SUBJECT: Navy SEAL Mason Black
MISSION: Remain undercover even if it means going commando!
Wedding blogger Maddie Holmes is twelve times the bridesmaid and never the bride. Still, being on the sidelines of everyone else's happy endings has its perks, like staying at the luxurious, decadent Fantasy Island. The resort isn't just romanticit's filled with sinful temptations like delicious hottie resort chef Mason Black. And Maddie can't wait to take a bite!
There's just a teeny problem with her plan. She has no idea that Mason is an undercover Navy SEAL who needs photographs Maddie took that put both his mission and her life at risk. Mason's plan? Retrieve the pics and indulge in a few X-rated fantasies with the curvy redhead and hope like hell that being between the sheets doesn't blow his cover.
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Anne Marsh writes sexy contemporary and paranormal romances because the world can always enjoy one more alpha male. She started writing romance after getting laid off from her job as a technical writer—and quickly decided happily-ever-afters trumped software manuals. She lives in Northern California with her family and six cats.
Read an Excerpt
Ladies, it's Saturday and I'm surrounded by honey-mooners. This is one step up from my usual weekend wedding gig, where my people options are usually the geriatric crowd, the toddler dancing crowd (always good for a much-needed cardio burst and the cutest, stickiest kisses), or the drunken groomsman crowd (good for equally enthusiastic but much damper kisseseww). I counted not one, not two, but three couples wrapped around each other by the pool. I have dubbed them the Octopi because they seem to have eight hands each and at least seven of them are engaged in activities best left to the bedroom or a soft porn channel. Go, Octopi! Speaking of that, watching the Octopi procreate underscores my own single state. You've found The One and you're hearing wedding bells, or you wouldn't be visiting this blog. Any tips for where to look for a good guy? Because this wedding blogger is feeling lonely in paradise.
MADDIE, Kiss and Tulle "Hooyah, hooyah, hooyah, hey." US Navy SEAL Mason Black fist-bumped his knuckles with Levi Brandon's. He didn't have far to reach since both men were currently sharing the same palm tree backrest and catching their breaths after completing their mission.
"Today's gonna be another easy day." Levi automatically finished the chant. The words took Mason back to BUD/S training when making the SEALs team had still been seven weeks of hell away. Operating on four hours of sleep or less a night, he'd worked with his teammates to carry their Zodiac over their heads through the pounding surf, crawled through mud flats and made best friends with a three-hundred-pound log that was their instructors' idea of exercise equipment. Good times.
Levi grinned as if he hadn't just been embroiled in a firefight. "I'm hoping there's a beer in my future."
The current op wasn't so bad and beat the hell out of completing the O course at BUD/S. Not only had the rain finally stopped, which went in the plus column, but one hell of a tropical sunrise lit up the horizon. Since he was waiting for the Zodiacs from the US Navy cruiser anchored just offshore, Mason had every reason to stare at the horizon. His team was minutes away from successfully finishing their undercover op on Fantasy Island.
One more checkmark in the "mission complete" column.
If he'd been a paperwork-and-spreadsheet kind of guy. Which he wasn't.
Nope, he mused to himself as he went to work with a SIG Sauer and a sniper rifle. Rather than riding the commuter train, he'd be extracted from the island by Black Hawk and flown to the nearest US military base to debrief. And instead of writing quarterly reports or coding software, he'd helped lead the hostile extraction of a South American drug lord who'd made the mistake of booking a luxury vacation for himself and his new girlfriend on Fantasy Island.
Mason's SEAL team had moved in early, posing as resort staff, and intercepted the guy as soon as he'd stepped foot on the island. Pretending to be a gourmet chef had actually been fun. Poolside ceviche lessons were a nice change of pace from dodging bullets, and he genuinely liked cooking. The female students weren't bad looking, either.
SEAL Team Sigma had established an undercover camp on Fantasy Island's undeveloped side. Unlike the resort digs, their camp was basic. A few hammocks, a couple of tents and enough hardware and weaponry to take over a small country. They could be packed and wheels up in two hours, and that portability alone made the place more perfect than a country club. Better yet, the rugged terrain all but guaranteed that no resort guest would stumble across the SEALs.
The faint sound of Zodiacs cutting across the lagoon announced that it was showtime. Diego Marcos, the captured drug lord, started cursing up a storm behind his duct-tape gag and pulling at his zip-tied wrists. The scumbag wasn't going to quit until he was in US custody aboard the Navy vessel cruising offshore, and maybe not even then. Not Mason's problem. The girlfriend, however, looked peaked and more than a little teary, so Mason helped her to a seat on the sand with a hand under her elbow.
She might or might not know squat about her beau's drug-running activities, but she'd come here with him and now she was tarred with the same brush. Marcos shot her a look, not quite managing to mask his concern. Mason got that. Separating your personal life from your professional life was hard.
Mason didn't like the worry in her eyes, either, so when she stared up at him, he broke out his Spanish for Dummies. "No tepreocupes que vas a estar bien."
The way her eyes welled up at his words wasn't a good sign. Or maybe she'd just had enough. Someone, somewhere was going to miss her. That unknown someone would want to yell at her for her bad choice in men and then maybe add an "I told you so." He could imagine all too easily how he'd feel if she was one of his sisters or his cousins, seven females he loved more than life itself and who'd managed, collectively, to date every badass bad guy out there. Some of them more than once.
He tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and fell back. He couldn't let her go, and he couldn't give her a do-over. So the best thing was to get out of her personal space.
"Softie," Levi mouthed.
Yeah, but he was also the softie in charge at the moment. Their team leader, Gray Jackson, was supervising the medevac of an injured team member, so Mason had command.
Something flashed at his nine o'clock. Light on glass, like a camera lens. Typical. Right when the mission wrapped and they were all free to ride off into the sunset, everything went FUBAR. Lifting his binoculars, he zoomed in and, damn, it was the hot chick who'd attended the cooking lessons. She'd liked his ceviche. He'd liked her.
She was gorgeous, with a smile that lit her up from the inside out, radiant red hair bouncing around her shoulders. During the class, she'd worn a polka-dot sundress with tiny straps crisscrossing her shoulders, and his new mission had become finding a way to nudge those thin ribbons down her shoulders and get to know her. Biblically.
He nudged Levi with the toe of his boot. "We've got company."
"Tell me it's the Budweiser truck."
"We're on an island, dumbass."
"Don't be so literal." Levi saluted him with his middle finger. "And let a man dream. Where's our hot spot?"
"Up on the hill. Nine o'clock. We've got a resort guest out and about."
Levi snatched the glasses away from him and examined the hillside. "You're not wrong," he said. "Jogger?"
"No such luck. That's Madeline Holmes. She's a wedding blogger and right now she's snapping pictures of the lagoon."
She was also his personal eye candy, her happy-go-lucky smile drawing his attention every time he was near her. And if he'd taken advantage of this island op to put himself in her vicinity as often as possible, that was need-to-know information.
"And in another ten, our pickup crew." Levi cursed.
Their mission was already FUBAR in some respects: Remy taking a bullet to the abdomen and being airlifted to a hospital, Gray bleeding emotionally because he'd taken a header for the visiting doctor who'd flown out with the injured SEAL. Pick one. Hell, pick both. This was why an insertion into civilian space spelled danger. Everything was easier in the jungle. Something moved, you shot it. Not, of course, that he wanted to shoot the woman.
"What are the odds she's taking selfies?" Levi asked.
Zero to none. A familiar calm descended. His pretty redhead was a threat to his team, so he'd neutralize her. No matter how alive she made him feel, the mission and the team came first. "I'll take care of it. You hand off our guests here to the Navy boys."
"Got it." Levi turned toward the approaching Zodiac. "Try to remember that we're on a no-kill mission, okay? Plus, she's friends with Ashley, and you don't want to piss off Ashley."
Jesus. Did he look that cranky? Or like the kind of guy who would take out an innocent civilian? He agreed with the warning on Ashley Dixon, though. She was a DEA loaner and honorary member of the SEAL teamand she could be mean as hell if you riled her up. Moving rapidly, he stripped off his more obvious weapons and dropped them on the sand. Since he was supposed to be undercover, working on the down low, he couldn't show up toting forty pounds of lethal hardware.
Mornings sucked. Predawn alarms sucked even more because no one, ever, had accused Madeline Holmes of being a morning person. Still, she'd given it a shot, scrambling up the hill even as she willed the sunrise to hold off. Hitting the snooze button the third time had been a mistake.
In order to make the sunrise, she'd rolled out of bed and settled for a tank top, shorts and sneakers. Usually, she put some thought into her clothes. Okay. Lots of thought. Clothing was like armor. Pretty armor. Instead of rocking her suitcase full of brand-new vacation wear, however, she was climbing Mount Everest. She hadn't shaved her legs or brushed her hair and she stank of eau de bug spray.
As the air lightened around her, she pushed harder because the sun was coming up fast and, color her romantic, but she wanted to catch the first rays of dawn, the colors exploding over the edge of the horizon. This was probably her one and only chance to visit a place like Fantasy Island, so every moment needed to countand the pictures would be awesome blog material. And the more footage she got, the better. Everything rode on this trip.
She was lucky to be here, even if she'd come alone. The Fantasy Island marketing team had reached out to her about advertising on her blog and, ka-ching, she'd found herself here on an all-expenses-paid vacation. Now she had to earn her keep or her chance at big-time success would go poof.
The place was paradise, so how hard could it be to talk the island up on her blog? The only thing missing was the naked hot guy. Or loincloth-wearing hot guy. She preferred a man of mystery to a letting-itall-hang-out-in-the-breeze guy. If she'd understood the island's advertising correctly, she might be able to have her choice of either. Or both.
Whatever she wanted.
Fantasy Island advertised itself as an idyllic slice of paradise located on the Caribbean Seathe perfect place for a destination wedding or honeymoon. The elegant type on the resort brochure promised barefoot luxury, discreet hedonism and complete wish fulfillment. Maddie's job was to translate those naughty promises into sexy web copy that would drive traffic to her blog and fill her bank account with much-needed advertising dollars.
The summit beckoned and she stepped out into a small clearing overlooking the ocean.
"I need to work out more." At least her asthma hadn't kicked in. After a quick check of the camera that she'd set up yesterday to do time-lapse photography, she unwrapped her breakfast. She had a purloined croissant and a mocha, which was the perfect sunrise-watching food. While she munched and she shot, the air lightened around her, the birds and the howler monkeys competing to see who could make the most raucous noise. Being awake this early was almost okay.
The noise of a boat coming in hard and fast on the quiet side of the island was a surprise. With her camera lens, she zoomed in on a pair of black rubber dinghies bouncing over the lagoon's calm surface. Huh. She squinted, trying to make out the details. Not only did the guys riding the Zodiac look mean, but they were toting a small arsenal, too.
"Good view?" At the sound of the deep male voice behind her, Maddie flinched, arms and legs jerking in shock. Her camera flew forward as she scrambled backward. As adrenaline surged through her, she sucked in airhappy place, happy placebut her lungs betrayed her anyhow, her airway closing up tight. It felt like an elephant had parked its ass on her chest.
Strong male fingers fastened around her wrist. Panicked, she grabbed her croissant and lobbed it at the guy, followed by her coffee. He cursed and dodged.
"It's not a good day to jump without a chute." He tugged her away from the edge of the lookout, and she got her first good look at him. Not a stranger. Okay, then. Her heart banged hard against her rib cage, pum-meling her out-of-air lungs, before settling back into a more normal rhythm. Mason. Mason I-Can't-Be-Bothered-To-Tell-You-My-Last-Name-But-I'm-A-Stud. He led the cooking classes by the pool. She'd written him off as good-looking but aloof, not certain if she'd spotted a spark of potential interest in his dark eyes. Wishful thinking or dating potentialit was probably a moot point now, since she'd just pegged him with her croissant, followed by her mocha. Usually she couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, but she'd scored a bull's-eye on the front of his T-shirt.
She sneaked a peek at him. He didn't seem pissed off. On the contrary, he simply rocked back on his haunches, hands held out in front of him. I come in peace, she thought, fortunately too out of breath to giggle. The side of his shirt sported a dark stain from her coffee. Oh, goody. She'd actually scalded him. Way to make an impression on a poor, innocent guy. This was why her dating life sucked.
She tried to wheeze out an apology, but he shook his head.
"Let's get you breathing."
She had to agree with his priorities. Plus, if he wanted her breathing, he clearly hadn't morphed from resort chef to serial killer, so he had some other reason for being up here. Who knew? Maybe he was a secret sunrise aficionado. With a grimace, she dumped her bag upside down on the ground, looking for the inhaler hiding somewhere in the mountain of stuff she carted around. Mason made a choked sound, but she ignored him. So she had a lot of stuff. Preparation was the key to surviving, right? Plus, she really, really hated cleaning out her bag. Mason rifled through the contents, his fingers skimming over her secret chocolate stash, mini samples from her Birchbox subscription, three pairs of sunglasses, a paperback and a clear plastic pouch of emergency tampons. Since he didn't look as if he wanted to run back down the hill screaming, she concentrated on breathing.
"Got it." Uncapping her inhaler, he handed it to her. Dark brown eyes watched her as she primed the device and shoved it into her mouth. "I scared you."
"You think?" The albuterol went to work, her lungs opening up like her puffer was a magic wand and she'd just chanted open sesame. She hated having to rely on the device, but sometimes she couldn't talk herself out of panicking.
"That wasn't my intention." The look on his face was part chagrin, part repentance. Worked for her.
"I'll put a bell around your neck." Where had he learned to move so quietly?
"Why don't we start over?" He stuck out a hand. A big, masculine, slightly muddy hand. She probably shouldn't want to seize his fingers like a lifeline. "I'm Mason Black."
"I know who you are." Or mostly. The last name was new information.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have really enjoyed the Blaze SEAL series, they are hot, light, entertaining, with a little SEAL action on the side as an added spice to the story, and sometimes just what I like to read. Maddie is such a sassy and fun character, she goes after what she wants, she is honest about it, and have very few filters. She loves life, and it shows. And she wants to have someone to share it with her, that special someone. In the past 18 months, she has been in 13 weddings, giving her lots to work with as a wedding blogger, and even more to think of, as she attends yet another wedding alone, and spending two weeks on the glorious Fantasy Island. Mason is like a dream come true, honorable, solid, alpha man, with a great sense of humor, and moral compass, that makes it hard for him to lie about the undercover mission he is on, at least to Maddie. There are some hot hot hot scenes between them, as they live through some of the fantasies the island brings on. Mason's undercover as a chef guarantees some delicious foods are at hand, as Mason and Maddie get creative with it. A delightful to read, and will certainly heat up the cold winter days. Mason and Maddie love to banter, as do the SEAL brothers, and Maddie also delivers a surprise, both to the readers and to Mason. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did ~ Four Spoons
Maddie is a photographer and wedding blogger, and the chance to photograph a wedding at a luxury resort on Fantasy Island, and get some publicity and revenue for her blog is too good to pass up. And so is hot chef (and undercover Navy SEAL) Mason, with his sexy smile and ability to melt her heart - and her panties too. Mason is swoonworthy all right, knowing just the right things to give Maddie a vacation she'll never forget, as he's been tasked with keeping an eye on her as part of his undercover operation. But when she lets her feelings get away with her, will Mason come along for the ride? Or will the revelation that he's not the man she thought he was leave her with just the memories of a vacation fling over too soon? The Blaze line can be counted on for low angst and fun sexy times and that's exactly what's delivered here. Add to that a tropical locale and it makes for a delightfully entertaining story. Maddie comes across as a feisty, free spirited and confident woman, both in the bedroom and out, though she is wearying a bit of attending weddings that aren't her own. Mason is almost too good to be true - he's charming, patient, fun and friendly and it's hard for her to picture a more perfect match. There were some super steamy scenes between them, and it's clear that Maddie is falling for Mason, even as he's struggling with the fact that he's keeping secrets from her. Though the core of him is still the same, he's not able to share with her the true nature of his work and feels that he's not worthy of her deeper emotions. Since this is a Navy SEAL story, there are some exciting action scenes to go along with the sexy romance, as well as the good natured camaraderie with his military brothers (and sister) who are also part of the op at the island resort. The story is fairly predictable but enjoyable as a quick paced read. 4 stars.
My Thoughts: I'm absolutely loving these SEAL books by Anne Marsh! It takes place in the same spot as Teasing Her SEAL--a resort called Fantasy Island. Maddie is the wedding photographer and she may have taken some pictures that Mason needs to get his hands on to protect the mission. The thing is, Maddie doesn't know Mason is undercover as the chef at the resort. When the two of them succumb to the temptation, it's only going to be a matter of time before the truth comes out. Will the two of them be able to work together to make things right again? Pleasing her SEAL is a hot and steamy read. Maddie and Mason have a great chemistry between them. Maddie is a strong woman, and Mason is a sweet man. I loved the pairing. And I loved the way the story progressed, how much Mason cared about Maddie and hated to be keeping secrets from her while on his mission. Another great story from Anne Marsh! My Rating: Very Good