Book 3 in the SSU Series
Time is running out to save the man she loves...
In trying to stop a series of experiments designed to turn soldiers into mindless killing machines, SSU agent Rafe Andros is captured and forced to undergo the transformation himself. His only hope lies in the hands of beautiful scientist Gabby Montague, whose research helped strengthen the program that has turned him into little more than a raging beast.
But Gabby isn't just racing to save the man she's come to love. There is critical information locked inside Rafe's mind. Only he can prevent the other subjects of the experiment from being loosed against an innocent population in a plan of retribution taken to deadly extremes.
Dusk, Four Months Ago
“Well, lookee here, boss. Your lady sure does get around.”
Surgical Strike Unit team leader Rafe Andros took the binoculars from Muldovsky and focused on the rock face below the laboratory they’d been observing for the past two days. Part of the rock had slid open, revealing the narrow door caught on photos taken by the SSU’s satellite. Just outside that door, under one of the exterior lights, two women stood at awkward angles to each other.
Rafe felt a tingle of excitement across the back of his neck. The SSU had been watching the compound via satellite for a week prior to his team’s deployment. Thanks to the satellite photos, Rafe knew several troop transport trucks had driven through another door further down the rock formation, indicating a probable garage or loading dock. The women’s stark white lab coats suggested there were also labs on that lower level.
He didn’t recognize the dark-haired woman on the right, smoking jerkily on a cigarette. She wasn’t part of the group of scientists and other staff members that was bused to and from the housing village every day. Since the mystery woman had to be sleeping somewhere, it was likely the underground portion of the facility also held living quarters.
Which meant more places for Rafe and his team to search for Nate Ngoro, their missing teammate.
Rafe shifted his binoculars to the woman on the left. Dr. Gabrielle Montague. One of the scientists the SSU’s satellite had recorded entering and leaving the upper lab.
His men liked to tease, but damn, she made him hot. He’d always loved smart women and intelligence was stamped on every line of her face. A clip held her honey blonde hair behind her ears, revealing a long, stubborn shot of jaw that ended in a slightly square chin. Rafe found perfectly symmetrical beauty boring and Dr. Montague’s slightly too-wide nose pushed her past beautiful straight into fascinating.
The photos in her background file showed a woman with the sensual, curvy body of a flamenco dancer, but looking through the binoculars at the baggy fit of her institutional gray pencil skirt and bulky lab coat, he’d have to say she’d lost weight. Still, even with her being too thin he had a hard time keeping his eyes off her.
Too bad her presence made her a suspect in Nate’s disappearance.
“Yo, Addison,” Muldovsky called through the com link. “Guess who’s outside? It’s boss man’s lady. And he’s staring at her legs again.”
“Hey, can you blame him? She’s looking mighty fine for a dead woman.”
There was no disputing that comment. Four months ago Dr. Montague had been listed among the fatalities in a bus crash on her way home from vacation. In fact, all of the staff here, except for today’s mystery woman, were similarly not-dead-as-reported.
Of those staff they’d managed to identify from the photos, all had worked in the medical field. Dr. Montague’s expertise was treating veterans who’d been exposed to chemical or biological agents. The other doctors specialized in such diverse topics as drug rehabilitation, hypnosis to cure obsessive-compulsive disorder, and the use of growth hormones. There were three psychiatrists, ten medical doctors, sixteen lab assistants, and six administrative staff. All working at a facility that didn’t show up on any public or private records.
A snort came through the com link. “Hell, you boys got it wrong,” O’Ryan pitched in. “Andros thinks the doctor has Ngoro stashed up her skirt. Never mind that Ngoro’s like, six-four and a gazillion pounds, and Montague’s lucky if she’s five-seven and a hundred thirty.”
Rafe ignored the gibes of his men. They’d caught him doing a double take over Dr. Montague the first time he’d seen her on the other end of his binoculars, and suddenly she’d become “his” lady. Like none of them had admired the feminine shape of her legs or the curve of her ass. Out of the handful of female staff, her combination of mature intelligence and sexy grace caught his attention over the perky young lab assistants or the dour senior female scientist.
The corner of Rafe’s mouth lifted as he was hit by a memory.
“Why do you get to go after the girl?” Rafe had groused to Kai Paterson when he’d been given this assignment over a month ago, “while I’m off trekking in the woods with a bunch of smelly, foul-mouthed men?” But he hadn’t been able to stop the smile from teasing the corners of his mouth.
Kai, Rafe’s brother-in-law and fellow SSU agent, had laughed and lightly punched him on the shoulder. “Because you’re the ex-Ranger, my friend. You’re the one trained in covert rescue and assault. I’m just a scientist turned spy.”
If Kai could only hear the teasing Rafe was getting from his men, he’d bust a gut laughing.
Rafe saw the women’s mouths move even though they stood at right angles to each other, heads turned down and away from the rock face. “Christ,” he breathed. “Even a two-year-old could tell they’re not gossiping.” The smoker jerked her cigarette to and from her mouth like a sideshow robot and Dr. Montague had her arms wrapped around her torso so tightly she was in danger of breaking her own ribs.
“They might as well wave a sign saying ‘We’re up to something,’” he muttered in disgust, handing the binoculars back to Muldovsky.
Muldovsky focused the glasses, then nodded. “Yeah. Amateurs.”
Even without the binoculars, Rafe continued to stare in the direction of the women. Unpredictable events always added spice to a mission. Maybe the women were just griping about their boss, or maybe they were planning trouble. Either way, he’d make sure nothing stopped his team from finding Nate.
“Bus is here,” Willits announced from his spot closer to the upper level entrance.
Here is a short playlist of songs that are connected to Retribution:
- "All Along the Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix. The first line pretty much sums it up. Rafe's searching for a way out.
- "Evergreen" by Barbra Streisand. Makes me think of Rafe and Gabby's love.
- "The Way You Look Tonight" by Fred Astaire. Makes me think of Gabby's reaction to Rafe after he's back at the SSU.
- "She Blinded Me With Science" by Thomas Dolby. Because, you know, Gabby's a scientist. 😉
- "The Scientist" and "Fix You" by Coldplay. Because Gabby is a scientist and because she's trying to fix Rafe.