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Hot Target
(Novella #1 of 2)
Now Available

The Last Victim

When Rafael reaches out to his sister for a job, Athena Matero-a founding member of the private security agency the Omega Team-can't help be protective of her younger half brother. After a tragic hostage rescue and its aftermath, Rafael Matero turned into a solitary loner, only surfacing to fulfill his duties as team leader for an elite SWAT sniper unit with the Chicago Police. Athena decides to fast track his application by vetting him on the job—a mission to Havana Cuba to investigate a cold case murder. But when the old murder is linked to the shadowy death of a powerful drug cartel leader, Rafael is burdened by a terrible secret from his past—and an unrelenting death wish—that puts him at dangerous odds with Athena and her team. He believes he's beyond saving, but that doesn't stop Jacquie Lyles from trying.

Jacquie sees something in Athena's mysterious brother that touches her heart. Chivalrous and brave, Rafael is as rare as a unicorn in her life as techno computer geek and white hat hacker for the Omega Team. After she joins the team on its mission to Cuba, she uncovers Rafael's shocking burden and it breaks her heart.

Rafael stands in the crosshairs of a vicious drug cartel—powerless to stop his fate—and his secret could put Athena and her team in the middle of a drug war.


Excerpt
Chapter 1

Outside Havana, Cuba
Five years ago

Rafael lay sprawled on his belly in the gritty dirt for hours, enduring the cool darkness before dawn to the now sweltering heat of the midday sun. He offered up his body to anything that crawled or slithered. With a single-minded purpose he remained as still and unmoving as the boulder he hid behind, dressed in camouflage tactical gear—BDUs, boonie hat, and boots. Not even the heat or the sweat trickling down his neck distracted him.

His unwavering discipline kept him rooted to the land. This had to work.

Rafe cleared out every last cent of his savings--after he'd lost all hope for his future—to pay for his covert drop and extraction so he could bring his weapon into Cuba. Without an official stamp in his passport, there would be no record of him entering or leaving the country.

When he heard the sound of a vehicle in the distance, he knew his sacrifice had come down to this moment. His eyes shifted toward the horizon and his throat wedged tight. He fought the emotion that welled inside him as he shouldered his suppressed .300 Winchester Magnum. Rafe stared through the Nightforce telescopic sight with his eyes trained on the dirt road below his position.

Please let it be him.

Not many used this desolate acreage of private ranch land, except for the man he dared to hunt. A truck barreled toward his position and kicked up clouds of dust. As he peered through the scope, adrenaline raged through his veins. Stay in control. Don't lose it now. He'd come too far to fail. Rafe had his egress routed, but if he didn't take his target out, he didn't care what happened to him.

The truck would soon be in range. Rafael slipped on his ear plugs and checked for wind, spying the inconspicuous ribbon he'd tied to a downrange branch at dawn. He adjusted the knobs for windage and elevation and took the safety off his sniper rifle. His hand reached for the bolt action and he chambered a round.

One shot. One kill.

He relaxed his body and took a deep breath before he let it out slow. Rafe hardened his expression as callused as his heart had become. He lined up the man's face until it centered in the floating crosshair of his scope—Adiós, cabrón—and without hesitation he squeezed the trigger.

The man's head spattered red mist and brain matter onto the windshield. The back of his head severed from his neck. Target down. Confirmed. After the truck veered left and lunged into a ditch, the man's dead weight landed on the steering wheel. The abrasive sound of a horn cut through the late afternoon air.

Rafael lay motionless and glared at the dead man through his scope. Time drained away and he could not move. Tears welled in his eyes. He expected to feel something. It was over, wasn't it? His body shook and he fought the urge to puke.

You gotta go. Now.

It took everything he had to get off the ground and stay focused on his egress. He'd have to get to his extraction point and out of Cuba fast before authorities found the body. Out of habit, he policed his brass, grabbing for the spent shell casing ejected from his .300 Win Mag, but something made him stop. He stared down at the brass in his hand. An impulse gripped him hard. Maybe the urge came from his unrelenting respect for justice.

He'd built a career in law enforcement with the Chicago police department, his latest assignment in SWAT, special operations. Being one of the good guys was all he ever wanted to be, but today he shattered everything he ever stood for.

He'd killed a man in cold blood.

In a slow and deliberate gesture, Rafe wedged the spent casing into a notch on the boulder like an artist signing his work. He didn't care what happened to him—not any more.


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