Josie didn’t fit anywhere, and she wanted to change that. As much as she acted like one of the guys, she wasn’t one, and meeting Nitro had brought that home to her in a way nothing else could have. She wanted him with a physical ache that was actually painful and didn’t even know how to tell him so.

She’d thought he wanted her, too…until he started acting like he hated her.

She didn’t know what she’d done to turn him against her, but it hurt. She’d spent so much time around men with nary a twinge of physical reaction that the wave of sexual desire that crashed into her upon meeting him had about sent her to her knees in shock. She’d never known anything like it, not before or since.

She’d tried dating a few times in the past months, but none of the men she’d gone out with had made her heart race or her hands itch to tear their clothes off. Her teeth gritted against the sexual desire tormenting her. If seeing him for such a short time this afternoon did this to her, what was going to happen when he was here every time she came to visit or upgrade the computer system?

She just could not believe Nitro was going into partnership with her dad.

Oh, sure, the two men had plenty in common. Both were consummate soldiers. Both were so self-sufficient they didn’t really need anyone else, least of all her. They were powerful, tough males with not an ounce of weakness in them. Still, it wasn’t fair that her dad would pick as his partner the one man destined to torment her with what she couldn’t have.

She knew her dad was disappointed she hadn’t wanted to take a more active role in the training camp, just as he’d been disappointed when she’d opted for real missions over training others since reaching adulthood, but did he have to punish her by taking on Nitro as his partner?

She sighed, acknowledging she wasn’t being fair to her dad.

He knew nothing of her feelings for Nitro. In fact, she’d told him she didn’t like the man who made her throb in places she hadn’t known existed. Ignorant or not, her dad’s decision had her edgier than a deer scenting a bobcat.

With a groan of frustration, she climbed out of bed and into her fatigues. Maybe a walk would clear her head enough to sleep.

Forty-five minutes later, she had walked the entire perimeter of the camp and didn’t feel any closer to sleep. She hadn’t even had the satisfaction of moving undetected by her father’s pupils because there weren’t any.

It was the usual two-week hiatus between training groups, and the camp was deserted except for her and her dad. Even the part-time teachers that helped her dad teach stuff he wasn’t so hot on, like computers and offensive driving, were gone. Not that most of them lived on site, but some stayed at the school during sessions.

Giving up on getting any sort of peace with the walk, she started jogging back. Exercise was supposed to be the panacea for all ills.

Suddenly, the ground shook, and a huge boom she recognized all too well rent the air. She fell to her knees, terrifying knowledge of just how devastating that magnitude of explosion could be slamming into her. Scrambling back to her feet, she saw orange flames licking toward the sky from the office section of the compound.

She started to sprint, her legs moving with fear-based adrenaline pumping through them. Where was her dad? He had to have heard the explosion, but she didn’t see his big body silhouetted against the flames.

She bypassed the office and the bedroom all the students thought he slept in to the back of the building and the windowless room he actually used. The wall looked seamless, but she knew he had an exit, and it didn’t take her any time at all to trigger the release on the hidden door.

It swung outward, and she saw her father’s form sprawled across the bed outlined in the eerie light. The explosion had caused part of the wall to fall on him, and he was dangerously still. Heat blasted her as she ran toward the bed, the fire having reached the secret room through the decimated wall.

She didn’t waste any time checking for a pulse, but started throwing debris off of him. When he was free, she dragged him out of the burning building, her muscles straining against his weight. They made it outside just as the wall collapsed with a whoosh of fire and a deafening crash. She kept moving until they were clear of it, relief flooding her as she saw his chest rise and fall with one choking breath after another.

Running to the jeep parked away from the office, her own lungs heaved against the smoke billowing around her, and she brought her arm to her face, breathing into the crook of her elbow. She sent prayers of gratitude skyward for the jeep’s undamaged state as she drove to where her father lay.

Her own small Justy was a goner, having taken a direct hit of fire-heated timber when the office exploded.

It took more strength than she knew she had to get his unconscious weight into the passenger seat, but desperation sizzled through her muscles. With a flick of her wrist, she shoved the car into gear and started driving down the mountain as fast as she could without going off the track.

Her dad stored explosives underground, with each component carefully separated from the others, but she wasn’t taking any chances on the initial explosion being followed by another. Her caution was justified as the ground rocked under the jeep, almost sending them sliding off the narrow track. She kept driving, the vehicle barely under control, her mind focused entirely on escape.

They were more than halfway down the mountain when she used the jeep’s CB to call the explosion and possible forest fire in to the fire service. It had been a wet spring, and she had no doubt the water copters would have the fire under control before the forest surrounding the compound could be severely affected.

She hit the coastal highway at a speed beyond legal limits and just kept going, making a split-second decision to head toward the major metropolitan hospital to the east rather than the small community hospital ten minutes closer and to the west.

The instincts her dad had told her she would learn to live by were screaming at her that no carelessness on her father’s part had caused that explosion tonight. If someone was trying to hurt her dad, they’d have a better shot at him in the small coastal town than the more anonymous metropolitan area surrounding Portland.

She drove without her lights until she hit the outskirts of civilization, glad for the three-quarter moon that lit the highway. Unless they were using night vision or radar, no one followed her. She made it to the nearest major hospital less than twenty minutes later, ignoring speed limits in the downtown district and pulling into the emergency parking lot with squealing tires and honking her horn.

Tyler McCall had not moved so much as a muscle during the entire trip. Emergency room personnel came rushing out, and her dad was on a stretcher headed into ER within minutes.

She spent the next half hour discretely securing the perimeter of her dad’s environment while the doctors examined him. She was leaning against the wall, surreptitiously watching the emergency room entrance, when a doctor in a white coat and with an energetic demeanor approached her.

“Miss McCall?”


“I’m Dr. Wells. I’ve been treating your father.”


“He has a nasty hit to the head, but he’s regained consciousness.”

Air escaped her lungs in a whoosh, and she sagged against the wall. “Can I see him?”

“Yes, but I think there’s something you need to know.”


“He’s experiencing a certain level of confusion, and I believe it’s brought on because his memory has been compromised by the blow he received.” His mouth tightened with exasperation. “Not that he will admit it.”

That sounded like her dad, not to admit to weakness. It was a measure of the doctor’s powers of observation that he’d noticed anomalies in her dad’s behavior enough to make the diagnosis.

“He has amnesia?”

“Partial. He knows who he is, but avoided answering questions about where he had been or what he had been doing before the explosion.”

“That doesn’t mean he can’t remember.”

“I get that impression, but he wouldn’t tell me what day it is either. He knows the year, but it’s my guess there are some gaps in his memory, and without his cooperation, we have no way of determining what they are.”

She almost wished the doctor good luck, but kept the facetious comment back. Her dad was stubborn and distrustful of authority. Apparently the doctor had already figured that out.

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