Valentine & the Lotus Circle
(Novella 2 of 2)
Coming Feb, 2018
Love made him vulnerable…once
Six months ago, Braxton Valentine had it all. He was on his way to meet the parents of the most beautiful and loving woman in the world. He’d given up his dangerous career in black ops with the CIA to start a life and a family with his fiancée, Raine Garrett. But Brax and Raine never made it to Los Angeles. Tragedy struck on a westbound train to California and Valentine lost everything.
Now he has to look up to see rock bottom. After recovering from a gunshot wound, he’s grieving and riddled with guilt over Raine’s death. The Phoenix Agency wants to recruit him for his black ops skills and his unprecedented psychic ability, but he’s a loner and an angry one-man wrecking crew who is about to be booted off the team.
Mia Romeo, head of the Phoenix Agency Psi division, wants one last chance for Valentine. She brings in a mysterious woman from the ancient order of the Lotus Circle to break through his psychic defenses, but Clarity Tremaine has an agenda that’s interrupted when Mia’s husband and his team go missing on a covert mission into Mexico.
All bets are off for Valentine to fit in. He’s the only operative Mia has to salvage the mission with innocent lives on the line. Valentine is willing to risk his life to honor Raine’s memory, even as he battles his obsession for revenge against the cartel boss who took her life. To find a reason to live, he must bridge the gap between love and hate.
But before he steps foot in Mexico, he crosses the path of an unusual visitor to his safe house in the Texas hill country. He’ll soon learn that bridges are meant for crossing—not staying.
San Antonio, Texas
Sweat trickled down Braxton Valentine’s neck as he crept through the shadows of a dense stand of trees with his M4A1 carbine held tight against his shoulder. Dressed in full tactical gear and helmet, Valentine overlooked the sweltering Texas heat and a persistent cloud of gnats. He kept his eyes alert for any movement from the condemned mental hospital, dead ahead.
“You’re running point, intel only. Report what you see. That’s it.”
When Valentine heard the voice of his team leader, Dan Romeo, over his earpiece, he stopped cold and listened.
“Hostage rescue is not on your agenda. I repeat, do not engage. Another team will execute the mission.”
“Copy that,” he whispered. Message acknowledged.
Valentine hated being sidelined as the new guy, but he understood having to pay his dues on the Phoenix Agency black ops team.
After he took cover behind a gnarled and sprawling oak tree, Brax tightened his grip on the suppressed assault rifle and used his night vision scope to scan the perimeter and peer into the mounting shadows of the abandoned asylum.
He’d used the same breach in the fence to gain entry to the grounds that local gangs had employed when they’d cut through the barbed razor wire cyclone barrier that surrounded the derelict facility. Evidence of their trespass had been left behind. Vivid graffiti marred the forsaken building and the dying light reflected off the jagged edges of broken windows to play tricks on his eyesight.
When something moved inside, he narrowed his eyes.
A woman cried out and Valentine tensed. His muscles seized with a surge of adrenaline when her desperate pleas triggered a waking nightmare.
One face haunted him and the echo of another voice gripped him hard.
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The heartbreak of his fiancée’s death six months ago had metastasized from his guilt when he couldn’t save her. He’d put a target on her back without knowing it. A ruthless cartel leader from his past, Mateo De La Cruz, had sent a hit squad to intercept a westbound train. Brax and Raine had been headed to Los Angeles for Brax to meet her parents for the first time.
The De La Cruz cartel had followed her when they couldn’t track him. Raine Garrett had no idea what kind of danger she’d been in on the day she died and neither had Valentine. He’d quit his dangerous job with the CIA to marry her and start a new life. He’d put that life behind him, but his sacrifice had been too late.
Valentine hadn’t seen Raine die on the train, but he held her body until the police forced him to let go. His imagination concocted his worst nightmares when the horror played over and over in his fevered sleep. The terrifying images had imprinted on his mind as if he’d witnessed them firsthand, branding him with their cruel version of the truth.
He clenched his jaw and blinked, but Raine’s face wouldn’t leave him.
“I heard a woman scream,” he said into his com unit. “I see movement in the shadows near the west entrance.”
“Stand down and wait for further orders,” Romeo said. “We’ll take it from here.”
Valentine had been dismissed and it twisted his gut.
He wiped his eyes with the back of a hand and waited in the shadows, searching the darkness for his team—until the girl cried out again. Damn it. His skin crawled with an overwhelming powerlessness.
That feeling propelled him back to the train where Raine had died and his chest heaved with the frustration of being benched. He would have to overcome the dark memories that haunted him if he expected the Phoenix Agency to have faith in him.
He had ground to make up after recovering from being shot six months ago by someone from his new team after he’d confronted Raine’s killer and was a second away from pulling the trigger. A well-placed bullet had been the only way to stop Valentine.
No one owned up to the shooting and he’d never been given the name of the guilty party, but he’d come to the realization that if he wanted to avenge Raine’s death, he had to turn the other cheek to become part of the Phoenix team.
They had the shooter at a secret location to interrogate him for the greater good. For now, Brax played along. He didn’t want Raine’s death to mean nothing and get swept under the rug of a plea bargain, negotiated by suits.
When the voices of his team murmured through his earpiece, he raised his M4A1 and peered through the NV scope.
They were on the move—without him.
He couldn’t stand being away from the action anymore. He took his first step closer. The next one came easier. Before he realized, he’d cleared the trees and edged toward a side entrance to the hospital. His mind and his body were on auto-pilot as he flipped down the night vision goggles off his helmet and entered the abandoned building.
Muggy heat and the stillness of being sheathed in an oven of cement closed in on him. His boots crunched over the grit on the concrete as he crept toward a door. The eerie green of night vision colored his world as Valentine slowed his breathing to steady his heartbeats.
He could’ve communicated to his team what his instincts had called him to do, but he’d made a choice that felt right—especially after gunfire erupted.
Shots echoed and magnified through the old building, making it hard to tell where the sound came from. After Valentine communicated to his team leader, the man gave an order.
“We’re pinned down. Secure the hostage and take the kidnapper alive. I repeat, we need him alive and talking.”
Valentine had his orders. He quickened his steps as he shuffled down a corridor with his rifle aimed, heading toward the position he had last seen the hostage.
The automatic gunfire grew louder. Through his NVG, muzzle flashes left ghost images on his eyes, but he kept moving until he saw the woman. One man held her arms as she struggled. He had a knife at her throat.
Raine’s face. The fear in her eyes.
Valentine blinked back the punishing memory. Nothing could stop him.
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“Jordan Dane is a star on the horizon of women’s fiction.”
—Sharon Sala, New York Times Bestselling Author
“Jordan Dane is an exciting voice in the realm of suspense and it’s easy to see why from the first page. An out of control freight train with enough twists and turns to please any suspense novel fan.”
—Gary Roen—St. Cloud In The News
“Dane is a gifted storyteller whose talent shines on every page. Non-stop romantic suspense that is impossible to put down!”
—Carla Neggers, New York Times Bestseller