Her passion is flying. As one of the best helicopter pilots in the naval reserves, Lieutenant Teri Howe is strong, dedicated, and highly skilled–until a past mistake surfaces, jeopardizing everything she’s worked for.
Rock steady Senior Chief Stan Wolchonok has made a career of tackling difficult challenges. So it’s no surprise when he comes to Teri’s aid, knowing that his personal code of honor–and perhaps his heart–will be at risk. But when a jet carrying an American senator’s daughter is hijacked, Stan’s unflinching determination and Teri’s steadfast courage are put to the ultimate test. The rescue mission will be daring and dangerous. But somewhere between peril and resolution, the line between friends and lovers begins to blur, pushing both their lives over the edge. . . .
About the Author
Date of Birth:1960
Education:Attended Boston University
Read an Excerpt
Four Months Later Lieutenant Commander Joel Hogan grabbed her ass. Right in the McDonald’s on base. Right in front of . . . A roomful of people who weren’t paying either of them the slightest bit of attention.
Lt. (jg) Teri Howe didn’t know whether to be bitterly disappointed or intensely relieved. She took her tray and moved away from Joel, purposefully ignoring him. She headed swiftly to the other side of the room. Evade and conceal. Run and hide. Do not engage the enemy at this time. Don’t create a scene.
She sat at a small table already occupied by a female lieutenant who was deeply engrossed in a book. She glanced up quizzically at all of the other empty tables and then at Teri.
“Ass grabber on my six,” Teri explained. “I’ll be quiet, I promise. You don’t have to stop reading.”
The lieutenant smiled, sympathetic understanding in her eyes. “Some of these guys can be relentless in their pursuit. New here?”
“Reserves,” Teri said. “I’m in between civilian jobs, so I took a short-term active duty assignment.” A hundred and twenty days, with a hundred and fourteen to go, dodging Joel Hogan’s wandering hands. God. It seemed like a long time, but at least there was an end in sight. It was pathetic, when all she wanted to do was fly. “I’m Teri Howe.”
“Kate Takamoto.” The lieutenant nodded, returning to her book, leaving Teri to her lunch.
Teri opened the wrapper of her sandwich, lifted the bun, and stared at the chicken, her appetite gone. No surprise there. She’d been on the Joel Hogan diet for a week now. It was remarkably effective—the mere thought of the man turned the taste of food in her mouth into something unmentionable let alone palatable.
Teri glanced up, saw that Joel had been waylaid by several other officers. He smiled, laughed, his straight white teeth gleaming against the tan of his too-handsome face. His smarmy, smirking, God’s-gift-to-all-women face.
There was a time when she’d actually found him attractive. It seemed impossible now, but it was true. There was a time she’d actually lusted after the King of Repugnancy. And her youth and stupidity were coming back now to bite her on the butt. Big time.
Don’t touch me. She’d already said that to him too many times to count. Don’t talk to me, don’t look at me, don’t even think about me. She hadn’t said that. It was a far less reasonable request, considering they were going to work in the same area for the next 114 days.
God, it made her stomach hurt just to think about it.
She had to stay out of his way.
It was the smartest thing to do. She was going to have to stay on her toes, make sure there was always space be- tween them.
From the corner of her eye, she saw Joel stand up, and she tensed. But he was only going to get milk for his coffee. She forced herself to take another bite of her sandwich and found herself looking straight into Senior Chief Stan Wolchonok’s eyes.
He was sitting with Lieutenant Paoletti and a bunch of the other SEALs from Team Sixteen’s Troubleshooter squad, both officers and enlisted. She’d worked with them before, and after ferrying them back and forth from a training op out in the desert this past week, she knew all of their nicknames.
Nilsson was Nils or Johnny. Starrett was called Sam. Jenkins was Jenk, Jacquette was Jazz, and Karmody was known as WildCard. Even the team’s commanding officer, Lt. Paoletti, had his name shortened to L.T.
Everyone had a nickname but Stan Wolchonok, who was never called anything but “Senior Chief” or “Senior,” and was always addressed in a most respectful and sometimes even reverent tone.
He was a scary looking man, not terribly tall but muscular—completely ripped, in fact—with a face that looked as if he’d spent a few years in a boxing ring. His broad cheekbones, big forehead, and heavy brow seemed made for the permanent glower he’d perfected. His jawline and chin were pugnacious and his nose listed very slightly to the left—broken one too many times, no doubt. His eyes were dark and capable of being cuttingly intense or soullessly flat and dead. His hair had lately outgrown his usual no frills crew cut and was thick and wavy and surprisingly blond. His skin was fair—too fair—and he was nearly always sun- or wind-burned, with ruddy cheeks and a peeling nose.
But the respect shown to him by his men and the officers in his SEAL team wasn’t because he looked like someone you wouldn’t necessarily want to meet in a dark alley. No, he was respected because his men knew that he would fight to the death for them, if it came down to that. No, he would even fight from beyond death for them, because not even death could stop mighty Senior Chief Wolchonok.
The man was a problem solver. A miracle worker, who expected as much—more—from himself than he did from his men.
And as she sat there, Teri found herself staring back at him. His scowling gaze flickered across the restaurant, landing briefly on Joel Hogan.
Oh, shoot, she’d been wrong. She forced herself to look down at her sandwich, feeling her cheeks heat. Someone had seen Joel cop a feel in the food line. Stan Wolchonok had seen.
God, how humiliating.
She choked down several more tasteless bites of her sandwich and finished her soda. Gathering up her trash, she said another quick thanks to Kate and headed outside, out of the building and toward the water, hoping that the fresh ocean air would help her regain her steadiness and calm.
But she heard the door open, as if someone were following her. Please don’t let it be the senior chief. Please don’t let it be—
“Hey, Teri, where you going in such a hurry?”
Well, that was a lesson in “be careful what you wish for.” It wasn’t Stan Wolchonok. It was Joel.
Evade and conceal.
Keep distance between them.
Teri put her head down, pretending she hadn’t heard him, and kept on walking.
The April morning should have been glorious. Crisp and clean with a bright blue sky and a breeze that proclaimed spring was finally here.
Helga Rosen awakened early with the strange sound of airplanes buzzing overhead. Lots and lots of airplanes.
She lingered in her room until eight, and then, like every other day, she went downstairs for a bowl of Fru Inger Gunvald’s porridge, ready to curl up in a warm corner of the kitchen to enjoy her breakfast with a book. If she was lucky, she could get in at least an hour and a half of reading before she had to leave for school.
And if she was really lucky, Fru Gunvald would have brought her daughter Marte with her and they’d play one of Marte’s marvelous make-believe games out in the yard.
Two years older, Marte was Helga’s best friend in all the world.
But this morning Fru Gunvald was late. The kitchen hearth was cold, the room was empty.
Poppi was still home at this hour, arguing with Hershel.
Hershel! Helga ran to him. “What are you doing here?”
Her brother gave her a swift hug. “We’ve been invaded, mouse. The Germans are in Copenhagen. Classes are canceled.”
“Invaded!” she gasped.
“Don’t scare the child,” her father scolded.
“Someone besides me ought to be frightened.” Hershel turned back to her. “It happened in less than two hours, Helga. German soldiers came in on a coal ship before dawn. They’re everywhere in the city now and the king surrendered with hardly a fight. It’s bad news for all Danes.” He grimly looked up at their father. “Worse for Danish Jews.”
“Helga, go upstairs to your mother.” Poppi’s face was turning pink as he glared at Hershel. “Don’t talk like that in front of her.”
The sound of a wagon clattering out in the yard made them all jump. Helga’s heart pounded. She’d read accounts of the roundups of Jews in Germany and Poland from underground newspapers Hershel had gotten at university and passed on to her, whispering to hide them from Poppi.
She ran to the window, but it wasn’t Nazis in the yard. It was only Herr Gunvald. Marte’s father.
He leapt down from his wagon, a big, broad-shouldered man, much taller than Dr. Rosen. He was a laborer, using his back to build houses—a profession that had always impressed Helga far more than her parents.
“Helga needs to know what’s going on,” Hershel said to their father, “what’s happening in Germany—and all over Europe.”
“That can’t happen here,” Poppi insisted. “This is Denmark. Rabbi Melchior says we must stay calm.”
Herr Gunvald hammered on their door as if the hounds of hell were after him.
Helga opened it.
“Herr Rosen, have you heard?” he asked, talking to her father over her head. “We’re part of Germany now.”
“We’ve heard,” Hershel said tightly.
“Where’s Fru Gunvald?” Helga asked. There was no one else in the wagon.
“She’s at home,” Herr Gunvald told her. “Until we find out what’s going on, I thought it best Inger and Marte stay there.”
“Helga, go upstairs.” Her father’s pink face was turning red. Never a good sign.
Still, she didn’t move.
“Helga, are you listening?”
“I’m going into Copenhagen to find Annebet—make sure she’s all right,” Herr Gunvald continued.