When an assassin tries to kill undercover DEA agent Tucker Pankov the same week his boss is taken out, Tucker has good reason to be paranoid. And when other members of his elite team are not only targeted, but stripped of top-secret security clearance, Tucker has one shot at discovering who wants them dead—and why. So he kidnaps the only woman he thinks can save them.
Brilliant NSA analyst Karen Stafford doesn’t like being forced into anything, especially by someone she doesn’t trust. Yet after a hijacked US-owned drone starts attacking government installations resulting in mass casualties, Karen has to take Tucker’s side. Now, two unlikely allies must unite to prevent an escalating and unthinkable terrorist conspiracy. But as Tucker and Karen grow intimate, they realize the conspiracy runs deep, and their enemies are closer than anyone realized.
*New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden
About the Author
Katie Reus is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Deadly Ops novels, which include Shattered Duty, Targeted, and Bound to Danger, as well as the novella Chasing Danger, and the Moon Shifter novels. She has a degree in psychology and lives in Mississippi, with her husband, who was a Marine scout/sniper and currently works as a police officer and SWAT team sniper.
Read an Excerpt
Also by Katie Reus
Excerpt from A Covert Affair
Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV): aka drone, an aircraft without a human pilot physically aboard. Controlled by computers or a pilot at another location.
Rayford Osborn strode down the brick sidewalk of the quiet Georgetown neighborhood, trying to keep his walk natural. Not easy when a wild energy hummed through him. It was a little after ten and this area of the city was relatively quiet. As a sedan drove by, he automatically pulled his hoodie down a fraction to hide his face. A fucking hoodie.
His chosen adolescent attire grated against everything in him, but it was necessary for tonight’s meeting. Things were about to change; he felt it deep in his bones. His country needed to be on a different path, and if that happened to make him richer, he wasn’t going to complain. People who thought money was the root of all evil were fools. He and his wife did well for themselves, but more was always better. More money meant more power. And power was everything.
As the car continued past him without slowing a fraction, he let out a breath he wasn’t aware he’d been holding. This cloak-and-dagger business wasn’t for him. Since college and beyond he’d been so careful about his image, both in public and in private. No affairs, no drinking to excess, no drugs—nothing that could come back to bite him in the ass later on. So many of his peers had screwed that up in college, but not him.
Now what he was doing could get him sent to jail for the rest of his life, or more likely tried for treason and given the death penalty. Only if he and his like-minded allies got caught, of course.
Which they wouldn’t. They were too good and had been flying under everyone’s radar for too long. And now the time for talk was over. It was time to strike.
When he reached his destination, a high-priced townhome—they all were in Georgetown—the front door opened before he’d ascended the short set of stone stairs.
Thad Hillenbrand stood in the doorway, his icy blue eyes glinting as he frowned at him. “You’re late,” he growled as Rayford moved past him into the dimly lit foyer. “Everyone else is here.”
Rayford shoved his hoodie back and loosened his plain black scarf from around his neck. “I walked from the Metro.”
Hillenbrand’s shoulders relaxed at that. “Which station?”
“Dupont Circle. And before you ask, I was careful of the cameras.” The truth was, it was impossible to stay off all the CCTVs, but there was no connection between him and Hillenbrand. At least not an electronic or physical one. And Rayford already had a reason for being in the Georgetown area tonight if he was ever questioned. Once he’d left the Metro station, avoiding cameras had been a piece of cake. “I’m the last one here?” he asked, even though Hillenbrand had just stated he was.
The older man nodded once then gave a sharp jerk of his head that Rayford should follow. He’d only been in the townhome once before, for a covert meeting just like this one. He knew that Hillenbrand used the exclusive property to bring escorts to. It was the man’s one vice and something Rayford had thought he could use against him at one point.
But Hillenbrand wasn’t in politics—not directly—and made enough money on his own that he didn’t need his wealthy wife’s money if she decided to leave him. Not to mention the man treated his whores well so Rayford couldn’t even blackmail him on allegations of abuse. It appeared he only brought his women here because it was convenient. Plus, his wife was cheating on him too, so she likely knew of his affairs.
Rayford might work with the man because they shared common goals, but he didn’t like being involved with someone he had no dirt on. In his world, having leverage was king.
They only walked a few feet, bypassing the stairs, Hillenbrand instead opening the door that led to the basement.
Rayford went first on Hillenbrand’s insistence. The man didn’t like to have anyone at his back, and Rayford knew it was more or less a power play. But he didn’t care. If things went well, soon he’d be the top aide to the most powerful man in the country.
A low hum of voices grew louder as he turned the corner at the end of the stairs and walked down the last three steps. Eight men in all were there, ten total including him and Hillenbrand. There was only one man Rayford didn’t recognize. Something about the guy’s face tickled his memory bank, but he couldn’t place it. Blond hair, in shape, an almost forgettable appearance, but he knew he’d seen the man somewhere before.
Soon he’d find out, but he didn’t bother asking Hillenbrand. The man was more cautious than any of them, and he wouldn’t have allowed someone to come to this meeting he wasn’t one hundred percent sure of.
“We need to fight a war we can win,” Wagner, one of the men, said, stating something everyone in this room believed in. Mainly because he liked to hear his own voice.
So many of these men did. It annoyed Rayford, but he was used to the type. Hell, he worked for one. Men who couldn’t stand not to be the center of attention. Rayford had no problem living in the background.
“But is this the way?” Padilla, a dark-haired man in his late forties, rubbed a hand down his face, his tension clear.
“If you have doubts, you’re free to leave,” Hillenbrand said, his edgy tone making the room go silent.
Because everyone knew his words were a lie. Padilla could leave if he wanted, but if he did he’d be dead within twenty-four hours, likely less. They all knew what they’d signed up for when they began their cause, when Hillenbrand contacted them and brought them together. They all knew what was at stake and what the cost for backing out would be. It was like the mob. The only way out was in a body bag.
Padilla straightened against the brown Chesterfield where he sat next to Wagner, his gaze narrowing on Hillenbrand. “I don’t have doubts, but I do have an opinion, which I’m free to voice, yes?”
Coming to stand next to Rayford, Hillenbrand crossed his arms over his chest as he faced down Padilla. “We’re all welcome to our opinions, but in the end we know what has to be done, so these discussions are pointless and tiring. The current administration needs to be proven inept beyond a shadow of a doubt. We must pave the way for a new leader for the next election. Once we have our chosen man inside, we’ll be even closer to our end goal. And we’ll all be richer in the end.”
There was a low murmur of agreement throughout the room. Rayford inwardly groaned. Just like the others in the room, Hillenbrand liked to speak simply to hear his own voice. Rayford hoped the man wasn’t going to get long-winded on them now. He’d managed to break away from dinner at his wife’s parents’ house stating a work emergency, but he didn’t have time to waste.
“The time for talking is over. Now’s the time for action.” Striding to the minibar, Hillenbrand picked up a small black remote. “If you will all direct your attention to the screen,” he said, motioning toward the mini movie theater screen that took up one of the walls.
Hillenbrand used this as an entertainment room and occasionally let his college-aged boys use the place too. But he knew they weren’t going to be watching a movie in it.
“About a month ago a U.S.–owned drone was stolen from a military base,” Hillenbrand continued.
It wasn’t public knowledge, but Rayford knew of the incident. His own boss was sitting on the information, waiting on the right time to release it for the best of their political gain.
“Now you all are going to see why.” As Hillenbrand pressed a button on the remote, the lights in the room dimmed and a feed popped up on-screen that looked like an eagle eye from a plane.
“Is this live?” Rayford asked quietly, realizing it was a view from the drone.
Hillenbrand gave him a hard look and nodded before focusing on the screen once again. “Unfortunately I don’t have audio, but we don’t need it.”
Though it was dark, the dash was clear enough with the night-vision capabilities. Not that it mattered because if this was a view from the drone, it would be controlled remotely and no one would actually be in the aerial device. Which raised the question—who was controlling it? This was the first Hillenbrand had told any of them about this.
“Go ahead,” Hillenbrand murmured quietly, and Rayford realized he must have a small earpiece in.
Annoyance hummed through him at being left in the dark about who this other contact was, but he kept his emotions in check.
A long moment later a bright burst of light illuminated the screen, quickly followed by another. Those were missiles. Who was the target? This was a very dangerous weapon and he wasn’t sure Hillenbrand was the right man to be in control of it. Rayford’s anger and annoyance intensified as he watched a bright orange ball of flame light up the darker screen as the missiles detonated their target. The feed was in black and white, but the infrared showed the heat signature clearly, so he knew it was fire.
Before he could say anything, the ground shook just the slightest bit and his stomach lurched. Hillenbrand had attacked somewhere in Washington, D.C.
The screen went blank and the lights brightened as Hillenbrand smiled broadly. He’d just ordered the killing of Americans here in the capital and didn’t give a damn. “There’s no going back now for any of us. That was just the beginning. Unfortunately we’ll have some hard choices to make in the coming weeks, but I have no doubt we’re all up to the job. And I know you’re wondering who the target was. The Nelson fund-raiser was just hit, eliminating our only real competition for the upcoming primaries.”
Rayford’s mouth filled with cotton as he struggled to find his voice. They’d been talking and planning for so long, but he’d never imagined Hillenbrand would go after someone in their own political party. And never like this. He understood it, the need to eliminate everyone who posed a threat to the candidate they needed in office if change was ever going to take place, but . . . it seemed so violent. So unforgiveable.
Luckily he didn’t have to talk because the room erupted in voices, everyone talking over one another. Some were excited; others were angry he’d made the decision without asking any of them. Now they were all trapped. No matter what happened, they’d all been part of this. Avoiding Hillenbrand’s gaze, he made his way to the minibar and poured himself a scotch, his hand trembling ever so slightly. As he did, he realized where he’d seen the only man in the room he hadn’t recognized when he’d entered. On the news.
The man worked for the DEA. Which meant Hillenbrand had brought him in because of who he worked for. Unless Hillenbrand had no idea who he was. If that was the case, they were going to have more blood on their hands because they couldn’t allow anyone outside this room to know what they’d done.
Wet work: expression for murdering or assassinating someone (wet alluding to the spilling of blood).
One week later
Tucker Pankov ran a hand over his buzz cut, the dampness from his shower already drying. He’d be glad to grow his hair out again and spend at least a week at his place in solitude. He lived in a three-bedroom home in the Virginia countryside. He’d chosen to have acres and acres of space between him and his neighbors over a larger house in a suburb. He was rarely here and when he did get downtime, he craved the quiet.
For his last undercover job, as a psychopathic thug, he’d shaved his head, making himself look more the part of drug-peddling scum. He’d kept his same alias from the job he’d worked before that one with a true psychopath, Tasev, and it was a relief to shed that persona.
It was also a fucking relief that bastard was dead, even if the DEA hadn’t been the ones to officially bring him down. He was still surprised that his boss, Deputy Director Max Southers, hadn’t been upset when the NSA brought down Tasev and his entire operation instead of his elite undercover DEA team, but in the end, Tucker didn’t care who’d done it. He didn’t care about the accolades, just the result.
As he stepped into his bedroom, he turned on the television. Headlines from last week’s attack on a political fund-raiser dominated everything.
Tucker should probably have been surprised by the attack, but little could shock him anymore. The drone that had carried out the attack should never have been stolen in the first place. Heads were already rolling over that “oversight” in security, and while he cared about the massive loss of life, it had nothing to do with the DEA. At least not at the moment.
On the screen, Clarence Cochran, a politician who’d just announced his intention to seek the next presidential nomination for his party, was talking about the avoidable loss of life of a man who would have been running against him. Acting as if he cared.
Tucker rolled his eyes. For the most part politicians in Washington only cared about themselves. He actually belonged to the same political party as Cochran, but the guy was too much of an extremist. That was dangerous no matter what side of the political aisle a man stood on. For the next election he’d be voting against the party line if that moron made a play for the presidency. Tucker was reaching for the remote to turn it off when a breaking report flashed on the screen.
Max Southers, Deputy Director of the Drug Enforcement Administration, murdered in violent carjacking.
He blinked, ice invading his veins as he stared numbly at the screen, before he turned up the volume. Max was dead? No fucking way. He’d just talked to him a couple of hours ago. Someone would have alerted him.
“You need a break, son, and I’m ordering it. Take a week off and just relax.” The corners of Max’s dark blue eyes had crinkled in concern as he watched Tucker from across his desk.
Max called everyone in their team “son.” It should have annoyed Tucker, since he had a father, but he loved the man. They all did. They’d all spent countless dinners at the man’s house during their off time. Swallowing hard, he sat on the edge of his bed and listened as a somber-looking reporter talked about Max’s murder, basically saying nothing at all. The police had no leads. They didn’t know if this was random or related to one of his cases.
Standing, he grabbed his phone from his nightstand. He needed to call the rest of the team and Mary, Max’s wife. Hell, he needed to verify that this was even true. If they’d reported this without telling her first . . . hell no. He immediately rejected that. The DEA wouldn’t have allowed that to happen. Unless the local PD had fucked it up and there’d been a leak. Because why had no one called the team first?
As he started to call Cole, his phone buzzed, his teammate’s name appearing on-screen. Still numb, he answered, “You see the news?”
“Yeah.” Cole’s voice was grim. “Anyone contact you about it first?”
“I tried Mary and she’s not answering.”
Tucker’s throat tightened as he stared blindly at the muted television. “You believe he’s dead?”
“I . . . don’t know. I can’t imagine them running with the story unless they were positive.”
“I’ll call in a bit. We’ll take care of her if it is.” Mary and Max had been together thirty years. She’d been with Max since his Navy days, enduring long deployments and raising their two kids basically by herself for months on end. Max had been ready to retire in the next two years, to travel with his wife the way he deserved. Tucker’s free hand curled into a fist. “And we’re going to find out whoever did this.”
“Fuck yeah.” Cole’s voice was raspy, the edge in the normally laid-back man’s voice razor-sharp. “What the . . . are you watching the news still?”
“Yeah, hold on.” He unmuted it, frowning as he listened to the reporter’s words. Neither he nor Cole spoke for the next few minutes as he digested everything the man on the news was saying. The news station had received an anonymous tip that a Shia terrorist group was responsible for the murder of Max, that it wasn’t a carjacking at all.
What. The. Hell.
“It doesn’t seem possible,” Tucker muttered. “Have you heard from the Leopard recently?” Leopard was their code word for Ali Nazari, an agent they had embedded in a high-profile Shia terrorist organization. Almost no one knew of his undercover role—just Max, Tucker, Cole, and two other teammates. It was too dangerous otherwise.
“No. We need to make sure the Leopard’s files—”
“Max had a fail-safe in place in case something happened to him. I’ll tell you about it, but not now.” Never over the phone, even if their cells were encrypted. He’d drawn in a breath to continue when the power suddenly went off, his television and the steady hum of his heater going silent. Dawn was breaking, so he could see well enough without the lamp on his nightstand, but he didn’t often lose power and there wasn’t a storm raging. Maybe a breaker had flipped. “Let me call you back in a sec.”
As they disconnected, he pulled on a pair of jogging pants and grabbed his sidearm from his nightstand. Even though he knew it was loaded, he checked the magazine out of habit. Full. Exiting his room, he moved on silent feet down the hallway that led to the living room and kitchen. As he made his way, he passed the keypad for his alarm system, and a shot of adrenaline punched through him.
It was off.
The system was wireless and not linked to his power system, and it never went off-line. Not even when he lost power. He traveled most of the year and wanted his house secure even when he was gone, which was why he’d opted for this specific system. No way had it gone off without help. This was intentional.
His heart rate kicked up a fraction. Ducking into the closest room, his office, he quickly swept it. Empty. He moved to the window and had started to pull back the curtains when he heard a creak.
It was quiet, almost imperceptible, but he knew every sound his house made. It had been built in the forties and had real wood floors he’d had refurbished. And Tucker knew exactly where that creak had come from. A board at the beginning of the hallway, right where the kitchen opened up. It had a very distinctive sound.
Weapon in hand, he moved away from the window and crept to the doorway, giving himself enough room to have his pistol out and drawn without the worry of it being taken from him if someone attacked. If someone made a move, they wouldn’t be able to make it to him before he fired a few rounds.
Whoever was in his home had to know Tucker was aware of his presence. Or at least guess. The house was too silent. Which took away a little of his advantage.
As he waited, everything around him sharpened, his senses going into straight battle mode. Someone could be here to rob him, but his gut told him otherwise.
He lived far enough out that his place wasn’t easy to find, and disabling his security system would have taken time and an expertise far beyond your average thief.
Another creak. This one closer.
Tucker tensed, his finger on the trigger. He wasn’t just going to blindly shoot, but he was ready.
Another creak. That one next to the guest bathroom door.
Which meant the intruder would be in his path in three, two, one.
“Drop your weapon! Put your hands in the air!” Tucker shouted as the hooded man came into view, his own weapon—with a fucking suppressor—drawn. “Now, or I drop you where you stand.” His voice was quieter now, his intent clear in each word. All it would take was a bullet to the head.
It was hard to read his facial expression because of the hood, but the man stood right around six feet, had a solid build. Wearing all black, including rubber-soled boots that made almost no sound, the intruder looked like a pro.
The silenced weapon clattered to the floor, the sound overpronounced in the quiet of his home, before the man put his hands in the air. When he moved, Tucker could see the bulky outline of a vest. If he had to take a killing shot, it would be to the head.
“Kick it away.”
The man did as Tucker said.
“On your knees.”
Silently the man started to kneel down but at the last second leaped forward.
Training kicked in automatically. Tucker fired, hitting the man in his calf as he tried to dive out of the way.
The hooded man cried out as Tucker swept into the hallway, conscious of his six as he trained his weapon on the guy.
He’d grabbed his fallen weapon.
Tucker fired, two shots to the middle of the forehead. Normally he’d take a center mass shot, but there was no point with the guy wearing a vest.
The man stilled, dropping back with a thud as his weapon hand fell loudly against the wooden floor of the hallway. Tucker moved carefully, kicking it away before he checked the man’s pulse and took off the hood. By the time he’d pulled it off, there was a slight blue tinge around his eyes, nose, and mouth.
Certain he was dead, Tucker checked his person for any identifiers and found none before he moved on to the rest of his house. Next he cleared his garage, then the shed. Before moving on he turned his power back on and reconnected the alarm. Resetting it so no one could infiltrate his house while he was gone, he swept his property. He found a four-door car with mud smeared on the license plate hidden off the side of the road about a mile away. Unfortunately there weren’t any identifying papers inside. He memorized the plate, then raced back to his place.
Careful to avoid the blood pooling in the hallway, he grabbed his cell and found two missed calls. Both from Cole. As he pulled out his fingerprint kit, he called his friend back. He was going to call the police, but he was taking the guy’s prints first. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust the locals, but the DEA had more resources and this was clearly personal.
Which meant the chances of this being linked to one of his cases was high. He had to know what and who he was dealing with, and he’d get answers faster than the local PD.
“Someone just tried to kill me,” Cole said by way of greeting. “Can’t identify him, but he was a professional.”
Well, hell. “Me too. You called the cops yet?”
“No. Someone also went after Brooks. This isn’t fucking random,” he snarled.
“Anyone contacted Kane?” The last member of their elite group.
“Can’t get ahold of him.”
Tucker reined in a curse. “Get the prints of your guy. Then pack a bag. Can you dispose of the body?”
“Do it. Then we rendezvous at location bravo.” Their team had five backup places to meet if the shit ever hit the fan. They were all random and none had ties to any of them. Tucker picked the second location because it was the first that popped into his mind.
“You sure no cops?”
“You want to alert whoever sent these guys after us that they failed?” Because the moment they did that, they’d become sitting targets. No, they needed to ghost out while whoever was gunning for them thought they were dead or about to be. Then they’d regroup and figure this thing out.
“I know. Just feels like we’re crossing a line.”
Tucker snorted. He’d cross whatever line necessary to keep his men alive. “Bring all your weapons, ammo, passports—real and aliases—any burner phones and all your electronics if you’re sure they’re not traceable. We need to figure out who’s after us.”
“On it. I’ll keep trying Kane.”
“Me too.” After they disconnected, Tucker packed everything he needed, then took care of the body and blood, storing the dead man in the trunk of the car he’d abandoned on the side of the road. It wasn’t the first time he’d had to dispose of a body, not with the jobs he’d been assigned to, but it was the first time he’d removed one from his own home and wasn’t telling anyone else about it. He cleaned up the blood the best he could, but if pros came in here with luminol they’d find the evidence.
But if anyone else came out here looking for him, he’d be long gone before they got here.
He needed to stay alive. Because whoever had come after his men had made the biggest mistake of his life.
Six: in military and law enforcement slang, “six” means “back.” Phrases like “watch your six” or “I’ve got your six” mean to “watch your back” or “I’ve got your back.” In warfare, your six is the most vulnerable position.
“I don’t like this.” Cole rubbed a hand over his newly cut blond hair. For the Tasev infiltration he’d kept it shaggy, playing the part of a mindless soldier. Now he looked like his usual deadly self.
“What the fuck else are we gonna do?” Kane demanded from the front passenger seat of the SUV he, Tucker, Cole, and Brooks were in.
Tucker shifted against his seat in the back. He didn’t like this plan any more than Cole, but they had to do something. Their places were all under surveillance—by whom, they hadn’t figured out yet—and they couldn’t go into work because it was the first place their enemy would expect them. Plus, they didn’t know if someone in the DEA had set them up. Their top-security clearances had been revoked in the system at work, which was a huge red flag. None of them could log in to anything past a basic level online. With such limited access, they were pretty much working blind. Could be a glitch, but likely not, since it had happened to all four of them.
It wasn’t as if a replacement had been named for Max yet, so they had no one to turn to. No one they trusted anyway. Because of their undercover jobs, they were insulated from the majority of the people in the office for their safety and everyone else’s. In short, they were fucked right now with no way to know if they’d been set up or even if they’d be arrested if they attempted to head into the office. “It’s been two days since Max died,” Tucker said quietly.
“And Ali guarantees it’s not the Shias,” Brooks said from the front, never looking back at them as he surveyed the quiet park.
It was before dawn and everything but the sidewalks was covered in a light dusting of snow. The street sweepers had been out about an hour ago to clear and salt everything. This was a well-used park in a nice part of Baltimore where crime was pretty much unheard-of.
“Burkhart’s not returning my e-mails.” Tucker hated every bit of what they were about to do, but they needed an ally. Of course, what they were about to do was just as likely to make them enemies and put them on another hit list. They had nothing to lose at this point. “This will get his attention.”
Cole snorted. “And it’ll get us bullets in the head.”
Maybe. Tucker shook his head. “Max trusted him.” Hell, Burkhart was part of Ali’s fail-safe plan if the agent ever got hung out to dry or Max died during the middle of an op. He wasn’t even with the DEA, but as the deputy director of the NSA and a lifelong friend of their former boss, Burkhart was a man Max had clearly thought had integrity.
Tucker hoped he was right.
“We’re running out of time and we need help.” Kane’s voice was determined, mirroring Tucker’s feelings.
“I see a female runner,” Brooks said from the front, his voice grim. “Could be her.”
“It’s go time. Apparently,” Cole tacked on, making his agitation clear.
But in the end, they were a team and no matter what, they’d act as one cohesive unit. They trusted one another in the field and they’d support one another in this. Even though Cole was pissed, Tucker knew he’d have his back no matter what.
He just hoped this plan didn’t turn around and blow their lives apart. Moving quietly with Cole, Tucker slid out of the vehicle and made his way to a cluster of trees that lined the park. He hated this plan, but forced his doubts away because he didn’t see any other option. They had to do this.
• • •
Karen Stafford loosened her scarf around her neck as her sneakers pounded against the pavement. Despite the chilly January weather, she’d been jogging for thirty minutes and had started to sweat a while ago under all her layers.
Inhaling the crisp air, she savored the quiet of the neighborhood as she made her way to her favorite park. This early she didn’t run through the park, just around it where she was still visible along main roads. She also didn’t run with an MP3 player because she liked the time to be alone with her own thoughts without any outside noise. She rarely got that with her high-pressure job at the NSA. Even if she didn’t have the job she did, she still wouldn’t run with noise pumping in her ears. She liked to be aware of her surroundings at all times.
She carried bear spray with her—because no mugger or would-be rapist was going to be able to withstand that kind of pain—and a switchblade. A gift from her brother, Clint, who’d died in Afghanistan seven years ago. Whenever he’d come home he always brought her gifts. Usually weapons because he’d been determined that she be able to protect herself since he couldn’t be here. As if he could have watched out for her twenty-four/seven if he’d been here anyway, which was a ridiculous concept. But he’d always been so protective. He’d been more like a parent to her than their own useless father had ever been. Even though she missed Clint every day, she knew she was lucky that she’d had someone who cared about her, who would have done anything for her. Still, some days were harder than others and she wished she had someone in her life. Not just anyone, though, because she’d never settle. She’d seen friends do that and it was depressing.
Shaking those thoughts away, Karen increased her pace, enjoying the way her muscles burned and stretched. She ran every day no matter what. If it rained, she used the treadmill in her condo’s gym, but she much preferred being outdoors, even in the cold.
When she came up to a four-way intersection, she slowed and jogged in place and looked both ways before crossing. There weren’t any cars or people out this morning, which was a little creepy. Feeling paranoid, she unhooked her bear spray from her hip holster and held it loosely in her hand. Her friends made fun of her for the precautions she took, but she’d seen too much bloodshed in her job to take safety lightly.
As she reached the sidewalk that stretched along the park’s small strip of a dozen parking spots, she slowed. A dark SUV with tinted windows sat in one of the spots, the engine running. The exhaust from the tailpipe was visible, and in the quiet she could hear the distinct hum of the engine. Glancing around, she didn’t see anyone else.
Not caring if she was being paranoid, she slowed and turned back around to avoid going past the vehicle. She’d just take a different route today that didn’t involve the park.
At the sound of an engine revving, she glanced over her shoulder. The SUV was pulling out of the spot and heading in her direction. Her heart rate kicked up. She knew she was probably acting crazy but didn’t care. Veering off the sidewalk, she raced through the park where vehicles couldn’t go. As she cleared a cluster of trees without the sound of running feet coming after her, she let out a shaky breath and kept up her pace.
Risking a glance over her shoulder, she nearly stumbled when she saw a man dressed in all black step out from the trees.
Holy shit. Recognition slammed into her with the intensity of a battering ram. Since he wore a scarf around his neck and a knit cap on his head, she couldn’t spot one of the distinguishing features she’d seen in the file she had on him. But she knew he had a jagged scar around his neck and tended to favor shaving his head.
She knew it was him from his icy blue eyes.
Grisha. A murdering psychopath.
Fear took hold, its unforgiving grip squeezing around her chest like a vise, colder than the winter-morning air.
Though she wanted to run, she stopped and spun around on the sidewalk, raising her bear spray with a steady hand. No one could withstand this if she shot it in their face, and she just wanted the chance to get away. She certainly wasn’t going to take the guy on in hand-to-hand combat. “Get back!” she shouted, her finger steady on the trigger. She was glad she wasn’t outwardly shaking. She needed to paint a picture of calm even if she was trembling inside.
To her surprise, he held up his hands and almost looked apologetic as he watched her. “I don’t want to hurt you, Karen.”
Holy hell, he knew her name. So this definitely wasn’t random. Because why would this guy be in Baltimore of all places, in the same park she ran by almost every day? Did he know who she worked for? God, he probably wanted to torture her for information. She wasn’t going to stand around and ask him a bunch of questions. The facts that he knew her name and was a violent criminal were enough for her to run for her life.
Whirling around, she raced down the sidewalk, her heart beating out of control, the sound of her blood rushing in her ears so loud she couldn’t tell how close he was behind her.
She wanted to pull out her phone, but she’d strapped it around her ankle so it would be out of her way. She couldn’t risk slowing down. If she could just get somewhere public, maybe she could flag someone for help.
As she moved deeper into the park, she cursed herself for coming this way, but he’d been blocking her exit. As she risked another glance over her shoulder, full-blown panic exploded inside her like fireworks. He was about twenty feet behind her and closing. He moved fast for such a big man, and she knew he wouldn’t stop. The range on her spray was thirty feet, so she could take him. She’d only get one shot at this, so she had to do it right.
His expression was grim and he said something to her, but she couldn’t hear anything above the blood rushing in her ears.
She could keep running, but he was going to reach her soon. And she knew without a doubt she’d lose against him in any sort of physical altercation. She’d seen pictures of what he’d done to someone who’d crossed him. This might be her only chance to get away or at least get help. Drawing in a deep breath, she let out a bloodcurdling scream, hoping someone would hear her as she stopped and turned to spray him.
Still screaming, she had started to press the trigger when a blur of motion out of the corner of her eye made her stumble backward.
A man in similar attire burst from the trees lining the sidewalk. There were two of them!
Pressing the trigger, she started spraying wildly as the newcomer tackled her. She flew back against the sidewalk, her head slamming against it as she lost her grip on the bear spray.
“Don’t hurt her!” Grisha shouted.
But that couldn’t be right. Unless he wanted to be the one to inflict pain. She tried to struggle, but the other man was on top of her and had her in a tight grip. She couldn’t stop gasping, her chest terrifyingly tight. She couldn’t breathe through the panic pressing in on her. Every horrible photo and crime scene she’d ever seen at work crashed in on her at once. She didn’t want to be a fucking statistic! She blinked as everything around her became fuzzy. Stay awake, she ordered herself as the edges of her vision started to fade.
No, no, no. She couldn’t be unconscious around these monsters. But she couldn’t control her breathing. It was too fast, too panicked. Pins and needles erupted in her hands and feet. Her eyeballs felt as if they were bulging. The edges of her vision closed in. Her body refused to listen as darkness swept her under.
• • •
Wesley glanced at Selene as they neared their destination. The private plane was about ten minutes from its final descent, and he hated that the reason they were returning was that one of his oldest, closest friends had been murdered.
The whole situation didn’t sit right with Wesley, and even though it wasn’t the NSA’s jurisdiction, he’d be looking at all the files to make sure the investigation was handled properly. He owed Max that much. Hell, he owed the man his life.
“You all right?” Selene asked softly from her seat next to the window. Her white blond hair was pulled back from the sharp planes of her face and braided tight against her head.
As if she were his own daughter, the computer genius rarely missed anything when it came to him. She was one of the few people who could read his moods. He could have said he was fine, but there was no reason to lie to her and she’d have known anyway. “No.”
“We’ll find out who killed him.” Her expression turned fierce and determined.
His throat tight, all he could do was nod and stare blindly at his open laptop. Wesley had called Mary Southers before boarding the plane in Berlin and she’d sounded as if she was hanging in there. The woman was a rock, the type who could weather any storm. But losing Max . . . hell, it was just unfair.
Which was a stupid thing to say considering the shit he saw day in and day out. Wesley knew how fragile life was, how bad things happened to good people all the damn time. For some reason he’d just never thought he’d lose his oldest friend.
Max didn’t even work in the field anymore. And that bullshit about a Shia terrorist group gunning for him was just that—bullshit—so putrid it stank. It didn’t even make sense with the intel they’d gathered so far. Not to mention that the news stations had received that tip way too fast. Faster than the DEA, NSA, or CIA had. And that simply didn’t happen. The DEA had done damage control and was currently denying those allegations, but the charges were out there for the public to dissect and conspiracy theorists to latch onto.
Now Wesley had to focus on the attack in the capital more than anything. He’d been in Germany working with their premier intelligence agency on something highly sensitive when a stolen, U.S.–owned drone unleashed hell on a political fund-raiser.
And no one could find the damn thing. Not even his best team of analysts. Whoever was manning it was good, because they’d covered their digital tracks well enough that they hadn’t even left a bread-crumb trail.
Pulling up his e-mail, Wesley started scanning the most important ones first, trying to sift his way through the mess of them. Karen often went through his messages and alerted him of priorities if he was off-line for a job, but this was his most private e-mail account. No one had access to it but him.
When he saw one from an unknown address, he opened it and frowned. It was rare he got spam at this address.
Remember the tip you got on Tasev in Miami? It was from me. I made the call from a pay phone on Bayside Drive and I’m willing to bet you tried to track me even after Max told you the tip was anonymous. We need to talk about Max’s murder. Contact me at this number.
Wesley quickly memorized the phone number. No name, but Wesley didn’t need it.
There was only one man who would know all those details. One of Max’s undercover agents. A man known only as Grisha, though Wesley knew it was just an alias. He actually had a file on the alleged criminal and all his supposed past exploits. He’d had Karen look into the man because he’d wanted to team up with Max on another case. That wouldn’t be happening now.
Wesley checked the time stamp and cursed when he realized the message had been sent two damn days ago.
He pulled out his sat phone and called the number. Then cursed again when it went to an automated voice mail simply saying to leave a message. He tried it again with the same results. He shot off an e-mail to Karen asking her to get a trace on the number, then finished dealing with more correspondence that couldn’t wait. Nothing in his damn job could ever seem to wait.
“What’s that look?” Selene asked after he’d tried calling Grisha again.
“Remember the undercover agents from the Tasev case?”
Selene’s pale blue eyes widened just the slightest fraction. “Yeah.”
“I think one of them contacted me. Wants to talk about Max’s murder.”
He nodded. It was very interesting. The DEA and the local PD were handling the case, yet someone who’d worked with Max wanted to talk to him, an outsider.
And in his experience, that simply never happened.
Legend: an agent’s alleged background and personal history, usually supported by documents and memorized details.
Karen tried to steady her breathing and gain her bearings. It was difficult when she was hooded, but she knew she was sitting in the back of a vehicle—not the original SUV, because they’d switched vehicles in a parking garage, though she’d feigned being passed out—and there were four men in the rows in front of her. She knew how many there were because of their distinctive voices. Unfortunately they were all speaking Russian. She didn’t speak it, but she understood a handful of words and phrases. Her hands were flex-cuffed in front of her, which was better than behind her but still sucked. She couldn’t stop her heart from racing out of control or her body’s elevated temperature.
She was so not prepared for something like this. Sure, she’d taken some classes—in a well-lit classroom with trained instructors—but no in-the-field training for being kidnapped. She was just an analyst. She was good with computers and thinking outside the box, but she wasn’t physically strong. Definitely not strong enough to fend off one of the men she’d seen, let alone four. And her imagination was going insane, thinking of all the things these monsters planned to do to her. Rape or torture. Probably both. Worse, she knew that most people cracked under torture.
One of the men she worked with, Ortiz, had told her just that during a conversation they’d had over morning coffee and bagels at the office. It had been in context with a case they’d been working on. He’d said that it was just a matter of time but it was simply human nature before pretty much everyone broke. If you couldn’t channel the pain, whether psychological or physical, you cracked. And if for some reason you held out, one of two things happened. Death, or they found something else to use against you. Meaning someone who mattered to you. It was conceivable that even the bravest patriot would give up secrets because of a threat to a significant other or child.
That was human nature to its core.
“Burkhart . . . ,” one of the men murmured in the midst of their conversation.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for the Deadly Ops series:
“Sexy military romantic suspense.”—USA Today
“Reus strikes just the right balance of steamy sexual tension and nail-biting action.”—Publishers Weekly
“Romantic and suspenseful, a fast-paced sexy book full of high stakes action.”—Heroes and Heartbreakers
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What can I say? Another fantastic book in the Deadly Ops Series. In this one we have Tucker who along with members of his team are being setup. Their only hope is kidnapping a very important woman with the NSA Karen. They would never hurt her but she at first doesn't know that. Once Tucker explains it all Karen knows she will do whatever it takes to help this man and his team. Burkhart is the boss of Karen and he is worried about his employ more than anything. Can Tucker and Karen get him on their side? We have alpha men along with very strong willed women. The females in this series are every bit as strong and powerful as the men who capture their hearts. Wonderful story. I was gifted a copy of this book for my honest review.
Once again, Ms Reus gives us a story that keeps us on the edge of seats, biting our nails, and our hearts pounding. This time our main characters are DEA agent Tucker Pankov, and NSA analyst Karen Stafford. They meet when Tucker and 3 of his DEA co-workers, kidnap her so she can help them find out who and why the four of them are being stripped of their security clearance and accused of treason. The worse part was that all of them felt awful to have had to kidnap her and scare her in thinking she was going to be tortured and /or raped. But quickly it’s made evident they wish her no harm and really need her help. Needless to say that in between all the suspense, attempts to murder them, and trying to clear their names, Tucker and Karen are drawn to each other. The tension and suspense is constant and even though the audiobook is long, time flies and all you want to do is have an excuse to listen to it so you can find out what’s going to happen next. One of the things I specially like about this talented author is that her female characters are strong , independent women and that the men that fall for them are strong alpha males that respect and admire them. Also the author presents a world that is not white and black, but rather shades of gray. A great addition to an engaging and well written series. I want to point out that the narrator did an excellent job with the various voices of the characters. I was gifted this audiobook. The opinions expressed are solely my own.
Another great addition to the Deadly Ops series. This is book four in the Deadly Ops series by Katie Reus. Each book can be read as a stand-alone but there are some characters that are recurring in each book. To get a better understanding of the characters and how they operate and interact, I would recommend reading all the books in the series but it is not necessary. This series is generally about a secret group of men and women attached to the NSA, doing covert government work. This book, however, takes a side turn and directly relates to a character that is in an under-cover little known, DEA black ops operative named Tucker Pankov. Tucker and his comrades are targeted by a high level traitor in the DEA. When his boss is murdered, Pankov and his team are being set up to take the fall for not only the murder but also other terrorist acts. Not knowing who to trust Pankov knows he needs to reach Wesley Burkhart, a Director in the NSA and recurring character in the Deadly Ops books, to help. The only problem is getting to him. To do this Tucker and his team kidnap, Karen Stafford, an NSA analyst who works closely with Burkhart. On the run and with danger closing in fast Tucker and his team relate their story to Karen. Karen being in the position that she is trusts her instincts and realizes that Tucker and his team are being set up. Things really begin to heat up with the real villains realizing that Tucker and his team are still alive and knowing that they are loose ends that need to be handled. Even though you know who the bad guys are the suspense was off the hook in this book. You didn’t know who, where or how they were going to strike next. The attraction between Tucker and Karen was off the charts. Acting on their passion in a variety of tense situations added to the over-all feel of the book. I would recommend this book for not only it’s suspense but also the great way the characters interact with each other. I was gifted a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review. However, I also purchased a copy of the book because it was that good.
4.5 Stars This is my favorite book in the Deadly Ops series. Edge of Danger is tightly written, a little gritty and oh, so sexually explosive. Tucker is an undercover agent for the DEA. We first meet him in Shattered Duty. He is the agent who lends aid to Selena and Levi while working deep undercover. Unwittingly bound in a deadly conspiracy, Tucker and his teammates have to prove their innocence when they are accused of being terrorists. In order to get the kind of help he needs, Tucker must make contact with one man who can assist him, Wesley Burkhart, the Deputy Director of the NSA. However, it is impossible to reach him by regular channels, so the team decides to get his attention via unconventional means – kidnap one of Burkhart’s favored agents, Karen Stafford. This story is satisfyingly complicated, involving a lot of characters including players from other books to evil and dastardly conspirators out to start a war with the Middle East for profit. With twist and turns, the suspense is elevated to a can’t-stop-reading-now frenzy. For me, the relationship between the two main characters makes this book a standout. Having worked undercover for many years, Tucker is used to holding back and denying his emotions. It’s what makes him a great undercover operative, but a stoic human being. Additionally, both Karen and Tucker face the challenge of having to keep their “real” job from newly forming relationship partners. You can almost hear an audible sigh when they both realize that for the first time, they have the freedom to truly be themselves. Liberation fuels the frenzy and potency of their attraction. As Tucker describes it: "Stamina had never been an issue for him, at least not since he was sixteen, but the raw intensity of this situation was making everything in his brain short-circuit.” In the past, I’ve been critical of some of the endings of Katie Reus’ stories. They feel rushed. This story’s conclusion is done so well with plenty of suspense and peril. Yes! IN A NUTSHELL: This book has all the right ingredients for a great romantic suspense read. It is book-hangover worthy.
The Deadly Ops series is one that I love because Katie Reus has built a fast-paced, intriguing, dangerous world. In Edge of Danger, Katie Reus continues to deliver that expected intensity to her readers. When four undercover DEA agents are accused of treasonous acts, they're left with very few options. The option they choose-to kidnap analyst Karen Stafford. This operation sets off a story that is high-energy, action packed, and full of enough twists and turns to keep me flipping pages long past "lights out". One of my favorite passages from the story, is when Tucker (our hero) explains to Karen the reason for his confidence in regards to his feelings for her. It is, in my mind, the perfect response to the naysayers that would argue that falling in love in the middle of so much uncertainty is just not plausible. While I love the romance aspect, I have to say that it is the strength of the character's convictions that has kept me captivated by the series. The men and women of this series continue to put themselves at risk for the good of others, despite seemingly impossible odds! I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, because I know the author will have something equally as enticing for her fans!
I seriously adore this series so much that it's become an auto-buy for me! Tucker is pure swoon-worthy alpha bada**! He has just returned from his latest op to find out that his boss has been murdered and his entire team was framed. Desperate, he and his team kidnap Karen hoping she can set up a meeting with their bosses friend who is the Director of the NSA. Karen is a gifted computer analyst and is being groomed by her boss to eventually take over for him. She realizes right away that Tucker and his team are being set up and is determined to help clear their names. Edge of Danger is action packed from the get go! The The attraction between Tucker and Karen is electric and I loved how they perfectly complemented each other. Tucker was protective, fierce and sexy as hell while Karen was smart, sassy and sweet. I love her determination to go after what she wants, and she wants Tucker. I loved how Tucker just knows Karen is "the one", but he's trying hold back, worried that he may be taking advantage of the situation. He's had to do bad things in his line of work as an undercover agent and he feels guilty because of that. It's hard for him to imagine that someone as amazing as Karen would want him as much as he wants her. This book had me on the edge of my seat from page one! If you're looking for a fast-paced, sexy, suspense filled read then Edge of Danger is the book for you! *I received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Tucker and his elite team have dedicated their lives to protect the country that they love. Now their being set up to take the fall for a deadly terrorist attacks. Also, someone killed their mentor, Max. Who is behind it and what is their ultimate objective? Tucker is determined to find out. He needs to contact Wesley Burkhart the one person that Max trusted. He kidnaps Karen, one of Wesley's top analysts. He'll get her to call her boss and they'll work together to find the culprit. A solid plan. What could go wrong? Everything! The danger ramps up as their enemy is determined to stop anyone that gets in their way. Now they are running for their lives. I was hooked from the first page. The characters are amazing. Tucker is a strong man who risks his life to protect the innocent. He's attracted to Karen and amazed by her courage and dedication. She may be afraid but she'll stay with him and do what needs to be done. I love a strong female who's not afraid to go after what she wants. Karen is more than a match for Tucker. The story is well plotted and the political intrigue is realistic. The action is non-stop and filled with surprising twists and turns. Washington DC provides the perfect setting for this thriller. The secondary characters add to the intrigue. I enjoy the Deadly Ops series and always look forward to Katie Reus's releases. She's a must read for me.
When an assassin tries to kill undercover DEA agent Tucker Pankov the same week his boss is taken out, Tucker has good reason to be paranoid. And when other members of his elite team are not only targeted, but stripped of top-secret security clearance, Tucker has one shot at discovering who wants them dead—and why. So he kidnaps the only woman he thinks can save them. Brilliant NSA analyst Karen Stafford doesn’t like being forced into anything, especially by someone she doesn’t trust. Yet after a hijacked US-owned drone starts attacking government installations resulting in mass casualties, Karen has to take Tucker’s side. Now, two unlikely allies must unite to prevent an escalating and unthinkable terrorist conspiracy. But as Tucker and Karen grow intimate, they realize the conspiracy runs deep, and their enemies are closer than anyone realized. Review: I can always count on Ms. Reus's books to be fast-paced, action-packed and sexy and this was no exception. This book like the others in the series are very well researched and that research comes across in her technical jargon and descriptions. The books are always timely too, in this one we have political machinations, drones, bombings, all things that are prevalent in today's world society. That's what makes them interesting, I can picture these things happening, nothing is so out of the realm of possibility. This is a full length book, but it read so quick I had to double check that it was not a novella. The only thing that I had a slight problem with was that Karen and Tucker fell into bed so quick. I know he was not guilty, but the girl should still be pissed that he kidnapped her, for a little while at least. But, this is a romantic suspense and where would the fun be if there were not some sheets getting steamy? Love this series, cannot wait for the next one! 4Stars *Received a copy of this book from the Author in exchange for a fair and honest review.*
When his boss is murdered and his team framed for terrorist attacks, undercover DEA agent Tucker Pankov knows it’s time to act. After the hit on his tem, Tucker must carefully choose who to trust to help them. There is just one man that their boss really trusted so Tucker has only one shot to clear their names. But to get to this man, they will have to go through his assistant. NSA analyst Karen Stafford can’t understand why a bunch of criminals abducted her and are insisting to contact her boss. Especially the one who calls himself Tucker since she knows that he is a notorious murderer. They are trying to convince her that they are DEA agents and the more evidence they provide the more she’s beginning to question the information she’s been given at the agency. When the Media blame Tucker’s team for a murder she’s sure they can’t have committed since they were with her at the time, Karen takes matters at her own hands. I really liked Edge of Danger. From page one we are taken into a world of deception, lies and a world where the good guys seem to be the bad guys. Tucker and his team are patriots who have served their country and continue to do so despite the accusations against them. They didn’t really want to kidnap Karen but they had no other choice. When Tucker and Karen finally get to spend time together they are taken aback from their attraction between them. Karen is the woman who’s about to turn his world upside down. But their attraction is a challenge they will both have to win as Karen’s loyalties are questioned and Tucker’s future isn’t looking that bright. The fourth book in the Deadly Ops series is full of non-stop action, suspense and romance. Tucker and Karen were great protagonists and I hope we get to see more of them in the next books but what I really want to know is who is next. I hope it’s someone from Tucker’s team. They were all great and I really wish to read their stories. *ARC provided in exchange for an honest review*
Great series. Tucker and his team set out to clear their names. Tucker did not expect to fall in love. Karen is smart and has great inner strength and did not expect to fall in love with her kidnapper. Together they get past the circumstances surrounding how they met and learn to trust each other in order to stay alive. Lots of action. Looking forward to next installment of the series. I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
NUMBER OF HEARTS: 3 3/4 In Edge of Danger we get to follow 4 DEA agents who are wrongly accused of a terrorist attack. Not only are the wrongly accused, each had a hit put on them. The four guys all work so well together, but Tucker took the lead and the risk in this book (which I hope means the other boys will get a story *hint, hint*). Tucker is one mean SOB. He has to be for his job, but he doesn’t really like it. So when his team decides that they the help of a certain NSA analyst the set up a nice little meeting with her... Okay no they don’t. They kidnap her :) I loved that Karen is a huge fighter. She out smarts the guys at least once and boy howdy it was funny (Poor Cole). But once she learns the reason behind her being taken she understands what she needs to do. And it doesn’t help that Tucker is really easy on the eyes. Another really good story from Ms. Reus. I really enjoyed Tucker and Karen’s story. I liked the pace of the story. I really enjoyed the tension between Tucker and Karen. Oh and the closet or and the cabana. So much fun!!! I can’t wait to see what is next!!! I really really hope the Cole is next. Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley & PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW in exchange for an honest review. This review is my own opinion and not a paid review.
Deadly Ops is by far one of my favorite romantic suspense series. This is the fourth installment and though it can be read as a stand alone I’d suggest to read at least the previous one, Shattered Duty, if only because the hero was first introduced in that one and some aspects of the story may be better enjoyed if you get the whole picture. It was nice to “see” secondary characters again from past books as that gave me a sense of familiarity with the entire series. Our hero Tucker has done a lot of bad things in the name of duty. Things he’s not proud of and that have left him scarred both inside and outside but he knows it is what is and he’s learned to live with it, fully accepting he may never live a normal life. When the lives of his team members become endangered it seems he has no other choice but to enlist the help of one of his former boss’ allies; but how to get him to help them? Cue suspense music. Karen is some sort of a super analyst. She knows her way around the agency like nobody’s business and not only is she one of the boss’ favorites but she is also the calm, familiar, and soothing voice behind every dangerous operation. I’m always in awe at the way Reus manages to weave good romance in such fast paced stories. Even though the chemistry between Karen and Tucker started fast it still worked because it developed as the story progressed and it wasn’t just insta-lust. I also loved the fact that our heroine managed to keep a clear head and behaved like a true NSA agent even though she was just an analyst. In spite of a certain connection between kidnapper and victim, which was kind of understandable as they were treating her fairly well and not as a prisoner, there was no Stockholm syndrome, and their so called “relationship” didn’t begin until she was able to rationalize and prove he was one of the good guys. All in all great addition to the series and I’ll definitely be picking up the next one. ** I was gifted a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review **
Overall Rating: 4.5 Rockin’ ★★★★☆ Super undercover agents, bad guys that want to take over the world and women that know how to make all of their world’s rock! In Edge of Danger the fourth book in Katie Reus’ Deadly Ops series you will find yourself inside this cloak and dagger world. Where good guys look like bad guys and bad guys can appear innocent. This is a remarkable story, filled with who done it and sizzling hot scenes that will leave readers needing a cold shower! Ms. Reus has created believable characters and scenarios that are so realistic that it is hard to believe they are not! Tucker Pankov finds himself in a situation that could be deadly. He is a patriot and serves his country as part of a covert team of DEA agents that infiltrate wherever needed. Only a few people know of this special team’s existence and their purpose. When their boss is murdered, they don’t know who to trust or turn to for help, especially when someone puts a hit out on all of them and their DEA clearance is revoked. There is only one man that they know their boss trusted and in order to get to him, they would need to go through his assistant, Karen Stafford. Little did Tucker realize that she would turn his world upside down and inside out! She is more than just an executive assistant to her boss at NSA. Karen is a computer expert but is also extremely good at analyzing situations for the NSA. She lives for her job and loves every minute of it. When Tucker and his team kidnap her, all they want is to her to arrange a meeting with her boss. However none of them were expecting the beautiful, feisty woman that they got! Karen and Tucker feel an instant spark that seems to grow with contact, but there are bad guys out there that need to be stopped and time is running out. This is a must read addition to anyone’s library! Hero: Tucker Pankov 4.5 stars Heroine: Karen Stafford 4.5 stars Steam: 4.5 stars Plot: 4.5 stars Cliffhanger: No
Review: Edge of Danger: A Deadly Ops Novel by Katie Reus http://wp.me/p3d0RZ-3fu Publication Date: November 3, 2015 Genre: Romantic Suspense Reviewed by: Reading in Pajamas/ Donna Rated: 5 Stars REVIEW: I loved this sexy and suspenseful installment in the Deadly Ops series. And I mean a capital S on the suspense. I normally like a little more oomph in the sex part but this story flowed so perfectly that their few chances were believable. I’m glad she didn’t throw in a few trysts just to have them in there. I had to read this book in one sitting as it had me on the edge of my seat from the beginning and never let up. I loved how Karen was strong yet not a hard operative. She was the perfect feminine counterpart to Tucker. I connected with both of them immediately and his team pulled me in also. I hope Ms. Reus has plans for them because their personalities scream for some page time. I loved it! *Review copy provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.
A fast-paced, high stakes, sexy thriller that will keep its readers on the edge of their seats through-out. “Everything is falling into place perfectly. We have four dirty DEA agents working with a terrorist group and killing Americans on American soil. The headlines are going to write themselves and we're going to get our candidate into the White House. When that happens, we'll get the war we want. The war we can win.” EDGE OF DANGER by Katie Reus is a fantastic, action-packed, high stakes romantic thriller laden with some seriously crooked political shenanigans. Four DEA ages are wrongfully accused and their boss is murdered. They need help and their options are few. So... they kidnap someone who should be able to get them in touch with their deceased boss' good friend who happens to be in charge of a super-secret government agency. What could go wrong? This is the story of DEA agent Tucker Pankov and NSA analyst Karen Stafford. Even though this is the fourth book in the series, it can be fully enjoyed as a standalone. In fact, all the books in Katie's Deadly Ops series can be enjoyed as stand alones, if that is your preference. There are recurring characters throughout each, so the books are linked, but not to where the storylines converge. So, feel free to read them in any order you wish. I loved both the hero and the heroine. She's brilliant; he's strong, capable and pretty smart himself; he had to be to outsmart the villains and keep both he and Karen alive. Katie's characters are always realistic, genuine, and relatable; Tucker and Karen are not exceptions. This book features an almost instant attraction, which totally worked with this story. It brought to mind Levi's and Selene's HEA, a very similar instant attraction told in SHATTERED DUTY (Book #3). I highly recommend both this series and Katie's Red Stone Security series to anyone who enjoys romantic suspense . EDGE OF DANGER is a fast-paced, high stakes, sexy thriller that will keep its readers on the edge of their seats through-out. Be forewarned that you will not want to put it down once you start it. There's an easy fix; Just plan to read it in one sitting. My full review is posted at Reading Between The Wines Book Club. Please check it out there. 4 1/2 Wine Glasses!
Lust to love amidst a terrorist conspiracy… This is the fourth book in the Deadly Ops series that can be read as a stand-alone. When you’re an undercover DEA agent who foils an assassin’s attempt to kill you and your boss was recently murdered who do you turn to? Who in the chain of command knows of the operations you’ve been a part of that you can trust? Tucker Pankov is not having a good day, neither is his team for though the four of them survived the assassins sent to kill them their security clearances have been revoked. It’s up to them to find out who’s trying to terminate them and the reasons why. They need information and there’s an NSA Analyst that could help them but how do they obtain her assistance? The dire circumstances they’re in calls for an action they would normally consider unacceptable, kidnap another agency’s operative and hope that she’ll listen to their story after they convey profound apologies. Tucker never expected the analyst would be a gorgeous sexy woman or the instant attraction he would feel to her. Out for her normal morning run, NSA Analyst Karen Stafford senses something isn’t right with the environment around her but not being a field agent with a team of four trailing you there’s not much you can do but get kidnapped. She’s never met nice kidnappers but these just want her to listen to them and then she can leave. She hears what they have to say but she’s not sure they can be trusted until she finds out more information which happens to be her forte and the reason she was targeted. Karen is surprised to find herself attracted to one of the handsome sexy kidnappers. She should be angry at the man not interested in him. With chemistry in the way can these two work together? The NSA is looking into a terrorist conspiracy after a stolen military drone is used resulting in casualties, evidence leads to the undercover identities of the DEA team. It won’t be easy to absolve them of involvement with law enforcement seeking them and the media spreading their faces in the news. There’s lots of action and suspense going on around our couple keeping the reader’s attention. The villains have quite a devious plan. Tucker and Karen are interesting characters suffering from the instant lust to love connection that had them questioning themselves for what they felt is more but how can that be when they’ve just met and under questionable circumstances. Their self-questioning gave the fast romance more credibility. Tucker is a good man who has done some reprehensible things in the name of the job. Karen is intelligent and spunky. There were times in the storyline that the hero was made to sit on the sidelines which though warranted by the situations caused a lack for this reader who loves her heroes to always be front and center of the action. There are multiple points of view including those of the villains and cameos from previous characters in the series. This book was an enjoyable addition to the series. ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley.
Holy Smoke!!! What an amazing read, full of suspense, mystery and sexual chemistry. When I read a book by Katie Reus, I know it will have a great story and plenty of intense characters that have remarkable interactions. I started reading and could not stop until the end. Loved tucker and Karen as they journey to right the wrongs, capture the bad guys and find true love. Gifted a copy for an honest review.
To the Edge and Back #DeadlyOPS An assassin tries to kill undercover DEA agent Tucker Pankov the same week his boss is killed. And his DEA clearance is revoked. Tucker doesn’t know who to trust or where to go at this point, especially since there is a hit put out for all of the covert team of DEA agents. Now that his boss is dead, Tucker doesn’t know where to go for help but he remembered there is only one man that they know their boss trusted, Wesley Burkhart, Director of the NSA, but in order to get to him, they would go thru his assistant, Karen Stafford. Well when Tucker meets Karen it’s like instant chemistry between them. Tucker is one hot man-full of charisma and so protective while Karen is very smart and sweet-she is has a brain for a computer and can analyze data super-fast. When Tucker gets to Karen he ends up kidnapping her. Karen doesn’t understand why she has been taken and is very scared but makes the best of a situation for the time being. Tucker is trying to get to the bottom of the conspiracy happening and to get his name cleared which is why he has kidnapped Karen. He needs her to help prove his and his crew’s innocence. There is a lot of suspense, mystery built into this story and we see Wesley Burkhart make another appearance in this book like he did in previous books. Tucker and Karen were dancing around the attraction they felt as they raced against time trying to get him and his team cleared and find out who was setting them up but as they did so, the chemistry was white hot and electric. Karen was a very smart woman who wasn’t about to sit back and let them boys’ solve everything while she sat back and played damsel in distress. She helped openly and freely –the suspense and mystery is great as the villain(s) are trying to be discovered. I loved the ending and I cannot wait to see more of Tucker and Karen in the next book. I cannot wait to see who the next couple is for the next Deadly Ops book. My only small concern is that I felt the ending was a bit rushed but other than that, I loved this book and really enjoyed everything there was to offer. My rating: 4.4 stars **** ***A gifted copy was provided by the author for my honest review****
4.5 stars---EDGE OF DANGER is the fourth installment in Katie Reus’s contemporary, adult DEADLY OPS romantic suspense series. This is DEA agent Tucker Pankov, and NSA analyst Karen Stafford’s storyline. EDGE OF DANGER can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Told from several third person perspectives EDGE OF DANGER focuses on the hunt for a home-grown terrorist cell conspiring to take down the US administration. Tucker Pankov and his team of DEA agents-Cole Erickson , Forest Kane, and Paxton Brooks had just lost their mentor and head of the DEA Max Southers to a suspected terrorist attack but the men soon found themselves the number one suspects in the murder and a series of attacks against the American people. When each member of Tucker’s team (including our hero) is targeted for death, Tucker knows that someone inside could be calling the shots. With all of their resources cut off, Tucker and his men ‘kidnap’ NSA analyst Karen Stafford in the hopes of contacting the only man Tucker and his men can trust-head of the NSA Wes Burkhart. What ensues is the search for the people responsible, and a building relationship between Karen and Tucker. EDGE OF DANGER is an action packed, fast paced, lust to love storyline that focuses on power, greed, money and betrayal. While Tucker and his men remain hidden, Karen must play go-between in order to help ferret out the person(s) responsible for the attacks and the death of Max Southers. While in seclusion Tucker and Karen’s relationship will become personal, and in the end, could very well be used against Tucker if something were to happen to their ‘kidnapped victim.’ The $ex scenes are romantic, erotic and intense. Tucker is a man who knows how to please the woman with whom he is falling in love. The relationship between Tucker and Karen is a quick enemies to friends to lovers storyline-a storyline that takes our couple from strangers to lovers in a matter of hours to days. There is no denying their immediate attraction, chemistry and lust for one another; a profession of love comes very quickly under extreme circumstances and threats against their lives. The secondary and supporting characters include all of Tucker’s team mates, as well as Selene Wolfe (Shattered Duty #3), Wesley Burkhart –head of the NSA; NSA agent Nathan Ortiz (whose storyline is next in A COVERT AFFAIR), and several other agents from the NSA, DEA, CIA and the local PD. The requisite evil has many faces, and a number of connections within the various agencies and the political elite. EDGE OF DANGER is a story with suspense, mystery, action and romance. The premise is intriguing, gripping and impassioned; the characters are intense and fascinating; the romance is sensual and provocative. Katie Reus has a talent for capturing your imagination.
Slightly predictive but still well done
J: No great, but pretty good.