A stolen past
The only thing Tucker remembers of his past is pain. Used in a doctor’s evil experiments, his memories and identity were erased, and his freedom taken. He believed his nightmare was over when he was liberated by the men and women of McKay-Taggart, until he heard the name Steven Reasor. The idea that he could have been involved in the terrible experiments that cost his “brothers” everything crushed him. A desperate attempt to force him to remember the truth almost cost him his life. Now his world is in chaos and his only path to finally uncover the truth and atone for his sins leads to Veronica Croft.
A painful present
Veronica “Roni” Croft knew Dr. Steven Reasor was bad for her, but she also saw a side of the man that no one else knew. Even as she began to believe their employer was hiding something sinister, she was drawn to him like a moth to a flame. Their affair was passionate and intense, but also fraught with danger. When he disappeared under mysterious circumstances, she took her first chance to run and never looked back. She has stayed hidden ever since, running from forces she knows are too powerful to overcome. But now the man she believed was dead, the man she mourned, has returned and needs her help.
A dangerous future
As Tucker and Roni unravel the secrets of his past, a dark force rises and threatens to destroy them. Their only chance for survival will require them to join forces with the Lost Boys’ worst enemy. Only together can they finally unlock Tucker’s past. But as Tucker’s memories begin to come back, will it free them both or tear them apart forever?
Release date: February 4, 2020
Publisher: DLZ Entertainment, LLC
Print pages: 336
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Roni stopped outside the room where she’d been told Steven Reasor now lay in a coma. It was so normal. Not the building. The building was some kind of rich man’s paradise complete with a lobby that looked like it could be the front for a French bordello. And a garden in the foyer. If one could call the entire center of a building a foyer. There was probably some other term for it, but she hadn’t spent the last several years learning about design.
She’d spent them trying to survive.
“Why should I believe you?” She winced because she hadn’t meant to say the words out loud. Still, she turned to the woman who had shown up on her doorstep not two days before with the most incredible story. Kimberly Solomon was a CIA agent, if she was telling the truth—which Roni’s mother was absolutely certain she wasn’t. Oh, her mother believed Solomon worked for the CIA, but her mother didn’t trust anyone at all.
The gorgeous blonde had made a pretty convincing case, including documents and photos and a bunch of knowledge she shouldn’t have had. And the woman could call up a special ops team whenever she liked. The woman, who liked to be called Solo, glanced at the closed door and back to Roni as though she knew she was stalling. “I’ve shown you all the documentation I can legally offer. I’ve explained who I am and why we need you. I can’t do anything else, Roni. You either have to trust me or not, and I understand how hard that is.”
“I don’t trust her and I know exactly who she is.” The massive hunk of Viking DNA who’d greeted her when she’d entered the building watched Solo with suspicious eyes. Ian Taggart was a golden god of a man, and he knew all the right things to say.
You are safe here. I’m not the Agency and I won’t allow Solo to steal you away. All I’m looking for is some answers to help my men. You are free to come and go as you please, but if you need protection from something, we are here for you. I don’t know what Solo told you about us, but I promise no one is going to fuck with you here. We’ve got a room for you. If you need sanctuary, you have it.
The former Green Beret had said the words not ten minutes before and it had been right on the tip of her tongue to tell him yes, she wanted his help. She wanted to throw the entire situation into someone more competent’s hands so she could finally have some kind of a life, but she remembered everything Steven had told her that day, how comfortable he’d made her feel before he’d cut her to pieces and left her pregnant and alone and in danger.
For her daughter’s sake, she couldn’t be a trusting fool anymore.
She was right back to staring at the door.
“Does she think there’s like a lion behind it or something?” Taggart asked under his breath.
She could practically hear Solo rolling her eyes. “No. She thinks her ex is behind the door and she’s not ready to see him again. Give her a minute, Tag. Or better yet, I’ll stay with her and you can take your impatient ass to the conference room. I assume Damon has one. All the best sex clubs do.”
They’d been needling each other from the moment Solo had walked her in the door. From what she’d heard, Solo had done something to this private security group they hadn’t forgiven her for yet, and they all spoke the language of sarcasm. They continued to bicker as she stared at the door and utterly ignored the sex club joke. She didn’t think about sex anymore.
She dreamed about it. She dreamed about the one man who’d shown her exactly how good sex could be, the one man she couldn’t forget no matter how hard she tried.
Was Steven Reasor here? Was he lying in a bed behind that door?
“How did you catch him?” She hadn’t asked all the pertinent questions. Solo had shown up with her convincing documents and much needed cash and Roni had made the calculated decision to go with her. Up until now Solo hadn’t given away the fact that she had a secret daughter. It seemed like Taggart and his group had no idea Violet Croft existed. Not that anyone knew her real name. According to all the German records her name was Violet Fisher, daughter of Veronica Fisher. After what had happened to her sister, Katie, she and her mother had gone underground.
Taggart frowned, the expression doing nothing to mar his masculine beauty. “Catch him?”
“Yes, how did you catch Steven? I assume he ran when Dr. McDonald did,” she said, taking a deep breath and stepping back. She wasn’t ready to see him yet. She moved to the railing and looked out over the green space below. It was peaceful, but she’d learned that looks could be deceiving. “Was he injured when the CIA raided?”
Taggart snorted. “The CIA didn’t raid shit.”
“Only because someone didn’t bother to bring us in,” Solo countered. “And you’re welcome.”
Taggart squared off with the CIA agent. “For what?”
Despite the fact that Solo was almost six feet tall, she looked petite compared to Taggart. “For not being in a French jail right now.”
“Yeah, because French jail would be so tough on a guy,” Taggart replied. “I think I handled the authorities pretty well.”
“Or a Colombian jail,” Solo replied. “You remember that one? It wasn’t Drew Lawless who got you out. That was Beck, and who do you think he called to make that happen?”
“Okay, I am willing to admit that I’m grateful for that one,” Taggart allowed. “I was pretty close to becoming a prison wife. There are some big fucking dudes in Cartagena, and they’re mean. Charlie would have broken me out, but not before I lost something precious. She would have taken me back, though. She told me I should absolutely accept dishonor before death. I think she only said that because she needs my diaper-changing skills.”
They were starting to annoy her. “I can leave if you two want to keep the comedy hour going.”
“I’m sorry.” Solo backed off. “I’m anxious about being here. Tag is a massive jackass most of the time, but he’s solid when it comes to his job. And you need to understand that Tucker wasn’t captured in any kind of a criminal way. He was McDonald’s prisoner.”
She really should have asked more questions, but Solo had offered her a whole lot of cash for coming with her, and that cash might be able to get them all back to the States. It might buy them a new life. “Prisoner? He was her employee. Her favorite employee. Why would she keep him prisoner?”
“We were hoping you could help us with that,” Taggart said, his frown deepening. “But you’re wrong. He was definitely her prisoner. She experimented on him.” He turned to Solo. “How much did you tell her?”
“I told her we needed her to identify Steven Reasor.” Solo leaned back against the wall. “I have to work within certain parameters. A lot of what I know is highly classified. You don’t have that problem. I mean what you know is absolutely classified but you don’t care.”
A single shoulder shrugged. “Not in any way.”
“But I think she knows more than she’s saying,” Solo replied, her blue eyes serious. “I’m fairly certain she knows what Dr. McDonald was working on. Her sister was writing an investigative piece when she died.”
“When she was murdered.” She wasn’t going to let anyone pretend Katie had been killed in a random street crime. “Assassinated might be a better word. Or executed. I don’t have anything of hers if you’re looking for her notes. I don’t have them.”
“No one is trying to take anything from you.” Taggart’s shoulders straightened and his eyes had softened. “I promise. I hope you come to trust us. Dr. Walsh has.”
“Rebecca Walsh is here?” She hadn’t seen Rebecca in years, not since the day she’d walked away. She’d read about Rebecca’s accomplishments, but she hadn’t reached out to her. Rebecca had been the one who’d gotten away free and clear. At least it had seemed that way. Dr. McDonald’s reach went beyond the grave.
“You really didn’t tell her anything,” Taggart said, a bit of accusation in his tone.
“I wanted to leave it to you,” Solo replied quietly.
“I have nothing to do with it,” Taggart argued. “You wanted to leave it all to Ezra so he’ll forgive you for what happened in Munich. You want to push your way into this mission so you can be close to him.”
“You would do the same in my place.”
Taggart’s head shook. “Nope. I would never have picked my job over my Charlie, which is precisely why I got out. But I get it. Ms. Croft, I don’t need you to identify Reasor. Dr. Walsh already has. The man you knew as Steven Reasor now goes by the name of Tucker. At some point McDonald turned on Reasor. She used an experimental drug to erase his memories and held him captive for several years. I’ll let you read the files I have on him.”
It felt like the world shifted and she couldn’t find her balance. “She used the drug on him? What drug? I know about the time dilation drug, but that wouldn’t cause memory loss.”
Katie had found evidence that McDonald was working on a drug and therapy protocols for time dilation. It sounded like something out of a science fiction movie. McDonald had been developing a drug that tricked the brain into thinking time was passing more quickly than it was. It made the patient open to influence and suggestion.
It could be used to torture someone without ever harming them physically. A day would seem like a month, pain and fear made to seem endless.
Had Steven gone through that? Had Steven helped McDonald create a monster only to be fed to it?
“It wasn’t the time dilation drug, though he was definitely put through that hell,” Taggart explained. “She had a drug that affected memory, too.”
“Is that why he’s in a coma? The drug? McDonald supposedly died three years ago. He’s been in a coma for that long? Or was it a side effect of coming off the drug?”
She hadn’t practiced medicine in the last few years, but she remembered the dangers of testing new drugs. It was precisely why they didn’t go straight to human trials, but then McDonald hadn’t seemed to care much about other humans.
“He’s only been in a coma for a few weeks,” Tag explained. “And it wasn’t from the initial drug. He’d recovered physically from that and he was starting to get back a bit of his memory. While McDonald held him, Tucker was given another drug, one that completely erased his memory. McDonald used it in conjunction with the time dilation to build soldiers. Tucker was one of those soldiers. So was my youngest brother.”
That made her catch her breath. McDonald had taken this man’s brother? It had likely been her downfall. She’d only met Taggart a few minutes before, but she knew a dangerous predator when she saw one.
Now. Now she could recognize a dangerous man. It was because she’d been torn apart by one once. By the man behind that door.
“Tucker was a victim,” Solo said.
She wasn’t buying it. In this, she could instruct them. “I’m sorry to hear about your brother, Mr. Taggart. I can’t imagine what he went through, but Steven was likely a part of it. I assure you he knew everything McDonald was doing. He was her right-hand man the whole time. There’s an old Chinese proverb that fits Steven to a T. He who rides the tiger is afraid to dismount. He played with fire and he got burned. Steven liked to play games. If you’ve brought me here to exonerate him, you’ve wasted your time and I should head home to Germany.”
There was a part of her that wanted that exact outcome. It was perverse. She’d prayed every day for years that she would get her life back, that she could return to medicine and take her daughter home, but now that she was facing it, there was a certain amount of dread that came with change. At least she knew what to expect from her life in Germany.
“We’ve brought you here to try to help figure out the last few days of Reasor’s life,” Taggart corrected. “I call it that because Steven Reasor effectively ceased to exist the day McDonald erased his memory. We’re hoping you can fill in some of the blanks because Tucker can’t. We need information concerning McDonald’s experiments and the people who worked with her. We’re fairly certain Tucker knew who supported her crimes at one point. I think he might have stolen that information. I’m not sure why, but he’s my best bet. You knew him better than anyone else.”
She knew how he kissed and what it felt like when he wrapped his arms around her and held her tight, the embrace promising protection. She knew he was a liar of the highest order. “I don’t know how much I can help you. He didn’t tell me anything. You should know that up front. If that changes Ms. Solomon’s offer of cash and safety, then I should leave now.”
“I told you she was touchy,” Solo said under her breath.
“Whatever Solo offered you, she’ll come through,” Taggart explained. “She’s a woman of her word. Mostly. If she doesn’t, I can assure you my firm will take care of it. The Garden is the safest place I know of in Europe. If you want to come to the States, I’ll make sure you’re safe there, too. You and your daughter.”
A chill went through her. She turned on Solo. “There’s one promise broken.”
Solo sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. “I didn’t tell him anything, but I should have known he has someone watching me. Whoever it is, he’s good.”
“She,” Taggart said with a smirk. “Nina Blunt is one of Damon’s new hires. She’s former Interpol. It was a team effort, though. Hutch caught you going into Germany and Nina did the groundwork.” He seemed to sober. “This is too important to me and my men to leave this all in your hands, Solo. You’ve got people to answer to, people who might not do the right thing with the information if they got their hands on it. Ms. Croft, Solo didn’t tell me about your daughter. Is the older woman traveling with you your mother?”
She nodded, not sure how she felt about anyone knowing about her baby. Maybe that was one of the reasons she was scared of going home. She wouldn’t be able to hide Violet. “Yes. When my sister was murdered, she came over and she’s stayed with me.”
“I stashed them at my place in Kensington,” Solo explained. “It’s not far from here. I think they should be moved to The Garden, but Veronica wanted to check it out first. The mom is actually pretty badass. Former Army.”
Taggart’s brow lifted. “Good. Then we’ll speak the same language. I’ll want a dossier, but she’s more than welcome.” He glanced down at his watch. “We’ve got the group meeting in twenty. If you don’t want to see him, how about we make our way to the conference room and we can start to get some details worked out.”
Did she want to see him? Was she stepping on a land mine and praying it wouldn’t go off? He was alive. She’d been numb up to this point, and there was a lot of comfort in that detached feeling. Would she be able to keep that distance if she looked at him, if this became real?
She stared at the door for a moment but then the choice was taken out of her hands. The door flew open and a man with reddish hair stepped out, a wild look in his eyes.
“Rebecca!” He yelled out the name and Roni could hear the thick Scottish accent even in the single word. He looked to Taggart. “I need Rebecca. She went to grab some coffee before I left for the meeting. I don’t know what happened. Something’s wrong with Tucker.”
There was a beeping sound, the one every doctor in the world knew meant trouble.
She pushed past the Scottish man and into the room because either something was malfunctioning with the equipment or the man on the bed was dying.
Steven. He was right there. He was starker than he’d been, thinner, and his hair longer. But this was the man who had held her all night long, the man responsible for her pain, for the last few years of hardship.
For her daughter. God, was she going to watch her daughter’s father die in front of her?
Taggart had the defibrillation unit in his hand.
She grabbed it and got to work.
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