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Targeted

Deadly Ops 1

by

Katie Reus

Acknowledgments

Excerpt from the next novel in the Deadly Ops series

For my husband, who puts his life on the line every day. Your sacrifices are appreciated more than words can ever express. Thank you for your love and support of your family and the way you selflessly give to strangers.

Prologue

Marine Corps Scout Sniper motto: one shot, one kill.

Sam Kelly could see his GP tent fifty yards away. He was practically salivating at the thought of a shower and a clean bed. But he’d settle for the fucking bed at this point. He didn’t even care that he was sharing that tent with twenty other men. Showers were almost pointless at this dusty military base in hellish sub-Saharan Africa anyway. By the time he got back to his tent from the showers, he’d be covered in a film of grime again.

Four weeks behind enemy lines with limited supplies and he was also starving. Even an MRE sounded good about now. As he trekked across the dry, cracked ground, he crossed his fingers that the beef jerky he’d stashed in his locker was still there, but he doubted it. His bunkmate had likely gotten to it weeks ago. Greedy fucker.

“There a reason you haven’t shaved, Marine?”

Sam paused and turned at the sound of the condescending, unfamiliar voice. An officer—a lieutenant—he didn’t recognize stood a few feet away, his pale face flushed and his skin already burning under the hot sun. With one look Sam knew he was new in-country. Why the hell wasn’t the idiot wearing a boonie hat to protect his face? Hell, it had to be a hundred and thirty degrees right now. Yeah, this dick was definitely new. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be hassling Sam.

Sam gave him a blank stare and kept his stance relaxed. “Yes, sir, there is. Relaxed grooming standards.” Dumbass.

The blond man’s head tilted to the side just a fraction, as if he didn’t understand the concept. God, could this guy be any greener? The man opened his mouth again and Sam could practically hear the stupid shit he was about to spout off by the arrogant look on his face.

“Lieutenant! There a reason you’re bothering my boy?” Colonel Seamus Myers was barreling toward them, dust kicking up under his feet with each step.

The man reminded Sam of an angry bull, and when he got pissed, everyone suffered. He was a good battalion commander, though. Right now Sam was just happy the colonel wasn’t directing that rage at him. Guy could be a scary fucker when he wanted.

“No, sir. I was just inquiring about his lack of grooming.” The officer’s face flushed even darker under his spreading sunburn. Yeah, that was going to itch something fierce when it started peeling. Sam smiled inwardly at the thought.

“You’re here one week and you think you know more than me?”

“N-no, sir! Of course not, sir.”

The colonel leaned closer and spoke so low that Sam couldn’t hear him. But he could guess what he was saying because he’d heard it before. Stay the fuck away from Sam Kelly and the rest of my snipers or I’ll send you home. Rank definitely mattered, but to the colonel, his few snipers were his boys, and the man had been in more wars than Sam ever wanted to think about. Sam had seen and caused enough death himself to want to get out when his enlistment was up. That wasn’t too far off either. He’d been to Iraq, Afghanistan, a few places in South America that weren’t even on his official record, and now he was stationed in Djibouti, Africa. Or hell, as he liked to think of it. He loved his job and he loved his country, but enough was enough. Sam just wished he could figure out what the hell he wanted to do if he got out of the military.

He watched as the colonel started talking—loudly—to the new guy. Getting right in his face as only a pissed-off Marine could. Sam almost felt sorry for the guy, but what kind of stupid fucker didn’t know that since the environment here was so dirty that staph infections were rampant, grooming standards were different? That was one of the reasons he and a thousand other guys his age had relaxed grooming standards in the bowels of this hellish place. But they also cut him slack because he was a sniper. Sometimes he had to blend in with the populace, among other things. He might be stationed in Africa, but he’d just gotten back from—where else?—Afghanistan. He’d stayed holed up for days in that dank cave just waiting—

“Sergeant, in my tent. Now.”

Sam blinked and realized Colonel Myers was talking to him. He nodded. “Yes, sir.”

The colonel was still reaming out whoever the newbie was, but Sam always followed orders. Looked as though that shower was going to wait. The walk to the big tent in the middle of the base was short.

As he drew the flap back and stepped into the colonel’s tent, he stilled when he spotted a dark-haired man leaning against a table with maps on it. He looked as if he thought he had every right to be there too. Interesting. A fly landed on Sam’s face, but he didn’t move. Just watched the man, ready to go for one of his weapons if need be. He didn’t recognize him and he wasn’t wearing a uniform.

Just simple fatigues and a T-shirt that stretched across a clearly fit body even though the guy had to be pushing fifty. There was something about the man that put Sam on edge. He was like a tiger, coiled and waiting to rip your head off. The man’s eyes weren’t cold, exactly, but they were calculating.

Carefully the man reached for a manila folder next to him and flipped it open. He glanced down at it. “Sam Kelly. Originally from Miami, Florida. Grew up in foster care. No known family. One of the best damn snipers Myers has ever seen. Sniper school honor grad, aptitude for languages, takes orders well, possibly a lifer.” He glanced up then, his green eyes focusing on Sam like a laser. “But I don’t think you’re a lifer. You want a change, don’t you?” The man’s gaze was shrewd, assessing. Sam didn’t like being analyzed, especially by a stranger. And the guy didn’t even have an accent, so he couldn’t place where he might be from. Nothing in his speech stood out.

Who the hell was this guy? And how the fuck did he know Sam wanted a change? It wasn’t as if he’d told anyone. Sam ran through the list of possibilities. He’d been on different operations before, sometimes working for the CIA for solo things, and he’d been attached to various SEAL teams for larger-scale missions, but he’d never worked with this guy before. He did have Sam’s file, though—or Sam guessed that was his file in the man’s hand. He could just be bluffing. But what would the point of that be? He dropped all semblance of protocol since this guy clearly wasn’t a Marine. “Who are you and what do you want?”

“You did some good work in Cartagena a few years ago.” He snapped the file shut and set it back on the table.

Sam just stared at him. His statement said a lot all by itself. That mission wasn’t in his official jacket, so this guy knew classified shit and was letting Sam know it. But since he hadn’t asked a question or introduced himself, Sam wasn’t inclined to respond.

The man’s lips quirked up a fraction. As they did, the tent flap opened and the colonel strode in. He glared at the man, cursed, then looked at Sam, his expression almost speculative. He jerked a thumb at the stranger. “Whatever this guy tells you is the truth and he’s got top secret clearance.” He snorted, as if something was funny about that, then sobered. “And whatever you decide . . . Hell, I know what you’ll decide. Good luck, son. I’ll miss you.” He shook Sam’s hand, then strode out of the tent.

Miss him? What the hell was he talking about? Sam glared at the man in front of him. “I asked you once who you were. Answer or I’m out of here.”

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