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Code Name: Omega (Paperback)

Code Name: Omega (Paperback)

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I joined the team at Jameson Force Security three months ago and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. Leaving behind the Marine Corps together, my dog Omega and I made the cross-country trek to Pittsburgh for an exciting new career. Now I get to spend my days doing dangerous missions with my team and Omega gets to spend his days relaxing, unless there are explosives to be sniffed, and then he’s all paws on deck.

Read More

When Omega—who I affectionately refer to as Bubba—snacks on something he most definitely shouldn’t have, an emergency trip to the vet introduces me to Abigail Blackburn. She’s a little quirky, a lot smart, and completely captivating. She also has a penchant for trouble and when Abby makes it her own personal mission to expose the puppy mill industry, she finds herself mixed up with unsavory characters who aren’t happy with her efforts to cut into their profits

This seedy underbelly is a dangerous place, particularly for a well-intentioned, yet somewhat naïve, small-town vet. What began as peaceful protests outside of local pet stores has escalated into something that threatens Abby’s safety, and I refuse to sit by and watch her get hurt. Somehow this raven-haired beauty has gotten under my skin, and I don’t hesitate to call in my teammates at Jameson to help keep her safe.

Now I find myself trying to balance my need to protect Abby while helping her successfully complete her mission, but also redirecting her focus long enough to show her that I’ve completely fallen for her. One thing is certain—this is going to be my toughest assignment yet.

Read Chapter One

Kellen

My teammate Cage nudges my ankle, and my eyes fly open. I hadn’t been sleeping. Merely relaxing and listening to music.

He sits across from me. I pull out my earbuds—goodbye, Soundgarden—and raise my eyebrows in question.
Cage nods at the airplane window. We’re on approach for landing.

I bring my seat into an upright position and note that one of the flight attendants had taken my empty highball from the tray that still hovers over my lap.

There were no announcements to have done those things prior to landing, since we’re on a private plane owned by Jameson Force Security, and they don’t care if we have our seats upright or tray tables put away.

Have to say… I love this mode of travel. Another perk of working for Jameson.

Cage taps Malik next to him. He was sound asleep and now blinks at us with bleary eyes.

“Getting ready to land,” Cage says.

Malik grunts and closes his eyes again, crossing his arms over his chest. Cage shoots me a smirk and I grin back.

It was an absolute fucking pleasure to work this last mission with Cage and Malik, providing private security for a group of American engineers traveling through Mexico to evaluate bridge structures. It wasn’t hard-core stakes like hostage rescue, but we were in some dangerous territory, and the threats were real. It’s one of the reasons I love this job—I can be a bit of an adrenaline junkie.

This is my third international mission since coming to work at Jameson three months ago, and while I’ve rotated among various teams, Cage and Malik have actually become close friends. We hang out a lot outside of work and have a lot in common, given Cage was a Navy SEAL and Malik was in the Marine Corps like me.
Yeah… it didn’t take long.

I’ve settled in as a full member of this dynamic group specializing in high-end security services, and there’s no doubt I made the right decision to move back east. The original intent was to leave California and get closer to my parents in upstate New York, but after meeting Jameson’s owner, Kynan McGrath, at a security conference, I knew he was the man to work for. I applied, had three separate interviews with him, and rejoiced when he offered me a spot.

It’s been a good few months.

“Want to get a beer?” Cage asks. The landing gear unfurls and locks into place, bumping under my feet.

“Nah,” I say, looking at my watch. “I’m beat.”

“That’s just loser code,” Malik drawls, his eyes still closed, “that he misses his dog way too much and would rather spend time with him than with his buds.”

Cage cackles, and Malik’s eyes open slightly as he smirks at me.

Can’t help but laugh at them laughing at me, and I don’t deny Malik’s appraisal. I miss the fuck out of Bubba. While I really dig my new teammates and hang out with them regularly, I love my dog a lot more. I’ve been gone eight days in Mexico, and I know he’s missed me just as much.

“Bubba’s way more fun than you two.” My head rolls on the seat rest, and I watch out the window as the ground comes closer and closer until we touch down with a slight jolt.

Nabbing my phone from the console between my seat and the empty one to my right, I go to my texts.

As expected, I have one from the dog sitter, Julie. Simply a picture of Bubba curled up in his bed with his favorite stuffy between his paws. He has his head tipped quizzically toward the camera and looks beyond adorable.

Below the picture, three simple words: He missed you.

Can’t help but smile. I missed that furry bastard too.

Bubba is more than just a dog and calling him a pet is a sacrilege. Bubba—real name Omega, but somehow I started calling him Bubba as a nickname and it stuck—was my partner while I was in the Marines. A Belgian Malinois, Bubba was a single-purpose working military dog trained to detect explosives. We inspected cars that came through entry points at Camp Baharia and cleared streets in Fallujah. We called Iraq home on two different tours of duty, stationed in California between deployments.

But the United States started pulling out of Iraq and Bubba was getting a little too old to continue such strenuous work. When we returned stateside, my enlistment was up, and Bubba was ready to be retired. It made sense for us to leave the Corps together, so I adopted my boy and gave him a life of luxury. Soft beds, good treats, and lots of stuffed animals, which he loves to shove into his mouth while he sleeps.

Bubba is still a working dog with me at Jameson. He’s game to cover events, and we walk venues together as an extra service Jameson provides. A few hours on his feet doesn’t bother him at all, but at eight years of age, with early arthritis setting in, anything longer isn’t good for him.

I flip my phone around and hold it out for Cage and Malik—who has now chosen to sit up and stay awake—to see. “Isn’t he the cutest pupper in the world?”

Cage rolls his eyes. “Yeah… cute as a button for an animal that could rip out my throat if you gave a one-word command.”

Malik chuckles, but they both know that’s not true. Bubba isn’t an attack dog, although he looks intimidating enough. He’s been trained to have a keen nose only, although he is territorial about our house and will snarl and bark viciously at anyone who approaches. Malik, Cage, and all the members of Jameson have heard me prattle on and on about my dog, and while they love to give me shit about it, they understand the special bond we have. They all know that you can’t walk along streets in a foreign country with the stress of knowing your dog could get blown up if he’s not good at his job.

They have the utmost respect for Bubba because he put himself in harm’s way, day in and day out, while on the job. Any given day that dog woke up, it could’ve easily been his last if he’d set off a charge while doing detection.

Before I can even turn the phone back around, a new text chimes, and Cage’s smile goes sly as he sees who it’s from. “Your stalker is back.”

I curse under my breath as I flip the phone so I can see the screen, grimacing at the message from Adriana. Just checking in to see how you’re doing. I miss you.

My former girlfriend, who can’t seem to grasp that we are undeniably over and won’t ever be getting back together.

Cage and Malik—as well as most of my mates at Jameson—know about her.

They were, in fact, expecting her to come to Pittsburgh with me. She’d been in California, wrapping up the packing of my house where we’d been living together prior to the offer to come to Jameson. She did most of the work, getting it ready to go on the market so I could get a jump on my new job in Pittsburgh. I went back to California in mid-April with the intent that Adriana, Bubba, and I would drive the U-Haul and her vehicle east to start the next chapter in our lives.

All plans were ruined when I arrived a day early to surprise her. I surprised her a little too well when I caught her fucking the lawn maintenance guy in our bed.

There were no dramatics on my part. I mean, sure… I was pissed, but I didn’t think twice about leaving her ass back on the West Coast. While there were tears and apologies and promises of fidelity if I gave her another chance, I wasn’t swayed. You give me a reason to earn my trust, it’s given with a solemn vow to uphold it in return. You break trust with me, and you’re cut from my life forever.

I’m a simple guy.

I don’t respond to Adriana because that will only fuel renewed apologies and pleas. She’ll go several days, even sometimes a few weeks, without contacting me, but then she’ll get lonely—and most likely drunk—and reach out. I made the mistake once of trying to just be kind about it, insisting she needed to move on and wishing her the best of luck. She took my kindness as perhaps a change of heart and hasn’t let up since. I’ve found it best to ignore her.

Now slightly irritated by Adriana, I change my mind about Cage’s offer. “I’ll grab a beer with you guys if we can do it somewhere close by.”

“That’ll work,” Cage says easily. The guys live in the city, just east of the airport, but I live thirty minutes south of Pittsburgh.

Another perk of flying Jameson style is that it takes us all of about five minutes to grab our luggage, deplane, and head to our vehicles in the parking lot of the private hangar. We agree on a bar Malik googled, located a few miles from here, and once we’ve got beers in hand, we shoot the shit as only guys can.

That involves a vigorous debate with Cage about baseball. He’s jumped on the Pittsburgh bandwagon since he’s lived here awhile, but I root for my New York team I grew up with. Malik doesn’t follow baseball, but why would he when his two brothers play professional hockey for the Carolina Cold Fury?

Not only doesn’t he participate, but he ignores us, engrossed in a text conversation on his phone. Taking in the lazy smile on his face and the speed of his fingers flying over the screen, I have a good idea who has his attention.

I lean over intrusively, nosily checking out what he’s doing. Anna’s name is at the top of the screen, so I nudge him playfully. “Dude… pay attention to us. You’ll be seeing Anna soon enough.”

“Yes, I will,” he says with enough innuendo that tells me there’s not going to be a lot of talk when he gets home. “Her mom has Avery for the evening.”

“Score!” Cage laughs.

I’ve come to learn a lot about my new teammates these last few months, but there’s no other as compelling as Malik and Anna’s history together. They went through a lot to get to where they are. Anna’s husband was killed in the line of duty on a mission where Malik was taken hostage. He was held prisoner for months until Jameson rescued him.

When he returned, he wasn’t the same. Neither was Anna, for that matter. Pregnant when her husband was killed, Anna had since given birth to their daughter, Avery. She also worked as Kynan’s assistant, and over time, she and Malik grew close.

Very, very close, as in they fell in love, despite the complicated nature of their circumstances. Some might consider it too messy, but I think those are the best love stories.

And make no mistake about it… I’m a romantic. That I wasn’t all that broken up about Adriana’s infidelity only tells me she wasn’t the one.

Of course, I think I’d actually been feeling that way all along, but things had been comfortable and easy, so I didn’t make an exit when I probably should have.
“Let me ask you guys something,” Malik says as he puts his phone on the bar top.

“Shoot,” Cage says, swiveling on his stool and leaning forward so he can see Malik on the other side of me.
“Do you think it’s too soon to ask Anna to marry me?”
Dead silence. I blink at Malik, and a quick glance in the mirror behind the bar shows Cage with the same blank expression.

“For fuck’s sake,” Malik growls, picking up his beer and taking a sip. “Don’t everyone rush to reassure me all at once.”

Cage shakes his head as if jolting out of a stupor. “My hesitation isn’t in reassuring you. My hesitation is in wondering why you even need to ask. I just assumed y’all were going to get married at some point. You haven’t proposed yet?”

Malik shakes his head. “It’s complicated.”

“It’s really not,” I say, thinking back on how easy it was to split from Adriana. I think the reverse is also true. You just know when to do the right thing.

“You don’t understand the complexities—”

“I understand your story just fine.” Clapping a hand on his shoulder, I lean an elbow on the counter. “You’re worried what people might think, and I’m here to tell you, they’d think it’s about fucking time you two got married.”
Malik doesn’t look convinced, and I let my hand fall away. I get his worry, though. Marrying the woman who lost her husband during a mission you were also on could raise some eyebrows in certain circles.

But not the Jameson circle. I’ve been able to tell since starting here that everyone at this company is part of a very close-knit circle. It feels like family, and no one would stand in the way of Malik and Anna’s happiness.
“You know you’re not disrespecting Jim’s memory at all,” Cage adds. “If anything, I know damn well he’s happy knowing Anna is taken care of. Avery, too, for that matter.”

Malik’s eyes go soft at the mention of Avery. Anna and Jim’s daughter just turned one last week, and she is the apple of Malik’s eye. He may not have given her DNA, but he’s been a father to her in every way.

His expression focuses, eyes moving back and forth between me and Cage. “I love Anna with the entirety of my being. I want to officially adopt Avery. I want her legally recognized as my daughter, but I know the first step is to marry her mother.”

Frowning, a thought strikes me. “Are you worried Anna will say no?”

A quick shake of his head. “She’ll say yes.”

“Then what in the fuck are you waiting for?” Cage exclaims.

“Maybe I was waiting for some reassurance. That I’m not treading on anyone’s memory by doing so.”

It’s a brave and bold proclamation. An admission of vulnerability, which men aren’t keen on doing. I admire him for it.

“I suggest sooner rather than later.” I grab my beer and hold it up to him.

“I echo that sentiment,” Cage says and pushes his beer toward mine.

Malik grins, knocks the neck of his bottle against ours, and we drink. While Cage and I lower our beers after a sip, Malik keeps his head tipped back and he downs the rest of his bottle.

He smacks his lips, eyes twinkling, and slides the empty bottle away from him. “I’m out of here. I’ve got an important question to ask Anna.”

My jaw drops as Malik gets off the stool. “Like, right now? You’re going to propose to her right now?”

Malik digs into his pocket for his keys. “Like Cage says… what in the fuck am I waiting for?”

“A ring, for one,” I point out.

His grin is sly. “Already bought it.”

Laughing, I point toward the door. “Then get out of here. You have something far more important to do than drink another beer with us.”

“That I do,” Malik says, and then he’s gone.

Cage and I share a moment, reveling in happiness for our friend. He glances down at my bottle. “Want another?”

“Nah, man.” I laugh. “Got the love of my life waiting for me at home.”

“Bubba is the love of your life?” Cage asks dryly.

“That he is. Jealous?”

“Hardly.” Cage finishes his beer, and we both rise from our stools. “Got a hot wife waiting at home who always knows how to welcome me back in just the right way.”

“TMI, dude,” I chastise with a laugh as we head out of the bar.

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Product Release Date: August 16, 2022

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