Special Forces Operation Alpha: Protecting Maria
She'd thought she'd left her old life behind. She was wrong.
Surgical resident Maria Moretti’s life is finally becoming her own, that is until her past catches up with her and she is forced to operate on her uncle. Normally, saving a loved one isn’t a problem, unless you’re related to one of the most notorious mob families in New York. Now, the family Maria’s distanced herself from is doing everything they can to bring her back into the fold.
Former Navy Seal turned security expert, Riley “Ash” Ashland, is reluctant to take on the job of protecting Maria. That is, until he meets her. Seeing how much she wants her freedom from the stranglehold her family has on her changes his mind. Even though she refuses to believe she needs protection, Riley watches over her. When her life is threatened, he calls on all his resources to keep her safe. But can he protect his heart at the same time?
Can Maria keep from dragging Riley into her twisted mob world while she fights for her independence all over again?
Read an Excerpt
Maria twisted the knot until it tightened and held, before snipping the fine, silky black thread. Sweat trickled down her spine. The fact her hands remained steady was only due to her determination not to let the bastards know they were getting to her.
She threw the suture needle in the metal kidney shaped dish, the small tool joining the three bullets she’d extracted. “There it’s done.”
The removal of the gun barrel that had been held against her head for the last two hours should’ve been a relief. Only it wasn’t. Maria Moretti knew, after tonight, the life she’d spent the last ten years working hard to create was over. Her past had found her and she knew it wouldn’t let her go.
“Very good, Dr. Moretti. I’m sure Uncle Vittorio is very grateful that you saved his life.”
The sleaze ball who snatched her out of the hospital parking lot was far too smug for her liking.
“Like I had a choice,” she muttered and snapped off her latex gloves. “Now, how about you and your goons, take my Uncle and get the hell away from me. I don’t want anything to do with him or the family anymore. My father knows this. And if you happen to see my loser of a father, give him the following message.” She glared at sleaze ball, waiting until he nodded. “Stay the fuck out of my life. Like he promised he would.”
Without waiting for a response of any kind, she grabbed her bag and walked out of the dirty, drafty doctor’s surgery they’d taken her to. Having been bundled in the back of a windowless van, she had no idea where in the city she was. But this was New York; if she walked a couple of blocks she’d find a cab or a subway station. All she needed to do was get as far away from this place as possible. God, she hoped this would be the last time she’d see anyone from her mob family again. Somehow she didn’t think she was going to be so lucky.
A loud banging on her apartment door jolted Maria from her sleep. A quick glance at her bedside clock and the green luminous numbers showed six a.m.
Who the hell knocking on her front door at this time of the morning?
Throwing back the covers she made her way toward the door. “I’m coming,” she yelled at whoever was on the other side of her wooden door pounding loud enough to wake the dead. Her neighbors were going to love her for their early morning wake up call.
After the night she’d had there was no way she was going to unlatch the chain and disengage the locks. She may be sleepy, but no one ever said Maria Moretti didn’t have any street smarts. It was a damn pity exhaustion had had her off her game last night. If she’d been more aware, she may not have found herself in the situation she ended up in.
“Who’s there?” she asked.
“FBI, Ma’am. Open up please.”
FBI? What the fuck?
Of course, it could be a trick. If the goon from last night had passed on her message to dear old dad, she wouldn’t put it past him pull a trick like this on her.
Maria twisted the locks and opened the door until the chain caught. “Show me your badge?”
A second later a meaty looking hand protruded through the door holding out a leather pouch with a glittering gold badge and the name Agent Scott Whittaker typed neatly beside the FBI emblem.
Everything looked legit. But looks could be deceiving. She didn’t think that was the case this time though. Maria suspected the early morning visit was connected to the out of the way surgery she performed last night.
After so many years of freedom she’d thought it was safe to stop looking over her shoulder. Last night proved she’d always have to look.
She had no choice—again. If she refused their entry, they’d only force their way in.
“Watch your hand,” she commanded as she pushed the door shut and disengaged the chain.
Maria held the door open and three men dressed in suits walked in. Who the hell wore suits at six in the morning?
Her normally spacious looking foyer seemed tiny with three large men taking up the space. Manners took over. “Why don’t we go into the living room and you can tell me why you needed to almost breakdown my door this early in the morning?”
The man whose badge she read spoke. “As I showed you. I’m Agent Whittaker,” he then pointed to the man to his right. “This is Agent Williams and this is Agent Clements.” He canted his head to the left. “We’re sorry to disturb you so early, Dr. Moretti, but we believe you have some information that could help us with a case.”
Her stomach plummeted as her suspicions were confirmed. No way was she going to let the Feds know she had an idea why they were visiting. Adopting her concerned doctor face she lifted her chin and looked Agent Whittaker in the eye. “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
Whittaker’s eyebrows rose a fraction. “Can you confirm that you are the daughter of Giovanni Moretti, currently residing in New Jersey? Also the suspected leader of the Moretti Mafia.”
And there it was. The name she’d sworn never to think of again after she’d walked out of the monstrosity that had been her home and headed to college. Her father had agreed to release her from any familial obligations. Until he needed a surgeon, of course, and then he used her. Why did she have to be working the night Uncle Vittorio got shot? Actually, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if she hadn’t been working. Dear old papa would’ve taken her from her house. She wasn’t stupid enough to think he didn’t know where she lived. The irony of her moving to New York to do her surgical residency wasn’t lost on her. If she’d had any sense she would’ve gone to a West Coast Hospital.
“Ms. Moretti? I didn’t think my question was that difficult to answer.”
No, not difficult, just admitting out loud what she was trying hard to forget wasn’t easy. No matter how much she tried, she knew it was impossible. How could you forget your heritage? No matter how bloody that heritage was.
“Yes. I am Giovanni Moretti’s daughter.”
“Are you a surgical resident at Bridgedale Hospital in Brooklyn?”
“Did you perform an unscheduled surgery last night in a non-hospital environment?”
How the fuck did they know about that? She was in a no win situation: lying to federal agents could have her spending time in jail. If she told the truth, the family she longed to forget would come after her. Either option would put her career in jeopardy, and she’d be damned if she’d lose everything she’d worked the last ten years to achieve.
Shit, she hated her family for dragging her back into their snake pit.
“May I remind you Ms. Moretti, lying to a federal agent will land you in serious trouble.”
“I’m aware of that. Yes, I performed a surgery last night.”
Agent Whittaker scribbled something in his notebook, and then looked back at her. “Are you permitted to perform surgeries away from the hospital? You’re still a resident aren’t you?”
Memories of the previous evening burst to life in her mind in all its technicolor glory. “You know, when you get snatched off your feet as you’re walking to your car, shoved into the back of a van, and taken to some hole in the wall facility to perform surgery on a man you haven’t seen in a decade. All while being held at gunpoint, you don’t have time to say—hey I’m a fourth year surgical resident. I’m not supposed to be performing surgeries unsupervised just yet—all I was thinking about was keeping myself alive.”
She hadn’t meant to reveal so much but once the words started she couldn’t stop them.
Agent Whittaker made a couple more notes before he stood. “I think that’s all we need at the moment.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a slim black folder. He extracted a card and handed it to her. “I’ll be in touch and if you need anything, and I mean anything at all, please call.”
Maria took the card knowing full well there was no way she was going to contact the agent. She wanted nothing to do with the feds and she especially didn’t want anything to do with her family.