A year ago, Navy SEAL John Walton saved heiress Tansy Leighton from a hijacked yacht in the Mediterranean, and from the terrorist sympathizers demanding millions for her safe return.
As the anniversary of the hijacking approaches, Tansy’s father, financier Walter Leighton, receives a note threatening his daughter’s life. And in spite of the best private security Daddy’s money can buy, the only man Tansy trusts to guard her back, is John Walton.
But as bullets start to fly around the Leightons’ Main Line estate, can the coalminer’s son and the billionaire’s daughter survive long enough to give their relationship a shot? Or will their differences doom their budding romance before it has a chance to get off the ground?
There was no moon, just stars speckling the sky. The hull of the Saudi Arabian yacht was a pale smear up ahead. The hijackers had dropped anchor a mile offshore, surrounded by water, probably thinking it would keep them safe. That they’d be able to see anyone coming.
The little rubber raft with the three Navy SEALs moved silently across the black water. When Max lifted his hand, JB and Rusty pulled the paddles inside the small dinghy and prepared to make it the rest of the way by hand.
Quieter that way.
They could have taken the guard out from right where they were.
Hell, they could have taken him out almost anytime since they hit the water. He was standing on the deck of the yacht smoking a cigarette, the red glow of the ashes like the dot in the middle of the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. JB had closed one eye and pretended to aim and squeeze the trigger. The bastard would be over the railing and in the water in less than a second.
But while they could make the shot practically soundless, there was no way to stop the sound of the splash.
So the directive was to take him out silently once they were onboard.
That was Max’s job. JB’s was to get downstairs and find the girl, while Rusty was responsible for her boyfriend, the rich asshole who’d thought it was a good idea to bring the family yacht and his young, blond, American girlfriend on a cruise of the Mediterranean in the middle of terrorist season.
JB hadn’t been surprised when he heard about the hijacking. What had surprised him, was the information that the rich asshole had negotiated the release of the yacht’s crew. The hijackers had put them in a lifeboat instead of just killing them, and they had made it to shore near Tripoli, and from there, had notified the authorities of the hijackers’ demands.
Ten million US wired to a bank account in Dubai.
That was when Alpha Squad of SEAL Team Sixteen had deployed from Little Creek, Virginia.
The crew had said there were three hijackers onboard, plus Kareem Khan el Balushi—the rich asshole—and Tansy Leighton, the young, blond, gorgeous, American heiress. The jury was out on whether Kareem or Tansy was worth more money. Kareem’s daddy was a Saudi oil sheik, while Tansy’s great-great-however many greats-grandfather had owned a sizeable chunk of the North American railroad. And while railroad baron Leighton had been dead for a hundred years, the current Leighton—Tansy’s father—was worth a pretty penny in his own right. And was ready and willing to pay whatever it took, to get his daughter back in one piece.
He could afford it, so as Max said, maybe they should just let him.
But there were no guarantees that Tansy would make it out in one piece even if Walter Leighton paid the hijackers, and the money would disappear directly into the coffers of Al-Qaeda or ISIS or whoever the big dogs were, at the back of this little caper. And the United States Navy was loath to see that happen.
So the plan was for JB, Max, and Rusty to get onboard the yacht. Max would take out the guard upstairs. JB and Rusty would go below, and take out the guards there. The hope was that Tansy and Kareem were still alive and could be rescued, but either way, Walter Leighton’s all-American money wouldn’t be going to finance terrorist organizations in the Middle East.
They drifted close to the yacht, and tied the rubber dinghy in place. It’d really suck to get back out here and find it had drifted off and they had to swim the mile back to shore, carrying the hostages on their backs. Not that they hadn’t done worse, but that didn’t mean either of them particularly wanted to do it again. JB checked the knot twice before deciding it was good.
Someone had very considerately left the ladder hanging over the side, so getting onboard was easy. In fact, it was so easy that JB halfway suspected a trap. But no, Max surged silently to the top, and nothing happened. He melted into the shadows, and JB started climbing.
Rusty followed, and then they were all standing on the deck. The guard was oblivious. They could still see the glow of his cigarette in the bow of the yacht.
Max gave the hand signal to go. JB and Rusty slipped away into the darkness, leaving Max on deck to deal with the guard. JB didn’t envy the bastard.
The guard, that was. Mad Max would probably enjoy it.
The door opened silently, and they crept down the short stairs to the cabin level. If it’d been one of them in charge of this op—on the hijackers’ end—there’d have been a guard stationed there too. But the area at the foot of the stairs was empty. Until they got out here, he’d wondered whether they were dealing with amateurs or pros. Between the smoking guard on deck and the lack of any kind of security down here, he wasn’t wondering anymore.
Not that an amateur with a gun couldn’t be a worse danger than someone who knew what he was doing. But the status of this op just downgraded from slightly dangerous to pretty much a walk in the park.
The SEALs stepped down into the dining area, with a bar along one wall and a couple of tables and chairs, as well as sofas and TVs along the perimeter. All empty. At the far end of the room was a short hallway where the hostages were supposed to be—or at least where they’d been when the staff was set adrift. Kareem and Tansy had been quartered in the owner’s cabin, with three empty staterooms across the hall.
The two SEALs moved soundlessly across the floor and paused at the entrance to the hallway.
Three doors on starboard side, owner’s cabin on port side.
The light was on in the owner’s cabin, visible at the bottom of the door. From behind it, they could hear the sound of voices and laughter, and the clinking of glasses.
Rusty arched a brow.
They had two options. Open the door and take out the hijackers, who were clearly together and awake, probably playing cards to pass the time.
Or quietly try to find the hostages and get them on their way with no one being the wiser. If they were quiet enough, the hijackers may not even realize the SEALs had been here and gone again.
Not until they realized their leverage was gone, anyway. Along with any chance of getting their ten mil.
JB signaled Rusty to stay where he was, beside the door to the owner’s cabin, while he moved to twist the knob on the nearest stateroom door.
It opened, silently.
He slipped inside. It took less than ten seconds to ascertain that the room was empty. Since he’d already assumed that, from the unlocked door, it didn’t come as a surprise.
Outside in the hallway, Rusty still stood beside the closed door, testing the tip of his diving knife against his thumb. The hijackers were still laughing and celebrating behind the closed door.
JB moved to the next door. It opened, and the stateroom beyond turned out to be empty. Again, as expected.
He hesitated in front of the third door. Tansy or Kareem? Or both?
Alive or dead?
Only one way to find out. He tried the knob. It turned, but the door didn’t budge.
The key was in the lock, though, so that particular problem was easy to fix.
He unlocked the door, and pushed it open. And slipped through into the darkness of the room.
And had a tenth of a second to throw himself to the side as a heavy object whistled past his ear.
It hit his shoulder with enough force to fell a moose. JB closed his teeth on a curse even as he swung around and slammed the offender up against the wall, his numb left hand reaching for the blunt object that had come close to braining him, the other forearm pressed against her throat.
The realizations that she was female, that she seemed to be naked, and that she was worth millions, hit him simultaneously. And it all had to wait, because between the sound of her back hitting the wall and the heavy object in her hand hitting the floor, this op had just upgraded from a walk in the park to slightly more dangerous.
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