From the hunters . . . to the hunted.
When former CIA officer, Harper Brooks, joined an elite unit of special operators, her mission was to serve and protect, not to fall in love. But Roman Riviera was like no one she’d ever met.
Echo Four was the quiet one. A broody genius. And that intense and gorgeous Navy SEAL stole her heart. But would he also steal her focus?
Roman may have set his sights on Harper, but being together could prove fatal for the brilliant, witty woman he couldn’t stop thinking about—and he couldn’t risk her life for love.
After giving in to the intense attraction, Harper and Roman are desperate to save their friendship . . . until an operation goes awry, forcing them to question everything, even each other.
With Echo and Bravo Teams cornered by an unexpected threat, Roman must share his closely guarded secrets to protect the teams. But sometimes facing your demons means having to become a devil in a three-thousand-dollar suit.
In this risky game of cat-and-mouse, Roman and Harper will be tested like never before, and all bets are off the table.
Chasing Shadows is a full-length standalone romantic suspense novel with no cliffhanger and a happily-ever-after.
Release date: March 25, 2021
Publisher: Emko Media
Print pages: 432
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (2) emotionally riveting (2) high heat (1) strong chemistry (2) suspenseful (2) unputdownable (1) year's top 10 (1) entertaining story (1) strong heroine (1)
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Roman had a death grip on his glass of water as he sat in the narrow leather booth at the hotel’s restaurant alongside Finn. “I don’t like this.” His gaze slipped to the two assignments they were protecting, Harper and a CIA officer.
“So, if you don’t like it, then why aren’t you the one posing as Harper’s date instead of the dead ringer for Elon Musk?” Finn kept his tone low to avoid being overheard.
“I didn’t say I—”
“Twenty bucks says Roman kills him before the end of the night,” A.J. said over comms from where he was positioned in the hotel lobby. Roman rolled his eyes when A.J. continued to blab. “Let me guess, our tech billionaire lookalike has his hand on her ass.”
Roman released his hold of the glass and settled his palm on his thigh, hiding the curl of his fingers that tightened into a fist at that exact sight. The CIA officer, Zack, did have his hand on the small of Harper’s back, far too close to her ass. And it did make Roman want to kill the guy.
“Yeah, based on the way he’s clenching that jaw of his, I’d say you’d win that bet,” Finn commented with a laugh. Roman could feel Finn’s eyes on him, but he couldn’t steal his focus away from Harper. “And now that I’m taking a long, hard look at ya—damn brother, you have the kind of chiseled jaw women wax poetic about.”
Roman slowly pivoted his attention on his buddy, who never missed a chance to joke, even while working an op. But Finn never forgot the stakes of a mission.
They were in Spain because a former asset of Harper’s from when she was CIA had reached out to the Agency claiming to have intel on an impending attack against the U.S., but he would only speak to Harper.
And like hell would Echo Team allow the CIA to scoop Harper back into their clutches and refuse authorization for their people to go along on the mission.
Finn shrugged under the scrutiny of Roman’s dark stare, his eyes flashing with humor, then he dug into the tapas sitting on the table. Zack had ordered the food to keep up with appearances before he’d pulled Harper away and over to the bar at the center of the room.
Char-grilled octopus, Iberian pork blades, and mushroom carpaccio with a wasabi vinaigrette. At least Zack had good taste. But if he made a move on Harper after the op, and not for the sake of appearances, Roman would have a “friendly” word with the man.
The real kicker was that Roman actually liked Zack, at least so far as he’d gotten to know him in the last two days they’d been in Barcelona. And that was a rarity. Over the years, he and the guys had only liked a handful of spooks, and three of the former officers were now part of their team: Harper, Jessica, and Natasha.
Jessica Scott was one of the reasons Bravo and Echo Teams existed. She left the CIA to form the teams with her brother, Luke. And Natasha Chandler, still in the CIA but now a liaison between POTUS and their teams, was married to Echo One, Wyatt. That extra layer of protection was necessary with Bravo Five’s father as the President.
Harper was . . .
Everything to Roman.
The guys on both Bravo and Echo knew that, but they didn’t realize he and Harper had already given in to their attraction last year. They’d crossed the line for five months. Stealing every non-operational moment in bed together. Or in other places.
He should’ve chalked up those five months as a lapse in judgment, a mistake. At least he’d tried to feel that way because he’d known better than to get involved with her. Yet, when they’d made the mutual decision to go back to being just friends, it was hard to regret anything other than the fact they couldn’t be together.
“I mean,” Finn said while popping a bite of food into his mouth, “this location sure as hell beats sitting in a trench with only a coffee can to piss in like the old days in Gan.” Gan was Finn’s code for Afghanistan. “So, you think she ever dated him?”
What is this? Were the guys purposely trying to goad Roman into losing hold of his emotions, emotions he’d worked so hard to keep in check? Although, when it came to Harper, he was clearly failing since they could obviously see right through him. “She wouldn’t date someone she worked with.”
Finn coughed on whatever he’d just eaten and whispered, “Sure,” as if he knew something about Roman and Harper’s secret past. But as far as Roman knew, Finn had never witnessed them in any compromising situations last year.
Roman’s eyes returned to Harper. Her dark hair fell in soft waves over her back, a beautiful contrast to the gold, silk top she wore. Her height of five-seven had been boosted a few inches by her black strappy heels, elongating her already long, gorgeous legs, which were hidden beneath fitted black pants.
When they’d first exited the hotel suite thirty minutes ago, he’d nearly croaked out a request for her to change her top. The deep neckline drew too much attention to her breasts, but he’d clamped down on his teeth and refrained from barking out the order.
Harper peeked back at him from where she stood at the bar as if she felt his eyes trailing over every inch of her. He’d love to take her into his arms right there. Let everyone know she was his. Not Zack’s. Not anyone else’s, but . . . he couldn’t.
So, he let his mind explore her body since he couldn’t physically touch her.
The dozen thin, gold bracelets adorning her wrist would be all she wore while they made love—the musical jingling of the bracelets and her moans the only sounds in the bedroom.
Harper’s brown eyes tightened on him as if she realized he was fantasizing and not focusing on the op.
Shit, I need to get a grip. But every chance he had, he couldn’t stop himself from thinking about her.
October was the last time their mouths had actually touched, and that’d been an accident. When they’d had to sleep in the same room together in Puerto Rico, they’d slipped up and almost had sex. Nearly plowed through that recently restored friend wall.
Harper quickly returned her attention to Zack and whatever he was saying to her in the name of their cover story.
Zack had no idea what Roman and his teammates really did for a living, and it was important they kept it that way. It was always a bit tricky working alongside someone within the alphabet soup of agencies, pretending they were civilians when in reality, they were far from it.
When Jessica, Luke, and a former SEAL, Will Hobbs, recruited Roman back in 2013 to join Echo Team, he hadn’t been eager to leave his platoon, but they’d made a rather convincing argument, and now here they were in February of 2022, and working for a second president. If Roman were being honest, they’d lasted longer than he’d expected without having their true identities blown.
He didn’t regret his decision, even though Will Hobbs, the original liaison between their team and POTUS, wound up betraying the country.
Chills coasted over his skin just thinking about that traitor, and how Harper nearly died because of him.
If Roman was allowed to drink tonight, he’d be kicking back something strong to try and handle the stress of this evening. To say he was on edge would be an understatement.
Posing as bodyguards to Harper and her fake date wasn’t ideal. And the job also meant he had to wear a suit: black dress pants, a white pressed shirt, and a black tie. The only purpose of the jacket was to hide his SIG P239. He wouldn’t have worn it otherwise. Too restrictive and not his style.
Since they were in Spain, Roman had to go as himself, a former sailor now working in the private sector for Scott & Scott Securities, which was why they didn’t need to use their typical Echo calls signs over comms tonight.
Roman’s father’s family was well-known and recognizable in Spain, and Roman looked strikingly similar to his now-deceased cousin, Thiago. So as much as he’d prefer to distance himself from being a Riviera, he couldn’t pretend to be anyone other than himself, a member of the wealthiest family in the Catalan capital of Spain.
Besides, Scott & Scott Securities was designed to be a legitimate and believable alias. They had staff working actual cases there, so when Bravo and Echo Teams went out on an op, Scott & Scott was their fallback. If a mission went sideways, the teams used the guise of their cover when dealing with authorities. And no one was wiser to the fact they’d never truly retired as SEALs and worked off-the-books ops for the President of the United States.
The world wanted dangerous adversaries taken down, but most people preferred to be blissfully unaware of the hazardous details involved in that work. Roman’s team was simply a cog in a much bigger machine known as the U.S. government. They were often what kept the dark truth of the world from making the front page news.
“Still no movement out here,” Wyatt’s voice popped over comms. He was in the prone position on the building across from their hotel, his eye behind the scope of his long gun, and Chris, Echo Three, was there alongside him. “Anything on your end?”
“No text yet,” Roman answered. “Keep you posted.”
Where was their mark? According to Zack, their source said he’d be there at ten p.m., the typical dinner rush hour in Barcelona.
“Roger that,” Wyatt answered.
Like Wyatt, Roman had also gone to sniper school, and although he rotated as the team’s sniper every so often and had excellent marksman skills, Wyatt was a surgeon with bullets. He’d rather Wyatt be on overwatch tonight.
On most ops, Harper didn’t leave their tactical operations center. She was usually at a safe distance a few klicks away, not thrust into the danger. But the CIA needed her out there, which meant Roman insisted he was within arm’s reach of her. Another reason he preferred Wyatt on the long gun.
Harper and the CIA officer accompanying her didn’t have comms, but as their bodyguards, Roman and Finn had chosen to use comms with the typical wire one might see on Secret Service agents or in the movies. It fit with their cover stories. Normally, they’d use a nearly invisible wireless earpiece designed by both Harper and Jessica that had excellent range and even worked a few feet underground.
“I don’t like Yankee’s so out in the open.” Roman did his best to ignore the fact Zack’s hand was now an inch lower than where it’d been before.
“Yankee?” Finn smirked at the use of Roman’s code name for Harper. “She’s herself tonight, remember?”
The guys recently began using the name “Yankee” for Harper when she joined Echo Team on ops, mostly to annoy Chris, a diehard Red Sox fan. Harper loved to wear a Yankees ball cap around the office to drive Chris nuts, even though she didn’t actually support the team. But that was Harper. Fun, energetic, and a bit of a tease.
“Habits.” Roman stood. “Going to do a perimeter sweep. Check the terrace.”
There was still a chance Harper’s old source was bogus and baiting her for a reason, and that meant he had to assume the worst, prepare for it, but hope for the best.
Roman walked a lap around the restaurant and bar, which had three walls of floor-to-ceiling windows, offering great views of the city.
He committed to memory every person and their position in the room, checking for any threats. There was enough light to see facial expressions and hand gestures by the guests, even though the lamps were on the dim side to create a romantic effect.
The two bartenders positioned at the circular bar in the middle of the room, wearing matching red bow ties, were busy making drinks, but one paid far too much attention to Harper’s cleavage. Not a threat. Just a douchebag.
So far, everything was normal. No signs of weapons hidden beneath men’s jackets. The most suspicious people in the area were most likely he and Finn.
When a new song began to play softly over the speakers, he found himself glad Spanish wasn’t one of Harper’s more fluent languages. If she understood the lyrics to the current song, it might resonate with her as much as it was impacting him.
The Spanish song, Díganle, had him reminiscing about his time with Harper last year. And the lyrics had him wishing there was a way he could make things work between them, but he’d calculated the possibilities in his head, and they all ended badly.
He caught sight of Harper on his final lap, and the slightest shake of her head was a signal the target hadn’t yet texted her. It was also a reminder they were on an op, and he needed to focus. It wasn’t like him to get so thrown off.
Roman gave her a slight nod, but at the same time, his stomach squeezed as if he’d fastened a sailor’s knot around his insides.
He had no clue if his worries stemmed from simply being in Barcelona, especially because Harper was with him, or what he’d had to do at zero four hundred hours.
Roman went to one of the windows that overlooked the terrace. Outside, there was a restaurant used during warmer months and a rectangular pool that ran along the length of the hotel.
The heritage building was once a bank before it was expanded into a hotel, and it was located on Passeig de Gràcia near several modernist landmarks.
He’d stayed there a couple of times in the past. It was actually the same hotel where he’d first met Emilia Calibrisi at Rosario’s wedding. All hell had broken loose during his cousin’s reception, and Emilia took a stabbing to save his life. They’d been friends ever since. A good friend to have, too, considering she, like Roman, was part of a secretive team that cut down evil in the world. She just did it as a vigilante, and he had the President signing off on his ops.
Roman somehow always survived dicey situations, though. People joked he was invincible.
He may have been known as a walking Wikipedia, but he’d also been nicknamed Lucky back in the Navy. He’d been called that even before his platoon’s Humvee had rolled to a stop right on top of an IED in Fallujah, and due to human error, the thing didn’t blow.
But his luck was bound to run out. It was as inevitable as death.
Roman caught sight of Harper standing behind him in the reflection of the window, and he lost his grim thoughts.
Their eyes met in the glass, and he followed her pointed finger.
“What’s that building called?” she softly asked.
It wasn’t part of the plan for her to approach him. Stand so close. Smell so damn good.
Why did scent have to be such a powerful memory trigger? Now all he could think about was her naked body pinned beneath him wearing only her favorite perfume, staring up at him as if her brown eyes could see right into his soul.
“Casa Batlló or known locally as La Casa dels Ossos,” he finally managed out, his throat thick with regret. So. Much. Regret. “House of Bones,” he interpreted.
Spanish wasn’t actually his first language. Nor was Portuguese. He was born in Florida, and his parents raised him and his two sisters speaking in English. His mom was much closer to her family in Brazil than his dad had been to his family here in Spain, so she’d taught Roman Portuguese here and there over the years.
He’d been on his own to learn Spanish. And after high school, he’d insisted on spending a summer in Spain to perfect his fluency before joining the Navy.
“The balconies of the building sort of look like they’re made of skulls and bones.” Harper lifted her focus to his eyes again in the window. “I received a text instructing me to be outside in ten minutes,” she informed in a whispered voice. “He’s almost here.”
“Outside?” No, that wasn’t the plan. Too many unknown variables. Yeah, Wyatt and Chris had eyes on the front of the hotel, but what if the informant wanted her to get into a car? Go somewhere?
“I know what you’re thinking, and I won’t leave with him.”
He turned to face her, trying to find the words. To not order her to stand down and let someone else handle the CIA’s source.
But his throat became dry, and his thoughts scattered with her dark eyes on him. The music had placed them inside of a bubble, safe from the world. If only it were that simple.
“Are you okay?” Her question quickly yanked him back to reality. Feet to the ground. “I know you didn’t want to be here tonight with me,” she whispered, and Roman tapped at the comm in his ear to temporarily mute his teammates from their conversation.
It wasn’t like Harper to ask a question like this on an op. Then again, she was normally in his ear, not in front of him while he was supposed to be paying attention to possible danger.
Maybe she was off, too. Not herself. Was it his fault? The fact he messed up their friendship last year?
“My not wanting to be here isn’t about you.” Well, not exactly.
Roman slid one hand into his slack’s pocket and placed his other firmly against the window for support. He needed to find his way back to operator mode. The mission was supposed to come first, but he was having a hard time placing anything and anyone above Harper as a priority, which had been one of her reasons for them to end things last year. It was also one of her reasons they were never supposed to have slept together in the first place.
Harper’s glossy lips formed a tight line, her brown eyes moving back to the view again. “I followed you this morning,” she dropped the bomb on him. “I heard you leave the suite, and I followed you.”
The blood drained from his face, and his shoulders dropped at her admission.
What the fuck was he going to say?
But before he could summon a lie, a voice called out his name from behind, and it sure as hell wasn’t someone on their team.
And tonight just got a hell of a lot worse. “Carmen,” Roman said under his breath and slowly turned.
Carmen reached for him, pulling him in to kiss both his cheeks.
“Are you having me followed?” he asked when his mouth was near Carmen’s right ear.
“Happy coincidence.” Carmen pulled back and swept her gaze over him, blatantly soaking in his appearance before directing her attention on Harper. “And what are you doing here?” Carmen’s dark brows were a contrast to her dyed blonde hair that fell in long waves to her waist. Her red pantsuit was most likely as expensive as his monthly rent back in New York City. Knowing Carmen, probably more. She had married his cousin, Thiago, for his money, after all. She’d rejected Roman almost twenty-one years ago because he turned down a position within the Riviera empire.
“Roman and I are colleagues, but tonight he’s doubling as protective security for me,” Harper spoke up for him as if she knew his words happened to be stuck in his throat. Then she quickly added, “And, of course, security for my boyfriend.”
Roman had anticipated a potential run-in with someone who knew him, which was why he’d opted for this particular cover story, taking advantage of their actual alias.
“I still can’t believe you work in security.” Carmen set her finger to his chest, her bright red nail trailing along the buttons beneath his black tie, and he did his best not to circle her wrist and remove her hand.
Carmen would have bodyguards nearby as well. And everyone in Barcelona knew Carmen Riviera, widow to Roman’s cousin. His family was revered like royalty. Hell, there was a statue of his grandfather in a park three streets over.
“Did you know your bodyguard is as rich as the devil? Well, he could be if he accepted the money offered to him.” Carmen finally removed her hand from his chest and rolled her tongue between her red lips, eyes focused on Harper as if she suspected a relationship between them. A Bodyguard movie kind of thing.
Without missing a beat, Harper edged a step forward, boldly taking on Carmen. “I had no clue the devil collected dollar bills rather than souls.”
Roman desperately wanted to pull Harper to his side and shield her from Carmen’s vicious tongue and whatever she’d possibly say next.
Carmen pointed a finger between him and Harper in a dramatic fashion. “Su amante?” Lovers?
“I thought I explained we work together,” Harper answered with a confident tone. “How do you two know each other?”
Clearly, Harper had translated Carmen’s question.
Carmen’s sharp green eyes flitted back and forth between Roman and Harper. “I was married to Roman’s cousin, Thiago. He was the mayor of Barcelona.” For a brief moment, a sense of grief washed over her, but it was quickly replaced with a smug grin. “But Roman was my first love when he spent a summer here at eighteen.”
Roman stole a look at Harper, and her brows tightened for a second. She was most likely remembering when Roman had taken a week off work for Thiago’s funeral in 2019, not too long after Harper joined the teams.
“My condolences,” Harper offered, even though Carmen hadn’t mentioned Thiago had died.
“Only thirty-nine when he died. Same age as our Roman will be this year.” Our Roman? That wasn’t going to sit well with Harper, and then Carmen just had to add, “One of these days, hopefully soon, I plan to steal Roman back to Barcelona.”
Roman did his best to ignore her attempts to bait him into saying something he’d regret. She wasn’t after his love, though. It had always been and would always be about his last name.
“Sweetheart.” Zack showed up a moment later, his hand going immediately to Harper’s back.
Zack would still be able to operate with the use of only one hand after Roman broke every finger in his other one, right?
Roman bit down on his back teeth and reminded himself that one day Harper would share a bed with another man. A life. Kids. A future.
How many bodies would he need to bury before she met the man she’d marry?
“We need to get going.” Zack peered at Carmen. “Apologies.” Then he looked to Roman, his nod an order to get a move on.
“Good to see you, Roman. If you plan to stay in the city, reach out to me. I’d love to reconnect.” Carmen leaned forward and slowly pressed her lips to his right cheek, then his left. Roman nodded goodbye and joined Finn, who was paying their tab.
“On the move,” Finn said a moment later to alert the others over comms as they started for the elevator, and Roman unmuted his device.
“Roger that,” Wyatt answered.
When Roman entered the elevator, he did a thorough sweep of the interior to ensure there’d be no repeat incidents like what happened in D.C. last October when they were gassed and kidnapped.
Harper stood alongside Zack, opposite Finn and Roman. Her mouth was set in a hard line as she locked eyes on Roman, and it was clear they hadn’t been through with their conversation when Carmen interrupted them.
Palming his jaw, Roman pulled his gaze away from Harper and looked to the ceiling of the elevator. The last thing he needed was to catch a glimpse of himself in the mirrored walls surrounding them. Or think about how Harper used to tease that the scruff on his jaw felt like sandpaper between her legs. And yet, she’d loved it when he kissed his way to her center, dragging his rough cheeks along the creamy skin of her inner thighs.
He couldn’t help but look at her again and found her eyes glued to the hand cradling his jaw as if she’d been sharing the same memory. When she met his gaze this time, desire had replaced the concern. At least temporarily.
He was suddenly struck with a guilty thought . . . during their time together, when she’d tried to poke around with questions, had he averted her focus by setting his head between her legs to bring her to orgasm?
No. He’d done that because he couldn’t ever get enough of her.
“You solid?” Zack cut a hand through the air to snag their attention.
The motion reminded Roman of a happy couple slicing a wedding cake, sadly, something that would never happen for Roman and Harper.
Harper lightly startled as if mortified by her lack of attention on an op and redirected her focus to Zack.
“We’re good,” Harper answered for the both of them, and maybe that was for the best because Roman nearly found himself snarling at the memory of Zack’s hand far too close to her ass upstairs.
“We’re ready to roll,” Finn said, and Roman had almost forgotten he was next to him.
Harper had always worried about the possibility of their relationship compromising the teams even though Asher, who served as Bravo Three, and Jessica made it work. But Roman was fairly certain not being together was their problem right now because their separation was just as much of a distraction.
When the elevator doors parted, Roman’s eyes connected with A.J. standing in the luxurious lobby area. He was dressed the same as Finn and Roman, and he tipped his head, indicating he was heading out to the street.
Roman checked his watch. Two minutes until the source was to arrive out front.
“Is he arriving in a vehicle? Walking?” Roman asked after he and Finn flanked the “couple” as they all walked toward the exit.
Harper side-eyed him. Her game face back on. “He only said to be out front in ten.”
She slowed her pace as she neared the main doors, then waited for her bodyguards to precede her.
Roman stepped outside and held the door open, and he hated that sinking feeling in his gut when she looked toward the street instead of setting her eyes on him.
“Anything?” Zack directed the question to Harper, obviously assuming she would recognize the target since she’d worked with the man in the past.
“No,” she responded as the chilly fifty-degree temp caused her to shiver.
Roman was tempted to place his jacket over her shoulders, but he needed to hide his SIG.
When the valet approached, Roman responded to him in Spanish, letting the gentleman know they wouldn’t need their rental tonight.
“Hold your positions,” Wyatt said, coming over the line a few seconds later. “I may have our target in sight. Check out the black Mercedes parked thirty feet away on your three o’clock. Windows are blacked out, engine running, and someone just hopped out of the driver side in a hurry and is heading south.”
“I’ll pursue,” A.J. answered, and Wyatt quickly provided a description of the target.
“We need eyes on that vehicle,” Wyatt instructed. “I have a bad feeling.”
“Roger that,” Roman replied. “I’ll check it out.” He turned to Zack and Harper. “Get her back inside until I clear the car.”
“It could be our guy, and he’s waiting.” Zack eyed the vehicle in the distance. “We should be the ones to approach. He’ll spook and take off if Harper doesn’t show her face.”
“Hell no. Not until we confirm there are no imminent threats,” Roman commanded, and Finn stepped alongside him to stare at Zack, a signal they were on the same page.
“What if—” Harper’s words cut off when a piercing snap heralded an explosion that knocked him and everyone nearby off their feet.
Roman shook his head, trying to rid himself of the shock of what had just happened in order to confirm his people were okay.
Wyatt was no longer in his ear, most likely because they’d used the cheap comms instead of their high-tech ones.
It couldn’t have been a very big blast since he was still conscious, albeit with a constant, dull ringing in his ears.
He set his palms to the road from where he’d landed and lifted his head, searching for Harper.
She wasn’t too far away in front of him and appeared to be okay. Finn was off to his left and alive. Zack on his right and still kicking.
A few screams coupled with alarms from nearby cars were the only sounds he heard as a cloud of smoke began to fill the area, and the Mercedes roasted amid flames. Most likely a small car bomb.
Roman slowly stood, coughing as he reoriented himself and urged his body to move toward Harper, but what he saw made him pause.
She was standing now, her arm outstretched as if reaching for someone who wasn’t there.
“Harper!” Roman called out and started her way, but she didn’t turn. Her focus remained on whoever or whatever she was reaching for when two headlights cut through the smoke.
Without a second thought, Roman launched himself forward, throwing all of his weight at her to shove her out of the way of the oncoming car.
Roman placed his forehead in the crooks of his elbows, hands grasping the back of his head, and braced for impact in case he didn’t make it out of the way in time.
In a blink of an eye, his training took over. When the car hit him, he landed on top of the hood and aimed for the windshield so the glass would break and cushion his fall, absorbing the brunt of the impact.
Everything happened so fast.
And he wasn’t lucky this time. The glass didn’t shatter, and instead, he bounced off the car and landed on the road with a heavy thud, his hands slipping free from protecting his head.
And the last thing he remembered, the last thing on his mind . . . was Harper.
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