Delta Force operative Caleb Stone has no business being this close to Lana Hancock--the woman he nearly killed 18 months ago while infiltrating a terrorist group known as the Swarm. As much as he wants to, he can't get out of Lana's life. The CIA has picked up chatter indicating that the Swarm is still active.
Forced to keep Lana under surveillance, Caleb discovers her life is again in danger. For the Swarm is now more powerful than ever and determined to kill the one woman who can identify them-- and the one man who betrayed their trust. As the danger mounts and the passion between them ignites, Caleb and Lana must elude the Swarm's new leader: a woman hell bent on vengeance who will stop at nothing to destroy them both.
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January 31, 2008
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Excerpt from No Control by Shannon K. Butcher
Caleb Stone had no business being this close to the woman he'd nearly killed eighteen months ago. Just the thought of having to face Lana Hancock again made him break out in a cold sweat. This assignment was going to be as much fun as taking a bullet in the gut.
Lana's office at the First Light Foundation was nestled in the middle of a run-down line of small one-story leased office spaces, between a walk-in clinic and a print shop. The long prefab building was cheaply constructed and badly in need of a fresh coat of paint. Early morning sun filtered through the line of trees adorning the front of the parking lot. It was late July in central Missouri, and even with the shade the decorative trees offered, Caleb's car was already beginning to grow uncomfortably warm.
He didn't shift to crack a window or turn on the air. With all the mistakes he'd made, he figured he was headed for hell, anyway. Might as well get used to the climate.
Caleb's body tensed and his stomach flooded with acid. This was not going to be fun.
She got out of her Saturn, putting Caleb no more than fifty feet away from her. It was too damn close, and every corner of his soul screamed for him to back away slowly before she got hurt again. But backing away wasn't an option. Colonel Monroe had ordered him to come here. The bastard.
If Caleb had thought for one second that Lana was in danger, he would have been the first one in line to play human shield, but that wasn't the case. Monroe was just being paranoid over a bit of random chatter the CIA had intercepted. Monroe was worried that the Swarm was back, but that couldn't be true. That particular terrorist group was gone. Caleb had been on the team that took them out six months ago. They'd made sure no one survived.
Monroe was convinced something was going on, so here Caleb was, up close and personal with the only living reminder of the worst three days of his life. Lana Hancock.
She looked a lot different now than she had the last time Caleb had seen her. She still had the same rich brown hair, but it no longer fell down her back, tangled and matted with blood. She'd cropped it shorter so that it swung in a shiny wave that ended just above her shoulders. Her face was no longer swollen or bruised from repeated beatings, and he found himself staring at her, drinking her in, trying to replace this new, healthy image of her with the horrible one he'd held in his head for too many months. He hadn't been able to tell when she'd been lying unconscious in that army hospital bed, but now he could see how pretty she was, and that the fullness of her mouth hadn't been totally due to swelling.
A man pulled his Honda into the lot and waved at Lana. She smiled and waved back, and Caleb caught a glimpse of deep twin dimples in her cheeks. He'd never seen her smile before, and until now he hadn't realized what he'd been missing. The only expressions he'd seen on her face were ones of terror and pain. He'd stayed by her bedside for three long days and even longer nights, and neither the terror nor the pain had lessened. When he'd been forced back to work, every day he'd expected to hear that she had died, but that word never came.
Even though he'd kept tabs on her recovery, this was the first time he'd seen her since, and watching her walk around was like witnessing a miracle. It soothed him and eased some of the tension that had been growing in him ever since he'd been ordered to come here.
Caleb watched with a mixture of respect and awe as she crossed the hot asphalt to her office. Her walk was smooth and steady, her hips swaying slightly beneath her faded jeans. If he hadn't known for a fact that it had taken her months to learn how to walk again, he'd never have believed it by watching her move. There was nothing hesitant in her stride, no hitch of pain or jarring movement. She was all rolling grace and swaying strength.
Her functional white T-shirt and matching tennis shoes were completely without frills, and there wasn't a single glitter of jewelry on her body or a speck of makeup on her face. She used a green canvas backpack instead of a purse, and that looked like it had seen better days. But even without the bells and whistles, even though she was nothing like the glamorous women he usually dated, she still had more pull on him than all the women he'd known combined.
And if that wasn't fate's way of slugging him in the gut for fucking up, he didn't know what was. No matter how much she appealed to him, she'd probably rather spit on him than look at him. Which was probably safest for both of them.
Caleb forced his breathing to even out into a steady rhythm while he willed his heart to slow its pounding pace. He'd known that seeing her again would affect him, but until now, he hadn't realized just how strongly.