Colt had one rule. But for Ellis, he’ll break it. Again.

Delta Force soldier Brett “Colt” Sievers lives his life by a creed—anything for the sake of the mission. There’s no risk too high. No sacrifice too great. No rule he won’t break—except one. No falling in love. So, losing his heart to Ellis Baker is more than a breach of protocol—it’s a colossal mistake. One he’s still paying for five years later. And the reason he’s never crossed that line, again.

Newly discharged, and working for his former commander, Colt’s determined to keep his life simple. Until Ellis stumbles across his doorstep. Tortured. Hunted. Undeniably sexy. Colt doesn’t want to care. To be anything other than her temporary savior. Too bad his heart didn’t get that memo.

Getting involved, again, is dangerous. She’s got secrets—the kind that end bloody. That could get him, and his team, killed. But Colt’s never failed a mission before, and once he commits, there’s no turning back. He’ll unearth the truth, save the girl, or die trying. Even if it means breaking that rule one more time. Because if Colt can’t keep Ellis alive, he’ll never get his second chance at his first love.

Five years ago, Paris…

“Okay, Sievers, out with it.”

Damn. Busted.

Brett Sievers, or Colt to his buddies, his brothers, looked up from his beer, sighing when the rest of his teammates pulled up chairs and gathered at his table. The one he’d picked in order to isolate himself. So this kind of brotherly intervention wouldn’t happen. 

One night to himself. That’s all he’d needed. Time to process the letter—to deal with the resulting pain—without being on display. Or having to muster up fake enthusiasm he couldn’t feel. Because the guys would know. Would be able to tell something was wrong. Which had meant ditching them until he could convincingly lie his way out. And god knew, he could sell a lie with the best of them. Just…not tonight.

But, they’d all used their damn Delta skills and scoped him out. And before he’d done more than order a beer.

Brett had thought he’d done a damn good job of hiding. Going to a bar that was definitely not his taste. Loud techno music, flashing disco lights, and more bodies grinding on the dance floor than was probably legal, it represented everything he hated about furloughs. And the last place he thought his squad would hunt him down.

Or course, Six and Cannon were among the men. Bastards were damn good trackers, even in an urban environment. And they knew Brett too well. Had spent five years watching each other’s backs. There wasn’t a piece of him he hadn’t bared at some point—a secret he’d been able to keep. Not that they were any different.

Quieter, maybe. A bit better at pushing down the really bad shit. But, he’d have hunted their asses out if their positions had been reversed. Which might account for the lack of surprise in his gut at them appearing out of the crowd.

And that wasn’t even taking into account what Six could do. Hell, knowing the man, he’d read Brett’s mind or something equally creepy. There was a reason everyone called the man Six—Brett wasn’t even sure he remembered Six’s actual name. Casey something, he thought. Six had this way about him—sensed things a moment or two before everyone else. As if he knew shit was about to go sideways. Just this morning, he’d grabbed Brett and shoved him out of the way before a tent pole fell exactly where Brett would have been standing. What would have resulted in a nasty concussion. 

The unit had given up trying to figure the guy out. If he had some kind of extrasensory perception thing going, or just super heightened senses. If it saved their asses, it didn’t matter. He could be an alien, and it wouldn’t change anything. Not when he’d single-handedly kept them all from seeing an early grave. Which meant, he’d probably just used some kind of Jedi mind trick, or that Vulcan meld thing, and sussed out exactly where Brett had ventured.

He took a long pull of his beer, giving the men a shrug. “Not sure what you’re talking about. Just wanted a beer.”

A snort from Ethan Vale, also known as Phoenix. He was the newest member—still a bit green around the edges. But the guy was a hell of a sniper. Better than anyone Brett had worked with, yet, including his other Delta brothers. And Phoenix was fearless. Beyond normal in that department, as if he hadn’t simply made peace with the fact he could die on any given mission, but halfway wanted to. It bordered on reckless—freaking creepy, if Colt was honest—but Phoenix got the job done. Kept his brothers safe in the process.

Phoenix made direct eye contact. “Please. First, you were late for our run this morning. Then, you disappeared while we were breaking camp—right after Six saved you from getting cold-cocked. And if that wasn’t enough, Cannon had to tackle your ass when that tango appeared on the side of the road and damn near blew your head off. Not to mention, you ditched us the minute we got sent on mandatory decompress.” He glanced around at the gathering of men as he laid his arms along the back of the chair facing the table. “So, out with it.”

Another pull. Then, another. Not that it helped. A dozen pints wouldn’t be enough to drown his heart. The one still bleeding out. Fuck women.

Six sighed. “I think maybe we were wrong, guys. Let’s give Colt some space.”

“We weren’t wrong, Six, we—”

“You heard the man.” Cannon, this time. “Clear out. We’ll meet for breakfast at the hotel restaurant at oh eight hundred. I suggest everyone get their run in before that.”

Phoenix grunted but stood, twisting the chair the right way ‘round then heading off with the rest. Six gave Brett’s shoulder a pat then tagged along behind the rest of the men, quickly disappearing into the crowd. Only Cannon stayed at the edge of the table, one hand on the top, the other shoved into his pocket.

He waited until Brett looked up at him. “I don’t need to have Six’s radar to guess that this involves Ellis.”

Brett focused on the table. If he said her name…

Cannon blew out a rough breath. “How’d she do it?”

“Sent a letter out with Hammond’s squad.” Though, letter was pushing it. Several lines of accusations and blame. Of how he’d never measured up—never would. And signed with her full name, not the short form he’d given her. The fucking cherry on top of the shit sundae. He tipped his beer toward Cannon. “Real classy.”

“I’m sorry, man. I know she was special.”

Special. That was a fucking understatement. “Me, too. I thought…”

He’d thought that they were serious. That the two years they’d been fighting to make them work—to not let the distance or the job destroy their relationship—had meant something. Hell, they’d talked about retiring. About moving in together. Even starting a family. She’d been so happy, planning on meeting him this week in Paris. Mapping out how they’d orchestrate leaving the service when the time came. It would kill a part of him to abandon his brothers, his team, but damn it, Ellis was worth it. Was his fucking future. His world. Everything had been fine, then…a Dear John letter to end all letters.

He’d have said it stung, but that didn’t come close to how he felt. Burned. Hollowed out. Left to rot in the sun—those were a better description. Only maybe all of them, together.

Cannon nodded, tapping the table with one finger. “She say why?”

“Just the usual.”

A grunt. As if the realization had hurt the other man. “She found out who your father is.”

It hadn’t been a question, not that it surprised Brett. “They all do in time, Cannon. You can’t run from your past forever. Not when it’s in your blood.”


“Don’t. I know the score. What my old man did—I hate the bastard, would love nothing more than to cap his ass, and I’m his son. His damn blood. I’m just tired of never being good enough. Of never getting out from under his shadow. It’s like my damn DNA is stained. And it taints whatever I touch. Ruins it.”

“You know that’s not true. Anyone who truly cared about you wouldn’t put what he did back on you.”

Brett snorted. “Then, I guess she never really cared.”

“That’s not what I meant. Fuck.” Cannon took a step, stopped and turned. “Is there anything I can do? We could track her down. Get answers.”

Brett raised his beer. “Got all the answers I need, right here.”

Another grunt. Cannon looked as if he was going to argue but merely nodded. “I’ll be waiting up to make sure you get back. Don’t make me wait all night. And Colt?”

“Yeah, man?”

“Not every woman is like her. I promise. There’s someone out there for you.”

“Or maybe, that’s just not how my life’s gonna play out.”

He waved off Cannon’s reply. The pep talk the other man was no doubt going to give Colt, despite the fact Cannon didn’t seem to need a relationship. Hell, in all the years Brett had known him, he couldn’t remember the guy getting serious over anyone. Ever. 

Maybe Cannon had it right? Maybe that’s how guys like him, like Brett, survived? Made a life in the Teams without endless regrets. They gave up on the hope of ever finding someone that meant more to them than their brothers. Their honor.

He glanced at Cannon. “It’s fine. I’m fine, I just need a night.”

“You sure that’s the best course of action? We all have a tendency to bury the bad shit.”


“Makes it hard to feel the good.”

Brett paused. There had been a tone in Cannon’s voice. Sadness. Regret, maybe. Hard to tell for sure, but the guy was definitely referring to more than just Brett’s troubled love life.

Not that it mattered. Colt had seen the light. Found his version of Jesus. “The only good is making it through a mission alive. Seeing my brothers do, too. That’s all I’ve got, right now. All I need to focus on from here on out. I’ll be back by midnight.”

Cannon sighed then walked off. Brett watched the man fade into the crowd of bodies, signaling the bartender he needed another beer. Cannon was right. Brett had spent too many years pushing the bad shit down until nothing remained. Until he was numb. Maybe that’s why he always ended up alone.

Or maybe, he was just cursed. Destined to always be on the outside looking in. Lots of the guys made it work. Found a way to be soldiers and lovers. Husbands and fathers. Why Brett couldn’t figure it out was a mystery.

Or just a by-product of a crappy roll of the dice. Being related to a man the world regarded as a monster. Having to constantly rise above it—atone for sins that weren’t Brett’s.

Despite what Cannon had said, Brett doubted anyone could ever look beyond it. See him as anything other than a serial murderer’s son. As if it was lying dormant beneath his skin, just waiting to lash out—turn him into a younger version of his father.

Not going to happen, but that wasn’t something he could prove. Guarantee. And once the truth was out—there wasn’t any way to step back behind the curtain. Hide it away.

The military had eventually overlooked it, after an exhausting security check and letters of reference from the detectives that had arrested his father. The federal agents involved. They’d gone to bat for Brett. He’d always wondered if the service had secretly hoped a bit of his old man was actually inside him—the part that made him an excellent hunter. Killer. And he’d fought against those notions when it seemed his peers had bought into it, too. Until he’d made Delta Force and been assigned to Cannon’s squad. After that, everything had changed. He’d become Colt—brother and valued member. The other guys hadn’t done more than nod when he’d given them the obligatory speech then dropped it. Permanently. As if it didn’t matter to them. Wasn’t something they processed or thought about when they looked at him.

And he’d had a glimmer of hope. One shining fucking moment of clarity. Of thinking he might be beyond his past. That, maybe, other people—the woman he’d eventually fall in love with—Ellis—would see beyond it, too. 

Except that hadn’t been the case. Not even close.

The bartender dropped off his beer, thanked him for the tip, then left. Brett stared at the water condensing on the bottle—watching the drops slowly slide down the side. He should have told her. He knew that. He’d had endless opportunities to just spit it out. Had actually tried on several occasions but…

He hadn’t been able to bring himself to do it. Not after the way it had imploded previous relationships. Made him feel like a freak. A failure. Less of a man. And with everything going so well this time around… He’d known from the start that Ellis was different. She’d made him consider options he hadn’t before—picture a life outside his unit. Outside the Teams. With more than just his brothers to keep him company.

She’d made him dream. Losing it all, now… 

Maybe, he’d been secretly hoping she wouldn’t find out. That when he eventually told her, fifty years down the road, it would be so far removed, it would slip by with nothing more than a shrug and a sigh. That, for once, he could just be Brett Sievers—Delta Force soldier, and the man in love with Ellis Baker. That he would be enough. That he wasn’t Daniel Sievers’ son.

Brett had been wrong. Horribly wrong. And that one mistake—that stupid conversation he should have made happen—would be his undoing. The reason he’d swear off women, off love. Why he’d refuse to date, again. He’d simply resort to physical encounters. Empty sex. Cannon seemed to get by on it. No reason Brett couldn’t follow in his buddy’s footsteps. Shelter that last shattered piece of his heart he hadn’t given to Ellis. Do his best to keep it hidden.

He didn’t know what hurt more—that Ellis hadn’t even bothered to ask him, first? Had just made assumptions and left? Or the way she’d done it. As if they hadn’t shared all those months together. Hadn’t said they loved each other. Hadn’t been on the verge of forever.

Maybe he should track her down. Make her face him. Look him in the eyes as she ripped out his heart—bled it dry. Called him a monster. It might be worth it to see her one last time, even if it was to hear the truth.

No fucking way. He’d trained for years to overcome weakness. To bury any fear. To face life expecting to die. And he’d made peace with that. But he was man enough to admit—at least to himself—that the prospect of facing her was more than even he could bear. She was beyond his training. His limits. 

Besides, it wouldn’t change anything. Knowing the truth, hearing it, firsthand, wouldn’t ease the pain crushing his chest. Make it easier to breathe. To move on. And it sure as hell wouldn’t fill the empty hole in his heart. Which meant, it was time to give Brett his walking papers, and focus on being Colt, instead. Hardened soldier. Loner. A man with nothing left to lose.

Colt raised his beer, watching more drops glisten in the bright lights. Whatever the reason, he’d drink to it.