Driven

Deep Ops Book 4
January 26, 2021
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Unswerving: Angus Force is determined to hunt down the serial killer he’d once shot dead—or so he thought. But an anonymous source reports that Lassiter is alive. Force hasn’t slept since, knowing it’s only a matter of time before “the Surgeon” strikes again. And soon, a body is found, bearing Lassiter’s same maniacal MO. It’s just the beginning of a murderous trail blazing through DC and Virginia, right to Force’s backyard . . .

Unstoppable: Nari Zhang is the shrink for the ragtag Deep Ops Unit, though she isn’t Force’s shrink—which is a very good thing. Because once they’re thrown together on the case, their attraction is explosive and irresistible. They’ll just have to fight that much harder to keep the heat between them from flaming out of control. But things are about to become far more challenging, and deadly, than they could have imagined . . .

Unhinged: Once the killer catches a glimpse of Nari, she becomes his new obsession. She is now the focus point—for both Force and Lassiter—in a dangerous dance for survival . . .

Other Books in the Deep Ops Series

Prologue

One year ago

 

Thunder bellowed a distant warning while the wind rustled dried leaves along the lake path. Angus Force stumbled over an exposed tree root and somehow righted himself before falling on his ass. Again. The mud on his jeans proved he’d slipped at least once.

 Roscoe snorted and kept scouting ahead, his furry nose close to the rocky trail. His snort held derision.

“Shut up,” Angus said, surprised his voice didn’t slur. He’d started the morning with his fishing pole and two bottles of Jack. Several hours later, it was getting dark, he had no fish, and the bottles were empty. The forest swirled around him, the trees dark and silent. He glared at his German Shepherd. “Be nice or I won’t feed you.”

The dog didn’t pause in his explorations. His ears didn’t even twitch.

Angus sighed. “I should’ve left you with the FBI.” Of course, the dog had a slight problem with authority and would’ve probably been put down at some point. Angus brightened. They had that in common. “All right. I guess I’ll feed you.”

Roscoe stopped suddenly.

Angus nearly ran into him, pausing at the last second and slipping on the leaves. “What the hell?”

The fur on Roscoe’s back ruffled, and he stared straight ahead down the trail. He went deadly silent, his focus absolute.

Angus dropped his pole and the sack containing the bottles. Damn it. He hadn’t brought a gun this morning. He’d been more concerned with having enough alcohol to get through the day.

He gave a hand signal to the dog and veered off the trail, winding through a part of the forest he could navigate blindfolded. The scents of fresh pine and dead leaves commingled around him, centering his focus. He approached his solitary cabin from the side, where he could see front and back.

Nothing.

Roscoe kept at his side, his ears perked, fur still raised.

The woods around them had gone silent, and a hint of anticipation threaded the breeze. Roscoe sat and stared at the cabin.

Yeah. Angus remained still. There was definitely somebody inside. He angled his head to study a black Range Rover parked on the other side of the cabin. So they weren’t trying to stay hidden.

His shoulders relaxed and he waited.

Waiting was what he excelled at. Well, waiting and drinking. He’d become a master at downing a bottle of whisky. Or several.

Ten minutes passed. Something rustled inside the cabin. Now he was just getting bored. So he gave Roscoe a hand signal.

Roscoe immediately barked three times.

The front door of the cabin opened, and two men strode out. Government men. Black suits, pressed shirts, polished shoes. The older one had a liberal beard sprinkled with gray and the worn eyes of a guy who’d already seen too much.

The younger guy was a climber. One who even stood like he was on his way to the top and had no problem stepping on bodies to get there. The shoes were expensive and the blue silk tie even more so.

Angus crossed his arms. “You’re trespassing, assholes.” Was it a bad sign he could sound and feel sober after the amount he’d imbibed all day? Yeah. Probably.

The older man watched the dog. The younger man kept his gaze on Angus.

The older guy was obviously the smarter of the two.

 The younger guy smoothly reached into his jacket pocket, withdrew his wallet and flipped it open. “Special Agent Thomas Rutherford of the HDD.” His voice was low and cultured. Confident. He was probably about Angus’s age—in his early thirties.

“You’re lost,” Angus returned evenly.

“No. We’re looking for you, FBI Special Agent Angus Force,” Rutherford said, his blue eyes cutting through the space between them.

“I’m retired.” A true statement, which had made nosing around lately a little difficult. However, obviously he’d shaken something loose, considering these guys were now standing on his front porch.

The older guy cocked his head. “That’s a tactical Czech German shepherd,” he said thoughtfully.

Angus lifted an eyebrow. “Nope. He’s a mutt. Found him last week in a gulley.” Was he drunk, or did Roscoe send him an irritated canine look? Angus jerked his head at the older man. “You are?”

The guy also took out a wallet to flash an HDD badge. “HDD Special Agent Kurt Fielding.” Rough, with an edge of the street—no culture there.

Angus crossed his arms. “There is nothing the Homeland Defense Department could possibly want with me.” The agency was an offshoot of Homeland Security; one of the offshoots the public didn’t really know about. The name alone made it easy to divert funds. “Go away.”

Agent Rutherford set his hands in his expensive pockets in an obvious effort to appear harmless. “We’d like a few minutes of your time.”

“Too bad.” Angus would like another drink. They stood between him and his bottles. That was a bad place to be.

Agent Fielding had deep dark eyes with a hangdog expression. He finally looked away from Roscoe and focused on Angus. “We know you’ve been contacting witnesses from the Henry Wayne Lassiter cases.”

Heat flushed down Angus’s spine. “The last person who said that name to me got a fist in the face and a broken nose.”

“We’re aware of that fact,” Rutherford said. “FBI Special Agent in Charge Denby still has a bump on that nose.”

Yeah, well his former boss had known better. Angus shrugged.

Agent Fielding tried again, his gruff voice matching his weary eyes. “We just want to talk.”

“No,” Angus said softly. “You’re here to warn me off a case I was just playing around with.” If they hadn’t shown up, he would’ve probably chalked the scenario of Lassiter still being alive up to a ghost theory, but now that they were here, he was inspired. Finally. “I know something is up, and I’m not going to stop until I know what.” He’d been a damn good tracker for the Behavioral Science Unit until that case, and then he’d fucking lost everything. Maybe even his mind. “A source reached out and told me Lassiter isn’t really dead.” Yeah, he’d shot the lunatic, and blood had sprayed. But he’d been shot as well, and he’d passed out before being able to check the body for a pulse. Apparently his recent nosing around had ruffled some feathers.

Rutherford smiled, showing perfectly straight white teeth. The guy probably had them bleached. “We understand that an old file clerk contacted you, but you have to understand that the FBI had just forced Miles Brown into retirement, and he was trying to make trouble by reaching out to you and drumming all of this up. He apparently succeeded. Lassiter is dead and you killed him.”

Apparently, the HDD still wanted to keep secret the fact that one of the most prolific serial killers in history had been a low-level computer tech for the agency. Why? Who the hell cared?

Miles Brown had been a great record keeper, and the only thing his message had said was that there was a problem with the Lassiter file and for Force to call him immediately. “Fine. Then let me talk to Miles.” His phone number had been disconnected, and so far, Angus had been unable to find the old guy.

Agent Fielding winced, his salt and pepper eyebrows drawing down. “Miles Brown suffered a stroke and is in St. Juliet’s on the east side of DC. He has no family, so we put him up.”

That would explain why Force couldn’t get to him. “I’d like to see his office and all of his records.”

“His office was cleared out,” Fielding said, clasping his gnarled hands together. “Per procedure. Nothing out of the ordinary there.”

Right. Except that Miles had called, and there had been a sense of urgency in his voice. “Yet, you’re here,” Angus murmured.

Agent Rutherford sighed, looking as if a bartender had served him too many olives in his martini. “We know you’ve been through an ordeal, but—”

“Ordeal?” Angus growled. “Are you kidding me?” He’d give anything for his gun.

Fielding held up an age-spotted hand. “We’re very sorry for your loss, but this is important.”

Loss? Had he really just said the word ‘loss’ to him? Angus took two steps toward the agents, and Roscoe kept pace with him, low growls emerging from his gut. “Leave. Now.” He still hadn’t dealt with the fact that a serial killer had murdered Angus’s sister…and it was Angus’s fault. Loss didn’t cover it. Not by a long shot.

Rutherford eyed the dog warily. “We want you to stop pursuing the issue. Lassiter is dead. Let him lie.”

Angus snorted. Roscoe remained at attention but stopped growling. “Why are you here, then? If the case was really closed, you wouldn’t bother.” Homeland Security had barely been able to shut down news of Lassiter’s former employment before it became public. Of course the agency wanted this dropped.

Fielding shuffled his feet, his gaze descending to his scuffed shoes.

Angus straightened. His gut churned, and his instincts flared to life. “Say what you need to say.”

Rutherford swallowed and looked toward the older Fielding.

Fielding sighed and glanced up again, experience stamped hard on his square-shaped face. “Let it go. We’re not going to give you a choice.”

Ah, shit. Lassiter really was alive. No way would two HDD agents have sought him out if he wasn’t getting close to something. Or maybe they were really afraid he’d let the public know about Lassiter’s former employment. Governmental agencies had definitely taken a beating lately in the press, and Homeland Security wanted to keep HDD under wraps.

Angus stood perfectly still, his mind focusing despite the booze. “Well, then. We all know you don’t want me talking to the press. I guess, for now, that gives me leverage.” Just how much? How worried were they?

Their silence gave him even more confidence. It also urged him to pursue that nagging feeling at the back of his neck that had never really left. The Lassiter case had never felt…finished. Sometimes, his instincts were all he had. Well, his instincts and his dog. What else did a burned-out, obsessive, drunk of an ex-FBI agent really need?

He rubbed his jaw and let whiskers scrape his palm. “Let’s see. Either I work on this myself along with a couple of really good investigative journalists I befriended during my years with the FBI, or you give me the resources to do a little investigating and I keep everything to myself. That seems fair.”

The wind tousled Rutherford’s blond hair, and he scoffed. “Not a chance.”

“Bull,” Angus returned instantly, reading the men. Oh, they were seasoned and pretty good, but he hadn’t lost all of his abilities. “Try again.”

Fields shot a hand through his thick hair, making the gray stand up through the brown. “You know we can’t have you at HDD looking into a closed FBI case.”

Fair enough. “You could have me at HDD working on other cases while simultaneously pursuing this one.” Before either agent could deny him, Angus sweetened the pot. “I’ll compile a team, stay under the radar, and do what I need to do. Come on. You two look like tough negotiators. I’m sure we can come to an agreement without my having to call the media.”

“Lassiter is dead,” Rutherford gritted out between perfect teeth.

Angus shrugged. “Then you have nothing to lose. You do, however, have everything to gain, and I’ll do my best to toe the line.” There was no doubt the HDD would try to get rid of him the second he set foot in an HDD office. Even so, he couldn’t give this up. He looked down at the dog. “Wanna go back to work, boy?”

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Zanetti’s action-packed fourth Deep Ops romance (after Broken) ratchets up the heat while tackling a series-long mystery. For years, Angus Force, leader of the Deep Ops team, has been hunting Lassiter, the serial killer he once left for dead, convinced the man is still alive. Nari Zhang is the talented psychologist assigned to Angus’s rag-tag unit of misfits. Her job is to take care of the team’s mental health—but her presence keeps Angus on edge. When bodies begin showing up following Lassiter’s m.o., Angus and Nari dive into the investigation and grow closer in the process—only to be shut down by the government. Though the eventual sex scenes are steamy, the focus is more on the suspense than on Nari and Angus’s romance. But Zanetti still makes time to dig into her characters’ psyches in the midst of the action, adding nuance to the exciting plot. Readers who have enjoyed the series will be pleased to delve deeper into the Lassiter mystery, and newcomers will be just as satisfied.  – Publishers Weekly

“Zanetti is a master of romantic suspense, effortlessly combining strong central romances and dramatic, action-filled stories.” – Kirkus Magazine 

“The story moves fast, and there’s an unexpected twist or two, as well as a scene- and booze-stealing German shepherd that provides a little levity to this dark and satisfying romantic thriller.”– Bookpage

Though the team is torn apart by the powers that be they continue to be DRIVEN to help Angus find the truth. As they say, the truth will set you free, and they all want that.  As with all offerings by author Rebecca Zanetti – DRIVEN will drive you through a myriad of emotions. You will become furious, be on edge, laughing and crying, sometimes all at the same time. – Fresh Fiction