Defensive Action

By: Jenna Kernan

A daring CIA agent and a risk-averse I.T. expert

need to combine forces—like it or not.

Ryan Carr’s mission is to deliver top secret intel—not guard I.T. expert Haley Nobel, the unsuspecting woman who saved him while he was in a shoot-out. But with bullets flying, Ryan and Haley have no choice except to rely on each other and their survival instincts. With both of their lives on the line, will they find the best defensive action is total engagement?

Ryan felt the pressure of someone’s touch on his chest, the contact light and tentative. His eyes snapped open and he clamped his hand around the woman’s wrist. She jumped and tugged in a vain effort to retrieve her captured hand.

She could have shot him.

She could have left the car and made a run for it.

But she’d decided to check his condition instead. It wasn’t wise. But it was kind. How long since he’d seen this sort of compassion?

“Haley,” he whispered. “What happened?”

“You fainted, I think.”

“Passed out,” he said and stretched his back until his neck pressed to the headrest. “Marines don’t faint.”

“Is that what you are now? A marine? Not a detective?”

He blew out a breath. “Once a marine...”

She lifted her chin and gave him an appraising stare with those bright, intelligent eyes.

“Look, if I tell you the truth, chances are good you won’t believe me. But if you are captured, you’ll know that you died protecting your country.”

Chapter One

“Turn around or keep going?” Haley Nobel muttered to the car’s empty interior. There was no one in the rental with her to answer and she realized it was the first time she had been outside alone, all alone, in years.

The GPS app had taken a holiday during her drive in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State and the darkness had fallen like a curtain outside her shadow-blue 2018 Ford Taurus. Beyond the windshield there were no twinkling stars. No bright moon. No mystical glimmer of the aurora borealis. Just blackness with the only sign of life being the deer that had darted across the road a few miles back and nearly given her a heart attack.

Adult adventure camp was looking increasingly like the colossal mistake she’d expected it to be. She had about as much business being back here as that deer would have on the Number 7 Subway.

“Where am I?” she asked the silence about her as she peered at the gas gauge that had dipped below a quarter-tank of fuel.

She shivered against the chill, trying again to adjust to the heat on a night that was forecast to dip into the thirties. She’d forgotten that summer nights were so much colder up here in the mountains.

Her light L.L.Bean jacket looked rugged in the catalog but it was designed for wind and rain, not cold. There wasn’t even a fleece liner. Inside one of the front pockets was her impulse buy, offered at checkout for 25 percent off, a Victorinox Rambler pocketknife including scissors, file, two screwdrivers, bottle opener, toothpick, wire-stripper, tweezers, key ring and a blade long enough to use to slit her own throat for being stupid enough to let her father convince her to leave her upstairs apartment in the building she owned in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to redeem his Hanukkah gift to her.

She’d been planning the specifics of this week for six months and it was already here. Back in December, she’d thought her father had a point. She did need to get back out there. But rocketing down zip lines was a little too out there. Besides, her job furnished all the thrills and chills she needed, strictly virtual, of course.

She’d tried to get him to take the gift back but he’d said it was nonrefundable and then told her that she needed to stop acting like she was the one who had died.

That cut deep, but the more she thought about it, the more she felt he might be right. But perhaps going out with friends for drinks would have been a better start than kayaking in white water.

Haley had told her father that her life held plenty of risks, which wasn’t exactly true. Hacking wasn’t dangerous if you were paid by the company you were hacking, which she always was. Her father thought she was paid by local businesses to build websites and manage social media accounts.

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