MISSION:ANACONDA is the third novella in the high-octane, romantic military suspense series Division Eight, from bestselling author AD Starrling. If you like action-packed, sexy stories with strong-willed heroes and heroines, then you’ll love this gripping black ops series.
Title: MISSION:ANACONDA Series: Mission Eight Thriller Author: A.D. Starrling Genre: Military Romantic Suspense Release: August 28
It should have been a simple mission.
They should have been in and out in a day.
Except it wasn’t.
And they didn’t.When a CIA double agent working for one of the most influential cartels in South America comes up with a lead that could help the U.S. government and their allies slow the growing scourge posed by drug lords in the region, ARMOR is assigned the task of extracting a bookkeeper and his family out of their clutches. But the mission goes horribly wrong and two of ARMOR’s agents end up in the hands of the enemy. There’s no love lost between Gaby Hawkins and Miles Dawson. Especially not after the kiss they exchange in a bar following a stupid dare. But when they find themselves at the mercy of the cartel, the two are forced to rely on each other to mount a getaway. Lost in the jungle without their weapons or a means to communicate with ARMOR, Gaby and Miles have to survive on their wits and locate the hideout where the bookkeeper has been taken. While the rest of ARMOR scrambles to discover their whereabouts, a deadly game of cat and mouse unfolds between the missing agents and the cartel men tracking them. And as the danger grows, so do the feelings between the two. Feelings that are changing into something neither of them anticipated. Time is running out for Gaby and Miles. Can they survive the perils of the jungle, outsmart their foe, and complete their mission? And will they finally realize how wrong they were about each other and how very right they are together?
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Read the other books in the Division Eight Thriller Series now
About A.D. Starrling
AD Starrling’s bestselling supernatural thriller series Seventeen combines action, suspense, and a dose of fantasy to make each book an explosive, adrenaline-fueled ride. If you prefer your action hot and your heroes sexy and strong-willed, then check out her military romantic suspense series Division Eight.
When she’s not busy writing, AD can be found looking up exciting international locations and cool science and technology to put in her books, eating Thai food, being tortured by her back therapists, drooling over gadgets, working part-time as a doctor on a Neonatal Intensive Care unit somewhere in the UK, reading manga, and watching action and sci-fi flicks. She has occasionally been accused of committing art with a charcoal stick and some drawing paper.
Find out more about AD on her website www.adstarrling.com where you can sign up for her awesome newsletter, get exclusive freebies, and never miss her latest release. You’ll also have a chance to see sneak previews of her work, participate in exclusive giveaways, and hear about special promotional offers first.
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Read an Excerpt from MISSION:ANACONDA
Gaby Hawkins narrowed her eyes at the woman across the table from her.
“I did not shit my pants when Brody Thompson asked me to be his prom date.”
“Sure, whatever you say, Sis,” Clare Hawkins drawled. “Still doesn’t explain that brown stain on your dress when you got back home at two a.m.”
Zoe Fairchild grinned and took a swig of her beer as she watched the caustic exchange. Gaby sighed.
It was Friday night and her younger sister was in town for the weekend. Gaby had picked her up from the airport two hours ago before heading over to her regular watering hole in downtown D.C., where she’d arranged to meet Zoe and Vivian Thorpe.
It wasn’t that Gaby didn’t love having her family over on the rare occasions they left Texas, but being the middle of a brood of five meant she was generally the target of all their ribbing. It didn’t help that she was the only redhead in the family, a throwback to her distant Irish ancestry. When her sister had come along, Gaby had thought that finally having another girl in the family would mean she’d have an ally against her three brothers, but Clare had proven to be the worst of the bunch.
Hell knows what they’d do if they knew I was a member of a covert black ops team. I’d never hear the end of it.
She shuddered at the thought and eyeballed her sister sharply. “Like I said then and a thousand times since, I tripped in those ridiculous high heels Mom lent me and fell in a cowpat. Who the hell stages a prom night in the middle of a freaking field anyway?”
“Texas does,” Clare replied tartly.
Vivian slid into the seat next to Clare. “What’d I miss?”
“Clare was recounting how Gaby went to prom with the hottest guy in school and accidentally soiled herself,” Zoe said, leaning back in her seat next to Gaby.
Vivian leveled a sympathetic look at Gaby. “Incontinence is not something you should be ashamed of.”
“My Grandma has coupons for those special pads if you need some,” Zoe added.
“Ha-ha, very funny,” Gaby grumbled, shoving a middle finger up at the two women.
Even though Vivian and Zoe were technically her superiors in ARMOR, the Division Eight unit she’d left the U.S. Marines for over a year ago, Gaby knew them well enough to know that what happened between them socially would never impact on their working relationship. ARMOR was a tight unit and they were the only women in it. Not that the guys in their team treated them any differently because of their gender.
Gaby arched an eyebrow at her sister. “And you, you better zip it or I’m gonna tell Henley about all the shit you got up to when you were in college.”
Clare patted her pregnancy bump. “You can tell him all you want, sweetheart. That man worships the ground I walk on, especially now that I am with child.”
Gaby swallowed a mouthful of her beer, leaned across the table, and flashed an evil smile at her sibling. “Oh yeah? Even if I tell him about the time you had that threesome with those football quarterbacks?”
Clare’s smile slipped from her face. She scowled at Gaby.
Zoe sucked air between her teeth as she stared at the younger Hawkins. “Oh. Now, we gotta have the deets.”
“Yup,” Vivian murmured, her hazel eyes sparkling with humor. “I hear threesomes can be awesome.”
Gaby blinked at ARMOR’s XO. “Hey, you’re not—“
She stopped and glanced at her sister.
A faint smile curved Vivian’s lips as she read Gaby’s silent question. “What? Thinking of cheating on Alex? Nope.” Her smile widened into a full-blown grin. “He’s more than enough man for me.”
Zoe groaned. “Please. I have enough trouble as it is not imagining the two of you naked when we’re in the same room.”
“Yup,” Gaby concurred. “I swear Abe looks like he’s watching some kind of AV whenever you two are together.”
Vivian and Alex Slade, the head of ARMOR, were unofficially going out. Though liaisons between black ops team members were generally frowned upon by the army and the administration, Vivian and Alex were discreet enough not to let it affect their working relationship, something the rest of ARMOR were grateful for. No one could deny that Alex and Vivian were brilliant team leaders, nor could anyone refute that the two of them truly belonged together.
“Okay, so I’ve decided on the next challenge.” Clare leaned toward Gaby until they were face to face. “I dare you to kiss the next person who walks through that door.”
Gaby observed the wicked light in her sister’s eyes and swallowed a curse. They’d been playing truth or dare for the last hour and it was Gaby’s turn. In Clare’s version of the game, only a dare would do for Gaby.
“Person?” Vivian raised her eyebrows. “As in man or woman?”
Clare nodded, unrepentant. “Yup. Person.”
Gaby looked around the packed room. Though the Friday night crowd was out in full force across the rest of D.C., 7th South was mostly filled with military types and cops, it being a popular hangout for that particular circle of professionals. They were sitting in a diner-style booth to the left of the main bar, with the front door behind her and Zoe’s backs.
Gaby studied the men in the place with a critical eye. None of them made her pulse jump or her belly twist with even a hint of desire. In fact, she couldn’t recall the last time that had happened. She masked a grimace, downed her beer, and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
“Alright,” Gaby said, gazing brazenly at her sister. “Challenge accepted.”
“Oh,” Zoe said. “Well, this just got more interesting.”
The door swung open behind them a moment later. Gaby tensed. Opposite her, the strangest expression dawned on Vivian’s face.
Clare’s eyes rounded. “Whoa. Now that’s what I call a hottie.” She glanced at Gaby with a hint of envy. “You lucky, lucky woman.”
Zoe twisted in her seat. She stiffened. “Uh-oh.”
Gaby turned, puzzled by her friends’ reactions. Her stomach dropped when she saw the man who’d just walked through the front door of 7th South.
“Hey, is he someone you know?” Clare said in a puzzled tone.
“Kinda,” Vivian murmured.
Gaby swallowed hard. Kinda is an understatement.
Standing in the doorway of the bar talking to the man who’d just walked in behind him was her ARMOR team mate and nemesis, Miles Dawson. A Harvard graduate in Literature and Philosophy and former Navy SEAL, he’d been handpicked by Alex and Alastair Caldwell, the current Director of U.S. National Intelligence, to join Division Eight when the section was created last year. Not only was he one of the best snipers in the country, he had an impressive military resume from his time in the SEALs.
None of that mattered much to Gaby, since the man had a habit of irritating the ever living hell out of her whenever he opened his mouth. Known as “Pretty Boy” since his Harvard days, Miles Dawson was a preppy, condescending purist who got a kick out of highlighting her imperfections. Or so it seemed to her anyway.
Gaby eyed the tall man with the steel blue eyes and light brown hair with Miles. They’d just taken a booth to the right of the door. Steel Blue went to the bar to order their drinks. Gaby’s gaze roamed the stranger’s handsome face and muscular body.
Now, why couldn’t that guy have walked in first?
“Umm,” Clare muttered, “should I retract the dare?”
“Hell no!” Zoe exclaimed.
“Na-huh,” Vivian chimed in.
Gaby glowered at her friends. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”
They grinned at her.
“Oh, now you’ve got me all curious,” Clare said. She leveled a mischievous smile at Gaby and made a shooing motion with her hand. “Watcha waiting for? Go claim your prize. And you better make it a hot one.”
The words “hot” and “Miles Dawson” in the same sentence made Gaby’s temples throb with the start of a faint headache.
Of all the bars in this city, why’d that bastard have to walk into this one?
She snatched Zoe’s beer off her and gulped down half of it.
“Hey!” Zoe protested.
“Shut your mouth, Fairchild,” Gaby snapped. She clenched her jaw and slid out of the booth.
“Good luck,” Vivian said with a chuckle.
Gaby showed her friends and her sister the middle finger over her shoulder as she headed over to Miles’s table. His eyes widened slightly when he clocked her coming through the crowd.
She stopped next to his table and gritted her teeth.
“First off, I apologize for what’s about to go down,” she said without preamble. “Believe me when I say I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for a dare.”
Miles frowned faintly. “What are you talking about?” He looked past Gaby and raised an eyebrow. “Is that Vivian and Zoe?”
Miles’s companion joined them, two bottles of beer in hand. Gaby’s hackles rose when she saw the mildly irritated look Miles flashed at her before he looked at the man.
“Jason, this is one of my…associates, Gaby Hawkins,” Miles murmured. “This is my friend, Jason Scott.”
Scott nodded curiously at Gaby as he slipped into his seat.
Gaby bit her tongue. Scott had evidently not missed the subtle accentuation Miles had placed on the word “associates.” Asshole might as well have said “PITA!”
Scott’s gaze switched from Gaby to Miles as they stared at one another with narrowed eyes. “Would you like to join us, Gaby?”
Miles looked at his friend as if he’d lost his mind.
Gaby scowled. That’s it!
“Don’t worry, Jason,” she said briskly. “This will only take a moment.”
With that, she climbed onto Miles’s lap, grabbed his face with her hands, and planted her lips on his mouth.
Miles froze, his hands rising instinctively to her waist. Gaby registered the warmth of his fingers through her T-shirt with a jolt of surprise. She looked down into his shocked stare and blinked.
There were flecks of gray in his eyes. She’d never noticed them before.
Well, this is the closest I’ve ever been to the damn man.
“French him!” Gaby heard her sister shout. “You don’t win the dare unless you French him, you hear me, Gaby Hawkins?!”
Gaby could have sworn she heard Zoe and Vivian’s choked laughter from across the room. She frowned.
Focus on the mission, Gabriella.
“What the hell do you think you’re—?” Miles mumbled against her mouth.
Gaby took the opportunity to slide her tongue between his lips.
Miles inhaled sharply. Now he was looking at her as if she’d lost her mind. Something shifted in his eyes when her tongue met his a heartbeat later.
Something that made her freeze in his arms.
Miles’s breath shuddered out of him, a soft sigh that caused a shiver to race down Gaby’s spine as it danced across her tongue and lips. His fingers clenched on her flesh a second before he took over the kiss.
The world faded around her.
He tasted of mint and coffee and something else. Something that caused goosebumps to break out across her skin and the hairs to rise at the back of her neck.
Her mind screamed Danger! Her body ignored it and melted against the man kissing her with an effortless mastery that was fast reducing her ability to think to a puddle of goo.
It was a while before Gaby realized Miles had stopped kissing her. She blinked her eyes open, blood roaring in her ears and fire blazing in her veins.
Anger sharpened the blue gaze beneath her. “I take it that will satisfy your bet?”
Gaby swallowed and nodded wordlessly as she slowly climbed off his lap. She rose on shaky legs, dipped her chin at a bemused Scott, and twisted on her heels. Hoping to hell Miles hadn’t noticed the way that kiss had affected her, she headed over to the table where Clare, Zoe, and Vivian sat staring at her.
“So, how was it?” Clare asked eagerly as Gaby sagged into her seat.
Gaby avoided Zoe and Vivian’s curious looks and glanced at her sister. “So-so,” she lied.
Clare choked. “So-so?! My God, my panties practically melted watching the two of you and you’re telling me it was so-so? What is wrong with you? Are you a nun?!”
“I’m a good actress,” Gaby muttered.
Because her pulse had jumped. And her belly had twisted with so much desire she could barely form a coherent thought.
That the hot feelings stirring inside her were directed at a man who was usually the bane of her life placed the fear of God into Gaby. Because there was no way in hell she could accept that she hadn’t wanted Miles Dawson to stop kissing her.