USA Today Bestselling Author
After a disastrous career-ending mission, he never expected to be sent back into the shadows.
For months Ajax has been languishing on his sister’s couch, drowning himself in beer and whiskey. It was the only way to bury the pain of losing his entire SEAL team during a mission he does not remember. Until he discovers everything he’s been told about that day was a lie. Now he’ll jump on the first flight to Ethiopia with Ryker—his best friend, teammate, and foster brother—to rescue the rest of their team.
Serena has a heart of gold and a desire to help people. She’s never physically met the woman she works for, but she knows every job she does saves lives and corrects injustices. Serena’s task is to dole out assignments, be the liaison. Participating in the missions themselves has never been required…until now. Her history has made her vital to the mission.
Serena isn’t prepared for the brooding man who looks like he’s going to take down the next person he sees with his eyes alone. Nor is she prepared for the way his intensity makes her feel things she never expected in this lifetime.
Ajax is not pleased that Serena will be accompanying them. She doesn’t belong in a war zone. But when the slight woman flattens Ajax on his back on day one, he has a change of heart. Maybe she’s not as soft as she appears. He needs her help, and she needs him. But will her presence endanger the entire mission?
This book opens as Ajax is rushing to a meeting he’s a bit late for, he’s not sure why he’s there or who he’s meeting. What he does know is anything is better than wallowing on his sister’s couch. Little does he know he’s about to get the shock of his life.
In that conference room is his best-friend, teammate and foster brother Ryker. He thought Ryker died along with the rest of their team in a mission that went so FUBAR he was blamed for it and kicked out. Apparently Ryker was told the exact same thing and now they are both going to get some news that’s even more startling.
Serena is Charley’s assistant, helping with meetings and other data for the missions. This is just another one of those meetings, until it isn’t.
This is just one of my favorite scenes.
“Listen to me,” Charley demanded. “I know everything that happened to you. More than either of you know. You were on a mission, you had the green light, you surrounded the target, and then you closed in. There was an explosion. The building blew to rubble. The two of you were knocked off your feet and thrown backward, landing hard in the street several yards from where you’d been standing. You were both knocked unconscious in the blast.”
“Why on earth was I told the entire team was dead and I was the lone survivor?” Ajax asked.
“Because someone higher up needed to cover their own ass.”
Ajax shoved away from the table and took a few steps back, leaning against the wall for support. He ran a hand through his hair, hair that was in desperate need of a cut. “How do you know all of this?”
“I have my ways.”
“What happened to the rest of the team if they didn’t die in the explosion?” Ryker asked.
“No one was in that rubble. None of you had breached the building yet. You two were the only ones knocked unconscious. Everyone else was taken hostage in the ambush. Your backup team was moving in fast, so the rebels had no choice but to evacuate and leave your bodies behind. They probably weren’t certain if you were alive or dead, but in any case, they didn’t have the time to take two unconscious bodies.”
“Unbelievable,” Ajax murmured.
“I agree. Whoever fucked up this mission went to a lot of trouble to clean up after themselves.”
“If the backup team rescued us, why haven’t we heard from any of them?”
“They are still active in the mission, and they’ve been told neither of you survived. After loading you two into the helicopter, they never saw you again.”
Ryker cleared his throat. “This is insane. Both of us were told the rest of the team was dead. Who could be that cruel?”
Ajax agreed. It had been the most hellacious three months of his life. He’d spent it believing not only his entire team was dead, but that it included Ryker. A man he’d considered a brother since they met when Ajax was twelve.
Ajax had yet to go home to Indiana to face the foster parents who brought him into manhood because he couldn’t stand the idea of confronting the heaviness in his soul. On top of that, he was too embarrassed. He’d been told the reason that mission failed— the reason Ryker had died— was because he hadn’t followed protocol. He’d been fucking led to believe that he had disgraced his team and the SEALs. He had been discharged “other than honorably.” Returning to face his foster parents was the last thing he’d wanted to do.
“I don’t know the answer to that yet, but believe me, I’m working on it. In the meantime, I’m hiring you two to go back and get your team.”
Ajax flinched. “Hiring? What if we decline.”
Serena set the two folders she was carrying on the table, separated them, and eased them across the surface, one toward each man. A phoenix stared back at him as though the ancient Egyptian bird could see all the way to his damaged soul… daring him to look inside.
Ryker opened his first and after a moment, he whistled between his teeth. “That’s a lot of money.”
“Yes. You have a unique set of skills, not to mention motivation.”
Ajax opened his folder and lifted both brows. Ryker wasn’t kidding. He could do a lot with that kind of money. “You realize I’ve been discharged. I no longer work for the US Navy. Who the heck are we working for?”
“And you aren’t going to tell us who the hell you are?”
“No. It’s safer this way.”
“For us or for you?”
Ajax turned to look at him, lifting a brow. They were either in this together or not at all.
“Fuck,” Ryker muttered.
Ajax agreed. It wasn’t as though they could tell this woman they would not be willing to go in and rescue their own men. He turned back to face the phone. “What’s the plan?”
“Pull your shit together, lay off the cookies, and be prepared to travel in two weeks.”
“Who’s paying for all this?” Ajax asked.
“How will we know where to go or what to do?”
“Serena will be traveling with you. She’ll be told when and where to meet up with my contact when you arrive.”
“What?” all three yelled at once.
For Ajax, the thought of this soft woman in the pencil skirt traveling to fucking Ethiopia with him was preposterous. She obviously worked hard to be taken seriously. Standing tall. Keeping her expression tight and serious. All business. But his instinct told him she was more like a dandelion underneath the fake exterior.
That wasn’t the most shocking part of Charley’s announcement, however. The part that made Ajax lift both brows and glance at Serena was that she too was obviously blindsided by this news.
“Charley,” Serena began, “at no time did you mention me traveling with these gentlemen.” She was clearly just as uninterested as Ajax was. Traveling to Ethiopia was dangerous under normal circumstances. He would have his guard up the entire time. And that would be when he was in populated areas surrounded by civilians.
As soon as he left civilization to hunt down his squad, the last thing he’d need was to worry about this feather of a woman. No way. Not a chance. “That’s a dealbreaker,” he told Charley.
Serena flinched and shot him a narrowed look that could have melted a cast-iron pan. She may not have had any intentions of going either, but she sure didn’t like the decision coming from him.
“Nonnegotiable. Serena goes with you. I’ll overnight you the details in a few days. Plane tickets and all the information you’ll need to get started. When you arrive, you’ll stay in a hotel in Addis Ababa the first night. After that, you’ll meet up with my contact and be given further instructions.”
Ryker slapped his hands onto the table again, fingers wide, fingertips white from gripping the surface. “How do we know this isn’t a trap intended to get both of us killed so that whoever fucked up this mission can wipe their hands clean of possible loose ends?”
Serena leaned forward and pushed the top piece of paper in the open manila folder to one side, her fingers moving slowly to reveal the second page.
Ajax’s breath hitched and caught. “Motherfucker,” he breathed out. He yanked the entire stack of pages off the table and started flipping through them while Ryker did the same with his set of documents.
“Fuck,” Ryker muttered.
The first several pages were pictures of the rest of their squad. They were grainy and black and white, but there was no mistaking the images of their comrades. Recent images. Their brothers looked like shit. Three months of neglect.
Whoever this Charley woman was, she had them both by the balls. There wasn’t a chance in hell either of them would leave men behind for any reason. Even if Charley was fucking with them and intended to have the two of them killed the moment they stepped off the plane, it was a risk Ajax would have to take.
And he knew Ryker would too.
Plus, why send Serena with them if Charley intended to have them both killed? That part made no sense.
Apparently, Ajax was headed back to Ethiopia.
Becca Jameson. Shadow in the Desert: Shadow SEALs (Kindle Locations 146-207). Becca Jameson Publishing.
I got a kick out of Serena not recognizing the guys at the airport. They knew they looked different without long hair and beards but had to let her sweat a bit.
The reason behind Serena being with them becomes clear once they arrive. She’s fluent in the native languages. But the best is when she flattens Ajax proving she’s not a helpless woman.
Things get more and more complicated the more they learn and they meet up with yet another woman before they travel on. Xena is no nonsense and snarks at Ryker almost immediately. Apparently Ajax’s team has been split up and not evenly. It’s going to take precision and timing to synchronize rescuing them. They have to split up to reach their destinations at the right time and Ryker gets to go with Xena.
Serena’s background and the attraction between her and Ajax play a part and their relationship simmers before it sizzles.
I can’t wait to read the next book in this multi-author series, it’s Ryker and Xena’s story!
5 Contented Purrs for Becca!
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Becca Jameson is a USA Today bestselling author of over 100 books. She is most well-known for her Wolf Masters Series, her Fight Club series, and her Club Zodiac series. She currently lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and Goldendoodle. Two grown kids pop in every once in a while too! She is loving this journey and has dabbled in a variety of genres, including paranormal, sports romance, military, and BDSM.A total night owl, Becca writes late at night, sequestering herself in her office with a glass of red wine and a bar of dark chocolate, her fingers flying across the keyboard as her characters weave their own stories.
During the day–which never starts before ten in the morning!–she can be found jogging, running errands, or reading in her favorite hammock chair!
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