Home > Special Ops Seduction (Alaska Force #5)

Special Ops Seduction (Alaska Force #5)
Author: Megan Crane

 


One


   The sudden explosion wasn’t the first clue that all was not as it should be in this supposedly abandoned saltpeter mining town in the Atacama Desert at high elevation west of the Chilean Andes, but it was the most emphatic.

   And it almost knocked her over.

   Bethan Wilcox—former Army Intelligence, psyops, technically an Army Ranger, and current member of Alaska Force—had already had the sinking feeling this particular op was heading south. That queasy little twist, down in her gut, that she’d learned to trust implicitly in a different desert long ago.

   But inklings and gut feelings were one thing. A bone-rattling C-4 blast was another.

   “Who knows we’re here?” came a pissed-off growl over her comm unit. Even with her ears ringing, Bethan knew the speaker without him having to identify himself. Jonas Crow, who was a great many things—all of them complicated. But most important for her purposes at the moment, he was in charge of this operation. “Report.”

   “Holding steady,” Bethan replied, easing out from the protection of the structure she’d been hunkered down behind. It was dilapidated at best and bore the evidence of misery and regime changes in its bullet holes and vandalization, but it had kept her safe.

   She scanned the open, arid square ringed with empty, decrepit buildings, trying to see who had found them here so she could work on how. But there was nothing to see. Just the same old empty nitrate town that was rumored to have once been a dictator’s favorite place to stash dissidents. It had taken them three days to climb the three thousand feet from sea level, moving only under the cover of night in almost complete radio silence as they picked their way through the distant gunfire of drug lord and Mafia-controlled territories to access the town.

   Bethan could have sworn they hadn’t been seen. Much less followed.

   That likely meant the threat had been waiting for them here, not stalking them across the desert.

   Bethan turned that over in her head as the rest of the team checked in. Rory Lockwood, former Green Beret. New Alaska Force hire August Vaz, former Army Nightstalker. And Griffin Cisneros, former marine sniper.

   “Could be a coincidence,” Griffin bit out in that cold voice of his. “There are land mines all over this area.”

   “Do you still have that line of sight, Bethan?” Jonas asked in that same low growl of his, though, as always, there was the way he said her name.

   Bethan was a professional. She had just spent three days creeping through this bright, dry slice of elevated hell, keeping altitude sickness at bay by sheer force of will, always keenly aware that she was the only female member of Alaska Force. Meaning she always, always had more to prove.

   But she was used to that. It meant she worked out harder and longer and with more intensity and determination, back in Alaska at headquarters and everywhere else. It meant she always had to be conscious that she couldn’t be only herself, she had to represent all the women who fought so hard to win coveted combat assignments, in the military and out. It meant she could never, ever lose her cool, no matter the situation.

   It certainly meant that she was not about to admit to herself or anyone else that there was something about Jonas that got to her.

   The way it always had.

   “I can see just fine,” she replied matter-of-factly. “The question is, Was that blast for us personally, or was it a little perimeter gift for anyone dumb enough to come out here? Is it supposed to put us off our game?”

   “Do you feel off your game?” Jonas asked.

   Because of course he did.

   He didn’t actively disapprove of her. Not Jonas. The man barely spoke of his own accord off mission, so it wasn’t as if he’d made any speeches about how he didn’t want her here. Still, he got that across. It was the distance, even when he was standing in front of her. The total silence that greeted any remark of hers that didn’t require an operational response.

   “Negative,” she replied.

   Bethan had been highly trained in a variety of scenarios. She’d signed up for the army right out of high school, mostly to appall her high-ranking air force general father. But then, spite enlistment or not, she’d loved basic training. She’d loved it when she got into psyops, too, and for a time, she’d greatly enjoyed her work as an interpreter, translator, and interrogator, connected to highly classified missions all over the world. It was after one of those missions—the one where she’d met Jonas, though neither one of them ever spoke of it—that she’d decided she wanted to be able to do more. To do something, on a grand scale.

   That had led her to becoming one of the very few women to ever make it through Army Ranger School.

   But the army hadn’t given her what she wanted, and now she was here. Using all her years of army training to stay calm in the face of provocation. Whether it was a building that shouldn’t have blown up or Jonas freaking Crow.

   “Proceed,” Jonas ordered her.

   “I have you covered,” Griffin said, cold and precise.

   Bethan’s gut was working overtime, but courage wasn’t the absence of fear. It was using it as fuel. She eased out of her protected position, squinting past the billowing smoke from what they’d had down as a meaningless outbuilding in this creepy, abandoned place. She could feel eyes on her, no doubt friend and foe alike, and wished she were in full combat gear—but that wasn’t how they were playing this.

   She quickly considered her options. The inhabited ruined building was directly across the square from where she was. The original plan had been for her to take the long way, skulking around the back of what was left of the row of houses where she’d been squatting. Then find a way in through a window that was almost certainly alarmed, if not actively guarded.

   Bethan hadn’t seen any guards yet. And it was always possible that someone was blowing stuff up on the outskirts of this crumbling ruin of a mining town for reasons that had nothing to do with why she was here. Anything was possible.

   But the more likely scenario was that there were guards, and those guards knew Alaska Force was here. And that they’d expressed themselves with a little C-4 as a welcoming gift, so there was no point sneaking around anymore.

   Bethan stood. Then she sauntered around the corner of the ruined house like she was out for a stroll somewhere civilized. She headed across the arid dirt square, in the kind of broad desert daylight that made her lungs hurt, to go knock on what passed for the front door opposite.

   “I like it,” Rory said with a quiet laugh from his position around the far flank of the building she was approaching. “A frontal assault always confuses them.”

   “Shock and awe, baby,” August agreed.

   Jonas, naturally, was completely silent.

   Bethan knocked. The sound echoed strangely out here, with the Andes towering in the distance and that profound, if deceptive, emptiness all around. She knew how American she was, because she wanted to see a tumbleweed roll by, or a creaking saloon door, or the beginning twangs of a Wild West theme. But there was nothing.

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