Stubborn shouldn’t be this sexy.
Ex-special forces ranger Dylan McCourt is a stone-cold killer who cares only about his military brothers and doing what’s right. He’s used to giving orders and has zero patience for bullshit. Most people tremble when they look him in the eye, but not his infuriatingly sexy new rescue mission, Jessie Lyon.
She just juts her chin and says she’s not leaving without clearing her father’s name, to hell with his rules. And was that a one-finger salute he sees in her eyes or his imagination? Either way, he knows this is one job his training might not have prepared him for.
Each book in the Delta Force Brotherhood series is STANDALONE:
* Hard Play
* Hard Run
* Hard Pursuit
About the Author
Sheryl Nantus was born in Montreal, Canada, and grew up in Toronto, Canada. A rabid reader almost from birth, she attended Sheridan College in Oakville, graduating in 1984 with a diploma in media arts writing. She met Martin Nantus through the online fanfiction community in 1993 and moved to the United States in 2000 in order to marry. She loves to play board games and write haiku, although not usually at the same time. A firm believer in the healing properties of peppermint tea and chai, she continues to search for the perfect cuppa. In 2011 she won two second-place Prism Awards from the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter of RWA for her steampunk romance, Wild Cards and Iron Horses and the first volume of her superhero romance trilogy, Blaze of Glory.
Read an Excerpt
Delta Force Brotherhood
By Sheryl Nantus, Candace Havens
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Sheryl Nantus
All rights reserved.
The Las Vegas nightclub was rocking and rolling with the usual Saturday night traffic, the Devil's Playground filled to capacity. Dylan McCourt stood in his office, set high above the dance floor, and watched their lead bartender zip back and forth along the polished wooden bar filling orders from thirsty customers and a seemingly never-ending line of waitresses. The one-way glass and the scenic view gave him a chance to catch trouble before the men on the floor could see it.
His eyes narrowed as he studied a nearby table filled with businessmen in expensive suits, yelling and hooting at the live band. One of them reached out to grab a server as she walked by, and succeeded in getting a yelp as he squeezed her ass.
"Ace," Dylan growled into his earpiece, the comm link connecting him with the club staff. "Trouble on two. Get those assholes out of here. Just copped a feel on April. We've got plenty of people waiting outside who'd be glad for the table. They can slide down the street to the next club if they want to act like that."
"Done." The single word reply helped settle his rage.
A minute later Ace and Finn walked up to the table.
Dylan couldn't help grinning as the soon-to-be-ex-customers stared at the two men, mouths slightly ajar as they realized the situation had changed, and not in their favor.
He couldn't blame them. It was a rare man who could hold his own against these two. Both wore black T-shirts and jeans, an informal uniform for those in the know. Ace's ponytail and his cowboy boots marked him as a bit more laid-back than Finn, who still enjoyed the military buzz cut and combat boots of his service days.
Both men crossed their arms and glared at the offenders.
Ace spoke first, and although Dylan couldn't hear him, he could imagine what was being said — and the likely responses from the offenders, given their facial expressions.
They were trying to hold their ground, claiming they didn't mean anything by it, and what's the problem, everyone does it, and why didn't someone get them another round of drinks.
Bad move on their part.
Finn shook his head and stepped forward, right into the ass-grabber's personal space.
Ace continued, punctuating his speech with a jerk of his thumb at the exit. His expression didn't change, and anyone else would think the two men were discussing their fantasy football choices with the customers. The businessman who had grabbed the waitress shifted uncomfortably in his chair while his companions glanced at each other, eyes growing wider as the one-sided discussion continued. Ace stopped speaking and Finn arched one eyebrow, staying silent. All five men got to their feet and headed for the door at a rapid clip.
"Well done," Dylan said. "Thought we might have a situation there for a second."
"Nah," Ace said. "Finn was itching for a fight, and I told them that. Along with how he got the nasty scar on his face."
"What story did you use this time?"
Finn came on the line. "Ace told them it was a machete attack by a Taliban soldier. And how I took it out of the insurgent's hand and chopped the fool into tiny pieces." Dylan could almost hear his laugh over the roar of the crowd. "Not the best tale, but I'll go with it."
"Anything that avoids an actual bar fight. Save your strength for a real challenge." Dylan spotted the newest patron at the door and paused. "Speaking of, check out the woman at the front door. If she's in the wrong place, send her on her merry way. But if she's got a card, bring her to my office."
"What makes you thinks she's got one?" Ace asked.
"She looks confused, lost." Dylan nodded, forgetting the men couldn't see him. "Not what we usually get in the Playground."
"Affirmative," Ace said. He turned to Finn, leaving the comm link open. "Damned man's got sniper eyes."
Dylan ignored the comment.
The pair headed for the front door where the young woman stood, wide-eyed and obviously out of place, judging by her attire. She wasn't dressed for a night of dancing and drinking — her casual clothing was more suited for a quiet café or a bookstore. Her long blond hair was pulled into a tight bun, and a pair of glasses were perched on the bridge of her nose as she took in the sights around her.
She could have made an honest mistake, could have been headed for a quiet restaurant instead of a noisy, rowdy nightclub. But if his instincts were right, she was exactly where she was supposed to be.
He settled at his desk with a bottle of water and waited. He was rarely wrong when he saw someone looking for the Brotherhood's help.
A soft rapping came at the door.
The door opened and Ace stepped in, followed by the young woman.
"This is Lisa Boudreau." He mangled the French last name, but she didn't correct him. "She got our name from Peter Hendry." Ace placed the business card on the desk.
Dylan looked at the simple logo. There was no lettering, only a picture of two hands clasped, as if in a handshake — an image that could mean anything. But in this case it meant something specific, something only Dylan and his men could deal with.
"Thanks," he said. "I'll call you if I need you."
Ace left with a gentle nod to their visitor.
Dylan wasn't really alone with Lisa. Tucked away in his control room, Trey would be monitoring them through the security system that kept every room, every corner of the Devil's Playground safe.
The young woman cleared her throat. "Thank you for seeing me." She rubbed her eyes. "I wasn't sure what to do and —"
"Please. Have a seat." He gestured at the chair in front of his desk. "Can I get you some water?"
It was the obvious question to ask anyone in Las Vegas. The dry heat sucked the energy out of you unless you stayed hydrated.
"No, thank you." She glanced around the room before sitting.
Dylan followed suit. It looked like any other business office, the one-way window pointed out onto the dance floor to allow him to keep track of what was going on in his nightclub.
There was no evidence of anything other than a slick professionalism here. The Devil's Playground was a solid entertainment spot with a good reputation and a decent set of DJs who kept up with the latest music trends. Security was tight and polite, and anyone trying to cause trouble would be shown the door quickly and efficiently, as the nuisance customers had been.
Not what Lisa Boudreau wanted right now, if his guess was right.
"You spoke to Peter." He reached out and drew the business card over to rest in front of him. "And he gave you this and told you to come here and talk to us. Talk to me, specifically."
"Yes," Lisa said. She chewed on her lower lip before continuing. "I have no place else to go, no one else to ask for help. You're my last chance."
"Tell me your problem."
He'd get a briefing from Peter to compare stories, but he wanted to hear it from her first.
"I have a friend. Her name is Jessie." She caught herself. "Jessica Lyon, that's her real name." Lisa reached into her purse and withdrew a photograph. She placed it on the desk and slid it over to Dylan. "We met in high school and became best friends. When we graduated, we promised to look out for each other, be there if one of us needed help. When you have a bad breakup and need someone to sit and cry with, or you have a bad date and need someone to pretend she's your mother calling you to come home."
"I got a job working for one of the hotels, and she joined the Las Vegas Police Department. She quit and went out on her own, started working as a private investigator 'bout a year ago." Lisa tapped the photo. "This is from two years ago, when we were on vacation at Yellowstone Park."
Dylan looked at the image. The two women were laughing, standing in front of a monster redwood tree, waving at the photographer. Jessie's cheerful smile was infectious and he grinned, caught up in the fun for a split second. It was easy to imagine her out in the wilderness, enjoying the sounds and smells of nature.
What are you doing?
He blinked, pulling himself out of the scene with an almost audible pop in his ears. This was going to be a simple missing person case — nothing more, nothing less.
"She's been missing for a week. No phone call, no contact at all." Lisa shook her head. "And before you ask, she's gone undercover before. One time she played a homeless person for a month to investigate a shelter and possible physical abuse by the staff. Got a smack in the face when she asked about getting some extra food. Client got the report and fired the staffer."
Dylan nodded, silently urging her on.
Lisa ran her index finger along the desktop. "When she started working as a PI we set up a system for when she goes undercover and needs a safety net. Once a day she's supposed to text me with some random letters. It looks like a wrong number. Maximum going without contact is three days. Then I'm supposed to raise the alarm." She shook her head. "It's been way longer than that, and I can't get anyone to listen to me. She's in trouble." Lisa paused. "On the fourth day I went to her apartment, used my key to get in, and found it'd been searched. It was a mess, clothing everywhere. That's not how Jessie lives."
"Was the front door lock broken?" Dylan asked.
"No." Lisa shook her head. "Whoever it was used her house key."
"She didn't tell you anything about what she was working on? Not even a clue?"
"Nothing. But that's not uncommon; she respects her clients' privacy. Doesn't blab about what she's doing until it's over, and even then nothing but the bare bones. Jessie has been going out at odd hours for the last few months, and I figured she was working on something requiring shift work. One day she wouldn't be available for lunch, then she'd be tied up for dinner the next. I didn't think anything of it until she out-and-out disappeared, no check-ins, no anything. I tried her phone and left messages almost non-stop for a day."
"What about her family?" Dylan asked.
"She doesn't have any. Her mom died when we were in high school. Cancer. Her dad was a cop — he got shot about five years ago and ended up in a nursing home, paralyzed from the neck down. He died a year ago from complications. Jessie quit the force not long after. I think she was having a bit of a personal crisis over it. But she was okay, not depressed or anything. We spoke about it, and she told me it was time for her to move on, open her own business." Lisa dug in her purse again and came up with a key chain, putting it on the desktop. "This is her spare set of keys for her office. I haven't been there in weeks, and I didn't bother going there now. I've no idea what to look for and wouldn't know a clue if I found it."
"Did you go to the cops?" Dylan picked the keys up and looked them over. A small metal lion hung from the chain, jangling against the pair of metal keys.
"I did. Right after I saw the condition of her apartment." She scowled. "I filed a report, but I could tell they weren't taking me seriously by the way they acted. They blew me off when I mentioned the apartment and how messy it was. Said since the front door wasn't busted there wasn't any definite sign she was in trouble. They suggested she just walked away from it all and didn't want to tell me she was leaving, and she tore up her place on the way out. I got the impression they weren't all that interested, to tell you the truth."
She paused and her fingers clenched around her leather purse. "I think it's because when she left the force it wasn't on the best of terms. She didn't get into the details with me, but I got the impression she was being held back, kept from doing what she wanted. Jessie always has been a bit of a rebel, always one to push the edge." She waved a hand. "You how it goes. You want to do the right thing, but you can't because the rules are written in stone and there are no exceptions. Even when they're needed the most."
Dylan felt a familiar ache in his chest. "I'm familiar with the concept."
"That's Jessie, inside and out. But now she's gone and I don't know what else to do. I spoke to a friend of mine, a lawyer. He told me to go talk to this mechanic. Peter." She cleared her throat. "So I did. And he pointed me to you. So now I'm here, and I want to know if I've wasted my time or if you can find Jessie. She's my friend, my best friend, and I need to know where she is and if she's alive or dead." She stared at Dylan. "Can you find her?"
Dylan nodded, the blood beginning to sing through his veins. "Yes. I believe we can."
He got to his feet and went to the small refrigerator to pull out another bottle of water. He handed it to Lisa before returning to his seat and finishing off his own drink.
She took a sip, despite her previous refusal.
"I represent a group of people who take on cases that are ..." Dylan paused. "Outside the norm."
Lisa leaned forward. "I'll pay whatever you want. I can hock some stuff, clean out my accounts —" She fell silent as Dylan raised his hand.
"We'll discuss payment later. Right now we need to bring her home."
Lisa pulled a file folder out of her oversize purse and placed it on the desk. "This is all I have. It's her resume and a list of things I remember her talking about lately. There's not much there about her work. She was very adamant about her clients' privacy. You'll find more at her office." She tapped the folder. "I've attached my business card to the first page if you need to talk to me again."
"I'm sure we will." Dylan got to his feet and looked at her. "But first I want you to understand that no matter what happens, you can't say anything about this meeting to anyone. Ever." He paused, letting the sentence sink in. "What we do isn't so much outside the law, but running alongside. But for us to keep on helping people we need total secrecy. We need to stay off the radar. If someone talks about our efforts, reveals who we are and what we've done for them, it all ends."
He flinched inside, thinking of the Simonson family. He'd been sworn to secrecy, forced to lie about their son's death because telling them the truth wouldn't have been politically expedient. Dylan had gone along with it out of duty, out of obedience to the oath he'd sworn.
Now he and the others did what was right and didn't worry about the political ramifications, or playing by rules that shifted depending on who and what was involved.
"We'll do everything we can. But you have to trust us and stay silent, no matter how this turns out." He eyed her. "Can you do that?"
"I'd do anything for Jessie." She nodded. "As far as I'm concerned, I came in here" — she raised the bottle — "paid an outrageous amount of money for a bottle of water, and now I'm going home."
Dylan grinned. "Jessie's lucky to have you."
"Damned straight." Lisa stood up. "Thank you so much."
He moved out from behind the desk and went to the office door, opening it. "We'll call you if we need anything else."
Ace looked in from where he'd been standing in the hallway. Dylan caught his eye and nodded.
"Ace here will drive you back home. He'll give you a phone number — call us if you hear from Jessie or if you think of anything you want us to know. The number is monitored day or night, so don't hesitate to use it."
Lisa headed down the hall, Ace falling into step beside her. He said something in a low voice, bringing a soft murmured response.
Dylan put her out of his mind for the present. She was in good hands with Ace playing guard dog.
"What do you think, boss?" The earpiece came to life, Trey's voice a low whisper.
Dylan resisted the urge to look upward, seek out the tiny camera in the corner of his office. Trey Pierce was their best ghost, living in the walls. The man had excellent skills with electronics and knew his worth.
He was also a valued member of the Brotherhood, with two tours hunting insurgents in Iraq and the scars to match.
"I think you've got two hours to get all the information you can on this woman to my desk. Come get the keys to her office, go in with Wyatt, and sweep the place. Do her apartment as well — see if there's anything left there we can use. If we're lucky, she's gone on vacation to some exotic locale and decided to go silent and deep, maybe make a break from her life here. If not —"
"Understood. I'll also contact LVPD, find out what I can about her time there."
"Good. Two hours. If she is really missing, we've already lost too much time." Dylan went back to his desk and picked up the photograph.
He reached out and drew his finger along the playful smile, and his gut twisted as he worried that he might never get a chance see her for himself. It was easy to imagine her sitting across from him with that same grin, daring him to make the first move. There was something about her that drew him in.
Excerpted from Hard Play by Sheryl Nantus, Candace Havens. Copyright © 2017 Sheryl Nantus. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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