Strike Back

He would let her go if it would keep her safe…

Strong, self-reliant Nathan Hawkins—owner of Hawk Elite Security—can’t fathom a world in which he can’t protect the ones he loves. But the ticking time bomb of scar tissue in his head threatens to end his career and his marriage, even his life. But the scar tissue is nothing compared to the twisted enemy from Nathan’s past who returns, wanting Nathan to pay for his transgressions, pay with his wife.

As the bonds of her once rock-solid marriage disintegrate, Stacy Hawkins is ready to strangle her distant husband if that's what it takes to break down the barriers. Then she meets a man who makes her feel special again, one who makes her long for what she’s lost with Nathan.

…she would give anything to reach him.

A vacation to their favorite spot in Belize isn’t enough to draw Hawk away from the team, especially when it seems that each mission in the past six months is rife with misfortune. And when Stacy becomes the target of a deranged killer out to punish Nathan, they must confront their own personal demons before they can triumph over the evil intent on leaving them dead.

The Romance Review

Five Stars from Avonna at The Romance Reviews! 

I absolutely love reading a new to me author and the first book in her romantic suspense series blows me away! Beth Rhodes writes like a much more seasoned author with a perfect balance of romance and suspense. STRIKE BACK (A Hawk Elite Security Novel Book One) features a couple who have been married for 20 years, which makes the romance unique. The suspense is fast paced and well plotted throughout....

STRIKE BACK gives you a great realistic mature romance, exotic locales and a revenge suspense plot that keeps you turning the pages. I am really looking forward to reading more in this series! 

Cover design by Elaina Lee at  "for the muse designs" 

Cover design by Elaina Lee at  "for the muse designs" 

Chapter One

Punta Gorda, Belize

The unexpected flight of the Diet Coke-filled Styrofoam cup from her husband’s hand froze Stacy Hawkins in the doorway. She saw it coming but had no defense, and she shrieked as it landed like a grenade against her chest. The cold struck her. Ice fell into her shirt. She sputtered, backing up. “Shit,” she hissed, breathing and pulling at the shirt that clung to her breasts.

“I’m sorry.”

A few stray pieces of ice fell to the floor at her sandaled feet. “Cold. Cold.” The super-charged air conditioning of the hotel didn’t help. “Shit—” She backed up, sputtering.

Her husband, Hawk—Nathan ‘Hawk’ Hawkins—came toward her, the remnants of anger wiped clear of his face. “I didn’t see you there. Whoa,” he said as when she glowered at him and raised a hand to his approach. “I’m so sorry.”

She let herself take in his contrite expression, the agitation on his furrowed brow. “I just came by to tell you I was headed to the suite, and I’ll make dinner.”

“Fine. That’s good. Okay.” The worry in his eyes was so familiar, but she didn’t let it make her feel sorry for him. If he was going to throw shit around, he could at least make sure the area was clear of innocent bystanders.

“Stacy.” His voice carried down the hall as she hurried away. She couldn’t turn around, not even to reassure him. On autopilot, one foot in front of the other, she made her way toward the suite. She would change her clothes, shower, obtain her cool.

An accident was an accident, yet she deserved a little recovery therapy on this round. “Freaking accident. Freaking Diet Coke. Couldn’t have been Sprite. Nope.”

Stacy took the first turn into the lobby and crashed into another guest—full body, no-hesitation, throw-her-back-on-her-ass confrontation. “Oh, my God. I’m so sorry.”

The man, not much taller than she, was broad in the shoulders and slim to his waist.

“What an idiot I am. Oh,” she said, finally focusing on his face and seeing the amused look.

“Are you okay? I stepped on your foot.”

 She became hyper aware of his hand on her arm and her shirt sticking to her skin.

His gaze never left her face, his dark brown eyes smiled into her own, and the urge to smile back came unbidden. He was older than she thought at first.

And she relaxed, shrugging. “I’m okay.”

“I expected to see someone chasing you,” he suggested, joking, with a look behind her and a grin. He moved to put a hand on her shoulder, a friendly gesture—she knew, but the years of protective instinct kicked in, making her tense. He patted gently. “If there’s anything I can do…”

He trailed off, leaving his offer open-ended. And when she looked into his warm brown eyes, she saw kindness.

“I’m so sorry. I’ve forgotten my manners. I’m Stacy.” They’d been coming to this little private resort for so long, she felt more like it was home sometimes. It was easy to ignore all the strangers that came through.

And easy to keep her distance from people after all these years in her husband’s business.

“Michael,” he said, offering his hand at the introduction. “Michael Richards.”

“I appreciate the offer, Michael.”

 “No trouble.” He smiled with a shrug and turned. He caught her eye, looking far more deeply than she thought was possible of a stranger, the kind of look that made you wonder if a person could read the mind.

“Do you believe in fate?” he asked.

Stacy's heart stuttered unexpectedly. “I—”

“I believe fate has brought us together.” He smiled, taking her hand and giving it a squeeze as he continued, “For now, I'm off to my tango lessons.” He stomped his feet. “Cha, cha, cha!”

Nerves, air conditioning, and the lingering scent of sweet cigars were why her stomach jumped and her hands tingled as she made her way to the side exit and the path that led to her beachfront suite.

Did she believe in fate?

Not until today.

***

The scent of pasta and homemade sauce wafted on the air, hitting Hawk as he walked through the door to the suite. Made the way he liked it, with a blend of basil and garlic. He detected the distinct aroma of red peppers and heard the crinkle of burnt skin being peeled away from sweet red flesh as he came through the doorway.

“Stacy?” he called out as he dropped the Luzon assignment folder on the table inside the door. “Babe?”

“In the kitchen.”

He followed the hallway to the back of the small little beachside bungalow. There was something cozy about having access to a kitchen, the extra bedroom, and, most importantly, the beach. He loved the water. He loved it here…

He hated that he had to leave, and coming into the kitchen and seeing Stacy at the stove in those hip-hugging capris that showed off her slim ankles made the ache even worse. He wasn’t sure what would hurt more—the actual leaving or telling her that he had to leave.

He didn’t like pissing her off, and it seemed he’d gotten very good at that lately.

“There’s my trebuchet,” she spoke from her spot next to the stove and raised her eyebrow.

“Haha. I’m really sorry about that. I got a bad call and the drink went flying. By mistake. I didn’t see it when I started gesturing—”

“You do have a way with your hands.” She cut him off. She’d always been there for him, always had his back. There were times he didn’t know that he deserved her. But he loved her, which made his predicament pretty damn shitty. “Don’t worry about it.”

He rubbed a hand over the ache in his head. Damn headaches plagued him. He smiled anyway. “I have to tell you something.”

“Oh, my God.” She gasped with a laugh. “You’re having a steamy affair with Angelina Jolie.”

“You just dated yourself.” He chuckled, grabbed her wrist, and pulled her closer. “It was Scarlett Johanson—I like her short blonde hair.” He twirled a finger through her hair, “And she said she wanted me to bring my hot wife with me. We’d make it a threesome…and live happily-ever-after.”

“Ha. Yeah, right.” She elbowed him, creating space and leaving him bereft of her touch to go back to making dinner. She gave a stir then carefully tasted the sauce. Her tongue came out to lick her lips. “Mmm. Perfect.”

Hawk cleared his throat. This was harder than he thought it was going to be. “Actually, I have to go back to the office tonight.” Coward. He’d promised her this would be a real vacation. And he was trying, really he was. And maybe, if he was lucky, he could go into the office and clear up the trouble over the phone. Then he wouldn’t have to go at all.

No point in upsetting her for no reason.

Stacy froze for an instant. “Oh, bugger. Need any help?”

“Nah. I shouldn’t be too long. Just one last thing to take care of in Manila.”

She placed the spoon against the side of the pot and turned to him. Her hands circled his neck and found that point at the back, just below his hairline, and rubbed her agile fingers against the tension there. “Better?”

“Mmm,” he murmured and let his head relax forward and rest against her forehead.

She kneaded the muscles then traced her fingernails against his skin. In an instant, comfort turned to desire, and Hawk took her face in his hands and tilted her head up to meet his. “Thank you,” he whispered, brushing his lips against hers.

“Any time, babe.” She heated him even as his headache returned full-force. He ignored it for the taste of her lips.

“Let’s eat,” she breathed harshly as her mouth broke away from his.

Hawk gently kissed her cheek and let his thumb caress the smooth skin of her collarbone. “Yeah. Let’s eat.”