
She had trouble moving up the slope and he went over to give her a hand. It was pretty dark, but her pale coat stood out like a beacon in the reflected light from the Tahoe. He gripped the flashlight in one fist but resisted the urge to shine it on her.
She grasped his hand with gloved fingers and he tugged her up the slope until she was on a level with him. She was shorter than he was — no surprise since he didn’t encounter many women who were six-two — and small-boned. He looked down at her feet, wondering how on earth she’d managed to run toward the woods in those heels, and realized she’d lost the shoes. She was standing barefoot in the snow on a freezing Maryland road and that sound he heard was her teeth chattering.
Billy swore. On instinct, he swept her up into his arms as if she weighed next to nothing. She gasped and he opened his mouth to apologize for surprising her and to reassure her that he wouldn’t hurt her.
But then she laughed and he stilled as that sound dove down beneath his skin and curled around his soul. He knew that laugh. Her hood had fallen back now and he peered down into a face he’d never thought he would see again. She’d ripped his guts out when she’d left. Not that he would ever let her know it.
“Olivia?” His voice was cold and distant. And filled with shock.
“Hey, B-Billy,” she said between chatters. “I w-was just c-coming to s-see you.”
H.O.T. Publishing, LLC
February 11, 2014