Book 3 Ultimate CORE
by Kristine Mason
When the hunter becomes the hunted…who will become the ultimate prey?
CORE agent Lola Tam has two things on her mind, quitting her job as a criminal investigator and baking a frozen pie for Thanksgiving dinner without burning it. But a midnight call forces a change of plans. Her boss and future stepfather, Ian Scott, has been kidnapped from his Florida vacation rental—along with her mother. The kidnapper’s plan? Drop Ian and her mom in the Everglades and hunt them like animals. Terrified for her mom, Lola takes the bait and travels to Everglade City, Florida where she’s determined to end the hunt before it begins.
Ryan Monahan, former Navy SEAL turned airboat captain is used to taking tourists through the Everglades, not guiding a sexy agent on a rescue mission. After spending years dealing with a past filled with guilt and regret, he needs a little action and adventure in his life—he needs to prove he could still be a hero. What he doesn’t need? Falling for a woman he has no business wanting, especially when the hunt takes a deadly turn…
From Lola’s point of view:
Lola stopped and looked toward Ryan, who pulled off his pack as he jumped to the last root. His easy smile had disappeared. His face had grown tense, his eyes filled with alarm.
Terrified by his sudden change, she swallowed hard and glanced down at her boots, expecting a python or gator to be inches from her feet. When she didn’t see anything but vines, dead leaves and dirt, she decided she’d rather be closer to Ryan, than whatever might be behind her. Gaze on him, she took a step forward.
“No,” he yelled, and rushed forward in a leap, just as her boot snagged against a thin, wire.
She landed on her back, Ryan’s arms cushioning her fall. She squeezed her eyes tight and burrowed against his hard body, fisting his shirt and waiting for the inevitable. Seconds passed. His heart pounded against her chest and his breath came in ragged bursts along the side of her face.
He raised his head, but kept his body flush to hers and held her tight. “Are you okay?”
She met Ryan’s gaze, saw the concern in his eyes, then quickly let go of his shirt and wrapped her arms around his broad back. She might not know this man but she didn’t want anything to happen to him. He’d assumed the worst and selflessly shielded her body. That he would give his life to save hers amazed and humbled her.
He hugged her back. His warm breath caressed her ear as he let out a sigh. “Promise me the next time I tell you not to move, you’ll listen?”
She let out a shaky chuckle. “I promise.”
He lifted his head, then used his arm to brace himself above her. The sunlight haloed his dark blond head, and with the way the shadows played across his face, his eyes took on a gunmetal shade of gray. He moved his hand from beneath her, then smoothed the hair that had escaped from her ponytail away from her cheek. “I’m going to blame every new gray hair on you,” he said with a grin.
He dipped his head, and for a split second she thought he might kiss her. But then he simply pressed his forehead against hers. She might have met him less than six hours ago, but she would have welcomed a kiss. She wanted to be reminded that she was alive. That she wasn’t living a nightmare alone.
Kristine Mason is the bestselling author of the popular romantic suspense trilogies C.O.R.E. Shadow and Ultimate C.O.R.E. She is currently working on her next trilogy, C.O.R.E Above the Law, along with a series of Psychic C.O.R.E. novellas—all to be released in 2015.
Although Kristine has published a few contemporary romance novels, she focuses most of her energy on her romantic suspense stories, which she loves for their blend of dark mystery/suspense and sexy romance. She is fascinated with what makes people afraid, and is famous for her depraved villains whose crimes present massive obstacles for her heroes and heroines to overcome.
Kristine has a degree in journalism from Ohio State University and lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, four kids, and two dogs. If she’s not writing, she’s chauffeuring kids, gardening, or collecting gnomes. Oh, and she makes a mean chocolate chip cookie!
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