Save the Best for Last
Is the Black Ops, Inc. series really
Thank you to Buggy for recommending romantic suspense author [a:Cindy Gerard|195778|Cindy Gerard|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1244677466p2/195778.jpg]. Though this
series is over, I have more of her wonderful books still left to savor.
In [b:Last Man Standing|11527280|Last Man Standing (Black Ops, #7)|Cindy Gerard|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1323132839s/11527280.jpg|16464994], we finally get some resolution to fallen brother Bryan Tompkins' story. Back when the BOI men were involved in the US military and government, Bryan died on an op gone wrong. And "Mean" Joe Greene has never forgotten his brother in arms.
Joe protected Bryan's beautiful sister Stephanie in a prior novel, and they developed strong feelings for each other yet Joe could not commit. When Joe gets a clue about who was behind Bryan's death and secretly heads to Sierra Leone to expose the killer, he gets himself imprisoned, falsely accused of murder. It's up to Stephanie to try to protect Joe this time. Can the gentle intelligence operative "man up" to save the one she loves?
Prison scenes fascinate me, and Joe is in the worst stifling squalor imaginable. He's starved, beaten, and bereft, knowing when he dies that Bryan's killer will go scot-free. He even had to kill a viper slithering its way into his cell!
I love Stephanie's character development in this story. She hardly seems like a badass who can break a man out of prison. But she knows who to ask for help -- a local boy named Suah who feels loyalty to Joe for saving his life. Here Stephanie is with a very weakened Joe in a safe house:He looked away, overcome by emotions that ran the gamut from guilt to humility to gratitude to absolute astonishment, before ending with a frustrated sense of failure. HE was the protector. HE was the caretaker. Right now he couldn't take care of a paper clip.
"Joe. Look at me."
The softness in her eyes told him she'd read his mind. "You don't always get to be the hero. Some of us lesser beings need to get a shot at it every now and then, okay?
Cindy Gerard knows how to make me cry with Suah's storyline. He's an orphaned boy who was forced to fight for terrorists, who puts on a tough front but underneath is only a boy. Stephanie sees right through him:She joined him at the door, placed both hands on his slim, bony shoulders, and turned him around to face her. "There may be no time for this tomorrow, so I want to say it now. You're a good man. A very good man."
Clearly uncomfortable with the praise and affection in her voice, Suah nodded stiffly and made to leave. This time she stopped him by wrapping her arms around him and hugging him. She kept on hugging him, even though he stiffened like a thin tree trunk in her embrace.
When she pulled back and gently brushed her fingers across his cheek, she saw that he was anything but rigid on the inside. For a brief, heartbreaking moment, those huge brown eyes spoke to her of longing and loss and a sorrow that cut straight to her soul.
Perhaps Joe and Stephanie won't see the last of Suah in Sierra Leone?
This was a tremendous series and I highly recommend you read it! Cindy Gerard is a crack researcher who has taught me a lot about exotic locales and the strong men and women who protect our country.