FATHER'S DAY SALE
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WAR:DISRUPTION (BOOK 1)
A rogue black ops agent and a former ballerina race to prevent a weapon of mass destruction lost in the West African jungle from falling into the wrong hands.
Peering beneath his blindfold, Max Lansing saw Ansgar Ziegler’s hand moving toward him holding a long, thin needle. Max braced himself against the wooden chair and tried once again to break his rawhide bonds. But he was trussed too tightly.
Sweat trickled down his spine as the needle touched the skin at the base of his neck. Max clenched his teeth and vowed not to scream this time, no matter how much pain the acupuncture needle inflicted as it triggered his nerves. He—
The door slammed open. Ziegler dropped his hand and spun toward the sound.
“Herr Ziegler, the scout reports that the boss’s helicopter is fast approaching,” one of the guards said in African accented English.
Ziegler cursed in German. “Rest up, Max,” he muttered. “We shall finish this later.”
“Can’t…wait,” Max said.
“Remove him,” Ziegler ordered as he braced his case of needles with his deformed, scarred left hand and zipped it closed with his undamaged right hand.
Max felt a spurt of satisfaction knowing Ziegler had received those burns in a fight against him and his team. Of course, if Ziegler hadn’t been injured, he wouldn’t be torturing Max out of revenge. Instead, Max would have been turned over to Ziegler’s boss, Dietrich, who had his own axe to grind with Max.
One of the guards untied Max from the chair, then two sets of hands captured his arms and dragged him into the hallway. A moment later they threw him into the tiny room that served as his cell. Pain rocketed through him as he hit the packed dirt floor and he almost blacked out. In addition to using needles, Ziegler had viciously kicked Max’s torso and legs with the steel-reinforced toes on his loafers, damaging one of Max’s ribs and leaving his whole body aching.
By the time Max’s senses stopped swimming, the guards had tied his feet to a stake in the ground and left.
Max spat a hunk of his long blond hair out of his mouth and took a shallow breath, trying not to jar his ribs. Then he waited for the sound of footsteps in the hallway to disappear. This was the first moment in two…three… Hell, he’d lost track. The first time since he’d been captured that he didn’t feel groggy from drugs.
He had to escape. Now.
He rubbed his cheek on the small piece of wood sticking up out of the dirt floor until his blindfold slid down his face. Not that he could see much more without the filthy rag covering his eyes. A trickle of light slipped through a crack up by the ceiling to reveal a room approximately six feet by six feet. The walls were standard for this part of West Africa, plastered concrete with a corrugated metal roof.
The most important detail? He was alone.
He exhaled in relief.
His hands were bound behind him, but not staked. He raised them to his waist and fumbled with his belt until he was able to slip the buckle around to the back. Then he pressed the mechanism to release the spring-activated knife. Sloppy of Ziegler’s men not to do a thorough body search. Just because Max had quit Unit 3 and gone off on his own didn’t mean that he hadn’t brought some of the team’s toys with him to Africa.
The blade sprung free. He rubbed his bindings across the blade’s edge, keeping an ear out for approaching footsteps.
But all he heard was the approach of a helicopter.
Good. It would keep Ziegler and company distracted.
The rawhide gave slightly and Max increased the pressure until the bindings snapped. He made quick work of the bonds at his ankles, then gingerly moved his body—yeah, definitely at least one cracked or severely bruised rib—biting back groans of pain. Once he made it to his feet, he stepped around the congealed pool of vomit that marked the spot where he’d been sick the first night they brought him here and walked a few times along the exterior of the room to get circulation back in his arms and legs. Then he removed his belt and knelt down. Using the buckle as a trowel, he traced the outline of the trap door underneath the dirt.
If Ziegler had checked with the locals before choosing this building as a holding cell, he would have learned that this was a smuggler’s storeroom. Max had figured it out the first time they threw him into the room. He’d hit the dirt and the corner of the trap door had poked into his cheek. Lucky for him, the trap door was on the far side of the room. The guards had tossed Max in, then advanced only far enough to tie his feet to the stake. They’d never stepped far enough in to feel the trap door beneath their feet.
Max’s hands hurt from being stomped on and slashed at, but nothing was broken, so he kept scraping the dirt away with the belt buckle. It took him several more agonizing minutes to completely uncover the door.
“Herr Ziegler, you were not supposed to damage the prisoner. He is mine to hurt. To kill. Mine alone. Do you understand?”
Max froze at the angry voice speaking German with a faint Austrian accent. So familiar. So hated that his pain vanished under a wash of sheer fury.
Dietrich was alive.
Every instinct in Max urged him to race to the door. Break out and confront the man who’d been responsible for the attack that took his brother’s lower legs and killed dozens.
His heart pounded. His hands shook with the need to bring Dietrich to justice.
WAR: INTRUSION (BOOK 2)
A doctor accused of weapons smuggling must convince a distrustful soldier of her innocence before the real smugglers use the weapons in a catastrophic attack.
“You’re certain you don’t want me to handle the doctor, Commander?”
Lachlan MacKay closed his rucksack and reined in his temper before answering. “Do you have a problem with me being in charge of this mission, English?” The last rays of afternoon sun filtered through the jungle canopy, throwing Tony Jacobs’s face into shadows enhanced by his camo paint.
Tony stared at Lachlan a moment. Then he blew out a breath that was half laugh, half snort. “I’ve got no problem with your leadership so far, Scots. What I’m concerned about is sending you into a situation where you’re clearly prejudiced. An anonymous tip and a grainy, blurry photograph isn’t enough to prove that Dr. Kirk is involved in the weapons smuggling, no matter what her mother did. With your damn fear of doctors, you’re more likely to scare her off than get any actionable intel.”
Lachlan’s hands clenched into fists. He suspected that Kristoff Wren, the man in charge of assigning missions to WAR’s military teams, had deliberately paired two of the newest members—Tony and Lachlan—on this mission precisely to test them. And clearly Kris wanted to determine if Lachlan could overcome his aversion to doctors. Which was why Lachlan couldn’t let Tony step in and handle this next bit. Lachlan needed to prove his worth before the lads would fully accept him as team leader. To earn their respect, he had to make a success of this mission.
“I’m the best choice.” Lachlan glanced around their hidden camp to make certain he wasn’t leaving anything behind. He’d scrubbed the paint from his face and changed into civilian clothes. He’d passed all weapons but his pistol and his knife over to Tony for safekeeping. His knife was military-issue, but with its worn leather hilt and sheath it could pass as an outdoorsman’s knife. The pistol at the small of his back was hidden by the loose flow of his over shirt.
“You’re equally prejudiced,” Lachlan said. “Only you’re wanting to prove the doctor innocent. My way, we’re more likely to discover the weapons faster.” He would have preferred to have a bit more research on the situation, such as the local politics, economics, and social setup, but WAR’s research department was woefully understaffed and their equipment was antiquated. He was lucky to have received a report on Layla’s Foundation, the non-profit that had built the clinic, and a background report on Dr. Kirk.
“Not buying it, mate,” Tony muttered as he slapped at an insect on his neck. “You just want the chance to sleep in a real bed while I bunk out here in the bloody jungle providing dinner to every bloodsucker in the vicinity.”
Lachlan clapped Tony on the shoulder. “Ah, lad, you’ve found me out.” He shook his head, then grinned at Tony. “But since I outrank you, there’s not much you can do about it, now is there?”
Tony grumbled something uncomplimentary that Lachlan pretended not to understand.
“Besides, it’s only for three more nights,” Lachlan pointed out. Four days ago, they’d inserted via helicopter several kilometers north of here. Searches had uncovered no signs of weapons in the two most northern villages, leaving just this last village and Dr. Kirk’s clinic as possible locations for the smuggled weapons. Unless they found a cache of weapons that would justify calling in the rest of the team early, Lachlan and Tony were scheduled to be extracted the morning after the big festival.
“Surely a fine soldier like yourself won’t melt?” Although, given the increased humidity and the gathering clouds, Tony might be in for a spot of uncomfortably bad weather. “If a monsoon blows up, perhaps I’ll be able to slip you into my quarters to protect your sensitive English skin.”
Tony made a rude gesture, then saluted, turned around, and vanished into the jungle.
Chuckling to himself, Lachlan shouldered his pack.
Fifteen minutes later, he was striding down the red dirt lane toward the medical clinic when he heard a child singing in the local language. On instinct, he moved into the protective shelter of the jungle, then remembered that he had a cover story to explain his presence. He shifted forward, then froze as a wee lass wearing a bright green and white batik dress skipped out of the jungle and onto the grassy verge not twenty meters in front of him.
Not wanting to frighten her, Lachlan decided to wait until she passed before leaving his cover.
Oblivious to Lachlan, the child swung her rag doll by one arm as she skipped along. Suddenly, she made a sound of distress and cradled the doll against her chest. Crooning soothingly to the doll, the lassie plunked herself down in one of the few remaining patches of sunlight and pulled something out of her pocket. Then she proceeded to fuss with the doll.
Lachlan sighed, inched back a bit into the trees, and prepared to wait the lassie out. Then he spotted a sinuous ripple of brilliant green and yellow slipping through the grass next to the child. With a squeal of delight, the lassie reached for the tail of the western green mamba snake.
“No!” Lachlan pulled his knife and dove out of his hiding spot.
The child grabbed the snake’s tail and the mamba whipped its head around. Lachlan sliced down with his knife, severing the snake’s head from its body milliseconds before it sank its fangs into her tender flesh.
Riding the momentum of his dive, Lachlan rolled across the grass until he was out of range of the snake’s death throes. He checked to make certain the head was completely separated from the body, then rose to his feet.
The child still had one hand outstretched toward the snake’s twitching body. With her other hand, she clutched her doll to her chest. Her big brown eyes stared up at him from a face with skin dark as coffee.
“It’s okay,” he said in the local language. “You’re safe now.”
The lassie screamed and burst into tears.