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Author: Zoe Dawson






Virginia Beach, Virginia

The tapping, beeping sound woke Remington “GQ” Nash up. He had always been a light sleeper, except for some reason during deployment. He could sleep like the dead with his combat naps; maybe it was because he knew his brothers would always have his back. He heard the distinctive sound a phone makes when taking a picture. WTF? He opened his eyes to find the woman he had been with last night tippy tapping on her phone.

“Did you just take my picture while I was sleeping?”

“Yeah, just your sweet ass and back. What’s the problem?” Yeesh, these women he was meeting lately had no idea of boundaries. He took the phone out of her hand.

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?”

She was outraged he would dare touch her phone. The irony was not lost on him. He clicked on her camera and gallery. There he was in all his glory and not just his ass and back. There were full frontals while he was asleep. Talk about creepy. He quickly deleted them. “Don’t take my picture without my permission and text it to your girlfriends or fucking Tik Tok.”

“Geez,” she said, pushing back the blankets. “You’re a sensitive guy.”

“It’s just simple decency, Tiffany. Don’t you get boundaries and that you crossed them? I’m a flesh-and-blood man, not some fodder for social media.”

“I was just telling my friends how much you look like Chris Evans.”

He stared at her, annoyance rising in him. Not this again. For once, just fucking once, he would like a woman to look at him and see him, or see past his looks to his very intelligent, analytical brain, not see some carbon copy of a superhero from the Marvel Universe and pop culture icon.

“You know, Captain America?”

“I got it,” he growled as he pushed back the covers and stalked toward the bathroom.

She sighed and said, “You sure do. You really are quite beautiful.”

“That’s just it, Tiffany. You think stroking my ego is important to me.” If she’d wanted ego, she should have chosen someone else, there were plenty of guys who had a healthy view of themselves.

“Everyone wants to know they look good,” she said defensively, obviously miffed he wasn’t flattered by her picture-taking and bragging about her conquests of him. Also, it was a cue for him to reciprocate in kind. Here she was, this beautiful, five-foot-five powerhouse of shallowness, not remorseful at all about exploiting him while he was sleeping, and no apology for violating his personal space. He had hoped differently and maybe it was his curse to find women without substance. “I hang out in SEAL bars for a reason. You guys always look good.” She had her bra and panties on, and she was pulling on her pretty see-through white shirt, then her skirt.

He looked away. Those words were always triggers for him, transporting him back to his childhood when his mother had told him his looks got him everything he wanted, but there was no substance. He was just like his philandering, conman of a father. Looked like him, was like him. GQ knew it wasn’t true. He knew he was nothing like the man he barely remembered, the slick, slippery eel his mom detested. Unfortunately, she used him as her personal punching bag for all his father’s flaws, shortcomings, and abandonment.

Poor Tiffany. The only things she seemed to understand about his legendary breed were how good he looked naked and his perfect features. She had no idea that he was honed like a knife’s edge to not only counter fire, but to throw some lead of his own. He used the Laws of Combat in everything he did. Those laws were not just about surviving, but thriving, dominating the enemy, and winning. It was all about winning, every time, whether it was a five-foot menace with a camera or a dangerous dude with an AK.

“Tiffany. How would you feel if I took pictures of you naked and shared them with my team, and we got off on the fact that you’re a woman we’d all love to fuck? Would you find that acceptable?”

She stared at him for a moment, then looked away. He was halfway through the mission of getting an apology and making her understand what she had done was wrong.

“N-no. I see your point.” She shoved her feet into her strappy sandals. “I shouldn’t have taken your picture while you were sleeping.”

He nodded and headed toward the bathroom again, but then he heard the sound of her phone taking his picture. He swore softly and turned, but she was already out the door. It slammed on his failure to correctly assess and understand her response. She had grasped that taking pictures of him while he slept wasn’t cool. But she seemed to think it was all right to take them when he was awake.

He shook his head. He hoped she got a good picture of his ass, because right now he felt like a colossal idiot. Okay, alcohol and horny didn’t mix well. He did his business and turned to look at his butt in the mirror. Okay, he had a really fine backside. He burst out laughing. Captain America didn’t have anything on these glutes. Fuck Chris Evans.

He heard his phone chime. That meant deployment. At least this would be a good story for the guys. Shallow woman in his life, one. GQ, zero.



Boyce “Preacher” Carmichael drove through the main gate of the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story with nothing but a residual cough from his now healed and completely fluid-free lungs. The doctors at the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth were surprised by his rapid and full recovery. It was all that running and physical activity that had given him such strong lungs.

With the memory of his brief stay in the hospital in France before he was flown back to Virginia Beach still on his mind, especially the strange and unsettling visit from one of the elusive and elite CIA Shadowguard Luna “Karasu” Shimora, he parked outside the SEAL headquarters where the teams homeported and had their cages filled with their gear.

He was convinced Karasu had wanted to talk to him in private, but the guys had blundered in and ruined the moment. Every attempt to contact her had been fruitless. The number he had for her didn’t work and he suspected CIA Shadowguard discarded their phones after an op to protect against compromise.

Maybe he was a fool and she had moved on and that’s what she wanted to tell him. But those bits and pieces of what had happened in Geneva, Switzerland kept plaguing him. What had exactly happened there? He had been feverish, out of it for the most part, but the ache and hunger for Karasu never seemed to abate. Suddenly feeling things he wasn’t sure it was smart to feel, and wanting things that may be out of his reach, he wasn’t sure he’d ever get her completely out of his heart.

This woman, whom he hadn’t slept with, barely touched, and had only kissed a couple of times. This fierce warrior…assassin whom he hadn’t been able to get out of his head since he first met her.

Sobered by that thought, he unclipped his seatbelt and got out of the car.

He didn’t want to assume that he would see Karasu again, but there was a chance. She and her partner Axel “Volk” Beck often worked closely with the team’s embedded CIA liaison, Rose Sinema, who was not only their intelligence person but engaged to their CO, Master Chief Christopher “Iceman” Snow. Maybe it was that chance that kept him holding on to the memory.

He’d relived their last encounter a million times over the last few weeks. He’d been in France laid out flat by a bug in his lungs. She’d made sure he was taken care of. She wouldn’t have done that if she didn’t care, but there was something else…that look as if there was something final about her goodbye.

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