BB Dalton thought he'd left his career as an underwear model behind when he became a Navy SEAL assigned to a special task force where no one is supposed to have a past or an identity.
Now the military wants him to be their poster boy. Luckily the marketing genius behind the recruitment campaign turns out to be hot enough to melt icicles in winter, but can BB convince this slightly older workaholic to let him go from undercover to under her covers?
In an effort to “push out” information to the public on these standards and dispel common myths about what it takes to become a SEAL, the Motivator Program was created. It sends SEAL mentors to high schools, air shows and sporting events to seek out potential candidates. During last year’s Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii, one competitor stood out from the mass of extreme athletes clad in colorful Lycra.
“There are a lot of parallels between being a SEAL and being a competitive tri-athlete,” said Chief Petty Officer Mitchell Hall as he pulled on a Navy blue running jersey emblazoned with the gold SEAL trident.
A 14-year SEAL veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star for gallantry in Afghanistan, Hall competed in the Ironman Triathlon under the sponsorship of the Navy to give the SEALs a more public presence.
“I’m here to compete, not to recruit,” said Hall. “But if someone sees the SEAL logo and wants to talk about joining, then so much the better.”
BB sat up a little straighter at the sound of his name being barked from the doorway by his commander.
“In my office. Now.”
Oh, shit. What the hell had he done to get called into the commander’s office right before a team meeting? There was no way this could be good.
He’d arrived on time for the zero-eight-hundred meeting.
In fact, he hadn’t even been the last one in the door. That honor belonged to his teammate Jack Gordon. BB knew that Jack’s girlfriend was visiting, so it wasn’t a surprise he looked like he’d just rolled out of bed after getting not a hell of a lot of sleep.
BB tried to ignore the raised eyebrows and interested looks of the other guys as he rose and made his way into the commander’s office.READ MORE
Damn it. It just figured he’d somehow get into trouble right before his leave started. He was supposed to go home to see his family in New York for the holidays. As he walked into the commander’s office, feeling very confused, he hoped he’d still be waking up Christmas morning in his old bed.
The fact that he found a woman sitting in the chair opposite the commander only compounded his confusion.
If he’d been one of the guys on base who hung out at the local bar until they had to crawl home, he might wonder if he’d had the pleasure of this woman’s company, perhaps gotten a little wild and then forgotten about it.
But he wasn’t that kind of guy. It was a rare day he even drank alcohol.
He thought for a moment.
His last drink, and it was only one, had been to celebrate the return of Jack’s brother Jimmy to active duty after he’d been worked over pretty bad after his cover had been blown on an undercover assignment.
That was months ago.
Besides, this woman looked less like a barfly and more like said barfly’s lawyer.
He stood at attention and waited until the commander indicated he should sit in the other chair. BB evaluated his commander’s mood. Not good, but he’d seen worse.
It was almost an amused annoyance that came across in the commander’s voice as he continued, “Central Command . . .”
Uh, oh. That was never a good start to a sentence. The commander hated Central Command.
“. . . has decided to begin recruiting its special operatives from the civilian sector.”
BB raised an eyebrow. He himself had been a Navy SEAL when he’d been recruited for one of the special task forces formed after the terrorist attacks on September eleventh. These units were comprised of the best of the best from all branches of the military. But civilians?
The commander sent a paper sailing across the desk at him. “Read.”
It was an NBC News article dated earlier that year. It looked like it had been printed off of the internet. The headline read, “Navy SEALs: Demand for specialized units grow.”
He silently read on.
“Navy SEALs, counted among the best commando forces in the world, are at the forefront of the Pentagon’s war on terror as modern warfare continues to evolve . . .”
Nothing BB didn’t already know. He skimmed down farther.
“In the next several years, the Pentagon wants to add nearly 400 more to the approximately 2,600 SEALs now in service. But with a 60 percent dropout rate, the SEALs have had to turn to a more efficient method of identifying and recruiting potentially successful recruits. As befitting an unconventional fighting force, the SEALs have come up with a creative recruitment tactic looking beyond the Navy for potential recruits. It sends SEAL mentors to high schools, air shows and sporting events to seek out potential candidates.”
BB read, amazed. He skimmed the rest and learned they’d even sent a SEAL to compete in an Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii to recruit from among the athletes.
At least now he knew what was up the commander’s butt. What he didn’t get was how it involved him.
Yeah, he was in excellent physical condition, but so were the other guys. And each one had their own special skills that had led to their recruitment.
Matt Coleman was a computer genius. Trey Williams was a language expert. Jimmy Gordon was a sharpshooter. Jack Gordon had choirboy looks and charm, but was lethal hands in hand-to-hand combat. Bull had his sheer size, on top of being an explosives expert.
BB was the superior swimmer and deep-sea diver on the team. He sincerely hoped he wasn’t already signed up for any damned triathlon, although he wouldn’t mind an all expenses paid trip to Hawaii.
He wondered what the woman present had to do with all of this. She had sat there in complete silence while he read.
Taking a minute, he glanced at her now. She was cute. No, he couldn’t exactly say that. Cute was a good word to describe cheerleaders and prom queens. This woman was beautiful, with cool, sophisticated, self-assured, polished good looks.
Her brown hair was pulled back in a severe bun in the back. The fluorescent lights added red highlights to the top of her head. He’d like to see that hair down. He bet she’d look smoking hot.
She was probably a few years older than him, but that didn’t stop him from glancing at the rest of her. Short skirt, high heels, and tight little tank top exposing some nice cleavage beneath the suit jacket she wore. Warm brown eyes, with obvious intelligence behind them, completed the look of aloof sexiness.
Nothing wrong with a woman who could make a business suit look that sexy.
BB remembered the commander and glanced up. “Sir, I still don’t understand.”
“Dalton. You’ve read the fuc—um, damned article?”
“Yes, sir.” BB could tell the commander was editing his usually more than colorful language because of the female guest in the office.
“Well, I’m very happy to be the one to inform you that you have been selected as the new SpecOps recruitment poster boy.” The sarcasm practically dripped from each word the commander spoke.
The commander let out a bitter laugh. He was so obviously not happy with Central Command. “Yeah. I’ll let Ms. Katherine Jorgenson here have the honor of explaining it to you. By the way, she’s your ‘handler’.” The commander actually used air-quotes around the word.
Handler. BB’d had handlers before, people dedicated to making sure that the talent was happy. They were glorified babysitters, really.
That had been in another life, another time. He’d left that life far behind.
He turned to her now, wondering if there was any way to get out of this.
Ms. Jorgenson extended her hand to him in a very business-like manner. She raised a brow. “May I call you William?”
Not even his mother called him William. “At home they call me Billy Bob, but the guys here call me BB, ma’am.”
She seemed to wince, but then nodded. “BB, then. Please, feel free to call me Katie rather than ma’am, since we’ll be spending a lot of time together.”
Spending a lot of time together.
Really? Well, that wouldn’t be a hardship. Maybe this gig had an upside after all.
Katie continued. “When hired, I did extensive research from the military personnel database—”
“Um, excuse me a second,” BB interrupted her. He swung to look at the commander. “I thought the SpecOps personnel database was confidential?”
The commander snorted, but let Miss Jorgenson—Katie—continue as she said, “Don’t worry. I’ve been checked front, back and sideways by the military, the FBI and Homeland Security. I’ve done marketing campaigns for the sitting president as well as other high profile government personalities I’m not at liberty to name. I’ve been retained by Uncle Sam to develop a recruiting campaign focusing on the glamour of the special operations units.”
Now it was BB’s turn to snort. Glamour? Yeah, right.
Maybe he’d take her on his next twenty-mile run and see how glamorous she thought it was with a sixty-pound pack strapped to her back.
His not-so-high opinion of her idea didn’t escape her.
“It’s a whole new world out there, BB. The military needs to change with the times and market itself just like any other business. The SEALs have already started. But I can do it so much more effectively . . . with your help.”
“Why me?” he asked.
“Well, as I was explaining before, when I was shown pictures of potential candidates, I recognized you.”
She pulled a photo out of her briefcase and handed it to him. He didn’t even need to look at it. He did anyway, inwardly cringed, and then handed it back to her.
The commander was smiling now, practically laughing at him. “I knew you’d modeled before joining up, Dalton. But I guess I just assumed you’d been modeling actual clothes.”
“It sure threw Madison Avenue for a loop when you left,” Katie said to him. Then she turned to the commander. “No one quits being the Andre Milano underwear man. That is, until BB.”
The commander was just outright laughing now. He wiped a hand across his face and tried to sober up. “I’m sorry, son. I can see you’re not any happier about this than I am.”
“No, sir, I certainly am not.” And BB had a bad feeling that he couldn’t do a damn thing about it.COLLAPSE