Home > Code Name : Libra

Code Name : Libra
Author: Janie Crouch

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Landon Black

 

Taking a bullet to the chest sucked.

Taking a bullet to the chest from someone who was your friend really sucked.

But worse than either of those were the side-eyed glances you got from everyone around you as you recovered.

The whoa, is he going to topple over? side glances and winces after people slapped you on the shoulder, worried they’d hurt you with the friendly gesture.

I’d become way too familiar with those over the past six months.

Worse than the bullet hole itself—and that had been pretty damned painful—was the fear that no one was ever going to treat you normally again. That you were never going to remember you were once a deadly Navy SEAL, then had become an agent for one of the top security firms in the world.

Because that person felt pretty long gone.

But smiling through it all? That was the absolute worst.

Smiling was what I did. It was what I was known for. I was the charmer, the peacemaker. The one who made everyone laugh and was tactful and charismatic.

The Libra.

It was my code name here at Zodiac for that very reason. I was all of those things.

And now I was expected to be all of those things with a bullet scar on my chest only a few centimeters from my heart.

Honestly, the scar I didn’t mind so much. It could’ve been worse. I knew that every single day.

But I’d been relegated to desk duty for the past six months since “the incident.” That was driving me nearly insane.

Zodiac Tactical was a world-renowned private security contractor started by my best friend and former SEAL teammate, Ian DeRose. The company provided expertise in tactical work of all types: risk consulting, intelligence gathering, private and corporate guarding, international hostage negotiation and rescue.

If the law couldn’t—or wouldn’t—handle it, Zodiac Tactical could.

And did, on a regular basis.

But we’d taken some hits of our own over the past year: kidnapped employees and loved ones, criminal masterminds attempting to take us down, bullet holes to the chest.

We were only now finally finding our footing again, putting Zodiac back on track and stronger than ever. The threat was over, eliminated by us. Everyone was free to return to their regularly scheduled programming.

Except me.

Every time I looked at the active mission calendar, my name wasn’t on it. For the past four months, I’d been traveling around to the different Zodiac offices, helping rebuild morale and take the emotional temperature of each group of people.

Flashing ’em the famous Landon Black smile, complete with dimples I knew how to use to my advantage.

Hopefully, no one noticed if it was a bit frayed around the edges.

Today, I’d been called into the Los Angeles office by Ian. Until “the incident,” I’d mainly worked in the Denver office. But since that was where I’d gotten shot in the chest by the woman my best friend loved, it had made the place a little haunted for both of us. Neither of us had spent much time there since.

It was Saturday, which meant none of the regular staff was around the office. But when Ian had asked me to come in and meet with Callum Webb, I’d agreed. Callum was a federal law enforcement agent with the Omega Sector task force, or he had been until he’d been fired for helping Zodiac rescue one of our own a few months ago.

“Anybody here?” The empty reception area didn’t answer me. “Yo, Ian?”

“Conference room,” he called.

Even though he was the owner of the company, Ian didn’t keep a real office here. He’d been spending most of his time in New York, wanting to be near Wavy and her newly prosperous art career.

The conference room at the end of the hall held a big, shiny mahogany table and expensive leather chairs.

“Morning.” I walked into the conference room and smiled at the coffee and pastries on the table. “Nice.”

“Help yourself.” Ian motioned for the food. “Callum stepped out to take a phone call.”

“What’s going on?” I stuffed an icing-coated cinnamon something in my mouth and moaned in pleasure. I tried to eat healthy as much as possible, but damn I had a sweet tooth.

“He wanted to wait for you to explain it all.” Ian cracked a grin as he watched me eat. “You need some time alone with that?”

I laughed and washed the pastry down with the coffee—black, hot, perfect. “No, but you knew bringing anything cinnamon in here would tempt me.”

He nodded. “I did, indeed.”

Before I could press him more about that, the door at the back of the conference room opened, and Callum walked in. He looked the very picture of a federal agent: hair cropped short, tie wrung to the side where he’d pulled at it, exhaustion bracketing his mouth.

Ian and I both stood, and I held out my hand to greet our friend.

“How’s it going, Webb? You here to ask for a job?”

We’d both give him one in a heartbeat. He may not have been a SEAL like Ian and me, but he was someone I would trust at my back during a fight.

“No, I’ve thankfully been reemployed by Uncle Sam, at least for the time being. The fact that we put Mosaic away for good helped get me out of the doghouse.”

Mosaic—a pretty name for an ugly group of scumbags—had been the bane of our existence for nearly a year. They were the reason I’d been shot and the reason why Ian now had a little gray in his dark hair.

I reached for my coffee cup and held it up as a toast. “To doing what we can to stop the bad guys.”

“I’m hoping maybe you’ll be interested in stopping some more bad guys.” Callum fixed his serious gaze on me as we sat down around the conference table. “You specifically, Landon. Some undercover work on a tropical island.”

I glanced at Ian out of the corner of my eye. He didn’t look surprised as he took another sip from his mug. Which meant he knew from the beginning Callum had been here to see me.

I ran a hand through my hair and let out a sigh. “No need for a pity fuck, you guys.”

Callum laughed as Ian spewed his coffee. “I’m pretty sure Wavy wouldn’t approve of me fucking you in any way, pity included.”

I leaned back in my chair and kept my eyes pinned on Ian. “Did you offer me to the Feds because you know I’m going crazy on desk duty?”

Callum held out a hand in a gesture of peace. “Hang on. Ian didn’t contact me. I gave him the mission parameters and asked him who he thought was the best fit.”

I raised one eyebrow so high I was afraid it might get stuck there. “And surprise, surprise, Ian thought of his friend Landon for a gig on a tropical island. Sounds like a way to get me to take a paid vacation.”

I’d had enough vacation sitting in that hospital a few months ago. I was tired of feeling useless.

Ian crossed his arms over his chest. “Why don’t you hear Webb out, then you can decide if you’re interested in this particular fuck. Which, I can promise you, is not pity.”

Ian and I stared each other down. We’d known each other for nearly twenty years. Had saved each other’s lives more times than either of us kept track of.

But the last few months had been hard for both of us.

“You don’t owe me anything, Aries,” I muttered, calling him by his Zodiac code name. “Wavy doesn’t either. What happened, happened.”

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