Exploited: A Zero Day Romance

Exploited: A Zero Day Romance

by A. Meredith Walters

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Overview

In this pulse-pounding novel from the bestselling author of Butterfly Dreams, a vigilante hacker plays a seductive game with the agent who’s chasing her online—and sharing her bed in real life.

At first glance, I’m nothing out of the ordinary. I am a daughter. A sister. A friend. When you look at me you won’t see anything that warrants suspicion. I don’t look like a criminal.

My name is Hannah Whalen, but most people know me as freed0mov3rdr1v3, or “Freedom Overdrive”—one of the world’s most prolific and notorious hacktivists. My goal—my purpose—is to shed light on the evil that lurks behind the corporate and government lies we have been force-fed for too long.

My story begins with the best possible intention. Devoting my life to exposing the corrupt. The dishonest. The unethical. For that, they label me a cyber-terrorist. Wanted by the FBI, I’ve always been one step ahead.

Until I fell in love.

Because I’m sleeping with the man who’s hunting me. And he has no idea that I am his prey. Now I have to decide what’s more important: my freedom or my heart.

Note: Exploited ends on a cliffhanger. Hannah’s story continues in Aftermath.

Praise for Exploited

“A high-stakes game filled with suspense . . . Fans of M. Leighton and Sierra Kincade will enjoy Exploited.”—Harlequin Junkie

“I found this book very intriguing. It had a different plot line that kept me turning the pages. A. Meredith Walters did an excellent job portraying the cyber world without making it too overly complex for readers to follow.”—Smut Book Junkie Book Reviews

“I was left in suspense at the end, dying to get the answers that I needed. I will read the next book because I want my answers!”—The Heathers’ Blog

“If you enjoy reads with a bit of suspense and crime (internet crime, in this case), then check this one out.”—Steamy Reads

Exploited is a story of a woman’s journey in righting the wrongs. . . . I think cyber related stories are interesting due to the character’s life in two different worlds. I was intrigued by this duality and excited to dive into this one.”—Warhawke’s Vault Book Blog

“I enjoyed this story very much. The plot was great; I like the chemistry and the connection between the characters.”—Crazies R Us Book Blog

Includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399593383
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/25/2017
Series: Zero Day , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 300
Sales rank: 373,282
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

A. Meredith Walters is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of New Adult novels including Butterfly Dreams, Bad Rep, Perfect Regret, Lead Me Not, and the Find You in the Dark series. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked as a counselor for troubled and abused children and teens. She currently lives in England with her husband and daughter.

Read an Excerpt

I lingered in my car for almost twenty minutes outside Nan’s Coffee Shop. My leg was cramping up and it was uncomfortably warm, but I waited until I saw a monstrous dark blue Lincoln Continental, circa 1987, pull into the parking lot. The driver circled for a few minutes, trying to find a place to fit the giant boat of a car.

It sat low to the ground and reminded me of something a drug dealer would drive. I half expected to hear pounding bass and see puddle lighting on the underside.

It finally parked. Beside me.

My mouth went suddenly dry and my heart sped up. I absently smoothed my hair again and watched the man driving the druggie deluxe get out of the car.

“Damn,” I murmured to myself.

Close-cut blond hair. Strong, chiseled jaw. Broad shoulders. And tall. So tall I’d have to crane my neck to look at him.

He was not the sort of man you expected to drive a lowrider. I instantly respected that about him.

I licked my lips and felt the fluttering in my gut.

There it was again.

Anticipation.

I checked the time on my phone. I had to be at work in twenty-five minutes. That meant I had exactly fifteen minutes to convince Mr. Strong Jaw in the drug dealer car to buy me a coffee and become completely enchanted with my sweet smile and perfectly smooth hair.

I went inside the tiny coffee shop and got in line.

Right behind him.

He was on his phone. He spoke low. Not rudely loud like a lot of people. He didn’t want the entire world to hear his conversation. I was glad to see he wasn’t a raging douchebag.

And he had a nice ass.

Not overly round. Firm. Like he worked out.

There were certain things that were important when contemplating future flirtations with a potential romantic interest. Nice ass and an appropriate phone voice were important.

I had been noticing him for weeks, since he walked in one day during my coffee and bagel.

He filled the space. His presence took over.

He gave me something else to fixate on.

Now here I was. Here he was.

Here we were.

It was now or never.

I reached into my purse and pulled out my wallet. I was fumbling. My fingers didn’t seem to be working properly. I yanked on my wallet in an exaggerated gesture that ended with the contents spilling onto the floor. Change rolled across the tiles.

“Damn it!” I hissed, ducking my head as I knelt down on the floor to start the task of gathering my stuff.

I wasn’t embarrassed. I was nervous.

“Here, let me help you.” He crouched down beside me and started picking up my loose change and a pile of loose papers, including a ticket stub.

“The Dandy Warhols. Nice. I saw them live a few years ago.” He handed it back to me, his full-toothed smile on prominent display. He was good-looking. That was an easy thing to say. But there was something else about him that intrigued me. That had me crouched on the floor, staring up at him like an idiot.

I took the ticket stub and stuffed it back in my purse.

“Yeah, they’re one of my favorites.” I smiled. He smiled.

His brown eyes widened ever so slightly. His cheeks flushed. Just a little. He swallowed. Maybe his mouth was as dry as mine.

Maybe all the primping had paid off.

“Hi,” he said, his mouth curving upward in a slight half smile. Slightly coy. Slightly flirtatious.

“Hi,” I responded, just as flirtatious. Just as coy. Or at least I hoped so.

“I don’t think I’ve seen you here before,” he commented, picking up my tube of lip gloss and holding it between his fingers. Not relinquishing it. Holding on to it until he was ready.

I felt a momentary twinge at his words. He hadn’t noticed me.

Of course he hadn’t.

I made it my mission to fly below the radar.

But it bothered me in this instance that I hadn’t gotten his attention.

“What a line.” I smirked, holding my hand out until he finally gave me the lip gloss. Our fingers brushed.

He flushed, his face turning red. I found it endearing how easily I could embarrass him. I wasn’t the only bumbling fool in this meeting.

“I didn’t mean it like that. I was just trying—I mean, I only wanted to say—”

I put my hand on his arm. His long-sleeved shirt was a soft cotton. High quality. He was dressing to impress. “I know what you meant. And no, I don’t come in here very often. Maybe I should change that.”

Wow, that was beyond cheesy. I couldn’t help but wince. “Ugh, that was worse than your ‘Do you come here often,’ wasn’t it?”

His laugh was rich and deep. The kind that showed he meant it.

He got to his feet and held out his hand, which I took readily. No hesitation. I let him wrap his fingers around my much smaller ones. He squeezed. Only slightly, but I felt it. A slight tug and I was up again, all of my belongings back in my purse where they belonged.

My hero.

“Thanks.” I pushed my hair out of my face and smiled. He liked it. My too-big eyes and overly pronounced nose didn’t matter. His eyes were warm as he looked at me.

“My name’s Mason. Mason Kohler.” It was familiar. Like well-worn words on the tongue.

“Hi, Mason. I’m Hannah Whelan. Nice to meet you.”

The line inched forward. I didn’t need to glance at the time on my phone to know I was going to be late for work.

“Welcome to Nan’s. Our special this morning is a caramel latte with your choice of pastry,” the girl behind the counter said, not making eye contact with Mason.

I put my hand on his arm again. I was being forward. It was entirely out of character. “Let me get your order. Coffee, bagel, whatever. It’s on me. It’s the least I can do for helping me reload the Tardis.”

Mason chuckled, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “Hannah, are you for real? You like the Dandy Warhols and you make funny Doctor Who references? I may take you home and never let you leave,” he teased.

He said it roughly. Possessively. We’d only just met and he felt it.

I did too.

I dropped my voice to a whisper and leaned close, as if telling him a secret. A very important secret. “Wait until you see my collection of Lord of the Rings figurines. You’ll lose your mind.”

“Can I take your order, please?” the barista asked again, clearly not appreciating our witty banter.

“Oh, sorry. I’ll have the special and he’ll have—” I glanced up at my new friend.

“Coffee. Black,” he told the girl.

I made a face. “Black coffee? Really? I offer to buy you whatever you want and you get black coffee?”

Mason shrugged. “I’m a man of simple tastes.”

We moved off to the side to wait for our orders. It didn’t take long, unfortunately. Before I could say much else, the sour-faced barista handed us our coffees and took my money.

We walked outside together, our conversation light. Observations about the unnaturally long winter. Random comments regarding the traffic.

“It looks pretty bad out there this morning. I heard there’s a nasty accident causing gridlock,” Mason stated as we lingered on the sidewalk.

“Do you have far to go?” I asked him.

“I work in the city,” he responded vaguely.

“Oh. In the city,” I repeated.

Mason cleared his throat and took a sip of his coffee. “Yeah, I just moved here from DC a few weeks ago. I was transferred. Anyway, I should probably get going.”

I wouldn’t act disappointed. Even though I was. “Oh, me too. I’m already late.” I nodded my head toward his coffee cup. “Enjoy your coffee. If you can enjoy something with no flavor,” I said with a laugh.

It had been a long time since I’d chitchatted. I thought I was doing a good job. I couldn’t really tell. Mason hadn’t made some ridiculous excuse to leave yet, so things must be going well.

Mason grinned. “I hope we do this again.”

I widened my eyes fractionally. “What? Dump my stuff on the floor and act like an idiot?”

Mason snorted. “No, the talking. And the coffee. But maybe for longer next time.”

Be cool. He likes indie bands and Doctor Who jokes; he doesn’t want needy and overly enthusiastic.

“Sure. If I see you around,” I replied offhandedly. But my smile was genuine. I meant it too.

“I usually stop in on my way to the office. This time every day,” Mason offered.

I tingled. But I somehow stayed cool. Years and years of not feeling much made it easy to play the game.

“Are you trying to tell me something?” I raised an eyebrow.

Mason ran his thumb along the curve of the to-go cup, licking his lips, which were probably dry. He was a little bit nervous. Just like me. It made me feel less awkward.

“I’m trying to tell you that I’d like to see you again, Hannah Whelan. And that maybe I can buy you coffee tomorrow morning.” His eyes met mine and we were both smiling.

“That would be nice, Mason.” I said his name softly. Deliberately.

I turned on my heel and walked away, not allowing myself to stay any longer.

I knew when it was time to run.

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