He’s a plane crash survivor and one of K19’s best.
She’s a rich and lonely socialite, facing her own demons
With HALO by her side, they’ll conquer them together.
After a plane crash and a kidnapping, I just want to lie low. But when one of our own disappears, K19 Security Solutions needs me. I can’t refuse. I owe them my life. A debutante is missing and one thing is certain: she’s in over her head. Getting closer to her, and knowing every curve of her body, is the only way to get to the truth. They may call me “Halo,” but I’m no saint. I can be her savior, though.
Spoiled. Salty. And sexy. I’ve heard it all before. But I’m not looking for accolades. I want honesty, and loyalty. Something my family doesn’t get. When my father disappears, it’s up to me to uncover the truth. There’s one man who’s there to protect me, get me through it all my own personal angel—HALO.
I’d been on this assignment since March. Eight months of this shit. Stuck in some small-ass town on the Oregon Coast, surveilling a woman who made watching grass grow seem interesting.
In contrast, last Thanksgiving, I wasn’t sure I’d make it out of Somalia alive. My partner, Tackle, and I were undercover as journalists when we were kidnapped by a band of pirates.
It didn’t take the team the CIA sent in long to rescue us, but I didn’t make it home in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. When I hit US soil a couple of days after, though, I seriously thought about kneeling down and kissing the ground.
Those were the extremes of the line of work I was in. Either I was in danger of losing my life, or I was bored out of my mind.
“You can head home,” Griffin “Striker” Ellis said when I called him to give him an update on the woman he was paying me to keep an eye on—Aine McNamara.
Striker had been the lead on the team that rescued Tackle and me, and while none of us worked for the CIA anymore, it didn’t change the fact I owed the man my life. When he asked me to keep tabs on the woman he’d recently ended a relationship with, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Said woman had been kidnapped in August of last year, a couple of months before I was in Somalia. I knew Striker still felt responsible for making sure she was safe. I didn’t understand why they’d broken up in the first place, since they both seemed like they still cared for each other. That part wasn’t any of my business, though.
“I’m sure you want to spend Thanksgiving with your family.”
Did I? Barring any other option, I supposed so.
“By the way, I heard that K19 is getting ready to make you an offer.”
Bingo! I’d been hoping they would since the day I left the CIA. I’d almost given up, deciding that if I didn’t hear from them by January, I’d start looking at other firms that handled covert operations.
Striker wasn’t just the lead on my rescue; he’d also been my boss back when we were both with the agency. When he left their employ, I did too. In hindsight, my departure may have been premature, but you had to know who had your back in this line of work and who didn’t.
Outside of Striker, there were only a handful of men and women I trusted, and not a single one still worked for the government in an official capacity. In fact, the majority of them were now part of a black ops and intelligence firm called K19 Security Solutions, the one Striker had just said was getting ready to make me an offer.
“What about Tackle?” I asked.
Landry “Tackle” Sorenson was more than my partner on the op in Somalia; he and I had been best friends since high school when my family returned to America after living in England for most of my childhood.
Tackle and I attended the same college, University of Virginia, and went on to accept jobs with the CIA after we graduated. While it was common for a place like the Central Intelligence Agency to assign code names, my friend and I already had them—nicknames anyway—that to our surprise, they’d agreed to allow us to use.
We’d come up with them after a day of playing touch football when things went a little too far. It wouldn’t be difficult for anyone to figure out that Landry had tackled me or that I ended up with a cervical dislocation requiring I wear a neck halo for six weeks.
While Landry and his parents felt like absolute shit about it, I wasn’t angry nor were my mom and dad. Accidents happened, they’d said. I think they were just relieved that the injury hadn’t been worse. It didn’t bother them at all I couldn’t play football the next year, and while I acted like I was disappointed, I’d admitted to Tackle that I didn’t really care.
The day I told him I planned to resign from the CIA and freelance for K19, he said he would too.
“Where are you?” I asked when my friend answered my call.
“On my way to Boston.”
Tackle and I lived in DC, but both sets of our parents lived in Newton, Massachusetts.
“I was thinking of doing the same.”
“Striker isn’t making you babysit over the holiday?”
I told him about the call I’d just hung up from and also about the impending offer.
“About damn time,” he muttered. “When do you get in?”
“I haven’t booked the flight yet, but I’ll let you know as soon as I do.”
“Roger that. I land at four this afternoon.”
“I’ll see what I can arrange.”
Tackle offered to pick me up whenever I landed, which I was sure my parents would appreciate. More, my younger sister would, since she was the one who usually got stuck doing airport runs.
“It was nice of you to bring Knox home,” my mother said to Tackle the next day when he dropped me off at my parents’ place and came inside.
She put her arms around me. “I can’t believe you’ll actually be with us for the holiday this year.”
My father, Benjamin Knox Clarkson, Sr., an American, had never cared much about holidays. He’d worked for the State Department most of his life, traveling the world. However, my mother, who was Venezuelan, loved holidays—any holiday. Almost too much, overly embracing decorating for any occasion. Presently, my parents’ house looked like it had been the venue for a pilgrim party.
“There are six days between now and then,” I said. “Don’t tempt fate.”
I don’t know who should’ve kept their mouth shut—her or me—but here it was, the day before Thanksgiving, and both Tackle and I were on a transport to Atlanta. There, we’d be on standby until we were given the word to connect with Montano “Onyx” Yáñez and fly to Bogotá.
Once we arrived in Columbia’s capital, I’d be going undercover into one of the drug cartels while Tackle was positioned inside the US embassy.
Hadn’t I just been wishing for a mission more interesting than watching over Aine McNamara? I scrubbed my face. Be careful what you wish for.
The next afternoon, we received our orders and boarded a plane belonging to K19. Onyx was piloting, and another operative I’d heard of but never worked with, Sofia “Corazón” Descanso, was his copilot.
We’d been in the air for almost five hours and were just past Aruba when all hell broke loose.
Tackle and I jumped up from our seats and raced to the cockpit when we heard a shot being fired. When we slammed through the door, guns cocked, Onyx was slumped over the plane’s instrument panel and Corazón had her gun pointed directly at me.
Either way, I was going to die today—if I fired first, the unmanned plane would crash. If I let her shoot me, she’d kill Tackle too, and then she may have a chance of getting away with a triple murder. I pulled the trigger.