With relentless suspense and a deft feel for creating men of power and character, Janet Dailey introduces three unforgettable brothers: RJ, Linc, and Deke Bannon.
Rugged. Tall. Built to last. Linc Bannon has it all—and he’s there every time Kenzie needs him. They share a mission: to serve their country stateside, Linc in high-level intelligence and Kenzie as an expert trainer of combat dogs. Independent and sexy, Kenzie is definitely one of a kind—and the only one he wants. But if you ask her, she doesn’t need a hero in her life.
Until two of her friends, thousands of miles apart, are suddenly struck down. One, a soldier, is dead; the other, a civilian, is barely alive. Linc goes into action and uncovers a lethal web connecting the tragic events. A killer is at large, unhinged and with unfinished business. Kenzie has no choice but to join forces with the one man who can get past her defenses…
As a hidden conspiracy threatens to explode with devastating consequences, Linc is honor-bound to protect Kenzie. With all his heart, he vows to risk his life for hers…
An immense oak shaded the Maryland mansion beneath it,
casting sun-dappled light through thousands of leaves. The
tree and the house were the same age, survivors from a vanished
and more gracious past. The lowest branches of the grand old oak
arched down to the green lawn, providing an ideal backdrop for
informal photos of the Bannon wedding party.
It was a perfect fall afternoon. The landscape was touched here
and there with the scarlet and gold of sumac and native creeping
vines, bright dashes of color against the shimmering water in the
near distance. This late in the day, the blue sky shaded to indigo
where the slanting rays of the sun had begun to retreat across the
vast expanse of the Chesapeake Bay. The plantation estate that
had once surrounded the mansion had stretched to its shores,
lined with marsh grass turning green into gold.
Linc Bannon, the best man, and his brother Deke, the groomsman,
took their places and followed the photographer’s directions.
Turn this way. Smile. Best foot forward.
“Excellent,” the man said, nodding to his assistant, who dashed
off to fetch the next group to pose. “Thank you, gentlemen. Very
natural. You two could model.”
Linc shot Deke a doubtful look. “Him? Seriously?”
His younger brother chuckled and slipped off his jacket,
throwing it over his shoulder. “That’s what I was going to say
The resemblance between them was unmistakable. They both
had dark eyes and dark brown hair that the breeze was ruffling,
and both were tall and well-built, with a rugged physicality that
the formalwear didn’t hide. But the faint scar on Linc’s face was
one difference that stood out. His authoritative stance marked
him as the more responsible of the two. At the moment, Deke
had other things in mind.
“Here come the bridesmaids,” he said, looking at several
young women in taffeta whose gowns brushed the lawn as they
ran over it to the oak.
Linc glanced at them. “You can turn on the charm.”
“I may be younger than you, but you could learn something,”
Deke said solemnly. “Observe the master.”
A lovely brunette reached them first and singled out Deke with
a flirtatious look. The shawl she’d thrown on over otherwise bare
shoulders slipped down a strategic inch or so. She adjusted it with
a graceful touch of her hand. “Hi, Linc. Are we next?”
Deke smiled down at her. “I believe you are. We’re heading
back to the party.”
He nodded toward the striped tents set up for the reception
where more than two hundred guests were circulating, eager to
enjoy the social event of the season.
An hour or so later the celebration was in full swing, kicked off
with several toasts. To the newlyweds, Erin and RJ Bannon. To the
Montgomerys, Erin’s family, reunited at last. To RJ’s two brothers
and their mother Sheila. To true love.
Waiters dashed around with artfully composed plates and
napkin-swathed bottles of champagne while guests chatted animatedly
and laughed and flirted and caught up on old times.
Then the dancing began.
Linc leaned back in his chair and watched, fiddling with the
stem of his narrow glass and thinking about who he wanted in his
arms right now.
Kenzie, of course. Not that she was here. He wondered where
she was and what she was doing. Not that it was any of his business.
At the moment, she considered him a friend. He was working
on an upgrade, but she’d been busy lately. He’d invited her to the
wedding as his guest, but she’d begged off, saying something
vague about a previous commitment on the day. Professional, not
personal. That was something. Anyway, he had no intention of giving
up. She was definitely worth waiting for.
There was no shortage of gorgeous women at the reception,
but not one was in her league, in his opinion. Kenzie was his definition
of perfect. Smart. And sexy, with a super-fit, petite body that
looked fantastic in a plain white T-shirt and camo cargos—her version
of fatigues, now that she was no longer a soldier. Although
Uncle Sam wanted her back.
A female guest strolled nearby, trilling a hello to a friend a few
tables away. Linc looked idly at them as the woman stopped to
chat, then realized she was holding a tiny dog wearing a ruffled
collar in the crook of her arm. He’d taken it for a purse at first.
Her pampered pet blinked and yawned as the woman moved
He shook his head, amused. Not Kenzie’s kind of dog, that was
She’d been a K9 trainer for the army, on a fast track right out of
basic. Kenzie wasn’t one to brag, but Linc had been able to fill in
the blanks from the bare facts she’d offered. Her knack for the
work had gotten her quickly promoted to a position of critical importance:
training military handlers assigned to new animals and
developing new skill sets for the experienced dogs to keep up
with what was going on in country.
Then something had happened—she wouldn’t say what. She
didn’t seem to want to reenlist. She didn’t seem to want to do
anything but work. A lot.
Which was why he was solo on his brother’s wedding day.
Two weeks ago he’d stopped by the JB Kennels and seen her
out in the field with a half-grown shepherd. Their jumps and leaps
looked like pure joy, but he knew she was testing the pup’s reflexes
and instincts. In time, under her tutelage, the young animal
would learn to turn play into power. The sight of the two of them,
twisting and turning in midair in mock battle, was something he
would never forget.
Hell, Kenzie looked good even in thick bite sleeves and
padded pants. But he let himself imagine her in something close-
fitting and classy, her hair brushed to a silken shine and her head
tipped back to gaze up at him as they danced to a slow number.
Like the one the band was playing right now . . .
“Linc. You with us?”
He snapped out of his reverie and looked up at his younger
brother. “Just thinking.”
Deke took hold of a bentwood chair, spun it around with one
hand, and sat on it backward, resting his arms on the curved top
and stretching out his long legs.
“About what? Or should I say who?” he asked shrewdly.
“Give me a break, Deke.” Linc took a sip of champagne and set
the glass aside.
His younger brother wasn’t done ribbing him. “You’ve got
someone on your mind. I can see it in your eyes.”
“What are you talking about?”
“That moody, romantic, distracted look is what I’m talking
“You’re imagining things, Deke.”
His brother only laughed. “Am I? Just so you know, one wedding
per year is all I can handle. I’m not ready to see you walk
down the aisle.”
Linc smiled slightly. “If I found the right woman, why not?”
Deke was tactful enough to quit at that point. He surveyed the
crowd. “Look at all these gorgeous babes. How come you’re not
“I’m waiting for a song I like,” Linc parried.
Deke gave up, shaking his head. “Okay. Have it your way.” He
returned the inviting smile of the brunette on the other side of
the dance floor. She brightened, but stayed where she was,
smoothing the brilliant folds of her taffeta dress. “There’s my girl.
I think she likes me.”
“Go for it. You’re not taken.”
“Neither are you.”
Linc only shrugged.
Deke turned his head and studied him for a long moment.
“C’mon, bro. You can tell me. What don’t I know?”