New recruit Anika Washington has barely adjusted to the difficult training regimen at a global counterterrorism agency when she’s prematurely called up to complete her first mission. If she succeeds, she’ll become a field agent; if she fails, Anika’s out of the program. Abandoned at birth to a federal orphanage, Anika never wants to feel the pain of rejection again.
Complicating matters is the fact that she’ll be going undercover at a black-tie gala with Gianni Brambillo, the gorgeous and enigmatic Level 2 agent who seems to have taken a special interest in Anika. Armed with high-tech spy gadgets and quick thinking, the two of them will need to rely on each other to complete their plan successfully. It’s go time, and Anika must prove to everyone, including herself, that she’s mission-ready—or die trying.
Sensuality Level: Behind Closed Doors
A writer of thrillers spiked with romance, PM Kavanaugh has always loved a potent mix of intrigue, danger, and adventure. She shares her home, dreams, and some of her plotting dilemmas with her clever-enough-to-be-a-spy husband and her feline office mates, Finn and Dash.
An excerpt from Ready or Dead:
Anika’s inner voice shouted the command. Her opponent’s kick slammed into her torso and sent her flying. An automatic somersault roll onto her back and a duck of her chin stopped her skull from smacking the cement floor. At least she’d remembered how to land.
Why hadn’t she blocked the attack or sidestepped and parried? Maybe she was exhausted from four hours of hand-to-hand fight training. Maybe her defensive instincts needed work. Or maybe she had been distracted by a glimpse of broad male shoulders and dark-blond hair in the observation room on the upper level.
She lay still, trying to quiet her gasps, and studied the man through half-closed eyes. He had shed his customary dark-gray suit jacket for a close-fitting T-shirt that hugged his chest and revealed sinewy forearms. She hadn’t met him but knew his name. Gianni Brambillo. A luscious Italian name with consonants that rumbled in her jaw and across her lips. And that rolling “r” in his surname tickled her tongue. He was a Level Two operative; way above her Level 0 recruit status. The few times she had seen him inside the subterranean complex he had been speaking with the petite but intimidating assistant commander of the agency, known simply as Second.
Anika wished she could read the expression in his penetrating eyes as they stared down at the training arena. A zing of excitement ran up her spine when she saw his gaze rest on her. Was he wondering if she was hurt? More likely, he was questioning why she hadn’t blocked or dodged her opponent’s foot. Her excitement fizzled like a punctured pouch of sparkling water.
She should get back up. Show Gianni and Saito-san, her instructor, she could take a hit and return for more. She would get back up. She just needed another second. Or three.
“Get up, zero.” Saito-san’s face jumped into her field of vision. “You can stop training your baby-blues on me. I’m not one of your marks.” A light kick landed near her ankle. “You want to be ready for your first mission, don’t you? Graduation’s in two months, and you’ll either be ready or gone.”
Panic, sharp as a steel blade, sliced through Anika. Graduation. She had to be ready. She rolled to her knees, planted one foot, and pushed to standing.
“Remember,” he said, “you’ve got the most power in those long legs of yours. Use them.”
A shrill beep bounced off the circular walls and signaled the end of the session.
Anika sagged forward and rested her hands on her thighs. Thank God.
“Hit the showers, and then report to your interrogation tactics seminar,” Saito-san said. “And next time, stay focused on your opponent. Forget about everything—and everyone—else.” He turned away and separated two recruits who were still going at each other.
Her gaze shot up to the observation room. Empty. Gianni was gone.