Series: Mission Recovery #1
Published by Lake Union Publishing on January 2nd 2018
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.
A former Navy SEAL, Cole Makani Hunter has returned home from a disastrous black ops mission without his best friend, his hearing, or the use of his right arm. So when his ex–commanding officer assigns him to an undercover mission at a rehab center for vets to discover who leaked sensitive military information to an enemy, he’d rather be anywhere but there. Almost immediately, Cole finds himself at odds with Annie Murray—a peace-loving ecotherapist whose dream is to open an animal sanctuary out of her home. While the two seemingly have nothing in common, their spirited arguments soon fuel a passion for each other.
But just as things begin to heat up between therapist and patient, dangerous complications arise. So does the past—and a shocking revelation that puts Cole and everything he now holds dear in the path of a murderous traitor.
Great mystery. Kept me guessing. Cole and Annie, the mother of skunks, are adorable together.
You know that I love my wounded and imperfect heroes. In Silent Threat, I got my imperfect hero in Cole Makani Hunter, former Navy SEAL who lost his hearing and most of the use of one arm after an attack and several months of torture at the hands of insurgents. His description made me picture, Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson and it just fit the characters. He is a very large, muscled and very imposing man. Several times he slumps and tries to make himself appear non-threatening to Annie or others that he meets because he knows that he is a big scary guy. As a SEAL, that was great, but back in civilian life, it is not always such a great thing.
Cole has been sent to Hope Hill, a rehab center for veterans, because someone intercepted a message to Yemin with sensative military information which appears to have come for the facility. He needs to find out if the traitor works at the center or is a patient there and stop him. Since Cole was badly injured after his last mission, and spent some time as a POW before escaping, he goes in as a new patient.
Hope Hill features the normal rehab psychiatrist and therapists, but also has several more creative therapies, including Annie Murray who teaches ecotherapy. Annie feels that connecting with nature helps bring an inner peace to the vets, especially those suffering PTSD. While Cole calls her a tree-hugger, her therapy is more planting plants or just going for a walk and enjoying the sounds of the leaves rustling and birds singing. I liked that manly-man Cole tried to intimidate Annie into letting him out of her tree-hugging program, and that Annie wouldn’t back down to him until he gave it a try. After a barefoot walk through the woods and his first nap without drugs since he returned to the States, big guy Cole gives a reluctant, I guess it’s okay and becomes a begrudging believer in Annie’s work.
There is a quiet calm about Annie which seems to be her biggest problem. Annie is the focus of several enthusiastic suitors–you might call them stalkers–but men seem to have a big problem walking away from Annie. Unlike most stalker novels where the heroine is so beautiful that all men must have her. Here, Annie is attractive but the men focus on her because she is just a kind-soul who has a strong inner peace. Annie’s calm demeanor and gentle touch are a beacon to all these damaged souls and they all need to be with her.
It is the soldier in Cole that realizes that one of her stalkers is escallating. He then insists on accompanying Annie to take care of her rescued animal (part of her soft-heartednesss). Unfortunately, while Cole is sticking by Annie for protection and his own obsessive need to be with her, his presence is sending the stalker into fits and creating more problems for Annie.
I can’t help my own obsession with trying to figure out who the bad guy is in any mystery, but Silent Threat kept me guessing and bouncing around the possible suspects and oddly, that makes me very happy.
Overall, Silent Threat was an enjoyable story with strong characters, a believeable storyline and a perfect amount of tension to keep you reading.
She stepped into the garage through the side door, and Cole followed. When she flipped on the light, he stared straight ahead, dumbfounded.
He’d been prepared for orphaned puppies her bleeding heart couldn’t leave at the pound, but reality was so much worse.
“You run a skunk sanctuary?” He stood still on the fresh hay that covered the floor. He barely breathed. He couldn’t have been less inclined to move if he’d suddenly found himself in the middle of a minefield.
“I take in injured animals.” A touch of defensiveness crept into her expression, probably in response to his are-you-freaking-crazy tone.
“Cats and dogs are easy to adopt out once they recover. The cats at Hope Hill came from here. Wild animals go back into the woods, if they can be self-supporting. I find homes for those with permanent injuries.” Her shoulders lifted then fell–probably a sigh. “Nobody wants the skunks.”
Because most people aren’t completely nuts.
He didn’t say that out loud. Maybe he was regaining some of his social skills. Since that was one of the stated goals of his treatment plan at Shit Hill–hey, good going.
“I’d prefer not to get sprayed.”
“They only sparay if they feel threatened.”
She moved to the minifridge–shuffling so she wouldn’t step on anyone–warmed milk in the microwave on top of the fridge, and made two bottles. Then she sat on a folded comforter in the corner, and the half dozen juvenile skunks ran over.
She said something like “Come here you little stink muffins,” which made Cole’s lips twitch.
She gently pushed the first few off her lap. “Babies first.” she waited until another half dozen smaller ones made their way to her.
“Two abandoned litters.” She helped them on her lap, one by one. “The mothers were run over on the highway.”
She rotated the bottles among the babies and murmured to them. He didn’t see what, since her face was angled downward. He imagined she was making cooing mama-skunk noises.
Since all the skunks were crowding around her, Cole figured he might be safe now. He looked farther into the garage.
Boxes and baby gates blocked off the area. The light of the single bulb by the door barely reached to the far end. Pens and crates filled the entire place. He’d been so startled by the skunks, he hadn’t noticed them immediately.
Damn drugs. The sleeping pills kept his mind in a haze even on the days he didn’t take them. All the chemicals were piling up in his system. In what universe did he not have complete situational awareness at all times?
In this one, apparently–a whole new world for him. He despised feeling this freaking helpless and useless. Every single day, he knew he was only alive because nobody had tried to kill him.
His shrink, Dr. Ambrose, kept telling him he needed to learn to relax, needed to learn that he didn’t have to be on is guard around the clock anymore. Cole was a civilian now–danger no longer waiting for him around every corner. But being a Navy SEAL had been indelibily written into every cell of his body. Telling him to relax was like tossing a fish in the air and expecting it to fly away.
He peered into the darkness where other animals moved, probably making noise he couldn’t hear.
When he looked back at Annie, she said, “They’ve already been fed. They just want to party.”
He gestured toward them with his head and quirked an eyebrow.
She responded with, “Go ahead.”
He didn’t turn on the overhead light, didn’t want to rile up everyone in the middle of the night. Instead, he stepped over a baby gate and waited until his eyes adjusted to the semidarkness.
A tabby cat with a splint blinked at him from a pillow. A black potbellied pig with a newly healed gash in its side rooted around inside a pen. A raven watched him from the rafters, one wing bandaged. Three blue eggs slept in a nest in a cage, under a heating lamp.
Another divider came next. Past that, five emaciated llamas and a one-eyed donkey turned their head to stare at him. He stared right back for a couple of startled seconds before scanning the rest of the space.
Bags of food for various animals stood piled against the wall. Running the menagerie must cost a pretty penny just in feed.
The llamas and the donkey stuck to their corners and showed no inclination to get the know Cole better. He reached in with his good hand and scratched the pig behind the ears. If there were delighted squeals, he didn’t hear them. He went to pet the cat, but the cat swiped at him.
The raven gave him a squinty-eyed look that said Don’t even try. He couldn’t reach the bird anyway. He went back to Annie.
He found her half-asleep.
“What’s up with the llamas?”
She blinked at him. “People moved and left them behind.”
He glanced back, but that end of the garage was too dark to see the animals. She had saved them in the nick of time. They looled like they were still pretty close to starvation.
“What was the worst you ever had?”
“A tarantula that lost a leg.” A delicate shiver ran through her. “I hate spiders.”
“Did you save it?”
A tragic look came over her face. “A goat ate him.”
A strangled laugh escaped him. “What happened to the goat?”
“Do you ever turn anything away?”
She rubbed the head of one of the baby skunks with the back of her crooked index finger. “Not anything, not ever.”
That people like her lived in the world scared Cole a little. Too softhearted, too easy to take advantage of, too vulnerable. Annie Murray needed a keeper. Not that he was volunteering.
He watched as she slid down into the hay, flat on her back, her head on the folded comforter. The skunks were all over her instantly, like love-smitten kittens, snuggled into every nook a different baby tucked against each curve.
She closed her eyes, the picture of peaceful bliss.
Cole stood against a nearly irresistible pull to lie next to her and be part of the magic she was weaving.
He never thought he’d be jealous of a skunk, but he wanted to be tucked against her breast. She had generous breasts to go with her generous mouth. She was murmuring something to her little charges that he didn’t catch, a soft half smile on her lips.
He wanted to sink into Annie Murray’s earth-mother goodness, dissolve in her peace.
She was the most wholesome person he’d ever known.