Jack & Gina
H.O.T. Strike Team 1, Book 5
Cool under pressure… Until now.
Military sniper Jack “Hawk” Hunter is cool, methodical, and utterly lethal. Nothing rattles his calm. But that was before he learned he fathered a child three years ago – a child who’s been kidnapped.
Gina Domenico is a pop sensation with a string of hit records. But deep inside, she’s still the lonely girl she’s always been. When Jack saved her from an arms dealer, they spent three unforgettable days together waiting for rescue. Gina fell hard for the sexy soldier before he walked away forever.
Now she needs his help. Though Jack can never forgive Gina for keeping his child a secret, he’ll do everything in his power – with a little help from his friends at the Hostile Operations Team – to bring their son home safely.
But their fates hang in the balance as someone else pulls the strings, bringing them closer to an explosive confrontation that could either save their son – or cost them everything they love…
**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
THREE YEARS AGO…
Jack Hunter resisted the urge to shrug. He’d been lying in this position for six hours now, waiting for Athenasios Metaxas to emerge from the safety of his private retreat on this remote stretch of beach in the Caribbean.
Nick Brandon lay beside him, eye to his spotter’s scope, searching for signs of the target. Jack rolled his neck and squared his eye over the lens again. All he had in his crosshairs were a few windows. There were lights on inside, but the only movement he’d seen had been a maid.
“No sign of the target,” he reported.
“Copy,” came Kev MacDonald’s voice over the earpiece.
Jack sighted down the scope again and dialed two mils to the right on Brandy’s instruction. They were 750 yards away, which was closer than they liked to be, but the terrain was such that this was the best location. Nowhere else had a visual of the entire rear portion of the house.
It was a full moon. The light shone down on the gleaming stucco of the villa, illuminating the pool and patio area. At the end of a long dock, a sixty-foot yacht lay at anchor. The yacht was dark.
Metaxas had been sailing the Caribbean for the past week, but now he was here and scheduled to meet with several men—terrorists—who’d traveled from the Middle East and were due to arrive tonight via helicopter. The helipad was lit but empty.
Jack pulled in a breath, his finger resting beside the trigger. He was patient—you had to be patient to be a sniper—but this was one op where he couldn’t wait to pull the trigger.
Because HOT wasn’t going to let that meeting happen. Metaxas had been a thorn in their side for years, but he’d recently taken his dirty dealings up a notch. If this deal was allowed to take place, a whole lot of bad people would be getting shiny new weapons with which to kill innocent civilians.
“Movement,” Nick said.
“I see it.”
A moment later, the rear doors slid open and a woman walked outside. Waves of blond hair cascaded down her back, shining almost white in the moonlight. She was wearing a bikini that barely covered her tits and ass, and she had on high heels that made her legs look a mile long.
“Jesus,” Nick breathed.
“Yeah.” Jack didn’t typically lose his head over a gorgeous woman, but even he had to admit that this one was put together in ways designed to make a man drool. Just another brainless bunny attracted to a rich man and doing everything she could to keep him interested.
“No. I mean, yes, she’s hot—but that’s not it. We got a problem here.”
Jack took his eyes off the scope and turned to look at his spotter.
Brandy glanced at him. “You don’t recognize her?”
“Dude, that’s just about the hottest fucking pop star in the world right now. Haven’t you ever heard of Gina Domenico?”
Jack sighted down the scope again, focusing on the woman’s face. Christ Almighty on a cracker, they so did not need this right now. If he dropped Metaxas and his guests tonight, even with the maid and other household servants present, it wouldn’t be huge news. It would be a blip on the radar. An interesting tidbit mentioned on the evening news and quickly forgotten in most quarters.
If he dropped the bastard while a fucking American pop star was a guest, it’d be all over the news within hours—if it wasn’t trending on Twitter sooner. And while no one would connect an arms dealer’s death to HOT or the American government, the attention would be magnified a thousandfold if Gina Domenico was involved.
“I’ve heard of her,” he bit out. He’d more than heard of her. His wife had loved Gina Domenico. Hayley had bought all her CDs and played them incessantly. His heart burned with thoughts of his wife. After her death, he’d never wanted to listen to another Gina Domenico song in his life. He’d shredded the CDs and smashed Hayley’s iPod.
The woman on the patio pranced on her high heels toward the pool, hands on hips. Then she put a hand to her forehead and whirled around again. She marched over to the lounge chair where she’d set a bag and fished out a cell phone.
“What’s going on there, Hawk?” It was Kev “Big Mac” MacDonald’s voice calling him by his team name. “Report.”
“Complication. Gina fucking Domenico just walked out of Metaxas’s house. She’s standing by the pool right now.”
“Goddammit,” Kev said. “Stand down until I report this.”
Nick continued to take readings of the wind speed and direction, and Jack continued watching Gina through the scope. He knew who she was, but he hadn’t paid any attention to her before. Hayley hadn’t been the sort of woman to buy celebrity magazines or watch tabloid television. Jack recognized the star now that he knew who she was, but until Nick had said so, he’d just thought she was the latest hot blonde fucking Metaxas.
And wasn’t she? Didn’t matter if she was a pop star or not. There was no other reason for her to be here.
“Shit,” Nick groaned.
Jack didn’t answer, but he heard it too—a helicopter slicing through the night and getting louder as it got closer.
The helicopter swooped in over the ocean and set down on the pad. The door to the house opened and Metaxas swaggered outside. He went over and sat at a table while the maid hurried out with a tray containing food and beer. Someone flipped a switch and more lights came on, illuminating the pool and the blonde. She put her phone back in her bag and sauntered over to where Metaxas sat. He dragged her onto his lap and kissed her.
She pushed him away, finally stumbling to her feet and tugging her bikini back into place while Metaxas laughed. She did not look happy as she marched back over to her bag and tugged out a robe, belting it around her waist with almost furious movements.
But Jack couldn’t worry about her. The helicopter’s rotors slowed as three men emerged from the craft.
“Seriously need some guidance here,” Jack growled into the headset. “Tangos on scene.”
Jack didn’t think he was going to get an answer at first, but Kev’s voice came over the earpiece. “You’re cleared. Get it done and get out.”
Thank God. Jack’s heartbeat slowed to a crawl as he watched the three men walk toward the patio where Metaxas sat. He stood and held his arms out, saying something in welcome. Gina picked up her bag and started for the door. Jack wanted to wait until she went inside, but he couldn’t take the chance that the men would follow her.
“One mil to the left,” Nick said.
Jack turned the dial. The crosshairs lined up perfectly on Metaxas’s head. Jack pulled in another breath—and then squeezed the trigger on the exhale when his body was perfectly still.
Metaxas dropped like a stone. Jack sighted and fired three more times, dropping the other tangos as they tried to run.
Gina Domenico screamed. And then she grappled with the door handle, yanking open the door just as two of Metaxas’s bodyguards came rushing out. One of them grabbed her by the arm and jerked her around when she tried to run past him.
“Shit,” Jack said. And then he made a decision that shocked even him. He hadn’t had any feelings since the moment he’d gotten the news that Hayley had hydroplaned her car on the way to work and smashed into a tree.
Strike that. He hadn’t had any feelings for anyone but her and their unborn baby since then. But this woman had meant something to Hayley, and he couldn’t walk away from that. What would she think of him if he did? Hayley’d had a heart bigger than anyone he’d ever known. She would never leave anyone to suffer if she could help.
“Big Mac, we can’t leave her with those people. Metaxas’s men will think she was involved somehow.”
“We can’t help that.”
Jack could hear her screaming, even at this distance. And then the man holding her slapped her so hard her head jerked to the side.
“They’ll kill her. You know it as well as I do. And that will mean a media field day when the press gets hold of this.”
“We can’t go in,” Kev said. “It’s not authorized.”
Beside him, Nick was still feeding him information. Because Brandy knew he was gonna take the shot. Two shots.
And his spotter was with him.
The man hit her again, knocking her head back the other way. Jack dropped him, and then he dropped the other one. Stupid sons of bitches. If they’d had any sense, they’d have gone inside and stayed away from the windows. Who walked outside, saw four dead bodies that had clearly been shot from long range, and then stayed out there while the unknown assailant was still around?
The helo pilot spun up the rotors. Jack took aim and placed a round in the engine. The helicopter sputtered and coughed. It wasn’t going anywhere tonight.
“Goddammit, Hawk,” Kev said over the headset. And then he huffed out a breath. “Get to the extraction point double-quick. We got company coming.”
He sighted down to the patio again. Gina was gone. If there were more men inside, he didn’t know, but he’d given her a chance at least.
“Copy,” he said as he and Nick started to break down the gear.
* * *
Gina didn’t bother with her suitcase. Everything important was in her beach bag anyway. She ran through the house until she hit the garage. The maid was screaming and crying somewhere behind her, but Gina wasn’t hanging around to see what happened next. Athenasios had more men in his compound, and it would only be a matter of minutes before they arrived. And she didn’t want to try to explain why she was still alive when their boss wasn’t.
She’d heard the crack of a gun in the night, and then she’d turned around to see Athenasios on the ground with his head split like a melon and his guests dropping one by one in succession.
And then the bodyguards had come outside and one of them had grabbed her, shouting accusations and threats. Her face still hurt where he’d hit her. She had enough personal experience getting hit to know she’d be bruised tomorrow.
Gina hurried over to the closest car — a Mercedes of some sort — and yanked open the door. Athenasios kept the keys in his cars while they were garaged because he said no one would dare to steal from him.
And this wasn’t stealing, she told herself firmly as she pressed the button to start the engine. This was borrowing from a dead man.
But she had to get out of here. She didn’t know who had shot Athenasios or why, but she wasn’t sticking around to find out. She’d discovered during her weeklong journey on his yacht that he wasn’t quite the nice Greek industrialist he claimed to be. She’d wanted to escape before now, but there’d been nowhere to go when sailing across an ocean.
God, she’d been so stupid. She’d thought a man like Athenasios could protect her, that his power to keep the media away and give her a much-needed respite from the spotlight was a blessing.
Instead, it had been a curse. She’d been trapped, and now she would be dead if she didn’t get away.
The garage door cranked up slowly and she jammed the gas before the door was all the way up, just sliding under it with enough clearance to get out. Gina whipped the car around and shoved the gearshift into drive. Then she was bolting down the driveway and out onto the road.
She had no idea where to go, but she hoped she’d stumble onto civilization if she drove far enough.
The full moon helped illuminate the road, but it was twisty and turny and her heart pounded as she navigated the hairpin curves. And then she caught a flash of headlights behind her and her stomach fell to her toes.
Athenasios’s house was remote. While she supposed it was possible that someone was simply out for a drive, she wasn’t betting on it. Either some of his men had come after her, or whoever had shot all those men was after her too.
Maybe it was a kidnapping attempt. Her blood froze at that thought. There had been threats against her, but that was pretty much expected when you were as high profile as she was. Tears pressed against the backs of her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. She’d just wanted to escape the fishbowl of her life for a while. Just a while, dammit.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire, Regina — that’s what her mother would have said if she were still alive.
Gina stomped on the gas and whipped the Mercedes around corners like an IndyCar driver. Thank God her manager had made her take that defensive-driving course a few months ago. If she made it out of here alive, she’d kiss Barry for that.
Trees overhung the road, obscuring her vision. The headlights did their job, but it wasn’t as good as when she’d had moonlight too. Behind her, headlights flashed through the trees from time to time. If the car wasn’t following her, then she should have left it behind when she sped up.
But they were coming for her. Gina pressed the pedal down again, hoping she was better at navigating these curves than they were.
Up ahead, a dirt track led off the road and into the trees. Part of her said to keep going, but part of her said she had to get off the road and hide. At the last second, she whipped onto the track. The car bumped and thumped against the ground until she slowed down. Gina had to turn off the lights, even though it would mean she couldn’t see. Slowing to a crawl, she tried to navigate her way farther off the road. Once she was out of sight, she rolled the window down, listening for the sounds of another car. It was screaming up the incline and she swallowed a knot of panic.
Gina stopped the car and waited. Finally, the other engine roared by and kept going down the road. She made herself breathe slowly, in and out and in and out, but her heart still pounded hard. She would have to wait here for quite some time before it would be safe to go.
Though maybe this track went somewhere. She turned on the parking lights and drove slowly down the road. And then the front wheels dropped from beneath her and she realized too late that she’d hit a ditch.
She put the car in reverse and tried to back out of the gully, but the wheels spun wildly.
Gina dropped her head to the steering wheel. Now what? Tears flowed freely, and that made her angry. She wasn’t a quitter, dammit!
She sat up, determined to try again — and a bush with eyes appeared in front of her. A wave of fright washed over her, immobilizing her. And then she frantically grappled for the power button on the window.
But the bush moved toward her — and the window wasn’t going up.
H.O.T. Publishing, LLC
June 30, 2014