For Kate Bartlett running Haven Farm was the realization of a dream. Helping battered and abused women build a new life was very satisfying. Of course, it left her with no personal life of her own but she put that on the back burner.
Dan Wolff left the SEALs with a nightmare that wouldn’t go away. It kept him from having a personal life and sent him to the small town of Dixville, Florida, where he served now as sheriff of the county. His biggest challenges were the rednecks who thought it was fun to get drunk and beat up their women, a situation that brought him into continuous contact with Kate.
But it all changes when a group of convicts escapes from the nearby prison and takes refuge in Dixville. Can Dan protect the women who make perfect shields? And will he and Kate finally give in to the attraction that sizzles between them?
Clad in his battle fatigues, his face darkened with camouflage paint and his M4A1 rifle in his hands, Dan Wolff crouched in the thicket of trees, staring at the cluster of small adobe houses with straw roofing. At three in the morning, it was very quiet in this village, even though it was a hotbed of activity for the local gang in this small city. Was it too quiet? Should people be moving somewhere, or was everyone asleep? Were there only three gang members guarding the inside, or were there really more? As team leader, he hadn’t been happy with the scarcity of information they’d been given, and neither was their commanding officer, but they were running out of time to stage their rescue. Ten women had been taken captive by gang members who announced they were going to stage an execution to make an example of them. Send a message not to mess in gang territory.
The women had come down here on a trip from the States to study the country and have a vacation. Although why the fuck anyone would want to take a pleasure trip to a place overrun with gangs was beyond him. Oh sure, the resorts were beautiful, and the areas immediately surrounding them were gorgeous. But there was always a sliver of fear in the area that one or more of the gangs would decide to have a little fun. It had happened before, and he’d bet his left testicle it would happen again. Of course, he fervently hoped it wouldn’t come to that since he was intensely fond of both of them.
But the women had been appalled at some of the conditions they’d seen on their trips to the smaller villages—another idiotic move—and talked about bringing organizations to the country to help correct it.
What he wasn’t fond of was the sketchy information they’d been given. Their commanding officer had busted his butt to get as much as possible, but the gang holding the women made sure what was known was sketchy and frequently changing. So, they went with a rundown full of holes. Unsure number of gang members involved protecting the women, but not more than four. Which room in the house they were sequestered in, but probably one of the bedrooms. And more like that. But he was the team leader, so it was up to him to make apple juice out of apples, even as he cursed the newly minted CO every minute.
After he used his night- vision goggles to study everything around them, doing his best to make sure gang members wouldn’t come flooding out of the trees, he waved his team forward. As described, there was only one man guarding the front door and two lounging against a junker across the street. Dan figured they were pretty damn overconfident.
He gave the signals they’d prepared, two of the SEALs crept up on the gang members against the car, and two more of them breached the door, with four others as backup. But when Dan had his men kick the door down and roll in with their guns at the ready, all hell broke loose. Unlike the few gang members they had expected, there were several in the house, standing behind the women who were bound and gagged…and terrified, not to mention other terrorists in a second room. They’d laid a trap so successfully that even checking out the scene ahead of time had revealed nothing.
“Back off, back off,” he shouted to his men, but, by then, it was insanity.
Bullets were flying, people were shouting, and bodies were falling. It was a totally fucked-up mess.
When it was over, three gang members were dead, four of Dan’s men were wounded, and all the women were either wounded or dead. He called for emergency pickup, and those of his men still functioning were able to hold the rest of the gang off until two choppers arrived, cleared the area, and landed to pick everyone up.
He had no idea how he was going to live with the memories of all the people who had been killed on a mission he led. In the debrief, his commanding officer had tried to assure him it hadn’t been his fault. That their information had been bad. A trap, in fact. That he, the CO, took full responsibility for it.
But Dan couldn’t deal with it. Despite efforts to change his mind, he resigned from the SEALs, determined to bury himself as an ordinary civilian, with no mention of the military at all. Someplace where, hopefully, he could redeem himself enough that the nightmares would stop.
He had no idea where that place would be, but he knew just the person to ask.
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