Grave Intentions, Book 4
He had half-a-million-dollars riding on this mission…
Wyatt “Viper” Raine is two weeks from tapping out of his fifteen-year military career when he is offered an easy assignment that could net him half-a-million-dollars. All he has to do is provide protection detail for K.M. O’Conner on a reality show. Once the mission was complete, he would be financially set to fulfill a promise he never forgot. When he meets the tantalizing and extremely talented contestant, Wyatt can’t help but wonder if he has bitten off more than he can chew.
Keller O’Connor’s dreams were about to come true—she’d been selected to be on Hometown Advantage, a reality TV show where contestants compete in physical and cooking challenges. Her chances of winning are good—that is, if the escaped serial killer who’s hellbent on killing her doesn’t literally chop her from the show first. She isn’t happy when the show’s director assigns her a hard-as-nails Navy SEAL bodyguard/partner. Her plans didn’t include splitting the million-dollar winnings, nor getting unexpectedly married in Vegas. Of course, the idea of being chopped in real-life by a killer focused on revenge wasn’t appetizing either.
As the chemistry heats up between Keller and Wyatt, so do the threats. Can he keep her alive long enough to make both of their dreams come true, or will a deadly killer exact his own brand of sweet revenge in front of the world?
SNEAK PEEK – SWEET REVENGE
Wednesday, May 1st, 09:45 AM
Wyatt “Viper” Raine hated crossroads. He hated ultimatums more.
“Sign your damn re-enlistment papers.” The memory of his C.O. yelling still echoed in his ears.
Wyatt had known better than to turn his head to avoid the old man’s nicotine and coffee-laced breath.
“Or I’ll assign you to the worst shithole mission I’ve ever sent you on.” His C.O. had grinned. Smug bastard. “You’ll wish you’d re-enlisted.”
Wyatt steered his red-hot, SRT Viper into the parking garage off Bellevue Mall Way in Bellevue, Washington. Somewhere on the twentieth floor, there was an office called The Paranormal Intelligence Foundation. That’s where he’d find out the details of his next assignment. Online research yielded nothing substantial regarding the foundation’s purpose. No testimonials, no pictures aside from nature photos, and only an email address as a way to contact them. Uneasiness roiled in his belly, and it wasn’t from the sushi he’d had for breakfast. It sounded more woo-woo than real, and he wondered if it was a front for a covert ops organization.
“Arriving at destination,” his GPS announced.
“So, this is the shithole.” So far, the trip from Coronado, California, had been worth the drive. Clean mountain air and oceanside views. He loved opening up all eight cylinders and forgetting about his last op.
At least this assignment wasn’t in an outpost in Alaska.
Wyatt made his way down to the parking garage’s sixth level, coming to a halt by a guard shack that flanked a floor-to-ceiling, chain-link fence. He lowered his window.
The guard stepped from his booth. “Petty Officer Raine, we’ve been expecting you. Please pull forward to slot 627.”
The latest pop song blared from the vehicle that came up on his bumper, and the driver slammed on the brakes. Wyatt glanced in the rearview mirror. She honked her horn and motioned her hand for him to hurry along. He ground his teeth. Impatient, entitled city folk weren’t his kind of people.
The guard pushed a button that shifted the chain-link gate to the right and Wyatt pulled forward. He located his assigned stall, cornered between two pillars, and backed in. Perfect spot. His baby wouldn’t get dings from any other vehicles. Wyatt didn’t have a lot of possessions, but Precious was a once-in-a-lifetime purchase from a scorned divorcée for fifty bucks. Quite the steal for a car that cost upward of eighty grand. He washed her every day, waxed her when needed, and all but kissed her goodnight after wrapping her in a car blanket.
He turned off the ignition and stared once again at his re-enlistment papers on the passenger seat. They were his one-way ticket back to SEAL Team 7. He pulled a pen out of his inner leather coat pocket, grabbed the papers, and situated them against the steering wheel. One signature and he’d be back in the fold with his squad, sipping beers and planning their next op.
Dreams of another life flooded his memory. His brother Melrose’s voice echoed in his ears. “Promise me, this is the last assignment, Bro.”
Hope. Plans. Desires. They vanished seconds later when Melrose stepped on a land mind, blowing his body into bits so small, there was nothing left to bury. One of those bits was still lodged inside Wyatt. He moved his elbow against his side. “I got you, Bro.”
His hand shook. Every damn time he tried to sign the papers, he got tremors like a seasoned alcoholic coming off a bender. Like his old man had before he died.
It was cheaper for the U.S. Government to keep his aged, battered but trained body in operation than to start fresh with a new recruit. Wyatt understood that. At the moment, the taxpayers’ almighty dollar could suck shark brains. Signing bonus aside, he wasn’t sure he could count on adrenaline to pull him through another five years.
Could he leave his band of brothers? Men he trusted without question. Was so damn proud to stand beside. Could he let them down?
He’d miss them. Really miss them.
He clipped the pen over the papers, folded them in half, and slipped them inside the glove compartment.
Two more weeks.
Hell, he’d been on worse assignments for longer than two weeks. According to his orders, all he had to do was provide protection detail for K. M. O’Connor. How hard could that be? Lackey job. As long as Wyatt didn’t have to clean O’Connor’s toilet with his toothbrush, he could handle a simple babysitting job.
He locked his car, making his way to the elevator. A woman approached wearing a feminine yellow and white striped dress that ended mid-thigh, and damn she had a set of sexy legs. Her rhinestone-decorated jean jacket sparkled under florescent lights. She also wore bright-yellow fingerless gloves. In May? Sunglasses hid her eyes. Inside a parking garage? Wyatt rolled his eyes. She blew a large bubble-gum bubble and sucked it in before it got too big. He pressed the elevator’s Close Door button. No way in hell was he riding in a confined space with someone who blew bubbles. He hated that popping, smacking sound. From the size of the wad she chewed, it had to be at least five pieces of gum. No matter how gorgeous she was, that kind of woman never turned him on.
Wyatt swallowed and opened his mouth to help his ears adjust as the elevator sailed to his designated floor. Ding. One set of French glass doors were in front of the elevator. Bold black letters with gold inlay graced the door: Paranormal Intelligence Foundation.
He pulled the door open and stepped to the receptionist desk.
The woman held up a finger. “Tom, your ten o’clock is here.” She stood. “Come with me.” The chestnut-haired young lady led him through a door and down a narrow hall that opened into a series of small conferences rooms, each looking over the city’s skyscrapers. “Mr. Wyatt Raine,” the woman announced. She waved a hand for him to enter the room.
Interesting that they had his mug memorized.
Three men lined one side of the table. They stood as he entered the room. Wyatt assumed one of them would be K. M. O’Connor, and God he hoped it wasn’t the old fart in uniform.
The first man approached, shaking his hand. “Hi, Raine. I’m Tom Krysinski.” He was an older man, a former cop if Wyatt wasn’t mistaken from his buzz cut and polished black shoes.
“Pleased to meet you.” Wyatt offered his hand.
The man standing to Tom’s left dressed in white slacks and denim shirt said, “I’m Steve Krysinski. Tom’s cuter, older brother.” The man laughed at his own joke, shaking Wyatt’s hand. “I’m the director of Hometown Advantage.”
Wyatt furrowed his brows. “I’m sorry. I’ve never heard of it.”
“It’s a TV reality show.” Steve’s Hollywood-bright smile about blinded him.
“Colonel Hardy.” The gray-haired military man was well-decorated. “Sir.” Wyatt saluted. The colonel saluted in return, then shook his hand. He motioned for Wyatt to take a seat across from them.
“We’re waiting on Keller,” Tom announced. “Would you like some water?”
Keller O’Connor. He’d find out what the “M” stood for soon enough. Wyatt nodded. “Yes, please.”
Tom poured and handed him a glass. “I heard you’re ready to join the civilian side of life.”
Wyatt glanced at the colonel. “Yes, sir. After fifteen years in the Navy, ten with the SEALs, I think I’m ready.”
“Hm.” Tom raised a bushy brow. “Would you be willing to maintain your military status if your assignment needed to be extended?”
No. He couldn’t. He closed his eyes. “Sir, there would have to be a huge incentive on the line—and the length of time would need to be discussed.”
Tom’s smile puckered his ass. He’d made his decision. Two weeks and he was tapping out. “Does a half-million dollars sound like enough incentive?”
Keller O’Conner watched the jerk in the sports car close the elevator. Chivalry’s dead. It’d left the building with Elvis. She scrolled through her phone, waiting for the sole elevator to return from dropping off the idiot who couldn’t press the hold button for five seconds. She licked her lips and blew another bubble. She loved stretching the elastic sweetness one tiny huff of breath before it exploded in her face. The elevator returned, she sucked in her latest accomplishment, and selected the twentieth floor.
She was about to scratch off a major Bucket List item. Hometown Advantage had liked her video application and she was meeting the show’s director to sign her contract. She did a little happy dance, twirling, pointing her forefingers at the ceiling, shaking her hips inside the private elevator. She was so giddy she could pee.
Ding. The elevator doors opened.
Composure restored, Keller opened the glass door to the Paranormal Intelligence Foundation, a business owned by her best friend Joni Gregson, a fellow psychic she’d met through her brother.
“Hey, Macie. Is Joni in her office?” Macie was Joni’s younger sister and worked as the foundation’s receptionist.
“There you are.” Joni rounded the corner, glancing at her watch. “Oh, for the love of God, spit out that monstrous wad.” She reached over the counter and yanked a few tissues from the box on Macie’s desk. She held her hand in front of Keller’s face, making her deposit her simple pleasure.
Keller gave her a hug. “Thanks, Mom.”
“Well, we want you to make a good impression when meeting the director of the show.” Joni was dressed in a conservative black dress, matching heels, and her hair was pulled back in a messy bun. Her blue-green eyes were her most captivating feature.
Keller pulled her lip gloss from her purse. “I’m a shoo-in. I’ve badgered Colonel Hardy until his balls were blue to get on the show. I’m going to be on the show.” She nodded, assuring herself.
It didn’t matter that a serial killer had escaped prison and was determined to hunt her down and kill her. He’d caught up with her once. She had the scars to prove it. As she lay in the hospital breathing through a tube, she had made a firm resolution. No more sitting on the sidelines waiting to be picked off. He was coming for her. This time, she was ready.
The corner of Joni’s mouth twitched.
“What?” Keller applied her gloss, smacked her lips together, and shoved the container back in her purse. “What aren’t you telling me?”
Joni swallowed and let out a slow breath. Oh Lordy, this was going to be bad. “You’re going to have to compromise to get your way.”
Keller hated the sound of that. “Compromise what?”
Joni tilted her head. “You can’t go on the show alone.”
“Yes, I can.” She ground her teeth. “There aren’t teams on this show. They’re individual contributors.”
Joni lowered her tone. “This season there will be teams.”
Keller glanced down the hall to the conference room.
“You can’t go out in public, be on social media, blasting to the entire world where you are with an escaped convict on the loose. Captain Sam Smithy has”—Joni ticked off with her fingers—“money, resources, and skills to get anywhere he wants.” Her intentions were good. Keller would give her that.
“I’ll be fine.” Keller had taken self-defense classes. She knew how to fire a gun—not that she carried one. She was a fast runner and rock climber. She had her own damn set of skills, and she no longer listened to music while she ran. That’s how Smithy was able to sneak up on her the last time.
“Not without a bodyguard.”
Keller groaned. “No way.” She crossed her hands over her heart. “You don’t understand. I need to do this for me.”
“I can’t risk losing you.” Joni grabbed her gloved hands and pried them away from her chest. “Zeke and I have discussed this in detail.” Joni’s husband, Zeke, was a former Marine. Nicest guy, but since she’d announced going on the show, he’d went into full tactical possessive older brother mode. Annoying at best.
“You and Zeke are like family, granted.” Appease her. Then refocus the conversation. “You have my best interest at heart.”
“Remember that when you meet your new partner.”
Shit. “I don’t need a partner.” She thought a moment. “Unless Bobby Flay’s available. I mean, we would slay every cooking challenge. Wait.” She lifted her hands, shifting her thoughts to her dream cooking partner. “Anne Burrell. I choose Anne. Though, I could take direction from either of them in the kitchen.”
Joni puffed a breath over her jutted lower jaw, making her bangs lift. “Tom Krysinski will also be traveling with the show. He’ll be an extra set of eyes and ears.”
Keller rolled her eyes.
“There’s one other thing.” Joni chewed her bottom lip.
“You’ve already ruined my day.” Keller waved a hand. “Spill it.”
“Your new bodyguard is officially finished with his military career in two weeks. I’m hoping we can negotiate to have him stay on until you’ve completed with the contest.”
Two weeks? Seriously? They couldn’t get her anyone else? No one else was available in the whole armed forces? They had to slough her some chump change like a homeless beggar.
If the teams were set then she’d have no choice but to accept the show’s perimeters. Her dream came true…briefly. Now she’d have America’s Finest to deal with on top of the show’s challenges.
Wyatt turned to the doorway, hearing two women’s voices as they approached from the hall.
Bubblegum stepped into the room. “Hi, Tom.”
The strawberry blonde beauty had spit out her wad and removed her sunglasses. She had the greenest eyes he’d ever seen. True green. The kind he wanted in the crayon set that Melrose always grabbed first.
“Hey, Keller. You excited?” Tom wrapped her in a hug.
“I’ve been dreaming about this day for years.”
Tom continued the introductions.
Keller O’Conner. K. M. O’Conner. Bubblegum was his assignment. His shithole next assignment walked in the door. He thought K. M. was a guy.
“Oh, my goodness, you guys could be twins.” She made a fist with her gloved hand. Hometown Advantage’s director, Steve, bumped her knuckles. She continued making her way around the conference room table and eyed the colonel. “Hardy.” Her tone held an edge of disapproval. She came around to Wyatt’s side of the table and set her purse down, staring him straight in the eye. “So, you’re Two Weeks.”
“Wyatt Raine.” He offered his hand.
She stared at him for a split second and sat down. Half-a-mil. Stay focused on the goal. One woman stands between you and the shop of your dreams.