Fifteen years ago, Noelle Evers was kidnapped. Two days later, her abductor was dead, leaving her with no memory of what happened. Now an FBI profiler, she uses her past trauma to get inside the minds of killers. But she can’t read her new partner. EOD agent Thomas Anthony is controlled. Dangerous. And hauntingly familiar.
Thomas has been covertly watching Noelle’s back. He wanted to tell her the truth, but couldn’t blow his cover. Their latest mission just revealed a link to her past. With desire ramping up between them—and a predator hunting Noelle—it’s time for Thomas to step out of the shadows. Or lose his second chance to save the woman he loves.
Originally published in 2014.
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The plane dipped, hitting another hard patch of turbulence, and Noelle Evers locked her fingers around the armrest on either side of her body. The private plane was currently flying over an area of pure-white land in Alaska, and Noelle was afraid they might be diving right into that snowy landscape at any moment.
"Relax," a low, gravel-rough voice told her. "We'll be landing in just a few more minutes."
The voiceand the guy who went with that voicepulled Noelle's attention from the narrow window. She looked at the man seated directly across from her.
Tall, dark, deadly and, currently, her partner on this assignment. Thomas "Dragon" Anthony was a man who seemed to always put her on edge.
"If you're going to be working with the EOD," Thomas murmured as he lifted one dark eyebrow, "rough flights will be the least of your worries."
Noelle forced herself to take a long, deep breath. She didn't want to show any weakness in front of Thomas. The man made her far too nervous. Too aware.
Noelle was new to the EODthe Elite Operations Division. She'd been recruited by EOD Director Bruce Mercer a few months back. Normally, the agents in that secretive group were all ex-military. They belonged to some of the most elite military units operating in the world. The agents were recruited to join the EOD because of their skills and because they were deadly when it came to their missions.
Noelle wasn't ex-military. She didn't specialize in killing or hunting prey. Instead, her specialty was getting inside a killer's mind. Before Bruce Mercer had used his pull to get Noelle into the EOD, she'd been working as a profiler at the FBI.
But then one of the EOD agents had gone rogue and Mercer had brought her in to profile the agents there.
To hunt a killer within the division.
"You don't fit, you know," Thomas added in that deep, dark voice of his. A voice that made her tense and think of things she really shouldn't.
The plane bounced again. Noelle swallowed. "You mean because I lack the military training?"
"I mean because when we get into a lifeor-death situationand we willyou won't be prepared to take the necessary action."
Her eyes narrowed at those words. Way to insult your partner on the first case. "Look, I might not be an ex-Army Ranger" as he was "but I worked at the FBI for five years. I've been in plenty of dangerous situations, and I've handled myself just fine."
Thomas's lips quirked a bit. They were sensual lips, with a faintly cruel edge. Thomas was a handsome man, if you went for the deadly, dangerous type. As a general rule, Noelle definitely did not go for that type. She preferred safe guys, with a capital S.
And everything about Thomas spelled DANGER. From the top of his midnight-black hair down to his well-worn hiking boots, the guy just oozed a threat. Maybe it was because she'd read his file. She knew just what he was capable of doingwhat he had done. Thomas didn't need any weapon when he went after his targets. He could killand hadquite easily, with his hands. He'd earned the nickname of Dragon while at the EOD because he was a martial-arts experthe attacked with brutal control, and his opponents never had a chance against him.
Cold. Hard. Dangerous.
Thomas had a firm, square jaw, a blade-sharp nose and sculpted cheekbones that gave him a strong, fierce appearance. His deep, golden eyes reminded her of a lion's gaze. Maybe because every time she looked into those eyes, Noelle felt as if he were a predator and she was his prey.
We 're partners. Partners. Mercer had sent them on this trip to Alaska because they were supposed to be hunting a killer. Together.
"You've never killed anyone," Thomas said as he tilted his head to study her. "Death is a way of life for EOD agents."
"Yes, well, I'm sure this will shock you, but FBI agents see plenty of death, too." Death was rather her specialty. "I know killers, and you can trust me to do my job."
Her job Her job was to question the suspect they were pursuing. To break through the very public fa ade the man presented and to determine if Alaskan Senator Lawrence Duncan was the man who'd recently plotted the destruction of the EOD.
Thomas's eyes narrowed just a bit as he gazed at her.
And there it is again. He was looking at her with a touch of familiarity. As if he knew her.
But Noelle hadn't met Thomas Anthony until she started work at the EOD just a few months before. They were most certainly not intimately acquainted.
No matter how Thomas might glance at her.
"You're doing it again," Noelle blurted. Then she could have bitten her tongue when his face tensed. She was normally so much better at controlling her emotions and her responses to people, but Thomas just put her on edge.
"Doing what?" Thomas asked voice totally emotionless.
"Staring at me as ifas if we're" She floundered because what Noelle really wanted to say was. As if we 're lovers. But they weren't. No way would she have forgotten him.
It was just the intensity in his eyes the heat.
"I make you nervous," he said.
Why lie? "Yes."
"Because you know what I've done." His gaze slid to the files on the seat beside her. "You read all of our files, right? When you were trying to decide which EOD agent was actually a psychotic killer in disguise."
That had been her first assignment at the EOD. This outing to Alaska was her second.
"So, what's the verdict, doc?" The doc was mocking, but Noelle was a doctor, a psychiatrist. She'd been trying for years to understand the demons that chased people.
Ever since she'd woken up in a small, southern hospital with her life shattered around her.
"Tell me " Thomas continued with his gaze assessing. "Am I dangerous? Am I psychotic? Is that why you tense up every time I get near you?" He leaned forward. "Are you afraid I'll hurt you?" Then, before she could respond, his jaw hardened even more. "Because that's not the way things work at the EOD. You trust your partner, or you don't trust anyone."
She couldn't seem to take a deep enough breath. Thomas filled the space around her so completely.
The pilot's voice floated over the intercom then, announcing their impending landing.
Thomas leaned back.
But Noelle's hand flew out. She touched his wrist. Thomas stilled.
"I know you're not psychotic. You're a soldier. A damn fine one, at that," she added because it was true. "And if I seem nervous " Tell him. "It's not you, really. I have a very hard time getting close to people." Mostly because Noelle had made a habit of putting a wall between herself and others.
Once, that wall had been necessary for Noelle's survival. But now, she didn't know how to live without that protection.
His gaze dropped to her hand.
Noelle slowly pulled her fingers back.
After a moment, Thomas's stare lifted once more to her face. "You'll be closer to me than you will be to anyone else."
Goose bumps rose on Noelle's arms. Was that a promise? Or a warning?
Then the plane began its descent, and she held back the other questions she wanted to ask him.
Thomas Anthony was used to danger. He was used to pain. He was used to surviving any and every hellhole on earth. As an Army Ranger, his job had been to get the mission accomplished, no matter what.
But his job had never involved working intimately with Noelle Evers, not until now.
She doesn't remember me.
He'd known that, of course, from the beginning. From the first day he'd glanced up at the EOD and found himself staring into her warm, hazel eyes. Just looking at her had been like a punch to his gut. He'd wondered if she'd seen the flare of recognition in his eyes, but
No, she hadn't shown any awareness of the past they shared.
That was a good thing. Her not remembering helped him. Because if she ever did remember what he'd done
She 'd be terrified of me.
Even more afraid than she already was.
And, despite her words, Noelle was afraid of him. Thomas knew a whole lot about fear, and he was certain of the emotion he saw in her eyes.
"The senator will see you now," Paula Quill said as she pointed toward the closed door on the right. The woman's blond hair was pulled back in a perfect twist, and her face was schooled to show not even a hint of curiosity about their visit. As the senator's assistant, Thomas figured the woman was used to keeping that mask of hers in place.
They were in the senator's mansion, a too-big, mausoleumtype place Thomas didn't like. But they'd needed to track the man back to his lair, even if that lair was in one of the most isolated spots in Alaska.
"He's waiting in his study," Paula added. Paula was pretty, a woman in her early twenties, and based on what Thomas knew about the senator, Paula was exactly the guy's type. The senator was single, and from all accounts, quite a ladies' man.
The EOD also suspected the man was a killer.
Noelle breezed past the other woman and headed into the senator's study.
Noelle and Paula they were night and day. Paula was icy reserve, cold perfection.
But Noelle with her dark, red hair and her striking face she was heat. Fire.
The senator turned at Noelle's approach, a fake smile on his face. Senator Lawrence Duncan was forty-two, rich and currently the chief suspect in the recent bombing of the EOD office in Washington D.C.
Someone with a whole lot of power had hired an assassina man known as the Jack of Heartsto take out EOD Director Bruce Mercer and to destroy the EOD in the process.
Right now, all of their intel was pointing to Senator Duncan as being that person in question.
"Senator Duncan." Noelle's voice was smooth, giving no hint at all to her southern roots. "Thank you for seeing us today." She offered the senator her hand.
And he held it far too long. "How could I refuse?"
Duncan murmured. "Though I'll confess, I don't quite know why the FBI wants to see me."
That was their cover. They were acting as FBI agents because even U.S. senators didn't have clearance to know about EOD missions.
But if this guy is the one we're after, he already knows far too much about the EOD.
"We have some questions to ask you," Noelle murmured. "About a killer who was recently hunting in D.C."
Paula pulled the door shut, sealing them inside the room with the senator as she left.
The senator's gaze swept over Noelle. He was still holding her hand and looking far too appreciative as his gaze dipped over her.
Noelle was a fine-looking woman, no doubt about it. Tall and curved, Thomas had seen plenty of men pass admiring stares her way. And every time those guys gazed at her with desire flaring in their eyes, Thomas wanted to drive his fist into their faces.
He cleared his throat. "I'm Agent Thomas Anthony," Thomas said. A full, fake dossier had been created with his FBI credentials, just in case the senator wanted to dig. "And we certainly appreciate your cooperation." Bull. Thomas didn't appreciate anything about the jerk, and if the guy didn't let Noelle's hand go in the next five seconds
Noelle pulled away from the senator. "Are you familiar with the killer known as the Jack of Hearts?"
Duncan blinked. "Ah I read about him in the paper. Wasn't he the serial killer who left playing cards at the scenes of his kills?"
Not exactly. Jack had been a murderer all right, but he'd been an assassin, not a serial killer. His kills hadn't been for pleasure. They'd been for pure profit.
"That's him," Noelle inclined her head toward the senator. Thomas noticed her gaze swept around the study.
Thomas followed her stare. Duncan was a hunter. The trophies from his kills filled the walls of the room. And so did pictures. Pictures of cabins. Of boats. Of smiling women who stood at his side.
"Ah, well, I've certainly never met the man." Duncan took a seat behind his desk. He motioned toward the couch on the right. "So I don't see how I can"
"When the authorities caught up with him," Noelle interrupted smoothly. "He was planning to escape on your boat, the Dreamer. It was docked in D.C., and Jack had intended to slip away on that vessel."
The senator's eyes flared with surprise. "I hadn't realized that. I heard he was at the dock, but not that he was planning to use my boat."
Thomas thought the senator's response seemed a little too perfect. Almost rehearsed.
"Do you have any idea why he might have selected your boat?" Noelle didn't sit on the couch. Neither did Thomas. They both kept standing. Noelle pulled a photograph from the manila file she carried, and she pushed it across the desk toward the senator. "Take a look at Jack, and tell me have you seen him before?"
The senator's gaze darted down to the photo, then right back to Noelle. "I see so many people on the campaign trail. Our paths could've crossed, and I wouldn't know it."
"Why did he choose your boat?" Thomas demanded because the senator had conveniently not answered that particular question.
Duncan's gazea dark browndarted toward him. "Agent Anthony, was it? I have no idea why he chose my boat. Perhaps it was just convenient for him. The right escape boat, at the right place."
Thomas wasn't buying that. "Before he died, the killer implied he knew you. That you'd hired him to do work for you in the past."
The senator's jaw hardened. "I have dozens of people working for me at any given time. You can check with Paula to see if thisthis man was part of our extended staff, but I've certainly had no personal experience with him."
"I'm not talking about hiring him to work as part of your campaign team." Thomas knew his voice had roughened. He also knew Noelle was carefully studying the senator's reaction to their questions. "I'm asking if you hired him to kill for you."
The senator shot to his feet. "This is outrageous!" He pointed toward the door. "Leave. Now. I will not stand for this sort of harassment!"
"It's not harassment," Noelle said quietly. "It's just questioning. And we thought it would be better for you if we did that questioning here, away from prying eyes, instead of back in the limelight of D.C."
Anger burned in Duncan's stare. "Now I see why I warranted a personal visit from the FBI. It's certainly not every day that I'm tracked to my home like this ." His breath heaved out in what was probably supposed to look like an affronted rush. "I don't like the accusations flying from you two."
"We've made no accusations," Noelle replied. Thomas had to admire her. She was good at keeping her emotions in check. "We're simply asking you questions."
"You're done with your questions." The senator stomped toward the door. "You want to see me again, you talk to my lawyer." He yanked open the door and gave them a hard glare. "Hope you enjoy your trip back to D.C. By the time you get there, I'll have already talked to your supervisor. You'll both be lucky to have jobs waiting on you."
Oh, Thomas was sure the jobs would be waiting. He was also sure they wouldn't be leaving Alaska anytime soon.
The mission isn't over. It's just started.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good suspense,like it.
I enjoyed the story
## Meh....Thomas was a jerk, but I enjoyed Cynthia's writing. Can't really recommend.
Loved the book love the story line totally cool didn't see the twist coming and love the story between Noelle and Thomas totally awesome also like Bruce Mercer he is a totally awesome boss love that whole story with the EDO and the agents Thanks for the books
A MUST Read Contemporary, Romantic Suspense Alaska Noelle Evers was kidnapped fifteen years ago. After two days her abductor was dead and she was left with no memory of what actually happened. Now she is an FBI profiler and she uses her past to get into the minds of killers. The one that she can’t seem to read is her new partner. Thomas Anthony is an EOD agent that is controlled, dangerous and hauntingly familiar. Thomas has been covertly watching Noelle’s back for a very long time. He wanted to tell her the truth but to do that would have compromised his mission and blown his cover. With their latest mission a link to her past has been revealed. Now is the time for Thomas to step out of the shadows especially with the desire that is between them and a predator that is hunting Noelle. If he doesn’t he is going to lose the second chance he has to save the only woman he has ever loved. This is a great addition to a series that is proving to be very addictive. The characters are well written and they bring the story to life for the reader. It is also a nice way to revisit a world that is full of action and suspense. This is fast proving to be a series for the keeper shelves. While the stories can be read as standalone books they are much better as a whole when the full series is read. The story also takes some great twists and turns and will have readers wondering just what could possibly happen next and they won’t be disappointed with the next twist that comes at them. received a review copy