Book 2 in the Wicked Games series
General Release Date: 17th May 2022
Word Count: 79,989
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Genres: ACTION AND ADVENTURE, CONTEMPORARY, EROTIC ROMANCE, THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE
Treasure abounds for those who dare, but only truth can set you free in this island paradise.
Because honesty is always the best policy.
Mysteries abound on Marakata Cay—an exotic, Eden-esque island owned by a multi-billionaire known as OZ. Perhaps the biggest secret of all is the one haunting capable and passionate Aziza. Dutifully, Zee has served the eccentric and reclusive OZ as his right hand, even to the detriment of her own freedoms. In fact, she’s never so much as stepped foot off the island since washing up on its shores. But when the man she’s falling in love with disappears amidst lies and betrayal, Zee begins to wonder. Has the paradise sanctuary protecting her from her past actually been a trap?
Because with great risks come even better rewards.
Former Navy SEAL Michael Cooper has spent his life thwarting death. Playing scarecrow for Beryl Enterprises as OZ’s Director of Defense and Specialized Operations is no exception. But for the first time in his life, Coop finds himself truly facing reality—he’s not invincible. Not at all. When OZ offers Coop an insanely lucrative mission, he’s in no position to turn it down. The deep-sea treasure recovery should be easy for a man with Coop’s diving and demolition skills, but the job comes with more than its fair share of danger. Sharks, modern-day pirates, and the possibility of losing the love of his life, the beautiful and tenacious Aziza.
Even Eden had a snake, and for the first time in the island paradise’s illusive history, money and power can’t mend what’s been wrecked upon its shores, daring Aziza to pull the curtain back and reveal the truth, no matter the cost.
Reader advisory: This book includes scenes of violence and murder (sometimes graphic), and mentions of the mistreatment of neurodivergent characters, kidnapping, child abuse, and human trafficking.
Aziza and I were not friends, we weren’t enemies, and we certainly weren’t lovers…we were liars. The biggest lie of all, the one I’d been telling myself for years, had become damn impossible to keep up. But the constraints of reality had never stopped me before, no sense starting on a boat speeding into the shadowed heart of the Amazon river basin at zero dark thirty.
“You’re not happy to see him!” I scolded myself. “You’re just glad the stubborn, prideful, stupid…man isn’t dead.” Because if anyone or anything was going to kill Michael Cooper, it was going to be me!
I growled over the sounds of the tropical storm battering Marakata Cay.
Pulse punching, I scrolled back through the video capture dated nearly twenty-four hours ago. The heavily bearded profile blending into a small crowd of people before disappearing into the thin blue air of Rio de Janeiro most definitely belonged to an alive and well Michael Cooper.
What the hell are you doing in Brazil?
If he was even still there.
Twenty-four hours may as well have been a month. He could be anywhere now, even in a morgue. It wasn’t like he hadn’t made serious enemies working for Beryl Enterprises. As our Director of Defense and Specialized Operations, he contracted with major private sector corporations as well as notable governments for high-level security solutions. His teams were often called in to deliver asset reconnaissance and recovery, be it intel or high-value targets. And occasionally those clients required more direct and unconventional warfare resolutions. It was these uniquely focused, clandestine operations that often put Beryl Enterprises in the crosshairs.
Concerned for his safety, I’d boldly asked Coop to relocate his home office from Dubai to Marakata Cay—the crown jewel of Beryl Enterprises. I’d proposed it would help shield both him and Omar Zaki’s private island. But it certainly hadn’t been my main motivation.
I’d truly believed he’d felt the same attraction, connection, to me that I did for him. Sure, our relationship was primarily professional. But for the past year or more our virtual meetings had lingered long after all work talk had been settled. We’d joke and laugh, talk about life. What had started as fun flirtation had quickly turned into something special.
Oh fuck it, I thought we were in love.
How could I’ve been so wrong?
I’d risked much more than my heart and pride when I’d dared ask him to make good on the flirtatious dance we’d been doing for years. And what had been his response? To send Brecken Wolfe, his top operator, here in his stead. To take off on an indefinite vacation while avoiding all forms of contact. To go completely off grid while simultaneously evading all SIGINT—every CCTV camera and satellite surveillance mechanism known to man. To freaking ghost me!
But why go to such great lengths to stay undetected? Was it to dodge me, or was something else going on?
Coop had been acting off for months now, and if it wasn’t because he’d been fighting his feelings for me, then why? Someone else? Something even worse? Just because I hated him didn’t mean I’d stopped caring. Hoping.
My nerves knotted tight enough to fray as I fretted over what I might discover. But I couldn’t hide from the truth any longer.
Ignoring my heart overfilling like a balloon and bursting on every beat, I replayed the loop in slow motion. I should’ve been scanning the background for clues as to what exactly Coop was doing in Rio, and more importantly why he’d slipped up and gotten caught when he’d expended great effort the past month to stay off grid. Instead, my questions and frustration evaporated as I paused on the singular image of him. He looked just like when I’d first met him over ten years ago—a little angry and a lot tired. Hardened from too many tours in the sandbox. Handsome as sin. Hot AF.
Despite the shitty resolution, those deep, ocean eyes of his managed to steal my air and throttle my heart.
“I’ve missed you, My-sharky,” I whispered on a sigh.
The pet name was his butchered reiteration of mushaeghib—the Arabic word I often called him in frustration. It meant troublemaker and it fit him as well as calling him my shark did.
He was my protector. My warrior. My worst freaking headache. I wasn’t about to lose him forever and have him become my greatest heartache, too.
My gaze traced along his jawline. The carved edges were now covered by a thick, rough beard. He hadn’t shaved in a month, but the dark mass cloaking those panty-melting dimples of his looked more like a year’s worth of growth. Same with the wild, black licks of hair.
My eyes drifted to the slight protrusion of his tongue. Suddenly it was if his lips weren’t on my computer screen or thousands of miles away in Brazil anymore. They were here on Marakata Cay right where I wanted—needed—them. My conjured vision of him had blown through my bedroom door with the same force as the tropical storm pelting my windows.
Dear Lord! My head needed to be examined. I’d spent weeks terrified I’d never see Coop again. I was furious at him for inexplicably leaving. Frightened, confused, hurt…and though it was tough to admit considering we’d never even touched, my heart had been wrecked when he’d vanished without a trace. Yet a stupid screenshot of him could still completely derail me with delusions and desire.
How could one gorgeous, but frustrating—infuriating—man have such a massive effect on me? I was a capable, intelligent, task-driven professional. As Omar Zaki’s right hand, I had authority over the Beryl Enterprises empire, which included multiple specialized operations teams full of cocksure alpha men.
So why couldn’t I control my own thoughts when it came to one, very annoying, smoking hot, Michael freaking Cooper?
The man had a way of slipping up on me and taking over my mind the same way scents of plumeria and rain had slid beneath my balcony’s French doors to saturate my room. Being unable to stop myself from jumping his bones was half the reason I’d kept him in the Dubai offices and far away from the island for so long. I had too much to lose to be getting sexually involved with anyone I had true feelings for.
Asking him to relocate had been reckless and impetuous.
The mere sight of him, even on a computer screen, melted my resolve and my body like butter on a beach. Now was no different.
I wanted him here—not just here…here with me—more than I’d ever wanted anything.
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About the Author
Brooke Taylor lives and writes from her country home in Oklahoma where her pets are a constant, but happy, distraction. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys horseback riding, going to the lake, and traveling.
Brooke has worked extensively in the travel industry, from dude ranches to ski resorts to cruise lines. Her many overseas adventures include sky diving in New Zealand, scuba diving with sharks, sailing through hurricanes, and having her tent attacked by wild animals in the Mara game reserve in Kenya. Due to current health insurance rates, Brooke is letting her characters do most of the risk-taking from now on.
Find out more about Brooke at her website – https://www.thebrooketaylor.com/
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