Hacking the seal saving.., p.1
Hacking the SEAL (Saving the SEALs Series Book 2), page 1
Hacking The SEAL
Saving the SEALs Series
By Leslie North
Losing a brother in arms is only the beginning.
When one of their own is tragically killed in an ambush, the Navy investigates Scott Devonshire and his elite team of SEALs. In order to prove their innocence, he’ll have to track down their fallen comrade’s widow to get the truth, but there’s just one problem—she’s nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile, brilliant hacker Hayley Stevens is digging up dirt on the unit in hopes of snagging a promotion, but she has her doubts about the SEAL team’s guilt. When she reluctantly teams up with Scott to prove he and his comrades had nothing to do with their friend’s death, she doesn’t expect romance. But the sparks that fly between them have Scott contemplating setting aside his womanizing ways. Until she is captured by an unknown adversary, that is.
Now he has to make a decision: Hayley, or his team? Whichever side he chooses, he’s going to become embroiled in a conflict that could potentially take down everyone he cares about—one that goes all the way to the top.
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Table of Contents
Hacking The SEAL
If Scotty Devonshire didn’t know better, he’d think he was in some kind of freaking fairy tale and not a suburban Washington, DC street, with the way the birds sang and the sun shot through the tiny buds peppering the tree limbs, making them glow night-vision green. Too bad this wasn’t some kids’ story and he sure as hell wasn’t Prince Charming.
Before he even climbed out of the taxi and paid the driver, he did a quick recon of the exterior of the surrounding vacant houses to make sure he hadn’t been followed—one could never be too careful, especially now—then slipped his aviator shades into place, focusing on one house in particular. A somewhat ramshackle two-story, the paint peeling around the edges. A couple of the upper windows were cracked too.
His source at the NSA had given him this address as the last known location of romance author, N.T. Smalls, the pen name for the widow of their fallen comrade and SEAL team leader, Nick Matthews. He checked for traffic then jogged across the street. Seemed no one had been around for a while. His hopes of finding any useful leads at the location plummeted.
God, he missed his fallen SEAL team member and close bud, Nick, more and more each day. Nick had been too young, too good, too…everything to go down with a bullet to the back of his head. He’d had his whole future ahead of him, then one sniper shot ended it all…
Scotty shook his head and focused on the task ahead. That’s why he was here. Officially, they were on suspension while the Navy conducted an investigation into Nick’s death. Unofficially, however, they were conducting an investigation of their own. Nick deserved justice and he and the remaining members of SEAL Team Ten owed him the truth. Plus, with ex-SEAL Michael Becks and his crew doing their goddamned best to pin the accident on the team members themselves, they all had a fierce need for self-preservation. Someone had taken Nick out, possibly his wife too since she’d disappeared without a trace after Nick’s death, and Scotty damned well intended to find out who.
A stiff breeze ruffled his longer-than-usual blond hair and carried with it the scent of the sea. This place was closer to the sea than he would’ve guessed. Just a few short months ago when he’d still been alive, Nick had never seemed particularly fond of the smell of salt and dead fish that permeated the air around here, at least from what Scotty could remember. It was all so different from the crisp clean scent of ocean back in their real home of Virginia Beach. And Natalie, well she’d always seemed more than happy to go along with whatever her husband wanted.
But then, four months ago, all of it had gone to shit. Now, Nick was gone and Natalie was missing and these days, the more they turned up about his buddy’s widow, the more questions surfaced.
Scotty sighed and headed up a set of rickety wooden steps that creaked and moaned beneath his muscled bulk, then reached out to knock on the door—only to discover it was already partially open, the doorframe around the lock splintered and gouged with the telltale signs of a break-in.
Apparently the area wasn’t so clear after all.
Slowly, he pulled his Glock from the holster at his waist and flicked off the safety. With his free hand, he eased the front door wider and moved cautiously inside. Light filtered in through the gauzy curtains and cast long shadows through the surprisingly tidy living room.
Pulse thudding and weapon at the ready, he surveyed the space, then inched toward what appeared to be a dining room. Everything looked beige and bland, with no sign of Nick or Natalie or, for that matter, anyone else living here. No family pictures on the walls, no mementos of any kind.
Something squeaked from down the hall and Scotty froze in place, all his finely-tuned SEAL instincts blazing to the forefront. Discover. Assess. Neutralize. His specialty was hand-to-hand combat and direct assault, but nothing beat a 9mm and a full clip at the ready.
He took a deep breath, centered his body and his mind, then charged through an arched doorway and into a small kitchen. “Hands up, asshole, or someone dies!”
Several facts bombarded him at once.
First, his target was a woman. Second, she was cute. Really cute. Third, she held what appeared to be a spatula as her weapon of choice. Death by batter?
Scotty frowned and lowered his gun slightly, squinting at the woman. “What are you going to do? Kill me by frosting me to death?”
Her stern expression fractured slightly and her pretty green eyes narrowed. “I’m a black belt in judo. I can make anything into a lethal weapon.”
“Really?” He raised a brow and relaxed his tense stance a tad. As a martial arts expert himself, he could see by her ridged, downright silly pose that she didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. Not to mention the only thing lethal about her were those curves. With her fiery red hair glinting in the sunshine and her creamy cheeks stained with dots of pink, she looked like a 40s pin-up girl come to life. Hot damn, but she was a fine little thing.
He considered himself something of a connoisseur of women—short, tall, skinny, curvy, all ages and races and sizes, Scotty Devonshire loved them—especially redheads. He lowered his Glock and stepped closer. She held her spatula higher and didn’t retreat. She stood half a foot shorter than his own six-three height, making her nose about even with his upper chest, which is where she kept her focus.
For some odd reason, he wanted her to look at him directly again, wanted to see the spark of indignation in her emerald eyes. Then he shook his head and scowled. He was here on a mission, here for Nick, here to find files supposedly hidden in a trashy romance novel—th
He clicked on the safety on his weapon once more and holstered it with one hand while snatching the cooking utensil away from her with the other. His fingertips brushed her soft skin and for a moment he had the crazy urge to find out if she felt that soft all over. Snapping his lust confused brain back to reality, Scotty tossed the spatula into the nearby sink, then widened his stance and crossed his arms. “Who are you?”
“Who are you?” she countered.
The woman had cojones, he’d give her that.
Hell, there’d been times when he’d been training rookies in Kandahar where one lethal glare from him had the rookies practically soiling themselves. But not her. No, sir. This one, she stood her ground. Scotty found that turned him on all the more.
He didn’t answer, just watched her. Interrogation of targets had been part of his military training and he’d put his skills into frequent practice during his SEAL days. The best tactic was to wait it out, let stress and adrenaline work their magic. Eventually they’d talk. Most of them, anyway.
Seconds ticked by with agonizing slowness as a whole host of emotions flickered across her delicate features—fear, anger, determination and finally, resignation. At last, she glanced up at him and a tingle of awareness shimmered though his bloodstream at the renewed eye contact.
Spring. That’s what the color of her irises reminded him of. The fresh promise of new beginnings.
Scotty scowled and forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand. Find the e-reader, download the files, report back to his team leader. Still, it had been nearly two weeks since he’d gotten laid. Maybe that was the reason he was waxing poetic over some chick’s eyeballs. Jesus. Thank God the rest of his team wasn’t here to see this. They’d never let him live it down. Frustration made his voice harsher than he’d intended. “Name. Now.”
She winced, her full lips thinning into a hard white line. “Hayley. Hayley Stevens.”
“What are you doing here, Hayley Stevens?”
“I should ask you the same thing.”
He inched closer, hoping to use his size to intimidate her into answering, even though he’d never hurt her. Would never intentionally hurt any woman, truth be told. But she didn’t know that. “Tell me.”
“I’m Natalie Matthews’ niece.”
Well, didn’t that just take him back a step. He’d planned to use being Natalie’s nephew as his cover. Damn. Guess that wasn’t an option anymore. Frowning, he scrambled for a new, plausible story.
“Niece, huh?” He eyed Hayley with skepticism. “Funny how Nat never mentioned having a niece.”
His statement seemed to fluster her for a moment. She bit her lower lip and he couldn’t help staring at the tiny movement. “We, uh, hadn’t seen each other in a while. That’s probably why she didn’t mention me.” She smoothed a hand down the front of her pink button-down shirt, then crossed her arms. The movement only served to highlight her excellent rack. “Okay. Fine. You know who I am. Now who the hell are you?”
He thought about making up a name, but in the end went with the real thing. Easier to keep track of the lies that way. “Scotty. I’m an old friend of your aunt’s.”
Sounded weird, calling Natalie an aunt, especially since he and Hayley didn’t appear to be that far apart in age. He was twenty-six and he guessed her to be around twenty-four, maybe twenty-five tops.
“Huh.” She snorted. “No accounting for taste, I suppose.”
“Yep.” He couldn’t help but grin at her snark. Women had always thrown themselves at him like moths to a bug zapper. He’d never been sure why exactly, but they seemed to like the way he looked and his mama had raised him to always treat women with respect, so maybe that had something to do with it. Either way, this woman posed a challenge. He’d always been a sucker for challenges. “So.” He hiked his chin toward the sink. “You doing a little cooking?”
She looked him up and down slowly and Scotty said a silent prayer that she liked what she saw. He sure as hell liked what he saw in her. “Actually, I was doing a little digging. My aunt seems to have vanished. You wouldn’t happen to know where she is, would you?”
“Are you going to let me pass or not?” Hayley swallowed the lump of nervous tension still clogging her throat, and waited for the the gorgeous blond hunk to step out of her path.
From the top of his slightly overgrown buzz-cut to the tips of his black, military-issued combat boots, the guy was every inch the soldier. Just her type—all lean muscle and leashed power wrapped up in a nice package of cover-boy perfection.
Too bad he’d disarmed her without blinking an eye as was currently going for the intimidation route. She should’ve gone for her grandfather’s antique Swiss army knife tucked securely in her back pocket, but he’d surprised her. After all, she was a desk jockey these days, hadn’t been out in the field since she’d done her initial training at Quantico. Which explained why she’d gone for the spatula instead. Stupid move, rookie. She maintained eye contact and waited, doing her best not to let him see how bad her knees were shaking.
He hesitated, and for a moment she doubted he would ever move.
Finally, he sighed and stepped aside enough for her to sidle past him. “Fine.”
“Fine.” Ignoring the weight of his icy blue stare prickling the tiny hairs on the back of her neck, she headed down the short hall and back into the master suite. Under different circumstances, she would have gone for a guy like him. Too bad she had zero time to get involved right now. Not if she wanted that team leader promo back at the FBI.
The nightstand drawer still hung open, just like she left it and she returned to her rummaging. Truth was, she wasn’t really supposed to be here. In fact, her boss at the FBI thought she was out researching at the Library of Congress. Instead, she’d come here on a hunch after reading through some of the investigative reports into the death of Nick Matthews, a case she’d been assigned to catalogue and index into the FBIs cyber security system by her boss, Agent Michelle Harper. But there was a new team leader slot opening soon and if she wanted a shot, Hayley knew from experience that she’d need to make a big impression, show some gumption, solve an unsolvable case. So, here she was, bending the rules slightly to see if her hunch—that somehow Natalie Matthews disappearance and her husband’s death were linked—paid off.
“No problems with personal boundaries, I see,” Scotty said.
His tone dripped with sarcasm. Hayley glance over at where he slouched against the doorframe and stifled a grin. She was something of a smartass herself and dry humor was always appreciated. Still, she needed this guy to think she was in panic mode, not here nosing around where she technically wasn’t supposed to be. Sure, her boss had asked for more information on the case, but she’d never intended for Hayley to take it this far, she was sure. “Like I said, I’m trying to find out what happened to my aunt. If she’s in trouble, I have to help her. The police have given up and there’s no one else.”
“Help, huh? How can you help?”
Next thing she knew he was crouching beside her, pulling out a box from beneath the bed. The heat of him penetrated through her jeans and she closed her eyes against the pleasant buzz caused by his nearness. Crap. She needed to stop this. Seriously. Guys like him didn’t go for gals like her. Not really. She’d learned that the hard way. Her ex-boyfriend’s words echoed through her head, as fresh and hurtful as they’d been eighteen months ago.
Dumb it down, Hayley. No one loves the smart girl.
“And what exactly are you doing, Mr. Nosy?” Slamming the nightstand drawer shut harder than necessary, she moved away from him and headed to the dresser next. “You know what? Doesn’t matter. Do what you want. I don’t care.”
“Right.” A hint of suspicion colored his tone and she gave him a wary look. “Is that why you’re shaking?”
“I’m not shaking.” She tightened her fists to stop them from trembling. Damn
“You’re not the only one who can help.” He flashed her a crooked little smile and her knees wobbled. “Two sets of hands are better than one, right?”
Hayley’s gaze dropped and in her mind, all she could see was his long, tapered, tanned fingers caressing her skin, teasing her nipples, stroking the heat between her legs until she… Helping hands indeed.
She turned away and instead searched for the e-reader that should be here somewhere. On it, she hoped to find the files that would unlock the whole case her boss had her working on. As a cyber security analyst for the FBI her days were mainly focused on processing data and solving complex coding puzzles. And that yet another reason why she wanted to get that promotion so badly. Team leaders got more time in the field, more hands-on experience with cases. She’d had the training and she certainly had the brains. All she needed was to crack one major case as proof she could handle herself in face-to-face situations.
Now if Superstud McSpy over there would get the hell out of her way, she’d have her chance.
“Hey, what do we have here?” Scotty pulled a manila folder out from beneath some lacy lingerie. “Hello there.”
“I’ll take that.” Hayley snatched the file from his hand and hurried over to the bed before he could protest. “Maybe this will tell me where she is.”
“Or maybe,“ he reached over her shoulder and snatched it back, “it will tell me what really happened to my friend.”
“Give that back.”
She wanted to kick him in the nuts. She wanted to tell him off up one side and down the other. She wanted to nibble on those firm lips until he was as turned on as she was.
Hayley clenched her jaw and resumed her search through the dresser while he took a seat on the bed. Screw him and that stupid file. Nothing worth anything would just be lying around like that anyway. Natalie Matthews was too intelligent. Haley’d been tracking the woman for months, even before her husband’s death. The young widow would never stash important intel beneath her unmentionables. Especially someone with Natalie Matthews’ past...
by Leslie North / Romance / Young Adult / Suspense have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes