By: KaLyn Cooper | Other books by KaLyn Cooper
Published By: Liquid Silver Books
Published: Mar 03, 2014
ISBN # 9781622100859
Published By: Liquid Silver Books
Published: Mar 03, 2014
ISBN # 9781622100859
Word Count: 78,000
Available in: Microsoft Reader, HTML, Mobipocket (.prc), Mobipocket (.mobi), Epub, Adobe Acrobat
Explosive Combination by KaLyn Cooper - Romance>ContemporaryIt’s hard to feel the romance when you’re being chased through the jungles of Columbia … but it won’t be for lack of trying! When an undercover CIA agent rescues a kidnapped ATF explosives expert, it’s a race against time as they try to stay one step ahead of the Colombian drug lord hot on their trail. If you’re looking for passion and adventure, you’ll find it all in KaLyn Cooper’s action-packed romance, Explosive Combination.
Separately, Harper Tambini and Rafe Silva are lethal… Together, they’re explosive.
ATF Special Agent Harper Tambini is kidnapped by a Colombian drug lord and forced to use her explosives knowledge to kill his competition before she can escape with the help of undercover CIA agent Rafe Silva.
As they make their way through the rivers, mountains, and jungles, their desire for each other detonates. But Harper reminds Rafe of his murdered fiancée and the shadow world he wants to leave.
Harper learned the hard way that men never stay, so now she doesn’t keep them around long enough to see if the sparks can light a fire that will last forever.
In their short time together, can they crystalize a relationship, or will it all blow up?
Content Notes: Spicy, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense, Action Adventure
Reader Rating: 0.0 Not rated (0 Ratings)
Sensuality Rating: Not rated
Harper Tambini ignored the tingling that nipped and niggled at the back of her neck. She blamed the cool breeze that swept down from the snow-topped Andes Mountains and automatically looked in that direction, not that she could see them in the dark of night.
Who’d believe that spring this close to the equator would be so chilly? She rubbed her bare arms and considered digging a windbreaker out of her bag. No need. She’d be on the jet in just a few minutes.
“I can’t wait to get home and hug my wife and kids,” Senior Special Agent Mike Estes told his team from the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The last designation had been added after the 9/11 attacks and was the reason they were currently in South America.
Her team leader sounded as tired as she felt. It had been a brutal mission. For three intense weeks, from one end of Colombia to the other, she’d been constantly on the edge. Her team had eventually found the mid-level drug lord in Cartagena on the Caribbean shore, but he’d legally purchased the CL-20. The gunrunner who’d smuggled the HMX was holed up in the far western regions, and there was no way to ferret him out. It didn’t matter since no connection could be found between them, which was excellent because it required both explosives to cocrystalize into the most lethal, non-nuclear explosive on the planet. Harper had personally confirmed that neither had the technology—or brains—to complete the complicated process.
Mission accomplished, they were headed home, and none too soon in her opinion. She was tired of beige hotel rooms that wouldn’t get a one-star rating in the United States and restaurant food that was either tasteless or so spicy her mouth burned for hours. Harper longed to slide between the soft yellow sheets of her own bed in her new condo. She’d fall asleep, the monuments around the National Mall in D.C. as her personal nightlights, and sleep for a week.
“Someone get the hangar doors,” Estes called to the team.
Jarred from thoughts of home, Harper yelled back, “I’ve got it.” She trotted to the control panel and reached for the button to power open the gigantic hangar doors at the fixed-base operations side of Bogotá International Airport.
Huge rough fingers gripped her wrist and squeezed. For a nanosecond, she stared in confusion at the sun-browned hand and an arm covered in night camouflage utilities as the man tried to pry her hand away from the red button. His acrid body odor nearly turned her stomach.
A sicario. One of a drug cartel’s armed men who carried out assassinations, theft, extortion, and kidnappings.
She whirled and brought the heel of her free hand to the tip of the man’s nose and jammed it upward, as years of elite training in covert ops had taught her. With complete focus on her immediate duty to silently take out her aggressor, she could then stealthily assist other team members. The crunch of cartilage and the hiss of his breath through clenched teeth gave her temporary satisfaction.
She continued her spin to bring her knee up. He must’ve anticipated the move because she contacted his thigh instead of his groin.
He still had her wrist and pulled it behind her back, drawing her closer to his body to reduce the impact of any more of her moves. He caught her arm just before her arrowed knuckles connected to the windpipe-crushing spot above his prominent Adam’s apple. He stepped between her legs and pinned her against the cool metal sheeting of the hangar. His huge hand covered her mouth and pinched her nose.
She couldn’t breathe. Her rapid heartbeat was using up what little oxygen was left in her lungs.
Harper glared into the shadowed eyes of her enormous attacker as she twisted, seeking any advantage.
When the cold steel barrel of a gun was pressed into her temple, she instantly stilled.
“Move and you’re dead, perra.” The gunman growled with a thick Spanish accent. He was right to call her a bitch. She was one, especially when her life was threatened. But she wouldn’t acknowledge his intended insult with as much as a twitch of a muscle.
“I take my hand away. Scream if you want.” The glint in her attacker’s eyes said he’d like that. “Do you no good. Your team is—”
“Shut up, fool,” the gunman snapped in Spanish and sneered
As if in a dance move, she was yanked from the building and spun around so her back was to him. She sucked in a much-needed breath, replenishing her dazed brain. He had her wrists secured with flex-cuffs within a second. Before she could fight free, another set of large male hands had grabbed her at the hips and bound her kicking legs with strong arms. They had another set of plastic restraints on her ankles within seconds.
Once she was secured, the gun returned to her head. She furtively scanned the area. She hadn’t heard gunshots, but that didn’t mean her team was still alive.
The minimal light from the crescent moon revealed only shades of black, but Harper observed movement everywhere around her. Well-camouflaged men rushed about like ants before a rain, purposeful and under time constraints.
Harper ignored her attackers as they patted her down, choosing to scan the area for her team. The sicarios brutalized her breasts and buttocks then roughly rubbed between her bound legs. They wanted to humiliate her, but she’d been trained by the best in the world. Their hands on her body meant nothing, and neither did their crude suggestions and taunts. They removed all her communication devices and weapons—even the knife hidden in her boot.
She found the rest of her team.
Relief washed over her. They were alive. Distinguished by their casual American traveling clothes of jeans and polo shirts and their rigid bodies, they stood bound, side by side, guns to their heads. In the diminished light, she still caught the glances they shot her way. Damn. She hated when they did that, checking on her because she was female.
They all had the same ATF training. Harper had come from the Army, where she’d been one of the first women to complete Special Forces training as a first lieutenant. She’d been a company commander, responsible for over a hundred men and women in a hostile country. Secretly, she’d served in combat situations in Afghanistan as part of the Army’s test group of women before the generals openly admitted that women could—and, in her opinion, should—serve in combat roles. Fuck it all, she was better trained than any man on this team.
Yet she’d let her guard down, anxious to get home. Their ride had been minutes away, and they’d been less than a hundred feet from freedom.
She twisted and turned the plastic ties on her wrists, but they only cut deeper into her tender flesh. She was flexible enough to slip her tied hands to the front, but the pistol at her temple kept her from trying more.
So what could these sicarios want with them?
These men were unusually tall, not your run-of-the-mill gun toters. The average Colombian man was only five feet seven inches. These men had to be imported mercenaries or selected for the intimidation value of their height.
But she’d put a serious hurt on one. She loved it when men underestimated her.
Drips of blood glinted in the moonlight before they were absorbed into the dark shirt of the man who’d attacked her. A few feet away, another sicario was on his knees, cupping his groin, and a third rolled on his back, holding his knee. They all swore profusely in guttural Spanish. She smiled inside but kept her expression blank; she was proud her team had fought back.
Off to the side, the tallest man stood with a distinct military bearing. He barked orders in Spanish as he constantly scanned the area for trouble. Harper held his gaze when their eyes met. She refused to show weakness.
There was something familiar about the tall man. His body language had caught and held her attention. The precise carriage, the way he placed his feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and back straight, indicated an authoritative stance she recognized but couldn’t place. Ironically, it reassured her somewhere deep within.
Bright headlights from an approaching vehicle caught the hard angles of his face, and his light blue gaze seemed to bore through her, all the way to her soul. Holy shit. He wasn’t Colombian. But he was absolutely in charge.
Had they been trapped by an American ex-patriot? What the hell was happening?
A black Hummer limousine stopped ten feet from her team, coating the scene with a bright white glow. The interior light came on when the back door opened. Nothing covert about this entrance.
A man exited the vehicle with more grace than she’d expect for a man of his girth. Black curls fell over his collar, framing a stern brown face.
Oh fuck. She recognized him. Every ATF and DEA agent knew of Carlos Narváez. He had been in the top ten of the most wanted list for years. He’d packed on more than a few pounds, but that cocky grin was unmistakable.
With the confidence of a well-protected king, he strode to the man in charge of the ambush. At three o’clock in the morning, in his tailored gray suit, Narváez looked as though he were prepared for a skyscraper corner office rather than a clandestine meeting at a closed airport in South America.
In a calm, sophisticated voice, he asked the man in charge, “Segundo, were my guests hurt?”
“No, but the tall bitch broke Jose’s fuckin’ nose, and that one”—Narváez’s second pointed at her teammate, Hernandez—“got Valez in the balls. Sanchez had his knee taken out by that one.” The pointed finger designated Estes. At the mention of their names, the hurt sicarios tried to appear unharmed and shrug off the pain inflicted by her team.
“It’s probably the first time a woman surprised Jose and fought back,” Narváez said with an exaggerated shrug. Then he lifted a hand and gestured toward himself. Her teammates were manhandled and placed in front of one of the most feared drug lords in all of Colombia, a capo. He had money and power and, it seemed, an army of giants.
Her gaze drifted from the affluent bastard to the man on his right, the Segundo. The damn man was staring at her, again. His silver-blue glare scanned the length of her body with obvious male appreciation before returning to her face. She felt stripped naked, but a small part of her relished his approval. Men were so easy. Maybe she could use his attraction to her advantage.
Defiantly, she lifted her chin a fraction and glowered back.
“Carlos Narváez,” SSA Mike Estes said in conversational Spanish, “did you come to wish us good-bye?” He then switched to English. “But, excuse me, you speak perfect American English. You were educated in the States. Graduated from the Citadel, wasn’t it?”
A slow smile wiped away the harshness of Narváez’s frown and replaced it with a startling flash of perfect white teeth, which had to be caps. He looked almost angelic, but like an Old Testament angel—handsome, yet also a fierce warrior who could strike with wrath.
Narváez’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Virginia Military Institute.”
Harper let out a deep breath. Estes—Testes as they called him behind his back because the man had big brass ones—seemed to be taking some control.
“Well, I knew it was one of those Southern military-type schools.” Harper mentally rolled her eyes as Testes pushed the notorious cartel leader.
Not a good idea. Find common ground, Testes. Negotiate, dammit.
Estes was evidently pissed they’d been ambushed and had decided to take some of his aggression out on Narváez. This might not end well.
Narváez stepped closer to their team leader. “And you, ATF Senior Special Agent Mike Estes, where did you get your education?”
How the hell did Narváez know Mike’s name?
More on edge than before, Harper shifted within her constrained stance and considered a duck-and-shoulder-shove move followed by a head butt. She needed an offense in case Estes called for it.
Estes hid his surprise, but Harper recognized his shock in the slight shift of his posture. “United States Naval Academy then five years in the Marine Corps. My masters is from Georgetown. I believe your MBA is from Darden at UVA, correct?”
“Very good, Agent Estes, you’ve done your homework.” Narváez tilted his head.
In full Testes mode, he said impatiently, “Okay, Narváez, you have our attention, and you obviously have us. What do you want? If you wanted us dead, we would be dead by now.”
Mike was right about that, but Narváez could still kill them. Easily.
Her team had muscled thugs holding pistols at their heads. There was also a perimeter of armed guards facing outward. Even more men were in the hangar with their plane. The odds were all on Narváez’s side. But where there was life, there was hope.
“Yes, you are correct.” Narváez paced carefully in his polished wing tips, the tailored lines of his dark gray suit jacket shoved behind the hands he’d thrust into the front pockets of his pants.
“What do you want?” Estes enunciated each word.
“Why, the woman, of course,” Narváez said as if they all should have known.
The bottom of Harper’s stomach seemed to drop. Me? Oh, hell no. Her ATF pre-mission preparation had included a complete study of torture techniques preferred by Colombian cartels, and there was no way in hell she’d let this monster touch her.
“No, take me,” her fellow teammate and good friend Hernandez yelled, his eyes open wide with fear for her.
“I came to make Miss Tambini an offer she can’t refuse.” The left side of Narváez’s mouth turned upward in a smirk as if he’d made a joke. He sniffed and rubbed his nose.
Damn it, he was using his own products. He’d be unpredictable, possibly paranoid. He hadn’t shown any of those characteristics, yet. Perhaps he was still in the grandiose stage; that might account for the ballsy move to ambush her team.
Then it hit her—he knew her name.
“Narváez, take me,” Estes offered in a controlled voice. “Let my team go. Now. Safely.”
Narváez cocked his head and seemed to consider this for a minute. “I doubt you have what I need.” He looked toward his Segundo, who still stared at Harper.
“Segundo, I can tell you like her. She’s tall, a good match for a man your size. You can’t keep your eyes off her. I can see why. She’s beautiful.” Narváez moved to stand in front of her and then carefully examined her face.
“Don’t touch me, you bastard,” she snarled and twisted her face away. He caught her chin between his thumb and forefinger and held her still forcefully, but not painfully. She stared into eyes that were so dark brown they were nearly black.
“You know who she looks like?” Narváez was so close she smelled the coffee on his breath and the tang of cocaine-laced sweat. He withdrew a stark white handkerchief from his pocket and wiped away the small beads of moisture on his brow. He was jonesing.
He continued, “That actress, the one who was Miss America but lost the title because she’d posed nude for Penthouse.” His smile broadened, and she knew he was thinking of her naked. She shuddered but controlled it quickly. “She starred with Arnold in that movie, you know the one.”
“Yes, Eraser. She does look a little like Vanessa Williams, especially in the shadows.”
Oh my God. The Segundo had spoken in perfect American English, and, if she wasn’t mistaken, a hint of a Southern accent flavored his vowels. He stared at her appraisingly. Harper thought she saw a flicker of embarrassment in his light blue eyes. Why would this thug be embarrassed?
“I’ll give her to you, Segundo. She seems spirited, yes? You’ll like that. Besides, I have my new wife to keep me entertained.” Narváez ran a long finger up and down Harper’s cheek.
Her skin crawled with revulsion. The click of her teeth mashing together was so loud everyone close had to have heard her. She would be no man’s property. Human trafficking was very profitable and prevalent in South America, but as an ATF agent, she’d never been involved in that area of smuggling.
“I’ll die before I become your whore,” Harper told the men who looked at her like a commodity. She was beyond fear now and well on her way into anger territory. If anyone touched her, she vowed to kill them. They wouldn’t be the first men she’d killed.
“You’ll do exactly what we ask of you. But, fear not, Miss Harper Tambini, it’s not your body we need.” Narváez released her jaw and ran his thumb over her dry lips. It took all her self-control not to bite it.
Narváez’s eyes never left hers as he ran a finger down her throat toward her breasts. Unblinking, she held his gaze until he blinked first and then stepped back. He sniffed and scowled as he rubbed his nose. She wondered how often he used.
“No, Narváez! Take me,” Estes demanded again. “I’m the one you want.”
Narváez ignored her team leader’s offer. “Bring her.”
The gun at her head was gone. Her captor slung her over his shoulder as if she weighed next to nothing. No one would ever consider her small or petite at nearly five feet eleven inches of honed muscle, but the man carried her with ease. Her shoulders ached in the uncomfortable position. Like an inchworm, she writhed and wiggled in an attempt to make him drop her.
“Carlos,” Segundo called out to his boss’s back, “what about the others?”
“Kill them. They’re of no use to me,” Narváez said without hesitation or pausing his stride.
“You don’t wish to start an international incident where four…tourists, who are very important to the United States government, suddenly disappear or, worse yet, turn up as dead bodies. Every U.S. alphabet agency and some foreign ones would be crawling all over Colombia within twenty-four hours. That would be bad for business.” Seconds later, Segundo added, “Besides, you have what you need.”
Harper wondered what they needed her for. She guessed she’d find out. All she had to do was withstand their torture and stall for time. The U.S. government would send a SpecOps team for her as soon as they could. And then she would kill the son of a bitch Narváez.
“Do with them as you think best.” Narváez strode to the back door of the limousine.
Harper had been gently placed on her feet next to the rear door. The gun was back at her temple.
Segundo gave a hand signal, and the men holding her teammates stirred. Horror ripped through Harper as one-by-one the men were choked out and they sagged to the tarmac.
She turned to protest, but the prick of a needle stole her voice before she could utter a word. The warm drug, pushed by adrenaline, raced through her body and numbed her senses immediately. The world blurred as her teammates were dragged into the hangar.
Her knees buckled.
Before she hit the unforgiving concrete, strong arms scooped up her limp body and gently placed her in the limousine. Her eyelids heavy, she looked into sea-blue eyes that were now livid with anger. Through foggy senses, she thought she heard someone whisper, in southern-accented English, “I’ve got you. I’ll take care of you.”
Then she was out.