In Cabo San Lucas, Navy SEAL Carson “Beach-boy” Walsh is ready to live the good life. After surviving fifteen deployments in ten years, he bailed on the SEALs, figuring this cat had run out of lives. The only danger he faces now is choking on an oyster or drowning in beer—and then he meets her.
Gina Tripp is the Calamity Jane of bounty hunters, enjoying an unexpected vacation. She’s the stand-in for an absent groom on her girlfriend’s honeymoon in Cabo when she meets a cute guy with a nothing but sex on the beach in mind. As her luck would have it, her best friend winds up kidnapped, and now Gina’s embroiled in a dangerous rescue that deepens her attraction Carson.
Just when she thinks she can settle in and enjoy a few days of sin, an opportunity to prove herself to her boss lands in her lap. Now, she has her sights set on scoring a huge bounty—an ex-pat skip, hiding out in Mexico. What follows is a wild ride that leaves her feeling pretty relieved she hijacked a Navy SEAL to help her with the job.
**S*x on the Beach** is part of the Montana Bounty Hunter series. It is also in the SEALs in Paradise connected series. Each book can be read as standalone. They do not have cliff-hanger endings and do not have to be read in any particular order.
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Six months ago…
Carson “Beach-boy” Walsh pulled his dog tags from under his shirt, and then exposed the small medallion that rested against one rubber-clad tag, lifted it to his mouth, and kissed it.
So, Saint Christopher wasn’t actually considered a saint anymore, and Carson wasn’t Catholic, but his aunt had given him the medallion the first time he’d shipped out. Kissing it for luck before a fight had become a ritual.
After tucking the medal back inside his shirt, he raised his MK17 to hold it crosswise in front of his body as he continued the march into the valley. He breathed in through his nose and out through his mouth to calm his heart and head. Another part of his “pre-game” ritual.
He was on his fifteenth deployment, and he’d lost count of how many missions. He’d just hit his ten-year mark as a SEAL, and he was one lucky guy. Everyone said so. Other than a little shrapnel and splinters, he’d never been seriously injured.
Sure, he’d had a moment during his thirteenth deployment, when he thought maybe he’d run out of luck—when he’d stepped on a landmine. But the second his boot had landed on the metal plate buried in the sand, he’d known exactly what was happening, and had pitched himself over a stone wall a split-second before it exploded, a luckily delayed reaction, which had showered him with dirt. His buddies had rushed to him, certain they’d be picking up pieces of his body, but he’d sat up, shook his head, and grinned.
“Goddamn, Beach-boy,” his best buddy Fischer had said as he slapped his back. “You are one lucky bastard.”
Yeah, that had been his closest call, but he didn’t take his luck for granted. He trained hard, kept alert to his surroundings, and trusted the men on his team. They were the source of his real luck.
He’d lost friends along the way, to death and career-ending injuries. He knew, someday, his streak would end, but it wouldn’t be today. Not this early morning when the sun was painting the prettiest dawn as it climbed over the rim of the valley. Bright yellow at the edge, a pale purple and orange just above it. While he preferred a bit more greenery, the sparse bushes and trees dotting the rocky valley below looked almost lush compared to the countryside they’d been quickly moving through. The walled compound below looked like a crumbling castle from some ancient tale. A castle they hoped contained their current target, an insurgent leader who’d escaped a series of raids, and who’d publicly mocked his would-be captors.
The team was eager to capture Ahmadi, who’d become a kind of superstar, even among those who wanted to see an end to the Taliban’s reign of terror, once and for all. They admired the fact he’d managed to survive, always staying one step ahead of his American pursuers.
When they reached the outer wall of the compound, Carson paused as his team moved past. Every one of them reached out a hand to rub his helmet, their own lucky ritual, before they took positions along the wall. Carson was on point. He’d be the first inside the compound—after he blew the thick plank door set into the wall.
Fischer rubbed his helmet then took a knee beside the door. “Don’t get killed.”
“You can have my helmet if I do,” Carson said with a quick, tight grin. Then he reached out, stuck the small explosive charge next to the lock on the door, set the timer, and then took cover.
He counted the seconds and covered his ears. As soon as the C-4 exploded, he pushed up and ran quickly through the opening, heading toward the side of the mud-stuccoed house in the center of the open compound. As he moved, the only sounds were the quiet crunches of boots behind him. Not a bleat from a goat, not a bark from a dog, not a shout. “Too damn quiet,” he said.
“Damn, I hope he hasn’t already slipped the noose,” the mission commander said in his earpiece. “Breach the door, but keep your eyes peeled.”
“Anyone tell him that never sounds good?” Fischer muttered.
Hunkered down with his weapon raised, the buttstock snug against his shoulder, Carson kept close to the wall as he moved toward the alcove shading the front door. He checked the dirt around the concrete porch but saw no signs of recent digging, so no mines, he hoped. Then he ducked into the alcove, Fischer right behind him, his back to Carson as he continued to scan their surroundings.
Carson moved to the door, reached out with his left hand, and pulled down on the latch. He heard a snick, but also a snap. His heart thudded, and he turned to Fischer, “Go, go, g—”
An explosion sounded behind him, a millisecond before the door slammed into his back and pushed him ahead of a blast of fire and air that picked him and Fischer up. When he landed, he scrambled toward his buddy. Fischer lay face down, his arms spread.
Sounds around him were muffled—pops of gunfire, distant shouts. He crawled to Fischer and gently rolled him over. His face was covered in sand and grit…and blood, seeping from beneath his helmet. No, his ear.
“Fisch,” he shouted close to him, but Fischer didn’t stir.
“Man down. Fisch is down,” he said into his mic, but couldn’t hear a response. Sounds faded. He knelt, knowing he couldn’t do a thing—not remove his friend’s helmet, not move him again. He swayed on his knees and nearly fell, but more of his team arrived, pulling him away, running their hands over his back.
He sucked a breath between his teeth when he felt a sudden sharp pain on the right side of his back. More muffled voices shouted into his ear. “Lie down, Walsh! Helo’s coming!”
At that moment, Carson realized his luck had just run out. Too soon to save Fischer. Maybe too soon to save himself.
Three months ago…
The sky was blue, the temperature was in the mid-seventies, and a light breeze filtered through the leaves of the cottonwoods. It was a gorgeous, glorious Montana day, and Gina Tripp was pumped. Her boss, Fetch Winter, had finally let go of the tight leash he’d kept her on since he’d hired her after she’d left active duty where they first met. Before he’d mustered out, he’d given her his number and told if ever she needed a job…
She’d accepted his offer and moved to Montana from her home in San Diego. So far, she loved the climate, the mountains, the people she worked with, and, especially, the job. Bounty hunting was damn fun, and from listening to the stories of the more experienced hunters, she was eager to experience the occasional adrenaline rush she’d grown addicted to in the Army. But she was the “new girl” and had to prove herself before they’d trust her with the scary shit.
The past two weeks, Fetch had finally let her take solo baby-steps—rounding up druggies who’d missed their court-ordered drug tests, picking up an old Buick from a seventy-year-old woman who’d signed away her car to bail out her deadbeat son, only to have him skip his date with the judge.
Nothing big. Nothing dangerous. She’d performed well on other tasks, working the phones to give the other hunters leads. At last, Fetch was trusting her to serve as part of the team going after Harland Oates, a once-convicted felon, who hadn’t been seen since he’d met his bail for a DUI offense that he’d compounded by assaulting the arresting officer.
Gina had “geared up” along with two other hunters from the Kalispell office, Sam Meacham and “Kid” Hagerty. They were armed with handguns, a rifle, and a pellet gun. She’d been given beanbag rounds for her shotgun, something non-lethal because the men were nervous she’d shoot them by mistake.
She’d snorted at that assumption, but they’d taken her new nickname “Trip” to heart. So, she’d faceplanted on the drive outside the office during an ice storm. And once, she’d slid like surfer across a sheet of black ice during a coffee run, only to hit hard snow and somersault. After managing to save one lidded drink, she’d thought that would count for something.
Nope. They’d taken the security camera footage and posted it on YouTube. Now, she was known as the Calamity Jane of the bounty hunting world, at least here in Montana.
Fetch had told her to stop trying so hard. Relax. She’d eventually find her feet in the job. She’d rolled her eyes, and he’d laughed at his joke. He predicted, that in the end, she’d be a hell of a hunter.
But her training was taking a little longer than she liked. Like most of the people he’d hired, she was ex-military. She’d seen action as a driver in Iraq, driving in convoys transporting supplies across huge expanses of open desert. She’d had to bail out of a 5-ton truck a time or two to set up a quick defense against attacks from ISL forces. She’d even shot her weapon. Not that she’d ever hit a thing. Didn’t matter. She’d done her job. Had been prepared for worst case scenarios. She knew how to solider, how to follow orders, and she didn’t lose her nerve when things got grim.
She reminded herself of all these things as she trudged behind Sam and Kid toward a house, of sorts, deep inside the woods. The structure had begun its life as a school bus but had been “renovated” with wood-framed offshoots that sat on piers that looked like a stiff wind would shift them right off their foundations. This was Harland’s “hunting cabin” or so his buddies back at the bar in Bozeman had said.
Gina’s Kevlar vest was a little large, and the top rubbed the underside of her chin. She reached for the bottom edge and tugged it down to just above her hips, and then hurried to catch up with the guys on the trail.
They both turned and shot her harsh glares, but she gave them a smile. Kill them with kindness; that was her motto. They likely thought she was a bit of a snowflake she smiled so damn much.
Kid had already asked her on a date, but she’d told him she didn’t think it was a good idea—at least not until she was off her ninety-day probation. She had to be all about the job. Still, turning him down had been hard. The man was beautiful, although she was sure he wouldn’t like being described that way, but he did have the dreamiest gray-blue eyes, soot-black wavy hair that he kept cut short, and a body that any breathing woman, and probably a lot of men, would sigh over.
But it was better to keep her mind on the job, not the way his Levi jeans hugged his ass. When she headed back to California for her best friend’s wedding, she’d be sure to scout out a booty call to take care of any unrequited urges Kid inspired.
“Trip!” came a harsh whisper in her earpiece.
She glanced up and caught Sam’s signal. They’d circled to the back of the ramshackle cabin, and Kid had his back to the siding as he edged closer to a window to peek inside.
“He’s inside. Kitchen,” Kid whispered then ducked down.
Sam caught her glance, pointed toward the back door, and made some sort of hand signal. Not strictly military, so she wasn’t exactly sure if he was telling her to guard it or open it, but she nodded and moved toward the rickety back steps. When he disappeared around the front of the structure, she guessed she was supposed to wait, because he’d likely be the one to breach the front door. She edged quietly up the wooden steps to stand at the back door.
“Harland Oates, Fugitive Recovery Agents!”
Gina winced at the shout in her ear, but then almost snickered at the way Sam had said the felon’s name. It had sounded like “Hall & Oats” and, not for the first time, she was tempted to break out in song. “Maneater” came to mind.
“We have your place surrounded! Come out with your hands up!” A moment passed. “I’m goin’ in!” Sam whispered.
A crash sounded in the distance. Footsteps pounded through the bus, striking metal then wood. Then the knob on the door in front of her twisted. She only had a second to jerk back into the tiny space behind the door as it slammed open. When a man began to emerge, all she saw was wild hair, a wilder beard, and bare muscled arms.
Has to be Harland. Fuck! She pushed the door back as hard as she could against the large body hurtling out onto the porch.
She caught him, sort of.
Harland Oates slammed against the railing. “What the fuck!”
The porch shuddered then teetered to the side. She grabbed for Harland, caught his grubby wifebeater in her fist, but he fell through the rail, taking her with him. They landed on the ground, her body bouncing against his back, her shotgun banging against his head. When she scrambled to her knees, she was straddling him and fighting to get her shotgun turned in the small space between their bodies, when he bucked upward, sending her to the side.
Still turning the weapon, her finger got stuck in the trigger housing and a round went off, pounding into the ground beside his head, and he froze.
They both turned their gazes to the expended round. The lead-filled red “pillow” was disintegrated.
“Bitch, you almost shot me in the fucking head!” Harland whined.
It took everything not to blurt that it had been an accident. Instead, she gave him her meanest stare. “You gonna give me any more trouble?”
“Trip, what the hell?” Sam shouted from the back door.
She glanced up to see him tip back his cowboy hat. He couldn’t step out because the porch had collapsed. “We’re good, Sam,” she said, then dragged the muzzle of her shotgun closer to Harland’s belly. “Ain’t that right?”
Harland groaned and wilted against the dirt just as Kid strode to her side.
Sam shook his head and disappeared back inside, his feet clomping through the cabin.
Kid offered his hand. “Not exactly graceful, are you, Trip?”
She squinted up at him. “If you ever want that date, you better take that back. I got him, didn’t I?”
His mouth stretched into a huge grin. “Wish I’d had a camera. You should have seen your face when that porch fell out from under you.” He glanced down at Harland who’d reached out his hands, showing he was ready to surrender.
“Can ya get off me now?” Harland asked.
Kid cupped her elbow and grabbed her shotgun, holding it well away as he helped her to her feet. “I got this. Don’t want you to get those fingers stuck again.”
“They weren’t stuck,” she lied, her cheeks feeling as though they were on fire.
“Sure, and you meant to knock him out with the door, right?”
“I don’t suppose you could keep the after-action report to ‘Trip took down the target’, could you?”
He gave her a sly wink. “Oh, that’s exactly what happened, wasn’t it?”
Her shoulders fell. No way in hell would either of the hunters let her live this one down. She’d be stuck relieving grannies of their prized possessions for the rest of her days.
“Make yourself useful and get him cuffed before Sam gets here,” he said.
As she drew her handcuffs from the pocket on her web belt, Kid pulled out his cellphone from under his vest.
While he took pictures of the collapsed steps, she helped Harland to his feet. The man wasn’t very tall. She probably could have taken him from behind if she’d let him climb down the steps first. Instead, adrenaline had been her bitch.
As she led him back through the woods to their SUV, she heard laughter following her every step of the way.