"Cole is a genius at weaving together heart-racing, suspenseful moments with scorching intimacy and real characters." - USA Today
Hard, hot, and exhilarating, a sexy ex-Navy SEAL and a headstrong investigative journalist get a second chance at love in Final Siege by Scarlett Cole.
IN THE LINE OF FIRE.
Former SEAL Malachai “Mac” MacCarrick is all about the future he’s created with his Navy brothers in Eagle Securities, taking assignments in the most dangerous places, and doing things no one but ex-military would attempt. But when an urgent phone call brings his troubled past—and the woman he once loved—into the present, it’s a chance to redeem himself that he can’t refuse.
STRAIGHT TO THE HEART...
An investigative journalist researching an explosive story, Delaney Shapiro tells herself she got over Mac—and his role in her brother’s death—a long time ago. But the first moment she sees him at her bedside in an overseas hospital, she knows it’s not true. Every moment together rekindles the desire that once burned between them, and now that she’s a target for an emerging Russian arms dealer, Mac won’t let her out of his sight. To protect her, he’ll risk it all—including his life…
“Non-stop action and heart-pounding romance...a must-read for romantic suspense fans!”
—Cynthia Eden, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author on Under Fire
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Malachai "Mac" MacCarrick pulled the knife from its sheath with barely a whisper. During his years as a Navy SEAL, most of his ops had been black in nature, with silence a prerequisite for staying alive. He and this knife went way back, a gift from someone special who knew and understood his appreciation for a well-made blade sharpened to his exact requirements. Light reflected off the metal, its balance perfection as he turned it in his hand. It had spent most of the last decade in storage in his parents' garage, but in the nine months since he'd left the Navy to start up Eagle Securities he'd enjoyed using it again.
"It's a goddamn chef's knife ... not an MK 3. Can you bring it into the living room so we can cut the damn cake?" Six, his partner in crime since the day they'd met in kindergarten, and co-owner of Eagle Securities, leaned against the doorframe of the bright kitchen in Mac's apartment. Well, it wasn't technically his apartment. He was housesitting for his younger brother, Lochlan, who had not only gotten away with a marginally more bearable Irish name than he had, but had also gotten the lion's share of the brains. He was off in San Francisco, angel investing in some tech incubator, doubling his money in a building that had slides for grown-ups and mandatory massage breaks. Still there were worse places to be than his brother's pad in the luxurious condo building, The Legend, which overlooked the Padres' stadium, especially on a day like today.
Cake. He looked down at the knife. A birthday cake for Cabe, the final part of their triumvirate. Once, though, they had been four. The memory of Brock stabbed at him as surely as if he'd pierced his heart with the knife in his hand. You never got over killing a friend, no matter what the circumstances.
He cleared his throat and locked the memory down tight as he had for the last fourteen years. Thinking of Brock would also mean thinking of Brock's sister, Delaney, and there definitely would be no coming back from that.
"On it. Did you talk to Lou about heading out again so quickly?" Mac asked. Lou had come into Six's life last summer when they'd taken on the job of protecting her from criminals who wanted to steal a formula she'd been working on and turn it into a weapon for chemical warfare. Somewhere along the line they'd fallen in love with one another.
They were quite the pair, the outgoing warrior and the cripplingly shy scientist, and it hurt Mac to watch them at times. He'd once had what they had — and he'd lost it through his own recklessness.
"Yeah. She isn't thrilled we're heading into Syria, but she gets it. Gets me, I guess."
Mac handed the knife to Six and then grabbed a beer from the counter before heading into the living room that overlooked the ballpark. The rest of the crew was spread around the apartment. Gaz, and Jackson, stood laughing by the open balcony doors as Miller complained for the thousandth time about his nickname, Lite. March in San Diego was a little hit and miss, but today the sun beat down on the patio where Sherlock, Buddha, and Ryder were looking out over the stadium toward the Coronado Bridge. On days like this, when the water sparkled blue and he was surrounded by his friends and coworkers, he focused on the good that had happened in his life instead of the bad. They didn't sing "Happy Birthday" — because they were a group of grown men for fuck's sake. But Louisa stepped out of Six's shadow to place a single candle on the cake and instruct Cabe to blow it out. When Cabe rolled his eyes, she playfully smacked him on the shoulder and pointed to the candle. Honestly, Cabe was probably doing them all a favor by putting off the moment when he'd have to cut that cake. Louisa had baked it herself, and knowing how dedicated the vegetarian was to healthy eating, Mac was pretty sure it would be sorely lacking in butter, eggs, and sugar. All the good stuff his mom crammed into her cooking, Louisa wouldn't use. So, the cake was destined to taste awful.
"Come on, make a wish!" Louisa insisted. It was impossible to guess what Cabe would wish for, really. An hour-long sit-down with Warren Buffett? A first edition of The Art of War ... in Chinese, if such a thing still existed.
Mac had spent most of his life mediating between Six and Cabe since the day he'd had to break them up as they'd fought over a tattered copy of One Fish, Two Fish in kindergarten. For all their love for each other, they were so different. Cabe was as cerebral as Six was spontaneous. At the same time, though, their differences also made them a great team. With Cabe's intense focus, Six's ability to roll with just about any situation, and Mac's resourcefulness, they were a force to be reckoned with.
It was a very rare day that the entire team was home at the same time. Since setting up Eagle Securities nine months before, they'd quickly developed a reputation as exceptional special ops contractors, putting them in demand both domestically and internationally. At first it had been a crazy rush of excitement when the contracts had started to come in and they could step away from the security training they'd set up as a sideline. But trying to stay ahead of the resources required and keeping up with scheduling had quickly become a logistical nightmare. Though they periodically hired outside contractors to keep up with the demand, their ultimate goal was to attract the best ex-special-forces skills possible and add them to the team. Interviewing and screening candidates took time. And truth be told, all three of them would much rather be out in the field than stuck behind a desk asking people where they wanted to be in five years. But it had to be done, so despite the demand for their expertise, they were on a three-day break to rest up, refocus, and take care of administrative shit that was piling up around them.
Mac's cell phone rang, and he looked down at the screen. Germany. His chest tightened. The largest military hospital outside of the U.S. was in Landstuhl. Over the course of his career, calls from Germany had either been the best kind of news — that everyone had survived their missions intact — or the worst kind, in which he'd find out that someone was injured. Or fallen.
"Hello," he said, stepping back into the kitchen.
"Am I speaking with Captain Malachai MacCarrick?"
He tried to place the voice. Female. American. Plus, he hadn't been called "Captain" in a while. It was almost strange to hear. "Speaking, although I've left the service."
"This is Meredith Dean from the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. I'm calling on behalf of one of our patients. A Delaney Shapiro."
Mac's mouth went dry at the mention of her name. A name he thought about a thousand times a day but never said out loud. An image of her laughing in the surf, the tiny diamond stud she wore in her nose sparkling in the sunshine as she grinned at him, crashed into his brain. "Is she okay?" he asked, trying to stem the flood of memories that threatened the edge of his usual control. Memories of their first kiss, of the first time she'd let him slide his hands over her soft, tanned skin. The day she'd let him take her virginity in a motel room on the way to Napa for a relative's wedding. The moment she'd slapped him in front of her brother's coffin fourteen years ago and told him she never wanted to see him again.
And she hadn't since.
"Ms. Shapiro has sustained significant injuries, but in moments of lucidity, she has asked if you are here yet. We have been unable to reach her immediate next of kin."
He strode to his office, grabbed his passport from the safe, and shoved it into his back pocket. "Tell her I'm on my way. I'm coming from San Diego. I'll be on the first flight I can get."
He hung up the phone and threw enough clothes for a few days into his backpack. Clean underwear and socks, always-packed toiletry bag, three T-shirts, two pairs of jeans, and a couple of hoodies, because if he remembered correctly, March in Germany was cold.
He hurried to the living room and signaled to Cabe and Six.
"What's up?" Cabe said, eying the backpack on the bed. "We got a job?"
"I gotta go," he said. "Delaney is in Landstuhl." He unplugged his chargers from the wall and shoved them into the front pocket of his pack.
"What the hell?" Six tugged his hand through his hair. "The place or the hospital? What happened?"
For the first time since his phone had rung, Mac allowed himself a moment of panic. "Hospital. I don't know how she ended up there. All I know is that she's been asking for me when she's lucid. I'm sorry guys, it means we're going to be short for —"
"Shut up," Cabe said. "You need to go. And we've got your back. Don't worry about tickets. I'll find you a flight while you're on route to the airport. I'll text you details, okay?"
Mac nodded and gathered his wits. He shoved his jacket into the top of his backpack as he had no intention of checking anything. He wanted to walk off that plane and head straight to the hospital. "Thanks, guys. I'll let you know what's what as soon as I get there."
Cabe stood and slapped him on the back in a hug. "Take care, man."
Six did the same.
"Lock up for me?" he said to Six as he made for the door without waiting for a response.
Delaney needed him.
He finally had the chance to make things right.
* * *
Even though her eyes were closed, Delaney could tell the light above her head flickered. And it was making the pain in her head so much worse. With the last of her energy, she attempted to force her eyes open but couldn't. It felt like her eyelids had been glued together. Had she been in an accident? Her heart raced. Nothing made sense.
Every part of her body ached. Her chest felt like it was on fire when she breathed. And the one time she'd tried to move her leg to relieve the ache in her lower back, pain had seared up her calf. Voices came and went, some not speaking English and none of them familiar.
Fear. She couldn't control it. It consumed her. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew that staying alert was the only way to get out of a difficult situation, but she was so tired. Exhaustion threatened to suck her back under, but she was determined to push through.
"Delaney? Hey, Buttons, can you hear me?" A man spoke to her. Knew her name. Sounded familiar. Who was Buttons? She tried to turn her head toward the voice. Anything that would let the person know she could hear him, whoever he was.
She clung to the voice, but it became garbled. Soon, she could no longer hear it. Then she felt ... nothing.
She had no idea how much time had passed before she finally heard the voice again.
"How long will she be like this for?" The voice sounded clearer. Less ... muffled.
"It's the combination of the painkillers and medication she needs right now, Sir, and the legacy effect of drugs they used on her. She needed rest. They said she was very lucky to be rescued." A different voice. A woman. And titles, like Sir.
"I want to know who brought her in. Can you get me that information, please?" The man was controlled. Insistent. Firm.
"That's not information I am able to provide, but it'll be my pleasure to find somebody who can talk with you." Footsteps moved away from her.
"Goddammit, Delaney," the man muttered. "What the hell were you doing?"
Someone took her hand. The man, she assumed, given how close to her ear his voice was. Close enough that she could feel his breath on the side of her face. Something about his touch felt familiar but it was impossible to process anything more than that. She tried to move away, to tug her hand free of whoever held it.
"Delaney, oh my God. Can you hear me? Squeeze it again if you can hear me, Buttons."
This time, instead of pulling away, she willed her fingers to move.
"Nurse! She just squeezed my hand."
She gave opening her eyes another try, finally prying them apart. But the bright sunlight in the room and the flickering fluorescent were more than she could stand. She closed them again and tried to speak, but her mouth was drier than the desert.
She heard a click, and the room darkened mercifully. Somebody had shut off the light. Memories raced back. Something beeped next to her, the noise feeling like nails driven into her eardrums. Stop it, please! Someone! She reached for her face and felt a tube near her nose, trying to tug it away. Where the hell am I?
What had happened? The jarring groan of grinding gears, of a broken or misused clutch, sounded through her head. But she couldn't figure out why it was relevant.
"Delaney, stop it. You're going to hurt yourself." The man's voice was right next to her ear. He held her by the wrist. They'd been held before. With rope. Oh, God. Why was I tied up?
She was going to be raped. Or worse, killed like in those awful videos. Frustration battled with fear as her body wouldn't respond to the most basic of demands. What had they given her? Something to subdue her. A drug of some kind. Her head spun with all the possibilities, but her body lay useless. She couldn't die, not without trying to live.
"Help," she tried to shout as the beeping sound increased. But she could barely speak. Hands pressed her shoulders to the bed. "No!" But her body still wouldn't respond. Tears burned the corners of her eyes as defeat settled over her.
"Please," she whispered. "Don't do this."
"Nothing's going to happen to you, Delaney. You're safe."
The accent. It was American. That had to be a good sign. She forced her eyes to open again. "Help me."
"Buttons, I got you, okay? It's Mac. I'm here."
Through the tears and the halo of sunshine, she tried to take in the blurry outline. "Mac?" "Yeah. It's me, Delaney."
Mac. Dear God. What the ... She closed her eyes, but held onto biceps that were firm and strong. Her anchor.
"Hey. It's okay, sweetheart. You gotta wake up. I know you hate waking up, but I need you to."
She opened her eyes again, concentrated on focusing, as he wiped her cheeks with a tissue. "What ... happened? Why are you ..."
What had she done? Everything hurt and her headache pounded in rhythm with her racing heart. Why was Mac there? Had somebody called him?
Rescuers. There had been rescuers. She gasped, then exhaled. Air escaped her lungs so quickly she feared they'd permanently deflated. She'd been taken, shoved to the floor of a truck. Her source had told her that those men could be trusted. They were supposed to be willing to share their side of the story. God, she was going to vomit.
The hut. She could still smell the dirt into which she'd been thrown down face-first. In the spot where she'd been left for what felt like days, hours blending together. When finally the guys with guns had burst into the house in which she'd been hidden and had told her in calm American accents that they were there to get her out. They'd lifted her broken body, and the pain had been too much. Passing out had been blessed relief.
"Mac," she whispered, and tried to stop the tears and the uncontrollable shaking of her body. She shrugged his hands off her shoulders, and scrambled to the other side of the bed. Even as he held his hand in the air, the universal sign of surrender, a part of her wanted to reach for him, to let him hold her the way he had when she'd sneak into his dorm room at night.
Her head spun in confusion as she pressed her fingertips to her temples. She couldn't do this again, couldn't grieve for him all over again. Not on top of everything else.
"Delaney, sweetheart. You're safe." Those eyes of his that always reminded her of the dark blue ocean at sunset reassured her she was. She'd dreamt of them. Missed them.
God, the anger she felt toward him now was only a fraction of the love she'd felt for him all that time ago. Until he'd killed her brother when they were both twenty years old.
Delaney jolted and swallowed, trying to get some moisture back into her mouth, and failing. "Where am I?" she gasped as she attempted to hide her confusion. She had a thousand questions right now, but getting answers was what all her years as an investigative reporter had trained her to do best.
"Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany. What happened to you? Where did they bring you in from?"
Germany? "Water," she gasped.
"On it," Mac said, jumping to his feet. Delaney took one deep breath after the other to regain control.
What was he doing here? How had he even known where she was? And if he'd found out she was here, wouldn't her mother also ... She glanced around the room, though she knew better. Her mother was no doubt still at home, self-medicating with a large bottle of Southern Comfort.
Excerpted from "Final Siege"
Copyright © 2018 Scarlett Cole.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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