"Cole is a genius." - USA Today
One of Book Riot's "9 Not-To-Be-Missed Romances Hitting the Shelves this Summer"
ARE THEY IN TOO DEEP?
In Deep Cover, ex-Navy SEAL Cabe Moss always comes when called to duty—at all costs. Even though the death of his fiancée nearly destroyed him, Cabe won’t let his past interfere with any work that has to get done. When his latest task pushes him to team up with FBI operative Amy Murray, a fierce beauty with the undercover skills to match, Cabe must admit that, for the first time in years, he wants to do more than just complete their mission together…
Amy was born ready for this assignment, but working side-by-side with the strong, silent, and frustratingly professional Cabe seems to be the biggest challenge of all. But when the sparks begin to fly—and the stakes rise to dangerous heights—the only thing Amy is left worrying about is how she can resist him. Their lives may be in danger, but their hearts hold the biggest risk of all…
“Non-stop action and heart-pounding romance...a must-read for romantic suspense fans!”
—Cynthia Eden, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author on Under Fire
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Cabe Moss lay flat on his stomach, ignoring the stench of decaying seaweed and the flies attracted to it that buzzed around his head and landed on his hands, his M4, and the tip of his nose. In the darkness, he could hear more than see them.
One buzzed right into his ear. He twitched his head sharply to send them flying, but they didn't go far. Annoying little bastards. They were half of why this beach worked so perfectly for the people they were watching. Overrun with seaweed and difficult to reach down a jagged and narrow cliff-face path, it was rarely used.
With his night goggles on, the small boat looked almost white in the fluorescent green of the Pacific Ocean. The putt-putt-putt of the engine became clearer, more distinct. This was it, the drop they'd been waiting for. The one that could break the syndicate's back.
Cabe nodded to Six, his best friend since childhood, former SEAL teammate, and current business partner in Eagle Securities, the special ops firm they'd established with Mac, the third part of their triumvirate. From his spot behind a narrow strip of jagged rocks, Six adjusted his scope a fraction of a turn.
After thirteen months of trying to take down a Russian syndicate that had threatened their loved ones, they finally had a chance at hitting Konstantin Sokolov, the highest-ranking member and lynchpin of the organization, where it would hurt him most. They would relieve him of his latest cash shipment, denying the syndicate access to illegal funds they needed to operate. Sokolov was smart, too smart, but their intel was solid.
Cabe never took his eyes from the boat as it bobbed closer to shore. Tonight was it. The final nail in the syndicate's coffin, the last part of Eagle's three-point plan to eradicate it. The end of a thirteen-month effort to take down its members one by one and, with the help of the CIA and the FBI, disable systems that allowed the syndicate to operate, raiding warehouses, retrieving arms, and blocking trade shipments.
This was Eagle's riskiest outing yet, the organization's cash was bound to be well protected. Which meant a group of highly trained armed men with zero conscience. But if it got them a step closer to the organization that tried to kill Six's fiancée to get a chemical weapon and had gone after Mac's journalist girlfriend for exposing their arms shipment routes, then every moment of lying in the sand was worth it.
Lite and Harley, members of Team Three, the team Cabe led, were up by the road, scouting for the vehicle that would transport the money after it was brought off the boat. Capturing the driver should be a piece of cake. As always, Buddha had his fingers on the controls of a drone that was recording and giving them intel from above, its whir a faint sound lost among the buzzing of the flies and the crash of the waves. Jackson was with Mac on the other side of the cove, upwind from the rotting seaweed. Before assigning placements next time, Cabe would definitely pay better attention to wind direction.
The boat finally pulled into the shallows, its front hitting the small waves with a solid thump until Cabe heard the rough sound of the bow running aground. Somebody killed the engine, and aside from the soft hush of the gentle waves turning on the sand, the cove went silent.
Voices sounded faintly from inside. He could barely make out the words, his Russian passable on a good day. But tone was universal. And their tone sounded ... jovial. That, he got. SEALs often relied on humor, even in crucial situations — the more inappropriate, the better.
"Vehicle approaching from the south," Buddha's voice whispered through Cabe's comms unit.
Cabe didn't need to respond. They all knew the plan. The team on the beach wasn't supposed to move on the boat's crew until after the vehicle was secured on the cliff.
The whispers from onboard amplified, as the boat began to rock from side to side from its occupants' movement. Their voices sounded forced, like actors on the stage attempting to project their words to the rear of a theater. An older man with a long beard appeared at the back and dropped the anchor. The splash echoed.
The sound of the approaching vehicle on the cliff grew louder, and a stream of light from its headlights hit the sand a yard in front of Cabe. He belly-crawled a few feet back into the darkness of the cove, with Six swiftly following. Both of them held their breaths, and Cabe prayed they hadn't been spotted. With minimum movement, he put his Steiner binoculars to his eyes and looked up at the cliff. There was nobody there, but that didn't mean they hadn't been seen.
The lights from the cliff flashed twice, then twice again. The man who had dropped the anchor raised his hand to shield his eyes and waved. Suddenly, he looked in their direction but thankfully the beach was cast back into darkness.
Cabe forced his shoulders to relax.
Two more men appeared from inside the boat and jumped off into the shallows. They were young, scrawny, and way too casually dressed in board shorts, their feet bare. The older man handed one of them a large backpack. It had to be the money. He handed a second bag to the other man, and they carried them to shore, holding them high out of the water.
Out of the corner of his eye, Cabe could see Mac and Jackson make their way along the shadowed wall of the cove until they were close to the water's edge. There was no real cover should they be spotted, the cliff to their backs. Their movements were painfully slow, and the beach was so dark that if he hadn't already known they were there, he wouldn't have seen them.
The reverb of something slamming into the car stopped the two men in their tracks. They looked up to the cliff and Cabe followed suit.
Why hadn't anyone communicated that the driver was secure? What could have gone wrong? His mind flashed through scenarios: the targets had fought back, leaving Lite and Harley incapacitated or worse; they'd escaped; they'd ... Buddha would let them know if there was a problem.
"Buddha?" he hissed.
"Nothing they can't handle," came the laid-back response. "Securing the targets now."
He said a quick thank-you to whatever geek had developed the drone.
He looked toward the two men. Keep walking. Keep walking. He didn't want them to stop. They needed to be farther away from the boat than Mac and Jackson were. The last thing they needed was for the two targets to have time to run back and sail away before Mac and Jackson could stop them, even if they had the drone following them.
Cabe held his breath for four seconds, then exhaled.
Something about the scene bothered him. The targets were too casual. They weren't scanning for danger, weren't looking around to check whether they were being watched or not. There was nothing furtive about their body language.
It couldn't fall apart. Not now.
"Car secure," Harley relayed.
That was their sign. "Go!" he shouted as he jumped to his feet and took to the sand at a run. "Down on the floor, down on the floor!"
No sooner had the words left his mouth, though, than he realized tonight would not be the night. And just like the unexplained feelings he'd had in a thousand different ops, feelings that had sent his men left instead of right or even saved his own life, he knew everything was off. The captain of the boat hadn't even moved from his position at the rear of the boat. There had been no reaching for a weapon or lifting of the anchor in an attempt to escape. He simply stood and waited as Mac and Jackson waded into the water and boarded the vessel. Meanwhile, the two men with the bags threw them into the sand as they dropped to their knees and put their hands to their heads.
There was no urgency. No look of panic. No fear etched into the lines of their faces.
"We're unarmed," the first man shouted, his Eastern European accent heavy as he rolled his R's.
"Unarmed," shouted the second. "Don't shoot."
It was all too easy. Too perfect.
He pushed the first man down on the sand and secured his hands with a cable tie. The target fell willingly and made no effort to fight back. Six did the same with the second man.
Without removing his night goggles, as they gave him anonymity, he reached for the backpack and unzipped it. It felt light ... too light for a bag that was supposed to contain cool green American bills.
"Fuck," he cursed as he pulled out bubble wrap. A shit-ton of bubble wrap. The very thing people popped for stress relief had just sent his pulse to DEFCON 1.
He knew Six was doing the same with the backpack he'd retrieved, but Cabe knew better than to look. Nothing would be different.
"Nothing on the boat," Mac shouted.
"Same with the car and driver," Harley said through his earpiece.
The information the CIA had passed along was fake. No. It was worse. They'd been expected. The whole thing had been set up. Somebody knew they were being watched.
The target on the sand turned to him and smiled. Their intel had sent them to capture what he was certain now were the decoys. The real drop was somewhere up the coastline.
And they'd missed it.
There were days when it felt like Sokolov and his cronies were going to win. And there were days when his failure to find them felt like a blight on his otherwise successful career. He'd been sent overseas with the SEALs more times than he could count on the premise of protecting America from harm, always wishing for the chance to do the same on American soil, or in this case, sand. Yet having been given the opportunity, he'd been unable to fulfill his mission.
But worse than the failure, there was a very real risk that someone was going to get hurt as an outcome. The money was going to make it on to land, weapons were going to be bought, women like Six's and Mac's girlfriends were going to get hurt.
The need for vengeance and the uneasy weight of failure battled in his gut, and for the first time in his life, he wasn't sure what to do next to stop them.
* * *
Seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.
On one, the lights changed to green, like they always did after her twenty-three-second countdown. After only two weeks of being here, there wasn't a light in the grid of San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter Amy Murray didn't know. She'd always had an exceptional memory, and not in the "good enough to appear on Jeopardy" kind of way. Sure, her random general knowledge was significantly deeper than the average person, but her memory extended to the sequence of a pack of playing cards after one quick look.
She counted the seconds of a light change to relieve the boredom, and then remembered how long it had taken every time she returned to the same intersection. It was a game for her, to predict when she'd be able to ease her foot off the brake and move forward.
The I-5 had been clear as she had driven from the San Diego FBI office in the suburb of Sorrento Valley back to her home in the city. It took thirty minutes on average, but she needed to add six minutes if she left after 5:37. And she could subtract three minutes if she stayed until 6:56, as she often did.
She checked her rearview mirror as she changed lanes, and laughed as she noticed wisps of blonde hair had escaped the tight bun at the nape of her neck. How long had it been like that? Hopefully not during the long meeting she'd sat through all afternoon. Off duty, she loved her hair, which was Scandinavian blonde with a California wave. But on duty — taken together with lips that were a fraction too full and eyes she'd once been told were the color of a tropical ocean — it just added to the difficulty she had being taken seriously. Fellow agents took her looks as an invitation to hit on her. Hell, so had the criminals she'd pursued as part of the Organized Crime unit.
Which was why she'd transferred to the San Diego office last month.
Eight months of escalating advances in Atlanta from a senior-ranking agent had been as much as she'd been able to take. She'd put off filing a sexual harassment report for as long as she could because she hadn't wanted to be that girl. The one who caused trouble. The one who rocked the boat. The one nobody believed. And worse, she'd known that complaining would put her case at risk, the one she'd cared about with every fiber of her being. But eventually she couldn't shake off his behavior with a hot shower and glass of Chardonnay at the end of the day.
The investigation had taken six months to vindicate her. By then, the damage had been done. Her transfer had taken yet another half year to approve.
Six months of enduring the nudges between men, six months of evil glares from wives and girlfriends who didn't believe she'd played no role whatsoever in his behavior.
Six months during which she hadn't so much as felt like talking with a man.
Amy shook her head to clear her thoughts. She'd promised herself she'd leave all of that behind. Moving here, after all, had been about moving on.
Which included reviewing the files for the missing-women case she'd been assigned the previous week.
Missing women weren't simply her job, they were her vocation. Her calling. The thing that made her get out of bed in the morning, and the reason she'd joined the FBI. The wheels for her career decision had been set in motion decades ago, but every day was a new opportunity to bring someone home, reunite a family, or at least give a loved one a chance to grieve through the knowledge of what happened to their family member.
That she'd be working such a complex case with a wide-reaching task force ticked every box.
She pulled into the underground lot and parked in her space. The classic car parked next to her made her think of her father and the Dodge Dart he'd bought in 1970 and still drove today. She grabbed her phone and dialed.
One ring ... two rings ... three rings.
On eight, it kicked into her father's voicemail like it always did, and she left him a quick message.
She grabbed her files and took the stairs up to her apartment. They were a welcome break from sitting on her ass. On another day, she'd probably spend a half hour hitting the gym in her building before taking a long run down the waterfront.
But today, having a plan to go out for drinks with friends later and limited time to read about the case, she found herself sitting at the breakfast bar in her kitchen, eating leftovers from the burrito she'd bought yesterday. As she studied the images of the women on her laptop, she found herself running her fingers along the long brunette hair of Helen Foy, her heart squeezing as it always did when she placed herself in the shoes of the families.
Their hurt was something she understood. Waves of panic washed over her, as they always did when she remembered the day of her mother's disappearance. She would never forget the moment her father had hugged her so tightly that she could barely breathe as he'd told her in words a ten-year-old could understand that the police suspected someone had taken her mom away and that they were working really hard to bring her home. Then he'd cried, his tears soaking her T-shirt. Her father had never cried.
The tears had scared her more than anything that had followed. Her daddy had always been the strong one. And if he was already out of faith, then so was she.
Her mother had loved her father deeply. Amy remembered the way she'd pause and smile to herself when she talked about how the two of them had met. She remembered how they'd never left the house without telling the other that they loved them. She remembered how wonderful her house had been at Christmas, her mother's favorite holiday season, with the whole family congregating at their home — grandparents, cousins, friends. And she remembered that day ... the day her mom had told her she was going to pick up some more eggnog. The bells from the enormous wreath on the front door of their Vegas home had jangled as it slammed shut — a sound Amy had associated with her mother ever since.
Amy and her father had gone through all the cycles of grief for a missing loved one. The hope in the early hours and days that followed that she'd be found. The determination in the months afterward to chase every lead and offer rewards for information. The desperation that had her father talking to mystics alleged to have found missing people. The crushing sadness that came when she'd realized that just knowing where her mom's body was would provide comfort, even if she'd never get to hug her one last time.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Deep Cover"
Copyright © 2018 Scarlett Cole.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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