Book 3 in the Task Force Hawaii Series
Part of the Harmless World
She might trust him with her life but she’s not too sure she can trust him with her heart.
Charity Edwards has never been a woman who liked to compromise–not at work and definitely not in her personal life. So, when TJ Callahan appears on the scene as their FBI liaison, she decides to take a chance on the slow talking Texan.
TJ doesn’t like undercover work, but thanks to an old case, he has been tasked to do just that. He uses his position to infiltrate TFH to investigate Charity, a woman well-known for her hacking skills. His almost instant attraction he has to Charity makes it impossible not to blur the lines and he soon finds himself falling for the impossible woman.
When his assignment is revealed, Charity wants nothing to do with him, but she has no choice. Thanks to TJ’s investigation, Charity’s life is in jeopardy and he will do anything to protect her–even if it means sacrificing himself.
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Charity Edwards stretched her hands over her head and sighed. Taking Friday off had been a good idea. She had a lot of leave time, plus, her boss Del instituted a pay back time policy. He believed they should take advantage of the slower times because there were periods that would have them working around the clock.
And this was definitely a slow time. It had been close to two full weeks since they’d had a case, and all of them were getting antsy. Task Force Hawaii handled high profile cases, and many ended up dragging on for weeks and involved several state, local, and federal departments. At the moment though, there was an eerie calm…as if something was coming to get them.
She shook her head. Her mama always said she had an active imagination. Staying up late watching horror movies was probably a bad idea.
Slipping out of bed, she decided to get some tea and enjoy the morning views. After a quick trip to the bathroom, she made her way to the kitchen. She was a caffeine junky and needed it to be able to function. And not kill people. That was something that it helped with.
After brewing a single cup, she headed out to her lanai.
She sipped her coffee and watched the busy traffic below. Then, she looked out toward the direction of Diamond Head. She sun was just starting to peek over the buildings, casting light and shadows on a city she was starting to adore.
Georgia was a far cry from her sixteenth floor apartment in Capitol Center in downtown Honolulu, or even the townhouse she had in Georgetown when she’d lived in DC. She missed what she had always thought of as home, but now, in less than a year, she had come to fall in love with the Hawaiian Islands and their customs and people.
Just thinking about Georgia made her think of her parents. An only child of only children, they had a small meddlesome family. Her mother liked to say that they all just knew each other better than most, Charity thought with a smile. She would give anything for one of her mother’s cinnamon rolls. Celeste Edwards knew how to make the most amazing sweets, and Charity had the hips to prove it.
“Morning,” Drew Franklin mumbled as he stepped out on the lanai.
She glanced at him. It had been five months since the shooting that almost took his life. He looked better, but he wasn’t truly fine. She knew that better than anyone. About a month ago, she’d made him move into her spare room. She had planned on making it her walk-in closet—and yes, she did have that many clothes—but she knew that Drew needed to live with her for awhile. Otherwise, he would have stayed at his folks’ place and hidden from everyone. At least this way, she could force him out every now and then.
He sat down in the other chair and looked out at the city. He had always been one of the most positive people she had known. That is, until the shooting. Now, he was grumpy most of the time. Part of it was the pain, the other part of it was their teammate Cat. Their romance had withered after the shooting, and Charity wasn’t sure if they had actually talked since he’d left the hospital. She knew he hadn’t been back to work, so there was a good chance they hadn’t had a conversation.
Luke and Jess, her two cats, slunk out onto the lanai. She had grown up with dogs. Lots of them, and she loved them—along with most animals. But with her hours, and the fact that she lived in an apartment, she thought it best to stay with cats for the moment. Of course, they hated every single person on the face of the earth except her. That is, until Drew had moved in. They had taken to sleeping with him, the traitors.
“Are you planning on heading out to your folks’ place today?”
He shrugged, as Luke jumped into Drew’s lap. Luke was a Himalayan she had rescued from behind her first apartment in Hawaii. He stared at her across the table with the most irritated look. Not to be ignored, Jess jumped into her lap and purred. Charity knew that she had been Jess’ second pick. The American short-haired/tiger mix stared at Drew, coveting him as she allowed Charity to pet her.
“I thought we could pop on by and see everyone. Get out. Get lunch somewhere since you won’t cook for me.”
He grunted. She hated that sound. And, at one time she let it go. He’d died twice on the operating table, and they had all handled him with kid gloves. She was thinking now might be time to take them off.
“Yes. We will go out.”
“I thought you said you took off to sleep in. You’re up earlier than you get up on a regular work day.”
“When I have to get up for work, I don’t want to get up. Don’t try to distract me. We will go out today and have fun.”
He slunk down further in his chair. That was it. She could give him space, even let him be a pain in the ass for awhile. Acting like a sullen teenager was a little too much.
“No way out of it, Andrew Franklin. We are going out and you will get some sun. It will be good for you.”
Without waiting for his reply, she stood up and hurried off to get ready. The best thing her mama ever taught her was to just steamroll men. Don’t give them time to think.
She grabbed another cup of coffee and headed off to her bedroom. Today was going to be a glorious day.
FBI TJ Callahan was shutting down his computer as Freddy Santos came walking by his cubicle. The California transplant had been TJ’s sponsor when he moved to Hawaii less than a year ago.
“Hey, Hammer. Boss wants to see you.”
Damn. This close to freedom. “Why?”
Freddy shrugged. “I was in his office and your old supervisor called in. Said he needed you right now.”
Fuck. He hated meetings. He especially hated to have anything to do with DC. He’d left a year ago, and he hadn’t regretted it one bit. But, overall, meetings sucked. They always took too long and were a lot of wasted time. They could accomplish what needed to be done in about half the time. TJ knew it was a bad thing to be called into the supervisor’s office on a Friday. They might be the FBI, but they were in Honolulu. Officially, they were still at work, but late on a Friday afternoon, the Aloha Friday spirit was alive and well—even in their office.
With regret, he watched many of his coworkers, including Santos, start to head to the elevators. Aloha Friday was definitely upon them, and the lucky bastards were getting a head start. TJ could almost taste the Longboard Ale he had chilling in his fridge at home. He closed his eyes and licked his lips.
“Callahan,” his boss bellowed down the hall. He opened his eyes and decided to pay the piper. The sooner he could get done with that, the sooner he could get to work at home. Since buying his house a few months ago, he had relished his weekends. No more eighty-hour work weeks for Agent Callahan. No way. Here, he left early on Fridays and spent his weekends surfing and refurbishing his house in Waimanalo.
Sighing, he stood and made his way to Agent Tsu’s office. Since TJ’s transfer, things had been easy. He did most of his work at his desk, where he was most comfortable. It was something he had insisted upon after the FUBAR in DC. His last assignment had gone south, and he’d been in the hospital for a week afterwards. He did not want to go through that again.
TJ stepped into Tsu’s office and saw his former boss on the big screen.
“Hey, Hammer. How’s it going?” Agent Remington said.
Remington was a hell of a guy, and had been a kick ass boss. He had been one of the first agents assigned to cyber terrorism back in the day. Working for him had been one of the highlights of TJ’s career so far. Unfortunately, it had brought about some very bad times as well.
Fifteen years older than TJ, Stan Remington showed his age in the fine wisps of grey littering his dark brown hair. But his face, hell, he looked like he had aged five years in the last year. Dark circles beneath his eyes accented the fine lines, and his skin now looked sallow. More than likely, he had slept in the office the night before…and the night before that.
“Why don’t you have a seat?” Agent Tsu, his present supervisor, said. “We have a situation.”
TJ got the itch on the back of his neck that told him trouble was just around the corner.
“And that would be?” he asked, as he took the other seat in front of the big screen.
“Seems like someone at Task Force Hawaii has been naughty,” Remington said. “There has been some…breeches of security in the last few months. Leads all the way back to their people.”
“What kind of breeches?”
“Nothing that big, until this past weekend. Seems someone was trying to access security codes to find operative names,” Remington said. “They failed, but we need to figure out what the hell is going on.”
This didn’t sound good. Not good at all. Remington was being evasive, and that always meant he wanted TJ to do something that might not be kosher with the bosses—or TJ.
“So, you want me to question them?” he asked.
“No,” Tsu said. “We want you to be the liaison to TFH. They’ve been asking for one for months. This gives you the perfect cover.”
TJ glanced at the screen, then back to Tsu.
“One of the agreements of me taking this job was not to go undercover. Not after the last job.”
“It won’t be anything dangerous. In fact, we just want background. But, it is the first lead we’ve had on Foley in over a year.”
Ice danced over his nerve endings. Then, anticipation surged.
“And you want me to put myself out there again.”
He had been moved from his job in DC because of what was deemed an obsession with a man who had stolen millions—and they still didn’t know the man’s real name. It had been a lateral move, but there was no doubt that it had been a reprimand for his behavior.
“I wouldn’t ask if we didn’t need this. But we haven’t been able to find him until now. The fact that he appeared in your backyard is a good thing. Or, at least using someone in your backyard.”
Foley liked to do that. He would find a woman with expertise, or a young man who was looking for a father figure. They would do all the work, break all the laws, and Foley would disappear. Their thank you for the job was usually a bullet to the back of the head—or a lifetime in prison.
“You’re considered the expert on him,” TJ said.
“True, but it would be best if I don’t pop up there and cause a ruckus. You know if I do, he might disappear again,” Remington said.
“This way, you can at least get inside the building,” Tsu said. “They tend to keep to themselves unless it is required otherwise.”
“So we, as a federal agency, are going to play patty cake to try to find something out.”
It sounded like a shit job all the way around. Sure, he might find a lead on Foley, but they wouldn’t let him follow it. He would be ordered to hand it off to Remington.
“You know we have the authority to just question their people.”
“Yes, but if you do that, you might scare off Foley,” Remington said.
TJ heard the unwavering tone and knew he was definitely screwed. If he didn’t go along, they would order him to do it. Then, he would either have to comply or get written up for insubordination and asked to hand in his badge.
“Who’s the target?” he asked.
Tsu handed him a file. He opened it and found the picture of a stunning woman. Brown skin, sea-green eyes, and a thousand-watt smile.
“This is my target?” he asked as he tore his attention away from the picture. “She looks like a sorority girl.”
“Don’t be so fooled,” Tsu said. “I’ve been to a few of her lectures. She regularly gets asked to write articles and, on top of that, the University of Hawaii has been after her to teach a class. She’s sharp as a tack.”
“She also has a record,” Remington said.
That definitely caught his attention. “She has a record? How is she working at TFH?” TJ asked.
“She was a juvenile. Broke into the school to change grades.”
“Sure, every hacker thinks of doing that at one time or another,” TJ said. In fact, TJ had his three brothers bugging him to do that by the time they reached the age to understand their brother’s abilities.
“Not hers. Woman had straight A’s through high school.”
“But she broke in to change her grades?”
“Yeah. Doesn’t say why since it was juvenile, and apparently her father’s family has a lot of pull in the town, so the charges were dropped. Then she went to University of Georgia. Dropped out her junior year.”
There was a beat of silence. “Happens sometimes, you know that with computer geeks. She wrote a few papers and they got noticed by several agencies. We tried to recruit her—as did the NSA—but the CIA snapped her up before we could. She worked there for a while before she headed off to a few other places before landing in Hawaii. Seems to be settling in since she bought an apartment.”
The itch was getting worse. Damn, this was going to be beyond a shit assignment. “Great. She’s going to smell this a mile away.”
“What I need you do to is just be the liaison,” Tsu said. “It will be a few days, tops.”
“And then I just disappear? That’s going to go over well.”
“They’ve been screaming for one for months. It won’t raise any flags.”
He studied Tsu. “So, I’m the lamb to the slaughter, is that it?”
“In a way. I couldn’t get a designation for someone to work with them until now.”
“Until you think one of them broke several federal laws and is working with a criminal, who not only has been fucking us over for three years, but likes to profit off the deaths of our agents. Gotta love the FBI.”
“I’m using it the best I can,” Tsu said. “If nothing comes of the investigation, you can keep working with them. We’ve needed someone over there for over a year, but the Bureau wasn’t happy when Hawaii decided to form a task force like this.”
Of course they didn’t. The FBI thought they ran the entire country and everyone should bow to their power. It worked sometimes, but even in the few months TJ had been living in Hawaii, he had learned you couldn’t force Hawaiians to do what they didn’t want to. It was one of the things he loved about living there. They were the epitome of dancing to the beat of their own drum.
“So, instead of working with them, and taking some of the load off us, the Bureau decided to be assholes and not give them a liaison?”
“Until now. And, we can justify it now that you’ll have the job,” Tsu said.
“Doesn’t really matter in the end,” Remington said.
“Why not?” TJ asked.
“If their forensics tech is working for a cyber-criminal like Foley, then I doubt TFH will survive.”
And TJ was going to be the lucky bastard who got to rip it apart.
End of Excerpt
is available in the following formats:
May 31, 2016
A suspense plot that keeps your brain moving with chemistry and personality that keeps you moving through the pages. Constant Craving shines with what Melissa does best. Characters with depth and quirks that make the read fun along with the suspense. Steamy passion and amazing chemistry that make the pages sizzle. Constant Craving is everything that I love about Melissa’s work. She draws you in, keeps you there, and makes you want more.
WOW! The best of the series to date in my not so humble opinion. Constant Craving lets the geeks have their day and boy is it fun. Of course nothing is ever easy and the good things are worth fighting for. I just love this story. So much fun and the characters will keep you enthralled.
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