*Note: These titles were previously released in the Mammoth Book of Hot Romance and the Mammoth Book of Special Ops Romance. They have been expanded and revised for the digital release.
~ * ~
Danger. Deceit. Desire.
Don’t Walk Away
by Shiloh Walker
Ten years ago, former Army Ranger Ethan Raintree made one hell of choice…keep on lying, or tell the woman he loved the truth. He decided to tell the truth, and she threw him out of her life. He never stopped loving her, not stopped wanting her. Celeste Harper finally had everything she wanted—or so she thought. She’d escaped her past. She’d escaped her demons. But she couldn’t escape herself…or the man she’d left behind all those years ago. Looking into his eyes ten years later, she realizes it’s her turn to make a choice—let go of that pain and take him back. Or walk away…and face a future without him.
Code Word: Storm
by Sydney Croft
The extremely secret Agency for Covert Rare Operatives is the only thing that stands between the human race and complete chaos. Now, two agents with special abilities, Annika Svenson and Creed McCabe, are sent to stop a man who has harnessed the power of the supernatural world. But Creed and Annika have a history that puts them at odds — and in closer, hotter contact than they’d like. In this ACRO story, which falls in the series timeline between Riding the Storm and Unleashing the Storm, Annika and Creed grow closer, despite their resistance. And with their lives are on the line, they find they must not only work together, but be together, or risk a terrifying fate that could consume them both…
Annika Svenson loved her job. As a special operative for the Agency for Covert Rare Operatives, she was given awesome assignments — lots of danger, action, and really freaky situations.
Because ACRO didn’t employ the average agent. No, ACRO specialized in people with unique talents, like Annika’s electric eel ability to shock the hell out of whoever she touched. Her skill, combined with the fact that she’d been raised to be a secret agent from the age of two, made her someone every ACRO operative wanted to work with.
It also made her someone those very operatives avoided when they weren’t working with her. Annika wasn’t the nicest person on the planet, but she couldn’t care less what anyone thought of her. As long as she had Dev, ACRO’s big boss, on her side, she had all she needed.
Her cell rang and, speak of the devil, Dev’s Carry on my Wayward Son tone jingled in her pocket. As she dug the phone from her jeans, she glanced outside the window of the East Seattle house ACRO had rented. The mansion across the street looked back at her like some kind of million-eyed monster, which was appropriate, since the man hiding inside was a beast in his own right. All was annoyingly calm, which was the first thing she said to Dev when she answered.
“Nothing going on,” she said. “Mikey-boy hasn’t so much as opened the front door to get the paper in two days.”
Dev sighed. “You tried to gain entry again last night?”
“Yep. And I have a lump on my head to prove it.”
Normally, nothing could keep her out of a secured building, but Michael Bender wasn’t your usual arms-dealing, bank-robbing, terrorist scum. No, this slimeball sold his services to the highest bidder, and he used the spirit world to do his evil work. Now that Annika had trapped him, he’d used those same talents to make his house impenetrable — anyone trying to break in was going to get their asses kicked by things they couldn’t fight…or see.
Sure, Annika could charge her body up to dissipate a ghost’s energy, but apparently, the entities Mike had enslaved could actually manipulate electricity, and the last time Annika had gone up against them, they’d drained her power and whacked her on the head with a brick.
“Understood,” Dev said. “I’ve got backup on the way. Play nice.”
The way her boss had said, “Play nice,” sent tingles of both dread and anticipation up her spine, because she knew exactly who he’d deployed for this mission.
“Creed,” she breathed. “You’re sending that—”
“I know there’s no love lost there,” he interrupted, “but you two need to deal with it.” The sound of Dev tapping on his computer keyboard came over the secure line, followed by a curse. “Gotta go. Creed should be there any minute. Don’t kill him.”
Don’t kill him.
Yeah. Okay. Whatever. She’d tried once…the last time they’d worked together in a haunted mansion. Turned out that he was one person in the world who was immune to her electric surges. Which made him the one person in the world she could have sex with. Oh, she could control her power, but sometimes, like when she was startled — or when she had an orgasm — her body lit up like a neon sign and short-circuited whatever she was touching.
Including people. Except Creed.
Her cheeks heated as those memories roared back in excruciatingly vivid detail. He’d taken her virginity at the mansion, and afterward they’d barely spoken for weeks. Until last month, anyway, when he’d been sent to her for martial arts training, and they’d done just a little too much rolling around on the mat.
And once again, they hadn’t spoken since, though not for lack of trying on his part. Their lack of communication was her fault, and she could admit it. She didn’t need him, didn’t want him, didn’t even like him. That crazy fluttering in her belly and skipping of her heart meant nothing.
A heavy pounding on the back door made her jump. Dammit. She was never jumpy.
“Annika?” His deep, low voice rumbled through her, and she resented the way it made her pulse race.
Casually, as though she wasn’t trembling on the inside, she turned away from the window and the rainy Seattle evening. Creed stood at the entrance to the living room, the dim glow of the single candle casting more than enough light for her to get a good view of all six-foot-five of him wrapped in black leather from his biker boots to his pants to his jacket. His shoulder-length, dark hair fell in unruly waves against his face, the right side of which was covered with tattoos that decorated the entire right side length of his body.
Her mouth watered as if getting ready to lick every one of them.
“Creed,” she ground out, more angry at her body’s response to him than at the fact that he was here when she’d told Dev she didn’t want to work with him ever again.
He strode into the living room like he owned the house, and he scanned her from head to toe as though he owned her. “Nice seeing you, too.”
Arrogant jerk. She wasn’t going to let him get to her this time. No way. “I hope you brought your little ghost tagalong with you, because we’re going to need all the help we can get on this one,” she said crisply, all business.
“Wow. You’re eager to get to it, aren’t you?” He smiled, the cocky one that made her want to slap him. Or kiss him. Maybe both.
“I’m always eager to work.” She turned to the table next to her, where she had the plans for Bender’s house laid out. “As you can see—”
Creed’s hand came down on her shoulder and spun her around. “Oh, I can see,” he said, in a husky, rich voice. “I can see that before we take down this scumbag, we’re going to have to get something out of the way.”
Swallowing dryly, she took him in, his dark, heavy-lidded eyes, his full lips, and the eyebrow piercing that inched up the longer she stared like a dolt and said nothing.
Finally, she cleared her throat and said with a calm she didn’t feel, “What do we need to get out of the way? Do you need me to kick your ass? Because that, I will happily do.”
“Always with the attitude,” he murmured, as he thrust his hand into her hair and held her immobile more with the force of his will than his grip. “This is what we need to get out of the way.”
Before she could protest, he lowered his head and kissed her.