Marked (Hostage Rescue Team Series)

By: Kaylea Cross

Prologue





Servare Vitas (To Save Lives)

-FBI Hostage Rescue Team motto



Seated in the back of a tactical truck, Special Agent Jake Evers took a good-natured punch to the arm from one of his teammates without flinching.

“Good to have you back, farmboy. I’ve missed you,” Tuck said in his southern-Alabama drawl as he sat next to him on one of the benches built into the back along one side. “Been a while since you graced us with your presence on an op. Think you remember the ropes around here after all your vacay time?”

Vacay, ha. “Pretty sure I do.” He’d missed the guys too but he hadn’t been gone that long. Only around three weeks this time, overseas again with a handpicked paramilitary team led by the NSA’s legendary Alex Rycroft. Something in Jake’s background as a Captain with the 75th Ranger Regiment and his other credentials must have impressed Rycroft, because Jake had gotten a tap from his superiors months ago and he’d been on loan to the team off and on over the past few months. After months of hunting they’d finally tracked down and killed the notorious terrorist mastermind Malik Hassani, in Pakistan.

Tuck adjusted his gear as he spoke. “That’s good to hear, wouldn’t want you to be rusty. You learn any new tricks over there?”

“Maybe. You’ll just have to wait and find out.” That chemical threat at the end with Hassani had been scary as shit. Training for it and actually dealing with it firsthand were two very different things. The entire team had been tested and treated for sarin exposure. He’d been lucky not to have suffered direct exposure, but it was an experience he never wanted to repeat again. On the upside, it had sure made him see things clearly though.

It had made him think a lot about Rachel, and the mistakes he’d made with her. While getting checked out at the hospital after the sarin scare he’d made up his mind to track her down the first chance he got when he returned to Virginia. Before he could get to it, his team had been sent down here to Miami. Just another day in the life of an FBI Hostage Rescue Team member.

He pulled his balaclava on, the unseasonably muggy late October night air reminding him a little of Karachi. He’d only arrived back in D.C. two days ago and he was still adjusting to the time difference when they’d flown to Miami this afternoon. But there was nothing like an op to get the blood pumping and cure a case of jetlag.

The rest of the team loaded up and Clay Bauer slammed the back doors shut, enveloping them in near darkness. Up front the driver put the big vehicle in gear and steered away from the warehouse they’d used as a staging area.

Jake and the others checked their weapons and comms on the way to the target. He’d rejoined his team near the end of their one-hundred-twenty day operations cycle. Currently they were on their way to a major drug runner’s compound to help out a DEA FAST team with a warrant, search and seizure, and hopefully some arrests.

They were acting on fresh intel that placed the drug runner and two of his deputies at the home in south Miami. The place was heavily fortified and surveillance video showed there were armed guards crawling all over the grounds. This op was definitely going to be all about shock and awe in an effort to reduce the chances of taking large amounts of direct fire. They’d planned this carefully, leaving nothing to chance, and hopefully when all was said and done he and all his teammates would be flying back to Quantico within the next few hours minus any bullet holes.

The six minute drive went by fast. All the guys were silent as they drove the last few miles to the target, each focused on what they had to do. Jake ran through the plan, the contingencies and emergency protocol in case something went sideways—because something usually did on an op like this. The truck slowed as it reached the dropoff point. Jake rose with the others and faced the rear doors. Over the radio the FAST team reported they were in place; everyone was ready to rock.

Cradling his M4 in front of him, pulse slow and steady as he waited for the team leader to open the back doors, Rachel’s face flashed through Jake’s mind. Pale golden skin, dark brown hair and warm hazel eyes.

Shit, he had to find her after this was over. He just hoped it wasn’t too late, that she hadn’t moved on for good.

The team leader threw the doors open and everyone poured out. Faint light from the compound spotlights illuminated the dense brush ahead of them. They were going to skirt it and enter at the most vulnerable point along the fence line.

Poised in line with the others as they crept toward their target, Jake locked down all thoughts of the woman he’d let slip through his fingers and got ready to do his part in unleashing hell on the men inside the compound.

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