A month-long cruise voyage leads to romance and terror...
Ex-Navy SEAL and former Anapos team member Marc Gideon is burning the candle at both ends with his business ventures. After sustaining an injury while on an assignment, Marc and another team member decide on a month-long cruise to unwind and relax. But that all changes when Marc sees a remarkable woman.
Cruise director Corrine "Cori" Drake loves working on a luxurious cruise ship and she has one objective. Make sure the passengers have fun. She has no trouble fulfilling her job duties, but one particular passenger, Marc Gideon, makes her ache in places and embrace the recklessness she feels around him.
With a no-strings attached fling in place, all the fun and games becomes trivial when dead bodies start appearing all over the cruise ship. With Cori caught in the middle and Marc's determining need to protect her, they realize they need to depend on one another to avoid the threat and accept the strong feelings growing between them.
See how it all ends in book three of the Winchester/Anapos series.
“I’m out!” Marc Gideon shouted at his friend Linc Reyes as he ducked down to shield his face from the exploding shards of glass raining down on them.
The bastards had AK- 47s ready and weren’t shy about using them to tear apart the building of the luxury airplane hangar. The bullets from the rifles dented and opened the aluminum walls and concrete pillars, sending dust and debris swirling into the air. Marc wasn't one to get nervous at the sound of flying bullets, but this time one had pierced through his shoulder, and it hurt like a son of a bitch.
Linc tossed Marc two magazine clips and he pushed the release button to discharge the empty clip and inserted a full one without taking his eyes from the open hangar doors. Raising his arms, he fired shots at the two men who tried to sneak in and put them down with bullets to the chest and forehead. Hearing constant, scared screams, Marc glanced down at the frightened sixteen-year-old girl who was the reason for the gunfight.
She was the latest charge with Linc’s security company, who’d been hired by her father. Kristen was the only child of the real estate development mogul who’d pissed off the wrong people. Stalking and harassment led to a kidnapping plot by the Russian mafia who wanted money and revenge for her father’s actions. He’d blackmailed several Russian immigrant families to move out of their homes so he could bulldoze them and build luxury condos on the land.
The Russian mob wasted no time offering protection to the remaining families, but they’d refused. The heads of the organization made their presence known to Nicholas Billings by threatening him to abandon the condo project or risk the safety of his family, but he had no plans to stop. Instead, Nicholas hired Linc and his team to guard Kristen. She was in the care of one of Linc’s agents when he was ambushed, and she had been kidnapped.
After some quick computer work from Jimmy, his former Navy SEAL teammate, and Marc interpreting the Russian correspondence, Linc had been able to find out Kristen was to be put on a private jet to Kazan. Calling for backup on the way to the airstrip, Linc headed to intervene the transport with Marc tagging along. He and Linc got to the jet just in time. They had taken care of the pilots and three bodyguards watching over a restrained Kristen before several black SUVs pulled up and the present gunfight ensued.
Marc shouted at the women in the office to take cover before the newcomers fired the first shot. He and Linc were taking cover behind two concrete pillars towards the back of the hangar. Half of the SUV occupants were down, but that didn’t stop the remaining men from unloading their bullets towards Marc and Linc.
“Where’s the backup?” Marc asked Linc, firing more bullets from his Glock 22, ignoring the aching pain in his shoulder.
“On the way,” his friend answered, shielding Kristen behind him.
“Meanwhile, we’re sitting ducks. We need to move.”
Linc, armed with two Glock 17s in his hands, watched as blood sprayed on the floor from the men he’d just killed near the back wheels of the jet.
“I agree. You got a plan?”
“We need to get to a SUV and get the hell out of here. The left side gives us more coverage.”
Linc eyed the plastic containers and metal shelves used for storage and he nodded.
“I’ll cover you, Linc.”
Grabbing the hysterical teenager’s wrist, Linc followed Marc as he cleared a path to safety. It was raining hard, but the heavy drops on the roof couldn’t drown out the sounds of the bullets being shot back and forth. When the men got to the open hangar doors, they saw several Anapos Security cars and police vehicles with flashing lights zooming their way.
The bodies sprawled on the ground didn’t faze Marc and he was glad when the remaining Russian henchmen directed their guns towards the calvary. Leaving the cover of the building, Marc’s head snapped to the side when a large Russian man appeared out of nowhere and punched him in the jaw. He dropped to the ground and his gun scattered out his hand from the hard hit.
The man, who was stacked with muscles and had a jagged scar across his forehead, changed directions to head towards Linc and Kristen, who was cowering behind him. Jumping to his feet, Marc tackled the man from behind, causing both of them to hit the ground.
“Get her out of here!” he yelled at Linc while scuffling with the brute Russian on the wet pavement.
It didn’t take long for the rain to completely soak their clothes, making it hard for the men to gain traction to get the upper hand. Flipping Marc to his back, the attacker punched him again and bashed his head hard against the damp ground. Keeping the advantage, he slammed a meaty fist down on Marc’s bullet wound, causing him to grunt in pain.
The huge man had more muscles, but Marc had agility and approaching police sirens on his side. Anticipating the next move, Marc blocked a second blow to his hurt arm and used his free hand to deliver a hard right hook to the Russian’s square jaw. The hit jolted the man back and Marc used that to his advantage to bounce to his feet to get in a defensive stance. The gunfire had stopped, and the sounds of the rain mixed with the ambulance sirens that pulled up behind the numerous police cars.
“Ты труп,” the man spoke in a heavy Russian accent.
Marc felt like today wasn’t a good day to die. Side stepping a lunge, he pulled a silver butterfly knife out of his back pocket. With fast flicks of his wrist to open it, he drove the knife into the man’s back then jammed it into his neck with a twist to cause permanent damage. The Russian thug plopped to the ground with the knife still sticking out from his jugular, his oozing blood mixing with the rainwater on the ground. Cradling his injured arm, Marc slowly made his way to the clamor of rescue vehicles. Linc, who had left Kristen in the care of her father in an ambulance, limped over to his friend and looked him over.
“It took you long enough to put the Russian down,” Linc commented dryly, water streaming down his dirty face.
“The fucker punched me in my arm. Is Kristen all right?”
“Yeah, she’ll be ok. Therapy might soon be in her future, but she’ll survive.”
“And the gunmen?”
“We got most of them. The few who lived are being transported to the hospital where I’m sure the police will talk to them,” Linc reported with a Mexican accent.
Marc nodded, glad the girl hadn’t been hurt during the shootout. Hopefully, her father would learn something from all this and know not to put money and pride before his family.
“You better get that looked at,” he said, eyeing Linc’s bloody thigh.
“The same goes for you,” he replied, and they headed for an ambulance together.
Laid up in a bed at Sacred Heart Hospital, Marc turned his head towards the door when it opened, and four burly men strolled in at a leisurely pace. Linc was the last one to enter and he hobbled from his thigh injury. A bullet had grazed his outer thigh and he’d been cared for by a doctor before being allowed to visit Marc. It was a mess at the hangar, and they were lucky to dodge questions from the cops since they’d gone to the hospital.
Marc’s arm had been cleaned, stitched and he ended up being admitted for the injury and suffering from a concussion from his fight with the Russian dude. Luckily, he had the room to himself and the empty bed next to him shifted when Shawn and Jimmy plopped down on it. Linc eased down on an empty chair and Asa leaned against the wall with his arms crossed.
“They say how long you’re gonna be here?” Shawn asked, looking at Marc.
“It’s just for twenty-four hours.”
“If you had called the rest of us, we wouldn’t be here visiting yo’ ass,” Asa spoke up.
He directed that to Marc but was looking at Linc. The latter didn’t falter under Asa’s intense stare since they were basically alike in one aspect. The men in the room had all been on the same Special Ops Navy SEAL unit. They’d entered the service at the same time and had gone through weeks of hell of Navy training before taking the next step in becoming elite SEALs.
More than twenty guys had started with the BUD/s training, but only six made it to the SEAL qualification training, and those six men made up the Anapos team. Over the course of twelve years, they’d served together on several dangerous missions. Although they had different backgrounds and were of different ethnicities, they were family. They were brothers.
“You have a wife and two kids, and Jimmy is getting married in a few months. I’m sure your wife and fiancée wouldn’t appreciate you two joining a gunfight involving the Russian mob,” Linc responded, his gaze going between Asa and Jimmy.
“There wasn’t any time to waste. As soon as I read the flying manifest, we knew there was a small window to stop the jet from taking off. Besides, this was an Anapos Security responsibility,” Marc joined in to defend their actions.
The private security company had been Linc’s brainchild since leaving the service and Marc worked there when needed. Between that and being a co-owner of The Scarlet Fan, a sports bar in a suburb outside Chicago with Jimmy, Marc was able to put his business and linguistical brain to use.
In the service, his specialty had been in the linguistics field due to his perfect score on the Defense Language Aptitude Battery test and he had a knack for reading and speaking several languages. Marc was a proud polyglot and his knowledge had helped the team, especially when a mission took them to a foreign location.
“We know Anapos Security can handle things, but you know we’re on standby for anything,” Shawn stated to the men with Jimmy and Asa nodding in agreement.
“I know and I appreciate it. My thing is Marc was too eager to put himself between that Russian dude and Kristen,” Linc reported to the men and they all looked sharply at him.
Marc scoffed, waving their attention away. “The job was to protect that girl and I helped you do that.”
“But this ain’t the first time you put yourself in danger like that,” Jimmy said, swinging his legs.
Marc shook his head, knowing they would bring that up. So, he took extra risks with helping Linc with his last four charges. It was equated to security and it wasn’t like they weren’t prepared for it.
“You do remember we’re ex-SEAL’s, right? If anyone knows how to handle precaution, it’s us.”
“It was different when we served, Marc. Now it seems like you go looking for trouble,” Asa commented as he slid his hands into his pants pockets.
“You all make it seem like I have a death wish.”
“Do you?” they asked in harmony.
Marc sighed, dropping his head back gently on the pillow. He knew they wouldn’t let this go and his friends could read when something was off with him. Just like he could do with them.
“I love my work, but when I’m helping Linc and we’re out kicking ass, I feel alive again. Like the adrenaline we all used to feel when on a mission.”
If anyone could understand, it was the four men in the room. During their twelve years of service, they’d faced every possible danger and challenges a normal man would hesitate at. They knew the adrenaline did more than feed their excitement. It balanced the rush they felt and was used to get them home each time from an assignment.
“Hey, we all know that feeling. It’s like a drug but in a good way. We’re all planning on retiring and talking shit in our old age. We can’t do that if you do something stupid and get yourself killed. That won’t do anything but piss us off,” Linc replied, his injured leg sticking straight out.
Marc looked at his friends again, releasing a long deep breath. They were right, of course. They had all gotten out of the service with bodies and minds intact and should be enjoying the next chapter of their lives. Two were already domesticated and the rest would follow suit sooner or later.
A nurse in hot pink scrubs walked into the room to check Marc’s vitals.
“Do you need anything before I leave?” she asked him while checking the bandage on his shoulder.
“Yes, an extra juice cup and your phone number,” Shawn answered, and Jimmy nudged him with a chuckle.
The nurse smirked at him over her shoulder and Shawn smiled at her. “I was talking to my patient.”
“No, I’m fine. Thanks,” Marc said to her.
“Visiting hours will be over in a few minutes, so wrap it up in here,” she told the guys before leaving the room.
“You should take a vacation,” Asa suggested once they were alone again.
“That’s actually a good idea. You’re pulling double duty at the bar and the agency. Maybe a vacation can help curb your need to be a thrill-seeker,” Jimmy added.
“Shit, that sounds like heaven right now. Go to a sandy beach and just lay back to soak up the sun rays. Hopefully, get laid in the process,” Shawn added with an approving nod.
Marc couldn’t remember the last time he’d taken a vacation. He was burning the candle at both ends and at the pace he was going, he’d end up doing more harm than good.
“I’m for that. The agency has been taking case after case and I could stand to recharge my batteries too,” Linc said, perking up at the idea.
Marc sat up, wincing at the pain from his shoulder. “I’m not hating the idea. Can you all get away right now?”
“You two go and we’ll take turns checking in. We know you have someone to look after things at the agency, but we got you,” Shawn told Linc.
“I can’t get away now because we’re finalizing wedding details. Shawn has a new class starting soon and Asa has the restaurants to look after,” Jimmy stated.
“Yeah, and Gia will have his balls if he takes a vacation without her,” Linc said with a deep chuckle, and Asa slapped him on the back of the head.
“No te enojes porque es verdad.”
“I know it’s true, but we’re talking about you and Marc,” he responded, and Marc became sold on the idea.
A sandy beach with a cold brew in his hand sounded ideal and it would give him a chance to finally relax.
“What the hell? Let’s do it, Linc.”
“Cool. I’ll start looking around tonight. Get some rest, bro.”
Marc waved to his buddies and closed his eyes after they left. He preferred resting in his own bed but figured a night in the hospital wouldn’t be so bad. The small intervention was the kick in the ass he needed to make him realize he didn’t need to place himself, or those around him, in unnecessary danger. Things would be different going forward and he looked forward to this upcoming vacation. Whatever it was, he was going to make the best of it and enjoy himself.