He’s former military falling for the enemy.
She’s a Russian spy who wants out of the game.
With GUNNER by her side, she can finally take her shot.
As a K19 Security specialist, undercover is my middle name. My team never knows where I am, what I’m up to, or who I’m doing. I like to keep it secret and discreet, so helping a sexy and mysterious woman from a dangerous Russian organization is right up my alley. But giving her my heart, may be more perilous than even I can handle.
Over. Done. Finished. I want out. I’m sick of these mind games and battles. I need to defect, and in order to do that, I must trust an enemy and never look back. I’ve got one chance, one shot. Should I take it with GUNNER?
My life was made up of a series of nightmares strung together like a broken strand of lights that my subconscious forced me to relive night after night after night, waking me up in a cold sweat.
My dreams used to vary, featuring one horrific reenactment after another of harrowing escapes, hostile gunfire, exploding IEDs, and other forms of death and destruction.
Now, the first thing I saw whenever I closed my eyes, was the woman I’d been forced to kill, staring at me.
“Paps, I thought you loved me,” she said in every dream, even though she’d never actually uttered those words. They were only spoken in my nightmares when her eyes met mine at the very moment she realized I’d killed her.
Lena “Barbie” Hess had been under K19 Security Solution’s protection since the day we opened for business. Prior to that, her detail had been the responsibility of an elite team comprised of active-duty service members and CIA agents, called the Special Activities Division of the agency’s National Clandestine Service—otherwise known as NCS.
My best friend and teammate, Razor, had asked me once if I loved Lena. There’d been a brief moment in time when I saw the bright light of the woman she’d once been, before darkness reigned over her life. In an instant, she was gone again, unable to pull herself out of what I now knew was mental illness. If only I’d known how to help her then. Now, it was too late. She was dead—and I’d killed her.
“Do not do this, Lena. If you think I won’t shoot, you’re wrong,” I’d shouted as her eyes darted between me and a man who was like my brother, a man she’d just shot, and who was on the ground—with his gun still pointed at her.
I watched her take a deep breath, close her eyes, and tighten her finger on the trigger. Before she could get the shot off, I fired first.
I ran toward her, catching her before her head hit the concrete. There was no question she was dead; I’d hit her square in the chest with a .45. No one could survive a shot like that.
“Goddammit,” I’d cried, cursing her for forcing my hand.
As I’d watched Lena’s lifeless body being taken away that day, I’d made two decisions.
First, that “Paps,” the code name I’d been given by my special ops teammates, would be buried with her.
Second, I’d never allow myself to fall for any other woman again. My resolve had lasted less than a handful of hours, when the woman I was now risking my life to rescue, wound up in my bed.
Zaryana “Raketa” Ivashov had been undercover on the same op that resulted in Lena’s death, initially posing as her nurse and caregiver after an accident had left Lena blind and amnesic.
When the operative was tasked with providing her safe passage to Moscow, Lena had thanked the woman the intelligence world knew as “the Rocket” by putting a bullet in her brain—or so she’d thought.
* * *
“Shit,” I gasped when I saw Raketa’s body lying in a pool of blood.
I ran forward and checked for a pulse, nodding at my teammates when I found one.
That she was still alive meant the bullet had either grazed her skull or was still lodged in her brain. If it was the latter, the chance she’d survive was slim. However, without immediate medical attention, it would be certain.
Raketa’s eyes fluttered open when I whispered her name. She groaned and tried to sit up.
“Stay still,” I told her, motioning for my teammates to go ahead.
As risky as it was, I called for backup. “Send a medic,” I said into my radio mic.
“Who shot you?” I asked, trying to get her eyes to stay focused on mine.
“Lena,” she groaned. “Go. Find her. She’s…”
When she lost consciousness again, I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer, all the while keeping my finger on her still-active pulse.
I knew I had to leave her when the medics arrived, as hard as it was to go.
* * *
Later, I learned the shot had only grazed Raketa’s scalp, resulting in enough bleeding that Lena believed she’d successfully offed the woman.
I didn’t remember much about the night we’d spent together, except I knew we’d had sex until I finally passed out. Then, in the morning, she’d sneaked out while I was in the shower.
A few months passed before I heard from Raketa again, and then she wanted to make a deal. She told me she knew who had kidnapped the victims of my then-current op and where they were being held. In exchange for that information, she wanted my help with an op of her own—leaving the employ of United Russia, or in other words, defecting.
Agreeing to help her was what had landed me in the bowels of hell, otherwise known as Baku, Azerbaijan, trying to find where a Russian black market arms dealer was holding her prisoner and, more importantly, why.