Did you miss a stop along the way during my blog tour last week for Rogue Soldier? If so, you’re in luck because I’ve gathered up all six exclusive excerpts for you to read right here!
Sergeant Connor Finley swore as he ducked behind the crate a split second before a spray of bullets slammed into it, sending shards of wood flying toward his face. This op had gone both pear shaped and sideways and he needed to get control of it. Immediately. Shadow Unit only had one chance left.
Connor began running through possible scenarios as fast as his brain could process them just as their target let loose with another barrage of automatic gunfire, the muzzle flash lighting up the night.
Connor glanced to his left as his partner cursed and hunched over behind his own crate. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Connor idly thought that someday soon he’d keep a tally of how many times Shawn Weller actually said the word “fuck” in a twenty-four hour period. Did they teach him that back in his Navy SEAL days?
Shawn’s gaze flicked to the house and back. “We need to do something,” he said. “He’s the last one left.”
Connor clenched his jaw, the muscle jumping. As if he needed another reminder. “I know, I – ” he began but cut himself off as his comm crackled to life. A split second later the gruff voice of his commanding officer was in his ear.
“Shadow One. Alpha. Send sit-rep,” Lieutenant Colonel David MacDonald demanded in his Scottish brogue.
“Shit,” Connor spat, banging his head back against the crate. He ran a hand over his face then responded. “Alpha. Shadow One. We have one target remaining,” Connor reported back. There was a long pause and Connor could picture the scowl on MacDonald’s face from where he sat at the communications desk back at the hub, five miles away.
“Need I remind you we need him alive, Sergeant?” MacDonald finally responded.
Connor glanced over to Shawn, hazel eyes locked with blue. “No, sir.”
All of Shadow Unit was well aware that if they didn’t take this last man alive they’d never get the intel they needed on the money man funding a terrorist cell of the United Jihad Council. They knew he was based here in the Kashmir region of northern India but not his name and exact location. There were four men inside the house when the op began. Now they were down to one. If they didn’t do something quickly there was a distinct possibility their target would kill himself instead of allowing himself to be captured.
Connor squeezed his eyes shut in frustration but then opened them again as a crazy plan began to form in his head.
“Bugger this,” he hissed, decision made.
He reached over and grabbed a flash-bang grenade off of Shawn’s tactical vest and pressed it into his partner’s hand. “Go on zero,” he instructed, then kept low and darted off into the darkness, hearing Shawn calling after him.
“Finn! What the fuck are you doing?!”
Connor smiled inwardly at the nickname only Shawn was allowed to call him, a split second before his partner’s angry voice was in his ear.
“Shadow Team, be aware that Shadow One is attempting a south side entry. Hold position. Wait for my signal then move in.”
“Shadow Three, copy that,” replied Sergeant Mandy Cho, followed by Sergeant Chloe Davis.
“Shadow Four, copy that.”
Assured that his teammates were ready, Connor crept silently to the back of the house, keeping his six-foot, two-inch frame as small as possible, sweating profusely in the humid climate with all of his heavy tactical gear on. What he wouldn’t give to be back home in cool and rainy London he thought as he wiped the perspiration from his face.
He made his way to the rear of the small, dilapidated house, pausing outside the door, which was partially open and barely on its hinges. He cautiously looked inside, peering around the edge of the door. The interior was just one open room. A kitchen sink and stove were to his left, a small table and two mismatched chairs to his right. Beyond that a mattress on the floor with a ripped and stained blanket thrown over it. And on the other side of the bed, a beat up recliner sat in front of an ancient television set sitting on a box.
The two windows had been shattered from gunfire and broken glass littered the wooden floor, along with three dead bodies, blood pooling all around them. Connor spied their last remaining target, who was partially turned away from him, casting furtive glances out one of the broken windows, his semi-automatic rifle clutched to his chest. The Indian man was breathing hard, shifting nervously.
Connor hooked the strap of his rifle around his shoulder, leaving his hands free, then whispered into his comm. “Shadow Team, I have eyes on target. Shadow Two, on my mark.” Connor reached out, silently and carefully easing the door open wider to fit his body through. “Three, two, one…zero.”
The flash-bang grenade sailed through the window and exploded at the exact moment Connor burst through the back door. Prepared for the smoke, intensely bright light and deafening noise, Connor did not let any deter him as he sprinted toward his target.
Caught completely off guard, the man turned away from the light and smoke – unfortunately right toward Connor. His eyes widened and he raised his rifle, firing as Connor charged forward, now mere steps away from him.
Connor saw the muzzle flash an instant before his head snapped to the side, blinding, white-hot pain tearing through his temple. He fell backward, managing to kick out and sweep the legs out from under his target. They both went down hard just as Shadow Team made entry. Connor got a glimpse of Mandy and Chloe subduing the man and then Shawn dropping to his knees beside him, clutching at his arm. He could see Shawn yelling, his partner’s face a mask of panic, but Connor couldn’t make out the words as his vision went red, then gray, then black…
A short time later Connor walked into their room and spied Shawn out on the balcony, leaning against the railing. He turned when the door closed behind Connor.
“Hey,” he greeted Connor as he came back inside. “Did MacDonald slap your wrist for that stunt you pulled last night?” Shawn joked, but then sobered at Connor’s serious expression.
“Finn? Everything okay?”
Connor took a breath. “He offered me a promotion to Captain.”
“No fucking way.” Shawn’s face lit up with a grin. He moved in close to Connor and kissed him. “I’m proud of you, man. You deserve it.”
Connor paused, trying to choose his words carefully. “I think I’m ready for this.”
“Of course you’re ready for it! You were born to be officer material. Though…does this mean I need to salute you now?” He winked. “Because – ”
Connor cut him off. “It’s with another unit.”
Shawn’s mouth closed abruptly and he took a step back, his eyebrows drawing together in confusion. “What?”
“A new unit is being formed. They want me to be second in command,” Connor explained.
Shawn’s joyous demeanor changed in a heartbeat before Connor’s eyes, becoming closed off, his body radiating tension. “Are you going to take it?”
“Honestly? I want to,” Connor answered.
Shawn’s face was a stone mask, completely devoid of emotion. “Then you should,” he said, voice tight and sharp. Then he pushed past Connor, heading for the door.
Connor snagged his arm. “Oi! We’re not done talking about this.”
Shawn’s head snapped around and Connor saw the flash of hurt and anger in his blue eyes. “What more is there to say?” Shawn asked. “I thought we were a good team. I never have to worry about what’s behind me because you always have my back. And I thought you felt the same way. But you’ve obviously made your choice. And it’s not me. Us.”
Connor shook his head. “Why does it have to be one or the other? We could make this work.”
Shawn gave a sarcastic huff. “Yeah. Sure. Me on one side of the world, you on the other. Maybe we can meet up for Christmas break.”
Connor felt his world tipping sideways, Shawn’s reaction taking his feet out from under him. “I don’t want to lose you, Shawn. Are you saying you don’t even want to try?”
“I’m saying it’s either me or the job.”
Connor looked at Shawn in disbelief, both angry and hurt. “You’re giving me an ultimatum?”
Shawn’s eyes were cold. “Take it anyway you want.”
Then he shook out of Connor’s grasp, moving swiftly across the floor and out the door. All Connor could do was stand there and watch him go, the slamming of the door like a punch to his gut that drove the breath from his lungs.
Thirty minutes later Shawn walked down the hallway in the hotel to his room, having aimlessly wandered the streets of Srinagar on his way back, trying to organize the jumbled thoughts in his head, to figure out a way to start this conversation with Connor.
Closing the hotel room door behind him, Shawn tossed the keycard down onto the bedside table. He sighed deeply and sat down on the bed, rubbing his hands over his face.
“About time you got back.”
Shawn’s hands fell away from his face and he shot to his feet at the sound of the voice, heart pounding, fists clenched, every muscle tense and ready for a fight against the intruder. His eyes widened when he saw who stood before him, completely naked, and burning anger raced through him.
“Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes,” Julian smirked, walking toward Shawn.
“What the fuck are you doing in here?” Shawn spat. “Get the fuck out! Now!”
Julian laughed. “Is that any way to treat an old friend?”
“You were never my friend.”
Julian stepped up close, his green eyes darkening, voice low. He hooked a hand loosely around the back of Shawn’s neck. “No. We were a lot more than that…”
Then Julian’s mouth was on Shawn’s, kissing him hard, his other arm coming around Shawn’s waist to pull him flush against his naked body.
Furious, Shawn’s hands came up and gripped both of Julian’s biceps, intending to push him away when the door suddenly opened.
“Hey, it’s me…”
At the sound of Connor’s voice, Shawn pulled his head back almost violently, breaking the unwanted kiss. He watched as Connor took two steps into the room, saw the scene before him and came to an abrupt stop. Shawn saw the flurry of emotions cross his partner’s face – confusion, hurt, anger…and betrayal.
Shawn reached out to him. “Finn, wait…”
But Connor turned on his heel, the sound of the door slamming behind him gunshot loud.
Shawn shoved Julian away from him. “Get the fuck off me!”
Julian took two stutter steps back, his eyes hardening as Shawn saw realization cross his face.
“Fucking another partner, I see. Though I shouldn’t be surprised. That is your M.O., after all. But him?” Julian sneered. “You with the uptight, straight-as-an-arrow, company-man Brit?” He moved back toward Shawn, voice low. “You like it darker than that. I should know.”
Shawn’s throat went dry as memories cascaded through his mind. “That’s not who I am anymore.”
Julian barked out a harsh laugh. “You think you can run off and play patriotic soldier boy again to redeem yourself? Get yourself a wholesome boyfriend? Stand out in the light instead of the dark?” He pushed a finger into Shawn’s chest. “You’re a killer, Shawn. And a damn good one. Accept it.” Julian paused, flattened his hand against Shawn’s chest. “Come back to the Agency. We were good together. We can be again.”
Shawn knocked his hand away. “There was nothing good about us. Ever.” He swallowed hard. “I’ll never work for the CIA again. Now get the fuck out of here.”
Julian’s eyes narrowed. “You know I always get what I want, Shawn. Nothing,” He glanced toward the closed door. “Or no one, will stand in my way.”
Shawn felt his blood run cold at the veiled threat directed at Connor, followed by anger so fierce it nearly took his breath away. He got up in Julian’s face, his voice channeling that anger. “You do anything to him and I’ll remind you just how good of a killer I am.”
Once on the ground floor, Shawn assembled the unit around him, scanning for Connor’s face. Perhaps his comm was just malfunctioning and he didn’t hear Shawn. But he didn’t see his partner anywhere.
“Has anyone seen Finley?” Shawn snapped.
There were headshakes all around and Shawn’s concern intensified with each negative response. Where the fuck was Connor?
“I might have seen something.”
Shawn’s head whipped to the left, to pin Julian with his gaze. “What exactly did you see?” he demanded.
“I was coming down the stairs and saw two of Hamid’s men escaping through the front entrance,” Julian said. “They were dragging a third man between them. I assumed it was another of his men, who was injured. But now that you say Finley is missing… It could’ve been him.”
“And you didn’t think to try and stop them, no matter who the third man was?” Shawn spat, getting up in Julian’s face.
Julian shrugged. “I was too far away and they were nearly out the door,” he replied.
Shawn was furious at Julian’s blasé attitude but wasn’t surprised, since it concerned Connor. He was about to say something else when his comm crackled and MacDonald’s voice cut in. “Shadow One, send sit-rep.”
“Alpha. Shadow Two. We have secured the facility and have several prisoners,” Shawn began. “Shadow One is currently unaccounted for. Request immediate GPS location of his cell phone.”
After a long pause, Liam responded. “Shadow Two, GPS location of Shadow One shows him at your current location. Approximately ten meters to your north.”
Ten meters north would put Connor outside. Shawn set off at a fast jog to the front of the building, his heart starting to beat faster the closer he got to the door. Was Connor lying out there injured, possibly dying? Or being held hostage with a gun to his head?
He burst through the door and froze, his rifle up and at the ready, Mandy and Chloe right behind him. All three began looking in every direction, trying to peer through the darkness of the night. When Connor wasn’t immediately within sight, Shawn turned to Chloe and Mandy. “Spread out,” he told them and headed to the left while Chloe went straight ahead and Mandy to the right.
“Where the fuck are you, Finn?” Shawn muttered, his chest tightening with ever increasing worry as he searched the area, unable to find his partner.
“Shawn! Over here!” Mandy called out over the comm.
Shawn reversed direction and ran to Mandy’s position. She pointed in front of her, brows drawn together in concern.
There, lying on the ground, were Connor’s tactical vest, comm earbud and phone, next to a fresh set of tire tracks.
Shawn felt his heart seize up as he looked out into the dark.
Connor was gone.
Connor began flexing his fingers, trying to restore some feeling to them. He pulled downwards, testing the strength of the bonds around his wrists, trying to slip free. But the metal held tight, digging into his skin, drawing blood. He pulled harder, trying to use his blood as lubricant, but no joy. He looked up again, trying to see if he could somehow detach the restraints from the chain.
But any thoughts of escape came to an abrupt end when the door opened and three men strode in.
Connor instantly recognized Tariq Hamid from the photo he’d seen of him during his mission briefing. The Pakistani man was in his mid-fifties with jet black hair, a full beard and dark eyes. He was not a large man, but carried himself as though he were, commanding respect. He wore a white dress shirt, two buttons open at the collar, sleeves rolled up to the elbow, and tan dress pants.
He was followed by two of the three men Ranjha had brought with him the first night for security. One was carrying two buckets of water. The other was holding what appeared to be a large electric cattle prod. Connor swallowed hard at the sight of the instrument he knew would be used on him, his heartbeat stuttering.
He forced his gaze away when Hamid stepped up close. He looked Connor up and down in a way that sent a chill through Connor, despite the intense heat in the room.
“I am glad that you are awake,” Hamid said in perfect accented English. “I know you know who I am.” His eyes narrowed. “Now tell me who you are. What military organization are you with? How much do you know about my operation?”
Connor pulled his focus away from Hamid and stared at a fixed point on the wall above the man’s head. Just like his countless hours of interrogation resistance training had taught him.
“Connor Finley. Sergeant. Service number 25130582.”
Out of his peripheral vision Connor saw Hamid shake his head and snap his fingers. “Kashif.”
One of the other men stepped forward, the one who had been carrying the buckets of water. Without hesitation, he slammed his fist into Connor’s face. The vicious punch snapped Connor’s head to the side, pain blossoming across his jaw, followed by the taste of blood in his mouth. He blinked and turned his head back to stare at the same spot on the wall.
“Connor Finley. Sergeant. Service number 25130582.”
The second punch split his lip. The third nearly broke his nose. The fourth tore open the skin on his cheekbone. The fifth and sixth drove the breath from his lungs and may have broken a rib.
Hamid stepped forward again. “I can end this now. Tell me what I want to know. Save yourself more pain.”
Blood ran freely down Connor’s face and into his mouth. He spat it onto the floor, spattering Hamid’s shoes. It was so hot in the room Connor was dizzy, lightheaded. His shoulders were in agony, his arms and fingers now completely numb. He could feel his face and lips beginning to swell, but he could still speak.
“Connor Finley. Sergeant. Service number 25130582.”
Hamid’s expression turned thunderous. “You will regret not accepting my generous offer.” He snapped his fingers again. “Kashif!”
Kashif picked up one of the buckets of water. Hamid stepped back and Kashif doused Connor from head to toe with the entire bucket of ice water. The freezing cold water, combined with the sweltering heat was such a shock to Connor’s system that he couldn’t suppress his sharp gasp. His body started to shake as Hamid snapped his fingers again.
The second man approached Connor, the cattle prod held tightly in his hand. He flicked the switch and bright blue electricity sparked between the two prongs.
Connor found his spot on the wall.
“Connor Finley. Sergeant. Service number 25130582.”
He ground his teeth together the first time the thousands of volts of electricity surged through his spasming body. He squeezed his eyes shut and bit his lip the second time.
The third time finally tore a scream from his throat.
Connor floated in a haze of pain and unrelenting heat.
As if from a great distance he heard Hamid asking him the same questions again and again, heard himself whisper his name, rank and service number again and again, his throat raw from thirst and screaming.
But Connor wasn’t there, in that room. He was on a beach in California with Shawn, lying on the hot sand, the bright sun shining down on them, turning their skin golden brown. He could smell the salt of the ocean, hear the cries of the seagulls overhead. Their motorcycles were parked up on the road above the secluded, deserted cove they had discovered on their road trip south.
Shawn was kissing him endlessly, his hands roaming over Connor’s warm skin. Connor pulled Shawn closer until his partner’s body blanketed him from head to toe. Eventually they let the kiss gentle and end. Despite the heat, Connor was in no hurry to end their embrace, nowhere he’d rather be than in Shawn’s arms.
He smiled up at Shawn, more content than he’d been in the last month. But his smile slipped slightly when Shawn looked down at him with a serious expression.
“Thank you,” Shawn murmured.
“For what?” Connor replied, confused.
“For putting me back together. For saving me.”
Connor swallowed hard at Shawn’s heartfelt words. He rubbed a thumb across Shawn’s cheekbone. “That’s what partners do.”
Shawn turned his head to the side and kissed Connor’s palm. “And I’ll always be there for you, Finn, whenever you need saving. I swear. Never doubt that and never give up.”
Never give up…
Another bucket of ice water hitting his overheated, aching body shocked Connor from the peaceful memory.
He gasped, his right eye opening fully, the left one nearly swollen shut. With effort he lifted his head. Hamid grasped his bruised jaw and squeezed hard. “You may have resisted answering my questions, but you will be unable to resist being my final human test subject,” he sneered, shoving Connor’s head to the side.
Hamid turned to his men. “Get him down! I want him in a containment room!”
Kashif released the leather strap holding Connor’s ankles in place as Ahmed disappeared behind him. A moment later the chain suspending him from the ceiling was released, sending Connor’s bruised and battered body crashing down to the floor. Too weak to move any of his limbs to break his fall, Connor couldn’t help the groan that escaped his lips as he landed hard on his side. He lay on the concrete like a crumpled rag doll.
Kashif and Ahmed unlocked the wrist restraints before hauling his body up by his arms. Connor cried out, his shoulders in sheer agony. Ignoring Connor’s pain, the two men dragged him from the room, Hamid close behind.
They went down the hallway and turned right, Connor’s legs and bare feet scraping against the floor, trailing behind him. Connor tried to keep his fear in check as they emerged into a larger area with six individual sections. Rooms, actually, but with clear Plexiglas walls, each containing a hospital bed and various pieces of medical equipment. It was difficult to see out of only one eye, but straight ahead and further down, Connor saw what appeared to be the main laboratory area with six or seven men in white lab coats holding test tubes or looking through microscopes.
Ahmed and Kashif pulled Connor into one of the containment rooms, unceremoniously tossing him on the bed. There were restraints attached to the metal frame and the two men quickly secured Connor’s throbbing legs and arms. His limbs burned and trembled now as circulation returned, his arms and fingers on fire as the blood rushed back into them.
As Ahmed and Kashif exited, Hamid entered, accompanied by one of the men in the white lab coats. Connor was not surprised to see the scientist was Chinese. Hamid had obviously been recruiting from one of Pakistan’s few allies.
Hamid held out his hand. The man gave him a syringe halfway filled with an amber liquid.
“I’ve wasted too much time with him,” Hamid told the other man, speaking in English. “We cannot risk discovery. I want everyone informed we are relocating immediately. The neurotoxin and antidote are to be prepped and packaged for transport.”
The scientist bowed. “Yes sir, I will see to it.” He hurried from the room.
Hamid stepped up beside the bed and looked down at Connor. He held up the syringe for Connor to see, as he pressed the plunger slightly, several drops of the amber liquid running down the needle.
“This is the final, most potent strain of the neurotoxin. As yet untested,” Hamid informed him. “So rest assured, your death will not be in vain. You will be providing valuable scientific data,” he sneered, pressing the needle against Connor’s skin.
For the first time Connor spoke directly to his captor, his voice raspy but strong. “My death was never going to be in vain. I will gladly give my life to protect my team.” He swallowed with difficulty and stared hard at Hamid. “Taking me was the worst thing you could have done. Because they will stop at nothing to find me. And you.”
Hamid glared at Connor as he stabbed the needle into Connor’s arm. “Then I shall let them find you. Or at least your corpse.”
With a triumphant smile, Hamid pressed the plunger, sending liquid death racing through Connor’s veins.
ROGUE SOLDIER (Shadow Unit Book 2):
Shadow Unit may have overturned the illegal arms cartel in Kuala Lumpur, but the harrowing undercover op left emotional scars on Sergeants Shawn Weller and Connor Finley. Slowly, patiently, they piece their partnership back together, closer now than ever before.
Until a new mission threatens to tear them apart.
When Connor accidentally kills a civilian, he questions his job, his abilities, his worth. A timely offer of promotion seems his only way out, even though it means transferring out of Shadow Unit and away from Shawn.
The arrival of Julian Montgomery, Shawn’s former CIA handler and lover, further strains their relationship. Julian knows all of Shawn’s secrets as well as the past Shawn has kept hidden from Connor. Now the self-serving Julian wants Shawn back—with the CIA and with him. No one will get in his way. Including Connor.
When the joint Shadow Unit/CIA mission to stop the supplier of a deadly biological weapon goes sideways, Connor is captured, tortured, and used as a human test subject. It’s a race against time to save his life. But who can Shawn trust?
And who has gone rogue?