No Greater Hell

His past is better left forgotten…

Former Army helicopter pilot Jake Donovan is lucky to be alive. At least that’s what his team of neurosurgeons said. But he knows differently. Jake’s crimes almost cost Holly Hoffman her life, and even though he can’t remember, the pain in her eyes is something he’ll never forget.

Holly’s done being a victim. As a trauma nurse her skills are needed by a humanitarian group providing medical aid after a killer storm ravages the Gulf Coast of Texas. Saving lives however, won’t be an option when a madman wants her dead.

Can Jake and Holly shed the weight of his dark past, or will their happily-ever-after have a fatal ending?


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Prologue

Jake Donovan hated good-byes. Walking into the offices of Lost and Found, Inc. for the last time would be a bitch. He was finally square with the law and the government. Relocating would help him close the book on his life as Johnny Darling, and then everyone could move on. But he hated the feeling he was turning his back on his friends. Hated letting down the people who’d helped him get his life back.

That Kay and Nate Wolfe had finally accepted his decision brought Jake an enormous amount of relief. He hadn’t arrived at this conclusion easily or without a lot of soul searching. If, in fact, he still had a soul.

Nate and Kay had stood by Jake through his surgery and rehab. They’d been his lifeline, the only thing he could cling to when he finally faced the consequences of his actions. Their numerous trips to the hospital during his surgery and recovery had been the glue that held him together. During their visits, they’d tried to hide their concern for his well-being, but their anxiety showed through their efforts at normalcy, and their unease only added to the guilt he carried. Guilt that still held him prisoner.

Nevertheless, Nate and Kay had given him back his life, and today he’d return the favor.

He crossed the parking lot, paused for a second to steel his emotions, and then opened the door. Using Nate’s corny entrance line, he called out, “Honeee, I’m ho-ooome.”

Kay jumped to her feet and rushed to meet him. Her long brown hair swirled around her shoulders. “Yes, you are.”

Jake and Kay were both thirty, yet she stood there beaming up at him as if she were his mother. He pulled her into his arms and squeezed. He owed this tiny woman a debt, one he could never repay.

“I was afraid you wouldn’t show.”

“I wouldn’t lie to you.”

“I’m sorry I doubted you.” Her hands gripped his biceps tightly. “Come on back; Nate and the guys are waiting.”

His heart double-clutched. He could only hope she understood why he had to leave. “That husband of yours is one lucky bastard.”

“I know. I tell him that all the time,” she said with a weak laugh.

Kay was the glue that held Wolfe’s Pack together. She’d taken on that role during the group’s college days long before the Lost and Found, Inc. agency was founded. The business had brought her, Nate Wolfe, Marcus Ricci, and Ty Castillo back together, and she still mothered the group, except for Nate, who she’d married.

Jake kissed the top of her head, put his arm around her shoulders, and together they walked around the cubicles toward the conference room.

Jake stopped at Ty’s old desk, which now belonged to Dalton Murphy. Six months ago, Dalton had taken Nate’s offer to leave the FBI and join Lost and Found. It had been a lucrative business decision for the company, as government contracts had increased dramatically since Dalton’s addition to the team.

“You coming?” Kay asked Dalton.

“You bet.” He stood and shook Jake’s hand. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for you. I hope the state’s refusal to issue you a PI license didn’t factor into your decision to leave us.”

“Not one bit,” Jake said truthfully. “I get that my past was a factor but I appreciate you trying.” Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Nate rise and move to the doorway. “We better get in there. The boss is watching.”

Nate waited until they were all in the room and seated before he joined the founding partner of the company, Marcus Ricci, at the far end of the small conference table.

“I’m not going to get maudlin and go on about how much we’re going to miss you, but I’m not going to lie. You are family, and we’ll always be here for you. With or without a license, your job is here and our door is open.”

“Thanks. I appreciate that.” Jake’s chest ached. He didn’t deserve all this kindness and suddenly found himself choking back a swelling in his throat. There had to be a way to change the subject. Sitting in the middle of the table was a pan of barbecue and a couple containers of beans and slaw. “Wow. Is all this for me?”

“You expected a cake?” Marcus grinned. At the same time, the big man’s dark eyes bored into Jake. Marcus had always been able to ferret out secrets and truths, so Jake looked away.

“No,” Jake said. “Thank God.”

Kay took over the job of dispensing the food, giving Jake his plate first. “Did you say good-bye to Holly?”

“Kaycie,” Nate scolded. “That’s none of your business.”

“It certainly is,” Kay fired back. She rolled her eyes and waited.

“It’s okay to ask,” Jake said, knowing this conversation was necessary, and wanting to get it over with. “Why would I say anything to her? We all know why Holly stopped coming by the office. She couldn’t look at me without cringing.” He held up his hand to stop Kay from responding. “You brought this up, so let me finish.” He looked down for a second, then back at his friends. “Look, Holly has a new life. I stopped by Dallas Mercy Hospital this morning and saw her walk out with a group of people I’ve never seen before. They were all talking and laughing together. Why would I intrude?”

 

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