Exploited: A Zero Day Romance

Exploited: A Zero Day Romance

by A. Meredith Walters

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Overview

Exploited: A Zero Day Romance by A. Meredith Walters

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: 50,583
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.

Customer Reviews

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Exploited: A Zero Day Romance 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But I have to say I'm extremely upset that the release date of January 16, 2018 for the next book Aftermath, was changed last minute to July 2018 . Six months later ! I hate to wait to continue reading a story . I intentionally waited to read Exploited so I would finish it right when Aftermath came out , so I was quite upset when it wasn't in my library on the 17th when I was ready for the next book ! Hate hate hate to wait, and get fuming mad when market your books with a nearby publication release date so I buy it, then you change the release date . Fraudulent book promoting that makes me angry .
Dalitza More than 1 year ago
A crusader on a mission. A woman whose grief pushed her to become a hacker set to avenge the injustice done to her family and to expose the corrupt. A cyber-vigilante who is being hunted by the FBI because no matter how bad the people her alter ego freed0mov3rdr1ve is taking down are, her methods are criminal. Under the Freedom Overdrive code name, Hannah has been revealing corporate and government lies for years without being caught, but the agent assigned to track her down is closing in and she intends to do whatever it takes to evade Mason and the FBI. Until she decides to meet him in order to see just how close they are to catching her. She never expected to fall in love with him. The book’s uncommon premise made it irresistible and I’m looking forward to finding out who the bad guy is. I have a couple of guesses but who knows, I’ve learned it’s not goo to miscalculate a writer’s imagination. I’m also curious to see how Miss Walters backs out of the cliffhanger where the book left off. The situation is dire and I can’t visualize how the she’ll maneuver her way out of it. I really liked Hannah’s bada$$ery and understood her conflict regarding Mason as the lines were blurring and she was falling in love with him. I did have trouble connecting with Mason though. It was really sweet that he was so taken by Hannah that he completely ignored his training and instincts when it came to her. But it is also contradictory with the tough, smart, sharp alpha-male FBI persona that is being touted and it made him look bit like a sap that was easily distracted. I also had a small issue with the time frame regarding Hannah and Mason’s first meeting. Being an IT person myself, I’ve always had trouble with books that include more technical details regarding this area. Interestingly enough though, I had no problems with it in this book. So I applaud the author and her adviser who added enough techieness to make the plot work, but not so much that it weighed it down or made it confusing to readers. Exploited is the first book in Zero Day duet by A. Meredith Walters. It is a full length romantic suspense that ends on a cliffhanger. Told from both points of view.
lisareads More than 1 year ago
What I liked best about this book besides the story line is the reason for Hannah's double life and the cliff hanger. The suspense was really good. Mason was a little off to me, but otherwise great story.
mrsdiddy More than 1 year ago
4 Stars! You know what I loved most about this book? It was different. There's a hacker bent on avenging her sister's death and the FBI agent who has been unknowingly tasked to bring her down. The mystery compenent of the book kept me reading to find out more. The fact that Hannah and Mason were growing closer but harboring secrets that could ruin them both made the book all the more engrossing. I did feel like Mason was a bit clueless seeing as there were pretty obvious clues right in front of his eyes and the fact that he talked himself up as this super agent who deserved more than the measly task of finding the hacker. I would like to know more about Hannah's connection with Mason prior to starting her hacking crusade, because I'm pretty sure she had already targeted him. When the big, giant, gaping cliffhanger happened at the end, I might have screamed a little, because really? That was dirty pool! Now, I am going to sit on my hands and try to patiently await the next book.
gigiluvsbooks2 More than 1 year ago
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. Review: So I am going to start with this, the story ends on a cliffhanger. I say this right off because I had no clue and I know some really don't like to read stories without being able to immediately read the next part. I liked that the story was centered around hacking and vigilantism. It is very intriguing and I keep guessing about who is Hannah's secret partner and what is going to happen next. The intrigue and suspense were what kept me reading. What bothered my was Hannah, I understand why she is doing what she is doing and why she is keeping it a secret. The lies and using of Mason really turned me off. I think they could be great together, but basing a relationship on lies is going to fail be hard to come back from. I thought the Author wrote a good story and I will definitely read the next part when it comes out. I just hope my feelings for Hannah change. 3.5Stars *I voluntarily read an advance reader copy of this book provided by the publisher.*
TammyS32 More than 1 year ago
I really liked this interesting and entertaining read. Hannah is out for revenge on the corporate and government corruption that hurt her family. Mason is an FBI agent out to find the hacker named Freedom Overdrive/Hannah. What will happen when the two begin to fall in love? I admit it was a bit slow in the beginning, however I did like the characters and the story. Looking forward to reading more of Hannah and Mason’s story.
sm0120 More than 1 year ago
3.5* I was really intrigued by the premise of this book, it looked like it would be an interesting change of pace from the contemporary romance books I read. I've only read one other book by A. Meredith Walters, one that I absolutely adored, so I was excited when I was offered the opportunity to read and review this one. Exploited is suspenseful and mysterious, it's frustrating, and in the end it will leave you questioning everything you thought you might have figured out. I was hoping for a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat, exciting cat-and-mouse type story. But instead, this was a much slower read than I expected. Hannah was a tough nut to crack. She wasn't very likeable, honestly. I never quite warmed up to her, and I think that kind of tainted my whole outlook on this book unfortunately. I'm hoping in the second book we'll see a different side of her. I really liked Mason't character, but felt zero chemistry between him and Hannah. I felt sorry for him, that he was so easily manipulated by her because he really just needed someone to love, and to be loved. I cried for him over his brother, and was mad on his behalf because of his parents. But for someone who is supposed to be such a killer agent he sure didn't prove it when it came to Hannah. I'm not sure what else needed to happen before he realized what was going on right under his nose. Although this book didn't quite live up to expectations I am invested enough that I am anxious for the second book. There's a lot more to explore with these characters, and of course the mystery that was left hanging. Hopefully all our questions will be answered!
Stalker2014 More than 1 year ago
Hannah has a huge secret. Mason is someone she needs to get to know. Mason has issues with trust. Hannah has issues with letting anyone get close. They make for one interesting intense couple. Loved the twists in this story. Could not wait to see what would happen next. Can't wait for the next book.
micharch More than 1 year ago
Hannah and Mason have what Mason believes to be a chance meeting, but really was choreographed by Hannah to pursue her vigilante ways. Mason is an FBI agent tasked with finding her internet alias and Hannah wants to get close to him to find out what he knows about her alter ego. Mason knows that his subconscious is trying to tell him something throughout this book, but he is so intrigued by Hannah that he doesn't always follow his intuition. A. Meredith Walters does a good job of giving you the mindset of both Hannah and Mason. We find out what makes each of them tick and how similar they are in some ways. Hanna was tough for me to connect with at points and I didn't really care for her all that much. She was arrogant, self-entitled and seemed to sugarcoat her felonious ways. Mason was a bit too clueless at points and I couldn't quite wrap my head around it at points. The story was intriguing and I cannot wait for their conclusion. I am hoping Hannah gets what is coming to her.
SiobhanDavisAuthor More than 1 year ago
I got very excited when I first came across this novel and even more excited when I was approved for an ARC and I had been itching to read it. I finally managed to squeeze it into my reading schedule last weekend and it was so worth the wait. Occasionally, I come across books that I feel were written specifically for me and Exploited is one of those books. Man, where do I start? I loved the perfect blend of mystery, intrigue, and romance. I loved the tech/hacker backdrop that had just enough detail to add substance without bogging the plot down in unnecessary or boring passages. I ADORED Mason, the hot, rugged, FBI agent who was ignoring his gut instincts and falling for a girl who was deceiving him. I thought I would struggle to connect to Hannah but I didn't. Don't get me wrong - I hated that she was betraying him in the worst way but her heart was in the right place and her initial motivations were pure. I was suspicious of Toxicwrath from the get go and couldn't understand how Hannah aka Freedom Overdrive was so trusting. I knew it was all going to end badly. I love books that keep me guessing over the villain's identity like Exploited did. The end seems to be implicating a certain person from her past but I think that's too obvious. My money's on Kyle or Madison or maybe they're working together. Either way, I can't wait to read Aftermath to find out. The romance was great between our couple and it was a nice build up with a fair amount of toing and froing which I love. Hannah was really battling her feelings but in the end, she caved. I was so rooting for Mason and Hannah but I don't know how the author is going to pull back from that cliffy ending (LOVED it! Pure torture of the best kind!) All I know is I can't wait to find out! I've read books by this author before and her writing is as sublime as I remembered it. If you enjoy well written romantic suspense with swoon-worthy romance and complex characters and a mysterious, intriguing plot then you MUST check this one out. Highly recommended, and one of my top reads for 2017 so far. Thanks to the publisher for supplying an ARC which I have voluntarily reviewed.
Momma_Becky More than 1 year ago
This story had so much potential and I'll admit, when I read the preface, I was all kinds of excited about it. That small introduction pulled me in and I was ready to be wowed. It is very well written and Walters has a great writing style. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for the story to fizzle after the preface. The book is rather lengthy, which isn't a problem for me as long as the story keeps a good pace and holds my interest. While the book does have a steady pace for the most part, it's almost agonizingly slow and even a bit repetitive at times, to the point that I found my interest waning. The story is suspenseful and Hannah's crimes were intriguing, but it would've benefited from a faster pace. I did expect more of a romantic element, but honestly, I didn't feel the romance with this one. Hannah comes across as cold and calculating through much of the story and while we're told on the page that she's falling for Mason, I didn't feel that. Mason could've been a truly great character, but he has to be the most gullible agent in the history of fictional FBI agents. Not only does he accept Hannah's excuses for her lies, but he justifies them in his head. There were so many red flags waved in his face that it became eye-rollingly frustrating. The cliffy at the end was a big one, but between Hannah's coldness and Mason's gullibility, I wasn't left with enough curiosity to read to the conclusion to this tale. The author is talented and I would read other books by her, but this one just wasn't for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I give this read 3.75 stars.......... I was excited to read this book. I loved the concept and it was filled with angst and edge of your seat moments. But for me it was a little slow and just when it started picking up it ended and I didn't realize there was going to be a cliffhanger (which I don't mind just wish I knew ahead of time) I don't want to give anything away. But some parts I wish were a little more believable. I will read the second book because I need to know how it ends. I didn't hate it but was a little disappointed.
Bette313 More than 1 year ago
Excellent story with a major cliffhanger! This is just the first part of Hannah and Mason's story. Hannah by day works for an IT firm. At night she's a bit of a hacker. She's determined to make the company responsible for the death of her father and her sisters debilitating injuries and the lawyers who represent them pay. Mason is an FBI agent working in the cyber crimes unit. He's good at what he does but past mistakes have put him in the bosses bad graces. He's given a case no one thinks can be solved. He needs to find out exactly who Freedom Overdrive is and take him down. These two meeting and being attracted to each other never should have happened and when the truth comes out about their true identities everything could fall apart. Definitely a book I recommend
Jolie More than 1 year ago
Exploited is a fast-moving techno romance (is there such thing or did I just make up a genre….lol) that will keep you glued to the book. It is a page turner and you never know where this book will lead you and I loved it. I am going to say this right up front, I didn’t like Hannah. Did I feel bad for her, sure. What happened to her family was pretty crappy and I can totally get why that pushed her into hacking. But her relationship with Mason took the cake and when it was revealed why she was with him, I was a little upset. That’s when I became “Team Mason” and started cheering on his investigation of Freedom Overdrive. What bothered me also about her was that she didn’t have any friends, work or personal. She explained it as a lack of trust but I wonder, as I do with fictional characters, if her lack of friends was because she had no personal skills. The only “friends” that she has is her fellow online hackers. I liked Mason, even if he was the equivalent of a human stress ball. He made a mistake by sleeping with one of his fellow agents, who happened to be his superior, and things got a little, how do I phrase this, stressful at the office. He also has major issues with his parents. They are playing the blame game with him. When Mason’s brother, Dylan, was dying of brain cancer, he never got down to see him before he died. So, Mason’s mother and father blame his job and himself for not being there for Dylan. Which is pretty awful and those phone calls with his father just broke my heart. While I didn’t like Hannah, I did like the romance between them….even if Hannah originally went into it under false pretenses. Their romance gave me major feels. And the sex was hot. Burning hot!! The hacker plotline was very interesting and I can see the allure in it. I mean, Hannah got pulled into it by a friend because she was going to fail our of college. I am still not sure how she went from small time to big time and I am sure that they will explain it more in book 2. This book does not have a happy ending and none of the plot lines got wrapped up. I can’t wait to see where this story ends up in book 2.