OS: Welcome to Ariel Tachna – author of Talking in Code. Thanks for stopping by and telling us about your latest book!
Talking in Code starts in media res. Eric, Tim, and Richard are already well and truly involved with each other, but the story includes references to moments before the book begins, moments that are not fully explored in the novel itself.
This is the first of those moments.
Eric Newton groaned softly as he rounded the corner of the compound in the Caymans where they were prepping for their next mission and saw Taylor and Warren in the gym. He had planned to spend part of the afternoon sparring with Victoria Amato, but if they were there, he’d be better off going to the firing range for target practice. He didn’t need the practice, but it would be preferable to listening to their shit again.
“Oh, look, it’s Amato’s bitch,” Warren said as soon as he caught sight of Eric. Eric’s eyes narrowed, but he didn’t reply. Nothing he said would change anything, and he was still on probation after the fiasco of a mission in Afghanistan. He still said he’d done the right thing, not taking the shot, but Seward had been the team leader, and he’d reported Eric to Davenport for insubordination.
Eric snorted. Davenport knew all about Eric’s issues with authority. Unlike Seward, though, Davenport never gave Eric a reason to question his orders. Unfortunately, Eric worked with Seward more than he worked with Davenport.
“Look, I don’t want any trouble, Warren. I’m just here to spar with Amato when she gets here.”
“Told you he was her bitch,” Warren said, nudging Taylor. “What you wanna bet she takes him down in less than five minutes?”
Eric rolled his eyes. That was just insulting. He had no doubt Victoria would kick his ass, but he could usually hold out for at least six minutes before she pinned him.
Before he could reply, Victoria walked in, Davenport at her side. Just what he needed—his perfect supervisor watching him get his ass kicked. He pushed past Warren and Taylor and went to greet Victoria, doing his best to ignore Davenport now watching from his seat on the sidelines.
“Ready?” she asked him.
“I’ve been practicing.”
“Good. You need it.”
He shot her a dirty look, but she didn’t back down. She was going to make a fool of him in front of Davenport and relish every second of it.
“That’s it, Amato. Teach the half-breed a lesson,” Warren called.
Eric tensed at the insult. His grandmother had been half Kiowa, but Eric didn’t claim any connection with the tribe. It didn’t stop him from having the distinctive bronze skin and black hair of his ancestors, though, and Warren had found out, been told, or guessed and had used it to beat Eric down ever since.
“Mr. Warren.” Everyone in the room froze at the sound of Davenport’s voice. He rose from his seat and removed the jacket of the plain blue suit he wore.
“You leave in three days for a mission in Iraq. Is that correct?” Eric didn’t know what Warren’s schedule was, but he was quite sure Davenport was right. He always knew everything about everyone.
“Then it would behoove you to brush up on your hand-to-hand skills before you leave. Join me.”
Victoria stepped off the mat where she had been stretching in anticipation of her bout with Eric and gestured for Davenport to take her place. He did, not even bothering to remove his tie. Eric didn’t think that was such a good idea, but he’d seen enough in the field not to be fooled by the blasé look on Davenport’s face.
Warren stepped to the other side of the mat, all bravado and bluster. Eric didn’t rub his hands together in glee. He was a bigger man than that. But it didn’t stop him from grinning at Victoria. “Five minutes?” he asked her.
Victoria snorted. “He’ll be lucky to last five seconds.”
Eric hadn’t ever sparred with Warren or paid any particular attention to him sparring with others, but he wouldn’t have expected Richard Horn or Tim Davenport, the founders of Strike Force Omega, to keep someone around who couldn’t last that long in the ring.
“I doubt I could last five minutes against him.”
Victoria had more tricks up her sleeve than anyone Eric had ever gone toe-to-toe with. If she thought that highly of Davenport’s abilities, this was going to be even more fun to watch.
As Eric would have predicted, Warren lunged straight for Davenport’s tie. Before his hands connected, though, Davenport caught him and used his momentum to flip him hard to the mat. Davenport followed him down and had a knee to his groin, a hand on his chest, and the other forearm across his throat before he could recover. Warren’s eyes were as big as saucers when he raised his hand in clear surrender.
“Told you,” Victoria murmured just loud enough for Eric to hear.
Eric refused to meet her gaze because if he did, she’d know just how turned on he was at the moment. Then Davenport leaned down and said something only Warren could hear before rising gracefully to his feet and dusting off his hands.
“So he’s good with a gun,” Warren said. “So are a lot of people.”
“He isn’t ‘good with a gun,’ as you put it, Mr. Warren. He is an exceptional sniper with a keen situational awareness, something you clearly lack, given the way I took you down. I suggest you remember that.”
Wait…. Davenport had done this to defend him? Eric figured he just intended to take Warren down a peg, not that he would actually jump to Eric’s defense.
“You’re making a mistake, picking a nobody like him over me. If I go, you’ll lose half my team at least,” Warren said.
“You overestimate your worth. If you intend to stay on with Strike Force Omega, you will need to readjust your attitude. Otherwise, you know the way out.”
Victoria elbowed Eric in the ribs. “You look like a fish out of water. Shut your mouth.”
Eric closed his mouth, but nothing could stop the surprise flooding through him. Davenport had just taken a man down in Eric’s defense.
Cofounder of Strike Force Omega, former Navy SEAL, and the star of far too many of Eric’s fantasies.
Warren continued to splutter from his spot on the floor, but he made no move to rise while Davenport stood there looking down at him. Eric just stared. He’d known Davenport had been a SEAL, with everything that entailed, but even after seeing him in the field, Eric had assumed….
There was a reason for that old adage that when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me, and Eric had walked right into it. He’d been taken in by Davenport’s conservative suits and bland expression. He’d seen Davenport’s strategic intelligence and had assumed that was his role in Strike Force Omega. Not that he’d ever seen Horn fight, but anybody looking at him would see the harnessed power and run the other way. Warren would never have underestimated him.
He’d seen Davenport fight now, though. And he’d fought for Eric.
He was so screwed. What had been a bit of fantasy that revolved around a handsome face was suddenly so much more.
Davenport had given Warren an ultimatum—clean up his act toward Eric or leave.
Nobody had ever defended him that way. It was official. He was hopelessly in love.
Richard Horn and Timothy Davenport met in the SEALs twenty years ago and have been lovers ever since. Now running their own paramilitary organization, Strike Force Omega, they work in the shadows to protect their country and its people. When Tim falls for Eric Newton, a deadly sniper and strategist on their team, Richard accepts that Tim’s heart is big enough for two men. He respects, admires, and even desires Eric enough to accept him into their relationship—and their bed—but he’s never been fully a part of what Eric and Tim share.
Then Eric is captured by terrorists and Tim is gravely injured in an op gone wrong, bringing Richard’s world crashing down around his ears. Even if he gets his men out alive, Eric must face the aftermath of months of physical and psychological torture—and without Tim to lean on, Eric’s PTSD is tearing him apart. Richard has to figure out the third leg of their triangle fast, or Tim won’t have a life to come back to.
Author bio: When Ariel Tachna was twelve years old, she discovered two things: the French language and romance novels. Those two loves have defined her ever since. By the time she finished high school, she’d written four novels, none of which anyone would want to read now, featuring a young woman who was—you guessed it—bilingual. That girl was everything Ariel wanted to be at age twelve and wasn’t.
She now lives on the outskirts of Houston with her husband (who also speaks French), her kids (who understand French even when they’re too lazy to speak it back), and their two dogs (who steadfastly refuse to answer any French commands). The cat pretends they’re all beneath her, no matter what language they’re speaking.
Ariel Tachna is also offering an ebook copy of any of her backlist to someone who comments on each individual post.