Exclusive Excerpt: Slow Ride by Becky McGraw
The Sleeper SEALs are former U.S. Navy SEALs recruited by a new CIA counter-terror division to handle solo dark ops missions to combat terrorism on US soil.
Only a month into his retirement from the SEAL teams, Lt. Commander Keegan McDonald was bored out of his mind working at his uncle's motorcycle repair shop. When he gets a call from the commander of a new CIA counter-terrorism unit asking for a commitment to be available for missions as needed, he grabs the lifeline with both hands, hoping to have the best of both worlds.
Keegan is thrilled when his first mission comes fast, but thinks it won't be much more exciting than working at the garage. He has to infiltrate a strip club on the outskirts of the SEAL base in Little Creek, Virginia to find a possible traitor who is leaking intel to a terror group.
To get inside, he signs on at the club as a bouncer, but swiftly realizes the mission won't be as easy as he thought, because Jules Lawson, a sexy waitress there seems determined to get in the way of his investigation. That puts her at the top of his list of suspects, but after watching her more closely, he recognizes the moves of a trained operator gathering information. But who does she work for? Friend or foe?
His answer comes when things go south at the club and Jules saves his life, but then they are on the run together. When they stop to compare notes, they discover a much darker plot is underway at that club, one that might take out the entire east coast if the jihadis aren't stopped.
But considering the self-serving reason Jules discloses for joining the FBI and taking on this assignment, can Keegan trust her to have his six and finish the mission? Or when she finds the targets she seeks, will she go rogue to exact her own revenge?
Each book in this multi-author, branded series is a standalone novel and the series does not have to be read in order.
“Bike’s coming along nicely,” Bob said, and Keegan flashed his uncle a smile that felt strange on his face. Smiling wasn’t something he’d done a lot of lately.
Thank God he’d undertaken this project on his bike or he’d likely be in a rubber room right now. Being led on was something he’d had just about enough of. First by Cee Cee Logan, then by Commander Greg Lambert and his, evidently fictional, counter-terror division staffed by former SEALs he’d recruited.
There’d been plenty of terror to go around in the United States in the last eight months, but the Commander had been on radio silence since that first call. Keegan had come to the conclusion that either he had been blowing his BDUs up with smoke, or he’d placed him on the B-team due to his injury, in which case he’d never be called up unless there was nobody else. With every day that passed, his certainty of that grew, as did his feeling of uselessness.
“Just have to scoop out the middle, change the seat and I’ll be done. I won’t be needing a two-seater anymore, since I’ve sworn off women,” Keegan said, tracing his fingers over the shiny black Bonefrog decal he’d applied to the side of the black, powder-coated tank.
“Sure doesn’t seem like you have. How many women have you been through since you’ve been home?” Bob asked with a laugh.
“Just two, but that’s enough to drive home the fact that I’m better off alone,” Keegan replied. After he crashed and burned with Cecilia, one should’ve been enough. But, ever the optimist, Keegan just had to try again. He was now at the bottom of his optimism barrel and ready for a dry spell.
“You’re too damned young to decide that—just take a break,” Bob said, then harrumphed. “When you stop shopping at the beach bar bargain basement because you’re desperate, the perfect woman will find you.”
“Perfect and woman are two words that don’t fit together, Unk, and the only thing I’m desperate to do is stay away from them right now.” And get the hell out of here, so I can skip this pep talk you’re winding up to give me.
“I have to disagree. Louise MacDonald is just about the most perfect woman in the world and she found me during a streak of bad luck in Atlantic City.”
“You’re right, Aunt Louise is one of a kind, and perfect for you, Uncle Bob. But I’m not looking for that complication in my already fucked-up life,” Keegan said, unable to hide his irritation. “I have enough on my mind right now.”
He loved his uncle unconditionally, but the pep talks and lectures since he’d been home were grating on his last nerve. Keegan just wanted to be left alone to deal with the funk he found himself in at the moment.
“This pity party of yours has got to stop. You are still a useful young man, Keegan. You just need to quit feeling sorry for yourself and get plugged back into life. There is life after the military—trust me, I know.”
His uncle was right. Keegan needed to just face the bitter fact he was done as a special operator. All the blood, sweat and tears he’d put into that grueling training was now as useful to him and the government as the tarnishing medals in his dresser drawer.
Being a grease monkey at his uncle’s motorcycle shop was his life now, unless he wanted to use his business degree to become a desk jockey, where he could crawl into a desk drawer and die. Because he’d let a woman distract him, and this was the price of that error in judgment.
“I think I’m going surfing this weekend,” Keegan said standing, trying to push the negativity and anger from his mind.
The beach was the only panacea for him these days and he needed it right now. Out on his board finding waves, the world couldn’t touch him and the waves washed away thoughts of anything other than balancing on his board.
“Aren’t you waterlogged yet, boy?” Bob asked.
“Nah, I’m a frog, Unk. I belong in the water.” Was a frog, Keegan thought, grinding his teeth. Now, he was nothing but useless driftwood washed up on the beach.
“Well, think about this while you’re gone. Aunt Louise has decided she wants me to retire and travel. I told her I need one more year to make sure things were set here. You’re on deck when that happens—if you get your head right and want it, that is.”
Shock rocked him and Keegan’s mouth opened, but no words came out. Is this what he wanted for the rest of his life?
He had no freaking idea what he wanted, but he knew what he didn’t want?a nine-to-five office job. Turning wrenches was boring, but a helluva lot more exciting than that alternative.
You wanted a shop of your own, and he’s offering you that opportunity.
Uncle Bob had the reputation, but his operation was limited because he was a one-man-and-one-mechanic-band, until Keegan came home.
You’ll be the boss—have the freedom to push this operation to the next level. To do far out custom bikes, dream bikes, like yours is now. This could be huge.
Keegan had an endless supply of SEAL brothers who might consider joining him when they left the teams. If there was one skill all SEALs possessed, it was being mechanically inclined and able to solve problems with machinery. The dark clouds inside his head parted as his excitement at the possibilities built.
Bob’s smile slipped and he squeezed Keegan’s shoulder. “Just think about it. Maybe this was just a stopping off point for you and that’s fine. You need to do what makes you happy.”
“No, Unk!” Keegan shouted, finally finding his voice. “That is an incredible offer. I was just shocked you offered it to me!” He thought the only way they’d ever take Bob out of this shop was toes up when he was ninety and slipped on an oil puddle.
Bob shrugged. “You’re the closest thing I have to a son and a helluva lot more responsible than your younger brother. I figure at thirty-three, next year you’ll be ready, if you can get past this shit and realize you’re not washed up. You still have plenty of living to do, boy.”
Then why did he feel so dead inside? Because Bob was right again. Wallowing in self-pity was not improving his situation at all. He should be thankful he had his uncle and aunt on his team and that, even though he’d been a grumpy bastard lately, they were still there for him.
This weekend he would work on changing his attitude. The grumpy bastard would still be reserved for women, though, because with this added responsibility, he certainly didn’t need that distraction.
“Thank you, Uncle Bob. You have no idea how much this means to me.”
“Just keep doing what you’re doing, so I don’t change my mind. Louise would kill me,” he said with a rough laugh.
Keegan’s phone vibrated in his pocket and traveled down his hipbone. He pulled it out, looked at the display and groaned. Now? Really? He ought to just let it ring to voicemail, but he couldn’t resist answering, if for nothing more than to tell him to go to hell.
“This is MacDonald. I was wondering if you’d forgotten about me, Commander,” Keegan said, unable to keep the anger from his tone.
“Definitely not. I just didn’t need you, but I do now. Are you available for a mission?” Greg Lambert asked. Keegan tried to hang onto his anger but excitement washed it away.
“I signed up for them, you’re paying me a stipend to be available, so yes, I’m at your disposal,” he replied, sucking in a breath to control the rush of adrenaline that swamped him.
“Good—I need you to—” Lambert started.
“Wait—let me find somewhere private to talk.” With a chin nod, he left his uncle standing there to walk-run toward the back door. He flung open the door and hustled across the back lot to the little tin can he lived in and went inside. “Okay, I’m secure—what do you have?”
After Bob’s little revelation, Keegan didn’t know how he’d take the news of him taking off indefinitely on a mission at the spur of the moment. He’d probably think he was as irresponsible as Kane, his younger brother. But this man paid him a monthly retainer, he’d committed to taking missions, and he would. He’d just tell Bob he’d been called up for a special reserve training drill.
“I need you to go Little Creek and do recon at the strip club near the back gate. Someone is passing top secret and classified information to the enemy at the Lily Pad and I need to you find out who that is.”
“What kind of information? Which enemy?” Keegan asked.
“Counter-intelligence regarding the war on terror is being passed to ISIS and Al Qaeda sympathizers who frequent that bar.” Greg huffed a breath. “The latest leak resulted in two SEAL teams being ambushed and ten men killed on what should’ve been an easy operation. We’ve had three ISIS and two Al Qaeda inside operatives beheaded in the last few months. We won’t be able to keep the other friendlies, if this isn’t stopped. They’re scared.”
“How do you know the leak is originating at that bar?” Keegan asked.
“You don’t want to know that. I don’t want to know that,” Greg replied with a laugh. “Suffice it to say, the CIA has ways of making captured detainees talk. They believe men from the base could be involved, which makes me sick.”
“Are you sure this is good intel?” Keegan had been in so many situations in the sandbox where it wasn’t, he had to ask. Men got killed relying on bad information and he wasn’t going to be one of them.
“The FBI has verified there’s a leak and that it’s most likely originating at that club. Because of the classification and nature of the information being passed, they believe a SEAL from the base would be a likely source. That’s all they have because they don’t have the manpower to handle the investigation properly, which is why we’re on deck…or you are.”
“Do they have names of the men on base?” Keegan asked, because that would give him a leg-up on the investigation.
“No, the brass doesn’t have evidence and can’t go profiling, but we’re not bound by those rules, so we have to look at everyone. We’re basically starting from scratch here, but if a SEAL is involved, I’d like to personally interrogate him before you turn him over.”
“I’ll give you what’s left of him, if that’s the case, Commander,” Keegan replied darkly.
The thought of a SEAL possibly being involved made him sick, too. The teams were a brotherhood, and this traitor’s intentional betrayal had gotten ten of his teammates killed.
“So, you’re taking the mission?” Greg asked, sounding relieved.
“Yes, sir, I’ll take the mission gladly.”
“Good—go to the Lily Pad Club outside of the back gate at the base and sign on as a bouncer or bar back. You’ll have to get the job on your own because I can’t set it up. That would give us away. Everyone there is a suspect until you weed them out.”
“Yes, sir—I’ll leave in the morning.”
“Check in with me weekly if you can manage it, or call me if you need anything. I have to keep God apprised of what’s going on.”
Keegan hung up the phone and a spark of excitement lit the dry brush in the wasteland that was his psyche before that call. It flamed brighter, that old feeling of usefulness, of service to a cause greater than his own, returned with a vengeance.
Keegan shot to his feet to go pack his go bag, feeling better than he had in eight months.
Maybe he could have his cake and eat it too, he thought, flinging open the trailer door to go find his uncle to tell him he was going on a reserve training mission.
Authors included in this series are:
Susan Stoker – PROTECTING DAKOTA – 9/5/17
Becky McGraw – SLOW RIDE – 9/26/17
Dale Mayer – MICHAELS’ MERCY – 10/3/17
Becca Jameson – SAVING ZOLA – 10/17/17
Sharon Hamilton – BACHELOR SEAL – 10/31/17
Elle James – MONTANA RESCUE – 11/14/17
Maryann Jordan – THIN ICE – 11/28/17
Donna Michaels – GRINCH REAPER – 12/12/17
Lori Ryan – ALL IN – 1/9/18
Geri Foster – BROKEN SEAL – 1/23/18
Elaine Levine – FREEDOM CODE – 2/6/18
J.m. Madden – FLAT LINE – 2/20/18
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New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Becky McGraw writes happily-ever-afters with heat, heart and humor. A Jill of many trades, Becky knows just enough about a variety of subjects to make her contemporary cowboy and romantic suspense novels diverse and entertaining. She resides in Florida with her husband of thirty-plus years, is the mother of three and grandmother of one. Becky is a member of the RWA, Sisters in Crime and Novelists, Inc.