The Secret Service can't control him. The British government can't silence him. But renegade agent Travis Caine is one loose cannon you don't want to mess with, so his commanders cut him a break—and cut him loose. His new HQ is America's top intelligence force, Elite Ops. His new code name is "Black Jack." And his new assignment is to die for.
She's smart, sexy, scintillating—and one of Elite Ops' savviest agents. Lillian Belle's code name is "Night Hawk," and Travis certainly wouldn't mind flying a few midnight maneuvers with her. But when their mission turns into a red-hot game of danger, deceit, and double-crossed signals, Travis begins to wonder: Can he trust her? Can he resist her?
About the Author
Lora Leigh is the author of Live Wire, Forbidden Pleasure, and Enigma, among many others. Writing is her passion, her peace, and her lifeline, and she can often be found daydreaming and plotting and planning with the varied characters that fill her imagination. When she isn't writing, she tends her flower gardens, watches horses romp outside her home, or spends time with the family and pets she fills her life with. She lives in the rolling hills of Kentucky.
#1 New York Times bestseller, LORA LEIGH is the author of the Navy SEALS, the Breeds, the Elite Ops, the Callahans, the Bound Hearts, and the Nauti series.
"Lora Leigh writes compelling, red-hot romance." --Sacramento Book Review
Read an Excerpt
By Lora Leigh
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2010 Lora Leigh
All rights reserved.
Two months later
A STEADY, RAIN-FILLED wind whipped around the dark helmet covering Travis Caine's head, sang around the leather pants and jacket he wore, and whispered a caress over the full, face-shielding helmet he wore. Heavy boots covered his feet, protecting him against the elements as rain poured down from the skies, and lightning lit the darkness with jagged forks of power.
The Harley he rode roared down the open highway, throbbing with the increased power it had been customized with. The display beneath the handlebars was lit with a muted glow indicating speed, time, and location. The embedded electronics in the night-vision shield of the helmet provided other readouts considered imperative in his line of work.
According to that information, he was growing closer to his destination and a mission he still wasn't certain he was prepared to be a part of, because of the woman he was partnered with, because of a night they shouldn't have shared.
He shouldn't have loved her.
No, he shouldn't have fucked her, he corrected himself. He immediately felt an edge of distaste at his attempt to make that night into something unemotional. Something less powerful than it had been.
It was a night he hadn't been able to forget. In the past two months it had tormented him, torn at him, and left him hungry for more of her in ways he had never hungered for another woman before. She was the last woman he should have ever touched.
What the hell was she doing to him?
Elite Two and the women that were a part of that team were a hidden, rarely mentioned section of Elite Ops.
The Ops was more than the one team Jordan commanded, Travis had learned. For years he and the other agents under Jordan's command had believed that Elite One was the only sanctioned operation and that the women they had helped train were meant to be backup, nothing more.
They hadn't realized just how good those women were.
Elite Two had hidden even the slightest sign that they, too, were agents. No one had told Elite One what those women's true purpose was, nor had anyone explained the full extent of the Elite Ops and the units that comprised it until after the Warbucks mission months before.
Warbucks had been stealing and selling top-secret military weapons as well as agents' identities. He'd managed to infiltrate government agencies as well as the companies his father had had interest in to acquire the stolen resources.
Elite Two had gathered the information that had led them to Warbucks because of their covers as very exclusive, well-trained escorts.
Once the mission had revealed Warbucks' identity, Elite Two had also managed to reveal his associates, his buyers, and his silent partners in many of the sales.
It was then he and the other agents had begun questioning the organization that had taken them in, that had saved them, and created new lives for them.
They'd learned it was much more extensive than they could have imagined. And the missions were drawing together slowly, linked by a thread of information here, a suspect there. Travis could feel it edging toward a single denominator, which made him begin questioning all the missions they were given.
This latest one had him questioning even himself.
It was a damned dangerous game he was getting ready to participate in, and thinking about it left a sour taste in his mouth. Despite all the good it was doing, there were times the Elite Ops had little tact and even less taste. To use a woman in the manner they were prepared to use her had his back teeth clenching in anger and a sense of injustice rising inside him.
The fact they were using his woman, despite her agent status, only pissed him off more.
And he was damned if he could figure out why he was letting it bother him. It wasn't as though he hadn't learned the hard way how easily a woman could betray a man. He'd "died" with that lesson pounding in his head years ago, and when he'd been reborn, he'd sworn to himself that he wouldn't forget it.
He'd lost everything in his life because he'd trusted a woman and it wasn't a lesson he cared to repeat. It was one he had sworn time and time again he wouldn't repeat. But the minute he'd learned how the Elite Ops was forcing this woman to face her past, he'd become enraged.
Lilly was different, his heart swore, though his mind fought that instinctive knowledge.
He shouldn't have been surprised, though. He should have expected it at some point once he'd managed to uncover her former identity. She was the perfect asset to use to find the individual or individuals involved in the death of the powerful, influential Lord Harold Harrington, Lilly's father.
But they were prepared to use her in a way that Travis feared would end up destroying her. Returning her to her old life, to the family she had left behind, wouldn't be a cakewalk for her.
Sure, Lilly had already been training to follow in her father's footsteps as an MI5 agent before her "death." But even then, she had been a Harrington and had been entrenched in that blue-blood life. She had been raised to be a lady and to assume all the responsibilities that entailed. However, once she had joined the Elite Ops, she left all of that behind and had become someone else entirely. An outsider, a rebel ... a lost soul who had seen and done things others only saw in their nightmares. Like him, she no longer belonged in that rarefied world. And making her face what she had been forced to leave behind was damn cruel.
Facing it himself wouldn't be easy. There was an added painful element for Lilly, though. They were returning to investigate the death of Lilly's father and the attempt on her own life when she had been Lady Victoria Harrington. Lilly remembered very little about that final night of her old life. She remembered seeing her father lying in a pool of blood when she entered his study, and nothing more.
The next day Lord Harrington's body had been pulled from his car, which had gone over a cliff. The fuel line had cracked upon impact, and in a matter of minutes the car exploded. Harrington's body had been burned beyond recognition. They'd had to identify him by his dental records. Lilly's body had never been found. It was believed that she had been thrown from the car upon impact and that her body washed out to the sea at the bottom of the cliff.
They believed that whoever shot Lord Harrington had tried to cover up the crime by making it look like he and his daughter had gotten into a horrible car accident. And because he had been wealthy and titled, and because MI5 would have preferred not to have anyone looking too closely into why Lord Harrington might have died, he had been laid to rest quickly and Lilly had been declared dead. Unfortunately, the ones responsible still had not been identified.
As a covert agent for MI5, Lord Harrington had been investigating the electronic theft of thousands of pounds from trust funds and legitimate companies in England. The situation came to his attention when he had launched a probe into his own company when funds had gone missing.
Those funds had been diverted to accounts overseas, transferred again and again until they disappeared entirely in dummy accounts. That's when Elite Ops had become interested in the case.
No one could track who was doing it, how they were doing it, or who would be targeted next. Until Lord Harrington had sent a message to MI5 that he had figured it out. Before the agency could send anyone out to his estate to pull him in, he had turned up dead, and his daughter had disappeared. However, money was still disappearing, and they had finally managed to track it to several terrorist accounts and it looked like someone among England's very wealthy was involved, which made it a delicate situation for MI5. And though they might hesitate to investigate England's upper crust, Elite Ops had no such compunction.
Pulling beneath the wide receiving area of the Marriott, Travis cut the power to the Harley, unclipped his helmet, and swung his leg over the seat before striding through the electronic doors to the reception desk.
The tired young woman who checked him in paid a little too much attention to the wet leather he was wearing. The glint of lust in her eyes assured him that if he needed any company when she got off her shift, he only had to let her know.
Hell, he should take her up on it, he thought as he strode to the elevator. He would have, if he wasn't damned sure that he'd end up disgusting himself. Once a man saw heaven in one woman's arms, then nothing else would do. And that scared the shit out of him, the thought that no other woman but Lilly would do.
Sliding the security key card into the electronic slot, Travis waited for the green light before stepping carefully into the room, his fingers curled around the butt of the gun holstered beneath his shirt.
The room was empty. The sense of vacancy that filled it wrapped around him. It was pure loneliness. Hell, he would have almost preferred an assassin.
Closing the door behind him, Travis tossed his leather bag to the empty chair beside the bed and stared around the darkened room for long moments before moving to the lamp and flipping it on.
Turning, he came to a hard stop at the sight that met him in the shadowed corner on the far side of the room.
"Hell, I didn't even sense you." Travis raked his fingers through his hair as Jordan uncurled himself from the chair next to the small round table. "I thought we were meeting later."
Jordan was an enigma to him, as well as to the rest of the team. Even his nephew, Noah Blake, admitted that his uncle was damned complicated. Travis knew he had never worked with another man as dangerous, nor as completely icy, as Jordan Malone.
"We need to talk before we meet with the commanders from Elite Two. You'll be accompanying them to Switzerland, and I wanted to brief you first," Jordan informed him as he moved to the tiny kitchen station in the corner and pulled open the door to the box refrigerator.
"I could have used a nap first," Travis grunted.
Why the hell Switzerland? The last he heard he was heading to England.
He could have used some time to think about this one.
"You want the nap or full disclosure?" Jordan asked as he pulled free two beers, uncapped them, and handed one to Travis before returning to his chair.
Full disclosure from Commander Tight-ass? Now that would sure as hell be a change.
Setting the bottle on the dresser behind him, Travis threw the helmet to the bed before peeling off his wet jacket and throwing Jordan a dark glare.
"Since when do you give full disclosure?" he asked.
Bright blue eyes flashed with a hint of anger as Jordan lifted the bottle and took a long drink of the beer. When he set the beer back on the table, his expression was once again cool, composed.
"Since we're using a noncombatant," Jordan stated, his voice harder than normal.
Travis watched him carefully now. "Night Hawk isn't a noncombatant, Jordan," he reminded him. "She's an agent."
Jordan took a long sip of his beer, his expression thoughtful before saying, "Not any longer."
Travis froze. He'd never heard of an Elite Ops agent being released from duty. It was a life sentence. Try to run, try to hide, even dare to think of revealing the truth about your life, and it was fatal.
"What do you mean, not any longer?"
The only way she could have managed release was death. And she couldn't be dead. She couldn't.
Leaning forward, Jordan braced his elbows on his knees and stared back at him, his expression remote, but Travis felt the tension emanating from the other man.
"We believe Night Hawk has been compromised," Jordan said. "Two months ago she was shot outside of Elite Two's headquarters. She was struck in the head."
Two months ago. She would have just been returning to England. Two months and he was just now learning what had happened to her.
Travis felt ice form in his veins. For one everlasting moment bleak darkness seemed to flow through him, to slice into the hardened shield he'd placed around his heart.
Night Hawk. She was tiny as hell, fragile, slender. There were times she appeared almost broken inside. She was the type of woman that a man wanted to protect, to wrap in cotton batting and hold close to his heart forever.
The fact that she was a trained sniper with a rating that other snipers would envy never failed to amaze him. She didn't look strong enough to carry the rifle he knew had been customized for her. She sure as hell didn't look merciless enough to use it, though he knew she was.
She was filled with regret, with bitterness. There was a dark, overwhelming agony that lived in her eyes, and a hunger that went far beyond the lust he knew she felt for him.
And now, there was a chance he would never again touch her, never taste her, never know the culmination of the need that filled her gaze each time she looked at him.
He could only imagine the damage, and the horrific results of those images flashed through his mind, sending a shaft of pain through his soul that he should have been immune to.
"Status?" He could barely force the words past his lips as he suspected the worst.
Jordan had stated she was compromised, not dead. That left hope. God, he needed hope. He couldn't imagine his Night Hawk gone forever, the tiny glimmer of hope that always lingered in her gaze extinguished.
"Recovering. She moved at the last second, so the bullet just grazed her. She has a damned hard head, but there are complications." There was no emotion in Jordan's tone. He could have been discussing the weather rather than a person's life.
Travis had to do something. If he continued to stand there, then he might end up losing his grip on reality.
Jerking fresh, dry jeans from his pack and ignoring Jordan, he removed the leather riding pants before pulling the jeans over his legs and securing them quickly. Pulling the damp jacket from his shoulders, he tossed it negligently to the floor before stripping the moist T-shirt from his body and tossing it to the floor with the jacket.
Jordan wasn't talking.
Travis pulled a T-shirt over his head, then turned, lifted the beer, and finished it in one drink.
"What are the complications?" he finally asked, knowing Jordan was going to draw this out, to force him to ask, to reveal any emotions he might feel. Any feelings that could compromise the assignment or Travis's ability to use Night Hawk however Jordan intended to use her.
When he spoke, he was deadly serious.
"Amnesia. She's completely forgotten the past six years. That includes her father's death. For all intents and purposes, she's become a liability, Travis."
Amnesia. She was once again the woman she had been rather than the woman she had been trained to be. For a moment, a sense of joy threatened to swell within him, because he remembered the young woman she had been rather than the agent she had been forced to become. One he knew suffered from the loss of the life she had left behind.
"Then the operation has changed?" She was alive. She was alive. The words played through his mind, his heart, as he fought to get his bearings upon realizing that she hadn't been killed, that at least he could hold on to the fact that she still breathed.
"The operation's focus is still the same. But the reasons behind the mission have ... expanded a bit," Jordan informed him. "And we're still going to use her. You're still going to use her."
Knowing it and hearing it were two different things. Having that knowledge affirmed with such cool confidence, such lack of regret or mercy, had the power to piss Travis off more than it should have.
"Now why the fuck doesn't that surprise me?" Travis bit out, his voice rough, emotion slipping through his control despite his attempts to hold it back. "Fuck, Jordan, over the years, has it occurred to you that you've turned into nothing more than a governmental fucking robot?"
He knew the original operation that had been planned. It would have been hard enough for her to go back to her old life. Doing it with no memory of who she had been for the past six years would make her a danger to herself, to himself, and to the mission, and that wasn't acceptable.
"We suspect that whoever tried to kill her six years ago has somehow found her again. The Elite Ops could be jeopardized if this is true, Travis. If they found her, then every agent in the program could now be at risk. We have to find this bastard and find out just how much he knows."
"You'll get her killed if you try to use her now," Travis warned him, only barely managing to maintain an air of unconcern now that the initial shock had passed. "If she's unaware of her training, then she's unaware of the danger as well."
Excerpted from Black Jack by Lora Leigh. Copyright © 2010 Lora Leigh. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am a huge Lora leigh fan. I shared this series of books with my co worker and we absolutly love them. I like to read the ops books the men are hot and the ladies well even in fiction are luckey.
Like all Elite Ops field agents, Travis "Black Jack" Caine and Lillian "Night Hawk" Belle died in their previous civilian lives. Both were British aristocrats with him joining Elite Ops after British M16 felt he was too out of control while she enlisted after her agent father was murdered and almost her too. For six years, her mother, uncle and brother grieved her death in the car crash into the river that killed her dad; while his family rejoiced he was dead. Additionally they are attracted to one another. Six years since she died, someone somehow recognizes Lilly Belle as Lady Veronica and tries to kill her; the bullet grazes her head leaving her with selected amnesia as she forgets everything that occurred since her first death. Elite Ops knows her father had uncovered a traitor who killed him before he could reveal who the person is. Black Jack's assignment is to ferret out how dangerous the woman he loves as Night Hawk is in exposing other undercover operatives; and if she is the slightest threat kill her. The latest Elite Ops (see Heat Seeker, Maverick, and Wild Card) is a character driven thriller that focuses on the mind of the heroine who if she recalls her lost memory becomes expendable by her agent peers and the traitor. Although amnesia has been used in espionage thrillers (Bourne) the story line is fast-paced with an interesting late spin. Fans will try to determine who the enemy is while also wondering why this person and the Elite Ops just don't take Lily out before she regains her missing six years as she is a dangerous liability to each side. Harriet Klausner
I just finished reading this book and I couldn't put it down!
i love lora leigh and this book was awesome...i really couldn't put it down a page turner for any lora leigh fan two thumbs all the way up
Another Lora book that captivated from the first page. The story of an agent who lost her memory after a attemped murder is trying to get the pieces of her life back. I love how Lora incorporates characters fromt he other books. The plot kept me interested and just the right about of love/lust/sex.
another great one from lora!
Another good Elite Ops book.....
slow not as good as her other book. It felt like it started in the middle.
I found lora Leigh books last year and fell in love the the Navy Seals and Elite Ops series. I enjoyed following the characters from book to book. It is good that you didn't have to read all the stories to be able to follow the book you had in your hand though. It would be helpful if the books were numbered somehow to make following the series easier. Download Night Hawk before you read Black Jack though. It makes the story stronger.
This is the first of this series that I have read and loved the story. It kept you guessing who was the killer through out the book. Great read!
"Black Jack", Lora Leigh's latest addition to her Elite Ops series, doesn't live up to the adventure and pace of her previous novels. Lilly is a British noble turned Elite Ops agent after surviving an attempt on her life that also targeted and killed her MI5 agent father. Six years have passed and Lilly has been targeted once again, this time at the cost of her own memories of her life underground. In steps Travis Caine, Code Name: Black Jack. Travis trained Lilly, as well as having been her lover. He is the best chance Lilly has of regaining her memories and surviving them. The problem is the Elite Command has turned against Lilly. They can't tolerate having a potential security breach of her missing memories and return to her less-than-loving family. So the orders to Travis and other Elite Agents are to verify Lilly does NOT remember those missing 6 years or eliminate her if she does, leaving Lilly with both the "good guys" and "bad guys" gunning for her. Most of this book involves Lilly demanding that Travis tell her about her life and Travis telling her no. Lilly also gets brief flashes of memory returning, accompanied by severe pain, making for that much more trauma drama. All of this against a background of Lilly's very arrogant and upper crust mother haranguing, belittling, and berating her for her less than perfectly proper behavior. And someone is still trying to kill her. Is it any wonder that Lilly has occasional urges to just shoot them all? While I usually adore Lora Leigh's work--whether Breed, Nauti, SEALs, Bound Hearts/Pleasure Club, or Elite Ops series--I did not like this one. She seems to have phoned the last two books of hers in. This book lacks action while being too heavy handed on the constant bickering of a family that should be welcoming Lilly's return home "from the grave." Instead of her usual stellar writing, we get the Elite Command showing that they really care nothing for their agents and are willing to kill them to cover their own backs. The agents feel like they have to betray their command in order to protect themselves, and most of them are not even able to trust each other. And all of it ends very abruptly without any real feeling of closure or a wrap-up of the mess left at the end. If Leigh wanted to destroy the comraderie created in the previous books of the SEALs and Elite Ops series, she has done a good job. Otherwise, I think I would rather file this one along side a shower scene of Bobby in Dallas.
The best read I've had in a longtime.
I loved the whole series.