June 19, 2018 (paperback)
July 1, 2018 (eBook)
Tennessee SWAT Series (Book#5)
A SWAT team vanishes.
Can two partners put aside their differences to save them?
Playing hero backfires on sexy SWAT team member Blake Sullivan. He infuriates his partner, Donna Waters, as much as he attracts her. But before they can resolve their differences, they discover that the rest of their team have been kidnapped by an unknown assailant. Now as they race to rescue the small Tennessee town’s real heroes, they share a growing mutual trust…and a hot, life-changing connection.
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SWAT Officer Blake Sullivan crouched behind some honeysuckle-vine-covered logs and peered at the weathered gray barn through his rifle scope. His target was little more than a shadow in the second-story window that had probably lost its glass long before Blake was born. How the suspect had managed to get up that high without crashing through the rotten stairs or floorboards was a mystery. The dilapidated building should have collapsed long ago in the violent winds that sometimes blew down from the nearby Smoky Mountains. Blake imagined the only reason that it hadn’t fallen down yet was that it was sheltered from the elements by a thick stand of Tennessee sugar maples and white flowering dogwoods.
With the early morning sun slanting through the trees behind him, and a lull in the light spring breeze that had been blowing moments before, conditions were perfect to take the shot. He eased his finger from the cold frame of his rifle to the smooth, welcoming cradle of the trigger.
Two chirps followed by a high-pitched whistle sounded off to his left. It sounded just like a Bob White bird, common here at Hawkins Ridge and Tennessee in general. But Blake knew better. That was the SWAT team leader, Dillon Gray, signaling him. But if Blake looked away, he might lose the perpetrator. Dillon would have to wait.
Ignoring a second, more insistent, whistle, he edged the barrel of the rifle down a fraction, exhaled slowly and squeezed.
Red bloomed across the suspect’s chest. He cartwheeled backward, disappearing from sight.
Blake grinned. One down; one to go. Now he could see what Dillon wanted.
He looked over his left shoulder. The team leader stood a good twenty yards away, talking to Donna Waters, the only female member of their team. Dressed in green camouflage, they both would’ve completely blended into their surroundings if it wasn’t for the white S-W-A-T letters across Dillon’s back. Neither of them seemed to notice Blake. Whatever Dillon had wanted earlier must not have been that important.
Blake turned his attention back to the barn. Had the suspects split up? Initially, they’d worked as a team, staying close together. If they stuck to that plan, the second one had to be somewhere close by.
Nearly a full minute later, his patience was rewarded. A dark shadow moved near some trees to the right of the building. The man furtively looked around as if to see whether anyone had spotted him. Destiny, Tennessee’s entire seven-member SWAT team, plus their chief, was out here somewhere. Correction, six-member team, now that Colby had taken a new job a couple hours’ drive from Blount County.
Blake glanced back to signal Dillon and Donna. But, either they were blending in with the trees so well that he couldn’t see them now, or they were gone. He considered radioing the team to let them know he’d gotten one of the suspects and had eyes on the second. But he worried there might be static or that the sound of his voice would spook his prey.
He scanned the front of the barn again. The suspect took off, sprinting across the clearing toward the woods. Blake jerked up his rifle. The man looked right at him, his eyes wide with panic. He lunged for the cover of some pine trees.
Missed. The man disappeared into the dark gloom of tree cover.
Blake cursed and straightened, knees popping from crouching so long, and took off in pursuit. When he reached where the man had entered the woods, he shook his head. The guy was about five foot five and probably weighed a buck thirty, if that. He should have been light on his feet, easily weaving his way through the thin early-spring vegetation without leaving much of a trace. Instead, he’d plowed through like a linebacker, heedless of breaking small branches and leaving clear footprints in the dew-laden grass. He might as well have put out a sign saying Bad Guy Went This Way. Either the guy was an idiot, or he was extremely clever, trying to lead Blake into an ambush.
Another bird call chirped behind him, this one the not-so-convincing squawk of a blue jay. There was no mistaking SWAT team member Randy Carter’s signal. Blake rolled his eyes. He doubted even a novice in the woods would think that was a real bird. He paused and glanced over his shoulder. Sure enough, Randy stood in the same copse that Blake had left just moments ago. Randy motioned for him to come back and made another motion toward his left.
Blake shook his head, held up one finger and pointed down the path where the suspect had disappeared.
Randy insistently pointed to his left again.
Blake tightened his hand on his rifle in frustration. If Randy couldn’t understand a simple signal, then that was his problem. Blake refused to put the team in danger by breaking off pursuit. The suspect could circle back around and sneak up on one of them, or he could escape altogether. Ignoring Randy, Blake headed into the woods.
Ten minutes later, he found the suspect. The man was holding his rifle above his head to keep it dry as he waded across a waist-deep stream.
Blake brought his rifle up and stepped from the cover of trees. “Police. Freeze.”
The suspect whipped around.
Blake squeezed the trigger. Pop.
The suspect let out a blistering curse. A dark red stain covered his right shoulder. Blake took another shot, giving the man a matching stain on the left.
“I give up! Stop shooting!” The man held his gun over his head and glared at Blake.
Blake kept his rifle trained on him. “Work your way back to this side of the river. If you make any sudden movements, I’ll pop you again.”
The man’s eyes narrowed with the promise of retribution, but he started forward as ordered.
After taking the man’s gun, Blake pulled a set of handcuffs from the holder on the back of his belt.
The man’s brows shot up. “Really? You’re going to cuff me?”
“It’s all part of the game, my friend. Turn around.”
“You don’t play fair. That second shot was completely unnecessary.”
“I play to win. That’s all that matters.” He clicked the cuffs into place, slung the straps of both rifles over his shoulder and marched the man back toward the barn. Now that it was safe to break radio silence, he pulled the two-way off his belt and opened a channel.
“Blake to base. SWAT two, suspects zero. I got both of them. The first one in the barn, the second at the river. I’m on my way back with the second one.”
His prisoner glanced over his shoulder, aiming a frown his way.
The man gave him a look that should have made him burst into flames.
The radio remained quiet as they strode toward the barn. No one answered Blake’s call. He pressed the button again.
“Blake to base. Copy?”
No answer. Maybe they were in a communication dead zone. Cell phones were virtually useless out here. He supposed the same thing could happen even with their powerful radios. Or the equipment could be malfunctioning. Destiny was a small town with an equally small law-enforcement budget. Their equipment wasn’t exactly top of the line and was rarely purchased new. The only reason that Destiny could even afford to have their detectives operate in a dual role as a SWAT team was that neighboring townships augmented the Destiny Police Department’s budget. In return, Destiny SWAT responded to calls across several counties, when needed. But even the extra money never seemed to be enough.
When they moved into the clearing by the barn, Blake jerked to a halt and drew in a sharp breath. There, lying on the ground, were his teammates—everyone except their leader, Dillon. They were all dressed in green camouflage uniforms, covered with red splotches.