Cover of Night
The Alpha Crew Series · Book three
Sparks fly when a journalist and a Navy SEAL cross paths in Thailand in this third entry in the thrilling and sexy Alpha Crew series.
Journalist Karly Bonham is on her first overseas mission, covering the new United States ambassador to Thailand, when she is taken hostage by terrorists, with only her wits and courage to keep her alive–until help arrives in the form of Navy SEAL Ethan Dunn.
As part of an elite SEAL team called Alpha Crew, Ethan has been on countless harrowing missions, but he knows this one is different the instant he meets Karly—the sexy young reporter who somehow managed to escape the terrorists’ clutches. Ethan is impressed by her, especially when he learns she has intel that could be the key to a successful rescue op. Ethan knows working with a civilian raises the stakes on an already dangerous mission. But with the clock ticking down, he enlists Karly’s help to thwart a vicious plot and bring a terrorist mastermind to justice.
Featuring Laura Griffin’s signature “heart pounding, nerve-jangling suspense, combined with sizzling sex” (Fresh Fiction), Cover of Night is a fast-paced, romantic thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Cover of Night
The Alpha Crew Series · Book three
- Book 1: At the Edge
- Book 2: Edge of Surrender
- Book 3: Cover of Night
- Bundle: Alpha Crew: The Mission Begins
Cover of Night
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Karly Bonham envied the newlyweds.
She watched from the dive boat as they strolled hand in hand along the white sand beach, their heads tipped together–probably sharing an inside joke.
Sure, looks could be deceiving, but Karly couldn’t help but think they seemed like the perfect couple, spending a perfectly blissful holiday at one of the most exclusive resorts in southeast Asia. Named for the glittering water surrounding it, The Sapphire was every bit as dazzling and luxurious as the name implied, and Karly was grateful to be here. She only wished it were for pleasure and instead of business.
“Karly? Did I lose you?”
Her editor’s voice on the phone jerked her back to reality.
“I’m here,” Karly told her.
“So, can you confirm you’ll make the deadline?”
“Absolutely. I just finished the draft.”
Just was a bit of an overstatement. Karly had finished the draft at noon and shut down her computer in time to make a last-ditch effort to enjoy the final day of the trip. Before leaving on this assignment, she had promised her sister that she’d 1) flirt with an attractive man at the hotel bar, and 2) take the time to go snorkeling. At least she’d managed to keep one of her promises.
Karly tossed her snorkel into her beach bag and squeezed the sea water from her long ponytail.
“Any chance you’ve seen Drew’s photos?” Jana asked, and Karly pictured her editor gazing out the window of her condominium overlooking San Diego Bay. It was nighttime in California, and Jana had stayed up late to make this phone call.
“Not yet,” Karly reported. “But he told me he got some great shots. The ambassador reeling in a fish, kayaking. Drew was especially excited about some shots of Mancuso and his daughter.”
“Good. The whole point is to humanize him. Readers want to see the man behind the mystery.”
Karly had heard all this at the staff meeting. Besides being tall, dark, and drool-inducingly handsome, the recently appointed U.S. ambassador to Thailand was one of the wealthiest men in Southern California. And he was a widower. Pacifica readers–many of whom were female–were hungry for information about him. Hence, the feature story.
Karly was beyond excited to be tapped to write this cover article. This was her first overseas political assignment. It was her first overseas assignment period, and she was determined to prove herself to all the higher-ups at the magazine. Just because she covered the celebrity beat, that didn’t mean she couldn’t write an article with some meat on the bone.
“I’m almost finished,” she told Jana now. “I’ll have something to you by eight a.m. your time.”
“Not a minute later. And will you remind Drew? He’s not answering his phone. I’m guessing he’s working?”
Playing, more likely. He’d been all over the ambassador’s assistant, Raina, since the moment they’d set foot on the island–which was hardly surprising, given that the woman looked like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. Drew was a shameless flirt, but he never failed to produce stunning pictures.
“I’ll remind him,” Karly said.
“Thanks. And, hey, when you finish, be sure to kick back and have an umbrella drink for me!”
Karly ended the call and tossed her phone in her beach bag as another wet tourist climbed the ladder onto the boat.
“Did you see that reef shark?” Malai asked her.
“No.” Thank God.
“Right beside that giant brain coral.” She sat on the bench beside Karly and pulled off her mask. “It was huge. At least as big as me.”
Karly shuddered. Her fear of sharks was even worse than her fear of heights.
Malai pulled off her fins and stowed them under the bench. Then she spoke to the captain in Thai. The boat’s engine sputtered to life, and they started moving toward shore. Malai checked her dive watch, which had a diamond bezel and probably cost more than Karly’s car back home.
“Drink time.” Malai smiled. “I’m ready for a rum punch.”
“Mmm. Me too.”
Malai was private person, but over the course of several cocktail hours, Karly had managed to learn that she was an executive at one of Thailand’s biggest telecom companies. She was vacationing alone, and Karly had taken a liking to her on the first day.
They motored toward shore, and Karly tipped her face to the sun. She loved the balmy island breeze and the briny smell of the ocean. She’d spent most of the trip holed up indoors, interviewing the ambassador and members of his entourage. Now the trip was almost over, and she gave herself a pass for playing hooky from work for a few hours.
As they neared the beach, she watched the honeymooners again. Brad and Brianna. Even their names sounded perfect together. They were Australian. Karly had met them on the ferry ride out here. They were friendly and easygoing, and their happiness had been infectious–reminding Karly that not everyone on the planet had her back luck with relationships.
Brad dropped to his knees in the sand. Karly watched curiously. Was he doing an engagement reenactment? He fell facedown onto the ground, and Brianna collapsed beside him.
“What the–” Malai stood up.
A man ran onto the beach, and Karley recognized Drew’s bright green board shorts. He raced to the end of the fishing pier, waving his arms at the dive boat.
Karly’s stomach plummeted. “What–”
Something exploded beside her. The captain pitched to the floor. Malai’s shrill screams reverberated through the air, and Karly stared in disbelief at the expanding red puddle under the captain’s body.
He’s been shot.
Karley scrambled over to captain, clumsy in her fins as she crouched beside him and tried to turn him over, but he wouldn’t budge. She blinked down at her blood-covered hands and realized he was dead. Dead.
Malai’s screams intensified.
Karly glanced at the beach, where a man wearing black head-to-toe stood pointing a machinegun at the boat. Fire blazed from the muzzle. The side of the boat burst into splinters near Karly’s head. Then the screams ceased as Malai fell back into the water with a splash.
Oh my God oh my God.
Karly flattened herself on the floor of the boat. She pressed her cheek against the hard surface, staring at water and blood and bits of flesh. Her vision blurred. Her heart thundered. And she realized the high-pitched shrieks she was hearing now were coming from her own mouth.
She reached for her beach bag and grabbed her phone. 911. Call 911. But this was Thailand. She got to her knees and jabbed at the phone with shaking fingers. She pressed a number and prayed for a connection, then waited through the surreal sound of her editor’s voicemail greeting followed by an endless beep.
“We’re under attack! We’re–”
An explosion beside her head. Karly ducked down. Chunks plastic and fiberglass flew everywhere as the helm of the boat was hosed down by gunfire.
She peeked over the side and saw more black-clad men swarming the beach. Where was Drew? Where were the ambassador’s guards? Where was anyone?
“Help us!” she screamed into the phone. “We’re under attack! Three, four… six men with machineguns!”
She watched with stunned horror as two of them started wading out toward the boat. Karley reached for the steering wheel as another barrage of gunfire sent splinters flying.
She lunged for the side. Bullets hissed past her ears as she leaped into the water.
Beach insertions were tricky. Especially under a full moon and over a strip of sand guarded by half a dozen heavily armed men. The team’s other option was rock portage along the island’s northern side, followed by a short trek through the jungle. That route had been left open, and with good reason. Why waste the manpower? The tangos no doubt knew that trying to land a boat along a mile-long pileup of razor-sharp rocks was essentially suicide, which meant a beach insertion–as tricky as it was–was the easier option for any rescue team.
Ethan’s team had opted for the rocks.
In the three years since Ethan had joined Alpha Crew, his team had never chosen ease over surprise, and tonight was no exception. Once they made it over the jagged rocks they’d have a clear tactical advantage. Surprise was key, always, as any SEAL would tell you. In fact, given the choice between going up against the enemy armed and expected or unarmed and unexpected, Ethan would choose the second option any day of the week.
So, rock portage it was. But what had sounded good in the briefing room was now turning into a challenge as the wind suddenly picked up and his team’s rubber vessel was getting pummeled by surf.
Ethan glanced over at Jake and signaled the count. On three, Ethan and his teammates wrenched the boat from the sucking waves and heaved it over the rocks. Careful not to lose footing on the slick terrain, they hauled the boat behind a massive boulder and stashed it for later. They were planning an air extraction, but it never hurt to have options.
Ethan and his team moved swiftly over the craggy shoreline, scaling rocks and driftwood as they made their way toward higher ground. The pinnacle of the island was a densely covered hill where the enemy had likely stationed at least a couple of guards.
Under cover of darkness–or as dark as they were going to get tonight with a big-ass moon shining down on them–they darted from the rocky shoreline into the jungle.
Ethan adjusted his night-vision goggles and scanned his surroundings. Palm trees mostly, with a tangle of vines and other vegetation close to the ground. The team moved through the brush, searching as they went. NVGs were great for spotting predators–especially the human kind–but depth perception was shitty, so moving around required skill. About twenty feet into the jungle, the team split apart–two men headed for higher elevation, two men headed for sea level.
Tonight was an SR mission, search and recon. Ethan’s four-man element was here to get the dope on the enemy before a larger team mounted a full-scale assault.
Ethan agreed with the plan, mostly. Intel was important, but they needed to be quick. Everyone was dogged by the memory of the last SEAL rescue op in this particular corner of the world. It had been a goatfuck. A bunch of bureaucrats sitting in some conference room had decided to make it a “joint mission,” meaning Ethan’s spec ops brethren had ended up mucking around with a bunch of local commandos. Tactical decisions were made from afar and by too many people, and the result was wasted time and three dead hostages.
Tonight’s mission was SEALs-only, from start to finish. And not just any SEALs. Alpha Crew was a secret, ultra-elite unit that was trained to get in and get out with ruthless efficiency. But the key was intel. Right now they had precious little, and most of what they did have came from an eight-second S.O.S. call made by a reporter traveling with the ambassador’s entourage.
We’re under attack…
Karly Bonham’s words had been echoing through Ethan’s head since the briefing. He’d recognized the panicked hitch in her voice as she realized what was happening. Three, four… six men with machineguns! The call had ended in a barrage of gunfire.
Karly Bonham was one of twenty-two civilians known to be at the resort when the terrorists launched their attack. Their presumed target was American Ambassador Anthony Mancuso, and possibly his daughter, Natalie, who was vacationing with him. From what the SEALs knew so far, it looked like the other resort guests and staffers were merely extras, potentially collateral damage in a targeted strike against a United States diplomat.
Had the reporter been killed? Captured?If she was still alive, she hadn’t managed to reach out again since that eight-second phone call.
Jake stopped and held up a closed fist. Ethan halted beside him, every sense on alert. The air was dank and still, but filled with the sounds of the jungle–the low drone of insects, the faint croak of bullfrogs, the distant rush of water. All sounds you’d expect in this tropical environment… plus. Ethan couldn’t pinpoint the plus, but his ears registered it, same as Jake’s had.
There it was again.
Ethan tipped his head left, toward a barely audible rustling in the trees. It came from the direction of the resort, which was only a half a klick south of them.
Slowly, silently, Jake peered around a tree trunk. After a few moments, he held up two fingers. Ethan nodded. They waited several minutes until the rustling noise faded to nothing. Then they waited several minutes more.
Finally, Jake crouched at the base of a tree and spoke softly into his radio.
“Bravo this is Charlie. You copy?”
“Copy, Charlie. What’s your twenty?”
“We’re about half a klick north,” Jake said quietly. “A pair of tangos just passed us en route to the resort. What’s the word up there?”
“We’re in position.” The voice belonged to Ryan Owen, who had gone with Lucas Ortiz to the high point of the island to get a view using high-powered night vision binoculars. “We’ve got two enemy west of us, looks like an overwatch detail.”
“Think they know they’ve got company?” Jake asked.
“Negative. These guys are clueless. They’re smoking cigs and kicking back.”
“Copy that. So, we’re looking at a total of sixteen tangos,” Jake said. “I repeat, sixteen tangos.”
“Roger. We can confirm six guards spread out along the beach and two around the pool right in front of the lobby. That seems to be where all the action is.”
Ethan wasn’t surprised. Their team had hitched a ride over here on a frigate, which was serving as their base of operations tonight. Just before sundown, they’d sent a surveillance drone to get a bird’s eye view of the island. The first thing they’d noticed were the lifeless bodies on the beach. Three in total, which left nineteen potential survivors of the initial attack–although Ethan wasn’t optimistic. Any number of people might have been killed indoors or under the tree cover where the drone couldn’t see.
The second thing they’d noticed was that most of the activity was centered around a large thatched-roof building that served as the resort’s restaurant, suggesting the surviving hostages were being held there. That structure was heavily guarded, while the thatch-roof cabins were not.
Except for one.
Drone footage showed that the largest guest cabin was surrounded by four armed men, so possibly Mancuso and his daughter were being held there.
“You got eyes on the compound?”
“Negative,” Jake answered. “We’ll get back when we do.”
“Okay, over and out.”
The conversation ended, and for a moment Jake and Ethan said nothing. But Ethan knew what his teammate was thinking. They needed to know exactly who, or what, was in that VIP cabin. If Mancuso’s nineteen-year-old daughter was in there, it was very possible she was being tortured as a way to put pressure on the ambassador and convince him that his captors were serious. The terrorists hadn’t made their demands clear yet, but they’d been in touch with the U.S. embassy in Bangkok, so it was only a matter of time.
“I can take the cabin, if you want the restaurant,” Jake said.
“Better if we both take the cabin and then the restaurant so we know what we’re dealing with. But let’s approach from different sides. I’ll take east, you take west.”
They split apart, drifting through the trees as silently as smoke. They were in jungle cammies and greasepaint, but more importantly they knew how to move without disturbing anything, not even the air.
Ethan neared the glow of the resort. He shoved his NVGs up to his forehead, preferring to go without them when they were close to people. He didn’t want to run the risk of being rendered temporarily blind by a sudden flashlight beam.
Ethan remained still as his eyes adjusted. He went over his plan in his head. He visualized the layout of the resort, recalling how the VIP cabin was situated at the north end of the pool.
Ethan slipped through the foliage, taking care not to leave footprints. His lightweight boots were still soaked from hauling the boat ashore, but he ignored the blisters forming on his feet, just like he ignored the very real possibility that an innocent civilian might get hurt tonight when this whole thing went down. Ethan couldn’t think that way. He’d been trained to think positively, to visualize success instead of failure because visualizing the desired outcome increased its odds of happening. He visualized each step of the mission going exactly as planned, and so far, it had. But the problem was, the plan was based on sketchy intel, which mean they couldn’t visualize all of it, and they were making some of it up as they went.
Which was pretty much standard operating procedure for this team. Every man in Alpha Crew had a talent for making decisions on the fly.
Ethan’s eyes had adjusted completely now, and he took in every detail as he neared the resort. He wasn’t following a path, but the vegetation had thinned here. The ground felt hard-packed beneath his boots. He was reaching the inhabited part of the island and visibility increased as he neared the first cluster of cabins.
The first two buildings were almost completely dark. Ethan caught a strip of light through a window, probably coming from a bathroom. The attack had happened in the late afternoon, well before sundown, so the lights had been off in many of the cabins when the hostages were rounded up and herded into the restaurant. And Ethan figured even amateur terrorists had had the foresight to clear all the buildings and make sure no one was hiding out.
Easing through the trees, Ethan spotted the VIP cabin. It was the resort’s most luxurious suite and its steep, Thai-style roof stood higher than the rest. The cabin included two bedrooms, two bathrooms, plus a sitting area, and the whole thing was surrounded by a wide deck.
Which was being patrolled by four guards, one at each corner.
Ethan’s pulse picked up as he crept around the cabin and stood in the shadows to study the enemy. The two guards he could see wore black pants and long-sleeved shirts made of the thin cotton fabric popular throughout the region. Both men were bearded, but neither wore a mask, which concerned him. Whatever their plan was, they weren’t worried about being ID’d after everything went down.
Not good news.
On the other hand, they weren’t wearing suicide vests, as far as Ethan could tell. Each man held an AK-47 at the ready and had a pistol in a holster on his hip. Another bit of good news–the guard nearest Ethan had a tell-tale bulge in his shirt pocket, suggesting he was communicating by cell phone and not any kind of radio receiver clipped to his ear. Not a very high-tech operation.
The back of Ethan’s neck prickled. He eased deeper into the trees and scanned the surrounding area.
What… had caught his attention? Something. He had that itchy feeling that had saved his ass more times than he could count. Slowly, silently, Ethan slipped his Ka-Bar knife from its sheath so he could confront the threat without making a sound.