Working undercover with the last man she should trust
Rescuing a "civilian" blew his latest undercover opbut when Special Agent Cody Walker next met the damsel in distress, he was astonished to discover she was a fellow agent! Now they are assigned to the same task force to track down a terrorist cell that has a personal connection to Cody's past .
While Keira is grateful to Cody, she's determined to prove she can handle herself professionally. But their sizzling chemistry is making it hard to keep things quiet. And as they hunt down the would-be terrorists, they are getting closerand more personalthan ever .
About the Author
Amelia currently resides with her Ph.D. engineer husband in quiet Vail, AZ, where they can see the stars at night and have a “million dollar view” of the Rincon Mountains from their back yard.
Read an Excerpt
Cody Walker sat at his government-issued desk in his office in the agency's sprawling complex on the northern outskirts of Denver Thursday morning, ostensibly rereading the revised report he'd just printed out to check it for errors before submitting it to his superiors. But instead of reading, he was thinking about the things he hadn't put into the report.
Like the way Keira had looked at him in the moonlight, her face paper-white beneath a dusting of freckles, so scared and yet so brave, with that mop of red-gold curls no comb could tame. Like the way her brown eyes had met his when he'd told her to trust him and she'd said without hesitation, I will. Like the way her breast had felt beneath his hand when
With a muttered oath, he cut off the memory. You've got no business remembering that, he told himself firmly. The fingers of his right hand brushed over the four barely visible welts on his left check where she'd branded him; the scratches were still there, but after nearly a week they were almost healed. Guess you deserved this after all.
He didn't hold it against her. Sure, he'd been trying to rescue her, but she couldn't have known it at the time. She'd fought him like a wildcat, and he respected her for it. Although they looked nothing alike, Keira somehow reminded him of his feisty best friend growing up. Mandy would have done exactly the same thing under the circumstances, he thought with a mixture of admiration and amusement.
Without realizing it, his hand went to the scar on his left shoulder. Beneath his shirt he could feel the raised edges of the healed bullet wound where Mandy had shot him six years ago because she'd thought he was about to kill the man she loved. Mandy hadn't known the truth then any more than Keira had the other night.
Keira. He'd blown his assignment to hell and gone for her, but he couldn't have done anything differently. Not and still call himself a man. He couldn't have left an innocent woman there in that isolated shack in the mountains west of Denver with the incipient terrorist gang members he was meeting with in his undercover persona as an illegal arms dealer. They would have raped her at the very least, and probably would have killed her afterwardthey wouldn't want to leave a witness behind.
He remembered his first sight of her last Friday night when the three men had half dragged, half carried her into the shack where he'd been negotiating with two other gang members. She'd been fighting her captors every step of the way, refusing to surrender to them despite the terror any woman would have felt in that situation, struggling against ravaging hands and lewd suggestions, unwilling to give them the satisfaction of seeing her cry or beg for mercy she had to have known was nonexistent.
His desperate plan had been born in an instant. He'd had leverage because they wanted something from him Stinger man-portable surface-to-air missiles, Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles and magazines, and other sundry weapons of destruction. And he'd used that leverage to claim "first rights" to Keira, using the coarse language they'd expected in that situation. Then he'd triumphantly claimed his "prize" and dragged her into the other room, and
Well, that part was in his report anyway.
He threw the papers on his desk, momentarily disgusted, and swiveled around to stare at the picture on his walla large, blown-up reproduction of his rustic cabin and the surrounding woods in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. He wondered why he'd ever left it and the relatively easy job as sheriff back then.
He sighed. He knew why he'd left. Just as he knew why he'd taken this job. But sometimes it didn't seem worth it.
He'd been unofficially reprimanded for compromising his assignmentno way would they have dared to make it an official reprimand under the circumstances, special rule seven notwithstandingalthough what his immediate supervisor and his partner thought he could have done other than what he had done was a mystery to him.
He'd managed to electronically send the "abort mission" signal to his partner, waiting with a backup team a mile away, without Keira seeing him. He hadn't wanted her to know she'd interrupted a covert operation, hadn't wanted her to have any suspicions of what he was or why he was there. But he'd had a lot of explaining to do later that night about why the op had to be aborted.
He was just thankful he'd been at the right place at the right time. Thankful they'd both escaped and he'd seen her safely back to her car and on the road home. Thankful he hadn't had to kill anyone in the processthe red tape on that would have included a mandatory desk assignment while the incident was thoroughly investigated. Not that he had any doubts he would have been cleared.
But it would have been a time-consuming hassle, and he hated being chained to a desk.
Besides, he'd only ever taken one life, and he wasn't in any hurry to repeat that experience unless he had no other option. Now if only he could get the feel of Keira's taut, unyielding body beneath his out of his mind
The phone on his desk shrilled. He swiveled around and picked it up automatically. "Walker," he said crisply. He relaxed back in his chair. "Hey, Callahan," he said, "I was just thinking about you." He listened to the voice on the other end of the line for a second, then added, "Well, not you, exactly. I was thinking about the time your wife shot me."
"No more than you deserved," Ryan Callahan responded promptly. "At least from her perspective."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Cody replied. "Tell that to the marines."
That was something he and Callahan had in commonthey'd both served in the U.S. Marine Corps, but at different times, since Callahan was quite a bit older. Cody thought for a second. If he was thirty-seven, that meant Callahan had to be forty-five now, close to forty-six. We're none of us getting any younger.
They'd also both worked the same undercover operation six years ago, bringing down the New World Militia together when Cody had been the sheriff of Black Rock, Wyoming, a position Callahan now held.
They had something else in common, toothey'd both been in love with Mandy Edwards. Mandy Edwards Callahan, Cody corrected himself with a wry smile. He wasn't in love with Mandy anymore. Well, not much anyway. There would always be a small corner of his heart devoted to her, but once Callahan had come back into her life, Cody had known there was no chance for him. He'd left Black Rock and had joined the Drug Enforcement Administration after he recovered from the gunshot that had almost killed him.
But his work in the DEA hadn't satisfied him somehow. He'd been restless and had needed something more, so he'd been ripe for change when he'd been approached by Nick D'Arcy to join a newly created ultrasecret agency not quite two years later. His new job was more demanding, both mentally and physically, and more rewarding, too. And it had allowed him to forget about losing Mandy to Ryan Callahan.
"So what's up?" he asked.
There was just the slightest hesitation on the other end. "Something we both thought was dead and buried is raising its ugly head again."
"What?" Cody sat up straight in his chair and gripped the phone a little tighter. He knew instantly what Callahan was referring to. "The New World Militia?"
"Got it in one."
"Don't B.S. me," he said roughly, doing a rapid mental review of the facts as he knew them. "Pennington's dead," he said, referring to David Pennington, the founder of the New World Militia. Silently he added, We both killed him, though it wasn't something he wanted to brag about or mention over the phone. "And the militia's other high-ranking officers are all serving long prison terms. How"
Callahan cut him off. "Don't ask me how I know, not over an unsecured phone line." He let that sink in before adding, "Just trust me on this, okay?"
Cody thought about it for all of half a minute. Callahan had once trusted him with his life six years ago, even though he'd known how Cody felt about Mandy, had known other things, too. Despite that, Callahan had saved Cody's life after Mandy shot himwasting precious seconds to apply a makeshift pressure bandage to the wound, even though both men had known Mandy was out there somewhere, in danger from Pennington. If he hadn't done that, Cody wouldn't be alive today.
"Okay," Cody said, but he knew that one word was enoughCallahan got the message. "We need to talk."
"Not over the phone."
"Can you come to Black Rock? I'd come to Denver, but."
He didn't have to finish. Cody knew Callahan would never leave Mandy and their three children, not if danger threatened them. And if the New World Militia really had been resurrected, Callahan, and anyone close to him, could be in grave danger.
You, too, he thought for a second, before brushing it aside as immaterial. He'd been undercover himself for four years in the New World Militia before he and Callahan had killed Pennington and smashed the anarchist paramilitary organization that had also had its fingers in gunrunning and drug trafficking, as well as other illegal activities. If Callahan was in danger, so was he.
"I'll have to tell my supervisor, not to mention my partner."
There was a long, pregnant pause while Callahan considered this. "Isn't Nick D'Arcy still the head of the Denver branch of the agency?"
"How about telling him first? This octopus could have tentacles everywhere," he said, referring obliquely to the New World Militia. "I trust you and D'Arcy, and maybe one other person, but."
Cody's first reaction was to hotly defend his colleagues, especially his partner, but then he remembered how insidious the militia had once been. If Callahan was right, if new life had been breathed into the organization, there was no telling where the infection had spread.
"Okay," he said. "I'll try to get in to see him as soon as I get off the phone. I'll let you know what he says."
"Don't call my office," Callahan warned, referring to the Black Rock sheriff's office. "And don't call the house. I haven't told Mandy yet, and if you call there, she'll suspect something. She'll kill me when she finds out I've kept her in the dark this long, but "
Cody knew the other man well enough to know he was shrugging his shoulders. Neither of them had ever wanted to put Mandy in danger, so they'd both kept secrets from her. That hadn't always been a good idea, and Cody had the scar to prove it.
"And don't call my cell phone, either," Callahan added.
"Then how am I"
"Call this number," Callahan said, rattling off ten digits, and Cody jotted them down on a scratch pad. "That's a throwaway cell. I probably don't need to tell you this, but it would be a good idea to call me from a pay phone or another throwaway cell."
"You're right," Cody responded drily. "You don't need to tell me that."
He hung up when Callahan did, then sat for a moment staring at the cell-phone number he'd just written down, memorizing it. "Damn it!" he cursed under his breath.
He ripped the paper into tiny shreds, got up and strode toward the elevator, dropping the scraps of paper into the slot of the locked "burn barrel" nearest the door. He rang for the elevator, waiting impatiently until it arrived, his mind taken up with what Callahan had just told him and what he hadn't.
"Damn," he said again, but it didn't relieve his feelings one bit.
Cody walked into the outer office and addressed the executive assistant who guarded Nick D'Arcy from unimportant interruptions like a dragon. "I need to see Baker Street," he told her, using the nickname everyone in the agency used when talking about D'Arcy, and sometimes even when thinking about him. He was omniscientso much so it was scary at timesand every agent who worked for him had experienced that omniscience at least once. So it wasn't surprising he was known by the sobriquet of "Baker Street," a tip of the hat to Sherlock Holmes.
The executive assistant assessed Cody, noting the determined, set expression on his face. She picked up the phone and pushed a button. "Cody Walker to see you, sir." She listened for a couple of seconds, then said, "No, he didn't tell me what it's about and I didn't ask." She hung up the phone. "You can go in," she told him.
"Come in, Walker," Nick D'Arcy said when Cody entered and closed the door behind him. He indicated a chair in front of his desk and said, "Have a seat." He sat down himself, and after Cody was sitting, he said, "Is this about what happened last Friday?"
"No, it's" Cody broke off. "How do you know about that already?"
"It's my business to know everything, didn't you know?" D'Arcy chuckled, his dark-skinned face breaking into a broad smile. "But seriously, you did the right thing. Oh, yes," he said, holding up one hand, palm outward. "I know there are those who are upset your cover was blown and that we'll have to start all over from scratch with that investigation, but I'd have done the same thing under the circumstances."
"Thank you, sir. It's good to know not everyone thinks I blew it."
D'Arcy smiled as if he knew something Cody didn't. "So if this isn't about last week, then what is it?"
"The New World Militia."
That wiped the smile from the other man's face. "How'd you hear about that?" he asked sharply.
"Ryan Callahan. He called me a few minutes ago."
"Damn." The word held no heat, but Cody could tell D'Arcy was not pleased. "I was hoping I was wrong, but if Callahan is involved " He bent a narrow-eyed gaze on Cody. "What did he tell you?"
"He wouldn't tell me much over the phone," Cody said, then repeated the conversation nearly verbatim, including Callahan's statement about who he trusted. and who he didn't.
D'Arcy didn't say anything after Cody finished, just sat there contemplating the pencil he picked up off his desk. He seemed to reach a decision, because he looked at Cody and said, "I've heard rumblings of this before today. I've already got a team working on it." He leaned over and pressed a switch. "Can you see if you can locate McKinnon and Jones for me? If they're in the building, I need to see them right away."
"McKinnon?" Cody asked after D'Arcy cut off the connection. "That wouldn't be Trace McKinnon, would it?"
"Yeah. You remember him from six years ago, don't you? I've got a feeling he's the third man Callahan was referring to, the other man he trusts."
"I remember him, but I thought he was still a federal marshal. I didn't know he worked for the agency."
D'Arcy let out a bark of laughter. "Compartmental-ization. I guess it does work sometimes." He looked at Cody from under his brows. "McKinnon was the first person I recruited after I was recruited. He'd worked for me for years before I came hereI'd trust him with my life. I knew he'd be perfect for this agency, just like I knew you would be, too."
The corner of Cody's mouth curved up in a rueful smile. "Not so perfecton my part, that is. Last week"
D'Arcy waved his hand. "I already told you to forget last week, didn't I?" He hesitated. "I wasn't going to tell you until all the paperwork was processed, but there will be a commendation in your personnel jacket if I have anything to say about it."
That means it's a done deal, Cody thought, knowing how highly respected Nick D'Arcy was by the head of their agency in Washington, D.C. "Thank you. I appreciate it." He thought for a second, then confessed, "I couldn't have done anything else, but I'm glad it won't be a mark against me."
"Not to worry."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I just finished this book today and wish I had read it long before now! It was WONDERFUL!! I started reading Amelia Autin's books with McKinnon's Royal Mission (the one after this book) and have read every one since then and loved ALL of them!! They are so well-written, engaging, suspenseful, romantic & sexy, & I can never put her books down, they're so good! After reading all of the others, I finally read Cody Walker's Woman. Now I want to read the two previous books and any future books she might have. I love her writing!!
Very good book with excellent blend of romance and suspense. It starts with Cody rescuing a young woman from certain rape and probable murder. Even though he was undercover at the time, he felt it was more important to save her than stick to the mission. A few days later he discovers she is a fellow agent and is assigned to his task force as they look for a terrorist group. The group is a resurgence of one he had helped shut down six years earlier (see Reilly's Return). The events and characters from that book are frequently mentioned, but there's enough explanation that I never felt lost. Cody is attracted to Keira from the beginning and even before he knows who she is was very impressed with the way she handled herself. Finding out that she's another agent is both good and bad. Good because now he can see her again, but bad because starting something with a coworker can be awkward. But he has it bad for her and is determined to get to know her and get close to her. He's sure that he can see the same desire in her eyes, but her resistance is frustrating. As they work together Cody continues to be impressed by her abilities. I loved seeing him accept and trust her as an agent and give her the respect she craved, and also grow to love her just as she was. That love is put to the test at the end as he has to reconcile his love and need to protect her with the respect he has for her as an agent. Keira is just as attracted to him, but her need to prove herself professionally throws up a big barrier to her ability to follow through on it. As the youngest in her family, with four older brothers, she's grown up with the need to prove that she's as good as any man at her job. Having to be rescued by Cody makes her afraid of looking less than competent. She thinks that having a relationship with him would make people look at her differently. Her biggest fear is losing the respect of those around her. I loved seeing her try to explain the issue to Cody. The steadiness of his attitude toward her goes a long way toward opening her up to the possibilities of a relationship with Cody. His ability to love her but still allow her to be who she is makes her realize that she can have it all. Due to space limitations, review is continued at: http://susans2014books.blogspot.com/2014/11/cody-walkers-woman-amelia-autin-hrs.html