Navy SEAL Wolfe Houston is on a mission of national security: protect one stubbornbut gorgeouscivilian in charge of training valuable government assets
But tracking down four genetically enhanced service dogs and guarding their furry backs 24/7 is going to take all of Wolfe's tactical skills. The dogs' unsuspecting trainer, Kit O'Halloran, doesn't know that deadly mercenaries are determined to kidnap her charges. With hostiles to evade and bullets to dodge, there's no time to wasteso why is Kit pressed against an adobe wall by moonlight, reveling in the hot magic of Wolfe's slow, skillful hands?
Wolfe is fascinated by Kit's devotion to her puppies, especially Baby, the incorrigible runt of the litter. But two other trainers have died under strange circumstancesand a foreign government has just posted a staggering bounty for Kit's capture. Before Wolfe can explore their white-hot attraction, the two are on the run, forced to decide which of their secret contacts is friend and which is deadliest foe. Only Baby can lead them through the storm to safe haven in each other's arms. Good dog!
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About the Author
Christina Skye loves a good adventure. Living in Arizona gives her plenty of room to practice target shooting and to trek off-road on her motorcycle, researching the details for stories rich with “snappy dialogue” and an unerring ability to keep “the narrative energy high and the pacing swift” (Publishers Weekly). With over two million books in print, her novels appear regularly on national bestseller lists. Visit her online at christinaskye.com.
Read an Excerpt
The dogs were howling.
Their noise echoed through the underground lab from cage to cage while monkeys clung to their metal bars and mice raced in blind circles. The dogs dumped their water dishes and slammed against metal walls insulated to cover both threats and screams.
The only man in the room watched with eyes like ice.
Gabriel Enrique Cruz savored the disorder, arrogant even now. With the bearing of a born leader, he measured the activity around him, calculating his next tactical move.
Once -- before the drugs and the lapses -- he had been called a hero. Now Cruz was simply another lab animal, entirely expendable, valued only for research data in a secret government report.
One glance told him that both surveillance cameras were running. A security team would be here within four minutes. Whenever something went wrong, they always came looking for him.
This time he would be ready.
He tossed his shredded blanket over the nearest camera. While the monkeys howled and four Rottweilers banged against their metal cages, he checked the clock on the opposite wall. Ninety seconds until the armed response team hit the double doors to the lab.
Locked inside a six-by-three-foot cage, Cruz ignored the restless animals, the boxes of experimental medicine and the rows of top-secret equipment.
He shaped his thoughts to stillness and power, becoming the deadly weapon he was trained to be.
An owl flew from its perch near the door and slammed full force into the camera above his head, cracking the glass. The other animals froze.
Watching Cruz. Waiting for his next command.
As he stared at the Rottweilers, the dogs began to tremble. Working together, they nosed the heavy steel bar off its hook at the front of their cage. Under the force of Cruz’s mental commands, their muscles jerked and strained while the bar climbed slowly -- then crashed to the floor.
One silent command brought the dogs hard against their doors. The biggest Rottweiler raced to a crowded desk and nudged an electronic key card from a pile of papers. With the card between his teeth, the dog raced back, and Cruz grabbed the plastic from his jaws.
He waved it at the scanning unit on the wall. A green light flashed.
His cage door slid open.
The animals were silent now, twisting with excitement. Ruthlessly, Cruz crushed all feelings of pleasure. He couldn’t afford emotion until he was miles away from the underground military base that appeared on no map.
As he stepped out of the prison that had held him for months, the Rottweilers raced through the lab, lifting the bars, cage by cage, to free the other animals. Two black howler monkeys leaped on to the keys of the big mainframe computer on the far wall. Cruz scattered them with a silent command and brought the databases online. When the computer screen queried him for a password, he smiled, prepared for this, too.
His fingers raced through a carefully memorized string of numbers and a file opened. Quickly he scanned the highlighted data, noting birth, military training and current residence of the Navy SEAL he sought. Then he pulled up another password-protected file and scanned its contents.
A bullet cracked behind him, ricocheting off metal cabinets. Snapping silent orders to the Rottweilers, Cruz closed the file and hit the escape key. The computer screen went dark just as a uniformed figure staggered through the doorway.
Instantly, the two dogs lunged at his throat. Blood sprayed as the soldier fell, jerked once, and lay still in a crimson pool.
The big dogs turned. Their ears pricked forward as they stepped delicately over the body on the tile. Awaiting Cruz’s next command.
The din grew, every cage open and every animal freed. A gorilla shuffled past, his eyes sullen and watchful. Cruz’s silent command was sent and received. The animal lurched forward, unaware that he was about to face a wall of bullets. The second he cleared the double doors, shouts exploded in the hallway, drowned out by gunfire.
More animals poured out after the gorilla.
Quickly, Cruz flipped off the lights and crawled inside a red bin with a warning logo stenciled on the lid. The underground facility’s medical waste was collected like clockwork. For once the well-oiled procedures would work in Cruz’s favor.
The worker in charge of transporting medical waste had negotiated hard: thirty thousand dollars for the initial transfer -- with ten times more to come as soon as his hidden passenger was safely delivered outside the grounds.
The irony didn’t escape Cruz. In the government’s eyes, he was no more than medical waste, the end product of an expensive and highly experimental program using human genetics to shape superior tactical capabilities.
But Cruz had gone rogue.
And though his captors didn’t yet realize it, their experiment had been a stunning success.
Wolfe didn't mind the tarantulas. Even the rattlesnakes left him with only minor discomfort.
It was the naked women, with their blood red lips and leather masks, who really annoyed him. They studied him like tigers facing raw meat, then scraped their long nails across his chest.
He didn’t move, wouldn’t give them the pleasure of a response.
Which only made them dig harder. Tattooed skin brushed his arms. When their breasts teased his mouth, Wolfe Houston decided enough was enough. He drove everything out of his mind -- tarantulas, rattlesnakes and tattoos. With stronger focus, he picked up the slap of liquid against metal walls, the only sound in his darkened containment area. Here in the bowels of the building, there was no time and no light. In these insulated compartments, collectively called the pit, fiberglass walls sealed out noise, smell and external vibration.
A high-tech digital tomb.
After one day inside, most men lost their bearings. After three days, most men lost their minds. Only a few had the ability to endure the silent death of the containment unit.
Wolfe Houston was one of them.
He was well into the fifth day now, and his hallucinations were intense. Sensory deprivation amped up all his senses until he could have heard a fly walk across the ceiling near his head -- if a fly could have breached the security of the pit. At the same time Wolfe was acutely aware of the other men floating in nearby units. Men from different backgrounds, each with different training and skills, over time had come to form one finely honed tactical team.
If the public knew their skills, they would have been called supermen -- or monsters. Each of them had the power to read energy or transfer images into apparent reality with the sheer force of the mind. Most of them had never suspected their unusual skills before the government identified them through arduous testing. After long months of sweating and swearing and fighting together, they had become a silent, deadly team called out when everyone else -- from Rangers to SEALs -- had failed. They were tougher than tough, trained to deploy when the government’s highest security was threatened, and so far they had never failed on a mission.
Wolfe wondered how long their record would remain unbroken.
He closed his eyes, rocking gently on the cool gel inside the hermetically sealed unit while ghostly tattoos writhed above him. As the images grew sharper, he slid into level-three hallucinations, feeling his psi ability shoot beyond all his previous limits.
The naked blonde trailed crimson nails toward his groin. Distantly, he felt his body respond and wondered if she was a hologram projection or whether she’d been pulled from the deeper recesses of his mind, stirred to life by the extended sensory deprivation.
Wolfe, are you there?
The silent question swam into his thoughts, sent by his second-in-command. Trace O’Halloran had guarded Wolfe’s back more times than either man could count, and Wolfe had always repaid the favor.
Right next to you, O’Halloran.
One question. You got the same woman in there as the one that’s crawling all over me? Platinum blond, probably five-seven?
What’s she wearing?
Nothing but oil and tattoos, looking damned fine.
Wolfe felt the brush of naked thighs. So the blonde wasn’t his own private fantasy. That meant she was one of the new training constructs, designed by Lloyd Ryker, the facility’s civilian chief, to test mental focus and physical response. No doubt Ryker’s sensors were picking up every detail of his team’s heart rates and body temperatures right now. The man had made surveillance a high art form.
Sounds like you’ve got her pegged, Trace.
I’d like to do more than peg her, boss.
Wolfe felt the energy of Trace’s laughter. Hell, I’ve never seen tattoos on a woman’s nipples before. Wouldn’t that hurt? I mean, think about getting tattoos on your--
You know the drill, Trace. Put all the details in your report -- nipples and everything else. Don’t leave anything out or they’ll ram it down your throat in the follow-up evaluations.
I always thought sex was supposed to be private.
Wolfe grinned into the darkness. Welcome to Foxfire, Lieutenant. In here your thoughts are noisy and sex is as public as it gets. Don’t tell me you’re complaining about having a knockout babe with her hands wrapped around your joystick while she test-drives your cruise control.
Complaining? Who, me?
Wolfe felt his thoughts blur. When his own illusory companion licked her way expertly toward his belt, desire sucker punched him hard. He knew there were no rules, no fouls, no time-outs when Ryker set up the game. Dark and twisted training scenarios were his specialty. Some people said they reflected Ryker’s own fantasies.
Wolfe didn’t have an opinion one way or the other. Hell, boss, this one is too hot to handle. That mouth of hers is doing real damage.
Red lips closed with unerring skill. Wolfe felt his brain oozing out his ears. Closing his eyes, he slipped deeper into theta, blanking out the construct of the blonde with the velvet mouth.
You feel that, boss?
Wolfe picked up a faint vibration from outside the pit. The blond vision faded pixel by pixel as he shaped his concentration into a tight line and slammed it toward the distant intrusion.
I make it Sector Three, Trace.
That’s just what I’m reading.
Alarms on Levels Four through Seven. Ryker’s on his way down here right now.
Any idea why, Chief?
Not a clue.
Drifting in the darkness, Wolfe considered the images he’d just picked up. Training sessions down in the pit were never interrupted -- not for any reason. To Wolfe’s knowledge, three men had cracked during their training because of too-abrupt transition. If Ryker was headed downstairs to interrupt a psi immersion, all hell must have broken loose.
Since hell happened to be Foxfire’s specialty, the team would be the first called out.
Wolfe assessed possible options and explanations. If the country was under attack, Foxfire would go active immediately -- whether the team was in the pit or not. Ryker’s movement indicated that was a real possibility.
In war you fought with whatever ammunition was at hand. Some ops called for ICBMs; some used remote surveillance drones. Foxfire used human energy as a tactical weapon in highly controlled scenarios, and the success rate of the secret seven-man team was unmatched anywhere in special operations.
Wolfe intended to keep it that way. Trace, do you read me?
Loud and clear.
I need more data. Set up a level-two energy net while I follow Ryker.
The silence rippled and grew heavier.
Ryker’s almost here. Do we have a threat situation upstairs or is this an exterior attack, something large-scale?
I’m picking up fear -- lots of it. There’s something else, Chief. Hell if you’re going to believe it.
Wolfe felt his hands clench. Impossible.
It’s Cruz, all right. I scanned up, down and sideways, and his energy signature is leaking everywhere I look.
Wolfe knew that Trace didn’t make mistakes when he spread a focused energy net. Each member of Foxfire had a different specialty, and Trace’s skill was to set energy nets and carry out controlled psi sweeps, with his mind rather than with his eyes.
Both men knew that Gabriel Cruz, the Navy SEAL who had paved the way for Foxfire, had snapped under pressure. But he couldn’t be anywhere near the secret New Mexico facility. He had died over two years ago, killed when his cargo plane crashed somewhere north of Juneau.
Trace and Wolfe had stood point together at Cruz’s military funeral. They had walked cold vigil as part of the honor guard that long night, and they had seen the casket lowered into the ground.
Negative, Trace. You were there beside me. Cruz is gone, so you must be reading something else up there.
The vibrations grew louder. Wolfe picked up the faint hammer of feet, along with the tense energy of shouted commands. Ryker was steaming about something, that was certain.
I’m dead right about this. Whatever’s going on upstairs has Cruz’s energy wrapped all over it.
Wolfe forced his body to relax, forced the anger and stabbing uncertainty from his mind. Be sure, Trace. That’s an order. Do you copy?