Beyond Limits (Tracers Series #8)by Laura Griffin
An FBI agent and a Navy SEAL race against time in New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin’s newest Tracers novel. “Griffin delivers the goods!” (Publishers Weekly)
FBI agent Elizabeth LeBlanc is still caught in the aftermath of her last big case when she runs into the one man from her past who is sure to rock her/i>/i>
An FBI agent and a Navy SEAL race against time in New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin’s newest Tracers novel. “Griffin delivers the goods!” (Publishers Weekly)
FBI agent Elizabeth LeBlanc is still caught in the aftermath of her last big case when she runs into the one man from her past who is sure to rock her equilibrium even more. Navy SEAL Derek Vaughn is back home from a harrowing rescue mission in which he found evidence of a secret terror cell on US soil. Elizabeth knows he’ll do anything to unravel the plot—including seducing her for information. And despite the risks involved, she’s tempted to let him. Together with the forensics experts at the Delphi Center, Derek and Elizabeth are closing in on the truth, but it may not be fast enough to avert a devastating attack…
Following in the bestselling tradition of the Tracers series, including Exposed, Scorched, and Twisted, Beyond Limits pulls out all the stops with Griffin’s most gripping thriller yet.
Read an Excerpt
The night was all wrong for an op, but they were going anyway, and not a man among them disputed the call.
Lieutenant Derek Vaughn sat wedged between his teammates in the Black Hawk helicopter listening to the thunder of the rotor blades as he pictured the city below. The rugged outpost was hemmed in on either side by mountains. Even by Afghan standards, the place was a hellhole, frequented by opium traders, arms smugglers, and Taliban fighters with Al Qaeda links, including a group that had recently hijacked a caravan of aid workers on their way back from a medical mission in Badakhshan Province.
The hijackers had killed the drivers and taken three hostages, all aid workers. Two were Swedish, and one was American, and both governments were scrambling to resolve the crisis while keeping it under wraps. But the situation had dragged on, which wasn’t good. Derek had seen firsthand how TAQ fighters treated their prisoners, and the thought of what those people had likely been through made his blood boil. But he pushed away his anger and focused on his job.
“Five minutes,” the crew chief said over the radio.
Derek closed his eyes. He regulated his breathing. He recalled the map of the compound that he and his teammates had memorized during the briefing. Drone photographs had shown two buildings separated by a narrow courtyard. The hostages were thought to be held in the basement of one or both of the houses.
Or so they hoped. Tonight’s entire mission was based on a call traced to a phone believed to belong to one of the kidnappers.
One phone call. That was it.
Typically, deploying an entire platoon of SEALs required slightly more intel. But tonight wasn’t typical, not by a long shot. Sixteen days ago, the kidnappers had demanded five million dollars in ransom from the international relief org MedAssist. Nine days ago, they’d upped the ante to ten mil. Two days ago, negotiations had broken down, and twenty-four hours ago, MedAssist had received an e-mail. The attached video clip showed twenty-six-year-old Ana Hansson blindfolded and kneeling before the camera, pleading for her life just seconds before her captors slit her throat.
“Four minutes,” the crew chief said.
Derek pictured the two remaining hostages. Dr. Peter Lindh of Stockholm was forty-nine and had been in excellent health before his abduction. Hailey Gardner of Boston had just graduated from nursing school before taking a job with MedAssist. Her passport photo showed a pretty blonde with a wry smile. The photo had immediately reminded Derek of a different woman, a woman he’d been trying to get out of his head for months now. It wasn’t the blond hair or the smile but the determined gleam in her eyes that made Derek think of Elizabeth LeBlanc.
As if he needed a reason.
Derek snugged his assault gloves onto his hands. Focus. Thinking about Elizabeth or anything else besides the op right now was a good way to get his ass shot off. Or one of his teammates’.
The crew chief slid open the door, and the roar from outside cut off all communication. Derek got to his feet and edged closer to the opening, where he could see the valley below bathed in silver. They were infiltrating under a full moon into hostile territory with scant intel to guide their assault. The odds were stacked against them, but Derek knew that every last one of his teammates relished this mission. They’d trained together, fought together, lived, breathed, and bled together for six long months of deployment. On this tour alone, they’d racked up more successful tactical operations than anyone cared to count. But it wasn’t every day they got the chance to rescue a civilian from the country they’d sworn their lives to protect and defend.
At the front of the helo, Derek’s CO held up two fingers. Two minutes.
Derek pulled down his night-vision goggles, casting everything around him in a greenish hue. He checked his M-4, outfitted with a ten-inch barrel. The weapon was designed for close-quarters combat and had a suppressor to keep the noise down. He also had his Sig Sauer P226 in his thigh holster but didn’t expect to use it. Tonight was a straight-up, take-no-prisoners rescue mission. Get in and get out, hopefully before anyone realized they were there.
That was the goal, but everyone knew it wasn’t likely to become reality. And they were good with that. SEALs were trained to take whatever shit the mission threw at them and find a way to make a victory out of it.
The helo entered a hover, and the crew chief kicked out the rope attached to the fuselage. Both buildings had rooftop balconies. The pilot would drop off one group here, then the other on the neighboring roof, and each four-man element would assault down. Meanwhile, an armored Humvee would pull up to the compound and unload two more elements to clear from below.
Hit ’em from all directions, a classic SEAL tactic.
They stacked by size, with Derek first, followed by Mike Dietz, the team corpsman. Next was Cole McDermott, their best sharpshooter, who would man the roof. Luke Jones, another medic, would bring up the rear.
Derek grabbed the rope. Across the helo, Sean Harper grinned and shot him the bird.
Derek’s palms burned as he slid down and hit concrete. Fifty pounds of gear on his back, but he hardly felt the impact as he sprang to his feet and sprinted for the door. They’d expected it to be locked, but the heavy iron grillwork added a complication. Derek grabbed his kit and crouched down to prep a breaching charge. Having been shot at through doors on more than one occasion, he’d learned to do it kneeling.
Brakes screeched below as the Humvee arrived on target. Derek heard a string of pops, like firecrackers, as the other teams dealt with the doors. So much for quiet.
“Going explosive,” Derek said, and everyone hunched down.
The door burst open, and a barrage of machine-gun fire spewed through the gap. Derek rolled away, breathing hard. Even when you expected it, it was always a shock when bullets whizzed over your head. Luke laid down cover fire as Derek reached into the doorway and pulled away the ruined gate.
They darted through the opening, one, two, three, with perfect coordination born of years of training.
“Room one clear!” Luke shouted, tossing an infrared chem light to the floor to signal his teammates.
Derek darted past him and cleared the next room. A staccato of bullets echoed in the stairwell.
“This is Alpha,” Luke said over the radio. “Level two clear.”
“This is Bravo. Level one clear.”
Derek rushed down the stairs, stepping over a body as he joined his team. Two tangos lay dead in the middle of the floor, their AKs and chest racks beside them. Derek glanced around. Sleeping pallets, trash, empty food cans. The smell of cooking oil hung in the air.
Mike looked at him. “Notice anything funny?”
“No women, no kids.”
Taken with everything else, it confirmed their intel. This was no typical family home.
“This is Delta. House two clear, and we need Dietz over here ASAP.”
Mike rushed to answer the call, while across the kitchen, Luke kicked open a door.
“Check for booby traps,” Derek said, following him down a primitive staircase carved from the rock. At the bottom was a door with a heavy-duty lock.
“Need your sledge,” Luke said.
Derek was already pulling it from his pack. They couldn’t use a breaching charge in case a hostage was being held on the other side. Derek swung back the hammer and gave the door a sharp whack, sending splinters flying as it burst open.
Luke ducked in first. Derek covered him. The room was dark and cold and reeked of urine. In the corner was a shadowy lump with a mop of blond hair. She wasn’t moving—not good news, considering all the noise.
“NVGs,” Derek said, shoving his night-vision goggles up. Their goggles and greasepaint made them look like alien robots, and they didn’t want to scare the hell out of her. Derek switched on the flashlight attached to his helmet as Luke reached to check her pulse. She flinched, then rolled over and suddenly started kicking and screaming like a banshee.
“It’s okay, ma’am,” Luke said. “Don’t be afraid.”
More shrieks and kicks.
“Hailey, it’s okay.”
She went still. Derek aimed the light at her as she cowered back. Dirt smudged her face, and the collar of her shirt was dark with blood. The nasty gash above her eye made Derek’s stomach turn.
“I’m Petty Officer Luke Jones, U.S. Navy.” He was already digging through his medical kit. “We’re here to take you home.”
Derek knelt down and looked the woman over. She held her wrist protectively against her body, and it was wrapped with a dirty scrap of cloth. Luke tore open a syringe as Derek peeled away the bandage to reveal an oozing green wound with bone jutting through the skin.
Derek glanced up at her. “We’ve got a helo coming to give you a ride.”
“You’re . . . American,” she rasped.
“Yep.” Derek got rid of the filthy-ass bandage as Luke prepped the shot. “Hey, your Bruins are doing pretty good. We plan to get you home in time for the Cup.”
She made a wet, choking sound, and Luke darted him a look. He’d meant to distract her, not make her cry.
“Five minutes!” someone yelled from upstairs.
Derek’s radio crackled, and he got to his feet. “Alpha, this is Delta. We need Vaughn or Jones over here.”
Derek rushed back upstairs, checking his watch as he went. He’d known Sean since BUD/S training, and he could tell by the tone of his voice that something was very wrong. Probably the hostage. A cold feeling of dread gripped him at the thought of losing another one.
In the courtyard, one of his teammates was building a pile of guns and ammo. The heap of AKs, chest racks, and RPGs took up most of the space. Another pair of guys had already started SSE—sensitive site exploitation—which meant confiscating any potential intelligence, along with fingerprinting and photographing casualties and their weapons, not only for ID purposes but also so that if the mission came to light, the enemy couldn’t claim they’d killed a bunch of innocent civilians.
Inside the second building, the SEAL pulling security directed Derek toward a stairwell leading to the basement. Someone had slapped a chem light on the wall with duct tape.
The cavern smelled as rank as the other one. Remnants of a wooden door lay on the floor. Mike emerged from a chamber with the doctor slung over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.
“He’s alive,” Mike said, answering the unspoken question.
Derek stepped out of his way. “We been on target too long, bro. Need to speed it up.”
“Vaughn, get over here.”
He followed a narrow corridor and almost stepped on a pair of legs jutting out from the wall. A young man was seated on the floor with his hands zip-cuffed behind him. He wore loose-fitting pants and high-top sneakers and was fifteen, max, but his eyes already had the flat, battle-hardened look of a warrior.
“Found him in the tunnel.” Sean nodded toward a passage that connected the house to who the hell knew what. The tunnel system here was like a rabbit warren.
Derek spotted a workbench littered with electrical wires, nails, several jars of black powder—all bomb components. He scanned the rest of the room, and his gaze came to rest on a large safe in the corner. It was a serious box, definitely imported, and would have been a major pain in the ass to get here.
Now Derek understood why he’d been called over. He glanced at the kid and tried to remember his rudimentary Pashto.
“What’s the number?” Derek asked in Pashto, because he didn’t know the word for “combination.”
The kid didn’t answer.
Derek pointed the stock of his gun at the safe. “Open it.”
The kid looked away, sullen.
“Fuck this.” Sean reached for his kit and got out some C-4.
Derek stepped over to check for booby traps. He didn’t see any, but there was only one way to know for sure. Sean set a small charge, and they crossed to the other side of the room. The burst reverberated through the cavern, and they rushed back over.
“Shit, look at all this.” Sean pulled out a stack of papers, singed around the edges and still smoking. He flung it to the ground and stomped the fire out as Derek reached in and pulled out a notebook computer.
“Two minutes,” the CO said over the radio.
Derek cursed. Even with the extra minutes they’d built into the plan, they were running behind.
Sean was already pulling out his mesh bag, which they carried for this purpose. Some of the papers were in English, but Derek didn’t take the time to read them as he jammed everything into the bag. He reached in and snatched a thumb drive as Sean grabbed another batch of papers. Loose pages fluttered to the ground.
His teammate held up a sheet. “Hey, look at this.”
“No time to read. We need to move.”
“It’s a map.”
Derek glanced at it. It was in English, with notes scrawled around the edges. Derek scanned the street names. His blood ran cold. He looked at Sean.
“Guys, move it!” someone yelled down the stairs.
Derek glanced at his watch. They’d been on target way too long. He glanced at the kid. In a matter of hours, this house would be looted and abandoned. In a matter of minutes, this guy would be in the wind.
“On your feet,” Derek ordered.
Sean shouldered his pack. “They said no prisoners.”
“On your feet!”
The kid stood grudgingly, proving he knew at least some English. Sean shot Derek a look before taking the prisoner by the arm and propelling him toward the stairs.
Derek’s mind reeled as he looked at the papers strewn on the floor. He scooped up every scrap and checked the safe again to make sure he hadn’t missed anything, then threw his bag over his shoulder and raced upstairs. All the windows rattled as a Black Hawk swooped overhead en route to the landing zone. He glanced into the courtyard just as their EOD guy ducked out. He’d been setting the charge on the ordnance, and the look on his face told Derek it was about to blow.
“Hey, what are you doing here? Haul ass!”
Derek dropped to his knees as the house shook. Chunks of debris rained down from the ceiling.
“Come on!” Derek yelled.
They sprinted outside, where the last member of their team was holding security by the door. A few neighbors’ lights had come on. People peered through windows and leaned out from doorways.
“Vaughn, where the hell are you?”
It was Luke’s voice over the radio, probably already at the LZ, which was a vacant lot at the end of the street.
“We’re half a click away.”
They double-timed it toward the landing zone, pushing the prisoner ahead of them.
“We got company,” Cole said over the radio as a truck screeched around the corner. It was a shit vehicle, but it was packed with armed men and had a .50-cal machine gun mounted to the roof.
Derek grabbed Sean’s vest and yanked him out of the road. He pushed him down the alley leading to their alternate exfil route.
“Vaughn, report! Where are you?”
The street smelled like sewer water. Trash swirled in the rotor wash as they neared the waiting helo.
The gunner on the truck let loose with the .50-cal. His buddies with AKs were well out of range, but that didn’t stop them from spraying bullets.
Derek rounded the building just in time to get a mouth full of dust. Mike was lifting the doctor into the chopper. Hailey had a SEAL on each arm, and they were practically carrying her, but she tore away from them and made a sprint for it. She flung herself onto the helo, and about a dozen hands reached out to pull her inside. Luke and Mike jumped in behind her.
Derek and Sean ducked and sprinted while several teammates aimed over their heads and returned fire. The prisoner reached the helo first, and Mike pulled him aboard.
Sean crashed down behind him. Derek turned and hauled him to his feet. Noise drowned out the words, but Derek could read his friend’s lips and the panicked look in his eyes: I’m hit. Derek heaved him over his shoulder and stumbled forward. Bullets peppered the helo’s sides as Luke jumped down and helped lift Sean inside.
“Go, go, go!”
Derek grabbed the outstretched hands of his teammates as they seized his pack and yanked him aboard. His boots were barely inside when the Black Hawk lurched off the ground and lifted into the sky.
Texas Hill Country
Three weeks later
Elizabeth LeBlanc pulled over beside a sheriff’s cruiser and surveyed the scene. Based on the number of emergency vehicles, it was worse than she’d thought, and she’d known it was bad the moment she picked up her cell. Nothing good ever came from a phone call at 4:11 A.M.
Humidity enveloped her as she stepped from her car. The air smelled like wet cedar, and the road was slick from a recent rain. An arc of yellow traffic flares marked off the right lane, where deputies and troopers milled around. Elizabeth studied the faces, looking for anyone familiar. Some of them were pulling the graveyard shift, while others looked as though they’d just rolled out of bed.
Elizabeth crossed the road and made her way past the crime-scene van to a young trooper manning a barricade. She held up her badge. He glanced at it, then gave her a nervous look before letting her through.
She made her way deeper into the whir of activity. The skeptical gazes of the uniforms followed her, but she ignored them as she analyzed the setup. They were on an isolated stretch of road between Del Rio and San Antonio. The landscape was hilly. Because of the speed limit and the narrow turns, most truckers opted for the highway, which meant traffic here was light during the daytime and practically nonexistent in the dead of night.
A bulky sheriff’s deputy was eyeing her from across the crime-scene tape, and Elizabeth pegged him for her guy. He waved her over to the inner perimeter.
“Special Agent LeBlanc?”
“That’s me.” She held up her creds, but he didn’t even look.
“Jim Perkins. Thanks for coming out.” He gave her charcoal pantsuit a quick once-over and lifted the yellow tape so she could duck under. “Watch your step there.”
She followed him down a steep slope. The ground was muddy, and she chose her footing carefully, wishing she’d gone with boots instead of flats.
“Still no ID?”
“Only the cell,” Perkins said. “He’s got you on speed dial, so we figured he’s one of yours.”
He’d said the same thing over the phone, but Elizabeth had been too groggy to do more than jot down GPS coordinates. Did he mean one of her fellow agents? One of her confidential informants? As she’d rushed out the door, she’d thought about notifying her SAC. But her boss didn’t like her, and she doubted he’d appreciate being called out of bed in the middle of the night over a CI.
“When you say ‘speed dial,’ you’re talking about his call history?”
“Contact list,” Perkins corrected. “Only two numbers listed, and yours was on top.”
Elizabeth’s chest tightened. “What about physical description?”
“Hispanic male, medium build, mid- to late thirties.”
He’d just described half the men in her office. Her anxiety continued to build as they neared a white van nose-down in a ditch. The vehicle was illuminated by klieg lights and swarming with crime-scene techs.
Elizabeth halted in her tracks. A line of golf-ball-size holes perforated the van’s side. What on earth kind of gun would it take to do that?
She knew a man who could tell her. Derek Vaughn would know the make, caliber, and capacity of whatever heavy-duty weapon it was and no doubt how to use it, too. But Derek wasn’t on hand to talk to her about guns or anything else, because he was across the world fighting terrorists. Her heart gave a little lurch at the thought.
They drew closer to the van, where the cargo doors stood open as a pair of CSIs dusted them for prints. Elizabeth recognized the forensic photographer crouched beside the driver’s door snapping a picture of a body hunched over the steering wheel.
Perkins tromped past the van and led her into some scrub brush. Another set of klieg lights had been erected in the middle of the woods, casting eerie shadows over the rocky ground.
“Near as we can tell,” Perkins said over his shoulder, “someone ran ’em off the road back at the S-curve. They Swiss-cheesed the vehicle, killed the driver, then went after the passenger when he tried to make a run for it.”
They picked their way through oak and mesquite trees, staying away from the path designated by crime-scene tape. With every step, her sense of foreboding grew. This was no quickie drive-by. Someone had stalked this victim deep into the brush.
“ ’Bout a hundred yards, give or take,” Perkins said. “Looks like they wanted to make sure he got dead.”
The victim was sprawled facedown in a clearing. Bullet holes riddled his body, and his left arm was twisted behind him at an odd angle. An ME’s assistant in white coveralls knelt nearby, jotting notes on a clipboard.
Perkins exchanged words with the sheriff as Elizabeth eased closer, trying to see the face. She dropped into a crouch.
The victim’s eyelids were half-shut. Flies buzzed around his nose, and a line of ants had already established a trail up his neck and into his mouth.
She closed her eyes. Bile welled up in her throat.
“You know him?” Perkins asked her.
“Manuel Amato,” she said.
Thirty-seven. Convenience store owner. Father of five.
She’d been so certain he was one of the good guys. How could she have been so wrong? Maybe her SAC was right. Maybe everything that had happened in recent months had taken a toll on her not just physically but mentally, too. Maybe she was losing her edge, losing her judgment. Losing everything that had earned her this job in the first place.
She lifted her gaze to the sky, where the first hint of dawn was peeking over the treetops. A half-moon glowed overhead, reminding her of summer mornings in Virginia, when she’d get up before sunrise to wait by the back door, hoping to intercept her dad as he left on one of his fishing trips. He’d take her along in the skiff and make her bait her own hook and show her how to cast the line so it wouldn’t get tangled in the shallows.
Perkins pulled a notebook from his pocket and started writing. “So, I take it he’s one of yours, then?”
She stood and looked down at the body, and a sudden wave of loneliness swamped her. There was no one to show her how to do anything this morning. And it was going to be a long day.
She looked at him. “Yes, he was one of mine.”
It was full-on rush hour by the time Elizabeth reached the city, so she crossed Starbucks off her list, although she sorely needed caffeine. Even without the call-out, she’d had a bad night. Most of it had been spent curled on her sofa, flipping channels and determinedly avoiding CNN as she downed chamomile tea, which was supposedly a natural sleep aid. After weeks of drinking the stuff, she’d discovered it worked great when accompanied by Ambien.
She pulled into the bunker-like parking garage and found a space. Flipping down the vanity mirror, she checked for any telltale signs of fogginess. Her eyes were bloodshot, her skin sallow. She smoothed her ponytail and fluffed her new bangs. She’d had them cut a few months ago in an effort to hide her scar, but she wasn’t crazy about the look. A little too schoolgirl, which wasn’t helpful. As a five-four blonde, she already had enough trouble getting people to take her seriously.
She flipped up the mirror, disgusted. She had more important things to worry about today than her appearance. Such as her boss’s reaction when he heard about Amato.
Her stomach tightened with nerves as she rode up the elevator. Manuel Amato was just the latest in a string of mistakes she’d made since joining the task force investigating the Saledo cartel. The brutal crime ring was making inroads into Texas and had a hand in everything from drug smuggling to money laundering.
Amato owned a convenience store in Del Rio, across the street from a warehouse that was being used as a drop-off point by sex traffickers. He’d given Elizabeth’s team a tip that had panned out, and since then she’d been cultivating a relationship with him and trying to persuade her SAC to let her use him as an informant. Her boss had resisted. She had persisted. Amato was a family man, a business owner, an upstanding citizen who was active in his church. Most important, he’d wanted to help.
After weeks of dogged efforts, Maxwell had finally given Elizabeth the green light, and she’d paid a visit to Amato to lay out the deal. Since then, she’d been awaiting his call. But that call would never come, because her promising new informant had been murdered while moving a load of coke for Saledo or one of his rivals.
The elevator slid open. Elizabeth made her way toward her cubicle and saw Maxwell talking to a pair of agents outside his office. He’d probably heard by now. Would he dress her down at the staff meeting or call her into his office beforehand?
He spotted her, and the grim look on his face told her he’d received the news. Elizabeth changed course, bracing herself for a blast of criticism as she approached.
“Sir, I need to talk to you about—”
“Save it. You’ve got a visitor.” He tipped his head toward one of the men standing nearby.
She blinked at him, taken aback. “Gordon. What—”
“Feel free to use my office,” Maxwell told him, then gave her a sharp nod. “We’ll talk later.”
Gordon watched her, his look unreadable. He was based in Washington, but if he’d spent the morning on an airplane, you’d never know it from his immaculate suit and shiny wingtips. Agents who worked for him sometimes called him “Wall Street,” and she hadn’t figured out whether it was because of his clothes or because his all-business demeanor reminded them of Gordon Gecko.
He gestured toward the empty office. “After you.”
Polite as always. She stepped inside and felt a chill down her spine as the door thudded shut. She glanced through the window into the bullpen and caught the baffled looks of her coworkers, who were obviously wondering why the Bureau’s newly promoted assistant director of counterterrorism wanted to see her.
Gordon tucked his hands into his pockets and stepped past Maxwell’s desk. He had an athletic build, good posture. His salt-and-pepper hair was trimmed short, as she remembered it. Despite the demands of his job, he took care of himself.
He turned to look at her. “How have you been?”
She started to say “Fine” but remembered something else she’d learned about him a year ago. He was a human lie detector.
“Busy,” she said.
He lifted an eyebrow, then turned to study Maxwell’s ego wall, which featured his Princeton diplomas, along with several framed photos of him rubbing elbows with VIPs: the FBI director, a few senators, the Texas governor.
“Have you been following the news out of Afghanistan?”
She cleared her throat. “You mean the hostages?”
“The newspaper said they were rescued by NATO forces.”
The paper hadn’t specified what type of forces. But since meeting a SEAL team last summer, Elizabeth had been paying close attention and had learned to read between the lines. A team of commandos storming a compound and plucking civilians from the hands of Taliban insurgents? The mission had SEAL written all over it.
“Many of the details weren’t made public.” Gordon turned to face her. “The team that conducted the raid recovered some interesting info during their SSE sweep.”
SSE. She racked her brain.
“Sensitive site exploitation,” he provided.
“You mean computers?”
“A laptop, a thumb drive. The information there was surprisingly minimal, but they also collected a cache of papers, including several detailed maps of Houston.”
Houston. Not D.C., not New York, but Houston, Texas. Elizabeth’s palms felt sweaty and she tucked them into her pockets. “What’s in Houston?”
He smiled slightly. “You mean besides six million people? Three major sports venues, a world-renowned medical center, a Christian megachurch.” He sat on the edge of Maxwell’s desk. “Not to mention the corporate headquarters of some of the world’s largest energy companies.”
She clamped her mouth shut. Maybe she’d look less ignorant if she let him talk.
“It was a take-no-prisoners raid,” he continued. “However, when the commandos saw this cache of intel, they grabbed a young man who’d been subdued, hoping some of our CIA guys could persuade him to talk.”
His mouth tightened. “He’s no longer cooperating.”
What did that mean, exactly?
“And unfortunately, after poring through all the intel, our analysts believe the terrorists planning the attack were not in the compound when the raid went down. As far as we know, they’re still at large.” He paused and watched her. “Homeland Security’s staffed up a joint task force to investigate this potential plot and interrupt it.”
Elizabeth’s mind was reeling. She’d admired Gordon since the day she’d met him, both as an investigator and as a leader. The thought of working with him again made her giddy and nervous and terrified all at the same time.
He stepped closer and gazed down at her.
“Your SAC says you had a rough spring. He thinks you’re not up for this assignment.”
Anger welled in her chest.
“If you join my team, I need to know that you’re one hundred percent. Are you?”
“One hundred and ten. Sir.”
He held her gaze, the human lie detector. Her heart thudded so loudly she could hear it. Time seemed to stretch out. He glanced at his watch. “Be at San Antonio International Airport in two hours. Pack light.”
Relief flooded her. “We’re going to Houston?”
“California. Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, to be precise.” He crossed the room and reached for the door. “We need to interview some SEALs.”
Meet the Author
New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin is the author of the Tracers series, the Alpha Crew series, the Moreno & Hart series and several other novels. A two-time RITA Award winner and the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award, she lives in Austin, where she is working on her next book. Visit her website atLauraGriffin.com and on Facebook at Facebook.com/LauraGriffinAuthor.
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What can I say... Once I picked up Beyond Limits and started reading, I couldn't put it down! I loved the fiery dynamic between FBI Agent Elizabeth LeBlanc and Navy Seal Derek Vaughn; two strong, smart and witty characters whom we previously met in Scorched. Laura Griffin had me at the edge of my seat in suspense of what would happen from one page to the next. Once moment Elizabeth and Derek are fighting terrorists and the next, they're unraveling into an unforgettable relationship (romance) that according to Elizabeth, just couldn't happen. I am a huge fan of the Tracers novels and this once has outranked all others as my favorite yet! I cannot wait for the next installment to the Tracers Series! If you've never read any of the books in this series, you should start now. It will be well worth your while.
I just love The Tracers series books! They are always exciting to read! Not a boring moment in any of Lauras books If you have not ever tried a Laura Griffin book start with the tracers series you will not be sorry!
I have always been a huge fan of the Tracer series but it seems to be moving away from the Delphi Center and more in to FBI territory. The Delphi Center was barely in this book. The story was just ok and seemed to go on and on. I don't know that I will go any further in this series, I miss the smart people of the Delphi Center, it seems everyone has an FBI series already, one of the reasons I loved this series is because it was different. Seems it is now a run of the mill FBI series, which doesn't interest me.
The Tracers Series is addictive, and mostly because it is a well planned attack of creating characters that you want to know, to cheer on, or yell at. This is probably my favorite entry of the series. Why? We met Elizabeth a few books ago, with just a snippet of information about a buttoned up ambitious FBI agent working through the glass ceiling. Then we meet Derek, Gage's best friend, another SEAL who is back up for his beleaguered teammate who is unjustly accused of murder in SCORCHED. That book centers on Gage and Kelsey, but enough byplay between Elizabeth and Derek tweaks our interest. I have waiting for them to have their own story, and it does not disappoint. Real issues, real struggles between two people in demanding professions, make this an exciting read. I just loved them! Hopefully this will not be their last appearance in Tracer books.
BEYOND THE LIMITS begins with action that gets the heart pounding with anticipation of an exciting story and it certainly lives up to its promise. It's filled with high speed, nonstop, edge of the seat action from page to page that only builds up to a thrilling and satisfying climax. I was completely drawn in once I started and it was hard to put it down. A hostage rescue mission in the Middle East leads to evidence of an impending terrorist attack in the US and it's a race against time to figure out the terrorists' plan and stop the attack. Navy SEAL Derek Vaughn has a vested interest in stopping the threat for several reasons. He was part of the SEAL team that staged the rescue and found the evidence, he lost a team mate during the mission and reason number three? FBI agent Elizabeth LeBlanc. Derek met her a year ago on another case and has been fascinated with her since then. This new case throws them together again and Elizabeth needs his help, but this is also his chance to pursue the attraction between them and he's not going to let anything stand between them, even this assignment. Elizabeth LeBlanc has been pulled in by the agency’s counterterrorism division to assist with their investigation into the terrorist threat, an investigation that brings her back in contact with the Navy SEAL that has played a starring role in her fantasies. Independent, smart and driven, Elizabeth is focused on her career and not really open to relationships, especially with a man whose career is even riskier than hers, but Derek is a temptation that is hard to resist. He's very smart and relentless, traits that serve him well in his job as well as in his pursuit of Elizabeth. Will she let down her guard and give him a chance? How can they balance their work and their relationship? BEYOND THE LIMITS is a very realistic portrayal of current events and the convoluted workings of the various agencies tasked with protecting the homeland. This book goes right to the top of my list of favorites because the writing is amazing and the story is engrossing, with a great plot and very interesting characters and the relationship challenges they face in such high pressure, high risk careers. Derek and Elizabeth are both strong, well-matched characters who respect each other's skills and work very well together. I love everything about this book. The romance, the suspense, the twists, the seemingly unconnected details and even the boring work, every piece that leads the team closer to the threat and the identities of the perpetrators was put together so well. I wasn't ready for this book to end but I'm looking forward to catching up on the previous books as well as new books in the series. Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This was my first book I've read by this author I really enjoyed it I am starting her tracers series tonight!
The next Tracer book and I was waiting for this one. I loved Derek Vaughn in the last book and I Liked Elizabeth in this book. Loved when she talked about the puking on the shoes. Story was great kept me wanting more and she always ties in the Delphi Center bringing back characters from previous books which I so love. The book is full of action, suspense, sexual tension and some great romance. Can't wait for the next book in the series.
This story picks up with two characters from a previous book in the series. Elizabeth LaBlanc and Derek Vaughn had worked together on a previous case. The chemistry between the two of them is exploding. Both of them are dedicated to their careers and neither of them can figure out how to love each other and still have their work. Great suspense, great plot line, great love story. Loved it.
Reviewed by Angela and posted at Under The Covers Book Blog Laura Griffin starts Beyond Limits with heart-thumping suspense scene hooking you to read the rest of the story. The suspense was nerve racking, the romance was sweet and the ending moved me. I enjoyed every bit of this book. Navy Seal, Derek Vaughn and FBI Agent, Elizabeth LeBlanc teams up to stop a terrorist on American soil. The fact that they are coming from different sides of the spectrum working through their differences will be difficult to achieve. They will disagree on many things, but trust will be their biggest issue. I loved Derek and Elizabeth’s story. They both respected each other and didn’t hold the other back from what they wanted to do. Instead, they encouraged each other. They were both sweet, romantic and hot enough to steam up the pages. Beyond Limits is the eighth book in the Tracers series but rest assured, this book is a stand alone. Thanks to the ladies at my book club who encouraged me to jump right in. I did meet a few of the characters that I’m sure were on the previous books that I plan to explore later. Far Gone was my first Griffin read that I enjoyed a lot but I’m going to admit that Beyond Limit is way better in every way. I trust that all the books in this series will be just as good. If you like romantic suspense with just the right amount of romance, I recommend giving Griffin a go. *ARC provided by publisher
Beyond Limits was a really good read, with a horrifyingly realistic terrorist plot that makes you feel their race against the clocks, the suspense was top notch. The main characters as well as the secondary characters were well written and realistic and the romance was hot. I really enjoyed reading it. When one of Derek's missions uncover a terrorist plot he finds himself being questioned by FBI agent Elizabeth. They've met previously in a different investigation and neither one has been able to forget the other. Derek has a vested interest in seeing the suspects caught not only because the plot is supposed to take place in his home state but because one of his teammates was killed in the op involving one of the suspects. Elizabeth finds herself stuck with Derek as they race to catch the terrorists before they can cause any destruction on US soil. While I'm not usually a reader of terrorist plot lines, this one was pretty good with enough twists and turns to keep me interested. Derek and Elizabeth actually worked really well together when they got over their hangups. Because Derek and Elizabeth have met previously there isn't a feeling of being rushed into their relationship. They are both seriously attracted to each other and that really comes through while you're reading. I also enjoyed reading about Luke and Hailey and I'm really hoping that they get their own story eventually. There were only a handful of scenes with them but I found myself looking forward to them while reading, which shows just how well Laura Griffin writes her secondary characters. Although Beyond Limits is the eighth book in the Tracers series it can be read as a stand alone, each of the books focus on a different couple, and even though Derek and Elizabeth were both introduced in a previous book I had no problem picking up this one without reading the others first. You still get the back-story of how they met so don't worry that you'll be lost if you're starting with this one. Overall Beyond Limits is a great read with lots of action and some scorching hot romance to spice it up. ***Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review***
i really enjoyed this book. Our favorite characters appear and the plot is like a Clancy novel. Keep 'em coming Ms. Griffin!
I love this series every book pulls you in from begining to the end.
Loved Beyond Limits - this is possibly my favorite of Laura Griffin's yet!! You can not put this book down - too much is happening too fast and if you put it down, you might miss out on the action. Great suspense mixed with a great love story.
While this is the eighth book in the Tracers series from Laura Griffin it can be read as a stand alone. This is a romantic suspense that takes place between FBI agent Elizabeth LeBlanc and Navy SEAL Derek Vaughn. Their relationship is complicated and they have a history that they are both hung up on and trying to ignore at the same time. Derek pretty much throws himself into Elizabeth's investigation, making sure that even though he is not someone working the case he still ends up being someone working the case. It is obvious Laura Griffin knows her stuff when it comes to SEALs and the FBI, and that she has done her research into creating a realistic story line. The story is just as much if not more about the mission than it is about the romance between Derek and Elizabeth. The driving force behind moving the plot line is the case, their romance just happens to get tangled up in it all. The story did feel a tad slow at times, I think this is due to the realism that Laura Griffin tries to create. A case in the real world doesn't always constantly move forward. There are times of frustration and delays and dead ends that make the case feel impossible to solve. You will get that realistic aspect of working a case in Beyond Limits. Even with the occasional slow part Laura Griffin has a talent for writing, the story unfolding like a movie in mind. There are a few twists that your mind will be left trying to figure out and a sense of unease on a couple of the characters that will leave you a bit confused. In fact I am going to be the next book in the series will touch on those two characters, and I am a bit intrigued to figure out just what is going on.
Beyond Limits by Laura Griffin Series: Tracers #8 >>can be read as a standalone Genre: Romantic Thriller/Suspense Age Group: Adult Length: 400 pages Release Date: January 27th 2015 Source: Pocket Books/XOXO After Dark Steam Rating: 3/5 Overall Rating: 4 STARS Review: WHAT A RIDE!!! I had no expectations going into this one, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the “thriller” aspect of it! I say this because I am more of a Romance reader, and Beyond Limits had more of an action/adventure/suspense vibe to it than I’m used to. However, it did have more Romance than I was expecting, which satisfied the Romance lover in me. So if you’re a Romance reader wanting to try something new, this is a great choice. A quick note: You do not have to read the other books in the series to enjoy this one. This is the first Tracers novel I have read, and I was able to follow the storyline just fine. All the books are about different couples, in different suspenseful situations. Readers of the previous novels may have met some of these characters before, and have a bit more backstory to them, but I never felt like I was lost while reading. Elizabeth and Derek have met one year prior (I’m guessing in a previous novel) while she was working a case. It was a brief encounter that left a mark on both of them. Ever since, they have thought of each other often, but their jobs have them on different continents most of the time. While Derek (a Navy SEAL) is on a rescue mission in Afghanistan he recovers something that hints at a terrorist plot on US soil. Directly after this mission he is sent home on leave. Elizabeth is an FBI agent assigned to uncover the terrorist plot against the US. Her first assignment is to debrief the soldiers that uncovered on the mission. She comes face to face with Derek during this meeting for the first time in a year. And so the push-pull of their relationship begins. Derek is determined to have Elizabeth, she is determined to push him away. She knows SEALs are known to be arrogant, and tend to love em’ and leave em’, but their chemistry is undeniable. However, she can’t resist his sexy confidence any more than I could, and he’s persistent ;) But she’s scared to get involved because he is committed to a job, that not only takes him overseas most of the time, but puts him in danger everyday. While working together to uncover the terrorist plot, they grow closer and closer, and eventually become lovers. I really loved these two together, they were both strong resilient characters and I was rooting for them and their mission while on the edge of my seat. The suspense was insanely addictive, and I was flipping the pages faster than I can remember in a long time. Being a Navy SEAL, Derek’s missions are not usually on US soil, so he is basically inserting himself into the investigation. He feels as though he can do a better job than the FBI because he has more “hands on” experience with terrorists than any of the agents (which he does). Unfortunately, I had a bit of a problem with how all that played out. Because Derek and his SEAL brothers basically made the FBI and Elizabeth seem incapable and unimportant. I really felt like the heroine I was supposed to cheer for needed to be “saved” by Derek’s mad investigative skills at every turn. Without him the FBI would have been helpless, almost. And there was also some things Derek said that may offend some people. They in no way offended me, to the contrary actually. I agreed with him. But I was reminded of the controversy surrounding the book/movie American Sniper (although the content is mostly different). Derek does not hold back when he talks about how the terrorists should be treated and interrogated, so if this is a sensitive subject for you I may pass on this one. Overall, this was an excellent change of pace for me, and I highly enjoyed this thrilling, action-packed adventure. So if you’re looking for a page-turner that will have you on the edge of your seat–I recommend you pick this one up! StacyHgg of Books Unhinged #XOXpert title
Griffin's female leads are a diverse group of smart women. Yeah, they are all drawn to alpha types but they don't kid themselves about how hard these guys are to live with and the women back each other up, just like the guys. That the plot in her latest book was written before the terrorist attacks in France shows that Griffin did her research and highlights the real challenges all US enforcement and defense agencies face in keeping us safe.
J: Great story!
I love Laura Griffin’s Tracer series. This book was right out of the headlines about a terrorist sleeper cell. It was a hold your breath, race against time from beginning to end. Laura delivers suspense, action and romance in a perfect blend. The main characters in this book are Elizabeth LeBlanc, an FBI agent and Derek Vaughn, a SEAL. We were introduced to them in a previous book called Scorched. The caught my attention then and I am so glad they got their own story. In the beginning of this book, one of Derek’s teammates is killed during a rescue mission and this affects his actions throughout this book. Derek discovers information possibly relating to a terrorist cell. Once home he discovers the FBI looking into this possibility. And Liz happens to be on that FBI team. This begins the race to find the terrorist cell before they can complete their mission. I LOVED Derek. He is loyal to his team mates and so thoroughly confident in his abilities. He knows he can find the cell, and proceeds to do whatever he has to do, with or without the FBI. Liz is more of a don’t rock the boat FBI team player. I loved how Derek is so focused on his goal, whether to find the terrorist cell or getting Liz to knock down her walls and let him in. Derek has become my all time favorite hero. Something about his confidence and never give up attitude just pushed all my buttons. But that confidence was what made him perfect. He knew what had to be done, and knew he could do it, and he did it. And Elizabeth was just as capable. I loved that Derek wanted to make their relationship work, even though he didn’t know how, just that he wanted them to be together. I highly recommend this book. It can be read as a stand alone, but you are going to want to pick up the previous books once you read this one.
Navy SEAL, Lieutenant Derek Vaughn has known FBI Agent, Elizabeth Le Blanc, but could never get her to open up and actually date him. When he's sought out to provide aid to the FBI concerning a terrorist's plot against the United States, he comes into contact with Elizabeth again. This time, he's determined to break the walls she's stubbornly built around herself in hopes of protecting her heart. Being a SEAL, Derek doesn't have it in him to back down from a challenge and he can't seem to get Liz out of his mind…or his fantasies. I can't seem to get enough of Ms. Griffin's strong, muscular, seductive heroes! I admired all of the characters in Beyond Limits, but especially Derek and Liz. I enjoy the strong females in Ms. Griffin's books, as well as the tempting alpha heroes. I loved the synergy between Derek and Liz, even as Liz tried to keep Derek at a distance, afraid to give in to him. The coordinating details, along with all the clues and facts, dovetail into a gripping plot that will keep you thoroughly mesmerized from the very first page. The explosive drama had me practically bouncing in my seat, totally engrossed in the events as they occurred. If you like action, edge-of-your-seat-suspense, seduction and tender loving romance, you'll find all of that in Beyond Limits. I've been hooked on the Tracers series from the beginning and I wouldn't have missed a single book! A Must Read series! 5 Stars!
Another Fantastic Romantic suspense by a master in the genre A Seal rescue mission in Afghanistan uncovers a possible terrorist attack planned on US soil and FBI agent Elizabeth (Liz) LeBlanc is recruited by the agency’s counterterrorist division to investigate. The first order of business is to interview some of the Seals involved in the rescue, one of whom she met on a previous case who still fuels her fantasies. But reality warns her not to get too close to a man with so many secrets even though it would be oh so tempting. It’s been a rough go for US Navy Seal LT. Derek Vaughn who on their last mission managed to rescue the hostages but lost a Seal brother to a terrorist bullet. There was also some sensitive information recovered during the raid that’s managed to stir up all of the state side alphabet bureaus and is why the smoking hot FBI agent he met last year who’s been starring in some pretty racy dreams mostly naked is sitting across the interview table from him right now. If he could make those dreams a reality he’d be a happy man. While working together to try and eliminate the terrorist threat,chase down leads and locating bad guys Liz and Derek also have to decide if this intense desire they have for each other is worth taking to the next level especially for two people with their relationship killing careers. Griffin’s latest page-turning, nail-biting Tracers novel is fitting for our all too true but unfortunate current terrorist plagued world and the perfect blend of romance and suspense. It showcases her iconic attention to detail that gives readers a uniquely intimate perspective. Her no-nonsense dialogue tells this remarkable tale and is just right for her pragmatic characters and pressure-cooker scenes. Her stars, the ultimate patriot, Navy Seal hero and by the book, uptight FBI agent heroine are remarkable standouts. And how she nails their attitudes and sexual tension you can cut with a knife is amazing and a testament to her master storyteller status. She gives her beloved Delphi institute and some past stars an opportune cameo role that will let fans reconnect while adding to the present story. Her timely placed humor deflects some of the darkness and helps to lighten the otherwise tense scenes. If you haven’t tried one of Laura’s Tracers novels don’t delay there is no one better in this genre and although they are a connected series they all stand well on their own. Laura you've taken me into some tight places before but none can top this. Bring on the next case!
When I first discovered Laura Griffin last year, I was able to read all of her books in pretty quick succession, and I loved all of them. I love her attention to detail and the research that is evident in all of her books. I love the way she skillfully builds the story while also developing her characters and their relationships, as well as the tender romance that is woven into each novel. She quickly became one of my favorite authors. After reading all of her previous books over a short period of time, I eagerly awaited her next book, and I was excited to learn that Beyond Limits would be released even earlier than had first been announced. After receiving an advance copy of the book, I started reading one night before bedtime, planning to read a few chapters just to get into the book. I got so caught up in it that I couldn’t put it down and read half of book the first night, staying up way past when I should have been sleeping since I had to go to work the next day. The next night, I finished the book, again staying up way too late, and I have since read it a second time. Beyond Limits picks up the story of Derek Vaughn (Navy SEAL) and Elizabeth (Liz) LeBlanc (FBI), who we first met in Scorched when Agent LeBlanc was on a team involved in investigating Vaughn’s SEAL teammate and best friend, Gage Brewer. The attraction between Derek and Liz began in Scorched, and Beyond Limits picks up their story approximately a year later when Liz becomes involved in another case that causes her to cross paths with Derek. Based on information that Derek’s SEAL team discovered in one of their operations, the FBI’s Counter Intelligence team becomes involved in tracking down terrorists who are believed to be planning a strike in the US. Liz is assigned to the team, and when the team goes to San Diego to interview Vaughn and one of his teammates about their discovery, Liz and Derek are reunited. Beyond Limits is a fast-paced story of the FBI’s efforts to identify and locate the terrorists and their attempt to identify the intended target of the strike. As both the FBI and Vaughn work to thwart the terrorist strike, the spark that had been ignited between Liz and Derek in Scorched re-ignites and flames in Beyond Limits. As with all of Laura Griffin’s books, Beyond Limits is well-crafted and unfolds in a way that draws the reader in and keeps us wanting to know what happens next. The story is action-packed, but in addition to a well-developed plot, Laura Griffin creates characters that we connect with, and we care what happens to them. In Beyond Limits, Griffin takes us inside the life of a SEAL and shows us both their heroic operations and the lonely life that results from being a SEAL, but also the gentle, human side of the men who regularly risk their lives for others. She also shows us the stress-filled life of an FBI agent whose personal life can be also be difficult to manage and result in loneliness. She is a master at balancing the suspense plotline and the romance that grows as the characters endure ups and downs and overcome obstacles, including their own fears, which threaten their relationship. Laura Griffin’s books just keep getting better and better. If you are a Laura Griffin fan, you will love Beyond Limits. If you have never read Laura Griffin, I highly recommend all of her books.