Last Man Standing (Black Ops, Inc. Series #7)

Last Man Standing (Black Ops, Inc. Series #7)

by Cindy Gerard

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Original)

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The final “powerfully intense” (Romantic Times) Black Ops, Inc. novel from New York Times bestseller Cindy Gerard, featuring a covert private security team and electrifying romantic suspense.

Black Ops, Inc. operative Joe Green is determined to bring to justice the man responsible for former team member Bryan Tompkins’s death. He’s convinced the ambush that killed Bryan was no coincidence, but a setup. Unsure of the consequences of the battle he’s about to start, Joe distances himself from both his Black Ops, Inc. team members and the woman he loves, Bryan’s sister, Stephanie Tompkins. But Stephanie knows there must be some reason Joe broke it off, and when she hears Joe’s charged with a murder in Sierra Leone, she wastes no time in breaking him out of prison. Then they must unravel the mystery behind the ambush, and bring resolution to a long-ago betrayal….

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451606829
Publisher: Pocket Star
Publication date: 01/31/2012
Series: Black Ops, Inc. Series , #7
Edition description: Original
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 620,790
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Cindy Gerard is the critically acclaimed New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the wildly popular Black Ops series, the Bodyguards series, and more than thirty contemporary romance novels. Her latest books include the One-Eyed Jacks novels Killing Time, Running Blind, and The Way Home. Her work has won the prestigious RITA Award for Best Romantic Suspense. She and her husband live in the Midwest. Visit her online at

Read an Excerpt

Last Man Standing

  • One week earlier
    Fort Meade, Maryland

    The last thing Stephanie Tompkins needed was for him to show up again. Joe knew that. Yet here he was, drawn like a storm-battered ship to the welcoming waters of a calm home port.

    Jesus, it was so not fair to her. But he didn’t have it in him to leave without seeing her one last time. Possibly the very last time, if this solo mission ended the way he suspected it would.

    He walked slowly along the dimly lit hallway, then stopped in front of her apartment door. All of his life, he’d stood for right. Stood against wrong. Yet the choice he’d made to see this thing through blurred the lines so badly, it was hard to say where one ended and the other began.

    For the first time in his life, he was scared. Not of the fight; he was scared that Stephanie was right. That he was losing himself in his need to settle a score. And he was scared spitless of losing her.

    Lot of losing going on, he thought grimly. No matter how he sliced it.

    It wasn’t like he had any real options.

    Swallowing the rock of guilt lodged in his throat, he stared down at his boots, trying to screw up some courage. The melting snow that clung to his soles had left slushy tracks on the tiled third-floor hallway. Like he was going to leave tracks all over her heart.

    He checked his watch, stalling. It was going on midnight. She’d be asleep. And he was going to wake her up to tell her something that was going to kill her. Hell, just thinking about it was killing him. But he couldn’t check out on her without saying good-bye. And lie through his teeth while he did it.

    His hand was cold when he finally lifted it and, after a heart-thumping hesitation, gave the door a soft rap. Maybe she wasn’t home. Maybe she’d gone to her parents’ in Virginia for the weekend, and would escape dealing with the shitstorm he was about to dump on her. Maybe he should turn the hell around and be gone.

    Too late. He heard the soft whisper of footsteps inside the apartment, then the tentative turn of the doorknob before she slowly opened up as far as the safety chain allowed, and peered into the hall.

    “Hi,” he said with a clipped nod when he met the surprise in her soft brown eyes.

    Everything about Steph was soft. Her lush, curvy body. Her generous smile. Her gentle nature that made a hard man like him want to play white knight and save her from the dragons that could hurt her.

    But tonight he was going to be the dragon. A fire-breathing, breath-stealing, soul-defeating dragon. And he was going to hurt her bad.

    If Bryan was alive, he’d damn sure kick Joe’s sorry ass from here to the next zip code. Her brother wouldn’t let him within shouting distance of his kid sister.

    But Bry wasn’t here. A lump welled up in his throat. Even fifteen years later, Bry’s death was the reason Joe didn’t sleep most nights. It was also the reason he had to let Stephanie go.

    “Joe.” Equal measures of relief, happiness, and concern colored her tone. “Hold on.”

    She shut the door, unhooked the chain, then swung it open again.

    Her long sable hair was bed-mussed and tumbling around her shoulders. She’d hastily wrapped up in a short robe. Folds of the pale blue silk gaped open, exposing warm, sleep-flushed skin and the generous curve of a breast. She was gorgeous, sexy, spell-binding. Yet as beautiful as she was, it was her eyes that always got to him. Those soulful, deep brown eyes were like windows to her heart.

    So many emotions. So little guile. And no defense at all against the onslaught of pain he was about to level.

    “Come in.” She stood back, opening the door wider so he could step inside. “It’s freezing out there.”

    Another woman would have laid into him. Another woman would have slapped him hard, demanded to know where the hell he’d been for the past four weeks, then called him every name in the book before slamming the door in his face.

    But she wasn’t another woman. She was Steph. Giving. Forgiving. Vulnerable.

    “You’ve got to be freezing.” She turned on bare feet and headed for the kitchen. “I’ll make coffee.”

    “Don’t,” he said with a stiffness in his voice that stopped her cold.

    She didn’t turn around. He knew that despite the brave front she was putting up, she was suddenly on the verge of losing it.

    Why not? A man who loved a woman didn’t treat her the way he’d treated Steph the past month—he didn’t clam up, didn’t not call, didn’t refuse to explain himself. And he didn’t show up unannounced in the middle of the fucking night and expect coffee before he sliced open a vein.

    She just stood there, her silence and the rigid set of her shoulders giving away how uncertain she was, and he almost lost it himself.

    “You don’t have to make coffee for me,” he said inanely.

    Her shoulders sagged; her chin dropped to her chest.

    Aw, hell.

    In two steps, he came up behind her and pulled her back against him, wrapped one arm around her waist and another around her chest. With his forearm sandwiched between her breasts, he caressed her throat and tipped her head back beneath his jaw.

    “I’m sorry,” he whispered, lowering his lips to her hair. “Steph . . . I’m . . .” Hell.

    She turned, lifted her arms around his neck, and with a desperation as sharp as the hurt in her eyes, drew his head down to hers.

    “Don’t talk,” she murmured against his mouth. “I’ve missed you. I’ve been so scared.”

    He tasted the salt of her tears on her lips, and it was all over for him. He had no defense against this. No resistance.

    The instant the heat of her body moved into his he reacted, like he always did when surrounded by the feel and taste of her. She was the woman he’d been waiting for his entire life, and it had been too damn long since he’d held her.

    His mouth covered hers and he took what he’d been missing, but had no right to claim anymore.

    “Joe,” she whispered. No censure. Only giving. Only love, as he scooped her up and carried her into her bedroom, where soft lamplight cast the room in a pale glow.

    Consumed in the moment, he kissed her deeply, then laid her on the bed that still held her lingering scent and warmth. Then he swiftly began shucking his clothes.

    Her gaze followed every move and sent his pulse slamming as he tossed his jacket on the floor, then whipped his black sweater over his head and reached for the snap on his jeans.

    Hunger flamed in her eyes as he stripped off his boots and pants and finally, naked, sank a knee onto the mattress beside her hip.

    “I’ve missed you,” she whispered again, her fingers skimming slowly up his thigh, then circling over his hip before trailing across the tightly clenched muscles of his belly.

    “Missed you,” she repeated on a throaty breath, and finally brushed her fingertips along the throbbing length of his erection.

    His breath caught on a groan. “Steph . . .”

    “Shh . . . let me.”

    He tunneled his fingers through her hair, urging her closer.

    Her gaze locked on his, she sat up. Her robe slid off one shoulder to reveal the creamy round of a bare breast as she slowly, and with great attention, pressed her mouth to all the places her fingers had been, trailing fire in her wake.

    He was one live electric nerve, one raging sexual urge, when she finally caressed the most sensitive part of him with a slow stroke of her tongue . . . and damn near blinded him with her passion.

    He sucked in a harsh breath, let his head fall back, and knotted his hands tighter in her hair losing himself in the sweet, wet suction of her mouth.

    It was always this way with her. She drove him out of his mind with the selflessness of her giving. Humbled and thrilled him with the passion of her sighs and urgency of her touch, until mindless pleasure gradually transitioned to the dawning realization that her fervor had changed to desperation. That her desire had become a plea.

    Don’t leave me. Please, don’t leave me.

    It was clear that she knew he’d come to say good-bye. With every kiss, every wild and reckless touch, she told him she knew, and she was begging him not to go, bargaining with him to stay.

    “Steph,” he whispered, stilling her. He couldn’t let her do this. “Steph, don’t.”

    He tilted her head back and saw the tears trailing down her face, her beautiful eyes so full of pain.

    And he hated himself then; hated that he’d made her beg. He was so far from worth it.

    “I’m sorry.” He gently laid her down, then settled her with a brush of his fingers across her cheek.

    “Don’t.” She caught his face in her hands, dragged his mouth down to hers. “Don’t talk. Just love me. Please . . . just love me now.”

    A better man would have resisted. A better man would have done the right thing.

    But he’d stopped being a better man when he’d chosen the course that was going to take him away from her and could destroy everything he’d ever stood for.

    Helpless to fight her, he lowered his body over hers and captured her mouth. And when she wrapped her ankles around his hips and opened herself for him, he drove deep. And kept on driving urgently inside her, indulging one last time in the one good thing he’d ever had going for him.

  • What People are Saying About This

    From the Publisher

    “I look forward to her every release.”

    —Christine Feehan, #1 New York Times bestselling author

    "Exciting, taut, sexy." — New York Times #1 Bestseller Sandra Brown

    Customer Reviews

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    Last Man Standing 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Joe is a guy who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders and his only soft place in the world is with Steph. He's just too stubborn to believe it can actually last and Stephanie doesn't let him get away with that kind of thinking for long. She changed a lot during the short time it took to rescue Joe. She seemed to realize that she was a lot tougher than either she or Joe gave her credit for and she takes care of Joe when he needs her most, much to his alpha-brain horror of not being able to help himself during his recovery. They're a great couple to follow, they had instant chemistry when they first got together in FEEL THE HEAT and seeing them grow and become stronger together made this story. Joe and Steph start uncovering all the facts surrounding Bryan's death and before it's all said and done, their lives and Steph's parents will all be in danger. The series, and especially in the case of Joe, has been building to the truth of what really happened on the mission that killed Bryan Tompkins. He was a best friend and brother to all the BOI teammates and his death hit Joe especially hard, reminding him of another painful death in his past. Joe struggles to let himself go with anyone, but can't keep it all in from Stephanie for long. She risks her life for him, after he broke her heart and she knows the kind of man Joe is, even if he isn't able to see it yet. For not being trained in the field or having ever gone on any kind of mission, Steph maybe did a little too well in rescuing Joe, but she had a lot of help from Suah and his friends and they're the real reason Joe gets out of prison.  Towards the end, the story even starts to unravel a bit because the villain thinks Joe is the only one in the know, which is simply ludicrous. Why he would think that evidence isn't released to the media and every government entity in the free world is beyond me, which made it very hard for me to swallow. At this point in time, if I were the bad guy, I'd go underground or eat my gun, since that's better than the options I had. I guess desperate times and all that, but I digress... Anyway, as always, what supporting characters were there, were absolutely fantastic and the writing is solid.    
    SmittenWithReading More than 1 year ago
    My Review: A hot The Black Ops Inc. series has absolutely been one of my favorite military romantic suspense series for a few years now. This is the series finale and my heart is weeping because I love these guys (but the good news is that we will still see them in Cindy's next series.) But what Cindy does brilliantly in this last installment, is that she takes the series full circle. When we met these guys seven books ago, it was right after the mission where they lost Brian fifteen years ago. Finally, in this book, there is a resolution to how that mission went so wrong, and Joe finally finds the person responsible for Brian's death. This book is about Mean Joe Green. He was Brian's best friend and has always been the quiet giant on the team. That quiet facade hides a man that has been haunted by Brian's death for the last fifteen years and how he could have prevented it. To complicate his mental state, the last couple of years, Brian has been involved with Stephanie, Brian's younger sister. He knows, when he goes to find proof of the subterfuge surrounding the mission where Brian died, that he is probably not going to survive so he breaks it off with Stephanie (breaking her heart) and doesn't tell any of the BOI's where he is going. Stephanie works for the NSA, but she is simply a worker-bee within the office. When she comes across a photo of Joe imprisoned dated from a month ago, she knows that she can't sit idly by while he could die in a foreign country. Unfortunately, all the BOI's are away on a mission with no way to reach them. But Stephanie has diplomatic ties had manages to con her way into seeing Joe. He has been beaten and starved daily for over a month, so by the time she sees him, there's not much left. He's in bad shape both mentally and physically and Stephanie is the only one who can save him. OMG, I ADORED THIS BOOK! Joe is so vulnerable. This is not a side that we have ever seen from his character as he is at the edge of what he can take both physically and mentally. He loves Stephanie. He knows that and he knows that he broke her heart when he left and he hates himself for that. But he knows that he can't live with himself if the man responsible for Brian's death goes free. On the flip side of that is Stephanie. She loves Joe, but she realizes that she has always just stood by him and accepted things his way. When she suddenly has to take charge and he has to rely on her, she develops an inner-strength and character that is inspiring. She goes through this major transformation in this book where she truly finds herself. I loved her empowerment in this book! Really, just a truly fabulous book. Tons of action, suspense, and a really sexy love story. I loved the dynamics of these characters and how they evolved throughout the book. The final scene with the whole group at the Thompkins house (I am trying to remember...I think every single one of these books ended this way) broke my heart simply because I know it's the last time. I have grown to love these characters and their stories. I know that I will re-read the books over and over again. Thank you Cindy for that gift!!!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    ##-FABULOUS! I can't believe how much i've loved this series by cindy gerard. Both the heroes and heroines were all amazing. Not one annoying one in the bunch. And these heroes: YUM! I started with her bodyguard series which then led into the BOI series beautifully. I highly recommend all of these books. Not one has disappointed me. I loved how she tied everything up so wonderfully in the epilogue. And the very last page revealed another new series which ties into this one. YAY ME
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Cindy has done a great job of showing how even a strong character has weakness and doubts and a character who would normally be the one protected discovers their inner strength. It is a great ending for this series of books. A definate must read.
    Hardegree More than 1 year ago
    This was a good, solid ending to a great series. We've seen Joe and Steph's arc over several books and it was only fitting that the family which suffered the greatest loss (Bryan's family and Steph's brother) is finally able to get some resolution and happiness in this last installment for the BOI's. My ONLY complaint was that I felt Joe straddled the line a little too much between being alpha and beta, and I felt like ALL the BOI's are probably very much alpha in character but Joe didn't feel that way for me. Loved Steph and love how she was ready to walk away if she had to. 4.5 stars/A-
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I have loved this series and the latest did not disappoint. I pre-ordered it and began and finished today. If you haven't read this series, you are missing out. Can't wait until the next book comes out.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Pi? its teh... where are you? youve... dissappeared everywhere i cant find you... i miss you and love you.... please,,,
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I really enjoy reading Cindy Gerard. The books are action packed, as well as some humor and romance. Looking for more of hers.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    MOONSHADOW67 More than 1 year ago
    Something for everyone. Action, love story, respect. Had a hard time putting the book down.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Joey44 More than 1 year ago
    Joe Green pulls away from his Black Ops Inc. teammates, Stephanie (the woman he loves), and from anyone who means anything to him as he tracks down the killer of his former teammate who was Stephanie's brother. A recent Black Ops Inc. mission in Sierra Leone confirmed what he's suspected for 15 years — the ambush that killed a fellow task force member all those years ago was no accident. Joe goes back in Sierra Leone alone. He's trying to find information on the man responsible for his team mate’s death in a supposed ambush years ago. He'd wanted to protect Stephanie from his activities in this awful place but when he's falsely imprisoned, and with his team on blackout status, she's the only one left who could rescue him. For a month Joe is beaten, starved and tortured in prison, he's almost dead by the time help shows up to rescue him. But with no military training how is Stephanie ever going to get him out of prison? Stephanie found help to break Joe out of prison, which was the one thing that was a bit unbelievable in this story. Since she had no training it seemed a bit far fetched that she pulled the escape off. I enjoyed the seeing that the female character was the she-ro.
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    Vh vh hyyvv
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    The have one coming out on jan 22 about mike brown
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    farmgirlAC More than 1 year ago
    Loved the book and all the characters. kept me entertained the whole way through. loved this series every last book. would recommend all Cindy Gerard books for romantic suspense.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago