In the suspenseful thriller from New York Times bestselling coauthors Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love, a Bureau of American Defense agent and an irresistible informant join forces to thwart a deadly global conspiracy. . . .
Gabrielle Saxe has hidden from a killer for the past decade, sending anonymous tips on international criminals to intelligence agencies around the world. When a postcard arrives from a friend who is supposed to be dead, she takes a risk that catapults her into the midst of dangerous operatives on a treacherous mission—and into the arms of Bureau of American Defense operative Carlos Delgado. Dutybound to surrender her to Interpol as an international felon, Carlos is the last person Gabrielle should trust and the only one standing between her and death. But little does she know, she holds the key to his survival as well. . . .
About the Author
Sherrilyn Kenyon is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of several series, including the Bureau of American Defense novels BAD Attitude, Phantom in the Night, Whispered Lies, and Silent Truth and the Belador series that includes Blood Trinity, Alterant, and The Curse. There are more than 25 million copies of her books in print in over one hundred countries. She lives with her family near Nashville, Tennessee. Visit her website at SherrilynKenyon.com.
Dianna Love is the New York Times bestselling coauthor of nine novels. She is a national speaker who started writing while working over a hundred feet in the air, creating marketing projects for Fortune 500 companies. When not plotting out her latest action-adventure, she travels the country on a motorcycle to meet fans and research new locations. She and her husband live near Atlanta, Georgia. Visit her website at AuthorDiannaLove.com.
Read an Excerpt
If he had to die today, he'd have preferred a warm climate and a bullet between the eyes over this.
Carlos Delgado had no one to blame but himself. He had agreed to take the lead on this screwed-up mission.
The routine HAHO high altitude, high opening jump from a Câ€‘ 130 came with a standard set of risks. First, his team had to hit a tiny spot in the French Alps near St. Gervais. Second, a midnight op upped the ante. Last, parachuting into a snowstorm kicked in the high-octane factor.
And those weren't even the best reasons for labeling this op suicidal.
He stretched his legs and lifted a hand to scratch his face, but stopped. The Gentex face mask itched like a son of a bitch, but breaking the seal between skin and mask would immediately lower the raised nitrogen level in his blood. That meant he'd have to abort the jump and scrub the mission since this op was planned with a minimum number of operatives.
With the mood his three teammates had been in when they went wheels up, someone would immediately accommodate his wish for a quick death.
But they'd show some restraint since none of them wanted to waste a day off for his funeral.
Carlos checked his watch. Just after lunch on Sunday in the States. Headquarters should have new intel by now. He was ready to get moving as much as he hated making the jump.
He'd made the leap more times than he wanted to remember, but the stakes were high this time. The only thing worse than flying in an airplane was exiting one during flight...and at this altitude. An adrenaline junkie's dream. Not his.
He slapped a sideways look at Korbin Maximus, sitting next to him on another uncomfortable canvas seat. Their resident adrenaline junkie and insertion specialist for BAD Bureau of American Defense wore an identical oxygen mask. His night-vision goggles were shoved up on his forehead.
Slouched, eyes closed above a perpetual five-o'clock shadow, and arms casually crossed, Korbin appeared at rest, but Carlos knew their point man was not asleep.
"What's the matter, Korbin? Job puttin' you to sleep?" Reagan "Rae" Graham's British lilt came through the commo headset they all wore. Perched across from Carlos and Korbin, Rae was the only female on this op and no petite miss at five-eight. She could more than handle herself in hand-to-hand combat, cool as an ice cube under pressure. Few men would suspect the trim woman packaged with all those lush curves to be so lethal, but she was one tough babe from the short, sandy brown hair to a mile of legs...to the G36C rifle strapped across her chesty flight suit.
"Just reserving my strength for later." Korbin lifted a dark lash long enough to send a whispered wink at Rae.
"For the op or some sweet thang?" Rae chided in a poor imitation of his Texas drawl that sometimes carried shades of Korbin's Mexican heritage.
"I'm always up for a sweet thing, especially one loaded for bear." Korbin's eyes crinkled in challenge.
"Yeah, right. In your dreams." Rae flipped a droll don't-waste-your-time glance at him.
Carlos rolled his eyes at the pair. The banter and verbal poking had gone on for the past six months. Why hadn't they found a room yet? Should be a perfect match since both of them considered dinner reservations a long-term commitment.
BAD did have a "No fraternizing with team members" rule, which wouldn't normally faze most agency operatives, who considered breaking rules part of their job description.
But the first commitment of every agent in BAD was to protect teammates, which would be damn hard to do if one of the agents caught in cross fire was a loved one.
Carlos had no problem steering clear of relationships with females on a mission. Emotions complicated an op and jeopardized lives.
He'd learned that lesson the hard way and never made the mistake again. Never would.
"Besides, Korbin, you haven't made it to the R's yet," Rae piped up. "Who is it this week? Jasmine, Kelly, or Lisa?"
Korbin scowled, eyelids still at half-mast.
Rae's gaze twinkled with undisguised gloating over the direct hit.
"Is that what you're doing?" Gotthard Heinrich, the fourth operative, broke in. As the beefiest member of the team, he packed an easy 275-plus of solid muscle into that granite body and a temper not to be tested. "Gayle two weeks ago..." Above the clear oxygen mask, Gotthard's diamond-blue eyes narrowed in sharp concentration. "Haley last week...Isabelle...two days ago. Damn! You are working your way through da alphabet. You son-a-bitch." He spoke perfect English, French, German, Russian, and Italian whenever he wanted, a faint German accent slipping into his English only when in a secure situation.
"Thanks, Rae," Korbin growled, anything but appreciative.
"Hey. You're the one with the itch and a predilection for patterns."
"Must be nice to be single," Gotthard grumbled.
"Depends." Korbin shifted his slouch. "I don't have someone to go home to every night."
"Makes two of us." Gotthard dropped his head back, eyes shut.
Banter eased tension on a mission, but Carlos grimaced over Gotthard's slip. The few agents aware of the big guy's turbulent marriage also knew Gotthard did not discuss it openly.
BAD was a covert organization the U.S. government would never acknowledge that protected national security and saved lives, to put it in pretty terms, but the bottom line was they did whatever it took to get the job done. That way of life generally torpedoed serious commitments, in spite of a few couples that had managed to make cohabitating look possible. Most of the time even the best relationships fell victim as unavoidable casualties.
The one married teammate on this mission was slowly realizing that and getting an earful from his wife about being home for Thanksgiving in four weeks.
Wouldn't be so hard if Gotthard could tell his wife the real reason he'd missed the last two holidays. That he didn't really design interiors for aircrafts, but that sufficed as a cover.
Gotthard sat up, tense lines daggering the bridge of his nose.
"Incoming?" Carlos asked before he could stop himself, but he needed better intel, now. Gotthard had the only link to headquarters and had probably just gotten a vibration from his wrist unit.
The big guy gave a curt nod as he shoved the pale gray sleeve of his flight suit back, exposing his wrist video. The satellite-linked video device looked like an oversize square watch similar to the Vâ€‘Rambo unit worn by Israeli soldiers and alerted the wearer of an incoming message by vibrating.
But this electronic baby had been customized and developed just for BAD operations, all financed by a silent investor Joe knew. With a name like Joe Q. Public, no sense of humor when it came to his name, and a background most agents only speculated about in hushed conversations, no one questioned the director's supplier for BAD toys.
Gotthard was their communication specialist, who could all but talk to NASA with a piece of aluminum foil and tin can if they needed to reach an astronaut. When the wide-bodied agent finished reading the text on his arm piece, he lifted his gaze to Carlos, then his deep baritone came through the commo set.
"Heads up, everyone." Perfect English this time.
Korbin straightened next to Carlos, alert and ready. Rae cut her eyes at Gotthard, who continued once he had everyone's attention.
"New information is coming through in chunks. The transmissions are breaking up as we move between two satellites." Gotthard's gaze shot down to his wrist video. "Package...is confirmed missing from origin...stolen goods."
Carlos nodded when Gotthard glanced up to see that he understood. The package was Mandy Massey, the missing seventeen-year-old daughter of an American diplomat currently in Uruguay working on a military-site agreement the United States needed in that region. The diplomat thought his daughter was still traveling across South America with friends, but she was also known as a hellion who had disappeared from time to time from her private school in Europe.
BAD intercepted a kidnapping tip from an anonymous source known only as Mirage. The message indicating Mandy as a target of kidnappers had been sent with specific electronic markers, obviously meant for international intelligence agencies scanning for suspicious communication. BAD instituted a covert search across South America, which ended at the last place Mandy had been seen. Another electronic tip followed hours later, warning if the young girl went missing to look for her at a château in the St. Gervais area of the French Alps.
The BAD mission room had sounded more like a bar brawl in the making twelve hours ago when Joe first informed them of this jump. Carlos couldn't fault his companions for arguing against sending a team to jump into a blizzard when the missing renegade daughter had disappeared twice before then shown up later as if nothing were wrong. But the minute Joe shared that the second intercepted missive from Mirage stated Mandy would be given to something called a fratelli, the room had quieted, all agents ready to go.
Added to that, Mirage had been correct too many times to ignore the validity of the message. The very reason every intelligence agency in the world searched for this unknown person. No informant ever just shared intelligence freely.
They all had an agenda.
BAD needed to find out what Mirage stood to gain from sharing this information. What game was going on?
The team knew all too well that the reference to a fratelli in the tip could well mean the Fratelli de il Sovrano, which translated into Sovereign Brotherhood, number one on BAD's most-wanted list of dangerous organizations.
During the past year every agent had seen what this maniacal group could do to human beings. Men, women, and children had been used as guinea pigs for the Fratelli's biological terrorist attacks. The virus unleashed had turned the victims' bodies into hideous forms as they drew their last breaths pleading for death.
Making tonight's HAHO jump was no longer under debate with the chance of saving this young woman from the Fratelli, plus the obvious bonus of finding a link to this organization of monsters.
But no one had located Mandy in South America so the second, and possibly only, shot they had at rescuing her was tonight.
Carlos ran over every step in his mind, again, looking for anything he might have missed. He'd spent the past five days coordinating this op from BAD's headquarters in Nashville, dispatching agents to investigate possible châteaus in St. Gervais based on occupancy and activity. The ground teams had quickly narrowed the choices to six and kept each site under surveillance, watching for unusual movement.
He received word twelve hours ago of four snowmobiles and a Range Rover arriving at one château now protected with armed guards. Bingo.
Thirty minutes later, Carlos and his team were wheels up. The mission felt rushed and unplanned, but that's what dropped it squarely in the hands of BAD. They could and would move on a hunch when other agencies had to go through proper channels.
"There's more coming through," Gotthard said, his eyes locked on the small monitor. "Another notice received...this one identifying courier..."
Courier was code for the identity of the kidnappers suspected of delivering Mandy to the Fratelli.
"Have they found the messenger?" Carlos asked, indicating the identity or location of the mysterious informant Mirage.
"Not yet," Gotthard replied without looking up as he scratched on his notepad.
If misinformation from this Mirage character sent his team into an ambush or put Mandy at risk, Carlos would be looking for blood when he returned.
If they returned.
Gotthard hit a button on his wrist unit, ending the connection. "Here's the courier." He lifted the paper he'd written the kidnapper's name on for everyone to see.
Rae's lips moved silently mouthing ahn-gee as she absorbed the information.
Carlos blinked. He stared at the letters, trying to make them mean something else, but there was no mistaking Anguis. Not the largest organized-crime family in South America, but one of the most dangerous to cross. Merde! If the tip was correct and the men guarding the château worked for Durand Anguis, they might recognize Carlos. And if they did...
"Pilot just radioed a ten-minute warning," Gotthard announced.
Everyone went into motion, forcing Carlos from his shock. Could the Anguis really be involved with the Fratelli? This smelled like a setup, but who would know to set him up? He switched his 02 tube from the console to the bottle attached to his jumpsuit and accepted the busted hand he'd been dealt, then focused on his role as team leader. "Sound off."
After making the same oxygen-supply switch, Korbin nodded. "Check."
Rae and Gotthard both confirmed.
"Synchronize altimeters." Carlos gave his reading and finished with "Six minutes."
The next check would be two minutes, then showtime with no second takes.
Carlos adjusted his goggles and strapped on his helmet. "Korbin is on point, me, then Rae. Gotthard sweeps cleanup."
Irritation fumed in Rae's gaze.
Carlos didn't care what she thought of him putting her in the crib position, the safest slot in an assault.
One woman had died in his arms years ago.
He wouldn't be responsible for another.
Highly skilled and lethal as any man on this team, Rae was more than capable of protecting herself. A damned good agent. But Carlos had seen too many women die in inhuman ways, one grotesque example only three months ago. A female informant had missed a meeting then disappeared, until Carlos discovered her inside a building in a remote mountain range in Brazil where rebels hid a stash of weapons. And caged women.
But the rebels were killed in a skirmish with the government over a week before Carlos and a team located the building.
Carlos could still smell the baked stench of rotting bodies. He found the weapons and the informant along with seven more women in chain-link cages waiting to be sold. The metal building had turned into an inferno when the temperatures roared over a hundred degrees every day. One nineteen-year-old female's fingers clung to the chain-link where she reached for help.
Nightmares were the vanguard of his conscience and every decision he made.
Carlos shook off the morbid vision and focused on the living. "Two minutes." Time to head for the rear.
Korbin moved forward, careful not to tangle his feet in the loose hoses. Everyone filed in line behind Korbin toward the rear of the cavernous fuselage, the silence now filled only with the roar of the jet engines. The aircraft's transponder pinged a signal to local air traffic control that this was a commercial flight delivering cargo.
The ping just didn't elaborate on the lethal capability of the aircraft's cargo.
Carlos forced a long, easy breath through his lungs. Anything to slow the blood slamming through his veins from the shock. Anguis soldiers could be waiting at the château. One had seen, and recognized, him in the past sixteen years. That man hadn't lived to tell anyone.
Because of that incident three years ago, surgical alteration had been necessary. Durand's massive soldier nicknamed El Toro, the bull, had recognized Carlos during an undercover operation in Argentina before Carlos saw him. The six-foot-seven Anguis soldier had once taught him how to hit a baseball as a teen, but when he encountered Carlos in the undercover operation, all El Toro saw was the half-million bounty Durand offered to deliver him alive. The Anguis soldier planned a perfect ambush with an additional man. Jumped on his way to meet Gotthard, Carlos refused to go down without spilling blood, most of which was his. But he'd managed to send a double-click radio signal to Gotthard for backup. Two minutes later Gotthard arrived, neutralizing the men, and found Carlos beaten close to death, his face hamburger.
Agents were at their most vulnerable while undercover, which influenced Joe's orders for the plastic surgeon to create a new look to protect his man in the future.
The face that stared back at Carlos from a mirror was at times similar and other times startling. Different enough no one would easily recognize him and put his team at risk, his only true concern. BAD operatives were some of the most highly skilled, and dangerous, in the world. He'd stake his life on them, and had many times.
He couldn't ask for a better team tonight.
But Durand Anguis operated like no other criminal entity, using the most unexpected tactics.
The rear load ramp groaned open. Icy air blasted in as a precursor of what to expect. When Korbin moved forward, so did the team. A bottomless black void loomed beyond the gaping hole to suck them from the aircraft. Carlos shifted closer to the roaring wind. The half-pie moon shone down on a low-hanging blanket of clouds dumping fresh snow across the French Alps.
Folding each finger into his gloved hand as he silently counted down, Korbin closed his fist at five the signal to go.
Carlos followed suit, a buffeting thirty-degrees-below-zero wind jarring him. Legs tucked in a sitting position, he yanked the rip cord, deploying his ram-air parachute. When the square canopy caught, the sudden change of airspeed wrenched his body backward and up. Jaw clenched to keep his teeth from banging together, he lifted his hands and grasped the risers, instinctively maneuvering the parachute.
His heart drummed faster than a machine gun with the trigger pinned. Adrenaline exploded through him, then he drew a deep breath and settled in for the ride. To be honest, he did enjoy this one part of jumping, loved the sudden quiet and sense of floating in ethereal peace. Seconds evaporated faster than the moisture on his goggles as the team glided twenty kilometers toward the landing spot. He lived his life in minutes, one op to the next, watching over his shoulder for the past sixteen years, waiting to be killed.
If things went to shit tonight, the wait could be over.
He squinted. Two tiny lights appeared in the greenish view of his night-vision goggles as Gotthard's wide shape and Rae's long form came into focus. Where was Korbin?
A flicker of light dropped diagonally across his path at last. The adrenaline junkie settled into the front spot. All lights were extinguished, radio silence in force.
Alex Sanderson, the fifth operative, known as Sandman for putting the enemy to sleep, was an ex-Air Force combat controller, otherwise known as an assault weatherman, highly trained. Sandman would be in place by now setting the infrared strobe as a beacon for the landing spot. He'd been on the ground two klicks from the target for the past week camping in a spider hide, invisible to everyone while performing reconnaissance vital to the mission.
If Sandman was not where they expected him, he was dead.
At thirty-one thousand feet Korbin banked left and Carlos followed. Still no strobe, but trust ran deep in this team. Each agent would continue toward the objective with the absolute knowledge the others performed their part of the mission without fault.
Carlos squinted as they broke through the wall of white and closed in on the undetectable patch of earth.
A pulsing strobe came into view. Thank you, Sandman.
In the last thousand-foot drop to the mountainside, a ferocious wind gusted up from the canyon below. Carlos hit and rolled through two feet of snow. He released the chute that was dragging him and planted his feet. When he swiveled around, searching for the team, Gotthard was already standing and consulting his wrist video. Korbin was plowing his way toward Rae, who lay sprawled backward on the snow.
Carlos started toward her. A sick thought that her body might have hit a boulder in the snow flashed into his mind. But by the time Korbin reached her, Rae sat up and knocked away his offered hand. Prickly woman when it came to help in any form.
She and Korbin reached Carlos as Sandman strode up to the team, weapon hanging across his chest. Sandman raised a gloved hand Rae slapped for their usual high-five "hello." Inside the dark mahogany skin beneath his dove-gray snow camouflage suit was a man Carlos always wanted on his side.
Sandman had two personalities. One could turn a female into his angel for the night in a blink, and the other could make a terrorist piss himself.
Once all the chutes were stowed out of sight, Korbin waited for the thumbs-up "all-set" sign from everyone, then struck out, leading the hike. A hundred meters from the three-level home, Carlos signaled to gather. The team closed quarters behind a mound of naked boulders.
Gotthard produced a compact thermal infrared camera and raised it to his face. He began passing information through hand signs: Two guards outside, walking one on the east side, one on the west. Four bodies inside, two on the second level. Two on the third floor, one was horizontal and motionless probably the female hostage.
Carlos signaled each operative to move into position. He'd rescue the young woman and protect his team first. Saving his own ass came last...if luck shined on him one more time.
He steeled himself and moved forward, ready to find out if the men guarding this château really belonged to Durand Anguis. Copyright © 2009 by Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved all of the BAD novellas, but when the co-authors decided to start writing full length novels for this series they stepped it up a notch.or ten. The crew at the Bureau of American Defense are as dysfunctional as ever and that's why we love'em. They kick butt and take care of business with very few rules and no apologies. You'll love the chemistry between Carlos and Gabrielle; it's compelling and believable. Gabrielle's character is great she has to prove her mettle a little more and then a little more throughout the story. We finally learn about Carlos's mysterious past (It was a bigger reveal than what I was expecting). It was a great build up all the way to the end. Kenyon and Love have given me another one for my keeper shelf.
Plot was convoluted and unbelievable, and the main romantic characters had no chemistry and were rather annoying. This is not like Kenyon's Dark Hunter series at all - the kind you can't put down in a single sitting! This must have been written by Love, who slapped Kenyon's name on the cover to garner media attention. Probably worth checking out at the library and not wasting your $$.
I just finished reading this book and have to say that it was fantastic. I love the whole James Bond-ish style secretive workings of "BAD" and their gadgets. I'm currently reading "Phantom in the Night" another "BAD Agency" novel, I think it might actually be the first in the series but I found "Whispered Lies" first so...
Mirage sends email to the Bureau of American Defense (BAD) informing them where they can find the kidnapped diplomat's daughter; abducted by the dangerous Fratelli de il Sovrano. BAD operatives succeed in the rescue, but are curious about who this Mirage is, how she knew so much about the kidnapping and other crime activities, and why Interpol wants her arrested. Following the rescue, BAD operative Carlos Delgado begins an inquiry into Mirage. He identifies her as French heiress Gabrielle Tynte Saxe, who hides in Atlanta from her former husband and the mobster who killed her mother by blowing up a bus of innocents. Carlos brings Gabrielle into BAD protection with him as her bodyguard. She proves to have a wealth of information on the South American drug cartel run by the Anguis mob, the family responsible for her mother's death. When the Fratelli discovers where she is, they come for her; only Carlos, falling in love with her, vows to keep Gabrielle safe or die trying. The second BAD romantic suspense thriller (see PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT) is an exhilarating action-packed tale as Gabrielle and Carlos team up in love to strop the Fratelli gang from succeeding in their newest diabolical scheme. The premise is over the top of the High Museum, but fun to follow as the action never slows down except for heated sexual interludes. Fans will enjoy macho Carlos falling in love with a courageous nerd while seemingly half the globe is after her. Harriet Klausner
Great collaboration! Love the series!~
I read this story in book form a couple of years ago. It was just as good then as it is now. The story grabbed me and held on to the bitter end. Filled with action, mystery and a nice dose of passion! I fell in love with Carlos again. I can definitely see myself reading this book a third time.