Former Army Ranger William Logan is serving hard time in Leavenworth for a crime he didn’t commit. With three months left on his sentence, he’s approached by a recruiter for a private military group. The Red River Group make him an offer he can’t refuse—a get out of jail free card and a chance to continue as a soldier, working as a hired gun. He’s sent to join a team already in training for their first mission. The new soldiers are all former elite military but also misfits, like Logan, and recently sprung from brigs across the country.
At the training facility, he meets company man and trainer, Luke Warren, a former Navy SEAL. Logan begins an intense relationship with the prickly but gorgeous man as they get ready for a top-secret mission against the drug cartels in Mexico. The team has to make sure that MARS, a highly addictive and lethal new drug, along with the factory that produces it, is completely destroyed.
When everything on the mission goes wrong and the factory blows up in their faces, the team wakes up to find they not only survived, but the now have impossible enhanced strength and abilities. Frightened and confused, not knowing who to trust, Logan leads the team in a run for the States to find a safe haven, forcing Luke to come with them.
With violence and intrigue swirling around him, Logan relies on his instincts and his ingenuity to discover who his allies and his enemies really are. As they travel across the country, Logan and Luke begin to realize that they have to stick together and they’ll need all their newfound abilities and a lot of luck to make it out of this alive.
“Good morning, gentlemen,” Luke said, trying to keep his tone neutral. “Pick a sparring partner and meet me at the ring. We’re going to do a little hand-to-hand combat drilling today.” He ignored their groans and stalked out to the locker room, feeling unreasonably irritated, as he always did when Logan was near. He didn’t like to think about why.
The men weren’t in bad physical shape, considering. As prisoners, they spent a lot of time working out and had also worked a forty-hour week at various jobs and rehabilitation activities. The daily routines were repetitive, restrictive, and militarized, so Luke wasn’t sure what it was these men objected to the most in the daily workouts he gave them, but he suspected it was because they had a real problem with taking any kind of orders at all.
The men followed him slowly, grumbling and cracking foul-mouthed jokes as they came. Luke was already changing, and was bent over his locker digging deep in the bottom of it for his roll of tape for his hands. He was aware of several of the men walking past him in the narrow aisle when one of them suddenly slapped his ass. Hard. He raised up so fast he hit his head on the shelf in his locker and whirled around to glare at all of them in turn. He was glad he didn’t have a weapon, or he might have shot somebody.
“Who the fuck did that?” he spat out, and they stared innocently back at him.
Eli Kowalski froze in the act of pulling his T-shirt over his head. He had a grin still on his lips that he was trying unsuccessfully to wipe off as he looked up at Luke with big, wide eyes. “Did what, Mr. Warren?”
Luke slammed his locker shut, knowing he was literally the butt of the joke. “Very funny. See how much you’re laughing when we get in the ring…” He turned his head slowly to glare at the most likely candidate. “Logan.”
The man had the nerve to look affronted. “Me? Why do you always think I’m the one who does stuff? If you ask me, I think this might be harassment. Something fishy about the whole thing.” All the men were former Army except for him, and they never let him forget he was former Navy. Logan, in particular, fancied himself a comedian.
The others snickered, enjoying the play on words. But Luke had been hearing this kind of cheesy shit since they arrived, and it was getting old.
“Nobody asked you. Any of you. But you all signed up for this and took the Institute’s money. So just get your asses ready and get in the ring. Logan, you’re with me.”
“Aye, aye, sir!”
The words rang out as he turned his back. He stiffened, then pulled on his athletic shorts and T shirt and stalked toward the gym to climb through the ropes and up onto the center boxing ring. Dancing from one foot to the other, he tried to warm up as he waited impatiently for the others to join him. They dragged their feet as they came out, the two Green Berets, Perry and Jackson in the lead, followed by Kowalski, Wilson and Logan. Logan was wearing nothing but a pair of tight black sweat pants. The muscles rippled down his chest and abs and Luke turned away, calling out over his shoulder to him.
“Get up here, Logan. The rest of you can watch and try to learn something, because you’re up next.”
“Oooh,” Logan said, as he turned to the others and gave a mock shudder, pointing his finger at each of them in turn.
Eli covered his mouth with his hand and the others bit down on their cheeks or pressed their lips together to keep from laughing. Luke watched him steadily as Logan hung his towel over the back of a chair and ambled toward the ring. Everything about this man got to him, and he was finding it harder and harder to control his reactions.
As Logan climbed in the ring, still horsing around and pretending to be having trouble, the last, flimsy cords of his control finally snapped, and Luke rushed him in a series of feints, jabs and kicks that sent Logan back up against the ropes with rueful laugh. He held his hands up in front of him. “Damn, Warren, give me a chance to climb in before you go all Bruce Lee on me.”
Luke ignored the comment, but did dance backward, waving his hands at him in a “come on” gesture, and Logan smiled. Heat rushed over Luke’s face and he had to duck his head to try to hide it. The smile alone should have warned Luke—it never reached Logan’s eyes, which had turned cold and empty. Without warning, Logan suddenly rolled into a crouch and went after Luke, punching him in the nuts with his fist and rolling back out of the way as Luke fell forward on his knees, panting a little. “You asshole,” Luke wheezed, as soon as he could speak. He tracked him with his eyes as Logan danced around him in a circle, seemingly restored to good humor.
“What’s the matter, Warren?” He laughed along with the others, obviously quite amused by himself. “Hey, Warren, what do you have when you have two balls in your hand? A man's undivided attention.”
The others were laughing so hard they were falling over against each other, and even Logan was laughing good-naturedly. He finally danced over and offered his hand to help Luke stand up. Luke waved him away.
He held up both taped hands in a “don’t blame me” gesture. “Sorry about that, but you left yourself wide open. We’re supposed to make this realistic, right? Take it seriously? Just trying to do as you say, sir.”
He kept getting around behind him as he talked and pretended to be giving him a chance to recover, but Luke knew what he was trying to do. He stumbled to his feet just as Logan wrapped an arm around his neck from behind and got him in a standing rear choke hold. He wasn’t using a lot of pressure or else Luke would have been unconscious in seconds, but that didn’t stop him from running his mouth. Logan whispered directly in Luke’s ear, as intimate as a lover.
“Thought you were gonna teach me something. Go ahead—I’m waiting.”
Luke sagged in his arms, intent on making him think he was done. When he felt his muscular arm relax a bit, he bent over to his knees, hooked an arm around the back of Logan’s knee and jerked him off his feet. He slammed him down on the mat, then jumped nimbly backward, still a little out of breath from being hit in the groin, not to mention lifting the heavy fucker off his feet. Logan actually smiled up at him, before bouncing back up to his feet. Luke held out a taped hand and gestured again for him to bring it again.
“Okay,” Logan said, smiling as he circled slowly around the ring. “Pretty slick. I’m impressed. Hey, Warren, is it true that the Navy has really small decks? Can I see?”
Their spectators started laughing again, shaking their heads at his foolishness, and Logan stopped circling long enough to glance out at them and grin. That’s when Luke lunged at him, leading with his shoulder to shove into Logan’s midsection to knock him off his feet. It looked like Logan was going down, but at the last moment he twisted to the side, swept his foot under Luke’s and grabbed him around the neck to pull him down with him to the mat. He slid on top of Luke, straddling his chest and smiling down into his eyes. Reaching down, he patted his cheek. “Ready to give up? This is super comfortable for me, but it must be a little embarrassing for you.”
Luke, who had lost his temper by this time, even though he knew better, scowled up at him, then lifted his knee to kick him in the ass, making him fall forward and put his hands on the mat by Luke’s head. Logan quickly pulled his hands back up, but Luke grabbed his wrists and followed him, pushing his hands down to his groin. He dropped one hand to his side to trap Logan’s left foot against his body, arched his hips, and rolled over with him. Then Logan was on his back looking up at him.
“Nice move, Navy,” Logan said, panting but still smiling, then he balled up his fist and punched Luke right in the jaw. Luke rolled to the side to get away from him, but Logan followed him and then they were tumbling over and over across the mat, finally ending up with Logan on top again.
“You dirty bastard,” Luke groaned and tried to heave him off to the side. Logan anticipated the move by putting his right hand on the mat to hold himself steady, so Luke twisted to his lighter side to bring Logan’s knee sliding up his side to his waist, then jammed his foot into Logan’s side and scooped his ankle up with his arm. He was able to get to his feet then, pushing Logan into a leg lock.
Logan fell backward at that point, staring up at the ceiling. “Goddamn. You got me, Warren. I’m done.” Luke let him up, breathing hard, but happy to see Logan was out of breath as well. Luke gave him one last look before he stomped off the mats and climbed down, heading toward the water cooler. Logan stood up and grinned at the raucous yells and cheers from the other men and actually took a bow, as if he had won their match. He even lifted his hands in a ridiculous “winner” pose as Luke turned to glare at him, outraged when he grinned and winked.