(c) January 2010, Samhain Publishing
Blurb from Publisher's Website:
Touching her crosses the line…and shoots his code of honor all to hell.
Sergeant Alex Shepard is all about getting the job done. That single-minded purpose helps him forget the fact he hates the jungle as he leads his Special Forces team in search of Honduran drug lord Santiago Saldana. His quarry eludes him, but the woman left behind in the compound is the next best thing. Saldana’s mistress—an American woman who clearly puts her own pleasure over right and wrong.
Isabella Canales has been Saldana’s prisoner for four long years. Worse, he’s taken away her most precious possession. Except Alex doesn’t believe a word of it. The clock is ticking, and she’s frantic to do anything to convince him to take her home. Even agree to serve as bait to draw Saldana out.
As they push through the tangled jungle dodging bullets and ambushes, Alex fights his growing respect for Isabella’s determination—and an attraction that’s impossible to resist, whatever she’s done. But Saldana never lets go of what’s his. And betrayal is his deadliest weapon…
Exclusive Excerpt (provided by the author):
“Where did you get these boots?” He motioned to the footwear that was out of proportion to her body.
“I borrowed them.” She swiped the back of her wrist over her forehead. “I didn’t have clothes for this."
“Who did you borrow them from?”
He inspected a fallen tree, looking for snakes or anything else that might be using the log as a hiding place. Tossing his pack down, he motioned her to sit. She looked at him warily, then did. He reached for the laces, but she drew her feet back, the quickest he’d seen her move in hours. For the first time he saw that her pants were too big as well, rolled at the hem and at the waist. She was tiny, and these were men’s clothes.
“Saldana’s clothes?” He squinted up at her.
“No.” She folded her arms over the loose waist and dipped her head. “No, if he knew they were missing—”
“Someone you trusted?”
She shook her head. “If he found out someone helped me, it would be terrible for them. I couldn’t ask anyone for help.”
“Well, you’re not asking me.” He gripped the heel of her boot in one hand and untied it with the other.
She sucked in her breath when he tugged the boot, and he looked up at her. She was in real pain. This wasn’t going to be good.
Blood had soaked through the thick white socks—three pairs, she’d had sense enough for that.
“Jesus.” He peeled the socks gently, one at a time, feeling her tense with each layer. If there was this much damage after only walking this morning—the outer sock was little more than a rag—what were her feet going to look like? Hell, he knew. What he didn’t know was how he was going to deal with an injured woman in the middle of the jungle with no transportation.
He peeled down the third sock. Her ankle was so small he could wrap his fingers around it. It was ripped to hell, the skin over her Achilles tendon shredded and the flesh over her anklebone where the heel of the boot had rubbed. The tops of her toes—tipped with red nail polish—were raw.
He rested her heel on his thigh, then gave the same attention to the other foot. Only after he dragged his pack over did he look at her face. She had braced her weight on her hands behind her, her whole body tense as she stared at her feet.
“I thought nothing could hurt as bad as stilettos.”
That comment surprised a grin out of him. “Yeah, you wouldn’t look too great in them now.” He pulled out the peroxide, gauze and antibiotic lotion. “You’re going to have a hell of a time walking and we’ve got a long way to go.”
She stilled. “You can’t leave me here.”
He sat back on his heels and sighed. The objective had changed on the mountain—get her back to the States. But how was he going to make that happen when her feet were in this shape and he was on his own? He couldn’t protect her and get her out of here. He’d have to stash her until he could do both. “They won’t hurt you. We’ll get you to the road, they’ll find you, take you back.”
“To Santiago.” Her voice rose in panic. “If he knows I left on my own—”
He dragged a hand over his hair. “You tell him we took you.”
She shook her head violently. “He’ll know. There’s no way you could get in, and I’m forbidden to leave.”
“Ever?” He opened a new bottle of water, splashed a bit over each foot, soaking the thigh of his BDUs, and he passed the bottle to her.
She took it but didn’t drink. “In four years. I even—” She stopped herself, pressing her lips together.
She shook her head, her gaze following a trail of ants on the jungle floor. He cut a strip of gauze, cleaned her wounds with gentle swipes and dabs, applied the antibiotic and started wrapping her foot. “If you give it an extra layer or whatever I could make it,” she said. “It already feels a lot better.”
“Your socks are bloody rags.” He looked up. “I have to send you back.”
She shot forward and grasped his wrist. Her dark eyes were pleading. The kind of eyes that could make a man do anything. He turned his gaze down.
“You don’t know what he’ll do to me.”
He pulled his wrist away. “Your choice. You went with him.”
She reached for her pack and dragged it close as he wrapped her other foot with less gentleness than the first, needing to get her away from him. But God, how could he make her walk on these feet?
“You’re not going to leave me all by myself?”
Damn, she was about to cry. “We’ll find a village. I’m not going to leave you in the middle of the jungle. But even that won’t be easy.” He held out his hand. “Give me that.”
She pulled her pack closer, protective, wary.
“I need to stuff the toes or something so your feet won’t have room to slide around.”
"I don’t have anything.”
He tugged the pack free, frowning at her determination to hang on to it. What was she hiding? “I already saw the vibrator. Not that you’re likely to be embarrassed by something like that.” He unzipped the pack and pulled out a brightly colored silk dress, something fine and expensive, something Rebecca would never wear. No, she liked soft colors and cotton, and had probably never paid more than fifty dollars for a dress. This garment was probably worth four times that, at least.
The goddess whimpered, her gaze focused on it.
He grabbed the garment by the shoulders, took just a moment to imagine how the fabric would mold to her body, and ripped it in two.
You would have thought he’d stabbed her in the heart, the way she cried out and reached for it, trying to pull it from his grasp, too late.
“What the hell?” he demanded, holding it away. “It’s a dress.”
But the woman who’d refused to cry when she was in a truck on fire, or hanging off the side of a mountain, was sobbing over a dress. Jesus.
He snatched up her boots, one at a time, and shoved the fabric inside, wadding it in the toes. Then he held out each boot expectantly. Lower lip trembling, she took them, eased her sore feet inside and laced them up.
He stood, backing away and grabbing his pack, not taking his gaze off her. Goddamn, he’d never understand women.