New York Times Bestselling Author
“Do you, Carson Rhodes, take Skylar Reid as your wife? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and health, forsaking all others, and be faithful to her for as long as you both shall live?”
“Yes. A thousand times, yes.”
Bull’s response was as heartfelt as anything Gramps had ever heard. The great room of Silverstone Towing was packed as everyone watched Bull and Skylar finally getting married. Gramps glanced to the left and saw Smoke and Molly waiting their turn to walk down the aisle.
The ladies had agreed to have a double wedding ceremony right there at the garage. The timing was rushed a bit, as both Bull and Smoke wanted to tie the knot before they headed down to Jamaica on their next mission.
The last year or so had taught all four Silverstone men that nothing was guaranteed in life. While they were proud of the job they did, it also came with the potential for a very high price tag . . . their lives.
It wasn’t something any of them wanted to risk, though all four were prepared to give up everything if it meant making the world a safer place. But now that Bull, Eagle, and Smoke had women they loved more than they could’ve ever imagined, their missions had taken on a different feel.
Gramps sensed things would be changing for Silverstone in the very near future, and he wasn’t upset about it. He was forty-five, and his body was letting him know in subtle, and not-so-subtle, ways that he wasn’t as young as he used to be. And now Molly was expecting. And Eagle and Taylor already had a beautiful little boy. Heading off to the ends of the earth to eliminate bad guys had a hell of a lot of strings now. And the last thing any of them wanted was to have to come back to Indiana and break the news to one of the women that the love of their life hadn’t returned with them.
So changes were coming.
But there was a big mission to complete before the team would have that conversation.
Gramps’s stomach lurched at the thought of her name.
She and him went way back. He’d known her when she was a freshman in high school and he was a senior, nearly thirty years ago. Even then he’d been drawn to her. He’d seen her now and then since he’d graduated from high school, mainly when he had gone back to El Paso for short visits with his parents, and the chemistry between them had lingered. She’d also written him when he’d been deployed in the Army, and he’d loved hearing from her each and every time.
She’d gotten married, had a child, and then divorced. Then, for some reason, she’d gone to Jamaica. And that had gotten her into her current predicament. The one that Silverstone was going to get her out of.
“Do you, Skylar Reid, take Carson Rhodes as your husband? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and health, forsaking all others, and be faithful to him for as long as you both shall live?”
“I will,” Skylar said with a huge smile on her face.
“By the power vested in me by the State of Indiana, it’s my honor to declare you husband and wife. Bull, you may kiss your bride,” Bart said. He was one of Silverstone Towing’s employees, and Skylar and Molly had asked if he might want to officiate. The big burly man had cried and immediately agreed. He’d researched and taken the necessary steps to get ordained, and now he was standing in front of the group grinning like a fool while doing the honors to marry Bull and Skylar.
Bull smiled at his new wife, then bent Skylar over his arm and kissed her. He ignored the catcalls from his friends and employees and took his time showing his wife how happy he was that she was now his, legally.
“Enough!” Smoke called out, clearly impatient. “Some of us still need to get married, you know!”
Everyone laughed, and Bull brought Skylar upright. He put his hands on either side of her face and whispered something to her. She nodded, and they both turned toward the group.
“Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes!” Bart announced.
Then Skylar and Bull walked back down the aisle—which was really nothing more than a short space between two groups of people. Skylar stopped to kiss her parents, who were grinning from ear to ear, then headed for the back of the room.
After a moment, Leigh—another one of their drivers—hit play on her phone, and the wedding march once more sounded through the speakers.
Molly was glowing, Gramps could see that from where he was standing near the kitchen. It was obvious being pregnant agreed with her, and he couldn’t be happier for Smoke. When the team had first met Molly, she’d been in rough shape. After she’d been kidnapped, starved, and thrown in a hole to die while in Nigeria for her job, they’d all wondered if she’d be able to bounce back. And not only had she done so, she’d flourished.
It was Molly who’d suggested sharing a wedding day with Skylar. The women had decided to have the ceremony at Silverstone Towing, where their friends and families could hang out in a relaxed atmosphere and rejoice in their love. They hadn’t wanted anything stuffy or formal. And this was as laid back as it could get.
When Smoke and Molly were standing in front of Bart, he began the second ceremony of the day. Gramps couldn’t be happier for his friends. No matter how impatient he was to get to Jamaica and see for himself that Cassidy and her son were alive and well, he didn’t begrudge his friends this special moment.
Bart once more spoke of love and happiness, of soul mates, and then both Molly and Smoke vowed to love each other through thick and thin, sickness and health. When Bart pronounced them husband and wife and invited Smoke to kiss her, instead of bending Molly backward, he got down on his knees and pressed a gentle kiss to her belly.
Everyone knew she was a few months pregnant, and what Molly and Smoke had gone through to get to this point. There wasn’t a dry eye in the building. Then Smoke stood and kissed Molly so passionately, even Gramps was a bit embarrassed.
After the legal papers were signed and Bart had packed them away to submit to the courts the next day, the party really began. All the Silverstone Towing employees and their families had been invited. As had Tiana, Maria, Susan, and other neighbors from Southpoint Apartments, where Skylar had lived before moving in with Bull. There were also teachers from Skylar’s school and other people Gramps didn’t know.
It was a festive atmosphere, but Gramps wasn’t surprised when Bull and Smoke took their wives home before the party was over. They were leaving for Jamaica the next day, and both wanted a wedding night to remember before they had to get back to business.
Gramps regretted they had to leave their wives so soon, but Cassidy’s last letter wouldn’t leave his mind. She’d begged the FBI—who she’d been sending the letters to—to do something to help her. She was obviously desperate, and Gramps didn’t want to think about what she might do in that state.
“You okay?” Eagle asked as he rested a hip against the wall next to him.
“Yeah,” Gramps told him.
Gramps looked over at his friend. “I’m sure. Everyone needed this. After everything that happened with Sky, then Taylor and Molly, it’s good to see everyone so carefree and happy.”
“Agreed. Everyone except for you.”
“I’m happy for them,” Gramps assured him.
“I know you are, but you can’t stop thinking about Cassidy.”
Gramps didn’t reply, as there was nothing really to say. He was thinking about Cassidy.
“She’s the one who got away, isn’t she?” Eagle asked.
Gramps sighed. “She can’t be the one who got away if she was never mine in the first place.”
“Regrets are a bitch,” Eagle said. “I regret taking that damn scenic route to Bloomington every damn day. But . . . things have a way of working out how they’re supposed to.”
Gramps knew what his friend was saying. The serial killer who’d set his sights on Taylor had forced Eagle to crash on that scenic route before chasing her through the woods. Eagle had found them and killed the man, preventing him from hurting Taylor or anyone else. But Gramps wasn’t sure his situation with Cassidy would have a happy ending. They really didn’t even know each other. Not as adults.
“I need you to promise me something,” Gramps told Eagle.
“Promise me that if the shit hits the fan, you won’t do anything stupid. I can handle Michael Coke and his cronies, get Cassidy and her son, and get the hell out of there. But if anything goes wrong . . . I need to know that you, Smoke, and Bull will be safe, that you’ll get home to your wives.”
“If you’re asking us to just leave you there to die, you’re fucking insane,” Eagle told him, his voice lowering in his ire. “We’re a team, and nothing will ever change that.”
“You’ve got a kid, man,” Gramps said. “You want Kevin to grow up without a dad? I sure as hell don’t. And Taylor needs you. You’re perfect for each other.”
“What I’m not going to do is sacrifice one of my best friends,” Eagle growled. “We talked about this when we decided that you’d be going in undercover. Just because you’re the one on the front line doesn’t mean you’re expendable.”
Gramps sighed and looked down at the tile under his feet.
“What’s wrong? Talk to me,” Eagle ordered.
“I’ve just got a bad feeling. I can’t put my finger on why. Our plan is solid. I’ll go in and try to broker a deal to get shipments directly to my ‘organization’ in Dallas. We already know Coke is desperate to get his finger in more pies in the States. He was practically falling over himself to agree to the meet. But despite you guys posing as my lieutenants, he’s not going to want you tromping all over his estate, so I’m almost certainly going to have to go in alone. And there’re so many fucking unknowns. More so than we usually have, and that’s making me very nervous.”
Eagle put his hand on Gramps’s shoulder, and Gramps looked into the eyes of one of the three men he trusted with his life. “You’ve got this. Do you think Smoke, Bull, and I would’ve agreed to let you go in alone if we didn’t think you could handle it? You know Cassidy. You have a connection, you’ve said it yourself. She’s smart. Smart enough to be able to figure out a way to smuggle letters to the fucking FBI right under a drug kingpin’s nose. She’s not going to blow your cover, I know it.”
“She’s got a kid,” Gramps said.
“She does,” Eagle agreed. “And?”
Gramps didn’t know what his point was. No, that was a lie. He did know, he just wasn’t ready to admit it out loud.
He was terrified for Cassidy’s son.
In the past, it had always been his own life on the line. He’d never been personally involved with anyone in a mission. But he knew Cassidy, knew how much she loved her child, and he couldn’t help but think about all the ways this mission could go wrong. The last thing he wanted was to do something that might get Mario, her boy, hurt or killed.
“If you’re having second thoughts—”
“I’m not,” Gramps said. “I just . . . on previous missions, it was just the four of us. Now it’s so much more than that. There’s Skylar, and Taylor and Kevin, and Molly and her unborn child. And everyone here at Silverstone Towing. Now Cassidy and Mario. There’s so much more at stake now.”
“Agreed. And if you think you’re the only one who’s feeling this way, you’re wrong,” Eagle said quietly. “After Jamaica, we need to sit down and reassess.”
“You think Willis is gonna be all right with us . . . reassessing?” Gramps asked.
“Don’t give a shit what the government thinks. They aren’t the ones putting their assess on the line. They go home to their families every night and aren’t sneaking into foreign countries and coming face to face with evil.”
That was very true.
“Silverstone Towing makes enough money for us to live on,” Eagle said. “We can find other ways to keep the world safe if we want to. We weren’t going to be able to do this forever,” Eagle argued.
Gramps looked at his friend. They’d been through hell together, and Eagle was more like a brother than simply a friend. “I just don’t want you to do anything that will get you killed. Or Smoke. Or Bull. I won’t be able to face any of your wives to tell them that you aren’t coming back. If this is truly our last mission, that would be the ultimate kick in the teeth.”
“We’re all coming back,” Eagle vowed. “I don’t give a shit that we’re married and you aren’t. That doesn’t make our lives more important than yours, Gramps.”
Gramps didn’t agree, but he didn’t argue the point. “All I’m asking is that you don’t do anything crazy.”
“We won’t,” Eagle said after a moment.
“Won’t what?” Taylor asked, sidling up to her husband. She had their son bundled up in her arms, and the huge smile she turned her husband’s way made Gramps all the more determined to do everything in his power to make sure Eagle returned to her.
“Won’t be gone too long,” Eagle said smoothly, without missing a beat. “How’s Kev doing?”
“Good,” Taylor said. “I was afraid all the excitement would be too much for him, but he’s slept through most of it.”
“Which means he’ll be up all night,” Eagle said with a grimace.
Taylor chuckled. “He’s getting better at sleeping at night,” she protested. “And he knows he’s got his daddy wrapped around his little finger. I swear half the time when he wakes up, it’s not because he’s hungry, but because he wants to reassure himself that you’re still there.”
Gramps had been just as relieved as his friends when it seemed their son hadn’t inherited his mother’s prosopagnosia condition. He clearly recognized his mom’s and dad’s faces.
Eagle looked at his watch, then asked his wife, “You about ready to go?”
“Only if you are,” she said.
In response, Eagle turned to Gramps. “We got this,” he said, then gave him a chin lift and, with his arm around Taylor’s shoulders, walked toward the door.
Gramps stayed at the party for a while longer, not wanting to go home to his small empty house and stew about the upcoming mission. But eventually the families went home, and Gramps had no choice but to do the same. He knew he needed some sleep because he suspected he’d never be able to relax while in Jamaica. He’d need to be on his toes every minute of every day.
After saying goodbye to his employees, he headed home. Gramps lived in an older neighborhood not too far from Silverstone Towing. He’d met most of his neighbors. They were hardworking people, some with children, some older couples whose kids were grown and had long since moved away. It was also a diverse area, which Gramps loved. In El Paso, his Hispanic heritage hadn’t been anything unusual, but up here in Indiana, he’d definitely experienced his share of discrimination. He’d been told to “go back to where he came from” more than once, and he knew they hadn’t meant Texas.
His mother was full-blooded Mexican, and his father was white. They’d met when he’d been stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso. He’d loved her enough to get out of the Army and move permanently to Texas. Gramps supposed they had been happy at one time, but now they mostly argued and avoided spending any real time together. It was the main reason Gramps hadn’t been back to El Paso to visit in a very long time. After both his grandparents had died, there just hadn’t seemed to be much of a reason.
Of course, now he wondered, if he’d visited more, whether things between him and Cassidy might’ve changed. Maybe she wouldn’t have married that asshole. Maybe she wouldn’t have moved to Jamaica. And maybe she wouldn’t be in the situation she’d found herself in.
But he couldn’t change the past. All he could do was forge ahead. And tomorrow he’d be going to Jamaica. He didn’t know what awaited him, didn’t know if Cassidy would recognize him. If she’d do or say something that would blow his cover. But no matter what, he’d do whatever it took to get her and her son home safely.
In this final installment of New York Times bestselling author Susan Stoker’s Silverstone series, a battle-scarred assassin must rescue an old flame from ruthless drug lords.
What was supposed to be a short trip to Jamaica becomes a years-long nightmare as Cassidy Hewitt and her son fall into the grip of an infamous drug kingpin. Desperate for rescue, Cassidy risks everything to send secret letters to the FBI, hoping someone, anyone, will answer her call.
When secret operative Leo “Gramps” Zanardi sees Cassidy’s letters, he knows this isn’t just another covert mission. The two had electric chemistry back in high school, and Leo finds himself eager for a reunion—even if the circumstances aren’t exactly ideal.
After arriving back in Indiana, Leo and Cassidy think they’re free to start a new life together. But the kingpin’s goons won’t let go of Cassidy so easily: they follow her from Jamaica, leaving carnage in their wake. Before the pair can fully embrace the love they’ve been missing all these years, they’ll need the entire Silverstone team’s help to be victorious in the showdown of their lives.
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