My best friend’s married to a military intelligence officer in the Army, and one thing the Major told me years ago when he was still ferrying war criminals to the Hague Tribunals as a pilot, was that anytime the Special Forces soldiers climbed aboard, everyone else puckered up.
That held true no matter where he was—those Special Forces men had an intensity and a presence that commanded respect. Now, that little truth flashes in my head with every news story that hits the wire and through every romance I read. And it makes my heart race. Talk about a temptation.
I love Lora Leigh’s Tempting SEALs series, which can roughly be broken down into a group of active duty SEALs, and a group of retired (but SO not tired) SEALs, fighting a badass formidable foe—an old-school drug cartel villain named Diego Fuentes. Let’s start with the active duty fellas.
In Dangerous Games, we meet Clint “Iceman” McIntyre, who’s brave, tenacious, and desperately trying to steer clear of his best friend’s little sister, Morganna Chavez. I think this was the first book that I read that had any dealings in the BDSM world. I bought it because of the sheer sexiness of the cover, most likely on a fast-paced dash to the checkout line at Border’s. I can recall reading the Author’s Note, where Ms. Leigh mentions that she made up a trio of interesting fringe clubs to support this Tempting SEALs storyline. “Male dominance, a hypersexuality, and an awareness of a woman’s pleasure are what my heroes have in common …”
Well, hell, she had me at awareness.
But back to the story. Clint is home on leave, but Morganna’s working (secretly, of course) undercover with the DEA to stop a dangerous date-rape-drug ring led by Fuentes. To do so, she has to immerse herself in these fringe not-just-BDSM clubs to pull it off. And wouldn’t you know it, ol’ Clint’s a master. Really. He’s a Dom, and a damn fine Dom, at that. Highly in demand. Depraved. Dominating. Sexy. And the one man whom Morganna has pined after for years.
But as these things go, Clint will have none of that, because he really does love Morganna…he just doesn’t want to expose her to his wicked lifestyle. You know, since she couldn’t handle it, and all. But as much as he wants to keep her at arm’s length, he wants her off of this undercover detail. And like most men in Leigh’s raucous romances, he’s connected enough to get his way.
“To keep her, he was going to have to save her first. He stopped in the middle of the floor at that thought and raised his eyes to the ceiling, looking for answers where he was certain there were none.
Save her? The minute he managed to pull her ass out of this fire, she’d have the flames licking at her from somewhere else. She was trouble. She wasn’t even trouble waiting to happen; she was trouble in progress.”
Oh, these boys … they hate when the girls break that glass ceiling and get a good look around. Who wants to be trouble waiting to happen when you can be trouble in progress? Not me.
But the crux of this intense romance is Morganna’s cry of freedom—of being her own person, and succeeding in her career—which, unfortunately, is being an outsider in a boy’s club.
“I have to find a life, Clint. A lover. Someone who sees something in me other than his best friend’s sister or a responsibility he can’t run away from this time,” she pointed out, aching inside. “I love you. I’ve always loved you. For as long as I can remember. But I can’t continue to wait on a man who doesn’t even respect me enough to work with me. A man willing to steal years of my life for his own selfishness. I’ve worked for this assignment. I trained for it. And you pushed me out as though what I want, what I need doesn’t even matter.”
The next story is Hidden Agendas. The team is still hot on the trail of Fuentes, though this time our hero is Kell Kreiger, a once homeless street urchin who would make Charles Dickens dance a mighty jig. You know he’ll be laid low by Emily Stanton, the daughter of a powerful politician who once took him in off the streets.
Vengeance is one of the key plot threads throughout this series, much to my delight, and Ms. Leigh certainly doesn’t scrimp on how Fuentes metes out his justice. When Kell was just a tender lad of seventeen, he fell in love with and married his pregnant girlfriend. But young love was not to be their biggest hurdle; no, Kell had worked with a New Orleans Detective against Fuentes, and Fuentes had killed both wife and child. That’s what made him snap.
So you can imagine how driven Kell is to see that Fuentes meets his Maker. Only now he’s got to protect the other woman he loves from falling prey to his nemesis. Emily is caught in a double-crossfire here, because Fuentes kidnapped her when she was younger in a move planned out to force her father’s hand—her father, the senator. Kell was the soldier who spirited her out of harm’s way, and now, years later, the senator’s calling on him once again to watch over his only daughter.
“Kell will be staying here with you. He’ll be your personal bodyguard until this investigation I’ve begun is over. I need you to cooperate with him.”
. . .
“So.” She turned back to him. “How long are you allowing Kell to stay?” She glanced at Kell’s thoughtful expression, striving to keep from meeting the gaze. “Two weeks? Four?”
“As long as he can control you,” he snapped back.
Talk about inviting the fox into the hen house. Kell is right where he wants to be, and when Emily gets over her nervous flash of anxiety, right where she wants him to be, too. Did I mention that she’s a little unruly? Perhaps a bit of an exhibitionist? Yeah, there’s that.
And by the time we get to Killer Secrets, we know the killer secret of sexy SEAL Ian Richards: he’s Fuentes’ son. Poor fella. His lady love, Kira Porter, is an undercover agent for the Department of Homeland Security, and she’s having trouble deciphering Ian’s other killer secret: is he out to save his father, or get him?
I think I like Kira best of all three women, maybe because she’s the most level on the playing field. Ian and Kira are truly strangers in the night, crossing paths across the world on different assignments, never to actually meet. Until now, when Ian’s trying to say goodbye to his friend, recovering in the hospital. She’s a master of disguise, though nothing she could do to her outward appearance would fool Ian.
His hand went over her lips, his body braced, pushing hers against the wall face-first, his free hand pressing the barrel of his weapon against her neck warningly.
She didn’t make a sound. Damn her. She didn’t even fight him. She relaxed into his body instead. Her rounded buttocks cushioned his hips, her shoulders curved against the wall, and she bared the slender line of her neck as his lips pressed close.
Hair that should have been long and black was cut close and blond. Gray eyes were hazel, clear silky flesh had a coarse appearance. There was nothing of the woman he had seen on his last mission he had found her on before that. The Chameleon was as ever-changing as a woman’s emotions.
“I like the black hair better,” he whispered at her ear. “And the gray eyes. Natural, weren’t they, sugar?”
Killer Secrets is a great wrap-up of the family drama, though it doesn’t offer a definite end to the saga. Can you imagine living with the painful knowledge that your father was a hideous drug lord, responsible for countless monstrous acts against your friends? Talk about Freud’s dream. It colors his whole life, and drives many of his decisions as an adult, and as a SEAL. I really appreciated Kira trying to soothe his wounded heart.
“Your mother loved him once.” She was broaching dangerous territory and she knew it. Territory that even Diego Fuentes refused to broach.
Ian almost flinched at the memory, his rugged face tightening once again at the mental slap. She didn’t say it to hurt him, she said it to remind him. To make him think.
“She was young,” he finally said. “She didn’t know what he was.”
Kira clearly has her own agenda in the story, but she seals the deal when she confirms that her loyalties lie with him. Sometimes, that’s all a guy needs to know. Sometimes, it’s enough.
Are you tempted?
Stay tuned for the X-SEALS of Elite Ops—coming up tomorrow!
Dolly Sickles is a Southerner with a lifelong penchant for storytelling. Her Secret Squirrel identity is Dolly Sickles, but she also writes romance as Becky Moore, and in the spring of 2012, her first children’s book will be published as Dolly Dozier. She’s an avid reader of all literature, but she takes refuge in the romance genre, where despite the most grandiose, exhilarating, strange, and unlikely plot that’s out there, every story has a happy ending.