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Viral Justice
 



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Viral Justice


  Viral Justice

  By Julie Rowe

  As a general’s daughter, Alicia Stone has fought twice as hard for everything she’s earned in the military. A Special Forces consultant with black belts in three martial arts, she’s as strong as her surname implies. No one dares call her Alicia—no one but Colonel Robert Maxmillian, head of the Biological Response Team.

  With Alicia at his side, Max must lead the team into northern Iraq to investigate a virus—or is it a weapon?—killing the area’s population. Charged with guarding his body, she can’t help wanting his hands on her body. Max would be the perfect fling. But he demands more.

  The heat builds between them, but danger quickly follows. As the two get closer to the source of the virus, they’ll have to risk their future to outsmart a scientist with nothing to lose.

  Book three of Biological Response Team

  Carina Press acknowledges the editorial services of Alissa Davis

  Dear Reader,

  If there’s one thing we have learned from the kickass heroines of the fiction we read and publish, it’s that you should always be in control of your own happiness. And, if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re like me and books make you happy. So this February, during Valentine’s month, instead of waiting for someone to put some romance in your life, go ahead and do it for yourself: buy yourself all the books!

  Shannon Stacey always brings a fantastic blend of humor, heroes and sigh-worthy romance, and her novella A Fighting Chance is no different. All work and no play makes Adeline Kendrick a dull girl, so when she heads to a casino resort for a friend’s bachelorette weekend, she’s ready to have a good time. Until she runs into Brendan Quinn, professional fighter and the one who got away—the one her family drove away—and things take a turn for the interesting. When the weekend is over, Adeline isn’t ready to give up her second chance that easily.

  An unexpected fresh start leads to an unlikely—but absolutely perfect—pairing in Getting Him Back, a male/male contemporary romance from bestselling gay romance author K.A. Mitchell. Ethan may have followed his high school sweetheart to college only to get dumped his first day there, but he’s not going to let that stop him. And then there’s Wyatt. Mysterious, grouchy...hot. And possibly not gay. New college goal? Get Wyatt into bed and into Ethan’s life.

  In Anna del Mar’s debut romantic suspense, The Asset, a woman fleeing from her sinister past must defy her fears and risk her life to care for a wounded warrior, a SEAL who will push the limits of his broken body and protect her to his very last breath. Don’t miss this first Wounded Warrior novel.

  If you’re looking for a melt-your-panties hot erotic romance read, look no further than Wolf’s Ascension by Lauren Dane. Attacked by werewolves. Mated to the Alpha. Declared a queen. Kari is having an unusual day. In the Cherchez wolf pack, loyalty is earned, not given. For Andreas, the pull he feels toward Kari cannot be ignored, a physical bond immediate and unbreakable—though Andreas wants to win Kari’s heart as well as her body. And be sure to watch for book two, Sworn to the Wolf, on sale in March 2016.

  In the explosive follow-up to Joely Sue Burkhart’s darkly erotic romance One Cut Deeper, life on the run with an assassin isn’t what Ranay thought it would be. In fact, parts of it more closely resemble a sex-fueled vacation—until duty calls. The FBI believe Charlie’s brother is working for a human trafficking ring, and Charlie is the only one who can bring him down. Two Cuts Darker brings you back into the world of dark romance but delivers the same satisfying happy ending.

  The only doctor who can stop a man-made killer flu couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with a grenade launcher—so his bodyguard, Sergeant Ali Stone, has her work cut out for her in Viral Justice, the last book in the Biological Response Team romantic suspense trilogy by Julie Rowe. And you can still pick up Deadly Strain and Lethal Game wherever Carina Press ebooks are sold!

  Tempted to off your significant other for forgetting Valentine’s Day again? Satisfy your more murderous urges with our two mystery offerings this month.

  Jonathan Watkins combines mystery with romance in A Devil’s Bargain. Past sins and dark secrets threaten to blow apart the lives and careers of criminal defenders Issabella Bright and Darren Fletcher when their friend, Theresa Winkle, is charged with the vicious murder of a man behind her bar—a man Darren learns is connected to his own family’s corrupt history and to the one case that has haunted him for years. Go back to the beginning of their romance, and indulge in all of the fantastic Bright & Fletcher mysteries now available: Motor City Shakedown, Dying in Detroit and Isolated Judgment.

  In Brenda Buchanan’s latest Joe Gale Mystery, Truth Beat, a newspaper reporter struggles with unreliable sources while covering two explosive stories—the apparent murder of a priest who stood up to his church and a spate of increasingly destructive bombings.

  Last, this month I’m excited to present a new romantic suspense series that I’ve been highly anticipating from Carina Press author Nico Rosso. Undercover agent Art Diaz had no choice but to drag Chef Hayley Baskov into the world of Russian mobsters, but when her tentative trust turns to full passion he vows to stop at nothing to protect her during the final strike. Be sure to pick up the first in the Black Ops: Automatik series, Countdown to Zero Hour.

  So kick off your shoes, curl up in your favorite cozy spot, and treat yourself to a Valentine’s month of books. (When it comes to books, one day of indulgence is never going to be enough.)

  And then look forward to next month, with releases from Shannon Stacey in contemporary romance, Dee Carney in paranormal romance and j. leigh bailey in male/male romance.

  As always, until next month here’s wishing you a wonderful month of books you love, remember and recommend.

  Happy reading!

  Angela James

  Editorial Director, Carina Press

  Dedication

  To my daughter Megan—for your help and inspiration.

  Contents

  Quote

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Epilogue

  Also by Julie Rowe

  About the Author

  There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.

  ~ Andre Gide

  Chapter One

  “They’re not going to agree with your plan, Colonel,” Alicia muttered as she stared at the group of military doctors standing several feet away.

  Colonel Robert Maximillian, head of the US Army Biological Response Team bent closer to the tiny, c
urvy Sergeant Alicia Stone and had to clear his throat before asking, “What makes you say that?”

  “Look at their body language,” she continued in that almost subvocal whisper. “They’ve closed ranks and you’re on the outside.”

  He had to consciously hold himself still as he studied the group of men. Military doctors from five different countries. They were positioned in a tight circle, two with their backs to him, talking quietly. All of them stood at just a hair under attention. The faces he could see were set, eyes serious. Understandable. These were dangerous times, and their mutual enemy could be anyone, even someone in your own army.

  Stone shifted and her shoulder brushed his arm.

  His attraction to the sergeant was irrational and impossible. He wasn’t a fan of either.

  “They’re having a simple conversation, Sergeant, nothing more.”

  “I’ve been on the receiving end of that kind of conversation,” Stone said, her voice filled with enough acid to melt steel. “If they wanted to include you, they’d have left a space for you to step into, but they didn’t. They’ve already decided and they know you’re not going to like their decision.”

  “That’s ridiculous.” He knew every man in the group and had earned their respect. “They’re professionals and they know I have new information for them.”

  “It isn’t going to matter. Their minds are made up.” Stone’s voice was so sharp he stopped to really look at her.

  “What happened?” he asked her.

  “It’s not what happened, but what’s not going to happen that’s the problem, sir.”

  “No.” He waved away the reference to the meeting they were about to attend. “I mean, with you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this angry before.”

  “Me, angry?” she said with wide eyes that did nothing to hide the displeasure on the rest of her face. “I’m grateful, sir, to be the only female combat trainer for the Special Forces.” Her tone made it clear she was anything but grateful.

  “Did you break another officer’s arm?” Four months ago, an asshole who’d thought he was some kind of martial arts expert had tried to intimidate Stone during a training session. She’d put him on the mats twice before he got angry and attacked for real, thinking she couldn’t handle an actual fight. She’d not only broken his arm, but two fingers of the opposite hand, as well.

  The incident hadn’t ended there. The officer had accused her of assault, but with so many witnesses the charges against Stone had been thrown out, and he’d been charged with assault. Since then, however, at least two other officers had lodged formal complaints against her.

  The old boys’ club, closing ranks.

  “Nothing that would show up on an X-ray.” Her voice sounded bland. Something had gone very wrong.

  If someone hurt her, he was going to find out and make their life miserable. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

  She jerked, as if the question startled her. “Don’t argue with me if I tell you to do something.”

  “Arguing with one’s bodyguard would be stupid. I try not to be an idiot more than twice a day. I reached my quota an hour ago.” Yet, he always seemed to butt heads with her whenever they were involved in the same operation, even if it was just a meeting. Having her as a bodyguard for any great length of time would be uncomfortable at best.

  She blinked.

  He consulted his watch as several light armored vehicles pulled up nearby. “Gentlemen, I appreciate your early arrival,” he called out to the five men. “The summit is scheduled to begin in an hour. Several more countries than expected have sent representatives. As a result the meeting has been moved to a larger venue.” He gestured at the waiting vehicles. “If you would? We’ll travel together.”

  Their cluster broke apart and they got into vehicles.

  When he glanced back, Stone was staring after him with a profoundly confused expression on her face.

  Max rode with Franz Meyer, chief medical officer for the German Army, while Stone got into the vehicle behind his with his British counterpart.

  “Militants invaded another Kurdish village in Northern Iraq today.” Franz sounded tired. “At least seventy-five dead and an unknown number of women and girls taken.” He shook his head. “Last night a group of refugees attempted to cross the border between Bulgaria and Hungary. At least thirty died in a series of fires started by Molotov cocktails they threw themselves.”

  Stupid. Human beings had a great capacity for stupidity. “The unrest isn’t making any of our jobs easier. Which is why we need countries around the world, not just in Europe or the Middle East, to agree to implement a global vaccination plan.”

  “But, do you understand the pressure we’re all under?” Franz turned to him, suddenly intent. “We can’t fight a war against an enemy we can’t see. Your proposal is simply too expensive.”

  “We’re facing a new era of biological weapons.” Max made direct eye contact with him. “Weapons that are in the hands of people who can and will use them against any target they choose.”

  “We can’t arbitrarily begin a counteroffensive against an enemy we aren’t aware of yet,” Franz replied. “We have to have more information, more proof than two isolated incidents.”

  Had he read the reports? “Akbar isn’t an incident. He’s a mass murderer who’s just getting started. Treating the sick after the fact is what’ll be expensive. You can’t just ignore the problem because no one is sure how to pay for it.”

  “What I’m saying is, where do we start?” Franz spread his hands in a conciliatory gesture that didn’t fool Max for a second. “Which do you feel is more important, training existing medical staff, or increasing staff numbers in both military and civilian medical aid groups in Africa and the Middle East? We can’t afford to do both.”

  He held on to his temper with both hands. Stone was right. Franz had already made up his mind.

  He had maybe ten minutes more minutes to make his case before they arrived at their destination. Once there, he’d have to repeat his arguments to healthcare leaders from all over Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Franz had probably thought he was going to catch Max by surprise by asking the question now, but Max had been considering solutions to the problem of worldwide infectious disease control for a long time. Ten minutes might just be enough time to change the German’s thinking.

  There were other delegates in the vehicles in front and behind them, along with a military escort to keep trouble at bay. The decisions about to be made at this meeting would have a long reach, and there were many groups, extremists of one sort or another, who would do their best to disrupt and destroy any agreements or resolutions.

  Max answered without hesitation. “Both.” He met his German counterpart’s gaze squarely. “If Akbar and Ebola have taught us anything, it’s that no one country, or even a few countries, can handle a large outbreak alone. There will be a domino effect and the resulting chaos will take even more lives. When the Spanish flu circulated the world one hundred years ago, it took a year and a half to make the trip. Now, it might take a week.” Max shook his head. “We can’t afford to do the minimum, Franz. There’s no time to build the support system after the next deadly outbreak occurs.”

  “But the cost...”

  “The current cost of Ebola is estimated to be two point two billion dollars. That’s just monetary. We lost a lot of doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers too. It’s going to take years for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to replace those people. If they get hit by a second wave, or a new infection, they’ve got no more than a skeleton crew to handle it. Which means it won’t be handled. It’ll be chaos.” Max shook his head. “With the Middle East hemorrhaging refugees into Europe, no one is in a position to help without a lot of prep time.”

  “We can’t afford the plan you propose—” Franz began.


  Max cut him off with a diagonal slash of his hand. “Then help me find another way.”

  The German sighed. “I agree with you on principle, but without an imminent threat, my government won’t agree to spend that much time and money on an event that might never happen.”

  Their vehicle slowed and the soldier driving it yelled back to them, “We’ve got an accident in front of us, sirs. I’ll have to take another route.”

  “That’s fine, Corporal.” Max turned to Franz, determined to see the German’s not-quite-no as an almost-yes. “We start with a framework, an infrastructure—”

  Shots and yelling from outside the vehicle cut him off. Their driver stomped on the brakes.

  “What’s going on?” Max demanded.

  The young soldier never had the chance to answer.

  The vehicle in front of them exploded.

  For a long moment, the world disintegrated into white noise.

  Slowly, his vision and hearing returned. But nothing made sense. Smoke obscured everything, and there was such an uproar of shouting and sirens, he wasn’t even sure where he was.

  Another, much smaller explosion farther away pulled him back into focus. Their vehicle was damaged—how badly wasn’t clear—and the way ahead was impassable.

  He turned to ask Franz if he was all right and found the German slumped against the seat, blood dripping from his head.

  Blood doesn’t flow when you’re dead.

  He put his fingers on Franz’s carotid pulse and found it strong and steady.

  Thank God.

  Flames from the front of their vehicle caught his attention. They weren’t safe yet.

  He kicked his door open, then dragged Franz out and back down the street several feet. He went back for the driver, but the young man’s head was all but disarticulated from his body by a piece of twisted metal.

  Son of a bitch.

  Max looked at the remains of the lead vehicle, but what was left was little more than a chassis covered in bent metal and melted plastic. No one could have survived that.

 
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