Title: Deadly Strain, first in the Biological Response Team series
Author: Julie Rowe
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Major Grace Samuels, a trauma surgeon deployed to Afghanistan, spends her life helping her fellow soldiers overcome disease and combat injuries. But her own wounds are harder to heal. Wracked with guilt over the death of a fellow soldier, she finds comfort in her only friend and appointed bodyguard, weapons sergeant Jacob “Sharp” Foster.
Sharp feels more for Grace than a soldier should, more than he wants to admit. When the team discovers a new, quick-to-kill strain of Anthrax, he tries to focus on the mission to find its source. He knows he can help Grace defeat her demons, but first they must defeat the deadly outbreak.
Sharp is Grace’s most loyal ally, but in close quarters, he starts to feel like more. She can’t watch someone else she cares about die—but she might not have a choice. The closer they get to finding the source of the strain, the closer it gets to finding them.
Sharp turned away to open his pack and pull out one of the first-aid kits. “Let’s start with your leg.” He gave her left leg a moment’s consideration, then lifted a hand toward her fly.
She stepped back before she could stop herself and he froze.
He dropped his hand, wiggled his eyebrows at her and said, “Take off your pants.”
Grace bit her lips. No. She wasn’t going to laugh. It wasn’t funny. He wasn’t funny. “Are you trying to make me want to kill you?”
“No. Not really.” He seemed to think about it for another second or two. “Okay, maybe a little.”
She hovered between wanting to laugh and wanting to cry. Her best buddy was trying his hardest to help her, but she wasn’t entirely sure his flirting was all fun and games. There was a serious glint in his eye she’d never seen before.
“You’re nuts, you know that?” she asked as she began removing the gun holster strapped to her right leg, then moving on to the belt with forty-two different things hanging off it. “You’ve been cracking jokes since the crash, and none of this is funny.” Oh God, her face was wet. “Why aren’t you angry?”
“I’m angry, but not at you.” The smile on his face lost its razor edge. “Never at you.”
Tears clouded her vision and her chest stuttered with silent sobs she refused to let out. One escaped and strong hands and hard arms grabbed her up and she found herself drawn onto Sharp’s lap, her head buried in the hollow of his shoulder. She shook both of them with the force of her restrained cries.
Her father would be mortified if he knew she was crying on someone’s shoulder. She’d heard his stories of operating in sandstorms during the Iraq War. He’d survived horrible situations with his sense of humor and dignity intact. Why couldn’t she?
She was so focused on keeping quiet, controlling the crest of grief flooding through her, she lost track of time. Eventually, she came back to herself only to realize her situation was no less emotionally explosive and dangerous now as when she started crying.
She faced Sharp, straddling his lap with her knees on either side of his hips, plastered to him like a lover who took what she wanted. Between her legs she could feel his response. No amount of clothing could hide the long, hot length telling her he was big all over.
He wanted her.
It was the crazy situation, not because he actually wanted her.
So why did feeling his erection between her legs, proving they were both still alive, give her so much pleasure?
She wanted him.
Was it wrong to want, to feel something other than horror and fear? If she moved against him, would he offer the comfort of his body?
Of course he would. He was a good man, the kind of man who’d do everything he could to help her get through this until they were safe.
She couldn’t do it. Couldn’t use him like that.
Grief and guilt formed a tsunami of nausea that rolled up from deep in her gut, and she tried to jerk herself out of his tight embrace. How sick did she have to be to want a man only an hour after being in a crash that killed several men, after she’d killed men?
Sharp held her tighter. She fought, pounding his back and using the strength of her thighs to push away from him. He held her tighter still and whispered words of reassurance that made no sense in her ear. He should be angry at her, she hadn’t been able to save Rasker’s life. His friend’s life.
She shoved, punched and pushed until her muscles trembled with exhaustion. Panting, she stilled, waiting for an opportunity for him to relax his vigilance, and finally understood what he was whispering to her.
“It’s okay, Grace. You’re good, honey. You’re good. I’m going to keep you safe, I promise.” Over and over he repeated the words.
“Sharp?” she managed to say, her heartbeat a thunder of drums in her ears.
“The bad guys don’t know where we are. You’re safe.”
“Sharp?” she said again. “I’m okay, sort of, now.”
He sighed and held her even tighter for a moment. “God, I thought you were never coming back.”
“Neither did I.” She trembled and returned his embrace, her hands flexing against his body armor, needing to feel him, solid and real. “What’s wrong with me?”
“We’ve all got ghosts haunting us,” he said, his voice rumbling out of his chest. “You need to let go of a few of yours, that’s all.”
She tilted her face up to tell him to stop placating her, she needed the truth, but never got the chance to say a word.
He kissed her.
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"Deadly Strain is a gripping, terrifying hybrid that combines suspense with romance without compromising either aspect of the story."
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Julie Rowe’s first career as a medical lab technologist in Canada took her to the North West Territories and northern Alberta, where she still resides. She loves to include medical details in her romance novels, but admits she’ll never be able to write about all her medical experiences because, “Fiction has to be believable”. Julie writes romantic suspense and romantic thrillers. Her most recent titles include SLEIGHT OF HAND book #3 and Search & Destroy book #4 of the Outbreak Taskforce series. Follow www.julieroweauthor.com , on Twitter @julieroweauthor or at her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/JulieRoweAuthor
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