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Collateral Risk

The Wild Rose Press

Heat Rating: STEAMY
Word Count: 94,426
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After losing her sister to a serial killer years earlier, scientist Mia Lindgren survives by focusing on the most dangerous viruses known to man. She’s become adept at shutting herself off from human contact—until her lab partner drowns under suspicious circumstances.

Forced to accept the assistance of Nick Doyle, an FBI counter-terrorism expert on leave, she soon realizes someone at the Institute is involved in a deadly deception. As she and Nick race to find a killer who will stop at nothing to accomplish his version of Armageddon, they can’t ignore their own chemistry. But can Mia truly put the past to rest?


A look of confusion flickered across Angela’s face. “Do you two know each other?”

“Uh, actually, no. We just met, Mrs. Ward. She was waiting for you in the lobby. I remembered your name from group and volunteered to take her to you.”

Her gaze rested on his face a beat too long and he had the distinct impression she could be as analytical as her daughter. Unlike Mia, Angela Ward’s appraisal didn’t seem nearly as negative. Almost as if she were searching for ways he could be of use.

“Call me Angela.” She grasped his hands in both of hers. “Thank you so much for bringing Mia to me. I completely lost track of the time.”

Now that was one trait mother and daughter didn’t have in common. “It happens. I’ve been losing track of whole days since I checked in.”

“Not me.” Angela’s smile was so intense it startled him. “Eleven days counting today. Eleven days of sobriety after eighteen years on and off the wagon. This time it’s the real deal though. I’m not going back. Not this time.”

Nick nodded. He knew how she felt. He was proud of the progress he’d made in such a short time. Like Angela, he wanted to believe he’d be able to walk away from Seahaven and never need to have another drink. He just wasn’t quite as confident as she was. Though there was something a little too forceful about her statement that made him skeptical. “That’s great. I hope to say the same in a couple of weeks.”

“Oh, here she comes,” Angela said, her voice suddenly happy as a child’s.

Almost as if the roles were reversed, Nick thought, struggling to keep his expression neutral.

Mia slipped her phone into her pants pocket and walked toward them, her face drawn. Nick wondered if her friend had been upset about Mia’s oversight with the parrots but dismissed the idea. No, there was something else.

He stood unmoving, unsure whether he should wait and try to find out what was bothering her or excuse himself so she could talk to her mother. She reached them before he’d decided, which he supposed was its own decision.

“Mom, I’ve got to go. I’m sorry.”

Angela reached out and caught her daughter in a tight embrace. “What is it, honey?” she asked, studying her daughter’s face. “What’s happened?”

“It’s Mike.”

Apparently Angela’s expression was as blank as his own. Hadn’t she mentioned a Mike before? She had said she was trying to get in touch with him and he’d felt a stab of jealousy. Yeah, it was definitely coming back to him.

“My partner at the Institute. We had…kind of a falling out over the weekend. He didn’t show up for work today and I started worrying but I kept telling myself I was being paranoid.”

“Did something happen to him?” Angela asked. “Is he sick?”

Mia shook her head. “Not sick. Dead.”

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