Jean-Luc Cavalier has only ever cared about three things: sex, booze, and the dangerous missions he undertakes with HORNET. Laissez les bons temps rouler is more than a Mardi Gras motto—it’s the way he lives his life. But all that changes the night he rescues Dr. Claire Oliver from deadly mercenaries.
Now he can’t get the gorgeous blond virologist out of his head.
Claire is running for her life. Someone wants her antiviral research and they’re willing to kill anyone and everyone to get it. She has no one to turn to except a womanizing Cajun with a silver tongue and devastating smile.
But when an ultra-deadly virus decimates the Niger Delta, saving Claire and her research becomes the least of HORNET’s concerns. The virus has all the markings of a bioweapon and Nigeria is only the testing grounds...
Each book in the HORNET series is STANDALONE:
* SEAL of Honor
* Honor Reclaimed
* Broken Honor
* Code of Honor
* Reckless Honor
* Honor Avenged
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About the Author
Tonya Burrows wrote her first romance at age 13 and hasn't put down her pen since. Originally from a small town in Western New York, she suffers from a bad case of wanderlust and usually ends up moving someplace new every few years. As of now, she lives in the Pacific Northwest with The Boyfriend, a diva schnoodle, a plucky pug-mix, and #writercat.
When she's not writing about hunky military heroes, Tonya can usually be found kayaking, hiking, or road tripping across the country. She also enjoys painting and B grade disaster movies.
If you would like to know more about Tonya, visit her website at www.tonyaburrows.com. She's also on Twitter @tonyaburrows and Facebook www.facebook.com/tonyaburrowsauthor.
Read an Excerpt
Niger Delta, Nigeria
Dr. Claire Oliver stepped from the hastily thrown together quarantine tent into a wall of oppressive humidity. Sweat already trickled between her breasts as she stripped off her mask, gown, and gloves. She placed all of the protective gear in the already-full dented metal drum that served as a biohazard bin. Soon local workers would pick up the drum and wash everything inside with a bleach solution. Disposable protective gear was an unaffordable luxury in this part of the Niger River Delta.
"Do you see now why I contacted you?" Dr. Sunday Reggie-Fubara asked in her posh British accent. Nigerian born, Sunday had lived most of her life in London until Médecins Sans Frontières — also known as MSF or Doctors Without Borders — sent her back to the land of her birth. She'd been a friend of Claire's since boarding school, and although they'd kept in touch even after Claire had moved to the States, it had been a long time since they'd last spoken. When Sunday's email had hit her inbox last week, she'd been surprised. Then shocked ... and a little bit curious. Sunday was an outstanding doctor and never asked for help.
The thought had crossed her mind that this could be a setup. A trap. After everything that had happened in the last month — her best friend killed, mercenaries chasing her across the globe, intent on stealing her life's work — it was entirely possible. She hated that she couldn't even view a contact from an old friend without suspicion. She'd wrestled with herself over answering the email, and in the end, decided paranoia couldn't dictate the rest of her life. What good would she accomplish if she was always running and hiding?
So here she was, sweating in the sticky tropical heat, soaked to the skin by the ceaseless rain of monsoon season, scratching her head over something that didn't make any sense. "The serologic tests are coming back as hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome?"
"And also hantavirus pulmonary syndrome."
No, that wasn't right. Too many variables weren't adding up. Hanta wasn't an African virus, and human-to-human transmission was so rare as to be nonexistent. Not to mention the fact that the two forms of the virus had never shown up simultaneously in one host. They were from opposite hemispheres — HFRS was found mainly in Europe and Asia, HPS in the Americas.
Claire shook her head. "It shouldn't be here, burning through the population like this."
"It's unlike any strain we've seen before," Sunday said. "It's really all very strange. I thought if anyone could figure out what is happening here, it would be you."
Claire looked at the quarantine tents. "How many people have died?"
"All of them."
She froze and stared at Sunday in disbelieving shock. "What did you say?"
Sunday's lips flattened into a grim line. "All of them have died, Claire. It has a one hundred percent fatality rate."
"What ...?" Horror tightened Claire's throat as she again looked at the tents. One hundred and fifty people convalesced inside the makeshift hospital, hoping the foreign doctors could help them. Men, women, children. Seniors. Babies. Even two pregnant women. There had been a toddler in one of the last beds before the decontamination zone. She'd stared at Claire and Sunday in the protective space suits with dull, fearful eyes.
"All of them," she repeated in a whisper and pictured the girl slowly bleeding out while her kidneys failed. It was a horrific, painful way to go.
No. Step back. Pull yourself together.
She closed her eyes, took a second to regroup. Getting emotionally involved wouldn't help that toddler. What would help was figuring out why this was happening, finding a suitable treatment, and keeping anyone else from becoming infected. "That's ..." She tried to reconcile the facts she knew about hantavirus with what Sunday was saying. "Depending on the strain, hantavirus has, at most, a thirty percent mortality rate."
"Could it have mutated? Maybe two strains combined into a daughter virus?"
"I suppose it's possible." Claire turned away from the tent and faced her friend. "But if this was a natural mutation, we'd have seen the mutated strain in Asia or Europe or South America. Even the U.S. Somewhere the virus is already prevalent. Not Nigeria, a country where there has never been a known case. It doesn't make sense."
"Could someone have traveled here with it?"
Claire considered the nearest village with its thatched roof homes. There was no electricity or running water. The locals were all uneducated fishermen, eking out a simple life along the banks of the Niger River. "Again, it's possible. It'd be more possible if this were a city, but ..." She waved a hand, encompassing the surrounding area. "This isn't a major travel hub. Even if someone had come here with the virus, they shouldn't have been able to transmit it to anyone else."
Concern drew a deep groove between Sunday's brows. "You said 'natural' mutation. If it was a natural mutation, we'd have found it elsewhere. You think this is unnatural."
"I don't know." It was a puzzle, and Claire had never been able to resist a puzzle. "The village where this started is just a few kilometers east of here? I want to see it. If I can find the virus reservoir, I'll know more about the infection."
"No." Sunday grabbed Claire's arm. "You're white. The whole area is owned by Egbesu Fighters. They'll think you're with the oil companies and see you as a potential payday."
So what else was new? Lately, it seemed everyone was after her for a payday. She'd spent the last month running from mercenaries who wanted her research. God only knew who had hired them, but someone knew about Akeso and wanted to capitalize the antiviral's panacean ability to kill virus-infected cells without harming healthy ones. She'd spent most of her adult life working on Akeso, and she'd be damned if she let some asshole Big Pharma company steal her research so they could turn around and sell it for ridiculous prices.
If only she'd been able to continue her research in peace. Akeso would help these people. She was sure of it, but she and her old med school roommate, Dr. Tiffany Peters, had only just started trials on human cells in the lab before the world turned sideways and Tiffany was killed.
Oh, she missed Tiffany. She often caught herself reaching for the phone to call, only to remember her best friend was gone.
She gazed toward the east. Thought of the village. Who else there was infected? Had this started with an infected rat population or was this something worse? Something more sinister? She wouldn't know without an investigation, and she couldn't investigate if she kept running from Tiffany's killers.
She gave herself a moment — only a moment — for the fear, then pushed it down and locked it up. That way there be dragons and their names were Paranoia and Anxiety. It wasn't productive to let them off their chains, especially when people were dying.
Sunday's hand still clenched her forearm. Claire covered it with one of her own and gave Sunday's fingers a reassuring squeeze. "I understand your concern, but you contacted me for help."
Sunday gave an abrupt laugh. "Same old Claire. Always fearlessly chasing trouble."
"I do not chase trouble," she protested.
"You don't exactly avoid it, either." Sunday studied her for a moment, then sighed. "And I see your mind's made up about this."
"If you want my help treating this virus, the village is our first step."
Sunday lifted a hand and waved a large man over. He had skin like onyx and thick lips that spread into a big white grin as he approached. He said something to Sunday in the local language, and Claire didn't need to understand to know it had been intimate because Sunday's lighter skin flushed dark with embarrassment.
They were lovers. Or if not, they would be soon enough. Good for them.
Claire looked down to hide her smile while Sunday smacked his arm and replied in an affectionately chiding tone.
"This is Adedayo Temitope," Sunday introduced. "He's our local guide."
"Call me Dayo," he said and held out a hand. "I've heard much about you, Dr. Claire."
Claire smiled at him and accepted the handshake, then raised a brow at Sunday. "I haven't heard nearly enough about you."
Sunday poked her in the ribs with an elbow and Dayo's grin only widened. But then Sunday got serious. "She wants to see the village."
Dayo's grin faded. "It's not safe."
Claire huffed out a breath in exasperation. "So I've been told, but I can't begin to help until I know what I'm dealing with and I won't know without an investigation." She planted her hands on her hips and stared the two of them down. "So will you help or not?"CHAPTER 2
Things could be worse. Things could be worse. Things could be worse.
Jean-Luc Cavalier kept repeating the mantra to himself as he sat propped against the stone wall of his prison, trying to ignore the throbbing in his arm where an ugly knife wound was still oozing blood and beginning to fester. Though he wasn't sure how anything could be worse than his current situation. The guard who was supposed to be guarding him had dropped dead half a day ago and now rotted on the other side of his prison's door. He had no food, no water, and no way to communicate with his team, who were halfway across the world because he was a coullion who went chasing weak intel with only one questionably sane man for backup.
And who knew where Marcus Deangelo had ended up. Or even if he was still alive. They'd been separated when militants attacked their truck and Jean- Luc hadn't seen him in days.
HORNET's commanders, Gabe and Quinn, had warned Jean-Luc not to come to Nigeria. Had told him he'd get himself dead if he did. At the time, he'd thought they were just spooked by the team's last clusterfuck of a mission in Martinique. They had lost a man that night — Marcus's best friend Danny — and nobody wanted a repeat.
Jean-Luc didn't blame his commanders for their caution, but nor could he stay at HQ twiddling his thumbs while Harvard, their computer whiz, gathered actionable intel. He'd made someone a promise.
He shut his eyes and brought her face up from his memories. Brilliant blue eyes, the dusting of freckles over her slightly upturned nose. Her shoulder- length bob of blond hair that somehow looked both severely professional and ungodly sexy at the same time. She was petite, not a lot in the way of curves, but merde, her mouth. She had lips made for kissing, upper lip slightly fuller than the lower. She wasn't all beauty. She had a brain to match, and a tongue sharp enough to draw blood. She fascinated him.
Claire was the reason he'd disobeyed orders and endangered his career as a linguist for HumInt Inc.'s Hostage Rescue and Negotiation Team. She was the reason he was here. When he'd helped her escape Martinique, he'd promised to find her again, to help keep her safe.
He didn't intend to break that promise.
Which brought him back to his current predicament.
It could be worse.
Yeah. Maybe if aliens invaded? That would be worse. The apocalypse would be worse. Four Horsemen, End Times, and all that. But barring those scenarios, nothing was fucking worse than this.
Jean-Luc sighed and pushed himself to his feet. He'd been trying to reach the keys on the dead guard's belt for hours until exhaustion finally won out, but it was time to move again. He wasn't dying here. Not like this.
He bellied up to the bars and reached his good hand through. He could almost catch the guard's shirt between his fingers. He just had to stretch ... a little ... farther ...
His fingers brushed the edge of the T-shirt, but he couldn't get a grip on it. For the first time in his life, he wished he didn't have such muscular arms and shoulders. He only needed another inch, and he'd have a fist full of the fabric. He stretched, felt the rusted bar dig into his biceps, ignored it, and stretched more, and ...
Putain! He couldn't reach.
He sat up and leaned the side of his face against the bars. He was shaking and sweating from the effort he'd expended. Exhausted. Every muscle in his body ached, even his goddamn eyelids. He hoped his current state was due to the beating he'd taken plus a lack of food or water, and not whatever had killed the fils de putain who was currently stinking up the place. Because he did not want to go out like that guy had, leaking blood from multiple orifices while coughing up his lungs.
Man, he'd seriously screwed up this time. He wasn't going to be able to talk, fuck, or kill his way out of this mess.
When he first arrived in Africa two weeks ago, he'd had a purpose, a plan, and a partner in crime. He'd find Claire and keep her and her research safe. He'd failed her so spectacularly two months ago in Martinique that he hadn't been able to get a good night's rest since. His need to find her became all consuming until he finally narrowed his search to Nigeria. Marcus had come along, chasing — or maybe running from — his own demons.
Had Marcus stayed in Nigeria after they were separated? Had he called in the rest of the team for help? Probably not. They'd gone against direct orders by coming here. That act of defiance had likely been the end of their careers with HORNET. For all he knew, Tucker Quentin, CEO and founder of HumInt, had written them off.
He shouldn't have come here. This time last year, he wouldn't have. He would have shrugged Claire's problems off as her own to deal with and gone about the rest of his life without much concern.
But when his grandmother died unexpectedly eight months ago, his whole world had tilted sideways. The foundation he'd built everything on had crumbled. He'd been determined to fuck and drink away the grief and had been doing a damn fine job of it until he'd crossed paths with a voodoo queen on Mardi Gras, and she'd cursed him with celibacy. Now Jean-Luc Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler Cavalier was gone and he didn't recognize the person he'd become. He wanted his old life back — go on dangerous missions and rid the world of some bad guys, come home and drink himself stupid, have some fun with a woman or two. Lather, rinse, and repeat. He'd liked it that way. Hadn't seen any need to change a thing.
So why the fuck had everything changed?
Claire. It all came back and centered on her. His life had only been sideways and unstable until he met her. But that night in Martinique, when she looked across the poolside bar with those sea-blue eyes and flatly told him his rendition of "The PiÃ±a Colada Song" was off-key — that was when everything flipped fucking upside down.
He wished he could hate her for it. He didn't. Even now, the need to find her chewed at him.
Jean-Luc heaved in a breath and straightened away from the bars of his prison. If he didn't find a way out soon, he might as well dig his own grave in the hard-packed dirt beneath his feet, because this was where he'd bite it. He climbed to his feet, paced around the small space, looking for something, anything to aid his escape. A crack in the wall, a loose bar in the door ... but his captors had known what they were doing when they chose his prison. Nothing short of a grenade was getting through these walls.
Dig a grave.
Now there was an idea. Maybe he could Shawshank his way out of here. Only problem was he didn't have a rock hammer or twenty years to dig his way to freedom.
He looked down. His captors had taken his boots, and his feet were bare and filthy. He dug one toe into the dirt floor. It was hard packed, but not so much that it was like concrete. It could still be moved.
He gazed over at the barred door again. There were about three inches between the bottom bar and the dirt floor. He wouldn't need to dig a hole deep enough to fit his entire body. Just one big enough to allow him to reach those damn keys. The throbbing in his arm spoke up right then, reminding him this would be a one-handed endeavor.
Mais, things could be worse.
He shook his head once, dropped to his knees in front of the door, and started digging.CHAPTER 3
The village was perched precariously on the riverbank, a cluster of newer mud huts with rusted tin roofs mixed in with the more traditional stilt houses made of wood, bamboo, and palm fronds. A dripping rain had started during the bumpy drive over, and now drummed steadily against the roof of the old Toyota truck MSF took into Port Harcourt for supply runs. The truck had no a/c, so it was either keep the windows down and get soaked, or roll them up and potentially die of suffocation in the stifling heat. Claire chose the rain. With humidity sitting at 100 percent, her tank top and capri pants already felt waterlogged anyway.
Claire studied the village through the windshield as the wipers did their best to keep up with the now pelting rain. No sign of people. Because of the rain? Or because they were all dead or dying?
"Are you sure you want to do this now?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Reckless Honor"
Copyright © 2018 Tonya Burrows.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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