Honor Reclaimed by Tonya Burrows:
Former Marine sniper Seth Harlan is new to HORNET and anxious to prove he can still do his job despite an ongoing battle with PTSD. He remembers all too well what it's like to sit inside an enemy camp, praying for rescue and waiting for death, so when a wounded veteran contacts HORNET to rescue a buddy that got left behind, all sorts of nasty memories strain his newfound stability.
An interview with a runaway Afghani child bride leads photojournalist Phoebe Leighton to an arms deal involving a suitcase bomb powerful enough to wipe out a mid-sized town, and she realizes this is one battle she can't win on her own. Forming an unlikely alliance with a ragtag team of military and government delinquents, she meets Seth, a sniper carrying as many emotional scars as physical, who impresses her with his steely will and ignites passions within her she thought long dead.
Suddenly this mission is about a lot more than an abandoned soldier. Racing against the clock, Seth, Phoebe, and the rest of HORNET struggle to stop that bomb before it reaches its final destination: The United States.
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About the Author
Tonya Burrows wrote her first romance in eighth grade and hasn't put down her pen since. Originally from a small town in Western New York, she's currently soaking up the sun as a Florida girl. She suffers from a bad case of wanderlust and usually ends up moving someplace new every few years. Luckily, her two dogs and ginormous cat are excellent travel buddies.
When she's not writing about hunky military heroes, Tonya can usually be found at a bookstore or the dog park. She also enjoys painting, watching movies, and her daily barre workouts. A geek at heart, she pledges her TV fandom to Supernatural and Dr. Who.
If you would like to know more about Tonya, visit her website at www.tonyaburrows.com. She's also on Twitter and Facebook.
Read an Excerpt
Kunar Province, Afghanistan
Tehani Niazi knew the bomb strapped to her chest was set to explode. The knowledge was right there in the eyes of the warriors left to guard her — they stared at her like she was already dead. And maybe she was. She died a little inside every time her husband stopped her attempts to escape him.
A cold sweat raised bumps on Tehani's skin and chilled her to the bone, but she didn't dare shiver, too afraid of triggering the device. She didn't want to end up like Bita. Their husband had strapped a bomb to her last week and had sent her to the American embassy in Kabul as punishment for her barrenness, even though none of his wives had yet to become pregnant and Tehani was beginning to suspect the problem was on his end and not theirs. Still, he'd said the only way for Bita to reclaim her honor was to become a martyr. And Bita had believed him. Had all but begged him to allow her to prove her loyalty.
Poor, stupid Bita.
But Tehani wasn't Bita and she didn't believe his word was law. He was nothing but a horrible man who took wives when they were too young, and thought of them as objects to be used until he tired of them.
She wasn't disposable. She wasn't an object. She was Tehani Niazi, sixteen years old. She had a brother, a sister-in-law, and a nephew. She wanted to go to school and study the law to make sure men like her husband were punished. She had dreams, goals, and none of them included dying for Jahangir Siddiqui.
Except how would she escape this time?
Wind whistled through the hallways of the old military compound Jahangir had claimed when the Americans abandoned it. She clenched her teeth, refusing to shudder as the cold abused her exposed skin. The thin red dress wasn't suitable for winter in the mountains, and she'd lost her head scarf long before her husband's men captured her. If she ran again, the cold would end her as easily — if not as fast — as the bomb.
Besides, running wasn't an option this time. Two men had been left to stand guard at her door overnight. They were the ones who had awakened her fifteen minutes ago and fitted her with a vest holding the bomb. Now they stood at their posts again, backs turned against her pleas for help. They both believed in her husband's goals and soon they would load her into a car and take her to a restaurant in Kabul popular with foreigners.
They wanted her to kill people.
Tehani stared at the tangle of wires and round metal objects that made up the vest. She couldn't make sense of any of it, but the thought that she'd soon be responsible for the deaths of dozens of people turned her stomach to acid. She swallowed a sob.
Maybe she could set it off here. At least then she'd only kill the men loyal to her husband and not innocent people expecting only to have lunch at a restaurant.
Yes. That's what she'd do.
If she was going to die one way or another, she preferred to spite her husband on her way to heaven.
With a shaking hand, she touched one of the colored wires, following its path from a cylinder to a small box at the underside of the vest. If she pulled this one, would the bomb detonate? She gripped the wire, but released it without pulling and glanced toward her guards. Maybe she should wait until more of the men surrounded her. Two men wouldn't hurt her husband's plans. In his mind, warriors were just as disposable as misbehaving wives. But if she took out a dozen or more? His plans wouldn't be ruined, but it would take him time to replace the men he'd lost.
She rather liked the thought of stalling him.
Movement at the door caught her attention and she dropped her hand away from the wire, stuffing it underneath her thigh lest one of her guards realize what she was up to. Out in the hallway, the two were talking to someone. The conversation was muffled, but she had little doubt this was the order to take her to Kabul.
Again, she gripped the wire as her guards moved away and a shadow filled her doorway. She imagined Jahangir standing there, closed her eyes, and yanked the wire.
Tears burned trails down her cheeks and she grabbed another wire and another.
The shadow in the doorway swore under his breath and strode into a beam of light cast across the floor by the rising sun. He crouched in front of her and caught her wrists. "Tehani, don't. It's not active."
She blinked until the shadow's blurry face came into view.
Unlike some of the other men, he kept his dark beard neatly trimmed and took care of his appearance. His eyes were such a rich, dark brown; they appeared black, but they weren't soulless like her husband's. She'd always liked him and betrayal left a bitter taste in her mouth. How could he have been involved in this newest torment?
"It's not active," he said softly again. "I made sure it wouldn't hurt you."
He checked over his shoulder, then surged to his feet, moving so fast it took her brain a solid second to catch up to him. He scooped her into his arms and had her halfway out the window before she even thought to fight him. She sent a fist flying and he dodged it, but wasn't fast enough. It glanced off the side of his head.
Tehani froze and stared at him, torn between shock and terror. She didn't know many English words, but she'd heard that one often enough. And the way he said it reminded her of the American soldiers who had visited her village. Same accent and everything.
"Who are you?" she whispered.
"You need to trust me," Zakir said in flawless Pashto, and she wondered if maybe she'd misheard him a moment ago. He'd never spoken English before. As far as she knew, he didn't understand any more of the language than she did. Maybe he'd picked up the swear word from the soldiers, too.
At the sound of voices in the hall, he glanced toward the door and swore again. This time, there was no mistaking the language.
She struck out at him. "You're American!"
He avoided the blow and caught her wrist before she could try again. "Tehani, stop it. Do you want to leave here?"
She stared at him, barely comprehending his words. Leave? Of course she wanted to leave, but she had already tried multiple times and it was impossible. He had to be playing a trick.
"Do you want to go home?" he asked, staring straight into her eyes. There was no deception in his gaze and her instincts told her she could trust him even before he added, "I can help you."
She nodded, her heart thundering in her throat at the possibility.
"I'm going to lower you out the window," he said. "Run for the trees. I'll be right behind you."
Sergeant Zak Hendricks lowered the girl to the ground and vaulted after her, cursing as he landed hard on one foot and his ankle twisted. Tehani skidded to a stop halfway across the kill zone between the compound and the tree line. She looked back at him with wide, frightened eyes. He waved her on ahead and limped after her, moving way too fucking slowly.
He'd be lucky if he didn't get his ass shot.
Man, he was going to catch hell for putting the mission at risk like this. If he hadn't felt the need to play knight in shining armor before making his escape, he'd be long gone by now. Problem was, he liked the girl. And, like Siddiqui's other wives, she was just a girl. At sixteen, she was one of the older wives, but still too young to be married. Too young to become a martyr for a cause she probably didn't even understand. But unlike the other wives, she was smart and had spine. Afghanistan needed more girls like Tehani if it had any chance of moving into the modern era. So, reckless as it was, he'd decided she was leaving with him. It meant he had to bump up his plans, but that was all good with him. He was over playing adoring minion to Siddiqui's evil genius. He had the information he needed. Time to cut and run.
If he could run. His ankle sent spikes of pain through his calf with every step and he felt it swelling inside his boot. Not broken, but definitely sprained.
At least nobody in the compound had raised the alarm yet.
Even as the thought crossed his mind, shouts rang out at his back.
Well, fuck. So much for that.
Tehani waited for him just inside the tree line, trembling and white-faced. It tugged on his heartstrings, but he couldn't take the time to comfort her. Nor could he pick her up. He grabbed her arm and dragged her along behind him until he reached the spot on an overgrown road where he'd stashed a vehicle last night.
Ignoring the throb in his ankle, he hauled Tehani inside, then jumped into the driver's seat. As soon as they were bumping along down the mountainside at a good clip, he reached for the glove box and his sat phone. When he dialed, all he got was an earful of static. He waited until they cleared the trees and tried again.
"This is Zak. I need an exfil now."
More static, but he thought he heard a voice underneath it.
"I repeat, this is Sergeant Zak Hendricks. I've been made. Get me the fuck outta here."
"Sergeant," the warped voice said. "Need — coordinates —"
He rattled off his position, but didn't think it had gone through because now he didn't even hear the static. He thunked the piece of shit phone against the steering wheel.
Tehani made a sound of distress and he glanced over. She huddled against the door, staring at him like he was a snake in the grass. "Are you American?"
"Yes, I am."
Her shoulders relaxed a little. "Are you going to stop my husband?"
That was the plan, but it wasn't going to happen if he didn't make it back in one piece. "Yes. He's a bad man. He can't be in power."
"I know. He needs to be stopped."
He smiled at her. "Brave girl." But the smile faded as he got a load of what was waiting for them down the mountain. Siddiqui's second-in-command had already pulled men together to set up a roadblock.
Zak pulled the vehicle to a stop and drummed his fingers on the wheel. He couldn't go down there. Not with Tehani in the car. Siddiqui would kill him and use her to kill civilians.
Problem was, Zak couldn't take off on foot either. With the way his ankle throbbed in beat with his heart, he wouldn't get far, and if he never showed up at that roadblock, the men would start combing the mountain. Even though Tehani's village was only a few miles away, they'd never make it.
He could buy her some time.
Guess he was going to do the knight in shining armor routine again. He reached under his tunic and brought out the files and flash drive he'd strapped to his chest. "Do you know where you are?"
She glanced at their surroundings. Nodded. She pointed to the southeast. "My village is that way."
"Can you make it home?"
"By myself?" she asked, a tremble in her voice. "I think so, but what about you?"
"I'm going to distract these men, make sure you have time to get away." He pushed the files into her hands. "Take these with you and give them to the first American soldier you see. It's very important. Can you do that?"
Nodding, she tucked the flash drive away in her dress, then clutched the files to her belly. He leaned across the seat to push the door open. "Go on. Be safe."
"Zakir." She hesitated. "Is this about the nuclear bomb?" Surprise coursed through him. "How do you know about that?"
"I don't know what it is," she admitted. "I've heard the men talking and they are excited about it. I think it's going to hurt a lot of people."
"It will if Siddiqui gets his hands on it. That's why it's so important to give those files to the American soldiers, all right? They'll be able to stop him."
She bit her lower lip. "I'm not going to see you again, am I?"
"No." Zak swallowed the sudden lump blocking his throat. "You're not."
"Are you going to die?"
Her shoulders straightened. "I won't let you down."
"I know. Go on now." Zak watched her scramble out of the vehicle and duck behind a boulder beside the road. He pulled the door shut, drew in a breath, let it out slowly, and shifted to drive. He'd told Tehani the truth — there was a very good chance he wouldn't survive the next few minutes.
And even if he did, he was going to wish like hell he hadn't.
Florida Everglades Two Weeks Later
Seth Harlan's boot squished into soft earth where seconds ago there had been solid ground, and his foot slid out from under him.
He saw the fall coming but had zero chance of stopping himself in the slimy swamp scum. Barely had time to react beyond lifting his rifle so that it didn't end up jammed with mud. He landed sideways with an ungraceful splash in a pool of stagnant water. The stench was incredible, the taste even worse, but he stayed put. Listened. Told his heart to calm the fuck down before it beat out of his chest and gave away his position.
Water sloshed around him. Insects buzzed, birds cawed. In the distance, a woodpecker tapped out a staccato rhythm on a tree. Closer by, a frog let out a bellowing croak. He strained his ears, struggling to pick out footsteps, voices — any sign that his position had been compromised. But the natural noises drowned out the unnatural, so he was as sure as he could be that his fall hadn't drawn any unwanted attention.
The other member of insertion team Alpha, Jean-Luc Cavalier, crouched behind foliage on dry turf, obviously waiting for him to get his act together. They were still a good two klicks from the target. They'd have to haul ass if he was going to get into position before the opposition force arrived with their "hostage."
He could not fuck up another training mission.
"Alpha Two, coming to you," he said into his radio because the last thing he needed was to startle Jean-Luc and end this mission with friendly fire before it even began.
"Roger, Alpha One," Jean-Luc's voice answered.
He hauled himself upright and slogged through the mud, careful not to make any more sound than necessary. It cost precious minutes they didn't have, but eventually he made it to Jean-Luc, who fell in behind him, and he picked up the pace to make up for the time lost. This was his show, another test thrown at him by Gabe Bristow, HORNET's commander, and he wasn't going to screw it up by missing their deadline to get into position.
Using satellite images of the area, he and Jean-Luc had gone over the plan forward and backward, inside and out, before leaving the security of their forward operating base. About a half mile out from the target, he motioned for Jean-Luc to go left, and he moved to the right. He knew exactly where he had to set up his hide, knew exactly where Jean-Luc would be positioned, and how their raid would go down if the intel Gabe had given them was correct.
As he closed in on the target, Seth kept low and advanced slowly. Five hundred meters ahead, a shack rose up out of the swamp, looking like something out of Deliverance. He'd be so unsurprised to hear banjo music starting any second. If he were with his old team, Bowie, his spotter, would have even hummed a few bars from the famously creepy "Dueling Banjos" scene and they would have shared a silent laugh over it.
But Bowie was dead.
So was the rest of his old team.
Now here he was, slogging through a swamp without a spotter, doing what was normally a two-person job by himself. All for a new team that didn't accept or trust him.
Yet, he reminded himself. They'd come around.
The shack was quiet. No movement. Intel said two HTs — hostage takers — were supposedly arriving with their principal at 1400. Their mission was to neutralize the HTs and get the hostage out. It had to be quick and quiet, and they had to be en route to their exfil before dark.
Seth shimmied closer, now less than four hundred meters from the place, and found a good firing position behind a thick, half-rotted log. Stretching out flat on his belly, he used some of the local flora to cover himself and his rifle.
Then he settled in for a wait.
The buzzing of bugs got louder, almost deafening, and he suspected a swarm had gathered over his head, but he didn't look away from his scope to confirm his suspicion. A half hour into the watch something with many legs crawled across his back, and the mud coating him from head to foot started to really fucking sting. Still, he didn't move a muscle.
He waited. Watched. Listened. Just as he'd been trained to do in sniper school.
Excerpted from "Honor Reclaimed"
Copyright © 2014 Tonya Burrows.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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