Authors: Elle James
A navy SEAL has her back...and a lot more!
When their plane crash-lands in an alligator-infested Mississippi bayou, Navy SEAL Quentin “Loverboy” Lovett is grateful to be alive. But gratitude quickly turns to rescue when the SEAL must dive into the murky waters to save Stealth Operations Specialist Becca Smith. Then the shooting starts. Clearly, someone wants her dead.
Investigating her father’s murder has put Becca in the crosshairs of his killer. Now the loner agent has no choice but to trust Quentin to protect her. On their hunt for the mercenary, Becca and Quentin discover an unquenchable attraction they never expected to grow...or last. But first, they must survive.
“Are you out of your mind? Get back in the raft.”
He leaned forward and stole a quick kiss. “You can slap me later. I’ve got a job to do.” He rolled over the side and eased into the water without making much of a splash. His heart pounded as he stared at the tall grass near a mound of sticks and mud. He’d stay as far away from the alligator nest as he could, but he had to get the raft beneath the trees before the people in the helicopter spotted them.
Grabbing the tow line from the front of the raft, he held on tight and sidestroked, pulling the loaded craft with him. Everyone helped by paddling with their hands. They moved faster than they had before, but not fast enough to make the trees before the helicopter swung around and headed their way.
“Duck!” Quentin called out.
As the chopper neared, the sound of a machine-gun blast ripped through the air, but bullets didn’t hit the water near the raft.
NAVY SEAL TO
New York Times
New York Times
bestselling author, started writing when her sister challenged her to write a romance novel. She has managed a full-time job and raised three wonderful children, and she and her husband even tried ranching exotic birds (ostriches, emus and rheas). Ask her, and she’ll tell you what it’s like to go toe-to-toe with an angry 350-pound bird! Elle loves to hear from fans at
Books by Elle James
SEAL of My Own
Navy SEAL to Die For
Covert Cowboys, Inc.
Bodyguard Under Fire
Navy SEAL Justice
Navy SEAL Newlywed
High Country Hideout
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CAST OF CHARACTERS
Highly trained, expertly skilled weapons specialist and Navy SEAL from SEAL Boat Team 22. Considered the charmer of the team.
Stealth Operations Specialist on a mission to find the person responsible for the assassination of her father, a CIA special agent.
Highly trained, skilled gunner and Navy SEAL from SEAL Boat Team 22 and the son of a US senator.
Dutton “Duff” Calloway—
Highly trained, skilled demolitions expert and Navy SEAL from SEAL Boat Team 22.
Benjamin “Montana” Raines—
Expert sniper and Navy SEAL from SEAL Boat Team 22 on vacation in Cancún.
Head of the Stealth Operations Specialists, a secret government organization that comes to the rescue when no one else can get the job done.
Tim “Geek” Trainer—
Stealth Operations Specialists agent with highly evolved computer and technical skills, works primarily out of the home office.
Man suspected of aiding and supplying weapons to terrorists.
Russian immigrant and suspected assassin.
CIA special agent who worked with Becca’s father on a secret investigation.
CIA deputy director.
Stealth Operations Specialists agent.
Stealth Operations Specialists agent.
I dedicate this book to all of my readers. If not for you and your voracious reading habits, I would not have the career of my dreams. I consider myself lucky to have found what I want to be when I “grow up” and that I’m living that dream now.
Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Happy reading!
“Ahh, this is the way to travel.” US Navy SEAL Quentin Lovett yawned and stretched, burrowing into the contoured seat of the Stealth Operations Specialists corporate jet. “I’ve never felt more rested. This beats commercial flights, hands down.” He chuckled. “I don’t even want to compare it to the back of a C-130.”
“Don’t get used to it, Loverboy.” Dutton Calloway, Duff to his friends, sat with his eyes closed, his head tipped back across the aisle from Quentin.
“Maybe you should switch branches of service.” Becca Smith blinked her eyes open and cocked her eyebrows at Quentin in the seat beside her.
“What? And give up the glamorous life of a navy SEAL?” Quentin lifted Becca’s hand and brushed her knuckles with a light kiss. “Although, if I got to work with a pretty little thing like you, I might consider giving up the swamps and the honor of getting mud beneath my fingernails.”
She frowned and pulled her hand from his. “Forget it, frogman. You’re not getting into my pants. My mamma told me about guys like you.”
He chuckled. “That you would be lucky to have a man as handsome and talented as I am?”
“No, that navy guys have a woman in every port and shove off when things get a little too permanent for them.”
Duff, his six-foot-three-inch SEAL teammate, laughed. “She’s got your number, Loverboy.”
Quentin grinned. “We’re just getting warmed up.”
Becca gave Quentin a glance that should have chilled him to the bone, but he didn’t give up easily.
“Before she knows it, she’ll be madly in love with me.” Quentin winked at Becca.
She rolled her eyes, leaned forward and asked Duff, “Is he really that full of himself, or is he pulling my leg?”
Duff cracked open an eyelid. “I suspect he’s a bit of both.”
Natalie Layne rested a hand on Duff’s. “I’m so glad you’re not a ladies’ man.”
Duff’s other eyelid rose, exposing his green eyes. “Who said I wasn’t?”
Quentin snorted. “Please. Leave the art of seduction to the pro.”
Sawyer Houston laughed out loud behind Quentin. “Says the man striking out with the beautiful lady.”
Becca raised her hand above the chair. “Thanks for the compliment.”
“Not that I think she’s more beautiful than you,” Sawyer added for the benefit of Jenna Broyles, the woman riding in the plane beside him.
“I’m not opposed to my man looking, as long as he’s not sampling,” Jenna said.
Duff closed his fingers around Natalie’s hand. “Sawyer has a point, Quentin. I’ve got a gorgeous babe. What have you got?”
Quentin loved the banter between him and his teammates. He loved a challenge even more, and Becca Smith was a challenge. The way he saw it, he had until the plane landed in Mississippi to win her over and secure a date with the incredibly beautiful and extremely uptight lady, who intrigued him to the point of obsession.
She was wound up so tight, Quentin considered it his duty and responsibility to help her loosen up. He’d dedicated the flight from Cancun to Mississippi to winning over the pretty secret agent’s interest. In the past few hours, he’d failed to get more than a “drop dead” glare out of her. His time was quickly running out. He had yet to succeed in his mission.
“Sawyer, I’m surprised your father agreed to go along with the faked death scenario,” Becca commented.
surprised?” Sawyer huffed out a breath. “I was floored. The man never had time for anything other than politics. I swear he didn’t know my name half the time. My father had a cot set up in his office. He spent so many late nights working, it made more sense for him to sleep there.”
“Must have been hard for you and your mother,” Jenna commented.
“Nah. We were used to it. You don’t miss what you never had.”
Quentin could relate. His father had left him and his mother when Quentin was five. His mother, destitute and with a young mouth to feed, was forced to move in with her parents on their Iowa farm. His grandfather had been his male role model, for which he was forever grateful. He’d raised him to appreciate the fruits of a hard day’s labor. Nothing in this world was worth anything if it was easy to attain.
Thus his interest in Becca. The woman who’d shown up in Cancun, Mexico, on what should have been Quentin’s relaxing vacation, and helped them keep Sawyer alive when an assassin was hell-bent on ending his life.
“Speaking of assassins,” Quentin said aloud.
“No one was speaking of assassins until you just brought it up,” Benjamin “Montana” Raines said and yawned. “Could ya shut up for the next thirty minutes until we land? I haven’t gotten my full three-hours’ sleep in on the flight.”
“You wouldn’t have needed it, if you hadn’t stayed up until four in the morning,” Sawyer grumbled. “And then dragged yourself in, waking everyone up.”
“Can I help that the last night of vacation they had to have Country Western Night at the resort?”
Quentin shook his head. “I didn’t know one man could two-step for six hours straight.”
“I’ve got stamina, unlike some of you boneheads.” Montana pushed his cowboy hat down over his eyes. “Seriously, could you hold it down?”
“I’ve been thinking.”
His buddies all groaned.
“No, really.” Quentin frowned. “Just because we took care of the assassin-for-hire who’d been gunning for our buddy Sawyer, it doesn’t mean that dirty dog is dead.”
“What are you talking about?” Duff asked.
“Someone wanted Rand Houston, aka Sawyer’s father, out of the way and was willing to use Sawyer as bait to get him to Cancun in order to get a clear shot at him. We got his hired gun, but the man who hired him is still on the loose.”
“Your point?” Duff prompted.
“Who’s going after him?” Quentin persisted.
“I don’t know,” Sawyer said. “But we have to report back to Stennis as soon as we get back. Which won’t be much longer. We should see land soon.”
Quentin leaned over Becca to stare out the window. Just as Sawyer said, land was within sight.
“Do you mind?” Becca said, her brows hiked. “If you’re that interested in the scenery below, I’d be happy to swap seats with you.”
Slowly leaning back in his seat, Quentin gave her one of his best smiles. His mother always said he could charm the chickens out of the trees with that smile. “Instead of agreeing to swap seats, why don’t you agree to have dinner with me when we land?”
“I told you, I’m not interested.” She turned her shoulders toward the window, effectively cutting him off.
“Okay, I get it. You don’t want to go out with me for dinner. How about lunch?”
She drew in a slow, steadying breath and let it out. “No.”
Undaunted, Quentin grinned. “You’re making it really hard for me to get to know you.”
“Not my problem. That one’s all on you.”
“Tell you what,” Quentin said. “Before you reject me, give me one kiss. If the chemistry isn’t there, I won’t pursue you anymore.”
“You’ll leave me completely alone?” she asked.
Quentin nodded and held up his hand. “I promise.”
“Fine. One kiss.” She leaned toward him.
He faced her, puckering.
Becca reached out and turned his cheek. “On the cheek.”
“How are you supposed to gauge the chemistry with a kiss on the cheek?” he protested.
“Not my problem.” When she swooped in to land her kiss, Quentin turned at the last minute and caught her lips with his.
Her eyes widened, her breath hitched, but she didn’t back away.
Quentin cupped the back of her neck and deepened the kiss, pressing her closer.
She gasped, her lips parting for a second. Long enough for Quentin to slip his tongue past her teeth for a taste of her.
. Rum and coconuts from the drink she’d had earlier. So sweet and amazing, he almost groaned. When he lifted his head, he smiled down at her. “Was that so bad?” he asked.
Her drooping eyelids popped wide and she slapped him hard on the cheek she had intended on kissing.
Quentin could swear the plane shook with the force of the blow.
“What the hell?” Duff shouted, sitting up.
The plane shook and shuttered.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve lost power to the engine and will be making an emergency landing,” the captain said over the loud speaker. “Please check your seatbelts and hold on.”
It took Quentin a full second to realize the slap he’d deservedly received had not impacted the plane. “What happened?” he asked, tightening his belt.
“Felt like we were hit,” Sawyer said.
Quentin pressed a hand to his stinging cheek. Oh, he’d been hit all right. But the plane? “By what?”
“I don’t know,” Duff said. “But you better hunker down. It’s gonna be a rough landing.”
With the plane shaking like an old truck on a gravel road, Quentin doubted the landing would be an easy one.
A feminine hand slipped into his and he held on to it.
“Just for the record,” Becca said. “You deserved that slap.”
If he’d thought the dire situation would encourage her to apologize, he was sorely disappointed. “It was worth it. You taste so good. If I die in this crash, I will have died a happy man.”
“Jerk,” she whispered, but didn’t let go of his hand as the plane pitched, dipped and plunged toward the ground at a terrifying speed. “For the record, if I make it out of this alive, I’m still going after the man who killed my father.”
“I believe you,” Quentin said. “If I can get more time off from my unit, I’ll go with you.”
“I don’t need an amateur getting in my way.”
“I’m not an amateur, I’m a SEAL.”
“Yeah and you’re used to kicking ass and shooting anything that moves. My kind of work takes finesse, something you are clearly lacking.”
“Ouch,” Quentin said.
“Loverboy, I believe you’ve been put in your place.” Duff chuckled. “Give it up. She’s not into you.”
Quentin snorted. “This frogman won’t give up without a fight.”
“Yeah?” Montana said from the back. “Seems we’re going down
a fight, now.”
And he was right. It seemed as if the ground outside the window rushed up to meet them. Make that the
rushed up to meet them.
The pilot brought the plane in on a marsh, the only gap between tall cypress trees. The belly of the aircraft slid across the smooth surface like a hovercraft until it hit a berm of land, barely jutting a foot into the air.
The plane jolted hard on impact; the tail lifted and then crashed down with a big splash.
Throwing aside her seatbelt, the flight attendant ran for the emergency exit and struggled to open the exterior door.
Quentin released his seatbelt and hurried to help. Together they managed to open the door, the steps falling into the water.
“There are flotation devices beneath each seat,” the attendant called out.
Quentin glanced out the door and shook his head. “I suggest we all get into the life boat or do our best to stay with the plane until help arrives. You do not want to get in that water.”
“Why?” Duff staggered up the aisle to join him at the door.
“I believe we’ve landed in the middle of an alligator farm.”
* * *
her seat aboard the downed aircraft, shaken but refusing to show how much the crash-landing had scared her. She’d been shot at, held hostage and beaten by one of the meanest sons of a bitch known to the drug-dealing mafia, but never had she been in an airplane crash.
If Quentin hadn’t been next to her, teasing her and holding her hand, she might have dissolved into a very embarrassing case of feminine hysterics.
On the ground...or in the water...they had survived. A few alligators were nothing compared to the instant death of a plane hitting the ground and completely disintegrating like she’d seen happen at the Baltimore International Airport one snowy evening a long time ago.
Her father had brought her to the airport to greet her mother after she’d been on a work trip to California. Becca had missed her mother, and looked forward to being held and cuddled in her arms. They’d watched as her mother’s plane approached the airport on schedule. It appeared to be a perfect landing until a wing dipped and the entire plane performed something like a cartwheel on the runway.
Her father cursed and pulled the young Becca into his arms to hide her view of the burning wreckage. No one survived. Her beautiful mother would never come home, never hold her close or sing her to sleep at night.
Her heart hammered against her ribs and her belly soured at the memory. Where her mother had not escaped, Becca had cheated death in the SOS corporate jet. All her life, she’d flown in airplanes, pushing back the fear of crashing. Today she imagined what her mother might have felt when she realized the plane was going to crash. She could only hope it had happened so fast that none of the passengers had time to be afraid.
A gentle hand on her arm brought her out of her memories and back to the problem at hand.
“Are you okay?” Quentin asked.
“Yeah. I’m fine,” she lied, barely able to stand on wobbly knees. Bile churned in her gut again, threatening to find a rapid path out if she didn’t reach open air immediately.
She shoved Quentin to the side and staggered toward the doorway, where the flight attendant and Duff struggled with a life raft, blocking the exit.
“I need to get out,” Becca said, her voice strained.
“You’ll have to wait until we get this raft the right side up,” the attendant said.
“You don’t understand. I. Need. Out. Now.” She shoved them aside, pushed the raft out of her way and jumped out of the plane into the water.
She hit at an angle and sank below the surface, sucking fetid swamp water up her nose. Panicking, and fighting to get her feet under her, Becca couldn’t tell which way was up. She flapped and kicked, but couldn’t get turned the right direction.
Something splashed next to her and an arm wrapped around her waist and yanked her out of the dark, dank water and into the bright sunshine.
Becca coughed and sputtered, gagging on the nasty water. All the while those strong arms held her, letting her get her feet beneath her on the silt bottom of the marsh.