Dawn Ryder returns with Dare You To Run, the second rapid-fire romance in her Unbroken Heroes seriesfeaturing the tough, sexy men who serve in a top-secret Special Ops unit.
SERVE AND PROTECT
For Vitus Hale, only one mission has ever gone wrong. All he had to do was rescue a beautiful woman from her kidnappers. But falling hard into bedand into lovewith the stunning innocent was not part of the game plan, and when she leaves him in the dust, Vitus has nothing but a blemished record and a hardened heart. Now, after three long years, his beauty has finally come back into his lifeand this time, failure is not an option…
SEDUCE AND DESTROY
Damascus Ryland knew from their first steamy embrace that stoic warrior Vitus Hale is the only man for her, but when her power-hungry Congressman father offered her an ultimatumsever ties with Vitus, or he diesDamascus knew she had to walk away to save the man she loved. But now, three years later, a new threat is closing in on herand tossing Vitus right back into her life. Damascus needs to keep her love for him locked in her heart if she is to keep him safe, but the old flame that burned between them is still as vibrant and hot as ever. Now, Damascus and Vitus must risk it all to find their freedom…and embrace their love…
About the Author
Dawn Ryder is the contemporary romance pen name of a bestselling author of historical romancesher official naughty inner child. The author of Dangerous to Know, she commercially publishes in mass market and trade paper, and digi-first published with trade paper releases. She is hugely committed to her career as an author, as well as to other authors and to her readership. She lives in Southern California.
Read an Excerpt
Dare You to Run
By Dawn Ryder
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2016 Dawn Ryder
All rights reserved.
She didn't want to die.
Damascus Ryland shivered, the cold so bad it felt bone deep. In a strange way she was focused on it now because the misery confirmed that she was still alive. You couldn't hurt if you were dead.
She drew in another breath and resisted the urge to claw at the sides of the concrete hold she was stuffed into. Above her head was a manhole cover, but all that was beneath it was a six-foot length of concrete water pipe that her kidnappers had dug out a hole for and used it to brace up the sides so she wasn't smothered. She looked up, waiting for the two quarter-sized holes in the cover to twinkle with daylight.
Not yet. It was still night. Blackness pressed in on her, threatening to smother her with how thick and impregnable it was, but she knew it could be worse. Her captors had made sure she knew it when they'd stuffed corks into the holes, because she'd screamed. She'd discovered what blackness was, spent what had felt like an eternity waiting for her night vision to kick in so she could see her own hands. It hadn't, she'd just had to endure the minutes that felt like hours while the idea of helplessness became more real than she had ever imagined possible.
Damascus stiffened and drew in a deep breath — she had to be stronger than her circumstances if she wanted to survive. So she put her hands on her face, jumping at the icy touch of her fingertips.
One ... two. ... three. ...
She counted each one, allowing the cold to seep into her skin, and let the burning chill remind her that she was ... alive.
There was a scraping noise, one she recognized well. The manhole cover was being twisted, so it might be lifted. The only difference was there was no light, just a strange red glow. She watched it anyway, desperate for a reprieve from the blackness. That red light came through it like the blade of a dagger, slicing it apart and giving her enough space to breathe.
It wouldn't last. She steeled herself for that harsh fact. No, the tube was hell and so were the faces that would look down on her when the manhole cover was lifted. They wore masks all the time. The old type of Halloween masks that were plastic with nickel-sized holes in the eyes. Gaily painted cartoon characters that took on a grotesque quality when coupled with the voices of her captors.
She continued to watch as the cover was lifted. It was done more gently this time, as if someone was trying to keep the noise to a minimum.
It was happening. Her mind was breaking.
It had to be, because the man who looked in on her wasn't wearing a mask. His face was darkened with some sort of black makeup. The red light came from somewhere over his ear. As she blinked, she realized he had on goggles of some sort, and a small light was attached to the side. He held a finger up to his darkened lips, a silent command, but there was a sharpness to it from the way he moved, hell from the very way he just, well, was.
She nodded, responding instinctually. There was a presence to him, one she'd never really felt before.
Yes, her mind was going. Not that she particularly cared. Not so long as her insanity came in the form of a man who cut the darkness away. He looked over his shoulder and then back down at her. A moment later, he'd reached right down into the hole and grasped the thick coil of rope that was tied around her body. It bound her arms to her chest all the way to her elbows and was tied in back, leaving her unable to climb the slick sides of the tube. It hadn't stopped her from trying though; her fingers bled from her efforts, her nails were shredded.
What had seemed impossible was suddenly happening. He sat her on the side of the hole as she blinked at him. He touched a finger to his lips again before he flipped open a knife and slipped it under the coil of rope.
A little sigh escaped her lips as he freed her. Just the softest sound, but he clamped his hand over her mouth in response. She smelled his skin, the scent making him more real. Her eyes stung but she was so dehydrated, there were no tears. He looked around and slipped his hand down to her wrist.
Her muscles were so cold, it felt like her tendons were going to snap, but Damascus ground her teeth together and stumbled behind him when he started to take her across the warehouse. He looked back at her, but she pushed her foot against the floor, ignoring the way something cut into the bottom of her bare skin.
Freedom was worth any amount of pain.
She couldn't hurt if she were dead.
* * *
She was a pitiful mess.
Not that Vitus Hale expected much else. A Washington debutante, one who had managed to slip away from her escort and get herself abducted. A pampered princess like that didn't have a clue what the real world held.
Vitus knew. In fact, he was on very familiar terms with the seedy part of life. It was among the shadows that he spent most of his time, and there was something about it that gave him a kick in the pants. He liked the game, enjoyed the struggle and the sweet surge of victory that came when he was more patient than those he was hunting.
Like tonight. Damascus Ryland's kidnappers had finally given into boredom and popped their heads up out of their hiding place to indulge in a little online chitchat. Vitus couldn't help but grin. He really did love it when he caught bad guys with their asses flapping in the breeze.
The grin faded as he returned to the moment and ordered himself to focus. The operation wasn't complete, he needed to keep his perspective.
Vitus pulled her behind him, watching for the man set out on guard duty. He was leaning against a shipping container, the glow from his cigarette making him easy to spot. Vitus hunkered down, feeling the girl follow his example. It was a waiting game now, Vitus held her wrist in a solid grip as he watched the sentry. The lookout finished his smoke, then dropped it before pushing away from the container and wandering down the length of the dock in the other direction.
Vitus tugged on her wrist and led them across the open space to the edge of the dock. The waves were lapping at the side of it, making enough noise to cover their steps. He glanced back just once at Damascus and pointed down at the water's surface. Her eyes widened, until she saw the surfboard he'd used to come up along the side of the docks. No motor, no light, and no one with enough brains to look over the side of the docks, which was why he'd done it.
Vitus went down first. Once he was on the board he beckoned to Ms. Damascus Ryland, daughter of Congressman Jeb Ryland. He wasn't sure what he was going to do if she blew their position, but surprisingly enough she didn't hesitate to join him. It bumped up his opinion of her just a tad. At least she wasn't wailing all over him. He could smell the blood on her and the stench of being kept in that concrete tomb for the last week. When she joined him, he realized how cold she was, but she maintained her silence, even as she stiffened when her feet went into the salt water.
Vitus didn't have time to console her. He pressed her down onto her belly, lying on top of her so that he could paddle. She offered him another little unexpected jolt as she started to use her hands to help, digging at the water as much as she could beneath him.
So she had some guts.
And it was in a nice package ...
Now that was crass of him but it was also the truth, and a SEAL needed to work with reality. Lying on top of her, there was no way not to notice just how good she smelled, even beneath the grime. She'd never find out, though. Hell, a daughter of a congressman was definitely not the sort he would ever take up with.
He needed some downtime, that was for damn sure.
* * *
"I owe you a beer."
Damascus blinked at the man who spoke. He considered her for a moment, in the same way her rescuer had before he reached down and hooked her wrist. They'd paddled up to another dock and this man was clinging to a ladder that went down the side of the dock and into the water.
What where they used for?
She had no idea, and what was worse, she realized just how much of the world she didn't understand the workings of. That ignorance was worse than all the aches and pains assaulting her because she could do something about it.
Her rescuer reached right up and flattened his hand against one side of her bottom to push her up the ladder. Her cheeks actually stung with a blush but not because of that contact.
Again, it was due to the fact that she knew she wasn't pulling her own weight. She reached up and grabbed the next rung and pulled hard to get herself moving. A face appeared above her, the man reaching down and grabbing a handful of her tattered evening dress to haul her up and onto the pier.
Jesus, they were strong ...
And she just couldn't help but notice how built they were.
She ended up on her backside, blinking as the two men came up the ladder with an ease that was admirable. Her rescuer hunkered down beside her, looking perfectly at ease. "Commander Vitus Hale, United States Navy, ma'am. SEAL."
He had high cheek bones that were defined because of his low body fat. Most of his hair was trimmed away and his chin was clean shaven. Perfectly groomed and yet, there was a glitter in his eyes that proclaimed just how untamed he was. It made her shiver but in a very enjoyable way.
"Damascus Ryland." Manners had been drilled into her young, and she stuck her hand out without thinking. Vitus's lips twitched as one eyebrow rose. He didn't take her hand but looked at it for a long moment.
"We'll get you cleaned up."
Vitus Hale was on his feet a moment later, turning to look back at the dock. The moon was behind them, casting a large shadow from the stack of shipping containers. Damascus pushed herself up, determined to do more than sit on the ground like a bedraggled kitten.
"How often did they check on you?"
Damascus blinked a couple of times before her brain engaged and she realized Vitus had spoken to her. More importantly, he hadn't offered her comfort. He was watching the sentry, one of the other men using a pair of goggles to do the same, while the third was facing the opposite direction to make sure no one snuck up on them.
Vitus let out a grunt. "Don't worry about it."
Damascus felt something inside her snap. Almost like a safety cap that had been on her for her entire life, keeping her oblivious and weak, unable to defend herself.
"Every night, just as the sun was setting." She answered up in a voice that didn't falter.
Vitus cut her a glance, obviously surprised. She straightened her back and resisted the urge to bite her lower lip.
"They wanted to force my father to vote in favor of the new port taxes."
Vitus nodded. "Yeah, I heard. It told me right where to look for you."
Understanding dawned on her and she smiled. "Right. Um, I mean thank you." She pulled her attention away from Vitus, which was much harder than it really should have been, and looked at his companion. "Thank you."
Vitus jerked his head, and the team started moving. "Well, we're not parting company just yet."
He'd hooked her upper arm and turned her around like she was a child before she realized what he was doing. Vitus Hale seemed to have no intention of explaining anything to her, just on moving her. He'd taken her across the docks, through stacks of cargo containers, and under huge cranes before they reached a car. One of the men opened the door, and Vitus put her into it.
Well, details didn't matter, at least not at the moment. It was a little more pertinent that they put some distance between them and the men who would gleefully stuff her back in the hole.
Only she was the one who was gleeful as they drove away.
* * *
"I can take you back to your father."
Damascus had been rubbing her head with a towel. She lowered it and looked at him while her hair sprang to life. She was a natural redhead, and a bright one too, who was naturally curly. Fresh from a shower, her head was covered in tiny corkscrews.
But that wasn't what attracted him to her, not the most anyway. Nope, what was drawing him to her was the way she blinked and lowered the towel without a hint of outrage over him showing up while she was wearing only a robe.
She could prioritize.
Which meant she wasn't as much of a spoilt brat as he'd assumed.
"Or ... you could do what?" she asked him as she laid the towel down and reached for the medical kit he had forgotten was in his hand.
Fuck. He was spellbound.
Vitus pointed to the only thing in the room, which was a bed. Something flickered in her eyes now. She sat on it as he opened the kit and tore open a packet of antiseptic.
"We could keep you out of sight and try to trap your captors," Vitus said. "I take you back to your father, and they will scatter into the sewers."
"I like your plan." There was heat in her voice, and that stunned him because he honestly expected a wailing fit.
Damascus reached out and took some antiseptic from the packet while he was considering her, and began to smear it over one of her bloodied fingers. He should have looked away, to give her some space, but he was just too damn impressed — and that didn't happen very often. Damascus Ryland, debutante, looked at the mess that was her hands and smiled as he treated the oozing wounds. It had to sting like a bastard but she only smiled brighter until she caught him watching her. For a moment, their gazes fused. He saw the pain swimming in her blue eyes, proving she wasn't in shock.
"The pain ... it means I'm alive," she offered in a soft voice.
"Yeah, it does."
Time shifted and he lost track of it for a moment while he looked into her eyes and fought the urge to touch her. The urge was powerful and seemed to have risen up past all of the mission protocol he'd had drummed into him.
She was a package, a mission goal.
But right then, she wasn't. Damascus looked like an angel who was welcoming him closer ...
"Brought you some chow."
Saxon Hale was through the doorway as Vitus jerked. His brother came closer and went right between him and Damascus as he delivered a bowl of beans and rice that had steam gently rising from it.
"She's on board," Vitus offered as he turned and retreated.
Now that was a first for him, but honestly, Damascus rattled him.
* * *
"Send her home."
Vitus turned to find Saxon on his tail, looking at him with far too much knowledge in his eyes.
"And wait for these pricks to try again?" Vitus shook his head.
"I'm more concerned about you."
Vitus could have denied what his brother had walked in on, but dishonesty on a team leads to trouble. "She caught me off guard is all. I expected tears."
Saxon tilted his head to one side. "Yeah. Guess it's our lucky day. I do like the missions where the bad guys are our biggest headache."
Vitus was nodding, but Saxon wasn't nearly as gullible as he would have liked. His brother knew him too well.
"Just don't forget," Saxon warned. "She's Jeb Ryland's daughter. He's a conservative and won't take it kindly if you forget that he thinks his little girl is too good for you."
It was the truth. One of those pesky little reality things. Sure, Vitus enjoyed pitting himself against the odds, but there were some things that a wise man just left alone. Like congressmen's daughters.
So why was he itching to find a reason to go back into that room?
* * *
Beans and rice had never tasted so good.
Damascus shoved two steaming spoonfuls into her mouth before she managed to quell the urge to swallow the entire bowl without taking a breath. Her mouth was so full, the broth was leaking from the corners of her lips as she chewed — and all she did was chuckle at herself without a care for how ill-mannered she appeared.
She felt so alive! Like energy was crackling along her circulatory system. It made her senses ultrakeen, and what she was noticing most with her hyperawareness was how amazing Navy SEAL Vitus Hale was. Her nipples were puckered tight, sensation prickling across her breasts, while she marveled at the level of intensity.
It was like she'd never felt before.
And there was one thing that burst inside her brain as she finished off that bowl. She was never, ever, going to be the stupid little chit she'd been before.
Life was to be lived and she couldn't wait to get down to it.
Excerpted from Dare You to Run by Dawn Ryder. Copyright © 2016 Dawn Ryder. 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
This book was not great. I was able to finish it but it took awhile. Little things kept bothering me throughout the story. Disjointed writing was the most annoying problem. Sometimes it seemed as if a small portion was edited out causing it to not flow. Also this author must not have done much research on SEALS. There were many small mistakes that kept disrupting the story and made it impossible for me to really get involved in the book. I regreat spending money on this and doubt I will buy a book by this author again. I especially won't be trying another new author without a sample available.
2.75* I'm really not sure where to start with this review. The story line was good and full of potential. I really liked the beginning, it drew me right in and it flowed well until about 1/4 of the way into the story. Then I felt it got choppy and a little unorganized. The main characters and secondary characters I really liked and I want to know their HEA's. Vitus and Damascus where both such strong characters agent if it made Damascus a bit bull headed I still liked her. She and Vitus bumped heads with how alpha he was. Damascus earned the respect of Vitus and his team even if it came at a cost. There was some great sexy times and some really good suspense and a decent twist but also way to much run on of the story that did not hold my attention. The first story in this series started out disorganized and turned out pretty good in the end. I had high hopes for this one in the beginning. Saxon's story is next and I am looking forward to it. Hopefully the third times the charm. *Book Obsessed Chicks Review team