Blog Tour + Excerpt & Giveaway: Fuel for Fire by Julie Ann Walker

Today we’re spotlighting the next installment in the Black Knights Inc. series by Julie Ann Walker, Fuel for Fire! This releases on July 4th! Don’t miss the preorder promotion going on as well!

Fuel for Fire by Julie Ann Walker
Series: Black Knights Inc. #10 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: July 4th 2017
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A brooding covert operative and a spunky CIA agent discover a burning passion in the next installment of Julie Ann Walker’s red-hot BKI series

Dagan Zoelner has made three huge mistakes
The first two left blood on his hands.
The third left him wondering…what if? What if he had told the woman of his dreams how he felt before his world fell apart?

Spitfire CIA agent Chelsea Duvall has always had a thing for bossy, brooding Dagan. It’s just as well that he’s never given her a second look, since she carries a combustible secret about his past that threatens to torch their lives…

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes & NobleiTunes • IndieBound • BAM

Pre-order Fuel for Fire or Hot Pursuit and receive another Black Knights Inc. novel of your choice!
http://books.sourcebooks.com/completeyourbkibookshelf/

Now here’s an excerpt from Fuel for Fire! ❤

excerpt button

Tell us!” Surry demanded again, giving her head a hard shake. Her brain banged around inside her skull, making her see stars. Since she was tied with a length of electrical cord to one of the chairs in front of Morrison’s desk, her hands duct-taped behind her back, there was little she could do to defend herself.

Then again, she still had her smart mouth. “Screw you, buddy,” she snarled. Those three words were all she allowed herself before she clenched her teeth and sealed her lips shut.

The violence that clouded Surry’s face and glinted in his hell-black eyes made her want to curl into a protective ball. He leaned down so that his nose was an inch from hers. His hot breath smelled of coffee and buttered croissants, and the thought of him actually eating struck her as weird. She had assumed he sustained himself by devouring the souls of Morrison’s enemies.

“You will bloody well tell us what we want to know, Miss Duvall.” When he spoke all low and menacing in that thick English accent, she got the unsettling feeling that something dark moved in the shadows just out of sight. “Or I will jab this letter opener into your carotid.” He pulled back to wield the weapon he had taken from Morrison’s desktop. The sterling-silver letter opener glinted in the golden glow cast by the overhead chandelier.

Releasing her face, Surry cocked his head. “So, what shall it be? The truth? Or the knife? The choice is yours.” There was an emptiness in his voice when he asked the questions. Like he didn’t really care what the answers would be. Like he was tired or bored or maybe…resigned?

Oh, that doesn’t bode well.

Of course, the truth was out of the question. She would never rat on the Black Knights. No telling what Morrison, a.k.a Spider, with all his power and connections, could do with that information. So that left…the knife.

But there’s still so much I want to do!

She had never learned to make her mother’s she-crab soup. She had never tried her hand at writing fiction like that of Tolkien or Rowling or Martin. She had never married the love of her life and given him two bouncing, chubby-cheeked babies.

A cold finger of terror dragged up her spine, and for a second she considered spilling her guts and saving her hide. But then, from somewhere deep inside, a well of strength erupted, filling her with determination and the will to do what must be done.

Her mind briefly touched on her mother, and a great sadness weighed down her heart. Grace Duvall would be devastated by the death of her only child. But Chelsea took comfort—cold comfort, but comfort all the same—in knowing that her life insurance policy would be enough to pay her mother’s debts. That was something. Something to hold on to.

“Well?” Surry demanded. “What will it be?”

Chelsea licked her lips. Fear was a living thing inside her, crawling through her chest like a centipede on prickly legs. She squashed it and sealed her own fate. “Do your worst, you sorry, low-life sonofagun!”

Surry’s beard-stubbled chin jerked back as if he couldn’t believe the choice she’d made. Then his eyes narrowed, and grim determination transformed his face.

Closing her eyes, Chelsea waited on the inevitable. That centipede was going crazy inside her, making her chest ache and raising the hair on her head. She braced herself for the deathblow as a million regrets, a million joys, a million memories flittered through her brain.

Funny how many of those regrets and joys and memories feature Dagan.

She held her breath, savoring it, knowing it was her last and—

“Drop. The. Knife.”

With a cry, she blinked open her eyes and craned her head around to see three figures dressed from head to toe in black. Each of them wielded a weapon as if it were an extension of himself.

The Black Knights…

Even had Dagan not spoken the three most beautiful words she’d ever heard in that smooth moonshine voice, she would have known the trio anywhere. There was no mistaking those broad shoulders or those defiant, cocksure stances.

Her eyes homed in on Dagan. He was in the middle and slightly forward of the other two. It wasn’t his height or carriage that gave him away. It was his stillness. Ace and Christian seemed to vibrate with barely leashed power. But Dagan was a statue. Not a muscle quivered. Not a tendon or ligament cracked. Chelsea was reminded of a pair of tectonic plates under intense pressure. She knew what came next. The earth would rip open, and hell would spew forth.

Surry must have felt the doom behind Dagan’s stillness, because his voice sounded wheezy when he demanded, “And who the fuck are you?”

“Worry less about who we are,” Dagan snarled, “and more about what we’ll do if you don’t drop the knife.”

Proving he had more balls than brains, Surry spun Chelsea’s chair around and palmed her forehead to wrench her head back. The sharp tip of the letter opener nicked at the skin pulsing over the large vein in her neck. She hadn’t had time to scream, and now she didn’t dare breathe.

“Ring up the police, sir,” Surry said. From the corner of her eye, Chelsea saw Morrison/Spider make a move toward the desk.

“Take one step in the direction of that phone, and you’ll be eating a bullet for breakfast.” There was no mistaking Dagan’s words or his tone. He meant what he said.

Morrison must have come to the same realization. The old man stopped in his tracks.

“Good man,” Dagan acknowledged. “Now, there’s one thing you both need to understand. We’re leaving here with Chelsea. That can be over your dead bodies or your live ones.” Even though his words were calm and his body as motionless as a mountain, rage burned inside him. It was there in his eyes, glowing red like the fires of Mordor. “So what will it be? The choice is yours.”

It was the same option Surry had given her, spoken in the same words. How long had the three of them been outside listening?

“You have no bloody idea who you’re fucking with,” Morrison snarled, his chest heaving with every furious breath. “I have—”

That’s all he managed. In a flash, the statue, a.k.a. Dagan Zoelner, came to life. He moved faster than the human eye could follow, certainly faster than Chelsea could track with her head angled back in Surry’s grip. One second he was staring at her and Surry, and the next he aimed at Morrison and pulled his trigger.

The gunshot was oddly muffled and Morrison stumbled back, hitting his hip on the edge of the desk. Surry bellowed his outrage and released her head. Free from his brutal grip, she turned to Morrison and understood the strangeness of the weapon’s sound.

It wasn’t a bullet that had exploded from the end of Dagan’s gun. It was a dart. She had just enough time to catch a glimpse of the fuzzy yellow end protruding from the center of Morrison’s chest before Dagan fired again. This time the dart whizzed over her head. Surry made an awful gurgling noise. When she pulled her chin back, she saw the projectile sticking from his neck.

He reached for the dart, stumbling into her chair. His hand hit the back of her head, looking for leverage and forcing her chin into her chest as every vertebra in her neck threatened to crack under the pressure. She couldn’t see what happened next. But she heard it. Heard the boots that pounded against the tiles as the Black Knights raced into the room.

Surry released her head when Christian tackled him. From the corner of her eye, she watched Ace catch Morrison right before the old man toppled face-first onto the floor. And Dagan? Well, Dagan knelt in front of her.

She gasped when his big, warm hands cupped her cheeks, gently lifting her head. Her neck ached, but it wasn’t broken. All her fingers and toes still worked when she gave them an experimental wiggle.

“Chels… Christ. Are you okay?” His stormy eyes searched her face.

She nodded her head. That’s all she could manage because a giant lump was centered in her throat. She had put on a brave face throughout the entire ordeal, but now that it looked like she was saved, all her shock and terror rose to the surface, crumbling her mask of courage.

“Thank God.” He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close.

It was the first time he had hugged her. The first time she had been in his arms. Oh, how she wanted to hold him tight in return. But with her hands still trapped behind her back, the only thing she could do was turn her face into his warm neck and breathe him in.

She had always loved the way he smelled. A mixture of worn leather, dryer sheets, and shampoo. All clean and healthy and…male.

“I was afraid m-maybe I didn’t press the button long enough to send out the Mayday,” she said in a rush, her lips moving against the rough fabric of his ski mask. “And th-then they found the thumb drive. But they were so quick to stop questioning me and…and…” She had to stop. “Thank you. Thank you for coming for me.”

His wide palm cupped the back of her head, holding her close. Was it trembling? “Always, Chels. Never doubt it.”

Oh great. Now the lump in her throat had grown to the size of a Carolina pine.

She wanted the moment to last forever, to stay just like this, safe in his arms. But all too soon, he pulled back. “What were you thinking, telling them to do their worst? You were baiting them, egging them on. You stupid, stubborn, self-sacrificing fool.”

And just like that, happiness and relief morphed into incredulity that slid quick as a whistle into anger. Seriously? He was going to stand there—er, squat there—and call her names?

He may be hotter than the door handles of hell, but when he gets all Me Tarzan, You Jane, I want to dump his limp body in the River Thames and feed him to the fishes. After she’d killed him with mind-blowing sex and multiple orgasms, natch. And she could probably cop to his last two accusations. She was stubborn, and in that instant she had been willing to sacrifice herself. But the first one?

S-stupid?” she sputtered. And good news! The lump in her throat vanished. “Screw you, Dagan! In case you’ve forgotten, I pulled off this op w-with…”

She stumbled to a stop because he’d ripped off his mask. And there it was. The Beard.

Looking at him dressed all in black, shoulders as broad as the Lowcountry, she couldn’t help but think he resembled a god. One of the mythical beings she read about in her fantasy novels. Formidable. Powerful. Gorgeous.

And here I am, a mere mortal.

The look he pinned on her was one she recognized. She liked to call it his Clint Eastwood gunfighter squint. He tended to whip it out right before he laid into her for something. She braced herself, mentally running through her standard list of comebacks. But he didn’t give her a tongue-lashing. At least not a verbal one. Instead, he took her face in his hands and sealed his lips to hers.

She was so surprised that her mouth formed a startled O. Dagan took advantage, his tongue surging between her teeth. His lips were firm yet amazingly soft, and his beard abraded the tender flesh of her cheeks.

Holy mother! Dagan Zoelner was…kissing her!

Oh. My!

Reading Order: Black Knights Inc. series

  
   
   

#1 ~ Hell on Wheels: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ In Rides Trouble: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#3 ~ Rev It Up: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#4 ~ Thrill Ride EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#5 ~ Born Wild: EbookPaperback • Audible • Goodreads
#6 ~ Hell for Leather: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#7 ~ Full Throttle: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#8 ~ Too Hard to Handle: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#9 ~ Wild Ride: EbookPaperback • AudibleGoodreads
#10 ~ Fuel for Fire: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads (July 4, 2017)
#11 ~ Hot Pursuit: EbookPaperbackGoodreads (Oct. 3, 2017)
#12 ~ Built for Speed: Goodreads (release date TBA)

about the author button

Julie Ann Walker is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She’ll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.

Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads

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Spotlight Tour + Excerpt & Giveaway: Too Hard to Handle by Julie Ann Walker

Happy Release Day to Julie Ann Walker – Too Hard to Handle is live! Read on for a special message from the author as well as an excerpt and giveaway!

Message from the Author

Hi everyone!  Julie Ann Walker here, delighted to be talking today about my mad love for men on motorcycles whose hearts happen to be as big as their… ehem… hogs.  (That’s slang for their bikes!  Get your heads out of the gutter, you naughty readers! *wink, wink*)

But seriously, from the King of Cool, Steve McQueen, to Marlon Brando in The Wild One, to Charlie Hunnam in Sons of Anarchy, there has always been something about a guy riding around with rolled steel and a V-Twin engine between his legs.  It sets our hearts aflutter.  And in my Black Knights Inc. series, I try to take those badass bikers to a whole new level by also making them covert government operators.  The series is all spies on bikes, leather and chrome, romance and redemption, action and adventure.  So, what’s not to love?  Nothing!  I guarantee it.

Read on for an excerpt of TOO HARD TO HANDLE.  You’ll see the men of Black Knights Inc. have heart, humor, and everything a woman could want in a man…

excerpt button

“Luke Winterfield,” Dan growled. “Under the authority granted to me by the government of the United States of America, I hereby inform you that you’re totally screwed. You made a choice to sell out your country and now you’re gonna face the consequences. Reap the whirlwind, asshole.”

“Nice,” Zoelner said. “Have you been holding on to that one for a while?”

“Came up with it in Bogotá,” Dan admitted, a definite grin in his tone.

“I like it.”

“Thought you might.”

“Really though,” Zoelner went on, “I was expecting some quote from Ted Nugent or Eminem.”

“I can come up with my own material, you know,” Dan insisted. “It’s just I like to give credit to my hometown whenever I can. To make up for the place getting such a bad rap.”

“Maybe it’s because so much bad rap has come out of there,” Zoelner mused. “Insane Clown Posse comes to mind.”

“Hey,” Dan whispered urgently, “don’t say that too loud. You’ll have groups of juggalos beating down your door.”

Zoelner snorted.

“And just so you know,” Dan went on, “what I’ve learned out of this lifetime is you should be proud of where you come from.”

“I’m waiting…”

“Kid Rock said that. Via his Twitter account.”

“And there it is.”

Too Hard to Handle by Julie Ann Walker

Too Hard to Handle by Julie Ann Walker
Series: Black Knights Inc. #8 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: September 1st 2015
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“The Man” is back


Dan “The Man” Currington is back in fighting form with a mission that takes him four thousand miles south of BKI headquarters, high in the Andes Mountains of Peru. He’s hot on the trail of a rogue CIA agent selling classified government secrets to the highest bidder, when Penni DePaul arrives on the scene. Suddenly the stakes are higher, and keeping Penni safe becomes Dan’s number one priority.

And this time she’s ready


A lot has changed since former Secret Service Agent Penni DePaul last saw Dan. Now a civilian, she’s excited about what the future might hold. But before she can grab onto that future with both hands, she has to tie up some loose ends-namely, Dan Currington, the man she just can’t forget. And a secret that’s going to change both their lives-if they can stay alive, that is.

Buy Links:
Amazon • Barnes & Noble • iTunes • IndieBound

Reading Order: Black Knights Inc. series

   
Born Wild by Julie Ann Walker  Full Throttle by Julie Ann Walker Too Hard to Handle by Julie Ann Walker

#1 ~ Hell on Wheels: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ In Rides Trouble: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#3 ~ Rev It Up: EbookPaperback • Goodreads
#4 ~ Thrill Ride EbookPaperbackGoodreads
#5 ~ Born Wild: EbookPaperback • Goodreads
#6 ~ Hell for Leather: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#7 ~ Full Throttle: EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#8 ~ Too Hard to Handle: EbookPaperback • Goodreads

about the author button

Julie Ann WalkerJulie Ann Walker is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling Author of the Black Knights Inc. romantic suspense series. She is prone to spouting movie quotes and song lyrics. She’ll never say no to sharing a glass of wine or going for a long walk. She prefers impromptu travel over the scheduled kind, and she takes her coffee with milk. You can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission. For more information, please visit www.julieannwalker.com or follow her on Facebook www.facebook.com/jawalkerauthor and/or Twitter @JAWalkerAuthor.

Website • Facebook • Twitter • Goodreads

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Signed set of Julie Ann Walker’s Black Knights, Inc. romantic supsense series

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Spotlight Tour + Author Guest Post, Bonus Scene & Giveaway: Hell or High Water by Julie Ann Walker

I’m pleased to be featuring Julie Ann Walker and her upcoming release Hell or High Water on the blog today! Hell or High Water releases on July 7th – check out below for a special message from the author, as well as a bonus scene and a giveaway!

Message From The Author

Hi everyone! My name is Julie Ann Walker and I’m tickled pink to be here today talking about my BRAND SPANKING NEW romantic suspense series, Deep Six! It revolves around six newly retired Navy SEALs who just can’t seem to shake their past and the Navy SEAL motto that “the only easy day was yesterday.” Set in the Florida Keys, the series is filled with sun, sand, danger, intrigue, adventure, and plenty of half-dressed alpha hotties. LOL! Sound like a good time? I guarantee it is! And I guarantee you’re going to fall in love with these six men.

Take Leo “The Lion” Anderson. With his sun-streaked, sandy blond hair and perpetual tan — not to mention those hazel eyes and beard stubble — he’s sure to win your heart. And that’s before you get to his no-bullshit, take-command-of-any-situation attitude and the fact that he’s trying to fulfill his father’s dying wish.

Then there’s Brando “Bran” Pallidino. A native New Jerseyan, Bran grew up on the mean streets of Newark. He’s rough. He’s tough. And his Italian-American heritage means he comes complete with soulful brown eyes, a face that belongs on billboards, and a love for good food and good wine. (That last part means his beer-loving teammates give him a lot of grief. *wink*)

You won’t be able to resist Mason “Monet” McCarthy. As a boy from Beantown, Mason learned to use the F-bomb in really colorful ways. He’s big. He’s burly. He’s not the kind of guy you’d like to meet in a dark alley. Yet his thick black hair and crystal blue eyes soften what would otherwise be an entirely intimidating appearance.

Who doesn’t love a country boy? Dalton “Doc” Simmons was born and raised in Montana. He’s a lean, mean, fighting machine, with a face that’s all angles as if it’s been carved down to its barest essentials by a hot, stinging prairie wind. Doc has a tragic past. And he’s fighting to come to terms with it.

Next up is Ray “Wolf” Roanhorse. Wolf’s Cherokee heritage makes him strikingly handsome, with a blade of a nose, high cheekbones, flashing black eyes, and a lush, beautifully-shaped mouth. Born into poverty on a reservation in Oklahoma, Wolf has more than himself to worry about. He has his whole family depending on him. But if anyone can shoulder that burden, it’s Wolf.

And last but certainly not least, we have Spiro “Romeo” Delgado. Romeo likes to play up that whole Latin-lover thing. And with his swarthy skin, precisely trimmed goatee, and honed physique, he does a pretty good job of it. But that’s just what’s on the surface. Underneath it all, Romeo is desperately trying to make up for the mistakes of his past.

See? What did I tell you? You love them already, don’t you? Read on for a bonus scene from HELL OR HIGH WATER where you get to meet all of the Deep Six heroes!

Hell or High Water by Julie Ann Walker

Hell or High Water by Julie Ann Walker
Series: Deep Six #1
Publication Date: July 7th 2015
Genre: Romantic Suspense
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A brand new romantic suspense series from the author of the New York Times bestselling Black Knights, Inc. series, THE DEEP SIX features six former SEALS on super-secret black ops, and feisty heroines who know how to handle both lethal weapons and alpha men.

Only two things could make former Navy SEAL Leo Anderson return to the world of weapons and warfare. First, a capsule of chemical weapons lost on the ocean floor, and second, a plea for assistance from the one woman he can’t seem to forget-CIA Agent Olivia Mortier.

Now, working together to race against the clock and a deadly terrorist faction, Leo and Olivia must find the missing capsule, all the while battling the intense desire burning between them. If they can survive, can their growing attraction become more than just a momentary flare?

Buy Links:
Amazon EbookAmazon Paperback • B&N • iBooks • IndieBound

Now here’s a bonus scene from Hell or High Water! ❤

Bonus Scene

Family isn’t only determined by blood, but by those who stand by you, fightin’ for you. By those you stand beside and fight for…

That was the thought that drifted through Leo “The Lion” Anderson’s head when he looked around the warped wooden table at his men. Correction—the minute those five wild-ass SEALs snapped their final salute to the Navy and followed him to the Florida Keys to join him on his quest for high seas adventure and the hunt for untold riches, they stopped being his men. But they would never stop being his family. If they all lived for a hundred years, the bonds of the blood, sweat, and tears they’d shed together would never come unbound. They were too strong, forged in the fiery crucible of too many wars and missions to count.

“Yo, man!” Brando “Bran” Pallidino leaned close to be heard above the twanging voice and guitar licks of the singer on the stage. The six of them had spent the day in Key West, gathering supplies and finishing up some repairs on Wayfarer I—the leaking, rusty salvage boat Leo had inherited from his father. And now they were enjoying beers and dinner at Schooner Wharf bar, the open-air establishment that saw more than its fair share of revelers, crusty sea captains, and miscreants who’d come to the end of the road in a bid to fall off the map completely. “That brunette in the yellow bikini top and flowery skirt over by the taps keeps giving you come-and-get-me-big-boy looks.”

Leo glanced at the woman and sure enough. Slam! Her gaze collided with his and there was a definite suggestion glowing in her big, dark eyes. “I think she wants you to poke her hontas,” Bran concluded.

Leo scowled at his best friend as a subtle breeze drifted in from the water, mixing the smells of fish and marine fuel with the sweeter aromas of boat drinks and barley hops that continuously flowed from behind the bar. “How long have you been keeping that little gem in your pocket?” he asked Bran.

“Came up with it just this minute.” Bran grinned, wiggling his eyebrows. “My mind,” he continued, “is as nimble and as fertile as a…”

Leo held up a hand. “Don’t finish that analogy. I can already guess what your mind is as nimble and as fertile as.”

“Personally,” Doc said from Leo’s opposite side, twirling the ever-present toothpick in his mouth in a wide circle, “I would have gone with, ‘I think she wants you to engage her in a little gland-to-gland combat.’” Dalton “Doc” Simmons had one of those tough Midwestern faces. But right now it was split in a gleeful grin that made him look almost boyish. It was damn good to see Doc smiling. For too many years he hadn’t.

“She wants you to rock her casbah!” Spiro “Romeo” Delgado piped up from across the table, never one to miss an opportunity to toss in his two bits.

“Churn her butter,” Ray “Wolf” Roanhorse added after plunking his Budweiser bottle down on the table. He turned and slow-winked at the bird in the yellow bikini. Leo watched the brunette’s eyes widen, her head cocking like a cat considering a canary. With his Cherokee heritage, Wolf was the embodiment of the original American warrior. His visage equally fierce and—according to the lady at the hardware store this morning—beautiful. She’d breathed the word while staring all googly-eyed at Wolf.

“And you?” Leo turned to the last remaining man at the table. “What ridiculous euphemism have you come up with tonight?”

Mason “Monet” McCarthy was as big as a mountain, and just as silent. Usually. But even he couldn’t resist joining in. “She wants you to rumble in her jungle,” he said. His south Boston accent making it sound more like rahmble inna jahngle.

And that’s the thing about family, Leo thought with a shake of his head as he slid on his aviator sunglasses despite the fact that the sun had slipped beneath the western horizon. One minute they’re standin’ with you against the world. The next minute they’re bustin’ your balls.

And he wouldn’t have it any other way. Especially since the good-natured ribbing, immature as it might be, was proof positive they were all slowly crawling out from under the thick blanket of mourning that had descended over them, heavy as a death shroud when—

“Yo, man,” Bran interrupted his thoughts. “You better stake your claim. If you don’t, Wolf’s gonna stake his.”

“He’s welcome to it,” Leo said, leaning back in his chair and picking at the label on his Budweiser with the edge of his thumbnail. “’Cause I’m takin’ a pass on this one.”

Bran groaned and took a long slug of his beer.

“What?” Leo demanded, frowning. “What’s that uuuugh for?”

“Just that I coulda guessed as much.” Bran shrugged a shoulder, his holey tank-top accentuating the strength and sinew of his bare arms. According to Bran, if the sun’s out, the guns are out. Bran’s unending supply of tank tops had become a running joke between all of them. Leo’s balls weren’t the only ones that received a regular busting. Every man’s in the group were fair game.

“And why would you have guessed as much?” he raised a brow.

Bran leveled him with a look that called into question the validity of his IQ tests. “You’re kidding me, right?”

“No,” Leo shook his head, feeling his temper flicker to life. What the hell was Bran getting at? Luckily—or unluckily?—he didn’t have to wait long to find out.

“It’s just that this seems to be your new modus operandus,” Bran said.

“What does?”

“Eschewing the soft ministration and willing company of bar bunnies,” Doc interjected.

Leo scowled over at him, then swung his gaze around to each man at the table. They all wore the same expression of agreement.

Okay, and this is one of those times I wish these assholes weren’t my family. Because he could certainly do without them being all up in his goddamn business.

“First off,” he said in his own defense, “after all that runnin’ around today, I’m too tired to sweat, much less do anything else. Secondly, when you start talkin’ bar bunnies, I only have one thought.”

“What’s that?” Wolf asked, only giving him half his attention. The other half was securely focused on Miss Yellow Bikini Top who, having quickly picked up the disinterest Leo was laying down, was now giving Wolf all her come-and-get-me-big-boy looks.

“Hippety hoppety herpes is on its way,” Leo said, his lips twitching when Wolf blanched and swung around to attempt to fry his eyebrows off with a look.

“You really know how to spoil it for those of us not currently hung up on…” Wolf trailed to a stop.

The hair on Leo’s head tried to crawl off his scalp. Wolf didn’t need to finish. Leo knew where he was heading. “I’m not hung up on anyone,” he insisted, disgusted to realize he was trying to convince himself more than the guys. An image of Special Agent Olivia Mortier flashed before his eyes. Black hair. Blue eyes. A slightly crooked front tooth that never failed to make his dick twitch. There was just something about that tooth. That tiny imperfection amidst so much beauty only seemed to enhance her appeal. Maybe because it made her real. A real, live, hot-blooded woman with a mind like a steel trap, a wit that was as sharp as a tack and—

Fuck. Maybe he was hung up on her. The wall he’d built up in his mind, the one that was supposed to keep memories of her at bay, was proving frustratingly weak.

“If that’s what you have to tell yourself, cabron,” Romeo said.

Leo sat there, a muscle twitching in his jaw. He refused to respond for nearly thirty seconds. He knew it was thirty seconds because he calculated that for every two seconds that passed he came up with a new way to assassinate the men at the table. He’d totaled out at fifteen.

“You should see your face,” Doc said, the salty sea breeze causing the ends of his shaggy hair to riot. “You look like someone shoved a cactus up your ass.”

“And yo, man,” Bran slung an arm around his shoulders, “there’s no reason to get all hot under the collar.”

“The only reason my collar is hot is ’cause your sweaty arm is around it,” Leo grumbled, shrugging off Bran’s brotherly embrace and taking a hasty swig of beer. Thoughts of Olivia always made him feel punchy. Talking about her, even obliquely, made him feel…something. It was like if horny and confused got together with uncomfortable and had a threesome his current emotional state would be the unholy offspring of the encounter.

“I was born on a farm where we used lots of fertilizer,” Doc said, seemingly apropos of nothing.

Leo turned to him. “And that’s relevant to this because…?” He made a rolling motion with his hand.

“Because it means I know bullshit when I smell it.”

Bran grabbed his belly, crowing like the idiot he was. “You shoulda known better than to ask, bro.”

Leo was considering the most painful way to wipe the grin from Bran’s face when Mason said, “You fuckers need to back the fuck off and leave him the fuck alone.” The man rarely spoke, but when he did his sentences were littered with F-bombs. Mason once told them that was the Southie way. The word fuck could be used as every part of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs…

“Of course you’re the one to jump to his defense when it comes to rebuffing the babes,” Bran scoffed.

“Now what the fuck’s that supposed to mean?” Mason demanded, the vein running up the center of his forehead beginning to pulse.

“How long has it been since—”

Leo figured he better cut Bran off before he went any further. Number one, because Leo could see the bull’s eye was about to slide off his chest and attach itself to Mason’s. And since Mason had come to his rescue…well, then turn about was fair play. And number two, because Leo knew just how much talk of Mason’s past—and the effect Mason’s past was still having on his present—bothered him. “Gentleman,” he said, “I think it’s best of we table this topic of conversation.”

To his great delight, right at that moment their waitress appeared with a tray laden with chicken wings and conch fritters, two of Key West’s official delicacies. “And speakin’ of tables, wait ’til you see what’s about to be laid on ours.”

With a flourish the waitress unloaded the tray. She’d barely stepped back before the feeding frenzy began. As the flavor of buffalo sauce mixed with hops and barley on Leo’s tongue, he once again looked around at the five men who’d been with him through thick and thin. The five men who’d bugged out of the Navy with him after they all made that soul-shaking promise to a dying brother to start living life.

Ones that weren’t filled with death and destruction. These meatheads might be a constant pain in Leo’s ass, but they also happened to be a constant comfort and an unending source of entertainment.

Like family, his mind circled back to its original topic. And it gave him a sense of peace. A sense of contentment. A sense of…urgency. Because they were all depending on him to come through with the big score. He felt the weight of that responsibility as surely as an anchor chain around his shoulders. They’d all made that promise, and now it was up to him to help them make good on it.

Letting his gaze skim out over the marina, he watched as the boats bobbed gently with the tide. Their metal fittings caught the rays of the full moon and glinted as sweetly as the treasure Leo and the guys were ready to start hunting. The Santa Cristina, that legendary ghost galleon, the holy grail of sunken Spanish shipwrecks…she was out there. Somewhere.

And come hell or high water, we’re goin’ to find her…

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Julie Ann WalkerJulie Ann Walker is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of award-winning romantic suspense. She has won the Book Buyers Best Award, been nominated for the National Readers Choice Award, the Australian Romance Reader Awards, and the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA award. Her latest release was named a Top Ten Romance of 2014 by Booklist. Her books have been described as “alpha, edgy, and downright hot.” Most days you can find her on her bicycle along the lake shore in Chicago or blasting away at her keyboard, trying to wrangle her capricious imagination into submission.

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