“Heat of the Night”
Digital • May 10, 2011
“Heat of the Night”
The last thing Ken ‘Viper’ Thompson expected was to be stuffed into a clergy outfit and having to pretend to be a priest, but orders were orders. As a sniper, Ken had a job to do. He couldn’t afford to be distracted by an eagle eye doctor bent on seeing through his disguise. It didn’t help that with one look she made his thoughts turn to sin.
Dr. Lily Houser wasn’t happy about the change in roster. Bad enough she’d had to accept a male nurse she’d never met, but now she had to deal with a priest…a very sexy man of the cloth, who seemed a little too comfortable in the jungle and far too sexually aware to be celibate. Those sharp eyes could tempt a saint. If they’re not careful, they’ll both burn.
The Mammoth Book of Special Ops Romance
23 passionate stories of hard-hitting love
Stirring romance featuring the heroes of the Navy SEALs, Delta Force, Air Force Pararescue, the Green Berets, the Army Rangers and other special forces: men and women who live and fight in extreme danger to preserve our freedoms, defenders and protectors of all we hold dear.
This collection includes the work of bestselling romance writers such as Shannon K. Butcher and Stephanie Tyler and Larissa Ione, writing as Sydney Croft. Sydney Croft’s special forces couple, Annika and Creed, work for the Agency for Covert Rare Operatives (ACRO), all of whose members have special powers, while Shannon K. Butcher’s hero is an ex-Navy SEAL. But these fighting men and women have a gentler, protective side; hard-edged weapons when on active duty, they can be caring lovers, of special forces teammates or the civilians they protect.
Read an Excerpt
The plane bucked and sputtered, its engines threatening to die before the wheels could touch down on the dirt runway that had been carved out of the jungle a hundred feet below. Ken ‘Viper’ Thompson stared at the civilian medical team from behind mirrored sunglasses. They were ragtag group of do-gooders, who believed they were making a difference in the world.
Had he ever been that naïve and young? If he had, Ken couldn’t remember. Fifteen years as a professional sniper would do that to a man. He and his spotter, John James Ekle had replaced one of the nurses and the minister on the team at the last moment, which was why they were jammed in here like a half dozen squids in a jar.
Sweat trickled down his back as the heat rising from the jungle smothered the little plane and its occupants. Lack of circulation made the stale air take on an edge of fear and desperation. Nerves were running high. Ken scanned their faces once more, but everyone seemed to be preoccupied with what was outside the aircraft.
No one suspected the real reason he and John were here, not even the sharp-eyed doctor in charge of the team. They hadn’t had time to develop a deep cover—thanks to a power-hungry ex-general’s accelerated timetable—so they’d decided to blend with a real medical relief team. Danger came with that decision, since civilians were unpredictable and could blow even a good cover by accident.
That’s how Ken had ended up dressed as a missionary priest and John had passed himself off as a nurse. Both had enough combat medical experience and training to pass scrutiny, but Ken’s size had made him conspicuous. At 6’3, there was no blending in. Without the collar to deflect suspicion, the homegrown military would spot him for what he was—a warrior.
It was one thing to pretend to be a priest, it was quite another to think like one. Ken’s gaze dropped to Dr. Lily Houser’s bare legs as she uncrossed them. They weren’t long, but they were shapely like the woman. Firm and compact, they had just enough strength to grip when it counted. It didn’t help that her short sexy blond hair and sleepy green eyes looked as if she’d just crawled out of bed after a night of vigorous lovemaking. Hell, maybe she had.
The visceral reaction the thought provoked made Ken pause. Why should he care if she had a lover or not? He didn’t even know the woman. It wasn’t like he was looking to get involved in the middle of a mission. His eyes strayed to her chest and what few saintly thoughts he’d had fled from his mind. Ken tugged at his clergy collar, wishing he’d worn the vestigial tab instead. The cutout display in his shirt would’ve saved a lot of choking.
Damn, it was hot in here.
Ken had been given a file on Lily and the rest of her team before leaving the marine base in Oceanside, California. According to the papers, this was the second time she and this group had volunteered to be dropped into the ass-end of the jungle. They planned to immunize the locals against the H1N1 virus and set up a makeshift clinic to help curb infant mortality rates.
While they set up shop, Ken planned to put a bullet through Juan Garcia—an ex-general with grand ideas of raising an army to stage a coup—then hump it out of the jungle with John before anyone was the wiser. Unfortunately, that would take time since the satellite photos showed three potential locations. Until John scouted them all out and found where Garcia was hiding, Ken would have to play holy man under the watchful eyes of Dr. Lily Houser.
His gaze strayed to her legs again. Her tan thighs poked out from beneath khaki shorts before tapering into a pair of snug hiking boots. He could think of worse places to be than beneath the good doctor.
Lily felt his eyes on her again. She couldn’t see the blue hidden behind those mirrored shades, but there was no mistaking the heat. She resisted the urge to tug her shorts down over her legs. It wasn’t like they were indecent. They came to mid-thigh. Yet under his gaze, she felt naked. Lily crossed, then uncrossed her legs in an attempt to get comfortable in the cramped space. Weren’t priests supposed to only have eyes for God?
It didn’t help that Ken didn’t look like your average priest. Her eyes slid over his well-muscled form, long-fingered hands, and dark head. He kept his hair short and his rugged face clean-shaven. She caught a whiff of something musky, thought it might be aftershave until she smelled it again and realized it was simply soap and man.
Father Ken wasn’t classically handsome. He was too rough around the edges for that, but he was striking, even more so when she could see his eyes. The color of glacial ice, there’d been nothing cold about the way he’d looked at her. Anymore heat and he’d have melted the polar caps. Lily was more than a little ashamed that she’d noticed.
When he and John had first reported to the aircraft, she’d balked. Her regular nurse, Amy had backed out of the trip at the last minute without much of an explanation. The crew Lily had put together was skeleton enough without losing a key member. Every member had a specific function. Without someone there to fill in the missing piece, the team would fail.
Lily had little choice but to accept the new additions. That didn’t mean she had to like them. She’d put her personal preferences aside because children were dying down in Bonita Cielo. A delay to seek out new team members would only mean more unnecessary casualties.
Still, she’d made a few phone calls. Lily couldn’t afford not to since she had to depend on her team when they reached the jungle. Father Ken and Nurse John had checked out much to her chagrin. Lily didn’t like working with new people, especially out in the field. You never knew how they’d react to the conditions.
Her gaze strayed to Father Ken. He didn’t look like the delicate type. She glanced at the large black duffle at his feet. In fact, he looked as if trips like this were second nature to him.
The plane dipped and everyone but Ken and John gasped and grabbed for their harnesses. John hadn’t missed a beat as he chatted up her other registered nurse, Karen Matthews, a cute redhead with stunningly long legs that went on for miles. From the look on her besotted nurse’s face, the advances he made weren’t exactly unwelcome. Karen laughed and touched his arm as John pulled a face behind the pilot’s back. As long as their antics didn’t jeopardize the team, Lily didn’t care what two consenting adults did in their free time.
Lily forced her hands to release the straps and calmly smoothed out her short blond hair. She was still getting used to the length, since she’d cut it specifically for this trip. When she realized Ken was still watching her, Lily dropped her hands into her lap. If he wasn’t rattled, then she wasn’t going to be either. Men like Ken and John wouldn’t respect a leader who couldn’t even handle a little plane ride.
She rolled her shoulders and forced herself to make eye contact. His lips quirked and the cramped airplane space suddenly got warmer. Lily looked away and thought she heard him laugh as the wheels bounced off the runway, then touched down.
Cielo Bonita wasn’t more than a few shanty houses perched next to a winding river full of deadly anaconda and caiman—a cousin to the crocodile. To call it a town was being generous, Ken thought. Why Dr. Lily wanted to build a clinic here didn’t seem immediately apparent. Fifty miles over the towns got bigger. There was more need, according to his intelligence.
He unloaded his duffle with his clothes and bibles in it. His M-21 rifle, Glock pistol, KaBar knife, and ghillie suit would be buried beneath foliage at the fallback site. He and John couldn’t afford to count on airport security, even though they’d been paid ahead of time to look the other way.
Ken waited for John to get his gear. His spotter scope had been disguised and placed with photography equipment. Lily glanced back at them as John approached.
“I think the good doctor has the hots for you,” he said. “She’s barely taken her eyes off you since the flight began. Maybe she has a taste for the forbidden.” He laughed and waggled his eyebrows.
“Or maybe she hasn’t made up her mind about us,” Ken said, looking his way. “We need to stay on our toes. We can’t afford to tip off the natives or the friendlies.”
“Tell me you wouldn’t like a piece of that,” John said, his eyes straying to Lily’s bottom. “She’s your type and she has one smokin’ body.”
Ken elbowed him hard. “I don’t have a type. Try to stay focused on the mission.”
John grunted, then gave him a knowing smile. “That’s what I thought.”
“We better help them set up. Don’t want to give our new boss an excuse to send us packing,” Ken said, ignoring his partner. The mission came first. It didn’t matter that Dr. Lily Houser had a mouth that was utterly kissable or that his hands itched to touch those luscious curves she kept hidden under that loose blue t-shirt. Ken had a role to play and it didn’t include seducing the utterly fuckable doctor. Lily would be horrified if she knew what he was thinking, not to mention if he acted on his carnal thoughts. He tugged at the collar again, then forced his hands away. A real priest would be used to wearing the damn thing. Of course, most priests didn’t have seventeen and a half inch necks.
If he had a brain in his head, he’d do his job and get the hell out of here. His prolonged presence would only endanger the sexy doctor and her team. Ken had no doubt they’d be receiving a visit from some of Juan Garcia’s men either today or tomorrow. He planned to make himself scarce when they arrived. No sense in tipping them off. They probably already had eyes on the place. He scanned the faces of the villagers who’d come to get a glimpse of the new arrivals.
“What’s wrong?” John asked. “Are you having one of those feelings?”
Ken looked at the faces once more, but didn’t get the itch between his shoulder blades that always let him know when he was being watched. He shook his head and rolled his stiff neck. “Let’s get moving,” he said. “We don’t have much time.”
“Right behind you, boss.”
Ken shot him a warning glance and pointed to his collar. Just the thought of it choked him.
“I mean Father,” John said, then chuckled.
“More like undertaker,” Ken muttered and they both laughed.
* * * * *