Title: Strike Zone
(#3 of Hawk Elite Security)
Author: Beth Rhodes
Genre: Military Romance, Suspense
Sharpshooter, Emily Rogers, was the best at what she did, until a job went tragically wrong resulting in the death of an innocent child. Haunted by guilt and harassed by the media, Emily turns her back on the only existence she’s known, hiding herself away and trying to build a new life.
When a job comes up requiring a sharpshooter, Hawk Elite medic, John Vega, has the perfect excuse to hunt down the woman he’s had a crush on for over two years. When he finally finds her living a quiet life in a small town on the coast, he makes her an offer she can’t refuse.
Aware she needs closure, Emily agrees to work with John, but soon it becomes obvious she has a target on her back. Can she trust John enough to stay and give in to the attraction growing between them? Or will fate show her that she should have stayed hidden in her quiet coastal town?
Excerpt . . .
The man in the dark sunglasses with his too-long, dark blond hair walked into Emily Rogers’ quiet coffee shop by the sea, and she sighed. “Number nine, number nine, number nine...”
And it was only February.
The job offers had started six months ago.
Apparently, she should be ready to get back to work.
Richard had been the first to appear on her doorstep. She’d turned him right around. No thank you. And she’d sent him on his way. Then had come Frank, out of Quantico, and Charles from the Army Recruitment office. The national rifle association. Several smaller private companies, looking to recruit for the number of different shooting competitions throughout the country.
She narrowed her eyes. This one was different. Younger. He wore carpenter pants—lots of pockets—even though he was a far cry from a carpenter, a tight black t-shirt, which hugged his muscled arms, and a firearm at the small of his back.
Not a suit, like they usually came, ready to do business. This guy wore security like a second skin.
After so many offers, she’d become immune to the nerves that flitted through her veins. Her practice saying no was going to pay off today, and then she was going to enjoy a nice long weekend in her cozy place by the sea.
The guy walked up to the counter, and Emily ignored him to pour herself a cup of coffee while Callie took his order. She hefted her purchase-order book into her arm and took it out to the round table just inside the front door near the corner. With blue poppied wallpaper at her back, she dove into her end-of-the-week ordering. Pastry sales were up fifteen percent from last year this week and nineteen percent from last week.
Success was happening, even if it was slowly.
The quiet success of this business changed her life. The high-stakes tension of her former career seemed like a long time ago.
And good-looking guy or not, she wasn’t sure she wanted to go back—ever.
At the same time, her gaze was drawn to him, and she gauged his stance, his friendliness. He made Callie laugh. A charmer—definitely former military. He pulled the sunglasses down with a grin. Okay, it was a nice grin, full lips, straight teeth—she almost snickered at the thought. She should get into the horse business if she was going to start checking out people’s teeth.
But his presence had her blood pumping like it hadn’t in years, making her admit her biggest lie, that she was happy, alone in this little seaside town. She shoved the thought aside.
He turned and caught her in his direct gaze.
She was happy.
Her heart pounded as he came her way.
Be cool. Calm. You can say no to anything. You are the master of your destiny.
And then he sat. “Emily Rogers?”
“No,” she answered. See that wasn’t so hard.
“No?” His confusion confirmed her suspicions.
“No, I won’t come work for you.” Her gaze looked him up and down. “Security? Beretta? Winchester? National Rifle Association? It’s not the military. They’d send someone in uniform. And it’s definitely not government. They wear the suits.”
The man eyed her and studied, finally making her nervous. He leaned forward and reached across the table. Every instinct inside of her fought the urge to react, to defend against the unknown threat. But then he stuck his hand out to shake hers. “I’m John Vega.”
“You’re a bit blond to be a Vega, aren’t you?”
“We’ve been watered down in the last few generations, but we still got the blood to prove it.” He grinned again and almost made her smile.
But the nerves flared up again. “How’s your coffee, John Vega?”
“It’s excellent coffee.”
“I’m glad you like it,” she said, unable to hide the bit of pride that cropped up. Studying him, she was struck by feelings from her past—being part of a team and having his confidence. She frowned. Those feelings had been well-buried. But, his face tugged at some memory, almost as if she met him before. “I’m sorry. Do we know each other?”
“Not really. But we almost met—once.”
Emily leaned in and rested her chin on her hand. “No. I never forget a face. Yours, I would remember.”
He hesitated the briefest of moments, and then grinned, as if to put her at ease. “There was a lot going on, probably a lot you don’t want to remember. But—”
Vega. Doha. Qatar. Hotel. The bar. “That’s right.”
He took a card from one side and handed it over to her. “You must get offers all the time.”
She glanced down, saw a red, white and blue eagle with the words Hawk Elite across the glossy side of the card. Flipping it over, she found his name, an email, and a phone number. She let out a slow breath. Hawk Elite was well known…and good. “There’s still nothing to talk about.”
They all tried so hard.
But this time, she shrugged, willing to bend. Maybe it was the good looks. She needed to work on getting laid. “You are persistent.”
She nodded toward the benches across the street that lined the rocky embankment between the beach and the road. “Wait out there for me. I won’t be long.”
She rolled her eyes and made him grin—and holy moly…her stomach dropped right out of her abdomen. Too confident. Too freaking gorgeous for his own good. She watched the long line of his khaki-clad legs and his tan, sandaled feet stride for her door. Lord help her, she’d forgotten what instant attraction could do to a woman.
“That man is trouble, Miss Emily.” Callie came up behind her and leaned in. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” she answered, ignoring the shiver of awareness that ran down her spine.
Emily rounded the pastry-filled counter and ducked through the doorway to the back room. She counted out the drawer and filed everything for tomorrow morning. Monies went into the safe, trash went out the back door…
She could sneak out. Right now. Ignore him.
The alley backed up to the small public library, which was open until six thirty, and one short walk would put her right where she ought to be—hidden amongst shelves full of books. Where in her fake, pretend, wonderful life, she was harmless.
A car honked as it drove by on the main street, and she jumped in surprise. “Geez. Don’t let a stupid man make you stupid,” she warned. “Stupid. He’s just a man,” she muttered as she went inside and secured the door. A man who knows things. Knows me.
Emily stopped behind the counter and watched her late-day visitor sit on the bench with his cell phone to his ear. He looked content, a smile on his face, legs crossed out in front of him, and a touch of breeze, ruffling his hair. Callie was right.
No matter what he wanted, and she believed he wanted something, John Vega was definitely trouble.
And it had been a long time since she’d been in any trouble.
She bit at the smile that came to her lips.
Giveaway . . .
About the Author . . .
She learned that life doesn't always go the way she plans, except for one thing, BOOKS.
At a young age, she read Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew then worked her way through series by Brock and Bodie Thoene and Gilbert Morris. And finally, she broke into romance with Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Nobody's Baby But Mine. Her one constant, besides God, has always been books. So it was no surprise when she started writing them...
Beth writes in order to share a little love and lots of hope with a hurting world.
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