Second in NYT & USAT bestselling author Julie Ann Walker’s new romantic suspense series featuring former navy SEALsThe former SEALs of The Deep Six return in a sizzling series from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julie Ann Walker.A COVERT MISSIONMaddy Powers’s life revolves around cocktail parties, political fundraisers, and charity events — but she can’t forget the daring former SEAL who appropriated her father’s yacht a few months ago … or the scorching kiss they shared before he disappeared into the deep blue sea.SPARKS A FLAMING DESIREBran Pallidino carries a dark secret behind his lady-killer eyes — one that keeps him from pursuing a serious relationship with Maddy. But when she’s taken hostage during a trip to the Dry Tortugas, the men of Deep Six Salvage drop their treasure hunt for a sunken galleon and embark on a dangerous mission to save Maddy.WITH EARTH-SHATTERING REPERCUSSIONSAs they fight her merciless kidnappers, they discover this isn’t a simple hostage situation, but something far more sinister. Passion boils between Bran and Maddy, but what good is putting their hearts on the line if they don’t survive the dawn?
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“They’re on the island. My guys are in position, advancing slowly and waiting on your signal to go in strong,” Tony Scott told Gene Powers.
Sitting on the sofa beside Gene on the small, sixty-foot motor yacht they’d rented under a false name with false identification, Tony watched the older man try to swallow the lump in his throat. And not for the first time, he wondered if Gene had the stomach to go through with their plan.
Just keep your shit together a little while longer, he thought, impatience gnawing on his backbone like a junkyard dog.
“Once we cross this line, there’s no goin’ back.” There was a tremor in Gene’s voice. It matched the one in the man’s hands as he absently picked at the stitching on the edge of the blue pillow tossed into the corner of the molded seating area at the back of the vessel.
Tony had always respected Gene for his courage and sense of adventure when it came to business—and to living life, for that matter—but the old fart was proving to lack the intestinal fortitude to get down and dirty when the occasion called for it. And this occasion definitely called for it.
Which is where I come in.
“I know there’s no going back.” He reached out to squeeze Gene’s wiry shoulder. “I’m ready. Are you?”
“No,” Gene spat. “I can’t help but think there’s got to be another way.”
Tony bit the inside of his cheek, girding himself to have the same argument they’d been having for the last week. As patiently as he could, he said, “Gene, we’ve been through this a million times. No venture capitalist will touch us. We’ve exhausted all our reserves and the reserves of our investors. We need cash.”
“Maybe I could ask him again,” Gene said, something close to desperation in his eyes. They both knew to which him Gene was referring.
“He’s already told you no three times,” Tony reminded him. “He thinks it’s a bad investment. He’s grown risk adverse over the years. Too risk adverse. And he’s pushed you to this.”
“No.” Gene shook his head. “It wasn’t him. It was OPEC. Goddamned OPEC!” Gene cursed, taking off his Stetson to run a hand through his gray hair. His droopy handlebar mustache quivered when he glanced out at the open ocean, hoping to see a way out. But Tony knew that nothing but endless, undulating waves surrounded the vessel. Certainly no other solution to their problem.
If they wanted to save the oil business, this was it. A Hail Mary pass in the final minutes.
“Goddamn OPEC,” Gene said again, pounding his fist on the arm of the molded fiberglass sofa before replacing his cowboy hat. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries—made up of the twelve most oil-rich and least American friendly nations—was a cartel that kept a stranglehold on the world through its control of the majority of the earth’s crude oil reserves. And right now it had a stranglehold on their company. “I don’t know why we didn’t bomb the shit out of all of them when they first incorporated sixty-five years ago.”
Tony snorted. “We didn’t ‘bomb the shit out of all of them’ because leveling entire nations just to make sure they couldn’t profit from their own natural resources would’ve been frowned upon by…well…pretty much everyone,” he explained, noticing the time on his gold GMT-Master Rolex and getting increasingly antsy as the seconds ticked by.
“Well, now they’re tryin’ to stop us from controllin’ and profitin’ from our natural resources,” Gene snarled. “How’s that fair?” Before Tony could respond, Gene answered his own question. “I’ll tell you how. Plain and simple, it ain’t.”
“That’s why we have to see this through,” Tony said. “If we do this, we’ll have enough cash to get a couple of new ventures up and running. Once they are, they’ll fund the rest. And then when everything is online and we’re pumping out hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude a day, the United States will be safer than it’s ever been. And that’ll be thanks to us. You and me, Gene. Just imagine it.”
The only reason Gene had finally agreed to this scheme was because Tony had couched his arguments in a bunch of flag-waving hoopla. It had worked like a charm then. It worked liked a charm now.
“You swear to me no one will get hurt,” Gene demanded. His bottom lip, visible beneath his ridiculous mustache, quivered. His eyes misted.
Oh, for God’s sake. If the man started crying, Tony would be hard-pressed not to slap his face.
“My guys’ plan is sound and every scenario has been accounted for.”
“Your guys.” Gene shook his head, sounding so much like Foghorn Leghorn that Tony was surprised he didn’t start his next sentence with I say, I say. “You keep callin’ them that. Where did you find them anyway?”
“You’d be amazed how many ex–armed forces types are willing to sell their services for the right price.”
Poor Gene. Always thinking the best of people. It was genetic. Everyone in the Powers family suffered from the same affliction.
“Come on, Gene.” Tony sighed. “It’s just three girls, one woman, and a wet-behind-the-ears park ranger. It’ll be a breeze.”
“A breeze, huh?” Gene smoothed his mustache and wet his lips with his tongue. “Then tell me again why there are guns involved.”
Tony smiled, but the expression held no humor. “Surely, since you’re a born-and-bred Texan, I don’t need to explain that to you.” When Gene scowled his impatience, Tony elaborated. “Shock and awe, my man. Shock and awe. Besides, we need to make this thing look legit if we want him to pony up the cash and do it quickly.”
“Shock and awe better be all it’ll be.” Gene pressed a hand to his chest as if his heart was hurting. That’s all Tony needed. For the waffling old cuss to have a heart attack. Although, on second thought… If Gene keeled over with a coronary, Tony would be left at the helm. Which would make things so much easier.
“If anything happens to Maddy,” Gene said, shaking his head, “I’ll never—”
“Nothing is going to happen to her,” Tony assured him. When Gene searched his eyes, he made sure his expression reflected one-hundred-percent sincerity.
Gene turned to stare out at the ocean again, a muscle ticking in his jaw. Tony simply sat and waited. Gene had donned his decision-making face, and Tony knew better than to intrude. Finally, Gene blew out a breath. “Okay. Let’s do this.”
Tony flashed Gene a reassuring wink before lifting the satellite phone in his hand and barking two words: “Go time.”
Julie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission. She lives in Chicago, IL.
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