Chasing the Knight
When Wyatt left England, he said goodbye to his privileged upbringing and forged his own path. After years of running operations for an elite unit of Navy SEALs, he's satisfied with his mission-focused life until a messy entanglement walks through the door.
Natasha Chandler doesn't exist--and that's the way she likes it. Total dedication to her cover is precisely what makes her a great CIA officer. The career she loves exacts a heavy price, though: family, identity, relationships. But while chasing one of the most wanted criminals in the world, the rugged and sexy Teamguy she can't seem to forget walks back into her life and has her questioning everything.
Working together to hunt down an elusive cyber-terrorist, Wyatt and Natasha are forced to face their past, expose their secrets, and survive the explosive chemistry mounting between them. And when a young woman connected to Wyatt winds up in the crosshairs of the hacker's deadly game, he and Natasha must protect her and others from falling victim to the next attack.
Will the obsession for justice cost them their chance to be together--or will they get their shot at love?
The Stealth Ops Team - Navy SEALS who handle off-the-books operations for the President under the guise of an alias, Scott & Scott Securities.
*Each book in this action-packed romantic suspense series can be read as a standalone.
Release date: February 20, 2020
Publisher: EmKo Media, LLC
Print pages: 445
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Chasing the Knight
San Diego (January 2013)
“I thought I’d find you here. You always did prefer to be outside.”
Wyatt kept his eyes downcast on the roaring fire, which was surrounded by stacked river rocks to keep the flames at bay. It was a bit too rustic for this setting and seemed more fitting of his place back in Colorado than California.
“I guess some things never change.” His words drummed up reminders of why he and Clara had never worked out—but the main reason: he couldn’t change. He couldn’t be what she’d needed.
He slowly turned toward the bride on the terrace, not sure how he’d feel when facing her one-on-one tonight.
As a sniper, his job was to pay attention to the minutest detail. It was a skill that’d become ingrained in him over the years and was impossible to turn off. But hell if he didn’t want to shut it down right now. He didn’t want to notice details.
The way her raven-black hair fell over her shoulders in tight curls, lying in stark contrast against the neckline of her off-white ball gown.
The layers of fabric sparkling with crystals sewn into the skirt of the dress, making her look like a Disney princess—the antithesis to her usual get-up: cutoff jean shorts and a ribbed tank top stained with dirt from playing ball with the guys.
He swiped at his trimmed blond beard and blinked a few times before redirecting his focus to her blue eyes. “I should’ve given you a proper wedding like this.” He nodded toward the banquet hall off to his right where the band played and couples danced inside.
Their wedding had been at the courthouse. Impersonal, almost clinical.
No white dress. No tux.
They’d even had swimwear on beneath their clothes so they could go surfing right after they said their vows.
“We were young.” Her voice was soft, a hint apologetic.
He reached out, taking her hands into his, then leaned in and brought his mouth to her cheek. “Congratulations. You look stunning.” He held on to her for a moment, probably a moment too long, as memories of their life together catapulted to mind. The good and bad times.
“I didn’t know if you’d show.”
He finally let go of her and forced his hands into his pockets. “I did RSVP, didn’t I?”
Had the invite not been via email, he’d never have seen it. He’d been wrapping up five months of combat deployment in Afghanistan when he’d learned Dale Franklin was tying the knot with Clara.
“Most guys wouldn’t come to their ex-wife’s wedding.”
True, but . . . “So, why’d you invite me?”
“Because we’re friends now.”
Friends? Yeah, he supposed they were, even though they didn’t talk all that often. “Right,” he said on a sigh.
She smoothed her hands up and down her biceps, a sure indication her nerves were about on point with his. Clara could easily handle the chill in the air, and sixty degrees for January wasn’t that bad.
He turned and looked out at Mission Bay, the boat lights bobbing on the dark water, and his thoughts drifted to his training at BUD/S, specifically to his second attempt at earning his trident.
“You’re happy with Dale?” That’s all he wanted for her. Happiness. The kind of life he hadn’t been able to give her since he was too screwed up.
At the feel of her hand on his arm, he stiffened. “Yes, but that doesn’t mean what we had wasn’t real.”
She let go of him, and when he stole a glimpse of her out of the corner of his eye, her gaze was on the fire pit. “You remember the first time we met?”
“How could I forget?” He focused back on the orange-red flames that swayed in the gentle breeze. “You did save my life.”
“Did you ever tell the boys you used to be shit in the water?” She’d never let him live that down.
He smiled. “Sure, tell my mates I got whacked over the head by a surfboard and you had to give me mouth-to-mouth? No damn way.”
Clara had been a beast in the water when they’d met. A badass surfer and also a kick-ass Marine.
She chuckled, but then fell silent, and it was as if they were both watching a flag lowered to half-staff. “Try not to work too hard. Maybe settle down and find someone who makes you happy.”
She knew him too well to suggest he’d ever find love. But he was already happy, wasn’t he? His work was all he needed. His brothers in the Navy. But he offered her a, “Yeah, maybe,” since he knew she still clung to the dream that one day he would realize he was worthy of love. Somehow Clara had remained an optimist over the years, never letting war taint her outlook on the world or her opinion that people were inherently good. She still believed in him, even if he didn’t deserve it.
“I should probably get back to the guests.” Her voice was as powdery soft as a fresh blanket of snow.
She patted his chest and walked away, the fabric of her gown dragging behind her.
“Wyatt?” She twisted back around. “Don’t die.”
“You stole my line.” Those had been his words to her each time they said goodbye when she deployed. A simple but honest request to return home. “I’ll do my best,” he mimicked the response she used to give him. Also simple. Also honest.
After a few minutes, he went back inside, in desperate need of a drink to get through the night. The banquet hall had a coastal chic vibe to go with the outdoor landscape. Overall, the room was uncomplicated, which was much more Clara’s style than the wedding dress she had on.
He navigated through the crowd, doing his best to avoid conversation, especially with Clara’s parents, and made his way to the second and smaller bar, which was tucked off to the side near the coat check.
“Whiskey. Whatever kind you’ve got.” He dropped his elbows onto the counter and lowered his face into his palm.
“You hate weddings as much as I do?”
The woman had the kind of voice that could sell car insurance to a man without a car. Like velvet or silk, her tone was smooth and low. A hint of Southern.
When he pivoted to his right, his eyes cut straight to a pair of pale green irises. “I’m not the biggest fan of weddings,” he admitted.
Her bluish-gray dress was not a bridesmaid gown, thank God. It flowed from the waist down but fit tight at the top, and he did his best not to focus on the deep V that offered a hint of cleavage.
She pushed her golden blonde hair off her shoulder and smiled, drawing his eyes to her very kissable lips.
“What about you? Most women like weddings, right?”
“Not all women. Why do you think I’m hiding over here in the corner?” The playfulness in her tone got his engine revving, and his body went from zero to sixty.
He had just returned from a five-month stint in Kabul. Five months without any hook-ups. And this was his only weekend in California before he headed back to Dam Neck. Maybe he could . . .
Wyatt let go of his thoughts when she brought a cocktail glass to her lips, and he spied her G-shock watch, which should’ve looked out of place paired with the dress, but for some reason, it suited her.
“What?” She arched a brow and lowered the glass to the counter off to her right.
Her light green eyes dropped to the watch, and her lips twitched as if she were battling both a smile and frown. “My brother was in the Army. It was his.”
Was? “Shit, I’m sorry.”
“No, no.” She waved a hand between them, nearly hitting his chest. “He left because of a medical injury, but he’s okay. Doing better than ever, actually.”
“But wearing his watch, knowing by some miracle he survived, it makes me feel”—she shrugged—“grounded or something. Protected. I don’t go anywhere without it.”
He could understand that.
He reached for the tumbler the bartender had slid his way, and when his sleeve shifted a touch to expose his Casio, she pointed to his wrist. “Seeing as though you have one on, does that mean you’re in the service? British?”
“American Navy. Don’t let the accent fool you.”
“Aw. Navy versus Army. Great rivalry. Love watching the football games.”
He absorbed her words. Took in the sight of her full lips. Her gorgeous eyes.
She had that sweet girl-next-door look. The sexy girl next door. An innocent smile that could destroy a man’s thoughts.
“So, uh, why don’t you like weddings?”
One eye closed as if she were hesitant to spill the truth. “You’ve heard about runaway bride syndrome, right?”
No way did she jet off and leave some poor chap at the altar, did she?
“You’re a runner?” he asked, nearly choking on his whiskey.
“Instead of runaway bride—picture runaway groom.”
“What man in his right mind would leave you?”
“No idea. I’m a great catch,” she said with a teasing smile. “But I plan on being forever single, and I’m fine with that.”
“Well, the arse that left you is a bloody fool.”
Wyatt peered around the room and caught Clara dancing with her husband to a slower song. Not far away was Admiral Chandler, covered in chest candy, dancing with his wife. He wasn’t sure of Chandler’s connection to Clara or Dale. It wasn’t every day an admiral of his stature showed up to a wedding.
“Tell me your brother kicked the shit out of your ex, at least.”
“My fiancé was my brother’s best friend.”
Shit. “All the more reason to box the head off him.”
Her eyes flicked to the vaulted ceiling before moving back to the dance floor. “Anyway, you feel like going outside? There’s a fire pit no one is using.”
My kind of woman. “Absolutely.” He followed her through the crowd, laser-focused on her fit body as they traversed the room of two hundred people.
Once on the terrace, she held her palms open and did a three-sixty as if relieved to be free of the reception. “Much better.”
As Wyatt strode closer, the scent of burning wood, mingling with touches of vanilla from her perfume, wafted his way on a sudden breeze. “I’d give you my jacket, but I don’t have a bloody clue where I tossed it earlier.”
“Oh, this weather’s perfect. I’m fine.” She dropped onto one of the four rustic chairs that surrounded the fire pit, the slit of her dress shifting to expose one long, tan leg. But it was the silver-colored flip-flop that had him smiling.
“The whole beauty-is-pain thing never worked for me,” she drawled.
“You a Texan?” he asked while occupying the chair next to her, but he repositioned it to face her instead of the fire. He worked with a lot of Teamguys from the Lone Star State, so the accent was fairly familiar.
“Dallas. Born and raised.” She offered her hand. “Natasha.”
He reached for her palm. “Wyatt.” He cleared his throat when she’d yet to retract her hand, but he wasn’t in a hurry to let go either. “You still live there?”
“Virginia now. D.C. border.”
“You in politics?” He didn’t get that vibe from her, but then again, aside from getting a read on her Texas roots, he couldn’t figure much else out about her.
“I work at the State Department,” she answered. “Telecommunications specialist.” She slipped her palm free of his, her gaze moving to the flickering flames.
Most people he’d met in that role at the State Department were actually CIA officers. Surely, she wasn’t, but he couldn’t help but joke, “Ah, so you’re with The Company?”
“You’re a comedian, huh?” Her eyes landed on his.
He waved a finger at her with a slight nod and continued to tease, “Yeah, I can see it now. You work at Langley.” He brought his forearm to the wide plank chair arm and made a play of taking a long look left, then right. “Here on official business?” he asked in a low voice. “You undercover now?”
She leaned closer and whispered, “Not tonight, but I do have a gun strapped to the inside of my thigh in case Dale tried to run on Clara.” Her brows knitted as she said in a serious voice, playing along with the charade, “But you got me, I’m most definitely a CIA agent.”
He settled back in his seat and let go of the chair arm. “Well, that confirms it.” He kept his eyes on her, his mood much better than it had been earlier. “You’re not really in the CIA.”
She pressed a palm to her chest, feigning surprise and indignation. “And what gave me up?”
“No spook would call themselves an agent. CIA officers recruit foreign nationals to be agents.” Why am I talking about this? He was off his game. Damn those five months without sex. Plus, well, the setting was most likely messing with his head. Ex-wife’s wedding and all.
Her lower lip trembled as if fighting a chuckle.
He glanced in the direction of the banquet room, realizing he’d left his drink at the bar. Of course, he wouldn’t need alcohol to get through the night now that he’d met Natasha. “So, how do you know the bride and groom?”
Her hands went to her lap, and she played with the jersey fabric of her dress. “You’ll think I’m crazy if I tell you.”
“I doubt that.”
She looked up at him. “Remember my ex-fiancé?”
“Brother’s best friend?” Wyatt nodded.
Her chest lifted and fell from a deep breath. “Well, he just married Clara.”
If he’d been drinking, he would’ve spit the whiskey right out. “That’s rubbish. Dale and your brother may have been best friends, but why didn’t your dad kill him?”
She shrugged. “Dad loves Dale like a son.”
“And you’re his daughter.” Maybe they were both a little crazy to be there? “So, why’d you come, then?”
“I’ve known Dale for forever. Family friends. How could I not come?”
“You really were half-expecting he’d run tonight, weren’t you?” And if Dale had jetted off on Clara, Wyatt would’ve broken his legs.
“Dale never looked at me the way he looks at Clara, so no.” She waved a dismissive hand as if trying to block out memories from her past. “But um, what’s your story? I’m betting you’re friends with the bride since I’ve never seen you before.”
He gripped the wooden chair arms since it was his turn for a dose of the truth. “The bride’s my ex-wife.”
There was no sense of shock on her face at his answer. She actually responded with a laid-back, “We’re a pair, huh?”
He peered at her, and her long lashes fluttered before her green eyes connected with his. “Looks that way.”
She tipped her head to the side, observing him with curiosity in her eyes. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure.” And maybe he’d be able to answer. It was a coin toss.
“How long have you two been divorced?”
He didn’t talk about Clara with anyone. Failing was unacceptable, and no matter how much distance he put between him and his father, he couldn’t get the man’s voice out of his head. The nagging You always disappoint me ringing in his ears like the sound of that damn BUD/S bell whenever one of his brothers bowed out.
Failing in his marriage had made his father’s voice louder. More high-pitched.
And when Wyatt had to roll back at BUD/S to finish with the next class, it’d nearly been his undoing. He’d managed to convince himself the sole culprits had been pneumonia and a shoulder injury and had nothing to do with the fact Clara had dropped the big divorce bomb on him right before indoctrination. But the jaws of disappointment had sunk into him deep just the same.
“Legally, back in oh-seven. But we separated in the fall of oh-five shortly after I officially became a citizen.”
Her mouth rounded in surprise. “You didn’t marry for citizenship . . . did you?” She covered her face for a brief moment before her hand dropped to her lap as if embarrassed. “For all I know your parents moved here when you were younger. Sorry to assume.”
“No worries.” He’d gotten the marriage-citizenship question a lot, and eventually, he began giving off the same short answer: Moved to the U.S. for marriage and became a citizen. Not exactly the truth, but it worked, and most people didn’t know the rules for citizenship so they didn’t question him. He preferred to keep his past out of sight and out of mind.
Unlike the Navy, he couldn’t get a SEAL contract until he became a citizen, and part of him would always wonder if Clara had waited to separate until his citizenship processed, knowing how important being a Teamguy had been to him.
“I chose school in San Diego instead of London much to my parents’ dismay.” More disappointment from them that’d led to the fight of the century with his father. “I met Clara the summer before I started uni, and Clara and I married a few months later right before she deployed.” When was the last time he’d actually told the truth, and to a stranger no less?
“So, she was already a Marine stationed at Pendleton at the time?”
Clara was four years older and so different from the women he’d dated in London. Part of the appeal.
“What made you join the Navy, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“When I was a kid I’d thought about joining the Royal Navy in the U.K., so I guess I always had the desire to serve.” He scratched at the column of his throat, still trying to digest the fact he was opening up. “I dropped out of San Diego after Nine Eleven and joined the Navy. As long as you’re on a path to citizenship, you can serve.”
Her gaze lingered on the fire and then cut his way a moment later. “Well, Clara does seem nice.”
“She’s a good person.”
Her mouth tightened briefly before she whispered, “So is Dale.” One shoulder lifted and fell. “Just not the right people for us, huh?”
He swallowed. “Right.”
“You, um, seeing anyone now?” She pointed to his left hand. “These days, most men I know don’t wear a ring, so it’s hard to ID a married guy anymore.”
“Is this your way of asking if I’m available?” If it hadn’t been forever and a day since he’d had sex, maybe he could’ve suppressed the cocky grin on his face.
“And if I’m available?” he asked.
“Then I’ll ask you to dance with me.”
“Better than inside, right?” She shifted the skirt of her dress out of the way to stand. “So, are you forever single like me, or totally attached?” The playfulness in her tone had returned, replacing any hints of somberness that would’ve taken a K9 to sniff out.
“Forever single.” He stood and reached for her hand, and she gasped when he yanked her into his arms and held her to his chest, nearly forgetting the glass walls of the reception area off to his left. Forgetting his ex was now happily remarried.
She braced his biceps and stared into his eyes as he held on to her. They only moved side to side, but it suited him just fine.
He reached between them and cupped her chin, unable to stop himself. Gorgeous was the tip of the iceberg. His gut told him there was a hell of a lot more beneath the surface, too.
“I love this singer, but not-so-great memories come with his music,” she whispered like a confession.
“The song I’m Yours by Jason Mraz was my ring tone for Dale when we were together. I was twenty-two, what can I say?”
His hand moved to her cheek and damned if he didn’t want to lean in and taste the gloss of her lips, to let his tongue ease into her mouth—to give her a new memory to go with the music.
“Well, at least it’s not that song playing now.” He didn’t think it was, at least. He wasn’t too knowledgeable of the current beats. Most of the guys on base usually listened to more old-school tunes.
Her bottom lip rolled between her teeth, her nerves slipping to the surface. He wasn’t so sure if it was the talk of her ex or the moment they were sharing that had her pulse fluttering at the side of her neck and her pupils dilating.
“You know, I can’t tell if your eyes are blue or gray,” she said after the DJ switched to a faster-tempo song. They kept slowly swaying side to side anyway. As long as he was holding her, it didn’t matter what kind of steps they took. “Out here, they’re sort of a slate blue, like the color of my dress, but inside they looked gray.”
“DMV couldn’t decide either,” he said in all seriousness, unable to pull his eyes away from her.
They continued to dance for another ten minutes or so without saying anything, and it was bloody perfect.
“You really want to kiss me, don’t you?” Her lips crooked at the edges, and a dimple popped in her left cheek.
“You have no idea how much,” he admitted, his voice husky, “but—”
“But you’re another heartbreaker?”
She stepped out of his embrace when he didn’t respond and offered her hand. “How about we take a walk on the beach?”
He was drawn to her in so many ways that went beyond attraction, which scared the hell out of him. Almost enough to turn and walk away.
He didn’t, though. He accepted her palm and laced their fingers together.
“You always so nervous about going for a walk?” she asked. “I won’t try and take advantage of you on the beach, I promise.”
He caught her smirk from over his shoulder, and he playfully flipped his eyes to the sky dotted with stars. “Well, I won’t resist if you do.” He tightened his grip on her hand.
“Tell me something about you,” she said softly as they walked at a slow pace.
“What would you like to know?”
“When’d you become a SEAL?”
He stopped walking and faced her. “What makes you think I’m a Teamguy?”
“I’ve been around enough sailors to know a SEAL when I see one. The accent threw me off at first.” She smiled when he’d yet to confess. “Virginia Beach or Coronado?”
He let go of her hand to palm her cheek. “Virginia.”
She turned her cheek, and her soft lips dragged across his warm skin. He wanted nothing more than to feel those lips on his mouth.
His balls tightened, desire gripping him like a tight hand around his shaft.
“The exes of our exes hooking up,” she whispered. “That’d be wrong, right?”
She was straightforward, and damn did he like it.
“I thought you weren’t going to make a move on me out here?”
She wet her lips, and he lowered his hand from her face before securing his palm around her waist to bring her flush to his body.
“And I thought you wouldn’t object?”
“I’m pretty sure that’d be impossible to do,” he admitted.
She pursed her lips together as if in thought, then murmured, “Hot sex on a California beach is on my bucket list.”
“Not Virginia Beach? Or somewhere else? Just California?” He raised a brow.
“Okay, so I don’t have a bucket list,” she began, “but if I did, I think that it would include sex on a—”
He united their lips, and she relaxed into him as he kissed her.
His tongue dipped into her mouth, meeting hers, and he let out a low hiss, a sort of growl from pent-up need. But hell, it was more than that. Something inside of him had awakened.
He was on a beach with a stranger, not far from his ex-wife’s wedding reception, but all the noise in his head grew silent. He could barely remember his near-death experience three weeks ago when an insurgent had set off an s-vest. Or the attack against his convoy a month before that.
The last several years became a blur with her lips on his.
All he could feel and taste was her. His entire awareness was Natasha.
Her nails biting into his back. Her fragrance. Her body pressed tight to him as if hungry to be even closer.
He nipped her lower lip after coming up for air even though he hadn’t wanted to stop kissing her.
“I want you, but in a bedroom,” he rasped before grinning like a kid with a golden ticket to the Willy Wonka Factory. “I have pretty strong memories of having sand in places it doesn’t belong when at BUD/S, and I’d prefer not to relive that while—”
“Understood.” She stepped back and offered her hand.
And was this really happening? Was he going to get laid at Clara’s wedding?
But fuck if he could stop himself.
Clara and Dale were happy, so why couldn’t two single people enjoy themselves?
“Your room or mine?” he asked as they started for the hotel.
“Yours,” she sputtered.
He dug his hand into his pocket in search of his keycard, but when he looked up toward the terrace and the glowing fire pit, he stopped in his tracks, practically yanking Natasha to an abrupt stop as well.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I, uh.” He resumed walking, and they climbed the steps to the terrace so he could face a man he assumed was there for him.
What in the hell was Luke Scott doing there? He’d recently, and very unexpectedly, quit his position as a Tier One operator, so this couldn’t be a grab your shit, we’re spinning up kind of visit.
Luke coughed into a closed fist at the sight of Wyatt and Natasha’s clasped palms. “Sorry to drop in on you like this. Can I have a word?” He tipped his head in apology to Natasha, and his blue eyes moved back to Wyatt.
“I can go back into the reception and wait,” Natasha offered.
“I actually need him to come back to my room,” Luke said in his stern, no-shitting-around Teamguy tone.
Wyatt turned toward her, disappointment thick in his tone when he said, “I’ll find you after.”
“Yeah, okay.” But something in her voice said she was doubtful he’d come back.
And he honestly didn’t know if he would return, but damn it, he didn’t want to leave a woman like her hanging. He leaned in and whispered, “If I can’t come back . . .”
She nodded as if she understood completely. There was forgiveness in her eyes. She was one hell of a woman, wasn’t she? And he hated walking away from her.
She pressed a quick kiss to his cheek.
Luke remained silent as Wyatt watched her cross the terrace and pull open the door to the banquet hall. Music spilled out into the evening air for a brief moment, then vanished along with Natasha as the door closed. She did, however, steal one last look at him through the glass.
He wanted to go after her. To chase after the moment they’d been having and allow it to continue into the morning.
But he couldn’t turn his back on Luke even if the night with Natasha had promised to be one he’d never forget.
Wyatt matched Luke’s quick pace as they exited the terrace and walked down the path to the second hotel building adjacent to the banquet hall.
“I would’ve waited until tomorrow to show up, but I’m short on time. Sorry to interrupt like that.”
“It’s fine,” he replied as they moved.
They stopped outside a first-floor suite a minute later, and Luke popped his keycard into the slot, then pushed open the door. “I’m not alone, by the way.”
Wyatt followed Luke into the room and halted at the sight of the woman sitting on the couch opposite the king-sized bed. “Jessica?”
She stood and extended her hand. “Good to see you again, Pierson.”
“You two related?” Wyatt’s gaze shifted between Jessica and Luke. Same last names, but Luke had never mentioned . . .
“He’s my brother.” She motioned for him to have a seat on the bed as she lowered herself to the couch again.
He dropped down, the soft mattress sinking beneath him.
Luke remained standing next to his sister. “Jessica told me you’ve worked a few operations together.”
“Just last year in Somalia, in fact,” Wyatt replied.
At first, the Navy had wanted to go kinetic on the site where a bunch of al-Shabaab terrorists had been housed, but Langley wanted the men brought back for questioning. Jessica had been the CIA liaison between AFRICOM and his team, advising the best course of action to ensure they got in and out of the country fast. And, more importantly, without any of his people dying. Her intel had been spot-the-fuck-on.
All his guys had swooped in on a super-stealth bird instead of a Chinook and grabbed seven terrorists, which had ultimately led to the major takedown of additional players.
The After Action Debrief, the sanitized version of what had happened in Mogadishu, had left out the majority of the details of what had gone down, including the fact Jessica Scott was a badass and should’ve been awarded a medal for that op. It’d been damn perfect because of her planning.
So, did her presence right now mean Luke was back in the game and in need of Wyatt’s help?
“I didn’t know she worked at The Company,” Luke commented. “Just found out.”
“What’s going on?” His pulse should’ve climbed, should’ve picked up, but he was used to being thrown into unknown situations and forging ahead on reflex. This was nothing new.
What had spiked his pulse was when he’d first learned Luke-the-Legend-Scott had quit. Now—well, hell, he was just curious what was going on.
“Mind if I take point?” Jessica peered at her brother, and he nodded. She stood and walked toward the windows, then faced Wyatt. “After Neptune’s Spear, Tier One guys have been thrown in the limelight, and it’s been making your jobs increasingly difficult.”
Neptune’s Spear—one of the most famous SEAL operations in modern history because it was the op that took down Osama bin Laden. And yeah, she’d been right. The media had been relentless in their pursuit to learn more about DEVGRU, or Team SIX, operations. What bloody part of clandestine did they not understand?
“I’ve had an idea rolling around in my head for a while since that op,” Jessica began, “and I decided, what better time to implement the plan now that we have a new president. Fortunately, President Rydell agreed to the proposal.”
“Which was?” Wyatt rose, unable to remain seated any longer at the mention of POTUS.
“To assemble a team specifically earmarked to carry out operations for a few high-ups, including the president. Operations for which our DEVGRU people can’t get a green light. Both foreign and domestic,” she explained.
“Doesn’t POTUS already have dark money for his Delta guys who handle shit like that?”
“Yeah, but there are still proper channels the president has to go through for those ops as well,” Jessica countered. “We’ll be even more off-the-books.”
“We have approval for ten SEALs. Jessica and I have been tasked to lead this group.” Luke folded his arms. “But I’d like to break us up into two units. I’ll head up Bravo, and I’d like you to take command of Echo.”
“I’ve seen you operate as an assault leader, and you’re also one of the best snipers out there,” Jessica added. “We think you’re a perfect fit for this role.”
He blinked a few times, trying to wrap his head around the offer. “So, you didn’t actually quit?” His brows lifted in surprise.
“I need the world to think I retired, but no, I’m still active,” he explained. “Listen.” He held a palm in the air as if sensing Wyatt’s concern since they were vague as shit. “We’ll be working directly for POTUS. If Washington can’t approve an op but intel says our people are needed, we’ll be the guys he sends.”
“Unlike POTUS’s Delta operations, we won’t have QRF on standby,” Jessica noted.
“No one’s coming for us if we’re captured,” Luke reiterated.
Because we won’t exist. Wyatt turned toward the wall, which had a picture of Mission Bay hanging above the bed. It had been one of Clara’s favorite places to go when they’d been married. But now he was pretty sure his kiss with Natasha would forever be burned into his mind whenever he thought about the bay.
“I know it’s a lot to ask, especially without too many details, but we can’t disclose much until you agree and sign some NDAs,” Luke said. “We’d be operating under the alias Scott and Scott Securities.”
“And we’ll probably take some private security gigs between ops to keep up with appearances. Those jobs might also be a great way to fund us, too. We’ll be working on a limited government budget to prevent anyone from discovering we exist.” Jessica’s voice remained confident. Determined, but not overly pushy.
“You can help pick four guys to be on your team.” Luke’s words had Wyatt twisting back to face the two of them.
“Why not recruit retired Teamguys?”
Jessica and Luke exchanged a quick look. “We want younger guys who can move up with us,” Luke said. “The risks will be great. And most of our retired SEALs are older and have kids.”
“I guess that makes sense,” he responded.
“Luke’s convinced me to hire some vets to work at Scott and Scott, though. It’ll help maintain our cover.”
“But they won’t know the truth?” He could practically feel his pulse pricking at his neck now.
“No one can know. The truth is too dangerous, especially if we want to make this last long-term.” She edged closer, her eyes set on him to get a read.
Jessica was blonde and blue-eyed. Attractive. Late twenties. Young for someone in such a high-powered role. And had he not seen Jessica in action firsthand, or hadn’t witnessed Luke operate in war, he’d probably already have left the room.
The idea of the team bypassing red tape and congressional approval was both appealing and terrifying.
“You’re thirty-one. In the prime of your career. To ask you to leave your men, it’s a lot, I know.” Luke was right, especially about leaving his brothers behind.
“Can I have some time to think about it?”
“POTUS has a mission he needs us on, and we’re scrambling to round everyone up.” Luke’s calm tone was a contradiction to his statement. “We don’t have much time.”
“My life has been filled with making quick decisions.”
Dropping out of uni for the Navy.
“And that means?” Jessica asked him.
He extended his hand to Luke and shoved away any doubts from his mind. “I’m not quite sure what I’m walking into, but that also excites me. Story of my life, anyway.” He gripped Jessica’s palm next and smiled. “So, why the hell would I do things differently now?”
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